Monday, 26 January 2015

41 Things

I must be having a midlife crisis. Not only have I signed up to some crazy internet fitness thing (Jantastic), but I just wrote a list. Not a bucket list exactly, but definitely a list.  Last year I turned 40.  It was an improbable birthday, I saw it as an achievement just getting there, and to celebrate I went climbing in Morocco with Wally.  At the time, that seemed like enough, but friends asked me if I had a list of things for my 40th year, as this seems to be all the rage with milestone birthdays....and initially I recoiled at the thought.  Bucket lists have always seemed a bit greedy, tick lists a little anal. Don't get me wrong, I seek adventure and set myself targets, but I'm not a list maker. Until this morning. When, on a whim, I asked myself, if I had 40 things I'd like to do this year, what would they be? And I wrote a list...just for fun you understand....  Then  I added one more  because technically this is my 41st year...


And I thought- why not try and do some of these? Can I achieve all of them? The list is pretty long, but not everything on it is huge- but there are some things on there that feel massive, and it probably won't be possible to fit them all in to a busy year.  But I'm going to have fun trying. The rules are that it has to be done in 2015.. so I'd better get cracking as I've missed a month already.


The Jantastic thing is ticking along, and so far I've not regretted signing up, although I had a wobble last week when I struggled to fit bike rides in amongst big hill days.  Yesterday I had a miserable and short box-ticking ride in the Pentlands, just to make my minimum for the week.  Today I remembered what it was all about and grabbed a couple of hours in the sun on my bike up in the hills. It was great to put in a few km and spinning my legs felt easy. Next month Jantastic ramps it up with some minimum workout distances.  I'm preparing for some longer rides and looking forward to a bit more daylight to do them.


Sunday, 25 January 2015

Dumyat Navigation Coaching

Yesterday afternoon I was out in the Ochils doing a bit of Nav coaching for some friends. It was super cold in the wind, but beautiful weather with superb visibility. Perhaps not ideal conditions for learning navigation techniques, but the terrain is a perfect mix of accessibility and contours. Great views of Stirling and the Trossachs too!

The Wallace Monument, Stirling and the central belt. 


Enjoying the view from the top of Dumyat.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Ski Arran

Hen's Teeth..... Tigers in Africa..... Snow days on Arran are pretty rare, and ptarmigan sightings are even more elusive.  With tales of bottomless snow drifts on the hill and also a reliable ptarmigan report, Wally and I met up with Zabdi from Flying Fever this morning and donned our skis at the top of the String...

Skinning across the plateau towards Beinn Nuis



Not Ptarmigan- Red Grouse.  Close... but...
Once we had crossed the plateau, Wally and Zabdi played around on their skis in the deeper steeper stuff, while I went for a sprackle amongst the rocks to see if I could find any evidence of ptarmigan.  No joy unfortunately but it was really just an excuse to get out....  On the way back I fell in every drainage ditch I could find and face planted every 100m or so.  Skiing is hard...and I have a lot to learn.



Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Three days up West...

What a fantastic cold spell of weather we are enjoying!  It's a cliche, but when Scotland is like this there is nowhere better. Wally and I managed to coincide with the fantastic conditions this weekend, firstly for a two day MRT course on Avalanche Rescue in Fort William/Aonach Mor, and then a little jolly,  reminding ourselves how the touring skis work on Rannoch Moor.

On the subject of avalanches, the snowpack is a little spicy at the moment despite the settled conditions, with cross loading on a variety of aspects.  Always check the Avalanche Forecast before heading out. It sounds obvious, but be sure to read the text as well as looking at the "pizza of doom"- there is generally essential information tucked in there that will help you stay out of trouble.

Good conditions for Avalanche Rescue training on Aonach Mor.

Skiing the West Highland Way on Rannoch Moor.

