Friday 27 July 2012

Driesh and Mayar

This was a much easier day, than the three previous days efforts, indeed these two can be thought of as "roadside hills". I parked at the foot of Glen Doll, and having crossed the Whitewater followed the Kilbo path up through the forest. Many of the trees have been felled thankfully so the views opened up. Once completely out of the trees the path takes a rising traverse across the Shank of Drumfollow, arriving eventually at the col below the dome of Driesh.
South from the col
The path is very obvious, and leads you unerringly to the summit cairn/windshelter and trig.There were good views in all directions, the north in particular looking superb.
North from the summit of Driesh
A quick descent back to the col, and an easy walk across lovely short cropped grass to Mayer. The cloud was building out to the west so I took a quick couple of photos and set off back to the col.
North from Mayer
From the col I reversed my route of ascent, the round trip had taken just 2.75 hrs. All the time I was out I was thinking how much like "Lakes" hills Driesh and Mayer felt. A short but enjoyable walk.

Thursday 26 July 2012

Carn an Fhidhleir and An Sgarsoch

Today's hills are not the most interesting hills in Scotland, but they are definitely remote. My day started at Linn of Dee, I used the folding bike again to gain access to the foot of the these two Munro's. The gravel track to White Bridge has a good surface and allows for rapid progress, from White bridge to the Geldie Burn is still rideable but a bit more care is required. From the "Red House" to Geldie Lodge was an unknown quantity to me but most of the track was ok even on the folder.
Folder at the Geldie Burn
I didn't bother to take the bike across the Geldie Burn, and managed to cross dryshod with a bit of athletic boulder hopping. The old bulldozed path has been "landscaped" to good effect, its a little torturous as it meanders across the northern slopes of Scarsoch Bheag. At the obvious right turn of the path I carried straight on and basically made a beeline for the summit of Carn an Fhidhleir. There was here and there a thin path, but mainly it was bog and heather until the steeper grassy slopes under the top. The mist was coming and going in the strong wind, from the summit cairn the view to the north was just about there the Eidart and upper Glen Feshie visible.
North from Carn an Fhidhleir
I followed the southeast ridge for about 1km before dropping steeply down to the peathagged col. There was no sign of a path heading up the ridge to An Sgarsoch, so a bit of heather bashing was needed to gain the upper slopes. The angle isn't steep and before long the summit cairn/windshelter came into view. I stopped for a snack in the lee of the cairn and waited for the mist to clear to get a photo.
Carn an Fhidhleir from An Sgarsoch
The mist came back down so I left the summit on a heading of due North, aiming to skirt the hump of Sgarsoch Bheag. The going was pathless but actually not that bad and eventually I picked up the meandering path again. I passed the sad remains of Geldie Lodge once more and crossed the Geldie Burn to pick up the bike. The track seemed a lot easier on the way back, but then it was more or less all downhill! These two hills are indeed very remote, the silence had been deafening, but wonderful, 2 useful ticks on the list.

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Beinn Mheadhoin and Derry Cairngorm

Today's walk was partly a bike ride! Having parked at the Linn of Dee, I used the folding bike to cut out the long trek to Derry Lodge, in fact I was able to ride part way up Glen Derry. I folded the bike up and hid it in the heather near the last of the magnificent Scots Pine's.
Glen Derry, Mheadhoin in the distance
The path up Glen Derry has been improved and makes for good progress, as the path rises I took the left branch and climbed up to the Hutchinson Hut. The hut was in very good order, although rather incongruously a pop-up tent was hanging on the back wall. I can't imagine a less useful tent for such a wild place.
Hutchinson Hut
The path steepens and reaches the wonderfully situated Loch Etchachan, I turned north and ascended the steep slope to arrive on the edge of the plateau, I visited the southwest top of Mheadhoin before crossing the km to arrive at the summit granite "tor". A short scramble on the northern side, and I was on the top, the view amazing in all directions.
Summit Plateau of  Mheadhoin
I didn't have the summit to myself, a chap with a huge beard and shoulder length hair was already in residence. We chatted for about an hour, he had been out in the Cairngorms since 3rd July without re-supply! Glad I hadn't carried his pack! The most remarkable thing about this chap was... he didn't use any footwear, no boots, no shoes, no sandals!! This will only mean anything to those who have been there, its a bit rough! I descended back to the loch and then ascended the Macdui track a short way before crossing the low ridge which gives access to the northern bouldery ridge of Derry Cairngorm. Macdui and its east facing corries looked superb from the twin summits of Derry Cairngorm.
Coire Sputan Dearg
The long southern ridge made for good progress as far as Carn Grom, where I dropped down the steep heathery slopes to Glen Derry. I retrieved the bike and retraced my tracks down Glen Derry and Glen Lui to Linn of Dee. The bike had been a great success, the first time I'd used one in all my trips in the hills of the Highlands.

