On Saturday last weekend I undertook the NNAS Gold Award assessment, with C-N-Do (I had done the Gold award training with them back in November). This involved some classroom tests of walking route preparation and map reading, but the majority of the day was spent navigating along a route in the Ochil hills (coincidentally in the same area as the walk I did to Blairdenon Hill three weeks ago).
Last weekend I travelled to the Cairngorms, and walked from the busy Coire Cas ski centre up to the Cairn Gorm – Ben Macdui plateau. A lot of the winter snow had gone from below about 700m altitude, but above that height the snow cover was complete and on the plateau itself there were full winter conditions with deep snow.
Last Sunday I went for a short walk in the western Ochil Hills at Sheriffmuir (nor far from where I went to school). This area of the Ochils has historical associations with William Wallace and also the Jacobite uprising of 1715. Near the start of the walk was an interesting ancient alignment of stones, that seem to point towards the escarpment of the Touch Hills on the horizon, and one of the stones is called the Wallace Stone after William Wallace.
On Wednesday I travelled to Glen Etive and climbed to the 997m summit of Glas Bheinn Mhor.
Conditions were absolutely perfect on the walk, with little wind and clear skies. The route up to the summit ridge from Glen Etive is a fairly punishing climb from sea level along the Allt Mheuran into Coire Odhar. There was substantial snow cover above about 700m, but only one small section that was steep and required a bit of attention and the use of ice-axe and crampons, although no real difficulties. The views from the summit were out of this world and it was a perfect day for taking photographs.
Last weekend I travelled to the Lake District in England and walked up to the 931m summit of Skiddaw.
This was the first time I’d been hillwaking in the Lake District, so I thought I’d do a straightforward walk, and indeed the summit of Skiddaw, despite being one of the highest in the area, is not difficult to reach, with a clear and well-surfaced path almost all the way up. Above about 600m there was significant snow-cover although crampons and ice-axe were never required. Above about 700m thick cloud meant no views and some navigation with a compass to find the right way, but it was never difficult.
Last week I went walking in the Balquhidder area of the southern Highlands. I walked up Kirkton Glen through fir plantations and to the col at the head of the glen where there is an impressively large rock called Rob Roy’s Putting Stone below the crags of Leum an Eireannaich. From there I walked along the tops of Meall an Fhiodhain, Cam Chreag and Meall an t-Seallaidh, which form a high ridge about 4km long that nowhere goes below 700m in altitude, but also never goes above 900m, so there are no Munro summits on it. This means that it is not a well-visited area of the Highlands, but it still offers a proper mountain hike.
Last Friday evening I went on a hillwalking night navigation course run by C-N-Do. I was doing this to get some practice for the ML Award assessment I hope to do at some point this year. The course mostly consisted of a lot of micro-navigation at night across featureless terrain in the western Ochil Hills.
Yesterday I went on a one-day winter skills course organised by C-N-Do. This was a short introductory course and was a review of the basic skills needed to walk in the Scottish mountains in winter. The content of the course was not new to me although it was good to get some formal instruction and practice in some of the techniques, particularly the use of ice-axes and arresting slides on steep snow slopes.
I walked in a plantation of fir trees to the southeast of the Loch, west of the Rhinns of Kells ridge, to the site of a Hawker Hurricane that crashed in the Second World War. There is still some wreckage at the site, hidden away in a firebreak in the forest. The wreckage is in danger of disappearing into the new forest growth but the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine from the Hurricane is still visible sitting on the ground underneath the canopy of trees.
You can see my page about this wreck site on my website here.
Last Friday, Lesley and I travelled through to Glasgow to see Porcupine Tree at the O2 ABC venue (previously known as just ‘the ABC’). This is the fourth time I’ve seen Porcupine Tree live (see my two previous blog postings, ‘Porcupine Tree – again‘ and ‘Porcupine Tree‘).