Jan 27 2008

Bohemian Moonlighting

Category: home,Scoutingash @ 11:36 am

On Fri night went over to Nige’s new place, just off Lark Lane in Liverpool.  Well, nearly Toxteth/Aigberth/other places I now know about.  Nearly ended up in Widnes going there, but managed to get there eventually.  Rather swanky flat, very clean (not after I’d been through and spilled coffee I hasten to add), right posh.  Nige took me and Martin down to Lark Lane & we looked at people inside ‘bohemian’ wine bars/pubs ,pawing the windows and hoping for recognition.  As none came, we fuond a curry house.  Awesome meal, very, VERY impressed.  And then started to fall asleep (obviously).

Up early Sat morn for Moonlight – got to the start about 0840, helped with setup then managed the kit-checks. FAR too many people using ‘all terrain’ trainers rather than boots – going to have to look at this in the rules/briefing instructions next year I think. Grabbed my kit and hopped into Marks car to be driven to the start.

Route was Eccleston to Rainford, avoiding Skem.  I wanted a good day out as the weather was good, so decided to walk the route.

Headed (on footpaths where possible) from Eccleston to Andertons Mill, up over Harrock Hill, through High Moor to just down from Parbold Hill, through Fairy Glen then across to the end of Wood Lane, over the bridges at teh bottom to Lees Lane then up to the top of the Beacon, down to Dalton Church, down Cobbs Clough Lane, behind the tip to find the path, through the new ASDA estate, Firswood Lane, over Blaugate onto Hollands Lane, over the M58, cut over the fields down to Rainford Junction and then down the roads to RAinford (got dark at this point & didn’t want to fall into a hole on my own in the dark.

5.5 hours to do the lot, my mapping software says:

  • 28.95 km (17.95 miles)
  • 434m up
  • By my reckoning, using naismiths to take off 43 mins for the height factor, that’s 9.5 mins per km, or 6.27 km/hr.  That’s probably why I’m aching.

Off to M&D’s wedding anniversary for dins, then climbing this afternoon at Awesome with Phlegm & catching up post-accident.

Early nights next week I think (especially as I’m driving to Perth Thurs evening!)

Jan 20 2008


Category: Mountaineering,Musicash @ 1:16 pm

It really does nark me off when I fail to stick stuff in my diary and then miss out.  There’s stacks of our lot climbing on Ben NEvis at the moment, whilst I’m stuck at home.  Mind you, the perks of the booking back here were good!

Last night was Lucy’s dad’s 60th.  She’d asked me and Ricko to do some tunes with her – we did 2 30 min sets which went down ok.  The perks were the free taxi home, and free bar at Briars Hall courtesy of Lucy’s parents.  Winner!  Got adequatly trashed as you can imagine, spent about 3 or 4 hours talking Scouting, School, politics and life with Ricko.  And then fell asleep obviously.

Saturday day I realised that I had a day free as long as I could get back for the gig – so me, Martin and Nige headed north.  Weather was foul here and in Wales, but forecast looked ok for the Lakes.  Went and did the Kentmere horseshoe – 6 hours end to end.  Awesome day, cold & a constant 20/30mph breeze, but views were stunning.  Really glad we got out – back home for about 5 so time to prepare for the gig.909

And now on catch-up day.  Stacks of things that I need to sort, get sorting and make sorted.  A day of lists!

Jan 15 2008

Borrowdale weekend

Category: Mountaineering,Scoutingash @ 9:48 pm

All good fun – me, Si Waterworth, Julie, Phil Ack, Martin, with Ricko and Fitz for friday night.  Good session in the local boozer, stayed in the Rosthwaite bunkhouse.  Forecast was excellent & we’d taken kit for all eventualities, but woke to rain and wind.  Plans for climbing/winter routes scuppered fast.

