Trinity – After You

There’s a lot of music around me just now which is stirring my pal’s memories as well as my own. My buddy Chris posted a couple of old tapes on Facebook from the band I was in 20 years ago – Trinity.
I had a rummage and found a CD of the last thing we done from ’94 – a song called After You. It’s a three piece band and I’m on guitar and vocals. It’s so long ago I just don’t care who hears it now, they were happy days.
Davy, Stevie, I hope you’re well wherever the hell you are.

April 14th, 2014 by PTC* | 2 Comments »

Reverse Parking

I can’t remember that last time I took a shot of the evening sky oot the windae. Old camera, same view and a new set of colours to delight my weary eyes.

Bloody marvellous. Why does a step backwards feel like the right thing to do?

April 14th, 2014 by PTC* | No Comments »

twometresdeep

In a new band. I tried with the rock covers band I really did, but I just can’t do it like folk are expecting me too. I’m on the edge of snapping the entire time, just desperate to play a different chord or use a wah pedal or something. They knew it too. So whether I jumped or was pushed, the splash was just the same.

So, within minutes I had another band, it’s amazing how many musicians there are standing around when you need them. I wonder if the ratio is higher or lower than that of pilots travelling as passengers on board flights with ill crew members. I bet you could get funding to study that.

The band is twometresdeep and the best analogy I could come up with is Joni Mitchell jamming with Black Sabbath. We’ve been writing and arranging which has been with a mix of bits of songs brought in by the various folks and new stuff written as we played.
I am enthused. Normally I work with just my drummer buddy Craig, but this is very different indeed. There’s going to be a very diverse mix of sweet harmonies and acoustic passages to my usual grinding guitar and big beat drums. Real light and dark. I love it.

A couple of short clips from the first sessions. The songs are called one and two, or that one and the other one.

n

 

April 14th, 2014 by PTC* | 11 Comments »

Friends Reunited

So much for the rummaging and posting old photies. Got a couple of wee jobs in during the weeks that kept me busy and then a phone call from AJ Johnstone, they’d fixed my camera in much appreciated queue jumping style.. This is my old camera of course, now my only camera in fact.

It looks like new apart from all the dents, the scrapes, the worn off printing and lettering and all the silver edges that left the factory covered in black paint. The main thing is the lens, which is now as clear as the day it was forged upon the anvil of, I don’t know, what is the ancient Greek or Roman god of quality glass products? In the absence of one I’ll go for Hathor of Ancient Egyptian fame because she looks like she’s got a big lens on her head. Cool. Sekhmet was my second choice. Head of a lion with a big lens on it. Yes please.

So I’m back on track. Skye is now on as soon as the weather looks good after the kit arrives for it and Glen Affric will be back to back with it, or front, most likely back though.
We’re going to be bivying for some of this, maybe with a tarp as well, been ages since I’ve done that stuff.

Onwards. But there’s still time for a couple of recent B-spec photies to get me in the mood.

 

April 13th, 2014 by PTC* | 2 Comments »

Trakke Óg Review

The Trakke Óg has been on my back often these past few months. It quickly became my pack for ranger duties in the Kilpatricks but it also became my man-bag for carrying kit when I was gadding abound. Well, it looks good with technical fabrics and denim. But, it’s not just a pretty face.

The Trakke Krukke is a brilliant pack and the Óg is in many ways its sidekick. I wanted to say henchman there to be honest. It has the same clean lines that are a delight to look at and plunge through trees with and the same simply defined purpose: carrying kit.
It’s the way it carries kit that makes it different and that’s down to fabric and design which something old, something new, something borrowed and something brown – Ventile.

Ventile is a high quality cotton fabric with a weave which swells when wet to make it waterproof, it works, I’ve got Ventile clothing. In the Óg it makes a difference to the weight over the waxed cotton Krukke and it also gives it a softer user-friendly feel. It’s tough though, Ventile is badass, I’m happy scraping this off rock and trees, it’ll be just fine.
It’s a clean design, minimal seams and lidless too – it has a rolltop closure which is something I’ve always liked. Here the fastening is by a webbing reinforced closure and stainless steel buckle. Works great and the closure hold the top of your ice axe, poles or shovel in conjunction with the loop sewn into the base.

