Summer 2014 I remember it well? Part 2

Home for a few days

Hi many thanks if you have come back for part two . I have to confess I am not a professional journalist and do not endorse any products related to my blog I am however open to SCARPA, MOUNTAIN EQUIPMENT, SNICKERS. MARS BARS, LUXE, MLD, GOSSAMER, RAB, MONTANE. anyone one needing unbiased reviews for free gear? you know where I am! ūüėČ ūüėČ

Summer 2014 I remember it well? Part 2.

Ben Lawers

In my last post I told you of the three days spent on the Tarmachan ridge and the little event on the” Bad Step” below Meall Garbh.

Well it is now early June and I’m back In Perthshire on the Lawers range this time spending a few days on the summits of Meall Greigh, Meall Garbh thats the other one with the same name ¬†that rises above Lochan Nan Cat from there over An Stuc, and onto Ben Lawers.

Now that was the plan and you know what they say about the best laid plans! The initial approach was from the Ben Lawers hotel through an overgrown woodland path, now considering the temperature was in its sixties in old money and you could barely see the path from waist high ferns it made a rather trying start to the journey.

However once out of the dense woodland I had reached the boundary fence to the nature reserve and the upcoming ridge walk opened up in all its golden glory. Time now I thought to rehydrate as I did at the stile that would take me into the reserve. Having re hydrated and wiped my overheated brow I was once again on my way towards Meall Greigh.

In awe at the sun reflecting, what looked like signal mirrors bouncing of the surface of the Lawers Burn to my left and having to squint at nature’s trickery I suddenly realised that I had left my rather expensive sunglasses lying on the stile about two kilometres back down the path. “Bugger” excuse the French so there I was removing my pack and disgruntled trudged back down to retrieve those bloody glasses lessons learnt buy cheaper glasses for someone else to pick up.

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In the picture above you can just make out the woodland below where I had left those bloody glasses, although I did not walk back from this spot.

Summer 2014 I remember it well? Part 2.

With a little reluctance it was time to move onto my next summit of Meall Garbh ¬†which lies in the shadows of An Stuc, it was only a short wander with plenty of time on my hands so decided to collect water and take in some of the other sights along the way. That’s the great freedom you can enjoy time doesn’t matter when the sun is shining and you have your bedroom on your back.

Further along on a small top I came across two elderly gentlemen , whom I shall affectionately name Statler and Waldorf ¬†if you recall ¬†were characters in the Muppet’s.

They were sitting having lunch ¬†and as I passed I overheard them arguing over whether they were at the summit of Meall Garbh or sitting on a false summit, they subsequently asked me if I could settle their argument Statler was adamant they were on the summit of Meall Garbh whilst you could see that Waldorf was desperate for me to agree with him that they weren’t.

I could see that this relationship was of many years in the making as both were desperate for my accreditation  however being forever the diplomat, I decided to play the stupid one in this little scenario.

Knowing full well that they were on the wrong summit I then gathered them around my map and pointed at the summit of Meall Garbh ¬†stating that this summit which was only 500 metres away could well be part of the summit they were sitting on, in essence a dual summit “see where I am going with this yet” both looked up at me at the same time, with looks on there faces as if to say whats he on about, dual summits! he obviously hasn’t a clue.

This in turn had the effect of deflecting the argument towards my deficiencies where upon they both came to the amicable decision that the true summit was indeed 500 metres away. I had to giggle to myself when Waldorf then said “come on son you better follow us”.

 

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Having made my farewells to Statler and Waldorf I pitched up in the shadows of An Stuc and Ben Lawers then went for a quiet nap before dinner. The weather as you can see was excellent and my stomach was telling me its time to eat, which I did spaghetti bolognese followed by creamed rice.

 
I now had my domestic duties to fulfil by rearranging the vestibule area it was then when I heard a sudden loud rush of air and the shelter wall push in towards the inner quickly looking out I could  hardly believe my eyes, there in front of me was a glider about 30 metres away literally buzzing the Hex like some oversized wasp. By the time I tried to dig my camera out from the pile of gear in the porch he was up up and away.
 
