Pine Seeds

Over the twenty something years since the National Trust for Scotland took over the Mar Lodge Estate, the upper Glen Lui (or, Gleann Laoigh Bheag, as it is properly called), has become a real gem of a place. But today is not exactly a gem of a day. There be might fluffy fresh snow on the ground, but it's breezy, and visibility is limited indeed. Some might think it outright miserable! »

A Lesson from the Wee Hills

Days like these don’t come around that often. After a couple of brief snow flurries the sun banished the cloud, and now the early morning light glitters on the pristine slopes of Beinn Challuim. It is nearly exactly twenty years since I’ve been up here last, in very different conditions; a memorable day, though not for the best of reasons. »

Mountain Star

It was love at first sight. Those smooth curves, precision crafted from a solid block of stainless steel, the needle-sharp point, the smooth black, fully rubberised, shaft on which big red letters proudly declared:

Stubai — Made in Austria »

Discovering Snowshoes

I have thought about getting a pair of snowshoes a few times over the years, but never did. The copious quantities of snow at the tail end of last year finally gave me the needed nudge. Of course, as invariably happens, all that early snow summarily thawed away on the very day the snowshoes arrived, and I haven't had a chance to play with them until this week. »

Pinto Bean Soup

My love of lentils and legumes of all sort goes as far back as I can remember. In recent years, the pinto has become my firm favourite among the beans, for it's a versatile legume of a gentle flavour that is easy to work with. The burrito use aside, the pinto is an excellent foundation for a bean salad, great in chili, and once you taste it baked with tomatoes, you will never want to eat Heinz again. And then there is the soup. »

And Time to Back Off

Forecast is not great -- high winds, increasing in the course of the day, temperature likely above zero regardless of altitude, and precipitation arriving by an early afternoon. The sort of a day when it's not worth carrying a tripod, or driving too far, yet at the same time not bad enough to just stay at home all weekend and brood (as I know I would). »

If Running were Everything ...

As a lad I used to spend Hogmanay with my friends at some remote and basic cabin, far away from the noise and clutter of the city. There were two customs we invariably welcomed the New Year in with. We chucked one of our mates into the nearest pond to mark his birthday (which meant cutting a hole though the ice the evening before). And then we sat down and each wrote a letter to themselves, reflecting on the year just gone by, hoping for the future, one of the more responsible lads charged with keeping the, gradually thickening, envelopes from Hogmanay to Hogmanay. »

The Crew that Slept in

The West Highland Way Race, with its 30+ year history, can only be described an iconic classic. So when earlier this year our friend David got a place, Linda and I enthusiastically volunteered to join Gita (his partner) and McIver (their collie) to do the crewing. Little did we know what we were letting ourselves in for ... »

tf

Strathfarrar Watershed (A View from the Sidelines)

I suspect most of those reading this have never heard of John Fleetwood. Recently someone described John as 'quietly getting on with doing extraordinary mountain journeys with zero fanfare', which about sums him up. Behind that 'extraordinary' hide a few other adjectival phrases, of which perhaps the most important is 'preferably in winter', yet his accounts of these ventures are a bit understated. So here is one mortal's peripheral story of the Strathfarrar Watershed. »

Regarding Microspikes

Recently there has been some chatter about using lightweight footwear in the winter hills, and in that context microspikes have been mentioned. As someone who uses microspikes a lot, I'd really like to warn quite emphatically against taking microspikes into the hills as a substitute for crampons -- in some ways wearing microspikes can be considerably more dangerous than just wearing boots without crampons. »