Tyndrum Hols (Part 3): The Final Instalment

Day 5:
The day got off to a mixed start. Frustratingly, having bolted down breakfast to get the early (8 am) train, it was approximately half an hour late. On the upside, we hadn’t realised we needed to book seats (it was the Caledonian Sleeper) but were advised we were in luck – seats were available – and we enjoyed a very comfortable start to the day!

Awaiting the train to Corrour from Tyndrum Upper Station

Getting off the train, we got chatting to a couple of ladies who’d come all the way up on the sleeper. They were staying for a couple of days, minus their friend / navigator. More on that later …

Having parted ways with the others from the train, we began our walk on an excellent path towards Loch Ossian and the Youth Hostel. What a stunning location for a hostel! I would love to go back and stay there sometime.

Loch Ossian (Corrour)

As we proceeded, the track it split and we took the higher path. Having already started around 400 m, this allowed us to make good progress.

Further up, we passed Peter’s stone, a memorial to Peter Trowell who died in 1979 at 29 years old. He was working at the youth hostel alone over winter and his body was sadly found frozen in the loch after several weeks missing, the thinking being that he tragically fell in whilst working.

Turning uphill here we followed the hill with little visible path at times. At other points there was a clearer path which made for steady walking. Despite yesterday’s heavy rain, although boggy, it could have been worse underfoot. As we gained height, we’d climbed into the mist and low cloud, so waterproofs were donned.

Heading up towards Carn Dearg

We reached Meall na Letire Duibhe with relative ease, then following the broad ridge around to Carn Dearg, marked with an impressively large cairn. Despite it’s size we were very close before seeing it as visibility was variable, thick mist with cloud coming and going. We didn’t stop for any time as we were getting slightly damp.

Summit of Carn Dearg, Corrour

Continuing on we found the path that led us down to the Mam Ban, and as we progressed the path became very clear and easy to follow. As the descent to the bealach was not significant we concluded we should head back this way as the alternative was said to be very boggy, and given conditions we had no prospect of views. The summit cairn of Sgor Ghaibre was far smaller and again was enshrouded in mist, so we only paused briefly before, in theory, retracing our steps.

Summit cairn on Sgor Gaibhre

Initially it appeared that we were on the right path heading back towards Carn Dearg. However, somewhere along the way we lost the good path that we’d been on; the path split so we must have gone in the wrong direction. We’re none the wiser on reflection. Thankfully Bruce realised and with a combination of coordinates from the Garmin and basic map and compass skills, we established the direction we required to proceed in order to achieve the summit again.

Further down we had similar issues, again veering off course and requiring the map and compass to point us in the right direction. In the end we headed directly for Peter’s stone, the mist having cleared in order to see the loch below and give confirmation of our route. We were two very happy walkers on reaching the good track again!

Heading down from the Corrour munros to Loch Ossian

Along this track we met a few people and stopped to chat, before going to the cafe at Corrour Station. A thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours was spent here, refreshing ourselves after the walk. We got chatting to others, including Alan, the knight in shining armour who’d come to the rescue of two damsels in distress (pretty much fresh from the sleeper train), struggling to navigate in the mist on Beinn na Lap. The ladies appeared shortly after and were delighted to receive a lesson on map and compass skills courtesy of Bruce. We all get a bit rusty if not using these skills regularly so it’s important to practise as we found out today!

As the time for the train approached, the cafe emptied, all bar the two ladies returning in the same direction as us. We were all cheerily waved off as we began the return leg of the journey to Tyndrum. A great day out, and a memorable one to boot.

Day 6:
Sitting in the Glencoe Cafe mid-morning it was hard to conceive that the torrential rain would stop within the next hour or two. However, stop it did, or at least lighten, thus we found ourselves travelling along the road to begin the ascent of our final munro, Sgor na h-Ulaidh.

The most treacherous part of the day was the initial walk from the car park across the bridge and along the road for a few metres. The traffic is pretty fast – it is the main road after all – and it’s not pleasant crossing a bridge with a barely there pavement as the road narrows!

Safe and well, we began our ascent, again from low level, starting out on a very good track. This continued for a couple of miles, climbing very gradually, before we branched off and headed straight up the hill. Views back across the road were great, cloud clearing nicely.

Looking back towards Aonach Eagach

This was tough! With over 500 m of ascent, my calves felt like they may explode! Lungs were fine, but definitely a leg buster. Although dry, sadly this also meant heading up into the mist.

