Sunday, 29 September 2013

Sony NEX on the Scottish Watershed



View over Rannoch Moor from Stob na Cruaiche. NEX 7, 16-50mm lens @ 18mm, ISO 100, 1/200 @ f8

The Scottish Watershed was the first long distance walk for my Sony NEX cameras and the first bar one on which I didn’t take an SLR (on my very first long walk, from Land’s End to John O’Groats, I just took a cheap film compact, which broke before half way, but I didn’t take photography seriously back then).

Evening Light in the Southern Uplands. NEX 7, 16-50mm lens @ 41mm, ISO 100, 1/125 @ f8

The great joy of NEX cameras for long distance walking is the low weight and bulk. I went into detail about my choice of the NEX 7 here, in what is still my most popular post, and the reasons for changing from DSLRs to the NEX system here. Since that NEX 7 feature I’ve bought the 16-50mm and 10-18mm lenses plus the NEX 6 body that I described in a later piece. Having initially decided that the NEX 5 was adequate as a backup to the 7 I read reviews of the 6 and was persuaded that it was much better than the 5 and had several advantages, including the viewfinder and the wi-fi (though I’ve hardly used the latter). I’ve now sold the NEX 5 and the 18-55mm lens.

Clouds in the Fannichs. NEX 7, 16-50mm lens @ 31mm, ISO 100, 1/200 @ f8

For the Watershed walk I took both NEX bodies (I always take two cameras – breakages and failures have occurred!) and two lenses – the Sony E 10-18mm and 16-50mm. I considered the Sony E 55-210mm lens but decided its 394 grams was unnecessary weight. One reason for this was that I knew I could crop images from the 24mp NEX 7 and still have good quality images. For that reason the 16-50mm lived on the 7 with the 10-18mm on the 6. I did swap the lenses occasionally. Both cameras were carried slung across my body for quick access except in the stormiest weather. I used a Lowe Alpine Apex 100W for the NEX 7 and an old Camera Care Systems padded case for the NEX 6. 

Deer stag in Glen Quoich. NEX 7, 16-50mm lens @ 50mm, ISO 400, 1/125 @ f8.


Crop from the photo above.

The weather, which was too often stormy or dull, meant I didn’t take as many photos as I expected – 1636 in total – so I had more memory cards than I needed, which wasn’t a problem as they are so light. I took 4GB and 8GB cards rather than ones with more capacity as the likelihood of several cards all failing is remote. As it was, I had no problems with any of them.  I also had half a dozen batteries, which was a little heavier and again more than I needed, plus a charger so I could recharge them at town stops. I wanted a full record of the walk so I did take shots in the rain, the cloud and in dense forests.

In dense forest on a misty, rainy day in the Southern Uplands. NEX 7, 16-50mm lens @ 21mm, ISO 800, 1/20 @ f8

Most of the photos were taken handheld though I did have an ultralight Velbon V-Pod tripod that I used for camping shots and in low light. I always used manual exposure, using the histogram as a guide and exposing to the right – being able to see the histogram in the viewfinder is something I find really useful. I kept the ISO as low as possible, mostly sticking to 100. All the images were made as raw files which were then processed in Lightroom.

View south to Loch Lomond from Beinn Dubhcraig. NEX 6, 10-18mm lens @ 10mm, ISO 100, 1/400 @ f8

Overall I am pleased with the results, especially given the prevailing weather, and still delighted with the cameras. The NEX 7 remains one of my favourite ever cameras. The 16-50mm lens was a joy to use too as it’s so light and compact. The 10-18mm is also lightweight and produces top quality results and I should probably have used it more. For long distance walking where weight is crucial these really are excellent cameras if you also want top quality results. Indeed, in terms of technical quality, the NEX cameras produce the best images I have ever taken.

Stormy weather in the Northern Highlands. NEX 6, 10-18mm lens @ 10mm, ISO 100, 1/160 @ f8

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Wilderness Walking, Wilderness Writing at the Portobello Book Festival


Next Saturday, October 5th, I'm talking about my writing at the Portobello Book Festival in Edinburgh. The event is from 3 to 4.30pm at the Old Parish Church in Portobello. I'll be appearing with Kellan MacInnes, who will be talking about his book Caleb's List, which I reviewed here. I'll be reading passage from Grizzly Bears and Razor Clams.

