Thursday, 31 May 2007

Tir is Teanga 31.05.07

This final episode of Tir is Teanga sees Colin MacLeod in Glen Etive.

The weather forces a change of plans, and a lower level walk to the Etive Slabs on Beinn Trilleachan. Rain did allow for a great shot as the pair walk out with a rainbow arching over them.

The next climb is in the company of Danny Clelland and they successfully summit Ben Starav, although there is no view through the clouds there. Descending, the cameraman manages to obtain another cracking rainbow shot.

The final trek is up Ben Cruachan and Stob Diamh, with its dam and concealed power station. Finally, the weather goddess is kind to Colin, and he gets a series of stunning vistas.

The series ends with a great composite of shots.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Mixed Bag

I saw these bags of mixed fruit and nuts down at Asda. 'Power' and 'vitality' i can understand, but how can a snack bag make you beautiful. Only the truly marvellous can be truly beautiful.

Retail Issues 3

In reply to Darren's comment:

If a magazine inspires a person to buy an item of 'lightweight' kit rather than a big and bulky item from the supermarket, then great. It is a simple premise - carry lighter kit, expend less energy per mile, walk further. People can say that lighter kit is nonsense as you just need to exercise more. I see it as a joint approach (hence attacking Bennachie regularly). If you are replacing kit, why not consider the weight and volume as well as cost and performance. Don't just look in the supermarkets or high-street shops, but consider all the options.

Do you find all the kit options in magazines? No, but some are better than others. Magazines have their limitations on reviews, which is why I like the annual gear reviews.

Forums (eg Country Walking/Trail and TGO folk on OutdoorsMagic) allow us access to advice that we have never had. Previously books, clubs or mates would be it. Niche markets exist in many retail sectors, so why is it different for the outdoors? In wargaming, it is mainly a niche market, and the few big players often get slated for their markup and blister-pack approach. This is because some customers feel left marginalised.

Now, there is nothing wrong with businesses making money. A lot of businesses would like the profits that companies like Tescos have, but look how few (inter)national supermarkets there are in comparison to corner shops. Each provides a different service, and each has a different business model. The aim of both is to make money. One achieves customer loyalty mainly through a pricing strategy, another through business location and convenience. Unlike foodstuff, online shops can offer both convenience and pricing strategy, but have different problems (eg not being able to physically try out gear).

That is why a Day Zero event, amongst others, would shake up the UK outdoors market. If the big guys are dominating the market, the niche players need to use their small size to an advantage. The Internet offers a great opportunity for retailers and customers.

I still like escaping to a gear shop on a lunchtime. Especially when the sales are on.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Retail Issues 2

After yesterday's comment, Darren asked if "being a niche player the way forward?...The real money is in the mass market in the UK, the festival crowds, the cool campers, the family campers. The niche expert market just isn't that big over here, unlike say in the US where it is considerably bigger. So I'm not sure we will ever see a strong thriving specialist market in the UK, but more getting the scraps that make their way over from the US."

Hmm. Lets see. If everyone who bought Trail, TGO and Country Walking bought one item of lightweight kit, where would they get the items from? Probably not the high street. Would it still be a niche market? I don't think so.

But the year after, maybe, we'd start to see the weight of items being considered as a design feature. Lighter cars burn less fuel. Lighter bullets travel faster. Why is there such a disagreement about humans using lighter kit? I blame the Scouts. Years of "being prepared" by taking extra kit - but now, being prepared means having knowledge, attitude and decent kit. Little of it comes easy, and much takes time and effort. All part of an ongoing process.

We have only a few specialist lightweight retailers in the UK (with a bigger customer base in the US, I'd guess that there would be proportionately more retailers). I like buying from different stores as it supports different retailers. I liked Bellingham, and hope that there's another "Day Zero" event next year. For me, it would be the great outdoors show.

Niches survive in other industries. Niches get overlooked when markets fall. Niches have customer loyalty and good word of mouth. If you have the right profit-margin and know your market, what is wrong with being petite? Not everyone wants to be a "Famous Army Store" or "Millets".

Adventure Show 28.05

Cameron McNeish on Ben Lomond. Recalling his first Munro.

Chris Townsend on base layers.

A chap canoeing around the Cairngorms.

Flanders Moss reserve manager chats about his bog outside Stirling, and why it is important.

Main feature was about slalom canoeing. Reportage on "Run Balmoral".

Monday, 28 May 2007

Retail Issues

Weird Darren, after finding a cheap tent in a supermarket asks:

For me our biggest loss will be the independent retailer whether it be bricks and mortor or web based. As this is where most of the knowledge tends to be had when people buy gear, as these businesses are usually run be people that are into the outdoors and have experience of it.

Across in Germany, Lighthiker commented that:

One of the most prominent advertisement slogans in the past years in Germany was “Geiz ist geil” which means “Stinginess is awesome”. It was so successful because it is not only a slogan but describes what a big portion of Germany’s society is looking after: Spending less and less money for all sorts of things but still expecting high quality products.

Could this be the usual triangle of time-cost-quality?

Quality. For example, when I buy a dvd months after its release date, I pay less, but expect the same quality. However, if I pay less for a tent (excluding sales), I am probably getting a poorer quality tent. Materials may be heavier, or not as water resistant.

Time. I like buying kit in the sales. Some retailers have online sales, others have sales at their factory shops, or at shows. And eBay, or other auction sites (there must be other auction sites).

So, who loses from the supermarkets? I've previously commented on the differences between online and real-life shops. Supermarkets are too big to specialize. They buy and sell in bulk. To a beginner, wet-weather gear is just something to keep the rain off. Bulk and weight probably don't come into the picture. Cost does.

So, do specialist shops lose out? Only if they cater to the beginners' end of the market. Some sell festival packs - the sort of area that is ideal supermarkets.