This might be heaven.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Jantastic

Happy New Year!  It's 2015, and at this time of year we are bombarded with new years resolutions which can feel a bit wearing after a while. Normally I tend to avoid this sort of stuff like the plague, and if I do subscribe to a notion of self improvement, its privately and with a dose of personal guilt and psychological lashings, plus generally I never make it past the end of the first month. This year, I'm doing things slightly differently, and I'm first of all going to apologise for adding to the seasonal burden of enthusiastic "New year, new you" blogging. A friend has persuaded me to sign up to the Jantastic challenge, a three month extravaganza of enforced exercise and personal goal setting.  It is mildly competative, and more so if like me, you join a team. My initial reaction was admittedly fairly negative, but I agreed to take part as I am constantly impressed by my friend's willpower, and as a mate, I'd like to support her considerable efforts to improve her personal fitness. Besides, when I think about it, although I'm relatively active and fitter than many people, I'm still a long way off my ideal fitness target and there is plenty I'd like to achieve this year that won't be possible without some additional physical effort.

I've set my goals for the first month pretty low, at two workouts a week- its hard to find the energy to exercise when you already spend several days a week on the hill (please Jantastic, next year will you include "walking" as an accepted form of exercise?). I gave up running a few years ago after my poor knees begged me to stop, so my chosen workout is on the bike.  It's already paying off. Yesterday I dragged myself out in dodgy weather and with the tail end of a cold for a quick 10km around my local woods.  I'd never have left the sofa if Jantastic hadn't made me. Today was a good day, so a longer 30km mountain bike ride, and I'm feeling very satisfied. I exercise a lot, but if Jantastic makes me move my body even more, I'm only going to benefit. Plus I have some long term goals, such as putting in bigger distances on my bike, (I find long rides very hard work), and perhaps a cheeky little tour or two.

I actually love riding my bike on Arran. The hills may be brutal, but you get views like this:


Jantastic isn't for everyone, the run/bike/swim options are restrictive, and it would be great if it could be extended to walking, kayaking and other outdoor sports. But if you enjoy these activities it could be for you. Our team is made up of a cross section of people that includes some talented athletes, and folk who are looking to lose weight and turn their health around. I guess I'm somewhere in the middle of all that, but we have all set our own goals and every time we move, we win. If you want a bit of inspiration, check out this wee vid from a hero of mine, Will Gadd. (I've noticed the vid doesn't work on some android devices- if you have problems accessing it, try this link to the Youtube site: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCpowcXopKE)


Monday, 29 December 2014

Not Today!

Today we went looking for that most wonderful and transient of things... an Arran winter route. We didn't find it..... though it is always worth staying optimistic... you've got to have a look! When it is "in" there is nowhere better to be. Here's one we did earlier.

Glen Sannox

North face of Cir Mhor

Heading up towards the Western Stoneshoot

Looking down W Stoneshoot

Wet!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Glencoe's Secret Mountain

We found ourselves in Glencoe yesterday with an unpromising avalanche forecast and a tight weather window. Plan A had been climbing, but with gale force winds not easing until lunchtime,  a relatively high freezing level, and of course, that avalanche forecast, we opted for Plan B. Plan B is often a good idea and in this case it didn't disappoint.

An enjoyable glen walk to the foot of the mountain.
 We braved a walk in which was advertised as long, but was a doddle by Arran standards, and went for a recce of Sgor na h-Ulaidh.  If you haven't heard of it, thats not surprising.  Virtually invisible from the road, and lacking in the stardust of Glencoe's other peaks, it doesn't see much traffic.

Northern face of Sgor na h'Ulaidh

Despite being often overlooked, it sports an impressive northern aspect with quite a few recorded routes.  These start at around 650m, so with the freezing level above 800m conditions were a bit mild for climbing here yesterday, but it was good to get the lie of the land.  We traversed under the face and up to the western bealach, from where we climbed steep turf to the ridge.

Approaching the summit of Sgor na h-Ulaidh
Despite the improving weather, it was wild on the ridge. We didn't hang about on the top, but dropped down the north eastern side where we were pleased to find some scoured neve (despite the av forecast) to descend. Avoiding the windslab took us in to exciting ground and this was the first proper workout for my front points this season (and my head).  Even non-climbing Plan B days are mountaineering in winter! Finally, our route off the hill took us over a second snowy top, beyond which were were able to drop down in to the glen.

Lots of scoured surfaces, and fresh deposits in the strong winds.
Looking east from the shoulder of Sgor na h-Ulaidh