Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Aberdeen Baker Hughes 10K 2007

Well, after seven months away from running, I went to a physio with my once-broken toe, and he told me to stop being a big girl's blouse and get back on the treadmill. Thus began this year's training, which I obviously then found much harder than the years gone before. With a previous best of 39:36 and a desire to beat it, there were some tough gym sessions this season!
It all came down to this Sunday just passed at 09:30! Despite fine weather before and after, as we were stood waiting for the start, the skies opened and drenched all of us to the bone. The wind was up too. In short, it was a miserable experience, especially the first 4km when I was just cold and feeling sorry for myself! When I passed my support team of Sonia and her friend Caroline, I had a very strong urge to just stop and go home!
However, that would have meant that I didn't deserve my beer, so I pressed onwards and the tipping point of halfway was soon reached. My stopwatch had messed up again at the start so I had no idea of my actual time, but my times inbetween the markers were still pretty good, and then I passed the 5km mark at 19:35 meaning that a new time was still possible. Having mentally abandoned an improvement, I was suddenly back in contention. This made me grit my teeth and dig-in.
Nevertheless, my 6-7km mark was over four minutes and so more work was needed. I upped it and kept with it to the end, but there was not much in reserve! Needless to say, I was exceptionally glad to turn the last corner and see the timer still below my previous year. I ended up crossing the line at 39:30 just bettering by PB by six seconds, but I'll take it! Curiously, I was in exactly the same position as last year with my 90th place, and I'll take that too! The full results are here.
Then it was drying off and the pub. Bring on next year then!

It's a nervous laugh, honest:
Out of focus, but it shows the weather best:

Free beer this way you say?

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Glen Shiel round-up

Well, that's it. Nine days and a very satisfactory 25 new Munros. For the first few days the weather was pretty grim and I had thoughts of returning to Aberdeen, but a couple of drier and clamer days combined with some cracking hills put things into perspective again. Highpoints included The Saddle, The South Ridge of seven in a day, and closers A' Chralaig and Mullach Fraoch-choire just for the snow! A bit of a rest before I go out again, but I will be there. Thanks for all the comments, it was really appreciated. Munro you soon!

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Glen Shiel Hills: A' Chralaig (33) and Mullach Fraoch-choire (49)

Walk date: 12/05/07
My Munro #'s: 129 and 130

Pronunciations - translations - heights:
A chraalik - basket or creel - 1120m
Moolach froech-chora - heather-corrie peak - 1102m

Duration - 07:15-12:00
Distance - 15.5km
Total ascent - 1209m
Weather - low wind but it still had an influence on temperature, light snow/cold rain at height.
Team - solo
Other hikers: none at height, 2 in glen not going for the hills, 4 on way up from afar

A wider route down, but otherwise on track:

Hiking Expedition '07 - Glen Shiel area - Day 9 (Sun 13th)

With this pair including the highest and the third-highest of all the hills from this Glen Shiel break, it perhaps shouldn't be a surprise that I left them until last! With an expected five hour duration and then a drive back to Aberdeen it also required a 07:15 start!

The route itself is straightforward enough; from the carpark beside the forest just to the east of The Cluanie Inn, walk along the road for a brief spell before turning onto the farmer's track that heads up An Caorann Mor. However, the time to get to know this track is later on. For now, look for a big white stone on the first turn, literally just a few metres in, as beside it a thin path begins to tail off NE up Fuaran Mor Chluain. The path is so thin that it cannot be easily seen from the framer's track, but it does offer a rapid ascent onto the broad ridge, which then provides easy walking and ascent, taking you all the way to A' Chralaig, the last 100m of which on this day featured a non-negligible amount of snow underfoot, but thankfully the path itself stayed obvious and clear.

First signs of the white stuff on A' Chralaig:

A thin path in snow with big drops? Excellent!

The mighty 3m tall cairn of A' Chralaig:

The ridge is then followed without difficulty to Stob Coire na Cralaig and its small cairn and then a steep descent and rise again to Na Geurhain and Mullach Fraoch-choire. Despite having seen this scary looking section from Sgurr nan Conbhairean on day one, and my guidebook talking of scaling pinnacles, the route onwards actually offers no real challenges as the path gently weaves its way around the impressive features. On a clear day the no-doubt steep drops all around might add a little more interest of course!