Supermarkets don't have knowledgeable outdoors sales assistants. Specialist shops do.

We've already seen Millets and Blacks hit. High-street outlets selling festival packs, but offering more.

I'd be worried if (or, when) the supermarkets start a specialist DoE aisle, with a personal shopper.

Then, maybe, the specialist shops would need to look at the online world and see what people were doing there, and how a company like Alpkit fosters a brand-name. How retailers of lightweight kits are winning customer loyalty. How online communities are bursting out of print magazines.

(background music)

Bennachie 28.05

1hr 20 to/from cars. Trip up with Bruce and playful collie. Despite rain and cold wind, the dog had a stick to play with: he was happy. We didn't summit, but stopped for snack in shelter of the hillfort wall. Occasionally the weather would allow a fleeting view of the countryside. Weather improved as we descended. Such is life.


Lump is sebaceous, cyst under skin, not a nasty one, all the classic symptoms. They can remove it if I want, drain it if it gets bigger, or I can continue being a Bond villain (big chair and cat). Wait a minute, weren't the sebations in Farscape?

Anyway, cloud lifted, "Airplane!" on TV just now. Off up Bennachie shortly, then back to OM. And to those who troll around the Net: go rain on someone else's parade, you aren't wasting my life.

To those who mailed after I left OM, thanks.

Cambrian Way

Catching up with Chris Cowell's blog across at Hike Wales. Cambrian Way? I'd never heard of it before. It isn't a national trail, so wasn't in TGO's special on them.

441km, 274 miles. Cardiff to Conwy.

It looks more my cup of tea, away from the farmlands along Offa's Dyke. I'll get some investigating done. Thanks for the inspiration, Chris.

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Wainwright's Walks 27.05

"Wainwright's Walks" BBC2 Scotland.

Just watched Julia Bradbury climb Scafell Pike (England's highest peak), following in the footsteps of Alfred Wainwright. She chatted with Joss Naylor, and asked about his follow-up to the "70 at 70" and his epic 214 peaks in 7 days.

Further up the way, a path repair crew is encountered, and the public is given some insight into the work that goes on to make their trek easier. Well done, chaps.

Another insight given was that Julia mentioned that it would normally take 7 hours to walk, but longer with a film crew. By the end of the programme she had taken 10 hours to summit. A long day.

I would take umbrage with the comment that "it's not beautiful" - it looked gorgeous to me.

By coincidence, I'm down in the Lakes in a couple of weekends time - guess where I want to make a detour to now?

Oh, and pronunciation. She pronounced it "Skoh-fell" rather than what I was (mis)pronouncing it as "Skah-fell". I'll find out. Names are important.

Saturday, 26 May 2007


One of the many decent pubs in Aberdeen. Huzzah

Trail July 07

Trail magazine came through the letterbox this morning.

  • Ghyll scrambling - looks fun. I'd never heard of it before. In the photo, Graham Thompson just looks like he's in his element.
  • Review of the Furtech Claw jacket - first time I've seen a transparent hood visor. S.I.G.
  • Hill zen has that empathic strand that Trail do so well.
  • The Knowledge has the usual fill of, well, knowledge. But no information on how to use the rifle photographed on p51.
  • Article of 'bikepacking' in Scotland. Good idea, and well-written. Just remember to give us pedestrians plenty of clearance. Photographer Tom Bailey must do a lot of miles in his job.
  • Main gear - 4 person family tents, and child carriers.
  • Range guide to High Street. I like those guides. I wonder if there's an archive list.
  • Fitness academy continues giving out advice and showing the benefits. A dynamic program.
  • Trail routes includes Beinn nan Aighenan. The northern-most part of Leg 5-6 is near where Simon and I camped a few weekends back.
  • The 'funny' at the end has no changed to "RG Colsterworth's Hill Almanack" - I assume it is lighthearted, as the illustration depicts a walker heading uphill into a lightning storm.

P100 "The wilderness is waiting to liven up your walking this summer". Well said, Claire.


Challengers starting to re-appear online. Andy Howell's blog is awakening, and I look forward to reading (and hearing) about the trip. Across on the Challenge message board, 2008 is already being talked about.


Caught "True Grit" on television - classic. Forgot that Robert Duval was in it. No cavalry hat, nor talked about the smell of napalm, but his distinctive voice nonetheless.


Pause to mourn the passing of BG from the OM forum. His blog continues. I know not, nor care not why he is not welcome there any more, as I had avoided that thread.

Impulse Buy

It's not often it happens, but I couldn't resist. I am weak. Found the Canon UK Online Store (via eBay), and bought a refurbished Canon EOS 350D, with 18-55 lens.

Link to DP Review page.

Just noticed on the Canon page, that they only list English counties and USA states, and an option that then says "Non UK or non US".

I've already had a call from a mate wanting a go. Comes round, borrows my dehydrator, chooses a better movie than I did, brings beer and crisps...yeah, of course you can play, so long as I can get as much info from you about using it. Of course, it'll mean a trip up Bennachie too.

Out of Doors 26.05.07

Almost caught programme live, but fell asleep again. Thanks for the "listen again" feature.

They were asking for opinions on whaling, as there's an important meeting of the International Whaling Commission this year. The phrase "dodgy dealings" was used about the IWC. You might think so, but I cannot comment.

The phone in competition was to phone in and say what prize you wanted. My sort of attitude.

Skye sea kayaking symposium (see Simon Willis' blog for more information). Article on the increasing popularity of the sport, and a chat about what's happening at the symposium.

LOL - they picked up the weatherman for missing out Skye. "but I mentioned wind Southwest to West"..."but that's the wind direction, not the area"..."oh, you've spotted the fault, I'll get back to you". Well done.

Other bits and pieces on marina development, wildlife and suchlike. As ever, a fun and informative radio programme.

