Posts Tagged Hillwalking

The South Glen Shiel Ridge Hike – 7 Munro’s and a 24hr trip! 

VLOG of the trip – click here!

Picked up just after 4am with very little sleep we were now off on this crazy mission with a 4hr drive up north to the start point of this epic hike! Nervously excited, tired but determined in my mind that I’d accomplish the task ahead. I had read the reports, downloaded the route, printed off a map, all that remained now was the endurance of this testing estimated average 11hr walk, braving & scrambling some slightly exposed ridges and getting the 9K back along the road to the van at the start point!
The weather was changeable on the drive up but began to clear more as we got closer to our destination and just as we arrived the hills were framed by a gorgeous rainbow, always a good sight to me, there’s just something mystical and awesome about them and in my mind a sign that the day was going to turn out well. 
Rucksacks on the backs packed with the needs and necessities we headed off to hit the first Munro, meeting one other couple along the way who were going an “off piste” route up the mountain, we chose to stick to the path more trodden. It was quite a climb to the first summit as we traversed back and forth winding up the rocky grassy path. From there the next summit was not far and without too much descent in between, so we carried on to Munro No.2. before we stopped for a short re-fuelling break. 
Somewhere after this was where I had to scramble over a reasonably short exposed ridge section. I’m not totally afraid of heights, however, from previous experiences of looking down from these kinda heights at pretty scary looking drops and that sinking fearsome feeling I get in my belly, I have found the best solution for me is to only focus on where my feet/hands are going, put my blinkers on and keep going! Lol! 

I made it, phew, now more trudging as we continued along to the next peaks and troughs, the last 3 had quite large incline/declines in between and there was another ridge section, which I again employed the same “don’t look down” strategy and got happily down the other side of that where we met another 3 walkers and stopped for a bit of hill banter before continuing on this mission. 

We reached Munro 6 and for a moment thought that it was 7, so the map confirmation that we still had one more to go was a bit of a blow to the mind more than the body as now it had to be re-calibrated to factor in further endurance than was thought for just a moment.

After that we kicked up the pace a bit pushing just to get to the last one, which was a hugely welcomed sight I’ll tell you! But, the walk was far from over, the decent back to the road was quite looking like quite a trek still on ViewRanger, and in order to get on that route there was a quite vertical few meter looking scramble ahead first much to my dismay! 

At this same junction there was, what appeared to be, another kind of path and possible route back down the valley that looked like a somewhat tempting option from where we were standing and it looked to cut off some walking time. So we made the decision to head down it! Very rubbly and not very pleasant walking at all, as well as pretty steep at first, it still seemed do-able though, but then as I was looking ahead at the terrain and where we were aiming for something was telling me this was not going to end well. It was getting later, now early evening and the sun was going down, we were tired, I was getting edgy and so said to my hiking companion that I felt we should try to head back up the mountain and over to try and find a way back to the official route off. He felt we could still make it but my gut feeling was that, although more ascent was far from ideal at this stage in the walk, it was going to be the best option! 
So we crossed up and over and could finally see the actual path in the distance near the stream, still quite a way to go though. At this stage in the walk it was really all about just plodding on and getting off the mountain with a slight urgency as light would be fading faster soon, a bit gruelling now but the mind was just on getting back to the van! Which was still parked another 9K along the road once we were back at the gate! Ooooft! 
Battling through boggy grassy midge filled sections and a couple of streams crossings, the second of which I did a lovely little slip and dip into as I attempted to step across the awkward stones. I laughed, wet but just really really happy to be off the mountain by this point, still not home and dry yet though by any means! 
Once through the gate onto the road we passed a campervan parked and began trudging along the road back to where the van was parked, trying to thumb a lift from passing cars but to no avail until finally that same campervan we saw just as we came off the mountain came along the road and stopped for us! 
Oh the sheer relief and joy, Simon and his van were like angels to me by this point, saving the last 5K of the walk, which very soon would have been in the dark! All Gods at this point were thanked in earnest, especially as we drove along the road and saw how much distance we still had to go! Ahhh…at last, the van, dry socks, trainers, warmth, a seat…but still a 4hr drive home and it was now 11pm! 
Even though I was not driving and could have nodded off for a rest I felt a duty to my driver and hiking buddy to stay awake just as he had to complete this mission. Anything else would be a cop out, plus I wanted to try keep talking to break up the monotony of the long dark drive through the winding country roads, especially with deer often on or around the roadside to watch out for too. 
3am and we were back in town, 24 hours since I’d got up to prepare for this epic expedition, and that it sure had been. A huge test of endurance of body and mind, the faith to keep going, thankful for the instinct that guided me to call to head back to the path on that last section on hindsight especially now after chatting to other hikers and reading reports of how folks got into dodgy troublesome descents by continuing to follow the valley route back. Phew! 
That’s 7 Munro’s bagged bringing my total to 23 and that little bundle is not one I’m in any rush to repeat and do again any time soon! Still, goal set and goal met, no cuts or bruises and a great sense of accomplishment along with no feeling of great urgency to see another mountain for a while! Lol! 