On reaching the bealach, the terrain eased momentarily before climbing again, over the top of Stob an Fhuarain. The path here was clear, fortunate as the ground was wet, and there was too much potentially slippery rock for my liking. Crossing this, we dropped again before gaining height once more, this time to the summit of Sgor na h-Ulaidh. There were scary looking crags here so care was needed to ensure we did not stray off the path from the summit. Another walker, on approaching, did stumble, thankfully managing to right himself! It would have ruined my lunch had he disappeared!!

Summit cairn: Sgor na h-Ulaidh

Retracing our steps, we took our time on the descent, careful of the potential for slipping on wet rock.

Coming down from Sgor na h-Ulaidh

Knowing the route made light work and before we knew it we were back on the scree ahead of the main descent down by the stream. At this point we met a hill runner – walking, as it wasn’t quite what he’d hoped for in terms of ground – and we enjoyed a good chat with him before parting ways when the ground became more gradual in descent.

Main path descending from Sgor na h-Ulaidh

All that was left then was the trek back to the main trail. The lower section was a bit wet and stony which made it slow going; it was a relief to finally reach the main track, the home straight. Typically, the mist cleared at this point giving a view of what we might have seen has we held out for another couple of hours.

The route up to Sgor na h-Ulaidh as the cloud began to clear

Holidays done, all the munros planned for the week achieved, two very happy walkers!

Tyndrum Hols (Part 2): a munro and a wee jaunt along the Way

Day 3: Beinn Sgulaird

Having woken feeling somewhat reminiscent of being run over by a bus, I indulged in some gentle yoga practise to stretch out my weary limbs before breakfast – the joys of holidays!

Much refreshed, we then headed for Beinn Sgulaird. Going down the Oban road in the car however, I did feel my eyes heavy (thankfully I wasn’t the driver!) and this reminded me that I was still tired after yesterday’s epic day out.

The munro of the day was to be Beinn Sgulaird, chosen because of the clear forecast and potentially stunning views. We were not to be disappointed!

The walk got off to a good start, heading up a wide, clear track; the downside was beginning at sea level again. This gentle ascent gave our legs the opportunity to warm up before we turned off the main path onto a smaller track that would lead up the hill. This was the beginning of a pretty relentless slog up to the first of the summits. The path was dry, clear and quite soft underfoot, so aside from slightly tired legs there was nothing to complain about.

Heading up the good path of Beinn Sgulaird

Somehow having followed the route to a small bealach at approximately half way up (in terms of height), we then managed to make our own route by veering off the main path. We realised our error when the Garmin suggested we go straight up the hillside and rerouted to come back onto the main path. (Had Bruce been the keeper of the Garmin this probably wouldn’t have happened!) Coming towards the first summit – there are two smaller summits ahead of the munro – Beinn Sgulaird itself could be clearly seen peeking out along what looked like an impressive ridge. We met a friendly chap around this point who advised that there was nothing challenging ahead, other than the deceptive nature of the distance to go.

Having reached the first summit, we made our way up and over, taking time on the descent as it was a combination of boulders and a little scree leading down to the bealach. It wasn’t difficult and that was a relief, all the more so knowing this was also our return route. The next summit, Meall Garbh, had a clear cairn and again provided some fun terrain with more steep descent and rocks to cross.

Approaching the summit of Beinn Sgulaird

Finally, the ascent of Beinn Sgulaird itself was upon us. It looked clear, aside from the top where the route guide suggested some very easy scrambling may be required. In the event there was nothing challenging at all, only fun, and we were happy to reach the large summit cairn with stunning views all around.

The most bizarre and unexpected sight of the day was a herd of goats! Not what you expect at the top of a hill!

Herd of mountain goats on Beinn Sgulaird

A leisurely stop later, we descended back the way we’d come. Far more pleasant than yesterday and blessedly shorter, before long we’d returned to our start point. This also heralded the halfway point for me: 141 munros in the bag. Not sure where this journey will end, but as I’ve stated all along, I’ve no intention of doing them all!

Day 4: The Green Welly Stop, Real Food Cafe & West Highland Way

Woke up to mist, light drizzle, and a forecast of heavy rain, so opted to hang around Tyndrum. We’ve both got a low boredom threshold so it didn’t take long to peruse the Green Welly Stop. Coffee was calling so we headed for the Real Food Cafe and contented ourselves for a while by watching the birds at the feeders while enjoying our cakes. We got chatting to a couple from London who were on route back home having completed the munros. A great effort – they estimated each munro had cost them £100!! That’s dedication for you!