The base is a 3D shape, rounded, easy to pack and its rated 18litres volume goes quite far with the closure allowing a wee bit of flexibility. There’s no pocket, the zip you see is for access to a hydration sleeve with runs down the length of the pack. Alec stuck a thin plastic sheet in there when I picked the Óg up at the workshop which added no weight and gave the pack just the right amount of stiffness, so it’s stayed in there and just stop and take my bottle out for a drink. Hey, just like the old days.

The harness, again like the Krukke, is basic and starts to mold to you with use. There’s no chest strap but the more you wear it the more secure the Óg becomes and I don’t miss the chest strap at all. It’s comfortable in the different postures I have on foot and on the bike, not been running though, I was planning for that stuff the past couple of weeks but I keep finding excuses not to. I might come back to that soon.

There’s a 25mm removable webbing waist belt which I do use sometimes, but it’s stability not load bearing, unless it was full of lead shot you couldn’t get enough weight into the Óg  to need a hip belt.

There’s some extra webbing loops and I’ve experimented with these, fitting a couple of compression patches on there to carry extra gear on the front panel. This can work pretty well and I think it’s a realistic option. I’ve had a RaidLight chest pouch attached with no extra fittings too, small packs are just the start of a flexible system, easy to drift away from that notion sometimes.

The Óg is a brilliant bit of kit. It’s well made, thoughtfully designed and a joy to use. The Ventile will age and wear with me, probably slower than me mind you and there’s something natural and human about it that plastic fantastic gear just doesn’t have.

Now, the Óg is made in Glasgow from components sourced as locally as possible and I took the photies somewhere that seems to fit with that just right. I could have done them on a hill, but I took the shots in a Victorian workshop which is now part of the Scottish Maritime Museum.
The work surfaces and tools you see were used to design the ships that launched from Denny’s in Dumbarton and Trakke are continuing that legacy: design – innovate – build – export.
Alright.

April 9th, 2014 by PTC* | No Comments »

Dear Aspiring Artist:

I was flicking through HR Giger’s website and came across the following set of suggestions to aspiring artists in the FAQ section.
I don’t necessarily agree with all of it, but I’m not too far away from a lot of it.

*************

Dear Aspiring Artist:

Here is my advice. Think of it as a five-year plan:

Take whatever courses you find the most interesting.

Study closely the work of the Old Masters.

Stop making art that originates only from your own imagination.

Stay with one technique until you perfect it.

On any given day, always be in the middle of reading a book. When you finish one, start the next. Fiction, nonfiction, biographies, autobiographies, history, science, psychology, or how to build a kite. Anything but go easy on the comic books.

Buy and read the first 6 pages of newspaper every day and also the editorial commentaries. Skip the entertainment section. Su Doku is fine. Do the crossword puzzle.

Fill up a sketchbook every month with pen or pencil drawings of the world around you, not from your imagination.

Buy a book on figure drawing. It’s the only art book you will ever need.

Until you can draw an accurate portrait of someone, you don’t know how to draw.

Stay away from the airbrush. You’ll never master it, hardly anyone ever has.

Visit every museum in your city. Often, until you have seen everything in it. Every kind of museum. Not only the art museums but, of course, those as well.

Forget about contemporary art by living artists, at least for the next few years.

Stay away from most art galleries. Go to art auctions. That’s where the real action is.

Learn to play chess.

Take a business course.

Talk to you mother or father at least once a week.

Stop going to the movies until you have rented and seen every film on this list.

Do not watch television unless it’s the news or documentaries.

Do not use an Ipod.

No video games, either.

Learn a foreign language.

Learn to cook.

Spend 8 hours in a hospital emergency room.

Save up money so you can travel to a foreign country within the next five years.

Do not litter.

Avoid politically correct people.

Vote in every election or never dare to utter a political opinion. You are not entitled to one.

