Munro Tops

I love climbing Munros and I have just found a few pictures of Munro tops. Naturally, I would like to share them with you. I have already climbed a few of them, but not all of them, and if you would like to add a few comments about the mountains that you know, that would be great.

I found all photos on Wikimedia Commons: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page and have maintained the original descriptions of the photos by the authors.

So here we go:

Sgurr a'Bhuic bealach. - geograph.org.uk - 303985

Sgurr a'Bhuic bealach. The bealach between Sgurr a'Bhuic and Sgurr Choinnich Beag. With the Mamores on the left.

 

Sgurr Choinnich Beag and Sgurr Choinnich Mor - geograph.org.uk - 304013

Sgùrr Choinnich Beag and Sgùrr Choinnich Mòr Spring thaw

 

Meall nan Bradan Leathan - geograph.org.uk - 209423

Meall nan Bradan Leathan. View across the mossy plateau to Glas Leathad Beag (928m).

 

 

The Central Ridge of An Teallach - geograph.org.uk - 66461

The Central Ridge of An Teallach. Taken from near Bidein a Ghlas Thuill at the northern end of the main ridge, this view looking south shows the central peaks of Corrag Bhuidhe and Sgurr Fiona (closest), all at over 3,000 feet.

 

 

 

The Saddle

The Saddle.jpg The summit of the Saddle seen from the bealach below Sgurr na Sgine

 

That’s it for today. I will send more photos another day. In the meantime, I am waiting for your comments!

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A Wind Park in the Monadliath Mountains?

I’m a strong supporter of renewable energy resources. I think that nuclear power plants have to be shut down as soon as possible world wide at be substituted by de-centralized, smaller power plants that use renewable energy. However, I haven’t been aware of the fact that renewable energy can cause a lot of damage, too. Today I found out about it.

Have you heard about the Scottish government’s plan to build a wind park right in the Monadliath Mountains? The wind park is called Dunmaglass Wind Farm, and there is quite a discussion going on in Scotland’s outdoor scene, because they want to build it in one of Scotland’s wildest areas.

Monadliath hills SE of Lyne of Gorthleck - geograph.org.uk - 370776

Monadliath Hills Soth East Of Lyne Of Gorthleck

 

What is quite ironic about it is the fact that Energy minister Jim Mather who approved the plans is also responsible for tourism!

Here is what Helen Mc Dade of the John Muir Trust has to say about the wind farm:

“Our Vision is that wild land is protected and the wild places are valued by and for everyone. This decision is yet another demonstration of the urgent need for greater protection of wild land. These mountains are entirely unique from other areas of wild land in the UK…. In particular the anticipated death toll of up to eleven Golden Eagles is considered wholly unacceptable.”

Ardrossan, Scotland, United Kingdom

Wind Farm In Ardrossan, North Ayrshire - Soon In The Monadliath Mountains, Too?

 

The one person that will benefit from the construction is the estate owner, Jack Hayward. The thing is, he is already one of the wealthiest persons in Britain and I doubt it that he really needs the money they are going to pay him.

If you want to read the entire article, it is located here:

http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/news/outdoor-world-rails-against-monadhliath-windfarm/003093/

Renewable energy HAS to be environmentally friendly, and that includes NOT destroying a unique ecosystem in order to build this. The price is too high. At least that’s my opinion. What do you think about this subject?

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Vatersay

Vatersay is an island in the Outer Hebrides.  Of this island chain it is the southernmost inhabited island, and also the westernmost. Although it has been inhabited for thousands of years, today there are only close to 100 people living on the island.

Vatersay - geograph.org.uk - 193092

View From Theiseabhal Mor Over Vatersay, Beyond The Island of Sandray

 

Vatersay used to be separated from Barra by the Sound of Vatersay, a crossing of only 250 metres, which was bridged by a causeway in 1991. The causeway was badly needed. Being a renowned place for rearing beef, the cattle had to be transported to Castlebay on Barra. The only way to do that was to swim. Bernie the prize bull was not the best swimmer, and his drowning in 1986 sped up the construction plans for the causeway.

The island is nearly divided in two, with only a narrow stretch of dunes and sandy grasslands closing the gap. Vatersay is a beautiful island with outstanding flora and fauna. It is common to see herons, otters and seals, and the very rare corncrake found its habitat on the island. Also, it is one of two places in Scotland where you can find Bonnie Prince Charlie’s flower, the morning glory (Calystegia soldanella) whose French seeds were dropped by Bonnie Prince Charlie on the island, the other place being the nearby island of Eriskay.

