Unexpected Pakora

I did make it to the mountains, just around the middle of them instead up up ’em.
Beinn Vane looks good from any angle.

Phil, Craig and I went on a training run as the date for the WHW*Falldoon approaches. That date is probably the third weekend in October, which is later than we’d hoped as it means it’s got more of a chance of being on the wintry side, but it does give the old bloke an extra couple of weeks training…

The three of us have been out on a mix of wheels and feet before and the yo-yo effect happened again. We raced to the trail and immediately slowed on the ascent where Craig caught us up. We needled each other until a flat spot saw Phil and I stretch out a wee lead. When we both reached the highpoint of the trail (this time, both of us in the saddle, it was the same route as last week), Craig passed us after a couple of minutes and I never even looked up from my position of hanging over the bike trying to keep my breakfast down. The extra heat and slightly fuzzy head really made life difficult on the long climb this time.

The easily angled descent to the burn was slow, I felt burst after the climb. Phil was waiting for me when I got to the weir and he just had to cool down. I resisted the cold water and just sat down instead.
Some Nuun, a look at the view, a pee and a walk up and down saw me feeling better. And when we left for the return leg I knew that the climbing was over and and I had to actually ride the bike as opposed to sit on it and spin the pedals.
I was a wee bit worried as I was a bit shaky on the technical stuff last time, but the first sketchy descent on a slate chute went well and I was boosted by that, making the rest of the rough singletrack less of a looming adversary and more of a ride-able funscape.

We caught Craig in the woods before the singletrack section and we stayed pretty close from here on.
When we got back to Arrochar we were pleased indeed. Team handed trips are fun, and it’s good to train together as it showed that Craig’s running is on the money and if his feet hold together it’s looking good for that 96 miles.
We had lunch at the wummin in the windowcafe at the Esso garage across from the carpark, it was heaven sinking my teeth into that scotch pie I’ll tell you.
What a great day out with my chinas indeed.

Now, I’m supposed to be in Glen Coe next week. Repeat to self, tent not bike, tent not bike, tent not bike…
Will I remember how to do all that stuff?

King of Electric

It was grey, Saturday had been dreich, and after my smashing wee escape from reality during the week I just wasn’t feeling like summits. The idea of ascent doesn’t always appeal, and I’m not a list ticker, sometimes I just like a nice gad about in the scenery.
Bobinson had been trapped by decorating and when I suggested a nice long walk to stretch the legs and get the feet used to non-winter footwear and socks, I could hear him taking his truck keys off of their hook by the door before I’d finished the sentence.

The trail we took starts in Arrochar and heads up Glen Loin, it’s an 18km route on forest roads or rocky tracks that takes you around and into the heart of familiar peaks giving you views of their hidden corners and faces that remain unknown the folks on the usual summit routes. This is the great benefit of being local, time to explore.

From Succoth you take the forest road which zigzags and turns north, away from Beinn Narnain and the Cobbler and climbs onto the side of A’Chrois, which you can glimpse through the heavy forest now and again, high gullies and crags still holding some snow.
It goes uphill for ever, but there’s a big break in the trees opposite the little isolated top of Dubh Chnoc where you can see very odd angles of Ben Lomond, Ben Vorlich and Beinn Chabhair. The forest is fine though, there’s things living in there, there are fast flowing burns and little waterfalls, the forest bed is carpeted with soft moss and looks very inviting. But through the gap in the canopy that the track provides, there are climpses of high cliffs, streaks of snow and even flashes of blue sky in the grey. So onwards you go.

We stopped for tea at the weir on the Allt Coiregrogain, towering above us the Arrochar Alps finest. Ben Vane, Beinn Ime, Ben Vorlich, A’Chrois and Beinn Narnain making a jagged circle of the steepest hillsides, dark with bare rock, huge exposed crags, faces black with snowmelt running down them, the pale dead grass between them accentuating and sharpening every shape. My concentration flitted from feature to feature, soaking it all in, revelling in it, we might have daft wee hills in out daft wee country, but it can still be majestic.

We crossed the river and headed down to Coiregrogain and here there were the signs of the hydro development at Loch Sloy. The whole area is tunnelled, the water flow carefully channeled and controlled to be used by Loch Sloy and Inveruglas to make the at electric that we all enjoy so much. Sixty years had dulled the occasional installations impact, they’ve worn and grown into the landscape and do not offend, just occasionally offer some odd geometric shapes into the random tumbling chaos of an average Arrochar Alp slope.

