Out of Range

Having just filled in an official survey about my (six years!) of volunteering for the Woodland Trust Scotland at the Lang Craigs the wording of the questions and my own answers had me thinking about what it has all meant to me and all about what me and my small band of fellow rangers do in the Lang Craigs.
Now I say ranger, but the Trust want to call us wardens and I take extreme exception to that for a number of reasons, but Wikipedia can go first:

Exhibit A:
Ranger most often refers to:
Park ranger or forest ranger, a person charged with protecting and preserving protected parklands.

Exhibit B:
A warden is a person who has been entrusted with the oversight of something important to the community, such as a college, church, prison, wild game or firefighting.

As a ranger the folks I meet and chat with (which is everyone, it’s me remember) see us as odd outdoor types who live in the hills somehow, foraging for food etc.
As a warden we’re apparently the folk telling you to get your dog on a lead and trying to knock mountain bikers off their saddles.
This is how people see us, I’ve asked.

So, here’s day in the life of a ranger or two.

The Lang Craigs is a big site, there’s much more to it than the area immediately above Overtoun that’s most frequented and there’s a lot to do. There’s also scope for using the tasks we have for other ends.
When I was grinding through equipment grouptests running the same long cross country deer fence route gave me benchmarks to judge like for like performance, something you just don’t get using different kit in different places.
Today was another example, two youngsters from a local Boy’s Brigade troop needed community volunteering experience and we love extra pairs of hands and eyes.

I’d helped build some bat roosting boxes and the first task of the day was checking some of them for occupancy, something that my buddy and fellow ranger Jo has the proper tickets for and I constantly rib her for, I don’t care, Bat Girl jokes just never get old okay. She even has the tattoos.

There’s no such thing as a single task though, I’d already spotted a path creeping sideways because a wooden post was missing and a gate padlock was sticking. I’d already replaced it a few weeks ago, welding a new one onto a chain and it’s away again. On the list.

The sun and fresh snow made the walking up to the very top of the site pleasant indeed. It was cool, but just right for moving and even having lunch by the gate were here to work with didn’t need an extra layer.
The sun was starting to win anyway, the snow was disappearing as we watched and it was raising water levels everywhere, quite impressively so in the burns and on the ground it made progress boggier.

Ben Lomond was looking grand, folks were having a fine time, I saw facebook that night.
The new metal signs fitted, the gate tested both ways to make sure if swung shut and locked itself we decided to follow the fence down towards Maryland.
I walk the deer fence to check for gaps, damage, animal tunnels but it is easy to tune out and miss stuff, there’s around six miles of it, so extra eyes do help at times.

The fence is vital, the deer that get in could undo our work quickly by killing off the young trees, so preventing that rather than having to get the stalker in is the best option.
The enemies of the fence are the weather, regular decay of the wooden posts and more annoyingly local ne’er-do-wells cutting the wire to let the deer in so they can chase them with lurchers in a contained space.
Nothing is ever simple or straightforward.

We did find some breakages, luckily not too bad so the fence tension and integrity wasn’t compromised and it was the boys that saw it first, those extra eyes.
I was too bust route finding, we were coming up to a water crossing.
I usually carry zip ties and wire for these occasions so I can do some sort of repair, most times you see me up here my rucksack has more tools and spares parts in it than snacks.

Repair and maintain all you want, nature will always win, the tree that has eaten the original fence below will testify to that.

Water is friend and enemy. Every water crossing the fence makes is a gap that deer can get in and the free swinging wooden water gates that fill the gap between fence and burn need watching.
Even small burns have very mobile beds and it’s surprising how big the boulders are that move down hill when the water rises and can jam in the gates holding them open for critters to get through.
I saw two gates today that need some attention but the water was too fast and deep to get in at it. I’m up here on my own most of the time and I know the score, safety first.

There’s a lot of standing water too, and most of it has frog spawn. A lot looks healthy which is good, the early temperature rise would have messd with the frogs heads and there was lot I saw that was too early.

Saw a newt too, a fast wee bugger, never even got the camera near it. Lot’s of life in the water, always worth sitting quite for a while, see what’s moving.
That goes for the trees as well now I think about it, the bird life we see around them is ever richer and varied. On the way up a kestrel settled close to the path, sitting on a young tree sunning itself seemingly oblivious to us and the red face grinning bloke with the huge telephoto lens pointed right at it from just 20 feet away. It only swooped away when its audience got bigger and boisterous.

