Petestack Blog

19 April 2015

In Pinn revisited

Filed under: Climbing,Running,Walking — admin @ 11:52 pm

Last time I did the Inaccessible Pinnacle of Sgurr Dearg (with Noel Williams in October 2007) it was wet, windy and absolutely hairy enough to remain temporarily unmoved by the charms of its topping ‘Bolster Stone’ where my feet were never going to follow my hands on the day. But, despite guessing a significant proportion of satisfied recent ‘Munroists’ to have stood (or even sat?) no higher than the top of the pinnacle ‘proper’, I just couldn’t head for Slioch on 30 May without first topping this highest point left since the lightning strike of Spring 2007. So it was back with Noel again today in conditions as perfect as 2007’s were unpleasant to make good that niggling omission in cathartic style by soloing the long side to top of both Pinn and Bolster before abbing off the short side. And, with dry rock and calm air enhanced by splendid views (not quite captured by our photos) from Harris to Ben Nevis and quite probably beyond, you just couldn’t get it better… as good, for sure, but no way better!

Photos by Noel and me, with me wearing the white helmet, Noel the red, and the two showing just the Pinn by me…

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But followers of this blog may also realise that I had one other strange little Cuillin omission to sort before Slioch in the shape of the minor Munro Top of Sgurr a’ Fionn Choire, so what of that?

Well, on Thursday (three days ago) I took another wee solo trip to Skye to deal with that, with a pleasant run in and out from Sligachan followed by clagged-in (even snowing gently!), slightly greasy ascent of Bruach na Frithe’s north-west ridge and snowy path along the main ridge to Sgurr a’ Fionn Choire finally clearing to a nice late afternoon on a rompingly good descent. So no ascent/ridge photos to show, but some from the way down…

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29 March 2015

Munros, Tops and ‘Munro-lite’

Filed under: Climbing,Running,Walking — admin @ 2:10 pm

A bit late in the day with just 12 of my 601 all-time Munro Tops left to do and Slioch waiting for 30 May but, prompted by Robin Campbell’s receipt of the Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture at last month’s Fort William Mountain Festival, I’ve finally bought and read The Munroist’s Companion. And predictably found much of interest there, not least (given the roots of my ‘purist’ approach in concerns with what’s listed in what category, or indeed at all) in David Purchase’s essay On the Classification of Mountains: a graphical approach, where he proposes well-considered objective criteria for distinguishing between Munros and Tops that would keep the list close to its current shape while removing all the obvious anomalies. So, while I’ve no time for inadequate web/media statements like ‘there are 282 mountains over 3,000ft in Scotland’ (contentious!) and still regard just the 282 (or 284, 276 or whatever it happens to be at the time) as ‘Munro-lite’, I might qualify that by suggesting that adding just Purchase’s nine remaining promotion candidates to a current ‘full-Munro-only’ round of 282 removes the worst of the ‘lite’. Do Glas Leathad Beag, the Affric Sgurr na Lapaich, Sail Mhor and Coinneach Mhor on Beinn Eighe, Stob na Doire on the big Buachaille, Cairn Lochan, Beinn Iutharn Bheag, Sgor Choinnich (Corrour Forest) and Creag Dubh (Mullardoch) and you’ve got a pretty good baseline for 291 ‘mountains’. Demote Carn Ghluasaid (which Purchase recommends but you can’t leave out so long as it’s still listed!) and you’ve got 290. All water off a duck’s back to me when I’m sticking to my 601, but surprising how little still needs changing to arrive at a decently objective list!

Might just add that I’m with Campbell on completion/compleation and expect to be completing (not compleating) on 30 May:

The use of Compleation strikes me as twee, or should be it be twea, and I have studiously avoided and expunged it in favour of completion.