Looking back up the glen towards the bealach that joins Beinn Narnain and Ben Ime, I can’t help but think that the forestry could be described as looking like the contents a tin of dark green paint that had been thrown into a bath. Not often I get these cynical moments, but you have to wonder at some of the decisions that have been made. A second though, and the annoyance was gone. Magic view.

A hard right takes us back into Glen Loin and onto the Glen Loin Way. It’s a narrower path on this side of the glen, with some huge climbing crags, natural woodland and electric cables over your head. It’s a mountain biking challenge, and on foot still asks for some concentration.
The pylons and cables can be intrusive here, why couldn’t they bury them? Would wind turbines be worse or better? These are the questions.

On the trail we found the wee shelter above, someone had spent a lot of time and effort building it, and it’s far away from any road. Good effort.
The sky was darkening and the occasional patches of blue had healed up and a light drizzle drifted down, so soft it was nothing more than a cooling mist. We wandered along gazing West and picking out the line of our higher outward route as a slight hiccup in the regimented conifers.

By the time we were back at the truck it was dark, and we were in and away in seconds. I had a good workout on my feet and legs, I’ll feel it in the morning probably. But it’s been nice to be back in trail shoes, even if I do get wet feet now and again.
A nice wee day. No prizes won, not very photogenic, just eleven and a bit miles of deserted, banter filled trails through fantastic country.
And indeed, Macfarlane country. We’ll come back to that one day.

Phone in (sic)

…where the hell is my purple spotty Buff..it went in the washing so it should be here somewhere…
Riiing Riiing…Riiing Riiing…Riiing Riiing…
Yes? Yes?
“What are you up to?” Came Bobinsons understated tones.
“Packing my rucksack, bugger this, I’m off.”

I nearly didn’t, I nearly just sat down. The morning had gone really well, a days work done by lunch time. I went into the folks for lunch, played with Holly and felt myself slipping down in my chair, a blanket of warm apathy soothing my worries.
But I knew these days of sunshine and snow aren’t going to be here forever and it would worry me if I missed another chance like I hd been doing.
I went home and packed, made a wee flask, and I was out the door and heading North.  My plan was vague, I was thinking Beinn an Lochain, a fine Corbett with huge crags to its NW side, I hadn’t seen them under snow for years. I know I passed a snow capped Ben Lomond but I didn’t even look, the metal was loud and all that was in my mind was that blue sky above as I stepped into fresh snow, one foot after the other, no agenda, no strange gear, just me and the hill.
When I saw the Cobbler, I realised it’s been a while since I was up there and I planned to stop at the big carpark and head up, but the carpark was endowed withn a smattering of cars and I just sped by, today was not a day for meeting and greeting, it was just for me and the hill.
I drove up the Rest and be Thankful and marvelled at the ring of white tops all around me, this is the business I thought to myself as Beinn an Lochain drew nearer.
I was passing the familiar laybys on the uphill side of the Rest, and they were all empty. All that’s here is the dull way up the back of the Cobbler and a rather annonymous peak called Beinn Luibhean. It’s no wonder the laybys are empty.
All the regular access points to Beinn an Lochain had cars at them, I was crestfallen. I stopped at Butterbridge and considered my options. The empty laybys I had passed were calling to me, it’s the only peak I’d seen all day that I haven’t climbed. I spun around and booted it back down the road to Beinn Luibhean.

I pulled into the layby with the little quarry set back from the road. The rock had been used to make the embankment for the road, but it’s still a notorious landslip area, and as I headed up the steep hillside over ground that was peeling away like the pages of a book balanced on its spine, I could see that landslips are going to feature for some time to come.

As I passed my first spot of snow I stopped and took a breath. All the Arrochar Alps are steep and rough, and wet. Snowmelt ran everywhere, but the sun was beating down, the winds were light and I was seeing more and more of what was to come as I gained height. Angular crags and dark jagged rocks, sticking up through fresh snow like mini Cadbury Flakes thrown randomly onto a bucket of ice cream.

There were no footprints. I was making the first, breaking through the thin crust and into the virgin snow. I was grinning ear to ear and I climbed the ridge, passing knolls and crags and peering down the very steep hillside to the road below.
I stopped for a drink and gazed around at the oh-so familiar scene, but the shapes were slightly different because I was somewhere new. I reaquainted myself with trips on the hills around me going back years. It feels like home.
The Cobbler looks odd from the back, a big dome with only the hook of the North Peak hinting at its hidden spikiness.

