April Fooled

I stayed off the internet by accident and missed any wacky news stories or whatever that folk had prepared for the 1st.
Not sorry, not really in the mood this year. I think that joke has been on us long enough already.

However, an evening by the water to see the day out brought a smile if not a laugh. Not just the sunset either, we found a huge piece of driftwood that had ideas scratched all over it and we just couldn’t leave it there to be lifted by the next tide and be swept out to the firth with all our lovely ideas being washed away with it.
So I heaved it onto my shoulder and made it up to the road while Linda scurried ahead and rescued me and it with the car soon after and before I fell over on the pavement.

I want to make a magical portal, Linda fancies a nature display of things from our adventures, Holly fancies a purple stained glass window. All these are possible, it’s quite the odd shape.

There will be more.

Tomorrow’s Dream Vol 7

I learned very early on that failure is an option. It’s never bothered me either.
I’ve stopped in my tracks, ran out of steam, changed my mind or crashed and burned many times. Sometimes its weather, sometimes its energy, sometimes it’s the environment like a bank-bursting river and sometimes I’m just plain not feeling it.

This was a little of all of those. We wanted to walk the West Highland Way fast and light over a weekend with a wee wild camp or two on the way. Z, Brian and me.
It seemed like a good idea, we were all fit and lightly kitted out, but by Bridge of Orchy all our feet (especially Brian’s who have seven Compeed blister plasters on…) had come apart due partly to the fast pace on the cobbles so er, we had to be rescued.

But it was still smiles, and now it’s smiles at the memories. I don’t feel my feet at all, I just remember the banter, the laughs and that it gave me a lingering love for the WHW.
I did such a lot with these two wonderful characters back in the day and now we’re all in different countries. Bummer.

In the spirit of the style we often conducted ourselves where we could could have an entire conversation that made complete sense to us based purely on movie quotes, I give us the Eiger Sanction:

Meier: You’re very good. I have really enjoyed climbing with you.

Hemlock: We’ll make it.

Meier: I don’t think so. But we shall continue with style.

Misquoting the same movie a little:

Maybe someday we’ll do more climbing together.

Maybe.

Bless you boys, wherever you are. Well, I know exactly where you are and have spoken to you both in the past 24hrs, but that’s far less dramatic.

Floored (Tales from the Toolbox)

I seem to spend a lot of my time on a floor, or indeed under a floor. I suspect I’m getting to old for it too as the recent trapped upside down with my back arched over an electrical trunking under a concrete slab incident brought to mind.

But it can be pretty. look at that window. I woke up to fresh snow all over Misty Law and Hill of Stake on Saturday and immediately went to spend the day prepping four churches’ heating to go back for their surprise services the next day after a successful legal action during the week. Which I did rather enjoy.
Aye, you can safely hang out together in a church now but I can’t step foot in Argyle and Bute solo. I spend my life in churches, surely all that dust from the floor must give me whatever covid repelling proprieties that they said they have to allow early reopening?

I could probably say that I wish I had their lawyers, but what the hell. I can’t begrudge folk getting together for their mental health, and that’s exactly what this is. Besides, given the average age of congregations, they’ll mostly have had their shots. I wish them well and look forward to getting cuppas and cake when the groups start filtering back into the church halls when I’m in fixing stuff.
I get to know the days where groups are on, Wednesday I can get soup here, Monday is just coffee there, Friday is, well we’ll come back to that.

For now I’ll just lie on the floor until it’s my turn to go out and play. At least the window is nice.

Banter

I was heartened just overhearing a group of chatty women around my age (50s) and older which proved that understanding equality isn’t something new or generational, it’s down to the individual.
In a Glasgow accent of course: “We’re aw the same. Black, white, fat, skinny, gay, aw the same”.

But being Glasgow, within 30 seconds the same voice also said “Ha ha, he’s needin’ a boot in the baws”.

I love this city.