Abandoned village at Eorasdail on Vatersay - geograph.org.uk - 49003

The Abandoned Village Of Eorasdail On Vatersay

 

The island’s attractions include the ruins of an Iron Age Fort and the old school house. One can also walk to Eorasdail, a village at the south eastern tip of the island that was established by fishermen from Mingulay, a now uninhabited island further south. No one lives there anymore: The village was abandoned in the 1970s.

Corncrake

Corncrake

Vatersay was witness to a tragedy in 1853: The “Annie Jane”, an immigrant ship on her way from Liverpool to Canada, got caught in a storm and ran aground on rocks off West Beach. She capsized in minutes, dropping 450 people into the raving sea. There were only 100 survivors. The bodies of the drowned that came ashore were buried in the dunes next to the beach. The Annie Jane memorial and a cairn remind of the disaster.

Calystegia soldanella 060524wa

Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Flower: Morning Glory (Calystegia Soldanella)

The remains of a different tragedy can be found on the north side of Vatersay Bay. In 1944 an RAF Catalina flying boat crashed during a training flight from Oban. The wreckage lies scattered on the rocky slope. It seems a miracle that six of the nine men aboard survived the crash.

Vatersay is a peaceful, quiet and beautiful island. The bad news is that there is no accommodation available on the island itself, but the good news is that you can visit from Barra, and now that there is a causeway, you don’t even have to swim!

Have you been to Vatersay? Would you like to leave a comment?

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Mystery walkers

You may have heard of “mystery shoppers”, people who pretend to be a normal customer. They ask questions, behave in a certain way or register complaints, then go home and write a report about their experiences.

Now Ramblers, Britain’s walking charity, is looking for a related species: mystery walkers! How cool is that?

Public footpath sign, Alvechurch

Mystery Walkers Welcome!

When I read the term “mystery walker” my mind started to make up scenarios that wouldn’t be amiss in a suspense thriller: Walk along lonely streets at midnight or through abandoned industrial estates, until I read on and found out that it is not that mysterious an activity:

The idea is for people to do a 3-5 mile walk from an assigned grid square before carrying out a short survey of the paths they walk. Ramblers then analyzes the received data and creates a map indicating the best places to walk and places that need improvement.

There are various reasons for this project. Firstly, the simple act of walking these paths helps to keep them open. Secondly, a report is a proof that people are using it. Thirdly, the highway authority will become aware of the state of neglected paths. Finally, local council staff can be encouraged to take action thanks to a good report.

Ramblers is convinced that there is a connection between the quality of the path and the enjoyment of the walk – I’ll sign that anytime.

Anyway, this “mystery walking” sounds like a sensible thing to me, and it could be good fun, too! I don’t know if there is a kind of compensation, although I doubt it. But, just imagine your next party small talk: “So what do you do for a living?” – “I’m an accountant. And oh, I’m also a mystery walker!”

Here is the link to Ramblers:

http://www.ramblers.org.uk/Campaigns+Policy/Mystery+Walker

On the same page you will also find the registration link. And if you have already had your debut as a mystery walker, please share your story with us!

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Munrobagging for Beginners: 5 Selected Munros

A “Munro” is a Scottish mountain with a height of over 3,000 feet or 914.4 metres. They are named after Sir Hugh Munro (1856–1919), who in 1891 listed all mountains fulfilling this criterion in his Munros Tables. The Scottish Mountaineering Club revises the tables periodically. The 2009 revision resulted in a number of 283 confirmed Munros. The term “Munrobagging” describes the activity of somebody who aims at climbing all the listed Munros. The person is called a “Munrobagger”. Some people manage this feat in record time while others spend their lifetime on achieving this goal.

The height of these mountains is relatively modest, above all if compared to Alpine mountains in Central Europe. However, the Scottish climate may provide for challenging conditions, especially in winter. Also, a great number of these mountains has to be climbed starting at sea level. Every year people suffer fatal accidents.

At the same time, hill-walking and Munrobagging can be among the most pleasant Scottish outdoors experiences. Hardly surprising, there is a great variation in the difficulty of climbing them – from straightforward hill walks to demanding and tough mountain climbs. If you have never climbed a Munro before, start gently and choose an easy one.

A word of warning: Although these walks are fairly straightforward, you should never underestimate weather conditions nor leave without basic hill walking gear, including: a map, a compass, a torch, raingear and adequate footwear and clothing. Also, tell someone where you are heading and roughly when you expect to be back. If possible, avoid walking on your own.

