Stuc a' Chroin and Ben Vorich

Stuc a' Chroin and Ben Vorich

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Merry Christmas

A Merry Christmas to you all, best wishes for 2013 and thanks for your company throughout the year.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Two short winter days

(1) - Tuesday 11 December

Everywhere being solid ice, Kahtoolas were needed straight from the car but we made quick progress along the drove road before beginning our ascent of this lovely unnamed prominence west of, and overlooking, Glen Eagles. Off with the microspikes then through the tussocky grass, avoiding the ice in the hollows between, picking up sheep trods, stopping to view distant Ben Chonzie (Ben-y-Hone), aiming for the highest sunlit snow patch.

Distant Ben y Hone above Crieff from the drove road
It's all familiar ground, and being creatures of habit we sat in our usual lofty spot drinking Lapsang Souchong enjoying what warmth the sun could muster before climbing the last few feet to the cairnless top.  Time being short, the heathery expanse westwards to Wether Hill was not for us today so we dropped down to St Mungo's Farm and the drove road - a useful route for ancient drovers who wanted to avoid paying at Gleneagles Toll.

As a result of walking the Ochils drove roads, A R B Haldane of Cloan House near Auchterarder became interested in "this droving traffic, the routes by which it reached the Lowlands, its ultimate destination and the methods of the men whose work it was". His excellent 'The Drove Roads of Scotland' makes fascinating reading.

The car could have done with its own set of crampons
Just a  simple, satisfying few hours in the 'verdant Downs the Ochil Hills', a few miles from home. What more could you ask?

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Massey Ferguson - for Alan R

How about restoring this Alan?

Perkins Diesel Engine

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

His hypocrisy knows no bounds

The First Minister commissioned Dame Elizabeth Blackwell to produce the image for the First Minister's 2012 Christmas card and the art work will be auctioned next year in aid of good causes. Fine, but be prepared to throw up now:   

Mr Salmond said :"Throughout 2013 we will celebrate the outstanding and diverse beauty of this country in the Year of Natural Scotland, where we encourage people to get out and enjoy what the great outdoors has to offer".


Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Beautiful nacreous clouds

These photographs of iridescent clouds, taken from the garden at 9.10am on the 10 December are known as nacreous or mother of pearl clouds and are formed some 15 -25km high in the stratosphere at temperatures below -78C.

They most commonly appear in polar regions but it is apparently quite rare to see such good displays in the UK. The clouds play a part in the formation of ozone holes as they contain chemicals which destroy ozone. (Information from the Met Office).

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Berghaus Akka Jacket - Part 2

Berghaus say the Akka is: Great when worn on its own or as part of your winter layering system and the temperature is hovering around freezing.

Since giving some details here the weather has mostly been very wet with occasional dry mild days so, as yet, I can't comment on the above claim*. However, there have been a few days best described as 'raw' - when the cold and damp gets into your bones even though the temperature is well above freezing. On these days, it's been lovely to slip on the Akka over a T-shirt and light fleece and immediately feel warm; I doubt I'll need to wear very much more underneath, even in lower temperatures, but I'll report on this when real winter arrives.

- looking again at the quality of construction (made in China) I have to say that the sewing is immaculate.

Inside pocket - takes small wallet, mobile 'phone (although I find the latter uncomfortable)

- The soft outer fabric is continued on the down-filled collar which I find very comfortable although, like similar jackets, there are no draw cords to enable a really snug fit around the neck; and I do wonder just how much wear and tear this outer fabric will take.

- I like the combination of velcro and elasticated cuffs which allows me put the jacket on and take it off without undoing the closure. Lazy, I know.

- the Akka is reasonably packable

It could probably be packed smaller

However, packability (and weight 645g) are really only important if you plan to use the Akka on the hills;

 - I see it primarily as a jacket for everyday use during the winter months for shopping, walking local tracks and so on;

- on that basis I can't fault it so far but, for the sake of completeness, I will also use it on the local hills and report back in due course.