Later in the day we decided to have a walk and took the train to Bridge of Orchy, walking back after a brief refreshment in the hotel. It was a bit drizzly and I was less than happy as it was way too hot for waterproofs making for uncomfortable walking. Tomorrow I may just get wet!

Tyndrum Hols (Part 1): there’s more to Tyndrum than the Green Welly Stop!

Day 1: Stuchd an Lochain

The drive out Glen Lyon seemed to take forever, all the more so being caught behind a bus! Parking up just ahead of the dam, we donned our boots and began a gentle walk to the cairn that indicates the turn off for Stuchd an Lochain. This took us gently across the hillside before beginning to climb.

The climb was comfortable. Despite not having been on the hills much the legs felt okay. Husband meanwhile has done lots of hills over the last few weeks and climbed in the style of a mountain goat, effortlessly!

Heading up Stuchd an Lochain

The path was fairly steep but good, and before too long we reached the broad ridge that would take us along to the summit of the first munro of the holiday, Stuchd an Lochain. This was indicated by a couple of cairns along the way and we made good time despite the small drop to the bealach on the way. We got chatting to another walker and this also passed the time. Lots of friendly people on the hill today.

The thrill of the day came while chatting: an eagle soared overhead! It was one of those wonderful moments that you’re glad to be in the company of others to have confirmation of what you’re seeing. It was shortly pursued by some other, much smaller birds, and the walker we were chatting to suggested they must be nesting nearby and trying to see it off.

Reaching the summit we were rewarded with great views of the surrounding hills. Even Ben Nevis looked to be considering peeking it’s head out of the clouds.

Having enjoyed lunch at the summit cairn there was nothing further to do aside from retrace our route back down.

As always, this was quicker than the up and before long we were back at the car. Holidays begun, next stop, Tyndrum.

Day 2: Ben Starav, Beinn nan Aighenan & Glas Bheinn Mhor

There’s always one long day on the holiday and the fantastic forecast deemed it to be today! We decided to do a ‘two’ and add on an extra munro that essentially followed the same route up, adding extra time today but saving a long day somewhere down the line should anyone wish to complete the munros.

View to Ben Starav & Glas Bheinn Mhor from Glen Etive

The first munro of the day was Ben Starav. It was also the highest at 1078 metres and there was the added joy of starting pretty much at sea level. On the upside, the boggy ground described in the walk guide was fortuitously dry for the most part. The ascent was long and steady, taking quite some time to complete.

The summit looked somewhat intimidating on the approach. As we neared it, the terrain became a little stonier and there were some more exposed areas. For the most part though there was a clear path. I kept my focus on the ground immediately in front of me, avoiding looking down. I was quite delighted when we reached the cairn!

Leaving the summit to head down to the bealach, the ridge narrowed and made for an interesting traverse. For the most part it was manageable; there was only one scrambly section where Bruce required to talk me through the steps required to ensure I didn’t have too much of a wobble! Before long we were heading down towards the intersection of paths that would lead us to Beinn nan Aighenan, later retracing our steps for Glas Bheinn Mhor.

On route to Glas Bheinn Mhor from Ben Starav

Beinn nan Aighenan looked like an easy walk, aside from the additional distance and time, and this proved to be the case. It was great fun on the descent with just enough interest and choice of route without any real danger involved.

Beinn nan Aighenan

Despite adding an extra two and a half hours to our day, we were both glad we’d made the detour for this one.

From the bealach, we began the long pull up Glas Bheinn Mhor. This was a fairly easy ascent and our legs felt remarkably good. The ridge was wide and the path was good.

Heading up Glas Bheinn Mhor

Reaching the final summit of the day, we were quite elated; little did we know what a hard slog lay ahead!

From here we had to descend all the way back to just above sea level. The initial couple of hundred metres was fun, with good path and dry underfoot conditions. Sadly conditions deteriorated, ground became boggier as we descended, and stones and boulders on the path made for pretty slow going. We were both pretty scunnered!

Finally we reached a point to cross the stream which allowed us to join the better path we’d followed on the way up. Arriving at the car we were as delighted to see it as the midges were to see us!!! So much so that they even joined us in the car!

A tough day, but a great day: 10 hours, 14 miles, 3 munros & 5700 feet of ascent, and a milestone … 232 munros for Bruce, leaving only 50 to go!

Loving the trails!

Having set the bar at parkrun at the end of May, I fell off the pace in June. Half marathon training should have started (and in theory has), but the tall task of getting back to speed leaves me a little lacking in enthusiasm. June has also seen me away for work related things a few of times and overall it’s just been a very busy month.