Pinnacles, outcrops, but a good path too:

I'll take the safe path around this lot:

After a good hug of the cairn, the last for this expedition, I returned to the col between the summit and Stob Coire na Cralaig where a cairn-marked path descends into An Caorann Mor. This becomes indistinct at times, but is quite fast and leads to the also indistinct path along the glen, which fortunately at the sheep pens marked on the OS 1:25,000, turns into the aforementioned farmer's track, and then a rapid stomp home to Munro victory!!

Cairn and shelter of Mullach Fraoch-choire:

The obligatory self-portrait at my last Glen Shiel cairn:

On returning, a safer path does off to the right here:

Finally below the cloud, looking north to Fionngleann:

Deer on the lower slops of Mullach Fraoch-choire:

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Glen Affric and Strathfarrar: Beinn Fhada (Ben Attow) (100) and A' Ghlas-bheinn (273)

Walk date: 12/05/07
My Munro #'s: 127 and 128

Pronunciations - translations - heights:
Byn ata - long hill - 1032m
A glash vin - the greenish/grey hill - 918m

Duration - 09:00-16:45
Distance - 26.5km
Total ascent - 1543m
Weather - warm at start, but then the cloud closed and brought rain. Wet from bealach on return.
Team - solo
Other hikers: many

Cut back to a sane walk, the reduced day in red:

Hiking Expedition '07 - Glen Shiel area - Day 8 (Sat 12th)

Despite insanely ambitious original plans to add Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan and Mullach na Dheiragain onto this day, I thankfully downsized my aims to this happening duo instead, which was a good thing considering that they took me almost eight hours on their own! Things weren't helped by the fact that I had parked at the mountain rescue post by the campsite in Morvich when it later turned out I could have parked down the non-private private road at Dorusduain, which would have saved a fair amount of time!

A little friend I had whilst booting-up:

Anyway, a good path leads on from the road passing the campsite when it finally stops, and this path slowly rounds Beinn Bhuidhe to reach the ascent of Beinn Fhada an hour or so later. The good path continues up onto the north side of Beinn Fhada, which is tough work, but nothing unexpected. Once up, make sure you head southeasterly to the summit and don't follow the edge around west, as the summit you can see is Meall an Fhuarain Mhoir and not the desired target of Attow.

The second target is first seen, A' Ghlas-bheinn:

The steep gully to Bealach an Sgairne:

The wide corrie of Ben Attow, Coire an Sgairne:

A busy summit. Other hikers? Pah!

With a busy summit I soon moved off back down the path and prepared myself for taking on A' Ghlas-bheinn and its intimidating southern slopes. There was no need for worry however as once the path is followed to the very head of Bealach an Sgairne, a wide cairn marks a very good and easy path taking on the ascent along the eastern edge of this chunky beast.

The steep southern side of A' Ghlas-bheinn:

A Munro for another day, Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan:

The superbly tranquil Loch a' Bhealaich:

Straight-forward plodding gets you to the top and unless you're up for camping or staying at Alltbeithe Youth Hostel in Glen Affric, it's pretty much time to head for home. My own plotted route from here, and one that most books recommend, was to decend off A' Ghlas-bheinn down the western slopes into Dorusdain Wood. This I started as the map above shows, but rough grass and bog got me to thinking that it was going to be quite hard work on my tired legs, and so I had a change of heart and made my way back to the good path I was well-acquainted with. I then just had to keep on it and do the work to slowly get back to the car, accompanied as I did by the gentle plodding rain I'd seen coming in from Skye whilst on top.

Morvich and across to Ratagan from A' Ghlas-bheinn:

In sight, the summit of A' Ghlas-bheinn:

The panoramic view from A' Ghlas-bheinn:

Heavy weather coming in from Skye, time to get wet:

For my last night, an amazing sunset from Ratagan:

The Five Sisters looking good in the fiery evening light:

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Creag nanDamh(274),Sgurr anLochain(131),Sgurr an DoireLeathain(122),MaolChinn-dearg(168),Aonach air Chrith(109),DruimShionnach(160)&Creg a'Mhaim(218)