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Beinn Narnain & Ime MUNRO Summits (25/03/17)

Beinn Narnain Summit...No.8. ...on to 9 next...

Summit Beinn Narnain

View VLOG of the day here >>>

A gorgeous clear morning and forecast for the whole day, probably one of the nicest sunny days of 2017 so far and luckily we were able to “carpe diem” and head to the hills for another Munro bagging expedition, this time in the Arrocher Alps region near Loch Lomond.

A lovely drive and we were parked and ready to go, this time with much less need for such heavy extra layers, gloves and earwarmers and more in need of sunglasses and even a touch of sunscreen! This was a new Munro bagging experience for me! I had started my first MUNRO bagging in December when the wintery cold weather was just setting in, but one great thing about the cold is the dissappearance of certain undesireable insects, the midges and ticks!

So off we went up the track path for a small section and then cut up to follow the route. Since the weather was warming, there was a melt going on and the stoney path was resembling a small stream in places. Quite a steep section this first bit, and not long till we were all pretty warm in this spring sunshine.

As you will see if you view the VLOG in the link above, the views were incredible at every turn, simply breathtaking! Most of the start to this hike was fairly straight forwards, but as we ascended it got more rugged and steep in sections which was a little more challenging and required focus on the footholds. I had not done much “scrambling” the official word for rock clambering, except in my youth as kid by the beaches on the west coast. The scrambling began to become a lot more serious once we approached the part called the Spearhead. At this section we had to use hands to grip rocks and pull ourselves up certain sections, and it was a long way down if any mistakes were made. I looked down a couple of time but that just made my knees and tummy go weak and I could feel the fear inside me ready to take hold, so with the old pop song by Go West – “Don’t Look Down Girl” in my head, I did just that and persevered onwards and upwards. Behind me were my two hiking buddies, Jim highly experienced with close to 200 Munro’s under his belt so any terrain was not really a chore to him! Grace on the other hand, pardon the pun, literally in some ways due to her wrist injury recovery was struggling a bit with less mobility and that confidence of two strong grabbing working hands to grip the rocks with. Hats off to her for even attempting to do this climb but there did come a couple of points where she was engulfed with the fear and became imovable on sections. Looking back now we can both laugh at the moments when she was suggesting we call mountain rescue and she was not going to budge and further! But as they say, we get by with a little help from our friends and with me up ahead making footholds in the snow for her and coaxing her verbally to keep going and Jim with his sturdy patience at her rear we all made it!

Quite definately the next level of climbing that hill was and I was very glad to be off and over that section, as was Grace most definately! Thank goodness the worst bit was over! Phew…and we did it! A stop for food and it was off to Beinn Ime.

It didn’t look like it was going to take too long to get to that other summit, but boy the hill was a bit deceiving and I was certainly feeling my energy levels dropping a bit and that feeling of “when are we gonna get there” arising as the actual summit was hidden by false appearances. Finally we got there, and again some more snacks and sugary treats to boost the slightly flagging energy levels, then it was back down and past the base of “The Cobbler” another landmark rocky scramble in the same vicinity. One day I will get to that too!

The final hour of walking to get back to the car park was quite tiring, not sure now of out exact timing for this trip but it had been a good 10 hours or more we had been going so we were flagging a bit, well I sure was! Longest day on the hills yet I think…the sunniest and the best views, new skills challenged with the scrambling sections and another two Munro’s bagged, making my grand total now of 9!

