Stuc a' Chroin and Ben Vorich

Stuc a' Chroin and Ben Vorich

Sunday, 28 February 2010

'Mountain Elixir'

I first came upon the recipe for the above beverage when given my first climbing guide as a Christmas present. It had been neatly written inside the red cover of the SMC's 'Climbers' Guide to Glen Coe and Ardgour' Vol 1, along with a description of its considerable benefits when climbing mountains. But alas I was too young to sample it.

A few months later I came across it again, being used in earnest, as it were, by Bill Murray and R G Donaldson on their successful traverse of the Cuillin Main Ridge plus Clach Glas and Blaven in August 1939, now known as 'The Greater Traverse'. Leaving Glen Brittle at 10 pm, they rested on the summit of Garsbheinn at the southern end of the ridge, left there at 2 am and arrived at a pre-pitched tent at Loch an Athain in Glen Sligachan at 4pm.

Only Clach Glas and Blaven remained to be climbed and Murray writes of how they 'enlivened their diet' with a shared pint of, 'Mummery's Blood', prior to climbing these two peaks: 'equal parts navy rum and Bovril, served boiling hot. Its effect on both mind and body is nourishing, warming, strengthening; it lowers angles, shortens distances, and improves weather'

                                 Clach Glas                                                 

Friday, 26 February 2010

Hill Tracks Campaign - e-petition

Lynne and I have just signed this important petition at Hilltracks campaign, where you will find details. Wild areas in Scotland are being ruined by the uncontrolled bulldozing of ugly tracks, and the issue has now been taken up by Peter Peacock MSP after Hebe Carus of the MCofS raised the problem with him. Please take a moment to visit the link and consider signing the petition. (Source of information: "Scottish Mountaineer").


I was pleased to see that 70% of those who wrote to the MCofS regarding waymarking on Scottish hills were against it (although 18% of those were for it on a few 'honey-pot' mountains) and 30% were in favour. (Source: 'Scottish Mountaineer'). Personally, I don't want urbanisation to go along with the, admittedly worse, industrialisation that is taking place on our hills. 'Honey-pot' mountains already have good paths and cairns, usually far more than are needed. In addition, waymarking is usually unsympathetic in my experience:

This sign is not on a hill and gives directions at the start of a 'trail', but what was wrong with the old one on the right? Why is the new one so big and intrusive? The new cairns on Ben Nevis are, apparently, 6ft high!

As one writer points out, there are already plenty of  waymarked trails for those who like them. People who want to go into remote country should learn to navigate. Let's keep what wildness we have left, wild.

Thursday, 25 February 2010


Lots more snow today, at least 9", and a 5 hour power cut to help things along. Heating bills aside, don't you just love a real winter?

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

More on Electric Fences in the Angus hills

According to Gordon Snedden the issue of electric fences in the Angus hills is being addressed by the Council's Access Officer.

More winter weather

It's snowing heavily again and I've just been out to feed the birds. We've spent most days this month on the local hills, so when we spoke yesterday of heading north soon, we sort of guessed that the weather would break! Anyway, I'm going to pop over to Alan Kimber's site (see Links on this blog) to have a look at conditions. This is an excellent site and even if you don't climb it's worth a look just for the pics and other information.

Ben Cleuch

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Sheep Rescue

Our walk yesterday was delayed somewhat when we spotted a sheep in what appeared to be the same place it was in three days earlier, and went to investgate. Lynne got the binocs out while I started the descent to the burn, and sure enough it was well and truly trapped with a hind leg caught in the top wires of a fence. Eventually, with the help of a chap from the house near the reservoir and wire cutters, she was released. That's my eighth I think. Deer we have found similarly trapped have not been so lucky, being dead long before our arrival, like this little shrew in its Mithril-like vest.

It was about mid-day by the time we got underway again and the forecast predicted poor weather moving in early in the afternoon. No sign of it though as we stopped for lunch in the sun.

It arrived on the top of our hill for the day and stayed for the descent.

It had been a shorter day than we'd planned but all these relatively short trips, averaging about 6 hours, have kept us fit and ready for a trip north soon. Just need to get the box back on top of the camper van and we'll be ready for the off.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Electric Fences - response from Hebe Carus, MCofS Access and Conservation Officer

I have now received a reply to my query regarding the erection of electric fences in the Angus hills. My thanks to Hebe Carus, Mountaineering Council of Scotland's (MCofS) Access and Conservation Officer, for his prompt reply.