Finally, just a point about the DWR coating and cleaning the garment:

- It says on the swing tickets that the DWR is durable to extensive home laundering, but personally I'd be more worried about the effect of home laundering on the down than on the DWR.

- professional cleaning by a down specialist is recommended but the label does also say that careful home laundering is possible. Take your pick but I'll stick with professional cleaning if needed.

* I have now used the jacket on a couple of low level walks in much lower temperatures than previously - around freezing - and as expected was as warm as toast.

- it's early days, but if I'd bought the Akka, I'd be happy with my purchase.

- there are other similar products on the market but since I haven't used them I obviously can't offer any opinion on their relative merits. I see this as a problem with nearly all gear reviews unless, of course, the item falls to bits, leaks etc.

- My two other down jackets are completely different so any comparisons would be meaningless.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Areva factory in Scotland

Read this and weep.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Berghaus Akka Down Jacket

Mine is blue but this is a better photograph

This Berghaus Akka Jacket has been sent to me for review.  It only arrived yesterday so I've not had an opportunity to use it (and in any case the weather is mild and wet at present), but here are some details together with initial impressions. 

Outer shell - made from Berghaus AF nylon face fabric which is wind resistant, breathable, DWR treated and pleasantly soft to the touch. 

Insulation - 600 fill power with a down to feather ratio of 80/20. Sewn-through construction - the outer shell is sewn directly to the inner lining in a quilted fashion thereby trapping the down.

  Features : - full length zip with easy-pull toggle and internal baffle
                    - chin guard lined with soft, brushed fabric
                    - small internal security pocket which takes my BlackBerry and small wallet
                    - two good-sized, zipped, hand-warmer pockets
                    - velcro adjustment on partly elasticated cuffs
                    - thick insulated collar
                    - drawcord hem
                    - there is no hood

Fit:             Berghaus Active Fit which is: 'Not body conscious. Not
                    baggy. Just a streamlined cut for every kind of activity'. The medium size fits me
                    perfectly and feels extremely comfortable.

Quality:      as with my other Berghaus clothing, the Akka appears to be manufactured to a very high
                    standard. I certainly can't find any faults.

Price:          prices vary whether online or on the high street:
                    under £100 to £140 approx.

Weight :     645g approx. (manufacturer's figure)

Use:           First impressions suggest that this will be a versatile jacket equally at home in the town     
                   or country. I'll add to this brief introductory post once I've used it in the cold/snowy
                   weather which hopefully will arrive soon.

Note: I have no connection with Berghaus or their agents who sent me this garment.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Variety is the spice etc

A reduction in grazing over many years has resulted in longer grass in the Ochils, but this is even more obvious in those parts now owned by the Woodland Trust where there is no grazing at all. Since mid-September walks here have been relatively short (12 km)  to 'assess how the knee holds up', but the tussocky nature of the terrain is as hard on the ligaments as so-called rougher ground.  Outcomes have varied.

We've had some lovely days though.

Roe deer - a regular sighting

Easter Downhill

A little bit of Mozart

It's not all been about hills and knee trials. Last month an email arrived from MUSA, Museum of the University of St Andrews, informing me that Scottish Opera were performing twenty minutes or so of  'The Magic Flute' in the Bell Pettigrew Museum, Bute Medical Building. Having spent much time in and around this building in student days I am ashamed to say that I could not recall ever being in the Bell Pettigrew (I suppose I must have been!) so, apart from listening to a snippet of opera, it would be an opportunity to view  some of the 3000 or so specimens collected mainly during the Victorian era.

There were four members of Scottish Opera - a flautist (obviously), a harpist, singer and a storyteller who very amusingly set the scene prior to the next piece of music. As he said at the end: 'when I've turned Grand Opera into pantomime, my job is done!' What a superb thirty minutes! Prices for the full performance at various venues varied from £17.50 to £74.

A walk along the east sands in wild weather rounded off the day.

Enjoying quite rough seas at St Andrews (rougher than it looks!)

 The Carpow Logboat

Discovered by Scott McGuckin at Carpow Bank near Abernethy on the Tay Estuary, this dugout canoe from the Late Bronze Age has been dated 1260-910BC and is therefore around 3000 years old. It now has a permanent home at Perth Museum and Art Gallery. We just had to see it.

