Memorised

I remember often saying that the main reason for blogging was leaving my future self a record of what I had done. I meant it when I said it, but I also believe there was as much optimism in that thought at the time as there was certainty.
Ten and a bit years on, it turns out that not only was I right, it was the single best reason for having this place.

Searching on google for some of the retro stuff I’ve been doing lately amusingly and slightly frustratingly often gives me links or images bringing me straight back here.
This of course means that no one is interested in old gear except me which is absolutely fine. Mountain Range and North Cape have slipped out of the outdoor enthusiast’s consciousness and off the edge of the search engine radar. Even the recent and short lived UK manufacturing venture of True Mountain are almost invisible now. Happy to planting a little flag for some of this.

But. If I click on these links leading back here it doesn’t just take me to a page, it takes me to a point in time in my own life. I’ve never looked back like this until now. Waves of joy and melancholy come and go as I scroll and click through so many forgotten or distant moments, thoughts, adventures and of cource, faces too.

The voice on the pages is familiar, the grinning face scattered through the words a little less so. I can see a life that has changed so very much for the bearded bloke, for a start there’s a daughter that has grown from a bundle of gurgling cuteness to a surprisingly tall and ever so slightly gothy best friend.
That year out doesn’t need filled in though, however wide it looks in the From More Before search widget, the gap itself marks it’s own place in my timeline.

I took my links widget down when I tidied the front page when I started posting again. So many dead links or blogs not updated for years, people have drifted away to other things, lost interest or energy.
I hope they don’t forget about it altogether.

That’s enough thinking for one day I suppose. It took me a little over ten years to do it, but I think I finally know what blogging is all about. For me anyway.

Ten years? Ten years ago this week, my feet were cooling down from this nonsense. Memories indeed.

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.

Animal House

I gave a talk at Holly’s school last year, the different classes were exploring different subjects of Scottish life, history and environment and when Ben Nevis was mentioned I knew I take them out of classroom theory a wee bit and give them some first hand stuff.

We soon expanded on the plan and we had a crammed classroom full of kids dressed in down gear and ripping the floor up in crampons as well as a virtual walk over Carn Mor Dearg and Nevis I put together from a trip a while back.

I also put a wee photie competition together: spot the wildlife.

At the time and again last night when I was putting the folder for the talk into an external drive I was surprised by just how few shots of wildlife I have.
Every trip I’ve had has in it somewhere a memory of some creature doing something or other that made me laugh or wince or stop and watch. But when it came to finding something to show the youngsters, I ended up having to scan some stuff from old prints.

The eagle and the crow dogfight above Glen Affric? Memories only. Dammit man. I did however snap the line of deer on the corniced ridgeline above a couple of hours later.

The mountain hare on Beinn a Chaorainn was a solo performer, the mass band on Ben Chonzie that skipped around us as we tramped the slopes? In my mind files only.
I actually think I was taking a photie of that stove in the observatory ruins on Nevis below and that wee snow bunting got in the way.

Caught on film on the summit of Ben Hope, a ptarmigan clearly not shocked and stunned by visitiors to its lonely perch.
I love ptarmigans, they should be our national bird, they represent the national psyche more than a golden eagle. But that complex explanation is for another day.
I do actually have a lot of ptarmigan photies, but this old one is my favourite. A happy day that was.

It wasn’t so long back that the bird below was soaring above my camp on Sgurr an lubhair. Is it as buzzard, a raven, a golden eagle? The silhouette can be read as any of those on the full size shot.
I don’t even know if I was snapping the view or the passerby.

No conclusions being made here, no planned changes to the approach, just mermorical (did I just make up a word? awesome) musings.
Anyway, sometimes I do zoom right into the wildlife. Maybe I should do it more often.

There was snow this week.

The truck was going nowhere from Wednesday onwards, school was shut etc, so this week was all about cuppas and walking to Granny’s to have cuppas there as well. There was frequent playing in the snow too, followed by lots of wet clothes and more cuppas.

Walking home was fun. Holly entered into the spirit of the daily trek in a doomed polar expedition fashion which I think she carried off very well.
Hold on, someone’s at the door, I think it’s the council’s child services…

This week will pass into legend, this’ll be the one the kids will quote in years to come as “You think this is bad? You should have seen in back in ’18, I was just ten then…”.
It’s been a nice respite from reality for us, we were prepared and safe at home when it all happened. I know others will have different stories to tell.