 If you climb and/or walk in Scotland, please consider joining the MCofS which represents climbers, hillwalkers and mountaineers in Scotland. Visit

Here is Hebe's reply:

"hi gibson and lynne

"That could be a book in itself if Iwere to answer with all the relevant laws and regulations. Equally without looking into specific case I dont think anyone can say whether or not the fence was erected for the purpose of preventing access. What I can definitely say, and will probably be more useful to you is the knowledge that all fences should be made crossable due to the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, whatever their purpose. That means there should be reasonable provision of crossing points and / or the type of fence that is easily crossable. If there isn't a reasonable provision of crossing points, you are within your rights to climb a fence / locked gate / dyke - choosing the most sturdy point - respectively fence post / hinge end / through stone. I am aware of a few fences around the Angus Glens that do not follow this, and are being dealt with by local Access Officer, and it is vital that if you find a fence with insufficient crossing points, please send a report to the relevant local Access Forum (based in the relevant Council and also contacts listed on and copy to myself so I can follow up. I have also planned an article for the next TSM on this very topic."


Hebe Carus- Access and Conservation Officer

Sunday, 14 February 2010

"What hills are like the Ochil Hills?"

Apart from the rhythmic crunch of boots on hard snow, all was silent; the February sun had only a trickle of warmth. Our eyes were constantly drawn to the north by the snowy peaks of Ben Vorlich, Stuc a Chroin and the Ben Lawers group, but today we were happy to be here climbing the friendly familiar slopes of Innerdownie Hill.

The cairn was a cold and exposed place so we headed for the shelter a short distance from there, but it was completely filled with snow.
The drystane dyke, part of which can be seen, was built by a local man and his brother in the early 1890s.

The Shelter
 Constructing a small wooden hut inside, they spent two summers up here building or repairing all the walls running over the surrounding hillsides and once a week they would walk down to Dollar, at the foot of the southern slopes of the Ochils, for provisions. We didn't linger long since we intended to visit Tarmangie, the hill to the far left in the picture below, and enjoy the grand panorama to the north en route.

               Drystane dyke running from Innerdownie
I have a great affinity with the Ochils, a predominantly grassy range of hills running for about 45 km west to east and 13 km north to south and I climbed the highest, Ben Cleuch (721m) when 9 years old. Only Dumyat at the western end is craggy and I did my first rock climb there, Raeburn's Gully (of Harold fame) 6 years later. I am eternally grateful to the teacher who introduced me to climbing, by leading me up the route on as foul an evening as could be imagined.  Such a long and happy association with these hills makes it hard, therefore, to witness the thuggery now in progress preparing the way for 13 wind turbines on Burnfoot Hill; turbines which will be seen from every summit of the Ochils, completely ruin the view northwards from many of them, and destroy the feeling of tranquility.  But it's equally heartbreaking to see this happening on a masssive scale across the Scottish hills.
NW to Stuc a Chroin and Ben Vorlich                     

Happily I was not thinking these gloomy thoughts as we strode along the flat ridge, keeping to the hard snow for easy going, and noting that Glen Quey Reservoir, like the three others in these hills, was still frozen.

                                 Frozen Glen Quey Reservoir
Save for a solitary crow, birds and other wildlife were not to be seen though there were many faint tracks in the snow. We reached the top of Tarmangie in a biting northerly wind  ".....austere and pure".   

What hills are like the Ochil Hills?
- There's nane sae green tho' grander.
What rills are like the Ochil rills?
Nane, nane on earth that wander.


Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Last week we ordered two GoLite Quest packs from Bob and Rose at backpackinglight.  As usual the service was fantastic with a follow-up 'phone call from Rose to check all was well. If you haven't visited their web site, I recommend that you have a look.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

A Post Script to 'Munro: Mountain Man'

It is often said that Munro never completed (compleated) his round of the Munros and Tops, but this is not strictly accurate. He did in fact do so, posthumously, on 10 July 1992 on the In. Pinn in the company of  Robin N Campbell, Helen Ross and passing climber James Kenyon. This was of course in the form a full-sized effigy constructed by Robin himself. The resemblance to Munro was remarkable! The full story, recounted by Campbell at the Centenary Dinner in 1991 (he had yet to do the In. Pinn of course), was hilarious and can be found in 'The Munroist's Companion', edited by Campbell and published by the Scottish Mountaineering Trust.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Munro: Mountain Man

Note: the little Sony Cybershot developed an intermittent fault so some of these pics are not as good as they ought to have been.