It was a fascinating afternoon and the full story can be found in the excellent little book by David Strachan, The Carpow Logboat - A Bronze Age Vessel brought to life, published by Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust, and also online of course.

WWII aircraft

Airfix models that is. I built any number of these as a boy and Lynne gave me a gift of a Supermarine Spitfire MkIa kit last Spring. It was suitable for age 8+ please note. 

Supermarine Spitfire Mk Ia of 92 Squadron, RAF Manston, December 1940

Naturally, it couldn't stop there.

Messerschmitt Bf 109E-3

and from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight

Hawker Hurricane Mk IIc

Next is another Spitfire (Mk IIa) and an Avro Lancaster B. Mk I, both of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. I must get started, although I've learned that a little more preparation before painting will give better results so these will take a little longer to complete. The models are 1:72 scale.

Weeks not without interest but I do wish my knee would hurry up and get better. By Christmas if I do zero the doctor says, but he probably knows me well enough to guess that there is little chance of  that.  Anyway, I've got this Berghaus Akka jacket coming soon for review !

Finally, I need to get round the blogs and catch up with what's going on. 

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Golden eagle found shot on grouse moor in Dumfries and Galloway

You can find details of this sickening story here on the SSPCA's site and here on the RSPB's site. When will action be taken? When?

Monday, 8 October 2012

Knee trials

Since returning from Braemar three weeks ago I've been nursing a knee injury, cause unknown. I assume something occurred on Tolmount, the last hill of the holiday, but am unaware of what that 'something' was because only on arrival home the following day did I suddenly find that my left knee wasn't working. Anyway, I rested and hobbled around for a week then successfully reversed the resulting improvement by making several ascents of a ladder to clear gutters. Another two weeks passed without venturing onto a hill but, with a trip north and westwards only days away, we decided that a trial walk in the Ochils was now essential.  A pleasant 14km outing on Saturday was followed by 19km on Sunday - both  beautiful autumn days.  There was slight discomfort on descents but, despite some stiffness and a little pain this morning, I think I can now vote the knee sufficiently well to carry me up some bigger hills.  Lynne might have to carry me down though.....

Even with turbines above us (out of shot, right) this was a peaceful spot for a long stop to soak up the sun.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Raptor Persecution Scotland

Poisoned golden eagle found in Glen Orchy area  in 2009 (from
I've just come across  which has a post regarding the golden eagle death. You can write to the new Scottish Environment Minister at this email

Monday, 24 September 2012

This makes me livid

Courtesy BBC Scotland website
This golden eagle died a lingering death after its legs were broken in an illegally-set trap. This is disgusting and make no mistake it is the landowners who should be prosecuted. Imprisonment should be automatic if found guilty, together with massive financial penalties. The full, distressing story is here.

A few pics

For anyone interested, a few photographs from our Braemar trip can be found here

Friday, 21 September 2012

The loss of Canberra B.2 WJ615

As many will know, this wreckage is strewn widely across the slopes of Carn an t-Sagairt Mor but I was unaware of the story behind the crash and loss of the two crewmen. Here's an account from aircrashsites-scotland

"This particular Canberra was attached to No.35 Squadron RAF. (No.50 Squadron had also been equipped with Canberras, but theirs had been replaced 10 months prior to this accident with Avro Vulcan bombers)

Flying Officer Redman (Pilot), with Flying Officer Mansell (Navigator), of No.35 Squadron was detailed to fly Canberra B.2 WJ615 on an authorised 3 hours night sortie.

At 18:02 (Zulu) hours the aircraft took off from RAF Upwood (Cambridgeshire, England), received clearance and departed for Kinloss (Scotland) Weather conditions for the entire trip were good.

At 19.00 hours the aircraft made R/T contact with Kinloss, after which a normal QGH1 from 25,000ft followed by a visual circuit and overshoot of runway 26 was carried out.