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Cairn Bannoch and Broad Cairn

Loch Muick
Today I revisited Loch Muick and the Munro's to the south of the Dubh Loch. It has taken over 12 years to make a return to climb these 2 hills! I was last here in the Feb of 2000, in full winter conditions and a raging storm with my mate Ian. We made it as far as the Dubh Loch, where late in the day we pitched our tent and endured a very stormy night. the following morning we retreated to the car and then Ballater. Todays conditions couldn't have been more different, warm sunny and barely a breath of wind. I walked from the car park past the visitor centre, and taking the path to the northern shore of Loch Muick. The track made for easy going as far as Glas Allt-Sheil, once out of the pines the path starts to gain height and after about 3km I arrived at the Dubh Loch, the scene is dominated by the huge Creag an Dubh-loch. The made path ends and the bog-hopping begins, once beyond the loch a rising traverse brought me to the summit of Cairn Bannoch. The view was terrific in all directions, and as I lingered taking it all in felt the long wait to climb Cairn Bannoch had been well worth it. I continued to Broad Cairn bagging 2 tops on the way, on the col between the hills there were a number of Dotterel walking amongst the rocks and tussocks. The view from Broad Cairn was in my opinion inferior to Cairn Bannoch, but did include a glimpse into Glen Doll. I saw the first folk of the day just below the summit, they had climbed up from Glen Doll. My route of return was down the east ridge, then down to the south shore of Loch Muick and back to the car. A great walk in superb conditions
Creag an Dubh-loch
Broad Cairn from Cairn Bannoch
NE from Broad Cairn

