RSPB Loch Lomond

The weather was a bit crap on Sunday morning and we were lounging around with snacks and Steven Universe reruns.
“Want to go out?” I asked halfheartedly.
Nah, I’m good.

However, the window seemed to be getting brighter. Hmm, look… ?
Hmm, maybe…
I pulled up the map on my phone. Where could we go wasn’t the question, where haven’t we been was the tricky thing. Every quickly accessible track and trail has been well worn by us in recent times.
“Here, what about the RSPB thing at Gartocharn, burds an’ that? We’ve actually never been.”
A flurry of thrown pyjamas, a filling of water bottles and we were on the road.

In my mind I’d assumed their car park was a muddy layby that the truck would get stuck in, but to our surprise there’s a nice car park not too far from the main road with a wooden ranger station and a pop up marquee complete with a ranger and a volunteer ready to greet us.
We stopped for banter and information. Holly signed up once again having lapsed for a year and immediately found herself with arms full of RSPB stuff, which I later discovered is all really rather useful and interesting.

Armed with a leaf checklist and a big marker, we headed onto the first trail, detouring into the den building area first of course. This was a theme through the site, get involved, reach out and touch, leave the path, all messages that visitors might find unusual and it shows how things are changing for the better, “Keep off the Grass” is definitely a thing of the past.

The little trail reaches a lookout point that’s in the photie right at the top, a plywood hut that frames the view, will no doubt shelter a pensioner or two and provide kids with hide and seek opportunities.
The view is outstanding of course looking north to the Loch, Conic Hill, Ben Lomond and beyond, But it’s all a little far away. Some folks will love that, it just makes me want to get closer, and you can do that if you want to. The RSPB site extends right down to the lochside and it’s just asking to be explored.
We weren’t kitted out for that and it was getting late, the ranger station was locked by the time we got back, but we’ll be back sooner rather than later.

There’s some dry stone stumps here and there and some beautifully carved benches as well as some hidden sculptures in the woods, just keep your eyes open.
The signage is home made feeling, very unpretentious which I like. Everything feels new and shiny, the structures and the path, but it’s not obtrusive and it’ll weather quickly here.

The little pond had Holly whooping with joy as she ran out on the boardwalk. You can kneel and pond dip with bug identifiers posted nearby and there’s open edges by the water, they’re relying on people to get it right. I absolutely love that attitude.

We sat in the little shelter and had lunch. We did indeed see some of the creatures on the guide, in fact that really is another theme here. The place is bursting with life.
Birds swoop down to a feeder by the hut, all colours and shapes, songs in every key. You really could just sit here and spend your time just sitting.

It was getting grey again and was that a few spots of rain? But we headed into the open country to see what was doing and within a couple of minutes you’ve left the path and huts behind and your in the wilds. All it really takes is a step or two off the surfaced path, do it people, you’ll love it.

A little group of trees had the wackiest fungal infection I’ve seen with this clump home to some spiders. Just so sci-fi.
The ground dweller below was colourful but likely deadly? I might be a Woodland Trust ranger, but I do the fence, don’t ask me about the greenery.

This longer loop through the woods and past the pond is excellent, accessible and atmospheric, it subtlety feeds you the feeling of the wilds and lets you escape to them if you just step off that path.

We loved it. The short trails will be great for folks looking for their country park fix, but I think it’ll plant a seed of wanting more, because of where it is and how they’ve set it up. For us though, the possibilities for going further are actually kinda exciting. Rucksacks packed for next time.

I’ll tell you though, we never did find a chessie tree, I think it’s a trick question on the checklist so you can’t win the prize.

Angus and The Stone Giant

While this hot weather has brought joy to many, its allure rather passes us by and we’ve been hiding. We cheered when it rained for half an hour the other day.

Wee quick jaunts aren’t always enough and Holly wanted to go further north despite the heat. The weather looked to have it wrong again, no rain in sight, so off we went in a blaze of sunshine, ELO’s Discovery album loud on the stereo.
Apparently there is no parking available in Scotland this summer unless you know some secrets, so we used one of those and parked up around a mile from the main road right at the start of the track.

It was a little grey to the north but the blue skies everywhere else were dazzling, and the beasties were biting hard so we didn’t stand around for too long.
It was warm. I’m really not a fan of walking in summer, but once we were clear of the trees there was an occasional breeze to keep sanity in close proximity.
The tadpoles are getting a bit froggy, can’t be far way from them all bursting out of their disguises and croaking it up at the Lang Craigs back home. When the old mill pond is full of frogs you can here them from the edge of the woods and it looks like a soup pot on the boil when you get closer.

A few spots of rain were very welcome. No jackets needed, it just felt delightfully cool as it soaked in and dried off quickly. We were on the edge of the cloud, we were stuck with the sunshine.
“Here”. The girl had decided we were having lunch, right here and right now. I got the stove on, ran in a circle to lose some of the midges, unpacked the mugs, ran in a circle… Everything was ready, just had to wait for the water to boil.

Boof. The rain came down and we pulled out our waterproofs. They were fine for a bout ten seconds when the rained upped the pressure. It was hosing down, the coffee was being bounced back out of my mug, our trousers were instantly saturated and water was running down my legs. I dragged all the gear under a little overhang by the track, including the still-lit stove and then just had to strand there and take it, no shelter nearby at all. Holly stood and ate her pasta with her hood up “Dad, it’s a bit rainy”. Yes thanks for that. I could feel the rain hitting my feet through the mesh on the top of my shoes. Heavy man.

Then it was gone. The sun split the clouds again and we were back on the edge of the action in time for part 2 of lunch, the sugary stuff.
The gear was all manky, there was something in suspension in the rain, sand or dust or ash from somewhere far away, seen it many times over the years. So I stuffed more than packed and we decided to head up the glen, see what was there. We got 20 feet when the first flash went off ahead of us, without a word, we turned and walk back to the trail junction. Let’s get back to the truck, maybe the weather man got it right.

The thunder was loud, overhead loud and the flashes cast a shadow around our feet. It fitted our story very well, The Stone Giant (we’ll come back to this later), as every crack and rumble was a plot point and a took us a few feet nearer the truck.
Long time since I’ve been out in such an active storm and this definitely made up for it, jackets went back on as the sky unloaded on us again. No wind though, so our wide brimmed hats were perfect. The rain ran off our brims as we marched back, laughing at the ridiculousness of it all.

The tadpoles were now swimming in fresh water and a DofE group were hiding in a group shelter as we hurried by, now exposed to the open sky and soaked through but so close to the truck. The biggest flash and loudest crash was just as we crossed the bridge and ran for the doors laughing and screaming.
We weren’t high up at all, but it really felt like being in amongst it. The first day in weeks the weather forecast got it right meteorologically and geographically for where we were going that day. Just a few hours out though. You buggers.

