Saturday, 13 October 2018

Upcoming open course dates

Most of what we do at On High Hills is private, bespoke days out, to fit in with exactly when and what you want to experience or learn. However, I have had a number of requests to also have some "open" courses on set dates, so I'm please to share our first few Open Course dates with you, covering the rest of 2018.......these courses are guaranteed to run when just two people book, so what are you waiting for?!

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Searching for the pot of gold...............

After more than two weeks away in the (admittedly lovely!) European Alps, today reminded me of how special the Scottish Highlands are. I took new clients Doug and Jennifer to the Cairngorms today. The forecast was inauspicious......wet and windy. The drive to the Cairngorms was equally inauspicious, with windscreen wipers at full pelt. Once there, however, we had a lovely day. Sure, there was some rain, some wind and some wet feet. But the reward was an afternoon of real beauty, with that magical light that I've only seen in the Highlands, as rain clouds came and went, fighting with the sun for supremacy. We all enjoyed our circular walk, starting in the Rothiemurchus pines, heading past Loch an Eilein to Drakes' Bothy, then up to The Argyll Stone and the summit of Creag Dubh, before dropping back down into Gleann Eanaich and thus Rothiemurchus to complete a lovely loop. Thank you Doug and Jennifer for a great day out.

Pesky river got my boot wet.......

Enjoying the climb

A bit blowy


We never did find that pot of gold........

Monday, 17 September 2018

Alpine Wanderings

The last couple of weeks I have been over in the Alps. I was due to work leading a Tour du Mont Blanc trek, unfortunately this was cancelled so I took the opportunity of being "on site" to have a spot of different fun. With my good friend Alex we had a grand tour, starting with the Ecrins Alps of southern France, before moving to Chamonix (briefly) and on to the Swiss Alps. We finished in one of our favourite Alpine areas, the Bregaglia (Bergell) Alps, right on the border of southern Switzerland and northern Italy. With it being late in the season, and thus snow/ice and glacial conditions likely to be poor, we decided to just concentrate on long rock routes. This turned out to be a good decision, and we climbed some fantastic routes, helped by the generally great weather. So, a fun time, but lovely to be back in the Scottish Highlands, where it is definitely starting to feel like Autumn. Looking forward to some hiking work starting tomorrow.

View of the Albina cirque, Bregaglia Alps
Punta d'Albigna
NW Ridge, Punta Albigna
Excellent climbing on the Via Meuli, Punta d'Albigna
Beautiful wee church in La Berarde, Ecrins
Alpine ridge scrambling
Standing on the tiny summit, Aiguille de Soreillier

Gorgeous granite climbing on the 12-pitch Palavar des Flots, Ailefroide, Ecrins

Descending from the Soreillier/Dibona cirque, Ecrins

The crux pitch of the South Ridge of Piz Balzet, Bregaglia. First ascent 1922, by local legend Walter Risch---solo!

Almost there.............

Crux pitch, Aiguille de Soreillier, easy but great climbing up cracked granite slabs

Dawn starts mean careful scrambling up verglassed (icy) granite slabs......

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Glen Affric

Yesterday I had the pleasure of guiding new client Mary Ellen. She is a fit and capable hiker, and wanted a good hike on decent tracks, with the opportunity to see some of the remnant native Caledonian woodlands. We chose to go to the incomparably beautiful Glen Affric, and enjoyed an 11-mile hike with around 1000ft of ascent, around Loch Affric itself. We had no rain, and only a few midges were seen whilst booting up in the car park. By mid-afternoon the sun was breaking through and feeling really warm, highlighting the wonderful arrays of colour on the hills; the first golden fronds of autumn bracken, the rich greens and reds of the mosses, and the swathes of purple Ling heather so characteristic of this time of year in the Highlands. Glen Affric has seen some enlightened conservation work over recent decades, with an attempt to regenerate the woodland and allow natural afforestation to take place. This has been done partly by using fences to keep the deer away......the difference is really remarkable, on one side of the fence not a sapling or young tree in site, on the other lots of Scots pine taking hold and creeping their way up the hillside---marvellous. I have linked below to a short film highlighting some of this work........worth a watch for the beauty alone! Thanks Mary Ellen for a lovely day.

