Author Archive

Back to the Homelands


Filmed in the hills above where i grew up in Kilmorack, Inverness Shire – a place where I’ve spent lots of time learning how to ride Mountain Bikes. When visiting family now, I still like to head out for a bike ride up in the backwoods of my old stomping ground. I thought it was about time a bit of it was captured behind a lens since it’s had such a big influence on my life. The trails are not particularly technical but very fast and flowing so great if you want to get some speed up… plus its a fantastic place to get a lung full of fresh air and a panoramic from the Moray firth to Glen Strathfarrar.

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1st of the Season


I didn’t think I was gonna get out on Cairngorm Mountain that day as the winds we’re high and the tows we’re initially closed… I had to walk up from the bottom car park as the access road was almost impassable – unless you had a 4×4… Whilst I was waiting for them to reopen, I sat in the cafe with this wee tune going round in my head. I’ve always loved coming to this part of Scotland, no matter what the conditions are. The variations in weather make any place you’ve been before seem totally different… By the time I’d finished coffee, the train was in operation again so I thought Id take the new camera out for a slow motion trial. My ‘wee tune’ features in the video’s accompanying music, which i’ve aptly named ‘Minus’.

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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.

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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.

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A Week on Mull – SGC 2010


Well its that time of year again when the Scotstoun Gentlemen’s Club (SGC) head out to the hills for a week of outdoor pursuits – This year we went to Mull. Unfortunately we spent the week trying to predict the unpredictable weather! Nonetheless we made the best of it and got out on the bikes to Tobermory via Loch Frisa, Coastal walking on the Ross of Mull and gorge walking up in Glen Forsa and also by Loch na Keal. So much to do on this Island – definitely heading back there soon.

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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

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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.

SPAD

Away to Culkein Bay

It was around 15 years ago when I was last here in Culkein – it’s barely changed at all. This time I spent the week there with around 40 other friends and we had a mighty fine time. Lots of Kayaking and walking, a bit of climbing and cycling… and plenty of good fun. Assynt has to be one of my favourite places to be.

Milngavie – Dumgoyne MTB Video


Well myself and JD have done this bike loop a fair few times now. I start from close to the Clyde Tunnel and cycle up to Milngavie to meet Somhairle, then we go up through the many possible routes of Mugdock park. Exit the park at the north west side and head up forest track towards the fast downhill and Dumgoyne distillery. Then back along the otherside of main road back through strathblane to Mugdock park again. You can usually do it in about 3 hours (thats including the sly pint and a peperami in Strathblane), although on this occasion it took almost twice that time due to stopping and planting video cameras everywhere. Anyway its a route with many possibilities so its usually different every time… well worth a try.

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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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.