Alternative Tentacles

We should have been many miles away in amongst hills I have climbed and written of many times but haven’t seen in two years. We had a cabin booked, I had old stories to tell and we had so much to see.
But it wasn’t to be, Linda’s knee wanted to go to A&E more than it wanted to go to Kintail and so here we will stay for now. Am I upset? Not at all, we have all the time in the world for more adventures.

So when checking in on Linda (who is trapped at the top of many stairs for the time being) on yesterdays’s unexpectedly bright morning, her boy and my mate Greg was in and at a loose end we decided to head to the crags and have a wee wander.
We’d get ourselves sorted, grab some gear and food and meet at lunchtime.

This was a good idea. Even the heart pounding quick ascent from the car park up the giant’s staircase was worth it to find ourselves launched into the most glorious afternoon as we steeped onto the crag edge.
There was clear blue sky, billowing white clouds, dark masses hiding the landscape under heavy showers and all of it being dragged across from the west by a fresh and flighty wind.
Aye, glorious.

We had our shells on before too long as the first heavy short caught up with us. Cold and stinging on my cheeks but unnoticed everywhere else, the joy of being wrapped up and comfy.
The view morphed with the weather, so much darkness, so much light, none of it static. We watched a searchlight beam from an unseen holes in the clouds trace across the glen and disappear, half rainbows teased and faded and we grinned our way to a sheltered lunch spot to take it all in over pieces and flasks.


We took a swing east to find the reservoir and sneak up the side of Donut Hill. Here the wind was at its highest and the camera luckily stopped sliding under it’s pressure while taking this selfie just in time at the rocky edge. I think if it had been on a tripod it would still be up in the air just now.

On the descent the last chilled rain cleared to late afternoon sun, low warm and golden. The landscape came alive in classic autumn tones and the sky to the north deepened to a deep azure. Spinning around it was like we were at the junction of different days. I’m saying glorious again. Yes.

Black Wood’s pines remain defiantly green in contrast to the dead bracken and pastel slopes of the Luss Hills beyond.
I love this view, always have and I don’t know why it pulls at me so much. The pines, the hills, the loch and the Highlands beyonds, all in one frame. Maybe it’s that the world really is on my doorstep, maybe it’s the total lack of symmetry pleases my oddball mind, maybe it’s just pretty and I should stop overthinking and just shut up.
I’ll have another look later in week, see what I can come up with.

The walk out was warm, we could feel that low sun and the trees shone brightly. It is their last hurrah after all.

This wasn’t a consolation prize, this was hours of awesomeness. I just can’t be sad about Kintail, when this is at the back door.

Falling for it all over again

I love autumn, and for so many reasons.

It’s the death of summer, it’s a reason to wear a jumper but it’s the ultimate seasons of contrasts. Spring is the time that’s supposed to be all about life but I see autumn as more so, everything is frantically throwing it’s arms in the air and shouting before it withers in a flash of colour, tries to take someone down with them like the last wasp at the window or just waves goodbye before it slinks away to hide til next year.

I love the colours of course, but the autumn sun is what makes it all really sparkle. The trees are still full and many are still green although all are fading a little, so the light must find gaps to shine through and as the sun sinks lower day by day.

Those gaps become doorways for sideways sunbeams to scan through the trunks and branches and it lights up every gold and crimson leaf, every moss covered stone and every wonderfully coloured companion.

Light, dark and colour, wind, cloud and blue skies, warm low sun and cold shadows. Ah, this is how to feel alive, all this filling your senses at once.
And it changes every day. Colours bleeding from one extreme to another, the unmoving rounded shapes of summer thinning to reveal and new skyline in the woods, jagged but no less glorious to my eyes.

The birds are either grouping and swooping as one before leaving for southern lands or eyeing everything edible very carefully before having tough it out the season yet to come. Their song is still loud, there are branches bursting with berries and furry little creatures scurrying home with less and less cover the hide them every day.

