Friday, 29 December 2006

PBP: AT podcast

Just listening to the Practical Backpacking podcast interview with Appalachian Trail through-hikers Joe White and Bryan Wolf. The podcast (PBP Episode 19) can be found here, and the lads' blog is here. The interview was at about 1,000 miles into the walk, about 90 miles away from the half-way mark. Never having been there, these sorts of figures reminds me just how big the USA is!

They have some stunning photographs in the 'Kodak-EasyShare' albums. I'm amazed at how similar to Scotland some of Maine looks. The gents are heading from the North to the South, from the Fall over the Winter, aiming to end at Georgia in February 07. Seems odd, but it must be spectacular to walk through New England in the Fall. It'll be interesting to read how weather affects the southern stretches.

A good 'lessons learnt' podcast.

New stuff: they mentioned Mountain House foods, which I'd not heard of before.

Foot rot and wee men

Is it just me, but I'm using the weight of my tent as the cut-off weight for my footwear, as I browse the Net looking at boot reviews. I know my Scarpa Aus2 are heavy, but they're heavier than my Akto! Okay if you're walking in the rocks and need the protection.

Unpacked my down sleeping bag as it has been scrunched up for a week now. Watched the MCoS "Water hazards in the mountains" dvd last night. Good advice, and well-illustrated too. The 'before' and 'after' shots of a section of a river makes the point clearly that you need to take care.

I've spent time walking up and down river banks in the Spring and Autumn, looking for the safest place to cross. On one occasion, giving up in the failing light and camped out, crossing the river the next day as the light showed how dangerous the 'best' place to cross was that I'd found the night before. Don't let fatigue and the desire to stick to plans trick you into thinking that 'best' is 'safest'.

Read some of the "Gurkha Highlander" overnight. I like the comment from one of the squaddies, seeing Glen Feshie in the Cairngorms:
"This is very beautiful...Why don't people farm here? It looks good. There should be a village here."

Feshie/Geldie moor in Summer 2006.

Wednesday, 27 December 2006

Thinking on my Feet

I'm thinking of upping from the Terrocs to walking boots (but I've not mentioned that on OM yet), as I took my Scarpa SLs home with me for winter walking, as I don't think ... okay, I know that ... my trail shoes won't keep my feet warm, no matter how good the socks are.

The SLs fit well, but I've never had a good walk from them. Big and clunky. One of the things about the Terrocs is that I can feel the ground - like a good pair of trainers. With the SLs, it's like being in a car. If I can get a boot that gives me that freedom, I'll be a happier bunny.

Not having access to gear reviews in magazines, or outdoor shops, I'll hold off on this until I'm back in civilisation. In the meantime, here's a taste of the atmosphere here from the late, great Rikki Fulton. And more local humour from Tormad Maclean (translations required for non-Islanders), and Norman not in drag.

Tuesday, 26 December 2006

The Prevailing Wind

Catching up with various blogs on Boxing Day, I come to Andy Howell's, where the topic of wind farms has been raised by a comment from Calvin Jones.

Comments from Calvin Jones include:

  • I believe that walkers should be with environmentalists and yes that means with wind.
  • There has been increasingly vocal opposition to wind farms and associated works throughout the UK. Mainly by people who “don’t want to see the countryside spoiled”. Such an anthropocentric view of the countryside is just the sort of ignorant and harm full attitude that really does threaten our lands real beauty.
  • When a wind power project is proposed near your home, will you protect your most treasured land and support wind?
My democratic position on this is that business is out to make as much money from wind farms as possible, scourging the landscape and saying that anyone who is against them is short-sighted. People in the Hebrides were in favour of windfarms, but then the proposed turbines got taller and taller as the venture capitalists got greedier and greedier. The landowners own the land, and refuse to allow small local developments to go ahead.

If the power is required in the central belt, why not build the windfarms in the central belt instead of scarring tracts of the landscape of the Highlands? That must make both economic, environmental and social sense? But the NIMBY voters of the central belt won't be happy bunnies; better to upset some Teuchters instead.

It should be quite simple to have 'energy miles', like 'food miles'. Draw a circle around a town or city, and say that x% of the power used by that area must be generated by that area. Most houses will have loft insulation by now (heck, that project's been going on for years), so scale it up to domestic solar panels.