The Cobbler looked menacing on the way back out, there was flash flooding in Arrochar and terrified drivers doing 15mph on the A82.
This was brilliant day, a day to remember too.
Holly won’t let me forget it anyway.

Slow Traffic

I just realised something today.

I have relatively recently come to properly appreciate the joys of Netflix. Been signed up for years but just saw it as a virtual video rental shop, pretty much ignoring the first selection you see, the “own brand” titles, as low budget nonsense populated by down on their luck actors.
The Good Place, Stranger Things, Star Trek Discovery and a few others have changed my mind as they’re among the best things I’ve ever seen on the telly and I can’t help but see Netflix in the same light as the “regular” channels at their money-no-object creative best.

But, the way we pay for it is taking the piss. We have the licence fee, I mean, it’s the only way to get Doctor Who live on a Saturday without constant threatening letters. Then we have our TV/phone (a landline exclusively for calls about PPI, new windows, solar panels and folk looking for my ex wife)/internet package and then the optional cost of subscription to PS+ or X-Box Live if you swing that way.

It’s like a pyramid scheme or something, Netflix is cheap enough, but christ, you really have to prop it up with other money to get to it. Even on my phone in a tent I’m paying a subscription to access my subscription.

Media folk are just laughing at us all. Give us a taste, get us hooked then bend us over. They’re all in it together.

Can’t wait until Stranger Things Season 3 though “throws money at the screen”.

Too tired last week, didn’t stray far from home. Luckily home is in a nice place.

The green is getting really green, the showers had the leaves bursting with colour and life. Things are flying around and biting me enthusiastically. Summer “yay”.

The beach is awesome. Creatures in rock pools, what seems as many ships passing as there was when I was wee. The river is very much alive.

All this is on my phone, I really need to carry my camera all the time.

Mair wanders wi’ the wean

We had tents pitched on the lawn, trying them out for size and a wander up the crags never got further than the Overtoun House tea room.
Holly was making sure we weren’t wasting this new day.
There was still time for tattie scones though. I mean, the Russian invaders would have to be visible from the windae before we let that go on a weekend.

We thought we’d try some new socks this time around. Holly got her fancy Wigwam anniversaries on and I found an old pair of Injinji’s that I was probably supposed to review in 1975. She was still laughing at my feet a mile up the road.

We took the Loch Long road, the A82 was choked once again.
Hmm, instant self edit. I just wrote a rant and deleted it. You know what, I actually don’t care what other folk do. We got in the truck to find fun and that lingering air of positivety has sapped my enthusiasm for tearing into Loch Lomond day trippers.
Instead, the most memorable part of the journey is always going to be ELO’s Shine a Little Love with us singing along and doing the clapping part in the chorus high-5 style as we went.
Don’t let the bastards grind you down? Sometimes.

It was a funny sort of a day. At Butterbridge it was was very warm, the sun was splashed on the hills but we were in a patch of gloom that seemed quite keen to follow us.
We got the occasional burst of unedited sunshine and thought about reaching for the sun cream, but then it would slip away once again.
Still warm though, hats were dipped in the burn, chilled Robinson’s lemon was sipped often.

The banter was exceptional and hanging out with Holly like this has reconnected me to the outdoors in subtle ways as well as sharing the “Wow, look at that” moments.
The pace is slower, there’s a lot of looking ahead and looking up. I’m explaining and pointing, recounting old tales from the trail and making up just as much as well.
Volume 2 of the Loch Sloy Trolls was sketched out on this walk. Oh the drama, the tension, the bloodshed. The claws

I’m looking up and thinking, oh I’d like to go there, even when I’ve been there repeatedly. I’m looking and I’m thinking “Have I got time for this?” and I don’t mean hours of daylight, I mean miles left in my legs and useful years of life past the end of this one.
It’s odd feeling older but also feeling, I suppose, hungry? Am I finally feeling what it is to be 49?

Glen Kinglas isn’t overly glamourous I suppose, it’s a landrover track serving forestry, farming and the arse end on the Loch Sloy hydro scheme. It’s good going underfoot and the views are as awesome as they are unusual. Indeed, the views were also new to me.
As well traveled as I am around here I’ve never been beyond the Abyssinia hut on this track. I’ve walked down to here, climbed up the slopes above the hut and walked to the top of Beinn Choranach and I’ve walked the widely ignored ridge on the other side of the glen from Creag Bhrosgan to Stoban Dubha and down to the hut through the crags. Never beyond though, the next steps were actually kinda exciting.

Beinn an Lochain looks amazing from here, sharp and er, mountainous. Beinn Ime looks unfamiliar, the broken east ridge definitely looks a wee bit racey and Beinn Narnain is a dark, sheer sided ridgeline.
It’s like looking at your best friend from the back in a crowd when they’re wearing a hat they’ve just bought that day.

Met a couple from the Netherlands here, on their last full day before their flight home and looking for the most fun route back before a night at Ardgarten. We chatted, I talked too much and fired too much information at them as usual but they smiled as it hit them like a box of tangerines from the top deck of a multi storey carpark (suspiciously specific?).
Damn me though, as we looked back, they took the route up I suggested. I kept looking back as they wound their way uphill. The ridge cleared and stayed clear, it must have been eye watering up there. Fantastic.

The tail of Loch Sloy was annoyingly invisible. Grassy hillside and forest were the dual inconveniences. Lunch, it is was about 1800, so dinner really, was warm and tasty. Protracted too, we had music and everything. And pastries.
Energy renewed, focus regained, we’d go and find the loch. The map said this was unlikely without a lot of effort possibly mixed with re-ascent and some bog hopping. Ach, we’ll see.

The forest track seemed more fun, it was a better venue for a story as we walked. I mean, that’s a troll bridge if I ever there was.
The riverside was boggy and we stumbled and slopped along it before coming out onto the grass and the sunshine. Here a culvert come aqueduct thing meets the river. It’s very like the one that goes to Blackwater Dam from the top of the pipes, being roofed with concrete strips. It curves around to Gleann Uaine picking up the burns around there to feed them into Loch Sloy.
Never seen it mentioned and it was a complete surprise, not really on a hill approach I suppose. So much of the hydro scheme tendrils to stumble upon in these hills.

We stood on a grassy knoll and finally spied the loch. We looked at each other and knew that was enough, it was nearly 100m vertical descent to the waters edge which we’d have to reverse. Nah.
The water level is very low just now so it looks a bit nasty and bare down there anyway, we can reenact the moon landings another time.

The culvert was fun to follow back, the sound of invisible rushing water was an odd accompaniment, like having a broken radio on in the background all the time.

