Monday, April 24, 2006

Glenshee and Lochnagar Hills: Driesh (219) and Mayer (253)

Walk date: 06/02/05
My Munro #'s: 12 and 13

Well, the guidebook said 4-6 hours and seeing as I only got to the Glen Doll carpark at noon I had to put on a fair pace in February. Path up through forest was nice, coming out onto final stretch to col - no challenge with incline. Beautiful cold day with blue skies and thin snow on tops. Wind was quite strong especially on Driesch - very bare, exposed and rounded hill (would be difficult in extreme weather). Way to Mayer had very little change in height. A gentle start from Mayer toward Fee Burn become a nice path besides river/falls into glen but early on was indistinct. Back at car in 3 hours; a great weather day having allowed one of those personal-challenge paces!

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Sunday, April 23, 2006

Glenshee and Lochnagar Hills: Mount Keen (235)

Walk date: 18/12/04
My Munro #'s: 11/284

No time for a sandwich, one cold summit:

First day out since getting own car. Route from north - parked at stables in Glen Tanar, reached via Aboyne. This was a late start in wintry conditions and I had an expectation of having to turn around; only left car park at 11am. Despite the surprising distance to the hill itself (almost 2 hours), the going was good and the view of the peak quite appetising. Started hill itself at ~12:50, on plateau by 13:30. Decided to give myself until 14:00 to reach summit. From plateau the conditions were interesting being in thick cloud with snow and ice underfoot - path becoming indistinct in last 10 mins requiring constant compass bearings. At summit at 13:50 and immediately started back down. Long slog to car in failing light. Back at 4pm, pitch black within 30 mins. Felt absolutely fantastic!

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Ben Nevis, The Aonachs and the Grey Corries: Carn Mor Dearg (9) [and Ben Nevis (1)]

Walk date: 25/09/04
My Munro #s: 10/284

Approaching the climb to Ben Nevis:

This hike was also Day 8 of mine and Paul's West Highland Way and the only Munros of the trip (we did also attempt Ben Lomand, but were driven back by wind!). Having both done the tourist route before, we were eager to try 'The Ledge', but stupidly didn't realise that the best route from the Glen Nevis Youth Hostel onto this alternative route is to start on the standard path until you've passed Loch Meall an t-Suidhe, and then dip down into Allt a' Mhuilinn before hiking onto the ridge via Carn Beag Dearg. Instead, we believed that a better plan was walking around the road until past the Ben Nevis distillery and then up through the forest overlooking the golf course. This hurt. Our departure time from the Youth Hostel was 08:30 but our actual hike (off the road) didn't start until ~10:15. The initial climb was then good, but our route up to Carn Beag Dearg was ridiculous, leaving us contending with very wet bog on a high-incline, which meant that four-season boots or no we were very soaked very quickly. Having spoken to others it seems that drier options are available so be careful with bee-lines on this slope if there's been rain (and let's face it there will have been!). Once on the ridge the walking was very enjoyable, although at times a little sharp for the unaccustomed, with the summit of Carn Mor Dearg ("caarn more jerrack") soon being reached. We were in heavy cloud for this and took great care on navigation, but due to the nature of ridge walking you're ok as long as you don't cross the crest! The climb up to Ben Nevis was sharp but nice and honest - very satisfying. Our descent was down the tourist route and through boredom this became a run - fun but not recommended if you have dodgy knees!

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Ben Lomand and the Arrochar Alps: Beinn Narnain (259)

Walk date: June 2003
My Munro #s: 8/284

This Munro was also part of the Scottish Ramsoc weekend but was most notable for The Cobbler (Ben Arthur), a mere Corbett rather than the Munro involved. The Cobbler is a very distinct top of rocky overhanging crags and can be used as a marker in the surrounding area. The day was another scorcher and it was very pleasent sitting on top of an overhand having a spot of lunch. An illustration of the beautiful weather is that Ben Nevis was in clear view (still cloudless!) some 85 miles away! We had climbed up through boring controlled forests from Arrochar onto shelterless terrain. From The Cobbler the route was easy to Beinn Nairn, but the routemaster spent most of the descent to Succoth for the bus apologising as it consisted mainly of forcing our own way through dead young forest, which was extremely tiring especially in the continued heat of the day. Ah well, you live and learn.