Buy a digital camera and take photos every day.
If you see nothing interesting to photograph, you will never be a good artist. Keep only one photo of every ten you take. Delete the rest. It will force you to learn how to edit the garbage from your life, to make choices, to recognize what has real value and what is superficial.

Visit an old age home.

Listen to classical music and jazz. If you are unable to appreciate it at least as much as contemporary music, you lack the sensitivity to develop into an artist of any real depth.

Go to the ballet. Classical or Modern, it doesn’t matter. It will teach you to appreciate physical grace and the relationship between sound and movement.

Wake up every morning no later than 8 AM, regardless of what time you went to sleep.

Learn to play a musical instrument.

Learn to swim.

Keep your word.

Never explain your art. People who ask you to do so are idiots.

Never explain yourself. Better yet, never do anything that will, later, require you to explain yourself or to say you’re sorry.

Always use spell check.

Stop aspiring and start doing.

This will keep you very busy but it can’t be helped.
In my opinion, this is how you might, possibly, have a shot at becoming a good artist.

Hope this helps,

Les Barany

April 9th, 2014 by PTC* | No Comments »

Not That One

While I have no camera I’ve decided to clean out the laptop files, stick all the old photie folders in safe places and take the load off the bulging filing cabinet under the keyboard. Get myself ready for all the new stuff coming up etc
It being me of course all that’s happened is I’ve found stuff that I like and filed away F/A.
So, the first in a few posts of the recent past revisited, the photies that didn’t fit at the time due to wacky poses, funny faces or the like but make me smile now. At least until I have to pay to get my camera back.

Ben Starav last year was the trip that brought the joy of the hills back to me and looking at it again I feel just the same. A perfect evening and a full memory card to prove it.
Damn, this blog is getting big and fat.
Alright!

7

April 7th, 2014 by PTC* | 3 Comments »

California Jam 6/4/74

Forty years ago today 17 million people descended onto Ontario Motor Speedway in California to see one of the shows that has become a solid gold music legend.
The lineup from breakfast onwards was Rare Earth - Earth, Wind & Fire - The Eagles - Seals & Crofts - Black Oak Arkansas – Black Sabbath - Deep Purple - Emerson, Lake & Palmer.
ELP and Purple were co headliners and this was Purple with David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes. The then new Burn album is a Purple classic but one of the interesting things about the California Jam footage is watching Hughes vocally torch Coverdale every time he step ups to the mic.
Richie Blackmore had a crazy day, trashing gear and allsorts while Keith Emerson spun through the air with his piano. It’s all on youTube and worth seeking out. Black Sabbath were there as special guests and were a bit out of shape having been sitting at home doing coke and mandies for a few months but they played a blinder, even with a clean shaven Tony Iommi.
Those were the days. Let’s hope Hyde Park in July is another one.

PS I know it wasn’t 17 million people.

CJ74a

April 6th, 2014 by PTC* | 3 Comments »

Curse of the Black Spot

I have no camera. The LX5 is a paperweight and the LX3 is in the repair shop getting the black spot taken off its lens. It’s in almost every shot from the Torridon trip in the top right of the frame, I’d hoped it was dust on the sensor, but after a play at home I knew it was the horror of mold inside the lens. Maybe because it was lying in a drawer so long and it’s er, lived a life anyway.
On the LX3 this means a complete strip down, which I’d researched first and was prepared for. Might take a couple of weeks, they’ll do their best.
So, I have no camera. I have one set of photies already done for a review that I can write up and that’s it. I’m looking at something new, but that won’t be til some customers pay me first.

The LX3 was my first digital and first proper camera, so I’m glad it’s coming back, but it feels odd right now not having a camera at all. I’ve got used to all the good stuff it brought with it.
Sigh.

April 5th, 2014 by PTC* | No Comments »

Oscar Marzaroli

Just watched a cracking programme about Oscar Marzaroli on BBC2. His photies are iconic and famous for capturing real life moments in Scotland, I suppose Glasgow in particular, but as the same time elevating the subjects in intangible ways.
OM1Children playing in the street in become a voice for their generation telling tales on life long gone, grinning shipyard welders show relaxed pride and confidence in what they’re doing in an era that’s long since had luxury flats built across it.