Holly was tired, I checked when I got back and she did 8 miles all in today. The three miles back were fueled by constant banter and Morrisons Marathon* rip-offs, Sprinters bars.
She did so well, at times it was a roaster before the breeze arrived and she put in the miles in good cheer. I am proud as The Dad, but more than that I am so pleased for The Girl. I can see how these wee adventures are affecting her thinking and her bearing.

We had cows staring at us in an alarming fashion, birdlife swooping and bobbing, lambs displaying unbearable cuteness and then pleasantly cold air that came with a darkening sky.
One lamb had the best face ever with a perfect black metal corpse paint look. It had a wee limp as well. I definitely wasn’t up late worrying about it.

Might go back and see it this week though, you know, just in case.

*Stick your Snickers re-designation Mr Mars

NS433775

It rains all the time here, little particles of ancient volcanic ash trickle down over the harder basalt layers. The ash dunes are soft and hard to climb but sharp on bare fingertips.
Come back a day later and your footsteps are gone, the rain washes them away again.

There’s a trail to take you here now, a quiet little grassy loop so, it’s not as hidden as it was. The trees on the opposite slope will grow and the long distance view will change, but this corner will become a magical little place.
The trees will bow and swish in the wind, their leaves will be carried away on the peaty water and the black rain will keep falling and carry the little crag a little further north. I’m not worried, it took ten thousand years to get it this far, I know I’ll miss the end of that story.

Always worth looking left or right, especially at the Lang Craigs. While there’s route markers now, they don’t tell you everything. We’ve made it accessible, but there’s still room to explore.

Don’t forget to look down too.

 

They came to hear the story, They came to sing the song*

Let me hear your battle cry*

Loch Sloidh!

I was sitting with a fresh cuppa and despite an annoying amount of sunlight coming through the window I thinking about video games, it had been a busy and rather stressful week. Holly however was packing her rucksack.
Sometimes you just need a bigger spark when your powder’s damp.

We had talked about taking the stove next time, she was getting into the zone for wild camping and bigger trips so a quick detour to pick up some bits and pieces and we were rumbling north on the A82 again.
The sky was blue from right to left but as we moved onwards, a huge fat pulse of rain rolled slowly across the loch onto Ben Lomond where it seemed to stop dead, both hands round the summit.
We drove into its grey curtain and although the girl was happy enough contemplating a wet walk while sitting in her shiny new test jacket as the windscreen wipers ground the dust across the windscreen and then slung it away along with the fresh rain, I could see it far enough. I’ve paid my weather dues in full, many years ago, I was wanting it to clear up.

Wumph, we drove out the other side, like tripping out of the emergency exit shortcut from the cinema on a summer’s evening (specifically the old ODEON on Glasgow’s Renfield Street, where a manky wee spiral  stairwell took you straight into the alley at the back avoiding the jostle of neds at the proper doors), from dark to light in an instant.
The girl kept humming along to the music, I just grinned wider.

Parked the truck and paid for the pleasure of it at Inveruglas where there were a lot of folk milling around and a closed cafe. Welcome to Scotland, bring a packed lunch. Ah, it’s as true as ever.

Holly’s all about stuff, she loves stuff. I’m glad she applies this to what might appear to be boring stuff to many youngsters: her heritage.
This is Macfarlane country we were in, the name belongs here and because we wear it, we can draw a line though time to put ourselves here, regardless of gaps in our family tree.
Names tie everyone to something, often an occupation, but old Scottish names are very definite on the map. It took me until my late 30’s I think to appreciate this stuff and I happily embrace now, there will be a piper at my funeral playing Flowers of the Forest and MacFarlane’s Gathering. Hell yeah.
So, this was a heritage walk, one we’d talked about for years. We look at the castle every time we pass Inveruglas, but she’d never been to see Loch Sloy, the little loch turned hydro storage tank and the origin of the Macfarlane cry Loch Sloidh!

We took the wee detour through the woods just past the railway bridge, the detour seems to be the main route now, the official “We hate Campers” sign has been posted here.
I fell straight on my face too, the moss slipped off the rock when I put my weight on it and took my foot sideways with it. Idiot. I deserved the sore hip I got.
I walked off the embarrassment and pain, explaining the sheep placenta we found to Holly took my mind off it too. Sheep and lambs became a feature of the day actually. I made have taken a blow to the head in the fall, the sheep began looking er, majestic and I took their photies. Often.

The tarmac makes life easy but the sun beat down on us. meaning the cool breeze wasn’t quite enough to keep us cool. Much rolling up of sleeves and legs took place until we got into the shade on Ben Vane later on.
It’s a glorious wee trek this, been around, through and across the meeting of tracks and trails more times that I can count and I still walk along with my head in the air looking at the tops. I love these hills, steep and rocky but so easy to grab a hold of.

Holly was in her stride now, she wasn’t even noticing the distance or the heat. The bridge ahead looked exciting “That’s the dam, look next to it…” Oh, there’s a cave next to the bridge! “It’s a tunnel, it’s… wait for me…”.

She wasn’t keen on going into the big echoey arch in the dam, besides there were more sheep to see. So nice, today’s sheep. So nice.
Nice top see the former water treatment plant site all cleaned up and blended into the terrain now, the photos I took all through it few years back are suddenly historical. I’ll need to dig them out at some point.

The tunnel was funny, Holly all stiff armed and serious. It was properly dark in there, I broke into a run near the far side and she shrieked and ran out into the daylight. Brilliant.
We picked a spot out of the breeze and unpacked the stove, dinner time. Absolutely perfect.

It was getting late, the light changed and Ben Vorlich took on an evening glow. Still no hurry though, there was exploring to be done.
A wander around the construction areas on the west just slowed us down from the main task, getting across the dam. She had no fear at all, straight on she went, standing on tiptoes to peer over the edge and running onwards to find the next likely looking vantage point.
The dam has grown into the landscape, it’s taken on the look of the rock its anchored too as best it can. The moss growing from the concrete doesn’t know any different.
The low water level currently exposes a bleached strip of beach around the loch, it’s hideous looking, but the dam really isn’t, it’s part of the place now.

On the far side we skipped over the gate and clambered down. Holly was now fearless and every arch was to be explored and tested for echo.
The gated entrance showed quite far into the tunnels under the dam, the lights being conveniently left on. Within a minute of leaving we were already into the story of the Sloy Troll, whose home was destroyed by the dam builders and who now lurks, ready to snare and eat any unwary workman… that’s why the lights are on you see. This story will be coming soon.

The walk out in dimming light was pleasant and punctuated by more frankly awesome sheep. I do hope this fresh ovine appreciation subsides again.

When Holly saw Loch Lomond back within easy reach her energy just went. The pace slowed and we played Guess Who and I-Spy to keep us going.
The sounds of geese reached us before the traffic noise and it wasn’t long before we reached the truck in the now empty car park.