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Glenshee and Lochnagar Hills: Lochnagar (Cac Carn Beag) (21)

Walk date: August 2005
My Munro #s: 9/284

This was my first Munro of my Scottish residency and was a guided hike by Dan (from work) and Rebecca (wife of Dan) with myself and Jim (also work) in tow. The usual parking for this hill was the Spittal of Glenmuick at the head of Loch Muick (note: make sure you have change for pay & display - £2!). The path starts steady, only really climbing beyond the small wood and remaining on a landrover track until after Clais Rathadan where it veers west toward the obvious col between Lochnagar and Meikle Pap. At the col, make sure you press on to overlook the magnificent corrie containing the hill's assumed namesake Lochnagar. Continue onto the plateau via the short boulder field. If the wind is bad such as it was on this day, then reaching the top of this field is when you seriously notice it! From here a short climb takes you to the first cairn, Cac Carn Mor, which is often assumed to be the summit by Lochnagar-virgins (this included me). A short dip and rise and the true summit is reached after a brief climb on the rocks. On this day, Dan took us down Black Spout gully into the corrie and back via the shores of the Loch. Although quite safe in good weather, Black Spout is extremely steep and not for the faint-hearted. I would be daunted by it on my own, but it was exhilarating!

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Mamores: Sgurr a' Mhaim (51), Am Bodach (99), Stob Coire a' Chairn (171) and An Gearanach (166)

Walk date: June 2003
My Munro #s: 4, 5, 6 and 7/284

The bagging of these Munros was part of the only Scottish Ramsoc weekend of my entire time in Nottingham. All I can really remember is that is was a very grand day out with some impressive cumulative ascent! The walk can be taken in either direction, which translates to having the moderately daunting rope-bridge at the beginning or the end. We opted for the latter and climbed from the start up to Sgurr a' Mhaim ("skor a vaim"), the highest point of the day at 1099m. From there I remember that despite the impressive ridge, the walking was relatively easy as we took in the other tops. Of course, the fact that the weather was fantastic could have been a factor on that count. I remember that by the time we were descending my legs were quite tired, which meant the rope-bridge required some concentration. Nevertheless, I'd prefer this way round as it's a fun end to the day. From here the the path drops down through the forest and back to the road. Depending on where exactly you left your transport, you now are either finished or you face a steady plod alongside the Water of Nevis. This is a satisfying day out for big walkers. My only regret is that all day long we could see Ben Nevis completely free of cloud and all the people that opted for that walk just took it for granted that you always got a view from the top. Having already been up the big fella 3 times and seen nothing but cloud I knew otherwise!

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Ben Lomond and the Arrochar Alps: Ben Lomond (184)

Walk date: June 1999
My Munro #s: 3/284

This hike occurred on a post-exams, pre-graduation week-long break at the end of my undergrad and was the clearest example of how different the expectations of a certain Paul P and a certain Hellary, sorry, Hilary were for the week. That there was even a hike included was as significant victory for the Paul camp, but the H camp reacted to the defeat by maintaining a patented stoney silence throughout the 974m ascent (Ben Nevis had been taken in earlier in the week while my mate Antony was with us but the H had remained in Fort William throughout - that Ben Nevis climb was my fourth having also been up with my Dad and Penny Butler since my youthful ascent). Ben Lomond is the southernmost Munro and the hike starts from a carpark on the shores of Loch Lomond near the Rowardennan Youth Hostel. The day was very hot and the midges were in abundance even on the summit. Paul and I provided a hearty meal, but in a possible divine intervention, the H remained literally spotless. The obvious path climbs through controlled forest until breaking free at ~200m. The rest of the route remains obvious. The views from this hill are extremely rewarding with the entire Loch and The Cobbler laid out beneath you. However, for all its directness, the hill must not be taken lightly; I don't have such a poor record on any other hill, having only suceeded on one of three attempts due to bad weather making the exposed hillside very hard to make progress on. You have been warned! Anyway, Paul and I had a great time even paddling once back down. The H stormed to the car and put on Radio 2. Ah, memories...

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Monday, April 03, 2006

Northern Cairngorms: Cairngorm (6)

Walk date: Summer 1992?
My Munro #s: 2/284

This Munro was the second undertaken with the folks, although by this time my brother had opted out from the annual camping ritual, strange boy. Despite its high-ranking in the Munro table, Cairngorm presents little trouble especially if the weather is even remotely reasonable. The skiing development means firstly that the car park is already 600m up, secondly that wide, well-trodden paths (pistes...) cross the hill and thirdly that just below the 150m push to the summit there is the Ptarmigan cafe serving hot chocolate! Once we were on the exposed summit the harsh hail of the Cairngorms introduced itself of course and we made a quick exit, but in honesty as long as you don't get naive with the navigation this is a hill that can be taken at leisure at the right time of year.

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