So, I'm in favour of community wind farms (local power for local people), incentives for solar panels, responsibly sited tidal and wave power, geothermal power. And whilst countries like China, Russia and America keep belching out greenhouse gases, it will make little difference to the changing climates. But at least make a little difference and can try to hold back the rising tides and be a shining beacon to the world. And where humanity builds a tv where the 'off' switch really means 'off' .

Monday, 25 December 2006


Presents: The "Gurkha Highlander" book (party of Gurkhas walking from Mallaig to Stonehaven). "Wainwright's Coast to Coast Walk" dvd (recon for Easter). "Grizzly Man" and "Gripping Yarns" dvds for my imagination. Three 50ml miniatures of malt (for my thumb-flask), and a box of Edradour fudge (yummy). Some nice lining socks. Family know I'm happy with my kit and like shopping for it, so I got some money too. I love my family (especially after a 2 hour long dinner). Scrummy.

New sites listed on OM, from the Scottish Avalanche Information Service:
SAIS Lochaber
SAIS Northern Cairngorms

Kept two Chinese HOST visitors happy watching the Munro Show last night. They couldn't get over that someone as thin and spindly as they were could climb such scary hills. They'll be looking out for An Teallach from the ferry tomorrow. Also for views like this:

One asked if I take my camera with me hiking. "Yes" and "always" was my reply. I'm a 'point-and-click' photographer, but I like keeping a record of what I've seen. And sometimes I get lucky and really like what nature has allowed me to photograph.

Oh, and having never read it in its entirety, the last few paragraphs of "A Christmas Carol" were a shock for me, especially the bad pun about abstinance and not being bothered by spirits. Well, here's the text file from the fine people at Project Gutenberg (keeping the spirit of the Internet alive). Merry Christmas, one and all.

Friday, 22 December 2006


Nae very romantic, blogging from a ferry queue in Ullapool, but it passes the time of day. As does hitting the outdoor shops. There are 3 I like to peruse.

Northwest Outdoors sells lots of gear, from wynnster to paramo and a fine coffee shop to sit in whilst justifying your new gear.

Next is the Ullapool Bookshop. It has more hiking and scottish history books than Waterstones in Aberdeen. Great selection and the epitome of a bookshop.

Lastly, the Ullapool Hardware shop - they keep the names simple here - has a reasonable selection of outdoors gear. Socks, flasks, fishing gear, etc.

So, a 'life is good' t-shirt and 2 scottish history books are now mine, all mine, my precious bookses. Yes, my presentses they are...

Monday, 11 December 2006

Couch 22

Mad Jim's posted some photos from the OM meet that I missed on Saturday. I'd be too scared to tackle that snow anyway.

Suite 1: Morven (including the killer ducks of Braemar).
Suite 2: Beinn Bhreac and Beinn a'Chaorainn.

Very impressive, chaps.

Now, off to update iTunes to handle the kafuffle over Bob's Outdoors Channel/Station whatever he's renamed it to stop the sodding lawyers having a go. In the meantime the streets are coated in broken glass and cars are hooring up 20mph-limited streets. Priorities? Humbug!

Picked up a pair of merino260 leggings in Tiso's. Actually, I bought them yesterday, but looked at the chest measurement instead of the waist size. So exchanged them today. They had a copy of "Sacred Summits: John Muir's Greatest Climbs" for 2 quid instead of £8.99, so I splurged out on that. That works out to be over a 10% discount on the whole shopping. Honest.

Saturday, 9 December 2006

Couch 21

The new "The Angry Corrie" is available online. Always worth a read.

Day out:Quoich-Fhearnaig-Lui

Just back from a day out. First hike since October! How sad is that? Very sodding sad, that's how.

As I was heading into the Cairngorm NP with a mate, and the forecast was cold, with the chance of snow flurries, I packed survival gear just in case. Obviously the Akto was in there. I packed my big Scarpa SL's in case I needed them when we got there, but took (and wore) my Terrocs instead.

Parked at the Linn of Dee car park and road-walked round to Linn of Quoich. Snack break by the "Punchbowl", and noticed the flowers left by the bridge in memory of the poor wee lass who drowned there earlier in the year. The day was cold, even though we were only at around 400m. I'd already changed from my Sealskinz to new Aspen cold-weather gloves. Walking north-westerly, the wind was in our face.

