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.
Last week I travelled to Aberdeenshire and walked to the 589m summit of Clachnaben from Glen Dye. Despite being a relatively small hill, Clachnaben is very distinctive in having an unusual and large granite tor on the summit.
The weather conditions on this walk were quite unusual with not a trace of snow for many miles around despite the late winter date (February 24th). Temperatures were quite mild and the air was very clear but the wind was very strong so it was cold higher up the hill.
Yesterday I went on a short 1-day winter skills course at Glenmore Lodge. The course was an avalanche and navigation awareness course.
There were a couple of classroom lectures about about planning winter routes in the mountains and about avalanches in general. The bulk of the day however was spent in a small group on the slopes of the Cairngorms above Glenmore lodge, with some micronavigation and general navigation techniques for winter walking routes and then a climb through some difficult terrain of snow-covered heather to Coire Laogh Mòr to find some deep snow.
1. The divide in the discipline of Geography
Geography is a somewhat schizophrenic discipline. Is it a ‘social’ science or is it a ‘hard’ science? The two aspects of the discipline have been in conflict since the ‘quantitative revolution‘ of the 1950s and 1960s within Geography, and the ‘hard’ science of Geography is represented in many respects now by the field of Geographical Information Science (GIS).
Maps are at the very centre of this conflict – what they represent, what their purpose is, how they are constructed and perceived, and what effect they have on society and individuals.