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Messages - Jester

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Trip reports / Re: Fife Coastal Path- The Chain Walk
« on: May 13, 2014, 03:32:47 PM »
Some interesting points there Lyle. I was wearing gloves from the start, the others did so after the first chain. You need something with a bit of grip, leather I find is good for that.
You are possibly right about helmets. We are doing scrambling later in the month and I will be recommending the use of helmets. Having said that I am not going to force people into using them.

We were well aware of the tide times, having checked a few days beforehand, However the trip is done as part of a coach trip, and the date was fixed last November, so that makes it a bit harder to plan. Had the water been too high (it had been high tide at 1206, we attempted it at 1400-ish) then we would simply have missed it out entirely. By walking on and waiting a bit it passed the time and allowed us to complete it. While most of the walk is clear, the two channels at either end are the key points. If you can get past one, you can do almost the whole walk and if the last one is still blocked, return the way you came. The first time I did it I returned back over the chains.

It's an interesting point about the rucksacks straps. Before moving I made a decision as regards my own movements, and I personally prefer equipment tight, with no straps hanging to snag on anything. From another angle you will see the channel we were adjacent to, and I felt that I would prefer to attempt to ditch my gear if I went in, than try to swim with it. Two clicks and the bag is gone.

Trip reports / Re: Recent Land Navigation Class Review
« on: May 12, 2014, 09:27:44 AM »
Good report. It's always worth getting out with someone experienced who can talk you through things.

Trip reports / Fife Coastal Path- The Chain Walk
« on: May 12, 2014, 09:22:31 AM »
April can be an odd month weather wise. In the week leading up to the coach trip with Glasgow HF Outdoor Club, he weather had been fairly hot for the time of year, before turning steadily for the worse. Cold east winds chased the heat away so that by the time Saturday rolled around it was chilly with a forecast of rain. Not the ideal forecast for a day beside the seaside. Buckets and spades were struck from the kit list, as were the sunglasses and suncream.

Just over thirty of us headed up to Fife on the coach, and three walks were to take place, a shorter walk from Largo to Elie, and two longer walks of around 10 miles from Leven to Elie. I was leading one of these which was to include Scotland’s Via Ferrata, the Elie Chain Walk. Even though I was leading this I had never walked the whole way, having only did sections at either end. The short section from Dumbarnie Links to the start of the Chain Walk was to me, as yet a mystery.

Our coach dropped us off on the front at Leven, and two groups set off on our respective parallel paths along the coast. I stuck initially with the road to get to our first checkpoint- public toilets! Having gotten this important operation out of the way we hit the beach and began to head along the coast. I used to walk along this beach as a child and the trip from Leven to Largo would take hours it seemed. Stopping off at old military bunkers and rock pools, or playing in the sand and jumping on the old anti-tank defences, a short walk with an elastic timeframe. Now, leading a group of walkers who had no interest in playing in rock pools, despite me wanting to, it is easily done in under an hour.

Wall decoration in Lower Largo

Yachting regatta

Navigation on the Fife Coastal Path can be fairly straightforward for most of the time. We kept the sea on our right and the land on our left and followed the signposts. We passed through Largo, past Alexander Selkirk’s house and the odd looking totem pole which decorates a small garden on the front. At the far end of the village a yacht regatta was in full swing, and we made this our first stop of the day. At Largo we met up with David, another club member who lives nearby. Club members come from far and wide and this was a rare home fixture for him.


We set off again, firstly along the beach, then onto the high water coastal path which follows the old railway line to Dumbarnie Links nature reserve before it weaves along through dunes, and on past two more relics of the war. These defensive bunkers hold a commanding view along the coast, although they now serve a more peaceful purpose, serving as a nesting place for swallows and a roost for bats. The path now undulates along the top of the sand and marram grass dunes. The area is teeming with bird life. We are accompanied at a wary distance by a Stonechat, while further on Lapwings cavort in the air.

