Archive for the ‘Skiing’ Category

Almost a week’s skiing in the Alps   14 comments

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January brings my little treat of a week-long trip to the Alps for some skiing.

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After a couple of years of less than perfect snow conditions this year was set to be a good one. Tonnes of snow right down to the lowest levels, cold sunny days with a top up of snow forecast for midweek. What could be better

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Not having the flu for the entire time I was out there would have been better. Instead of being out every day I had to try to catch a few hours when I felt well enough to crawl out of bed. For the first few days this was pretty much all the skiing I saw – the view from the apartment balcony

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It probably wasn’t the best idea to head out into -19C cold dry air with flu but I had to try

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I managed a few half days in the first half of the week.

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My friends were the best, they never complained about sharing a flat with a seriously sad and ill-looking mate and were saintly in the way they encouraged me to head out, kept my spirits up and did all the shopping and cooking

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There are worse places to be ill I suppose and many, many people worse off than me so I put a brave face on things, savoured the great skiing that I did manage and accepted the long lay ups in bed to recover. Good company and many laughs still made it a great week

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On the last two days I managed to summon enough energy to ski all day. I paid for it in the evenings but the conditions were superb and as you can see the views magnificent

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The classic view of Mont Blanc to the north, showing just how much bigger than the rest of the Alps it is

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Some wonderful cloud inversions in the Isere valley

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And over towards the Ecrins

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I normally take videos but this year it was as much as I could manage just to get out.

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As I was trying to keep my exertion to a minimum I was skiing much more in control and strangely felt I was skiing better than I ever have done

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It would be easy to look back and be frustrated at how things turned out. seeing the photos now, makes me think of all the good days and half days I enjoyed rather than any regret for the days I missed.

I think I paid a hefty price with my health though. One week after coming back and I’m still not fully recovered although I’m hoping I’ve now seen the back of it. Today has been my first day without painkillers, headaches and a hacking cough. Time to plan some summer holidays in the sun

 

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A Review of 2017   18 comments

I’ve read quite a few blog post in the past few days reviewing other peoples 2017 exploits. I enjoyed them so much I thought I’d do the same. Good excuse to look back through my photos and remember what we got up to. At my age I need help remembering stuff!.

Acutely conscious of the modern trend for these awful “round robin” letters you get at Xmas (we get one of these smugograms every year) I tried to select photos that bring back a particular memory for me so its more a personal, family introspection on outdoorsy stuff, than a blow by blow account of the year. As its based on my photo collection if I didn’t photograph it, it ain’t here!

January

We started the year off in Tenerife and New Years Day was spent on this rather splendid beach (the earlier part of the day was in the mountains but I cocked up the photos from that part of the day!)

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Returning to the British winter, a walk along the Cats Back in the Black Mountains with TBF, memorable for a cloud inversion after a very wet morning. A reminder that despite our travels we are lucky to have some stunning scenery on our doorstep

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A solo day out in the Brecon Beacons, the first snowy walk near to home and pretty much the only one with significant snow during the early part of the year (made up for it at the end)

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A glorious day out in the Black Mountains with TJS and a cooked breakfast on a cold Table Mountain. I like this photo though as it has Mynydd Troed in centre shot, my very first mountain climbed when I was about 10

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And my usual skiing trip (only a weekend this year) to finish off the month. Snow was a bit rubbish but we had a laugh nonetheless

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February

Another solo day on Fan Fawr in the Brecon Beacons. I remember this day for a very mild Friday afternoon (16C) and snow in the mountains 18 hours later

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A short walk with TBF on Hatterall Hill

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March

The first weekend of the month is always spent in Scotland with friends of long standing. A new location at Bridge of Orchy and a two out of three days were magnificent winter days. The walk along this ridge high above Rannoch Moor on the first day was superb

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Me and TJS also managed a cheeky backpack into the Black Mountains. Straight from work on the Friday for a one nighter in my new tent. Need to do more of these this year

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2017 is the year I rediscovered cycling – mainly to help my knee and also to be less of a lazy layabout during the week. The Hardman – a VERY keen and VERY fit cyclist caught wind and insisted we meet up in the Peak for a trip along a couple of the old railway trails. A cracking sunny day and I survived cycling with the Hardman!

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And we finally managed a meet up in the Berwyns with Uncle Fester after a few aborted attempts

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April

More cycling and solo trip through the Brecon Beacons on the “Gap” route. Cycling to over 600m was a first for me and I started to feel that I almost, might, actually enjoy cycling.