It’s a lovey spot here, quiet and the views are magic, the Luss hills just a hop and a skip away. There’s a rough trail to here but no proper path, the gate here must be one of the least used on the site, but it’s still gets checked. Lots to find beyond here, ruins, ancient cairns and cistes, the Kilpatricks are so overlooked and yet you can explore or lose yourself up here as satisfyingly as anywhere further north.

The sun brought out some of the locals. A big meaty bugger was this, I’m sure he’ll turn into something graceful and pretty before he gets eaten.

I was just looking around me now as the team checked on the endless collection of bat boxes in the woodland. Standing around I became aware of the colours and patterns in the water and on the trees. It was all rather striking and I felt like I’d never noticed it before. maybe it was the perfect light to see it, maybe the furry trees brought it out, maybe I just had the time see it properly today.
It just shows you, there’s always something new. Big or small it doesn’t matter, the joy is the same.

I loved the sci-fi roots of the partly keeled over tree. They wondered what the hell I was doing lying on my belly with my head underground.

Nearby the Starfish Bunker made for a fun wee diversion, although the water went over the top of everyone’s boots. Deep in there today.
From front line WW2 defences to crumbling hillside curio, it’s worth a visit.
The flat top made a great snack stop spot as the cloud moved in a little. I could see some slightly tired faces and a long way to go if we stuck to the original plan.

Plan B would be much more fun. And quicker of course.

Never has a tree fallen so serendipitously. I tested it, I threw my pack over so I kinda had too and it was fine, well grounded and jammed in tight.
The spikes made the traverse a little tricky, by no cardigans were snagged and the primroses on the climb back out of the glen calmed everyone back down.

The burn as seen is why the water gate had to be left for another day. Standing in the middle of that pulling at boulders, aye, good luck with that.

A last rest stop by the Scots pines of Black Wood and views to the Arrochar Alps before getting back onto the well trodden tracks to our final tasks of the day, a couple more bat boxes and some dog poop warning signs on the gates.
We can’t catch the dicks that leave their poop bags at their arses or hanging from trees and hit them with a big stick so we’ll threaten them with a fine instead. It’s something I suppose, but you can’t fix stupid so I don’t know if it’ll have any effect.

We were on the hill for six and a half hours, not a bad day out especially for the youngsters and although were doing work and stopping here and there it shows you the scale of the place and the possibilities there are for getting out there and really exploring, even just within the Lang Craigs fence line.

I had a great day. I love this place dearly and I love what I do here, on my own or for the Trust.
I’m not an hardcore eco warrior or a tree hugger, I got into this because I wanted to make sure they weren’t going to ruin my hills but my motivations have definitely evolved over time.
The Woodland Trust seem to be doing the right thing most of the time and because of that the recent purchase of Ben Shieldaig brings me joy.

Volunteering is what you make it. Your motivations for doing it are important, if you get your reasons right it’s rewarding, fun and you get the occasion free lunch. If you’re looking for something more you’re in the wrong place.

Although these sites and their regeneration cost big money, there is no money in having them, no profit in preserving our landscape.  What we do is important, it keeps the Woodland Trust and many more bodies running but more importantly by extension it helps keep the bastards from building wind turbines and digging hydro schemes into our scenery.

So when you see someone threatening the hills and forests with development and think “Someone should do something…” we are doing sonething. Come and help.

Munro #256

Been a lot of talk online and in the regular media about this being the 100th anniversary of Hugh Munro’s death and I’d just like to say: Good lad, thanks for the list that got us all started.
If it would have been today he was doing his list he’d have been a YouTuber and I’d have thought he was a dick, so I’m glad it happened the way it did.

I’d also like to make it official on this auspicious day, Beinn Narnain is my favourite Munro.
It’s a wee rugged hill that in turns over the years has welcomed me and fought me, has brought me joy and tears and has more memories of good times and friends hidden in it’s rocky flanks than any other hill I’ll ever climb.
I love it dearly and I will always return there until I can’t.

