Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019

Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019
On the Archduke's Path in Mallorca

Saturday 6 March 2021


We've had a busy day today - Dot (96 next month) got her second vaccination, so she is most relieved at that.

All I've time for is a photo from a 'Favourite Place'. The summit of Sassongher, where Jenny B is pictured with a backdrop of the summit cross and a Dolomitic view on a perfect day. 

Here's hoping that we'll one be able to return there...

Friday 5 March 2021

TGO Challenge - Wild Camps (No 54: 15 May 2014)

After a sociable stay at Newtonmore Hostel, a late start (after breakfast with David Wishart at the transport cafe), and a bus back to rejoin my route at Dalwhinnie, followed by an easy walk over Carn na Caim, I pitched camp before 5 pm at NN 795 817, on lovely soft turf near some waterfalls at Bruach Gharbh Ghaig.

A chap called 'Mole' and his mate Ed arrived, chatted, and moved on. But Markus and Philipp, arriving at 6:15, discounted any thought of continuing further and pitched their tents nearby in this great spot at 650 metres. 

The weather was fine - the tent stayed open all night.

Thursday 4 March 2021

22 and 23 February 2003 - Pitlochry Bunkhouse Weekend

I organised Scottish Bunkhouse weekends most winters from the 1970s until the early 2000s, as well as camping weekends and weeks in rented cottages. These fell away after Sue and I started to visit Ottawa during that 'bunkhouse period', from 2001. We didn't go to Canada in 2003, so I organised a weekend visit to Pitlochry. There are very few photos from the Olympus digital camera, so there may be more snaps elsewhere, but given the weather conditions, I don't think many pictures would have been taken.

Here's what I, and several guest diarists, made of this trip. Some of us were experienced winter Munro baggers, but reading the report you'd be forgiven for thinking that we were a bunch of novices.

Saturday/Sunday 22 and 23 February 2003 - Pitlochry Bunkhouse Weekend 

(Martin's Report)
This year's bunkhouse weekend is at The Old Bank House (easy to find - if you know where it is - Nick) in a big old house, presumably once a bank.

We arrived (Andrew, Sue and me) around 10 pm after a 5-hour journey, to find Andrew J and Nick ensconced in the Old Mill Inn next door. Don and Liz made up the team of seven, arriving at 11:30 after problems with Liz's boots being left behind.

We were expecting a nice day, but it dawned very grey. Bacon butties and other things for breakfast - Liz produced some porridge but it was a bit late to entice us.

We got away soon after 9 - and headed up the A9 to drop a car off at Drumochter summit (it wasn't needed - no one did the four Munros) before going on to Balsporran Cottages. We left there at 10:10 and headed up Geal-charn. Soon in the mist. (Where we became separated - luckily I had map and compass and reached the top first - Nick)

Strong wind from the south, plod up - following old footprints, to gain the summit at 11:50 (917 metres). Very windy, especially on the steep descent south. Paused to adjust hoods so that they didn't blow back. We went directly south and got onto steep ground to the east of the main ridge. Eventually we got to the stalkers' path - calm here so we had lunch (12:30).

Then up the stalkers' path to the col at around 750 metres. Then south along flattish ground before ascending south east - steeply up, with good snow in places, to the ridge, which then led steeply/easily, (if windily) to the summit of our second Munro - A 'Mharconaich (975 metres). Andrew J and I, having followed the path, arrived about 10 minutes before the others. It was a cold, windy spot, with no visibility. 

(Sue says)
The descent involved avoiding crags off to the right. Nick donned crampons; the rest of us managed with axes only. Some more small glissades. Martin's pacing went slightly awry due to these glissades, so we descended a bit too far. The result of this was a long traverse across steep ground - scree and snow. We were all relieved at reaching the ridge down, where we stopped for a cup of tea. The wind was still extremely strong, but at least the wide ridge made going easier, and the descent was quick.

The view improved and the cloud had risen a little since we'd set out, although it was still very grey. Returned to the cars at 4:15, then drove back to Pitlochry for tea and banana cake. 

(Nick says)

Drinking mugs of hot tea at the end of a walk has to be one of life's biggest pleasures - especially when served by someone else (Sue) and accompanied by a slice of Sue's banana cake. My stroopwafels will have to wait for another time.

Just on cue, Andrew produced a box of chilled beers and wine. The beer was cool and the wine warmed up. And Martin's steep walk didn't seem too bad after all.

