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.