The Beauty of Winter
My motivation and inspiration to be in the Scottish mountains has gone through the roof recently. Winter had seemingly arrived when driving up the A9 recently there was a covering of snow right down the roadside. How beautiful it looked and this just reinforced my determination to climb up into the mountains. Walking in Winter however, has its own set of difficulties and points to be aware of when planning a trip.
Walking the mountains for me, at any time of the year, can be challenging. Meeting the physical demands required to enjoy the glorious views from the summits I can find particularly tough. Winter can be very unpredictable indeed and the conditions bring an extra level of preparation. However, they are not enough to diminish my motivation and desire to venture onto the hills. The Scottish Mountains in winter are stunningly beautiful. Anyone who has experienced this will understand, but for those who haven’t, I don’t think it is easy to explain. ‘
Below are some of the things that can make a Winter outing more challenging:
For me, in order to enjoy the mountain in Winter there are a few things I do to keep myself safe.
Enjoy! The Scottish Mountains in Winter are just spectacular and this preparation and planning makes it all worthwhile. I am feeling so excited about venturing out very soon.
The Great Glen Hostel just south of Invergary provided the location of the Walk Highland Autumn meet. I, along with around 30 others, attended for a two night stay. Taking over the hostel for the weekend, a fun time was had by all. Walk Highland, as many people know, is a fantastic website and a source of information for walks throughout Scotland. Many people use it for information on all sorts of walks from the Grahams to the Munros. People arrange to meet through the site and they have four organised meets each year.
I went along to my first Walk Highland meet in the Spring and really enjoyed it. I met lots of great people and had lots of fun, so thought I would go again and experience another Walk Highland meet. I was looking forward to the weekend and catching up with some friends again.
Weather was mixed with a little snow on top on the hills but it could have been much worse. I arranged to climb a Corbett with a few others. The day was quite challenging due to the lack of day light and as a result people tended to go quite fast in order to get back before dark. This I found really difficult because I simply can’t go as quickly as the others.
The weekend brought to my mind again some of the difficulties faced by disabled people in accessing the outdoors. The Scottish mountains are a challenging place for anybody and this is even more so in winter conditions. For disabled people like myself it is a particularly difficult thing to climb mountains in the snow.
I am inevitably slower than the average person which is not ideal when the daylight is so short. For disabled people it can be really difficult to get people to agree to go into the mountains with them in winter. People’s leisure time is limited and who wouldn’t want to make the most of it. I feel very lucky however to have found some great friends through the Walk Highland group who will make the time and allow me to go along with them. I had a really great day walking and a good weekend.
Having access to the outdoors is sometimes taken for gtranted. However for disabled people finding oppotunities to spend time in the wilderness can be more difficult. I was lucky enought to writte this article for Mountaineering Sotland Magazine and share a bit of my expereince.
The outdoors have always been a part of my life. Growing up in rural East Lothian, I spent much of my childhood walking hills and beaches with my family. Having Cerebral Palsy of course could make things more challenging for me. My stamina and ability was not as good as it is now. However, I never saw this as something that might stop me but rather just made me more determined.
As I moved through my teenage years and into adulthood, my passion for the outdoors continued to grow. In my early twenties I discovered the Munros and during my time at University with the Hillwalking Society I managed to head out and begin Munro bagging. I would go out at weekends either with the club or with friends made through the club. It became clear quite early on that, much as I loved walking, I didn’t have the same energy and stamina as most of my contemporaries. When we climbed the mountains I would invariably have to descend earlier and walks would take me much longer than the average person. I didn’t seem to matter to the University society and I made friends with understanding, compassionate people who would accompany me hill walking.
My walking ability was never really a problem until well after I left university and settled again in Edinburgh. It was at that time I would approach mainstream clubs and try to find people to go walking with. It was then that I ran into difficulties and one that would continue throughout my adult life. Finding people and opportunities to go walking has been difficult and, so much so, I gave up mountaineering for many years. I got so frustrated at people’s lack of patience and lack of support from clubs that I really didn’t think I could put myself in that position any longer. I had resigned myself to the fact that the Mountains were not going to be part of my life. Before I knew it 20 years had drifted by but, unbeknown to me, I still had a spark inside me for the mountains.