The ever muddier looking snow banks will linger for a while, but life will return to normal and now running a week behind on Monday.

I’ll catch up then. Maybe.

 

Looking That Way

It’s like riding a bike, as easy as falling off a log and an elephant never forgets.

None of that’s very helpful right now.

Rummaging through my backpacking kit is an odd experience. Comfortable and familiar but with a little distance to it, like being in the boxes in my folks attic. I keep finding things and going “Ah…” and “Ooh…” so many memories attached to inanimate objects. That old purple Jetboil just made me smile so damn wide.

I’m not in there to reminisce though, this is practice not theory. I know what to take, I know what to take it in, I’m nearly there with what to wear when I’m taking it, but I’m still a little adrift.

The legs and lungs, what are they going to say about it. Is Holly’s latest school plague virus going to take me down before I get to see if next weeks predicted polar vortex (that does sound like a SyFy or Horror Channel B-movie starring Michael Shanks) stops me before I start?

Questions and unknowns, it’s kind of exciting. Even if this ends on the couch, the desire is there and it’s too strong to ignore anymore.

Age Concern

Since I’ve been back on these pages I’ve been doing some admin under the hood and I’ve found 50-odd draft posts that got forgotten, overlooked or pushed down the list so that they were invisible to people like me who know absolutely nothing about how the mechanics of WordPress blogging actually works.
However, I’m now looking at what things do at the back end and fixing things up a bit. I’ve had this place for over ten years now (totally missed that anniversary didn’t I), it’s time I learned.

Some of the draft stuff I said back then is kinda quaint, my opinions have changed over time so posting it now wouldn’t feel right. Life will do that to you.
I can’t bring myself to delete any of it though, it’s still my younger self sending a message forward, wide eyed and optimistic. He wasn’t bad bloke, he just didn’t know as much as I do.

Some of it is pure joy as well, like this below from a draft post dated October 24th 2012. Holly is a giant now, and I have almost now brown hair left anywhere. I also have to wear glasses all the time as my eyes are shite.

Still wear that fleece though.

Tenement Funster

In my quest on a return to fitness I walk a lot, the extra couple of miles a day nipping over the my folks’ house and back all adds up I’m sure.
I pass this old tenement and it’s become a thing for me, seeing what lights are on. It’s mostly kitchens and bedrooms on this side so sometimes it’s in darkness but sometimes everyone has had the same idea and is making supper or getting ready for bed.

I assume. Maybe there’s a child who won’t go to bed that’s making PlayDoh Marvel figures in the kitchen while mum watches Call the Midwife (that’s not a gender stereotype btw, Midwife is the second best thing on the telly after Casualty) and in the bedrooms are middle aged men with train sets desperately seeking youth before reality pulls them back under on Monday morning.

Every window has a story. Mainly made up ones obviously.

Vogue

We all live in the same museum, we all rearrange the same old song.

Caspar David Friedrich was first though with Wanderer above the Sea of Fog in 1818.

200 years later we’re all still doing the same bloody pose.

Take out the papers and the trash

I told stories. The room was full of faces waiting for something worth their time, I had no notes and no real plan, but I did have a head full of words.

I always have a head full of words. Big ones, small ones, funny ones, sad ones, totally made up ones and this was the first time in a long time I’d loaded them up and fired them.

90 minutes without a pause or a prompt and with only the slightest of trip-ups (I’m pretty sure I got away with it, but for next time I must remember that the sun rises in the “East” not “Eh… er… that way”) in front of the harshest of critics and the most unforgiving of audiences. Holly’s primary 6 class.

I had my jacket in my hand, but we had one more tale instead of the prep they were supposed to be doing for the exam next day, so it was late when I left. Joyfully late.

Keeping words to yourself would on the face it appear to be a good idea. I don’t know though.

I’ve missed my words.

 

 

Walkhighlands

My latest review is up here and is backpacking rucksacks. I suppose given my predisposition for wanting not-heavy and having pockets the winners were never in doubt but the big beasts in there still had their good points.

More than that is the fact that I am now desperate to get out into the hills for the night after finishing the write up. I missed my chances with the recent fantastic weather and it’s pish out there just now.

