Feels a bit like Autumn...

Loch Trool

Loch Trool

Lucy: Wally and I were working together for a couple of days this week, on a Bronze Duke of Edinburgh's training expedition in the Glen Trool hills. The first day of the exped had reasonably pleasant weather, but even in the sunshine, the air was cool and the autumn colours and lack of midges signalled the turning of the season.  After a dry camp, day two saw everyone soaked through and trudging back to the coach in distinctly unpleasant conditions.

Following this, I headed up to Lochaber, for a couple of days working with first year students from UHI.   This was a two day introduction to the essential skills required to enjoy the hills safely, looking at planning a fun, safe day out, weather, kit, navigation and movement skills in the hills. On the first day the weather was really quite benign, good for some introductory map games and a boggy map walk around Torcastle. On day two the wind (and a few red stags) roared and the rain poured, but we still had a fun and adventurous day out on the North ridge of Stob Ban in the Mamores range on the soth side of Glen Nevis.  We looked at movement skills and navigation in the mountain context. It was a great opportunity for the students to experience some real conditions, demonstrating the importance of good gear and route planning when heading out, especially at this time of year. It was ace to be working alongside local professionals,  Mike Pesocd (Abacus) Dave Anderson (Lochaber Guides) and Dennis Harvey, as well as a great gang of students who brought plenty of their own experience. The most interesting work for me is always when I'm learning as well as teaching and I enjoyed the change of venue and working with different colleagues.

This weekend as we hit the equinox,  I'm on a course in the Central Belt, learning about the processes involved in delivering quality Mountain Training Awards. It's a new avenue for me to explore, a different direction, and I'm not sure at this moment where it will lead!

One thing I do know though, the nights are fair drawing in. Time to add the headtorch in to the bag if it isn't there already, and winterise the clothing system...

Stob Ban.jpg

Cairngorms D of E

Lairig Ghru.png

Lucy: Here are some pics from a great gold expedition in the Cairngorms working for Mary Erskine School in Edinburgh.  This is one of my favourite, regular bits of work as the school has a strong ethos of hillwalking and outdoor activities, and the girls are very motivated.

On Saturday, I was supervising remotely in the Lairg Ghru.  It's a fabulous walk, and I never tire of it. We had perfect weather, cool, breezy and sunny, with no sign of the dreaded midge untill we got in to camp at Luibeg.

The following day, I shadowed a team as they headed up over Ben Macdui. This is a big challenge for a DofE exped, but one that the girls tackled with enthusiasm.  It was very cold and windy on top, but fortunately the visibility was perfect and the navigation presented them with no problems.

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Beinn a Bhuird.png

On the third day, myself and another member of staff shadowed a team over Beinn a Bhuird. These girls were awesome navigators, which was just as well as the visibility was shocking.  In these conditions, supervision is necessarily a lot less remote, but I was happy to observe and let them get on with it! Easy life!

Meawhile, Wally was out in the Arran hills with clients, leading over Stacach and Goatfell. He didn't take any pictures, (doh) but it sounds like they enjoyed themselves with a fine ridge walk and some amazing views.


Where the heart is...

Lochranza Castle, a 13th Century Scottish hall and tower house.

Lochranza Castle, a 13th Century Scottish hall and tower house.

Lucy: A huge contrast to the bright colours and fierce sunlight of last week. It's good to be back amongst the soft greys of home. There's been just a little rain, only a few midges, and a refreshing breeze.  I'd forgotten how tangy the sea air is until it hit my nostrils when I arrived back at the coast.

This week has been mostly wildlife tours, with a couple of days spent in the company of lovely Val, enjoying otters, seals, wildflowers and a bit of Arran history thrown in for good measure. 

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Slovenské Tatry


Lucy: I've just returned from a fantastic week assisting Andy Charlton of Adventure Expeditions: Duke of Edinburgh's award expedition experts. Alongside their excellent UK based journeys, they also provide a number of bespoke European Gold expeditions including an adventurous and frankly, stunning journey through the Tatra mountains of Slovakia.

Initially, we based ourselves on the Polish side of the border in the bustling town of Zakopane for acclimatisation and last minute equipment and food purchases. Once underway, we quickly crossed the border in to Slovakia. The first day we explored the eastern fringes of the White, or Belianske Tatry. With quiet farms and meadows, this was a big contrast to the noisy tourism of the Polish side.

Beliansk é  (White) Tatry

Belianské (White) Tatry

For the following three days, we crossed the White Tatra, and headed deep in to the High Tatra, or Vysoke Tatry, journeying from hut to hut and crossing remote mountain cols. We met a few fellow travellers, and almost as many chamois and marmots. We saw no sign of the reported bears and wolves.