Between Largo and Dumbarnie

Before reaching Ruddons Point the path suddenly turns inland. The way is barred by a small tidal basin and at low tide the Cocklemill Burn. Two footbridges help you cross without wading. This area is littered with tidal debris, and is regularly scoured by the sea, giving it the look and feel of a piece of semi-derelict industrial wasteland. Up ahead, tucked into the trees are the C party, already having lunch. It’s a decent spot, sheltered from the wind and affording us a view back along the route we have just come. The cloud has lowered now, and Largo Law has disappeared into the murk.


The rain paid us a fleeting visit as we walked through Shell Bay caravan park. At the end of the park we pick up the coastal path again, and it’s not long before we see a small path branch off downhill to the start of the Chain Walk. A quick inspection reveals that the tide is still too high, there’s no way we can do it as a large channel of surging water lies in our path. As we have a fair bit of time on our hands I suggest we go along the clifftop coastal path before approaching it from the other end, and we agree to give it a try. Some of the group decide to leave and carry on with the other party, as it could be a bit more risky than they thought.

HF heading along the cliff top

Now down to five, from the original ten, we approached from the Elie side. The tide is still in, but I think it’s passable. I set off along the horizontal chains, the slack causing me to hang back from the rock. It’s hard going, the waves rushing at my feet. I’m fully aware that should I lose my grip I’m heading for a small narrow channel where the tide is pushing and pulling, and my equipment would make it difficult to swim. I grip the chain and shuffle along, before finally planting my feet on the shingle. he rest of the group follows on behind, until one by one we are all across. The rest of the walk is a lot more straightforward, vertical chains being far easier to handle than horizontal ones. The rocks are still wet though, and its not all plain sailing, with plenty of scope for slipping if we aren’t careful. By now the tide has gone out sufficiently that we can walk along a short section which lies at the foot of columns of basalt. The pebbles here are black when wet, drying to grey, and they make a strange cracking sound as the tide moves them around, rolling around in the sea as though trapped in a huge washing machine. Having negotiated all the chains bar one, we found ourselves at the channel which first blocked our way. It’s now just passable, and our patience is rewarded as we negotiate it and gather at the sign marking the end of the Chain Walk.

Bruce on the first chain

David and Robert, followed by Jamie’s MCofS group

At this point we are joined by a group which followed hard on our heels, and discover that they are led by Jamie Smith, club development officer for the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, of which Glasgow HF are affiliated. We chat for a few minutes, and after taking a few photos of his group to email to him later, we are on our way along the cliff tops for the second time, passing more remnants of the Second World War. Much of these defences were built by Polish troops, and as we pass through Elie I spy on an impressive plaque gifted to the town by Polish paratroops. The promised rain puts in a brief appearance, but too late to dampen our spirits, and we march on.

Polish Paratroop Memorial, Elie

Having had to wait for the tide we are now tight for time. The coach is due for a five o’clock departure, leaving only time for a quick beer as the football results roll in, in a bar decorated with photos of the town when the railway was still here. Perhaps it will return. I’m sure I will.

Maps / Re: OS to stop routine printing of paper maps?
« on: March 31, 2014, 07:45:15 PM »
He now writes for The Telegraph ;)
Nice one. Good to hear this isn't going to happen.

Maps / OS to stop routine printing of paper maps?
« on: March 30, 2014, 02:40:13 PM »
From today's Telegraph

The art of folding them may have often been as challenging as the ability to read them.

But after decades as an indispensable guide to the outdoors, the humble map appears to be heading the way of the sextant, the north star and other seemingly outmoded navigational aids.

After years of declining sales, with consumers increasingly relying on electronic satellite navigation systems, the Ordnance Survey is planning to end its policy of routinely producing paper maps covering the entire country. Instead, it will offer a service whereby people who do require a paper chart will have to order it, so that it can be printed off specially.

Latest figures from the OS show that paper map sales accounted for just seven per cent of its £141.9 million turnover last year, as the numbers sold slipped below two million for the first time since the launch of its distinctive, outdoor hiking ranges, the 1:25,000 scale Explorer Maps and 1:50,000 Landranger Maps in the 1970s.

