The road to Ben Nevis Nov 2009

The road to Ben Nevis Nov 2009
The road to Ben Nevis Nov 2009

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Saturday, 10 December 2011

Here we TGO again!

Last October I mis-read the Email from the organisers. I thought I was one of the chosen ones - when in fact I was one of the others - on the waiting list.

This time I'm in at the outset. And as a Newby facing first:- THE PLANNING CHALLENGE.

1. The route. To this end I bought myself an early Christmas Present a year's subscription to Ordinance Survey's 'getamap' system For a little under £20 I have access to all OS mapping on-line. I can input and store routes, and I can print out A4 pages at 1:25000 or 1:50000 scale.
It seems a reasonable system to me, and quite simple. Printing in colour produces pages with the same content as the OS sheet maps, and is much clearer than on my b&w laser printer. Will I use pages on the walk? I'm not sure yet.

I know others have their favourite route planning systems. Has someone done a head-to-head comparison? I'd like to know I'm not wasting my time!

2. The boots. This is the thorniest problem. I want to do a few tops, some rocky and maybe scrambly ground, and I can imagine some lingering snow as well as the usual universal wetness. Whatever I decide I will have to live with for the whole trip and a breakdown in the feet area will prematurely end the adventure.

I've almost decided against any sort of Gortex lining. But more work is needed here.

3. The Tent System. Less critical in terms of priority, but important for a happy trip. My Laser Competition is a good design but slightly too small inside. Too small for me - when I sit up my head sweeps the condensation of the roof; and too small for my kit - which even when packed away will stick out from under the tent side at night. And my Trailstar tarp is not perfect. It seems to need a large piece of flat ground for a good pitch, and it provokes the question of groundsheet or bivvy bag? The homemade groundsheet is not a 'bathtub' style design so not proof against any sort of flooding; and the Rab Storm bivvy bag adds some extra weight.

4. The whole pack. What to take. What's the weight. For later.

5. Logistics. Something about food replenishiment. A shower or two. Maybe a drying-out opportunity. Also for later.

Mind-boggling Blogger!

How secure are your bloggings? Do you know where they are stored? Can you recover information if it is accidentally deleted?

Is it working in the optimum way? Do your gadgets put readers off? Are the pictures shown off to their best? And actually which is the best tool for you and your readers?

I'm sorry I don't have the answers. This needs time and study. Possibly each person would reach a different conclusion.

I started with Wordpress and then moved to Blogger. I had already paid Google for storage space, moving the content over saved paying for Wordpress storage too.

Recently this blog started to scroll up to the top whenever the comment link was clicked - not the right place for entering comments with an entry field at the bottom of the blog. I can find no clue about how to investigate this. I've more than 30 pages of HTML code from the template section of the blogger dashboard, but I don't want to learn this.

So maybe adjusting or replacing the template using the Blogger menus will help?

I now have a new look. But previous comments have disappeared. I think. Or have they? I don't know where they are stored.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

The Night Train to Corrour and not the Grey Corries unexpurgated

The 9.15 from Euston reaches this bit of wildness almost 12 hours later.

The miracle at Corrour is that the train doesn't sink beneath the bogs, but seems to float between here and Rannock in some of the wildest land in Scotland.

Me I don't float on the bogs and within 100m of the station I was floundering waist deep in the myre. Thank you to the other passenger alighting from the 9.15 from Euston who gave a helping tug on my rucksack to get me back to the path.

Passing the end of Loch Treig

The two of us negotiated lots of water on the ground and in the air passing the end of Loch Treig to the bothy at Lairrig Laadach. For me this was to be the start of the Grey Corries traverse. My fell-running companion from Sheffield was off in the opposite direction.

Sometimes the wind is so high and noisey that it is difficult to stand or think. So it was on the ridge to Stob Choire na Ceannain that afternoon and I  I withdrew to the valley and in the evening light swarmed up a good looking nearby top called Sgurr Innse.
Sgurr Innse with Lairrig Laadach bothy in foreground
Lairrig Laadach with munro Stob Ban behind
I returned to the protection of the Bothy for the night. And later I carefully put away all my food in case of marauding mice. In the morning however the floor was scattered with Polo mints and a hole chewed into the pocket on the wasteband of my pack.

The next day another sortie to Grey Corries. On Wednesday I'd followed Ralph Storrer's route from the top of the track from the North; this time I followed the path from the Bothy into the very attractive cwm called Cul Choirean on my map. Snow had fallen during the night and I tramped up to the ridge through thin drifts and reached up to the first top Stob Choire na Ceannain (1123m). As I looked at the narrow ridge joining this to neighbouring munro the wind suddenly blasted strong. That was the end of attempt two.