Walk date: 11/05/07
My Munro #'s: 120 to 126

Pronunciations - translations - heights:
Creag nam dav - rock of the stags - 918m
Skoor an lochan - peak of the little loch - 1004m
Skoor an dira lehan - peak of the broad thicket - 1010m
Moel chan dyerack - bald red hill - 981m
Oenach ayr chree - trembling hill - 1021m
Drim heenanach - ridge of the fox - 987m
Crayk a vaim - rock of the large round hill - 947m

Duration - 08:00-16:30 to bike, back to car at 18:00
Distance - 22.4km to bike, 40.3km back to car
Total ascent - 1971m
Weather - a little cool in morning, then wind dropped but had light snow/sleet for rest of day.
Team - solo
Other hikers: 3 whilst on tops, 2 ascending as I descended

So long it had to go to two pics, taken route in red:

Hiking Expedition '07 - Glen Shiel area - Day 7 (Fri 11th)
Wow! Now, that's what I call a day out, and with a munro list so long I almost couldn't get them all in as a title! Fantastic, to be on the top of your seventh munro only six and a half hours after setting out. Anyway, after an early rise I drove up to The Cluanie Inn and dropped the bike off just before the bridge at the end of the loch. Noticing as I did with some worry that the south ridge had had a dusting of snow overnight! Ach well, I thought, I'll get up there and see what it's like with the option of dropping down via one of the many escape routes if necessary.
Parking down at the same carpark I'd used for The Saddle (down at Malagan Bridge), I set off across the grass towards Allt Mhalagain, anticipating having to follow it upstream in order to avoid too adventurous a crossing. However, I immediately found the wide and very solid bridge I had completely missed on The Saddle day! This path then steadily rises and moves through some boggy sections before hitting good rock. After a tame river crossing a sharp turn SE from a cairn marks the final push up onto the ridge.
The start of the south ridge, seven munros coming up:
The good paths continue but its a further 1.5km on top before the first munro is received, Creag nan Damh, itself being not much more than a gentle mound. Continuing on it's a little disturbing to find a drop right down to 729m before any height is gained again, but this is sweetened by discovering the non-Munro Sgurr Beag can be bypassed by a solid 'cynical-bagger's' path on its south side.
That's one, Creag nan Damh:

Non-Munro but impressive Sgurr Thionail to the south:
The bagger's path round Sgurr Beag:
Onwards and a fair climb gets you onto Sgurr an Lochan before repeating the process for Sgurr an Doire Leathain with its slight NE detour to the actual summit.
That's two, Sgurr an Lochan:
Some impressive features even in cloud:
That's three, Sgurr an Doire Leathain:
A huge snowbank clung here to the corrie slopes and I found myself thinking that the time for white-out was upon me, but the grass all around thankfully stayed green as I progressed. Maol Chinh-dearg soon comes and goes as the half-way point, but the best is next up with Aonach air Chrith. This is the highest peak of the day and takes a fair bit of fun effort getting up, the approach being narrow, rocky and steep. The use of hands came into play for me, but it really is fun and nothing that a walker used to heights wouldn't enjoy.
That's four, Maol Chinn-dearg:
Loch Quoich looking fine to the south:
I can see the pub from here! The Cluanie Inn below:
Wet but steady weather toward the day's end:
That fun route up Aonach air Chrith:
That's five, Aonach air Chrith:
After that my thirst was up and Druim Shionnach and Creag a' Mhaim, flat and wide and a solid mound respectively, came easy.
That's six, Druim Shionnach:
Some rocky routing toward Creag a' Mhaim:
That's seven, Creag a' Mhaim:
On a high from having all seven in the bag, I wasn't quite prepared for the effort involved in closing the day's proceedings. First of all was the drop in height from Creag a' Mhaim. This is on a good path, but I found it a punishing descent on tired knees. Next up was a 5km drudge on the private road taking you back to the A87. Why they can't allow the public's cars to this point is beyond me. To avoid this, it might be possible to drop off Creag a' Mhaim to a point further down the road, but that would be a rough descent over tough heather.
Loch Loyne and that bloody paved road:
Nevermind, after reaching my bike, I fuelled up on much needed refreshments and then made my very slow way back on the car on my trusty but sadly knackered steed. No matter at the end anyway, as I was still bouncing from increasing the week's tally by 50% (14 to 21) in a single day!!
A surprise at the end of the day was this bloody toe!

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