Just got back from a soggy trip to Aberdeen, it’s monstrously wet in Lochaber and I’m not going anywhere near the hills despite the apparent ‘waste’ of my last day of holiday. So I’m stuck inside passing the time, but did promise to photograph my ice axes for someone when I got back and thought I’d take this opportunity to describe the modifications I made last year.
Now, the standard DMM Fly is a great Scottish axe but is neither equipped for clipper leashes (which I particularly wanted to try) nor given leashless capability (all the rage these days!) as sold. And, while the alternative Superfly goes some way to addressing these points, many folk still prefer the Fly and I wanted to try some non-destructive (ie totally reversible) modifications on mine.
Fitting the clippers proved to be quite straightforward in the end, with just a little experimentation with attachment systems necessary to sort what works for me after deciding I’d prefer the neat little snap links of DMM’s own clipper leashes to any of the obvious alternatives (eg Black Diamond Androids). And, after a few false starts trying to lash stainless twist shackles or rings to the shafts (cumbersome and tricky to clip), simplest proved best with more mobile 5mm cord loops tied through the heads of the axes. To clip you just grip the clip ‘handle’, rest the gate on the cord loop and pull down so the loop snaps into the clip. To unclip you just squeeze the gate open with your first finger and twist the clip back out of the loop. It’s easy even with gloves (on which note, yes, that’s an unused glove from my spare pair in the photo). The shock cords round the shafts serve the dual functions of keeping the loops handy so you can steer the clips off the shafts into their clipping positions and stopping them flipping over the axe heads when you’re swinging leashless. But the clips do strip the shaft paint because, while the axes are great, the paint is not!
Anyway, while I was really happy with this clipper system, I still fancied trying the axes leashless with some kind of grip rests and decided to try Grivel Sliders (in ‘non-sliding’ mode) over the rubber grips rather than drilling the spikes (see, non-destructive mods again!) for any other kind of aftermarket horns. A tidy modification which leaves the Sliders’ metal retaining bands seated against the Flys’ thicker end caps and the whole spikes unimpeded for some retained plunging ability, but requires a little ingenuity in clamping up the Sliders over grips that are thicker than the bare shafts they were designed to slide along. And, when you look at the end-on photo, you can see why because the Sliders are tapered, the retaining bands are springy and it’s almost impossible to clamp them shut without either covering the screws you need to do up or springing the black and yellow bits back off again. But, after an hour or two’s pure frustration, I hit upon a solution, dug some longer 5mm stainless machine screws out of my boat bits and did them up with those (no clamps necessary) before cutting the screws to length and filing the resulting edges. Can’t remember exactly how long the screws were, but think the pair I used were about a couple of inches and probably didn’t need to be that long. So now I’ve got a pair of leashless-capable Flys although I’ve not yet climbed enough pitches leashless to judge whether it’s my thing. But I can always take the Sliders off to leave the axes unspoiled and revert purely to the clippers (which are definitely staying!) if I find that I prefer them without.
Footnote (January 2010): despite what I said above about the clippers ‘definitely staying’, I’m now happily leashless after taking them off and buying myself a Black Diamond Spinner!
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As one of the very few local hills of any real size I’d never been up, I’d long been intrigued by the prominent Corbett of Beinn Maol Chaluim which, despite standing proudly to the south of Bidean and being highly visible from the A82 between Glencoe Village and Achnacon, narrowly fails to make that silly Munro height, takes just as much effort to summit as its bigger neighbours and is surely therefore one of Glen Coe’s less-frequented peaks. So today I decided to run up it (if running’s not something of a misnomer for my progress over such a rough, largely pathless, course), traversing as close as possible to its visible skyline but turning the steep crags above the Bealach Fhionnghaill as necessary to the south. And that’s exactly what I did, taking sheep paths and flatter sections of river bank up the east side of the Fionn Ghleann, outflanking Creag Dhubh (an impressive crag of dripping rocks and turf that could be fun in a good winter) to the south and leaving the northern ridge just short of the Bealach Fhaolain to cut back west down Coire Garbh and cross the river to something more of a path (some human footprints on this one!) back north. A hard-won 6.6 miles and 3,200 ft that took over 2½ hours despite feeling strong after a day’s rest and not hanging about much beyond the time it took to snap a few (well, about 30) photos!
Been out on the hills this past couple of days, with yet another run on my ‘home ground’ of the central Mamores (surely my most trodden hills with the possible exceptions of the Ben and the Buachaille) followed by something new today.
Now, perhaps I’d have liked to go somewhere new yesterday, but I’d rather missed the boat in terms of travelling time by the time a grey morning started to give way to a clearing afternoon. So I headed back up the great zigzag of Coire na Ba to run over Stob Coire a’ Chairn and the Garbhanach/Gearanach ridge. Which comes in at round about 10.2 miles and 4,400 ft in just over 3 hours, which doesn’t sound that fast (and isn’t) but does allow for something of a slowdown over the light scrambling of the northern ridge and some photography on the way back as the mist started to lift.
With some splendid October sunshine today, I was keen to grab something new. But, being on holiday and surfacing typically late, not too far away. So I headed down towards Tyndrum (skipping the tight parking place near the private road to Auch Farm in favour of better parking and a slightly longer run in along the West Highland Way) with Beinn Mhanach in mind. Which, as the nearest Munro I hadn’t done, I’d been half thinking of saving (along with its subsidiary top of Beinn a’ Chuirn) for a relatively local and accessible final Munro/Top combination (so I’d like to get my final Top en route to my final Munro!), but was ultimately quite happy just to sweep up today because I’m not really quite at the stage of choosing my final peaks yet. Anyway, it’s a dashed long way in and out (c.5 miles each way on tracks you could do easily by bike), the distant views were superb and my legs were tiring on the way back because I’m probably not really quite strong enough for several days’ proper hill running on the trot right now. 14.3 miles and 3,700 ft in 3 hrs 24 mins, including a pretty slow trudge up the SW side of Beinn a’ Chuirn and a number of camera stops.