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Easter and a major backpacking trip with TJS to the Cairngorms. The weather was wild and windy but we had a couple of superb wild camps and TJS bagged his first Scottish 4000 footer

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I even coaxed TJF out for a bike ride along the Brecon and Usk canal

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May Day weekend was mostly in April. Mixed weather but we had a fine gaggle of friends on a hike around Greendale, taking in Buckbarrow and Seatallan

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May

No finer way to celebrate a birthday than a lunchtime hike. This one was on one of my local hills, Bryn Arw with TBF

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Followed by a weekend away in Cornwall. It almost felt tropical on the white sands just north of Padstow on one of our walks

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Whitsun weekend was spent with our good friends in Silverdale. The Sunday was a real winner with a long but easy stroll and a fantastic pub lunch. Weather was mixed the rest of the time but great company, many laughs and a chance to relax

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June

A different walk from the usual mountains. One of the small hills that overlook Gloucester and across to the Cotswolds. Not something I’d do every day but a nice change

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One of the highlights of the year was the long-planned backpacking trip with the kids into the Howgills. Despite poor weather we gave it a go and it was a huge success. The kids really enjoyed the adventure and I’m hoping they have caught the wild camping bug

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July

After the backpack trip I was out of action for a few weeks recuperating and resting after a minor knee op. Didn’t affect my water based fun though, a nice albeit far too long trip down the river Wye

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By the end of July I was back in the hills again (the knee op has been a great success I’m pleased to say). A fine evening stroll with TBF and TJS on Ysgyryd Fawr (we even took a cheeky cold beer to drink on the top)

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Another “local walk for local people” – this time Garway Hill where we reached the top, saw this nasty storm approaching and raced it back to the car. We won.

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Late July brings the annual camping trip to Towyn Farm on the Llyn Peninsula. We packed in lots of walks and beach fun in a very mixed few days of weather. My abiding memory though was this game of Kubb which was huge fun with both adults and kids alike taking it far too seriously and larking about in equal measure. A happy afternoon

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August

The big family trip of the year, a rail trip around some of Europe’s finest cities. An real change from our usual outdoor camping trips and it was real success. We all took took to the city life rather well you might say. One of my best ever holidays. A few photos that made me smile

One of the many fountains in Paris (we called this one the fountain of throttled fish)

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A monster thunderstorm in Turin

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My favourite seafront walk in Venice

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The Colloseum in Rome – of course

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Schloss Belvedere in Vienna (courtesy of an unplanned extra couple of hours from a very late train)

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The thermal baths in Budapest – “like taking a bath in a wedding cake”

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A stroll along the Spree river in Berlin on a sunny Sunday afternoon

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And the railway bridge over the Rhine in Cologne

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September

Back to earth with a bump. A few days after the heat and sun of Europe we were walking in the Black Mountains in driving rain and cold winds!

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But there was still enough warm weather left for a round of the hills near the Talybont Reservoir in the Brecon Beacons

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October

A walk with friends in the Roaches on the dreariest day of the year (when everywhere else was sunny – I’m not bitter)

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More evidence of my new found cycling passion (probably too strong a word). A ride around the tracks of the New Forest while TJS took a look around Southampton University

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And why settle for one trip to see major cities when you can do it twice. As a special treat for TJS 18th Birthday we spent a week in Barcelona. Probably my favourite city but despite all its famous sights, this little known hill and its view overlooking the city was my favourite spot

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November

After sunshine comes the reality of winter. A couple of cold but beautiful days. One in the Black Mountains on the Sugar Loaf and Crug Mawr

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And one of my favourite walks in the Black Mountain

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A delayed birthday treat weekend for TBF saw us in Padstow for a couple of nice meals and walks along the Cornish coast and Dartmoor

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December

And last into the proper depths of winter. The first snows saw me and TJS head into the highest peaks of the Black Mountains

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The day after saw the biggest dump of snow I’ve seen in my own backyard for many a year. Walks around my village in deep snow under crisp blue skies were wonderful

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The start of the Xmas holidays is marked with an annual get together of my University friends and their families. Always great fun but this year we could climb the hills in snow (rather than wet rain) and play at snowballs

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Finally coming full circle with a return to the Canary Islands to spend Xmas in Lanzarote and Xmas Day sunning ourselves on the beach

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Well I enjoyed looking through my photos, choosing a few and reliving a great year. Hope you enjoyed it too. All the best for 2018 🙂

Annual Trip to See the Snow?   6 comments

End of January means my annual ski trip treat. Just a long weekend this year as TJS wanted to try it but can’t take a week out of college so I thought it a bit harsh to go for the full week while he stayed home.