Duking it Out

Yup, centenary of the birth of Marion Morrison. Whatever screen hero you prefer, at the back of them all strides the Duke, head and shoulders above Clooney and Depp. Forget about his politics and his WW2 war record. His screen presence was excellent.

Preference for me is his "cavalry trilogy", and the films seemed to portray the First People in a humanistic light - as opposed to many westerns I had seen. Something that would shape me later on in life. It was a shame that when colour was introduced, that the uniforms became more standard, as opposed to photographs of the late 1800's. If you look at the earlier "Fort Apache", you can see the lack of standardisation in the uniforms. And then there was the eternal Irish NCO, played by Victor McLaglen (who was actually born in Tunbridge Wells).

For power, there was "The Searchers", and for the great westerns, his later work of "Chisum", "True Grit" and "Rooster Cogburn".

That is all.

Friday, 25 May 2007

And the World Changed

On this day in 1977, "Star Wars" was released. (link).

I remember having the audio tape and listening to it on a bus to Belgium with the Scouts. I have no idea when I first saw the film, probably when it came to TV, as the cinema in Stornoway was closed for years.

Life was never the same after "Star Wars".

And, yes, it was "Star Wars", not "Episode 3", or "A New Hope". Just "Star Wars". Life was simpler, the story was a good one, and no-one bothered arguing about stupid little things like badges on uniforms. But then, were we happier? Yes, of course we were!

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Tir is Teanga 24.05.07

2nd last programme in this 3rd series sees Colin MacLeod in Moidart and Sunart.

Climbing Streap (insert Gaelic joke there), he is joined by Iain MacKenzie, and they get a fine day and grand views. Colin admits it is "not often I get to the top of a hill and the sun is still shining".

With Gillian Munro, he tackles Rois-Bheinn. Geology is discussed. Along with the language expert, Viking placenames are discussed. And Charles Edward Stuart is mentioned as he landed in the area, and left from the area, evading Government pursuers. Some names also recalled the Lordship of the Isles.

For a final walk, Colin leaves Strontian in bad weather, and avoids high lands, walking by lead mines where Strontium was discovered. Along the old coffin route and over waterlogged ground to see the outline of the hills around him.

Link to BBC Scotland online - watch-again feature should appear here shortly.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Downhill after this

So, the biggest accolade of the week so far has been achieving post number 39,000 on the Bennachie thread on OutdoorsMagic.

I wonder if anyone has reached a 1,000 post number on the same day they've been up Bennachie?

Ah well, I'll need to sign up for that beginners climbing training tomorrow night, just to put me in my place.

Quote n Site of the Day

Quote of the Day:
"A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort." Herm Albright

Site of the Day: - very addictive if you work on the chalkface.

Aberdeen 230507

From the 6th floor of the Gallowgate tower block, looking south-west.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Alan Sloman: Tarfside

I'm still following Alan's progress, as his Land's End to John o' Groats is in the final stages of his TGO Challenge cross-Scotland walk. Link. If you notice on his map, instead of going straight up Scotland, he is doing a 'twiddly bit' from West to East too.

I can't get over the fact that he's walked over 1189 miles and is into his 83 day today (Tuesday). Seems like only yesterday that he set out.

As with everyone on the Challenge: well done, not far now, you're all stars.

Bennachie 22.05

Mither Tap from the Rowantree approach.

Above: Looking at the person on the hill
Below: and looking down from the hill

And behind, the setting sun gives a light show

Bennachie 22.05.07

40 mins from car to summit of Mither Tap. Including taking some pictures, going up over the rock wall and freethinking about the course on blogging i'll be working on.

I tried reading some Kafka and think i counted 7 different layers of depth in one story. We all project many different personas on to the people we interact with. Whether we know them or not, we all impact on each others' lives. On the street, we enter a stranger's life for a fleeting moment, and then we are gone. The person who reads a blog and never comments. The person who died years ago, but helped build a hillfort. Relatives who dragged timber across the island so that they could rebuild their home after being cleared from their land. People who cut me up on the road and then brake sharply as they come to a speed camera - all within a 30mph zone outside a police station. The society that is descending further into farce, and Nature that cares not, because in 50 years, a lot of us pageviews will be dead, and what we leave to the future will be determined by the personas we project: in Real Life and, increasingly, in various forms of media. Printed, painted, sculpted, photographed, recorded in sound and/or video, and our online presence.

Stay frosty, the future is watching you. What sort of memory will you project? Will there be stories to remember you by? May all be well and happy.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Tir is Teanga 21.05.07

The river level dropped by 6 inches as they sat outside the tent on their way to Beinn Dearg Mor in Fisherfield.

Poor visibility kept Colin Macleod off the Munros in the Fannichs, and so he headed for a low level walk along Loch a' Bhraoin. After stopping in a bothy, he discussed the corrie "Tongue of the Cheeses", and notes that the land is deserted but for ruins and place names.

The attempt on An Teallach is led by a member of the local MRT, and Colin ropes up for the Bad Step. "I'm glad it is foggy, as I'd be scared if I could see the drop". Soon after, they call it a day, "there'll be other days, and it'll still be there." A sentiment I've uttered myself.

There was a good discussion on the potential misnaming of the placenames. Perhaps it is time that the names were re-examined and re-named.

Personally, I'm against the re-naming of places by the "victors", as if climbers were marauding armies conquering peaks in the uncivilised wastelands of Ooter Teuchterdom. People left or were forced off the lands, and then the names that their fore-fathers gave to the places were also eradicated. Recant the sins of ethnic cleansing, and give back the true names to the land. Keep the nicknames if you wish, but it is about time that something was done to give the names some meaning, and get the pronunciation correct - not best guesses, as regional dialects change.

Link to BBC Scotland online - watch-again feature should appear here shortly.