Munro Stob Ban
I retreated to the cwm and traversed around to the gap between the Corries and Stob Ban. By the time I reached the top of the latter it was covered in cloud. The weather varied in typical fashion from rain to snow to sunshine, but the predominate key was rain. I joined the path over to the next valley and with a couple of hours reached the charming Bothy at Meanach. All handy for a day on the Mamores.

Meanach was recommended by the fell-runner from Sheffield. He failed to mention that it is surrounded by rivers without any bridges. Nevertheless a comparatively comfortable stopover with Billy the dog and 2 companions from Huddesfield. A 2 roomer one with a wooden floor the other in stone but no sleeping platforms. I could imagine skiing out here in winter with a bit of wood for the fire to make a cosy stop, but this is pure fantasy - I don't know how the weather is in winter and skis work well on snow but not so useful for crossing rivers.

Meanach bothy - centre across the river and to left from 3 trees and the shell of a lodge
So in the morning a two mile trek upstream to find crossing points to the south side of Abhainn Rath. A footbridge crosses the second river to give access to the ridge up to Sgurr Eilde Mor. The usual uncomfortable bog and heather bashing is needed to gain the ridge, then a gradual incline takes you to the top.

The ridge up to Sgurr Eilde Mor
A steep path leads from here slightly north of west down to the col north of the lochain beyond which a snowy ridge beckoned with several distinct tops.
A steep path drops from the summit of Sgur Eilde Mor

A fine narrow path zig-zagged up the middle of the steep amphitheatre to reach the ridge just to the west of Sgur Eilde Beag. Now in bright sun the views are stunning and the ridge eastwards reaches Binnean Mor. Unfortunately a little late in the day to extend over more tops even though they beckon in two directions.
Ridge to Binnean Mor

I dropped down off the north west end of the top to a valley mad with the cries of the deer. From on high I could see a flat piece of land in the bend of a river.
Summit of Binnean Mor with camping spot in distant bottom lh corner and Ben Nevis touching the cloud above
 And within 2 hours I had the tent pitched and water boiling for a brew.
A pitch surrounded by deer

A pathless valley in the Mamores with several flocks of deer on both sides and competing stags calling. Is this the season? I don't know. But could be an idyllic pitch in dry weather.

Wind and rain makes the Laser Comp feel small. This is my first trip with it since I got a Trailstar tarp a year ago. The Trailstar is a bit large - in the UK mountains there are not so many large level and dry pitches. With the Laser Competition there is not quite room to arrange everything tidily undercover and I find that when I sit up in the night my head sweeps across the surface of the inner picking up lots of condensation.

This spot is just below the ridge which starts or ends the Ring of Steal. I scattered the deer as I moved upwards in the morning. Up into the cloud. And drizzle. One peak follows another round eventually to Sgurr a' Mhaim. I can imagine that this is one of the best walks in the UK. A 10 out of 10. In the mist this becomes just another walk.
Ring of Steal in the mist

As I came off the ridge the vista opened out below the cloud - and in front of me a large lake in the valley which did not match my memory from the map. A little further and I realised it was a low layer of cloud just above the tree-tops.
Glen Nevis appears through the cloud
 Sometimes in the gloaming - after carefully managing my return to civilisation and safety in time - a strange sensation passes over me - brought on by someone rushing in the opposite direction. Today, first a fox with tail outstretched was running up the valley away from the green trees and the sheep, rushing to some widerness hideaway. Then a spectre with a deerstalked hat, and breeches, and a canvass rucksack strode head down through the drizzle, up the valley quite oblivious to my helloa.

The time was getting late, the weather was not getting better. I wanted to camp in the upper part of Glen Nevis, but this must wait for another occasion as I found myself at Lower Falls carpark a few miles further down the valley - and about 5 km from the Glen Nevis YHA.

People are not keen to give a ride to a wet and weary hitchhiker in the area. I was halfway down the road before someone stopped.

I was here once before at the end of the West Highland Way. Things are changing in the SYHA. Now there's evening meals available, cooked breakfasts, and even beers and wine on sale.

The Glen Nevis Hostel is a homely place but in a inconvenient position. Except for Ben Nevis, that is, because the main path up starts just across the road. Transport links arrive at Fort William however, a few miles to the North; and the interesting hill area is accessed from a few miles in the opposite direction.
An hour on the tarmac to reach Achriabhach & the path to the hills
 A couple of the outliers of the Marmores make a rewarding round from the bottom of road. An hour on the tarmac before heading up through the forest eventually to mount the ridge on the side of Mullach nan Correan. After the forest path ends the haul up the ridge side is tough with a loaded pack and much water underfoot. But once the ridge is gained the steady rise on firm ground made pleasant walking. On this day continuous low cloud obscured all views and made progress very tentative. Every cairn seemed like the top, until another higher cairn was reached.

