Archive for June, 2010

Ben Lomond by Bike, Rib and Wrist.

It all started with a good smattering of faff. Wrestling with spads rear axle trying to install a new freehub we hummed and hawed dismantling and re-assembling the thing, there was definitely something going a wry inside it. Never the less we pushed on chucking the bikes in the car and heading up to Rowardennan to meet Aidan who had come across from Seil – Oban. After more faff somehow missing the main path and then stopping several times to try and get spads wheel to that magic sweet spot between not spinning and flailing about haplessly behind.
The bottom part of the path is quite deceptive, very rough with huge rocks and steps, after the initial steep gnarlyness the path levels out a bit and there is a stretch that is pretty smooth and cyclable until you come onto the shoulder of the ben itself and everything gets steep and rocky again. We merrily clambered up through a combination of shouldering and pushing with passing walkers commenting on our craziness periodically. The path levels out again and cycling this part is fun, challenging trialsy coolness. We could see the summit beyond capped in cloud the wind was getting up and we were under no illusions we were on a munro in a Scottish summer. We stopped in a sheltered spot and got fuelled up, spad footered with his bike for a time and I installed the helmet camera on my bonce. Onwards and upwards. The summit was indeed shrouded in cloud when we got there although strangely sheltered from the wind, which we summised was due to some sort of thermal based aberration. There was a wily old fellow from Vancouver and we had a good yarn discussing his views on our country most of which were informed and true.
So to the descent… Seats were lowered camera turned on and off we went. Be under no illusions, this mountain is very rough; rideable (just) for the most part but very technical rocky gnar means it is seldom that you will find the line through at every juncture. I was loving it finding my stride and managing to find a path through the rocky assault. My speed was getting pretty high and I was able to straight line and hop a lot of the nasty parts, with my confidence rising I began to lay off the brakes more and more, i see a small rock drop there is a line to the left I would have to slow to make. I straight line it. The front wheel clears then the unmistakable ping of chainring alloy hitting rock, the bars fold away from my grasp and the ground rushes up to meet me. I flail around for a bit, I have definitely crashed and my right wrist does not want to support my weight. I sprachkle around until I am upright – for some reason i turn the camera off? I’m in pain, feels like a sprain, spad arrives, he has no notion I have crashed till I tell him. He helps me strap the offending wrist up, I gather myself and it feels okay but i can’t grip the bars. Badly sprained I repeat. I begin the walk down, the pain comes and goes and swinging the arm around takes the pain away. We meander down, taking a bike down ben Lomond with only your left hand can be tricky and takes a long time, we have certainly been lagging in every aspect of this trip except the ascent.  The pain is less by the bottom section I rode the last few hundred metres, un weighing the injury over the bumps.
At home the swelling is noticeable i stick some ice on it. It feels better still, I have a bath feels great. Go to bed, bit uncomfortable but I fall asleep. 2 in the morning I wake up, I try to move, I scream. The agony is palpable, something is wrong, very wrong. I take some pain killers wake in the morning and decide the hospital is calling. I spend some hours in casualty, I have one broken rib on the left side and a compound fracture in my wrist. I’m in a cast for four weeks. Just goes to show you can do serious damage without being able to acknowledge it. I had sprained it badly so this probably masked the underlying break. It’s hard to say what I have learned from this, my confidence on the descent was high but I have struggled with confidence before and it is a hard won attribute, knowing your limits is important but I was no where near my edge when I crashed, a simple misjudgement of the trail is all I can put it down to. What I will take from this is that eye balls out descending on big mountains is something that is always going to be fraught with danger and should be approached with a higher modicum of respect for the terrain and exposed nature of the environment.

Out on the Cuillin

One moment I was in Glasgow, the next I was standing on the Cuillin Ridge.  It seemed that all I did was blink and there I was, 8pm on Saturday night.  Quite why it took me so long to come to these mountains I don’t know, but my reaction was not one that I expected.  Up on the ridge I felt constricted, like I couldn’t move backwards, forwards or any which way without going over some kind of drop to a seemingly certain death.  This landscape is intimidating, it took me almost an hour to make any kind of move along the ridge, fighting an overwhelming urge to go straight back down.   I had no guide book, no advice on which way to go, no rope, and no partner to belay me even if I did have a rope.

