Archive for October, 2009

Bog, Bothy n Swim

With the forecast saying rain and low cloud, we skipped Glencoe’s curved ridge on the way up to the Ardnish Peninsula.   Somehow we all managed to leave the path on the way out to the bothy.  With my mind on my recently departed pal, one of the best on them, the path was doing no justice to my mind state; and so it was straight up the hill for me, until my legs burned with acid and lungs were bursting out my ribcage; it was up, over the top and down to the loch to drop a hook.  Not like earlier in the year, there were no fish, but the others walked through after their own adventure off the beaten track.  In the woods I found Nik holding a bright red mushroom alongside his picture book – we agreed it looked dangerous.

http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?q=arnish&ie=UTF8&hl=en&hq=&hnear=Raasay,+United+Kingdom&ll=56.858563,-5.755495&spn=0.00664,0.01929&t=h&z=16

The bothy at Peanmeanach must be one of Scotland’s most popular, and it’s easy to see why – pottering about here somehow reminds you of the greater things in life.  The two other bothy dwellers – Jonathon and Brett – were there for the same reason as us, and joined us for a dram after the duck and vegetable stews both courtesy of Lorraine.

Jen led a morning swim and Andy took it one stage further, while Nicky, never to miss an opportunity,  jumped in both salt and freshwater.  Thomas and Etta went airport-ward, too soon really, but hopefully not before  wetting the appetite.

Two rainbows appeared at once on the way out, we all agreed the widest we had ever seen, and from there on in the West coast hit us with it’s majestic best.    Without the extra hour in bed we might have made curved ridge on the grandest of Sunday evenings, but as we cruised down the road to Martyn Bennett’s ‘Grit’, it was far from our minds.

Life does exist in the bog lands of Scotland (although the fish are keeping a low profile at this time of year).

Misha for Andy/Jen/Thomas/Nicky/Etta/Lorraine + Jonathon/Brett

Kielder and Newcastleton – trail centres.

It was the last bikebus trip for a while as Hutch is expecting his first born in a fort night or so. I hadn’t been on the bikebus for over a year so it was a good to get out and send Hutch off into Fatherhood with style. We had all heard good things about the trails at Kielder. Their web site looked good and there had been some good reviews / forum chat about them. So it seemed worth the long journey (about 2hr 30m from centre of Glasgow).

We started out in glorious sun shine and spun up a small stretch of fire road into the first bit of singletrack, it was good with some nice wee features, a rock garden and some switchbacks. Just as we got our a flow on we were spat out on to another fire road. This climb was shallow long and boring. The next section of single track was one of the highlights. Technical and full of great features this trail was well built and a good challenge with small boulder drop offs the odd rock ladder and some great steep switchbacks. A small black section at the bottom was also excellent with slow speed, steep roots sections interspersed with loose shale. However it appeared to be a bum steer as it directed us back to the start. Confused, we pushed back up to rejoin the red. The “3 dog” climb was great, full of challenging obstacles but with a good flow and rhythm. We then set out on what was to be a rather arduous and monotonous fire road climb, which was pretty steep the whole way on a draggy loose surface. It seemed to go on forever and marked the low point of the ride. I don’t mind these sections when out in the wilds but at a trail centre it seemed a bit over kill. At the summit of Deadwater fell the views are cool, apart from the ugly radar / mobile phone installations (although they provided shelter from the wind). To the south you can see the mountains flatten into England, to the north you see them rise into Scotland. At more than half a kilometre up we were convinced the reward of all this climbing would be good. However the altitude was eaten away quickly by a direct, loose shale ex access road which was only slightly knurled up by obvious water errosion. The next section “into the valley” was the highlight, with some cool jumps, well constructed berms, rock drops and rough switchbacks. It was excellent but also far to short. A shallow climb followed with some interesting rock ladders and boulder fields, this led into the final descent which was pretty mundane, a few jumps and stuff but small draggy ups sapped any flow. The jump park at the bottom was a joke, one large table(ish) top and a few rollers before two poorly built berms. Tiny boring and extremely disappointing.

We sat at the bus eating cake and moaning about the stupidly long climb and wasted altitude from the “Skelly riggins” descent. So in an effort to salvage the day we shifted over to one of the 7 stanes – Newcastleton which was not far away.

Newcastleton, is good. Full of nice well built single track which flows over sometimes loose but otherwise well drained, solid ground. Making the most of the it’s gradients, the trail gives Kielder a lesson in how to use land effectively for mountain biking. With more single track than fire road it is easy going with no major technical challenges to speak of. However the injection of well thought out trail building maintains your momentum and makes the centre as a whole far more enjoyable than Kielder. It has a cool north shore section at the bottom which is pretty challenging although choice of mixing up lines is very limited. There is not much to say about Newcastleton, it’s good but not amazing, it saved our day and I would suggest that putting the two centres together makes the journey worhwhile.

It is safe to say we will not be making the 5hour round trip to these centres again. Kielder has great potential and with a renowned trail builder on task could be amazing. As it stands it seems unfinished, a work in progress. It has certainly received plenty of hype but why remains a mystery.

Somhairle

Scotstoun Gentleman’s Club – AGM – August 09

For the second year running we (Somhairle, John, Spad & Hamish) made our annual pilgrimage to Torridon. We rented a great wee cottage in the grounds of Torridon House (seat of Lovelace) and have found it to be a great base for exploring Wester Ross. This year the weather was changeable to say the least.

