Tuesday 29 March 2011

Steall Hut,Glen Nevis .

5th/6th March 2011.

This is one from 2 weeks ago as we almost get on top of our backlog of trips.Hooray! It has another title though.....

                           The Secret Diary of a hot hut Bunny!

I already knew the forecast for this particular  weekend,a grim windswept hell above 1000 feet,. but decided to go anyway as its an interesting area with a nice but basic hut (almost a locked bothy really) and over 20 Munros on its doorstep.
I`d been here many times over the years but didn't have that many good photographs of the area as I was more into bagging hills then than clicking cameras.(silly me!).The forecast was for heavy snowfalls and strong winds but I had a sneaky plan that would make the forecast irrelevant.
Travelling through Fort William  then parking at the top of Glen Nevis at the road end our club geared up in the dark with head torches and rucksacks and walked in Friday night.

Five of us walked in along the narrow ledges high above the gorge.Gordon ,Julian,Gavin, Graham and myself.Its an impressive and popular walk under the highest mountain in Britain,Ben Nevis at  4,400 feet.First you have the twisting  path,usually walked in daytime,then a flat meadow section, then the wire bridge to the hut and then lastly a spectacular close up view of one of the highest and best waterfalls in the UK.

This is what the path looks like in daytime.We did it in the dark.Such brave boys!

The bridge is pretty easy if you are used to it even in driving rain and a howling wind and we were soon in the hut,sadly only open to climbing club members.( Quite right ,keeps the riff raff out  :0 )

Mind you if you do fall off broken ankles or drowning under a heavy rucksack is a possibility.Prince Charles has even crossed it a good few years ago if I remember.
Once in the hut drink and grub appeared and was duly scoffed.The gas fire was coaxed into life,candles were lit and things got dry and cosy again.Everyone settled back to enjoy being indoors on a wild  night.

In the morning OS maps were produced and Gordon (good grief he`s keen!) and a rather less enthusiastic but willing Julian set off through knee deep snow to do the set of Munros above the hut called the Ring of Steall.Given the conditions I though getting to the top of anything that day would be a herculean effort but it takes all sorts.
I was once pretty keen myself in the old days and had many juicy moments thrashing along icy ridges before I discovered my one true love...the sun.
Not believe me.Here's one from the vaults of an epic November traverse of the Anoach Eagach.We came down in the dark totally shattered.In those days I had those strange fleeting things....youth and energy.

Anyway our keen twosome geared up and prepared for the happy storm outside.When they looked askance in my direction however I could equally happily reveal my chosen team role.I was also in bagging mode and was relieved to see no one had  sneaked in first and claimed my prize.
"Good news boys! I`m your weekend  Hot Hut Bunny.Have a great day outside!"
The penny didn't drop so I had to elaborate.In short I would be a base camp/domestic goddess service rolled into one.I would selflessly stay behind to clean the hut,collect buckets  and bottles of water from the stream for washing flushing and drinking,change the gas bottle,open tins of food (mainly mine) and raise the alarm if they didn't return.A volunteer is worth ten paid men!
I would even provide hugs and kisses for the troops on their return (they declined this service :o(  and threw in a free complimentary triple bucket full flush for the outside loo.( they used this after the main meal--- better flushed than sitting stuffed I always say.

I was not alone in body swerving the conditions outside however...Gavin and Graham, normally keen hill walkers themselves watched the snow falling in disgust till after lunch then decided to cut their losses,driving home to be with family instead of spending any more  time festering.
I had already been out of course.As part of my duties capturing departures of my brave troops was high on  the tick list.Here's one of Jools and Gordon crossing under the waterfall to start their ascent.

Such gallant boys!
I was then able to join Gavin and Graham on the walk out.I`m actually still keen myself to embrace wild conditions as long as its  semi sheltered,photogenic and interesting.I even suggested taking the little known lower gorge trail,the original and harder path below the main tourist route

.Few people use this now so its slippy,crumbling and awkward in places especially with a large rucksack.I didn't have one of course as I was only out for a ramble.