Here is a list of 5 suggested mountains for the beginning Munrobagger:

1. Schiehallion

This is one of Scotland’s most popular mountains, situated in Pertshire. It is also one of the easiest to climb. Schiehallion is a famous mountain because it was at the centre piece of an experiment by the Astronomer Royal Maskelyne back in 1774. He measured the mass of the earth by observing the deflection of a pendulum by Schiehallion’s mass. As a by-product, the experiment also resulted in the invention of contour lines by Charles Hutton.

Schiehallion 01

Schiehallion with its characteristic symmetry

 

The walk starts at the Braes of Foss car park. Most of the way you can follow an excellent path that leads you up a broad ridge. Schiehallion’s distinctive conical appearance is only visible from Loch Rannoch. The climb rewards you with excellent views across Glencoe and Rannoch Moor.

2. Carn Aosda

In terms of accessibility, this is one of the easiest Munros to get to. Start at the Glenshee Ski Area car park and follow the ski tow right up to the summit. There are two more Munros, The Cairnwell and Carna’Gheoidh that can be included in the walk.

Western slopes of Glas Maol - geograph.org.uk - 41018

Looking Towards The Bare Top Of Carn Aosda From The Western Slopes of Glas Maol

 

Carn Aosda is one of the lowest Munros, with 917 metres barely making the cut. Besides, the climb starts not at sea level which means that effectively you have only 580 height metres to climb. Unfortunately, aesthetically speaking this is a rather dull and unpleasant walk. Ski tows, snow fences and vehicle tracks are responsible for the hill’s reputation as one of the most despoiled Scottish mountains.

However, it is possible to access the mountain from the A93 at the start of the track to Baddoch. This approach follows the long north ridge right up to the summit, thereby avoiding the ski area altogether.

3. Ben Lomond

This is another classic Scottish mountain. Located on the east shore of Loch Lomond and part of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, it is the most southerly Munro. There is an easy tourist path starting at Rowardennan and leading all the way up the summit. Although that path is not difficult, inexperienced walkers should be careful in poor weather conditions. Its proximity to Glasgow and the relative ease of the climb make it one of the most popular Scottish mountains.

Summit Ridge of Ben Lomond - geograph.org.uk - 133982

Summit Ridge of Ben Lomond in Winter

 

4. Bruach na Frithe

This Munro is part of the famous Black Cuillin ridge on the Isle of Skye. Unlike most of Skye’s Munros, Bruach na Frithe can be ascended without any particular rock climbing or scrambling abilities, although you will have to cross some steep ground and scree, fragments of broken rock. If you have heard about the spectacular Skye summits and want to give it a try, this is your best option if you are not an experienced Munrobagger. Start your ascent from the car park at Sligachan Hotel.

Summit of Bruach na Frithe - geograph.org.uk - 138174

Summit of Bruach na Frithe

 

5. Driesh

This Munro is part of the Grampians of Scotland. Located a few miles north of Kirriemuir in Angus, it is one of the most easterly Munros and can be easily reached from Dundee. Leave your car at the walkers’ car park in Glen Doll. The ascent is very picturesque and straightforward over moor and forestry through the Corrie Fee National Nature Reserve. Another Munro, Mayar, can be included in the walk.

The featureless summit dome of Dreish - geograph.org.uk - 93379

The Featureless Summit Dome of Driesh in Winter

 

Please let me know what you think of the walks! Good luck with your first Munro!

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My Heart’s in the Highlands

What a lazy day I’m having today! Reading a sophisticated German novel alternates with surfing the net, but the reading is quite tough and I have to make up my mind if it is really a good idea to fight my way through 600 pages and having to read most of them twice to be able to more or less follow the author’s chain of thought.

Surfing the web on the other hand usually results in spending too much time without being productive, but fortunately I came up with two finds that I would like to share with you, and since there is even a connection between the two, I’ll call it a day.

First, here’s a poem (yeah, they still exist!):

 

My Heart’s in the Highlands

My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here;
My heart’s in the Highlands a-chasing the deer;
Chasing the wild deer, and following the roe,
My heart’s in the Highlands, wherever I go.

 

Nice one, isn’t it? Now you tell me who wrote it!

That brings us to my second surf result:

If you would like to visit Scotland one day, but haven’t made your mind up, here is a promotional video published by Scotland’s National Tourism Organisation that can be found on YouTube:

Burns Hole

Robert Burns (1759 – 1796)

Hm, I love this type of advertisement. In my opinion that’s much better than advertisement for washing powder or cornflakes…

Ok, that’s it for today. I hope you liked the poem and the video, or at least one of the two!