Did the coledale horseshoe in good time, breezy yet not too bad.  Julie felt off on the way up so bailed at the hause 1/2 way round whilst the rest of us finished it off.  Ricko and Fitz went and did Haystacks & then left early – after meeting JJJ in the pub we changed & headed out to Keswick for a curry.  Met Andy B for 10 mins in the boozer – then back to base to fall asleep in my pint.

Sunday – ming.  Technical shopping trip – spent over an hour in Needlesports.  Got the set of guides for ice/rock climbs in the Cairngorm, rock guide for Mozet & Dave in Belgium where we run the Ardennes climbs, and a 3.5 technical friend for £30.  Bonus!

Jan 09 2008

Balls, Balls, Balls

Category: Mountaineering,Scoutingash @ 8:14 pm

Well, Balls, Balls anyway.

Friday night was the Ormskirk Explorer Scout Centenary Ball.  A chance for the Explorers to dress up in posh togs, eat without using their fingers and boogie the night away.  We had about 40 of our number turn out for an evening which went down very well with the Explorers.  Big thanks to everyone for turning out, BIGGER thanks to Hugh for working his arse off to make the event happen.  This was Hugh’s swan song too – his final event with Ormskirk Explorers as he’s now County head-honcho for Explorers.  Most cool.


Bimbled round if I remember rightly on Sat … doing ‘things’ although I forget what they were.  Sat night was the Network Ball – did the normal getting drunk & dancing like a loon to cheesy disco.  Top night, purposefully laid off the wine and spirits as needed to function.  Home at 0200 ….

… then Langdales for about half 9.  Feeling rough.  Took Fitz – first outing since her experimentation with swollen spinal tissue.  Only did a low-level hill opposite chapel stile but was enough for Fitz.  I had some ‘issues’ every time I heard her stumble -getting cold shivers & flashbacks from Clare’s fall.  Figure that I need to work through this though, so getting as much in as I can.  Borrowdale next weekend.

Jan 02 2008

Adventures in Scotland xmas 07

Category: Mountaineeringash @ 3:44 pm

Boxing Day – 26th Dec.
After a family xmas & packing session the previous night, I set off at about 0800, heading for the north.  Text message conversations on the way led to me and Phil meeting at Carlisle – I’d been there for about 20 mins but at the wrong junction – a quick check on the map led us to meet at the right spot, then go to Pete Frickers new place & drop off my car.  We shifted the kit to Phils astra, then headed north to Glasgow, to get Clare O Sullivan.
Everything went to plan, and with the power of wap google maps on Phil’s phone we got to the station in Paisley, picked up Clare and then headed north on the A82.  Pretty uneventful journey, catching up, talking crap, swapping drivers & filling up when we can.  We got to Fort William a bit late & everything was shut, so resorted to shopping at poorly stocked service stations.  After a long drive along Loch Ness, we found a good services at Inverness & so sorted a few days’ food out.  From Inverness we kicked up the coast a bit, skirted the most excellently named Boner Bridge and headed inland, with Clare driving – occasionally scaring me shitless in the back! (Back seat driver plus post accident paranoia!).
We headed north east on a very small road that we followed for about 45 mins, until in the middle of nowhere – surrounded by clag and pissing rain at about 8pm we got to the Crask Inn.  We legged it inside to find the landlords family having their dinner in the main bar area (i.e. their living room) – we nursed a pint and played dominos until they’d finished, cooked more and fed us!  Excellent place, nice atmos, but the buggers didn’t let us camp in the garden. Earring factor I think.  The landlord recommended a spot down the valley, so we set off at about 1030pm, driving back and forth until we found a rough car park area with flat gravel that wasn’t underwater.  Threw up Clare’s Hyperspace & used rocks to nail it down, as there was a storm blowing through.
Rough night but tent stayed up!

