Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Hart Fell.Scottish Borders.

As I type this with winter gales and rain yet again lashing the side of the house Sunday the 18th of December 2011 seems a long time ago.Before my surprise Christmas present of a speeding van smashing into my legs and ribcage (thank you kind pedestrian hitter. Its the gift that keeps on giving with free drugs and hospital visits thrown in as extras)  and before all the snow melted and turned everything grey and sodden again Scott had the  idea of doing something interesting and adventurous now that the white mantle had arrived. Alex then had the perfect idea up his sleeve which would combine a Corbett and a Donald with a sporting day out.
At 808 metres( 2651 feet) Hart Fell is the highest point in a rugged area of hills with deep gullies and cliffs  not usually associated with the  rolling Scottish borders.Its more like a forgotten and special part of the Cairngorms.Moffat is the nearest town which we passed on a fine winters morning, sun sparkling on the heights around.It was a few degrees below zero but with little wind present, even high up, it was fun in the sun.
This was the first idea.A grade one gully only a little way up the scenic valley of Black Hope. There was not a lot of snow in it thankfully so it was given a miss.I for one was glad as it looked bloody hard work, steep ,knackering and in the shade coming only fifteen minutes from the car.Next up,,further up this valley, was a grade one ridge which looked  more promising, bright sunshine ,steep and plastered with snow between Upper Coomb Craig and Nether Coomb Craig.Now this was more like it.
The first section was surprisingly steep taken direct but with plenty of good holds.Alex led the way  climbing up with just boots and ski pole while Scott and I stopped to put on crampons.Sometimes when you have a choice of  using Ice axe or ski pole on a route they seem to get in the way of each other so I had as much of a tussle with them as with the climb,finishing that section with the ski pole relegated to a supporting role clamped between my teeth like a pirates sword as I pulled over steep boulders.
 Alex was storming ahead,keen to get bagging.This is the middle section of the ridge.Although fairly short it had good variety to it and was a cracking way up Hart Fell.

On the Arete section looking over towards Redgill Craig and Rotten Bottom.Quite airy in places.

A rare picture of me in action.Thanks to Scott for the photograph and for making me look good in it. Yes..New jacket folks! 
Scott and Alex nearing the top of the ridge.We all enjoyed this way up.It was just hard enough to be interesting without any real difficulty involved. Another reason  for climbing the ridge,if we needed one ,was the evidence of several small slab avalanches in the vicinity.Sometimes easy ground isn,t the best way up.
Above the ridge It came as a bit of a shock to realise we still had a good distance to ascend before we reached the summit.You tend to think of these hills as smaller somehow but this one was hard going in ankle deep snow.Luckily two folk had  been up early and left footsteps for us to follow. We spotted them in the distance eventually  several ups and downs later.Two dark specks in a white and blue world.
Snow makes all the difference to this landscape giving it a real epic scale. Some fantastic views from the summit.Alex then made a detour for his Donald.
We descended down hard snow slopes which we had to dig into with the edges of our boots to get any purchase.It was the way mountain winters used to be.Scott said later it was one of the best hill days he,d had all year.High praise indeed from someone still in the prime of his mountaineering life.
If all Corbetts were as good as this one I,d be a convert.Nuff said.
Thanks to Alex for his insider knowledge and spotting a great way up a hill.
Even met this fell runner out with his dogs.A fantastic day out.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Portencross.Storm Aftermath.

Due to the three Braemar posts this one is a tad delayed.No matter.A few days after the big storm that hit the central belt with winds well in excess of one hundred miles an hour I set off late on the Sunday to see what damage it had inflicted on the countryside.My fence,which has survived many winter storms, was smashed in several places so I knew this had been a big event even in sheltered Glasgow.
As I,d already posted two storms hitting the west coast in previous trips I thought I,d visit something different this time.I wanted to see for myself how the more exposed headlands beyond the beaches and cliffs had coped with increased levels  of wind speed as stronger storms seem to be a yearly occurrence now.

