Archive for November, 2010

A Blank Canvas in Bothy Culture.

This last weekend we opened up a project on one of Scotland’s remote bothies.   As a regular visitor to bothies, it’s always on the back of my mind how a contribution can be made to keep the bothy culture alive and functioning for the future.

This particular building, perched spectacularly on the edge of a loch in one of Scotland’s most fantastic landscapes, has been in need of face-lift for some time having been abused by a very small number of the travellers passing through –  a handful of people who decided to leave rubbish rather than carry it out.  So a small team of us set out to tidy the space for anyone that might want to stay.  The plot thickened however – as we tidied an [almost] blank canvas appeared where the rubbish had been.  Maybe there will be more pictures maybe not, but at least it’s tidier now!

Brig O’turk to Strathyre

So with the girlfriend and the kids going visiting in Strathyre I took the chance to ride over from Brig O’Turk. The first section up Gleann nam Meann was well known after it had been done in the other direction a matter of weeks ago by a crew of us – see glenfinglas post.
The climb was long but not unpleasant with plenty of loose steep bits to keep you on your toes. Once near the top and still bearing north you join the faint , but perceptible path – which has a nice carved signpost to Balquhidder to mark it’s head.  At 408m you’re in the foot of the big hills and there’s a real sense of wilderness going down the brilliantly named Glen Shoinnie. The trail is natural, wet and has the slipperiest rocks I’ve come across in a long time. The riding is hard going with lots of burn crossings and super technical bits. The rocks caused so many offs, there was just no way to avoid them and hitting them anything other than square on resulted in washing out. This was however great fun and a real challenge and by far the highlight of the trip. Swinging right at a big nose of rock, joining the Fathan Glinne which had views up to the west of snow filled corries and peaks. The path down here was equally challenging with little paps undulating along it length high above the river, it was probably wetter and boggier than the path before and presented some pretty stiff challenges in slow speed bike handling skills, verging on trials at points, I fell of repeatedly.
Joining the road at Glen Buckie and passing through a couple of cattle farms a another handy sign pointed the way to the very faint path that skirts the summit of Beinn a t-Sidhein to Strathyre. This was a bike a hike affair and keeping the path was difficult, once levelling out near the shoulder it was ridable but more or less just hacking across open hillside. The view down Loch Lubnaig showed a swathe of peaks that look bigger than the map would suggest. The descent down to Strathyre looked amazing on the map and started out with an excellent pitted singletrack through open woods, just as I reached the tree line proper and the descent was due to get steeper I was assaulted by the apocalyptic scene of forestry operations. The track was descimated, hidden under a blanket of murdered Spruce, I was a bit miffed (but we all need wood and paper). Skittering down the tracks made by heavy plant catepillar tracks was pretty entertaining however and although it wasn’t the steep wooded singletrack i’d hoped for it was good craic, if a tad muddy.
I’ll definetly be back to Glen Shoinnie in the dry if i can, it’s a great wee ribbon of mtb joy.

Here’s the route.

Devil’s Staircase / Ciaran Path

The Devil’s Staircase was apparently named by General Wades soldiers because of the difficulties of carrying building materials along it – its a steep, rough, rocky path which is dangerous and unrelenting… and thats why its great for mountain biking! Well going down it anyway.
We left Glasgow early and congregated with the rest of the 9 strong group at the bottom of the Staircase. The climbing is tough from the offset, but great for getting the circulation going on a cold November morning. We made it to the cairn in pretty good time and so we continued to fire down the first of the fantastic descents on the route. Very fast singletrack, with lots of different lines to choose from and wee jumps if you wish to get in the air for a moment… So far there had only been one puncture, which is pretty good out of 9 on a rough path like this. We turned right and cycled along the huge concrete piping that leads you up to impressive Blackwater Dam.
The next section is the Ciaran path which is 8kms of rough and very technical downhill. There we’re a number of bogs to jump over, as well as 1 or 2 ‘over the handlebar’ maneuvers… but no big injuries! A few broken spokes, a bent derailleur hanger and another puncture though… Eventually we made it to Kinlochleven for a coffee stop. Only 3 wanted to do the return journey. The others had decided to to take the long route by road and meet at the Clachaig Inn. Bowie, Sorley and myself headed back up towards the devils staircase. It was getting dark but as long as nothing went wrong then we would be back at the car soon… of course something went wrong! The path claimed another inner tube and so we spent ages trying to mend it with crap repair patches… after much faffage and eventual success, we set off down the staircase with bike lights on full beam. My hands we’re now completely numb, but it didn’t matter as the descent back to the car in the pitch black took no time at all and was amazing.


Halloween Bothy Mice Strike Terror into Female Residents

There were eight nationalities all happily packed into Pean Meannach bothy this last weekend.   Happily at-least, until the mice were mentioned.    With Ghosts and Ghouls forgotten about ‘they can’t get upstairs can they ??’ was the question on the lips of all but the crazy Belgians, who were too drunk to care.   It did seem that mice had penetrated the defences, and made it into some peoples’ sleeping bags though.

We did little the way of anything productive, instead, we incinerated some Bananas, didn’t find the buried whisky, and had Spad giving us one off his new album of cover songs ‘Rustic Charm’.   We also noted that the washing-up liquid situation is getting out of control.  If you happen to be going to Pean Meannach in the next few years, I wouldn’t say there’s any need to take washing-up liquid.

Glentress & Cardrona Pump track

Glentress is the most popular of all the trail centres, some liken it to a Scottish Whistler. Almost certainly a victim of it own success, the place has taken on a kind of theme park persona over the last few years.
The trails in a lot of areas have been sanitised and made “safe” – no doubt in reaction to a few litigious scum bags. However the black run remains true to it’s original form. With long grinding climbs that are steep and rough with sweeping switchbacks and always rewarding with fun, on the edge descents which are rugged and full of jumps and drops. Through the routes 30km I only met 3 others. Once back at the main complex I made my way back up the hill to take in the some of the red – it’s rollecoaster, maximum-fun vibe is addictive. However I couldn’t face the crowds and skittered down some of the uber tech hidden trails (that Hutch had shown me years ago) that cling to the steep sides of the woods.
I had heard about a pump track that had been built on near by Cardrona, so I packed up and headed over to see what like? Cardrona is a weird little village, it’s clearly quite new, full of modern built houses and paved streets it resembles the set of some American soap opera. The track itself is pretty good fun, it flows well enough to build speed up with nothing but pumping. I struggled to find many interesting lines apart from a figure of eight which had a nice wee transition in it (but this was probably due to fatigue and lack of imagination). This was my first time on a pump track and it’s amazing how you can build speed by just shifting your weight around.

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.