Best laid plans of mice and men are destined to go awry


View from the Akto

The first winter camp of the season had been eagerly awaited with great anticipation therefore my working week couldn’t end quick enough which in turn was an added incentive to get through my workload.

Sunset over Lui

The plan……. was to head to Dalrigh near Tyndrum and take the route over the Allt Gleann Auchreoch  and through the beautiful Coille Coire Chuill Forest for the ridge of Beinn Dubchraig.

The morning started well up early and breakfasted on traditional porridge  the weather was overcast but fortunately no wind.

Wondering whats over the ridge

I set off around 7.30 however an hour into my journey there was a strange knocking coming through the steering column of my trusty van on inspection I found a large blister in the side wall of the front tyre now I would have to change this tyre for fear of a blow out. Why oh why do garages tighten wheel nuts so much making it nigh on impossible to release them by hand. After about an hour trying various ways to release the wheel nuts I finally succeeded and was back on the road.

claggy is an undertatement

Finally arriving at the car park at Dalrigh I was eager to kit up and be on my way.

The weather was surprisingly still with a slight drizzle as I headed up the approach path at the side of the West Highland railway.
An hour later and I had reached my first point of crossing the Allt Gleann Auchreoch but to my dismay the footbridge was down so an alternative crossing would have to be found.

After walking upstream there wasn’t a suitable crossing point to be found as the river was running high and fast I had contemplated shimmying up to the top of a tree and swaying it across to the other side and depositing myself on the riverbank Bear Grylls style but I was getting some looks of disdain from some local sheep as if to say don’t be so bloody stupid. Now to compound things even more the rain had started to come down in stair rods.

It was time to take stock and revise a new plan finding a relatively sheltered spot the coffee flask came out along with my map.

As time was against me now for setting up camp in daylight I decided to make tracks for Fiarach at 652m which I estimated should take me about an hour and a half to reach one of the flatter contours just under the summit. This is certainly a great deal smaller than my intended target of Beinn Dubchraig but it would give me views over to Dubchraig and Ben Lui.

An old friend The Akto

The rain had started to ease off 20 minutes into my ascent of Friarach however after the initial disappointment of turning away from my original route I was starting to enjoy this little hill.
My pitch was on a well manicured piece of grass at the edge of a contour below the summit. after clearing some of the local sheep s**t camp was set and my water supply was only 50m away just out of earshot for a quiet nights sleep.

Best laid plans of mice and men are destined to go awry
Dusk descending on Ben Lui

It was time to settle down for dinner after collecting water as the night started to descend it became increasingly colder so I opted to get into my sleeping bag for dinner. Organised not a chance I’m in the sleeping bag and all my provisions and cooking kit are still in my pack it’s just as well I am on my own and there’s no one to witness this escapade. Now to say the vestibule area of the Akto  is a disorganised mess is an understatement this would now require some serious tyding up in the morning.
I eventually got round to consuming dinner and upon clearing up picked up the stove you’ve guessed it it was still extremely hot I let out a roar that had all the local stags thinking it was rutting season.

The following morning I was up early and had a wee wander to the summit and exploration of how the land lay, it is quite an impressive hill although the weather was rather claggy and the wind had picked up bringing in some snow showers it was really enjoyable nonetheless. The views across to Beinn Dubchraig and Ben Lui were non existent.

After all the setbacks it was a fun little trip and I would have stayed another night if I had ample provisions.

Lessons learnt be prepared to adapt, and be more organised at meal times.

The End.

My Relationship with Depression and the Mountains.

It may have come to some of my fellow tweeters notice that I have just recently reappeared on the media site after some absence and to add this is my first post in over a year so please bear with me. I write this with great testament to @SmirnieOutdoors whom with great courage and eloquence has written on the subject of Depression herself as to which gave me the inspiration to come to terms publicly on the matter myself.

 I can only come at this from my perspective as to the attitudes of others and the medical profession in general and as I write this it is difficult  but hopefully cathartic in doing so and be of a benefit to others…

I have had this illness on and off for the past seven years and it can show itself in various forms which some people may not be aware of. My recent setback followed on from an injury I had in late 2012 whereupon I tore my medial ligament this laid me off hillwalking, running and biking for three months,  three months of inactivity, which set the course for the rest of the year.
Being self-employed   this of course made matters worse however when I became sufficiently mobile I had no option but to return to work.

My first noticeable sign of the onset of this episode arose in the form of an obsessive compulsive behaviour to fold clothing and have drawers cupboards etc as neat and tidy as they could possibly be to the point of driving my wife to distraction whats wrong with that I hear you say most wives or partners would be quite happy with someone being as tidy. But it does have an effect on all around you when your constantly replacing items to their original place especially when your wife has told you in the past of being a messy B*****d.

As I previously stated  it comes in many forms another of mine was art however a number of people associate it with someone taking themselves away  being introvert , not eating , sleeping, and generally dissociating themselves from family and we have all heard of the stories of sufferers dependant on alcohol drugs etc and one which is coming more to light nowadays is past abuse whether it be of a sexual or physical nature.

