Callander Weekend March 2020

Margaret heading up Sgiath a’ Chaise

As it turned out this weekend was the last opportunity we had to travel and meet as a group. 10 of us stayed at the hostel in the centre of Callander, which was in a state of repair, so not on our list of preferred hostels at the moment.
Due to the weather forecast (especially for the Saturday) a few decided to head off early on the Friday to get some exercise in by venturing up a small hill near Callander (no great shakes).
On the Saturday the main group travelled by car for 45 minutes to Loch Katerine, only to find the Graham we intended doing was not accessible from Stronachlachar Pier due to landslides around the shore road. After some discussion we decided on walking on the old military road to Inversnaid. This was easily the best suggestion as it was a relatively easy flat walk with changeable scenery, and involved a coffee break at the Inversnaid Hotel and lunch on our return to the Stronachlachar Pier tea room, which served excellent food. The weather was dreich but the rain was light and we did get views across Loch Lomond. A self isolation group of 2 ventured up Sgiath a’ Chaise, and it seems that they definitely had the better of the weather.
On the Sunday as it was pouring down people went their separate ways, a small group of 3 climbed Ben Venue and were rewarded with good views. That’s Scottish weather for you, very changeable.

Fochabers to Lossiemouth February Walk

February saw us take a trip to the seaside to do a walk which was possibly unique in two respects in the annals of club history. The first respect was that we were walking 22 km but only ascending 80 metres (not very impressive for a hillwalking club). The second respect was that we were combining two waymarked trails in the Speyside Way and Moray Coastal Trail.
Prior to the walk we had discovered that the bridge connecting Lossiemouth town to the East Beach was closed due to being declared unsafe in 2019. It is possible to still get across the River Lossie onto the beach but only if you have a wetsuit. This meant we had to change our intended end point from Lossiemouth to Arthur’s Bridge, which is a couple of miles south of the town.
Seven of us started the walk from Fochabers, heading north along the Speyside Way towards Spey Bay. It was a dull day which threatened rain but the River Spey was high and fast flowing carrying snow melt from the highish temperatures of the previous days. We decided to detour to Spey Bay in the hope that the visitor centre coffee shop would be open (it wasn’t). Instead we had our lunch on the beach gazing over a very placid Moray Firth to the hills of Caithness, with Morven being clearly visible.
We then headed to Garmouth over the very impressive ex railway bridge which spans the Spey. The bridge took three years to build and is 947 feet long. It operated from 1885 until the Beeching cuts of 1963 when the line was closed.
As the drizzle started we chanced upon the Speyside Coffee Roasting Co. in Garmouth who provided us with an excellent brew and biscuits. Suitably refreshed, we made our way to Kingston and then along the coast. We were slightly disappointed that although we were right next to the sea, we couldn’t see it for much of the way because a shingle bar blocks the view. However, we were able to see all manner of fortifications left over from the Second World War. There must have been a real concern here 80 years ago that the forces of fascism would invade and strike on to threaten Lhanbryde or Mosstodloch.
We finished with a pleasant walk through the forest back to the cars. Although the weather had not been great, all agreed it had been good to get out and stretch the legs.

Bennachie Walk Jan 2020

Happy New Year to all hillwalkers reading this. The Club roared (or rather spluttered) into the new decade with a walk up Bennachie (also known as the Aberdonian’s Munro).
The walk was originally scheduled for Saturday 4th January. Due to the bad weather forecast and the low numbers of people who said they would be coming, a decision was taken to rearrange the walk for the Sunday when there was a better forecast. Unfortunately, this message didn’t reach all members of the Club with the result that some turned up on the Saturday.
Apologies for the inconvenience if this was you. One brave walker even ventured up the hill in the driech weather – we are Grateful that he did not end up Dead in the conditions.
All Club Members are reminded that they need to let the Club Secretary know if they are coming on the walk in advance so that any late changes to planned walks can be properly arranged and communicated.
Sunday dawned much brighter with clear views. Five of us set out on the walk. Starting at the Back o’Bennachie Car Park we headed in a west to east direction going over the tops of Hermit Seat. Watch Craig, Oxen Craig, Mither Tap and Craigshannoch. Going was easy on the good paths although the wind was very strong on the summits and plateau. As is normal Oxen Craig and Mither Tap were crowded with people with dogs, toddlers, family groups and mountain bikers all enjoying the views. The only snow to be seen was on the distant Cairngorms and even this was only patchy, highlighting how unseasonably warm it has been of late.
Bennachie has a fascinating history and many books have been written about the hill. Our Iron Age ancestors must have been very hardy to sit in a fort on the summit with the fleshpots of Kemnay and Insch a stone’s throw away. Bennachie has also been suggested as the site for the battle of Mons Graupius between the Roman and Caledonian armies in AD83 – an early example of a dispute about hill access!
Next month we are off to the seaside!