27th Dec
Woke to pissing raing & ming outside.  Slow start followed the long drive, and we decided to bin off Ben Kilbreck – the hill that we were at the bottom of, and head north west to the Hope Valley where Ben Hope was, to see if there was any better weather there.  Luckily, there was.  After a brief stop at the old Hope settlement/defences we packed sacks and headed up at about 12pm.  Quite short yet steep route, with the wind constantly blowing – nearing the top & on the ridge it was fierce, and Phil started to look a bit funny … he’d been feeling off for a few days so we slowed the pace & took our time with a status check every few mins.  After a haribo stop we made the top & got some ok ish views, for the first time getting a feel for this new area which we were exploring.  Concious of the time, we turned and headed back down, getting down at about 4pm just as it was getting dark.
We dumped everything into the car & headed north round to Durness, the most northwesterly place in the uk.  I’d booked a night in the hostel for us, so we pitched up, exploded over a bunk room & layed the tent out to dry under the veranda of the bunkhouse whilst it cacked it down outside.  Showers and tea happened, then we wandered down to the local bar for a pint or three.  Had a good laugh there, mosied back up in the rather nippy wind, and decided to have an easier day tomorrow as Phil was still feeling off.  Had a brew, then bed.683  692

28th Dec
Decided as per plan that that night we’d be in the right place to tackle the Corbett Sulivan the following day, so we spent the morning around Durness.  We packed, cleared out and payed at 10am, doing an extra shop in the Spar, then headed north to the main bay around there.  Spent a few mins adventuring around the ancient & tumbledown chapel, & wandered round the graveyard – big history, mostly of the same family names.  Whilst me and Phil were having a wander round, Clare was up to the knees in the sea, having fun with the atypical manic grin.  Wandered round & collected Clare, then we skirted the surf (& surfer) round to the spit of land forming the main headland.  Spent an hour or two wandering down to the end, having a mooch around.  Looking for booming seas, but never really found them.  On the way back, I hung behind the other two to get some pics & noticed a sheep stuck on a tiny ledge of grass on the cliff, near the top, with no obvious hope of rescue.  Made a mental note to tell the farmer or someone back in Durness, but failed to do anything about it – a point which I’m still kicking myself over.

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We got back to the car & went looking for Cocoa Mountain, a truffle shop recommended by Dave J.  Found said shop, had a couple of truffles (right nice), and had a hot chocolate each.  Served in ceramic goblets, this stuff was pretty damn rich – so much so that Clare ate the cream/marshmallows/chocolate on top but couldn’t finish the liquid.  So Phil ‘took one for the team’ and finished hers as well – and then felt quite wrong for the rest of the day!  We bought some chocolate covered dried fruit – figuring this’d be good for the hills – and bade our farewells to the rather cool bloke who ran it.

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Over the next 2 hours we had a stunning drive down the nw coast, passing through many smaller villages, we kept having to stop for photos & generally stand in awe at the area we were driving through.  I never quite realized that Scotland could be THAT good.  Stunning –in more of a way that Glencoe or the Cullin is – or at least the same as them.  Jaw droppingly stunning.
After a few hours, we rocked up at Lochinver, a small fishing village, did a spar shop, then drove about a mile inland to where we were leaving the car.
Packed for a 2 day trip, including tentage, and then set off, about 4.30 pm for an hour and a half walk in, looking for the Suileag bothy. 
Overcast & with dampness in the air, it was a very dark walk in, head torches most of the way, til we found the bothy.  The first door that we came to opened & we went inside, finding a cleanly swept dust floor, fireplace in the corner & some ½ full sacks of fertaliser to sit on.  We’d had the foresight to take in some burnable stuff (got a couple of firelogs), so phil got one of them going whilst me and Clare sorted kit & got a brew on for some soup.  We noshed this down, sitting round the fire thinking that this was a rather basic but pretty cool bothy.  Clare got up to make toilet, and came back a minuite or two later telling us to follow her.  We grabbed jackets and followed her outside, where she carried further down the building, finding the actual door to the bothy, and going inside showed us the raised sleeping areas, books, maps, seats, food and so on.  Kicking ourselves, but being thankful that Clare had gone that way to go to the loo, we relocated round.

