For newcomers

At the bottom of each post there is the word "comments". If you click on it you will see comments made by followers, and if you follow the instructions you may also comment and I always welcome that. I have found many people overlook this part of the blog which is often more interesting than the original post!

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Thursday, 30 April 2015

Day 9. Wednesday 29th April

The rest day was enforced. Rain all night and nonstop since precluded me from venturing on the hills - I may set off if rain is threatened, but the days of doing so when it is in full swing and likely to persist are over.

I had a leisurely breakfast and finished off MAMista by Len Deighton. The setting is in a South American country jungle with a dictator government and Marxist guerrillas in the south engineering the revolution. There is a British ex doctor turned business executive, a spoilt idealist American brat and another American all mixed up with the guerrillas. The U.S. Government have found oil in that jungle and their amoral involvement is frighteningly depicted.

The quality of writing shines through with exquisite cameo character descriptions and situations described with such acutely observed minute detail one can only wonder at Deighton's imagination. There is a superb sketch of the U.S. president being briefed by his chief advisor whilst having his early morning shave. He has cut himself and keeps attending to this at the same time as listening to his aide.

I have now read the first fifty pages of "Fifty Six - the story of the Bradford Fire" by Martin Fletcher. This relates to the fire at Bradford City Football Club in 1985 when 56 people died. Having been born and lived in Bradford until I was over thirty, and knowing some of the directors of the club personally at the time this is of particular interest to me. The chairman of the club was a prominent business man who had been involved in various enterprises, and coincidentally connected with eight other fires - I am fascinated to learn more of the author's conclusions.

By 1:00 pm I succumbed to cabin fever and drove to Golspie for some shopping then back north up the coast to have a look at Helmsdale. That turned out to be a rather drab little ex fishing town with the saving grace of a pretty little harbour, but in the relentless rain and poor light most places would look drab.




Helmsdale harbour


This coastline must be the best place anywhere for gorse. Photography does not have to depend on bright sunny days.

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Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Day 8. Tuesday 28th April

Beinn Domhnaill - NH 679 967 and Creag a'Gobhair - NH 655 939

From track south shore of Loch Buidhe - NH 661 983

and from Clashcoig - NH 639 940

Being solo on a trip/holiday like this does give me freedom. Last night I had talked myself into having a rest day, but on awakening to glorious weather and feeling that sleep had given me sufficient rest, I decided to set off, but only with the intention of climbing the first of the above Marilyns.

Back at the car after that ascent it was still only 12:00. I had pre-plotted all the Marilyns in this area on iPad Memory Map and it was only then that I scanned to see if there was another modest ascent nearby. I was away again on a ten minute drive to number two. It is difficult to explain, but I sort of rebel against planning, and I find satisfaction in this kind of free-flowing decision making based on my own experience and whims.

These two Ms were a bit nondescript, well relatively; what a joy it is to be back in Scotland with good weather and remote and diverse hills. When I step outside the car here at some remote spot and take a deep breath something powerfully invigorating happens to my being, "...I get no kick from champagne, mere alcohol doesn't thrill me at all..."

The terrain is hard going with hardly a footpath, but that adds to the sense of wildness - it is not for the faint hearted and navigation skills are constantly put to the test. Finding that featureless point in the edge of a forest where you emerged onto the hillside on the ascent when you are returning is a source of satisfaction and perhaps smugness, but if you mess it up there is only you who knows and you can choose whether to find your own way of dealing with the humiliation, or maybe use it as a self deprecatory post on the blog.

Yesterday I had ascended the first kilometre on a track before striking onto the hill from its terminus. On the return I had to use a compass bearing to find the end of the track again and despite it being a sizeable feature in the landscape it was not visible until I was within twenty yards.

Including Burnhope Seat which I climbed on the way on my first day I have not seen a single person on nine hills. I am not saying that is good or bad, but from memory that must be some kind of record for me. I don't mind meeting people now and again but in larger numbers the attraction for me of remoteness and peace and quiet is spoilt. Walking on a lowland backpacking trip is a different kind of experience altogether.




Just for the record - from the summit of Beinn Domhnaill



From Creag a'Gobhar. I think this zoom shows Sron Gharbh and Scaraben





Summit of Creag 'a Gobhair


From Creag 'a Gobhair

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A NOTE TO FELLOW BLOGGERS: Posting comments on blogs is a problem with the kind of signal I have most of the time, but I am more easily able to read your posts, and rest assured I am doing that. Will try to catch up later.