In truth not best skiing trip I’ve ever had. The runes were bad after a journey to the airport involving a puncture, a closure of the M1, getting the flight time wrong in my head and me making my flight with only 10 mins to spare (exaggerated a little for effect – the flight was 30 mins late so that bought me some time) There has only been two major falls of snow in the Alps this winter and slopes were amazingly bare and thin. Looks like there is plenty of snow from the photos but trust me this is bare by Alpine standards. It surprised me greatly to see such a change in the usual conditions. Perhaps global warming is to blame but my Uncle Donald in America told me that’s just a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese so it can’t be that

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We did have some nice sunny days though and even if the skiing wasn’t as good as it could be it was still great fun. Clear skies and winter air is always a treat and any day spent away from work is a good one

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This does of course leave more time for convivial eating and lunchtime drinking in the sun

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My camera had another fit and went into strange mode for the next few pictures. Not exactly representative of the views at the time but an interesting effect

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A nice sunrise before a cloudy day

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It even rained on my last day – skiing in the rain is even more miserable than walking in it. I’ll leave you with my abiding memory from the trip. The Le Red Wine bar which is now my spiritual home. Gave us a decent excuse to go shopping as its next door to the supermarket. If Carlsberg (or Grimbergen in this case) did supermarkets……

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Winter Wonderland – Six Go Mad on Ben More   2 comments

Another day and another superb clear blue sky morning. Hopes were high that the sun would stay with us all day and deliver a classic. More Ski Mountaineering was on the cards so we ramped things up a notch and decided to tackle Ben More, the highest of the Southern Highlands at over 3,800 feet and a “serious” ski route according the guidebook.

Downside was a low start that involved a long trudge up the forestry tracks to reach the snow in Coire Chaorach. The heavy packs (carrying skis) and heavy ski boots on the feet makes for hard work but the views and awesome weather kept us going

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When we finally reached the open corrie and the snow we were indeed walking – or rather – skiing in a winter wonderland. Ben More beside us and Stob Binnein ahead

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Skis on and it was a sheer delight to slide effortlessly – well not effortlessly but you get the idea – over the perfect snow under a deep blue sky in blazing sunshine

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The perfect winter day with many stops to take in the views across the Southern Highlands, Lochaber and the Cairngorms glinting in the distance

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We reached the ridge and the views were just immense. Distant mountains and the light making waves on the sculpted frozen snow.

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It was full winter conditions, hard packed frozen snow dominating. The NE ridge of Ben More has a couple of steep rocky steps, far too steep for skis so we switched to crampons. You can see one of the steps in the photo below

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I found this especially tough. Steep snow in very heavy boots with an awkward and heavy sack and I was left way behind. As I trudged, wearily up the easier slopes you can imagine my “disappointment” as most of the group started off again just as I reached them rather than let me catch my breath. I was bloody furious. Luckily MM, who is a very kindly soul, waited for me to recover (and have a serious rant) and then walked with me to the point where we could put skis back on and I’d calmed down a bit. Once back on skis I realised pretty quickly that it wasn’t a day for temper tantrums and I was soon back in the groove and “at one” with the mountains again

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The views were still sensational and the final slopes to this high summit were a delight

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As we celebrated the summit with some of our other friends who attained the summit the old fashioned way on foot, it looked like the weather might be selling us down the river again. Clouds gathered and for a while we had some rather moody views

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It was short lived though and almost as soon as the cloud appeared it seemed to vanish, We left the summit to a group camping there for the night (must have been a chilly night!) and started our ski route down

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It was tricky descent, steep, with a serious drop off to the left and mix of ice and rocky slopes. A couple of the group tried to head straight down and ended up having to remove skis and climb down. Me and JC headed right and found a decent route down (scarring my skis on the bare rocks) and down to the col.