And here is the £1,000,000.00 solution: The author of the poem is Robert Burns (1759 – 1796), as far as I know the only poet whose life and work is celebrated with a dinner once a year: Burns Night or Burns supper on January 25th.

As always, your comments on the poem or the video are very welcome!

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Interesting Facts about Loch Ness

Nessie

Nessie

 

Who hasn’t heard of famous Nessie, the supposed monstrous inhabitant of Loch Ness? St. Columba claims the first sighting back in the 6th century, although Nessie’s world-wide fame only started with the publication of photographs in the 1930s.

I have no intention to fuel the discussion about Nessie’s existence any further. However, here are some interesting facts about Loch Ness that might interest you:

  • There are about 40 rivers and streams (burns in Scottish) running into Loch Ness.
  • Imagine our world population. Multiply it by ten. That is the number of people that can be submerged by the water contained in Loch Ness.
  • Loch Ness is situated in the Great Glen. This geological fault runs from Inverness to Fort William and was formed by glaciers during a previous ice age.
  • Loch Ness Rocks

    Loch Ness

     

  • The water in the loch is so squalid that normal visibility is no more than 4 inches. The reason for this lies in the soil around the loch, which contains large amounts of peat.
  • Loch Ness Monster 02

    Loch Ness Monster

  • Take the water of all the other lochs or lakes in England, Scotland and Wales and you still don’t have the amount of water that Loch Ness contains.
  • In 565, St. Colomba’s sighting of Nessie was the first recorded sighting in history. Supposedly a man was attacked by the Loch Ness monster and St. Colomba came to his rescue. By the way, St. Colomba is the Irish monk who converted most of Scotland to Christianity.
  • The most famous photo of the Loch Ness monster was taken by a London physician, Robert Kenneth Wilson. His photo, taken in 1934, lifted Nessie from the realm of myths and legends and is still at the centre of controversy today.
  • The tourist industry claims to have generated about $37 million in 1993 thanks to the Loch Ness monster. However, this figure declined to an estimated $12.2 million in 2007.
  • The 191 metres British Telecom Tower fits comfortably into Loch Ness. With 226, Loch Ness is the deepest loch in Scotland.
  • Loch Ness extends for 36.3 kilometres, its maximum width is 2.7 kilometres and its surface area comprises 56.4 km2.

If you have been to Loch Ness, please leave a comment about your personal Nessie experience!

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Top 5 Budget Restaurants in Edinburgh

Edinburgh certainly has a reputation for being not the cheapest of cities when it comes to finding a place to eat. However, there are budget options where you can save some money to spend on a pint in one of your favourite pubs afterwards.

Supreme pizza

Budget Food

Let’s confine the term “cheap” to a substantial meal or snack including a drink for less than a tenner.

The following places are by no means the only ones, but they definitely passed the test.  Please feel free to leave a comment to tell me where I missed out or if you can recommend a different place that didn’t make it onto this list!

So let’s get started:

1.       Oink

Located on charming Victoria Street, it’s easily recognized by a whole roasted hog in the window. The pig is salted and tray-roasted in order to stay juicy before being shredded and served on bread roll, including its onion and sage stuffing. You can choose between chilli or apple sauce. It’s a small place with limited seating, but it works perfect for a takeaway. The pork roll is roughly a fiver.
Location: 34 Victoria Street

2.      Mosque Kitchen

This is the place to get a cheap and wholesome curry. It’s not flashy at all: you eat outdoors under plastic canopies, sit on trestle tables and eat your food with plastic cutlery from paper plates. Food in general is solid, but there is a special recommendation for the lentil tarka daal.
It’s open from noon till 8 pm, but closes from 1 pm – 1.45 pm on a Friday. It is hidden from the main entrance of Potterow, but walk past the mosque and turn right and there is your chance to grab a meal from £3.00.
Location: 50 Potterrow

3.      Urban Angel

Riverfod box

Organic Food Ingredients

This is a trendy take-away café located in the New Town. Not only do they commit to local, organic, free-range, fairly traded and seasonal ingredients, their food tastes great as well! Apart from sandwiches, stews or salad they also serve late breakfasts and brunch, they have a daily special and many vegetarian dishes – try the vegetarian haggis! Brunch dishes start from £3.50, mains from £6.90 for fresh, tasty and organic food – you can’t go wrong at this place!
Location: 121 Hanover Street