I arrived at the car park in Portencross around lunchtime,after a tasty plate of ham,eggs,Black pudding, fried potatoes, fried bread and tomatoes.(Hey! How did so much fruit get in there?).The reason for the late start was the grim morning.It had now brightened up into a cold, dull afternoon with a raw feel to it.There is not much to do in Portencross unless you are into walking but it just has a nice feel about it even in winter that,s hard to explain.
The hamlet consists of this restored Castle,a ribbon of houses, a few farms and a tiny harbour isolated under the cliffs,sitting on the rocky stump of Farland Head, part of a square, rugged peninsula.The wall of steep wooded cliffs above would provide a bit of shelter I reasoned and also make for good photos.
Sometimes luck comes into the equation however.This group of kayakers were also looking for a sheltered place to enjoy their own Sunday pursuit.It was still choppy however and not a day for visiting the Firth of Clyde Islands.On a calm day this is a good spot for doing just that.The sea equivalent of a bike Its amazing the distance you can travel in a kayak given flat smooth water.
Whenever I see someone in a kayak I  naturally think back to my own trips.Nearly fifteen years ago now a club member(Dave) joined who had a couple of kayaks and equipment gathering dust in his family garage.He was now into climbing full time and was happy to sell them to any club members who wanted them for a knock down price.Alex wasn,t interested.Its always been hills for him.Myself and another club friend Alistair collected them and over the next couple of years had great adventures on calm days exploring the islands of inland lochs,offshore islands,river systems,inlets and coastlines.It was one outdoor sport you could happily enjoy in mist,drizzle and light rain as long as the water was calm.Sometimes this made it even more magical....Loch lomond,s islands and certain west coast sea inlets appearing like vertical terraced kingdoms through the mist.Surreal and magnified, profound shifting glimpses of half guessed locations appearing at random through the murk.Or a large Inhabitant of the deep surfacing close by,sometimes unseen,sometimes visible...then relief if its a seal or a porpoise.(Much larger creatures have been known to glide along under the west coast waters...killer whales and over a dozen species of shark.....Mako, Blue, Porbeagle, Greenland ,Basking...a surprisingly long list.)  A very Interesting site about UK wildlife this link also details several sightings of great white sharks in Scottish waters though none are confirmed by photos.Some of the largest great white sharks in the world however  have been caught in the  Mediterranean and  unlike there we have an abundance of  juicy seal pups.
It was a brave new realm and I was thrilled to be a part of it sitting in my thin lump of fibreglass above immense depths.Out at sea,sometimes,you could just feel deep channels sink below similar to exposure  felt on a large cliff face when climbing.It felt like being a long way from your last runner. A totally different feeling to being in a boat,even a small one.Mind you,at times it reminded me of a  fallen fly on a trout pond.