My first experience with my local GP regarding this illness wasn’t good he basically asked me to fill in a questionnaire which took all of two minutes had a quick look and prescribed anti depressant oh and come back in six months that was it.

This was the first time it had an effect on my going into the mountains  the will was there but that final motivation had gone and I desperately tried to get it back to the extent I would kit up drive half way to my destination and turn back, then would have that overwhelming guilt feeling of not completing my task. I was still reading mountain journals and following what was going on with different expeditions but my mojo had vanished.

My advice to anyone who is suffering silently is to talk to someone sometimes its better in my opinion to discuss it with a stranger whom has experienced it themselves and will understand where your coming from rather than a therapist that could be talking out of his or her arse. A few years ago I had that experience where he was blaming it on my childhood which couldn’t have been further from the truth. My diagnosis is that I am just a miserable git that will have to put up with this now and again.

My mojo is well and truly back  the mountains are my spiritual home this is where I personally feel alive. This year my planning has already started for wild camps and munroe summits to be completed.

To conclude get help don’t keep it bottled up or hidden away its difficult but you do get through these dark days its taken me a long time to go public.

So get out there and keep positive.

I shall follow up on this article periodically .


Why go up there?


The same old question arises time after time when talking to friends and acquaintance’s alike as to why I venture out into the mountains and wilderness. To many of them this is totally alien being raised in urban environment it is beyond their understanding to the benefits you derive from such activities.

Not unlike many there is no definitive answer some would say it is escapism from the stresses of modern living or a hankering to get back to a slower way of living the latter i find more congenial combined with a spiritual connection of your surroundings.

I cannot think of anything more satisfying than spending a night or nights on a summit during summer or winter under a diamond studded sky. I have a very understanding wife I think that’s why we have been married so long  or is it because I disappear a lot at weekends and holiday breaks?

Anyway i digress it all sounds very idealistic but of course nothing could be further from the truth when your stuck at height in a tent separated from the elements by a thin  material with winds and rain threatening to take you to the glen below. Many will say this is character building but i see it as a greater understanding of what mother nature can throw at us, and of course we learn from these experiences but that something inside has got to be there in the first place  
It is that something that is much more harder to define we all know the risks involved in walking and climbing in the mountains take Sir Christopher Bonnington a man whom has climbed more than most witnessed friends lose their lives and at the age of 77 is now leading his grandchildren in the mountains. Mountaineers have courage in bucketfuls and desire to succeed but is there something else?

I was fortunate enough to take winter skills course a couple of years ago with professional mountaineer and guide Di Gilbert although this is what you may call her day job it was the passion she and her colleagues showed towards their environment that impressed me. Would you be keen to go out to work on your day off? well these guys do back into the mountains walking , climbing, ski touring, it is a total lifestyle.
Maybe there is a seed that some of us have and a path in life plants that seed mixed with plenty of passion takes us to the point that we want to spend more a more time in this special place.
I for one have plans afoot over the coming years to be out there on a more permanent basis.


My Introduction!

Sunset over Tinto
Sunset over Tinto

Hi may I take my first blog to introduce myself to all interested parties on the great outdoors. You must forgive me if I make some elementary mistakes on  this media platform as this is all really quite new to me.

My reason for setting this account up was a great wish to share and discuss issues relating to our mountains and wilderness regions throughout the UK.

I am relatively new to activities in the mountains which started in seriousness about 4 years ago  I am a keen amateur photographer and it was a trip to Loch Lomonds east shores that got me hooked on hillwalking and wild camping.

It was on a beautiful early summers morning trying to capture varying lights dancing of the water that I noticed a group congregating in a nearby car park laden with rucksacks and walking poles. Being of an inquisitive nature I wondered where they were headed as they walked off to a small path winding its way through  a small wooded copse. This particular area was new to me so with my days sustenance in my camera bag I decided to follow the path unknowingly that it would lead me to the summit of Ben Lomond.

It was a perfect day the sun was high in the sky and not a cloud to be seen although with hindsight and the experiance I now have gathered I wasn’t exactly prepared for a day on the mountain  no map or compass proper footwear the list goes on.

After what seemed to be an eternity and painful slog I encountered my first summit and was taken aback by the number of people sitting up there chatting and having lunch. To the untrained observer it looked like an organised social event however after a couple of kindly gents sat down close by they explained this was all part of the pastime hobby, sport, call it what you may of hillwalking.

To look at these two gents they were tanned lean and incredibly fit looking compared to the bulk that I carried to the top my estimation was that they were in their early sixties  but I could not have been further from the truth they were both seventy five and seventy six respectively I nearly choked on my ham sandwich.

This is exactly when that bug we all talk about bit and bit hard I wanted to strive and gain the knowledge and fitness my new found friends had this is the moment my life of suburban imprisonment ended and the new found freedom of the great outdoors was born.

May I take this opportunity to thank anyone whom has taken the time to read this first attempt at Blogging any feedback would be kindly appreciated.