Saturday 14 July 2012

Gear Notes from France Cycle Tour: Clothing

Its now six weeks since I returned from my fortnight cycling across France from Valance in the Rhone valley to Rosas on the Spanish Med coast. I made notes on my gear as I rode and when I finished, generally I find it best to reflect on ones thoughts before commenting. Much of the gear I used was walking/backpacking equipment I have used over the years. So below there is a rather wordy blog on what I took and weather I thought it worth taking again.
 Clothing:- 2 pairs Altura Airstream Cycling shorts, I only actually wore one pair as I was able to wash them every night and although some mornings they were a little damp it wasn't to bad. They are extremely comfortable, the pad is synthetic so stand the best chance of drying. Added to this they are reasonably priced and one of the pairs is several years old and show no wear at all.
Smartwool T shirt, the lightest weight) again worn and washed every day, warm enough in the breeze and cool in the sun. Excellent! It never stunk in-spite of profuse sweating on some of the climbs, except when washed when it smelt like a wet dog until it dried.
Montane windshirt, actually a running cut. Worn at some point almost every day over the T shirt because of the winds I experienced for a lot of the trip. Not alot I can say about this that others haven't already said, I always have either a Montane windshirt of one type or another in my sac or pannier.
New Balance tights synthetic and possibly a bit warm for this trip, mainly worn very first thing in the morning until the muscles warmed up, they also did sterling service under.....
Golite Reed Overtrousers, these are the older model no ankle/leg zips! They are totally waterproof, still, after 7 or 8 years. I bought 2 pairs of these, one pair is virtually unused. Because they don't have a zip at the ankle they have a really fitted cut, great on foot and on the bike. When out with other folk its often perceived that taking your footwear off to put waterproofs on is a hassle but in reality its almost as quick as the more "normal" option.
Mountain Hardwear 100 weight "grid" fleece, just a short zip type. Like the tights only worn first thing in the morning. What sort of a gear list would it be without a fleece!
 Patagonia down vest, in case it went cool, it didn't really, it was also a large part of my pillow when sleeping. On reflection this could have been left behind.
Karrimor KIMM Paclite jacket, well it kept me warm and the rain out. But god was it rubbish on the breathability front. This was one of only two gear "failures". It is perhaps unfair to damm this jacket as it was being used for cycling rather than walking/running/backpacking, and two hours of constant climbing in heavy rain is a rigorous test for any garment.
Ron Hill Hilly offroad socks, these are superb, good value, comfortable and dry quickly when washed, I took three pairs but only used two, and could probably got away with one pair.
Trekmates Goretex socks, I use these in trainers for walking and so it was a no-brainer to take them on this trip, they were a godsend on the wet days, not a drip through them. they'd already done a number of Munros and many days in the Lakes and Dales.
Specialized Tahoe cycle shoes, very comfortable, no hotspots with SPD pedals, and they dried pretty quickly too.
Outdoor Designs waterproof gloves, these were a disappointment, they failed very quickly and meant wet hands until I replaced them with a pair of Super U washing-up gloves in a tasteful powder blue! In their defence they have been used for a number of years for Motorcycling/Cycling/Skiing/Snowboarding, I've probably had my money's worth really.
Aldi cycle mitts, these were incredibly comfortable and were used every day except the very wet day. Great value for money.
Crocs, other than my cycle shoes these were all I had with me and filled the brief well. Quick drying, light and comfortable. The only downside is the bulk, more of a problem when backpacking than cycletouring.
 Patagonia Fennic trousers, these have been on many trips including being used for 10 days on the HRP. I don't know if there still made but if not they should be. They have spent much of their life in the sun and haven't even faded.
Rohan X static briefs, I took 2 pairs of these, again an easy wash and dry. and comfortable. What more do you need?
Craghopper shorts, I've had these for years, they did the job but I will look for something a bit more packable from the Montane range.
Berghaus X static zip poloneck, taken for any cool days/evenings but in the event only worn on one wet day. this could have been left behind as I also had....
Smartwool zip polo (lightest weight) this is a more usable shirt for me at least. It also takes up very little space and dries very quickly.
Berghaus Synthetic long sleeve shirt, (I've forgotton its name!) used for travelling in and for exploring in the evenings. Dries almost instantly it seems and has proved durable, again used for 10 days on the HRP as well as many other trips with no ill effects.
For Headwear I had a Buff, an Inov8 cap and a Specialized Align Helmet all good no complaints from any of them and all proven kit having stood the test of time. I took and used a pair of Bolle sunglasses and a cheapy pair of Aldi cycle sunglasses. No complaints here either.
 That pretty much sums up the clothing I wore and carried, it sounds a huge amount, but packed small and didn't weigh too much, although I take a good deal less when backpacking!

Sunday 8 July 2012

Mountainbiking in Kentmere

A humid ride on the bridleways of Kentmere and Longsleddle. Due to an abundance of sport on the box the tracks and lanes were very quiet, ideal. My route comprised Elfhowe, High House, and Blackbeck (south of Skeggles Water), this brought me down into Longsleddle. The road up the valley to Sadgill, then Stile End which was extremely washed out after the recent rainstorms took me back over to Kentmere. Then Low Lane and a bit more tarmac to Kentmere Hall before the last climb of the day up to Kentmere Park and the descent to Ullthwaite Bridge. There only remained the easy ride back down the valley to the car. The forecast was wrong (again) and it managed to stay dry.
The head of Longsleddle from Blackbeck
The head of Kentmere from Stile End

Thursday 5 July 2012

Threlkeld to Keswick

A flat walk today from Threlkeld to Keswick on the old railway track. The weather forecast was for heavy rain showers, our thought was that this walk would provide a bit of shelter from the rain. As it happened there wasn't any rain but we were thankful of the shade!