Lack of Honour

Just catching something on BBC2 just now about squaddies being chucked out of Harrods (the cammo might scare customers); and a Gurkha Major who gets no pension because of a doubt over which Allied command he served with in the battle for Burma.

I hate living in a country which has no honour, prats around with clauses and wriggles out of their duty at whatever chance they get.

Government talks about citizenship, but look at the face that it projects.

I need to get out more. Away from the so-called celebrities and spin-doctors, away from people who refuse to accept responsibility for their own in/actions, away from the blame culture, because it is easier to blame others than to admit that you made a mistake or acted on incomplete evidence, away from the media running everything, and a government that can't see why more people can't be bothered voting.

I live in a 2-tier country - those who care and those who don't.

Shame I have to escape to the hills to get away from people who don't give a monkeys about the country they live in. Littering, risking death overtaking on blind corners, smashing bottles on the street. No honour. No sense of duty.

We get the government we deserve.

I'm on the journey I make for myself. Nature intervenes. Other people appear and disappear. the journey is mine, and I accept responsibility for my own decisions. Hike your own hike.

The only epitaph I aim for is: "He done good".

It is all that we can hope for. No excuses, no wriggling out, no clauses to escape from. Just the big blackness. Did you do good today? If not, why not? It isn't difficult. Did you roll over and accept lies and hypocrisy because it is easier than fighting against it? You need the truth. You can handle the truth. The only true crime is stupidity.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Pole's Apart

The end of the measuring tape is from the end that went in to the securing end of the sleeve.


Showing where the breaks are in relation to the actual pole sections:


First break ("A") at 52cm from the end.


And in section.


Second break is 104.5cm from the end.


And in section.


Cumulus Ultralight 350

The down sleeping bag I've been using since I got it: the Cumulus Ultralight 350 (link), stuffed into its own stuff sack and the into an Exped Small drybag. The magazine is there for scale.

Ultralight350LUltralight350L Hosted on Zooomr

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Glenshee 19.05

Got back to car about 8pm. Herd of deer by roadside on way out of Glenshee. Stopped off in Braemar as nearest brick facilities, but locked shut. Life, how it mocks me! Quite a few hikers around. Atmosphere of bon amie wafts in from the street...sorry, streets. I'm off for a 2hr drive, calling myself an idiot in as many languages as i can manage. Why didn't i take the old Akto pole in the rucksack? Because i'm an idiot! "Hope for the best, but plan for the worst." I had repair facilities for one break, but not more. Carrying the original pole would have been the sensible option. It never even crossed my mind. I'm an idiot and my English is atroc...attrosh...bad too.

Glenshee 19.05.07

1900. Realised tent had good chance of fabric damage as no tension to spill wind.

Wimped out and broke camp (on purpose) and heading back to car.

Fight off temptation to stay in Glenshee overnight and tackle Munros tomorrow. Just been one of those weekends. I thing sunday will be a beer and tv day. Mission accomplished.

Glenshee 190507

Creag Leacach

Glas Maol


Carn Ait

1735. Snap. Hmm. That pole shouldn't bend there. I've a repair kit.

Ah, there are 2 breaks.

Hmm. Pitched Akto as big bivvy bag while i get the repairs done.

I can't be bothered quitting as i can rig tent up between walking poles if necessary. Pitched at col to southwest of Creag Leacach.

The Hungry Highlander

Scoffing into a fine lunch at the Hungry Highlander in Braemar. I'd driven past pairs of Challengers on the way in. They all then seem to head for Braemar Mountain Sports. Which is directly opposite The Hungry Highlander. Smashing town planning that! Resisted buying a pair of Cascada trousers. I'd probably have bought them if they had more pockets. Instead bought some isotonic powders for the pack, and the Harveys map of Kintail, plus the Pocket Mountain book me the West Highlands. Rain's coming on, lunch over.

CGNP 19/05

1315. Back at car at Linn of Dee. Namche's did well, only problem i have is that i need the next size up. It's my footsize that is on the cusp. Worse case scenario is that i flog them used on ebay. Despite the rain, the X-socks were no more than damp. I'll wear my ZG65's for the Glenshee climb this afternoon. See how that goes. Sky lightening up, but still chucking it down. Final 2 Munros to do to complete Glenshee. But first, lunch and gearshop in Braemar.

CGNP 19th May

1030ish. Walked back to Bob Scott's with a couple of Challengers. Gave them a head start after the bothy stop as i didn't want folk to think i'd walked all that way too. Sorry there was no Telegraph in the bothy, Mr P and even the local papers were out of date.

Schroedinger's Buff

1010. Turning back to bothy. Buff either there or in rucksack or lost. I'll only find out when i look for it, as it isn't where it should be. Oh, and i definately need the next size up of Namche's. Nice to be skipping over streams and over taking a party of mechanised infantry.

Sgian Worf. Found an antler shaped just right for a short bat'leth - i noticed that i was playing with it as such as walking, so had to secure it on my 'sack.

CGNP 190507

0920. A plethero of tents near Derry Lodge.

CGNP 190507

0800. Slept on OMM mat in bothy. I could have slept on the floor instead. Real test in tent tonight. Warm in bothy, so slept with zip of sleeping bag open. Past one definate Challenger and 2 potentials on track last night. 4 gents here when i arrived. An evening listening to squaddy stories...and talking about gear. A late night party arrived. Slept after midnight. Shower outside. High winds outside. Toasty inside.

CGNP 180507

2030hrs. Potential siting of a Challenger. Female of the species. Young. Red/maroon plumage. Determined look on face. Just outside Braemar on Linn of Dee road.

Friday, 18 May 2007

Tir is Teanga online

Just been pointed out to me by Hillfoot Bazza on OM, that you can watch the most recent episode of Tir is Teanga online at

Also mentioned by druidh on OM, if you get the Gaelic Freeview channel, TeleG, the previous series is being repeated there.