Three who were bedding in for a Bivi on one of the tops  found it amusing that I had a fishing rod ‘Fishing trip gone out of control’ I said.   I edged my way along the ridge but got spooked at an airy gap.   I couldn’t see any sensible way round without climbing a short section of rock with a large drop beneath it, which I wasn’t confident enough to commit to.  In an attempt to find a way round it I ended up going further and further down, almost unintentionally finding an escape route off the ridge, but also quite glad to be on safer ground.

Down in the Coire, and held hostage by a cloud of midgies I slept in.  Back at Sea Level I was a spare part hanging about at the Glen Brittle campsite on my own, and so I went for  run, out to the point, on by the island of Soay, where I shouted down to a sea Kayaker, and round the back of the Cuillin towards Coruisk following a deer.  After a few hours of running through the bogs my legs tired.

At Sligachan, having a pint with a new friend Terry, we planned a trip up Am Basteir the next day.    The cloud would spoil our plan, and I watched the old and new chief clash later that night, when Billy got knocked off his feet.

Jen gave me a lift back and we stopped by the Cluanie Damn, where I caught no fish, but she did take some photos.  Another Highland adventure.

Strathblane woods – video

I went back up the woods on Sunday found some more classics, spent hours up there. Deserted, sunny and peaceful what a fine waste of time.

Strathblane woods

Me, Misha, Spad and Chae headed out to look for some trails in Strathblane woods the other night. It must have been the first time the four of us had been out cycling since we were teenagers. The weather was stunning – super hot. We had a classic rumble through the usual suspects in Mugdock then headed up Cuilt Brae woods above Strathblane. We found some real gems in here, fast rooty and dusty, heaps of traction, steep to flowing. Classic Scottish woods. There’s a multitude of options in here and you could cut around for hours.

10 Under the Ben

Well it was another great race and a great day in the sun, rain and mud! Finally I managed to put some of the footage together to make this wee vid. Our group of friends had a total of 6 teams entered! I’m already looking forward to next years race but for now, we’ve got the Tour de Ben Nevis coming up in September…

10 Under the Ben on High 8


It’s massif

Here’s a wee picture based on a little part of a big boulder I saw up at Dumbarton castle on a nice day out with the family. I was fascinated by some of the boulders and rock faces up there. Lot’s of different forms and images hidden within. It struck me that this little detail of one boulder looked like a big ol’ mountain. The perception of scale is pretty interesting in concern to mountains and people, just think of standing in the glen coe then the himalayas. The range of difference on the ground is huge but when placed in the frame of a picture the true nature of scale is harder to fathom…

Over tops and down

After Spad’ and my climbing adventure on Saturday, we slept in on Sunday.  I thought the day was gone until I got into gear at miday, on the way up the Ben, checking in at the top in 1 hr 33 later (a time which might have been competitive in the 1930s!).  Without having put a foot wrong so far, confidence carried me over along the Arete (where it’s a good idea not to trip over and stumble) before the tops of CMD and Anoach Mor got trampled over.  I made down to see Steve Pete coming out of the starting gates at the Mountain Biking World Cup, some 4 hours after I started out and, for the first time in months, my legs hurt on Monday morning.

Poll Dubh Climbing

Well rather than go to the mountain bike world cup all weekend, i thought it would be good to get up Glen Nevis for one of the days to take advantage of the good weather. Myself and Misha left Fort Bill and headed up the glen. The area was busy, as you’d expect in good weather – the midges weren’t deterring the tourists and climbers dotted around the glen. We started on Cavalry Crag, doing route called ‘Heatwave’. I started leading the 1st pitch and preceded to battle against the inital fear and also a mild hangover. 2nd pitch went a bit squiffy for Misha but we soon got back on track once we got our bearings… The last pitch takes you to the top of the crag, leaving us with a braw view of the glen and a satisfied feeling inside… thus removing our earlier feelings of ‘Why do we do this sport?!’