At 19.21 hours the aircraft was seen to climb away from an overshoot height of approximately 300ft by Kinloss Air Traffic Control who passed two regional pressure settings. Flying Officer Redman replied "Thank You. Good Night." This was the last transmission heard from the aircraft.

The aircraft was seen to climb away for its return to Upwood. At about 19.30 hours (appoximately) witnesses from near Braemar heard a jet aircraft pass at an unusually low altitude for that area. One witness saw what must have been the tail navigation light, and the outline of the aircraft as it passed flying south, with the engines sounding normal and on a straight course. A few minutes later the witness saw a flash as it struck the hills [Carn an t-Sagairt Mòr]. It was a clear night with a small amount of scattered cloud.

About 30 civilian volunteers, guided by Police and Queen's gamekeepers, and two RAF Service Mountain Rescue Teams (Leuchars 10 men and Kinloss 22 men) and a helicopter were engaged in the search for the wreckage. At 03.30 hours (23 November 1956) three search parties from [the] Danzig Shiel2 (OS 50/201905) were sent out in a SE direction. Party 'B' was just approaching the wreckage when the helicopter sighted it at 08.40 hours.

The subsequent Court of Inquiry was unable to determine the cause of the accident.3"

Note: QGH is Air Traffic Control code for 'Controlled Descent Through Cloud'

I'm now busy sorting out the photographs from our latest trip will upload to SmugMug in the next few days for anyone who is interested.

Sunday, 16 September 2012


We decided to approach the hill by the Tolmount*, which crosses from Auchallater to Glen Clova, rather than by one of the more popular routes. The track to Loch Callater Lodge was deserted - a surprise for such a sunny Saturday. Along the loch side, across the beautiful meadows below the crags of Creag an Fhir-shaighde and up to the wild, featureless plateau we went. Sheer joy every step. The plateau is not a place to be caught in a winter blizzard though. (Read "The Loss of Five Men on Jock's Road' in I D S Thomson's book 'The Black Cloud'.)

As ever this holiday, the wind was a constant feature: tugging, pushing, swirling, gusting. The landscape seemed to have been scoured clean. At the cairn, perched above Glen Callater, we met a chap who was wondering where Tolmount was. He had 'walked off' his map (who hasn't) and his GPS was showing a position which wasn't anywhere near where he should be if he was on Tolmount. I assured him that he was definitely on his chosen hill and switched on SatMap to confirm it to him.
He was off for Tom Buidhe, we to find some nook or crannie that would offer a little haven of calm for a snack.

It was warm back at the flats by the Allt an Loch, and layers were removed, but a stop for afternoon tea was delayed until arrival at a small gravely beach near the head of the loch. It was hard to move on. We agreed that next time we were hereabouts we should visit Loch Kander in Coire Ceanndobhair and gain the Carn an Tuirc - Cairn of Claise plateau from there. So much to do.

*The 1:50 000 OS Map shows 'Jock's Road' beginning in Glen Callater when, as far as I'm aware, the name only applies to the relatively short section from the shelter to Glen Doll.

I'm writing this hurriedly during a stop on our way home. It has been an excellent trip. This area has become a favourite at this time of year - pity about all the shooting though.

Sir Hugh: Lovely story. It's good to burn the youngsters off! I've always found the people of this area friendly and helpful. If I were to move out of Perthshire, I think Deeside would be my choice.

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Friday, 14 September 2012

Mr Sloman and the TGO Awards 2012

Delighted to see that Alan Sloman has been nominated for his campaign against Scottish windfarms. Will vote when we return Alan.

Today we have had a tootle up to Aboyne and Banchory (above) but tomorrow we'll be back on the hills. Sounds we'll have some pleasant weather too.

AlanS - everywhere we've been on this trip something's been roaring! The Glas Allt was relatively quiet though and the bothy was, unsurprisingly, locked given the time of year.
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Thursday, 13 September 2012

After a blustery walk along Loch Muick we reached Glas-allt Shiel, built in 1869 by Queen Victoria. It is a lovely spot, the pines providing shelter for the Lodge - and us today. Thankfully no signs point the way to Lochnagar; no invitations to 'marvel here' at the falls or anything else; no large information boards. For such a popular area it is remarkably free of such clutter.