It’s maybe an odd photie choice, it gives nothing away and that’s very fitting. You have to go there, get up close, get off the path and find it for yourself.
That’s what Munro did and that’s why his list shouldn’t be a means to an end, something to tick. It should be a catalyst, an inspiration to explore.

Power Hour

I knew the golden hour was from five til six and also that the likelyhood of the same display as Monday night was remote, but it was calm, clear and bright so we met up at Overtoun about quarter to five and made a run for the skyline anyway.

A bit hazy but the low light was warm although getting ever lower and cooler. We got some height at just the right time after breaking sweat on the climb to Black Wood and back into clear air. Perfect timing.

The sun hit a bank of cloud out to sea and the temperature dropped sharply. But the stove was on and hot cuppas were imminent as we sat in the long grass and listened to birdsong in the scots pines nearby.

One tight stand of pines kept on drawing my eye, I expected an elephant to come charging at me at any second, it looked like a little splat of Africa on the hillside in this warm sunlight.
This is why I don’t get bored, always something new to see. Or imagine.

Although evidence suggests otherwise, it’s still winter so it got dark quick. Dumbarton were playing at home and the stadium sitting under Dumbarton Castle looked just like the big ship from Close Encounters. Haven’t seen that in years, I wonder if it’s aged well. Netflix…

Home by headtorch. Living by the river is brilliant, especially when there’s hills right beside it.

Bonny Banks

Spent the the weekend around Loch Lomond, somewhat by accident. Saturday was minging but when the rain stopped I took a quick run up to Luss then beyond with my pal Cat and got some rather nice looking skies just as it was getting dark. It looked particularly nice at the Esso garage at Dumbarton on the way home.
Timing is everything.

The camera was on my desk the whole time too and I have no idea what my phone was doing, I seem to have found some sort of film grain effect in my pocket which disappeared overnight.
Pity, it was nice, the colours were rich with fresh growth in the woodland. It really does feel like spring.

Holly slept late after a busy day on Saturday and it looked like we were going nowhere, but fueled by tattie scones she was suddenly in better form and we hit the road with granny in the back seat. Not in the truck obviously.
That’s going to be a proper thing for a couple of weeks very shortly. I need to do the fuel pump and while it’s in the shed I’ll tackle some other wee jobs on it. Missing it already, a Vauxhall estate just isn’t going to be the same.

We ended up in Balmaha which was mobbed, and Tom Weir has a new hat on. The sky was clearing, ribbons of cloud streaked across the hillsides and vanished into the ether. By the time we got to Rowardennan  it was glorious but still cool, what a perfect day to be on the hills.

It’s started though – the draw of the lochside on a sunny day. Usually we get to enjoy it until easter, but the masses have arrived early with their disposable barbecues, loud sweary voices, poor narrow road driving technique, litter, vape clouds and unnecessary sportswear.
Still, leaving late through these difficult months will give me the hills when I need them.

We ended up in Killearn for a late lunch, macaroni cheese in a bowl with a singed bacon topping. Be still my beating heart.
A really nice wee galvant with the girls. I love living here.

The Machinist

“You know, I don’t think any of my friends dads sit and sew”.
We’re sitting on the sofa watching IT Crowd on Netflix and Holly’s contemplating me hand sewing the webbing back onto the back of an old battered pouch that I wanted to use for my camera the next day.
I thought this over. I could mention gender stereotyping, older men’s difficulty in accessing skills such as sewing when they were younger for fear of peer persecution, the struggle of men to break free of the bonds of generations of strict adherence to the unspoken code of how to be a man. But then I realised that most of the men I know sew by hand or machine, many of them professionally and creatively.
“The other dads are rubbish then”.
“Yea” said the girl.

The pouch was good to go, I slipped it onto the hipbelt and secured it with a carabiner to a side compression strap. It was just like the old days.
Everything else was laid out and ready to go. Dear god, is this what it is to be organised? Oh, to see how the other people live.

It was late morning and really rather nice when I hit the road. The sky was blue, a pale icy blue and cloudless because the gauze between me and the sun was a high, thin veil, it was never a cloud in its life
As I left the Arrochar roadside winter felt awfy far away. It was bright and it was warm on the move although the air was cool, especially when I got up into the trees. I kept my gloves on though, bare arms and gloves is just fine, I was being careful this time.