I have rediscovered my passion for the mountains in recent times and I’m still hopeful of finding more open minded people to walk with. I was aware though that I could well come up against a similar range of problems that I had experienced all those years ago. Many of us live in quite pressurised times and individual leisure time is very precious. People want, and quite rightly so, to get the most out of the spare time that they do have, so spending a day walking at a slower pace is not very appealing. Disabled participation in outdoor sports is still relatively low, and that might be for reasons such as,
I think there is another aspect of people walking with disabled people just once, as if they have ‘done their bit’ but they would not make a regular commitment. There are still a lot of attitudinal barriers that prevent disabled people taking part in outdoor sport. For example
There can be no doubt that sporting opportunities for disabled people are improving and this is, in part, due to the success of the Paralympic movement and London 2012. There is, however, still a long way to go in terms of outdoor sport and mountaineering. It is here that clubs have an important role to play. Thankfully many clubs now have an equality or inclusion policy which covers all minority groups and not just disability. These policies try to insure that nobody is treated differently on the grounds of gender, race, disability or sexual orientation. In the case of disability however, and if there is some kind of physical impairment involved, such as in the case of disability, it is more complicated than just a change in attitude.
To include a disabled person in a mountaineering or walking club, its takes more organisation and planning. On club activity weekends for example, there could be volunteers who agree to walk at a slower pace to support those with disability. Club members could take turns at this so everybody shares responsibility. At committee level in a club there ought to be an equalities office bearer whose role is to ensure that everybody who wants to be, is included in the life of the club.
These are just a few ideas although with any social or leisure club, it is not good to impose rules of what people must do. However a balance has to be struck between this and club responsibilities. I hope to rekindle my walking career again. There are many more activities I’d like to achieve. I would like to climb more Munros and would like to experience staying out in a bothy in our beautiful wild places. I hope to find people to do that with who will share that experience with me.
Vango Roar Stove Review
I had been looking for a good, reliable and versatile stove for a long time but now I think the search is over. I’ve been testing out the Vango Roar stove and I’m really impressed with its performance. For me it seem ideal for my purposes and I know that lots of others could use it in different situations. It has won an Independant Best Buy award and it didn’t take me long to see why.
|First Impressions||A very nicely made stove. It folds up really small and fits into a container for travel. Its fairly lightweight making it idea for hiking. It connects really easily to a small gas cannister and has an electronic ignition. It boiled a pan of water in 2 -3 minutes.|
I am delighted to have discovered this little stove because for me it ticks many boxes. Having cerebral palsy makes me a bit shaky and clumsy. I was concerned about how safely I could used a hiking stove. The Vango Roar stove takes all these worries away. Its small and easy to carry but at the same time very stable. The way it folds in and out is fantastic making it really safe when in use. The electronic ignition makes it really easy to light and saves the danger of matches (although I would never go without them!). Its wide enough to take a large pan, making it suitable for more than one person. I was just amazed how quickly it boiled a pan or water. I think this is fantastic versatile stove and I would really recommend it for most outdoor expeditions and uses. Well done Vango.
Ice Blue Rucksack Review
The Blue Ice Dragon Fly rucksack is a small 25 litre day pack that is extremely lightweight.
|First Impressions||A very nicely made little rucksack ideal for commuting or gentle days out. Its extremely lightweight making it ideal for getting around. It has a very thin back board and not very much padding to it. It has waist and a breast strap for extra comfort. Its made of very good quality material.|
|Comfort||This is not the most comfortable rucksack to use|
I like this little rucksack a lot and will use it for getting around town or going for a picnic. I don’t see myself taking this out on the mountains for the day. I might take it on short day walks in good weather when I don’t need to carry much with me. It has an unusual open and closing system which, to be very honest, I’m not sure if I like it yet. It could be really helpful for people with less dexterity because it opens and closes fairly easily. However, I would need to stay out in the rain for a few hours with it to be convinced of it effectiveness.
If you are looking for a little day pack I would really recommend thins, I’m going to use it a lot!
Those who follow my blog will have an idea of the sort of struggles I have had recently with joint pain. Being a member of Nuffield Heath has been of tremendous benefit to me because I have been able to receive advice. Thanks to the instructors at the gym I have been able to try to address these difficulties. With a set of exercises designed to strengthen my core, I have worked hard to solve the problem.
I have been experiencing difficulty in walking for a while and particularly while coming down a mountain. Most painful have been my hips and lower back and unfortunately this has been enough to stop me from walking. Explaining this to my gym instructor he suggested a range of stretches and exercises using a TRX. I hadn’t heard of this before but now I have been converted!
Discovered the TRX
The TRX is simply two pieces of cord that attach over head and used to support your weight and balance. There is a handle on each cord for holding on and adjusters for easily changing the length. When I started using the TRX I learned some basic squats and stretches. By doing lunges I am extending and trenching all my leg muscles which I find so helpful. When you have cerebral palsy as I do, sometimes muscles can feel knotted up, tight and tense. Being able to stretch in this way is a fantastic feeling. I’ve not been up on the hills yet to see if if has made a difference but I am really enjoying using it.