I’ve missed too many autumns, but not this time, we’re out there breathing it all in. The car parks are emptier than they’ve been in six months but our grins are wider and out footsteps more eager than in along time. A season of contrasts indeed.

MV Captayannis

Linda sent me a screenshot, we had tickets for a wee boatride and lunch straight after too. The first one was in Greenock, the second one was in Inverbeg. That’s 23k away by helicopter but if you’re driving then it’s 54k away. It’s okay though, we made it. The Inn on Loch Lomond, the food’s magic, get a voucher though.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The boatride was with Clyde Charters and we were doing a tour of the MV Captayannis, the Clyde “Sugar Boat” which is a wreck on its side on the sandbank between Greenock and Helensburgh which sunk in storms in 1974 and has been a local talking point even since.
The sinking is a worthy story in itself, the Captayannis dragged it’s anchor in the storm and was holed below the waterline on the anchor chain of a nearby BP oil tanker before she could be powered up and taken to safer waters. The captain beached the ship on the sandbank hoping it would be safe but the storm pushed the Captayannis onto its side and there it remains.
The other notable part of the story is the cargo which was raw sugar from Africa, Greenock having a major sugar refinery until Tate and Lyle pulled the plug in the 90s.

I remember all of this, I remember gazing over the water to see the freshly foundered ship and visiting it in the boat we lived on a year or so later when the Captayannis was still bright with paint on its hull  and with rigging and superstructure intact, but minus some of it’s shinier and easier removed metalwork by then. A mile of open water is no barrier when there’s scrap money to be had.
I worked in Greenock often in the 80s and 90s and remember Tate and Lyle, the shipyards, the life the the place had and of course, The North Face factory shop up the hill.
It’s all gone and James Watt Dock is now a marina and the industry it fed is history.

However, there’s regeneration to see and Clyde Charters’ bright yellow ex navy landing craft called “Tonka” shows enterprise so it was with all these fragments of memories and taking in all the new sights that we set sail into the gloomy grey drizzle and choppy waters of the Tail of the Bank on the Clyde.

The first thing we saw was a seal bobbing in its head just outside the docks and then you see you just how wide the river is here, the land behind gets very far away very quickly and the far bank does not get any closer.
We were bumped around but never enough to lose our footing or feel uncomfortable, we just grinned and pointed as grey shapes loomed in the distance or cormorant infested navigation aided glided past as we motored on.

The Captayannis itself is very atmospheric, probably as much to do with the weather as it’s quietly rusting but beautifully sculpted shape lying half out of the dark water.
We skirted round a couple of times, getting close enough to feel the textures of the corroded hill with our own hands. Skipper Ronnie’s handling was a masterclass of subtlety and confidence as he moved us in and about the wreck and it’s submerged masts without a single jerk to throw us off balance.
There are a lot of birds, which you can smell before you see. Mostly cormorants with a scattering of others which I have no clue about, but none of them were phased by us, our bright yellow hull or our clattering engine.

The sail back felt faster and it seemed to brighten a little too. One of the grey shapes to the west had hardened into a navy vessel and a tug and the low hills could be seen, suddenly there was colour to see again that wasn’t us.
Once back on the dock we found ourselves on the fun side on the locked gates and went exploring. The railway tracks to the quaysides are intact and there are countless other fixtures of the past quietly fading in amongst the yachts and Calmac ferries. Gates and signs, carvings in the stones and huge rusting bolts fastening down nothing but the past.

It was fantastic. Lots to see, lots to think about.

Right, lunch is 54km away, hit it misses.


The Wee Spark gets doon and oot, Part 2

The next day it was mostly waiting for the tide. The Wee Spark was looking shiny and oh so bright, but also a little odd swinging gently up in the air still cradled in the boatlift.
But it’s not as if it needs a lot of water under its wee flat arse, so as soon as the Leven was high enough to drive the boatlift down the slip into it, they took us down and dropped us in.
Time to head home.

It was cool out on the water, there was a welcome breeze and the Clyde was empty, all ours. At Dumbarton Rock there’s a huge sandbank to turn round before you can head up river and you find yourself right in the shipping lane a stones throw from the south bank before you take a hard left.