The zigzags mask the height gain and the occasional window view through the green onto an increasingly visible Ben Lomond is the only clue that progress is being made.

But then you’re suddenly there. There is good, there is familiar, there is my happy place, there is snow on it, right up there.
I pretend that I might climb the Cobbler, just to see if I can fool myself, but I’m not that good a liar.
I love the Cobbler, but Beinn Narnain has a pull on me, it always has had. Every visit strengthens that and while I can’t explain it, I can feel it.
The broken, shapeless tumble of crags pull my eyes as well as my feet. The Cobbler is flashy, but it’s kinda solid, what you see is what you get, Narnain has secrets, it has dark corners, it repays time spent and there’s a wee bonus too, you get to look at the flashy neighbour from an excellent angle.

There was a smear of spring in the air, deer in the coire, birds in the air, a caterpillar on a rock and three walkers from China wondering why the hell I was lying on the ground.
They weren’t the first victims of banter this day, I’d accosted several parties already. It being the school holidays and decent weather had brought out several dad and lad parties which was nice to see.
One of these parties also had a dug, a pannier dug at that. It had a jacket with webbing and velcro like a military molle vest, it also had two grab handles for launching the dug over burns and gates. Great bit of kit.

I never got to the Narnain Boulders, I cut right a bit early to gain a little easy height and stop for a drink.
My 25+ years old pack was supremely comfy and stable, but it doesn’t have a bottle pocket. I’d attached my little pouch but not a bottle pocket, partly to see what effect it had on my drinking habits. Sure enough, once I got onto steeper and frozen ground I didn’t drink, too faffy and higher up it was just too cold and windy.
Point proved, although I knew it would go this way. Next day, I went hunting for an old Lowe Alpine insulated bottle holder. 

It was only mid afternoon but the sky thought it was later. The predicted coastal clouds were bubbling onto the high ground here and there, some tops were shrouded while the light was diffused into a warm glow. It was evening a little too early.

Two ravens chased each other around the crags, their croaking the only sound in the lower coire. As I climbed higher rushing water below the rocks and snow went from a whisper to an occasional roar, a thaw was on.
I sat on a rock for a bit to cool down. Not a whisper of wind here.

From somewhere up behind me came the unmistakable chuckle of a ptarmigan with a shuffle of feathers right after. I turned and quickly scanned for it, no sign dammit.
I did start picking out howffs though. So many mini caves or sheltered ledges in this coire for a fine night out. There’s a big one on the right under Cruach nam Miseag with a short scramble to get into it. Hmm I thought to myself, I’d be safe from wolves in that one. Too much Netflix will do that to your mind.

At the coll I stopped and got my crampons on. The snow was consolidated and I was shinning up the regular route which has a few wee steep bits.
I used my axe, I used the spikes on my feet and I was happy, secure and safe.

I was also amazed to see the signs of previous passage, especially in the steep gully by the spearhead crag. Many boot prints but also many long troughs made by fingers scrabbling for purchase. Not so many signs of axes or crampons.

I’m not judging, I have done stuff that makes me wince thinking about it, but it would not have been me today. There have been deaths on this part of the hill.


The little splash of colour on a rock felt like stepping on a twig in the forest when the monster is right there and looking for you, all sudden and startling.
The sky started to join in too. The Cobbler was catching some cloud and the sun was sinking into it. This, this is why I don’t get up early.

I hadn’t seen a soul since I left the path, I was alone up here. Dammit people, you should have waited.

Lui and friends had proper snow cover and the finger of cloud that crept in from the sea gave a splash of drama to the view north.

The snow was crisp and I’d found some proper wind, and it was cold. The temperature dropped so fast, it was drop which had to be expressed by a Whoooaaaaa as I paced the summit quickly.
Onto the spearhead, across to look at Ime, back to the best trig point in the land and a quick decision on descent. There’s maybe five different descent routes I take from here, but only one dropped me out of the wind for a chance at a warm dinner.

North to the ridge then a hard right into the coire down hard frozen, steep virgin snow. My grin was so wide I didn’t need my headtorch yet.

