Tuesday, 31 October 2006

Couch 16

First snow of the season spotted via webcam at CairngormMountain.org.uk. 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 amino.org.uk

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.

WHW day 4.10

Music of today: Dire Straits "brothers in arms" (for the mist covered mountains) [*], then the more jovial "walk of life" [*]. A Gaelic air, it think it's called "the road to the isles" [*, lyrics]. Nearing Orchy got me into "Santa Claus is coming to town" [*] then an Elvis melody of "Viva Las Vegas" [*] and "Blue Christmas" [*]. Enjoy the holiday, Maggie. Rain hammering down on tent. Time to turn in.

WHW day 4.9

Wild camping above Bridge of Orchy. Deer are braying around me. Totalled approx 19 miles/31km today. Track was excellent. Cold wind the shower made me put on windjacket for first time on the way. Pitch isn't ideal, but it's a roof over my head. Ground soft and wind blowing. Not an ideal combination. I'll see what tomorrow brings. I'd like to push on beyond Kingshouse. But depends on weather and how fit I feel in the morning.

Update on SolarUno: 2 Duracell AAA batteries will keep my phone charged for a day at approx 10 email, 10 texts, no talking.

Tuesday, 17 October 2006

WHW day 4.8

Lights visible in distance. Must be Orchy. 30mins to go. Cars heading south cause problems with my night vision. Cars heading north light the way. Not sure how far across glen the road is, but it's not close. Calling out the pace to myself, head down, straight into herd of cows before I noticed them. I'll bulk send these when I get better signal.

WHW day 4.7

Hairy highland cows are docile. Did anyone tell the one I had to carefully negotiate my way past in the twilight? It had a glint in it's eye that suggested to me that it knew there would be no witnesses if it attacked. Instead it let me know who was in charge then ambled away.

WHW day 4.6

A stag bellows somewhere on the hill to my right. I can't see it, but try the Simon-from-Autumnwatch roar. There's a reply from my left. But it's a motorcycle. The stag(s?) above roar with laughter.

WHW day 4.5

6km before Bridge of Orchy on the military road. For first time I can't get a text message out. Then I notice that the water flows north. Both signs that I've left civilisation behind. That'll explain why I've been whistling a Gaelic tune for the last half hour. Jings, it must be in the genes!

WHW day 4.4

Look, I was going to rejoin the trail after Tyndrum, but I felt guilty when speaking to the family of walkers who were being honest. So I'm walking south to rejoin the trail where I left it. I feel a prat, but an honest one. 2 nice looking women walk by, they say 'hi'. Karma?

WHW day 4.3

Ice cold in Tyndrum. I chase the bubbles back up the cold can, but it's part of the cola design. Spoils the illusion, but not the refreshment. That's 12 miles/ 20km already. As cunningly planned 2 days ago, I'm having fish n chips at the Real Food Cafe.

Aiden's going to see if he can leave his gear here and pick it up later. Farewell and handshake, he's now resolved to complete the 'Way' and will leave a comment on the blog later. He's learnt a bit more about scottish history and weaponry (I used to do historical re-enactments).

Off to enjoy the meal that's just arrived. Yum.

WHW day 4.2

St Fillan's. Made good time. Over the half-way mark. Walking with Aiden. Chatting about the usual nonsense, politics, women, etc. I'd like time to look at the graveyard, but need to press on. This is more like it. Spoke to a couple of forestry workers. They have difficulty with the Lomond path because of the terrain.
cat escorts us off the premises

WHW day 4.1

Just leaving Beinglas campsite. Full scottish breakfast - yum. I tried not to look over to EA as we were simultaneously breaking camp. He has a footprint. I finish first though.

Another trekker has a well-worn Sigg, I comment on it. I think I'll scrape some paint off mine tonight. Cheating? Never! Damp day. Better get a bimble on.

WHW day 3.13

Forgot to blog that it was Sir Hugh Munro's 150th birthday on Monday. I wonder if someone has calculated how much tourist money he has raised for Scotland? I raised a glass of malt to him earlier when looking over the map for day 4.

WHW day 3.12

I wake up around midnight. Light shower outside and 4 messages on my phone. I'd forgotten to text my parents and youngest brother. Doh! Felt guilty.

Music of monday: Cliff richard and the young ones 'the young ones' [*], 'he aint heavy, he's my brother' [*], snippets of 'sheila's wheels'[*] and the Marseillaise[*].

A note on the bridge says section to north under repair. A mate txts to say the 'Way' has been extended by a mile [*]. Karma.

Monday, 16 October 2006

WHW day 3.11

Let's big it up for the Beinglas campsite. Whey. A well stocked shop, toilets and showers, a bar with good food and the sort of double measure that'd keep any Highlander happy. There's other camper facilities, but I've not used them.

Evil-Aktoman is here. Boo.

Eating crisps in bed, yummy.

WHW day 3.10

Reached Beinglas Farm by Inverarnan. Paid to camp overnight. They have a pub and shop and toilets. Indoors! They have a box on the wall showing moving pictures. But first, guess who forgot to dry out his tent last night when camping in the bothy? Doh! Off to sneak a closer look at the longarms by the bar, one's definitely a flintlock, think the other one might be a percussion lock. Yes, I know I'm sad. Oh, buff-man is here...in an Akto!

WHW day 3.9

By ferry to Ardlui, 7km north of Inversnaid. Walked part of way with a Western Australian called Aidan. Carrying everything he owns in his pack, he hopes to retire on the money from his writings. Good on ya.

After Doune Bothy I let him speed ahead. I won't mention the buff-wearer, but he annoyed me. Darren, do you want a contract? There are 3 red deer to my left, and sheep appearing out of the ferns. This is more like it. Doesn't take much to make me happy and glad to be on the 'Way'.