Calm waters, blue skies and my first time at the wheel out on the river. Bill sat in the sun, Jimmy made tea and I found that the channel isn’t as wide as you’d think given the size of the ships I see gliding past on a daily basis. On the canal, a little adjustment can be seen pretty fast in your course direction, out here with not so many reference points it took a minute to dial in the little extra subtlety I needed.

Then I had it, one hand on the wheel, tea in the other, a breeze in the window and the chug chug chug of vintage diesel power. It was glorious.

I was enjoying the surroundings as much as the driving, or is that sailing, seeing all the familiar sights from a different angle, it’s been a while since I was on the river.
Being so close the the Lang Dyke and it’s stone built buoys is a bit of a treat. It was originally built in the 18th Century to speed up the tidal flow and scour the mud from the river bed to deepen it. It worked perfectly and opened Glasgow up to shipping, now it’s crumbling stones are more part of the landscape than an engineering curiosity, but it’s still doing it’s original job.

We were buzzed by a drone, but no one ever got in touch so I don’t know if there’s footage out there somewhere. The Bell Monument and Dunglass Castle is well seen from the river and with work finally starting on the old Esso site around it, the day where folks can visit are maybe not too far away.
At this point Jimmy was just giving me instructions on how to get into the harbour. “Er, are you sure…” was my first thought, but he seemed unfazed, so what the hell.

There are two white markers cleverly hidden in the undergrowth by the railway on the far side of the harbour which you line up with to come in from the river so you follow the channel. We’re not deep in the water, but still, I was concentrating hard.
In we went, I didn’t hit anything “Hard right” says Jimmy, which sounds more dramatic than it actually was given the low revs and sedate pace. That right turn lined my up with the deep sea lock which would lift us back up into the basin.
The Wee Spark really is wee, but the lock looked like a tight fit. Gentle on the wheel, back on the throttle, we glided in perfectly. I was heading for the cill at the far lock gate, so a wee bit of reverse gear to centre us was all I needed and… stalled it. Revs too low, all thumbs on the controls. Ah dammit.

I loved it. Even on that short run from Dumbarton it was the best fun sitting on that chair with the wheel.

We were in the lock with a family of swans which would not be lured away from the gushing waters by bread, Mars Bar or shouting. The did however bask in cheers and applause from the wee gathered crowd when the water level got high enough for the cygnets to unglamorously chuck themselves over the gap at the top of the lock and into the basin. Swans are so graceful on water and in the air, but put them on webbed feet and given them a slippery obstacle to tackle and it’s a Friday night drunk trying to get on a bus in Partick in the 1970’s.

We were home and the boat looked great, all fresh and I didn’t scrape any of the new paint getting it there. I was buzzing, mildly sunburnt and thirsty. Let’s go again.

Morar Ramorra

It’s amazing how having freedom back has meant that I’ve been next to nowhere for weeks. It’s not been for the lack of desire, it’s just stuff getting in the way. Some of it is good stuff and I’ll get to that later.

This trip however was booked and we were going whatever, the Morar Hotel on a Woucher Voucher.

Of course we left just ten minutes late and that mean being stuck behind a police escorted industrial load all the way to the big passing place just at Loch Ba. That was emotional, we should have been digesting lunch and on the last few miles outside of Mallaig by the time we cleared the lorry. But hey ho, it was pleasant enough outside, and oh look, mountains an’ that.

Fed and watered at busy Ft Bill we were then on Linda’s first trip up the A830. Ah what joy, not too busy apart from Glenfinnan and it’s a stunner of a road is this. The hills aren’t as high as some, but they loom close over the road on both sides and it the middle of it in the now gloomy light it felt both oppressive and epic. It’s like Glen Shiel but ramped up in awesomeness. I need into these hills one day.

We caught Morar with the level crossing closed and some dumb bastards crossing on foot regardless. The train horn from a few feet away made them move a little faster. Good grief.