I found a corner under a crag, a grassy ledge with a view into the quickly thickening darkness. Coffee, rolls and a donut. I was warm, hell even my hands were warm after wearing insulated gloves almost all day.

The sliver of moon shone weakly, the jagged edge of Narnain softened and disappeared into the sky above and I sat in a torchlit circle of snow, scared to take my down jacket back off.
I packed everything, put my bottle in the camera pouch and reluctantly took off my duvet and stuffed it into the top of my pack. It wasn’t too bad, the wind was masked by the crag and I was still warm when I set off into the dark.

The topography is a little haphazard in here in the dark, I had several oops, not that way moments. But it was awesome, pole swinging, song singing fun as I tripped over grassy mounds on my zigzagging way to the big track that cuts across the hill horizontally.

Arrochar looked rather sweet from here and if my phone hadn’t been in my pocket I’d never have the evidence of such a thing as I just couldn’t be arsed finding the camera again.

I took to the old concrete block path which has deteriorated further since I was last on it. Many of the blocks have broken up, some are sinking and following their line in the dark wasn’t as easy as it used to be. I think if you want to see these relics, do it soon. In the 30 years I’ve been climbing this route it’s changed dramatically.
Still though, some tree pruning is keeping the route viable so you can do a loop without retracing a single step and it’s a fast, fun descent. I didn’t get lost either, last time I did this in the dark I was all tears and snotters in the trees behind someone’s house in Succoth. Local expert?

There was a real joy to this wee trip. I spent a lot of my time on the ascent looking at the textures of the rock, the sky and the snow. It all felt so fresh and new, like a new coat of paint in your favourite room, fresh socks on tired feet, fresh baked apple pie and coffee? That’s not an analogy, that’s for real, the home made apple pie is just cool enough to eat. Back in a minute.

Nice on Narnain

Somebody’s already been here, good for them.
This… Has turned out nice.
Beinn Narnain, one of my most favourite places in the world.
It’s got big gaps in it, so you have to be careful.
Oof.
Now this is the definition of happy times…

Ken III, King of Rannoch

We got up earlyish, well, I did anyway. I put music on loud and threw the bottom half of Holly’s duvet over the top half so she would cook/suffocate while also getting cold feet. I felt certain this would get her on the move. It did eventually.
Send me a message on the contact form (I think there still is one?) if you want parenting advice.

A fine breakfast at granny’s and we were on the road despite the rain. After missing out on anything interesting never mind exciting on Saturday, we were going north anyway.
It was atmospheric, lots of greys, but still magic. Lots of fresh snow on the roads as well as the hills and the two upside down motors confirmed the iffy conditions there had been a few hours earlier.

Cuppas in Tyndrum were a must and the rain smacked off the truck windscreen as we debated what to do next.
Phil texted me, we’d passed on the road as he retreated from the rain, dammit. However, this somehow brought us a wee bit of misplaced or maybe misdirected or misappropriated luck, the snow shone as the sun found it, the clouds parted and blue unfurled above us. What the hell, keep going.

We followed the blue and stopped right under it, in a very familiar spot.

We chased the sun north but the grey crept back under the blue. It was fine though, we parked up to make a snowman, it was perfect snow for it, soft and sticky which was perfect for a snowball fight too. Who won will remain a family secret. Until it can be used as leverage.

It was cold but we were warm from playing and back in the truck we had snacks and juice as the heater worked to dry my jeans out again.
Grins were wide and cheeks were red and the ghost story on the way home was of the Dougal and, well, that’s for another day.
This day though, this was a good one.

Target Acquired

I got there a wee bit later than planned, the sun was already slipping and the road was too icy for the truck so I had to leg it up the hill.
That was a shock to the system.

The light was just gorgeous, the snow was orange and pink and the low sun brought out lines of dark shadow on every surface that had a ripple or a pattern.

There were thick clouds to the west blocking some of the rays which cast a camouflage across the site, patches of bright and dark but all with a little glow as the sun burned into the horizon.

The three lassies on bench were full of laughs and as a dad of one of my own I was pleased to see they were properly wrapped up for the conditions. Hopefully they’ll remember the directions and they’ll find me on here so I can send them the photies.