Mulloch Fraoch-choire

I watched 'Munro: Mountain Man', presented by Nicholas Crane, for the second time last night; this was quite a U-turn for me, given that I declined to watch it when it was first broadcast on BBC4.

 No, I decided,  I'll look after my blood pressure by not listening to the inevitable factual inaccuracies about Munro, the Munros themselves, The Tables and why Munro's initial list should be sacrosanct, a subject sure to get a heated debate going with a friend who's done them twice including all the tops!  No, previous experiences of such outdoor programmes had warned me off!

But said respected friend had watched it first time round, and proclaimed he'd enjoyed it, so when I noted that it was to be shown on BBC2 last week I resolved to put all prejudices aside and settle down to view - and what's more, tape it.

Spring in the Cairngorms

It was easily the most interesting hill programme I have seen in recent years. Crane's natural style and his enthusiasm for his subject was obvious from the opening shots and he spoke to knowledgeable people too:  Robin Campbell of the SMC, Graham Little and Alan Hinkes; and it never seemed to lose its focus like some recent offerings, staying true to its subject matter. The filming was also superb, especially of the North Face of Ben Nevis, the cliffs of Bidean and of course the Cuillin, although it did flatter the Inaccessible Pinnacle, showing it to be a soaring needle at one point, rather than the blade of rock that it is. I do not denigrate though because I love it, and everything about the Cuillin. Dearly.

Sgurr Mhic Choinnich, Sgurr Thearlaich, top of Stone Shoot
and Sgurr Alasdair

It was also a pity that, having established that A E Robertson was not in fact the first person to climb all the Munros, Crane did not mention Ronald Burn, a hardy and tough walker who, if AER's claim had been dismissed, would now occupy that spot. Still, AER completed the list as it stood then and you can't really ask more than that I don't think. Or maybe you can.

                          Sgurr Dubh Mor and Sgurr Dubh na Da Bheinn

These two points are of course mere nit-picking, a fact which would have met with Munro's approval! Those who want to make programmes of this nature could do worse than watch this and learn - oh and ask Nicholas Crane to do them; he was sheer joy.

                                                Light cloud on Ben Nevis

And it's given us an idea for a long walk in 2011. An obvious one which we ought to have done years ago and something that would take us over and through the very best of Scotland's hill country. Planning has started (just) and when ready I'll put details up here. We'll blog as we go, so hope some of you mobile bloggers out there can advise on, for example, whether there is much to choose between say a BlackBerry or iPhone, and any other associated problems. Thanks in anticipation.

Stob Coire Sgreamhach


Monday, 1 February 2010

Gabriel and Stanley -Video

As a lover of dogs and cats (the latter don't love you back as much it seems to me) this video appealed enormously. It had a happy ending! I don't seem to be able to upload it here so it's on Gabriel and Stanley

Cult Hill - 31 January

        Cult Hill 5 January 2010

It was supposed to have been a ski tour in the finest snow conditions we have ever had in this area, but we always found ourselves wandering off in other directions. Over time the passage of farm vehicles made the approach tracks too icy to make skis an advantage, and since the expected new snow fall never materialised little Cult Hill remained unkown to us. Until yesterday. It felt like a spring morning rather than the last one in January and by the time we'd reached the track to Wester Aldie we were peeling off our trusty Paramo trousers.

 The Ochils from start of Wester Aldie track

The Ochils drew our gaze and we wondered whether the 13 new wind turbines planned for Burnfoot Hill, which lies to the north of these tops, would be high enough to desecrate the sky line. But it was too glorious a morning to dwell for long on this folly and we turned our attention to more positive things.

A welcome from the lovely young Border collie at the farm sent us happily on our way.

      Pack-horse bridge

As we crossed fences, barbed and otherwise, climbed over gates that wouldn't open and crosssed walls with barbed wire along the top only to find ourselves on the wrong side of yet another wall, fence or gate, we reflected what a trial this would have been with skis! I suppose we are just not used to this sort of rural walking having the freedom of the Highlands virtually on our doorstep.

Lynne on yet another fence/wall crossing

A short, but very worthwile walk from home to a pleasant little summit with wide views. Small crags face north and might be worth a visit some summer evening although scrambling is probably all they have to offer.  Too cold today though, so I just had to climb the trig point!