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Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Day 7. Monday 27th April

Beinn Dhorain - NC 925 157

Ascent from Glen Loth - NC 936 155 via north east flank. Descent from col between Dhorain and Ben Uarie.

The approach was up the minor single track road from the A9. Snow was abundant on all the hills. The first sighting of Beinn Dhorain was breathtaking. It was by far the most heavily covered hill in the glen. This was one of the toughest hills I have climbed especially in these conditions. Every side of the hill is incredibly steep.

I ploughed through deep soft snow covering tussocks and heather and then on the flank it became steeper and steeper. I was kicking deep steps in the snow which was not really firm enough to give support, and then I was hands on plunging fists into snow for hand support and occasionally using my knees. This was strenuous and endless and I found myself resting every few steps as if on a Himalayan ascent.

On the summit I reckoned my ascent route was too steep to descend, but looking at the contours on the map there wasn't much to choose in steepness from any other option. I decided to go to the col between Dhorain and Uarie. The snow alternated between long patches often thigh deep and shallower but treacherous sections where heather showed through. On the former patches I did some bum-sliding and on the rest picked my way carefully. All the time I was conscious of the possibility of further snow as happened yesterday with an unbelievably rapid change from blue sky sunshine to a thick covering of snow and minimal visibility. That could have blocked the glen road which had a warning at its start from the A9 saying the road was not gritted or attended to in bad conditions.

Back at the car I was off south to, guess where, yes, the Poppy Café. I am becoming a regular at this cosy venue, and had some good chat with the staff. I learnt that the aforementioned Duke of Sutherland had forced his tenants to contribute to the cost of his gigantic monument under threat of eviction. The café is named after an old established sweetie shop that occupied the premises before it became a café. The first one failed, but the present owners have been in situ for I think they said three years and long may they continue.




First sighting from the road. Dohrain is the highest on the right


I know everybody says this but this photo and the next in no way convey the actual steepness.


Looking down from about halfway up my ascent route


From the summit




In Poppy Café




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Monday, 27 April 2015

Plumbing again

The Caravan Club are renowned for their high standards and sites are run on almost military lines. One welcome feature is the heated toilet blocks which usually incorporate private cubicles - I think some people come away just for the sake of using them. That seems strange because typical CC members arrive with forty thousand pound 4 X 4s towing caravans that will have cost twenty thousand pounds upwards, and one assumes they will have more than adequate en-suite facilities at home. These observations are based on the length of time these people spend in the cubicles - what on earth are they doing in there? Ok, if I can go in, use the w.c., use the cubicle to wash, brush teeth and have a shave and an occupant who was already incumbent before I arrived is still in there when I depart I rest my case.

Avid readers will remember my little plumbing rant a few posts back. My nerdish interest in such things lead me to notice almost the same set up in my present CC site heated toilet block, and I have to say I was a bit disappointed:





Whilst I admire the technical skill employed with all neat and tidy and fixed back against the wall some of the copper pipe has been painted white and some hasn't, and to uphold the high standards of the CC all the copper should have been left natural and brightly polished along with the brass fittings.



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Day 6. Sunday 26th April

Carn Garbh - NC 893 138

Started from A9 Kintradwell NC 923 075. North west up track which extends beyond that shown on the OS 1:50000 in deteriorating condition all the way to my summit.

The access road was only five minutes from my caravan by car. A factor of concern was that this was the drive to a large private house, progressing beyond that as a track up into the hills. I walked up the drive with some trepidation. It was only 8:45 am. At the rear of the house I knocked and spoke to a young lady, and my guess is that the house is probably a holiday let, but I was thanked for asking and she thought it was ok but suggested I asked again at the gamekeeper's house another fifty yards up the drive. Curtains were drawn, dogs started barking but nobody stirred so I pressed on in bright sunshine but with decidedly chilly temperature.

The map shows the driveable Land Rover track ending after two and a half kilometres, but I was heartened to see it extending right up to the skyline. This is typical of estate development in Scotland where many tracks have been extended for the benefit of those in pursuit of game. Should I have been heartened? Well we've all go to live.

After another kilometre the state of the track just became a couple of rough on and off ruts, engineered with planks to cross the worst of the peat hags. Even though the this track went right to my summit it was no pushover of a walk - it was pretty tough going. The summit is a flat plateau with no identifiable highest point. The skies darkened and it started snowing quite heavily, and that persisted for the whole of the descent.