Friday, 27 September 2013

A Quick Visit to the Isle of Harris


Huisnish   




The Outer Hebrides are a wonderful chain of islands on the Atlantic Edge. My recent visit to the Isle of Harris to give a talk at the Harris Mountain Festival was unfortunately all too brief, just a taster to remind me how marvellous an island it is. I should really make a longer visit. I reached Harris via the ferry from Uig on the Isle of Skye and had the same feelings when crossing Skye, even though the mountains were in cloud and a fierce wind blew with heavy showers at times, as I hadn’t been there for a few years.

Leaving Skye

The ferry crossing was in a strong wind and choppy seas. Skye faded into the cloud and Harris appeared as a hazy dark outline. There are usually many sea birds on the crossing but the dark surging waters and the grey sky made it hard to spot any on the water. In the air there were gannets, white against the dark clouds, flying high then suddenly spearing down into the waves. Small dark auks flashed past, skimming the water, and on islets cormorants perched, prehistoric as usual.

Tarbert

I spent much of a day wandering round the little town of Tarbert, admiring the harbour and the tiered houses and visiting the North Harris Trust. The big Skye ferry dwarfed the harbour. I watched with fascination as the front slowly opened like a giant mouth to disgorge vehicles. That evening I gave the first talk on my Scottish Watershed walk to a good audience who asked plenty of questions, which I always enjoy. Thanks to North Harris Ranger Matt Watts for inviting me. I hope I'm asked back next year.

Huisnish

The strong wind continuing to blow and the mountains remaining in the clouds the next day I headed west to the coast at Huisnish, a long slow drive down a scenic winding single track road. In the Outer Hebrides there’s a huge contrast between the rocky east coast and the beautiful sandy beaches backed by machair (a fertile shell-sand sward) to the west. At the little peninsula of Huisnish I ambled round several beaches and coves and gazed out across the vast dark expanse of the Atlantic Ocean – next stop America. The flowers that turn the machair into a glorious swathe of colour in the summer had gone, leaving green, sheep-cropped grass. Clumps of marram grass decorated sand dunes with heather and bog plants on the little rocky knolls. The sea shimmered and shone as the sunshine came and went in the racing clouds. The wind was cold and every so often blasts of chilly rain swept the landscape. Gulls and oystercatchers dotted the sandy beaches.

Huisnish

Then it was time to return to Tarbert and the ferry. I’ll be back.


Leaving Harris


Sunday, 22 September 2013

Scottish Watershed Gear



Camping somewhere on the Watershed

I'm currently writing a trip report on the gear I used on my Scottish Watershed Walk last June and July for the November issue of The Great Outdoors magazine. Before the walk I wrote a piece about the gear I was planning to take, which I've posted below.  I did make some changes before the walk, particularly in clothing so this isn't a list of what I actually carried though it's fairly close.

Scottish Watershed Gear


Late in May I’ll be setting off to walk the Scottish Watershed from the English Border to Duncansby Head, a distance of some 1200km (though I’ll walk more with side trips for supplies). The average elevation of the route is 450 metres and it crosses 44 Munros and 24 Corbetts as well as many other tops. I’ll need gear to cope with everything from hot sunshine (optimistically!) to heavy rain and strong winds. And of course midges.

My gear selection is based on what has worked on other long distance walks, especially the TGO Challenge. Gear that works well on a two-week walk across the Highlands should prove just as good on a two-month walk the length of Scotland. After the walk I’ll report on whether I was right and how well everything worked. In the meantime here’s a rundown of the main items.



Footwear

Having worn Inov-8 Terrocs on several TGO Challenge walks and on the Pacific Northwest Trail I know these ultralight trail shoes are excellent for backpacking so I shall be wearing them again, with Superfeet footbeds. As back-up and for really hot weather I’ll also take Hi-Tec Owaka sandals (my Best Buy in the sandals review last year) as these are light and comfortable. Having had to buy sandals on a previous TGO Challenge walk and on the Pacific Northwest Trail I know it is false weight-saving not to have spare footwear.

Pack

My biggest dilemma has been in choosing a pack. I’ve oscillated between the Lightwave Ultrahike 60, Montane Grand Tour 55, Lowe Alpine Nanon 50-60 and the original GoLite Quest that I used on the Pacific Northwest Trail (I don’t like the current Quest – it’s heavier and not as comfortable). After much deliberation I’ve settled on the 1230 gram Ultrahike, which I think a good combination of toughness, comfort and light weight. It’s just about waterproof too – though I’ll still pack sensitive gear in waterproof stuffsacks. My only reservation is the lack of a big pocket or pouch on the back but I’m sure I can cope without this.

