Monday 25 May 2015

Keen For An Evening Stroll

The other day I decided to go out for an evening bimble, as I am travelling up and down to Aberdeen lately I decided I would catch Mount Keen on the way to Glasgow. I went in from the south from Glen Esk, the route on Walk Highlands looked simple and a incline was fairly gradual.
It was a clear and warm night and the track was obvious so it made for easy navigation.
A couple of miles in there is a well with this structure over it, it was to commemorate the visit of Queen Victoria. She drank from the well, not something I would advise now.
Once passed the cottage beside the Queens Well this is when the track starts to gain some altitude, very gradual and nothing too difficult.
My shadow grew longer and the evening continued to be very pleasant. The views were pretty special.
The summit is pretty rocky and there is a wind shelter that has been constructed which was a welcome relief as it was pretty breezy up there,
As I was making my sunset coffee, to my surprise I heard voices. When I popped my head over I saw two guys with mountain bikes. After a quick discussion it turns out they were running a bit late after making a wrong turn. From here they were heading home and were in danger of missing the take away! I bid them farewell and they set off north. I hope they made it.
Once I got a few shots of the sun dropping I headed back down the path. It was getting late and I had a couple of hours drive once I got back to the car.
After I took the picture below and I was putting my camera I heard a snorting noise. It did kind of spook me for a second. When I was walking back along the track there was then a rumbling, it was a herd of deer. It was actually an awesome sight, of what I could see of it, just a silhouette of maybe about a dozen deer. Very impressive!
The four hours of walking was worth it. The sights and sounds of an evening walk was welcome right now. With the long evenings I hope to do it again soon.

Wednesday 11 February 2015

Navigation: Common Mistakes

Following yesterdays stove mistakes Strong Training Roots have put together a list of common navigational mistakes. I  have seen these and can see these ones happening. I might even be guilty of one or two of them.

This time it was Brunton that commissioned the study into the most common mistakes made when navigating.
Strong Roots Training asked a team of outdoor professionals what are the most common mistakes they have made whilst navigating.

They are listed below: (with my comments)

1. Having the map 180 degrees incorrect when taking a bearing i.e. getting north and south mixed up.
(this could happen quite easily and shouldn't take too long to correct, a beginners mistake I'd say.)

2. Using a compass near metal objects, or near electronic items, causing the magnetic needle to be inaccurate.
(I imagine, especially in recent years, this happens a lot. With the involvement of technology in everything in this day in age. Although, I've read news articles where there was no compass at all because they replaced it with a phone app! No replacement for a map and compass.)

3. Looking at the map all of the time and not looking at visual clues in the real world.
(Andy Kirkpatrick did a post recently on navigation which touched on this. Becoming blinkered and not using features/landmarks to aid navigation is poor map reading in my opinion.)

4. Losing concentration and walking too far when you get to your point - falling victim to confirmation bias. [The tendency to see things that confirm you are right, but miss things that show you are wrong.]
(Hands up, I have done this. Complacency pure and simple.)

5. Only carrying one compass with you  - if one breaks you are stuck.
(I have never carried two compasses, if I'm with a group there is always more than 1. It's attached to my map, so if I loose it I loose both)

Couple of points that sprung to mind when I was looking at the list were -

Magnetic variation, I think there will be a lot of folk that don't know what this is. Still wondering why they always pass a cairn in the mist when they never came off their bearing.

Trying to get the needle to north when taking a bearing from the map, this is something I remember doing when I got outdoors again after a few years not reading maps. It's quite difficult to explain in writing. Basically, with the compass on the map trying to get the needle pointing along the north arrow on the spinning bezel. You start doing pirouettes, until you realise how much of a plonker you are being.

The main one for me is - Trust your compass!
Once you know how to use it, it doesn't lie.

The actual research (not my opinions) will form the basis of the Brunton TruArc Compass Demos that will take place at the Telegraph Outdoor and Adventure Travel show on the Brunton stand [OU1314] on the 12th – 15th February.

More about Brunton visit:

Outdoor Stoves: Common Mistakes

You may have seen the results of this study knocking about on line over the last day or so. I don't know anyone who was part of the survey (not that I'm saying I should or anything like that), it would be interesting to know who the sample audience was.
Swedish stove manufacturer Primus has commissioned a study by Strong Roots Training into the most common mistakes made when using an outdoor stove.

Strong Roots Training asked 1000 outdoor enthusiasts and instructors what were the most common mistakes they had come across when using an outdoor stove.

Here's the results: (with my comments)

  1. Not allowing a stove to cool after use, or forgetting it’s hot before picking it up. (I have hot potato-ed a micro stove to get it packed away in the morning!)
  2. Using the wrong fuel or not checking the gas bottle fits before use. (Not a problem I've ever come up against, threads have always fits and I always make sure the fluid is flammable, I'll get a flame going!)
  3. Setting up to cook on an uneven surface. (Again not something I have had an issue with, it's the first thing I check before lighting the stove and putting a pot on.)
  4. Putting a pan on to boil whilst setting up camp and forgetting about it, allowing it to boil dry and damaging the pots. (Especially when wild camping, water is too valuable to go to waste.)
  5. Refilling a meth’s stove prior to it being extinguished.  Fire! (I can see how this would happen but I don't use meths stoves.)