Climbing up the path over the Quoich Water, we caught a stunning view of the snow on the peaks. Having already driven past a snow-capped Lochnagar, this wasn't a surprise, but was still stunning.

We pushed on to Clais Fhearnaig, where we planned to stop for a lunch. The snow-capped hills delayed us slightly, as we kept stopping to take photos. Two walkers passed us heading south, from their "Hellos", FJ reckoned they may have been German or Danish. She has more of an ear for that sort of thing.

A black&white spaniel (I think) came bounding over the heather of the Clais, followed by another dog and then a couple. More "hellos" and the dogs did their sniffing-investigation-bounding thing. Nice, well-behaved and non-intimidating behaviour. Even though I'm a cat person, I can appreciate the boundless enthusiasm of a dog in it's element.

As to other animals, we'd seen some stags when in the car, and a couple of female deer when on foot. Later on that day, a hovering-flying thing (kestrel? hawk of some sort), and a flight of black birds (not geese or grouse). I'm hopeless at bird-watching, if you haven't already guessed.

Stopped for lunch at the Lochan and got the Micron out. Took ages to boil 0.6 litres of water for cuppa-soups. I didn't time it, but the heat lost by stopping was not regained by drinking the warm drinks. Definitely needs a wind-shield. I'll take one next time.

Pushed on and into Glen Lui. A slight diversion to Bob Scott's Bothy to leave some presents for the OMers who were basing their weekend there. Although we didn't meet them, a gentleman called Neil was stopping there for a brew and meal before pushing on to camp overnight and then to the Lairig Ghru and Aviemore on Sunday. We had a brew too, rested up, repacked gear and headed back to the car. It was noticeable that the Micron took far less time to heat the same amount of water than outdoors. From the guest-book, Geoff had already headed off to Aviemore on foot, and we read about the heroic rescue of an entangled stag by a Dundonian hiker.

While Akto-spotting at the bothy, I went out to fix a tent that had blown down. Turned out to be be a perfectly OK hooped bivvy. My bad. Still, first one I'd seen in 'real life'.

Tabbed it back to the car in falling daylight, and kept our night-vision as a Landy went past. Far better chance of seeing things without using a head-torch. We were rewarded on the way back to the car by seeing 2 stags rushing away from us across a stream.

Stopped off in Banchory at the chipshop by the river, polished off a fine meal, then headed home.

Summary - 14 miles/23km. A fine day out. 0900 - 1630, including stops.

No blisters. Terrocs behaved well again. Had to keep feet dry as no drying in the weather at all. I had Sealskinz waterproof socks and liners with me in case needed. New jacket was nice and warm (temperature around/just above freezing).

For my legs I wore HH leggings and Montane Terra trousers. Any colder and I'd have added another layer. For snow walking, I reckon I'd really need some dedicated cold-weather trousers, or warmer leggings (or both).

Forgot to put on lip-salve and lost my camera's retaining clip. I'll put that down to still being groggy after fighting off the cold.

Thursday, 7 December 2006

Gear 8: Montane Verso Jacket

Out in the Cairngorms at the weekend. Forecast from MWIS is cold at height. Not going up high, just walking up Glen Quoich and across to Glen Lui. As the forecast is cold, thought I'd better upgrade from my Columbia fleece softshell to something warmer. Decided on the Montane Verso as I have a Montane jacket already so trust the brand.

Something I noticed is that jackets tend to be quoted as "warmer" or telling you what it's made of, e.g. "60g provides thermal insulation of 2 TOG" or "155g of 95% Goose down at 800+ fill power". Why no comfort rating, like they have on sleeping bags? I know there are difficulties with sleeping bag ratings, but at least they are a guide. There were 4 coloured leaflet tags with the jacket, none tells me what temperature the jacket will keep me warm at (not even under 'laboratory conditions'). The chap in the shop can tell me, and a search on the Internet or query on OutdoorsMagic, but not the information sheet.

Bit out of it when in the gear shop, as the cold's been building up over the last few days - today I was at the sore eyes and feeling groggy stage, with intermittent sniffles.

