Category Archives: Living it!

My general day to day blog.

Northern munros road trip. 

The four most northerly munros can, with a wee bit planning and some resolve be done in one 3 or four day road trip.  So planning done and resolve packed I headed up the A9 on Sunday 30th April on our way to the first Munro on the list, Ben Klibreck.  I was travelling with a friend, Graham, our plan was to leave Kirkcaldy 0600 eat on way up and climb Ben Klibreck then head for the Altnahara Hotel and meet the other two in our party at the bar! 

We left Kirkcaldy at 0610 made good time North and stopped at Aviemore for a bacon roll and a cuppa in Cobbs.  The drive to Ben Klibreck is just over 200miles and as you get closer to the hill the roads get narrower, traffic gets less and it becomes a drivers nightmare and a passengers dream.  Miles of nothing but loads of views.

We arrived at the designated parking spot and set off across a footbridge and onto a well defined path.  The path did not last very long and soon we were trying to follow faint trails through bog and peat hags.  The weather was great with blue skies and sunshine to cheer us up.  As we climbed SE up the grassy slopes of Ben Klibreck we began to follow an excellent path which seemed to contour around the hillside.  This led us to the ridge and the final climb to the summit. 

 

Time taken was approx 6 hours with 2600 ft of climb.  Our home for the first two nights of the trip was the Altnahara hotel and as we picked our way down the slope I had a text to let us know that our other two friends were in the bar waiting to order food and could we get a move on!!

The next day our choice of Munro was Ben Hope at a little over 4 miles with 3000ft of climb this turned out to be a stiff proposition and there was more than one expletive aired on the way up the steep bouldery slope.  There was no mistaking where the start point was with a large sign proclaiming Ben Hope car Park!  It was at the end of a lovely strath and there was already 4 vehicles there when we arrived.   We headed up the well trodden path which morphed into a myriad of intertwining pathways all heading up.  The views from the top of the hill were amazing and I am sure if the haze had not been there we would have seen the Orkney Isles.


Coming down from the summit Ian managed to bend his walking pole on the stony ground.

We headed back to Altnahra 4 happy but weary walkers.  However there was mutiny afoot and by the end of the evening I was the only one headed to Conival and the Ben More Assynt the following day to finish off the quartet of northern munros.

Graham gave me a lift to the start point at Inchnadamph and he set off on a low level walk to while away some time whilst I bagged the final two munros.

Leaving the Inchnadamph hotel car park you cross the bridge and follow the path towards the traligill caves.  You then take the left fork and head for the beallach between Beinn an Fhurain and Conival.  This is marked by a small stone cairn.  Up to this point the going has been fairly easy but from now until you are back to this point on the return leg the going is harder with large stones and boulders underfoot.

I was on my own today the others deciding against this longer day and whilst the going was good decided to speed up.    The cloud was blowing in and out over Ben More and the view of the ridge from Conival when the cloud lifted was spectacular.   The hill was busy as had been indicated by the other vehicles in the car park but walkers were fairly well spread out along the route.  I reached the summit of Ben More and did not tarry as the summit was covered in cloud and a strong wind was blowing.  

I followed the same route back and once again when I reached the easier going started to increase the pace.  I had been dropped off and arranged a pick up at the hotel.  With time to spare I visited the caves a 10 minute detour well worth the extra K or so.

A great trip which took my Munro count up to 232.

Boat, bike and Ben More.

There are loads of Scottish Islands but if you are a Munro bagger only two are of any interest-Skye with the Cuillins inc the infamous Inpin and Mull with Ben more which was my sole remaining island Munro.

This was my third attempt at Ben More the first, 9 years ago was cancelled due to the early appearance of my first grandchild, the second attempt last year ended at Oban and now here I was sitting on the ferry to Mull bike down with the cars ready to bag it at my third attempt.

The ferry docked and I headed on the Salen road and then to Knock leaving the bike at the “Munro” car park by Loch Na Keal.  I had elected to do the out and back route rather than a longer circuit and set off up the well worn path to a cloud shrouded summit in the wake of the occupants of the three cars that had all passed me from the same ferry.   

There was hardly a need for maps as the path wound it’s obvious way towards the top and even when I entered the low cloud visibility was still good enough to follow the track up onto the plateau and along to the shelter cairn.  I had passed two pairs of walkers on the way up and the third pair was at the summit cairn just getting ready to depart as I sat down for a spot of lunch sheltered from the wind.  I looked at my watch and had made the 3 mile 966m climb in 2 hours consulting the ferry timetable I realised that I might be able to catch a ferry at 15:30 rather than nearer 1700!