Me

The Windae Still Lives

When nature does straight lines, it does them right.

A flick through these pages shows some of the Highland sunsets I’ve seen in the past few years, but I’m sure the best of all might be the ones seen from this window.

Wherever I go in future years, this window is coming with me.

Chimpanzee

More of a footnote than a review, I thought do a quick mention of Chimpanzee energy snacks.

I picked some samples up at a trade show earlier in the year and they are now all gone. The company is from the Czech Republic and are just coming into the UK now with new distribution. There’s the usual wide range of energy and protein bars as well as less sugary fuel bars for the weight conscious and bars for kids too.
The good news is that they’re following the current trend to having these kinds of food actually resemble real food by having textures and taste as well as the fuel hidden within. So they’re pleasant to eat, taste good and I’ve had no ill effects to my plumbing. There’s some left field flavourings too, it’s nice to see something different.

You could debate the nutritional and fuel aspect of all of these kinds of food into the night and beyond depending on where you stand on such things.
I just like this kind of thing because it’s handy for a rucksack or a pocket, the good ones are tasty and it keeps hunger away without having to eat big while climbing a hill or putting the miles in down the trail.

Chimp

Rangering

Had a long day around the Lang Craigs and surrounding hills. There was a few things to be done and more were discovered along the way. It was chilly, the mist was down and I left my camera behind because I wouldn’t be needing that. Idiot.

In mist and rain you do notice the wee stuff around your feet more so the pellet full of chewed bones and tiny feathers had the three of us (Roy site manager and Jo fellow ranger and wildlife fan) pondering. It was quite big, so what coughed it up? They said buzzard and other sensible things, my imagination says other things. The wee furry guy nearby says nothing except that springs’s on its way.

One of the wilder parts of the site is where the Black Burn has made itself a little waterfall. It’s actually a lovely spot, if it were closer to the road end it would be a popular spot for picnics. Maybe the fact its in a steep sided grassy gorge is as much of an issue.
We were checking the water gate here, unfortunately the site boundary line is right on the edge of the waterfall so the fence ruins the aesthetics and also it means the water gate hangs over a drop. Do deer get in here? They’re bloody brave if they do and deserve a seedling or two. Don’t tell them I said that.

Across the northern end is a favourite place, easy in snow shoes when the conditions are right, a triparama when the grass grabs your ankles after every second step the rest of the year. It’s where ooh views start and this time it’s where the temperature shot up and the cloud cleared. Dammit.

The light was getting lower and it picked out perfectly the prehistoric dyke that runs over the hills and climbs into the crags. One survey puts a Roman road up here too, there’s a lot of unexcavated and uninspected up here. Maybe one day we’ll have some proof and some finds to show? But then again its nice just having stories to tell, possibility can fire the imagination more than fact.

The Arrochar Alps were hazy and still streaked with white, and beyond the powers of my phone to record them. The pines of Black Wood were as wonderful as ever and soon to be free of the rhoddy blight around their feet. It’s a magical place this wood, it feels separate from the rest of the site with an atmosphere all of its own and the rhododendron growth has choked its heart to the extant it’s not worth the grief to try and get through it any more.

The site is still evolving, change can be difficult to watch at times and always it’s either too fast or too slow. Just got to hang on though, it can be worth it, for example the old quarry is looking great now it’s been cleared giving us a new little rocky outcrop viewpoint with new paths slowly growing around it. You should go and see it.

 

Lang Craigs Arts Wackiness

 

My duties as a Woodland Trust Ranger at the Lang Craigs in the Kilpatricks Hills keep me in the hills in all weathers which is sometime welcome motivation and it’s also handy for testing kit, 6 miles of deer fence through the roughest terrain shows the difference between different designs better than a collection random hillwalks. It’s also a lot of fun, met a bunch of good folks and I get involved in some oddball stuff on the site which I can just roll with as I’ve been married to a artist for 14 years.
Right now we have an event involving some students from Glasgow School of Art featuring lights and sound. The girls did a great job installing it and when I went back at night the effects were just fantastic. My shots give some hints but you can’y see the signal beaming into space, you’ll have to go and hear that, if you can find it.
From Overtoun House take the path that follows the right hand bank of the burn, you’ll cross the burn on the way but don’t stray far from in. Keep your eyes and ears open.