Petestack Blog

29 August 2013

Border pipes and Ben Vorlich

Filed under: Music,Running — admin @ 10:41 pm

Having a nice new set of Garvie border pipes to collect from Nigel Richard in Pathhead, what better way to start my Saturday than a quick trip up Ben Vorlich on the way? Which is what I’d meant to do till my wee walk slyly morphed into a Vorlich/Stuc a’ Chroin/Vorlich run, with the return over Vorlich included to 1. get the best run back down the main path when the peak was pretty well on/in the way anyway and 2. even up my somewhat meagre Vorlich/Stuc ascent count at three apiece! But not to worry when you can do the lot in three-and-a-half hours and still be down by lunchtime…

So what can I say about the new pipes apart from beautiful, fun and full of exciting possibilities, with (being quality borders) the chromatic scale you can’t get on smallpipes augmented by my additional high B/C/C# keys and the lovely alto drone I got Nigel to make after he nearly talked me into a baritone instead being just what I wanted all the time? Not that I’m going to abandon my (also lovely) smallpipes, but good times ahead! :-)

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21 August 2013

Hill-fit for Coll roads?

Filed under: Running — admin @ 9:17 pm

The Coll Half’s never easy. While the island might be low, it’s far from flat and, with one section on sandy track and the virtual certainty of battling the wind somewhere as you run round what can seem like a continuously uphill loop, it’s the hardest/slowest half-marathon course I know. Which might explain why it had been the scene of my three slowest times (1:41:29, 1:42:14 and 1:42:43) anywhere, with 2013’s result now making that four! Except that this one’s different, with 1:39:29 in possibly the hardest conditions yet being not only two minutes less bad than my least bad previous on Coll but my first actual improvement there. Which, being hill-fit but far from road-fast (oops!) after a big summer of hill running and walking but negligible road running or speed work, I could almost convince myself is respectable as ‘equating’ to a good five minutes (or maybe even half-a-minute-per-mile) faster on any ‘normal’ course. So, yep, let’s just pretend it’s respectable and hope for something more respectable again next year!

With thanks for the usual great company from regulars including the Dumfries crowd and Eileen, who took the photo with Keith’s camera.


15 August 2013

More Monadh Ruadh

Filed under: Running — admin @ 12:39 pm

Strange how the Cairngorms have become better known over the past 200 years as ‘blue mountains’ than their older generic name of Am Monadh Ruadh (the red mountain-land) when they’re so clearly coloured by pink granite rather than hazy blue close-up, but (while something’s clearly been lost through the change) who knows… perhaps ‘Cairngorms’ was just easier for visitors? Though, despite being more likely to call them the Cairngorms myself with ‘I’m off to the Monadh Ruadh’ sadly sounding wilfully obscure today, I point-blank refuse to call Sgor an Lochain Uaine ‘The Angel’s Peak’ and now (mindful of the Victorian sanitisation that inspired that particular abomination) find myself increasingly favouring the restoration of Bod an Deamhain over The Devil’s P****!

To get to the point (not P****!), however, I found myself back in the Cairngorms/Monadh Ruadh just three days after getting home from my last visit, but this time with running rather than backpacking on the agenda for a hefty couple of days. And what a joy it was after that (still very satisfying) walking tour to get really moving with minimal gear, covering 27 miles over the hills on Tuesday and 18 yesterday morning…

So Tuesday’s circuit southwards from Braeriach and back over Carn a’ Mhaim and Ben Macdui was devised as a mopping-up exercise to get things previously missed, with Ben Macdui included specifically for my one missing Top of Sron Riach. And yesterday’s morning run up the Bynacks likewise just struck me as a tidy idea, leaving just the western end of the range from Geal-charn to Carn Cloich-mhuilinn to collect another time, with the strange ‘tick’ of Carn Ban Mor there resulting from the 2008 ML Assessment that had also brought me Sgor an Lochain Uaine, Cairn Toul and Bod an Deamhain but awkwardly left me wanting Stob Coire an t-Saighdeir (the Top south of Cairn Toul). And I’m afraid that’s about all I’ve got to say right now when just uploading the map and some photos is going to save me much further agonising over words!