Tomorrow’s Dream Vol 6

I think I’m wearing fleece pants there. Funny that’s the first thing I noticed before I realised that I had hair and that it’s dark brown. When the hell did I take this?

Bein Ime from Beinn Narnain, I can feel my feet there right now. My favourite hill.

That’s it really, no rambling insights, no tortuous ruminations on past deeds or melancholy observations, just an old photie.

Ach, I’ll maybe explain that last bit though. I got some very good advice once by Matt Swaine, the editor of Trail mag back in the day and a man who made a lot of sense, had great imagination and encouraged me a lot.
He told me to put myself in my photies after I submitted some landscapes to go along with something I’d done early on in my time there. He explained his reasons and I agreed once it had been pointed out.
I can easily tune out of looking at landscapes unless they’re unusual and different, but I can flick through my old mountain guide books again and again. That’s because there’s folk in the shots more often than not and I think that shows me subconsciously that I can do that, that I can be there too.

It won’t work for everyone, some folk want that blank canvas. Me, I want to be that figure, so I am. Or was? No, will be.
Also, I’ll admit there’s a certain joy at looking at the younger skinnier me. Oh if only he knew what was ahead.

Take photies, and get yourself in them. Capture yourself in the heart of the moment and give yourself a smile looking back in 20 years time.
Just don’t trip running for the timer.

Tomorrow’s Dream Vol 5

I’ve always had a willingness to turn on a dime and do that instead of this if it looked like a) it would be fun and b) I would get away with it. How many customers have heard “Ah, I need a #3 plato fumtertron, I’ll nip into Glasgow and try and get the last one at the suppliers” followed by spinning truck wheels heading north the A82?
I have of course never left anyone in the lurch, in fact it’s just the opposite which is why I’ve had many of my customers for 35 years and they know me well. Unfortunately a lot of them now know exactly where to find me on the internet so I just say, oh the weather’s looking nice and they know, oh yes, they know.

These old photies of older prints took a while to tie down but I can now place myself right there, right now. But then, right?
Winter, late afternoon, mid 90’s high on Ptarmigan Ridge on Ben Lomond. No idea who they other two are, but they’re perfectly placed, so I thank you from across the years and I hope you are well.
It was a midweek escape and it was a dash for either Arrochar of the Ben, it usually was. I used to take Ptarmigan because it was quieter, it’s not so quiet these days, but it’s still a better ascent so I’ll still chose it first. Besides the tourist route is a fine saunter back down in the dark, a time when it’s definitely quiet.

I’ve had a lot of time on Ben Lomond at night, either in the passing or in a tent. It’s a very different place then, it grows upwards and outwards, the well worn paths and familiar features change shape and fade and it becomes exactly what it still is at its core, thousands of feet of ancient highland rock. Makes my heart sing does that.
It brings me its share of the unusual too. Walking a Chilean women with just an umbrella for weather protection down to the carpark, walking two tourists in street clothes down to the carpark in heavy winter snow, sending an already lost group the totally wrong way when they followed me miles of the track in deep fresh snow because they followed my footsteps to where I was trying to get a pee in peace.

There’s another one that I still think about. I was unusually going up the tourist track in the near dark when I met an old boy coming down and I saw straight away he’d taken a tumble. He had a bruise on his cheek and a fat, bleeding lip and I stopped to check on him and chat. He was lucid and had a lot of mixed emotions. He was angry at himself because he’d taken his crampons off too early and had slipped and he was more than a little rattled.
He rested as we chatted and my thoughts raced from one side to another. I was on no special mission, just another after work dash up the Ben, coming straight back down with the old boy was no problem at all. But, and this is where I’ll never know if I did the right thing, if I took him down, would he see it as hand holding, would he think he’d been rescued? Would that affect his confidence and keep him at home the next time he thought about the hills? I would have hated to do that to him.
He was well up there in years, he had old and well used but quality gear, he obviously knew his stuff and had been there and done it over the years. I was so torn by it.