The road was empty and the Stranger Things soundtrack’s retro synth sounds smoothed out the bumps on the way back down the road. Holly was quiet, her eyes closing and flicking back open, dead beat but not ready to let the day go just yet.

Not a bad way to look at life.

*All quoted from Saxon’s “Battle Cry” from the ’86 Rock The Nations album. One of the finest songs written about Scotland and it was written by Yorkshiremen. Bless you.

2001: A Lunch Odyssey

In times past I used to drop everything and run, the weather would stick a pin in the map and and I would go straight there, grab it and use it as a tent peg while marveling at the sunset and running around with a tripod and a camera on a 30 second exposure setting.
Times changed, all that stopped and I dropped out of virtual, digital and actual sight because the last 18 months or so I’ve had a more important role, that of single parent (nobody’s dead, still tragic etc) to the awesome girl seen in this post here and all through the ten years worth of pages behind it.
It was an easy adjustment to make, I never even thought about it, randomly disappearing for a few days here and there just wasn’t an option. There was never any frustration, I had no pressure to go anyway after Walkhighlands pulled the plug on the reviews and the desire just wasn’t there, Holly needed me close to home and I wanted to be there.

What we never stopped doing was going into the hills together for a wee gad about, every chance we got we were up the A82, exploring, having lunch and arguing about what music to listen to in the truck.
We’re still doing that, but we both have been finding more energy and enthusiasm the past few months. Holly’s been asking to go, if I say I’m thinking about a trip she’s asking to come along and off we go, whatever the weather. And now of course we’re hitting the trails.
Holly’s been approaching it on her own terms, sorting her kit out, packing a rucksack and then standing at the door telling me to hurry up. She’s even taken over the gear testing, more of which imminently.

So when the plan for taking advantage of yesterday’s stunning weather changed from a solo camp to me and the girl heading north as a team there was nothing but grins from either of us.

The sun did indeed beat down, the cool breeze above the trees was a life saver. Nice to be back in trail shoes and a trekking shirt too.

The returnees from Beinn Laoigh all looked hot and bothered, there were some skis in evidence, strapped to the sides of packs, some mad bastards had been screaming down the coire. Looked awesome from Cononish and I bet it was nice and cool in the shadow of the summit.
A fine hill, I should go back, been a wee while.

We had walked by the riverside on the way in and decided to find our way back as the beaches looked awfy inviting for wasting some time on.

We found a perfect spot where the river was broken by some rocks and then thrown down a little waterfall. We had the last of our snacks and dipped hot feet into the heart-stoppingly cold water, snowmelt straight from Coire Gaothach.
A little rest soon stretched out to an hour and more, it’s amazing how much fun you can have just skipping around rocks in bare feet.

We didn’t want to leave, so we didn’t. My pack made a convincing pillow, which Holly found amusing and caught me rotten with the camera.
The giggling stirred me from my doze, I removed the hat and my freshly dazzled eyes looked straight up at a Golden Eagle, lazily circling high above.
Quick, gimme the camera!
No dad, you’re not deleting it… (runs across the rocks)
But.. Look… There’s an eagle… it’s… quick…
Huh?

Well, the moon was still there by the time we sorted it out. Holly did get to see it too luckily.
Of course the way memory works, in a year or two the sighting will have developed into a life or death struggle between the bird, the angry badger in its talons and us watching helplessly as we cling onto the icy rocks at the edge of a 100m waterfall as our canoe shatters on the boulders at the bottom.

The West Highland Way was full of folk, and the hillwalker car parks were full and the A82 is now much better between Crianlarich and Tyndrum, smooth, cheap tarmac now thinly carpets the road surface. It’ll be down to the canvas again by winter. Yay.

What a brilliant day.

2001? That’s how much lunch was. Oof.

 

Only one apple pie

“I’ll come too”, and with that a dash uphill because a patch of blue sky had appeared became a family affair.

The blue patch proved elusive in location and inconsistent in transparency, which is to say it clouded over a wee bit. So no fancy sunset, but it was all still very pretty if a little windy.
Bats, birds, deer, a falcon and a slug rolled up like a doughnut. It was like being on safari.

The primrose were blossoming in force and we took some unusual route choices to avoid doubling back. Steep slippy slopes brought no panic or gripping onto dad’s arm and the joy of watching Holly skip from mossy boulder to mossy boulder on the handful of burn crossings made me swell with pride. She’s got it, she’s got the head and the feet linked up.

Roky Erickson

I knew it was going to rain, it was just a question of when, so I was thinking quick even if I couldn’t actually do quick the justice it deserved.
I jumped over the wall and crossed the field, heading for the giant’s staircase, the broken buttress at the southern end of the Lang Craigs that hides a steep, fun and quick way to get a bit of height.
I was panting a wee bit, I’m out and about a lot just now, but bloody hell it’s a tough road back to fitness.

Grey, a bit misty and pretty windy. No view to speak of, but that just focuses the eyes on the nearby. The nearby looked quite interesting so I thought I’d get my camera out and point it in the interesting direction.
The little rectangle flashed red, dammit I’ll change the battery. The little rectangle flashed red again. Oh, come on idiot. The third battery brought with it no little red triangle, just a message – NO BATTERY POWER REMAINS. Then the lens retracted.

My Sony somethingorother phone’s camera is rubbish in low light, but it went in my chest pocket anyway and I went back to looking around me and stepping in every puddle, mudbath and burn to try and break these new Bridgedale waterproof socks. It’s nice to have a purpose.
The edge of the crags has a very nice symmetry to it from certain points, like big saw teeth. Looking at that kept me from looking at the recently reprieved  Forestry Commission Scotland’s utter mess and destruction of their part of the Kilpatricks. I avoid the ascent from Old Kilpatrick now, it’s even worse there and it’s a total disgrace what they’ve done at the top of the track. I still get angry thinking about it never mind walking or biking through it.

I decided on Doughnot Hill and to keep to a circular route I took to the forest roads. We used to run and ride the singletrack here, now log piles line the wide gravel truck highway. It’s depressing. I know it’s good that the plantations are coming out and “real trees” are going in, but it’s still hideous.

The thick carpet of moss that clung to the soft curves of the previously forgotten and neglected plateau has been torn up and replaced by a thatch of dead, bleached twigs, cast away like empty shell casings from the rapid fire of the machine saw ripping up the trees.

I escaped to the dammed edge of the black Linn Reservoir where a pair of taiga bean geese honked towards me from the gloom and landed on the grassy path running along the dam. They waddled slowly towards the water and sailed off either unworried by my presence or oblivious despite my large bright orangeyness.
It’s an easy curve uphill to the trig pillar on Doughnot. I usually skirt just below the little summit dome while following the deer fence so I hadn’t been here in a wee while and it was, unexpectedly, a little strange coming back. There’s ghosts here.
You won’t see them though, they’re my ghosts.
I was alone as the wind picked up and the rain started to ping off my hood, but I was surrounded too. There were laughs and shouts, banter and mock surprise, a stove being lit and the slap of a chain on an alloy stay, there was even a kiss followed by a smile with a glow as golden as the sunset that followed it.

