Author Archive

Ben Ime

It doesn’t always have to be a hardcore day out. Especially the weekend after the end of Celtic Connections… maybe I’m just getting old. Spad certainly is – we were out to mark his 31st birthday. Those of us that could drag ourselves out of bed in the morning had a great wee wander through the cloud up into what little snow there is at the moment: easy going, no hurry, not nearly as punishing as the White Russians at the bar afterwards….
Cheers for the day out lad, and happy birthday!

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.

A grand day out on the Buachaille

I’ve spent the best part of the last two years living down in the Lake District, so it felt like a return to the motherland as we cruised up the A82 past Loch Lomond and onwards towards Glen Coe. The sun was splitting the skies and the hills through Bridge of Orchy and the Black Mount were looking magnificent, putting on a fine show for a long overdue reunion. As we came round the corner and sighted the Buachaille looming in the distance, I finally told Keith where we were going and what we were going to do.

Keith’s a good friend, an old friend. James and I nearly killed him on a walk up the Cobbler about four years ago (“just two more minutes!”), though he loved it afterwards and talked about it for months. Since then we’ve only ever managed gentle wanders together, normally with a group of his work colleagues who all appear to be scared of mud. Keith is moving to Sydney in a couple of weeks, and I wanted to take him up one of Scotland’s classics, show him what it was really all about. The idea was to give him a day to remember and hopefully not scare the crap out of him along the way, just give him some quality memories of the hills he would normally drive past. I thought that Curved Ridge would fit the bill.

I admit that I’ve also had a wee hankering to try to solo Agag’s Groove since trying to lead it a few years back and having to ab off to help a friend who was hit in the head by a falling rock. I chucked my rock shoes in my bag, telling myself I was just going to go and have a wee look at it – much too early in the season to be trying that sort of thing.

The car park was full to bursting, though we didn’t meet anyone on the walk in until we were directly below curved ridge. Keith has been putting in some serious fitness training in the years since our day out on the cobbler and was cruising on up there with a complete absence of swearing, complaining or whining. We stopped to say hello to a film crew making a movie called “a lonely place to die,” and moved on again quickly as they seemed busy (mostly snoozing).

Keith totally cruised up the initial steep start to the ridge, and any lingering concerns quickly evaporated. I’d brought a rope and enough gear to rig a belay just in case I was asking too much of him, but it was clear that it wasn’t going to be necessary. Far from being terrified he seemed to be loving every minute of it: excited, exhilarated, but moving confidently and I began to wish I’d dragged him up here years ago rather than accepting his excuses. We stopped for lunch on one of the large ledges across from the Rannoch wall and I pointed out some of the classic routes, embellished with tales from past days out. Then I got to Agag’s and damn, it looked perfect. Clear, dry, not a soul on the whole wall. I walked down the ledge to better pick out the route – inspecting it for another day when I’d try the solo.

Then I went down to the large block it starts from to check out the opening moves. I took my rock boots with me, just in case I fancied bouldering the start to see how it felt.

It felt good.

All of a sudden I was sitting on the large ledge at what would normally be the second belay, watching Keith watching me. The third pitch looked kind of steep looking up from the ledge, but looking fown from it the first two pitches also looked pretty steep. I’d heard that there was a bit of a hairy step out into a very exposed situation somewhere up there, and I hoped it was around what appeared to be a slightly overhanging bulge. I certainly didn’t want to have to climb over the bulge anyway. Nothing for it really, just got to suck it up and give it a go. It was faint in the distance, but I swear I could hear “you’re nuts,” being muttered in soft weegie tones somewhere nearby. I topped out the route below Crowberry Tower with a curious lack or relief but considerable satisfaction. It had felt good; controlled and comfortable rather than reckless and terrifying.

I think Keith got something very similar from his day when we topped out on Curved Ridge. He achieved something that he will remember for years to come, had a day that other days will be measured against. As he said himself, he raised the bar. I don’t doubt that the next time he drives past the Buachaille, he’ll feel a little differently about it. It’s a funny thing though, I spent two years thinking about that solo but at the end of the day I think I felt more satisfaction giving Keith his big day out than from my climb. It was, I think, a fitting farewell.

Patagonian Wanderings

It’s ironic really. You save all your pennies, finally book the Big Trip and fly out to Patagonia for four months of trekking through landscapes you’ve spent years reading about and dreaming about, and what happens? You time your trip of a lifetime to coincide with the best Scottish winter in 20 years…. Sounds like you guys have had a cracking winter!

Not that I’m complaining you understand.

Patagonia was still everything you could ever hope it would be. The landscapes really are as varied as they are magnificent: you can be walking among perfect towers of granite one week and boiling pools of mud and volcanoes the next. Sometimes surreal, often majestic and always beautiful.

I was down there working primarily on a landscape photography project (the exhibition opens next week in Keswick if anyone’s interested) but I thought that I’d try my hand at some video too, partly to try to broaden my horizons from a creative point of view, and partly because it was a great excuse to stop and put my bag down from time to time. Misha suggested I post the result on here so, well, here it is….

I hope you enjoy it.


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.

Contribute

If you want to share some of your adventures just drop as an email
info@high-8.com and we'll register you on to the system.

Facebook

Are you into facebook? Then hook up with us there...

Weather

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.