The organisation – which accounts for 95 per cent of the leisure map market – is a government agency and part of its remit is to map the entire country and have accurate, up to date charts available.

However, under the new plans – to be introduced gradually over the coming years – maps for vast areas of the country will no longer be routinely printed off and kept in stock. Rather, they will simply be available on demand. Those which cover popular hiking areas, such as the Lake District, are likely to still be produced.

In a further sign of the times, the OS has launched a “map amnesty”, allowing the public to send in an old, paper chart in exchange for a discount on a digital version. Although advertising has been limited to an appeal in its own newsletter and website, it has already received in excess of 3,000 paper maps.

The project, which runs until the end of April, is to ensure maps in use are up to date. The OS makes 10,000 changes each day to the database from which its maps are produced – from new properties, changes to road layouts, closures of pubs.

Digital versions can be updated automatically and instantly, while Explorer and Landranger paper versions are only modified every two to five years.

A spokesman said: “Paper maps still remain an important part of the Ordnance Survey brand with nearly two million maps being sold over the last year.

“But in the future, rather than have the whole country in stock, we will have them on demand. There is a statutory duty for us to map the whole of Great Britain and to make mapping available for the whole of Great Britain, but in the future you won’t just be able to walk into a book shop. You will have to order online and print it off.”

Currently, all OS maps are printed by a company in Froome, Somerset, and sold directly to large stores, such as Waterstones, or book wholesalers.

The organisation has already started to offer “custom-made” maps, which can be centred on any location specified by the buyer, such as a home address, or holiday destination.

The Ordnance Survey traces its roots back to the mid eighteenth century, when it was established to carry out a military survey of Scotland, in the wake of the Jacobite rebellion of 1745.

It started providing leisure mapping at the start of the twentieth century.

But this sector saw its heyday in the late 1980s, when the organisation was selling almost 3.5 million a year.

Just a decade ago, sales were still at around 3 million. Last year, they were 1.9 million. While these sales have declined, though, those of digital products – such as apps, or services which allow people to print off their own charts – have been rising.

The Explorer range covers the country in 403 maps, while there are 204 Landranger ones.

You won't be able to buy an off the shelf map!  :o
Gone will be the joy of popping into some village store miles from anywhere and being able to buy a map of the area.
Everywhere will be like that town in Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? Two weeks from everywhere!
I hope this isn't the case, it will be a sad day to see the end of proper paper maps.

Apps / Re: Android Mapping Apps
« on: August 14, 2013, 01:06:21 AM »
I installed the Orux on my tablet. Apparently it's a Spanish app which has full UK 1:50,000 mapping on it, FREE. 8)
The only down side... you need to be online to use it.  :(

Fine in an android phone, so long as you have a signal.

Apps / Re: Memory Map App
« on: August 14, 2013, 01:01:17 AM »
I purchased Memory Map, which allows you a limited amount of installations across PCs, laptops and a mobile device.
The app for the mobile is free of charge.
I contacted Memory Map who gave me links on how to install it, and it worked fine. After copying the files onto the device as instructed, and entering the licence key I was able to get it to work.

Sadly it doesn't have 3D mapping, but it does mean you can carry the whole of the UKs mapping on a smartphone or tablet, and it can be used as a GPS unit with mapping, although I found it fiddly and difficult to fathom. It does have the benefit that mapping can be accessed offline.

If you are buying computer mapping it's worth getting Memory Map as you can install it in a mobile device as well as your PC and laptop. If you are looking for an app specifically for a mobile device there are probably better and cheaper ones out there.

Apps / Memory Map App
« on: July 06, 2013, 11:35:25 PM »
Does anyone have any experience of using the Memory Map App in conjunction with already purchased maps? I've installed my maps, entered the licence key, yet it only activates a very small area, even though I have full UK mapping.