As a little insight into the workings of the mind, well mine at least that night i had a dream that Statler and Waldorf were the pilots of the aircraft I had seen but the difference was it was fitted with machine guns mounted on both wings and they were out to get me!
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The following day I awoke completely refreshed and ready for the day ahead the sun was high in the sky and a small breeze rippled over the ridge  the distant call of a raptor could be heard echoing in the silence of the glen below, this was going to be an exceptionally hot day. My plan for the day was to explore some of the outcrops just below the summit of Meall Garbh and An Stuc and indulge in some minor scrambling

An hour later breakfast consumed, domestic duties attended to and I was on my way. This has all become a great part of my enjoyment in addition to wild camping to try and literally feel the mountain I am by no means a botanist nor geologist, however its diversity in all these aspects never cease to amaze me not just on good day such as this but those wild windswept days bring something different in textures and shapes of rock and fauna combined.

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 This is quite a rare plant which can be found near the summit of Ben Lawers. 

 

Summer 2014 I remember it well? Part 2.

 The common black slug was very prominent this year I lost count the amount of times I ejected these little critters from my shelter one in particular had a great attachment to me so much so he hitched a ride all the way home squashed to the bottom of my sock, and here was me thinking my boots leaking.

 

 
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This day in particular was very memorable for the wildlife weather and the hand to rock fun that was had. Around 5 o’clock my stomach ¬†was, to coin an old phrase thinking my throat was cut, I hate that ¬†turn of phrase however its written now and it stays. So time to head back the three or four kilometres to the shelter and partake of dinner which consisted of meatballs in a spicy sauce accompanied by pasta and garlic bread, yes ………….Garlic bread.
 After dinner which was thoroughly enjoyed it was time for a nap when you get to a certain age these little siestas are crucial although it was still pretty hot I did manage to doze for a short while.
 
Now the evening was wearing on and not to waste this beautiful evening sunshine my light camp shoes (hi Tech zoots) were donned and off I disappeared over a nearby ridge to sit and watch the sunset over the glen below.  
 

 The perfect spot was chosen between two rock, a soft moss covered slab and large boulder as a backrest made the ideal big chair, the light breeze that had cooled the fevered brow all day had now gone the silence was bliss overhead a large crow flew and broke the gentle silence with each beat of its wings, the distant occasional bleat of sheep calling their young was the other only sound in this golden hued glen, time for reflection and serenity, thoughts of long days of childhood and distant laughter lost an age past where this passion was formed  the ghosts of friends long shadows cast down the glen.

 

To spend an hour with my past childhood friends in such glorious surroundings the mind wanders and flits in and out of reality, time has stopped, this is all mine then movement, far down the glen a huge stag lifts his proud head to survey his herd, beyond him two more stand sentry my minds eye now starts to distinguish the shapes below grazing unaware of my presence stood over one hundred deer a sight to behold and one that I have not witnessed in such numbers.
 

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Time past in an instant and the golden glow of sunset through a blanket across the mountainside, slowly disappearing over a distant ridge the sun silhouetted two adult deer and their two young walking slowly up the ridge, a very rare sight how good this night has been a long day and a perfect end, coffee and a cosy sleeping bag await as the night mountain air becomes decidedly chilly.

 
 
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the end 
 
 
 
 
Summer 2014 I remember It well? Part 1.

Summer 2014 I remember It well? Part 1.

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Early spring on Culter Fell

It has  been a while, as you may see since I last posted a blog  my excuse work commitments and not being in writing mode or mood.

It had been quite an eventful winter in 2013 great snow conditions and some new kit to test.

As with the seasons we all have our favourites for different reasons winter is mine, however I do look forward to spring and summer for the longer daylight hours that allow me to spend longer days in the mountains on the move. Not one for keeping a diary or putting my thoughts to paper on a daily basis I am very grateful for the invention of the camera which helps to keep my memories fresh and is going to of be of some assistance in my dotage.

Well how is everyone? I sincerely hope all you outdoor aficionados had a whale of a time I personally thought the summer was kind to us this year didn’t get wet to often or suffer from hypothermia, as we know very well up on those big mountains in the UK half the time you don’t know what to expect.