I sat on a rock and watched the murk flop off the lip of the crags and then close in around me as the ghosts faded into silence and I started on a gluten-free oat and chocolate protein bar. I think it only tasted so nice because everything else was now grey.
I looked back at the trig pillar before I left. I love this spot, I always have. A few rocks, some tufts of grass and a worn concrete block with time spent in the company of friends woven though all of it.

I might be getting to be a sentimental old fool, but I’ll tell you something, despite all my efforts over that day, my feet were dry when I got home. I like these socks.

Loch Lomond Faerie Trail

We parked at Luss, had our lunch on the bench and were wandering up the track towards Beinn Dubh when we noticed lots of kids and parents heading up towards the old quarry. There were booklets in hands, pink wings strapped onto little shoulders and much shouting from the woods. The signs on the trees had the answer “Faerie Trail this way…”. Holly nearly exploded with excitement.

I asked the next family was saw what we were supposed to do, here they said take one of our books, and here’s a pencil too. Thanks you very much we said. Wasn’t til later we found out you have to pay for the book and pencil. In the unlikely event that nice family sees this, properly thank you.

There’s clues, there’s a trail, The Loch Lomond Faerie Trail, and it takes you from Luss to the quarry and down along the river back to Luss near the church.
All along there are hidden fairy doors, houses in the trees, signs and boards with clues, stories and rhymes. Just be wary of the troll…
Everyone we saw was enjoying it, everyone was chatting, kids were laughing and playing with new friends and the woods were full of people and voices.

It’s a lot of fun, it’s well put together with lovely work on the installations and the distance is enough to make it a real activity rather than a distraction. The route I know well anyway and the views it brings are fantastic, from the Luss hills through the birch canopy to Ben Lomond looming over the village as you near the end.
We both had a ball.

When I read up on it back at home I saw some varied opinions. One said that the trail had ruined a wild area and lovely walk. I think the quarry we’re all still walking through probably ruined that little corner of wilderness first, time healed that, it would hope it will heal this too one day.
This lovely little corner has been changed though, not just by the faerie world that’s been added to the trees. Fences and muddy trails have replaced the mossy carpet and rocky drops to the river. It’s going to take a lot of maintenance to keep some parts of the trail usuable.
There’s laughing kids though, laughing kids covered in mud and families together having fun in the woods. You can’t knock that.
Me, my extra hope is that it chases away the tree-cutting, log burning, plastic bottle dropping neds that usually congregate there. We’ll see.

Take the kids, even if you think they’re too big for it. Magic fun.

Top tip? Don’t forget #5.

You go first!

No getting away anywhere for me this easter, however the Lang Craigs have seen me what feels like every other day. Probably because it has been every other day.
Been solo, been with friends, been in the rain, went in the surprise snow of last week too and then made it up there last night with Holly under quickly fading clear blue skies.

We had as much fun as always and I got her into my current retro gear thing by strapping an ancient Jack Wolfskin bumbag on her. Turns out she really likes it and I’m not getting it back.

The tracks higher up are currently a mudbath, red sticky mud that clings to you like a strip of 2″ velcro and we both got it bad. But back down, close to the truck a double dare saw us both jump into a burn to try and wash it off.
Turns out my 20 year old boots are way more waterproof that Holly’s new ones. The screams as the ice cold water hit her feet made me laugh so hard I’m starting to crack up again thinking about it 24 hours later.

Screaming and laughing in turns we ran back to the truck and rattled home for tea, toast and dry feet.
Magic.

Inscribe 50 Colouring Pencils Made in Holland

It was an interesting week, work was convoluted and happily constant. I do enjoy the ultimate contrasting experience of being busy and skint.
I’d also been to the hills, had an unexpected breakfast with a pal, ran around, rummaged and pretty much used up all my waking hours doing something or other.
I got home at tea time on Friday and sat in my chair. Nice.

However my chair looks across the Clyde to a row of wee tops and those remaining white streaks were catching a little evening sun. I stood back up,went to the window and looked right to the tail of the bank. It was hazy, was that rain? It was a golden fuzz of some sort anyway. It was mostly clear above though and the sun would be down in about half an hour. That’ll be nice I thought to myself.

Aye. Telly back off, gear packed and out. The best thing about being “back” is that my gear is sitting there ready to go, no hassle, no hunting for stuff, just grab and go. Funny how that arrangement only seems obvious now, note to self etc…

I marched up the track, figuring it might be marginally faster than unlocking the gates and driving up. I was racing the sun the whole time, as I gained height, it slipped a little further into the bands of cloud on the horizon.
On the steep track to the bench on the ridge I slipped into the lead while the sun fumbled a gear change and lost momentum. Yes please.

The place was all mine, mine and the sky’s, time and space to just stop and wait for nothing to happen.
I bimbled the grassy ridge to Round Wood Hill as the colours bled through every hue of orange, red, gold and purple that you could find in the bumper coloured pencil box you got from santa in 1973.
The cool blues and browns eventually took it all away as I reached the top of the track and I headed down with thoughts of dinner while pulling on a beanie and zipping my top up to my chin. The sun is actually warm when you can see it, science is a wonderful thing.

 

The Man In Black

Gateway to adventure? Ha.

The blue sky was no less alluring when viewed through my dirty windscreen as I spun around the bustling metropolis of Dumbarton.
Mother’s car wouldn’t start, Holly was having a home lunch, there was a control engineer on his way to meet me on the other side of Glasgow. It was a nice day for everything to go wrong.
An hour later, it was all fine. Jump leads, truck redirection, phone calls and lunch. It was all resolved too quickly, I now had an afternoon where what I was supposed to have been doing I was now doing the day after.

That blue sky though.

I got the last space at the side of the road, even this late in the afternoon folk were still up there. On a Monday too. Good effort people.
I got ready nice and fast, more familiar kit, no chances were to be taken. My pack was light, it was comfy, every drawcord was where I’d left it, my bottle was just where my hand went to find it. Oh yes, this is the way to do it.
I stuck my camera and tripod on my front pouch, in recent times this had felt like an inconvenience, not anymore, it was time to play.

The sun was a little lower than I expected, the softer light was draining a little of the blue from above and it felt warm, in tone and in temperature. I sweated up the track on a wide, windless ridge.
I paced myself, I rested and sipped from my old oval Sigg, I examined every footstep for a twinge from a knee which never came. I just took it easy, I stopped worrying, I stopped overthinking and I just looked around me as I climbed, step after step, breath after breath.
Walking is just a simple mechanical motion, so why was I feeling brighter with every step? I could feel my lack of hill fitness with every vertical metre claimed but it didn’t hurt at all.