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The evening passed with food, sprout gin (dangerous and foul) me working out how to tie a bow tie, kinder eggs and planning of the route for the following day.

29th Dec
Up at about 8.30am, we made breakfast, packed for the day & stashed sleeping kit, tent etc in the bothy to collect on the way out.  We were probably walking for about 0930, heading down the valley, with the mountain – blowing in and out of the clag – on our right, and Casnip straight ahead of us.  Walking down we realized that the route I’d intended on, although shorter was going to be quite hard going for a couple of hours, so we decided to keep on the low path, head further up the valley behind Loch na Gainimh and swing south over easier ground to the SE ridge of Sulivan.  This took a couple of hours down the main path ,but as the weather moved in and out we were able to suss out the main bits of the ridge.  We’d have a steep climb then a drop into a notch, then back up onto the top of Meall Meadhonach, then a drop to a thin ridge, taking us to the Belach (where the easy path went up), then we’d push up the easier slopes to the top of Caisteal Liath.  Sulivan is the name for the whole ridge, and our intention –following my ridges of the uk book – was to do the whole thing.  As such, we’d prepared for it, taking helmets and a confidence rope as we knew we’d be doing some downclimbing and bits may be icy (we had spikes too).

821  839
We got to the head of the Loch and hunted around for a bridge to cross the burn feeding it.  Closer inspection of the map showed that it just forded – but the river was quite in spate so we had to head about 1km upstream til we could get across without getting wet.  We did this, and then started the 2 km plod over undulating & boggy ground heading towards the start of the ridge proper.
As expected, being at the top of the wide valley & contouring round we were getting the brunt of the weather, & the wind was quite blustery at times.  It wasn’t raining, but the wetness underfoot and wind soon led to us feeling quite damp, and me & Phil walking in wet footwear.  We found a place to rest & have some food, so we grabbed a bite of Phils’ wraps & spar food whilst looking SE over the continuing valley – very barren and remote.
We kept it short as we didn’t want to get cold, so pushed on, swinging round until we got to the foot of the ridge itself.  Until this point, we’d been spread out a bit, my natural long-legged factor wandering ahead in front of the others & stopping for them to catch up, but as we were heading to the clag level we agreed to stick together.
The ridge kicked up quite sharply.  After a while we found a thin path and followed it – this took the line of least resistance following mostly up the arête of the ridge, keeping us out of the wind that was battering the northern slopes of the mountain.  We wandered around and up, and came out onto the top of this first false summit that we’d spotted from below.  Looking around, there was a hell of a drop on all sides, but I eventually spotted the path, starting from a section to our right.  We slowly picked our way down over slightly suspect rocks, spotting each other & making sure we were fine – the drops were significant and the long grass was wet, meaning that if we slipped we’d be going a long, LONG way down.  The wind was on us at this time too, so we made doubly sure that we were ok.  We picked our way to the notch, and were rewarded with stunning views south over the lochans to Stac Pollaidh, our destination for the following day.  The views were awesome – we were all pretty awe stuck about what we were seeing & many pictures were taken.  We realized that we were getting into a pretty serious area now, so put our helmets on.

We picked our way up the next climb, steep again but a better path now.  After about 15 mins we got to the top of Meall Meadhonach, and were rewarded with a stunning flat-topped summit, with with white clouds to all sides.  Behind us we could see the smaller top that we’d come too, with massive, stunning & pretty imposing cliffs beneath.  We were able to get a real feel of the severity of the mountain that we were on.
Not wanting to hang about too long as time was pressing on, we started heading down towards the thin ridge leading to the Belach.  We came upon some steep ground quite quickly & found the bits mentioned in my book that we’d have to downclimb.  A short bit of wandering round & I downclimbed one section, reasonably straightforward but not feeling too secure.  When down I had a bit of a look round, and between the three of us decided that it’d be best to bring the others down a separate route, but rope it.  Phil lowered Clare down, then I went behind a fin of rock & by passing the rope over the top of this, I was able to safely lower Phil down.
We re-packed the rope and started down the ridge again.  Within about ten feet we got to another similar shelf, but could see that the ridge carried on beyond this point down to another notch.  Clare was first at this point, and looked around for a place to decend.  She wasn’t too happy with the main way down, but found a notch to our left that she thought looked ok, climbing onto her knees & lowering herself down.  I wasn’t too enamoured with that way, so turned and decended the route which seemed to have had more traffic, just to the right of her.  I got to about the same level & noticed that she was having problems finding somewhere to get to – her right foot was kicked into a corner using friction, and her left foot was quite high, near my right hand.  Her right hand was in a bit of a sloper hold, but she was having problems finding somewhere for her left  I saw a knobbly place & so directed her to that, putting my hand on hers for some extra security.  Looking round the corner I could see that she had about a foot to go before she was on the ground.