I will try not to haver to much and get to the points of my summer in 2014 but please bear with me as my good lady would say in certain words “you do ******* haver!

Late March you would have caught me ascending one of my favourite places the Tarmachan Ridge  to spend three days wild camping near the summit of Meall Garbh, and exploring its nooks and crannies incidentally the name Tarmachan means ptarmigan in gaelic, but you probably new that already.

 

 

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The Bad Step on Meall Garbh

 
                                                            
 
 
 
I was fortunate on my first mornings camp to be greeted with brilliant sunshine and spent most of the day playing about its flanks taking pictures and scrambling on some outcrops, its amazing what you can get up to when know ones watching well within reason I drew the line at going back to my childhood and acting out a game of cowboys and Indians, well that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
 
On a more serious note the following morning ¬†the weather had turned to a grey damp day and my plan was to walk to the far end of the ridge over the “bad step” which involves minor scrambling for the experienced walker. At the foot of the step I was taking a couple of minutes to adjust my pack and ¬† secure my walking poles before ascending. It was then that I heard a young girls voice coming from atop the step followed by a male voice whom I assumed was her dad, the young girl sounded hesitant as her dad persuaded her to take the first steps on descending.¬†
 
I began to make my way up and reaching half way came across the pair at this point the terror on the little girls face was evident she was around nine years of age and wearing inappropriate clothing and footwear flat treadles shoes on damp rock. Her dad wasn’t any better prepared and he to lacked confidence on the descent where he literally got stuck and couldn’t decide on the next move.¬†
 
Not wanting to embarrass the dad I made a light hearted comment that he had taken the most difficult route down especially in these wet conditions however I was seething underneath that a “responsible adult ” could put himself and more importantly, his daughter in such a perilous situation. As there were no phone boxes nearby I discreetly donned my red cape and went to there rescue slowly guiding the little girl down first then her dad whom by this time was rightly so embarrassed and ashamed of coming onto the hill so unprepared.
Having shown him a safe route down from the bealach  back to the track, I continued on my way but still angry at what I had witnessed.
 
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Me on the pointy bit of Meall Garbh

I’m sorry but I did warn you I do tend to haver on now lets get back to the mountains and the beauty and solitude they offer personally I now prefer to stop and spend time discovering the mountains for their diverse terrain and geology not taking into account weather patterns and cloud formations, clear unpolluted night skies all of these make for memorable experiences that last a lifetime.

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Sunset over Tinto

 

 

The photograph above was taken from Culter Fell I must have spent the best part of two hours sitting watching the different hues and cloud formations develop. This picture is as natural as you can get from a digital camera no photoshop has been introduced.

 
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Summit of Ben Vorlich

 

 
 

Taken in mid April you could be forgiven to think this was a winter picture ¬†the stuff lying at my feet doesn’t belong to me it is part of the gear from a student group I had the pleasure to meet on the ascent, four girls and a young man, they kindly asked me to join them on the final push to the summit to even up the gender imbalance which I gladly accepted damsels in distress and all that!

Summer 2014 I remember It well? Part 1.

Kicking back after 12 mile hike

 

 

How many times do you relish these moments you have twelve mountain miles under your belt found a perfect pitch made coffee and time out here doesn’t mean anything plus I have my new shoes on.

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Nightime selfie

 

 
 
 

Its one in the morning  there is a chill in the air the night is ear shatteringly still the sky is clear and studded with a spectacular display of heavenly bodies who in there bloody right mind gets up at that time in the middle of nowhere. ME

 
 
 
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My favourite water source

This beats going to a sink to draw water I honestly cannot remember where this waterfall is located but do remember pitching nearby on a through hike over multiple summits and wakening to the sound of running water which in turn turned out to be a desperate departure from my sleeping bag to pee!

 
 
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Is this bloody timer on!

 

 
 

Well folks that was just a wee snippet of my summer 2014 part1.  In part two I shall continue to bore you with my holiday snaps and mild adventures, take a look at my favourite kit, and a wee mention of  inspirational people I have met on social media and why and anything else I think may be of interest.

 The End

Take One sheep and a Wild night out.

Take One sheep and a Wild night out.

Take One sheep and a Wild night out.