The snow deepened quickly and the track was often covered and visibility was only about fifty yards? I lost the track a couple of times.

Back at the gamekeeper's house I met the man and his wife and had a pleasant chat.

That was a tough twelve mile round trip to a remote summit. It took me two and three quarter hours to the summit which is longer than many Munros.




Bright sunshine on the ascent belying the rapidly changed conditions on the descent.


Long zoom to? Could it be Ben Klibrek?


Carn Garbh "summit"


On the descent - it got much deeper than this and less visibility, but I was more intent on survival than taking more photos.

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Saturday, 25 April 2015

Day 5. Saturday 25th April

Ben Horn - NC 807 064

Parked at Bridge of Horn - NC 799 048. Walked up track to Loch Horn then pathless ascent to summit. Return same away. About two and a half hours.

Here's one for brother RR who was complaining about unpronounceable names.

A drive four or five miles on a single track road from Golspie took me to this remote starting point. The car gave me audible warning of four degrees outside. Bright sun, large white clouds and blue sky prevailed at the start. Halfway up all went dark and I was in a horizontal gale propelled snowstorm for quarter of an hour. On the summit I waited ten minutes in biting cold ferocious wind for a clearance and was rewarded, perhaps a bit controversially with views of an extensive wind farm. Having said that it was a splendid location with views of my two previous ascents on this trip.

Back at the loch I decided to coffee and munch. Sitting flat down on the floor leads to difficulty in getting back up with my various knee problems. There was a concrete stop valve post about twenty inches high but narrow with a flat concrete three foot square base housing a metal grating at its foot. I decided to put my sit-mat across the top of the stop valve. I lowered myself onto this makeshift seat and then found myself gently sliding off the back down onto the concrete square with my back against an adjacent metal structure - the perfect comfortable position for my repast with the nearby stop valve to help in getting back up. Serendipity eh?

I am now back at the car typing this up in glorious warm sunshine, hopefully to be posted from the Poppy Café back in Golspie




Ben Horn from Loch Horn


Ben Horn summit before the clearance








The view from my involuntary sitting position. The Duke of Sutherland monument visible on the distant horizon

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Photos for last post







I was amused by the Lightning striker sticking out of his head


Long zoom


Loch Fleet and part of the Black Isle from Beinn Lunndaidh



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Day 4. Friday 24 April

Beinn Lunndaidh NC 791 020

Ascent straight from the car park in Golspie, past the church and under the railway to climb Ben Bhraggie first. Then along the ridge to my Marilyn summit. Descent south west to Loch Lunndaidh and back on path to Golspie.

This was a seven mile round. A well established path took me to Ben Bhraggie where the massive monument to the Duke of Sutherland mentioned in my post yesterday stands. I reckon this is nearly as big as Nelson's Column.

A track along the ridge took me another kilometre with a short shower, and then it was pathless heather bashing to my Marilyn, but fairly short and not too hard going. A fine sighting of deer a kilometre away silhouetted on a ridge was a little bonus.

Coffee and munchies were taken on the summit - weather was fine and views extensive. It was a rough steep descent to get to the path along Loch Lunndaidh involving climbing of two deer fences. These are about ten feet high but every so often there is a larger support post sticking up above the top fence wire and the fence is made up of eight inch wire squares, so it is fairly easy, a bit like climbing a pot holing ladder.

Back in Golspie I visited the Poppy Café again for my jam scone and tea. An enjoyable day over mixed terrain and changing views.

Photos to follow, I hope.



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Thursday, 23 April 2015

Plumbing

I had intended to include an anecdote from my drive from Richmond to Brora yesterday, but it involved a photo taken on the iPhone. I needed to email that photo to myself so it would then be available on the iPad so I could use it in a post. The email just wouldn't go during the last 24 hours, but it has now suddenly done its thing so here goes.

I have done a lot of amateur plumbing in my time, usually finding my pipe work takes on a life of its own compared with the enviable symmetry achieved by professionals. At a filling station lavatory on the way today I couldn't help noticing an interesting example. My guess is that this was done by an inspired amateur.




Sent from my iPad




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Photos for Creag an Amalaidh







This was just lying on the side of the road undamaged.


Little Torboll where I met the farmer.


Zoom to the Duke of Sutherland monument


Fleet Loch from the summit.




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Day 3. Creag an Amalaidh (Princess Cairn)

Situated at the southern end of The Mound (where the A 9 crosses Loch Fleet) - NH 758 975.

