Archive for September, 2010

Big smoke

Now this is well off theme, but my latest adventure took place – nowhere near a mountain or wilderness of any kind – but in the heart of the British capital, London.

I had an exhibit showing at the artcrank poster show, so in an effort to mix it with the cycling community at large I bmx’ed it into central, threw the bike in the bike van and settled in for the surprisingly painless journey of 5 and a bit hours. My first challenge was finding the venue away down near Shoreditch, so a bit of meandering through friday night traffic in the dark provided quite a shot of excitement. Those roads get hell of a busy. Venue found, I got a beer and went outside to take some photos when i heard the unmistakable howl of the teenwolf. There they were a bunch of couriers from Glasgow down for the messenger event London calling. They filled me in as to where the party was and with post-exhibition activities sorted I set about the social mill. The exhibition ended at about 12ish, everything had gone well, so me and show organiser and my host for the night Chris Verbick headed of in search of a warehouse deep in the east end where the messenger chaos was in progress.

Now, I’ve not been a messenger for a long time now, I got so bored of riding the streets and the seemingly pointless tail chasing that defines life in the heart of hive that i developed a serious distain for city centres in general. In developing this complex I had completely forgotten how much fun weaving through traffic in a group of bikes can be, the bmx however is not designed as a primary form of transit and requires some physical commitment to keep it close to the wheels of more suitable bikes. Still I had a great buzz sliding in the gaps and holding onto taxis for a little extra boost when i fell off the back. The streets at this time were alive with bikes, i have never seen so many fixed wheels in one shot before and it is safe to say that the so called (fixie – culture) is in full chat down south. The warehouse we were seeking gave itself up through sound – amongst a swathe of identical industrial carbuncles – and what a warehouse it was. Man, this place was RAD! full of amazing murals (some of which were banksy’s) a full on sound system, lasers and lights, live tag-team hip-hop, dark corners full of tired / minced couriers hunched over tables and a giant pizza oven which set off the stark urban vibe with the sweet smell of pine smoke and cooking dough. We had a fine time although all off us were spent, Niall Dobbie (ex weegie courier) had cycled from Glasgow on a fixie and was in fine form despite his trek. Along with Brian Dunsmore (Westcoast messengers) we spoke of travelling the world, latest adventures, family and the state of old friends all conducted in un-cooth Glaswegian style over a bottle of Glenmorangie. Thoroughly well oiled we left to find Chris’s flat, rumbling along thin singletrack canal paths through the industrial veins of the city, I felt at ease with a city I have always had a healthy dislike for before.

So will i be buying another track bike rolling up one trouser leg and riding the traffic for fun? The answer would have to be no. I would rather spend my time in the peace and solace of the un-civilised hills…

A Weekend in the Cairngorms


Its the first time i’ve visited the Cairngorms direct from the south – usually its via Aviemore and surrounding area, not Dundee and Kirriemuir… It makes you realise how big the Cairngorm mountain range actually is. We arrived at the Camping spot in Glen Mark late Friday night. Up with the Tipi! Saturday started with a catalogue of schoolboy errors – Whilst myself and Robin fixed a bike light, Chad and Ray went a wandering… of course we thought they’d headed off down the route so once we’d finished repairs, we boosted off to catch up. After 3km we started to wonder where they were! They caught up eventually and they brought with them news that I’d left my passenger window wide open on the car! What a muppet. So I did the extra distance back to car and arranged to meet them at Tarfside.
After the morning faff, we we’re back on track and enjoying the 52km loop from Glen Mark, north along the Fungle Road, up to glen Tanar and back down the Mounth to Glen Mark again. A mixture of forest track and fantastic single track is to be had here and its well worth the morning climb.
The Second day took us up Glen Clova to start a well recommended 25km route – after a tricky climb and bike carry, we made it to the much praised decent towards Loch Muick… Amazing! I went over the handlebars twice and i think the other 3 had similar crashes too… but it was well worth it! The track takes you round Loch Muick and back over to the Capel Mounth decent which was one of the highlights of the weekend.
This area is well worth a visit and the tracks are fantastic. Im already looking forward to getting back there as soon as possible.

SPAD

Bressay wandering

The MacDonald clan ventured north for a family wedding that lasted for 3 days and spanned 4 separate locales, it was wild and great craic but not so conducive for keeping my fitness up in readiness for Tour de Ben Nevis and Relentless endurance races. I took the opportunity of a lull in the festivities to walk the bits of Bressay I had not ventured into before.

The south east coast of the island comprises the largest area of un-settled wilderness, littered with old villages, sheelings and military outposts it’s clear that this area was not always as empty and bleak as it is now. The coast is intricate with imposing, ragged cliffs rising up over 100m and although the island is small it takes quite a time to thread your way around the cliff edges. Although this area is pretty much devoid of any human activity now it remains a thronging and bustling place, sea birds dominate, screaching, swooping and playing on the thermals, thankfully the bonxies weren’t in dive bombing mode this time of year so walking near the cliff edge wasn’t as dangerous as it could be. How folk survived out here through the winter being openly exposed to the north sea is beyond me. Even in the fine weather i experienced the salinated wind is persistent and wearing. I still have to make it up Ronas hill which is the highest peak of 450m so it’s a definite must for the next visit. Shetland is very different from mainland Scotland, the people and the land have and unwavering, distinct individuality that is rich and engaging. I can honestly say that there is nowhere on Earth like it.

Sloy

It was a day of contrast. Overcast and blazing sunshine, manmade versus nature, climb to descend. A joyous plunge down Glen Loin brought us back to civilization and the sad news of an old friends passing. A poignant reminder to live life while you are alive. Here’s to Stuart and the time that he had.

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.