His Highland work does what only non-mountain folk can do – show the mountains in a different way. I love that, but all of his work speaks to me in some way. I remember some of what he captured when it was still there, plenty more I remember as stories from parents or grandparents.

Times were hard, aren’t they always, but seeing the community spirit, defiance even in the face of the sweeping changes imposed upon it by successive short sighted local authorities is something to marvel at, admire and maybe wish it was still here before modern town planning destroyed it and the virtual online community moved in to replace it.

It’s good to see the world in black in white sometimes.

April 1st, 2014 by PTC* | 3 Comments »

Kit that broke, kit that didnae, and other stuff before I forget.

While hardly and epic endurance test of equipment, there’s some stuff that deserves a mention.

On my back is a new arrival which is making its first trip, the Boreas Buttermilks 40. I’d seen the press releases, and when I saw it in the courier box I raised an eyebrow as it looks a bit like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle in this colourway. But, when I looked at the detail I was interested, when I loaded it I was pleased and after using it I’m have to stop myself enthusing out of proportion to my experience of the pack.
The Buttermilks felt just right from the off and I’ll come back to it in a wee while once I’m sure. It’s not perfect, this I know already, but still, yes please.

The Alpkit Kraku stove was okay. I like the general design, it’s vulnerable to wind but it’s stable enough in its own right and it’s great for hiding in a pot with a bigger sized gas canister.
Long overdue is the Haglöfs Ulta in Windstoper Softshell. You might think it was the colour that attracted me, the purple never made it to production and the, but it’s actually a brilliant jacket which I’ve worn a lot. Soft with a good stretch, quick drying time and great features and it was perfect in the conditions last week. It’s a cool or cold weather jacket but vents well enough that I can wear it back down to the roadside.
Great pockets, mountain hood, velcro cuffs that push well up my forearms, pitzips, nice. Available in black or blue. Christ.

The trousers are an oddball, sample X-Bionic Mountain Pants that I rediscovered when I was packing. I don’t think they ever made it to the shops, in the UK anyway probably due to the scary price, but they’re brilliant. Great fit, nice tapered legs that don’t flap around and attract mud, clever pockets, fancy rear yoke that keeps your lower back dry and fabric that’s a nice mix of stretch, toughness, breathability and quick drying.
I’m keeping these handy this time.

The Alite Monarch Chair was fun. It was also completely fit for purpose, I could have sat there rocking as the sun set all night. It won’t be right for or taken on every trip, but it’ll be seen a lot, it makes me smile and keeps my arse off the damp ground.

Well seen on here the past few months has been the Berghaus Ramche Hydro Down Jacket. My bright green model has been on every trip and more since November last year and it has indeed been rained on, stuffed, slept it, compressed to death and it’s still getting picked all despite my initial skepticism.
I’ll have a review of the Ramche and the Mount Asgard Hybrid Jacket which Joycee nicked when it came in. These came in for test for the Mournes trip last year, we got them in Celtic and Rangers training top colours.
Yes, there were comments.

The tent deserves a special thought. The Force Ten Helium 100 Carbon was hung out today and I went over the whole thing looking at the damage. The pole broke at one of the joints, a pretty clean snap too, no carbon weave delamination or jagged shards although the force of the wind was enough to push the broken end through the tent sleeve. This damage is nothing though, I wouldn’t even bother fixing it.
Some guys lines were trashed as the end of the tent thrashed around but there was no damage to the tabs on the fly or inner. The same end had a hole ground through the floor where it was over a rock, the constant movement gave it no change. I can get my had through the hole, but it’s fixable.
That’s about it, no fabric tears to burst stitching, although it was straining, some of the taping on the fly has delaminated in areas of no concern, again at the end where all the damage was.
As odd as it might seem, I feel more confident in the Helium seeing how it coped, I’ve got a dozen other tents here that wouldn’t have survived the night. The pole’s been replaced already, I took the aluminium one out of the old Helium and it fit just fine. It’ll be back on the hill at some point.