Myself and Hamish had a great first day climbing Ben Damh. This is a great hill with staggering views and some technical walking. Without the use of a decent map we found our way up without bother on the well trodden path. On the way down the path petered out and decided to make our way down Spidean-Coir-an-Laoigh which was steep but manageable. Later to discover there was a decent path down the ridge to the east.

The next day took us to Meall a’ Ghiuthais which is a fairly small hill 887m. We set out up the well bolstered foot path from the car park on Loch Maree. This path is steep but very will built and has stunning view of the loch and Slioch. When we set out it was 25º and blazing sun but soon after we left the path for the scramble up Meall a’ Ghiuthais the cloud thundered in and visibility became very low. Walking between the two summits we found the corrie the guidebook suggested for descent. Somewhere along our walk between the summits something had gone a-wry and we ended up wandering west in to Glen Grudie. We only noticed our mistake once we saw through some small breaks in the cloud; instead of seeing Loch Maree we were looking at the Glen. A long detour above Druim Grudaich brought us back to the path and glourios sunshine. This trip was a valuable lesson in checking and double checking your bearing in poor visibilty. If the cloud hadn’t broken slightly we may have walked into the plateaux and been faced with a very long walk out. Aye, lesson learnt.

As the week progressed the weather got worse, but undeterred me and Spad set out to mountain-bike up the path alongside Abhainn Coire Mhic Nobuil between Litahach and Ben Eighe. The day started out in the sun with the odd shower, the trail was fun and good going apart from a puncture of one of the square edged water bars.  However as we came alongside Ben Dearg the rain and wind swept in with gusto. The trail also conspired against us becoming totally un-rideble, rugged and undulating over ancient merrain. Things became morbid when we found it impossible to stop and eat due to hash weather and lack of shelter, so we soldiered on hungry, wet and cold. Once we reached the Coire Dubh Mor of Ben Eighe the weather and trail improved giving us a welcom re-fuel ready for the descent. To say this descent is gnarly is an understatement, it is one of the most technical descents i have ever done. With gargantuan boulders, sharp water bars loose rock, sand and steep rock garden steps it is not one for the faint hearted. Riding it I was on the edge of me abilities having to hop, track stand, manual… You needed all the  tricks in the book to clear every section. There was no let up and nowhere to recover. Add to this the un-mistakble grind of metal on metal as the sandstone crud disolved my brake pads, reinforcing the uncompromising rugged harshness of this epic place. A quick burn along the road down Glen Torridon in team time trial style got us home and dry.

We took things a little easier the rest of the week, having a fine day out in the rain on Gairloch sands beach, mucking around in surf canoes and wind surfing. John, Hamish and Spad had a gorge walk up the Abhainn Alligin (i think) while I sat on the couch and licked my wounds. A great wee mountain bike ride round Loch Damh and there was the obligatory night on the shot with Thorburn and Porch. then the depressing drive back over the border (highland) into the lowlands.

If you get the chance to go to Torridon. GO!

Somhairle

About High-8

High-8 is a loose gathering of like minded adventurists who document first person, on the ground experiences with words, photos and film. The hope is to form a rough guide to outdoor adventure sports in Scotland and provide a warts and all, honest representation of what we find. No sport is excluded from mountaineering and mountain biking to gorge walking and kayak all are welcome and encouraged.

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We have compiled a list of usefull weather forecasts to help with planning trips. This list is designed to work on mobile phones, so it can be used when out in the wilds. Signal willing of course...

The Code

The Country Code, which most of us learned in school (and we probably haven't read since!), was updated in 2004 when it became the Countryside Code. Here's the updated version:
  • Be safe - plan ahead and follow any signs
  • Leave gates and property as you find them
  • Protect plants and animals, and take your litter home
  • Keep dogs under close control
  • Consider other people
In Scotland, where there is a more general right of access, there also exists the Scottish Outdoor Access Code:
  • Take responsibility for your own actions
  • Respect people’s privacy and peace of mind
  • Help farmers, landowners and others to work safely and effectively
  • Care for the environment
  • Keep your dog under proper control
  • Take extra care if you are organising a group, an event or running a business.
There's obviously a lot to to be learned from these - it's amazing how many people get out to enjoy the countryside but are still happy to leave it in a mess. Even with the recent updates, the Countryside Codes seem slightly outdated when considering the wider issues involved when lots of people get out into the countryside. Some places just can't handle high volumes of people, no matter how they behave and publicity, no matter how interesting or well-done , has the potential to attract lots of people to an area. Blogs including video, pictures or words, form part the the wider media which could easily contribute to tipping the balance, and so we as bloggers have to consider the implications of what we decide to post. Can the place we're writing about take more people, and if not, it might be wiser to leave maps, place names or grid references out of posts. In Scotland, the Mountain Bothies Association has been careful to protect the location of some Bothies due to mis-treatment and, in some cases, even malicious vandalism. That is not to say they would not advocate people using them - in fact, a well used, maintained and loved network of bothies exist, and the MBA as an organisation is there to encourage this. Some bothies are busier than others but generally it is the less remote places which are more susceptible to abuse - something which might be worth considering when deciding whether to post information. It must be said, in most cases it's obvious what should or shouldn't be publisiced, but it's worth taking these considerations to mind.

Please note: The Code is constantly being revised and added to. If you like to add something login in to the discussion on the forum.