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Munro Bagging No.5. – Scheihallion (5/5/17)

Scheihallion Summit

Munro No.5. Bagged!

View Vlog from the day!

Having been a bit out of commission most of January due to injury and illness for any further Munro missions, then subsequently experiencing fears of slipping on ice or any greater injuries with a pending marathon challenge in May, I had ducked out of the bagging for a couple of months for some safer and more low impact exercising to coincide with my training as I repaired and rebuilt my strength. I was battling with the fears in my mind of falling in wintry conditions, unforeseen weather conditions and the desire to tackle another Summit challenge! 

My friend and I were both recovering from different injuries and fears of slipping so we took an easy confidence building climb up the Meikle Bin, a lovely local hill walk and not so daunting! Once we hit that, we were both busting for something a bit more challenging so made the decision that we were going to tackle Scheihallion.Our other hill-walking friend Jim thankfully decided to join us last minute and offered to drive, so then there were three in the team for the day!

A snowy cold early morning start and a drive that took us on a bit of a detour high into the hills where the snow was still fresh and thicker on the roads, so on this small single track road we had taken was a bit hairy but our solid driver and his van got us there as always, in one piece and safe!

Bit of a foggy start but the snow on the hills looked lovely and there was a clear path to follow on the ascent for most of the way till we got closer to the summit and where the boulder fields of this hill would usually be found as reported by many other hill-walkers but at this time of year snow had filled in most of the ground around the boulders so there were just some of the tops poking through and this actually made it easier to climb!

All in all this was a pretty straight forward hill, so it was fun and not too treacherous, especially with snow to bound through. We occasionally got cloud clearing and views appearing on the ascent but sadly by the time we got to the summit it was pretty thick and not much could be seen. We stopped there and sheltered among the boulders along with other baggers that were, like us, refueling and hoping at some point the mists would clear and reveal what lay beneath, but alas, only short glimpses and to no great avail, so we packed up and made our decent.

No injuries and plenty of giggles that seemed to be brought on at higher altitudes and with the intake of Jelly Babies that Grace had brought along with her! A great walk, a nice Munro to do in the snow and a great feel good factor from the day, as well as more confidence built again. With each Munro mission, new learning and more experience under the belt. Peanut butter and blackcurrant jam wholemeal rolls seem to have now become the summit snack of choice, along with a tepid (usually) cup of tea to wash them down, seems to hit the spot perfectly for me!
Exercise wise, this Munro bagging is a great all rounder, calorie burning, leg working in many ways and also with the pole use an upper body workout, all in all a bit like using a cross-trainer for 4/5 hours! LOL!

So, No.5. under the belt and over the hurdle that got me stuck after No.4…more to follow…

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Munro Summit No.4. – Ben Lomond

Videolog 

A cool but clear day on 2nd January 2017, the new year had begun and it was time to continue as I’d left off in the previous year, climbing big huge hills to get to the top and climb back down again. 

At least with a goal like this I can usually see the summit, at least a destination of exactly where I am headed, not like the path of being a self producing hopeful artist where no defined finish points, maps or presumed journey times were to be found, just travelling in blind faith on some crazy self created test of endurance, striving to progress, find some notable success, job or a way into the life and/or love you always dreamed you’d find in your happy ending, which was often the only thing that drove your passion to keep going, to keep trying and not to give up! It sure wasn’t the pay check, that’s for sure! Lol! 

Mountains though, and being part of a small team, just putting one foot in front of the other, usually with a route already travelled or mapped out and led by a more experienced member of the group, now, this was to some extent an easier or even more pleasurable task at hand right now, everything else just seemed so up in the air in a whole different way than the summits were.

I was getting used to packing my kit now the night before and preparing for the early morning pick ups by one of my kind drivers from the team that would get me and my wee legs to the start point. This time it was just two of us on this lovely fresh winters day. 

The drive to Loch Lomond was surrounded by the sun rising in a clear sky and it was looking like just the perfect day to do it. We arrived at the start point and got on our way pronto, no messing about walking with this one, this guy was a lean mean hillwalking machine, the kind that ate mountain summits for breakfast and was ready for another mountain by lunchtime! Lol! His pace challenged me to keep up as we ascended the steep and quite rocky path, a couple of times I did have to call on a breather or stop to take the odd pictures recording the day for my videolog. 