His quote, my italics… very funny! :-)

10 March 2015

Escape to the East

Filed under: Walking — admin @ 11:21 pm

While a full weekend in Kirriemuir with Saturday ascent of Mayar and Driesh might have been nice had I been free to go sooner, it might equally have been too wet and windy even that far east to enjoy and would certainly have resulted in missing the excitement of the river engorged beyond anything I’ve seen in 25 years of Kinlochleven life, as photographed on my way out at c.2:00pm…

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But, despite the prevailing wet’n’windiness everywhere west, road east blocked at Loch Iubhair by full-width flood deep enough to produce ‘bow waves’ from the single-file traffic and River Dochart through the bridge at Killin looking perhaps even wilder than the Leven back home, escape to the east was duly accomplished in time to be admiring Campbell and Jillian’s new roof before dinner.

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So Mayar and Driesh with Campbell had been on the agenda for some time but, delayed by the wait for coincidence of mutually convenient time, weather and a roofed house with room to put me up, now become my final Munros bar Fisherfield and Slioch. And, modest summits as they are, proving a delightful walk (which should also make a great wee hill run) by Campbell’s recommended ascent route of Corrie Fee, where you pop out of the forest to a flat floor to give Coire Gabhail a run for its money in the ‘surprisingly striking’ stakes and the classic icefall of Look C Gully (now thawed to an unclimbable dribble between Campbell and the more obvious B Gully towards the left of first photo below) seeming good reason to return at some appropriate time… which surely won’t be this year despite the ‘four seasons in one day’ sampler giving us everything (rain, sun, hail, sun, snow, sun) bar the colder cold and mid-level freeze/thaw cycles necessary to refreeze and fatten it up!

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16 February 2015

Beyond ‘buffeting’

Filed under: Cycling,Walking — admin @ 12:03 pm

‘Buffeting’ is a favourite word of the MWIS forecasts, carrying a windy warning with predictable (sometimes almost daily) regularity. But yesterday’s Northwest Highlands forecast didn’t say ‘buffeting’, it said ‘Southerly, marked increase with height to 50 to locally 60mph’ and ‘Walking conditions difficult across higher areas’. But, since it also said ‘Precipitation unlikely until nearly dusk’ and ‘Most summits cloud free’, I thought I’d just take the difficult walking conditions for an otherwise decent-looking day which (taking that 50 to 60mph as a baseline rather than peak figure?) turned out to be one of the windiest I’ve ever been stupid enough to spend on the hills!

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While the agenda was quite simple, cycling from Craig in Glen Carron up the Allt a’ Chonais track to do Sgurr Choinnich, Sgurr a’ Chaorachain and Maoile Lunndaidh, its execution was anything but as I spent much of the day struggling to brace myself against flight across scoured, icy tops while trying to take half or quarter steps forwards without being thrown away the moment I lifted one foot. So it was tortuously slow, with crampons worn from Sgurr Choinnich (as advised for the descent down the far side by the solitary pair I met coming the other way) to the Drochaid Mhuilich and absolutely essential for the gnarly descent north-east off Bidean an Eoin Deirg, stubbornly kept on (in expectation of needing them again soon) where they weren’t doing any good up the western spur of Maoile Lunndaidh and finally taken off just before they’d have been useful again on top. And here I seriously considered crawling where Butterfield’s ‘ease of movement on the level summit’ was rendered wholly irrelevant by the most ferociously sustained wind of all, but salvation was soon at hand with increasing shelter on the descent back to Gleann Fhiodhaig and I made Glenuaig Lodge in one piece with my feet still on the ground!

So a wee look into the tiny Glenuaig Shelter (a shed with a single set of bunk beds and a misspelled nameplate) and, mindful of the fading light, I was hoofing it along the track back to my bike… on which, propelled by what shadow of the southerly hoolie had made it to the sheltered glen, I sailed back up the slight incline before the headlong descent to Glen Carron. Where I arrived at 5:40pm with the rain (‘Precipitation unlikely until nearly dusk’) just starting to spit and drove home in a downpour!