This was was my first time in this wild and exciting mountain range. The nearest comparison I can come up with, is that it is like a huge pumped up Cuillin Ridge, with dark and jagged ridges towering over remote lakes and corries. The terrain is complex and steep, but the paths we used are well maintained, making this a great place for a very special DofE Gold exped.

Vysoké (High) Tatry

Vysoké (High) Tatry

Tatra Chamois

Tatra Chamois

Lomnický štít Cable Car

Lomnický štít Cable Car

Téryho Chata mountain hut.

Téryho Chata mountain hut.

A special whisky tasting

Lucy: All quiet on the blog recently but that doesn't reflect daily life here at Arran Wild Walks, both Wally and I have been flat out with freelance work, Duke of Edinburgh's Award expeditions and otter watching trips. Today was a little outside the ordinary however and worth a quick update. 

A wee dram

As part of the annual Arran Malt and Music Festival, I was commissioned, along with Jackie Newman of Arran in Focus,  to lead a walk to a special tasting at Loch Na Davie, which is the source of the water that the world renowned Arran Malt Whisky is distilled from.  The location of the disillery, in the remote village of Lochranza was selected for the special qualities of this water- purity, pH and minerals, as well as being in plentiful supply year round.

This point was not lost on our intrepid explorers who endured wet peat bog and plenty of standing water to achieve their mission: A dram on the shores of the loch where the magic starts.  And what a special dram it was!

Loch na Davie

Holy Isle: Arran Mountain Festival

Lucy: Today I was volunteering for the Arran Mountain Festival. The festival's strapline is "Small groups, big walks, huge fun" and it certainly delivers. Every year I lead the Holy Isle walk, in partnership with Russell and Elspeth Cheshire from the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST). Whilst our walk isn't the biggest, it has lots of adventure in the form of a trip over to the island in Russell and Elspeth's RIB and the feeling of being marooned, if only for a few hours.

Today the weather was pretty wild, with strong winds, and a bit of mist on the summit of the island (Mullach Mor, 314m). There's a bit of a scramble over the top, spiced up by the crosswind, which the team enjoyed. Once we had descended back to sea level, we took a leisurely stroll back along the coast passsing nesting oystercatchers and curious seals.

The Saddle and the Goats

Wally writes: Today I was on the ridge above Glen Rosa with two clients from the Alpine regions of Europe, Beatrice and Elizabeth. Although our mountains are a little smaller than theirs, they punch above their weight and we had a very enjoyable day traversing the highest ridge on Arran.

We approached via the lovely Glen Rosa, and from the Saddle took the steep scrambly ridge up to North Goatfell.  From there it was a steep rocky romp over and around the blocky tors of Stacach and on to the summit of Goatfell.  The sun shone all day! Good luck to Beatrice and Elizabeth who begin their circumnavigation of Arran via the Coastal Way tomorrow. Hopefully the weather will continue to be fine.

Beinn Bharrain

Lucy writes:  I've been working with Jen and Steve for the last couple of days and they have certainly brought some fabulous weather with them. Yesterday we explored Arran's wildlife in a leisurely fashion with the help of a vehicle and a spotting scope... enjoying resident wildlife such as otters and golden eagles, as well as a bit of excitement from some interesting passage migrants including whimbrel and black tailed godwit.

Today we headed for the Western Hills. The morning mist soon cleared and treated us to a stunning traverse of Arran's wildest hills. Thanks to recent dry weather the crossing of the bog to get to the base of the ridge was cristpy rather than squidy, and up high a fresh breeze kept us cool in the blazing sunshine. A magnificent day, and great clients to enjoy it with!


The Three Beinns

Wally writes: Today I went for a walk with Mallory and Sophie, and their trusty humans, Nicola and Russell. We headed up on to the Three Beinns ridge, a high level horseshoe at the quieter end of the Goatfell range.

The conditions were mostly kind to us.  It was a good day to chew the fat, talk about weather and the geology around us, and admire the expansive views. We found some ice and snow on the northern shady side of Beinn Tarsuinn.  At one point a snow shower came up at us from the depths of Coire Daingean, but mostly the sun shone. Thanks all for a great day's work in the hills!

Navigation Coaching

Wally writes: Yesterday afternoon I headed to the southern moors with client David for some navigation coaching to help him prep for his forthcoming Mountain Leader Assessment. It was a beautiful day, with wall to wall sunshine and amazing views of the northern hills, so we planned to navigate past sunset and in to the night to make the most of the featureless terrain.

Setting off from the highest point on the Ross Road, we criss-crossed the plateau, with David leading navigation legs as well as practicing relocation techniques by following me blind on other legs.

After the sun finally set, we enjoyed a bite to eat on A'Cruach, and then David navigated us through the darkness to the highest point on the String Road, where a vehicle was waiting. 

I'd like to wish David the best of luck in his ML assessment!

Summit of A'Chruach.

Summit of A'Chruach.