Category Archives: 2011

A Gentle Stroll up an Inclined Path

IF VIEWING THIS POST FROM OCTOBER 10 2012 – PLEASE COMMENT BELOW TO LET ME KNOW WHERE YOU HEARD OF IT.  THERE HAS BEEN SUDDEN INTEREST AND I’M CURIOUS AS TO WHY.  MANY THANKS….KEN :D

The monochrome fiasco that was last week’s main feature has seen ratings plummet here at The Fatdog Broadcasting Corporation.  In an attempt to halt the catastrophic decline in viewing figures our intrepid production team has taken the proverbial bull by the horns (and other parts of its anatomy liable to cause a somewhat more intense, debilitating, pain) and once more limped, hobbled and lurched out into the wilderness that is rural Perthshire to bring you, the viewer, those much sought after autumn colours.  Or, putting it another way - “at this time of year Perthshire is ablaze in shades of red, brown and gold as leaves fall and glorious autumn takes hold.

We opted not to go hillwalking, The Fatdog and I.  We merely set our step up a continually inclined path.

The sub-tropical jungle of rural Pethshire…it was about 2 deg C.

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The local “Posh House”

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The Editor had thought that the “coal face” jobs were a thing of the past.

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“Ahem…at this time of year Perthshire is ablaze in shades of red, brown and gold as leaves fall and glorious autumn takes hold. “

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We don’t just bring you technicolour here at The Fatdog Broadcasting Corporation. Oh no!

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Having reached our vantage point and scoffed a couple of brioche rolls filled with duck paté it was time to wander back to the car.  Much to our surprise the remainder of our walk continued in a downwards direction.

So…which hill did we not climb?  Anyone?

The Fatdog’s Century

I’m not going to pretend I was looking forward to White Coomb, because I wasn’t.  I was expecting it to be boring.  This is probably very unfair of me given I’ve never walked in the Southern Uplands…but I’ve always thought of the hills there as being dull compared with their northerly cousins.  The view from road level reminds me of travel sickness as a youngster.  Every time we travelled south along those narrow rolling roads; through green rolling hills; my desperately rolling stomach complained bitterly.   It’s funny how some things stick in your mind…even after almost 50 years.

Anyway, I’d picked White Coomb because it was easy.  As far as I could make out from what others had written there were no fences and no signs telling dogs to “Sod Off!”.  Given I’ve never met a dog who can read, I’m not sure how useful these signs actually are.  The Fatdog swears she can’t read but I’ve never seen her visit the “Gents” by accident. 

So…an easy hill and no obvious obstacles thus making it a prime candidate for a pair of hill walkers whose capabilities are becoming increasingly variable as time wears on.  After years of putting off walks because my legs weren’t quite right I’ve finally caged that demon.  Early retirement is a grand thing: I’m now more relaxed about the leg situation and just head out regardless.  I must point out however, that his is not necessarily the cleverest decision I’ve come to in the past few years but it can add a certain frisson to proceedings. 

While I’ve been hobbling off and on this month The Fatdog has been doing likewise.  Like me, she seems to have good days and bad days…but never a bad day when a hill walk is on the cards…funny that.  So, today’s big question was – while there was a good chance we would make it up the hill…would we make it back down?

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The Grey Mare's Tail car park - the ascent path can be seen crossing the hill opposite

From the Grey Mare’s Tail car park the path up the east side of the waterfall was clearly visible – as were the sheep.  That meant the lead for Maisie and at least an hour of me being yanked up the hill by an enthusiastic Fatdog.  She does like her hillwalking.  But fate opted to intervene in the shape of four other travellers with whom we were to meet up fairly regularly on the ascent.  We let the four man sheep plough head up in front and clear the trail of the woolly munchers who, on cue, disappeared into the deep bracken muttering as they went.  This allowed Maisie to be de-hitched and me to insert my right arm back into its socket.

The Grey Mare's Tail

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The Fatdog waits patiently as the "sheep plough" clears the trail in front

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Other critters inhabit these hills

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While The Fatdog doesn't mind goats cheese...she reckons goat pie would be a far superior dish

As we moved past the gorge formed by the waterfall the gradient eased and the terrain either side of the winding path became more lumpy.  We had passed our human sheep repellent having a break some minutes before and had now reached the southern edge of Loch Skeen.  What a view!  We had a short break for numerous photos.  Our “not quite” travelling companions caught up and kindly took a shot of The Fatdog and I at this most stunning of locations.

We reach the most scenic part of the walk...Loch Skeen

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The tail end of the "sheep plough" disappears round the bend - Lochcraig Head in the background

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Ain't that pretty!