I was straight up with him, I’ll walk you down I said. He protested, I asked again, he protested again but I wanted to to know he’d be okay. no no he’d be fine he insisted. I let him go and I still don’t know if my head or heart won with that decision.
I sat on a rock and watched him all the way down to the tree line, including him catching up to a couple I’d seen earlier, so he was moving okay. I knew he’d be safe, but would he be okay? I didn’t know then and I never will.

If I’m honest with myself looking back now I know my choice was made with the best of intentions but I think I got it wrong. I should have walked him down and made light of it with banter and whatnot. I should have done more.
Maybe he shrugged it off, another spill like so many he had before, maybe he hung up his ice axe. I think of it sometimes and that experience has informed some of my decisions since.

Every hill has its ghosts, some are its own, some are the ones you bring yourself.

Getting it right tomorrow? Maybe you have to screw up yesterday.

Close to the edge

I knew it was going to be good because it was late when we left because work and various other hassles had made it look like we’d not get further than having the notion to go out and play.
But out to play we went.

It was surprisingly quiet, never saw a soul until we hit the woods by the loch where a family sat on the sand soaking up the rather cool sunshine. The only other person we saw turned up where we sat waiting for the sunset and he seemed miffed by our presence so quickly disappeared once again with his huge bird watching scope thing. Ah well.

I wonder if it’s quiet because it’s sold to you as a bird sanctuary where it’s really just a beautiful wee wander through woodland to the loch. Admittedly with a lot of birds flapping around you.
The end of the track has a couple of benches and a gated enclosure with directions to a low viewpoint of sorts. Better though its where you can get onto the long spit of land that holds in Endrick Water for over a kilometre before it joins the loch. Fine sands, lilies in the sheltered bays, and nervous wildlife are all there to be found, but today the loch was too high to even chance it. The grass grew straight from deep, cold water wherever we put out feet. As glorious as it would be to sit and watch the evening arrive from out there, tonight we’d stick to the tourist path.

West Dunbartonshire has fantastic views to its neighbours, so many hills with so many ascents I call up from my archives. None of them in the last year of course but a lot of them are oh so very sharp. I can feel the rocks under my hands on Beinn Narnain, I can feel my knees on the descent of Ptarmigan Ridge.
Right now was all about a picnic though, and that’s just fine by me. It was getting noticeably colder as the sun went down, jackets, hats and gloves were welcome and necessary.

The water was choppy and waves lapped at our feet and the cold air swept off the loch. There was a little heat in the sun bit is was fizzling out as the light faded. We’d come for the walk, to be somewhere different, to revisit a happy memory too, but aye, that sky was starting to look a wee bit fancy too.

It was glorious and unexpected. Dark hills on the horizon, dark water patterned by sharp bright wave crests as the sky whirled through it’s wonderful wacky colour palette.
It was getting dark so we did leave before it was all over and the last scenes here are me lying on the beach trying to catch a wave, the mountains and the sky while giggling and trying not to roll into the loch. Pure magic.

Then the deepest of reds on a silent trail as bats zipped low past out heads looking for those early hatching midges perhaps.
The sole came of my shoe. Pretty much completely off, it was attached only by a glue spot at the toe and it was a fine mix of inconvenient and funny as it wack wack wacked it’s way back to Gartocharn in the dark. Can I repair them? 14 years old, I’ll see.

This was a win in the face of nearly giving up. Not a lesson learned, a lesson reminded.

Crag Ratbag

It was just nice, I had no other motivation other than going out and enjoying the niceness. I think being back at work more regularly might see me seeking post customer interaction niceness quite often. I love my customers but lying on a floor steaming up my glasses listening to banter from someone that’s said three words to someone outside their household in the past year is somewhat draining.

Bright and hazy with a wee nip in the breeze, perfect walking weather. The sky was magic too, pastels edging the varied display of cloud shapes. Aye, just nice.
I had my data on on my phone so I was getting pings and I heard one from the Woodland Trust chat group which started a little thread that followed me along the trail through the evening.