Might just add that the Auch Estate (in keeping with the current trend) have a most helpful notice about seasonal deer stalking activity, requesting the use of established hill paths, following prominent mountain ridges, following main watercourses when descending open hillsides and avoiding descents through corries, and marred only by the complete fading of their recommended/preferred routes from the accompanying map.
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Today I posted my entry for the 2010 Cateran Trail Race. An attractive-sounding short ultra from the same ‘stable’ as the West Highland Way Race, and something that’s not altogether too late on 15 May to serve as a good final trial for the big one five weeks later. Sparing me the need to do anything quite so mindless as running the Lairig Mor four times in a day again!
So perhaps I’d have preferred another couple of weeks between them, but running both this year didn’t seem to hurt those who did so. Some of whom (you know who you are!) also ran the Highland Fling (which I’m not planning) three weeks before the Cateran and did very well in all three…
Anyway, it sounds friendly, it sounds good, I fancy it and maybe the May target will help keep me on track (assuming no December-long cough/cold things or climbing assessments to get in the way) for the WHW this time. So I posted the entry form. And then went for a wee hill run. :-)
Back last night from a quick trip north-west (planned on some expectation of a wet Sunday and dry Monday) with Jamie B and Dan from The Ice Factor. Which predictably brought us both wet, claggy Sunday hillwalking and damper-than-hoped Monday climbing…
So we might have taken in three Fannich Munros (Meall a’ Chrasgaidh, Sgurr nan Clach Geala and Sgurr nan Each) on Sunday, but we didn’t see much. Not even enough for a good game of ‘snow, sheep or quartz?’ had all the ingredients been present. Although I did get full-blown hot aches (not so crazy in October when I’ve had them on the Buachaille in June!) after belatedly pulling on my gloves approaching the summit of Sgurr nan Clach Geala.
Monday took us to the gneiss (groan?) Jetty Buttress at Gruinard Bay, where we climbed Munroron (aka Crack Route, V Diff), Doddle (V Diff), Lilly the Pink (aka Red Slab Route, Hard Severe) and Route 6 (Hard Severe) in chilly, occasionally showery conditions. Now Lilly the Pink (or Red Slab Route, as it seems to have been named by no less than the great JHB Bell) was my choice of lead, up a clean streak of (guess what?) pink/red rock, with a short, steep, early crux up a little wall that felt just a little bold in the sub-optimum conditions and caused me some hesitation before committing. But that was nothing to the cold fingers that brought me my second bout of hot aches in two days as I followed Jamie up the more steeply sustained Route 6. Which reminds me (as if I needed it!) that I’m susceptible to them and suffered every time I went out last winter, and leaves me wondering what kind of glove system might both leave me some dexterity and spare me the pain this season.
Despite desperately craving some good outdoor activity, yesterday was so foul that I had no hesitation in agreeing to climb indoors at The Ice Factor with Stevie Abbott. And I managed a good two hours of sensibly-chosen routes without making my fingers obviously worse.
Today looked much better, so I was looking for a half-decent run. And I chose to do Beinn na Caillich and Mam na Gualainn, which are nice hills (the latter a Corbett) between the West Highland Way and the Loch that I’ve rather neglected over the years having only been over them once before. This was several years ago, but I still had clear memories of the good zigzag path up Beinn na Caillich (taking that unnecessary detour out south where it becomes easy to lose before the final rise), gloriously runnable grassy ridge to Mam na Gualainn and tricky descent down its craggy north ridge that I didn’t want to repeat today. So I came off the west ridge looking to pick up the path from Callart to Lairigmor, but was still somewhat hampered on wet grass here (as it started to rain) by the road shoes I’d chosen to wear knowing I’d have miles of easy trail to run on the way home.
It was surprisingly busy up there, with one large party of walkers, two or three smaller ones and another runner with dog coming down Beinn na Caillich as I headed up. While anticipation of the great views from this ridge (like Meall Cumhann in Glen Nevis and Beinn a’ Chrulaiste opposite the Buachaille, in just the right place!) had tempted me to take my pocket camera, the deteriorating conditions limited my photography to firing off a speculative series of quick shots from the east top of Mam na Gualainn with a panorama in mind and a couple more of Stob Ban on the way home. But the panorama’s not turned out too badly for something that wasn’t really done with much care, and you can see (from L to R) the whole Mamore range, Beinn na Caillich, Kinlochleven with the Blackwater Reservoir beyond, Garbh Bheinn, the Caolasnacon campsite with Stob Dearg (Buachaille Etive Mor) just peaking out above the glen behind, and the Aonach Eagach.
Today’s run weighed in at about 13.4 miles with 4,200 ft of ascent and took just under 3 hrs 15 mins to complete. So, like my Mamore run of 12 September (slightly shorter but steeper and taking an almost identical time), not very fast. But my descending speed was limited by the road shoes, I took my time picking my way along the south bank of the Allt na Lairige Moire looking for a nice place to cross and I’m still nursing the hamstring niggle, which currently seems to be under reasonable control.