Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Friday, 25 November 2011
Thursday, 24 November 2011
The interview will probably be broadcast on both radio and television on BBC Alba (in English - I don't speak Gaelic) and possibly on Reporting Scotland next Tuesday, November 29th.
Monday, 21 November 2011
Saturday, 19 November 2011
The night on Ben Nevis was one of the finest wild camps I’ve ever had anywhere, enough on its own to make this year’s Challenge special. Combined with the other excellent wild camps it explained yet again why I keep coming back. Every Challenge is unique and every one has something exceptional and memorable about it. I wonder how I’ll remember next year’s.
Wednesday, 16 November 2011
I'm delighted to announce that I have a publisher for a book on my Pacific Northwest Trail walk and that the publisher is here in the Scottish Highlands - Sandstone Press. The book will be published next summer and will have many photographs as well as my words. The title is Grizzly Bears and Clam Shells: Walking America's Pacific Northwest Trail, for which, appropriately, I have the trail's founder Ron Strickland to thank. Now I'd better return to actually writing the book!
Tuesday, 15 November 2011
Sunday, 13 November 2011
Thursday, 10 November 2011
Wednesday, 9 November 2011
The December issue of TGO has just been published with a host of articles relevant to the short days, long nights and cold of winter. I review 15 down sleeping bags designed to keep you warm on sub zero nights while Judy Armstrong looks at ice axes and crampons for hillwalkers. There's a feature on big hills that can be climbed on short winter days. My contribution is on Ben Macdui. Other hills covered include Blencathra and Tryfan. And for those times when staying out in the dark is unavoidable or even desired my backpacking column is about the pleasures of night hiking. In the Wild Walks section I describe a walk over Bynack More on the eastern edge of the Cairngorms, a long day that would definitely mean beginning or finishing in the dark in midwinter. Elsewhere in the Hill Skills section I discuss how to plan food supplies for a backpacking trip, with a picture from my Arizona Trail hike - UK readers please note, you won't find most of the food shown here in the local supermarket!
The rest of the magazine has much good stuff, including Cameron McNeish hoping the Ramblers will return to their former campaigning glories; Ed Byrne trying orienteering; Carey Davies canyon and walking in the Brecon Beacons; a profile of Ranulph Fiennes; Andy Stothert escaping to the fells above Patterdale in the Lake District; Lizzie Shepherd on Zagoria in Greece with some mouth-watering photos of an area I'd never heard of before; John Manning taking on the Yorkshire Three Peaks; Jim Perrin praising Patrick Monkhouse's On Foot In The Peak and Cameron McNeish rather far from his usual haunts in Shropshire.
Tuesday, 8 November 2011
By coincidence yesterday I found myself following the pattern of a piece I’d recently written for TGO magazine on big mountains that can be climbed on short winter days (which will be in the next issue – out very soon). A morning meeting was cancelled at the very last minute so as the day was fine I decided to head for the hills instead. However it already being 9.30am I was unlikely to actually start walking before 11 at the earliest and with sunset at 4.20pm that didn’t leave much daylight. So, following my TGO article, I decided on the Cairngorm Plateau and Ben Macdui from the Coire Cas car park as the latter is at over 600 metres.The day was warm with just a gentle breeze during the ascent and I had my sleeves rolled up, which is unusual in November. Indeed, my most important item of gear was a pair of sunglasses, which I wore all the way to Ben Macdui as I was heading straight into the low sun. The last time I had worn them was in late August, which was also the last time I was in the hills on a clear sunny day. One word dominates all my journal entries since that trip – cloudy – so it was a joy to be out on a clear day. And what clarity! From the summit of Cairn Gorm I could see a great sweep of mountains from Lochnagar to the south right round the western horizon to Ben Wyvis to the north. Every one stood out sharp and distinct. Crossing the Plateau to Ben Macdui I was struck by the lack of snow – just a few tiny patches lurking in shaded hollows on north-east facing slopes. There was more snow than this in August. Indeed I think the hills are more snow free now that at any time this year. The pale brown arid stony plateau could have been a desert landscape rather than an arctic-alpine one. There were hints of winter though, with ice on the edge of pools and frozen puddles between the boulders. And the wind on the Plateau was keen, necessitating a jacket.
On Ben Macdui I could see that mist filled the glens far to the south and east, creating what must have been superb inversion conditions for anyone on the hills. Here though there was no mist and I could look down the wide gash of the Lairig Ghru to the summits beyond. The bright sun had lit the hills wonderfully all day but it was on the return across the Plateau in the late afternoon that the real glory of the day emerged. As the sun sank towards the horizon, sending long dark shadows across the landscape, it turned the hills a rich golden colour. Then the first touches of pink appeared on the scraps of cloud drifting across the sky. As planned I reached the northern edge of the plateau, above the great scoops of Coire an Lochain and Coire an t-Sneachda, as the sun set, knowing that at this time of year with the sun sinking into the north-west there was a likelihood of a vast sweep of colour across the distant horizon. And so it proved. The intervening ridges darkened into shades of blue and black whilst a sharp rippling line of silhouetted hills ran across the horizon below a sky slowly deepening into orange and red.
Meanwhile a big waxing moon rose in the south-east, with enough light to throw pale shadows. The combination of the last daylight and the first moonlight gave a strange purple cast to the hills.
By the time I reached the start of the descent down the Fiacaill a’Choire Chais the colours in the western sky were rich and deep while the hills were black below them. I stared as the last orange and red shades began to fade then made my way down the stony ridge and back to the dark empty car park. It had been one of the best days on the hills of the year. I’m glad that meeting was cancelled.