(Liz says)

Ok, so despite the various mishaps - forgotten boots, over production of porridge, etc, etc (too numerous to mention), we had a fantastic day out there against the conditions. Two lovely and 'easy' Munros, though seriously challenged by the weather, some rather unusual navigation techniques (in which I played no part whatsoever), but we all arrived safely and in one piece. But in daylight! (Martin, are you losing your touch? - no headtorch needed!) Some beautiful ptarmigan, and very pretty red flowers surviving in the harshest of environments.

Good to be out in Scottish mountains once again.

(Don lost a hat - it blew away.)

Above: Balsporran Cottages
Below: our approximate route - 11 km with 750 metres ascent

Sunday 23 February 2003 - Not Schiehallion

(Martin's Report)

After some pleasant glasses of wine, a nice chicken casserole, a good crumble pudding courtesy of Liz, and an amusing game of Uno, we reassembled around 8 am for porridge and sausage butties (except small Andrew,* who arrived from a deep sleep around 9 am).

Again the cloud was down, and as we left for Queens Drive and Tummel Bridge it started to rain.

Our car went first. I took Nick's map as we had none, then Andrew J, under strict instructions to keep all four cars in convoy, decided three was enough and left mapless Nick behind. He did find us though, and by 10:30 we were off on the frozen track up Schiehallion, following some old hands who quickly drew ahead.

Heading up into the mist we found a path# that headed to the north of the main track. I thought it would take us nicely up, but it petered out. Had I known the mountain better (I'd only been up it three times before that!) I would have carried on, and ascended steeply up the north slope to the summit. That would have provided shelter from the strong southerly wind. Had I known how strong that wind was, I would have insisted on everyone gearing up with crampons and ice axes before continuing.

We retraced as Liz was uncomfortable with the steepness of the slope we were climbing to regain the ridge. Once the ridge was regained, we hit the wind and a steep but relatively soft slope. The group was very slow in getting up this, and once up some decided crampons were needed.

Time to go back. I decided not to continue with the inexperienced and wind affected party. (Andrew - no overtrousers, Liz - susceptible to wind [apparently got blown over 3 times yesterday]).

We were probably up at around 850 metres, with over 200 metres of ascent and 1¼ miles to go along the windy ridge. Momentum was desirable and we didn't have that. Also very low visibility. (12:00) Nick had already retreated, but we caught him up (he had heard our voices).

It was a slow, slippery descent. We emerged below the main snow line and in less wind, at 1 pm. Lunch, and crampons off (for Sue, Don and Liz - the rest of us managed without).

Then an easy stroll back to the cars by 2 pm, when the old timers also got back, having successfully climbed the mountain. They were obviously heavier than some of our party, and had momentum.

Never mind, we all enjoyed the 'blow' - certainly no cobwebs remained. So we set off on a 4¼ hour journey home at 2:30, just as another small group was attempting to start climbing the mountain.

(We were not the only failures - another couple had also retraced from below where we got to.)

Our chauffeur, Andrew, returned us efficiently in the Megane. Noticeable was a buzzard sitting relaxed in a tree just outside Glasgow, and a swarming flock of lapwings in a Lake District field.

Shame about the weather, but good company and a very enjoyable weekend (and a couple of new Munros for some). Nick returned to Pitlochry for another night, and Andrew J went to Helensburgh to extend his trip. 

* 'small' Andrew must have given me and Sue a lift on this occasion, but neither of us can remember who he was! [MM's boyfriend?]

# since 2003 the path up Schiehallion has been converted by the John Muir people into a 'motorway' that has dramatically reduced erosion on the hill.

Wednesday 3 March 2021

TGO Challenge - Wild Camps (No 53: 13 May 2014)

After a splendid day on which I walked from Annat to Lochan na h-Earba via the snowy heights of Creag Meagaidh, I finished up beside the lochan at NN 463 812. A delightful spot on comfy flat turf in good weather, but if it's windy... move on!

The next picture looks towards Allt Coire Pitridh. When I visited this spot more recently in 2019, the whole area was full of film crews and actors. The Crown was being filmed here.

I was enticed by the view towards Binnein Shuas (746 metres), but not by the 400 metres of ascent to get there!

A pan of gruel kept me going, and luckily the ridiculously fragile 'spork' survived another day. They need to be wrapped in cotton wool!

Next morning the lochan was mirror calm. Loads more photos were taken.

That's it for today. The next few postings may be a bit 'random' - I've just roughly tallied the number of 'unprocessed' picture folders on the hard drive - there are at least 600, so plenty to go at, and then there are the thousands of old slides to be scanned...

Tuesday 2 March 2021

Lockdown 2021, and it soon gets to March...

