Stuc a' Chroin and Ben Vorich

Stuc a' Chroin and Ben Vorich

Monday, 23 August 2021

29 July - a third and special visit to Ben-y-Hone

On a very misty February morning in the late 1970s we arrived at Invergeldie after a a snowy drive up the narrow twisty hill-road. Only one other car was parked, a yellow Saab which we were sure belonged to my brother and his wife - Saabs were not common in the UK at the time, let alone yellow ones! The snow was at road level so we donned skis and set off into the mist, following the Invergeldie Burn to Coire Riabhach and so to the large summit cairn. The mist never lifted but we did see other ski tracks which we assumed belonged to brother and wife, although we never stumbled across them and their car was still at Invergeldie when got back. That was Ben-y-Hone but it could have been anywhere. 

It was many years after finishing the Munros when we returned to enjoy a perfect spring day, crossing the Turret Burn before reaching Lochan Uaine then through the moraines to reach the snow patches shown in the photo below. These are the sort of days we all dream about.


Snow patches and Carn Chois distant

Sadly nowhere to be seen on our latest ascent

Biorach a' Mheannain from the slopes of Ben-y-Hone. 


Some rough going through deep heather and the moraines 

When we first did Ben-y-Hone we weren't actually 'doing' the Munros in any serious way. It was just a convenient and easy hill to ski. Later, that was all to change and on the morning of 29th 1991, 100 years after the publication of Munro's Tables, we stood on the summit of Sgurr Dubh Mor having come up by Coire a' Ghrunnda from our camp in Glen Brittle. In November of that year the SMC (Scottish Mountaineering Club) held a dinner in Edinburgh to mark the 100th anniversary of publication of The Tables - we used the 1974 and revised 1981 editions, which kept the spirit of exploration and adventure alive (they are not guidebooks). We were fortunate enough to get two tickets and had a grand evening of celebration with talks and slides, speeches from SMC stalwarts and enjoyable swopping of experiences with fellow Munroists, particularly when the wine began to flow. 

Since then we've always tried to be on a hill to mark the occasion, sometimes a Munro, sometimes not, and in 2019 we chose Meall Bhuidhe in Glen Lyon since we were on holiday in the area. However, given the invasion of people in 2020 and with some pretty unsavoury behaviour on display, we gave the Highlands a miss. This year though, we were determined to be on a Munro on the 29th no matter the obstacles. It was, after all, the 30th anniversary of our 'compleation'.



Invergeldie in Glen Lednock is a popular start for the hill so we were there early to guarantee a parking spot and avoid the anticipated crowds. Surprisingly though, it was relatively quiet with plenty of parking available and we were soon away crossing the bridge beyond Coishavachan, making swift progress to get high before the mist burned off and temperatures soared. 

Gloomy conditions and the unsightly track which thankfully stops before the broad ridge is gained (below)



The broad ridge to the shooting butt (just visible) gives lovely walking


Looking towards the summit

Lower down we'd overhauled a few walkers who were clearly feeling the heat and seemed very unfit, so we were soon on our own enjoying the gentle stroll across the sort of terrain which, I'd guess, every walker loves. We expected to find the summit environs quite busy but only one couple were at the large cairn and they didn't stay long after our arrival. 


Approaching the large cairn. I love these old fence posts in the hills






Lunch spot


We lazed about a short distance from the cairn, reflecting on how enjoyable all our recent days had been on these hills around Loch Turret and Glen Almond. Sadly, where mountain  hares in abundance were once a delightful sight there were none, slaughtered along with those in Glen Shee and many other areas in the name of grouse shooting. I detest every one of you involved in this.





Our first ascent of this Munro on skis followed the glen (above) and Invergeldie Burn before breaking off right. The path, (faintly visible) continues to Dunan Bothy in Glen Almond and ultimately to Artalnaig on Loch Tay.

The forecasted high temperatures didn't materialise until late in the afternoon and the last of our tea was gratefully enjoyed in fairly intense heat. Our only other pause was to take a photograph of these lovely orchids, then it was home for a celebratory meal with a bottle of Chablis going down rather nicely.









Saturday, 17 July 2021

A few hills in 2021


It's a long time since I sat down to write a post so here's a brief update.

The year started well with an easy local hill on 1 January. There was reasonably good snow-cover and in the New Year sunshine lots of families were out sledging and generally having fun on the hills and in roadside fields. 

Click photos to enlarge.




Several good days in snowy conditions followed throughout January and February although it was often the case of doing the same walk with slight variations. We didn't complain for we considered ourselves fortunate to still be fit and healthy and able to get in to the hills as and when we chose.









As winter gave way to spring we weren't inclined to travel further afield but, on a sunny, breezy day in May we drove to Glen Artney for Uamh Beag (Graham and Donald) via the steep slopes of An Beannan. 


Delightful path by the Water of Ruchill

Allt Ollach



Bridge over the Allt Ollach

Am Beannan

7 June - Auchnafree Hill

Having first done this Corbett from the Loch Turret side we set off for a second ascent from Newton Bridge, just beyond the Sma' Glen, to follow the unsightly track through Glen Almond. A small group of cyclists passed but otherwise all was quiet. We stopped to have a look at Clach na Tiompan stone circle, once four stones now only one, and the chambered cairn on the opposite side of the track. The creation of this broad highway through Glen Almond caused considerable damage to the cairn.