A situation I have had the misfortune to be involved in is being subjected to the "Tent Rhino"! For those who haven't had this experience, it's when a pot is heating water or a stew and a esteemed member of your outdoor brigade charges passed knocking the contents over the porch's grassy floor or over the groundsheet of the tent! As you can imagine there are some expletives shared, from there it's luck to see what can be salvaged. Stews have been eaten whilst picking out unwanted content.

Learn how to avoid making mistakes with your outdoor stove at the Primus Stove Demos that will take place at the Telegraph Outdoor and Adventure Travel show on the Primus Stand OU 1136 on the 12th – 15th February.

If you're going go check it out. Let me know what you think.

Friday 2 January 2015

Meall Greigh, Meall Garbh & An Stuc then Ben Lawers

Following my last trip I took on Ben More and Stob Binnein I went with the same vein with my next plan, Munro's I haven't summitted (yet). There are a few of these, what I look for though is interesting routes and summits, not to complete the checklist. I found the three Munro route on Walk Highlands.
The start is from the Ben Lawers Hotel, then along the road until you reach a little art gallery. This is where the incline starts, a track that runs by a farm. The farm must've experienced some foot traffic from walkers as they have installed some clear signage.
The sign below was my favourite, using one of BSB's Squarials as the canvas. Brilliant case of up-cycling.
Once directed by the farm and across a stile you are in to a small wood. Lawers burn runs through the wood, alongside the path. Later the burns source will guide me back down into the wood. The stile on the other end reveals the days route, into the Nature Reserve and the initial plan of Meall Greigh, Meall Garbh and An Stuc.
The weather proved to be better than was forecast. Once I was in the play park the weather, views and summits opened up and the day properly began.

The climb to the top of Meall Greigh is slow and steady, looking back over Loch Tay helped the breather stops. As I climbed up, looking across towards my other two goals and Ben Lawers right then I knew I had to include the biggest hump. It would be rude not to do the fourth.
At the first summit I got a bit snap happy but I couldn't help it as the view was too good. From here the route doesn't loose a lot of altitude. So I cracked on.
As I wandered along the track, taking in the surroundings I noticed the cloud moving in from the north. I've seen this before but you never know how long the blanket will last. Along with this there was a lot deer making a lot of noise.
As the path went on I noticed down below a herd of the fine looking beasts bound towards the incoming cloud. They disappeared then I was engulfed.
And then it was gone, it passed as quick as it blew in. The views opened up again. There'a a couple of points where it gets a bit boggy. There is a point where you cross a particularly moist area.  Make sure you use the boards that have been thrown down and not allow your leg to go calf deep in the mud. I don't know what idiot would do that. So onwards...
More cloud crept by but it didn't hang about for long and didn't hinder my views. I continued along the route to the next peak, Meall Garbh. It could be quite easily walked by, there's a small cairn that distinguishes the peak on the path. It gets the cursory touch as I summit and pass through.
As I dropped in to the col between Garbh and An Stuc I decided this would be a good spot for lunch. The rocky face that stood tempting me whilst I ate was too much of a lure for me. So when I packed up I decided that instead of taking the track left hand side of the peak as you look at it on the picture above I went for the scramble right up the middle. 

On reflection it wasn't my best move. I got up it but the rocks were loose and the shrubbery surrounding the geology wasn't keen on being pulled on.

Once on to the summit of An Stuc I made way down in the bealach below that was to be my exit in to the lochan and the return path.
But the earlier thoughts didn't disappear and the fourth Munro had to be included in todays outing. The path up did look like it was going to be tough on the weary legs I had dangling from my waist but up I went.
On the way up the trig point seemed so far away.
Once on the top there was more signs of life coming towards Lawers via Beinn Ghlas. It felt a bit crowded compared to the other three summits so I made my way off with no hanging about.
There is a clear path for a couple of hundred yards down towards a water treatment plant back down in the glen. The views back across the 4 summits was stunning and I was happy to have pushed myself to extend the plan.
As the ground gets a little less angled it also gets a bit more marshy. It was manageable but choosing the right place to let your foot fall was important.
I couldn't decide if the picture looked better in black and white or if it should stay in colour, so I included both.
The contrast of the concrete grey and metal railings is evident all over the Scottish landscape. It always intrigues me and adds an industrial twist to it's brown and green surroundings. It's almost accepted and absorbs into the view but is also alien and ugly. I'm sure there is a clever word to describe this but I don't think I need to know it.
From the greyness there is a clear path alongside the river and a funny wee bridge, that you can just see in the image above, that allows a dry crossing and back to the path at that I left what feels like many hours before. Over the stile and back down through the small woodline.
Some more crude signs directing me back down the path the local land owner has deemed acceptable, all the away to the house holding the art studio on the road side.
Back along the road to the car. There is a small sign stating that walkers can use the car park as long as they purchase something before they leave. Keeping my part of the bargain I had a bowl of soup and a large re-hydrating beverage and made my way back home.

The whole route took me about 7 hours 30 mins, which I'm quite happy about. It was a fantastic day out and the weather behaving itself helped immensely. My GPS didn't start tracking until a couple of hours in so it would look like I beamed in if I used the data on a Social Hiking map. If you get the chance do this route, there is a lot to it and it's worth the soup at the end.