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Loch Skeen

There was a near reluctance to move on.  While this section of the walk had been a pleasure I was aware the next section taking us to the foot of Lochcraig Head would be less so…and it proved to be a lot less so.  Here’s a view looking down on it from Lochcraig Head.  The “path” led along the loch side (left hand side as you look at the photo).  But what lay to the east were the peat hags.  Now there’s terrain you really don’t want to have to cross.

Walking "Hell" to the left of the photo

It was wet.

It was muddy.

It was up and down.

It was treacherous underfoot.

It was hell.

…and that was just the path, such as it was.

A couple of times we headed away from the loch edge to find a route to the wall that we could see in the distance beyond the bog.  If there was a path we managed to miss it and so kept stumbling back to the shore and towards the rising grassy ground at the end of the loch.  We must have been a couple of hundred metres from the end of the mire when my right leg, which had been a bit dodgy all week, flailed due to a misstep down a hollow in the peat and twinged alarmingly.  I discovered that hobbling and bog trotting are two functions which to not marry well together.

I briefly considered the options.  It didn’t take long.  Although we were only one third into the walk there was no way I was going back along that loch side with a dodgy leg.  It would be much easier biting the bullet and making the relatively easy climb up the south slope of Lochcraig Head and complete the planned round, limping or otherwise.  As it happened the ache eased off (as it nearly always does) and we carried out a ponderous rising traverse across the south face of Lochcraig Head until we reached the stone wall which we would follow across the top of the hill.  There we met up with the sheep plough who had managed to find a way through the bog to meet the wall at a lower level.

The "sheep plough" forges on up the steep grassy slope towards the east spur of Lochcraig Head

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The Fatdog introduces herself to (from left to right) Ed, Mick and Des

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Looking back down the length of the wall to the bog below

While The Fatdog scampered up the hill behind her new found friends I was left to plod behind, contemplating how much easier I used to find ascents.  I was grateful when the gradient eased on reaching the hills east spur.

The view east (looking back down the east spur) was amazing - sadly the photo doesn't do it justice

The top of Lochcraig Head is a rounded lump but a wander south from the summit allows a good view down onto Loch Skeen (earlier photo showing the extent of the bog).  From here the plan was to head for White Coomb via the summits of Firthybrig Head, Donald’s Cleuch Head and Firthhope Rig.   From now on it would be about following the wall which joined up the various tops.

Ed on Firthybrig Head with Lochcraig Head in the background.

After the steep…ish drop from Lochcraig Head followed by the brief ascent of Firthybrig Head, it was time for lunch.  This is the point where the sheep plough made its first mistake of the day.  Billy, Des, Ed and Mick sat down beside me and FD and opened their rucksacks…

…the Fatdog enjoyed lunch.

Deprived of lunch by the ravenous Fatdog the hungry "snow plough" decide they're as well pushing on to White Coomb

It was a gentle amble from our lunch spot on Firthybrig Head, across the intervening bumps, to White Coomb.  In fact it was so gentle I was surprised by our sudden arrival at the summit and kept looking around for the rest of the ascent.  Where the hell had it gone?  There has to be more!

My puzzlement was set aside.  The Fatdog had completed her 100th Marilyn and was, most charitably, treated to a round of applause by the unfortunate lunch-less sheep plough.

The Fatdog's 100th Marilyn!

We picked up a trail which followed a wall leading us back downhill via Rough Crags (White Coomb’s east spur) to the Tail Burn.  It was, in parts, a steep descent.

The Fatdog watches the "sheep plough" scuttle off down the easy slope to Rough Crags - still wondering if there is anything edible left in the rucksacks that she'd missed

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Des contemplates the steeper section of Rough Crags

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Time out for Billy and Mick after the steep section of Rough Crags

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The last shot looking back up Rough Crags before the crossing of the Tail Burn

That only left a wee spot of paddling across Tail Burn to be done before taking the main path down past the Grey Mare’s Tail back to the car.  The burn crossing resulted in soggy bums for those who opted to splash across with their boots and gaiters on.  Des and I opted to remove the footwear, roll up the trouser legs and paddle sedately across the 3m wide stream.  A very sensible…and dry…solution.  The Fatdog ambled across totally nonplussed by the whole experience.

Almost back at The Tank

It had been a leisurely stroll taking us less than 6 hours in total.  This included tea stops, lunch and a lot of blethering.  The sun shone for the whole walk and as a result I have a line across my forehead where the sunburn ended and the bandana began, but it would be churlish to complain given the paucity of decent days this past few weeks.