I parked where it says cattle grid and walked up the minor road to Little Torboll then up to the summit and back by the track passing Cambusmore Lodge. About one and a half hours. An easy one to start with.


At Torboll I met and chatted with the farmer and he showed me where the track shown on the map went - there was not the slightest trace of it on the ground. There was no path all the way to the summit or back down as far as the returning track. The walk up the road at the start was often fringed with gorse in bloom at its peak - heavy scent of coconut.

Talking to the farmer we identified the distant massive hilltop monument to the Duke of Sutherland, he who was responsible for The Clearances. I suggested it should be pulled down and he said there had been the odd attempt, but then went on to express his tolerant attitude saying that those crofters were living a pretty miserable life anyway, and it would not have been sustainable for long. Back to Peter Sellars again, "a merciful release".

The views of the coast and Loch Fleet were great. There is something special about hills close to the sea.

On the returning track there was a monument/grave to Frederick William Wignall and wife and son. He died in 1939 and owned the estate. I think they were part of the Tate and Lyle empire. He had the letters LD after his name. I can't Google at the moment, any offers for the interpretation?

Back in Golspie I found the Poppy Coffee shop - buttered jam scone and tea with free wi fi. I managed to send the previous post with the picture. Posting on the blog from this area is proving to be difficult.

In the interest of progress I am going to try and send this then send pictures later if I can?

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Brora Caravan Club

This is a trial to see if I can send a photo with the current Vodafone signal.






My Caravan Club site at Brora. My caravan right of motor home nearest camera. The sea is behind the dunes and you can walk along the shore to the village.

Day 2. Richmond to Brora



I had a leisurely breakfast thinking I was under no pressure having already crossed to the east. I was away up the A1M at 9:00.

Wow! It is an awful long way. Ok I had a couple of stops but distance from Richmond was 374 miles and I didn't arrive until 5:45. Fuel is always a problem in Scotland, you can find yourself many miles from a source. Most opportunities require a detour on the old road through a small village - there are no petrol stations on the side of the A9. Within an hour of Brora I was panicking wanting to fill up in case Brora turned out to be dry. I did find fuel and then saw that Brora has two stations located in the Main Street.

The A9 is a fast road but since I was last there they have installed repeating average speed cameras along most of this road. It is frustrating and demanding on concentration judging whether you remain within the 60mph limit.

There is no Caravan Club wi fi on the site but the warden told me that, mysteriously one can get free wi fi in the Co-op car park in Brora, so I am intrigued to know if this is true. Unless I have wi fi I can't include photos with my posts.
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Thursday morning. In the Coop car park. Wi fi shows up as connected but then I still can't get on the Internet. I had a couple of photos including a plumbing anecdote. I will now try to send this text only post, but I only have two bars Vodafone signal.



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Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Day 1. Arnside to Richmond

Tuesday 21st April

The car started. Arrived Longtons Caravans 9:00 am. Simple cleaning of some contacts that I reckoned I had already done but apparently not well enough.

I was away from Longtons by 9:25. I am booked on at Brora (North East Scotland coast) from tomorrow (Wednesday) for ten nights. My brother who has Altzheimers is in a care home at Richmond so I intend to visit and then if I have time go and climb Burnhope Seat a fairly nearby Marilyn. I have just arrived at Hargill House Caravan Club site near Richmond. More later.




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I visited my brother. That was a sad and emotional three quarters of an hour.

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It was over an hour's drive to the start (NY 775 371) for Burnhope Seat past Barnard Castle and Middleton in Teesdale and out onto one of the best driving roads in the country - sweeping bends mostly with clear views, and much favoured by motor cyclists. There was only the occasional car and I was able to fantasise imagining myself as Stirling Moss with his greatest achievement of being the only non Italian to win the Mille Miglia, a thousand mile road race round Italy.

It was turned 4:00 pm when I set off on the one kilometre steady climb onto the plateau and the unmarked highest point which is a few hundred yards away from the trig point. The extent of visible moorland in all directions was impressive. I went on to visit the trig and the round trip took an hour and twenty minutes.

On the way back I filled up at a vintage dales garage with the only access to the pump on the wrong side for my filler. I just managed to get the tip of the hose into my filling hole and then ended up spilling some diesel up my arm and on my shirt sleeve. I was able to wash this off in the garage, but I reckon my walking shirt will stink of the stuff for the rest of the trip, and even if not I will imagine it does - I may use the washing machine on the site at Brora.





Burnhope Seat trig and Burnhope Reservoir in the distance.