Maps / Re: Scotlands first sex change mountain
« on: July 06, 2013, 11:17:58 PM »
I contacted the Ordnance Survey who told me that:
We are going to keep this Munro name as Beinn Sheasgarnich as this is the Gaelic form of the name.

The name was changed as part of the revision of Explorer 378 between 2002 and 2007.Our records say that the information came from ‘Watson 2002, 179’.  Watson 2002: Watson, W. J., 2002, Scottish Place-Name Papers (London and Edinburgh), “A collection of articles and essays on Scottish place-names” by W. J. Watson (1865-1948).

The name was changed in the large scale data in 2005.

Ordnance Survey does not inform third parties of any changes to our mapping. However we have found that some websites now list both names, for example,

Ordnance Survey works with the Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba (AÀA) to ensure consistency of Gaelic names depiction but we are not an authority on Gaelic names and our Gaelic names policy can be found here

Trip reports / Ben Starav and Glas Bheinn Mhor from Taynuilt
« on: July 06, 2013, 11:12:39 PM »
Lightweight tent. ✔

Lightweight sleeping bag. ✔

Lightweight stove. ✔

Half a toothbrush. ✔

Wafer of soap. ✔

Dehydrated water: I wish.

I've done everything possible to reduce the weight of my pack, so why is it so damn heavy? Around 35lbs, give or take. And there are no frivolities. Nothing for it, but to get it on and go.

I had planned what turned out to be an over ambitious route, but that wouldn't be apparent until later. Just over 30 miles, starting at Taynuilt, crossing 6 (or possibly 7) Munros and finishing at Bridge of Orchy.

Taynuilt station

Jim and I set off from Taynuilt railway station, and made our way through the village. This was by far the trickiest section for navigating! I was glad I had the 1:25 000 map, otherwise I imagine we'd have been traipsing through gardens, rather than along an old path lined with ancient oak and Scots pine. This was also the crux of the route, did the footbridge actually exist? A couple of dog walkers reassured us that yes, the bridge was just ahead. We found it, crossed over and made our way up through the smokery, taking the road as it twisted up and round, then breaking off to take the track which will lead us north-east along the loch.

A bridge coo far...

It's a long haul up the loch, but the weather was kind and there was so much wildlife that we didn't notice the hours disappearing behind us. We were serenaded by willow warblers, observed from afar by golden eagles and chattered at by stonechats. We saw great spotted woodpeckers clinging on to oak trees and families of red brested merganser. The variety was tremendous. Loch Etive is a sea loch, and with the aid of Jim's binoculars we were able to spot seals and their pups on some rocky islands. However after 5 hours of walking it was time to leave the shore line and begin the ascent.

Seal and pup

Loch Etive looking towards Glencoe

The ruin at Inverghiusachan Point

From the ruin at Inverghiusachan Point we took a line up towards a patch of green between the crags. The plan was to drop down and cross the burn, taking on fresh water, before ascending Ben Starav. The going was slow however. There was a faint deer path which we made use of, but otherwise we just made our way through the ferns and heather as best we could. Finally we made the grass between the crags and rounded the hill. Our jaws dropped, as did our spirits. Sometimes it's hard to imagine how steep those contours are. The ground here dropped away, the burn unseen below, then the hill climbed, horrendously steeply from the other side all the way to the summit. Time for Plan B...

The drop towards Starav.

A look at the map showed that a longer, put possibly easier ascent could be made if we continued up Stob an Duine Ruaidh. The only problem was, Jim was very low on water and our next resupply was over two more hills, unless we dropped off the ridge. We ascended over slabby outcrops, quite pleasurable when dry. The heat and lack of water, combined with a rucksack even heavier than mine was telling on Jim, and he was forced




than he would like. At one point I looked back, to see him below, a golden eagle flying below him before effortlessly gliding off to the other side of the corrie.

Ben Cruachan from the slabs.