4.      Peter’s Yard

Located in the new Quartermile off the Middle Meadow Walk, this is a Swedish bakery and coffee shop and definitely a number one recommendation if you have a sweet tooth. Their bread, pastries and cookies are delicious, they serve arguably the best coffee in town, and their sandwiches are highly recommended, too! Maybe a bit pricier than other places, but still in the “cheap” range and quality-wise top notch. Cakes start at £1.90, sandwiches at £3.90.
Location: Quartermile, 27 Simpson Loan

5.      La Favorite Wagon

If you are into pizza, try this one. Good quality ingredients, big pizzas made on a wood fired oven, crisp and thin pizza bases: This is probably the best place for Italian pizza in Edinburgh. Check out the “Favorita” with capers, prawns, salmon and even a little caviar! They serve pasta, risotto and fish and substantial starters. Don’t forget about the cheeseboard! And if you are busy during the festival and can’t make it to Leith Walk, they will come to Bristo Square in their mobile La Favorita pizza wagon, complete with a wood-fired oven. Pizzas start at £6 (slice is £2), and a 14’’ is £10.
Location: 325-331 Leith Walk

Now it’s your turn: What are your favourite places to eat in Edinburgh when you are short of money?

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How To Get Yourself Killed On A Scottish Mountain

I don’t know if you have heard about Adam Potter, the guy who “fell 1,000 feet – and survived” as the English tabloid “The Sun” reported on February 1st.

According to this popular paper, Adam broke his back in three places and was able to walk after the fall. I don’t think this deserves a comment…

If you want to hear the lucky man himself, here is a YouTube video:

 

It was not a 1,000 feet straight fall through the air, the man was rather sliding and falling alternately. Nonetheless, Adam was lucky without a doubt. Stories like his are not uncommon in the Scottish mountains, nor are less happy endings.

These accidents happen mainly because many people are not aware of the dangers these mountains hold for the unexperienced or ill-equipped walker or climber. I have encountered peolple laughing off the difficulty of climbing Scottish mountains because of their lack of height, but that is no a wise thing to do. Climatic conditions in Scotland can change quickly, and it is common to find snow or ice on many mountains for the best part of a year. Especially in winter, climbing a mountain in Scotland can be a dramatically different experience to climbing it in summer.

Sgurr Choinnich Mor - geograph.org.uk - 303995

Sgurr Choinnich Mor - The Mountain Where Adam Potter Fell

 

Proper equipment includes an ice axe and crampons, and if you don’t know how to use them ask and get help before taking them on a trip where you will actually have to use them! Also, the attitude of “it’s not that icy yet” is a potential killer. Putting on the crampons on time is an essential life-saver!

If you want to leave a comment or tell us about a hairy, life-threatening experience on a Scottish mountain, please go ahead!

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Hillwalking In The Times Of The Balaclava

Balaclava

Balaclava Times

I have often asked myself if this is just my personal perception, but it seems to me that hillwalking is becoming more and more popular. I love hillwalking and I can answer that question to myself easily, but why are there more people into hillwalking nowadays than let’s say 30 years ago?

Certainly it has to do with publicity, with health related fitness issues, with the growing need of city people to leave the city and have a break in the outdoors, and probably a good number of other reasons that I can’t think of.

However, I stumbled upon one of these other reasons when I found an article entitled “When balaclavas were de rigueur” by Dave Hewitt: The evolution of climbing gear!

Dave tells his readers that back in the 1980s, when he climbed his first Munro, balaclavas were a standard hillwalking gear. Made from coarse wool, they were itchy and prone to leave you with eczemas on face and neck, but they were also warm. And that was not the only clothing that has become anachronistic on the Scottish mountains: Tweed breeches, cagoules, overtrousers made from plastic bags, thick woolen socks were how hillwalkers set out to conquer Munros.

In the 1990s he went over to use a mix and match approach that included woollen bunnets, synthetic-thermal hats, baseball caps and ski goggles.

Dave has also an interesting contribution about hillwalking alimentation and explains how samosas came to be his preferred hill snack whereas a Mars bar is to be avoided.

It’s a witty article with a good sense of humour and interesting insights about past climbing days and nuisances. I really enjoyed reading the article, here’s the link if you would like to read it for yourself: http://outdoors.caledonianmercury.com/2011/01/08/when-balaclavas-were-de-rigueur/001478

What do you think about the article? Do you have experiences with old-fashioned climbing gear? I would love to read your comments!

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