The hotel is basic and looked well prepared for covid friendly use, until we found a packet of crisps had been emptied behind a night stand as we hunted for a lost hair clip.
The manager’s response had an air of disinterest, add that to the 55 minute wait for our pre booked breakfast next morning and you can say that the hotel will not be visited again by us. Bummer, it’s in a fine spot.

We walked the silver sands before dinner in bare feet until there was no more sand to walk on, just open sea ahead. Cthulu was visiting and we were careful not to stand on the poor bugger.
When we got back we both noticed our feet had never been smoother, salt water and exfoliation, I’d recommend it. Just watch out for shells.

After dinner we went back out and headed round the coast a little in the hopes of a sunset. Across the machair and onto the rocks, we got enough colour to keep even us two happy.
There was a warm breeze, kids playing along the beach and nothing more to be done that day but just sit and watch.

After the breakfast adventure we made a last run down to the sands and then up the road to Mallaig for a wee wander around and some fantastic pastries from the bakehouse on the pier. Brought a loaf back too, great wee place.
While we were there the Jacobite steam train arrived which felt like it doubled the population of the village when the passengers disembarked.
We did a nosy at the station and watched while the train swapped ends, a convoluted process for the return journey to Fort William where the 1963 diesel goes to the back and the 1937 steam engine stays at the photogenic front.

The smell of the steam engine gave me flashbacks to when we had steam traction engines, hot oil and grease, burning coal and the sounds of hissing steam and ratting metal. Didn’t know I’d miss that.
The old Class 37 diesel though, I was 12 again as it rumbled past me on the platform. I love the sound of the engines, the personality the 50s and 60s locos had. Aye, I was almost giddy with excitement.
The best bit was when Linda waved at the driver from around three feet away and he completely ignored her with extreme prejudice. We were howling with laughter all the way back down the platform. Some folk take themselves way too seriously.

The gulls have moved into the rarely used right hand platform with newly hatched chicks bobbing away on makeshift nests around the rails.
The parent was giving the eye though, we didn’t hang around.

It was good to get away, even for a mad dash. Saw lots to give us smiles that haven’t worn off.

It was interesting that we spoke to so many random folk through the trip, even for us pair of banter merchants there was a noticeable increase in stranger engagement. People seemed to have time and wanted to talk, is this a legacy of lockdown, are we interested in people again? Oh I hope so, and I hope it lasts.

So, I wonder what’s next.

Tomorrow’s Dream Vol 11

This trip was notable in several ways and it’s stayed in my mind because of that. It was a glorious day whatever way you look at it and I had an excellent long walk in up Glen Nevis to have a wander over the Aonachs’ Beag and Mor in fine snowy conditions.

I met a fella as we both worked our way through some icy rocks in the sun, I think on Aonach Beag. We stopped and chatted for a bit and went back on our opposing directions.

I spend some time on Aonach Mor as the light was dimming and as the sun set behind Ben Nevis a little patch of cloud appeared and wrapped around the Ben below the summit and over the edge of the CMD arete. Very atmospheric, very pretty, worth some cold fingers to watch with a cuppa.

As I left to take a steep line down west to lose height quickly I bumped into another lonely figure with a ginger beard and a fancy Rab eVent shell suit on. We stopped and chatted for a bit and went our separate ways.

Later on my way down the line of the burn to Steall I caught a bright silver flash in the water under my headtorch beam and went to look. A bright shiny quartz boulder. Lovely.
I dug it out and put it in my pack. It was too big, it was too heavy, it’s still at my front door today.

Back at home the wonders of the internet surprisingly filled in some blanks. I went on the old OutdoorsMagic website to share my fun times and it turned out my first chance meeting was with Steve Morley, a familiar name from the forums and someone who I hadn’t met in real life yet. One of many from that place I can still counts as friends today.

When he thought I’d stole his photie because it was so similar to one of his own taken when we were standing just a few feet apart, the other stranger turned out to be Steve Perry, now sadly passed, who was on his continuous round of the winter Munros.