This is one place that had that effect on me years ago.Imagine a still,silent day with a low blanket of cotton wool hugging the land for miles around.On a midweek day off I paddled alone out to sea  ,turned round and was suddenly confronted by this ancient sea cliff ,at one time battered by waves and storms before the sea level fell to its present state.The ground below the cliffs remained hidden, a vertical wall just seemed to drop straight into the depths,jackdaws and buzzards voices clearly heard from half a mile out as I sat resting on the surface.
After some memorable outings Alistair moved up north when a better job offer came up.I continued solo kayaking for a while but unless you are very experienced at that game and I wasn,t, its a high risk sport. Solo kayakers bagging islands don,t seem to last too long from what I,ve seen and after a couple of  timely reality checks out in the middle of nowhere I packed it in and went back to hillwalking and climbing .I,d already done most of the stuff I could comfortably reach anyway.Adios Kayaks.
The plan was to walk along the bottom of these cliffs and then go round and up near the skyline onto Golden berry hill then come down past Thirdpart farm back to the car.When I came under the Three Sisters however the thought suddenly occurred that I could maybe scramble up the central gully here for a bit of sport.
Although never a stylish scrambler by any means I can, on occasion, creep, shuffle and grunt my way up the odd rock outcrop if the notion takes any ...knees, elbows, bottom.
On closer inspection however  the start of this promising gully was steep, dripping and tangled.Not a pleasant place to be at all.Thankfully these daft notions of adventure occur less and less as I get older.
I soon reached the Goldenberry Woods but was not prepared for what I discovered there.This is a favourite  deciduous woodland walk of mine but roughly one fifth of all the mature trees had either toppled or snapped.Even in the more sheltered city parks in Glasgow several large trees had been uprooted overnight but in this exposed headland wood fallen trees lay in long rows like tipped lines of domino's.It does not take an expert to work out if storms of this magnitude become the norm we will not have many woods left.
In this year alone storms have cleaned out successive pockets of large healthy trees.Even If you plant new ones  the woods get thinner every year this happens reducing the shelter belt provided for the rest.My local park,Dawsholm, set on a hill,has a skyline in places of snapped off mature beech trunks 30 feet up just where the first branches should start.
I,ve seen a few woodland birds in my time but here you could almost feel the stillness.Hundreds of corvids flew above the wood in total silence.Very unusual for this garrulous species.Not one "caw caw"..Maybe fanciful but It reminded me of humans after a major event wandering round looking at their surroundings in shock.No doubt many of these birds had lost roosting trees and annual nest sites.Corvids are one of the most intelligent bird groups.An event like this would be a major event in their life's. It,s been discovered in recent years that Ravens meet up in large numbers to share information.There are far more birds here above this small wood than I,d normally expect for a local population.This is only one end of a so called "super flock" that covered the area above the trees.Mainly rooks I think but other birds seemed to be mixed in as well.....crows,wood pigeons , even jackdaws whose cliff cavity sites were presumably safe from harm.Were they all viewing the aftermath of the storm.? They certainly circled around for long enough.
All I know is that it was quite sad seeing so many hundred year old  giants snuffed out in one day.Lots of work for foresters and tree surgeons though. Even the sunset over Arran seemed subdued.
Scotland,at the moment,finds itself in a fairly stable part of the world weather wise.We just get rain.Lots of it.
Other countries are experiencing more extreme conditions than us as we move into a new age of change.From the early years of this century large sections of the population have been able to distance themselves from the natural world around them like never before.
Mother Nature is still out there though,beyond the city limits,becoming a little wilder and more fickle with each passing decade.Surely we cant ignore her when she taps us on the shoulder like this.
Maybe I,ll live to see the great waves crash against the Portencross cliffs once more.
Forests and mountains rise and fall...sea levels move up and things multiply then die.
May Nature survive,evolving, til the last star falls from these dark heavens.
If humanity is brushed aside in the future new forms of life will spring up to take our place in myriad,radiant abundance.That,s just the way its always been.
Now that,s a happy thought to end with....Is it not :)

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Lochnagar.Meikle Pap.Braemar Weekend.Day 3.

I,ve saved the best for Last.On the Sunday morning It was decided to drive round to Glen Muick.Most folk seemed to have either done the numerous Munro,s here or simply fancied a social day out.The Corbett Conachcraig would receive a mass ascent with everyone present keen to bag it.Alex would have plenty of company for his third Corbett of the weekend.Overnight the wind seemed to have changed direction.Instead of coming gift wrapped from Siberia it was now howling straight down from Iceland.Fortunately we were sheltered at first in the glen and then the path led up through trees past the estate buildings.With the sun out it was the warmest walking yet.Tropical in fact.
Crossing streams is always good fun when the boulders are covered in ice.At this early stage you don,t want wet feet.The veteran members are still pretty nifty at this I have to say and we were across first.Alex forged on ahead,the prize in his sights while I stayed  behind with John to help the others,some without gaiters.
For some reason we seemed to end out in front again.I could see the slopes of the Corbett in front of me and to be honest,yet again it didn't appeal.Just a round lump to my eyes.However Lochnagar with its ring of icy cliffs just peeking up on the other side did. If I was going to go high I reasoned I might as well enjoy it by attempting the most spectacular mountain  in the area.I was surprised when there were no other takers for this fine peak,waving a goodbye to John before he followed Alex up the Corbett.The natural thing seems to be do the Corbetts after the Munro,s.Sadly always seeking the sun and best views,even if you have done them before is a much lonelier occupation.Most clubs have to book or arrange trips to areas well in advance so have to take whatever weather  they get.I don't mind going out myself now and again but its always better with company.
However I seem to be in a club of one at the moment as I follow the golden orb around Scotland.I,m starting to feel like one of those biblical hermits in the wilderness.