As luck would have it the rain and slush battered down.Good fun none the less.No casualties to report.
I said goodbye to the boys with a cherry wave at the car then doubled back up the gorge to the bliss of my new found kingdom.
Miss Chatelaine returns.
Unpacking my apron and fluffy mittens I spent the rest of the daylight hours cleaning the bridge, dusting the waterfalls exploring the meadow area then reading my lovely heartbreaking book which I`d been keeping  for just this occasion.
 Just before dark the two boys staggered back through the still falling white stuff with tales of storm force winds on the ridge,waist deep snow and zero visibility even with ski goggles on.No new Munro's alas!
"There there,never mind "I consoled".Have a chocolate chip cookie instead boys. Mummy feels your pain."

Saturday night saw another keen mountaineer Craig arrive across the bridge and Jools breathed a sigh of relief knowing he could now bow out and still leave Gordon with a willing snow wader to take turns shuffling upwards.
With a captive audience I took the opportunity,later on that night to provide another, much needed service for the troops.
Night time entertainment!
No not that! Heaven forbid.I`m a good boy me!
Singing I mean!
Dame Vera Lynn would expect nothing less.
Being a rather shy chanteuse with an average voice however the songs I picked to sing had to have a certain lyrical edge to them.I didn't want anyone falling asleep on me.My cheery little tales of evil deeds,unnatural acts and grief induced mad carnage seemed to do the trick in keeping them alert.You cant beat a good mix of foot stomping classics and dark, slow family destruction ballads.
Next day was even worse than Saturday.Winds of eighty miles an hour on the ridges,snow even heavier,brave boys still going out.
Gods tender bits in a vice! Never in my puff have I seen men so keen for a battle with the elements!
It was a perfect day for those further away Munro's miles up the glen they  both decided as these also were new mountains that had to be bagged.This was also the reason Alex had called off at the last minute because he knew he wouldn't be ticking off anything without major pain and discomfort and he`s not THAT keen !

Off they went across the bridge again with a last wave.Even this was encrusted with snow ice resting on the wires.Cold on fingers or wetting on gloves at the start of the day.Hug Hug, Kiss Kiss,bye bye. Miss Chatelaine will  look after all your nice toys for you...I pods,car keys,money etc..Its the least I can do.
Jools and myself then stayed behind quietly reading our chosen books in the comfort of the hut.Mine... wicked witch...His..how to be a better lumberjack.
Time passed quickly and before we knew it the boys were back  mid afternoon with epic tales of hummock crawling,snowdrift wading and river jumping.It was so bad they hadn`t even reached the dizzy heights this time or maybe that was part of the cunning plan in a 10 km approach hike through deep snow.Never mind...
hug hug,kiss kiss welcome back..You want all your stuff back again?....  Really?.... oh ok.
We then packed up and headed back down the gorge to Glasgow.A great weekend to be in the mountains  during what may be the last big  snow storms of the winter.I`m soo glad I didn`t spend it festering all weekend on my bum.Thats soo totally unlike me.I`m a bonafide Chatelaine me!
The names Bunny. Mr Hot Hut Bunny to my friends and those who have had the pleasure.......
of my services.

A couple of pics from Gordon.



A wee video....

Wednesday 23 March 2011

Trahenna Hill and Quothquan Law.

30th January 2011 


Just a quick trip report to ease the backlog :)

Nothing to promising weatherwise today so we decided to stay local and low.A quick jaunt down to the Biggar area for Trahenna Law with Bob and John K.
The summits were clear and it didn`t rain but there was a baltic wind which is why there isn`t even a summit pic.
We parked in the community hall car park on the edge of the village and then took the track up to Broughton Place.I`m sure this is a misprint and should be Broughton Palace as it it is one huge pile of a country house.

Wandered up the glen ....

...and then took the shoulder up to Hammer Head and followed the ridge around to the cairn.You can see Bob protecting his face from the cold wind in this pic....