Almost no photos from the tops because, quite apart from the wind chill, I couldn’t hold the camera steady even sitting down with my elbows braced on my knees…

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4 January 2015

Last of the missed deletions

Filed under: Cycling,Walking — admin @ 11:41 am

While I’ve always regarded the Tops as part of the Munro game, I’d struggle to say exactly when the deleted summits became a non-negotiable part of my agenda. Pretty sure they were marked on the ‘3000 Plus’ wallchart I had as a student and kept for some years to record what I’d done, but that eventually got outdated through changes to subsequent editions and replaced by my custom digital mapping system. So perhaps it was when I first got the ‘Munros and Tops’ and ‘Corbetts’ spreadsheets from The Database of British and Irish hills, but I could certainly name hills going back a number of years where I was consciously visiting the deleted tops. Which occasionally resulted in the equally conscious decision to leave some outliers for another day (those skipped in 2010 and mopped up on 7 August this year being in that category), but annoyingly also in some easy-to-include but inconvenient-to-leave ones that just, well, got missed (like Ceann Garbh ‘old position’ and Beinn Gharbh in 2008).

Now I’d already had a pretty decent Christmas holidays on the hill with a day in the Cairngorms and the four-day North-West trip, but how about just one more day to go back for Beinn Gharbh to mop up the last outstanding deletion on a hill I’d already climbed? So, with a stunning Saturday forecast, that’s where I went yesterday, and what an effort for such a trivial summit! Except that, trivial as Beinn Gharbh may be on the scale of prominent or intrinsically-significant peaks, getting it done is psychologically probably the moment that my ‘endgame’ 601-top completion becomes truly endgame. A long, long traipse up and down Glen Bruar with the track too icy to cycle far, but you don’t know how much I wanted to colour that wee square!

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So what about this bike and the icy track? When I’d done the ‘Ring of Tarf’ four Munros and two Corbetts (fortuitously picking up the deleted Munro Tops on Carn a’ Chalmain and An Sgarsoch but missing Beinn Gharbh) in 2008 with Noel Williams and a friend whose name might have been Dave but was actually Tim, they’d had bikes and I hadn’t. So we’d gone in via Glen Tilt, I’d run what they’d cycled (up to Forest Lodge) and I knew darn well how helpful bikes were for accessing remote hills on good tracks. So had the bike in the van yesterday hoping to find the long track from Calvine over to Glen Bruar and up to Bruar Lodge at least partially rideable, and was fooled into taking it by a pair setting off with bikes, ice axes and the same obvious objective (Beinn Dearg) just as I arrived. But then spied them again ahead walking without bikes where the clear track turned largely icy pretty well at the top of the first big hill (yes, the one you could walk up quicker!), quickly abandoned mine too and just had to buckle down to a frustratingly long plod on foot… my fault when the ride back down would be glorious in the right conditions, but you know how much I wanted to colour that wee square?

Apart from that it was a good day. Chilly, but overall probably the crispest and clearest of a Christmas holiday that’s given me six good hill days and effectively halved the required workload (from twelve days to six) to complete that Munro’s Tables all-time list. :-)

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31 December 2014

Plane over Moon over Dearg

Filed under: Walking — admin @ 11:36 am

Suddenly, after a largely lousy December for coincident good hill conditions and free time, forecasts were pointing to three or four consecutive grab-me-while-you-can days and I was off to start cleaning up the North-West…

First stop Fionn Bheinn en route to Ullapool on Saturday, followed by my final Fannichs on Sunday, a return to the ‘Deargs’ on Monday for the deleted Top (!) missed in 2008 and a soggy Moruisg and Sgurr nan Ceannaichean on my way home on Tuesday. Which adds up to a whacking great chunk of what I need by May when, apart from two Munros, one Top and one Deletion elsewhere, what remains uncoloured on today’s map is all that’s left of my 601 all-time-listed ‘3,000ft’ tops.

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Not a huge amount to say about Fionn Bheinn here. It’s a modest wee singleton, perhaps famed more as a splendid viewpoint than for itself. Conditions were crisp, cold and windy, but I was really more concerned about the condition of the roads (and getting back up from my icy parking spot by Achnasheen Station) than the hill. And the cloud came and went, alternately obscuring and revealing both summit and more distant views, with only my ultimate target of Slioch truly playing hard to get and ducking the camera as a more consistently fleeting presence.