The Land rover track up was the usual sheet of ice but if you stuck to the heather it was fine. I went left just past here to start the path up Lochnagar.Lord Byron composed a famous poem about these cliffs ahead of me."The steep frowning glories of dark Lochnagar" is all most folk can remember of it including me.
It started well enough and after another 40 minutes or so I was just about on the ridge.The wind by this time was howling over the slopes about 50 to 60 miles an hour  and the gusts made it hard to see never mind walk in a straight line.Still in my autumn gear and frame of mind I wasn,t really prepared for the sheer ferocity of the conditions up here.I didn,t have thermal long johns with me under the trousers,snow goggles, crampons or a face mask,only a thinsulate hat and gloves. The top half was fine but my legs were freezing even with waterproof trousers on which told me the windchill must have been pretty severe.At a guess about -20 to -30 on the summit slopes.Maybe more.I could have done with my pull on woollen  face mask balaclava.Not trendy but still one of the best items of kit for conditions like these.This must have been what those Corbetts were like.I thought too myself.Only lower and  more boring :)
I was glad I,d given them a miss.I looked across at where the rest of the club were but couldn't see anything through the conditions.There was a fair amount of high speed spindrift and hailstones hitting me in the face by this time with much darker conditions approaching.I took a photograph of the summit area while it was still clear.
This was my high point.I,d already done Lochnagar a couple of times anyway and when I was blown off my feet for a second time,just missing a boulder and falling awkwardly I thought stuff this.I,m experienced enough to know when to pull back and my reaction times are not nearly as fast as they used to be if I go over suddenly.On my own up here I wouldn't last long in this wind.I could hardly feel my face and legs anymore so I turned tail and descended into a hailstone shower now blowing uphill straight  into my eyes again.Typical wild ridge conditions. The summit  then disappeared in cloud behind me.
Keen to get out of the wind I cut down into the corrie for a closer look at the cliffs.I hunkered down in a hollow waiting for it to clear again.One good thing about a strong wind is that mist can,t stay in one place.  Eleven long minutes later........
This is Eagle ridge.The first time I climbed Lochnagar was as a Munro Ascent.The second time was up this ridge in the middle of the picture.In summer its a 750 foot severe grade classic rock climb..A Fantastic mountain experience.In winter conditions  its normally grade V1 6. Way beyond my limit. Not the first time someone has been benighted on it attempting it in winter.Imagine being stuck up there in the dark on a  tiny ledge.Scary stuff.
I was still in the relentless wind down here though so kept going up the shoulder of the outlying spur of Meikle Pap.This is a satellite peak of Lochnagar with a grandstand view of the corrie.Here I found a boulder to hide behind to give my legs and face time to recover.Its a long while since I,ve been out in conditions like this.It used to be a regular occurrence.Oh, How I,ve missed it :)
After ten minutes and a couple of almond slices I staggered my way to the Tor like summit of Meikle Pap.
Relief came quickly as I dropped off the back out of the wind and had an uneventful descent apart from one unexpected ,legs up in the air back flop after a slip on hidden ice under a thin coating of fresh snow.Luckily I landed on my rucksack, Mr Kipling and my half frozen water bottle taking one for the team instead of my spine.
I got a good view of nearby Broad Cairn, spindrift ripping in long sheets off the summit.Its a big round beast of a hill but its hidden asset is its northern cliffs.Creag An Dubh Loch.The single biggest face in the Cairngorms.At  almost a thousand feet high  in places and close to a mile long I,ve only climbed here once.Mousetrap VS.600 foot of near vertical crack lines and slabs.Alex has climbed here too at HVS or E1  I think.Along with Black Mamba VS these are the easy routes here.Needless to say I haven,t been back.
When I arrived back at the car park everyone else had gone.Alex had been waiting  for an hour but as it was his car we,d used  for the weekend he had a  warm place to sit at least.It would be getting dark soon and there had been another light fall of snow making the roads icy.We didn,t waste any time heading for home just in case it snowed further and they shut the snow gates at Glenshee. This was the highest point the road reached on the drive home.Its a ski resort but it was a couple of weeks too early in the season for ski-ing.Plenty of ice but not enough snow.
The Perthshire town of Blairgowrie looked really nice with all its Christmas lights up.We stopped here for petrol and munchies briefly.The heads of countless jelly babies were bitten off and savagely swallowed on the journey home before small soft  bodies slithered wailing down the pit to join them.
Hard conditions breed hard men! Men with no mercy!