A difficult start

So for the first time ever I decided to hitch the car to the caravan the night before departure. Having done so at 3:00pm yesterday, (Monday) I found that one rear indicator light and the rear side lights on the caravan were not working. Two hours of fiddling with WD40, checking bulbs and dismantling and reassembling multi-pin plugs I ended up with the indicator working, but still no side lights. I then found that I had left the ignition switched on in the car and the battery was flat - it was now 5:30 pm and Gimmer was due to arrive at 6:00 pm for a meal and evening chat. I rang Green Flag for a home start up. Gimmer arrived and we prepared a meal which involved oven chips - at the point with eight minutes oven time left Green Flag arrived. The car was started, but then needed a minimum half hour's run to re-charge the battery. Oven chips were now ready. We left the car on tick over and bolted our food then went off on a tour of my domain.

It is now 8:00am (Tuesday) and I am taking the caravan to Longtons at Carnforth to see if they can fix the lights. At worst I can still depart providing I avoid driving in the dark, but I would prefer to have things fixed properly. All this has destroyed my overall plan for this first day of my trip to Scotland (more of that later), but now I must go out and see if the car will start up this morning - wish me luck.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Preparations




The clips were removed at my gp's surgery last week after my recent appendics operation. The practice nurse is a wise, middle aged, no-nonsense matron type. Beforehand I wanted to query the advisability of my forthcoming trip to Scotland to climb some Marilyns which would be three and a half weeks after the operation, and then embarking on a three hundred mile backpack later in May. Confronted with Wise Pragmatic Nurse I had the pessimistic sickening feeling of possible outright condemnation.

"Hill walking?" she asked sharply.

 "Yes." 

 "Do what your body tells you and use your common sense."

That was a relief. But now I am not sure if Common Sense and Body are battling it out between themselves both trying to fool each-other.  When I posit a sort of opinion pole on friends and acquaintances by idly sketching out my plans I sense thinly disguised thoughts assessing me as ill-advised, stupid, mad or obsessed beyond help. Well, I'm going anyway.

The complicated medical history of Left Leg has resulted in me having to wear hideous knee length, black compression stockings (forever). At first I thought this would preclude me from my preference for walking in shorts on summer backpacking trips, but then I hit on the idea of knee-length socks to cover the depressingly medical looking blackies.

On Wednesday I was on a mission to purchase long socks and soon discovered two things - firstly, since outdoories stopped wearing breeches back in the fifties long socks are now rare, and  secondly there seems to be a dearth of size Large socks in general (I wear size ten to eleven shoes). Gaynors in Ambleside had some monster long socks apparently designed for going to the South Pole, but not in my size anyway, and costing over £20. The Climbers Shop shook their head and advised me to go to a farmers' welly shop. Down the road at Blacks a pleasant young asian girl responded to my request as casually as if I was asking for a loaf in a bread shop - she went straight to a rack and took off  a pack of Peter Storm Midweight Knee Length Hiking Socks in a tasteful shade of blue, two pairs for £16. I was well suited.

Earlier at Lakeland Outdoors near Staveley I had had another abortive sock search, but found myself casually looking, with no intention of buying of course, at a good selection of trail shoes. As is often the case prices were not easy to see, but I picked up the pair I thought were most suited for me and then found that my impeccable taste had selected the most expensive ones on the rack, and of course I am now their new owner. Most trail shoes have silly names - Trail Blaster, Ventilator, Quadra, Intercept etc., but my new ones are exclusively low profile, just having their brand name alone: Scarpas.

Big Brother, RR, must be anticipated here before he adds a high flown crit. of my addiction to fashionable, pseudo scientifically designed outdoor gear taking precedence over the metaphysical attributes of great open spaces, but my previous footwear has worn out, and even though I am not normally concerned about my appearance from a fashion stance I do not want to be backpacking looking like a model from a medical supplies catalogue. 

Monday, 6 April 2015

Easter 2015

Yesterday I wallowed in my convalescence. Daughter High Horse and son W arrived with granddaughter Katie.  HH, unaided, cooked us a full scale Easter chicken dinner - that was after the egg hunt.

Tomorrow I go to my gp's nurse to have the stitches removed from my appendics operation ten days ago and all seems to be progressing well. I had booked the caravan at Brora (NE coast Scotland) to go and do some Marilyns there from 22nd April, but that is now looking doubtful, but if I do feel anything like I will take proper medical advice before making a decision. I have further plans for a 300 mile backpacker but we will have to see.