Panoramic shot of the Cruachan Ridge

We continued upwards, clambering over rock until eventually we came to the small cairn marking the 882m spot height. This was only a brief respite though. We looked back down the loch, our route laid out behind us. Ben Cruachan was still dotted with patches of snow, and from this angle Beinn Eunaich looked amost Shiehallion-esque.

Jim on Stob an Duine Ruaidh

Ben Starav on the left

Onwards and upwards as the saying goes, a series of climbs and drops, interspersed with pauses which ate into our time. With the 918m summit of Stob an Duine Ruaidh behind me, I dropped down towards the bealach which lies before the 930m summit of Meall Cruidh and headed for two decent sized standing pools of water, and set the stove up, to boil water for Jim. This would probably be as good as it was going to get for water. When he arrived a short while later, he was done in. This would have to be our camp for the night.

We set up the tents, the sloping ground not ideal, but we could live with it. I had failed to bring a windshield for the stove, and my Heath-Robinson effort involving poles and a tea towel soon went up in smoke...

Jim had had enough for one day, so I set off alone, the top now intermittently shrouded in scudding clouds. Even without the heavy pack, I felt drained. Between the rocks there was a grassy strip which led right to the lower summit cairn. I made a note of the pool of water marking the turn and headed along the rim of a corrie which still retained large patches of snow. Just as I was approaching the summit a movement caught my eye- a ptarmigan chick! It sat just long enough for a photo before scuttling off.

Ptarmigan chick

At the summit

I was on the summit, alone and with darkness fast approaching. It was 10pm, almost 11 hours of some of the most energy sapping walking to get here. I took in the fading view, out towards Mull, back towards Cruachan and up into Glencoe, then descended to the tent, arriving just before the dark did.

An orange moon appears between the clouds

Day 2

I awoke at the bottom of my tent. Despite being on a slope I had slept fairly well. 5am, and no view though. We were shrouded in grey murk. No photo opportunities, so back to bed.

6.30am and I dragged myself out of the tent, shivering in the early morning chill. A breakfast of army issue muesli and hot chocolate was tucked away, as was the tent, sleeping and stove. Yesterday had revealed our limitations, and it was time to rein in that ambition. Instead a more modest route lay ahead.

Early morning, ready for the off!

We climbed over Meall Cruidh to another bealach, flat as a billiard table with limitless water from an olypic sized pool. Well, that's how it appeared in comparison to the previous nights camp. Rather than ascend Ben Starav again, just to drop down the ridge, we engaged in a tricky traverse of the corrie, picking our way across scattered rock, scrambling across slabs and eventually arriving in a hanging corrie above the waterfalls. We relaxed here for a while before setting off to pick up the deer path we could see leading on to the ridge. Below us a herd of deer ran off at our approach, apart from one who turned and walked towards us, calling out loudly. We sat and watched as it appeared torn between coming to us and following the others. Eventually after much calling from it's compatriots, it headed away.

Deer in the corrie

We made our way up the far more established path, Meall nan Tri Tighearnan falling first, then finally Glas Bheinn Mhor, just shy of the 1000m mark. Looking back at Ben Starav, we could see the distinctive vein of quartz running up towards the summit, looking from here like a waterfall.

Towards Glas Bhenn Mhor

The descent to the bealach below Stob Coire an Albannaich was steep and tricky, especially as we were so heavily laden. We would now descend along the path of the Eas a' Choire Dubh, the going tremendously slow. A slow descent means time to take in the plant and animal life. Sundews, butterworts, frogs and possibly even a baby adder or two, too fast for the camera though. The woodland on the map is natural, young and not yet established, and we passed through this easily, before crossing the river and picking up a quad track, which led us to the bridge marked on the map at NN 186 402. Or would have, had it existed. It appears this bridge has gone, luckily the water was low and we could cross easily.

Jim, where's the bloody bridge?