Route shown in green

So, rather than being bored by our first foray into the Southern Uplands, I thoroughly enjoyed our amble around the White Coomb circuit.  As a result I’m actually looking forward to our future trips down the M74.  Wonder what we’ll do next?

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For Those Who Like Photos – Here’s the Flickr Slide Show.  :D

Once you’ve started the slideshow – click the icon in the bottom right corner to see the slide show FULL SIZE – definitely worth it.  :D

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My thanks to Sheila who discovered this little gem of a code.

Blood on the Track

A “Tail” of Gore, Riots…and High Speed Tickers

There had been regular spots of dried-in blood dotting the larger stones of the path most of the way from the woodland up into the corrie.  The rust coloured drops had become increasingly frequent as we tracked our quarry ever upward.  Now all three of us were staring at a large splurge of crusting gore that covering the full width of the narrow track.  The Fatdog’s big black nose nose edged closer. 

“Thur’s bin a murdur!”

We assumed the injured beast, whatever it was, had stopped to rest before continuing.  Where was it going? Other than the notorious scree up to “The Window” there was no apparent easy route out.  What I mean to say is that there was no apparent easy route out for hobbling humans.  I certainly didn’t fancy a day out clambering these steep slopes but I’m sure the creatures inhabiting this narrow glen wouldn’t have had the same restrictive thoughts.  There was however an irksome puzzle that required to be solved.  Why was one of them, albeit clearly losing blood, following the man made path rather than breaking off to either side to lie low in the heather? 

Because it was already dead…obviously.

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The Journey from Aberarder to Lochan a Choire 

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Picking up the “Tail”…

We eventually found a short, 200mm long tyre track on a soft spot on the path.  It was the only one we’d discovered on the whole 6km of it’s length, so hard was the surface.  A new picture began to develop.  It looks like our injured animal was more than likely one that had been shot, the blood spots dripping from the carcass as it was driven down the path off the hill.  This would explain the infrequent traces on the lower section of the path, increasing in frequency the further into the corrie we travelled.  Mystery solved we completed the easy walk in from the car park at Aberarder to the steep, scree covered, trudge up into The Window.

Just before Lochan a Choire we were overtaken by a young couple off to “tick” Creag Meagaidh.  Wish they hadn’t used the word “tick” – Cap’n Jack finds this expression offensive in the extreme.  As far as he’s concerned it does a disservice to the amazing scenery the hills have to offer and smacks of obsession.  He began to mutter…darkly.  They stopped for a bite to eat at the lochan…and then passed me again on my way up to The Window.  You will note the word “my” in that last sentence.

I had been left behind.  Cap’n Jack and The Fatdog marched effortlessly up the steep meandering track through the scree as I plodded…step by very  s-l-o-w step.  By the time they reached “opening” of The Window I was at least 5 minutes behind.  It seemed ironic that todays targets had been based on what we thought FD might be able to do given her recent stiffness.   The Fatdog was far less stiff than I.

Hmm...suddenly my legs have felt better

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...and so I'm to be left behind...by some way as it turned out.

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...and on they march

Eventually  I reached The Window to find that Cap’n Jack had already scouted the area for a lunch spot.   All I wanted to do was sit and eat.  To make my misery complete…it began to rain.  A chilly breeze funneled through The Window and I hoped the Cap’n had found a sheltered nook for our snack.  As it happened…he had.  Gratefully I began to tuck into lunch but off to my left I could hear Cap’n Jack muttering his views on the subject of culling speeding tickers, as he watched the young couple fly up a short cut towards Creag Meagaidh.

The muttering begins

As usual my legs felt much better after something to eat and as I slung my pack onto my back I glanced upwards to find that Cap’n Jack had chosen the picnic spot – most likely to be hit by rockfall!  And the notice at the visitor centre was concerned about meteorite strikes!

That which lurked above our lunch spot!

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They obviously hadn't heard about Cap'n Jack's ability to suss out good picnic areas

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Looking back through The Window

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Note the fencepost...why? And yes, there's one on the crag opposite.

The Creag Meagaidh round is generally a 3 Munro walk but the additional 3.5km required to complete all three put the walk close to 20km and out of The Fatdog’s current range.  We opted for the shorter circular route taking in Stob Poite Coire Ardair and Carn Liath leaving Creag Maigaidh for another day.  FD seemed to be moving well but I reckoned she’d be pretty tired by the time we hit the descent.

The ascent onto our first Munro of the day, Stob Poite Coire Ardair, was a tame affair with a gentle path running up from the bealach and we quickly reached the flat topped summit.  It was chilly for August and layer after layer was being pulled on.  The discussion now centered on the fact that we’d worn less in winter.  But weather wise we seemed to be in luck.  Low cloud was bypassing our ridge and drifting across Loch Laggan to the south.