It’s a small world but it can give you big memories and bigger smiles.


A quick wee daydream

I think I was either away looking to see where the purple had gone or I had left a light on in case the purple came home.

I’ve been bombarding a pal with wild camping photies to let him know what he’s in for on his first trip to a night on the tops.
As usual I get sucked into buckets of files full of joy.
I wonder if I can still do this stuff.

Going to see awfy soon.

Paint on my cruel or happy face

It wasn’t ideal, we had planned for running away on the 26th but freedom was granted early, what else could we do but improvise.

The cool bag was ready, the blanket and down jackets were packed and the 4am start was as clear headed as it was ever going to be.
The road was nearly empty, the A82. Ha.

We drove north under a brightening sky, dark silhouettes lined the road, every shape had a name, a story, a time and a place and of course, I had to tell them about it.

We reached the edge of Loch Ba with the sun set to rise in around 10 minutes. It was still frosty, the air chilled and the sky a cold pale blue but the east was a burning orange, ready to burst upwards through a thin layer of swirling mist.
Blanket down by the loch, breakfast laid out, eyes to the east.

The first sun rise seen from a grid square that didn’t start with NS in what, a year?

We made the most of it, familiar places, familiar roads, new thoughts and feelings, it had been a week for memories in more ways than one.
The traffic was coming out way as we headed south, it was going to be busy.
We’ll be back soon enough, not doing a 4am start though. I think it will have to be late when I leave. Tradition isn’t it.

Linda took that last two on here phone. Nice misses.

Tomorrow’s Dream Vol 10

Above was taken on whatever low res camera loaded into the Sony Ericsson phone I had at the time, below was taken on whatever borrowed camera I had at the time, and just before the solitary battery died too leaving me with just the phone to capture what I have to say was an absolutely perfect morning.

Easter, space year 2000 and something and it was like yesterday in my mind. I was camped on Carn Dearg, north of Rannoch Station, an easy walk and a fine pleasant camp, but with that morning, oh what a morning.

I was in a first gen Alpkit down bag the night before, Alpine Dream was it? Great warm bag with a shite hood that was barely a pillow, glad they changed that. It was frosty but that sun was instantly warm and the glens, hell the whole landscape, flooded with fog as soon as the first rays broke the horizon, just over a wee bit from Schiehallion if memory serves me right.

That was a multi cuppa breakfast, I didn’t leave until the mist lifted and the sun was high up. The run across to Sgor Gaibhre does not linger sharply, I think I was still stunned by the preceding hours, but I do remember gladly reaching water in the coire and seeing the first of the days’ fresh feet ascending towards me. Too late folks, you missed it all.

Now, I wrote that first bit above over my morning coffee before I went out to meet a client. By the time I got back to base everything had changed.
Travel restrictions are being lifted on Friday this week, not on the 26th.

This has spun me right onto my arse, the dream is a reality etc. But I’m getting my first jag on Saturday and I’m expecting having some sort of reaction to it, I don’t see me getting anywhere right away.
It’s not theoretical anymore, I’m planning for reality. It’s like an out of body experience, what do I do, I know what to do, what did I forget, what do I need?

Bloody hell.

That big grin below, he had no idea what the next few years would bring to him in the outdoors. But now I’m looking ahead too. Time to make a brand new grin to catch and keep with all these old ones.


Deep blue see

I was in a dungeon in the dark with the water on the floor actually drying up rather than deepening as I usually tend to find it since I’d actually stopped the leak and then the call came.
It was an international call, it meant a border crossing.

I had all I needed, I could go then and there. “It’s 12 miles to Argyle and Bute, we got a half tank of gas, half a pack of Wrigley’s Extra, it’s sunny and my sunglasses are in Linda’s car”. In my head: “Hit it”.