The path was easier to follow here and aware of the time factors (the train awaited us) we put in a blistering pace, which meant that when we took a break at a small hut at Loch Dochard I had to put on a fresh pair of socks to take the sting out of my feet. The next bridge, at NN 232 417 did exist, but I avoided it, instead sticking to the 4x4 track. This required two fordings, the second being great fun, huge boulder stepping stones in deep water. From here we followed the crumbling river bank as it shadowed the slow moving, peaty Abhainn (river) Shira to Forest Lodge and then by road to Victoria Bridge. Here we met a guy doing the West Highland Way, with a tale of the indifferent attitude of the staff at the Inveroran Hotel. This chimed with my previous recollection of a visit there, and though we then stopped outside for a breather, we didn't go in. Apparently the hundred thousand welcomes has worn thin here.

The long and winding road to Loch Dochard.

Loch Dochard

Abhainn Shira

I can see the pub from here!

The final section took almost an hour on the West Highland Way, rising towards the crest of the lower slopes of Beinn Inverveigh, then round and down into Bridge of Orchy. Beer should be earned and we had both earned ours, the pace we had set on these last miles meant we had arrived with an hour to spare. We now appeared to be just long distance walkers, but unlike many of the others, our journey was ended. A miniature epic which introduced a new corner of the country to me. A return most definitely awaits.

Hi Lyle,
I only heard of this recently, so I'm probably not the best one to ask. Cairngorm MRT have spoken out about this, and the Guardian has ran a few articles:

General Discussion / e-petition: Privatisation of Search and Rescue (SAR)
« on: February 07, 2013, 08:21:54 PM »

E-petition here:

New Techniques & Learning / Re: Motorway Exit Syndrome
« on: January 26, 2013, 10:26:37 AM »
While in Spain I found this method of waymarking really useful:

Where the track turns:

At points where it was likely you would take a wrong exit you would find this:

My trip report is HERE:

Trip reports / Re: Beinn Udlamain
« on: January 25, 2013, 05:59:56 PM »
Thanks Jester for sharing this journey with a guy sitting at his computer here in Albany, New York. You discribed it so well I felt like I was there. Thanks again!


 :D I didn't think someone would be reading this in the US!
Glad you all enjoyed it.  8)

Navigation on this hill was fairly straightforward, I only lost visibility near the top, which is when the gadgets come out! Old fencelines on hilltops in Scotland usually make brilliant handrails, as they often mark some kind of boundary, and this one was no exception.

Trip reports / Beinn Udlamain
« on: January 25, 2013, 02:48:07 PM »
It had been over a month since my last hillwalk, a month in which I had over indulged in eating and drinking, more so the former. I've not been running either, so this first serious walk of the year came as a shock to the system. My destination was an old favourite, Dalwhinnie, and from there the mysterious and elusive Beinn Udlamain. Tucked away at the back of the Drumochter hills it has escaped me on three or four occasions now. I was playing around with some new Memory Map software and was scrolling around the Dalwhinnie area when this caught my eye. Time to tidy up this one away I thought.

I dropped in to Dalwhinnie Signalbox to leave my gear for the train, stuff I didn't want to be carrying up the hill. As a first real winter outing my bag was heavy enough, with snow shovel, crampons, ice axe, spare layers, goggles and helmet on top of my usual gear. The need for crampons means heavy winter boots. Chris Townsend has often said that every pound on your feet is like another three on your back, and I couldn't help but agree. My extra gear, heavy boots and general rustiness were about to combine to knock the (christmas) stuffing out of me.

Helicopter for Beuly-Denny line, Dalwhinnie

I feel sorry for Dalwhinnie. While a few miles north Newtonmore, Kingussie and Aviemore have done well out of tourism, be it ski-ing, hillwalking and the like, Dalwhinnie has withered on the vine. I remember coming here in the 1980s, with its lively hotels and pub, now silent and locked up. The realignment of the A9 to bypass the village has meant that passing traffic now does just that. For now there's a brief upsurge in activity though. A construction site for the Beuly-Denny power line occupies the former Loch Ericht bar, and a helicopter sits in the field across the road. Were it not for the petrol station and the distillery there would be almost no reason for anyone to stop here, which is a great pity. For one of the coldest places in Scotland it always has a warm welcome.