I reached the 858m summit of Beinn Luibhean too quickly, the ridge was such a joy, the snow was deep and I was coasting along, music loud, top down, shades on and hair blowing in the wind.
For a daft wee hill it’s a cracking viewpoint, Ben Cruachan, Ben Lui, Mull, Arran, Ailsa Craig all right there in front of me.
The sun was getting low and I resolved to wait for it to set, it would be rude not to after all. There was nobody else around to appreciate the effort it was putting in as it selected it’s colour pallet for the day’s cliffhanger ending.

My mate Craig phoned me, and after I broke the news of where I was, I had the interesting addition of the urban chorus of traffic and the like from his phone as he walked through Glasgow as we talked. An unexpected soundtrack to such an occasion indeed.
It was getting really cold, so I dug myself into the snow, made a wind barrier and got myself comfy in my AMK Bivy2.0 with my pack’s foam pad underneath. I got my cuppa and some grub and I was happy as I watched the shadows creep up the side of Ben Ime. It wouldn’t be long to go.

When the sun went down it lined itself up with Beinn an Lochain and a cloud so it looked a bit like a volcano erupting, I’m sure the sun thought it was funnier than it actually was but still, well done.
I packed up and started to move, my thumbs were numb and there were mince and tatties to be had at home.
The ridge was just as much fun on the way back down, I didn’t retrace my steps and found more dramatic rock, more snow slopes to run or slide down and I realised that I adored this hill. It’s trackless, it’s deserted and it’s wonderful. I’ll be back again. Especially as I found a cave, there’s icicles in it just now, but you’d maybe squeeze two bivy bags in there. and the view out of the entrance? Crivvens!
My meandering scared the pants off of a mountain hare as well, I’m sure it had to go back and get its ears once I was out sight.

The moon rose as the sun disappeared, and it moves bloody fast across the sky as well for an old timer. It gave enough light that when it went completely dark all I needed was a single red LED to descend in confidence.
Soon the cars were becoming intrusive again, their lights and their engines prodded at my bubble of joy, but they couldn’t burst it.

Scattered cloud started moving in and sticking to the summits, but inbetween, the dark sky was full of stars.
I found the quarry and the motor again thanks to the passing cars picking it out with their lights, and once down sat with the last of my flask looking at the sky and the moolight catching the snow on the tops. 
And I was apparently unnerving passing motorists, as they braked and were probably wondering exactly what the hell I was doing, always a bonus.
A small day on a small hill, but the happiness was this big. It was just me and the hill.

Photie fixatron.

I’ve got a couple of days left of my free trial of the latest all singing, all dancing PhotoShop thing. It’s been pretty good, I’ve been playing with it for spot removal from the old scans and sharpening up saveable misty shots the like. I really can’t be arsed with all the manipulation that folks do, regardless of the stunning results acheived. I just need a proper grown-ups camera and I think I’d be happy.

Photies to me are memory jolters, an instant smile, something to bore Holly with?

That’s the Cobbler from Beinn Narnain, looking all mountainous and grand.

Photies are the only possession I would remove from a burning house. There are so many boxes of them though, and consequently numerous journeys through burning, collapsing timbers that I would probably die in the attempt.

Familiar view

Can’t even remember where I got this. Arrochar before the big blocks were stuck up the side of Narnain, nae trees on the hillsides either.

A pier with boats instead of angling ne’erdowells.


Have you read the signs in the carpark at the bottom of the Cobbler/ Narnain track? 

  • Please keep your windows rolled up and your hands inside the car at all times.

  • Do not feed the locals.

  • Parking charges are all of your money, no change.

  • Do not smile, it is not our custom and may offend.

  • Don’t ask too many questions, we don’t like your kind ’round here.

  • Welcome to Scotland, ye’ll have had your tea?

Bastards. Saw some poor sod get a ticket at 1755, the carparking is free at 1800. Mind you, you can park there for three months for the same cost as just looking for a space in Ambleside. The Lakes are carparking armagedon.


Most of my photies are on film. It’s hell on wheels the thought of scanning them all in. But there is a lot of good stuff.

Here’s the Cobbler from March 2002. I was climbing Beinn Narnain in the late afternoon, it was warm, sunny and I descenced in the dark under clear skies and quickly spreading frost.

The second one is on Narnain’s summit plateau looking back towards Ben Ime. Smashing.

Yes, can we have that again please.