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The plan had been to go over Stob Binnein as well but I announced that my climbing for the day was done and I intended to chill in the warm sunny col and top up my tan before what looked like a magnificent cruise down Coire Chaorach. Reports from other walkers seemed to indicate the slope to the summit was hard and icy making a ski ascent very difficult. GM decided to join me a more leisurely way down. In fact the others only managed to ski up a few meters before the rock hard icy slopes forced them to revert to boots and crampons and climb to the top on foot

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As an aside, I’ve always referred to GM as, well, GM (Geordie Munro). ED has pointed out that he is neither a Geordie or Scottish and as this is self appointed moniker we felt he needs a new one. ED provided several suggestions but seeing as GM is now growing an appallingly daft looking beard and has a appetite for plain boring oat based biscuits then The Hairy Oatcake seems more appropriate and will remain his identity on the blog until I come up with something funnier or more annoying, or hopefully both

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So, after an extended scoff of goodies me and THO headed down. The corrie wasn’t steep but it was completely plastered in snow and was a truly magnificent easy cruise down on perfect untouched snow. The earlier descent almost meant we were in the sun the whole way down.

I reset the exposure on my camera to a more average setting, hence the much brighter shots from hereon. I think I prefer the lower exposure ones from the first part of the day

You even get the added delight of some photos of yours truly looking like the hard mountain enthusiast he is

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The skiing brought many shouts of delight as we cruised down without a care. One of the finest hours I’ve ever had in the Scottish mountains. Wonderful skiing, blue skies and bright sunshine

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I like this photo for the rather bizarre fork-like shadow that THO seems to have created

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One of the fun parts of Ski Mountaineering is picking a route as the snow starts to thin out. We had a great time weaving in and out of snow filled peat hags on ever patchier snow, desperately trying to find the last possible spot to take off the skis. Eventually you end up on slopes more grass than snow with patches only a foot or so wide in places.

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All the while the views and the situation were unrivalled in recent memory

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When at last we decided skiing on boggy grass would be rather foolish we reluctantly took off the skis, fixed them to the pack and set off for the long trudge back to the car. Despite the weight and the distance to go we were all beaming smiles and feeling pretty damn good. Could we finish the day off to make it even more perfect? Hell yes:

  1. We managed to hitch a lift all the way down the forestry track with one of the guys working on the Hydro Scheme in the valley.
  2. We were back early, decided on a cheeky beer before we went back to the room to change and ended up staying a couple of hours (and several beers later) chatting with a group of very friendly locals in the bar
  3. When everyone else was back we enjoyed a fine evening of great food, more beers and  tales old and new with friends and friendships going back 30 years

That was a great day!

Winter Wonderland – Ski Touring in the Tarmachans   4 comments

Our winter trip to the Southern Highlands has been a fixture now for 10 years. In that time we’ve had a few days of sunshine and a couple of days of proper winter conditions. We’ve never had both together and the weather has always been mixed although the weather has never been a complete washout.

This year, our 11th, the forecast looked promising with high pressure and cold weather following a snowy spell giving much hope for a great conditions. Drawing back the curtains on the Friday morning gave substance to that hope.

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Lots of deep fresh snow equals a chance for some ski touring. I abandoned TBF to the tender mercies of the Sheffield Boys while we headed to Lochan na Larige for a high start. We had park below the reservoir as the road was blocked by snow and ice.

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Spoilt for choice with the mountains plastered in snow above 500m, and after much debate we settled on Meall Nan Tarmachan.

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The weather and views were just breathtaking. How often is it you’re glad you remembered sunglasses on a day out in Scotland. We ploughed our trail up towards the ridge that carries the baggers path to the summit

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Alas the Scottish weather nipped at our heels as a bank of grey cloud drifted in and started to cloak the higher summits. We were even treated to the almost unheard of sight of MM struggling with tiredness (he had just flown back from a business trip to Brazil!)

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By the time we reached the summit it had reached us as well so it was the briefest of stops, tinged with a little disappointment that the fine start to the day had petered out.

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Luckily skiing downhill is great fun even in the cloud. This descent enlivened by my attempt to ski an extremely steep gully badly broken by deep footprints and with boots not adjusted properly. Ratio between ski and fall about 20:80! 🙂

We skied down to the track and then back up to the ridge for another descent back to the car. The fickle Scottish weather turned again and the sun came out

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Not sure what I did with the camera settings but they came out rather dark and broody looking but still capture the essence of what was a cracking ski descent

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The snow was a little heavy but fluffy enough for some wonderful easy turns as we picked a superb route through the crags and gullies

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I seem to have lost the ability to keep a camera aligned to the horizon as I’ve got older. However this particular shot seems to be best yet. Pretty sure Loch Tay would empty rather quickly at that sort of angle. 🙂

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The patches of blue and the sunlight on the mountains, backed by dark clouds was just magnificent

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This shot of GM in action is my favourite from the day

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The descent went on all the way down to the dam and the massive water pipe that pops out from the base

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For most of us climbing under the pipe was the only time we took skis off all day. MM made a very brave effort at trying to limbo underneath without taking them off. A then made it look easy!