Shelter

After its superb handling of the big storms during the first week of the 2012 TGO Challenge the Mountain Laurel Designs Trailstar was the obvious choice. I love the space and the wind resistance. As there are likely to be midges later on in the walk rather than just a groundsheet I’ll pair it with a mesh inner, the Oookworks Trailstar Nest. My Carbon Fibre Pacerpoles will be used to support the Trailstar. The total weight, including pegs, is 1157 grams.

Sleeping Bag & Mat

Last winter I was very impressed with the Rab Infinity 500 down sleeping bag, which has amazing loft for the weight. However I think it’ll be too warm for a summer walk so I’ll be using the Infinity 300, which weighs 650 grams and has a comfort rating of +3ยบ. If it’s like the 500 that rating will be very conservative.

My mat will be a NeoAir XLite Small, which weighs just 230 grams and packs into a tiny bundle. I have had a few failures with air beds in the past few years but as this is a summer trip I’ve decided to take the risk again, reckoning I can just sleep on the ground if it fails (after all, Hamish Brown did the first continuous round of the Munros without a mat at all – and he started in April).

Kitchen

Having used it successfully on last year’s TGO Challenge and on the Pacific Northwest Trail I’m sticking with the 225 gram Caldera Ti-Tri Inferno, which I hope to use with wood in any fine weather but will probably mostly use with meths. As I may not be able to get the latter everywhere I’ll also carry the tiny 3 gram Gram Cracker stand for solid fuel tablets, which I’ll put in my postal supplies.

With the Ti-Tri I’ll use my now 22 year old Evernew 0.9 litre Titanium Pan. An MSR 0.6 litre titanium pot that nests inside the Evernew one will double as a mug and a second pot. The two together weigh 220 grams.

Clothing

Temperatures are not usually very low in Scottish summers but rain and wind can make it feel very chilly. Good waterproofs are essential. Having been impressed with Polartec Neoshell the last few years I’m taking the new lightweight 430 gram Rab Myriad jacket in this material, paired with an old pair of GoLite Reed overtrousers, which weigh 110 grams.

Good though Neoshell is I still prefer a light windproof top in dry breezy weather. One adds a surprising amount of warmth when worn over a base layer too. My choice here is the Montane Lite-Speed, which is made from Pertex Microlight and weighs 170 grams..

For warmth I’m taking my well-used 215 gram Jack Wolfskin Gecko microfleece top, a veteran of many long walks, plus a Patagonia Ultralight Down Shirt, which at just 158 grams won’t add much to my load but which will be really welcome on chilly nights.

My main legwear will be Paramo Merapi Active Trousers, which I’ve been wearing recently and have found to perform well. They’re made from very soft comfortable polyester and weigh 308 grams. I’ll also carry some running shorts for that fabled hot weather. These will double as underwear.

On my top I’ll wear a Rab MeCo zipped base layer. I’ve used this merino wool/Cocona polyester top on the Southern Upland Way and the TGO Challenge and know that it can be worn for two weeks without smelling or failing to wick. On this walk I might found out just how long it stays acceptable!

Other clothing will consist of my cotton Tilley Hat for sun and rain, a Buff for warmth and Teko merino wool socks.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Rewilding & Trail Shoes in the latest issue of The Great Outdoors ... plus The Great Outdoors Challenge

Ancient Caledonian Pines in the Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve

The October issue of The Great Outdoors has just been published. My backpacking column is entitled 'Wolves and woods: Thoughts on rewilding' and describes my encounter with a wolf pack in the Yukon Territory and my ideas on rewilding Scotland with reference to George Monbiot's book Feral and Jim Crumley's The Last Wolf and The Great Wood.

Turn the page and, by coincidence, Jim Crumley turns up again in Jim Perrin's Hillwalkers' Library. Perrin picks Waters of the Wild Swan as his choice of Crumley's books. I haven't read this one but it does sound excellent. Of the many Jim Crumley books I have read - all of which I've enjoyed - I'd choose A High and Lonely Place, about the Cairngorms, and The Last Wolf as my favourites. I agree with Perrin that Crumley should be better known, though I'm not sure that insulting the prospective readership is a way to encourage them to seek him out!