Ten minutes in a nook below the summit was enough for us and we headed off due south to have a look at the old fort for a while before following what seemed to be an old railway line back along the banks of the River Tweed to Broughton. Scotland acted the pig once more and as we arrived back at the car the sun came out :) Not wanting to waste it we wondered what to do.A few years ago I had watched the sunset from Quothquan Law and suggested we do the same again.

The River Clyde snakes it`s way northwards from  Quothquan Law.....

John at the top waiting for the sunset..

Alas,after some nice late evening light the sunset didn`t really turn out to be anything special.

Sun sets behind Tinto....

So,it was time we headed for home....

Tuesday 15 March 2011

Glen Roy.Roybridge.

Another trip up north from a few weeks back (mid January I think)  this time exploring the Glen Roy area north of Fort William,a region which has some nice remote bothies in a very wild empty landscape.

Walked in Friday night in the dark with fuel for the fire split between three of us.No Alex this time,he was busy elsewhere that particular weekend.The temperature was well below freezing but clear and crisp.Still needed the GPS to find the bothy though as its  hidden on a dark hillside even one covered in snow.

Good night was spent in the bothy which has a wood burning stove.Normally I`m not a fan of these contraptions as nothing beats an open coal fire to gather round but this one was unusual in that you could open the door from time to time for a look see without it dying on you.

It takes away some of the magic without an open fire if the focal point is a warm but shut tight lump of metal.
Even with candles bothies can be dark places without the cosy glow of a fireplace.
Mind you its a lot better than no fire at all when the temperature is minus -12 outside.

Morning was clear and sparkling.Jules and Scott ,my bothy companions,headed back to the car via the hills above the bothy while I was happy tidying up then walking out along the glen with good views of the parallel roads.

These tide mark lines were formed during the last ice age when a glacier blocked the natural flow of water creating a large deep dam.Eventually it melted leaving tidemarks like in a bathtub.
Seen a large flock of snow buntings on the walk out,dancing between the hollows and ridges with their tinkling musical song.No pictures, far too restless and flighty over open ground.If you haven't seen them think sparrows with white breast and wing patterns.Mind you its a long time since I seen a large flock of sparrows.Them and starlings used to be a common sight in their thousands in my childhood but due to a number of factors you are lucky to see them in any numbers now.
I can remember going into Glasgow city centre at Christmas time and hearing huge numbers of birds above warming themselves on the strings of Christmas lights.Most cities then had close on a million birds each every winter.Its a bit sad to see them so few in number nowadays

When I got back to Glasgow found this wee bird in the local park.For some spring will not arrive.
On the bright side `,m a taddy daddy again as another amphibian `maybe even the same one) has dumped its load of spawn in my pond for the second year running.Yippee! A summer spent among the little froggy folk again!
On the way back in recent trips I,ve been taking an interest in all the roadside sculptures springing up.Most of these are by Glasgow based artist Andy Scott who has been active for years with works as far afield as Australia as I found out with one of his works."The loaded dog" planted outside the  Whyalla vet surgery in South Australia.I`ve always admired his projects starting with the heavy horse on the M8.

Captured this recent example at Cumbernauld. She`s called" Arria" after the original Gaelic meaning of Cumbernauld as the coming together of waters.As anyone whose paid a visit to this new town on a wet windswept day can testify ,the name is apt as it sits high on its ridge.
He`s an exciting artist with a lot of different  public projects coming out over the next few years.

This is not one of his but a good likeness of our former MP and First Minister Donald Dewar.Unusually for a politician he was well liked by most folk,maybe this is why the kids find him irresistible for late night high jinks even when he stands on a lofty plinth.It could only be Glasgow!


Here`s one of Scotts pics from their day on the hills above the bothy....

Tuesday 8 March 2011


5th February 2011.


Hiya all.Still working through the backlog of our trips since New Year.Nothing much on the telly tonight until nine pm  so  here`s the next one.This is from a trip a few weeks back.Another outing tagging along with our much  bolder " Jeune Ecole" mountaineering club for us toothless, semi incontinent older guys.