The ridge round to Stob Ban was more of the same, with just two couples appearing out of the mist as they traversed in the opposite direction. I planned to camp if the weather improved, but this ambition was quashed well before arriving at the top of Stob Ban where the cloud lifted slightly to reveal the landscape below – including the east ridge route down, some of the impressive crags on the NE face, and the stalkers path leading back down to Achriabhach on the road.

As on the previous evening I had walked most of the way along the road to the hostel before someone responded to my request for a lift.

My final day arrived. With low cloud and rain. This time I kept to the valley. I left my camping gear in a bin-bag at the hostel and tramped down the road again, and on to the path to Steal Falls in upper Glen Nevis. Here was a sign pointing to Corrour - the station I had arrived at a few days earlier, just 13 miles away.
Upper Glen Nevis
Glen Nevis beyond the gorge with Mountain Rescue helicopter over Steal Falls
 The valley that opens out after the Glen Nevis gorge is charming in every way and a great surprise. Here also is the famous bridge crossing the river which consists of 3 cables – 1 to walk on and 1 for each hand. Not a comfortable crossing for me!

Cable bridge to Steal Climbing Hut
Afternoon sunshine improves the view
 The timing is fine to explore a little, then return down the path and road to the hostel for an afternoon cup of tea. And to pickup the rest of the gear for the walk down to Fort William and the night train.

Right next to the station is a giant Morrisons supermarket. After collecting wound dressings from the nearby Boots the Chemist for the repair of my feet, it was impossible to resist a fish and chip supper in Morrison's cafe. And so to join the cheery crowd in the lounge car for a few beers before rocking to sleep on the bunk bed in my compartment. Ready for work the next day.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

An experiment with tracking. One of the problems with this sort of trial is that the results will be on show for everyone but me. I'll be keeping in touch through satellite and GPS but will not have access to the internet and probably no mobile 'phone signal. O well let's see ....

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Saturday Loaves

Getting the wholegrain flours to rise like the white is challenge I've yet to regularly overcome.

The loaves on the left are 80% strong wheat wholemeal with about 15% strong white wheat flour and a small part of rye. Although the dough rises well during preparation at the last minute it has a tendency to collapse. Whereas the white on the right keeps its volume.

Any clues please comment below!

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Satuday Bread with Greens

  All is growing like crazy in the garden. Some of those herbs that are so prolific will never get used - ours are dominated by lots of different variations on oregano.

This selection went into the weekend loaf - oreganos, parsleys, rosemary, chives, winter savoury, sage, rucola.

The recipe which inspired this diversion:-

Here's the basic ingredients. Just add salt and a sourdough starter. And optionally a sprinkling of seeds - the recipe recommends poppy seeds, but I used linseed. And of course water.

Last time I used some cheese as suggested, but not today.

The 'low knead' technique recommends a few 10 second bursts of activity and is new to me. It seems to work well enough.

 As the recipe says after an hour or so the dough becomes easier to handle.

 I used 3x the quantities, to make 3 large loaves.

The sourdough starter is handled slightly differently from my usual method and, for the second time in a row behaved perfectly in raising the dough.

This is the place to sprinkle cheese if you want a cheesy bread. Last time I used a bit of grated pecorino which gave a savoury taste but looked a bit messy.

 Unlike the recipe which recommends some fancy pot to be used in the oven I did the usual - baking in the oven on (reused) baking paper on ceramic tiles. I use tiles to line the oven shelves to help transfer a lot of heat quickly to the loaves. A bit of water spray to encourage a nice crust.
Perfect result!

Boris vs Ken? Contrasting Streets in a London Weekend

Last weekend in London. County Hall was where Ken Livingstone made his name in the 1980s. This view - has more echoes of Boris Johnson than Ken. 

Whereas a mile or two away, in Piccadilly, this seems more up Ken Livingstone's street. I don't think Boris will lead the charge here ("Don't do wrong with your Shlong")!

Exactly what the protests were about I'm not sure . But variety is one of the plus points of London!

As usual - Dad likes to be in control.

Ben Alder & The Night Train to Dalwhinnie

Ben Alder and Beinn Bheoil
The night train is a great way of getting from London to the Highlands once you are reconciled to spending the money!

Two trains leave Euston station in London. The ealier one will drop you at your destination in the morning. The second train leaves just before midnight and ends at Glasgow, so you need a conecting train to reach your destination soon after midday.
On this occasion, somewhere in the night, there was a suicide on the line. All the trains were disrupted, and very delayed. I got as far as Blair Atholl and for the last 20 miles hitch-hiked, eventually arriving at Dalwhinnie at 4 in the afternoon.

The mountains around Ben Alder are 'remote' - which means a long walk in. Many cycle the route beside Loch Ericht to Ben Alder Lodge and the open countryside beyond.
After 2-3 hours a small pause in the continuous rain reveals the welcome sight of the bothy at Culra Lodge. 3 rooms for shelter.

