Archive for August, 2010

Solway

One and only one from the Solway Firth last weekend.  Windsurfing being the order of the day and I dont have the kit for water shooting (yet).  This is us waiting for the tide to come in:

Tower Ridge

Sometimes there’s nothing for it: down tools and head for the hills.

I’ve wanted to take in Tower Ridge on the Ben for years now, and it finally occurred to me just to go and do it. An old mate, Andy Yuill was up for it and since he just finished his masters he actually had the time too. We met at the King’s house on tuesday night about ten minutes after the bar shut (poor planning) and minced for a while taking photos of the Buachaille while we polished off a couple of bottles of Deuchars that Andy had brought.

After a remarkably poor night’s sleep (top tip: don’t forget your sleeping bag) and breakfast at Morrison’s in Fort Bill we started the slog up to the CIC and the Douglas Boulder. The weather was pretty good but the rock still wet and slimy enough in places that soloing the VDiff direct route up the boulder in hiking boots and rucksacks had a little more spice than we’d signed up for…. It all went well though and the rope stayed in the bag, thanks in part to Andy’s technique of chucking a sling tied to your harness over any tiny nubbin that showed itself. I’m fairly sure that if you have to hold it in place it’s psychological protection at best, but it kept us happy enough at the time to carry on.

Once you get off the Douglas Boulder and onto Tower Ridge the ground gets much easier. With the rock at an easier angle and significantly drier we could put a lot more time into enjoying our position and less into bowel and bladder control. The weather towed with us from time to time but it was just playing, testing our resolve rather than teaching us a lesson. And it’d wouldn’t be a day out on the Ben without getting rained on at least a little, would it?

It was surprisingly quiet up there yesterday. We met two groups on the route: one couple gearing up at the bottom that never did seem to top out on the Douglas Boulder, and two lads on their third big ridge of the day and a bit of a mission. We could see a group of three on the North East Buttress from time to time and the occasional tourist poked their head over the skyline as we neared the top. It can’t be often that you get the north face of Nevis almost to yourself, and that combined with the lurking weather made the day all the better.

A fine route, finished with a wee dram on the summit and a spectacular sunset on the way down. You can’t really ask for much more. Except maybe a sleeping bag.

Conic ♠


In preparation for the Tour de ben Nevis myself and Spad headed up Conic hill for some hike-a-biking practice. Conic hill is not very high but it is steep and gnarly. It was a magnificent night, the air was still, the moon was hung massive and full in the South East; we set about looking for the path less traveled and ended up scrambling through the waist height ferns in the dark wood looking for the steeps i had frequented before (see previous post). We found them eventually but decided it was to dangerous to attempt them in the dark overgrown especially after my propensity for crashing lately. The third is yet to come. They say a pictures worth a thousand words so here’s 2.145 of them to describe our experience.

Ben Alder circuit for Birthdayboy Bawheed

I fist met Somhairle at playschool almost 3 decades ago.  Since then he’s had a few nicknames (although not nearly as many as Spad it must be said), but we’ve remained friends none-the-less.  In a celebration of the start of his 30th year in existence the three of us took off for a circumnavigation of one of Scotland’s most-difficult to get to Munros, Ben Alder.   The forecast might’ve looked crap, but as the adage goes – you snooze you loose – so on we went despite the fact snoozing was pretty tempting at half six in the morning.  It stayed a bawhair off crap all day as we picked our way through Glens, over the the bealuchs, through bogs, around lochs under mountains fixing punctures while eating Haribo and sitting looking at the wilderness.  We found some twisted aircraft metal on our way through Bealach Dubh before the descent into the glen.  Ben Alder bothy in the sunshine was a rare place to be where we sat chatting to a Liverpudlian, who we met a few times on the way round,  before tramping up and over Sron Bealach Beithe with our tyres sinking frustratingly into the bog when the path was just getting under way.  But we’d paid our dues, and the descents reminded me yet again how good it is to be on two wheels in the wilderness.  One crash from the now expert crashist Bawheed and three punctures courtesy of the drainage ditches (and some miss-timed bunny hops) kept us in our place.  Back at the pub Fash n Chaps n a shandy sorted us out before the Citroen took us the backroads home three muddy bikes stuffed in the boot – HAPPY BIRTHDAY BAWHEED!