Always planning, looking forward to in anticipation my weekly night routine for the next trip.

It is great to have the diversity that wilderness and hillwalking can provide my thoughts on this weekend were off the beaten  track a little to approach Ben Vane away from the usual tourist route of and head for Lag Uaine .

The morning was calm and still although overcast however I was relishing the¬†sound of¬†birdsong coming from the dense forestry of Coiregrogain all in all it had the feeling of an early spring morning which had the effect of putting a spring in the step. This has on occasion given me rise to break into song of Hi Ho Hi Ho , its off to….you know the rest it can be rather embarrassing if you have not heard the other walker coming up¬† from behind you.

The plan was to camp up at Lag Uaine early on get settled and take some shots of the glen and surrounding summits and of course to see how the New Lux Hex Peak performed

The forecast did not sound to promising for late evening and early morning expecting strong winds and snow but forever the optimist as they say.

Coming off the forestry track I had finally reached the point where I could start my ascent up the glen. I was only ten minutes in following the outline of the forest when I came upon a stray sheep entangled in a combination of small branches and fencing the poor mite couldn’t move.
Isnt it strange how coincidence can play a part in certain circumstances that morning I had came across an old knife which I thought I had lost and decided to put in my pocket this was the tool that came to my new friends rescue I managed to cut its fur, I mean wool, no fleece! and with the other attachment freed the loose fencing without this I would have struggled to free her.
Having exchanged a few pleasantries and phone numbers she was on her way BAAck to her mates with half of forest Coiregrogain on her back.

 

Hi there handsome, I’m stuck”

                                                                    

Decidedly feeling pleased with myself I pushed on for my intended destination and as if to repay me for my good dead the sun began to show itself and reveal the stunning summits before me.

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Cloud covered summit

Snow filled gully

                                                                          

 

Down the glen

                                                                                   

About an hour later I was at Lag Uaine now I have a gps which is kept in my pack its almost laughable when you see the trail I have left looking for a decent pitch which¬†wasn’t¬†waterlogged or boggy after an hour or so I eventually found a place to pitch which was slightly sheltered bearing in mind I was trying the New Hex Peak out for the first time

The views around me were stunning ¬†sunlight literally bouncing off the summits changing hues from blue to pink amid little diamonds studded in the snow. It was my first time in this part of the glen and boy was it worth it I hadn’t seen a soul all day and the only thing I could here was the soothing sound of a waterfall nearby and the occasional bird letting me know I wasn’t entirely alone. You plan a trip outdoors but sometimes never really know what to expect or come across that’s what makes them the more memorable the breathtaking¬† beauty of our hills and glens never ceases to amaze me.

When camp was set and lunch partaken I went for a wander in the glen through some of its snarly crags and hillocks then had a restful hour soaking my tootsies in the nearby stream.

 Around four pm the weather started to turn it clouded over and got remarkably colder there was definitely a hint of something to come.
At this point I decided to make dinner when it was still relatively calm and double check all my pegging points and guys reasonably happy with all thisit was now time to take advantage of my sleeping bagand some of the reading material that was downloaded onto the nexus 7.

Gradually as the night wore on the conditions outside became more intensethe wind had picked up changed direction and now was blowing in the last place I wanted it straight at the door.
There also seemed to be a peg or guy line loose so the decision had to be made  boots on  jacket on and go out and fix.

By this time it was around eleven forty five and the wind had also brought in horizontal snow I remedied the peg and guy line situation and also reinforced the pole with a line attached to the top and pegged not that I think this done much good because the wind changed again and was now hitting the Hex side on which in turn resulted in it slightly bending my walking pole. The winds must have been in excess of fifty mph because it had me off my feet in more than one occasion.

Everything sorted and back inside my confidence in this little stayer was growing buy¬†the minute it was a case of nylon in the face at times but knowing the Hex was fighting and winning its battle I settled down for good nights sleep well a couple of hours to be honest, when its blowing and snowing like that you don’t get much I think I will need to invest on decent earplugs for these occasions.