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So on to Ullapool, where (really not fancying several days’ sub-zero camping or dossing in the van) I’d treated myself to the rare luxury of proper paid accommodation and booked at the Argyll Hotel. Which might have been extravagant, but made all the difference to a pleasant trip with a comfortable room and excellent food… on which note, money’s only of value for what it can do for you and, yes, I’d do it again!

Having noted the bottom of the Gairloch road as still quite snowy in passing on Saturday, I was a little concerned about getting up past Braemore Junction to the start of the Loch A’ Bhraoin path but, while not surprisingly finding it still much the same on a cold, cold Sunday morning, needn’t have worried. And there were perhaps six or seven vehicles already parked up there, with just one truly viable space left for me. I chose to tackle my round of two Munros and a Top anticlockwise to deal with the most pathless ground first, landing on top of A’ Chailleach in a whiteout soupy enough to make locating the surprisingly indistinct start of the ridge to Toman Coinich quite awkward as (with compass in one hand and GPS in the other) I’d find myself ploughing through localised drifts on the flat shoulder that disconcertingly screamed ‘cornice’ but weren’t! But things were starting to clear by the next bealach, the couple I met heading up what I’d just come down probably had an easier time of it, and I enjoyed a nice walk down (interesting discussion about photography and winter tyres!) in and out of the cloud from Sgurr Breac with Mike Dunlop from Keith, who I met on the summit.

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Now, the missed deleted Top of Ceann Garbh ‘old position’ had been bugging me ever since a memorable weekend in 2008 when I’d traversed the whole of An Teallach on the Friday afternoon/evening, the four ‘Deargs’ (missing the Deletion after failing to mark it on my map) and Seana Bhraigh on the Saturday and Beinn Alligin on the Sunday. But no Dearg day is wasted, a winter round of Meall nan Ceapraichean (with both versions of Ceann Garbh) and Beinn Dearg looked attractive, and I had the hills to myself after meeting a pair of climbers returning down Gleann na Squaib following their ascent of Penguin Gully and overnight camp. It was another crisp, cold morning, with the bicycle I’d brought with the glen in mind left in the van as I took the icy track on foot, but spectacular with it as turning round to catch sight of a snowy An Teallach brought an audible ‘wow!’ After which the clouds slowly started to roll in, with still-good views from Ceann Garbh and Meall nan Ceapraichean turning to the whitest of whiteouts on Dearg, where the massive summit cairn was still coming and going at about 10 metres distance. So another blind descent to pick up the famous wall (which was close to buried at points) and the summit never cleared again that day, but numerous chilly attempts to time a photograph with the Moon over Dearg unobscured by a sea of moving cloud were finally rewarded with the opportunistic bonus of ‘Plane over Moon over Dearg’… or perhaps symbolically just ‘over the moon’ with a possible eagle sighting too before finally dropping back to the glen to hit the main road in near dark at 5:00pm!

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So I said something about the forecasts pointing to three or four consecutive good hill days, and that turned out to be three in the end with a big Monday-night thaw clearing the roads (good!) and largely stripping the hills of snow (more debatable?), but a still very useful, if soggy, Moruisg and Sgurr nan Ceannaichean picked up on the way home. Not that I saw either of them, although they were slowly clearing by mid-afternoon when I left, but I did find both cairns on both double-cairned peaks (where the higher in each case seems to be the smaller and less significant-looking one), which was more than the party of four who’d not unnaturally just assumed the larger of the two on Moruisg was the summit. So perhaps just a final warning to baggers… while neither the Moruisg nor Ceannaichean cairns quite match the famous false summit of Beinn Dorain in the ‘imposter’ league, you could still miss their barely-higher true tops in poor visibility if you didn’t know!