From Timbuktu to Achiltibuie

I met my friend Damien on a cargo boat floating up the river Niger to Timbuktu.  We spent several weeks kicking about around there, getting ourselves into some interesting situations.    Some 3 years later he visited Scotland, with his girlfriend Manu.  There was only one fit destination for a friendship made in Timbuktu – Achiltibuie.   Simone, James, Nicky, Adrian and my dad joined us for various parts of the adventure.

Cambusbarron – epic trails

I first saw the Cambusbarron on an mtbcut video. The trails looked amazing and it’s taken quite sometime to get it together and actually make the visit.

Myself and Spad rolled up mid-afternoon with little or no idea where the trails were, we knew there was a quarry and that was about it. We set off up towards the quarry to find a pretty imposing set of dirt jumps with wall rides, gaps and ever increasing amplitudes. Not much for the jumps, we set off in search of the singletrack. After a few bum steers into various other parts of quarry – which look like they’d make good climbing routes – we finally found the route up to the top. It’s a pretty severe climb although the actual height you reach is less than 200m it feels like more with the track being technical and demanding. On the way up, it’s easy to see how rewarding your descent will be with stunning natural sections and some immense man made jumps and berms. At the top there’s a choice of three different routes and after spending nearly 4 hours there we only managed to ride two of them. Infact we only rode one section twice, the sheer amount of possible routes in this small area of land in astounding. With everything from sweet natural singletrack to enormous man made hucks, the amount of variety here is vast, with a forest landscape of pine, birch and alder through tunnels of rhododendrons to the stark apocalyptic graffitied man made quarries. In the hours we spent bombing around the place we never tired of the trails even in an attempt to get back to the car we ended up finding more routes and jumps. It would certainly take a few more trips before we could get a feel for where to go and how to link it all up. Despite the small size of the area we were clapped out, climbing up the hill over and over again is wearing, it is steep and you certainly get a solid work out from the haste required to cram in another adrenalised descent.

This is a place that will make you a better rider in every respect, it will make you fitter, increase your skill and fill you with confidence, the possibility to stretch your ability to such a high level is something that I’ve only found in the high mountains or on DH specific routes. It must be noted this is not a trail centre, the trails are built and maintained by locals so it should be given the respect it deserves, you could do yourself a serious injury on a lot of the stuff here, they’re are no posts or markings to warn of the dangers and the work people have done building this place is humbling and inspiring.

Here’s the mtbcut video.

♥ An Aird

A trip home gave an excuse to hit the old stomping ground, the formative trails which ignited a love of woods, rocks, mud and the mountain bike. An Aird is a large tract of upland on the Northern fringes of Loch Ness, it’s highest point is only 400m or so but the roads and trails I frequented tend to head straight up and over the shallow ridge that comprises the spine, the gradients are steep in parts and provide a solid challenge.

Life has changed inexorably over the years and much has changed on the hill too. Paths that were well used by horses bike and foot have fallen faint, silent and overgrown. Despite the influx of new homes and people to the hill the interiors seem less well travelled as they once were. There are hot spots like, Reelig Glen, Abriachan and the Mam Mor walks which through convenience, car parking and way marking have become popular (with good reason), taking local feet and tyres away from the network on which I cut my teeth.

Anyone who has spent a lot of time in one piece of country – especially when growing up – will understand the affinity that builds up between the person and the land. Finding and cutting routes, following faint deer tracks, exploring and stringing together pieces of trail to create secret un-interupted loops which only you and some select others know is special. In my absence a lot of these treasured gems have been reclaimed by nature and are no longer rideable or even distinguishable.

This sense of home and belonging is something I miss in my suburban surroundings. Something I long to re-kindle later in life. I may not end up back in An Aird but it remains that where ever I settle – I will always ♥ and return to An Aird.

Roads with History

Somhairle and myself took off for a day of pedalling to clear the heads.  From Clydebank through Kilsyth and going up and over the Campsie hills only getting to the top mattered as frantic modern life disappeared to a background murmour.    Road cycling is a strange and amazing undertaking – even running up mountains doesn’t seem to reduce you to exhaustion quite as quickly.  Yes! a motorbike screeching by as you trundle up a hill puts question marks in your head, but then as its roar disappears over the horizon, it’s just you, the wind rustling, an open road, and a sublimely peaceful feeling as you whirr along.  It’s an honourable admission – where there is life there will always be pain, accept it and reap the rewards.  These roads have been ploughed by many cycling greats, and passing a number of cyclists with friendly waves you get the impression this deep routed culture lives on.   Nachos at Fintry were well deserved before the descent and a tired last climb over Mugdock.  We congratulated each other on our return.

Here’s the route.

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.