I was so impressed with the TRX I went out and bought one. I would have bought the whole company but couldn’t afford it! Now I can can attach it to a tree in the back garden and exercise to me heart’s content. When I’m done, it folds up neatly into a small bag for easy storage. What’s not to like? There are endless amounts of exercises you can do with it, just check it out YouTube.
Over to you
If you have a favourite piece of equipment, or an exercise you find particularly helpful, please take a few moments to put it in the box below. If you don’t exercise at all then please tell us why? Thanks
I have been fortunate enough lately to have been given a regular magazine column to write. Shooting Scotland is a country sports magazine that has grown out of another publication called Farming Scotland. Having once been a supplement, Shooting Scotland is now a publication in its own right and I am delighted to be involved from the beginning.
Here is a link to the magazine with my first column in it, or you can read it below. http://www.farmingscotlandmagazine.com/shooting-scotland-magazine/
Cairngorm Mountain is home to Scotland’s only Funicular Railway. Opened in 2001 the line takes thousands of visitors up and down Cairngorm Mountain to the highest cafe in the UK, the Ptarmigan Restaurant, which sits at over 3,500ft about sea level. Cairngorm is a hive of activity at all times of year with thousands of skiers in the winter time, and many visitors over the summer months experiencing the wonders of the mountain.
The funicular railway was, from its very inception, shrouded in controversy and to this day still somewhat divides opinion. From the moment it was first proposed it was vehemently opposed by sections of the environmental lobby on the grounds of its lasting impact on a very special and already very fragile site of scientific interest. First proposed as far back as the 1950’s, and then spoken of again in the 60s, only in 2001 did this project reach its completion because of all the challenges. When the railway finally opened in December 2001, many thought of it as the greatest Christmas present the Highlands had ever seen. Jobs on the mountain, and the increase in visitor numbers would bring long needed prosperity and investment for the tourist industry in the surrounding area. Others however mourned for what they saw as an environmental disaster.
Cairngorm itself is one of the biggest mountains in the UK. At over 4000 feet it is the sixth highest mountain in the United Kingdom and gives its name to the whole range of mountains. The name Cairngorm translates as ‘Blue Mountain’ and from a distance it is easy to appreciate why it got this name. Ironically however, anyone walking on the mountain will notice the geology of a very red type of stone so historically Cairngorm was know as the ‘Red Mountain’. Red or Blue, this mountain is very special for many different reasons and hundreds of thousands of people flock to experience its riches every year.
Being one of the highest peaks, and giving its name to the range, it is on many walkers ‘to do’ list. Mountaineers scale it at all times of the year either walking or climbing. I had wanted to experience the summit of Cairngorm for a long time so I took the opportunity and made use of the funicular railway to reach the top. One of my motivations was to see and experience the spectacular Cairngorm Plateau. I wanted to see for myself this great expanse of mountain which joins several peaks including Cairngorm and Ben Macdui. Infamous for its exposure, it attracts thousands of mountaineers each year in all weathers. Sadly, many have lost their lives there as a result of the changing weather and exposure to the elements.
We booked onto a guided walk which is the only way to the summit of Cairngorm while using the funicular railway. In order to satisfy the environmentalists, one of the conditions of building the railway was to minimise the impact of visitors. One of the ways this is achieved is by containing people and not letting them wander onto the mountain unless with a guide. Of course, if you walk up the mountain from ground level you are free to wander but, using the funicular railway you must book onto a tour. This makes sense to me, given how many people venture into the mountains without the necessary equipment or experience. Many lives could be put at risk by allowing ill clad, tourists in sand shoes to wander out onto the mountain. I was delighted to reach the Ptarmigan stop and have the opportunity to reach the top with the Ranger.
It’s a relatively short walk up to the summit from the Ptarmigan restaurant with only about 500 metres of ascent. The well constructed paths are sectioned off, again to contain people and minimise environmental damage. We were very lucky to be joined by our guide Gerry, who gave us a real insight into the geology and history of the mountain.
I was hoping to see, or at least hear a Ptarmigan. Very shy but very beautiful birds they spend most of the time on the ground and only fly if they have to. A grey brown colour in the summer they, like the mountain hare, change their coat in the winter and go all white. This gives them protection from predators from above. We did however see some beautiful reindeer. Although theses are wild animals, they were very tame indeed and allowed us to get very close to them. They live up there all year round and are a native species to Norway.
As we approached the summit, views were just spectacular as weather conditions were near perfect. Looking over Cairngorm Plateau was just amazing. This vast wilderness is inspiring. We could see many mountains in all directions and it was good to name many of them. It was a fantastic experience and it has left me with an enthusiasm for more.