24 December 2014

Last of the Monadh Ruadh

Filed under: Cycling,Walking — admin @ 6:32 pm

This blog needs a ‘walking’ category. Can’t remember why I didn’t set one up in the first place (maybe I just thought I didn’t walk much?), but sometimes things get posted as ‘climbing’ or ‘running’ that are really more ‘walking’, so I just made a new category for them and hereby launch it with yesterday’s first ‘boots, axe and crampons’ (the last carried but not used) trip of the winter…

Now Beinn Bhrotain and Monadh Mor are two awkwardly-placed big hills (my final Monadh Ruadh/Cairngorms Munros) I was keen to get before any prolonged winter snows spoiled my chances of cycling in from Linn of Dee, and yesterday’s benevolent weather and SAIS forecasts were pretty well screaming ‘take the chance while you can’. So I was up at 4am and on my way within the hour to be leaving Linn of Dee at first light for a circuit which, being somewhat more ambitious than that described by Cameron McNeish as ‘a major undertaking’ in winter and ‘a long way for the short days of November’, was clearly just the ticket for 23 December ‘daylight’ with a good three hours of driving at either end!

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Abandoning the bike at an almost random point on the single track above White Bridge where I was starting to carry it over more icy snow than riding it, I headed up over the former Munro of Carn Cloich-mhuilinn (sadly demoted to Top, although I’d agree it’s a ‘Top’, when Munro himself had been saving it for last) and still showery/cloudy Beinn Bhrotain to start opening up the most fabulously-lit views over Glen Geusachan to Bod an Deamhain and Ben Macdui as I descended to the bealach before Monadh Mor. But the chilly wind bit my fingers so hard as I dug out my camera for the first time that I simply had to replace my gloves, forget the photos, keep moving and hope I’d get the same chance on my way back. But I didn’t, so you’re not going to see them after more misty plodding over Monadh Mor and the deleted Top of Leth-chreag (where I had to cover two cairned and ring-contoured possibilities after neglecting to mark it on the map I took) led to a descent that looked attractive at the time but has to be slower than just repeating Beinn Bhrotain! And here I was glad of my axe (wouldn’t have considered it without!) to hack a few steps down the steepest top part and safeguard my continued descent down the easier-angled but icier continuation below before a long, long, boggy plod back to the bike with three indifferent photos in fading light along the way. And that’s it really… made the bike while I could still see, but needed the bike light for the ride out where I might have got away without had I taken the quicker (?) return option. But no real regrets there when I’d come prepared and the changing perspectives down Glen Geusachan were worth seeing. Of course walking’s so much slower than running or even part-running, but it was definitely a ‘boots’ trip and you’ll rarely see me running far in boots…

There are 18 Munros, 31 Tops and 22 Deletions now coloured in on my Cairngorms map, which is what you get for doing everything! And the new GPS does exactly the job I bought it for. :-)

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13 December 2014

eTrex 20

Filed under: Climbing,Cycling,Running,Sailing,Walking — admin @ 8:36 pm

It’s not my first GPS device. I’ve got half a dozen now counting this new eTrex, two running watches (Forerunner 305 and 310XT), a nüvi 1390T for driving, a chart plotter on the boat and an old 8-channel GPS 45XL (which was my first), but most were bought for different purposes and only that old 45XL is truly superfluous now.

So why another GPS for the hill when map and compass works? And map and compass backed up by GPS grid refs (which I can get from the Forerunner 310XT) also works? Because map and compass backed up by mapping GPS or mapping GPS backed up by map and compass are quite simply slicker options. Until just under four years ago, I navigated the hills almost exclusively by map and (when necessary) compass. Then, after moving from a non-OS-grid-enabled GPS watch (Forerunner 305) to one that could give an OS grid ref (Forerunner 310XT), I added that to my armoury. But the 310XT’s still not primarily a navigating device, I like to keep moving in the hills (especially when dressed/equipped for running rather than walking/climbing) and find that stopping to transfer grid refs to map tends to interrupt my flow when doing so. So, just as I’ve moved from 1. just compasses, Breton plotters and paper charts for coastal navigation through 2. transferring lat and long from simple GPS to paper chart to 3. GPS chart plotter, I’ve found myself wanting a mapping GPS for the hill. And this new eTrex is light, compact, map-capable and relatively inexpensive with excellent battery life to boot. Not, retrospectively, the very ‘best’ deal on offer when I’ve since seen the likes of the GPSMAP 62s with complete GB Discoverer 1:50K (almost map + free GPS!) for what I paid for eTrex 20 and downloadable 1:50K Scotland, but then I didn’t want a GPSMAP 62s anyway (bigger, heavier) even if it might be ‘better’ in some ways!