Got a wee box of goodies for the OMers on Saturday. If I don't meet any, I'll leave it at Bob Scott's Bothy.

Tuesday, 5 December 2006

Couch 20


No, not for England losing at the cricket, but for Bob's venture into podcasting on being taken off the air because of a letter from US lawyers.

He hasn't said who's sent the hounds in, but I'll be boycotting them anyway as I'll have to waste time rejigging iTunes. Typical bullying attitude from business lawyers. It'd be nice if Bob put in a claim for the new stationery, etc. Y'see it's not just a matter of a new web address, it is a whole pile of effort.

So, why does it matter if a US company has a similar name to a UK one. Just look at and, not similar at all. used to be owned by a US legal firm until the BBC (the good old Blighty Broadcasting Chaps) paid about US$375,000 for the address. Not sued, but paid.

Y'see, was a spin-off business by Bob, not typosquatting (like I've also checked iTunes, and there's no-one with a similar name on there.

So give a thought to poor Rose, who won't see her man much over Christmas, as he's slaving away over a hot keyboard, with only the heat from the CD-burner as he has to cut back the pennies to pay for the rebranding because of some US company flexing it's muscles.

So, a hearty "boooooooooooo" to the US lawyers and the ne'r-do-wells who wish to bring their own brand of legal morals to our sceptred isle (which isn't sublet from Cuba).

Sunday, 3 December 2006

Couch 19

I've been mainly working and painting wargames figures this week. My boxed set of "Weir's Way" came through from - about half price in their sale. Which was nice. There are some clips of it on ScotlandOnTV.

In amongst the paperwork, there are letters from the MCoS and NTS, so I guess my annual membership is in need of renewal.

Bought a pair of warm winter hiking gloves today. In the first shop I went to, I got met by a security guard, her arms crossed. Now, IMHO, there are 2 types of security guards - this was one that made me feel like a potential criminal. So, I walked out and took my custom elsewhere.

Let me explain something. I don't like modern crowds. They are chaotic, arrogant and self-centred. I don't need that agro when I go out shopping. So, even if I start out in a happy mood, by the time I get to the shops, I'm often not a happy bunny any more.

Gear bought: Salomon Aspen GTX gloves

Weird Darren's blog is worth popping over to. Just leave your buff at home.

Off to the Cairngorms for a day's trek next weekend. So busy, that it takes 3 weeks of emails to organise one day out! Never mind, hope to get out a couple of times over the Christmas break (hence looking for warmer gloves).

Sunday, 26 November 2006

Couch 18

Nothing much on the hiking scene in the last few weeks. Been in at work over the weekends prepping for classes, so that's put a hold on things. Out to the Cairngorms in a couple of weeks time, but even that's causing problems, one pal can only go on a Saturday, another can't, and the final one is working on effects for his new movie.

We've all heard about the 2 A.U. lads who recently lost their lives in the Cairngorms. I've given up reading the drivel that's been written about the loss of life. I think - no, I know - I'm taking it more personally because I've been hiking in the region over the past 2 years. Maybe it's just the revenge of the couch potatoes, the people that seem to accept deaths on the road as a fact of life, but if people are caught out in bad weather, that's stupidity. I made the mistake of looking at the Scotsman's forum - maybe that's why I've had 2 nosebleeds in 12 hours?

Anyway, as to light relief. I 'won' both volumes of the Munro Show on eBay (20 quid plus postage in total). They're on VHS, so I've taken a dvd copy to protect the tapes. I'll have a film night soon, and we can all enjoy this cultural landmark show - and the blue-screen rapping opening sequence.

I've cut down on my intake of OutdoorsMagic recently, as I've been doing more painting for my wargaming. It's a matter of focus. Being male, I can't multitask properly, so split things into projects. Easter's project - the Wainwright Coast-to-Coast. 2007 wargame project - the German civil wars at the end of WW1. If I have time to paint, I'll paint, if I'm in the mood to read, I'll read Wainwright's book and think about the ground underfoot.

Wednesday, 8 November 2006

Gear 7: Petzl e+Lite

Nice wee torch from Petzl. Collected from sorting office today after ordering it from Bob and Rose at Backpacking Light.