In gear I review 12 pairs of trail shoes and unsurprisingly like the ones I used on the Scottish Watershed walk (there'll be a report on how my gear performed on that walk in the next issue). Judy Armstrong reviews six women's waterproofs and picks the female version of the one I used on the Watershed as her Best Buy. In individual reviews Daniel Neilson likes the Marmot Nabu, a Power Dry lined Neoshell jacket that looks good for winter, and the Patagonia Ultralight Down Vest.

Back when Daniel Neilson was putting this issue together he surprised me by asking if I had a photo of Meall Dubhag, a rather obscure summit above Glen Feshie that used to have Munro status. As it happened, I'd photographed this top while making The Cairngorms In Winter film with Terry Abraham last winter. On seeing the magazine for the first time today I discovered why the photo was required. Cameron McNeish has an entertaining and salutory feature entitled A Step Too Far? about problem he's had on various Munros. One of these was Meall Dubhag during a big winter storm when Cameron was at risk of falling into steep Coire Garbhlach, whose slopes can be seen in my photograph.

Elsewhere in this issue there's a lovely photo of Slioch and Loch Maree by Steven Russell; Mark Richards on line drawing; a look at crowdfunding with comments from Terry Abraham who used Kickstart to raise money for The Cairngorms In Winter film;  a wild camping round of Langdale with Vivienne Crow; a look at Lakeland mountain passes with Mark Gilligan; Leon McCarron describing his amazing journey on foot across China; a feature on jobs in the outdoors with interviews with a range of outdoor workers; and Roger Smith on the need to do more to protect wildlife. The Hill Skills section covers spotting satellites; the red deer rut; understanding rain; and walking solo.

This is also The Great Outdoors Challenge issue with accounts from this years event and application forms for next years.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Harris Mountain Festival

The great cliff of Sron Uladal on Harris
This week I'm heading over to the Isle of Harris via the Isle of Skye to give a talk on my Scottish Watershed walk at the Harris Mountain Festival. As the weather is very stormy at present with many ferry services cancelled or disrupted I'm hoping it all calms down before I travel. While on Harris I'm hoping to do some hill walking or, if the tops are in cloud, visit some of the lovely beaches.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Storytelling along the Southern Upland Way


One of the pleasures of leading a group is meeting interesting people and I was delighted and surprised when I discovered that Daniel Allison, one of the people who came up Sgor Gaoith with me at the start of the month, was a storyteller and musician. I was also very interested when he told me that later in the month he was walking the Southern Upland Way and telling stories in communities along the way, a fascinating idea. Daniel has now started his walk, which can be followed on Facebook - Among the Wild Deer - and on Twitter @amongthewild. The Southern Upland Way, which I've hiked twice (see here for a brief account of my 2010 walk), is long and quite tough in places. Stopping off to tell stories along the way would require even more energy and determination. Most evenings on my walks I was happy just to lie back in the tent with a hot drink and a book.

Daniel also has an interesting website, again entitled Among the Wild Deer, which gives information on his storytelling, workshops and more.

 

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Rewilding, Wildlife, Photography: Peter Cairns' New Frontiers.



Last month I wrote about George Monbiot, his book ‘Feral’and his rewilding ideas. The same topic emerged in much gentler form though with no less passion and commitment in a talk by wildlife photographer and conservationist Peter Cairns at Eden Court in Inverness, entitled ‘New Frontiers’. Cairns mixed his superb photos with bits of video and some music (I wasn’t sure about the last) and told the story of how he developed from a ‘trophy shots’ photographer into a campaigning one. As part of the latter Cairns is one of the photographers behind the ambitious 2020 Vision British nature photography project and has his own website – Northshots – that is well worth a look. Compared with Monbiot, who dismisses some conservation work as useless and even damaging, Cairns is much more accommodating of a wide range of conservation work and sees a web of different projects as leading to rewilding. I think both positions have validity and that there are positives in both.

I’d certainly recommend going to see Peter Cairns if he’s speaking in your area. There’s also his excellent book Caledonia: Scotland’s Heart of Pine, which I reviewed last year, and which is full of beautiful images plus inspiring words from Niall Benvie. 