A paraglider arced above the loch to land in a field at Luss. Silent and slow, over too quick, it must have been beautiful enough to not feel the long climb to the launch.

It got a little colder, a little darker and the air was now moving past me fast enough to be noticed and it was going through my top as well, so I pulled on a windshirt and beanie.
The snow was creeping slowly from white to something else, a wash of pink and gold, a hint of sunset. The frozen grass sparkled in jagged shapes all around me, I think if I’d kicked through it as I walked the air would have been full of chimes as the long iced blades swung against each other.

The summit was cold. The sun was nearly down and the eastern horizon was a strip of pink fading into indigo. Ben Lomond was showing me it’s widest aspect, a block of shining pink reflecting the last of the day back across the loch. A scattering of lenticular clouds formed and hovered, sucking up the last of the light and sending the sun over the ridge to the west.
I was late when I left, but I’d still caught it. The grin was wide, the little voice inside was shouting at me. Yes, yes, I hear you, I know, I know.

I’d descended north to find shelter, hunger had suddenly moved past the view in order or priorities, I need a hot drink. A hot drink, insulation and bigger gloves. The temperature dropped sharply.
My dear old mother had thrown me together some pieces (sammidges, for google translate) as I’d passed through and as the stove came to the boil I tore into my cheese, ham, apple and stawberry jam on bread. The utter joy of it.

My little corner was good, out of the wind with a view north to the Arrochar Alps. There were some northern lights a bit further north the night before and I know there’s a chance this far south but the sky went to black and stayed that way. All this was enough anyway.
I could feel the gap between my 3/4 longjons and my rolled down socks, it was getting really cold. I pulled up my socks. So that’s what lower leg zips are for.
I pulled down my hood to have a proper look around and instantly regretted it, the cold felt like a solid, physical object as it hit my head. I put my hood back up and it stayed there until I took my down jacket off when I was nearly back at the truck.

Another cuppa was made and the ridge was paced in circles to keep the heat in my toes. The wind was strong but not strong enough to push me, it felt calm and quiet, it was peaceful here in the dark.
I packed up and I still lingered. I looked at the dim horizon, a jagged line from west to east, a line I have walked every uneven angle of, every top I could just make out has personal bookmark, a memory, a face or a moment in time long past and it drifted back on faded waves of joy and melancholy as I stood there in the dark.
As my crampons crunched me homewards over the last rounded top before the long descent I found my head fuller than it was when I started.
They say you can go to the mountains to lose yourself, but then they also say you can go to the mountains to find yourself. It’s also been said that “The soul of the gael is on the summit of the mountain“. Maybe it’s a little of each.

My headtorch cut out, the little flash had warned me and I was ready for it but I wasn’t ready for the way the sky picked up the slack. The crescent moon and riot of stars in crystal clear air was stunning. I looked up and spun slowly around until I was dizzy.
So close to home but so far from worry and oh, look at the time, Holly would be coming home from guides. I smiled at that as I picked up the downhill pace. I’d showed her my base layer before I left, she looked at the orange and purple stripes for a while and issued her statement “Hmm. Dad, never wear that in front of me again”.
The ultimate parental superpower, the power of embarrassment. Awesome.

 

Straight Outta Trostland

It looked cold. Cold or raining in the truck is fine when I’m solo, with the two of us and our gear in there and it’s standing room only. Except there’s no room to stand.
We drove into the sun, looking for the snow. We found both, sometimes one at a time, sometimes at the same time. I came late to this winter but it’s lingering just enough for me to feel that I haven’t missed it altogether.

The tops came and went, the glens swirled, the blue patches tore past as the sun picked out patches on the slopes like it was a searchlight chasing an escapee who’d made over the wall. The Southern Highlands were showing themselves at their best.

Some red cheeks and muddy gaiters along the way were evidence that the ridges and tops had been attempted, I wonder how many times the winds and spindrift won today.

This man was a winner, with a grin forged from the trail and an accent from far away, he left us with some photies on his phone and words fished up from experience (whether he wanted them or not) on his way north on the West Highland Way. What a perfect time to be doing it, his next two days will be spectacular in these conditions. Bridge or Orchy to Ft Bill. Oh, that sounds nice.

 

Gearing up for a 20 year old challenge

This is going to be a landslide of contradictions. But so am I, so what the hell.

After a year out I’ve been updating myself, seeing what’s new, confirming to folk I’m not dead yet, seeking out any exciting or revolutionary ideas. Even evolutionary ideas would do.
There’s tinkering, there’s cosmetic changes under the guise of performance updates, there’s recycling (of ideas, not fabrics), dull colours in the shops and still there’s an inability of the outdoor world to admit defeat and just put Dr. Martens Air Cushion Soles on all outdoor footwear. Really.
I’ve got some new kit in already, stuff that I do like the look of, but in general I’m not that inspired yet.

The season by season rush has continued, product produced to price points and deadlines instead of innovation and ideas being honed and released when they’re ready.
My first thought when looking at this aspect again was watching David Attenborough talking about the plastic in the oceans while patting a sad looking Polar Bear. It then cuts to him squaring up to Donald Trump and punching him right in the face. Every night this programme is on. Just after I fall asleep.

The plastic worry is real though. I don’t care how many swing tags outdoor kit has on it saying recyclable, ethical, or green, it’s still part of the problem and we all know it. A swing tag should never dull our conscience.
So what do we get in return for killing the planet just a little bit more? With this season’s latest developments are we really more comfortable in the rain at 900m? Is that tent that fits in your pocket giving you the best sleep of your life? Are the adverts talking a lot of shite and we just give away our money too easily?

I’ve used a lot of gear. In the past 11 years pretty much every trip I’ve been on has been with review kit of some kind and I’ve gotten used to that, the unfamiliar is now familiar. The truth is that most current kit is okay, I’ve never had anything genuinely bad. The biggest difference is in how it works for you, your body shape, how hot you get, do your ears stick out, do you need lots of pockets because you’re a faffy bastard.

But I love it. Seeing a sharp mind somewhere has tweaked something in a way I didn’t expect making something better, smoother operating or lighter. There’s a real joy in that. It’s not about the gear, it’s about the person behind it.
The best time I had with this was when I was on the OMM Lead User Group, working on new designs and evolving the existing. Seeing the ideas forming, the little lights going on above folks heads and being put on paper then appearing as samples taught me that gear isn’t just product to sell, good gear is someone making something because they think it’ll work and they want to use it too.
I’ve still got sample stuff that never saw the light of day, good ideas that were never quite finished. How many times does that happen across the many design teams? Newer ideas always come along though. People are good at that.