I made the descent in 90 minutes and without much ado climbed on the Giant for the 19 miles back to Craignure which I covered in 1:25 and made the ferry.

A tiring but exciting microadventure.

2016 update

The A-Z challenge went well this year only two done but what a blast.

J Jungfrau a great trip a marvellous run and a hugely satisfying experience.

K Kielder an off road race just 2 hours from home and organised by none other than Steve Cram.  Part of a festival including a 10K, half marathon and duathlon.  Well worth a visit.

Urban cyclery.

Taking bikes to a Jean Michel Jarre gig might not be the first thing that pops into your mind but with gig tickets and 2 nights hotel booked it seemed like an ideal opportunity to explore some of Glasgow on two wheels.

Carol and I travelled by train to Glasgow Queen Street and then onwards to our hotel in the West End by a very effective protected bike lane which took us through the traffic and over the motorway system safely and efficiently.  Before heading for our hotel we nipped into the Siempre bike cafe on Dumbarton road to while away some time till book in.  We had checked with the hotel that they had storage for bikes and this was in the main corridor under a cctv camera which, by the markings on the wall was a pretty regular occurrence.   With bikes stowed and after a wash and change we headed out for food and the Hydro which was just a short walk away.  Whilst browsing the net for food outlets in the vicinity I came across Fanny Trollopes literally 200yds from the front door of our hotel, Fannys it was. Advertising a two course pre theatre dinner for £15 I would happily have paid double for the food.  It was excellent.  No use describing what we had here as the menu changes on a frequent basis but suffice to say even if you think you know what you are getting it will be different with some twist to the flavour.  The gig at the Hydro was amazing and JMJ in his seventies still has the energy and passion he showed at the Docklands in the 80’s.

After a not too heavy breakfast served efficiently and quickly by the staff in the Sandyford we climbed on our bikes and headed back to the Hydro and the Clyde walkway.  This had been work in progress when I did my LEJoG and although some stretches were still undergoing work had vastly improved in the 3 years since I had last been thru.  We followed the walkway out to Clydebank and Dalmuir where we had a break for a cuppa mainly to warm ourselves up as a slight rain was falling.  We had lunch booked at The Ubiqitous Chip in the Centre so after tea we headed back to the centre but along the F. C Canal.

WE followed the canal back towards the centre, through the Botanic Gardens and into Ashton Lane and the Ubiqitous Chip.  Unlike Fannys this was booked on purpose and features in Peter Irvine’s Scotland the Best.  Soup and an open sandwich was the order of the day here and the results are shown below.  Another gem of a place!

After lunch we headed back to The Sandyford.

We had return tickets for the train but decided to bike down the Canal to Lenzie or Croy and catch the train from there.  So we headed back to the Canal via the River Kelvin and the Botanic Gardens and headed NE first then due East along a well tarmaced canalside path.   We stopped at a canalside pub for a cuppa and sheltered under an umbrella from the rain. Then continued on towards Lenzie.  We left the canal at Kirkintilloch and picked up a cycle path near the marina from there it was simply a case of following signs to the station.  On the way there we cycled across a nature reserve and through a wood both of which even in the rain were very pleasant.

We now begun a tour of Central Scotland’s lesser known rail stations from Lenzie to Larbert where we changed to get our train to Edinburgh and were told in no uncertain terms by a surly rail guard to move our bikes two carriages down as the bike storage was full.  We would have done this anyway. But a smile doesn’t hurt does it!!

Totals for the weekend were 30 miles 530 feet climbed in 3h 27.  Not great distances but the whole point of the trip apart from JMJ obviously was to do some biking in Glasgow. 

Double decker trains, Swiss efficiency and the Lake Geneva Shoreline

Today truly is Trains, Planes and Automobiles.  Four trains changing at Interlaken, Speiz and Visp arriving at Geneva for my 14:10 flight to Edinburgh then drive home.

The Swiss rail system from its app to travel is an amazing organism.  Everything interacts.  The app gives you all the changes that you need to do to get to your destination the arrival platform and departure platform is listed and when you get on the trains especially the more modern ones a screen details the journey for you with arrival times of the stations and if that wasn’t enough on the way out it shows the connecting trains.  I didn’t have a bike with me this journey but cyclists are well catered for even on the Inter country trains. Train I had chosen this time was going around the other side of the lake and we were soon picking up customers at a rather famous train station well if you are of a certain musical bent! 