Culra Bothy

Showing the ridge route up onto Ben Alder from Sron Coire
 The morning brought a break in the weather,  and I  headed off to the 'almost scrambly' ridge leading up to Ben Alder. Making a circuit - over the top and across the bealach to Sron Coire and Beinn Bheoil - is the natural way to go. During the day there's every possible kind of weather from giant slow-falling snow flakes, to horizontal sandblast-like hailstones, to rain at every angle, and low cloud, and high winds, and even a few short spells of sunshine.

In May the days are pleasantly long and this first walk lasted little more than 6 hours so on return to the start there was time enough to reach a new area. Past Loch Pattack I headed north along the Pattack river and found a camping spot close to the falls in a bit of woodland full of signs of deer.

Crow Trap
Here, some distance from any track, there's crow trap. Three compartments in a wire mesh cage with a live crow shut in the centre part - with some water and food. Either side a compartment with a perch which, if touched would cause a trap door to close. What is it for? I'm not sure: would it trap crows looking for a mate? or a predator? Either way it is probably not benign.

The next day I looped round to the north and west past the first of two lochans to approach Geal Charn from the North side. The route is served well by a landrover track and on this Sunday morning without a soul on foot, bike, or landrover the landscape is picturesque in a desolate sort of way.

Geal Charn has a curious North side - deeply scored by several streams with banks 20 or so metres high on each side. The dips are pleasant to walk in, alongside a stream - but you can't actually see if you're going in the right direction. Eventually it is necessary to leave these and head up to a bealach where a path invites you into the arms of a Coire below the top. Using my walking poles shortened to act like ice axe sticks I pulled myself up over a small snow field onto the ridge.

The characteristic top of Geal Charn looks down onto the neighboring Munro Creag Pitridh.

Here the wind was very fierce and it was good to get down to a recognisable path. This dropped down to the second of the two lochans with an attractive sandy beach.

On the map both Lochans are called na h-Earba. The path divides a little further on - one branch towards the A86 and the top of Loch Laggan just a couple of miles away. The other heads south back towards the mountains, passing the ruin of Lubvan which make a beautiful remote and exposed camp. The trailstar once set-up shrugged off the wind which quietened in the night.

 The path follows the stream up to a spot marked 'stepping stones' on the map. On the ground - no sign, just a river to wade across and then the path disappears. Time for some heather bashing towards the top marked Beinn Eibhinn.
"Stepping Stones"

This impressive and interesting ridge heads east over several munros. It is commonly approached from Loch Ossian, and this route misses the relatively minor top Meal Clas Choire. Continuing from Beinn Eibhein over Aonach Beag, Geal Charn (another one!) towards Carn Dearg, there are great views on both sides and a dramatic (but not exposed or even scrambley) rocky route down between two lochans in the move from Geal Charn to Diolliad a Chairn.

At the last top Carn Dearg it is possible to head down East & South to the bothy at Culra and Loch Pattach and the route out. Me - I headed north-west to the top of the trail through An Lairig to pick up a small path which heads east on an upward diagonal across the side of Beinn A Chlachair which was the target for the next day.
Ben Alder group from Carn Dearg

Beinn a' Chlachair from Carn Dearg
The shoulder just below Bealach Leamhain provided a piece of dry and level ground for the trailstar shown here with the distant view of the Ben Alder group and the ridge to Carn Dearg on the left.
A cold night with the evening rain drops frozen on the tent surface and a sleeping mat which required reinflating every hour or so, meant an early rising. The path to the top of Beinn a' Chlachair is easily navigated even in cloud, and the return back to the Bealach.

This is my last day. As the train leaves from Dalwhinnie at 10pm, a full day is still available for walking. From the map the obvious next option was to ascend Geal Charn again, this time from the south and then follow the path from the bealach on the north side to the east down towards Pattack river.

This proved a rewarding choice with fine views and some deer and ptarmagin, and a pleasant stream in which to bathe my battered feet.
 The walk out, at the end of the day is long and not pleasant. More than two hours on the gravel road with little variation to please the eye, and made worse because of soreness on my feet from walking with wet boots and socks.
Loch Ericht looking towards Ben Alder
 I looked forward to getting an evening meal at Dalwhinnie and dreamed of using a shower before the train arrived. The sign below, outside the boarded up Dalwhinnie Hotel, is all the more poignant as absolutely everything here is closed except the toilets and the waiting room at the station.

I had the station to myself for a couple of hours which gave me good time to apply first aid to my feet, to repack my bag, and to cook up my last cup of mulagatawny soup.
And when the train arrived there was a welcome buffet car with food, some warm water in the cabin for a clean-up, and a comfortable bed for a good sleep. So all ready for work at the office the next morning, with only a slight limp to hint at my weekend away!
[note: you can click on any picture to see it in enlarged ... ]