If you’re hiding in the woods up to no good, remember I can probably see you…

A fire had been reported in Barr Wood, too far for me to get to without getting back to the motor, but somewhere I could see from my loftyish viewpoint. No fire could be seen.
A little further on I was sending photies to the group, I could see smoke, a lot of smoke. Then there were sirens too and I watched for the blue lights as it got darker, they’d have to get to where the fire was on the tack that circles around the back of Bellsmyre. Good luck with that.

A walked on as the other rangers and the site manager compared notes as I sent photies. The smoke was gone now but wait, was that gunfire? I’ve heard shots plenty up here and it sounded just like it. Was it the arsehole neighbouring landowner as usual or something more sinster. It wasn’t until I was going down later on that the helicopter scanning the area with a searchlight pushed my opinion to the more criminal flavoured side of events.

But I was still enjoying the evening. The sun was lazy tonight, no big show just well, nice. It was chilly too, windshirt and gloves chilly. I could feel my ears and cheeks pickle as the the temperature dropped with the sun.
Snow streaked hills to the north softened by distance and haze, Dumbarton twinkling in the dusk like a Disney hamlet and police circling overhead looking for who knows what. It often occurs to me that someone who would likely be hard of thinking and seeing might report a brightly dressed man on the skyline with a rifle because I often cut about with my zipshot tripod extended.
Drop the weapon.
You want me to throw my camera on the ground?
We are armed and will fire, drop your weapon.
I only shoot sunsets, go and take a f…
Suspect was too sarcastic, he’s down.

I had very old shoes on, Montrail Namches. Mesh mids with a super flexible forefoot and sturdy heel cup. Back in the late 2000’s they were one of the bits of kit that actually changed my life and it was a joy to be back in them. I had wet toes and a big grin, just like the old days. Actually just like most days I’m not on tarmac.
I might write them up along with a few more things that immediately come to mind, the kit that really did change my life. Hmm, I’m definitely finding more interest looking back with my now even more experienced eyes than I am looking at next season.

Anyway, the moral of the tale is er, go outside, it’s nice.

A folded corner

We got in late last night, tired and happy from a wee bit of local exploring. Everything was covered in mud and I’d even lost a sole from the old favourite shoes I’d taken for a spin.
The rucksacks still aren’t unpacked and the camera has secrets yet to divulge. So this is a we note to self from my phone before I get all lost in photies and flowery banter: yes it was that nice.

You can pick your friends, but not your days of the week.

It was a Tuesday and that wasn’t the problem, it was the Monday before it, that was the problem.
Tuesday did everything right, it turned upon time, did a fantastic job, but everyone still talked about Monday.

I can see Tuesday’s point, you are what you are, just like Monday was and you can’t be anything but. And why should you try to be anything other than yourself anyway?
Be a Tuesday, be the best Tuesday you can be, just never mind what Monday id doing.

I’ll tell you though, Wednesday really was rubbish.

Ample Park(ing)

Balloch Park has become a regular leg stretcher. It’s got some height in it so it’s airy and there’s decent views to the Luss Hills and Ben Lomond which are noticeably closer than what we get to see from the crags. I mean, it’s something isn’t it.
The snow on those hills again btw. Good grief.

The Leven had flooded the woodland by the banks giving some nice reflections. A wee bit if fidgeting makes it look a big more heavy metal.

This was on Sunday, Mother’s Day. A wee chat at the door and gifts passed at arms length is what I managed.

Another important mark missed due to factors outwith my control. Aye.

 

Tomorrow’s Dream Vol 4

Vol 4 was always going to be a tricky one, I have to try and tie in the band, the album and the song for my own amusement and by a very slim, very tenuous but rather happy piece of luck the old photie above does have a slight echo of Vol 4’s cover in both colour and pose.

