31/5/05 Cairn Gorm and Beinn MacDui

After a trade show in Aberdeen, I picked up a rental car – a Megane – and drove west. I stopped at Alford to buy provisions at around 7p.m, and again in the Nethy Bridge area. I parked up at the lower car park on the Coire Cas road, just above the tree line of the Queen’s Forest, and pitched my tent in an Eden of diverse vegetation down by the stream, some half mile from the car.

Next day, it was gloomy. From my camp in the rough ground, I slogged up into Coire Cas, taking a steady pace, arriving at the Ptarmigan around 11a.m (after a start at 8.23a.m) and at the summit of Cairn Gorm a while after that. On the summit I looked at the automated weather station, and had a chat on the mobile with a friend of mine – in order to make him jealous.

From there to Ben Macdui took a long time, with some close compass work in dense mist, and even some use of the GPS. An added complexity in this area, is that the map grid reference eastings and northings can be very similar. Point 000000 is nearby in a small corrie above Loch Echtachan. It is possible to be somewhere like 981983 and confuse eastings and northings.

It probably wouldn’t matter in clear weather. But the mist came down and I had to cross a large and very old snowfield, in what became effectively near white-out conditions. I got in due course to the summit of Ben Macdui, and more compass work brought me to the cliffs, which could not be missed. Thence to the right down the ridge, into the valley. This was a wild and deserted place. I camped at Dunbeg Bridge or thereabouts, and I experienced some difficulty in fording the river, which cost me half an hour backtracking to the bridge. It was pouring with rain and I was bone tired, though happy enough, after a hill day of eight and a half hours. I met four people on the hill all day – it was mid-week.

It rained on and off all night, and I was a little dismayed to find on this second night under canvas, that my tent was still soaking wet on the outside in the morning. I’d had difficulty sleeping because of light, and because of sore hips. I took brufen in the morning, also to help with my feet. So after a wet strike, a little before 8a.m., I started off up the Lairig Ghru. There was some heavy rain as I walked in, fortunately at my back. Up and over the pass was not so time consuming as I had thought it would be, and I was taking lunch around 1p.m at the Sinclair memorial at the foot of the north side of the pass, in a rare blast of sunshine. Thence across to the “Chalamain Gap” which is just that – a dry gap – and down to the car in pouring rain.

16/6/07 Tryfan and the Glyders

Myself and J. Parkinson made a good start from the Milestone Buttress around 10.30a.m. We climbed separately, each of us completely familiar with the route. The North ridge of Tryfan is one of the classic mountain scrambles of the UK; it needs little further description here. Rough rock and a widening vista as one rises above the A5 and the lake far below.

I reached the summit breathless after a little under two hours – recalling ruefully that when I first climbed this mountain nearly 25 years ago, it took me one hour and seventeen minutes from the road to the summit. When Jim arrived we paused to reflect on how often we had visited this well-loved summit. Since my first visit in the crisp, clear cold of late October in 1983, I’ve been on Tryfan at night, in winter conditions, and with at least four different parties on at least six occasions. Never alone mind.

Down then, to Bwlch Tryfan, which was like a railway station, and on upwards. Rather than sweating up the screes we climbed Bristly Ridge. The ridge has many towers, spurs and disappointments. One must be able to downclimb to avoid frustration and danger.

At the crux of the scramble we found ourselves climbing rock that was at best “Diff” (as in “Difficult” – the technical rock climbing jargon in the UK for “easy”) or possibly even “Moderate” (technical rock climbing jargon for a rock climb equivalent in difficulty to say, a child’s climbing frame or a steep ladder). But we were climbing free – unroped and unprotected. It’s the exposure that makes the difference: if you fall off here, however easy the climbing is, you die – if you’re lucky. No-one ever does fall off – I can’t think of any such fall from Bristly Ridge coming to my attention in the last 40 years. At one point we noticed that we were climbing above and to the left of a lot of folk who were roped and wearing climbing helmets. We became conscious that our womenfolk back home might take a dim view of our position. We had perhaps been pushing our luck, and we were were glad to reach the summit.

Then, along the tops in misty conditions and high winds, and down to the Devil’s Kitchen, as steep and gloomy a descent as there is anywhere, though spectacular. A bit like Rossett Gill but much more dramatic. And like in Rossett Gill, in the Devil’s Kitchen you’ve to be thankful you’re going downhill.

Thence a pleasant stroll past Idwal Slabs and the walk-out down to Idwal Cottage, where tame chaffinches ate crumbs from round our feet.

27/6/09 Great Langdale – a slow stroll up the Band

A four day holiday,a winding down, in the Lake District. I am in the Lakes, in Great Langdale, with my friend J. Parkinson, his wife, and an old school-friend of hers. On the Friday after a leisurely start we went very slowly up The Band, taking over two and a half hours to reach Three Tarns below Bow Fell. I was and had been somewhat blasé; I thought the weather would hold firm, but it did not. It broke big time, though no rain fell. My mountaincraft is shot to bits through lack of practice!

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