The site was busy, lots of folk heading down as it got darker. Good to see, I was always a solo twilight wanderer up here, the Lang Craigs really have become a proper local hang out.

The ground was frozen, as I went higher and the temperature went lower I pulled on some spikes and took to the top trail for the best views.
Oh those views, so much winter up that loch, got to get up there.

My hands are cold

It’s a day that sticks in the mind, it was 2001 and we had a perfect day on Ben Cruachan. The snow was deep but consolidated, every bare rock was armoured with ice and the cloud tore around the summit in strips all day but retreated while we stood there and took in a landscape that still lingers in my mind despite so many visits and lost years since.
We came home to the news that the hills were now closed, Foot and Mouth hysteria had descended and we were soon driving through disinfectant tyre baths wherever we went.

The other thing that happened was my hands. I was on the top in my liners and windstopper gloves as usual, and while it was cold it was something I was well used to and didn’t bother putting on other gloves.
My fingers got cold though, very fast, uncomfortably fast and it was sore, something I’d never had before. I pulled out my big insulated gloves and needed help to pull them on, I was fumbling like a wino with a screw top bottle.

The heat returned and there was another new sensation, a burning that would not stop, that escalated until I thought my teeth would break against each other and tears filled my eyes.

The sunrise was just out of sight, but the cloud caught it’s colours and I managed a snap through the window before the school run.
I had a couple of calls to make and they revealed nothing urgent and everything avoidable. Daytime telly was the soundtrack to some packing and there was never any doubt as to where I was going.

It was a fairy tale scene, no, an advent calendar on the way to Drymen. Hard frozen landscape, wisps of mist and blue skies. Stunning, a perfect winter’s day.
I’d used up a lot of daylight so I didn’t stop. I think I might regret that, it was so perfect.
Ach, but then again maybe some things are better as an engram to mull over and decrypt later.

I thought it might be a one off, I was tired or run down, I’d had the wrong breakfast, I’d stood around the summit for too long, I was just getting old?
But no, I noticed a change from then on. Ice axes and meraklon liners was a combo gone forever, poles and powerstretch gloves would only last me so far into the snowline before I’d have to put something warmer on.
Camp was easier to manage, I’d have gloves and mitts everywhere and if I slipped up, I was never far away from layers of down.
And of course, the wait for the burn.

I could see Ptarmigan Ridge but the summit was in a ball of cloud with more cloud loitering to the west. I wasn’t fussed, there was snow all over one of my most favourite places.
The road was just as exciting because it was untreated after Balmaha, I’m getting more used to the truck on this kind of surface this winter and I had a wee bit of fun with it.
Wheeeeeee went the wheels, Aaaaaghhhhh went the music.

Rowardennan was surprisingly busy and there was still blue sky above as I walked past the youth hostel. On the climb up, the bloke doing some path repairs was lying snoozing in the sun and it really was warm enough for that.
It felt like spring, one of those rare days where the sun shines down on you while your crampon spikes dig in as you ascend in shades and a base layer with the sleeves rolled up.

I pushed on, eager to be a part of that mental picture, but somehow I flicked past that page and found myself in cloud. It washed in from over the loch, a bank of blandness to smother my hope and dreams and… Oh wait, I’m through the top of it. Aw, that’s nice.

I had to watch all the time, not just in the hills. At work, or even just heading into town I’d carry gloves on cool days never mind cold days and I’d find myself making excuses for fumbling or asking a colleague to “wait a minute” while my hands heated up while they looked at me like I was an idiot.

It’s really only when you show someone the effects they realise you’re not full of shit. Showing them a white thumb and forefinger on a cherry red hand, and saying “Feel it…”.
“Oh…” They say.
“Aye, I’m going to sit in the truck and have an episode while they heat up, back in 5…”.

The cloud came and went and the sun struggled to maintain a presence. But I was happy enough.
The snow showers were pleasant, heavy but with small flakes and very little wind. It was a silent, almost dreamy ascent.

I stopped at the top of Ptamigan where the sun made it’s last attempt at glamour before giving it up for the day. Pink oozed through the mist and I stood with a hot cuppa and smiled at it all.

I could see familiar crags and a hint of the ridge swinging around the last pull up to the summit. It would dark before I got to the top and that along with the long descent on Sron Aonach just didn’t fit tonight, had to get back for the girl.
This was enough, inside and outside I was happy.