We followed the zig-zags by the Glas Allt passing the waterfall and so to the start of the path which heads across Monelpie Moss. From its high point the way to Little Pap climbs slopes of deep heather. The wind, never remotely as ferocious as on our aborted Lochnagar day, was still strong enough to make us extra careful on the summit boulder field. After a quick photograph of Lynne at the cairn (holding on her mountain cap!) more boulder-hopping brought us down to the col below Cuidhe Crom. It was cold and the wind tore at us with enough strength to make for a brief exhilarating struggle south to the path. But it lacked any real hostility. Rain swept across the hill and we wondered if there would be flurries of snow on the higher summits.

Winter around the corner. An exciting prospect.

"It will be no hardship to return for Little Pap", I wrote in the previous post. Well it wasn't. How could a day in such a place be a hardship?

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Monday, 10 September 2012

Saturday 8 September - Return to Lochnagar

Half the population of Aberdeenshire were on the hill today, or at least in the immediate environs. Or so it seemed. But it was after all a Saturday, and a beautiful one at that. Fortunately we were ahead of most of them by a good distance, with only the wind for company, as we followed the rim of the great NE corrie most of the way to the trig point perched on the granite boulders of Cac Carn Beag. An Aberdeen lad offered us a dram from his hip flask (declined!) before he went off to find a quiet spot to read his book.

To the west of Lochnagar lies The Stuic, its broken, north-facing rocks falling to Loch nan Eun. A perfect setting in Coire Loch nan Eun, corrie of the loch of the birds.

From top of the Red Spout, which in summer can be descended to the loch, we diverted to Cuidhe Crom over the pathless plateau with its golden autumnal grasses and pancake granite rocks. Here our plans, such as they were, changed, and instead of a descent via Little Pap to Glas-allt Shiel, we voted to stay high. It will be no hardship to return for Little Pap and to Meall Coire na Saobhaidhe, no hardship at all. And there is so much more to explore on this, one of the finest hills in Scotland.

The 200m cliffs of Creagan Lochnagar are steeped in climbing history. J H B Bell, Patey, Brooker, Quinn and Lang among others, pioneered routes. In 1958, Edinburgh climber Jimmy Marshall snatched the first winter ascent of Parallel Gully B causing something of a stir among the local Aberdeen climbers.

It's thirty six years since we last stood on the summit so to celebrate we had a tour of Royal Lochnagar Distillery, and bought a bottle of their 12 year old Royal Lochnagar malt.

AlanR - thanks for your comment on the previous post Alan. Surprising that we met no other walkers on such easily accessible hills. I'm looking forward to seeing your photographs from the Gairloch trip.

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Friday, 7 September 2012

Friday 7 September - Monega Hill

The Monega Pass, from Glen Clunie to Glen Isla is the highest of the rights of way across the Mounth. Before beginning its final descent to Tulchan Lodge the track passes west of the 908m summit of Monega Hill, our objective for the day, overlooking Caenlochan.

We, however, were not approaching from Glen Clunie but from Glas Maol so we parked up in the ski area just a few yards from the Perth and Kinross border. It's easy to forget just what a big county P&K is and how varied its scenery. Lucky us. Anyway, we made quick progress through the paraphernalia of the ski grounds and across the arctic-alpine grassland of the Glas Maol to the trig point and shelter. The sheer spaciousness of these Mounth hills never fails to lift the spirits.

"A feature of all these fertile hills is that vegetation covers far more of the ground than at the same altitude in the Cairngorms, with very little bare gravel or screes. Ptarmigan, red grouse, dunlin, skylarks and mountain hares reach a greater abundance on some of these hills than anywhere else in the arctic-alpine zone in Scotland, and ptarmigan, grouse and dotterel rear bigger broods here than elsewhere, which again indicates the underlying fertility. Several species of animals live at much higher altitudes than usual on some of these hills. This part of the Mounth [from Callater to Glen Ey] is therefore unique in Scotland for its wildlife interest both plant and animal". (A Watson). Long may we value and protect this precious area for its own sake. Not for us. Not as a 'resource'; and certainly not as a 'playground', adventure or otherwise.