Plenty more gear coming and the trips to use it. Skye, Glen Affric, a Black Mount traverse, Torridon again, Ben’s Hope, Loyal and Klibreck, the Cairngorms (really), Assynt and some closer to home favourites.
Can’t wait.

 

March 31st, 2014 by PTC* | 4 Comments »

Reunion Tour

The report came back that to repair my LX5 would be £180, it was the wee motor that operates the lens, I can hear the broken part rattling around inside the camera. In fully operational condition they’re going for less than that on ebay. The LX5 has further part to play in my story.
I still needed shots, so I was looking for a previously undiscovered box of cash under the bed to fund my long planned camera upgrade or I was taking my intermittently functional LX3 to Torridon.

What the hell, the old camera fit the zeitgeist, I was going in the Ka. The Ford Ka came about when the truck was off the road for repairs earlier in the year and the hire charges for wheels for a couple of weeks were far more than the cost a neighbours old car which was otherwise headed to the scrappy. The £100 Ka has ran faultlessly for two months with some running repairs by Jimmy who likes that kind of thing.
So with a boot full of kit, and I mean full as the boot’s the same size as a rucksack, a poly bag full of old tapes for the cassette player I hit the road with time to spare.
Imagine that.

I was blasting out an old Saxon compilation I’d pulled out of the bag, it was a lottery as none of the tapes were marked. I even found some tapes of gigs from my band back in the early 90′s. I was a far better guitarist back then but a much worse singer, I’ll lay part of the blame on the smoky clubs we played in back then which shredded my voice pretty quick. Must be great singing in clean air these days.
Saxon took me to the Glen Coe cafe where my ringing ears – a combination of back axle noise and heavy metal – needed a rest and breakfast. The clouds had been light and mostly high on the way up, it looked like it would clear.

A quick stop at Ft Bill for food was amusing. A pastry and a wee bottle of Banrock Station Chiraz fro Morrisons was easy, getting some dehydrated food from Ellis Brigham wasn’t.
“Hi, I was looking for some camp food…” I asked as I rooted around the camping kit shelves looking confused.
“Tinned food? Morrisons?” Was the reply.
“Freeze dried, dehydrated, dinner in a bag, just looking for a main meal?”
“Eh…” Said the wee lassie who joined us “I think there’s a box of that stuff in the corridor…”
There was. Awesome.
Every visit to the Ft Bill EB feels like I’m caught in a hidden camera stunt.

The road ahead brought more joy. Kintail will always be special to me, memories and the hills too, today it was crowned with a little cloud and looked spectacular. Beinn Bhan was clear, unlike when I camped on it a wee while back, dammit.
Torridon was draped in high cloud, the light was grey and the hills were flat and my heart sank a little, even the discovery of Judas Priest’s Sin After Sin album on a tape didn’t suppress the feeling of joy trickling away. Of all the places to have crap weather.

But, as I fannyed around choosing socks and chocolate, grey or tan, Bourneville or Terry’s Chocolate Orange? – nightmare – the sky cleared a little, the cool breeze that threaded through the trees was blowing the grey away.
The initial climb is through Scots Pine where the rhoddies are being cleared. The tall branchless trunks are punctuated by fire pits where the rhoddie roots have been dug up and burnt, blackened craters with rising wisps of smoke. It was every inch a scene from the First World War. Unsettling.

It all goes fairy woodland quite quickly, a waterfall, a really nice one too, frustratingly difficult to see unless you want to take a machete to the shrubbery, the pines take on a more twisted shape as they become higher and more exposed to the weather. The path swings effortlessly through the magical scene as snow streaked slopes are glimpsed through gaps ahead.
Suddenly the forest slips off your shoulders and in clear air you are ringed by mountain shapes. Behind are the giants, Beinn Alligin, Liathach and Beinn Eighe. Almost cloudless now, their slopes glowing in the afternoon light. Ahead seemed more thrilling, Maol Chean-dearg’s seemingly unattainable summit looming through the bealach while my ulimate goal poked it’s buttressed snowy nose past the ridge ahead. Beinn Damh was a good choice.
The sun reflected off the snow and lit the still autumnal coloured slopes in a flash of warm tones. I couldn’t feel the cold wind, I was moving as fast as I could and my brain didn’t have space for it anyway, too much to look at.