Except I’d got too excited, on the phone, taking photies, pouring cuppas, fannying about, all with one glove on. My right hand went and it went big.
My own stupid fault.

I packed up and started down, hands balled into fists inside my mitts, idiot, idiot, idiot was the mantra.

I had a loose crampon strap, of course it couldn’t have happened on the way up, it had to be now when my mitts were full of pork link sausages instead of fingers.
I fudged it enough to go on but the bending and swearing had upped the blood flow enough that I could feel the circulation coming back. I braced for impact.

I stood in the dark, bent over with my mitted hands crushed between my thighs and calling Ffffuuuuuuuucccccckkkkkkkkkkk into the night as the tears blinded me.
I carried on once the red lights went out and it really was a pleasant descent. My hands nipped and throbbed, but I can tune that part out now. The ache lasts of course, well into the next day this time and my fingers were dark purpley red well into the early hours.

I remember a while back the nurse stretching out my hands and hmm-ing sympathetically “I get this too, it’s terrible isn’t it? It’s called Reynaud’s”.

I suppose in the grand scale of life it’s a minor ailment, but it causes me grief on an almost daily basis at the moment, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never actually said the words on here which is a bit strange.

I suffer from Reynaud’s syndrome, unusual in men but likely passed down on my mothers side of the family and it’s total pain in the arse.

Road and be Truncated

There was confusion, not our fault, but it did delay our departure.

Our trip to the snow was meant to be a hop, skip and jump.

It was freezing, the layers were many and the gloves were the wrong ones. Not the girls’, she was sorted, I got it wrong, I had raspberry ripple push-ups sticking out of my sleeves within 30 seconds of leaving the truck.

Red cheeks and pink skies.

It was good to just breathe that air.

And the snacks, once my fingers were mobile again, there was snacks.

 

Nigit Nit 42

It was colder than I was expecting. I had gloves on from the off.

Half a plan in mind, half a mind to just have a wander.

It was eerie past the tree line. The sun was trapped in a bank of murk so there were no shadows and there was no wind either. Still and dark. And cold, my hood was up now.

The dead pines are straight off of a Tim Burton storyboard. If only my raven was here.

I really don’t like my camera much. When my old LX5 died, I got the update, the LX7, and it’s just not as good.

I don’t what the hell I’m doing with cameras so I rely on picking preprogrammed modes to suit the moment or mood and the LX7 doesn’t have the ones I used to use.

I’ve kinda had to come to terms with the rather lame fact that this took some of the fun away from my hill time as I loved fannying around at night with a ten second timer and a headtorch. Or two.

I tried a few nighttime photies tonight, it really was fun, but the camera was saying no more often than not.

I don’t care how much technology has moved on and how lo-fi the results will be, I’m tracking some LX5s on ebay. It’s all about the joy.

Two jackets, aye it was that cold. It’s not a hiviz vest though, it’s Haglofs picking their pallete at the office party/in the dark.

It’s surprising how much light reflects off that jacket from a headtorch, I glow as I walk. Readybrek? God, I’m old…

Reviews imminent.

The cup marked stone is easy to find in the dark if you know where it is.

Did I really just write that?

I looks like an alien skull emerging from centuries of entombment. A clawed hand will soon follow to clutch at then posses/consume a hapless rambler as part of its plan to take over the world in a low budget British indie movie fashion.

Could have stayed out all night. This was proper fun.

Sunday Service, on a Tuesday

It’s been a grey year so far, the patches of blue have proved elusive. Seen some in the distance, just haven’t managed to stand in one.

The plan was a pleasant wander from Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy on the Way with a train back to the start.
I knew the trains were on a limited service, it was just the 2nd so not complaining, but I didn’t know the hotel was shut for winter until someone told us when Beinn Dorain was the biggest thing in the forward view.

It was cold, even my insulated gloves couldn’t keep the nip from my fingertips as the on-the-flat walk kept my heart rate low and temperature down.
I felt on the brink of being chilled, the path was iced and the ground never thawed with the single patch of sunlight sitting far ahead on the Black Mount, mocking my thoughts of a clear winter’s day to start the year.
The thought of freezing our arses off in Bridge of Orchy for a couple of hours was very much on my mind as the train wasn’t until seven.