I felt like I’d lost my mojo a little, but have been pleased to rediscover it on the trails. Thursday saw me dropped off on the back road as husband headed north. This allowed me to enjoy a loop of my favourite forest before making my way home, barely touching tar until the final mile.

Then today saw the social Sunday group hit our usual loop of Hazlehead and Countesswells. After yesterday’s hot parkrun at the beach, the damp, cool air among the trees was a true blessing!

The run started with a warm up loop with Alan before meeting the others. We then headed up the trail at Hazlehead, through the gates and over to Countesswells Forest.

Gate to Gate between Hazlehead and Countesswells

Stopped at our usual spot for the group photo, minus Ali, our usual photographer, so a couple of people are missing from shot!

Group photo in Countesswells minus a couple due to lack of photographic skill

Onwards along the beautiful trails, great in all weathers but especially pleasurable on such a lovely summer’s day!

Kingshill, the big hill of the run, is tough on the legs, but definitely helps with overall strength. First time around …

Bottom of Kingshill - waiting for everyone to regroup

And around again …

Finishing loop 2 of Kingshill

I have no idea how I ever managed to do this 5 times! That was probably around this time last year when peaking for the Fort William Marathon.

Crossing over to the other side of the Forest we run up what I consider to be the last hill – in actual fact there are two more but I find them comparatively easy.

Top of the hill at the opposite side to Kingshill, Countesswells Forest

No sprint back through Hazlehead this week as my legs were more than happy (or fatigued) by what we’d done. Finished with a run up and down the reps lane to round the day off with 14 miles.

Goal for the week ahead is to try to get some regular running in, whatever the weather.

This is where I’m at. What keeps you motivated? Feel free to share any tips by commenting.

Aberdeen parkrun: Setting the Bar

Since the marathon I’ve been somewhat lazy. The planned two week rest period turned into four weeks of not a lot. I did a couple of easy runs in the third week, then last week life got in the way with lots on, very little ‘me’ time, and too many hours spent at work. On the upside I have hopefully given my body time to recover fully.

Feeling fitter than I had done in a long time while training with the Hanson plan I hope to continue the year strongly following such a consistent block of training. I ‘raced’ Stonehaven parkrun last weekend, pushing myself harder than I’ve done in some time, finishing in 23:06.

This week was the turn of my ‘home’ run, Aberdeen parkrun. A flat course with the potential for fast times dependent on wind, while I knew that a PB was not on the cards, and may never be again, I was determined to run hard and set the bar for my next block of training.

Having warmed up with an easy couple of miles I arrived to catch only the tail end of the briefing – sorry Graham, very rude of me! I skipped round the outside of the throng in order to secure a place near to the front and we were off. Starting out fast, this was the first time I’d run at 5k pace in as many weeks, the last speed session being in the last 10 days of the marathon plan. Prior to that I’d had a speed block at the beginning of the plan before focusing on strength: marathon pace and just a wee bit faster on SOS runs.

Aberdeen parkrun

I found the first mile fairly comfortable clocking 6:51. The second mile was harder and I was aware of my lungs! While the legs felt good it was definitely harder to regulate the breathing and I was working hard. This mile was slower, 6:56. Going into the final mile I knew I just had to hang on in there! Less than 8 minutes to endure, knowing that the fourth kilometre is where most people struggle, I tried my best to dig in and was happy to see the 5k marker. It seemed a long way to the stones marshal, but once past them I knew I’d soon be done.

Aberdeen parkrun

Pushing hard, the last mile was slower again in 6:58, but the watch indicates that despite thinking I was slowing down I did manage to pick up pace slightly to cross the line.

Delighted, I heard my sister shout the time as I passed her. Thanks for volunteering! Official time: 21:31

Very happy with that and most definitely a good starting point for the next round of training!

I’ve lacked consistency over the last few weeks. One of the joys of the Hanson plan was knowing that I run every day except Wednesday. I’m going to try returning to that again, maybe trying more morning runs as we’re currently blessed with lots of daylight. Wish me luck!

When Charlie Met Bella: The Cairnwell Trio

My husband has taken on a challenge … 50 munros in 150 days to raise money for Charlie House: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/bruce-russell5

As with all things Bruce, he’s not doing it by halves so I’m going to be spending much of June alone as he hits the heights on various expeditions! Should you wish to follow his progress you can do so here: https://m.facebook.com/groups/840910906256097?id=840910906256097&ref=content_filter&_rdr

Fair’s fair though, it should be said that he was very tolerant of my lack of presence during marathon training, so it’s time for retribution.