I got the feeling that the funicular railway, far from being an environmental disaster, is a wonderful resource for many different reasons. As well as the enormous economic prosperity it brings to the area, it enables people of all abilities to experience the mountains. I don’t think mountains should be sacred places reserved only for the fit and able. The experience of being up a mountain is so motivating and inspiring I don’t think its fair to deny the experience to anyone who seeks it. Being able to use the funicular like this so that anybody can experience the pleasure of being up a mountain is a truly great thing. I felt very much at peace with the impact on the environment. It is very contained and only really impacts on one side of a mountain in a vast area. The ski area was there long before the train. Ski areas in the summer time never look pretty. The mountain organisation ‘Natural Retreats ‘do a fantastic job managing and containing its impact as well as keeping people safe.
I hope to return to Cairngorm and use the railway again in the near future. I would like to go further afield and even camp out on the Cairngorm Plateau. This would be a truly wonderful experience and one that I would treasure. I feel really hungry to experience the mountains. Unfortunately my walking ability has not enabled me to venture far recently without substantial amounts of pain, or indeed more than I’m prepared to tolerate. I will be looking into ways of making this dream possible soon and hope that I can report back on what a wonderful experience it is.
Country Sport has been something close to my heart from a very early age. I grew up in a rural environment where I was surrounded by opportunities for fishing and country sport. After a long break I am now beginning to rekindle my love for the outdoors and am making the connections again to enable me to partake. This has been as a direct result of my work with Photographer, Writer and Business Coach Linda Mellor. I am delighted to be working alongside Linda and exploring disabled participation in Country Sport.
I am grateful to have been asked to write for a relatively new magazine called Shooting Scotland. This magazine has grown out of a publication called Farming Scotland where the shooting section was produced as a supplement. Now as a separate magazine Shooting Scotland is on its 3rd issue. I am delighted to have been asked to contribute and look forward to sharing more of my ideas and stories with readers in the future.
Below in a screen shot of my first article that was published in this months issue. Hope you can zoom in to read it. If not, click in the Shooting Scotland link here, and go to page 32. Enjoy.
It is always a pleasure to review holiday accommodation and last weeks stay in Killin was no exception. Fern Cottage is a two bedroom property right in the heart of the village of Killin, providing a great location to enjoy the delights of outdoor activities in the beautiful surrounding environment. ‘Cooper Cottages’ have a number of holiday properties throughout the Trossachs and Loch Lomond and I went to experience a short stay in Fern Cottage.
As soon as I entered the property it felt very homely and presented to a very high standard. The cottage was very well furnished and contained good quality furniture and soft furnishings. All bed linen and towels were provided and were of a good quality. I quickly settled in and felt very welcome thanks to small touches such as fresh milk in the fridge and the provision of tea and coffee.
This property is very comfortable indeed and has two bedrooms, a double and a twin, as well as a luxury bathroom and fitted kitchen. The living room is very comfortable with a television, a DVD and a wood burning fire. The cottage actually has a TV/DVD in both bedrooms and dining room, and has WiFi throughout. The kitchen is fitted and includes a dishwasher and microwave. It is well stocked with suitable utensils for cooking. There is a separate dining room with a table that seats four comfortably.
Killin is a great location for exploring Perthshire and for pursuing Outdoor Activities. Surrounded by beautiful scenery there are spectacular mountains as well as Loch Tay on the doorstep. This makes it an ideal location for Munro bagging, shorter walks or water sports on the loch. Mountain biking is very popular as well as fishing and country sports. Easily reached from Edinburgh or Glasgow, Killin is an ideal location for a break away.
A few Comments
This cottage is generally suitable for a disabled person although one or two points should be mentioned here. There is a slight difference in the floor level in the hall leaving a slight step up to the bathroom and one to the sitting room. The step to the bathroom is obvious and easily seen, the change in floor height to the living room is not. I tripped and fell on this twice. This could be made a lot safer by something simple to draw attention to the change in floor height.
On the subject of accessibility, there are steps from the back door into the garden. Someone with mobility issues can reach the garden through the front door and down a gravel path. The steps would be fine but the only banister is a chain that is flexible. This is really not useful for someone like myself who’s balance is not great. It wouldn’t cost much to put up a proper banister. The cottage was perfectly suitable for me in light of my mobility difficulties. I don’t think it is suitable for a wheelchair user however.
I would definitely recommend ‘Cooper Cottages ‘ accommodation after my experience staying at Fern Cottage. Everything was spotlessly clean and of a suitable quality. Killin is a fantastic location from which to explore some spectacular places and enjoy the beautiful outdoors.