Extreme test for the new Luxe Hex Peak                                                                                   

                                                                                 

The following morning wasn’t much better, the weather was relentless, and it looked like a white out up top , so notions of making the summit this morning were slim, I finally made the decision to break camp and head for home.
For me reaching some of the summits in winter isn’t the end of the world its not failure in my book, the success is the total experience and enjoyment you achieve from the trip as a whole.

A soft spot for The Brack

A soft spot for The Brack

Friday morning and another early rise not a mouse stirs in suburbia. Outside the confines of my meagre brick and mortar dwelling it is strangely still and unseasonably mild.

My destination or jaunt as I prefer is for one of my favourite mountains the Brack well technically she’s a Corbett all of 787m and is¬†situated in Glen Croe between Ben Donnich and¬†Cnoc Coinnich Ardgarten near Arrochar.

 I have taken it upon myself for this jaunt to leave the Akto at home and dust down my old vango tempest 200 which has not seen the light of day for about four years. My main thoughts for doing so is basically down to comfort at camp being able to store winter gear and cook in the larger vestibule especially in foul conditions.

The forecast for the day was relatively good for the area a slight breeze and occasional light shower but was due to change as night wore on.

My journey to Arrochar was uneventful this time thankfully.   However quite a few of the peaks that were visible from the roadside looked to have a nice blanket of snow on them this is when I get that feeling of here we go cant wait to get up there.

Donning my pack at the car park in Ardgarten along with the rest of my gear it wasn’t particularly noticeable of the extra weight I was carrying with the tempest.

My initial approach was on the forestry track which leads onto a well worn path through lush vegetation and after about a kilometre it opens out with views to your left of Cruch Fhiarach the smaller summit on the ridgeline with the Brack to your right.

 
 
 

The rugged Brack

                                                                   

 
 

The first impression you get of this little gem is its sheer ruggedness large boulders the size of small bungalows lie precariously on its flanks there are bivvy caves , water sources to hand and to many nooks and crannies to mention.

 
A soft spot for The Brack

Bivvy cave

                                                                       

Not surprisingly The Brack is used for exercises  by mountain rescue and has good graded climbing routes with names like Hell Mend Ya, The Abbys, Hogwarts Express, Elephant Train, and Great Central Groove.

I decided to camp around 250m below the summit in a sheltered boulder field due to the night forecast of strengthening winds and heavy rain. But unfortunately this was easier said than done the snow was wet so wouldn’t compact and the underlying surface was sodden. I carefully picked out the best of a bad lot ¬†and managed to give myself some semblance of a compacted pitch.

 

 

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The weather clears for a few minutes

                                                               

It had been quite a time since I last pitched the tempest but 10 minutes later I was laying my gear inside and ready to have well deserved meal of chicken casserole. I was really surprised at how mild it was to the point I discarded the HH long johns and went down to my drawers,. not a pretty site.

 

                                                    time for a selfie (hate that expression)

Having used the Akto for the best part of four years I was increasingly becoming a little frustrated at the lack of space¬† especially on winter trips don’t get me wrong I love this shelter and it has served me well over the years but I was yearning for a little more comfort so until the MLD Trailstar arrives I decided to bring out the Vango.

As the night progressed the weather was starting to take a turn for the worst the rain was coming down really hard beating a constant rhythm on the tent and the wind was making those strange sounds as it only can in the mountains, My choice of sheltered pitch had paid off my guards and companions in the boulder field that night¬†were fending of the worst of the wind ¬†having no effect whatsoever on the tempest which pleased me greatly. This was a novelty having that extra space to dress in and¬†pee in (bottle of the sport variety) ¬†the only downside I did notice was condensation on the floor which I hadn’t experienced with the Akto.

 

Admittedly my sleep was broken a few times during the night with the heavy rainfall but all in all in the morning I did feel rested up at five thirty, coffee and a few oatcakes later I was breaking camp.

What a surprise that was on exiting my sleeping quarters it looked as if I had been transported onto another  mountainside not a hint of snow anywhere  it had gone had the snow fairies taken it away or was there some strange meteorological phenomenon at work. Nope it must have been all that rain on wet snow so there goes my day of taking shots of this little beauty in its nice white cardy and further to make my day its started chucking it down and I still have the tent to pack up .

You’ve got to¬†laugh.

The END