The plastic ball-socket allows the LED light to be rotated dependant on how the lamp is secured to kit or worn with head-strap. Stated time of 35-45hours, distance not as far as my Tikka, but smaller and lighter using watch-batteries. Lamp settings are dim white, bright white, white strobe, red strobe and bright red. I'm looking forward to trying it on my next trip out.

Sunday, 5 November 2006

Couch 17

Been a quiet week. The skin on my feet has been peeling off the blisters to reveal lovely new shiney skin beneath. Picked up the Harvey's maps of the Coast-to-Coast route. It's so big it takes 2 maps, though they are only printed on one side of the paper. It'll be to make folding easier.

No C2C books in Aberdeen, so ordered via Amazon. Got the Trailblazer book by Henry Stedman/Jim Manthorpe, and, of course. "A Coast to Coast Walk" by A Wainwright. I couldn't not get that one!

Went to the MCofS meeting on Thursday. Exciting stuff. Some problems about changing to a company, legal issues, and issues concerning voting procedures. I thought we'd entered a timewarp when block votes was mentioned and thought Mick McGahey was going to be quoted. I'll stick to Markism. Bought a couple of dvds co-produced by the MCofS: "Winter essentials" and "Water hazards in the mountains".

Got an email through from a group who hiked the WHW and Great Glen Way to Inverness. You can find their blog here. They raised over £1000 for SCOPE. Shiney. Nice to see different stopping places. Reading the blog, I'm glad I missed the midge-season.

My new iPod arrived. Been listening to podcasts on it. Been watching movies on it. Being me, I dug out the oldest movie I possess: Fritz Lang's "Metropolis", from 1927, to put on the iPod. Of course, being me, I now find that "The Battleship Potemkin" is 2 years younger. Ah well.

I noticed that some of the links I put to YouTube are now dead. Both were to clips that had been cut to music, rather than dvds recorded from the TV. I guess it's part of Google's clean-up. Hmm, I wonder how they are getting on with their copying of in-copyright books? Anyway, it just means that some of the links in the blog for the WHW will be dead. In an alternative universe, I'd go and point to new links, but I have neither the time nor the inclination.

Tuesday, 31 October 2006

Couch 16

First snow of the season spotted via webcam at I'll need to get some winter camping in to dust off the cobwebs. Nothing on the hills until I get competent with winter practices. I don't like the idea of putting myself in danger.

Thursday, 26 October 2006

Couch 15

Put in the last of the charity money from work. That takes the final total up to £203.08 (including gift-aid). Thank you all folks.

Gear 6: Primus Micron

Collected the Primus Micron screw-in stove from the sorting office today; after Planet Fear shipped and delivered within 48 hours of order. Tiny bit of kit, as the photo to the left shows. 96 grammes, and fits inside the palm of my hand. More importantly, fits into my cook-set.

Make sure that the 'grids' (arms) are locked in place before placing pan on top. On a test burn in the kitchen, I hadn't locked one arm properly. Boiled a titanium pan of 1 pint of water in 4 minutes. Not really test conditions for the hills, but good enough for me.

The gear below shows a Coleman 250 gas cannister with Micron all inside my Snow*Peak Titanium Trek 900. with room to spare.

Sunday, 22 October 2006

Couch 14

Carried my Primus Gravity gas stove for 95 miles and only used it 4 times to boil water. Thought that I was being silly. So spent money at Planet Fear on a Primus Micron. I'll cope with my fears of the screw-in stove and its high centre of gravity. Just need to make sure it is stable first - shouldn't be difficult.

Primus Gravity: 220g. Primus Micron: 96g.

Been hobbling round flat. 2 blisters are painful, but I'll get over it. Tent drying naturally, other gear washed and dried. I definitely took too much food with me, still got lots left.

Friday, 20 October 2006

WHW-epilog 8

Gear fixes. Sew reflec tape onto peg-cord so easier to find in heather (or investigate reflec cord). First aid kit: more blister pads, plasters and tape that actually stick to the skin. Maybe an insulated camelbak as heat from my back was being transferred to the uninsulated sack. Retaining system for solaruno. Replace batteries in headtorch.

WHW-epilog 7

As the train departs from Glasgow northwards, my goal on returning to work on Monday is that my blisters will have healed enough so that I can climb 5 flights of stairs without taking the lift.