The pose though is a conundrum, I know what I’m doing but not why. I’m looking at the OMM chest pouch attached to my Villain pack, or maybe in it? What I was after I do not know but this was obviously before I got better at taking selfies with a timer. Not smooth, but definitely natural looking.
Above is the night before the morning below which was a very fine night indeed spent on the summit of Gairich by Loch Quoich. This is another clear and sharply memorised trip where it was late when I left and subsequently the last pull up the rockier ridge to the summit was in fast fading light with cold hands and sweaty brow.

The view I scrambled to get to as I could see the colours above me looking west over Knoydart and to the Cuillin was one of the moments that I’d only really seen in the guide books and it became part of why I kept going back.
All these miles traveled for often short ascents to sit on the top for twelve hours just to look, to listen, to sit with a cuppa on a rock and just be there.
Utterly pointless, endlessly glorious.
In our 24hr racket of modern life to find a place that just stops you dead and that freezes time in what can be an unexpected perfect moment is so precious. But also so accessible, you just have to go and claim it.
Though, if you’re one of the good guys, you’re currently waiting to redeem your ticket to joy.

I can’t help but smile at a memory of the way down next day. It was early summer so I was up early with the sun and heading down after breakfast, quite happy with my lot.
I met a stern faced crew of three on their way up and the leader’s face told a story. They’d left early, they’d got the best parking spot at the dam, they’d be first up today, wait, who the hell is this guy? It looked like I’d kicked their ball into the neighbours garden, eaten their last sweetie and left toast crumbs in their butter all at the same time.
The two followers were smiley and chatty, but I bet they weren’t allowed to stop until they got to the top.

I will never understand why folk take this stuff so seriously, it’s supposed to remove angst not fuel it. Try twelve hours on a summit, that’s soothe you just fine.

Flicking the Vee

We’re being reroofed so I haven’t been opening the bedroom curtains. The steps up through the scaffolding run past the window and it’s not dirty laundry I want them to miss on their way up to painfully slowly and incompetently replace the slates, it’s everything else.

However has made this wee happy accident possible and the sliver of light that was slicing in through the gap in the curtains had to be caught.

I was nearly going to put a rucksack in to catch it, but this was way better. Another of my most favourite things.

Lockdown has kept this out of the studio for what feels like a lifetime.

I miss making music with other people as much as I miss the hills beyond my council border.

 

Tomorrow’s Dream Vol 3

I can recall most any day spent in the hills in some capacity, photies do help with a prompt, but a map or a dog eared copy of SMC’s Munros starts the wheels turning too. Even years after my last walk, I can describe almost every step of the West Highland Way.
Sometimes it’s the little things that stick though, not just the wow views or the near miss that gets hairier with every retelling. This axe is one that stuck.

This is the cairn of Carn Mor Dearg which I visited on the fun way around to Ben Nevis on a fine winter’s day in the late 90s, I think it was ’98 so we’ll go with that.
It’s a photie of a printed photie which now I see it on my dark mode (Aye, dark mode. “Oh my eyes” folk used to say when the read stuff on here, now any site that doesn’t have dark mode it circled by snarling Gen Z’s. I am totally assuming the told you so high ground and also claiming an early adopter shoulder stripe for my uniform.) I haven’t cropped very well, but what the hell.

So, it’s an old wooden ice axe, stuck deep into the cairn. It was clean enough, no rot or too much rust on the head so I felt like it hadn’t been there long.
I barely saw anyone all day and the internet wasn’t what is now back then so I had no wider world to ask about it.

It just looked, I don’t know, enigmatic, poignant, mysterious, even funny. Without context there was no way to know quite how to react.
But it just looked magic where it had been placed. The light catching the head, the broken leash hanging loose suggesting tales of glory and a hard life lived and all on a glorious clear day where cloud lazily poured in thin waves over the low point on the CMD arete. But, it’s the axe I remember most.

It’s not there now of course, I’ve been back many times to check. And that adds to the mystery, did the owner reclaim it, did it slip away with wind and weather or did someone with not quite as much heart and soul as you or I take it home for themselves?