A brief stop, then onwards to Little Glas Maol. We had just started the descent when we came across about forty (we guessed) mountain hares which scattered across the hillside as we approached. Ptarmigan, sheep and several herds of deer were other sightings. Otherwise we were alone all day - if you don't count the midges in sheltered spots.

Little Glas Maol came and went pleasantly as we wended our way to Monega Hill, diverting occasionally for the view down to Caenlochan Glen. Watson again: "one of the two best places in Britain for uncommon arctic-alpine plants. Here you may see snow gentian, blue sow thistle, woolly willow, boreal fleabane and other rarities" A place to visit on another occasion for sure.
It was no hardship to follow our outward route back to the 'van in the sunshine. Another simple, satisfying day in the hills.

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Thursday, 6 September 2012

Carn an t-Sagairt Mor and Carn an t-Sagairt Beag

We set off for Loch Callater all the lighter for our £2.50 'donation' to path repair. Large holes were being filled to ensure, no doubt, a smooth passage for the Range Rovers and their clients but there was no such traffic this morning and no evidence of activity at the Lodge.
The route taken today is popular with TGO Challengers as they head out of Braemar for the east coast. Once high, numerous ways are possible: via Lochnagar to the Spittal; down to the Dubh Loch for a wild camp; over Cairn Bannoch and Broad Cairn then, from Sandy's Hut, a drop down to Bachnagairn and thence to Glen Clova. Or down to Loch Muick perhaps. It's not hard to see why these routes are popular. Our own cancelled/postponed crossing included Lochnagar among others. Maybe next year if we can fit it in.
On the summit we met a chap and his Border Collie who had come from Lochnagar and had found it awkward in the strong wind, a mere snuffle by yesterday's standard. They were about to set off on the last section of their eighteen mile round over Cairn Bannoch etc. This has become a popular way to do these Munros but doesn't give much time for exploration or diversion.
We paused at the cairn taking in the scene. As Lynne put it "You can stretch your eye in this immense landscape - but never enough."
Including a stop at the aircraft remains, it's a mere twenty minutes from the Munro to Carn a t-Sagairt Beag, not a Top of Carn a t-Sagairt Mor but of Carn a' Choire Bhoidheach. Munro trivia, I know, I know! The rocky summit is cairnless which perhaps says something about visitor numbers. We snuggled behind rocks to escape the wind and had lunch.
On our return journey we met a lady, a former member of Cairngorm MRT, and had a good natter about climbing, hills, islands visited and those yet to be explored. Full of life she was, her exuberance only exceeded by that of her two lovely dogs. She had thirty-eight Munros left and was saving Dreish and Mayar for last since they were easily accessible for a party with friends and family. Another pair arrived just as we were leaving and we recognised them from our aborted Lochnagar day. They had also retreated but no doubt would get their hill today.
Our descent was a leisurely one, encouraged by the warm atmosphere low down. A Range Rover was stationed at Callater Lodge and another guarded the start of the track. Royalty must have been about.
Oss - that's what I tell others but I'm not all that good at taking my own advice. I like misery - I am Scottish you know!
Conrad - thanks for pointing out my error and for generously allowing me to claim a typo. Unfortunately I can do no such thing and can only claim an aberration. I'll fix it when home and hope that there are no mistakes in this and future posts. It will be the BlackBerry's fault if there are! Your experience of flight on Blencathra sounds of longer duration than Lynne's, but luckily no harm was suffered by either . I love wild mountain weather - it adds an edge to the day.
AlanS - good to hear from you. The paths need a good hoover as well. We spoke of you as we traversed the hillside high above Loch Callater, knowing you often pass this way on the Challenge and love these hills.
AlanR - it was a wild day for sure. Too much common sense stifles action :-) which in turns makes you old! That's what I tell myself anyway.
Laura - Thanks for popping over. This area is very special - and I'm typing this a lot nearer to you than you might think!
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Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Tuesday 4 September - Lochnagar (nearly)

From the moment we set out from the Spittal of Glenmuick we knew there would be difficulties high up. They were apparent enough on the track to Allt-na-guibhsaich. On two occasions I was brought to a halt by the wind. Of course strong, gusty, winds aren't exactly rare in Scotland and it's something you get used to. In fact a calm day on Scottish hills is likely to elicit more comments than a windy one.