So, all these contradictions have been swirling about in my head the past couple of weeks, and it got me to thinking. How much have things really changed since I got sucked into the outdoor gear arms race in the 90’s. I was in army surplus before that, maybe a Javlin jacket (see, there was purpose to that old advert) along the way?
I noticed right away what I’d been missing when I wore Gore-Tex for the first time, when I wore Polartec 100 over a Smelly Helly. What I haven’t noticed is the difference from then to now.
How far have we really come? Are current fabrics really that much better than they were? Are we really just a wee bit better and just styled differently?

I want to know.

In recent times I’ve been clearing cupboards and attic boxes and finding all sorts of stuff. It’s partly this that got me thinking about old versus new in amongst so many memories, so much stoor, so much purple lycra.
With this in mind I have set myself a task of sorts, a 20 year old challenge.

One bit at a time I’m going to see if I can put together an entire kit list for an overnighter with gear that’s at least 20 years old, then head out with it.
It’s entirely pointless, but I think it’ll amuse me putting it all together.

I do mean entire kit list, socks and boxers as well as shell jacket and compass. I’ve been mentally ticking stuff off that I know is stored away somewhere and some things I’m not sure about. A tent might be iffy, I sold my Rab Glacier down jacket years ago so I’m hunting for something that I only have a vague memory of. I think it was blue though.
It’s surprising what I still have around, there will be some cleaning and maintenance I dare say, but it’ll put it together. I’ll let it slip a little if I have to though, maybe make the space year 2000 a cut off. We’ll see.

However, first up and the spark for it all. the Petzl Zoom.

I’ve had this for more than 25 years. It’s been so many places, shone a light on so many things and I found it caked in crap on the top shelf in the workshop where it’s been for maybe 15 years.
This was the torch to have back in the day. The bezel rotates to change from a wide to a focus beam and the yellow light would dim slowly as the huge and heavy 4.5V battery drained ever faster as you got closer to the car park.
It should still work, I’ll strip it and clean it, get it powered up. The straps are replacements, it was a bright green and sky blue pattern originally but they stretched out and had to go. Maybe these ones which still have a bit of elasticity in them are where the colour obsession started?

I can still get the big batteries or convert it to AA’s, even put an LED in it, but I’ll keep it as original as possible I think. Damn though, it’s just so big.
Anyway, that’s the first thing sorted. I’m sure there’s an old stove in the garage…

Crossing the road

We looked in the fridge and weren’t inspired. “Out for breakfast then?” The A82 was under the loose grip of a grey and shifting sky, thoughts of food and a galavant were more inspiring than the weather.
Luss was pretty quiet, it’s the calm time before easter brings with it the first of the summer-long waves of neds that make the place a no-go area at the weekends.
Breakfast was shared with the ducks, who were very insistent today. What’s on their minds, what are their plans? I’ve been watching them a long time, there’s been an ongoing power struggle between the old drake with the faded beak and scar (really, he looks awesome) and the skinny youngster with the bright feathers. The old timer is holding on but the massed feathered minions seem to be hanging back, watching and waiting before they pick a side.
I think if junior stages a successful coup, the Luss car park will be a very different place indeed.

Now well fed and with pockets full of soor plooms and fudge for ongoing refueling we headed a little further north to Firkin Point. To most this is a bog standard car park and toilet facility, somewhere to use and discard a disposable barbecue, somewhere to walk your dog and leave the bags of shite in the undergrowth for someone else to deal with.
But a few feet away on either side is a walk into the past, my own past as well as the lochside’s. Here runs the old road, the original A82 which clung to the water’s edge like the silver trim on the hem of a deep blue ballgown.
There’s 4km of the road left, and it’s just as I remember it when I used to drive it 30 years ago. I suppose it’s not unlike to the road north of Tarbet, but closer to the water here, you really feel you’re by the loch. I loved it then as spun along in my Escort van, I love it now too, especially on a day like this.

The previous grey of Luss was now finding some energy. The wind was getting up and the loch was getting choppy. The colours were drained from the slopes above us and across the loch, the snow line faded up into the lowering cloud as a cold rain pattered down as we walked.
We reached the north end of the road and turned back, the pattering on our hoods was now heavy rain in our faces. It was funny at first then our cheeks were stinging and our glasses were wet, looking up meant we couldn’t see a thing. We marched past the little beaches we had played on on the way there, looking down so we could keep our glasses clear, by the time we got to Firkin Point we were almost running.
I got the truck heating up as quick as I could and my soaking wet jeans pulled every hair out of my legs as I squirmed around trying to find my bag of industrial wipes somewhere behind the drivers’ seat to help dry us a off a bit.
We were soon sitting quite happily though, warming up, snacking once again and waiting for the windscreen to clear so we could hit the road home. Aye, not a bad wee excursion.

Otter 2: Whiskers of Ice

“Meet somewhere in the middle for a camp”. It was that message that made the difference. So long out, so many other things on my mind, a winter peak in a tent looked a little out of my grasp. Not for lack of knowledge or experience, certainly not desire or equipment, but confidence and fitness were like warning signs bolted to the closed gates that led back to my mild adventuring.

“Meet somewhere in the middle for a camp”. The only possible reply to that was “When?”.

Oh, as soon as that? Better get my shit together then.

Getting my gear sorted was pretty straight forward. I just pulled together old favourites, well worn and years old, there was to be no surprises.
I walked the Lang Craigs with a renewed purpose, pushing the footsteps a little harder, seeing what the knee would say, watching what the lungs would answer back. The minor grumblings could be easily drowned out with some whistling or singing. Both a little breathless.

It wasn’t a big route, but it was the best looking of the half dozen possibles we’d thought of, somewhere I hadn’t been near in maybe 20 years and somewhere Gus hadn’t seen. A secluded loch, a ring of mountains and a track all the way there and beyond. And back again we assumed.

The A82 was an obstacle course of potholes and emergency roadworks. I should probably say that if felt homely and familiar like that, but no. Fix it you bastards.

Hadn’t seen Gus in a long time. In fact, I haven’t seen a lot of people in along time, the faces scattered through these pages are very dear to me and I look forward to squinting into sunlight or spindrift with them once again.
Lunch in Tyndrum, banter, catching up on life and bitching about the state of the the outdoor trade. We might have sat there all afternoon, but the sun was getting lower already.

It really was, without even trying, late when we left.

Getting ready in the carpark was funny, we’d both brought the exact same packs and shell jackets, same colours and everything. It’s a Haglöfs thing I suppose, no avoiding it for either of us.
A mum and daughter team appeared from over the little hill that leads to the trail. Junior was on a little bike, suited up and bright red cheeked from the biting cold, mum walking and carrying the kit. The smiling faces were a joy to see.
Banter ensued as they packed their car for a sprint to the chippy, there was even a discussion on the merits of purple outdoor gear as we all had it on. See, it’s not just me.
More returnees with tales of the tops were greeted before we finally hit the trail. Busy for a Monday.