Music from yesterday: Status Quo "you're in the army now" [*] as the pacerpoles developed a life of their own and frogmarched me into Kinlochleven. Out on the moors, with no-one around, it was G&S time. With half-remembered songs from The Mikado [*] and Pirates [1, 2, 3]. On the way into FW, The Doors classic "The End" [*]. Exit Glasgow to the Willy Fogg theme [*] (there's a historical reason for that, which I won't go into here). In case anyone has any doubts, of course I will be making a compilation album.

WHW-epilog 6

Loch Lomond is mirror flat. I look out for the bothy where I spent Sunday night, but trees on both sides prevent the chance of a re-acquaintance. The clouds are rolling back and sun turns the loch silver and gold.

WHW-epilog 5

Upper Tyndrum. The announcer pronounced it tine-drum. No-one was able to give me a definitive answer on the Way.

I didn't see anyone on the trail. If I had, I would have waved. You won't get far escaping justice on the WHW [*], the police have helicopters and thermal imaging these days.

WHW-epilog 4

Rannoch. The sun breaks through the clouds, catching a hill with its light. A pallete of glowing browns, reds, yellows and greens. There isn't enough of a gap in the clouds to light the whole hill, so the borderline moves along with the thermals. There's a person on the train who looks like Fyfe Robertson. I doubt it's the real one, though. [*]

WHW-epilog 3

Corrour station. 2 people get on the train. Wow. They must be hardy folk.

WHW-epilog 2

The train heads south at seeming-breakneck speed, eating up the miles it took me days to walk over. Bridge of Orchy in 80 minutes. It took me 2 days, including yesterday's 22 mile slog. The train is an old 1972 tf model. I made that up. All I know is that it is an older model, from days when the customers were considered as people, not numbers. There's even a warm air vent by my feet!

My Roclites are tanning themselves. One of the train crew congratulated me on completing the Way. I've changed into fresh clothing, but I'm detecting an aroma. Eau de fiadh?[*]

I'll summarise things later. I took too much food. I took too little notice of the guidebooks and how the conditions underfoot would affect my feet.

WHW-epilog 1

Sat in a dead Fort William, waiting for the train station to open at 7am. I'll get ticket and changed then. I'm waiting for the polis to swing by - well it's not as if they're going after the early birds for speeding. Half-perched on a wall, designed to be uncomfortable to stop people hanging around.

WHW day 6.19

WHW done, and done. 0305am. Photos to take, then pitch to find for remainder of night. Good night, and good luck [*].

WHW day 6.18

On pavement walking into FW.

WHW day 6.17

Finally I clear a forest and see the actual lights of Fort William below. The day doesn't end until I stop hiking.

WHW day 6.16

The stars are coming out, and the scent of pine from the felling ops wakens me.

WHW day 6.15

I wade ankle-deep through the mud where forestry vehicles have churned up the crossing. A timely reminder of priorities. The map board notes it's 6.5 miles to go.

WHW day 6.14

The sign by the gate says something like Ruthavara Forest. It's not named on the Harvey's map. Feet getting more painful.

WHW day 6.13

I stop and switch off the headtorch (see, I'm learning). There's definitely a glow in the clouds to my north. Fort William? Sitting on a rock by the Way-side I am alone, with the hills and a sky not so overcast as to be completly dark. Shapes and sounds. A different landscape, but still the Highlands.

WHW day 6.12

1 hour of night-walking done 4 to go. Sounds of a river below and to my left. Path is good, but floods every now and again.

WHW day 6.11

In an homage to Spaced [*], I think I'll need to add an homage-meter to this blog ;-)

Thursday, 19 October 2006

WHW day 6.10

The light is getting lower as the hills are getting higher. I've quietly stowed my overtrousers. Unlike King Lear, I don't want to tempt whatever is up or out there [*]. I mean, with chaos theory and everything, there's more surface area in a pair of trousers flapping in the breeze than a butterfly's wings!

WHW day 6.9

A group of monks walk by me carrying a large box. Torchwood Estate? Sorry, pal, not on this road. Wait a minute, if you're oriental warrior monks how come you have Glaswegian accents? [*, ?]