Tapadh leibh

Lightweight CGNP

Got the bag packed for a weekend in the Cairngorms National Park. A strange one this, but I'm ticking off some Munros that I didn't get to over the last couple of years, and sit there on their own.

The Philosophy of Lightweight

"Take enough gear to be safe, comfortable and confident" - Don Ladigin from "Lighten Up!"

For me, that weighs in at 13.4kg including 2 days worth of food and 1 litre of water, and treats to leave at the Bothy for folk. And walking poles strapped to side of pack.

The mission is: up to Bob Scott's Bothy on Friday night, and Carn a' Mhaim (1037m/3402ft) on Saturday morning. Relocating on Saturday, and head up to Glenshee. Depending on the time, maybe crack on up to Creag Leacach (987m/3238ft) and overnight on the hill, and along to Glas Maol (1068m/3504ft) on Sunday.

All depends on the time. I'd rather camp near water (i.e. before heading up through the scree), and tackle Creag Leacach and Glas Maol on the Sunday.

Gear: standard fare. Trying out the new Namches, carbon fibre pole for Akto, Roberts radio, and will be wearing the Backpackers Club buff.

The only 'sacrifice' is trying out the new OMM Dual foam mat. This slid down the back of the Osprey Atmos pack, and freed up space normally taken by a bulkier inflatable mat.

I lightened out the first aid kit, which had grown to cover blister repairs for a 2-week long trek. Also ablutions kit and lotions & potions bag got minimised.

I could probably fit it all into a smaller pack, but I can't be bothered as the Atmos is a comfortable pack.

Sleep system: Hilleberg Akto, Cumulus Ultralight 350, OMM mat.

Cook system: SnowPeak, 100 gas canister, Primus Micron, home-made windshield, folding spork, all in pot cosy.

Waterproofs: Berghaus trousers, Montane Quick-Fire jacket. In OD Small bag.

Tir is Teanga 17.05.07

Colin MacLeod visits some of the Inner Hebrides.

On Arran, he climbs Goat Fell and mentions the renaming of places from the Gaelic. The geology of the island is mentioned, as is its name.

A ferry to Jura, and he is joined by a friend for a walk up the Paps. The weather gets worse. "It's a bit unpleasant!", "Shame we can't see Jura", and the headed off to try something else that Jura is famous for.

Finally, Mull, and Ben More. Joined by a geologist, they mention the various rock formations. As the weather gets worse again, Colin admits that "the fog seems to follow me". "This is the top, but we can't see a thing" and the program finishes with "might as well go home".

As ever, good discussions about the names of places, and the landscape.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

New Developments

I've been tasked with developing a couple of new units for work:

Weblogs (Intermediate 2)
This unit is designed to enable candidates to find, review and create weblogs (“blogs”). The unit will provide candidates with an opportunity to explore the applications of blogs, create a blog and track blogs using aggregation tools.
1. Locate and review blogs of various types.
2. Create a blog to perform a specific information task.
3. Track selected blogs.
SQA descriptor (PDF link)

Social Software (Intermediate 2)
This Unit is designed to enable candidates to locate and use social software a term used to describe a range of software tools that promote interaction and collaboration. These tools include, but are not restricted to, email, chat, newsgroups or forums, instant messaging, blogs, wikis and online communities. The unit is suitable for candidates who wish to improve their knowledge and skills in the area of social software.
1 Describe the development of social software and the various types available.
2 Locate and review social software of various types.
3 Use social software to perform specific social tasks.
SQA descriptor (PDF link)

DigitalKatie's mentioned some of those items in her edublog.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Angus McBride

Sad to hear of the loss of the artist/illustrator, Angus McBride, yesterday.

If you had any of ICE's "Lord of the Rings" role-playing books (or "The Hobbit" version), then you'll be aware with his work. Of course, if you own any of the Osprey military history books, chances are some will have been illustrated by Angus McBride.

For me, he placed believable characters in a historical setting, rather than painting figures on blank canvas. I'll miss his work.


A New Dawn

Englishman forced to leave Scotland as Scottish Nationalist becomes First Minister!

The "Englishman" is Darren. He's out of Fort William hospital and is now on the sleeper south, working on the epic blog entries.

The new First Minister of Scotland is leader of the Scottish National Party, Alex Salmond.

Two completely unrelated stories, but the faux-journalist in me though the headline sounded good.

Inverbervie at twilight

View when stopped to eat supper in layby outside town. All thanks to Darren's illness. Thanks Darren. Tharren.


Collected Darren's stuff from a nice couple. After a cuppa, I couldn't leave without sampling some of the fayre from the famous Bervie Chipper.


Now, this is going to extremes:

And before anyone asks, the answer is "No! I'd never want to."

Link found when looking through the March-June 07 edition of "The Angry Corrie", which I seemed to have missed.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

WD's TGOC ills

I received a text message earlier today from WeirdDarren:
Hi Duncan, my challenge has ended due to illness. In fort william hospital. Will be here til tomorrow I think.


There's more information on his blog and messages being posted to him on OM, and will probably be some on the TGO Challenge forum.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Tir is Teanga 10.05.07

Episode 2 of Series 3 finds Colin MacLeod on Skye. He is joined by Ewen MacKinnon (37 years in the mountain rescue), and they get to a wet summit of Bruach na Frithe.

Ian Fraser talks about the renaming of peaks after the first (non Gael?) person to have climbed it, for example Sgurr Alasdair.

Colin tackles Bla Bheinn in low cloud and rain, his view of the rest of Skye is described as "it's over there somewhere", and he mentions that he should have brought a postcard of Skye to describe to us what he couldn't see.

Finally, with Allan Turner, they walk through the rain by Loch Coruisk (painted by Turner, and earlier in this voyage around Great Britain). Near the Hill of Strife, they pass over the Peak of the Thrashing, and down to Sligachan. Some of these names had to do with us MacLeods, and it wasn't Sligachan.