Christmas Weekend Dunkeld

The Christmas weekend has always been more of a social event rather than walking. 22 members attended this year staying at the Royal Dunkeld Hotel, Dunkeld.

The walk on the Saturday was part of the Rob Roy Way from Aberfeldy to Pitlochry. This was a fairly easy walk in beautiful crisp winter sunshine due mainly to the -5⁰C overnight. For the first half we followed the River Tay to Grandtully where the group split up, one half going for nourishment in the local hotel while a smaller group only had chocolate in their sights and headed to the local chocolatier. The second half of the walk consisted of a small climb over to Pitlochry where the walk finished. A strange phenomenon seems to happen on marked routes – losing our way three times – where crossing empty areas of Scotland in tricky conditions never tends to be an issue.
We were glad to return to the hotel with the temperature plummeting. The annual photographic competition was the usual high standard with the overall winning entry being a holiday snap in the high Austrian mountains. All the winning entries will go onto the club website for next year.
We then had an excellent 3 course meal in the hotel restaurant; this gave us enough time to have the annual quiz which tested our weary brains on important dates in history, film trivia and general knowledge. Thanks to Alan and Margaret for coming up with all the memory teasers.
Another bright sunny morning tempted some early birds to try out the circular walk starting at the Cateran Trail, Blairgowrie. This long distance walk is something worth considering for future.

Below are the winning pictures from each category, the overall winner was the picture of Alison and an Alpine Chough in Austria.

Trip to the Sidlaws – November

The Club walk for November saw three radical departures from well-established tradition:
– We headed South to the Sidlaw Halls, an area we had never been to before. Some people were so disorientated by this that they got lost on the way to the start of the walk.
– We moved the walk from the first to the second weekend of the month so that club members could enjoy Bonfire night (!). This proved to be a good decision as the weather was good compared to the downpours of the previous Sunday.
– We planned to do two short walks and use the cars to travel between them, rather than the normal single walk.
Nine gallant hillwalkers set out from the village of Collace and made the short ascent to Dunsinane Hill. This hill was an iron age fort and was made famous when Shakespeare featured it in “Macbeth”. Thankfully, there were no witches or other ghouls encountered. From there, we continued on the ridge over Black Hill to King’s Seat. This was a bit of a tiddler at 377 metres, but the views very good with Dundee and the silvery Tay to the South and all manner of snow-covered peaks to the North including the Angus Glens and Schiehallion.
We could have returned along the ridge but decided to traverse down in order to avoid reascent. As is often the case, this was a mistake as the ground was boggy and tussocky and give the hardest walking of the day.
Once back at the cars, we drove to Tullybaccart for a short walk up a good track to the top of Lundie Craigs. The highlight was a stop at the lovely Ledcrieff Loch. This was mirror calm with trout breaking the surface.
On the way back we had a pleasant coffee stop in Meigle. All in all it was an enjoyable day with fine weather to explore an unfamiliar area.

New Lanark Weekend

In September the club made a visit south of the central belt. The club stayed at the hostel on the UNESCO site of New Lanark, which was very impressive. On the Saturday the main group headed off and climbed the Grahams Culter Fell and Gathersnow Hill; the weather was perfect and we had great views in all directions. Other groups consisting of no more than 2 did other grahams. We all returned back to the hostel early after an excellent ice cream in Biggar. In the evening we traveled by taxi to the Italian restaurant `PREGO` in Lanark, which everybody thought was also excellent and one of the best Italian meals most us have every had. Congratulations goes to the club secretary for choosing this place. In the morning we did the local walk to the falls of Clyde, which is to be highly recommended.

Glencoe Weekend

Setting off for
Stob Coir’ an Albannaich

12 of the club members went on the summer weekend, staying at the Glencoe YH, this being the first time we had been there and it is a hostel we would highly recommend.

On the Saturday the weather was fantastic and no complaints were heard. The team split up into 3 groups, 2 groups tackling munros and the last going for 2 Grahams all three walks were no easy feat and we were all glad of the clear conditions. The only problem arose due to overheating and the reminder that we all need to drink a lot of water when tackling high mountains.

On the Saturday evening we all descended on the Clachaig Inn (probably the most iconic mountaineering pub in Scotland) the place was busy but we all had a good time. Later in the evening we were treated to a live band, not traditional more mainstream rock.

