Friday, 31 December 2010

Bruar Falls and the big freeze

The met office predicted a few days of thaw so yesterday I took the opportunity to head up the A9 now the roads are clear of snow. I like to stop at the House of Bruar, for a bite to eat and to look at the paintings in the gallery for some inspiration when I loose my own creative mood and don’t do any painting for a while.

I also like to walk up behind the shopping centre to Bruar falls. I wondered if there was much ice around. Going into the gully was like stepping into a deep freeze. There was little sign of a thaw at the waterfalls. Not much else to tell about them so enjoy the photos

I have quite a few plans and resolutions for 2011 so stay tuned and you will find out what they are. In the mean time I hope you all find some time to chill out and have a cool New Year. Thanks for looking in on my blog over the past year.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Glen Kinglass and the dead deer

Once I cycle past Loch Dochard, I often just abandon my bike in the heather beside the land rover track and take to the hills on foot. I have no concerns of the bike being touched as I have seldom seen anyone this far in the moors. However I do remove the seat and hide it away from the bike, just as a deterrent , in case some undesirable did stumble across it.

Deep in the wilderness only the strong survive. This deer didn’t make it through the winter. Not far from the skull was the remains of its skeleton. It looked like it had died because of a broken leg. Although I travel in these places alone, I have little fear of them. I hope when my time comes, I will depart my mortal coil in such a wilderness. Its a very peaceful place and the views are to die for.

A fallen deer lies beside a little lochan, deep in the wilderness.

Care has to be taken not to fall through the peat “crust” or you may find your head preserved in the same state as the deer skull.

The higher ground is much drier and often paved with huge granite slabs.

Looking back towards Loch Dochard from the ridge top of Sron na h-lolaire. I don’t think many people will have stood on its summit as its well off the beaten track and only 500 meters in height.

Looking into Coire na Caime from the ridge top. Ben Starav is at the head of the coire. I imagined there would be a few walkers on its summit. I was the only person on my summit. I was at peace with the world.

Meall nan Eun reflected perfectly on Loch Dochard as I cycled back to Loch Tulla. I had survived and thoroughly enjoyed another day in the wilderness. It felt great to be alive and well.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Glen Kinglass and Loch Dochard

Although I now have little interest in serious mountaineering, I still enjoy being out and about in the wilderness. I have found the remote valleys and glens of Scotland have far fewer walkers than the munro mountain tops, and still offer that feeling of being “totally alone in the world”.

Sometimes I go into these glens by bicycle, as I can penetrate much further in a shorter period of time. Then I will abandon the bike and take to the hills on foot. One of my favourite glens for this kind of expedition is Glen Kinglass. It is possible to cycle from Victoria Bridge on the western edge of Loch Tulla, past Loch Dochard, into Glen Kinglass, down to Loch Etive then onto Taynuilt.

There is a rough land rover track most of the way. This shows it near the start of the route at the Victoria Bridge end.

There are one or two river crossings to make, so don’t try it when the river Abhairn Shira is in spate.

However it is fordable in normal conditions. I have found it best to get a little speed up and just keep pedalling in low gear. Its all a question of balance

Its uphill all the way to the end of Loch Dochard so be prepared for a few rests on the route

Then its downhill and across some huge granite slabs to the old bridge at the start of Glen Kinglass

It can be very atmospheric in this part of the world if the mist is swirling and lifting

Just keep to the land rover track when the mist is down as it can be very wet on the moors

Loch Dochard is a beautiful place that few folks visit. I like to stop for lunch on its rocky shores.

Its full of wild brown trout too. On a calm day they can be seen sucking in the sedges as they break the water surface. They do make a lovely lunch :-D

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Glencoe and some bitter / sweet memories

I stood on the top of all the Glencoe summits around the early 1980’s but following an accident on Buachaille Etive Mor in 1984, I gave up mountaineering until just a few years ago.

I was scrambling en route for Curved Ridge when a teenager fell almost 1000ft and landed only six feet from where I was. I waited with him for almost an hour while my young brother ran back down the mountain to call out the rescue team. There were no mobile phones in those days. He was bleeding badly from a hole in his skull, I was very glad he never recovered consciousness while I waited. I have never felt so alone or helpless in my life as I waited by his side on the cold lonely mountain, until another two climbers arrived. All the time, I could hear very faint cries coming from near the top of Crowberry Gully.

I then set off with one of the climbers to ascend the Gully. It was in full winter condition. We found three terrified teenagers near the top of the gully. They were stuck just below the icy crux of this VS winter climb, without crampons, ice axe or ropes. In fact this was their first outing on a mountain. They were wearing nothing more than trainers. I guess they were lucky because they survived. The lad that landed by my feet had died. I admit I was a bit afraid climbing the steep snow and ice pitches of the gully. The blood and hair on the snow over 1000ft. was a constant reminder of where I would end if I fell, and the condition I would be in.