Today, we stayed local and were delighted to have the company of Nicola and Bella (a very cute Labrador) on our walk. I’m a real dog lover, Bruce however, is allergic, and I’m happy to get my doggy fix any way I can!

Parking up at the Glenshee Ski Centre we had a brief discussion as to whether to do the Glas Maol circuit or The Cairnwell trio. Opting for the trio, we concluded that the other four could wait for another day.

These munros provide easy walking with good paths. Having previously completed this circuit in the early days of hill walking, I’ve concluded I’d happily do them alone – usually I prefer to walk in company – but they really are a gift if you’re ticking a list. Starting high there’s no real test of strength and we completed our round in just outside four hours with a lengthy stop to watch a hang glider on The Cairnwell.

First up it’s Carn Aosda, a very short walk from the car park. Charlie posed here for the first photograph of the day, rescued ahead of too much attention from Bella as her interest piqued when he emerged.

Charlie dog: on top of Carn Aosda #50in150

Heading on, the longest walk of the day ensued and it passed quickly with all the chat.

The Cairnwell Trio: Bella takes a dip (Glenshee)

We reached Carn a’ Gheoidh, taking Charlie’s second photo. Stopping here for a snack, Bella again showed her pedigree and training by abstaining from stealing my oatcakes or mooching too much. Alternatively, it could be that she doesn’t like peanut butter! (However, I have it on good authority that the only two things she won’t eat are raspberries and lettuce, so I suspect she’s just been well brought up!)

Charlie Dog on Carn a’ Gheoidh #50in150 #charliehouse

Retracing our steps for a time, we met a walking group from Portsoy and exchanged pleasantries. This was the one and only time we heard Bella speak and we’re still none the wiser why.

The final summit of the day, The Cairnwell, was a slightly steeper pull in the overall scheme of the day but most definitely manageable. The most unfortunate thing of this munro is all the ‘furniture’ on top; sadly today this also included a collapsed unit that’s in the throes of being recovered from the hill. Things just aren’t built to last these days!

Debris on The Cairnwell

The highlight of this top was a hang glider. We waited for some time while he and his companion faffed around (even Bella got bored) but finally he was ready for takeoff! A very impressive sight it was too as he soared around like a giant wasp overhead!

Hang glider off The Cairnwell

We opted for the direct descent route, straight down the steep hillside for the cafe.

The cafe was very welcoming. Dog friendly, Bella was given water and a big dog biscuit while we enjoyed a cuppa and cake. Poor Charlie was relegated to the rucksack in the boot.

Hindsight is a great thing and we now realise that Charlie could have had an even more amazing adventure had Bella been permitted to show him the hills. He’d have experienced a host of new pleasures – swimming in the loch, paddling in burns and streams, digging in the heather, eating snow and rolling around in the heather. He’d have been a whole different dog as a result, not least due to being filthy and wet! Instead, Bella carried an old fence post from The Cairnwell down, impressively waiting until the burn widened at the back of the ski centre before her final dip as she couldn’t fit in with the fence post in her mouth prior to this!

A successful day out, that’s Charlie now clocked up 11 munros with many more to come. Maybe one day he’ll get to roam free!

Loch Lee

Too windy for big hills and too soon for running (I’m fully committed to two weeks complete rest post-marathon), we decided upon a low level walk today and went south for a change to Loch Lee.

Parking at Invermark (Glen Esk), we headed off along the road for a short distance before veering onto the track that took us to Loch Lee. This reservoir appeared popular with fisherman, catch of the day being brown trout. The walk along the loch was quite scenic, easy walking terrain, looking ahead to Craig Maskeldie and Cairn Lick.

Rain showers blew over occasionally and as we gradually gained height these became hail and even a light flurry of snow.

We left the track to cross a good bridge, then taking a narrower path to continue on, crossing some boggy, marshy ground. There were some lovely waterfalls, Falls of Unich and Falls of Damff higher up.

Continuing, we followed a rough track to climb gently to reach Cairn Lick. The views here of Loch Lee were beautiful and we were fortunate to have clear skies at this point. The day was greatly varied with periods of sun and warmth interspersed with dark skies, increased wind and precipitation in various forms.

Picking up a rough road we dropped back down to the loch in good time, then beginning to retrace our steps back to Invermark. It’s funny how the road back never seems to take as long. Passing Invermark Castle we knew we were almost done.

Invermark Castle

Stopped off at Tarfside to buy some freshly laid eggs, our next stop was Stonehaven for a chippy tea. Lovely day out, legs still quite happy to walk rather than run!