I put my feet on foreign soil for the first time in a long time. Funny, it felt like home. Fresh snow, blue skies, cold dark water, a chill breeze, a tingle in my toes and a tear in my eye.
I laughed out loud, a nervous reaction I think. All the lockdown breaking arseholes who have seen this and walked or driven through it without worry or consequence and I’m playing in my head how I would explain to the police where I was going and what I was doing if I got pulled.
I had the set of church keys in my pocket, my tools in the back and a documented loss of pressure to investigate. And I was still a little worried.

Come the 26th I don’t care, I’ve done my bit. I played the game to the letter, if there’s a third wave due to dumb bastards mixing willy-nilly over Easter and consequently another lockdown I’m declaring myself the ambassador of a small independent Scottish protectorate and I’m going wherever the hell I like with diplomatic immunity.



The journey ended in another dungeon of course and with a few fancy moves I left it all in fine working order. Amusingly I’ll have to got back next week though because it needs a pump. Bummer.

Tomorrow’s Dream Vol 9

This is still borrowed camera time and also my first iPod days, so I think it’s spring 2008. I know exactly where this is, the Laserlite above is parked on the ridge of Meall Coire Lochan (ish) west of Meall na Teanga above Loch Lochy.

I remember this one vividly, mind you I think if you show me any photie it pretty much all comes back as I’ve discovered these past few weeks.
See, that’s why we should take always photies, that’s why we should blog. Memories might bring mixed emotions but there’s a real joy in it, and I don’t feel any stronger inspiration that realising what I can do myself after so long of not doing it.
Seeing others adventures can be aspirational, seeing my own makes it all feel accessible. Sometimes that’s just enough where you’re a bit rusty.

It was raining all the way up. I’d dumped my pack at the bealach to run up Sron a Choire Ghairbh and then enjoyed a little clearer air on the fine traverse over Meall na Teanga.
I had music on in the rain, metal in my earbuds and I had Celtic Frost’s then recent new album on repeat. Singing Os, abysmi os in my best death metal voice as I went. Can’t believe that detail has stuck so fast in my mind.

I was damp getting in the tent but warm enough, staring out to a distant Fort William as the sky darkened. I only saw the sky by accident and it had me scrabbling for wet shoes and my jacket to get out and see it.
Vivid red out to the west with a window to a pale clear sky that had been hidden all day. It kinda makes it all worth it, these wee moments.

I must have slept well, I have no horror stories of wind or rain, animal attacks or seismic events to recall. It was a lovely morning too.

I feel it’s my duty to point out that the fuzzy pastel scenes here are exactly as seen on the day. I haven’t done that, it’s a combination of cheap camera and actual weather conditions.
Mist on Loch Arkaig, the last of the snows clinging onto Ben Nevis’ gullies. I sat there for hours, it was nearly lunch time before the rising sun burnt off the soft sheen and I descended in unexpected bright sunshine, bare skin cooking well before I got to the treeline.

The trees are gone now, Gleann Chia-aig having been dynamited end to end for a hydro scheme. I was there with Gus a few years later and the whole place was devastated.
I do remember walking down through the tall pines on a winding trail, rushing water below and the occasional whisper of wildlife far above. Now I just immediately think of bare rock and bulldozed slopes.

That’s another reason to go somewhere, to take photies and to write it down. Some bastard is always ready to take it all away.

Tomorrow’s Dream Vol 8

Scoutmaster. That word will forever have a meaning for Z, Helen and I after our Knoydart trip.

It was a mission with a purpose back in 2007 I think, we were there to retrieve the Wilderness ARC adventure race electronic check in point that was bolted to the trig point on Ladhar Bheinn. If ever there was an excuse for a wee jolly this was it.
We had just made the tide for the the boat from Kinloch Hourn and were gloriously late as we sat in the bothy for a cuppa. We were camping though so late evening found us high on Stob a Chearcaill in two Laserlites with the cloud scraping my head if I stood up.

I think that’s Bachd Mhic an Tosaich across from us below and I think that was the only patch of sun we saw until we started descending next day. We didn’t care though, it was a joy from end to end and Ladhar Beinn without a view is not a lesser experience at all, under your feet and hands is awesome every stumble of the way.