So how does it perform? Judging from one local test run today, absolutely fine. It sits comfortably in the hand with accessible, glove-operable controls and the transreflective screen, while possibly brighter in summer conditions, is still adequately readable in December ‘daylight’. It can also be squeezed into the lower front pockets of my UD Fastpack 20 (which just wouldn’t take a beefier model), though I’m not sure they’d be my first choice storage when I’ve been using one for my keys and the other for my thumb compass so far. And I managed to fit a lanyard of decent weight (trainer shoelace) to the built-in lanyard eye though it took some considerable fiddling to get it through. My only real gripe concerns my downloadable map from Garmin at £119.99, which turns out to be tied to the device when a pre-programmed Micro SD at the same £119.99 wouldn’t be. But what’s done is done, and it’s probably a largely academic distinction when you’d lose your non-tied card anyway if you lost the device and I’ve no plans to purchase any more compatible devices in the near future…

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10 November 2014

November Fastpacking

Filed under: Running,Walking — admin @ 7:59 pm

After getting my Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest 2.0 in May and loving it, I was keen to add something similar but larger for the kind of hill days when I needed a greater capacity. But it seemed that it just didn’t exist, with UD’s own PB Adventure Vest only so much bigger and looking marginal for fit with the M/L size topping out at my required 40″ chest and the Salomon packs not appealing so much to me. But then I got wind of the new UD Fastpack 20 (due out September) with M/L size specified for 32″ to 46″ chest and a configuration that looked just right, would have taken it there and then if I could have got my hands on one, and promptly pre-ordered from Castleberg Outdoors. After which the entire UK stock appeared to get held up for a while in customs and I finally got it mid-October, but was unable/unwilling to get out and test it for a while with a spell of atrocious wet weather. So now it’s had a couple of outings (the Devil’s Staircase and Beinn a’ Chrulaiste last weekend for Graham Kelly’s final Corbett and a 20-mile bash round the Coulin Forest peaks yesterday for my Munros/Tops/Deletions quest), what do I think?

Well, it’s good, very good, though I’m not yet convinced by changes to the design of the front pockets. The left pocket is OK, being basically the same as the Ultra Vest pockets, though you do feel the rigid bottles a little more in there and I’m trying the softer Body Bottles just now. But their tapered shape seems less secure in the right pocket (which has a resizing zipper rather than drawcord), with my right bottle getting launched from its pocket several times yesterday on lurching or bending forwards and a similar problem last weekend with my mobile phone escaping the gel/bar pouch there, though it seemed plenty secure enough for cereal bars yesterday. This single pouch does also seem a little stingy when the Ultra Vest has four (two on each side), and there’s unutilised space above the bottle pockets that could have been given to further lidded pouches as done on all the Signature Series vests. That said, everything else is brilliant. I’ve used roll-tops with a single centre clip before on my GoLite packs, but find the new UD arrangement with two side clips much more effective in keeping the roll tidily secure. The vest-style harness is excellent once properly adjusted, giving me an impressively bounce-free carry with the two chest straps well-separated by sliding right up and down and the ability to maintain this for widely differing loads by shortening/lengthening these and the two lower harness straps. On which note I should point out that, like the Ultra Vest, the Fastpack fits ‘smaller’ as you pack it fuller; I could maybe wear the S/M size (24″ to 40″ chest) when lightly packed but guessing I’d run out of adjustment quite quickly when loading it up. The overall shape and capacity is just right, though it took the attached leaflet (or should I say card tags?) and not UD’s site to tell me that the S/M and M/L achieve the same capacity by being slightly different shapes for different torso as well as chest sizes. Current (slight) criticisms of the front pockets apart, the side/back mesh pockets, secure zipped side pocket, ice axe loops, daisy chains etc. all seem excellent and the bottom line is that packs of this (vest) style, capacity and configuration don’t grow on trees; if that’s what you want (as I did), you’ve probably currently got a choice of one and you’re likely to be happy with with it. As I am!