Three years ago I returned to hill walking and decided to walk up Stob Coire nan Lochan. I was surprised to see a stone stepped path almost all the way to the top. In my earlier days, it was a loose gravel path. I suppose it was built to prevent erosion but it did take away some of the feeling of "mountaineering in the wilderness." I was also a bit surprised at how steep the mountain now seemed. I never noticed that in my earlier days but suspect that is because of my age now rather than the slopes getting steeper.

The stone staircase to the Coire nan Lochan. I was alone but there were plenty of people doing the same walk, so I was not concerned about walking on my own. I also had my mobile phone .. had I lost my spirit of adventure ?

Looking back down the path, I was surprised that it was steeper than I remembered from years ago.

Just as the path enters the coire, the snow and ice started.

I was not prepared. It was solid ice. Even on gentle gradients, it was too hard to kick the slightest toe hold into the snow. I had no crampons or ice axe.

I continued for a while, jumping from rock to rock but soon everything turned slippery white. I remembered that fateful day on the Buachaille and decided to turn back.

Before I went down again, I remembered other days climbing the mountains of Scotland. I remembered the first time I stood on the top of Stob Coire nan Lochan. I ascended it via broad gully with my brothers and my father. At that time, he was my age now. I shall return to climb some of those gullies again. Circled in red is two people starting broad gully on Stob Coire nan Lochan.

As youngsters, my brother and I thought nothing of scrambling up ice pitches without ropes but we did use ice axes, and crampons. Perhaps we were lucky to survive too. This photo was on a frozen waterfall somewhere on Craig Meaghaidh. It was known as Scotlands killer mountain then.. I wonder why ?

Monday, 20 December 2010

Glencoe and some of its mountains

It’s that time of the year again when the colds and flu’s seem to be doing their rounds again. Unfortunately I caught the bug which is why I have not been walking or posting much lately. Fortunately Im on the mend again and should be fighting fit for the Xmas holidays. In the mean time here is another selection of my favourite photos of Glencoe.

Storm clouds clearing over Buachaille Etive Mor

Classic Buachaille Etive Mor

Classic Buachaille Etive Beag

River Coupall and Buachaille Etive Beag

There are little memorials to unfortunate climbers everywhere once you get off the beaten track.

Kingshouse Hotel on a lovely day

The Three sisters of Glencoe from the old road

First glimpse of the three sisters when entering Glencoe from the east

Stob Coire Nan Lochan covered in snow

The photo of the River Coupall and The "Wee Buachaille" inspired this watercolour painting

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Glencoe and the River Coe

Glencoe is often referred to as the Glen of Weeping perhaps because of reference to its bloody history and infamous massacre. It is named after the river Coe that runs through and it is the crystal clear water that make me think of a weeping glen. I have always found it a very moody and brooding place, even on the brightest of days.

Perhaps its because the valley runs east to west and the sun doesn’t reach the valley floor unless its high in a summer sky, I have always found it hard to capture the real moods of the glen in photographs. However, every once in a while I think I manage to get a photo that I’m happy with. Here are some of them. I hope they don’t make you feel like weeping, but I do hope they convey the mood of the glen and river to you.

A shaft of light breaks through the dark clouds to illuminate part of the hillside and the River Coe

The swollen River Coe running high after a day of non stop rain

The dancing falls of the river Coe near the Clachaig Inn

Snow melt heading to Loch Leven on a cold winters day

Crystal clear oxygenated water in the river coe, good enough to drink straight from the banks.

The river Coe bubbling and babbling between its banks on a very windy day

A cold Glencoe reflected on the calm waters of Loch Achtriochtan

A shaft of light adds to the mood of the dark glen

The remembrance monument to the massacre of Glencoe sits quietly beside the river Coe

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Glencoe and the Lost Valley

The car thermometer was reading minus fourteen degrees centigrade when I stopped at the car park in Glencoe. The recent snowfall had not yet consolidated and there were few other walkers in sight so I opted for an easy walk. I decided to visit the Lost Valley which is reputed to be where the MacDonald’s hid the cattle they rustled and from their neighbours.

The walk follows the Allt Coire Gabhail which flows down between Beinn Fhada and Gearr Aonach after crossing the River Coe by a wooden bridge

Then the path rises quite steeply as it weaves through the silver birch trees

Splattered with frost and snow, the silver birch looked very spectacular in the early morning light.

As the path headed for the open hillside, I was conscious of the steep slopes into the Allt Coire Gabhail. Quite a few people over the years, have disappeared down the slippery slopes into the burn and not made it back.

However, with a little bit of care, its not difficult to get to the Lost Valley. The path crosses the burn further up. This photo was taken just below the entrance to the Lost Valley and is looking back into Glencoe.

Not much further, and I took this one from inside the Valley looking across to the sunlit mountains that form the Aonach Eagach

It was like been shut in a deep freeze, standing alone in the valley with was not a single sound to be heard. The high valley walls shielded the sound of the traffic passing through Glen Coe.

Its not too often in life when you can hear absolute silence and it’s a strange feeling. I felt I was a million miles from anywhere. Its one of my favourite walks in Glencoe.

Sadly, I found it too cold to savour the feeling of total isolation for long. I ran back to the car and got the heater going as soon as I could.