The Scots pines at Allt-na-guibhsaich brought a welcome, if brief, respite before we took to the open hillside again. At 500m I was blown from one side of the track to the other; Lynne was blown back down the track. There was no shelter but it was a gloriously beautiful September morning which made all the difference.

In due course we arrived below Meikle Pap and set off upwards without a pause. It was a struggle to stay upright and I resorted to moving crab-like across the boulder field. Lynne was doing no better lower down having been blown backwards clean off her feet and deposited on a flat boulder, luckily unhurt. On her arrival beside me, we conferred briefly. This was an accident waiting to happen we reckoned so we retreated without further discussion. Not even a wistful look back as we descended to the mossy col to view the cliffs and loch, take some pics (with difficulty) then nip up Meikle Pap as a consolation summit. It was more sheltered here but I didn't risk standing on the highest rocks. The wind still roared and continued to do so all the way back to the Spittal.

90mph+ we've since been told. As a rule I don't like turning back unless conditions are obviously dangerous and today we were maybe a bit too cautious, although the decision felt right at the time. A gust, a bad landing and fun can turn to broken bones so easily. Worse still, a head injury. I must be getting old! It's not me in the poem below though. Honest.

ANTE MORTEM by Syd Scroggie

I will attempt the Capel track
Old, stiff and retrograde
And get some pal to shove me on
Should resolution fade,
For I must see black Meikle Pap
Against a starry sky
And watch the dawn from Lochnagar
Once more before I die.
The golden plover whistled there
Before the fall of Man
And you can hear the brittle croak
Of lonely ptarmigan.
No heather there but boulders bare
And quartz and granite grit
And ribs of snow, bleak, old and grey
As I remember it.
And if I do not make the top
Then sit me on a stone,
Some lichened rock among the screes
And leave me there alone.
Yes, leave me there alone to hear
Where spout and buttress are
The breeze that stirs the little loch
On silent Lochnagar.

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Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Monday 3 September - An Socach

The day looked promising with just a sip of mist in Coire Chrid above Baddoch. We were off reasonably early to ensure trouble-free parking - there were stories of the wild, stormy west being abandoned by many in favour of the softer eastern weather.

An Socach can be climbed at any point from the path by the Baddoch Burn and a particularly fine start is by Sgor Mor but, having done this hill previously, we opted to follow the path to its terminus and gain the broad stony ridge from there. There were about a dozen bags of 'Highland Grouse Grit' lying at the high point. Well looked after these grouse; then shot.

The gentle ascent over grasses and short heather was all pleasure; the sun appeared; layers were shed and soon the summit was in sight. Overlooking lonely Loch nan Eun - a great spot for a camp - the views from the cairn were extensive in all directions: distant Ben Macdui and friends, Lochnagar et al; our closer neighbours Glas Tulaichean, Beinn Iutharn Mhor, to name but a few. Big landscape and big skies.

After the usual photography (and donning a top or several to combat the cold wind) we set off for the east Top and lunch. Thought I'd pulled a groin muscle along the way and expected problems after our stop. Nothing - no pain at all. Odd. Rain threatened our return to the 'van but never did more than that, though people we met were full of dire warnings about tomorrow's weather, contrary to every forecast we'd heard or seen since arriving. We'll see who's right in due course.

Alan R - no games as we arrived a day too late for that. There was a pipe band in the village late in the pm though.

Sir Hugh - no pressure as you say Conrad. The site is an excellent base with superb hill country on the doorstep, although there are some restrictions at this time of year that are best observed if you don't want shot!

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