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11 August 2013

The ‘near sweep’

Filed under: Running,Walking — admin @ 3:36 pm

Another walking/camping tour masquerading as ‘running’, but it’s my blog, I make the rules and (short of starting yet another unnecessary category) that’s where it goes!

Having long suspected the sprawling mass of Ben Avon to be the biggest single obstacle to a clean sweep of Munros, Tops and deleted Tops with neighbouring Beinn a’ Bhuird not so very far behind, I was keen to get them done. So, choosing to carry camping gear to keep my subsequent options open rather than commit to the fixed agenda of one (oxymoron alert!) interminably finite day, I set off from Lynn of Quoich on Thursday to see just what I could get done, finishing up yesterday (Saturday) morning with a clean sweep (current/deleted Munros and Tops) of Ben Avon, Beinn a’ Bhuird, Beinn Bhreac, Beinn a’ Chaorainn, Beinn Mheadhoin (a repeat to get Stacan Dubha) and Derry Cairngorm plus a Corbett (Carn na Drochaide) that just happened to be in the way. Except that it wasn’t an absolutely ‘clean sweep’ because I skipped Creagan a’ Choire Etchachan (forgot it officially belonged to Derry Cairngorm rather than Ben Macdui)… annoying, but immaterial because I’ve done it before, and also debatable because the bealach to its Macdui side (which I came over) is about 40m higher than the one separating it from Derry Cairngorm! Still, ‘near sweep’ it has to be, with that Top listed under Derry Cairngorm and mistakenly skipped to keep the round ‘pure’ when I’d never have left it had I needed the tick and could obviously have included it without trying (it’s what, 50m above the bealach?) if I was prepared to straight-line it over an obstructing Corbett on my way to Ben Avon…

So what can I say about Ben Avon, except that it’s a huge hill and topping every excrescence that’s ever been listed as a Top (along with a few more that haven’t) involves covering a huge amount of ground, but at least the weather was pretty well perfect (you want to do this in good visibility!) in staying cool, clear and dry till I got hit by a 10-minute heavy shower just as I finally made the crowning summit tor of Leabaidh an Daimh Bhuidhe (my penultimate top before crossing the Sneck to Beinn a’ Bhuird) at about 6:00pm.

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However, aiming to make the most of Thursday by establishing a high camp on Beinn a’ Bhuird, I continued over the Sneck and the two northern Tops of Cnap a’ Chleirich and Stob an t-Sluichd before pitching the tent by clean running water (at over 1,100m!) near the rim of the Garbh Choire with a great view of Mitre Ridge (which looked steep) and Squareface (which just oozed slabby goodness in a situation more striking than suggested by the usual front-on photo). Have to say I was quite taken aback by the remains of the 1945 Airspeed Oxford crash (which I wasn’t expecting) out by Stob an t-Sluichd, but later discovered that it’s not even the only WWII crash site on the mountain!

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With copious rain overnight, more in the morning and thick clag to boot, I hid in the tent till well after 8:00am before setting out to grope my way over the rest of Beinn a’ Bhuird, which isn’t called the ‘table’ mountain for nothing with enough unbelievably flat ground on top to make such conditions distinctly sub-optimal! So I found the main North Top cairn (bigger than implied by some of my ageing books) quite easily, but spent perhaps half an hour (after visiting the deleted tor of A’ Chioch) searching with map, compass and GPS for one on the 1,179m South Top before locating the tiniest pile of stones that may or may not have been in exactly the right place (not that it matters when I’d covered all the possible ground multiple times!) but was certainly far less obvious than its equivalent on the old (deleted) 1,177m South Top. And so through alternating showers and sunshine (with the camera largely packed away for its own good) but generally improving visibility over the two tops of Beinn Bhreac (a sad apology for a Munro being little more than the south end of the Moine Bhealaidh plateau!) and rather more substantial pair of Beinn a’ Chaorainn, where (starting to get wet and cold) I considered just ‘escaping’ down Glen Derry before telling myself I was carrying three days’ stuff so better use it and crossing the Lairig an Laoigh to a windy Beinn Mheadhoin. And from there it was plain sailing in more pleasant conditions down over Stacan Dubha and past Loch Etchachan to capture the small Top of Sgurr an Lochan Uaine (not to be confused with its much bigger near namesake between Braeriach and Cairn Toul) before camping on Derry Cairngorm at c.945m just below where it becomes continuously stony.