Weekend in May

I was planning on heading to the Cairngorms in June, but note that there is an walking festival that same weekend.

The plan was to tab it to Bob Scott's on Friday night (tent if it was full), and on to Carn a' Mhaim on Saturday. Back to the car and relocate to Glenshee to tackle the last 2 Munros there.

I feel the urge to head away this weekend instead, and am wondering about taking similar kit to Matt Swaine. But why should I? I've spent time under the AktoFly in a bivvy bag and can't be bothered with just a bivvy bag to prove someone else's point. I'd rather have a night in a lightweight tent and leave the bivvy behind.

I'd take a stove and cook breakfast instead of fig rolls and pork pies.

In fact, about the only kit I'd take would be the OMM foam mat to try out.

And the Namches and the new carbon-fibre pole for the Akto. The stove would be the new alcohol White Box Stove.

Hmm, I seem to have missed the point of Trail's lightweight Lakes, as that was most of the kit I took out to Glen Etive (once I'd listened to Simon's advice).

Mission accomplished? Not yet.

Always Take the Weather


John Hee has posted in response to my comments about the weather, and ongoing chats with Jerry (who knows about radios) .

I've put a link below to the Met Office mountain area forecasts, if like me, you haven't got the number in your mobile. Sorry, that should now read "if like me, you hadn't got the number in your mobile."

And the book I have is Malcolm Thomas' "Weather for Hillwalkers & Climbers" (Sutton Publishing) (link)

A service that I haven't had to investigate yet is Weathercall. Mentioned in Thomas' book, it sells weather forecasts to your mobile. Services include SMS and MMS, as well as audio. Availability varies.

Glencoe is East Highlands (it says), so for the telephone call that is 09068 500 424 then 2404. For the SMS, you'd have to use a map to find the nearest place as there are none on the site, just a list of locations. Same for MMS (I like that idea). Charges are listed as:

  • Telephone. Calls cost 60p per minute from a UK landline. Calls from mobiles may be subject to network operator surcharges.
  • SMS. Text forecasts cost 25p, and are subject to network operator standard text charges. Available to all mobile networks.
  • MMS forecasts cost £1 and are subject to network operator standard text charges. Weathercall is available to all mobile networks.

Subscriptions can be bought at a reduced rate. To be honest, the service just fails to grab me. There isn't even a pdf brochure which I could carry in case of emergency. The nearest is the regional information, but fail to list to locations (and no map again) and do not list the MMS information for Grampian for example. I might foresee a day when I feel the need to have a weather forecast texted to me daily - on a cross-country hike, maybe.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Trail June 2007

"Lightweight gear is revolutionising what we can do in the outdoors, so if the idea of walking further, faster and getting more out of your hill time appeals, this issue of Trail is your essential hill companion." (p4, Matt Swaine, editor)

My comments below. Nailing my colours to the mast: Trail was the first outdoors mag I bought, and Ronald Turnbull's "Book of the Bivvy " was the first outdoors book I bought. For me, Trail is a fitness mag, and I still subscribe to it as such.

Get Into...Wild Camping (p12)

6 of the best lightweight stoves (p20)

The Philosophy of Lightweight (p26-39, but 9 pages of text by Matt Swaine, 2.5 col inches by Claire Maxted)

  • Lightweight gear lets you go further and faster - at a price.
    I have heavy boots that were recommended, caused me blisters, cost more than lighter boots, and more than trail shoes; I have sleeping bags that are big and bulky, total the price and it comes to more than the down bag I use all the time now.
  • Ronald Turnbull's advice:
    I cannot comment on this, as I haven't seen it written in the two books of his that I have, I recognise item 2 though, and his likeness of fig rolls and pubs, but hike your own hike:
    1. If you want to go out really light, then simply leave stuff out.
    2. Always buy the second cheapest bit of kit in the shops.
    3. Eat at pubs then live off pork pies and fig rolls on the hill.
    4. Swap tents and sleeping mats for bin bags and bubble wrap.
    5. Walk late into the night and get to the summits for dawn.
  • A warning that lightweight could mean a very cold night's camping.
    On the planet Zog maybe! In the photos, there is snow and ice on the ground, yet Matt is in a 0'c rated sleeping bag, and on a thin OMM mat. My down bag is also by Cumulus, slightly heavier, but is rated to -3'c. I've already blogged about the sleeping mat, and have yet to try the OMM mat because I don't go adventure racing and so got it to try out one of these days.
  • By leaving stoves and extra food in the car, I reckon we knocked about a kilo off our pack weight. And by taking in some of the best walkers' pubs in the country we would eat well, fine-tune our route over a beer or two, then head out into the night...
    Alcohol and a cold night. Duh! But each to their own. I certainly couldn't do that as I'd be too tempted to just ask for a room for the night. Strangely, Claire's kit includes a Primus Micron - perhaps for a civilised brew or proper breakfast that Matt seems to be foregoing in some masochistic purge.
  • I might have been backpacking with a rucksack smaller and lighter than my regular daypack, but I would have carried twice that weight and bulk if it meant I could get a solid hour's sleep.
    Cumulus Ultralight 350 = 0.765kg. Therm-a-Rest Prolite 3 Short = 0.37kg. I make that 0.4kg extra for a good night's sleep. But hey, each to their own.
  • Tom, who'd made few conscessions to the world of lightweight, was sleeping soundly in his hooped bivvy and 3-season bag.
    So, a hooped bivvy and a warm sleeping bag isn't considered lightweight?
  • "That's a good 20 miles we've covered today," said Tom... "That's got to be a good advert for lightweight backpacking," said Claire. ... If I'd been better equipped, my pack might have weighed more but staying out for the night wouldn't have been an issue.
    So, for an extra 0.4kg, Matt admits that he could have stayed out longer. For the difference in weight between a big heavy pair of Scarpa SLs and lighter Scarpa ZG65's. I'm not sure what big boots Matt is wearing in shot.
  • ...just to finish this rant...Why head out onto the hills with a talismanic rucksack that almost defies gravity when shedding some flab and boosting your aerobic capacity would deliver real long-term results and cost you absolutely nothing? Why are we so happy to throw money at a problem that doesn't really exist ... and far too lazy to tackle the real root of the problem: the fact that we're simply not as fit as we'd like to be?
    Now, I found this insulting. This diatribe against using your intelligence to look at kit and think "do I need a big, heavy stove when a lighter one will suffice". It isn't a "problem" if you are happy to be sold 70 litre packs for a weekend in the hills by a salesman in Blacks, or heavy 4-season boots for the West Highland Way.
    After years of going to the gym, I lost 1 1/4 stones in 15 days on the Southern Upland Way. A walk I'd never have dreamed of tackling if I continued to traipse to the gym on a weekly basis. One of the reasons I get out doors is to get fit. Just watch my Bennachie times.
  • ... the great lightweight debate kept going right up till last orders.
    I can't be bothered defending an intelligent approach to hiking against such nonsense. I'm off to the Lakes in June - I hope it is similar weather to the Trail outing. But then, I don't do 6kg of base weight, as I'm not that proficient at lightweight hiking - and neither, I would guess, is Matt Swaine.
    As to the debate, it is just a shame that Claire Maxted's points were left to such a paltry afterword, and much was re-quoted from Louise Alexander. Personally, I'd have preferred to see Claire's side of the mission written alongside Matt's rant. She's in the lead in most shots, and smiling.