The ridge arrives sooner than expected and a wander to the far side is worth the extra steps. Little broken pinnacles and steep slopes tumble down to the loch as Beinn Bhan dominates the view. Light shimmered on the water which is everywhere, sea, river and loch to the little summit lochans which sparkle into life from miles away. I always want to visit them, more than distant summits, something special about sitting by a high lochan at dusk, the lapping water is soothing, it slows you down and makes the sunset slower, and I’d even say it makes the colours brighter.
But not today, I still had a wee way to go, not steep, but rocky and in the early evening’s golden light utterly glorious. I pulled up my hood as the fast passing air cooled me and headed into the boulder field.

I watched my feet as they picked through or over the rocks and it’s something I’ve watched all my life. But now and then, when I don’t feel pressure, when my mind’s not elsewhere, when it’s all about where and when I’m at, those feet could be from 1992, 1975, 1986, the simple timeless pleasure of walking in the mountains, it’s a thread running through my life and every trip makes a knot that when I run a finger down the thread and feel that knot it triggers a memory or a feeling and I’m there again. 
When I’m not able to do this anymore and I close my eyes and think of my countless days in the hills I’ll see my feet taking the next step before I see any of those summit views or sunsets.

The summit was just over the coire, short descent, stiff climb and what the hell, I’ll do it tomorrow. I’d added over an hour to the ascent stopping and looking, taking photies and grinning, all very tiring so I was ready for dinner.
There was a grassy spot between a snow bank (water supply, yay!) and the rock garden with a shallow angle and sea views from the door. I got to unpacking and pitching.
Pitching was interesting, the grass was no thicker than a shagpile carpet, but my titanium nails got hammered in and there they stayed too.

Everything got sorted, the stove went on, I sat in my chair and watched the sun slowly sink through ribbons of cloud turning from orange to rust to crimson to purple. The Torridon giants glowed pink behind me and as the sun slipped away, fingers of low cloud crept over their ridges from the north and east, looks like the cloud invasion had been waiting for darkness, and as you know that’s when clouds are at their most dangerous, their night vision is even better than an owl.

I opened my wine and toasted the world with a Wish you were here via twitter. I’m used to being alone in the hills, but somehow it didn’t seem right that I was alone on this night, it had been a beautiful evening and it deserved to be shared.
But it was getting colder and windier, a moonless sky had its stars muted by a light haze and it was time to retreat inside, get cozy and listen to some music, it would be a long night.

A wee snooze was just right, but I woke dry mouthed and hungry so I had a drink and a snack, then I thought I’d better nip out for a pee. It was very cold now, the tent was frosted and the twinkling lights on Skye and along Loch Carron seemed awfy far away. I turned back to the tent and something on the northeast skyline caught my eye. I watched for a while, it was hazy and very dark but a green shape slowly fluxed in the far distance. My eyes got sharper as my night vision kicked in, still never as good as the cloud soldiers of course, but I watched for a while. I set up the camera and stood beside it to shelter it, the wind was strong enough to blow the tripod straight over. The 60 second exposure looked completely black on the camera screen and under coercion by editing back at home it looks like a psychedelic experience, but after checking with Aurora Watch it had indeed been a wee flash of the Northern Lights.
Nice.

The wind picked up. The tent rattled, it shook, nothing I’m not used to, I snuggled down into my bag, the music would win over the rattling. But on it went, it got louder, the tent got more mobile and while not worried, I was getting resigned to having less sleep that I needed or wanted.
I have no idea what time it was when it happened, I was too busy trying to stand up outside and attach an extra guyline to keep the tent on the ground to look at my watch. The pole had snapped clean through and then came through the fabric channel on the outside. The tent rippled at high speed making it hard to keep a hold of, but to my great relief the pegs held it firm to the ground despite the pressure from above trying to tear it away from the hill.
The wind was ferocious.
My lash up kept the tent where it was but it was in bad shape, I lay by the door and counted the minutes until it was light enough to pack and run like hell.

