Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Munros Completed

Just back in the office after a couple of weeks up in the north west, and a final push to complete my first Munro round. Some very long days in Fisherfield, Glen Affric and Strathcarron, followed by 3 hills in Ben Alder Forest on 25 June to complete on Aonach Beag.

I was blessed by good weather and the hire of a camper van meant I was at the start of every walk early in the day, with somewhere for a brew, food and a sleep when I got off the hill.

Every day in this final push was memorable. Great weather, and cool breezes which kept the midges away, made for some great days on the hill.

There were plenty of reminders about the influence of MCofS and how it has worked hard over the years to represent mountaineers' interests.

Walking into Fisherfield by Loch a'Bhroain reminded me how MCofS had acted to help end the proposed Shieldaig Hydro Scheme. Then there was a stay at Bendronaig Bothy where the Attadale Estate still have the 'Taking a Slice out of Cheesecake' MCofS news release from 2002 pinned to the wall. I left a note in the Bothy Book suggesting that times have moved on and we now live in expectation that the Scottish Government will act to end the vandalism of some estates by insisting on the introduction of appropriate planning measures for hill tracks.

In saying that, Bendronaig is a great bothy, with sardines and bog rolls provided by the estate, and easy access to Bidean a Choire Sheasgaich & Lurg Mhor. Respect to them for providing the bothy. (I did say thank you in the Bothy Book).

I also reflected on why some approaches to Munros have escaped the notice of our friends at the SMC over the years. Maybe those guide books were written in the days when we had no access legislation and shooting estates were able to influence guide books! Now all have to have to respect legal rights of responsible access. Of course, MCofS played a major part in influencing that as well.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Give Me The Hills!

Set off early on Saturday for what promised to be a great day on Ben Alder. Up before the alarm at 4.30, I was at Dalwhinnie crossing gates for 6.30 and then the cycle into Culra. I was at the summit of Ben Alder by 10.30 having taken the Long Leachas ridge to the plateau. I'd enjoyed the mild scrambling and the sunshine on the ridge. By contrast there was no sun at the summit - clouds had come in from the west, providing a thin veil which the sun was unable to penetrate.

On and down to the Bealach Breabag then the pleasant ridge along to Beinn Bheoil by 12.30. I'd been fortunate to see four ptarmigan - including one apparently lone female on the plateau, then a pair and lone male on the second Munro - followed by a pair of dotterel as I left the cairn.

I was back at the car by 15.30 after a memorable day.

On Sunday I had decided to continue painting the outside windows on my cottage. This has been an ongoing project since 2002, the property being (I suspect) a typical hillwalker's house, suffering from a certain lack of attention from the paintbrush.

With the rain on I decided to head for B&Q and realised why I like the solitude of the hills so much. The crowd was so great there was even a queue for the shopping trolleys.

'Give Me The Hills' I thought, with thanks of course to Syd Scroggie.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Signs on the Corryhully Horseshoe - Helping Who?

You may remember the comments in the media last year about waymarking on the hills - apparently considered by some commentators as an ideal solution for helping out hill walkers who might not be able to navigate with confidence. That debate seems to have died down - although there's bound to be a resurgence when we get into the political recess this summer!

I was out last weekend on the Corryhully Horseshoe, and surprised to find some neat little directional signs had been provided, presumably by the estate, to direct walkers on to the ridge. Sure enough, the signs pointed to the start of the stalkers path up Sgurr nan Coireachan, and to the start of the ridge heading up Sgurr Thuilm, where I headed.

Talking in the MCofS office this afternoon, it occured to me that placing these 'helpful' signs will help some, but also put off others who might wish to exercise their rights of access to all parts of these wonderfull hills. While many will be content with ticking the munros others, with the bothy close-by, may wish to enjoy a different type of experience and wander off that beaten track around the ridge.

Next day, it was down to Glen Creran and Beinn Fionnlaidh. Many would consider this a dull hill, but it's a fantastic viewpoint, albeit a bit of a plod to a rather reticent summit. On the approach there were helpful signs on the tarmac road put up by the landowner (public to the left, private straight-on) obviosuly done at some expense. But there, by a brand new gate with a smaller side-gate for walkers, was a rather crinkly 'CAUTION - STALKING IN PROGRESS' poster in its own glass case!

Whilst I had a fantastic 2 days on the hill, I can't help feeling that we have to keep the SOAC and our rights to access front of mind, even after 5 years has elapsed since the land reform legislation was enacted.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Hilltracks Petition

Just had an email from MSPs Peter Peacock and Sarah Boyack, sponsors of the Hilltracks Petition, to say that after one week a total of 400 people had signed up to the petition which will put pressure on ministers to look at planning legislation relating to these erosions scars.

What a pathetic response from the hill-going community. As usual, hill-goers seem content to sit on the side-lines and wait for others to do something on their behalf.

I've just put a news item on the MCofS website and hopefully Bob at grough and the guys at ukclimbing will pick this up and get more publicity for the petition.

Follow the link http://www.hilltrackscampaign.org.uk/

(Thanks BG)

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Scottish Mountaineer (SM)

SM has to be the best all-round mountaineering mag around. I'm not knocking the competition, because there isn't any. SM is a members-only magazine and the February issue is out today.

Articles cover climbing, hilwalking, mountaineering, clubs, long distance walks, climbing in China (with Dennis Gray), Ben Nevis, SMC huts, our campaign to sign up and save Scotland's wild land from hill tracks, and loads more.

If you're a member of the MCofS you can also win a free skills weekend at Glenmore Lodge by introducing a new member. Entry form comes with the magazine.