So that’s the Fastpack ‘review’, but what of the trips I’ve been testing it on? Well, Graham managed to pick a surprisingly viable day (Saturday 1 November) for Beinn a’ Chrulaiste, with the incessant rain only really returning for the descent and subsequent evening in the Clachaig (from whence I was kindly driven home by his sister Irene after effectively marooning myself by my morning run over to Altnafeadh to join the ascent party). But, since I haven’t got a photo of the wonderful ‘dram cam’ (whisky bottle with attached, drinker-oriented GoPro) in action, you’ll have to make do with a couple of others instead…

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As for yesterday, that was just a case of taking a gift (a stunning November day after so much poor weather) and getting up early enough (5:10am) to make the most of it. So I’d considered other, shorter, objectives (eg Fionn Bheinn or Moruisg/Sgurr nan Ceannaichean) from my dwindling, North-West cluster of remaining Munros, Tops and Deletions, and kept them up my sleeve as reserves, but just had to go for the long-admired big Corbett of Fuar Tholl and potentially awkward trio of Coulin Forest Munros. Perhaps surprised to meet a fair number of folk on what I’d never thought of as particularly popular peaks, but guessing I’m the only one who did all four! For which I chose the delightfully irregular footwear of Asics Gel Enduros, which aren’t the best on steep grass and moss (not that anything would have been great on all that frosted scree!) but stayed comfortable for my problem feet where I might have taken my Wave Harriers (which got left in the van along with axe and spikes) had I got them half a size larger for thicker, more ‘cold weather’ socks. Would also have liked to add the terrific-looking An Ruadh-stac, but it was never on the agenda with darkness and the Stromeferry Bypass cut-off in mind.

Key to annotated map as follows:

  1. Went too high because the river looked big lower down, but it was still flowing quickly down an awkward mini gorge up here.
  2. Nearly changed my mind about which ridge to climb.
  3. You wouldn’t want to stumble over the Mainreachan Buttress in poor visibility!
  4. While you lose a lot of height down here, the good stalker’s path makes for a better link-up than Irvine Butterfield’s High Mountains suggests.
  5. I took Hidden Gully as per Dan Bailey’s Great Mountain Days in Scotland, but think its right edge (described by Iain Thow in Highland Scrambles North as North Flank, Grade 1/2) probably better when dry.
  6. Took in Meall nan Ceapairean because I got told on the summit of Maol Chean-dearg that it’s a Graham, but wasn’t surprised to discover that it’s not (nothing like enough re-ascent!).
  7. My GPS track is obscuring the rather nice Coire Fionnaraich bothy.
  8. Followed the obvious landrover track in near darkness and missed the short cut to Coulags.

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And some photos to prove it was all worth it!

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5 August 2014

Norway 2014

Filed under: Running,Uncategorized,Walking — admin @ 2:06 pm

Quick summary of my week in Norway with Marie and Donnie Meldrum… part recce for Marie’s 2015 Norseman Xtreme Triathlon entry and part, well, just regular holiday! Noted in pseudo-diary form (= even fewer sentences than usual!) with photos ruthlessly (?) pruned from the 500+ I took to give a more-or-less representative taste of the whole, so not even necessarily all the ‘best’ shots…

Monday 28 July

Flew Edinburgh to Bergen, picked up hire car (automatic BMW estate with just about enough space for Marie’s bike box, some modest luggage and the three of us) and drove via a late lunch stop at the Norseman start point of Eidfjord to Geilo, which I might introduce as the convenient, centrally-placed ski resort (somewhat reminiscent of Aviemore, but perhaps they all are?) where we were lucky enough to find suitable accommodation when planning the trip just weeks before. Initial discomfort (or maybe terror!) at driving on the right for first time since America 2006 presently allayed by getting the seat (too many levers here!) and mirrors properly adjusted for accurate road positioning.

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Tuesday 29 July

Up Prestholtskarvet (1,853m?) on the Hallingskarvet ridge/plateau. Pleasant walk reminiscent of high Cairngorms tops with substantial summer snow patch some bonus fun. Then to Torpo for a quick look at the 12th century stave church, but too late for a proper look inside. Donnie driving.