It got lighter outside and with it came the snow. I jammed the broken pole across my shoulder to give me enough height to pack inside but my legs and pack were sticking out the open door and that let the snow blow inside. What a difference a day makes.
I ate some cheese and oatcakes and drank some chilled water, with no hope of getting the stove on it was as good as it was getting for breakfast. Everything packed, I just had to get the tent down.
I could barely stand up, the wind tore past me, desperate to rip the tent from the ground and throw me face first into the boulders but I kept low and mostly in cotrol of my direction. I pulled the pegs out one at a time and stuffed the tent into my pack as best I could.

There was no question of going on to the summit, that was asking for trouble and I wasn’t waiting it out up here to see if things got better, it was time to go.
It got better as I dipped down to the west, but I never looked back and second guessed my decision on trying for the top. I could see how fast the cloud was still moving.
I got back to the coire rim and it all seemed better, I was out of the wind, it was brighter to the west and I had warmed up. I took off some clothes and went back to my plan, descending the ridge on the east side of the coire that no one seems to know is there.

Happy again, I clambered the rocks and enjoyed the views, a spring back in my step. Liathach was crowned with cloud, to the east was deep grey, almost dusk like, but I was in a pool of brightness that took in Loch Torridon and Beinn Alligin.
I was hungry though, I could have stopped and unpacked for breakfast, but the cooking gear needed cleaned after rolling around the tent porch getting full of heather and grit and then getting stuffed away haphazardly. I’d be at the road in an hour at most and then 30 seconds from the inn and some sit-down hot and tasty. It was all good.

I met various folks of their way up and they all had time to stop and chat. They were all smiles and enthusiasm and it brightened me further, any thoughts of my trip being cut short and somehow being a failure were left behind. There was too much good found and being taken home for this being anything but a win.

A change of clothes and I suddenly didn’t smell like sweaty damp down anymore. I turned the corner into the Torridon Inn and smiled at the lassie, “Do you do breakfast?” I knew they did, the sign said food all day, but it’s nice to be polite.
No she said, breakfast finished at ten. Lunch wasn’t for two hours and that was that.
Oh well. Can I have some info on the inn and the hotel, telephone numbers, what kinds of accommodation do you have? I’m writing a wee piece on the area.
Sudden change in interest level.
Oh, I could have a word with the chef, get you a roll on bacon?
Hmm.

I hit the road to Kinlochewe looking for fuel and breakfast. Having to drive by the sunkist slopes of Liathach and Beinn Eighe was no great hardship and the former goal achieved with a smile and some banter, the latter lay just around the corner at the Whistle Stop Cafe.
I went in the door and looked around hoping that the place was open and fully functional and that the format was obvious, counter service/table service etc, these things should be written large when you go into somewhere so you don’t shuffle awkwardly looking for inspiration. But I had no time to think about any of that, a jolly faced lassie at the nearest of several tables full of folks immediately piped up “Hello, how are you?” Hungry was the honest one word answer I couldn’t stop from coming out, but it was at least delivered with a smile.
The lassie was the owner, she stood up with a laugh and orders of “Let’s sort this man out!”
I was sat on the couch at the back next to the log burning stove and I was so relieved I could have sobbed into the sleeve of my purple hoody. I had porridge with honey and sliced banana, a scone with cream and jam, orange juice and a cuppa. I had time to relax, look through my photies and wish I had got the sensor cleaned on the old camera, that dirt spot is going to take ages to ‘shop out when it’s in the sky. I just adored the place and the breakfast I had there.

It’s nice to know the good folks are still out there, the Highland welcome is alive and well.

It was a long way home, but I had plenty time and took a different road. It’s interesting driving the old battered Ka, no matter how fast you’re going, folk will not sit behind you, it’s as if it’s a personal insult to their social standing and character that they have to sit behind my burgundy bubble car. I lost count of the suicidal/homicidal moves folks made to get past me and then drive at the same speed or slower – their nerves shattered but honour satisfied as they were no in their rightful place.
These dumb bastards made the afternoon fly by. As did Bobby Harrison’s Funkist album that I found a tape of. Where the hell did that one come from?!