Light Routes (p40-44)

Setting up a bivvy bag (p57)

Sub-2kg tents for two (p67-72)

Make yourself lightweight (p80-83, part of the Trail academy)

  • Top-end lightweight gear is great, but before you spend a fortune why not learn how to walk faster and lighter for free...
    See comments above on this idea that going lightweight is all about gear. Oh, and there is nothing in the article about learning "how to walk faster"

Benn' 130507

1hr15mins round trip. No blog-stop on summit. Too damp. Ok, this is not a gear review - comprende?

Good grip on the Namches even on the damp stones and in the mud on the tracks. As good as the zg65s or terrocs. I'll need to loosen the lacing - something i should have done before setting out. If it had been a drier day, I would have stopped on the trail.

Buff via The Backpackers Club. Sunnydale sweatshirt via Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Quiet Weekend

Out of Doors (Radio Scotland) - Scapa Bay, Orkney. Usually I catch it on 'listen again', as the only time I'm up early enough to catch the live show on Saturday is when I'm off hiking. One day I'll be in the right space/time to give them a call for one of the competitions.


Hope to get to Maplins later on today to have a look at a better quality portable radio. I note that they have the Freeloader solar charger that George reviewed recently. Staying focused, this Eton radio has caught my mind - in the USA, it is identical to the Grundig brand. All this because last weekend I had difficulty receiving the weather forecast. Is it important? I think so, although looking out of the tent at the sky would give lots of information, it doesn't tell me what is happening over the horizon.


Keeping up to date with Weird Darren's TGO Challenge blog. He's hardly in the Highlands and he's already had deer singing to him. Just keep running if you hear the banjos.


I reckon that the small .5 litre Platy bottle would hold 6 days of fuel for the alcohol stove. I'd look to bagging it inside a zip-lock bag too.


I forgot to do this earlier, so added EndurancePlanet's feed to iTunes.


Backpacker's Club Buff arrived on Friday. Watched the video, and still can't get the hang of the topknot. Turn inside out, twist, reverse. I'll just need a bell on the end and I'll be like sodding Noddy.


With that I added a 'membership' listing to the sidebar. Ignoring the 2 magazines I subscribe to, and the BMC insurance, it is getting expensive to enjoy the outdoors.

Friday, 11 May 2007

Eclipsed by the new pole

Next week - Bennachie will feature Ronhills AND brightly coloured Namches.

Watch this space :)

Links: Fast&Light; Montrail

Fibraplex Pole

I collected the custom-made Fibraplex pole from the Sorting Office this morning. I'm looking forward to a windy weekend to try it out.

By shortening the length of the pole sections, I should now be able to pack the pole in with the tent, and should (depending on other considerations) be able to pack the whole compressed Exped drybag across the length of the Atmos pack.

Fibraplex poleFibraplex pole Hosted on Zooomr

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Benn' 10.05

6.20pm. Back at car. Oo ya. 1hr 25m inc break at top for apricots and supping water.

Benn' 100507

Sponsored by "that 70's show". Yup, that's my shanks in a pair of Ronhills. Recently i've not been wearing my main hiking gear when going up Bennachie, but still faced the issue of waterproof trousers. Hence the Ronhills. 40 minutes to get from car to trig point. Oh, and saw a lorry on its side outside inverurie. Ambulance and police arrived a few minutes later. Driver climbed out of cab as people were heading over. I was too late and on wrong side of dual-carriageway.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

AAR Glas Bheinn Mhor

I can't really call it Ben Starav, as we didn't get to Ben Starav.

Lessons learnt:

  • water - only take what is needed. If walking by a river, why fill a hydration sack that you won't empty.
  • kit - if I only used spare clothes, sandals and bivvy bag a few times on the SUW, why take it on a weekend hike.
  • writing down the weather forecast when listening to it on the radio is a good idea if being asked questions about it by others ... and your memory is as bad as mine. PS: an AM/FM radio is a great idea, with headphones so as not to annoy others. PPS: the 'regular' weather forecasts on the radio are woefully inadequate and detail is random. Regions of Scotland were often omitted.