This time to the frozen north of Scotland at Dundonnell near  the seaport town of Ullapool.We were staying at the Smiddy,a climbing hut which sits under the magnificent bulk of An Teallach,one of the finest hills in the UK and in many peoples top ten British mountains list including mine.As we arrived it had a dusting of fresh snow on its soaring ridges and spires.

Its a fantastic area however the weather conditions that weekend were for strong gusting winds and further snow showers so my original idea of climbing this peak for views and photography were ditched for something lower and less life threatening
Fortunately our master bagger Alex had a cunning plan.As several of us had been up the areas Munro's and the Jewels of Assynt in the dim and distant past  crafty uncle Alex swayed the gullible, now reclining happily pissed and stuffed with grub in the hut on Friday evening, by damp sock hypnosis and other mysterious black arts into climbing the lesser known Breabag across the road from Suilven and Canisp.

A carload of four of us,Alex,John,Scott and myself, set off from the hut Saturday morning to do battle with the elements,driving in and out of occasional mist and snow flurries towards the soggy bowels of Assynt.
In good weather this landscape is truly stunning,a rugged plain of low ridges studded with a myriad of interlinked lochans which sparkle and dance in the sun,more water than solid ground.From this boggy wonderland soar isolated sandstone monoliths,thousands of feet into the air in a dazzling array of  shapes and sizes...the Jewels.

Stone pyramids,squat cubes,multi pinnicled ridges and even  mighty sugarloaf Suilven with its comets tail arete flowing gracefully behind.

This sign summed up the weather aptly enough.Bleak gun metal skies with a bitter bone peircing wind once on the heights.On the same day an intrepid pair of younger guys in the club attempted  the traverse of An Teallach but were beaten back before the sharp middle section seen above in  second picture started..A high jaggy ridge is not the best place to be in a near gale in midwinter.However a keen, and frankly bonkers, select few managed eight  Munros over the course of their hut stay,no mean feat given conditions on the summits that weekend.

An uneventful ascent up the lower Breabag with one  final steep climb  up slabby rock onto the broad summit ridge seen us grab our prize then we were off at a canter down  easy snow slopes to the west.A combination of high winds and painful hailstone showers meant the summit was not a comfortable place to linger.Did manage to get these few shots though.Breabag ridges...Stac Polly..Suilven and Canisp from Breabag.

Although I enjoyed the summit in the same reluctant way I always look forward to my bath of ice cubes before breakfast :o) it was also a pity it wasn`t better weather as the views around here are so special and different.I`ve not been up this way for years,Ah well,maybe next time we`ll get the sun as well.
I soon perked up again down at the caves where it was slightly less polar and fingers, face and toes came stubbornly back to life.

Now this was more like it.

No wind,a sudden painful return of body heat in the extremities and dark holes in the ground to explore.A few of us went off in search of bones up back passages so to speak.Having been keen on this for years I had a wee exploration of the interlocked cave system but alas age never sleeps.I don`t remember crawling and squirming through tight holes being so painful in the past but I gave it my best shot anyway, thrusting ahead protected from wildcats by my trusty wraparound caving balaclava and thick gloves.I`m no first time mug me! (wildcats have been known to use these northern caverns from time to time.) Meeting an angry wildcat in a confined space is not to be recommended for a good looking boy like myself.

Sadly I ended up rather grubby for the pub later as I didn`t bring a change of clothes just my ever present sun lotion and  dark glasses so my chances of impressing the local girls were diminished somewhat.
 Well, you  never know......

A good weekend  spent in good company and a cracking warm hut.Shame about the blue skies but then you cant have everything.


Dunno about Bob but I thought it was a tremendous day on the hill.Bit of everything thrown in weatherwise....typical Scottish winter day :)

Some more pics and a video.An Teallach from the old bothy at Fain on the Destitution Road .....

John on the walk in...


In the bone caves....

Finally,just to cheer Bob up,here`s a wee video of the best/worst part of the day :)