It didn’t go as planned at all, it went better. I wouldn’t change any of it and I’m now watching the forecast again.
I suppose I will have to change the tent for that right enough.

March 30th, 2014 by PTC* | 15 Comments »

The Long Goodbye?

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March 30th, 2014 by PTC* | 2 Comments »

Older, Wiser, Fuzzier

I wasn’t supposed to be home so soon, but since my home away from home got demolished to make way for a bypass as I slept in it, here I am. What joy there has been, the widening grin below is proof of that.

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March 29th, 2014 by PTC* | No Comments »

Conic Screwdriver

Sometimes things work out just right, the Trail that’s in the shops has a route I wrote for Conic Hill above Balmaha on Loch Lomond which was the result of a quick schedule change. It was perfect as I know the hill so well, I’d just climbed it again so knew my facts were already up to date and I got to push a proper gem to the front of the queue for a wee while.
Conic almost always pops its head through an inversion and the views from it are epic, nothing less. I was properly enthused writing this one, I suppose I always am really, but this one is special cos it’s local and the route isn’t what most folk do, it’s got my own regular way up, down and around.
Magic, go climb it.

March 26th, 2014 by PTC* | 6 Comments »

Northern Alight

The north east of Scotland has no mountains except Bennachie, but it has beaches. It looks like I’ve become a beach bum, but that’s just coincidence, give me a couple of days or so, there’s something else cooking.
There’s plenty more great stuff up around there of course, including family for us, and that’s where we’ve been. A wedding, a golden wedding and much meeting and greeting.
And driving.

It all went well, there was a genuine joy threaded through it all with a poignancy too which needed no explanation on the day. Bonds forged or renewed, smiles genuine or borrowed, embraces warm or courteous and in amongst it all many folks that it was so good to see.
I was pleased and glad or both on many occasions through the visit and I won’t leave it so long again.

We did have time to hit the beach. Cold despite the sun and with a wind that whipped the dry sand grains across the beach like a psychotic twitching curtain. Glorious.

March 26th, 2014 by PTC* | 2 Comments »

Kit that broke, kit that didnae, and other stuff before I forget.

There’s been a bunch of test kit that started it’s life last autumn and had to take a wee holiday away from the hills with me. Sandwood was a wee refresher for some it, so some words, photies and reviews to come.

Joycee’s test pack the past year has been the Osprey Ariel 55. It’s got the usual endless adjustments that Osprey packs have which caused some grumbling along with the unladen weight, so we’ll see what she says. Joycee spend more nights in tents during her project work last year than I did, so she knows her mind on this one.

I’ve been using a second generation prototype of the Vango Canyon 50 pack. It’s basic, stripped down in a climbing pack way more than a lightweight backpacking way and it’s a great fit on me. It’s better than the first version I tried, the fixed lid works better and the back system is spot on. Weight and comfort are good, you can throw away the raincover to gain an extra wee pocket and the big mesh pockets are brilliant.
Scary cheap in the shops these are, but no, you can’t get it in the purple, this is the only one.

This one photie above will have to cover many testing things, lots of which are in there but you can’t see them.

The red bowl belongs to the Primus Eta Express which has been very interesting indeed. Coming back to it was a good thing as we used if for boil in the bag for the first time and it turned out to be very stable on just the sand.
It’s not perfect though, there one very daft bit of design, but it’s not as big and bulky as I once thought, and it’s bloody quick.

My sleepkit is a Thermarest combo, an Altair down sleeping bag and a NeoAir XTherm matt. Over-specced for the 2degC on this camp, but elsewhere a work of genius. Little shades of a top bag’s stability but without cold spots. Love it.

The tent disappearing below is a Force Ten Argon 200 which is the first 2-person tent I’ve on test for years. The extra bulk and long poles makes packing more careful than usual but there’s plenty space for two to live in comfort, especially if it’s the misses. Pitching is easy once you’ve done it once and this thing is rock solid.

A wee bookmark, more coming up.

March 20th, 2014 by PTC* | 3 Comments »