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Wednesday 30 July

‘Norway in a Nutshell’ trip by train to Myrdal, train again to Flåm, ferry to Gudvangen, bus to Voss and train back to Geilo. Flåmsbana (famous steep branch line) quite sensational but tricky to photograph from packed train with everyone else trying to do same, so photos barely adequate but, yes, the track and buildings you see in both (second row down) are part of the same line! Ferry trip down Aurlandsfjorden and up Nærøyfjorden (allegedly the narrowest in Norway) equally stunning, then an unexpected bonus on the bus trip (just when we thought it was all over!) with an ever-so-steady descent of the hair-raising Stalheimskleiva (just Google it!) bringing applause from the passengers.

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Thursday 31 July

To Gaustatoppen (1,883m peak above Rjukan) to check out rest of Norseman cycle and run course, with Donnie driving. Marie and me taking one east-side trail up the hill and the other (which turns out to be the race route) down to cover all bases. Quick run along the ridge (Marie staying at radio tower) for me to tick true summit, with south (near) end easy going and north (far) straightforward, blocky scrambling (think ‘Carn Mor Dearg Arete’). Subsequent short diversion into Rjukan valley (famous ice-climbing centre) by car at my request.

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Friday 1 August

Return to Eidfjord via Vøring(s)fossen waterfalls (me driving) to catch the gathering Norseman vibe and let the birthday girl compete in Eidfjord ‘Mini’ (1/10 Norseman distance) Triathlon. And she was doing just fine (possible ladies’ podium) till knocked off her bike (quote ‘can’t wait to show off my war wounds and torn shorts’) by angry, overtaking Frenchman, after which she did well to get going again and still finish well up.

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Two more photos added 6 August, belatedly cropped from larger shots (as was the ‘torn shorts’ pic) to show Marie’s pre-race bike testing and ‘war wounds’ we never saw in real time…

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Saturday 2 August

Pleasant couple of hours spent watching the Norseman come through Geilo before the rain hit. Then the first really wet stuff after hitherto (mostly) great sunny weather, so not too disappointed when enquiries about train times/costs to Finse (just three stops up the main Oslo to Bergen line) with thoughts of walking to the Hardangerjøkulen glacier snout resulted in discovery that 1. it couldn’t be done today, 2. it would have cost the earth for train standing room only (seats fully booked at weekends) and 3. times for tomorrow really wouldn’t sit well with the need for rest before subsequent overnight drive back to airport even if we’d wanted to pay 80% of our entire ‘Norway in a Nutshell’ train/ferry/bus fare for the privilege of retracing a fraction of that route. So off to the famous Borgund stave church instead (further than Marie thought when the 67km she quoted from the GPS turned out to be as the crow flies!), with Donnie driving there and me back. And what an interesting place that was (most original/characteristic/best-preserved surviving example?), with an excellent exhibition in the purpose-built visitor centre and the driest/brightest spell of the afternoon also adding much to the experience.

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Sunday 3 August

Speculative wee trip to Ål (on the Torpo/Borgund road, with me driving again), where we virtually stumbled across the fabulous Bygdamuseum with its fascinating insight into historic Norwegian buildings and interiors. And saw a horse/pony wearing a ‘zebra’ coat! Followed by a late afternoon/evening of attempted sleep before leaving for Bergen just before midnight.

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‘Zebrahorse’ photo (100% crop from larger shot) added 6 August.

Monday 4 August

Flew Bergen to Edinburgh and home late morning, with head naturally still full of Norway and double-checking impressions of similarities/differences to Highland Scotland on the drive. So it’s bigger and typically steeper, but different/complementary (the colours being subtly different too) rather than just a supercharged version of the same thing. Somewhere I felt at home and look forward to seeing again with thoughts of more walking, running and possibly (on yet another trip?) climbing, but simultaneously (without doing down that Norwegian grandeur at all!) giving me renewed appreciation of our uniquely Scottish landscapes. And how surreal it felt to be out for an afternoon run above the head of the Leven(s)fjord (now don’t go looking for that one on the map!) thinking ‘this morning I was in Norway!’ :-)

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