The walk out though, that was maybe the best of all. There was a scout troop who were leaving around the same time as us for the 10km or so walk back out from Barrisdale and their brave leader didn’t like the look of us one bit.
We hit the trail, we spotted wildlife, dealt with a blister, we laughed etc and all the while, we caught glimpses of the scoutmaster peering at us from the distance to see just how far ahead we were.

It’s a glorious trail by the loch, but it is long and we soon found ourselves fully immersed in this game of cat and mouse to help pass the time. Every time they got closer we horsed on and widened the gap. Scoutmaster rallied his troops and whipped them forwards in his hopeless task to assert his domination over the trail.

I can imagine the poor kids red, sweating and miserable faces and the curses uttered underneath. I can also imagine that they clubbed to death and then buried the scoutmaster in an unmarked grave by the loch and then went feral for they never were seen again after Skiary…

From that day on, between us and soon also our once tight knit wee group of adventurers, to Scoutmaster *verb, meant to push hard, to beast in, to race for the goal.
And so it remains.

April Shower

500m over the river from the front door but across a local authority boundary. It only just occurred to us that we were allowed to go.
Picked a nice evening for it too.

I’ve often said on here that I can walk out my door into the hills and I know that sounds like exaggeration, but below is both my door and the hills behind it.
Bowling is right in the middle, if I go either way I’m in the Highlands or a Glasgow restaurant in the same amount of time.
The village may have spend many years abandoned by West Dunbartonshire council but Scottish Canals are building a linear garden on the old railway viaduct, the shops in the arches are still open and other brownfield sites on either side of us are showing the green shoots of new purpose.
We shall see.

We took a different route, going down through woodland on trails I’d never even see. Around the trees is a jagged blanket of lush green getting ready burst with bluebells, we’ll be back to see that.
It was cool, not too much of a breeze, but enough to keep the beach and trails quiet so we had the place to ourselves.

The tide was pulling the river away leaving waterlogged and reflective sand to mirror the golden sky. It’s really quite beautiful, but you have to line it up right, I can see this same bit of sand in the photie below from the living room window and I can assure you it’s kinda brown. You have to find the sun and walk towards it, always.

I have made a packed dinner, it’s way too late for lunch mind. I slow cooked a sirloin steak in the griddle pan, cut it into strips and filled a baguette with it along with proper butter, fried red onion, sliced baby tomatoes, Seriously cheese and Hellman’s chilli mayo. They were wrapped in foil, oven warmed to get the cheese melting and stuck in a cool bag, you know, to keep them warm.
Warm they were and emotionally tasty with a flask of coffee.
And then there were Patisserie Valerie cakes. It’s date night, come on.

The riverside terrain is complicated to say the least and there was much falling over. It’s a place to blow out a knee or twist an ankle, I’ve watched a helicopter rescue unfold here from home for just that.
There’s weird stuff too, I think below it’s a table set for a giant or something? Neolithic toilet? Troll crutch and fez Christmas set?

There were dope smoking neds lurking in the dark trees on the way back so we took a detour through the old Erskine Hospital grounds, sorry Mar Hall.
Last time I was in there they had a steam leak in the basement which had blown all the asbestos off the pipework and it was floating in chunks in the hissing bubbling water as it gained depth in the plant room.
The 80s were great, health and safety hadn’t come in yet. We did get to chat to WW1 and WW2 veterans at the same time we were there too.

Never seen such scars, or men alive and talking with such substantial bits of their heads missing. I’m not making light of this one little bit. These poor bastards got blown to pieces there wasn’t the knowledge to do any better than what these old boys got.
It’s a testament to their own inner strength and the regenerative capabilities of the human body that they were still there.

We walked the deserted access road back to the car as a fox scurried from side to side ahead of us. The world was quiet, but the next morning it was going to wake up and go mental for easter.
I’m glad life is coming back but I will miss the quieter times and places, I’m going to have to look a little harder to find them now. Drive a little father too? Oh, I remember that stuff.

Less than three weeks.

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.


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.

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.