Looking west to Creag Meagaidh

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The last patch of winter snow

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Looking down into Lochan a Choire

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On Stob Poire Coire Ardair

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FD with Loch Laggan in the background

This week the news was dominated by rioting city dwellers south of the border, something we don’t experience much of in our slow moving part of the world.  Given that it appeared to be fashionable we felt we should make some effort to comply with the latest trends.  So, we picked up a few rocks and hurled them at whatever we could find, which happened to be…a few rocks.  This was a wholly unsatisfying experience making us wonder what all the fuss was about.  We decided to try our hand at looting instead.  So, we looted…yes, a few rocks, but soon got fed up carrying around the extra weight.  This left us the option of arson, but given all we had to work with were rocks, we concluded that rioting just wasn’t for us…being fashionable was just too much hard work.

Here we have your typical mountain rioter

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...and here we have a totally unimpressed Fatdog

No sooner had we started on our way to Carn Liath than the young couple (mentioned earlier) screamed past us on their way to ticking off their 3rd Munro of the day.  Cap’n Jack was near apoplectic as they disappeared into the distance with thoughts of rioting making a speedy return.  They were moving so quickly (and us ahem – so slowly) that we eventually lost sight of them, even though you can see for miles along the wide rolling ridgeline between the two Munros.  Still we were having a very enjoyable amble, there being little by way of ascent and descent between the two hills.   But the weather was slowly closing in.

The next section of our walk: Stob Poite Coire Ardair to Carn Liath (far right)

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On the ridge...spot the tickers

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Cloud over Creag Meagaidh

The cairn at Carn Liath provided shelter from the drizzle that was becoming a little more persistent.  Cloud was now spilling across Creag Meagaidh to our west and heading our direction.  Time for us to head back to The Tank.

The inevitable problem when one stops for a snack

On reflection I reckon we should have headed a few hundred metres back towards Stob Poite Coire Ardair before dropping on to Carn Liath’s south spur.  It would have saved crossing a number of scree streams as we cut diagonally across the south face of the hill.  Something for others to bear in mind.

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Route Note:

Once at the obvious spur the path is fairly clear…then seems to almost vanish.  It does exist but it pays to keep a close eye on it as it appears, at times, to be no more than an animal trail.  If you happen to be taking this way down remember to head around the east side of the first knoll then cut back west between this first knoll and the second, lower, knoll.  This brings you onto the west side of the spur where the trail is a bit more obvious. 

Now past the knolls on the south spur we head down towards the woodland

Then you have the joys of descending through the young native woodland.  There is a path…of sorts.  I’ve forgotten the description Cap’n Jack used for it…but it wasn’t flattering.  It was narrow, barely visible because of the vegetation, boggy, rocky and just generally feckin’ awkward.  On top of that  we were unlucky.  It was raining and had being doing so for at least an hour.  Best advice I can give is…bring a wetsuit.  The constant brushing through the dense young woodland ensured we were soaked through by the time we picked up the main path again, taking us back to Aberarder.

A part of the "generally feckin' awkward" path where it was possible to take a photo

By this time my legs were fine…Cap’n Jack was struggling a bit…and when I picked up the pace down the path the poor Fatdog was left a few metres behind.  It had been too big a day for her.  I slowed until she caught up.  Just as well we hadn’t attempted all three Munros.

Cap’n Jack’s day got worse when, having failed to perpetrate miscellaneous acts of evil on the bothersome “tickers”,  he discovered the gates of Dalwhinnie Distillery to be well and truly shut as we drove past.  Having been deprived of an anticipated quick visit, his disgruntled muttering lasted for some time.  It’s a long way from Loch Laggan to Larbert.

Well and truly shut

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My thanks to Cap’n Jack for the additional photos…those would be the ones with the most interesting subject material :D .

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Blackpadder goes Forth

How difficult can it be…

From the house, MrP’s 2 seater BMW knocked 8 minutes out of “The Tank” on the Cannonball Run from Larbert to Dalwhinnie.  Somewhat uncharitably I put that down to the fact that I had The Fatdog in the back which, let’s face it, would severely limit anybody’s chances of staying in touch on the near 100 mile run.  We rendezvoused at that most necessary of establishments…the Dalwhinnie Public Toilets.  For motorists having spent 100 miles avoiding post-snow potholes, I have no doubt this is an enormously popular stop off point…especially if bladders have any say in the matter. Continue reading Blackpadder goes Forth