At Larichfraskhan we crossed the River Almond and wended our way up the old track which zig-zags over  Crom Chreag before gently rising to the top of Auchnafree Hill. In the glen we'd seen curlew, oyster catchers and deer. Now a red kite, hen harrier (possibly) and a buzzard joined the list. We were suspicious about the cause of death of a mountain hare.

Should we cross the easy ground and descend to the glen by the Allt Coire Chultrain and Thiefs (sic) Cave? We decided against it because we could come back and enjoy an ascent by this route and generally explore the area. There is always something new to see, some hidden nook or cranny to visit.

River Almond


The old track over Crom Chreag





Near Larichfraskhan
Larigfraskhan




On our way back to Newton Bridge a young dog from Auchnafree followed us despite our best efforts to turn him back. He gamely struggled over cattle grids determined to keep us company all the way to the car. We love dogs and hated trying to chase him away, but were worried that he'd come to grief on the main road at Newton Bridge so we were relieved to meet a local farmer who was gathering his escaped pigs and said he'd return the pooch to the farm. We obviously weren't the only ones making a bid for freedom that day.


17 June

Choinneachain Hill is an easy walk from Auchnafree Hill but we wanted to save it for an ascent from Loch Turret. Though we didn't know of its existence, a small track heads up the hill part-way along the loch but since details of the route are now online, the estate has decided it doesn't want it used by walkers any more. According to a small notice, the track is unsuitable for walkers and has become badly eroded; there are nesting birds which might be disturbed (grouse for shooting, that is) and there's a good hill track, ie bulldozed track. In my view this is simply an attempt by the estate (they are not alone) to dictate where we should walk on the hills: 'we have to give access, so here is the access point' seems to be the message. 




The beautiful track we followed is not eroded, is perfectly suitable for walkers, unlikely to get heavy use and sheer delight all the way to the first small cairn. The 'established hill track', ie bulldozed road, is fine for mountain bikes. 


Summit - Lawers hills in distance



Lunch cairn (a chambered cairn in fact)


Loch Turret and Ben-y-Hone



22 June - Biorach a' Mheannain

This lovely hill rises at the head of Loch Turret and I suspect it's rarely climbed from the Moine Bheag, but here we were and looking forward to the short steep ascent up the heather and blaeberry-covered slopes.  Ben-y-Hone can be readily climbed from Biorach, but we had plans for a third ascent of this Munro at the end of June (more later) to celebrate the 30th anniversary of our 'compleation', so didn't feel guilty about staying put and enjoying the sun while having tea and rolls. It was like a burning cauldron in the glen, and back at the car the large flask of water was very welcome. 

 Biorach a’ Mheannain




Craggy east face of Ben-y-Hone



Steeper than it looks - our route up should be obvious


Reeds cover Lochan Uaine below the Moine Beag. It's been very dry.





Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Saturday, 20 February 2021

Thursday 18 February 2021 - Perseverance has landed..

 

Perseverance about to touch down on Mars. The three Sky Crane tethers can be seen and the umbilical providing communications and power to the rover is on the right. NASA/JPL

Well, after 480 million kilometres Perseverance landed on the Red Planet on Thursday at 8.55pm GMT in Jezero Crater, just 2km south east of the delta, and is tilted only 1.2 degrees. It has been an exciting journey with EDL being the usual '7 minutes of terror'. I supplied the peanuts and Lynne the Mars Bar (!) as well as a new Perseverance NASA -T shirt. My name is forever more on Mars.


The Mars helicopter Ingenuity located on the belly of the rover has communicated with Earth via the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and both it and the base station on the rover are operating nominally. Ingenuity is not part of the main mission but a technology demonstration and will remain on the rover for 30 to 60 days. It will attempt the first powered flight on another planet and where the atmospheric volume is less than 1% of Earth's and is composed primarily of carbon dioxide - 96%.

Ingenuity - illustration NASA/JPL


One of Perseverance's wheels on the surface to Mars. NASA/JPL

With 11 million others whose names are on Perseverance, I'm looking forward to my journey in Jezero Crater and hoping for some exciting discoveries. 



Monday, 7 September 2020

Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Wednesday 19 August - Mars 2020 Mars Ingenuity Helicopter

On 7 August, one week into its journey, Mars helicopter charged its batteries in flight for the first time in a space environment. It took eight hours for engineers at JPL to analyse the performance of the six lithium-ion batteries and bring their charge up to 35%, a low level charge state having been shown to be optimal for battery health during the nearly seven month long cruise to Mars.

The operation will be repeated every two weeks or so to maintain the optimal charge.

"This charge activity shows we have survived the launch and that so far we can handle the harsh environment of interplanetary space", said MiMi Aung, Ingenuity Mars Helicopter project manager at JPL. "We have a lot more firsts to go before we can attempt the first experimental flight test on another planet, but right now we are all feeling good about the future"

The helicopter will have a 30 Martian day (31 Earth days) flight test window and if successful will prove that powered flight is possible on another planet. This will allow for possible future aerial explorations of Mars with a second generation rotorcraft. (NASA JPL-Caltech) 

                                                                Courtesy NASA JPL - Caltech

And wait... I have had Perseverance and Ingenuity in our garden and sitting room. The following photographs are not photoshopped but are taken using an app from JPL. Sizing is unfortunately limited by the iPhone's screen size. 












Index to Mars 2020 posts: here