At the end of March I did a 30km cycle route in the Scottish Borders. This route was a loop that started and finished at Longyester, and used 4×4 tracks to ascend to the 527m summit of Lammer Law and cross the high moorland of the Lammermuir Hills to the east of Lammer Law, along a track that follows a line of electricity pylons and doesn’t drop much below 400m. There aren’t many places in Scotland where you can cycle on decent tracks at such a high altitude. Unfortunately a new wind farm was being built on the moorland at Fallago Rig which I had to cycle through, although this was a Sunday and the site was quiet. I then continued on the B6355 road, which is one of the highest public roads in Scotland, rising to a height of nearly 440m, before an amazing descent, losing 200m of altitude in 4km.
Last week I climbed Ben Nevis with Lesley’s sister, Kate. Kate had had an ambition to climb the highest mountain in the British Isles, and asked me to guide her as she is not an experienced hillwalker.
Because the aim of the trip was simply to attain the summit, and not take Kate anywhere dangerous or uncomfortable, I chose to do this the simplest way, using the ‘tourist’ route up and down. I knew there are many things about this route that make it a less than pleasant route choice, though, and so it turned out to be!
Five weeks ago I undertook an expedition from Blair Atholl to Aviemore. This was a long walk, 66km in total that took me three days with two nights of wild camping. This was a route that I had wanted to walk for a long time as it’s one of the longest largely linear walking routes that can be done in Scotland through terrain that has no public roads or settlements of any kind, and travels through one of the most remote and wild landscapes in the British Isles. It also has the advantage of having a train station at either end meaning that a return journey to the starting point can be done easily by train.
Six weeks ago in mid-May I travelled to the Cairngorms for a trip to take advantage of some rare good weather that was forecast. Upon arrival in the evening I camped overnight in an excellent site in the heart of Rothiemurchus Forest, only 45 minutes’ walk from the road at Coylumbridge but with a real feeling of being in a wild and remote area (see photo to the left). The site is well-sheltered on a flat piece of grass next to the Cairngorm Club footbridge that crosses the Am Beanaidh river and is surrounded by the Scots Pines of the forest.
A month ago Lesley and I travelled to England and Wales for a week’s holiday. During the trip we went on two great walks in upland areas.
The first was in Snowdonia National Park. We started at the village of Beddgelert where we were staying in a B&B and walked east out of the village past the Sygun Copper Mine towards Llyn Dinas. This lake is not far from Nantgwynant where I started the ascent of Snowdon with Martin and Kate in April 2010 (see my previous blog posting ‘Snowdonia‘). Then we climbed up to the pass of Cwm Bychan where there was a view of the summit of Snowdon and some old mine workings. A descent then took us to the village of Nantmor and the recently reopened Welsh Highland Railway.
Yesterday I ran in the 10k race in the Edinburgh Marathon Festival. This was the first organised run I’d taken part in since the Edinburgh Marathon in 2009 (see my previous blog posting ‘Edinburgh Marathon‘).
In 2007, I ran in the 10k race in the Great Scottish Run in Glasgow (see my blog posting ‘Great Scottish Run‘) . My time then was 01:01:48 and I was hoping to improve on this time in yesterday’s race, my target being anything under 1 hour.
Last weekend I attended a two-day Introduction to Scrambling course at Glenmore Lodge. I had undertaken this course before, in August last year but was only able to attend for the first day. On that previous course the instruction group spent the day in the Chalamain Gap in the northern corries area of the Cairngorms setting up anchor and belay points in the steep bouldery ground and setting up indirect belays using the rope alone, much as for ML training.
Last week I travelled to Ayrshire and went for a hike in the remote and anonymous moorland of East Ayrshire. The weather last week was extremely good, with blue skies, high temperatures and little wind, and this walk felt more like it was happening in the middle of summer than mid-March.
I walked northwards from the B743 into the featureless and boggy terrain of the area. There are two aircraft wreck sites in this area, and I had made a previous attempt to walk to these locations earlier in the year, setting off from the A71 to the north but was thwarted by difficult terrain and a new windfarm being built in the area which caused me to take a diversion.
On Sunday last weekend I travelled to Schiehallion to join a party of John Muir Trust volunteers undertaking path repair work on the maintained path that is situated on the long eastern ridge of the mountain.
The John Muir Trust (JMT) is an environmental conservation charity and landowner and owns several parcels of land throughout Scotland, including many in mountainous and remote areas (Bla Bheinn on Skye, Ladhar Bheinn in Knoydart and Ben Nevis in Lochaber) and organises conservation work parties throughout the year composed of volunteers to carry out work on the land such as path and fence maintenance, litter clearing and woodland regeneration.
Cross-country skiing is something I have always wanted to try and my interest was rekindled recently after reading Adam Watson’s accounts of cross-country skiing journeys in his recently-published autobiography (see my recent blog post ‘It’s a fine day for the hill‘). It is quite different from regular alpine or downhill skiing, using different techniques, boots, bindings and skis.