And then she slipped.  I’m not sure which placement went, but she hit the floor, and I think toppled backwards – either that or her feet went from under her.

She tumbled a fair distance, then came to a rest.  Me and Phil managed to get to her quite quickly to check her out – pretty mucky & clutching a wrist, but somehow apart from that un-injured.  She’d got quite a bit of rubbish in her eye – we tried to get it out but ran out of saline goo quite quickly.
A check on the time and a look between me and Phil realized that we needed to move fast if we were to get off the mountain before it was dark.  I bandaged up her weak wrist – she had mobility in it but not strength – asked her if she wanted a sling which she didn’t, and me and Phil split the heaviest items from Clare’s rucsac.  Phil had been feeding haribo into both me and Clare as we were all on a massive adrenaline rush & would hit bottom soon, so as soon as we were sure that there was no other issues, we very slowly got up & realized ourselves for getting the hell out of here.  I asked Phil to take point which he did, and we walked along in a tight bunch, Phil checking ever downstep of Clares, me holding onto the back of her rucsac each time.  Doing this, we dropped to the next col, but we had another rise to get over before the main belach.  Movnig at alpine pace, we moved up the rise, got the ridge and headed along. 

We reached the belach/col, and turned north to drop into the main path onto Sulivan.  This was far easier going, and we managed to get quite a jokey conversation going as we were moving along.  It took us about half an hour to get down to this point, then we picked our way through the low-lying lochans over to the main path that we walked in on.  This was a long and boggy stretch, falling over quite a bit & us trying to find the easiest patch of land for Clare to move through.  About another half-hour later we made it to the main path, and I think we all had our headtorches on by this point.
An hour later and we were back at the bothy.
The fall had already played in front of my eyes many times but I’d stifled the urge to think about it – promising myself that this was a task for later.
We entered the bothy, had some soup each & more haribo, then did a quick repack.

It was probably about 1730-1800 by the time we left the bothy after cleaning it etc.  Clare was still walking with one hand supporting the other, and me & phil were trying to keep the conversations going.  We had no idea on where the nearest hospital was – Clare was quite sure it wasn’t broken, merely sprained but we all agreed we needed to get some more info and have it checked soon.  We got to the cars at about half seven, quickly packed & drove into Lochinver.  The Spar was shut but the pub down the road was open –phil parked and waited outside whilst I ran inside, found the first person I could, asked if he was local & where the nearest hospital was.  “Inverness, 2 hours away” was the response.  I said we had a girl with a possible bust wrist and needed an x-ray, but there was no closer facility.  The guy did point out that there was an out of hours number for the local doctor, and directly outside there was a medical centre.  I nipped outside, spotted the centre & told the others.  Clare came back in with me & used the phone (head on chin, arm holding arm) to speak to the Doc whilst phil parked up.  The Doc agreed to meet us in the centre in 15 mins.  We grabbed a coke & made conversation whilst killing time, then headed over to the centre.  Clare went into the examination room whilst me and Phil went to the waiting room. 
About 10 mins later Clare returned with some pills and a prescription.  We didn’t have change so got the pills for free, along with directions to Inverness Hospital.
In the car park Phil spent about 30 mins washing Clare’s eye out, still full of gack from the mountain.  The contacts came out easy enough, but there was lots of rubbish under the eyelids.  Eventually got most of it out.
The Docs reckoning was that it was a Green-stick fracture of the head of the ulna, and that we’d need an x-ray to check it out.  However, he pointed out that Saturday night in Inverness A&E isn’t a particularly good place to be.