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here

I cycled down the old A9, now a Sustrans cyclepath, the spray painted “Cycle Path To Pitlochry” seemed more a warning that a welcome. I puffed away, struggling under my heavy baggage, passing now the now familiar rubbish which lines the route. If you are ever short of a bottle of pee, look no further than layby 85 which seems to be a magnet for the stuff...

A' Mharconaich and Geal Charn

Having struggled enough coming down the path I abandoned any thoughts of cycling up into the hills, locked the bike and got down to business. Up ahead I thought I could see someone ascending Geal Charn, before being swallowed in cloud. I quickly passed the path which cuts off to that Munro and ascended Coire Fhàr on a wide track suitable for landrovers, watched from above by a herd of deer alerted by the clack-clack-clack of my walking poles. Behind me I could hear the buzzing of the helicopter up and down the A9.

We see you...

Around sixty minutes after leaving Balsporran cottage I was at the head of the corrie. Below me lay Loch Ericht, and beyond that Loch Pattack, Culra Lodge and Bothy. The lower slopes of Ben Alder could just be seen, the rest of that hill would remain in cloud for the rest of the day. The new chapel could be clearly seen sitting by the lochside, it's traditional look suggests it has been there for a hundred years or more. In truth the last time I was in this spot, in April 2009, it was still clad in scaffolding and under construction. Only a few weeks back in Glasgow, Springburn Public Halls, a magnificent old building was pulled to the ground, obviously not shiny and metallic enough for a new modern Glasgow. Here instead great effort has been made to make this look as if it has always been here. If only that attitude was held elsewhere.

Chapel, April 2009

Job done.

Beinn Udlamain

The track carries on, undulating towards Fraoch Coire, and as I near the end I lose, crossing the snow covered heather before picking it up again to a point where I peel off for the last part of the journey. Struggling now, energy levels dropping, I stopped for bite to eat and a hot drink, before attempting to pick my way through the rocky band of scree which lies between me and the summit. Covered in a thin layer of wet snow, it's nasty stuff. Too thin and wet for crampons, but slippy enough that every rock becomes a potential slip, I try and pick out patches of heather or wedge my feet into gaps in the rock.

Mountain Hare
Mountain hares watch me warily before bounding off. Judging by their tracks they are having difficulty on the rocks too. Within a short time I'm clear and on less rocky ground, an intermediate cairn catches my eye, and from it a line of fence posts lead uphill, before taking a final turn to the summit cairn, which seems to be formed from a series of windbreak shelters and scrap metal. From here I can see almost 40 metres, in a white, milky mist. I make a quick mental calculation and decide that I can be back at Dalwhinnie for the 1550 train if I get my skates on. Bearing in mind how treacherous the rocks were on the way up I put on my helmet and head back down.

Summit cairn with scrap metal

Almost free of the rocks and I came across a patch of hard snow which on the way up had been tricky, but manageable. Going down is a different matter, and I used my ice-axe to cut steps. As I removed my ice-axe my flask slipped from my rucksack and skimmed across the surface, coming to rest in the heather below. I made my way down and recovered it, before tightening my rucksack straps for the speed march along the path to Balsporran. Jogging in winter boots isn't fun, but it was necessary. I could see a fresh set of prints leading downhill, perhaps the walker I thought I saw earlier. A mixture of fast walk and jogging saw me back at the bike, with only thirty minutes to get back to Dalwhinnie...

With only five minutes to spare I was back at Dalwhinnie, and with gear duly recovered I stood on the platform, still getting my breath back as the train came in. As as looked from the train I realised that I had finally completed the Dalnaspidal Munros. Four journeys, one abandoned due to high winds, the remainder by bike from Dalwhinnie and all in winter. It had taken a few years to tick off what some folk do in one long day. With this area done and dusted it seems like time to set my sights further north, and with this being at the limits of what can be managed comfortably in a day by train, it'll be time to get the tent ready for the year to come. Next stop-Aviemore!

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