The hills have so many stories to tell. They have their own history as living, breathing islands of both delicate and harsh nature and wonder and then they have what we have woven across and through them over the years to tie them onto our sea-level lives.
I think that’s why so many of us long time hill goers treat the hills with an unthought respect, we see it as that precious, fragile environment, not an entertainment venue.

I hope the many new feet of the past year passing through the contour lines of our wonder high places learn to see the difference sooner rather than later.

Football comes to the Lang Craigs

We had some messages from visitors that there were large groups of people drinking and shouting and that there was lots of smoke at the Lang Craigs on Sunday.

Some of the debris was picked up and bagged for pickup this morning before I did a sweep for damage. I found plenty. I could still smell the burning despite the heavy rain early on.

Apparently this was all due to football.

Don’t know quite how that works, but aye, thanks for that.

Tomorrow’s Dream Vol 2

We had made an attempt at this camping spot by going over Stob Coire Sgriodan but it took so long to just get the start point at Fersit with much fannying around on the way that by the time we got to that first summit on the route, Beinn na Lap was just too far away to reach with any joy to spare before it got dark with a big descent and reascent and we just couldn’t be arsed with it so we spent the night there. Which was no second prize at all by the way.

I went back a wee while later and looked at it another way, sometimes the long way around is the quickest, or at least possibly the most fun.
It was a long walk but it sticks in my mind vividly. The weather wasn’t great, it was raining some of the time and the clouds sat low and dark, scraping the summits ahead of me, Beinn Eibhinn and Aonach Beag.
Looking back I wasn’t scared as such, but I felt I had to be focused because I was a little bit out of my comfort zone, making new steps towards the many summit camps and solo adventures that would follow.

It was exhilarating.

It had calmed considerably by the time I got to the summit and it was dry now too. I got 360° views and even though I don’t necessarily remember it, I just know I was grinning from ear to ear. I am certainly grinning now thinking back anyway.
I do remember what I had for dinner though, Travellunch Chicken Noodle Hotpot. I had a lot of those back in the day. Would I eat that now? Ha.

I don’t remember the night itself, maybe I slept, I think a night of misery would have left its mark. I do remember a very fine breakfast, I was out of water on the top and had to descend after making a cuppa with the last drops. I sat in the sun on warm rock by the Allt Féith Thuill boiling water scooped from the fast flowing burn.
It was a glorious feeling, feelings indeed.
Apart from all the flowery adjectives I could apply to my state of mind then, it was also very rewarding, I felt I’d earned that moment of bliss, I felt free, light of heart and soul. I suppose that sounds like a hippy thing, it’s a natural high man. But it’s more grounded than that, it was an exchange of joy for effort.
I think that’s partly why exploring the hills especially with overnight stays is a very complete activity, you put effort in and you get something back.
I mean, it’s not always instant gratification of course, sometimes I’ve payed in advance by sitting in a tent or worse in the truck in a layby in the pissing rain waiting for it to stop so I can get out and enjoy even a wee bit of the day.
Then I’ve lucked into more Broken Spectres than I can count because of that, so aye I’ll sit in the rain sometimes.

It’s all about taking the chance I suppose, being willing to take a couple of days and risk it coming to nothing. But it never really does come to nothing, wet and cold misery is a stirring tale to tell, it also leaves a deficit which you burn to make up for next time, that next trip which you plan on the way home as your pile of wet kit steams the windscreen on the long way back down the road.

Taking a chance? Aye, I can do that.

Monday on my mind.

Maybe this will be my last thought on it, or vaguely related to it. Maybe not.

It’s so grey now, you have to love the contrast. It’s like the bloke that worked on a job we were on for many weeks, I think he was in the ventilation squad.
Anyway, he quite anonymously and quietly worked away doing ducting and whatnot making no real impression or impact until one day at a general informal site meeting where we were standing around chatting about where we all were so were weren’t working over each other or getting too far ahead for each other he started juggling steel pipe fittings like a seasoned circus performer. And with a straight face too. You could have heard a pin drop.

Never underestimate anyone and never assume anything.