WHW day 6.8

Gps unit reckons Fort Bill at 1040. But it works on LOS and I don't. I hear voices, but see no-one. Waterproofs rustle too much. Rain eased off long enough for me to think of taking off the waterproof trousers. Then it started to rain again. We have intelligent rain in Scotland, as an old lecturer of mine described it.

WHW day 6.7

Friday is a big day for my wee brother and his kids. I want to get to Fort William today so the end of my walk doesn't intrude. Also, 6 days sounds better than 7 days. Mike and FJ & Gwen, you are cordially invited to a bunfight at mine on Saturday. I'll open the invite to any OMer, relative or workmate in the Aberdeen area. Email or text me for directions and I'll reply late on Friday or early Saturday.

WHW day 6.6

14 miles to Fort William. The heavens have opened, though I think that's why the factory was built here - wettest place in the UK, though my memory may be wrong on that [*]. Currently sat under the shelter of an umbrella in the beer garden of the Ice Factor, Kinlochleven. I didn't like to muddy their cafe, and had already scoped out a shelter on the way in. No-one asked how the walk was going.

Blast! Just found the water run-off from the umbrella pole as it runs water down my knee. Another cunning plan foiled. Waterproofs, then away.

WHW day 6.5

Water starts falling from sky as I hum out the 'they might be giants' song [*] 'Triangle Man' meets Aktoman. They have a fight Akto wins. It's a happy land.
Personalised vandalism

WHW day 6.4

Wonderful, wonderful Kinlochleven [*]. I catch sight of it as I come round the hill. More importantly, I see the Way out of it too. I let out a celebratory wolf's howl[*] and start whistling "Bad Moon Rising[*]".

The tink, tink, tink, of walking poles on stone coming up behind me reminds me I'm not alone.

WHW day 6.3

The Staircase carpeted, photos taken, I push on. Overtaken again by the Nolan and Montgomery families. We chat about whys, and what next. I can't keep up their pace. I need to get fitter before my next LDW.

WHW day 6.2

Altnafeadh beckons. Track has been good this morning. Small-fine aggregates. Good underfoot, but wash away easily. The Way-keepers can't win.

I've given up waving to tour buses. No-one's waved back. They don't know me, of course. I could be a murderer fleeing justice. They return to their "Hello"s, mp3s and watching "The 39 Steps". Hmm, air suddenly feels damper. A passenger in a caravanette looks and waves. I wave back. I try to smile, but it probably looks like a grimace.

The Devil's Staircase awaits. I return to singing a John Tams song as vehicles speed by, unable to see around blind corners or through blind summits. Ah well. I dream of reaching Ft Bill tonight, but doubt it. It's over the hill and far away...
[*, lyrics]

WHW day 6.1

Overcast, cold wind, forecast dodgy. Settling up the breakfast bill with the receptionist. She's from above the Arctic Circle and left her cold clothing behind when she came to Scotland. She can't find similar clothing in the gear shops here.

Excellent breakfast. The matron'd fusses like my Nanny. "I'd like the full Scottish breakfast," says I. "Porridge or cereal", says she. "No fry-up?" "Oh yes, that was just the starter." She then lists all I'll get, then there's the climber's extras... I'm in Gaeldom. Sod the feet and the weather. Life is good. I didn't have the heart to mention the marag dubh, it wasn't Charlie Barley's. I'm not a snob.

WHW day 5.14

Started the day humming 'I am a rock' by S&G [*], and a few hours later I meet the Chinese artist carrying a rock. Maybe i'll start thursday with the old Queen classic "fat bottomed girls on their bicycles [*]" ;-) only other new tune was the bit from "The Bridge on the River Kwai [*]" I was whistling coming in to Kingshouse at a better pace than the shuffle I'd had on most of the day. Though I think the tune got confused with "A Bridge Too Far [*]". Yes, that was me going through Inveroran with poles couched, holding a chewy bar like I was George Peppard, whistling the Mickey Mouse Club theme a la FMJ. If we don't learn from movies, we are doomed to rewatch them.

Deer roaring outside. Anyone got the number of the council's community team? Get an ASBO slapped on them. I can't be bothered adding an emoticon after that, if you can't tell when I'm being serious and when I'm not, then there's no hope for you. Come on, how could the council tell which stag was the one making all the noise?