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Blue skies, a ski munro, two cracking descents, and ski to/from the car on excellent snow with great company. Does a day get better than this? Watch this blog to find out.

Fun in the Winter Sun   10 comments

Back to late January for some rather nice photos of mountains, snow, selfies and over-indulgence

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For the first time I went for a whole week’s skiing when fresh snow never fell. Not great for off piste powder skiing but rather good for cruising in the sunshine and topping up the tan.

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Obligatory selfie

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Ski bums

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Blue skies

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Cold beers

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And some skiing

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Snow-capped peaks as far as the eye can see

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A proper mans drink and a ladies tea cup

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Blazing sunshine

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The roof of Europe

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Yet more food

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And we even squeezed in a little more skiing

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Mountains galore

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And a slideshow with video footage thrown in for free…..

Boys (and Girls) Weekend – Uphill and Downhill on Meall Ghaordaidh   6 comments

More snow and more skiing. Well more rain and more skiing to be honest. Courtesy to GM for a good number of the photos, a deserving chance to see me in action again for a change, again I’m the short-ar5e in the green jacket

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

A grey and dreary day with the promise of deterioration does not make for an enthusiastic breakfast. Still, snow down to relatively low levels is a rarity in Scotland in these globally warmed times so best make the most of things. A bit of ski touring was called for and a combination of a new Munro for Mad Malcs and some route planning by JB picked out Meall Ghaordaidh. The fact that it’s also a new Munro for me of course had no bearing on my decision

Downside is the start in Glen Lochay is low and Meall Ghaordaidh is a pretty big bugger. The snow wasn’t down as far as the road so some spirited walking in the damp drizzle was called for to get to the snow. Problem with ski touring in Scotland is you often have to walk up hill to get to the snow. This has two main disadvantages. Firstly you have to wear ski touring boots, a combination of downhill boots and plastic mountaineering boots, which despite the marketing blurb are deeply uncomfortable to walk in. Secondly as is obvious from the photos and any degree of thought, skis are cumbersome and heavy, making for a heavy pack when combined with winter gear.

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Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Not a an ideal start, heavy pack, sore feet, and drizzle. But here’s the thing. In the right conditions ski touring is a very fine way to gain a summit, especially when the snow is deep, heavy and soggy on a day like this

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We stopped to slap on skis after 45 mins slogging up from Drumcroisk but from there progress is so much easier and swifter.

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Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Skis take the uncertainty out of the terrain and you can set into a smooth climbing rhythm. Those heavy skis and uncomfortable boots are suddenly a bonus. It’s still bloody hard work, don’t get me wrong but you get a much better return for your efforts. I’m pretty sure in heavy wet snow there is no way we’d have got to the top. In fact we were up and down in around 5 hours.

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

There is a certain pleasure even on a miserable day like this in the steady progression skis give you. On foot this would have been a real grind, a grim relentless rigour of exhaustion and wet feet. My recollection of the climb was of hard work laced with good humour and enjoyment.

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

We had a swift lunch under a boulder, surmising quite correctly that the summit would be unpleasant. A chance to capture the grim cheerfulness and take some very suspicious selfies.

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

We pressed on to the summit, into the cloud and the weather turned truly nasty. It was amazingly swift how the wet and slushy snow turned to rock hard ice on the summit ridge (a warning for all as to just how swiftly conditions can change)

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

The summit was blasted by icy winds and spindrift, barely time to pat the cairn, recognise the tick before changing to downhill mode.

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

And here’s the other very obvious good reason for ski touring. Coming back down is swift and FUN! The icy summit slopes in a white-out proved interesting as did trying to ski in the snow equivalent of porridge.

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Laughs and thrills were had by all as we picked a route through the snowfields, arriving at the bottom of the snowline precisely where we’d started. No better way to descend a big Scottish mountain than on skis

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

By now the snow of high up had turned to rain and as we de-skiied it rained with a real vengeance. I haven’t been that wet returning from a day in the mountains in some years. Actually I tell a lie, I was this wet after last years walk up Ben Venue but you get my drift.

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I was soaked, my feet hurt and my shoulders ached. Was it a good day, you bet your ass it was! And Munro 215 to boot. Wins all round especially as we passed the parked cars of the other party still out on the mountains in what was now pretty much torrential rain. Schadenfreude is a wonderful thing 🙂

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