Wednesday, 29 April 2009

West Highland Way- look after your feet and you will be fine.

Have recently returned from a week of guiding on the West Highland Way for Macs Adventure. (Sometimes I have to pinch myself- what a job). Like the rest of the group, this was the first time I had done this trip, so was slightly unsure of what to expect from 95 miles of low level walking from Glasgow to Fort William. Some "hardcore" friends and colleagues are a bit rude about Scotland's first long distance footpath. The implication being that a low level walk spread out over 7 days is an easy challenge that anyone can accomplish. However, averaging 14 miles a day, and with no rest days, I expected to feel some pain along the way.

The reality of the West Highland Way is that yes- this is indeed a walk that anyone of reasonable fitness can undertake. There are baggage companies that will carry your clothes for the week and comfortable b&bs along the way. However, it is also a great leveller, as the fittest walkers fell by the wayside in a bloody mess of blisters and compeed, having underestimated the challenge and set off at a cracking pace. Slow and steady is the order of the day- as 95 miles on drovers roads and lakeshore boulders take their toll. And the key- look after your feet. If these survive, it is in the bag. If you get blisters, only your iron will and a lot of painkillers will get you to the end.

Oh, and the views were fabulous, the walking really quite gentle, and the 20 mile day over Rannoch Moor the highlight of the week. Watching Buchaille Etive Mor hove in to view as we descended towards the Kingshouse was a joy. A huge sense of achievement was felt by everyone in the group as we covered the final miles in to Fort William, and rightly so.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Ice cream, otters, beach, oh and some bouldering....

I had a playday today (it is Easter after all) and had my first day off in a while. Ex Arran inhabitant Clare Y (she is a bit good) was up from Sheffield with her mate Tom so we headed down to the beach for some seriously hardcore.... otter cream eating.... and in between climbed some rocks.
Kildonan has got a bit of scope for boulderers, and although the rock needs to be treated with care, it is quite fun. Watch out for the landings though, they can be very rocky and unpleasant.
As we were putting our rockshoes on we became aware of a high pitched whistling and discovered to our suprise a baby otter tucked away behind a rock just metres from our gear. We retreated to a kinder distance (jiggling with excitement- not cool)
and the little fella joined its mum and sibling in the sea. Later, whilst enjoying a well earned ice cream break, we watched the female fishing on the rising tide along the shore.
Arran is home to a lot of otters, how many is not known. They tend to have holts tucked away from view up the burnsides inland, but often forage along the shore and out to sea. The seem less shy and are easier to spot along the coast. A sighting inland is rare.
We did do some bouldering as well, and after lunch we headed down to another venue at the Cleats Shore. Even more esoteric with crumbling rock and cowpats, it is also Arran's nudist beach, although I have never been there on a day that anyone would want to take their clothes off.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Introduction To Navigation

It was a wild and woolly Saturday morning for the start of the Introduction to Navigation course. I had high hopes that we would get some properly foggy conditions- perfect to practice timings, pacings and bearings. The intrepid group headed up to the moorland behind Urie Loch in horizontal rain and howling wind. Unfortunately, although the rain and the wind hardly abated before turning in to hail, the cloud lifted with the passing of the cold front and we ended up with near perfect visibility. We were rewarded with fabulous views to the South from the summit of Tighvein, in between being pelted with stinging ice. All good practice, as you rarely have to do full-on micro nav in nice calm sunny weather!
On day two, we were treated to a glorious sunny day, and made the most of it by heading in to Corie A' Bhradain- a remote (and boggy) corrie that nestles between the horseshoe of the Three Beinns. It is great for practicing naviagation as the gentle slopes are pockmarked and criss-crossed with lochains, stream junctions and ring contours.
We had stunning views of the ominous Meadow Face of Beinn Tarsuinn, and were also treated to a magnificent flypast by golden eagle- I was just able to make out the golden feathers on its head glinting in the afternoon sunshine. Smiles all round!