Monday, 12 December 2011

Muir Of Dinnet.Burn O Vat.Braemar Weekend. Day 2.

Day two at the hut in the Cairngorms dawned similar to day one.Strong cold wind,risk of snow,severe wind chill on the heights around minus -15 to -20 at a guess.The previous night a few of us had thrown down the gantlet to some of the younger members.In our Munro bagging days we ( John, Alex and  myself ) had climbed Carn A Mhaim, Ben Macdui and Derry Cairngorm in a days walk in  full winter conditions from here then the next  day we,d bagged Beinn A Chaorainn and Beinn Bhreac before driving back to Glasgow.A good weekend.
"Of course every generation is weaker than the last." It was declared to the room.
When sitting in a corner,poked with a stick or thumped with a cushion to see if we are still alive or how much dust comes off us...well ,sometimes we are forced to bring out the big guns....and rely on past glories.
This challenge was taken up by Graham, Gordon and Phil who set the alarm accordingly for a  predawn start in the dark.They had still to do this latter pair of Munro,s with a bog like high plateau  of tussocks between them. Hard going in deep snow.
I was up early as well.One of the duties of the hut is to feed the wildlife refilling the empty feeders  hanging outside with nuts.Even before I,d filled them there were 20 hungry coal tits waiting nearby.A bird of the pine forests.Poor little buggers.
Alex had in mind another Corbett,Morven,near Milton of Whitehouse, but when we got there in the car it didn,t  inspire me as much as the scenic country we,d just passed through.I have to say this hill looked as interesting as the Corbett the day before.Identical Twins in fact.On a calm day I,d be tempted for the views but If anything the wind was even worse today. I would have felt obliged to go up this time with him  though but luckily he had company in the shape of John and Julian.Two equally committed Corbett catchers.
Off they went up the hill and I happily retraced the minor road on foot we,d driven up through fields of colourful pheasant's,cows,partridge,  rooks and a few nervous roe deer.After a mile this changed to a track through Caledonian pine forest,the sun came out,the wind dropped and it felt like an autumn day again instead of a deep freeze.

Although I didn,t have a map for this area we had passed the Muir Of Dinnet Nature Reserve and this was where I was now heading a few miles back down the road. I soon found a grassy track that led through the woods and took me out at Loch Davan.See map below.

Over the years I,ve been all round the Cairngorms, mainly climbing, walking and backpacking at high level in the past so it made a nice change for me to do some low level stuff.I,d never done before.This whole area has been sculpted in the past by glaciation of course.This is a subject I,ve got more into recently finding,somewhat belatedly,that to really understand the landscape you are looking at it helps if you know a little of how it was formed.The two lochs here are large Kettle holes formed by stranded lumps of ice as mentioned in my Renfrewshire post a few weeks back.Some of the Nature Reserve is made up of rows of Eskers,snake like ridges between 5 to 20 metres high caused by melt water channels inside the glacier leaving these winding heaps of  pushed up moraine behind.As I,d already discovered there are good examples of these features around Falkirk and
This is Loch Kinord which has a trail you can walk round and several helpful information boards dotted about which explain the landscape you are looking at.It dovetailed nicely into my own current interests.
Years ago I,d watched a strange but  compelling film called Pi about a mathematician who believed there were set patterns everywhere in nature.Mathematical equations in fact. They were not random and if you could only see these patterns of numbers you could understand the very rules of nature itself. Its an unforgettable, bonkers film.A work of fiction ,but it came back to me suddenly during this walk.For those interested in what its about. .
Don,t think there,s another film quite like it.Seemingly Inspired by the true story of two brothers who built a supercomputer inside their house, then grew increasingly obsessed with cracking the secret of Pi. Kate Bush also wrote a song about it on her jazz flavoured CD Aerial.

