For the last three days I have been out with members of the Sierra Club who are over from the US to experience the finest Scottish scenery, history and culture. The Sierra Club is an environmental organisation which was founded by Scottish-American John Muir in 1892. With 3.5 million members and supporters they are the most influential grassroots environmental organisation in the US, and have protected millions of acres of wilderness and helped to pass a number of environmental acts.
With only nine days on their tour the group were cramming in as much as possible. After a day in Edinburgh they headed north where I met them for a leg of the West Highland Way from Drymen to Balmaha. Yesterday we were back on the West Highland Way, this time from the Kings House to Kinlochleven. Today we squeezed in a visit to Glencoe Lochan before heading up toward the Pap of Glencoe. There is plenty more planned for my next four days with them and the weather is looking perfect for our visit to Lismore tomorrow!
Matt, Adrienne, Oscar and Maika are well practiced mountain bikers. Living in Whistler in Canada with the trails very cl;ose to their front door means they have fantastic access to some of the best riding in the world. So on their trip to Scotland they wanted to try some of our awesome trails, to see the landscape above the tree line and have a lot of fun as well. So we did exactly that!
We got the bikes from Nevis Cycles at Nevis Range and did a couple of loops around the trail centre routes to get used the bikes and the trails. There's a bit of difference between the grades of trails in Canada and Scotland. After a wee stop for hard boiled eggs we went up to the Allt a'Mhuilinn and up the walkers trail towards the North Face of Ben Nevis. This is a super technical trail and not for beginner riders. Despite being just seven and ten years old, Oscar and Maika did amazingly well and we got a good way up the trail before turning round for the descent. We only had one pinch flat which says a lot about the standard of riding.
Back down in the forest we enjoyed the world champs red and came back through the whole in the wall to MacKenzies Road back to Nevis Range. Six hours of riding is plenty for most folks and for the youngsters it was a big day despite the sweet blaeberries to keep us going. It was really nice to be on the bike today and to spend the day with a great family showing off the riding here in Scotland.
What a contrasting weekend! Yesterday was sunny and calm, and today was, well, wet. But the wind and rain wasn't going to put Guanyu off climbing Ben Nevis. Full of enthusiasm, she also wanted to learn about some basic navigation techniques along the way so we took every opportunity to chat about ways to keep track of our position on the route, checking off different features and some contour interpretation. Even if you're on a path with good visibility these are good habits to get into.
We made excellent time in very poor conditions, but the summit was no place to be hanging around today. The temperature has certainly dropped over the last week, and it looks like a pretty mixed bag for the rest of the month. Autumn is definitely just around the corner!
John and Fi are over from Australia to sample some of Scotland's best bits. There are few better places to start than the CMD Arete onto Ben Nevis. They were expecting cold, damp weather with lots of cloud and bits of rain. Luckily the weather today did not ruin their expectations but we did get some brilliant views and it was mostly dry. It's a long pull up to Carn Mor Dearg over the wet peat slopes that slowly give out to a path through the red screes on the flank of the hillside. The cloud kept teasing us with glimpses of a view of the north face to keep us going on. As soon as we arrived at Carn Mor Dearg though we enjoyed a brilliant view down to Steall and all around.
The rocks on the arete are mostly pretty grippy after lots of people have worn away the lichen. Even with a couple of light showers the rock was mostly good and the wind was light enough so we enjoyed the best of the scrambling right on the crest. John and Fi have not experienced anything quite like this despite some treks in Australia but they got on really well and soaked up the exposure and the atmosphere.
It was really interesting to chat about land management in Australia and to compare it with what goes on here. Around Melbourne there is a big problem of having too many deer like we do here and no big predators to keep the numbers down. But they do have lots of smaller predators that have a very bad impact on the small marsupials and mammals. It's always a very difficult balance to get right with pressures from many different sides. It was cold on top today and it will be even colder tomorrow with a chance of sleet or hail on top. We might also get a frost at the weekend! Time to turn on the heating?
Today Steph and I headed down to Glen Coe to make the most of a calm and sunny weather forecast. She hadn't been up any of the summits in the glen so we decided on Stob Coire nan Lochan.
This fantastic mountain has a number of options for the ascent, and also a number of ways that your day can be made as long or as short as you wish. We opted for the steep path up Coire nan Lochan and dodged what seemed like hundreds of tiny frogs and a herd of red deer stags to get onto the north west ridge, then on to the almost cloud free summit.
To descend we dropped off the back of Stob Coire nan Lochan to the bealach between it and Bidean nam Bian, then to our left down into the Lost Valley. We were only in the clouds briefly while on the summit and the views for the rest of the day were spectacular. Fingers crossed this weather continues!
For various reasons it's been a while since I blogged about anything. This isn't because nothing has been going on. Actually we've been really busy with walks up Ben Nevis, corporate days out, days of rock climbing and scrambling. I was away in Latvia and Lithuania recently so it was really nice to get back on Ben Nevis today. It was wet and cloudy this morning and we walked up the Allt a'Mhuilinn into a damp, grey room. However, just as quickly as we walked up, the mist cleared and the cloud level rose. We caught it up again at the summit but soon dropped down below the cloud level again on the descent to get really nice views over Glen Nevis and out to the west.
Daniel wanted to walk up Ben Nevis on his first trip to Scotland by a route that was moe challenging than the regular trail. So we went up underneath the North Face and into Coire Leis. The "sheltered coire" lived up to its name today and we only got into the wind as we arrived on the ridge at the end of the Carn Mor Dearg Arete. We saw virtually nobody all day until we got to the summit. From there we saw hundreds of people until we left them and the Pony Track to go past Lochain Meall an t'Suidhe. It was a really nice day and great for me to be have someone to tell everything I know about Ben Nevis, from geology to climbing history. It was really nice to get a clearing of the mists as well, something I hope will continue.
Self reliance is a fundamental principle of mountaineering. By participating we accept this and take responsibility for the decisions we make. These blog posts and conditions reports are intended to help you make good decisions. They do not remove the need for you to make your own judgements when out in the hills.