Welcome to the Glen

Beautiful burn
Enjoying the views

The forest is regenerating

A warm afternoon

Trees for Life Glen Affric Video

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Finding your way.........

Today I was down in the incomparable surroundings of Royal Deeside with new client Simone. Stimulated by an upcoming move to the Pyrenees, Simone wanted to learn to navigate "properly", and not just have to rely on mobile phones and similar technology. Very wise! Navigation teaching has changed a lot in the mountaineering world over the last few years. The "modern" approach is to make use of large-scale (in our case 1: 7,500) orienteering maps to help maximise learning in the early stages. This is certainly the method that the NNAS awards (of which I am a provider) advocate. With this in mind, we spent the morning at the new Permanent Orienteering Course at the Linn of Dee, completing 20 navigation legs of increasing difficulty by lunchtime! We covered setting the map, the 3 Ds (Direction, Distance, Description), estimating how far you have travelled using pacing/timing, handrails, catching features, as well as using "quick" bearings to ensure you're on the right path. Towards the end of the morning Simone, who hadn't used a compass before, was managing to navigate across open country using a "quick" compass bearing. After lunch we put these skills into practise with a journey using the more usual (for hillwalking) map scale of 1:25,000, moving around the complicated topography of the slopes and birkwoods of Morrone above Braemar.
A really enjoyable day out, and Simone worked very hard to make brilliant progress.

Get the right tools for the job

Handrailing the fence line

Found it!
The hills are full of crowberries just now

Heading out across open country to hit another linear feature
Heading home

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Mountaineering Instructor

First of all, apologies, my blog has been very quiet over the last few months. This is because the rest of life has pretty much been on hold for me as I prepared non-stop for my Mountaineering Instructor Award (MIA) assessment. This is the highest UK instructional award for teaching and guiding scrambling, multi-pitch rock climbing and more besides, and the entry point for full membership of the Association of Mountaineering Instructors (AMI). I intend to write more about this preparation in the future, for now I'll just say that it was exhausting, but I passed. So I can now extend the activities I offer folk to include scrambling, whether on Skye, Ben Nevis or Glen Coe for example, as well as classic long rock climbs in the mountains. Looking forward to it! A big thank you to everyone who has helped me on this journey over the last few months.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Cairngorm Spring

The last four days have been spent in the company of a great group of chaps who decided on the Cairngorms National Park as a great place to catch up and have a reunion. From a base at Suidhe Lodge, Kincraig, we had four days to play with. Day 1 was a relatively gentle introduction, with me taking the group over the Kincardine Hills above Glenmore Forest, including the iconic Meall a Buchaille, and the famous Ryvoan Bothy. For the second day we upped the ante and, with the benefit of two vehicles, had a great day traversing the Munro of Sgor Gaoith and on to the Argyll Stone. This is a lovely ridge set between beautiful Glen Feshie and the dramatic Gleann Einich. On both of these days I had Alex Cowan along to help; he is working towards his Mountain Leader award, so this was good experience for him.  For days 3 and 4 some more of the group arrived, so I was joined by my colleague Olly Stephenson to allow us to split off in various directions. I took a group rock-climbing and abseiling at Kingussie crag in the morning, followed by an afternoon roaring around the fantastic tracks and trails of Rothiemurchus on mountain bikes. This was a welcome change in the muscles being used for some! Olly led the other group hillwalking, doing a similar day over Sgor Gaoith, for those that had missed it the day before.  Our final day, today, was a fitting finale, with a great circuit of the Northern Corries of Cairngorm, followed by the summit of Cairngorm itself. Light winds, good amounts of sunshine and great views made for a terrific last day,  and lovely to enjoy the company of all eleven folk. The group were really good fun, a delight to spend time on the hill with--thank you guys!

Abbey Road meets the Cairngorms!

Soaking in the views over Gleann Einich

Still wintry on Sgor Gaoith

The A-Team hit the bike trails

A great team