Tasks before next time:

  • rationalise first aid kit. This is mainly blister repair kit (by the number of days out) and 'real' first aid, i.e. plasters, tablets etc.
  • sauces separate from the pasta. The pasta was filling (I used the pot cosy to keep it toasty) but the sauce just clung to the spaghetti.
  • small version of the Suunto instructions so I can set the various instruments on the move.
  • 'Explorer' scale maps for hills which have tricky bits. I've been using the Landranger series if a Harveys map is not available.
  • small pen for writing with, rather than the 'normal' pen I have. Of course, I'll have to wrap duct tape around it too.
  • when new poles arrive, I'll need to check the diameter against the 'pole fixing kit' that Hilleberg included with my Akto ("ooh, is that what that bit is?")
  • I started to decant the "lotions and potions" into smaller containers, and picked up one of Boots' "stacking travel pots" for around two pounds. About 35mm diameter, 5 pots high (each about 17mm high when closed), the plastic seems quite tough, and non-drip. Although I wouldn't trust it with liquids, I'm planning on adding some of the foot creams to them. More details later.
  • Bought an Exped Crush Drybag today from Nevisport. I recently discovered a cracked screen on my mp3 player. I don't want that to happen again, so a padded drybag is a nice and simple idea.


  • Maps should have accurate Gaelic pronunciations on them [1]. This will, of course, take into account regional pronunciation differences (eg between Skye and everywhere else).
  • If running a place frequented by outdoors folk, eg bar or hostel, it would be a nice treat to pin a copy of the recent regional MWIS forecast somewhere.

Good Luck TGOC 07

Good luck and best wishes to this year's TGO Challengers:

May all your rivers be low, ticks be found, midges be repelled, Lairigs be snow-free, rocks be stable and nights be merry.

Bloggers and other online folks going (I've made a couple of TGO assumptions there, which I may be wrong in):

As Challengers begin to make their way to the starting points, through crowded train stations and airports, these lines from Mr Burns seem appropriate:

My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart's in the Highlands a-chasing the deer
Chasing the wild deer, and following the roe;
My heart's in the Highlands, whereever I go.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Glen Etive in May

A selection of Simon's photos featuring me from the weekend up the Ben Starav group in Glen Etive. Thanks to Simon's planning, we managed to bag Glas Bheinn Mhor on Saturday before the weather turned nasty overnight.

Etive in MayEtive in May Hosted on Zooomr
Etive in mayEtive in may Hosted on Zooomr
Glas Bheinn MhorGlas Bheinn Mhor Hosted on Zooomr
Etive in MayEtive in May Hosted on Zooomr
Below Ben StaravBelow Ben Starav Hosted on Zooomr
Man at Glen EtiveMan at Glen Etive Hosted on Zooomr

Immature Customs

So, looks like the custom-made pole is in the UK. I got a "Payment due" card through the door today from the Royal Mail.

"Payment due: £11.49 includes £8 handling fee for underpaid items"

Actually, the item isn't underpaid as I have no provision for paying customs duty in advance - something that this law-abiding citizen is happy to do. So that's a customs tax bill of £3.49, which takes £8 of work to process.

Where was the option to pay by PayPal, or some other 21st century payment scheme? It wasn't offered.

It is like a game of chance rather than a grown-up taxation system. Imagine going to the shops and only paying the VAT after rolling dice - and if the dice rolls against you, you also pay a fee on top of the tax.

No doubt HM Queen won't be paying a handling charge on items being posted back from the States.

Like I said - I've no trouble paying the customs, it is a penalty flat fee for the handling that smells suspiciously like poo to me. Of course, being a mature and not cunning blighter in any way shape or form, I looked out the cash, and will drop it in a ziplock bag for them. No doubt they'll cry foul and refuse to take the cash and say it has to be handled electronically (thereby giving me fair notice to complain officially that that is not £8's worth of handling work).

What a joke.

Links: HM Revenue & Customs

The Post Office may charge you for clearing your package through Customs. They handle packages for Customs examination and, if required, open and re-pack them. The Post Office will also store packages if Customs need to make enquiries; for example, when the contents have not been declared properly by the sender. The Post Office fees are collected at the same time as Customs charges but are completely separate and Customs cannot reply to queries about them.

Sooo, if I read this right - the Customs folk don't actually deal with the customs check, it is the Post Office. That makes sense - HM Revenue & Customs are too busy to deal with the custom of customs checks. Easier for them just to soak up the tax and let the punters pay a separate charge over and above the tax to an outside agency. Means that their budget looks better. I wouldn't like it to be known that a UK Government department was so inefficient that it cost £8 to process a tax charge of £3.49.

Methinks there's a fiddle somewhere and, as usual, we plebs have to foot the bill for government shenanigans.

Monday, 7 May 2007

Benn' 070507

Today's Bennachie musings involve people.

I split people into 2 sorts.

If you are 'passive' in your dealings with the outdoors the rain spoils things for you; it is too hot; cows are scary.

If you are 'active' in your dealings with the environment beyond the human and controllable, then if you get wet it is because you forgot to take waterproofs; if things scare you, it is because of your fears, and that is usually a healthy thing.

Shower heading my way, i'd best head off the peak.

Sunday, 6 May 2007

Ben Star 2.1425

Having discussed matters and reviewed the weather - gales in exposed areas - we broke camp and started heading down the valley.

DSC03408DSC03408 Hosted on Zooomr

DSC03409DSC03409 Hosted on Zooomr

Past the track to Ben Starav and got into a hailstorm on the way down to Glen Etive.
DSC03413DSC03413 Hosted on Zooomr

DSC03419DSC03419 Hosted on Zooomr

DSC03421DSC03421 Hosted on Zooomr

We were back at the cars by 1245.

Regrouping at the Kingshouse once more, it seemed a popular choice for lots of people. We split up and headed for our homes.
DSC03425DSC03425 Hosted on Zooomr

Simon's report can be found here on