Anyway...This is a bracket fungus with layers of growth on it just like the tree it grows on has growth rings inside.

This is a stone found near Loch Davan.Do stones grow? :) Probably formed by layers of lava cooling and contracting perhaps,or some sort of pressure.Just a guess.They both look like hamburgers with a cheese topping layer on the fungi.
A Scot,s pine tree.The bark (lower left) looks very like the way jigsaws are made.Were early jigsaws inspired by these natural patterns as they would have been hand carved originally by people familiar with all types of wood?.Or is that idea too far fetched?
The Ceilidh.A traditional Scottish affair.Many of the dances seem to mimic the natural world around.The figure of eight movement resembles bees in a hive which do a similar dance with other bees watching to tell them where the best flowers are.Likewise both arms raised high and curving during certain dances are just like red deer and antlers.A lot of the early inspirations  must have came from nature.Seeing patterns that produced a spark of inspiration for something else.

I spotted this tree creeper nearby.A bird that has been called a flying mouse as it creeps round and round a tree starting near the base then spiralling upwards looking for spiders,incests and seeds til it  reaches the top of the trunk then off it  flies to a new one to repeat the process.It even likes to nest inside the bark and sleeps squeezed into a crack or crevice,often in redwoods which they love.As such its body is flattened.Hard wee bird to get a chance photo of as it flits round to the other side of the trunk as soon as it spots you so I,m fairly pleased with this.

I rejoined the others for the walk into the Burn O Vat.Having done their Corbett they were now happy to indulge in some low level stuff.Its an interesting  formation, only a short distance from the road..Formed in a similar way to the Punch Bowl. .ie rocks finding a fault in stone then swirling around over countless years to create a depression then ,in this case, a large chamber.I,ve seen similar structures deep underground,caving in the Mendips and Peak District many years ago.They were still filled with water but this one had  only a little burn now and was filled with sand and debris.If you emptied it out it would probably go down 10 to 20 feet more.You can see the top edges here.
The entrance hole we came in through is just left of the boulder in the top middle of the picture.That gives you some idea of the scale.A good day for all concerned.The rest of the hillnabbers arrived back at the hut at various times depending on how far the walk and drive was.The night passed with cards,books, food and swally.
Graham,Gordon and Phil arrived back in the dark,looking suitably drained I,m pleased to say,two new Munros to tick off.
"Wasn,t hard." they told us,peeling off numerous frozen layers to sit at the fire.
"I know.Told you it wasn,t" We replied.
"Heard you didn,t do a hill today Bob?.Were you sick?"
Tis the duty of each new generation to walk over a carpet made up of the feeble  groaning bodies of the last.Such is life!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Glen Quoich.Braemar Weekend.Day 1.