Wednesday, 18 October 2006

WHW day 5.13

Roughing it outside the Kingshouse Hotel. Look, I'm in my Akto, so I'm roughing it! Covered 12.5miles/20km today. Approx 71.5 miles from start. Around 24miles to go. Woohoo. I hadn't been daring to do a countdown. Back in the world on Friday night, train out of Fort Bill on Saturday morning. Anything quicker than that is just tempting fate. I wonder what the vacana is for today, sometimes it's uncannily accurate.

Trailblazer book gets the thumbs up from everyone. Pacerpoles have been great. I've been using SolarUno primarily as phone recharger rather than solar charger. Not sure about the Roclites - I'd need to do the Way again in my Terrocs, and that ain't gonna happen any time soon. Atmos pack has been great. I've been squirrelling away snacks in the hip-belt pockets and using one pocket to store phone whilst hooked up to charger, dangling from a tie on the back of pack.

Found another blister today, not sure if I missed it yesterday. On right foot, not painful. Life and the 'Way' goes on.

WHW day 5.12

And lashings of ice cream for pudding. Scrummy! [*]

WHW day 5.11

At Kingshouse. Climbers bar closed, so shuffled to public bar. I don't like leaving tent out of vision, but that's just me. Ordered dinner, another pint of guinness and a malt. The double malt is taller than my trailblazer WHW book and mobile phone stacked. I'll sleep well tonight. My heart's in the highlands, as the song goes [*, lyrics]. Family of walkers next to me organising breakfasts. Such energy and organisation puts me to shame.

WHW day 5.10

BEM is huge! It's like a big version of the Devil's Bod. Weather fine. A bit more walking to go. Rest up feet tonight.

WHW day 5.9

There I was, wandering uphill, about 6km away from Kingshouses. Thinking of the weight that the squaddies tab it around with. Then I remembered gear problems and carrying water and waste out. McNab and Chris Ryan [*]...Eccleston! [*] I may be slow, but I get there :-)

WHW day 5.8

Tuna snack in ruins before Ba bridge. Taped up annoying blister again. GPS reckons I'll get to Kingshouse by 4pm. Weather coming in from south west. Spectacular.

WHW day 5.7

Just met He Yun Chang [*]. Carrying a rock around Britain [*]. Wow. I have a pamphlet. Url is

WHW day 5.6

Cleared the unnamed forest near black mount and it's evil black flies [*]. Like flying ticks. Black black black. But enough of the Fast Show [*]. Back out onto the moors. Noticeable drop in temperature. Shuffling on. Think Kingshouse will be it for me today.

WHW day 5.5

There he is, below and to left left of the hinds. Below and to the right is a second stag, quiet in the long rushes. A couple of hikers smile as they move on apace.

WHW day 5.4

The 100km mark. 52km left to go. At 3kph that's about 17 hours of walking to go to Ft William. 62 miles done, 33 to go. I still can't see the stag that's bellowing to my front-left arc.

WHW day 5.3

Look, don't text me the answer. It's nae exactly Fermat's Last Theorem [*], but it's diverting my brain from the pain of the diametrically opposite blisters on my left foot. Overlooking Inveroran hotel.

For first time, I can see where I'll be walking for the next few hours. It's like something out of a Japanese painting. Mist, trees, water. I hope I see a heron, it'd just complete the scene.

A stag is visible on the ridgeline to my left. He wanders off, adding to the bellowing coming from 3-4 different directions, and the duck calls from the water. A bowl of sake would go down nicely. No sign of any woodcutters [*]. A car spoils the illusion. Reality beckons.

WHW day 5.2

Aargh. My memory is terrible. I curse myself again, but I just can't remember the name of the actor Who played him before DT!! Only 2 exclamation marks [*], so no need to worry yet ;-) oh yes, mist, deer, it's great being out here, yackety yack.

WHW day 5.1

I didn't get much sleep last night. Tent pitched at 30' angles lengthwise and breadthwise. Head downhill, I awaken when I roll into condensation.

I'll breakfast on the go, yesterday's big breakfast a mere memory. Still, the midges are having a snack. Mist is below me, clouds above, hills brown speckled between. Deer still bellowing in the distance. I see the trodden grass to my north where last night three pairs of eyes reflected my torchlight back at me. Off to Kingshouse.