On the Sunday the weather changed as it had been pretty good most of that week. We all decided to head east.

Ullapool Weekend

STAC POLLAIDH The most technically difficult graham bagged

Our usual Youth Hostel weekend in Ullapool was swapped for two nights in the up market Arch Inn for 9 club members.
Dinner in the Arch was perfectly fine, although we had a substantial wait before being served.

The forecast was overcast with showers for the North West with the best day on Saturday.

A group of 6 of us had arranged the excellent local guide Tim (Hamlet Mountaineering) to take us over the tricky turrets of Stac Pollaidh.
At £30 each we thought it worth it to ensure we were safe and to enjoy the day.

The other three group members went their separate ways: one to bag a Corbett (Cul Mor and see the Knockan Crags), another climbed the Graham (Meall Doire Faid)
and finally the third enjoyed a stroll down Glen Achall to Loch An Daimh.

We met Tim and Keira (collie dog) at the car park below Stac Pollaidh and headed up the easy track in dry mild weather.
The stroll up gave us a chance to get to know Tim and Keira. T
im has vast experience of climbing and walking routes in Scotland, sea kayaking around the summer isles and is also a keen photographer.

On reaching the bealach we had a short scoot up the easy east top then back to the bealach to regroup.
By this time the weather had deteriorated and we faced into the mist with the predicted rain interspersed.
There being many different routes to the summit, Tim suggested we keep to the north side to minimise the winds from the South.
Waterproof jackets were required for the start of the tricky section and Tim gave us confidence as he led us over some slippery slabs and round craggy corners.

By 12 noon we came to the wall where again we were consulted on which side to tackle – we opted for ‘the squirm’. (On a previous outing this was as far as we managed).
Time for roping up and this was our first test – how to get the harness on! One of our group had never done any climbing before – the rest of us having completed our Munros with a guide on the
In-Pin – anxious excitement was focused on the task ahead and we all squirmed our way up the short but technical scramble to the easy path to the summit.
Keira by the way also came with us with just a little help up.

The conditions were decidedly dreich and we didn’t linger on the top – although we did get some cracking photos with the atmospheric Scotch mist as the dramatic backdrop.

The route down the squirm was slowly accomplished and Tim then took us down a steep gully which needed all our wits about us and we then traversed round to the main route
to complete the circuit of Stac Pollaidh. All agreed a very satisfying day out with thoughts of conquering the Cuillin ridge again.

Alison Paterson on the Squirm
Descending from the top

Gairloch for the May weekend

Easter was spent in an over-heated, fart – filled bedroom, with our slumber disturbed by seismic snores. In contrast, our Mayday weekend featured quiet nights in cool rooms and a refreshed team rose on the Saturday morning. The rather distant Graham of Beinn nan Ramh was our hill for the day. With a lengthy , flat approach on a well surfaced estate track , this mountain was a prime hill for cycling into – so we walked! Did we regret making the day so much harder than it needed to be? Probably , but the logistics of getting seven cycles to the start was high on the hassle count.
It was chilly . A Northerly wind nipped at us and a thin coating of fresh snow was visible on the higher hillsides. An uneventful hour or so was passed in conversation as we ambled our way from the car park at Kinlochewe to the Leckie bothy at the base of the Graham. After some swift snacking we left the bothy via a decent stalkers track ,which wound its way nicely up to the Western end of Beinn nan Ramh. A shortish ascent of trackless toil soon lead us to the flat summit ; which we swiftly departed in search of somewhere more sheltered. Heading Westwards , our eyes were now treated to striking features of Slioch and Ben Lair as they plunged towards Lochan Fada. The team assembled for lunch on a level area of land adjacent to the stalkers path. Down the zig – zags ; back to the bothy and then the long trudge back to the car. The mountain rescue team were out searching for a guy who had been missing since Wednesday : not much chance now was their assessment of the situation.
Sunday was even colder. Some members ascended An Ruadh– Mheallan , before sneaking off to the tea room in the lovely little village of Diabaig. Willie and Steve went coastal. Mo and I made the long drive to Beinn Bheag and Groban from A832 at Loch a Bhradin. Pleasant enough walking along the lochside , before the short but steep climb to the icy top of BeinnBheag. Sheets of bare rock descending from the snowy summits of the nearby Fisherfield mountains. Lunch in the bealach. Compass bearing to leave the top of Groban and down to the loch in worsening weather. Wet off and on all the way back to the car.
We all would highly recommend the Carn Dearg Youth Hostel. The views from the hostel over the sea to the mountain and shore line were magnificent.

Stuart Smith

Willie Wilkinson outside Ivors Bothy