A change from the central belt this week.Although it went against my natural inclination for outdoor activity(Mission statement -stay warm and dry if possible,have fun and adventure,photograph and see things of interest on my travels) I joined Alex for our club,s monthly winter hut weekend trip,this time to Inverey.A small hamlet just west of Braemar.As a climbing club they had booked a climbing hut here on the eastern side of the Cairngorm mountains.The highest,windiest,coldest, most snow wrapped Plateau in the United Kingdom.Windchill can often reach minus-30 to minus- 50 degrees on the summits and wind speeds of 140 plus are also  fairly common in the winter months. Scotland being the country with most days of wind in Europe anyway.  Lucky me!
Fortunately the hut was a cracker with a large wood burning stove in the common room,several extra room heaters and a splendid kitchen.There was also a log store out back with a large supply of handy sized stove fodder to which we had the key.Myself and Alex went up from Glasgow around 10am on Friday..The forecast was for high winds and snow showers throughout the weekend.
There was only one problem.We had to do a hill! Damn! I knew there was a downside somewhere.
Alex had a Corbett in mind not far away.We drove round and surveyed the hallowed heights
Call me picky but  the sight of it (See above) didn,t exactly fire me with enthusiasm.There was a strong, bone chilling wind even down here at road level and it really didn,t appeal to someone who wasn,t counting Corbetts with the same verve as Alex.I got ready just the same.It would be dark in a few hours.
"You,re not going to enjoy this are you?" He asked.
"Nope!"  Honesty is always the best policy I believe.
"I don,t mind doing it on my own if you fancy something else instead."
I did.Glen Quoich.We were parked at the entrance and I eyeballed those  pine trees and sheltered banks like a hampster in a hailstone shower.I was a  heat seeking golden furry blur in  green gore-tex.
"Cheers.See Ya.Have a nice Day!"    I,m a desert animal me.Its my natural habitat-lurking in woods,sheltered meadows and gorges if its a freezing cold wind.Why suffer that when you don't have to is my motto.Why go up things when you just have to come down them again?
"I,d best be off then"  Even Alex didn,t appear too happy at this prospect but he started up the faint path anyway,knees bent into the teeth of the gale.Just as well. He,s bored in woods and sunny meadows.He likes it grim and tough. A challenge.......And it was :)
Even in the glen I was hunched up inside my gore-tex jacket like a tortoise trying to get further back into its shell,wishing I had a full set of thermal underwear on and another fleece or two.It was a raw day. The air temperature was only about -2 below but in the gusts of wind it probably dropped to -10 below if not more.I,ve been out in -20 below on a still day in deep snow and this felt colder. A lot colder.It seemed to suck heat from your body in a different way.These pictures look green.The reality was blue.
This is the Famous Punch Bowl in Glen Quoich.For some reason I thought it would be bigger.Still an interesting formation though caused by small rocks caught in a hollow over countless years swirling around and eventually carving out a deeper hole in the stone by water action.The Princess cottage is nearby.Once the playground for Queen Victoria,s Children and subsequent royal visits Now sadly boarded up but still part of the estate.
This is higher up the glen looking across at Morrone or Morven.It has two names , presumably as there is another hill in the vicinity called Morven. Its another Corbett,one we,ve both done though.I watched some  light spindrift whipping off the summit of this and thought of Alex struggling upwards across his own windswept  lofty lump.I had to smile. I was so happy I wasn,t counting Corbetts.Great decision all those years ago facing life after the Munro,s.
                                                 If its good- go high. If its crap- stay low.
If you follow this glen all the way it leads you onto the shoulders of Beinn A Bhuird.The highest summit in the Eastern Caringorms and home to the Garbh Choire.One of the remotest corries in the National park.Here lies Squareface a classic 320foot V Diff rock climb in an exposed and spectacular position near the summit of the mountain.Alex and I have both slogged into it at different times to climb this route during our days of  bagging classic rock. Its suitable for a mountain bike and a good track.Sadly we did it in the days before this labour saving device was around. I wasn,t planning on going that far today.There was only a few hours of daylight left and I was  happy with the more sheltered glen walk.

I was already looking forward to my dinner at the hut.We knew  in advance we would be the first to arrive.It takes a couple of hours with the stove on to actually get any heat in the place for the others arriving later on that evening after work.One of our group, Neil ,was already in the area though,having spent the previous night in a bothy with a boisterous group of Aberdonians to the west of Inverey.I arrived back at the car just ten minutes before Alex so that was good timing.
A warm night was spent in the hut, feeding meals,drink,nuts biscuits and logs into various open orifices at intervals.Oh and Alex bagged his new hill.Well done to him.
The other reason for doing different things of course is that we now both have contrasting and different posts.
See Scotland's Mountains when he gets his digits thawed out.
The hut at Inverey.It snowed again during the night.