Monday, 31 August 2015

Rain stops play

 A west bank holiday meant yours truly was asked to make the bed. The fact that it had been in boxes in the bathroom since May was getting to be a bit of an issue so as all excuses and avenues of escape were cut off by the weather I knuckled down to it.
 The apprentice was keen to help
 and I was keen to let him as it was well past tea o'clock
 and after a bit of practice
 he made quite a good job of it.
Leaving me to get all the credit.

Raiders of the hay loft.

I've been wondering why the horses get through so much hay everyday aside from their own innate gutsyness. Feral sheep are breaching the perimeter and making a raid in broad daylight.

Day 7

 Day dawned on day 7 which was as planned a quieter day than the rest
 and once again we were very lucky weather wise and for some inexplicable reason the midges got fed up with chasing us around
 giving us a breather from mosquito nets and insect repellents. Just as well as most of the day was spent making sure base camp was as clean as we found it.
 But we did have time to have a lecture from Tom MacClean one of the UK's most courageous adventurers, he being the first person to row the Atlantic solo and the went and did it again quicker, in 54 days. This was before sat navs, mobile phones and was unsupported. It was also the long route, from North America to the Irish Coast, lesser mortals now try and do it from France to the Caribbean and miss out all the fun of the icebergs.
 He's also sailed the Atlantic twice in the smallest yacht, here it is, he had to do it twice as someone else beat him so he chain sawed two foot off his making it 7 foot 9 which compared to the Atlantic is tiny, navigation bouys are bigger. To add to his achievements he's also sailed across in a bottle, a big one with a four poster bed in it, and was the first civilian to live on Rockall a small rock out in the ocean but giving the UK 200 miles of fishing rights and minerals. Add to that his army career, the para and the SAS, this is a man who deserves a knighthood. Instead he lives a happy life letting people like me intrude on his domain and share his wilderness.
 I was also there when he drew this beast on a napkin and said "Im going to build a whale boat" which he did, Moby, with a plan to sail in it across to New York. This hasn't happened. Yet. So anyone with a spare few grand and desire to do something unique google him and get going.
 The day drew to a close, awards were handed out to members of the group and we
 bid goodnight to Moby ready for the morrows adventure. The hike out and the journey home.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Day 6

 The idea that we would lie in our scratch bags until 9am, have a leisurely breakfast and bimble along to base was not going to make the day happen. Instead we broke camp at 6 am, or rather started to, the midges, fed up at not getting a good meal the night before were the most vicious I have ever known. In full kit, veil and gloves, like a high altitude bee keeper, the little buggers kept coming.
 The essentials in life like a good cuppa tea were miserable efforts with a scum of black on the top from Kamikaze midges mistaking the cups heat for life. Clouds threatened rain and a very despondent group set off along the trail heading back to safety.
 Heres Mrs Bear fending off the biting insects. To get to safety we had to cross a swamp. A proper one. One with great pits of man trapping bog, and those who chose to follow a different path to the one taken by yours truly soon wandered in to difficulty and had to be pulled free. More than once. Eventually the group got the message and fell in single file waiting for there chance to point and laugh at the fast bloke leading the way when it was his turn to step on what looked like safe ground to be swallowed to knee depth by the swamp monsters.
 Finally we made the river and found the right crossing point, a very ropey rope bridge.
 As we headed out of the glenn there were numerous nods to the history of the place, the highland clearances in particular. The mountain we climbed yesterday looms on the right, the peak in the clouds.
 Mrs Bear took a nap while I cooked a quick meal, this tome midge free thanks to the altitude and wind speed.
 So we gained more height
 which for some was pretty tiring
 and after 12 long miles, 7 of them were downhill, we made the watering hole, the most remote pub in the UK where we all had crisps and lashings of ginger beer.
 It has to be said the view from the picnic table was spectacular
 and our taxi awaited so no second helpings. It was at this point the boat broke down. So a frantic search of the village began to find an alternator belt that was 54 inches long and 3/4 inch wide. Naturally the starting point was back at the pub where nearly all the village were gathered around a wicker man. No one had a right sized belt but the captain of The Spanish John who was loading a concrete mixer (this is al true) did have a 1 inch thick 56 inch spare and before you could say oooaaarrr me hearties we were back in action and heading back to base.
 Leaving Invarrie behind
 and from this angle we could see the mountain slap bang in the middle, the pointy bit
 Not that everyone was interested, Mrs Bear got a bit seasick (everso) and threatened to chuck up her cheese and onion walkers.
 Almost home , another peak at our peak
and then we were back on dry land eating a well earned traditional Scottish spaghetti bolognaise. Job done. Adventure over. Well not quite we have one more day at base and then the long journey back so still plenty of time to be tormented by the midges.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

A grand day out

 Yesterday we took the boys on their first train ride
 and as it was a special treat
 we chose a proper train
 which took us along the Severn Valley
 to a very picturesque town called Bewdley
 where a very nice pub served a fantastic lunch next to a shop that sold the best ever ice creams
so in all a grand day out on the Severn Valley Railway.

Day 5 Expedition day

 Sun rise over the bay, a glorious day promised but we knew different. As we were heading off into the wilderness breakfast was not its usual large affair as there are no toilets the far end of the world and exposing your backside to do what bears do when there are trillion midges waiting for human flesh is a no no. Cereals and bacon sarnies sufficed while we watched the antics of the flight crew
 on Gypsy Rover who made a right pigs ear of coming alongside, hence broom no boat hook etc
 Finally loaded up a crucial hour late we were off along Loch Nevis the easy way.
 Here there are some lovely houses
 I mean lets talk remote, no roads, access is by boat or if you wanted to walk to this one its 20k from anywhere.
 There are neighbours to borrow sugar from.
 Keith played Titanic as we approached the drop off point
 but as the tide was in and high we got right to the foot of Sguir-na-Ciche
 with out unbelievably heavy packs
 which we jettisoned at what was to be base camp and
 in changing weather (the wind picked up, spot the lessening blue sky) the assault on the 1041 metre peak began. I climbed this around 15-20 years ago but it had merged into many climbs so really this was all new to me. In fact I had completely forgotten how hard it was and how impossibly steep the final 300 metres was. The views made it worthwhile all the way
 but more than once the peak looked very forbidding.
 Grass soon gave way to rock
 and after a soul destroying 100 metre descent at 800 metres the final climb was ahead. Now the weather was really closing in and bad so we set an emergency shelter up and dumped all but bare essential gear to make the climb quicker. We also left two of the group who were not so keen on the climb up to the top.
 Despite the weather there was time for posing
 this is looking across to the twin peak of our target, half a plan to tick that one off was abandoned in the gathering storm.
 Looking back the way we came
 a bit higher the same view
 towards Ben Nevis
So. A successful day. The descent from the peak was miserable in pouring rain and at base camp I had to erect a wet tent around a very wet dog. Midges decided to hide from the downpour so that was the only plus side but once the storm abated they rose up in fresh clouds of aggression. We all retired to our tents and as I had taken my lovely spacious Terra Nova Quasar tent I was able to sit up, cook a curry, drink hot chocolate and look at all the pictures taken that day. I also pondered the joy of wet dog, trapped midges, wet clothing, wet sleeping bag and whether my bladder would last until morning without stepping outside into rain again.