Icicle as designed by HR Giger

Down jackets on, stove lit, snacks broken out. It was still grey, it was still cold, but it’s amazing how warm you become from laughter and cuppas.

There were plenty of friendly faces on the way.

We walked with our down still on, but now with headtorches in easy reach in a pocket.
The traffic blinked and sparkled silently in the dark on the A82 as the hills softened and blended into the indigo sky.

The station was a little island, a warm golden glow in the darkness but without any accompanying heat. We had an hour, moving is warmer, we passed by and went down to the bridge.
A fire burned on the other side with vans, cars and voices. An hour ago, I would have ran to stand by the fire, now though I was quite warm and content and we walked on through the dark and ambled back to the station.

The platform was bright, silent and deserted. Trees loomed tall, jagged and Tim Burtonesque in the gloom while many coloured alien eyes shone unblinking down the tracks, watching our every move, waiting for the perfect moment to make their move towards us.
If I had an imagination I might have felt uneasy.

The train was on time, it was busy and warm inside. I could feel the carriage lean through the curves at the Auch horseshoe, ah the views we could have had.
Tyndum Upper was even creepier than where we’d left, how’d they manage that?
The Real Food Cafe wasn’t far though, and oh that haggis in batter.

It was a day to stay in, glad we went out.

International Mountain Day

I know these kinds of themed days are supposed to highlight plights as well as revel in the sights, but I have enough grief in my life without getting involved in any other fights.

That’s just today though, tomorrow I might come at you like white whiskered hungry bear who thinks you look like a cheeseburger if you piss around with my hills.

Okay?

Right, a brief shrapnel of photies from years of endless joy to celebrate this day.

I love you mountains, I’m coming soon.

EPSON MFP image

Ode to a screwdriver

Had a fine day last Saturday. We had a fruit tree planting day at the the Lang Craigs in a handy wee space just up a bit from Overtoun House and despite the manky weather it was well attended.
We had a lot of families so quite a few wee yins in wellies and woolly hats digging in the mud and having fun before it was time for a quick wander round the trees to talk about winter identification (its bark and buds, that’s how you tell).
Then it was back to the big hoose for soup and cuppas in a room I’d never been in, all dark paneling and roaring log fire.

I did notice this barbed wire right on the path about to shred someone’s rucksack. Is this allowed? I think not, this disagreeable neighbour’s pushing his luck here I think.

That all done, everyone went their own way except me, Jo and Franki my fellow rangers and two poor wee buggers from BB’s on a mission for achievements in their book of activity type thing (I should really have asked what the proper description of it was).

So, a quest of fence maintenance it was. I also had to fit some signs on the top gates so it seemed a good fit to give the boys a real task rather than some random box ticking exercise that I imagine happens a lot with this stuff.
It was however cold, a bit rainy, windy and late in the day. We also had a good bit of ascent to do so had to keep moving to get stuff done.

Franki lost my screwdriver at the first sign fitting. I am psychologically scarred for life knowing that a lifelong companion is lying lonely on the hillside somewhere. Rusting slowly…
We cleared a water gate, a swinging doodah above running water that lets swollen burns and debris through, but keeps deer out. There were three big boulders jammed under it, it’s amazing how easily an unassuming little watercourse can move rocks you would struggle to roll never mind lift.

We climbed up to 1000ft dealing with fence issues on the way and fitted another couple of signs with cold fingers on spare screwdrivers before I called it: time to go down. I saw tired faces, darkening skies and we were all getting hungry.
Although not far away, the easy track were were picking up at Black Wood was beyond a nightmare crossing of moorland covered with water filled potholes, the legacy of prepping for tree planting. I’m used to it, I mostly skip from mound to mound, but every time I turned round I saw someone disappear into knee deep cold water and mud. Ha.

The track was descended in darkness, but the banter was in full flow, the team was happy. The youngsters did really well, it was a big day in very poor hill conditions and they did the tasks themselves.
I suspect there were some early nights had by team members.

Nice to be up there team handed, I usually feel like the upper contours only ever see me or the poachers. Lang Craigs, just magic.