Phil – through work – had a couple of free nights stay saved up with the Holiday Inn Chain.  Some WAP antics on a high point between Lochinver and Ullapool managed to get us the number for the bookings, then a call to the USA (really) to book a room for 2 happened, getting us in for free to the Holiday Inn Express in Inverness.  Phil drove, Clare had shotgun & I fell asleep in the back, waking in Inverness.
They booked in, we grabbed some 00:30am burger king scran, sneaked 3 of us into the room where I crashed out on the floor & they took 2 twin beds.  Me and Phil demolished a bottle of wine and then some Macallen malt before bed.


30th Dec

Up and down to breakfast about 0830, Clare understandably hadn’t slept much in the night.  We’d redressed it once and it was still swelling, so drove to Tesct & walked over the road to the A&E.

Fastest in and out known to man.  Within an hour, Clare was walking out with a bag of x-rays and an lower-arm plaster on.  Closed fracture of the head of the radius, just before the wrist, cleanly through. She was obviously pretty shaken & so we went to the Tesco’s café to crab a brew.  She took us through what had happened – trying to clean herself up as the docs left her to it after she said she was a med student – & how the worst bit was them straightening it for the x-ray – very understandable.
We spoke about what to do next.  Clare was going back to her parents on Bute, and we decided that it’d make sense to go straight there, where she could rest properly – sleeping in a tent wasn’t going to be a smart idea.  We got some supplies in and then headed south.
Unfortunatly, Clare had been feeling pretty bad after going on the Co-codamol that the Doc in Lochinver had prescribed. The hospital supplied paracetamol and ibuprofen, but the effects of the cocodamol left Clare feeling really nauseous.  And so unfortunately, from most of Inverness through to Bute just west of Glasgow, Clare was throwing up about every 30/40 miles.  Needless to say, it was really hard on her, particularly along the A82 as there were many points where we could not stop.

After a long journey, we got to the ferry terminal, where Sean & Sarah pulled up behind us – they’d been out playing nearby.  A short ride later & 10 mins on the other side took us to Clare’s parents.

We did as agreed & me and Phil tried to keep coming up with interesting conversations with her parents, trying to distract the attention away from the girl with the broken arm.  Clare was able to get some time away from everyone for a while.  We got fed full of food by the parents, then fed full of coffee, beer, cheese, chocolates and whisky. 

31st Dec – News Years Eve
After breakfast, tidying, being taken round the local boatyard by Clare’s dad & Sean (quite possibly a ploy allowing Clare’s mum and Clare to be able to speak uninterrupted) we did an unpack of the car. 
After words of thanks and goodbyes, we bade farewell to Clare and her family, and sped for the other ferry on the island, taking us just south of Glasgow.
We cut overland to the A74, and pretty soon were at Carlisle.  Me and phil had a good chance to talk over everything & some other bits of the week which had come to light.  Agreeing that we needed to speak and empty our heads to other people and then come back together in the new year after he’s back from the Alps, we went our separate ways.
I drove over to Sam and Reds new place, met lots of people, stayed off the beer on just water for a few hours.  I was able to get Jayne Fitz to one side and emptied my head – took about an hour and a half to go through everything in detail – which forced me to realize some extra things I’d not understood clearly.  Jayne was fantastic – I picked exactly the right person to confide in.
Played some tunes, but my heart really wasn’t in it, I couldn’t deal with the social situation.  Eventually went to sleep in the car, woke at 0800 and drove home on New Years Day, arriving back at about 11.  When I started writing this.

Well, we did want an adventure ….