Rewilding seems to be a theme for me this year and soon I'll be reviewing two more books about the subject - Jim Crumley's The Last Wolf and The Great Wood.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Outdoor Trade Show Gear Awards

Yesterday the winners of the Outdoor Trade Show Awards were announced. I was one of the judges and took part in the decision-making earlier in the day. Some categories were easy to judge, others required a bit of discussion. All the products look good. Personally I'm particularly interested in the Hydrogen Reactor and the Paramo jacket.

Here's an edited official press release:

The winners of the prestigious OTS 2013 Novel Awards have been announced at the Outdoor Trade Show (OTS), following close scrutiny by a panel of industry experts.

This year, for the first time, there was an exclusive online voting system for retailers to select their favourite from the 90 products entered into each of the seven categories. The three products with the most votes in each category were awarded finalist status, and the panel of judges chose the following winners:

Accessories: Brunton Hydrogen Reactor

Camping Equipment: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Venture

Clothing: Paramo Men’s Enduro Jacket

Footwear: Lowa Mountain Expert GTX

Rucksacks/Travel Luggage: Vango Khumbu Rucksack

Sleeping bags: Therm-a-Rest Mira

Tents/Awnings: Force Ten MTN Tent

The overall Product of The Year Award was won by Brunton Hydrogen Reactor.

OTS Organiser, Marta Williams comments: “Almost 90 products were entered into the Awards this year and the standard of all entries was incredibly high. We are delighted that these seven winning products have been recognised by retailers and the judges for their innovation, and can now be officially promoted as OTS Novel Award Winners.”
 

More from the Outdoor Trade Show: Stoves and Socks and Poles and Books and Chargers

Day 2 at the Outdoor Show produced a nice surprise in the form of Darn Tough socks. I've been looking forward to trying these as reports from the USA suggest they are very hardwearing. Now they're available in Britain and I have a pair to test.

I'm also looking forward to trying new stoves from Jetboil and Primus, especially the Eta Light from the latter, which replaces the Eta Solo, which wasn't that good. The Eta Light looks far better. Jetboil meanwhile has made the first stove with an inverted canister that sits under the burner. With a big 2.5 litre pot it's designed for group cooking.

Brunton's Hydrogen Reactor won the Product of the Year Award (I was one of the judges). This new way to charge electronic devices really does look exciting.

There's a couple of good books from Cicerone out soon. One is Alan Hinkes' 8000 Metres, which I'm really looking forward to reading. The other is Trekking in the Himalaya, edited by Kev Reynolds, to which I contributed a chapter.

Finally Komperdell had some excellent looking carbon fibre trekking poles on display. These are lightweight and very stiff. Komperdell say the carbon fibre is very strong too. They have external locking adjustments that are easy to use. If they had Pacerpole handles they'd be just about perfect.

The tent picture below is one of Terry Abraham's and was decorating the Vango stand. All the show pictures are direct from my HTC Desire S phone.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Thoughts from the Outdoor Trade Show

Just spent the first of two days looking at gear at The Outdoor Trade Show, which is held at Stoneleigh Park down in deepest Warwickshire in the English Midlands. Took me a whole day to reach this distant place (as measured from the centre of my world - the Cairngorms).

At the show I've seen a mass of stuff including nice socks from Point 6 and Teko, Gooper magnet closed electronics cases, good looking new Paramo clothing, a modular Kelty pack, new Force Ten tents, a water resistant cotton/polyester fleece from Climescape, some interesting fuel gel from Trangia/Vango and lots of footwear. Much of this gear will be tested for test reports in The Great Outdoors over the next year.

The indoor show is quite small compared with the big trade shows in Friedrichshafen and Salt Lake City. However the tent show outside is vast, the biggest in Europe if not the world. Ranks of tents and banners faded into the distance. Vango alone had more space and tents than other shows have in total. This promoted me to wonder which of the various impossible to imagine comparison cliches were appropriate - x football pitches, Wales, Belgium?

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Caleb's List & Arthur's Seat





As usual when visiting Edinburgh for the Festivals last month I took a few hours off from the shows and exhibitions and street theatre to wander over ‘the mountain in the city’, Arthur’s Seat. In previous years I’d just found a way up to the summit, studied the view and the people, then ambled back down admiring the rocks and the plants and the birds and feeling happy to be away from busy streets for a while. Maps and guidebooks weren’t needed or carried. This year was different though. 