My big-print map I’d printed off made the route look short and sweet, but the same starting feelings were there that I have on any walk. The wee adjustments to my pack as the straps and waist belt settle into me and my clothing over the first few minutes. Starting cold and warming up, pulling down the chest zip to find that happy medium. My heart and breathing settling back down to tickover after the initial high revs from setting off.
By the time we’d cleared the buildings, the signs and the fences, we were both running smoothly into the dusk. A pale moon sneaked out from behind the cloud and the white skyline glowed faintly ahead, now seeming further away.

The trail weaved forward as the light retreated. The river had taken a fresh swing at the bank and the deer fence now hung over a deep pool, capped with ice, the land with the path on it now deep below it somewhere. We retreated and crossed the fence into the boggy forest plantation and kinda lost the thread a bit. Back over the fence further on in the dark Gus fancied some stepping stones, he would in his nice new and still waterproof boots. My idea of tripping over hummocky grass in the dark was much better. There was a bridge a bit further on anyway. It creaked and swayed above the icy river. Very atmospheric I’m sure.

On the south side of the river was easy going, the ruts of the landrover track were dry or iced hard. We climbed a little and the sound of water rushing over rock had us stopping and peering towards it through the dark. Big rocks and trees in there, that would be a fine camp, but the noise?
The moon was casting our shadows in front of us now, it wasn’t quite full, but plenty bright enough to walk without torches. It was cold, it was clearing above us and the peaked skyline ahead was a ribbon of silver as the loch came into view over the last rise on the track.
It wasn’t too much further before we saw what looked like a good spot, if we could get to it. It wasn’t an island, it might be at times by the look of it, but not right now. It’s been lashed by westerlies all it’s life, but the big boulder at it’s middle has held onto some land and kept this rocky spit from being washed away making for an almost perfect camp spot.
The views, excellent water supply, an easily defensible approach from the land side? Honey, we’re home.

I was fighting with the camera. Gone was the second nature adjustment then a point and click, I was peering at the dial and the screen trying to make sense of it and remember what I wanted. Some of it came back, some of it stayed fuzzy, in my mind and on the virtual film. I didn’t get frustrated at the time and I wasn’t annoyed looking through the shots back at home. It’s just images of us having fun, I didn’t need anything else, maybe that’s balance, freedom? Time will tell, it’s not like this is a once off event.

The headtorches came out for the detail of tent pitching. It wasn’t long before the familiar shapes were up and the sound of silence was roughened at the edges by gas stoves jetting our eagerly awaited dinner ever closer.
It was now completely clear above. The brightest stars twinkled through the moon’s silver wash over the indigo sky and the first of the night’s sprinkle of shooting stars scored a pure white vertical line into the mountains to the north.
It was cold, but I couldn’t feel it. A warm dinner, reindeer chunks in rice, and SuperFreak Californian red. Running around with the camera, breaking the ice to pick up water, filling the pot, running back to refill and having to rebreak the ice, it was all go.

It was also perfect. If I had been apprehensive about whether I’d lost my ability to do this stuff, is wasn’t even a whisper of a memory now.
All I felt was joy and contentment. Actually that swapped over with giddy childlike excitement at times, I think I barely stopped to breathe between sentences at some points. I’m both surprised and grateful Gus didn’t knock me unconscious.

We sat in the dark, both chatty and silent, warm as the ice crept across our gear and the scenery. The moon swung slowly across the sky, throwing different shapes across the scenery. Beinn Suidhe beside us rose impressively and far beyond the mere numbers assigned to it on the map, at various times imaginary ski or ice routes passed through our midnight assessment while the mysterious Coire nam Ban was too white to be natural, was it the start of an inversion, was it a trick of the light?
Neither of us wanted to give this up, going to bed would be an end to it. A few ribbons of cloud scudded across the tops, catching on the moon before dispersing after the effort. I could have drank it all in forever.

But tiredness would not be denied. It had been a stiffer walk than expected, we had marched a little to make up for the late start. Hot chocolate was made, eyes were filled to the brim before the flysheets were zipped for the night.

A buffeting woke me, the tent moved and so did I. It was light, a grey light. I unzipped and looked, swirling cloud, a cold wind made my eyes water. I abandoned the attempt and buried my face back into my layer of down.
The second attempt went better as far as I unzipped the whole door and sat up. I looked out and grinned, I could live with this.

It didn’t look like it, but it was still frozen. The ice on the loch had broken up out from the shore in the night as the wind whipped up some waves, but the ice was thicker where we could get to it. “Doiiinnnnggg” was my first attempt to get water for breakfast.

The dull porridge was abandoned in favour of oatcakes and cheese with some running around our little peninsula on the side. Trying to set up a pose for a team photies was a giggle laced farce.

There was no escaping the beauty of the place. The dark had given it a mystery, a softeness and distance, but the early morning light brought life and drama in splashes of glorious colour.

I was cold when I got up at first, but was quickly warmed up despite the occasion light flurries of snow. We were either going that night or Thursday, which is tonight as I write this. The night where I walked to my folks house in snow shoes. I think we chose the right day.

Camp was as magnetic as it had been the night before. Excuses were made for more cuppas, wandering around, exploring, just staring at the view. It was just outstanding.

Looking east made us move. The snow was passing left and right, but looking back at Bridge of Orchy it seemed likely it was coming straight for us now.
Packing was easy, the packs a little smaller and lighter and it was a little easier to get moving. I fact, I felt great. I was fresh, I had energy, I was feeling that feeling, the one you get when you do this stuff and it goes just right.

A nearby hut was full DofE graffiti, or should I say more accurately cries for help and vows to never again venture into the outdoors. Poor wee buggers with their 75L packs and joyless tramping.

Different for us, bright skies and easy walking. The shapes of the night made sense now, the waterfall was much smaller than it sounded and although the creaky bridge looked like it’s been chewed lightly by Godzilla before he realised he wasn’t in Tokyo, it’s probably sturdy enough.

The stepping stones were stepped on, Gus followed my every step on them with his phone just in case I made an arse of it and ended up in the river. But no, not this time.
The sky greyed as we closed in on the car park, light flurries swirled around us and even the deer felt something was in the air as they didn’t flinch as we passed them by.
Back in the motors we were soon Tyndrum bound for hot food and warm cheeks in clean t-shirts and dry socks.

Every trip is the sum of it’s parts and this trip has left more parts in my head than I know what to do with. Everything was right, the time, the place and the company I kept.
Thank you Gus, thank you Loch Dochard, thank you me for not finding a lame excuse to duck out of doing it.

Standing at that lochside in the dark looking up, I felt that flutter inside. Days later I still feel it.

I think it might be addictive.

j