Well, we are into March and the floods of late January are almost a distant memory. We are still locked down, hence the absence of any particular outings on these pages, though when I go out and have to spend five minutes waiting to cross the A56, I do have a feeling that the current Lockdown is 'optional'.

So this is just a brief 'catch-up', documenting some comings and goings in February, much in the same way as Gayle has related hers in her blog.

The floods have continued to occupy some of the pathways in Wythenshawe Park. It took ages for this one to subside.

Across the road from us, some roofers busied themselves, but some of our carpets, bought last September, have still not been fitted, as carpet fitter Phil is in strict obeyance of lockdown rules.

On 1 February I enjoyed a stroll through the Carrington Estate, then past St Martin's in Ashton upon Mersey, and back home along the canal from Dane Road.

Then nothing much happened until 6 February, when Sue, rather belatedly, constructed a delicious 'Autumn Fruit Pie.

And my daughter suggested a birthday present...

All this time, I've been doing a (not)parkrun - 5km running or walking - every day since last summer. I'm up to number 252, compared with my actual parkrun tally that has been stuck on 246 for nearly a year. We still meet up with a group of parkrunners every Saturday morning, on Zoom. My jog on 9 February was on a crisp layer of 'flurry'.

Selwa and Amro kindly donated a massive TV for our kitchen, making our little 19" JVC TV redundant. It's a good TV, and works fine. Anybody want it?

On 11 February I enjoyed a circuit through de Quincey Park, along to Altrincham recycling centre, and then turning down the disused (but not removed) railway line that used to link Timperley with Glazebrook. The line goes under a new bridge near Waitrose, our local supermarket.

You have to leave the railway line before it reaches the A56, as the route has recently been fenced off there, but Lindsell Road and Hartington Road lead easily to the Bridgewater Canal, next to which this pleasant pond is a haven for wildlife.

12 February brought a wonderful sunrise, one of a number in recent weeks.

On 14 February, on a day of hard frost, we strolled along the towpath next to the frozen canal as far as the Trans Pennine Trail in Stretford. 

The TPT crosses the M60 motorway, and here at 2:30 in the afternoon there was evidence of Lockdown.

Beside the section of path near the River Mersey, someone has been busy constructing shelters.

Spring is nigh...

On 17 February I strolled along the towpath to Dunham Massey. Beyond the Bay Malton, the powers that be really do need to sort out this section of towpath to Lymm, or the idea of the 'Bridgewater Way' being a lovely route to be shared by cyclists and walkers will continue to be discredited.

I bumped into a few folk with a frightened dog (Rocko) and a frisby. It was great to see them for only the third time in a year. What a coincidence!

21 February found me on another circular walk. These horses near the recycling centre usually come to say hello.

The disused railway (the same as the one pictured earlier, the track is hidden to the left) leads to Waitrose, and the newish Stamford Brook Estate built on National Trust land.

There's a wilderness area where the housing estate ends, where today the desiccated heads of teasel flowers were nodding in the breeze.

By 22 February it was (mostly) warm enough to enjoy morning coffee and afternoon tea in the garden.

And by 23 February the crocuses sprang to attention as I jogged past on my 5 km of exercise.

24 February was a very dull day, but as it was Sue's birthday we enjoyed a 18 km stroll by the canal, and back along the TPT through the Carrington Estate, where Sue is pictured.

25 February - the small de Quincey Park throws up enticing images nearly every day I go through it.

And on 26 February, the same could be said for the Bridgewater Canal towpath in Sale.

27 February, and again I was unable to pass through de Quincey Park without flashing my camera. I was particularly pleased with the second of these images.

Closer to home (just around the corner) the crocuses in this part of Newton Park were mainly white and not quite as colourful, though the park, with its wide open space  and children's playgrounds, was heaving with people playing and picnicking with little apparent regard for Lockdown.

Yesterday, 1 March, saw me unable to resist going for my longest bike ride, about 30 miles, since last August. The bike (Stumpy) had its first outing since last October, and needed a good hose down afterwards. I went on the 'Moore Lane' circuit, via Heatley and Grappenhall.

The route crosses the Bridgewater Canal at Moore, where I stopped for a half-way rest, flask of tea, and banana - in that order. Here are the views both ways from the bridge. There's an annoying 'No Cycling' sign that others were ignoring. This is part of the Bridgewater Way, mentioned above, which should be a shared path.

Finally, I noticed, a few weeks ago, a group of people planting trees in the meadows by Hartington Road between the A56 and the canal, near home. This is what the area looks like today. Can you spot the trees? What will happen in the future?