 I arrived at the Airport with enough time to get some food before my departure which was a few minutes late but made the time up.  An uneventful flight followed and I was in Edinburgh in no time.  THe drive to the Forth road bridge at 6 pm was another matter

Post Jungfrau post.

A bit of a restless night and one of the disadvantages of being near the rail station is the noise when the first trains begin at about 0600.  My legs felt stiff when I woke up but surprisingly no m ore than they would feel normally.  I got out of bed and made my way downstairs to the toilet without the post marathon hobble!  After a shower I felt good as new and had a very light breakfast and set off to hire a bike for the day.

I hired a BMC 29er from Imboden bike just up the road from the hostel.  The staff at the shop gave me some suggestions for rides and provided me with a map.  Off I went.


I headed out to the Schilthorn cable car station and took the cable car up to Gimmewald a very short journey which took me up about 400 m.

Leaving Gimmelwald I headed for Murren and found a sandwich and a coke with my name on it.  The day was heating up and with the climbing involved there wasn’t much chance of cooling down.  All the trails are well marked with timings given for walking between villages.  Leaving Murren I headed for Wintereggand then Grutschalp.  The trails up until then had been quite good but things began to get a bit more technical between Grutschalp and the turn off for Sulwald.  I reached the turn off and headed up the 2.7k climb to Sulwald basically so I could come down it again!and what a descent it was all the way back to Lauterbrunnen via Isenfluh and fly I did.

After arriving back at Lauterbrunnen I headed for the campsite shop to get some food for the evening.  Unfortunately it was not open and  didn’t. open for 15 mins just enough time for a beer.

Race day.

This race is organised to the nth degree I am staying in Lauterbrunnen and the start is in Interlaken there are trains arranged to take runners down to the start very half hour from about 0600!  I woke at various times during the night my excitement mounting as the time to get up came closer.  I had breakfast and went back for a lay down before finally rising for the train.  I plumped for the 0733 as I did not want to be standing around too much at the start.

The organisers provided some entertainment however in the shape of flag throwers and horn blowers.  

As the start time got closer I selected a spot near the 5:30 pacer and waited for the off from Nicola Sperig no less!

Popular misconception No1 it’s flat for 10K the uphill for 32k. Its in Interlaken for almost the first 10k plenty elbowing and crowds.  The street furniture makes it pretty hazardous as well with speed bumps, bollards and roundabouts to look out for. 

It starts to rise gently towards Lauterbrunnen. Which is where the half marathon is past pretty pedestrian 2:02. But happy with that as was wary of what was to come.  At 25K there  was what is known in business speak as a “sea”change.  The track headed very much uphill and the K. Markers were now given in 250m almost immediately people started to walk and were stopping to rub various body parts or simply to rest.  This continued for approx 2k with the trail becoming more and more like a casualty clearing station.  The weather had been good warm when in the sun but plenty of shade when in forests or running along the side of a mountain even for me heat wasn’t a problem! 

The course headed in and through Wengen, plenty of people out cheering the runners on this had been true all through the run and would continue even in the higher wooded sections with hikers lending thier support!   I had seen a few people take tumbles and this would increase as the course got higher with rocks and tree roots posing problems to weary runners who could hardly lift thier feet.   As the climbing continued so did the walking I tried to run between groups and then make my way through them at a walk this process worked well until the final push when the track is too rocky and narrow to pass anyone.  I saw a first aider powering up ahead of us on a grassy path to the side.  I jumped onto this and used it for a bot 200 m but then it joined the main track I saw my chance of sub 5:30 dissapeared and trudged up with the rest of them annoying as I wasn’t feelin too bad.  At last I could hear the strains of a piper floating down the hill as he came into view he changed tunes from. Scottish Soldier to Amazing Grace and I felt all emotional for about 2 paces!!

Popular misconception No 2 the last mile is all down hill the last 500m maybe!!  As you crest the top of the hill you can see the finish but the course undulates and even goes under a tunnel before the final dash for the line.
Once across the line you are presented with a full bottle of the sports drinks sponsors wares, a medal and if you so desire you can Q for a beer.  Next is removing the timing chip from your race number and collecting a t shirt and a huge bar of Swiss chocolate.  Bags next about a 400m round trip but good chance to ease out the legs then it’s into a shower that’s right, at the top of a mountain the Swiss install a shower tent complete with hair dryers!   That was it J done.  Not as bad as I was expecting..   But I still had a pizza and wine to celebrate.

Stats 26.2 miles

14219 ft
5h42m24s