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Tucked up in my sleeping bag by about 7:30pm (too cold to stay outside it!), I was under way again by about 6:15am, topping Derry Cairngorm some 25 minutes later and enjoying a glorious morning walk out through the old Scots pines of Glen Lui and Glen Quoich (linked by the curious little cut of Clais Fhearnaig) to make the van by 10:30am. So (never mind the slight aesthetic blip of mistakenly skipping a Top I’d done before!) who wouldn’t be happy to get that huge chunk of the Cairngorms mopped up in two-and-half-days? With a pervading sense of worthwhile mountain journey at probable underestimates of 20 miles on Thursday, 17 on Friday and 10 yesterday morning, I know I am! :-)

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5 August 2013

Caught in Strathfarrar

Filed under: Running — admin @ 11:09 am

Some fantastically runnable hills yesterday, with the Strathfarrar ridge proving a fast-moving delight despite bringing the rare indignity (outside of race situations!) of being caught by someone who was moving faster than I was…

So I’d come over the Tops of Sgurr Fhuar-thuill and was approaching Sgurr a’ Choire Ghlais at a decent, but not full-on, pace when I became aware of someone coming flying off Creag Ghorm a’ Bhealaich behind me and clearly catching me quite quickly. So (despite logically being outwith a race situation!) I thought waiting on top preferable to getting burned off between peaks, and soon discovered my nemesis to be Graham Dawson, a cheery young doctor from Inverness, who promptly invited me to continue running with him. So off we scurried over the remaining two Munros (my second 992m Carn nan Gobhar of the week + Sgurr na Ruaidhe), with Graham chugging uphill at an impressive rate and showing me up for the lumbering elephant that I am! But, despite perhaps holding him up just a little on this occasion, it seems that we both (as two habitual soloists) welcomed the company, with much enjoyable chat about our common interests in climbing, ultra races and big hill rounds.

To sum up, a good day out with the Strathfarrar ridge (at four Munros and two Tops completed road-to-road in about three-and-a-half hours) not only ticking all the boxes for ‘runnable but not dull’ but proving very much less arduous than its otherwise not dissimilar Mullardoch counterpart! :-)

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1 August 2013

More back of beyond

Filed under: Running — admin @ 12:41 pm

Not so far from where I’d got to on Saturday, but approached from the opposite direction (Glen Cannich rather than Glen Elchaig), yesterday’s trip along the ridge north of Loch Mullardoch produced the very tidy haul of four Munros, four Tops and four deleted Tops with much very runnable ground before the long, not quite so runnable, return back along the lochside. While the intermittent drizzle and rather more persistent cloud (from which the photos represent rare moments of escape) perhaps weren’t quite as promised by the forecast ‘best day of the week’, the cooler weather at least made for quick, comfortable progress free of the now customary torture by sun, thirst and a thousand clegs!

So what can I say briefly about the day’s four principal summits? While Carn nan Gobhar seems notable mainly for sharing both name and height (992m) with another Munro just eight miles or so to the north-east on the Strathfarrar ridge, Sgurr na Lapaich is a fine, big peak with satellite ridges to north and south and some kind of ruined howff/bothy (see ‘fireplace’ photo) just to the south of its trig point. The crest of An Riabhachan (where I saw the goats that should perhaps have been on Carn nan Gobhar and met a steady stream of walkers who’d mostly taken the boat up Loch Mullardoch) is a hill runner’s dream, but An Socach is quite simply a long way from home with six or seven miles of shore the quickest way back (hence the popularity of the boat). And here, with the low water levels exposing some almost level ‘beach’ below the bigger stones and boulders, I took to the shore and followed that most of the way in preference to the notorious, bracken-compromised path, finding footsteps in the sandier patches to show that I wasn’t the first to think of it!

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