Quite a relentless climb this one, requiring extra care and focus on icy patches hidden sometimes, just one small slip on the way up, enough to cause me to feel just that little bit more nervous of the footholds under me, after all, it hadn’t been that long since other injuries had prevented me from enjoying much exercise, so the last thing I wanted to do now was fall and hurt myself. 

It was getting colder as we got higher as is usual on these climbs, quite a busy tourist summit route this one, we certainly were not alone on our quest to bag this Munro that day, which for the most part had been providing us with clear views over the Loch and surrounding landscape. However as we were approaching the last leg a large thick cloud began to come down to greet us and by the time we got to the criag at the top all we could see was cloud and it was pretty darn cold, windy and a fine blizzard of snow was also now adding itself into the windchill factor.

No hanging about at the top except for the standard summit picture and we began quite a speedy decent to make our way out these higher level conditions rather than stopping for lunch. Out the worst of it we stopped for a quick, much needed refuel and then headed back down the rest of the way. I found myself on the verges of grassy mounds rather than the stony path as I felt my feet were far more confident stepping there avoiding potential unseen ice patches, but still I found one and proceeded to do a short Torvell & Dean move before stopping on one knee! Another friendly gentleman climber was on his way down just behind me and offered his arm out to give me a welcomed hand up as I joked about my lack of ice dancing skills! That would thankfully be my 2nd and last slip for the day and the rest of the journey down was made unscathed! 

About 5 hours later we were back where we started and that was the end of another adventurous day on the hills. We definitely took the high road on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond that day! Another memory created and another Munro bagged…great start to 2017…let’s see how many are under the belt by next New Year eh! 🙂 

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Munro challenge No.3. – Ben Chonzie 

Videolog
Just 4 of us today 27/12/16, 2 guys and 2 gals, a drive off up into the mountains with an early start at 8am to make sure we caught as much daylight as possible on this cold but clear winters day. A great way to lift the spirits (literally) during the festive period, which can be an awkward time of year for some, certainly for me, so I was very glad for this healthy distraction. 
As we pulled up at the car park we were not alone in our decision to tackle this summit today, another couple of lads were just leaving and likely laughing or wondering what crazy folks we were as we begun our day dancing in the car park to the Eagles, which J had pumping out of his van…nothing like a bit of joviality to start the day! 

Hiking kit on and we were off, snow covered mountains all around and looking forwards to this expedition with my newly found comrades. It’s amazing how fast a bond can be formed with like minded souls on such a trip. New friends, new challenges to conquer and new skills to learn.

This was a comparitively straight forward ascent for the most part, following a well established path that wound back and forth higher and higher into the mountains exposing amazing views of snow caps. 

The higher we got the more ice and snow covered the path and the colder the winds got too, so hoods and zips up time. Once we got so far the footsteps we’d been following in the snow on the path went off piste and hence so did we,  walking through a more potentially marshy hillside section now but it was snow covered so care had to be taken if you didn’t want to put your foot into a bog! This is where the hiking poles come in very handy.

We were getting nearer the summit now, it, along with another few bodies walking in the distance was now in sight. The next section we crossed over was frozen snow and pretty slippy, luckily I’d put on a cheap pair of grips on my boots, they helped a little but later kept slipping off my boots and becoming more of a hindrance, something to upgrade for future winter excursions! 

Along a wide exposed section of mountain now and we were there, a small whiskey swig taken by all as we toasted our next accomplishment! 

Time for some food and re-adjustments to clothing i.e. waterproof trousers on top, to keep the sub zero windchill that was now hitting me at bay. This proved to be quite a challenge as my fingers had decided to go numb and I had to get my boots/gaiters/grips off before I could get the trousers on! Learning curve as I watched D with her ones with a flap that opened at the bottom with studs so she didn’t have to go through such shenanigans! Lol! 
Our lovely gentlemen friends were quite the chivalrous and proceeded to pack snow into the small stone made shelter at the summit so we could all sit out the wind to re-fuel and sort ourselves out for the decent! 

It was bloomin’ freezin’, I couldn’t remember the last time I had been in such cold, but the views were amazing, my companions were fun to be around and those things combined seemed to negate any effects I might usually feel encountering that status. 

