Two out of Three Aint Bad.


Lucy: I was out yesterday with Jonathan, who is on Arran prepping for an forthcoming marathon, and who fancied a bit of cross-training in the hills. 

We'd planned to do The Three Beinns, but as is often the case at the moment, the Garbh Allt was a bit high, and we were keen on keeping our feet dry, so came up with an entertaining Plan B.

Plan B involved a short and easy scramble over the top of Beinn a Chliabhainn in a thick pea souper of a mist, followed by a steep trek up on to the summit of Beinn Tarsuinn. The clouds parted briefly for us to admire the sweeping slabs of the Meadow Face of Beinn Tarsuinn, before enclosing us once more.

Beinn Tarsuinn.jpg

We made good time, and so decided to extend our day a little, with a traverse under the forboding cliffs of A'chir, popping out on the bealach between Achir and Cir Mhor just as the clouds lifted away at last,  treating us to incredible views of the Rosa Pinnacle. 

The stroll out of the lovely Glen Rosa, was long but enjoable. We were treated to golden eagles hunting overhead, andthe roaring of the red deer stags in the hills all around us. 

Cir Mhor.jpg

Trossachs light show

Lucy: We've been working on the big island again... This time in the Trossachs, on a Bronze qualifying Duke of Edinburgh's Award expedition for an Edinburgh boarding school... The boys did well on what was a tough journey, with challenging weather and terrain, as well as a brutal early start on the second morning.  However, the negatives brought their positives. Changeable weather means rainbows, and early starts mean sunrises! Stunning interludes that make it all worthwhile. Thanks to the boys for their hard work and determination.


Backpacking hacks: campfood

Lucy: Wally and I do a lot of multi day camping trips, for fun, as well as for work as freelance mountain leaders. That amount of time spent on the trail means that I try hard to keep the gear that I'm carrying as light as possible, including my food. Specialist backpacking food can be tasty and nutritious, but it is expensive. The readymade alternative is unhealthy supermarket couscous and noodle mixes. A few years ago I started making my own meals to take on the trail and gradually I've refined my camp nourishment, to the point that I reckon I've pretty much got breakfast and dinner nailed (for me anyway). The key ingredient is Lakeside's Soup n Sauce bags, which can take boiling water and are reuseable up to a point.  Here's how:


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The basic ingredients are museli and powdered milk but to this I can add whatever takes my fancy, to build up a wholesome and filling breakfast. I add boiling water to it when I make my morning brew each day to create an instant porridge.  This week I'm mostly eating:

100g Dorset Cereals Simply Nutty Museli, 2 dessert spoons of powdered milk, a dessert spoon of ground chia seeds, and a handful of chocolate covered raisins (winning!).

I find this mix keeps me full for a while, and is also inviting (the chocolate raisins ensure that). Chia seeds and nuts help keep my protein and omega3 levels topped up.


Camp Couscous.png

After years of trucking through supermarket flavoured couscous I discovered a home blend is so much better. I can make sure that I get enough calories, and add delicious extras to make the meal more enjoyable and healthy. You do pretty much have to like couscous a lot for this to work! The advantage is that you just add boiling water which uses a lot less gas that pasta for example. Like the museli porridge, you can add whatever you fancy. I don't do beef or pork, but I reckon a bit of dried sausage or beef jerky would be nice for someone who does. Here's my current fave mix:

120g quick cook cousous, a handful each of pumpkin seeds and sultanas, dessert spoon of dessicated coconut, dessert spoon of chia seeds. I sachet of Bachelors high protein lentil soup (for salt and protein, alternatively a heaped teaspoon of veg bouillon). A teaspoon of spices, this week it's a blend of turmeric and garam masala.

I'm still figuring out the ultimate multi day lunch hack. If anyone has any top tips to share, I'll give them a try!

Going Wild on Arran

Brodick Bay.jpg

Lucy: The title of this post, is deliberately, quite similar to the title of my old blog, over on the google platform, that I curated for many years.  It describes perfectly what I spend a lot of my time doing.

The last couple of days I've been out and about with clients, wildlife guiding.  Yesterday we were on a Hotspot Safari- quite literally a tour of the best palces to watch wildlife on Arran.  The day began beautifully, with otters and sunshine.  There were snipe on the beach (who expected that?) and a red throated diver out to sea. Later in the day the weather deteriorated, but we were treated by a show of strength by the stags on the hills above the Newton Shore, who are in full rutting mode just now. Very dramatic.

Otter tracks.jpg

This morning was a typical dreich west coast day with strong westerlies. I wondered whether to call it but hoped that we could find a bit of shelter, and some sheltered water for an otter watching session.  Happily when we hit the shore, the rocks along the beach gave a bit of protection and we saw plenty of activity, incluing a female with two cubs, who bounced and flounced amongst the waves while their mother fished for breakfast. Later, we took a stroll along the shore the watch seals and found these lovely otter tracks in the sand.

And the weather gods smiled...


Lucy: Wally and I have spent the last two days tramping the Galloway hills checkpointing young people on their Bronze Duke of Edinburgh's award qualifying expedition.  They were very lucky, although they possibly didn't appreciate how lucky- it rained heavily during their expedition, but only while they were in their tents.  The rest of the time it was dry and breezy. No midges... The weather gods were certainly smiling on us!

Lochdoon Castle, an unsual place to be checkpointing kids.

Lochdoon Castle, an unsual place to be checkpointing kids.

Loch Bradan

Loch Bradan

Goatfell Peasouper

Goatfell peasouper.png

The view from the summit of Goatfell is, in our humble opinion, the second finest in Scotland (the best one is from the top of Caisteal Abhail...). However, today there was no view!  Npthing at all to be seen, in fact we could hardly see 10m ahead. Massive thumbs up and a pat on the back for the young people from Gosforth who accompanied myself and the staff from the Lochranza Centre to the summit. A good day's work and a well earned icecream and play about at Isle be Wild afterwards!

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

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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. 

Kildonan shore.jpg

Samoëns: IML Summer Assessment

Lucy: I'm back on Arran after a couple of weeks living the high life in the Haute Savoie.  This was a personal trip, preparation for my International Mountain Leader Summer Assessment, followed by the assessment itself, which I'm delighted to say, I passed.

Based in Samoëns, I had 10 days to get to know the area, before assessment, trekking up high, exploring the passes and steeper chained sections of the main routes, and learning about the amazing biodiversity of the area. The backdrop was an incredible karst limestone landscape, baking sunshine, lively marmots and badass alpine flowers throwing shades at 2500m. Guidebook: Cicerone's Walking in the Haute Savoie: South. 

Now all that remains is the (not) small matter of my Winter Assessment!

Massive thanks to the posse of aspirant IMLs and other warm and friendly folk who I joined in the hills, to the Plas Y Brenin staff for a professional and challenging assessment, and Ian Spare, Communications Director of BAIML for organising an aspirants day in the hills.

On the way up to the Refuge Alfred Wills.

On the way up to the Refuge Alfred Wills.

Cascade de la Pleureuse, Sixt fer a Cheval.

Cascade de la Pleureuse, Sixt fer a Cheval.

Field Gentian.

Field Gentian.