One of the books I’d read during my Scottish Watershed walk back in June and July was Caleb’s List by Kellan MacInnes, a book that is part personal story, part history and part a guidebook. It tells the story of mountaineer and geographer Caleb George Cash who, back in the 1890s, published a list of hills visible from Arthur’s Seat, and also has route descriptions for ascending those hills. Interwoven with Caleb’s tale and the guidebook details is the author’s own story and how discovering and climbing the ‘Arthur’s’ as he names Caleb’s hills, has helped him to cope with having AIDS.  The author is unflinching about the latter and there are some graphic and disturbing descriptions of living with this illness.


As well as route information for the hills on Caleb’s List the book has a description of a walk over Arthur’s Seat and I decided to use this on my last ascent, following the description on my tablet. This took me below Salisbury Crags, where some would-be rock climbers were almost getting stuck, and past Hutton’s Section, an important geological site, then up to the crowded summit where it was wonderful to see so many people enjoying the sunshine and the experience of being on a rocky hill. With Caleb’s List to accompany me I learnt much about Arthur’s Seat and its environs – previously all I knew was that it was the remnant of a volcano and was in Edinburgh – and saw parts of the hill I’d not visited before.


Caleb’s List is an excellent book, well worth reading even if you have no intention of climbing the hills described. Caleb Cash himself is an important if neglected figure in the history of the Scottish outdoors and the author’s personal story gives the book an emotional power unusual in a guidebook.

Next month, on the 4th, I’ll be taking part in an event at the Portobello Book Festival in Edinburgh with Kellan MacInnes called ‘Wilderness Writing’. I have no idea how this will go but I am looking forward to meeting the author of Caleb’s List.


Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Rain, Wind & Rainbows: On Braeriach & Sgor Gaoith




View from the summit of Braeriach

A forecast of strong winds and showers, some of them wintry, didn’t bode well for two days leading groups in the Cairngorms for the Tomintoul & Glenlivet Walking/Cycling Festival. I hoped the weather wouldn’t lead to a failure to reach a summit, as it did last year when I attempted to lead a group up Ben Avon.

On the ascent of Braeriach

As ten of us gathered in the Sugar Bowl car park on the Cairngorm ski road clouds were racing overhead and gusts of wind shook the trees. We were aiming for Braeriach, which involves a long approach walk via the boulders of the Chalamain Gap followed by a descent into the Lairig Ghru. Buffeted by the wind I wondered just how far we would get as we began the climb up Braeriach itself. There were short, sharp and cold showers and as we neared the summit we were in and out of mist but the wind wasn’t strong enough to impede walking. The views came and went in the cloud; dramatic, atmospheric, magical. The air was cold and a shower near the summit had hints of sleet. Hats and gloves and hoods were essential. A suggestion and reminder of winter at the end of August.

Creag an Leth-choin & the Lairig Ghru from the slopes of Braeriach

Descending the same way the wind strengthened and grew more gusty. An hour or two later and we might not have reached the summit. At the same time though there were touches of sunshine and a brighter sky. Showers still blasted past, mostly only minutes long. As we clambered back through the Chalamain Gap a rainbow appeared ahead, welcoming us back to Glenmore.

Rainbow over Glenmore

A day later and I was in Glen Feshie with seven others, ready for an ascent of Sgor Gaoith. The skies were greyer and the wind stronger than the day before and we were in wet mist much of the time. Thin rain swept over us. There were no clearances and the group sadly missed the tremendous views from the summit. Arriving in thick mist I was initially confused at the top. The little cairn that decorated it was gone. Maybe this wasn’t the summit? A few yards walk and a look back showed that it was. The cairn had been there earlier in the year and, as far as I remembered, on all the other occasions I’d climbed the hill. There were no stones remaining and I guessed they’d been chucked over the cliffs down towards Loch Einich. It was only a little cairn and I guess another will appear but it seems a shame the old one has been destroyed. I’m not in favour of lines of cairns marking paths but cairns marking summits are useful and valid and often of great age.

Approaching the summit of Sgor Gaoith

We’d ascended via a high broad curving spur over two lower summits. To escape the wind we took a direct descent, straight down mossy slopes into Coire Ruadh and out of the mist. We followed a burn down and saw dippers beside it. There were red grouse in the heather too and one of the group saw a golden eagle flying up Glen Feshie. On the ascent we’d seen a solitary reindeer far from their usual haunts. This one was more wary than usual too and trotted away before we came near. Other than that the hills were empty, of people and wildlife.