On way back down we noticed smoke up the glen – some folk had apparently lost control of their fire and the nearby heather and grass went up… carried up the hill by the wind. It looked a bit like a small Australian bush fire! Firemen battled with the blaze and soon had it under control but it was a fair bit of drama nonetheless. We decided to do one more climb – on the scimitar crag further up glen. This was called ‘Razor’ and proved to be a nice short route with one or 2 exposed moves…

Think we’ll have to come here alot more to make even a small dent in the amount of routes here… Next time ill remember to take the midge net for belaying.


World Cup DH / 4x – Fort William – 2010

fort william word cup dh 2010

Once again the world cup at Fort William has excelled itself. With blazing sunshine on the Saturday the place was a dust bowl, full of happy punters. The pits were open and all the riders were milling around and warming up amongst the crowd. The atmosphere was superb in the finish and on the hill, plenty of banter and seat of the pants qualifying runs.

The track was fast and loose with most of the new additions going down well with the competitors, although a few were a little peeved with the old wood section being changed as it favoured the more technically gifted and was a place where time could be made or lost. Plenty folk were washing out on the exceptionally loose surface. Not least Sam Hill who had a serious off during an early practice run, having to go to hospital and leaving his bike looking like it had been ran over by a tractor. Series leader Greg Minnar posted the fastest qualification run by just .6 of a second.

The 4x is always a brilliant spectacle and the crowd were hyped and vocal with mexican waves being orchestrated by a weegiewith a megaphone. Classic entertainment. Crashes came thick and fast and the dusty conditions certainly slowed things up a wee bit with folk getting bogged down in the flat blown out left hander near the top. The seemingly unbeatable Jared Graves won the mens, his dominance is pretty clear and it’s only when he has some bad luck that he comes in second. Joost Wichman gave him a good run for his money though, so it’ll be interesting to see this rivalry develop over the next 4 rounds.

Sunday wasn’t so bright but still warm and dry contrary to the forecast. The atmosphere in the pits was more serious with team tents closed up and riders hidden away geting psyched up. The crowd was massive and the noise intense, especially when Tracy Moseley and Rachel Atherton came into the finish. Rachel was close to win but lost out to Sabrina Jonnier by 1.1 seconds. The mens final was pretty interesting with young brit Danny Hart holding the hot seat for ages. Mark (boom boom) Beaumont another English man took the seat after. Hyping the crowd into a frenzy of cowbells, air horns and good ol’ shouting. Gee Atherton came in with a very fast time over 2 seconds above the rest and the crowd went wild. Gee had a tense wee wait in the hot seat (well it was more like a been bag) Greg Minnar stormed down the track without incident but failed to better Gees time which turns out to be a new track record. So much Kudos to the guy, pretty stunning result after a non event of a season last year. The crowd favourite Steve Peat had another bad weekend, failing to score in qualifying and scraping a rather demoralising 63pts for finishing 18th. Ben Cathro a boy fae Benderloch in Argyll was just behind him in 19th and this was after his chain came off / jammed near the bottom. He had just won the IXS cup in Innerleithen the weekend before with a hangover from his pals wedding. So definitely one to watch for the future.

Next year will be the 10th anniversary of the world cup at Fort William, so lets hope the folks at Nevis Range keep up the good work and keep developing the track. They’ve done a great job so far. So long my it continue, it’s certainly a long run for one world cup venue and with plenty of other quality, challenging tracks being build around the country lets hope next year isn’t it’s last.

Amateur night on the Buachaille

Last night  decided to solo the broad buttress and bivi on the top, I left Glasgow at 5pm into the rubbish hour traffic. It was a beautiful evening with a warm sunset dropping fast behind me, threatening to leave me in the dark  if i didn’t move my arse.  The climb was pretty exciting, i lost the route a couple of times and ended up giving over my life to a few clumps of heather and some grass. When i finally topped out it felt amazing to be alive. I walked the last few hundered feet to the summit and ate my sandwich and set up my bivi for the night.

Its the first time i have solo’d a hill never mind a scramble it felt pretty amateur to be honest, but i have learned a lot about my limitations, and where i need to work on stuff. Mostly navigation and route finding.

Would I do it again.. certainly but the bivi was pretty dull without company.

‘nice sunset i said to myself’ ..’aye’ i said back.

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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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.