Some food eaten with totally numb fingers and toes beginning to join them in that feeling, it was time to get moving and get my circulation pumping some warmer blood into those areas. D & J had already headed off as I was trying to get my grips back on my shoes, to no avail, so just abandoned that idea and managed without them. Part of the mountain here was clear of snow and I decided to jog for a bit to catch up with the others and attempt to defrost my fingers & toes, it worked, but then turned round and my buddy had vanished! Turned out he had just headed over to take some pics and came back into view but there was just a moment of concern and subsequent relief as he came back into view. 

The decent now was through snow and marshy hillside off piste and not trodden on. We took the non-tourist route back down “to make it more fun” the guys said! Lol! And yes, I guess it did turn out to be fun as we bounded about in the deep snow and even did a bit of ice axe stop practice, but it wasn’t so much fun when first my right foot managed to find itself in a hidden stream that was running down the mountain, and just after getting one waterlogged foot out proceeding to then plunge my other foot in also! Lol! Two wet cold feet, yuk, but after a while they warmed up and I hardly noticed the conditions they were now walking in! 

Wasn’t long before we got back on the path for the last leg back down, passing the snow Angel that D had made on the way up, our stamp on the landscape for that day! 

Another Munro bagged, my no.3 and another great day out with my fellow mountain people, my new found tribe…

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New Heights

My first Munro Bagging experience…Glas Maol & Creag Leacach 18/12/2016

Videolog

An early start and two cars convoy drive to the start point for 5 of us. This my very first Munro challenge, an opportunity offered by some other lovely enthusiastic walkers I’d met who encouraged me to come along and most thankfully supplied the transport to take me. 
As we drove into the mountains towering around us I felt the enormity of the task I’d set myself up for! Feeling part anticipation, maybe a little nervous excitement and just totally awestruck at the amazing feeling of being in the middle of this beautiful remote destination, one I had never experienced before.
Gaiters on, bag & bits all sorted and we were off…making our way along the initial section beside the stream was a little challenging but I managed to scramble along the dodgy footholds and got more confident as I went. This type of walking was new to me, so just took my time as the last thing I wanted to do was fall, get injured or end up soaked this early in the climb! 
After that section I felt much happier, just steady climbing after that, quite steep in places but that I could handle with the help of my poles for extra leverage and balance.
The cars parked at the start point began to grow smaller and smaller as we ascended up and up, the views of the mountains more and more expansive and breathtaking, small amounts of snow dusting the landscape in places or unmelted piles still dotted about. 
Nearing the higher grounds approaching Creag Leacach was much more bouldersome and rocky, another type of surface to navigate and get used to walking on. Much colder now as we reached this level into the sky, cloud inversions below us in the valleys creating a landscape so beautiful all around us, what a feeling, quite magical really. 
And so there it was, the Craig of rocks that was to be my first Munro summit! The whiskey dram was shared in swigs by us all as we toasted our conquered journey to the top.
A hop over the rocky ridge away out of the wind provided a warmer spot for us to stop for some food and refuel, I’d never eaten lunch above the clouds before, what a view! 
All packed back up again after that short breather we then continued on along the ridge down and up again to the next summit of Glas Maol, and that was Munro no.2. bagged! That was it, I was already hooked! 
The journey then continued on along the ridge and we began our winding descent. This part was where I was slower than the others, the climbing I found okay, but the way down just a bit more challenging, more nervous of a fall, slipping and the knees being punished in a way they hadn’t before, so just took it a bit easier until we got to a last section where we came to a track that wound down to the left swinging us back towards the cars that we could now see getting closer again.
One of our crew decided to jog a little and I joined in, partly just in triumph that I could now put one foot firmly in front of the other confidently and jumping for joy at the elation of the achievement I’d just made. 
The rest of the journey down was relatively straight forwards, rambling through the grassy mounds cutting across towards the start point. Then it was boots change, clean socks and into the cosy vehicles for the drive back and a stop off for a nice cup of warm tea/coffee. 
An experience I will always treasure, thankful to the souls I met that day for creating the memory and sparking a new passion in me to keep climbing. The start of new goals and aspirations, I was now a officially a Munro Bagger and there were another 280 still to go…this journey will most definitely continue… 

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