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  Digital Camera Found on Ben Vorlich - Wednesday, January 13, 2010

We had a fantastic day up Ben Vorlich on Sunday (10th January). It was very windy but the sky was blue and the snow was solid enough to merit crampons for the top 150 metres.

Anyway, the point of this post is that we found a digital camera on the road next to Ardvorlich House (approximately 100 metres East from the usual parking area for Ben Vorlich).

It was a quiet day on the hill - there were just a few pairs of walkers ahead of us so the camera must have been dropped by one of these groups.

If the camera belongs to you, please get in touch (via the "contact us" link at the foot of this page) and we'll get it back to you.

  Scarpa Manta (Women's) - Bargain of the Day - Friday, April 03, 2009

One for the girls this time...

The 2008 version of the Ladies Scarpa Manta M4 Tech is currently available for half price (£82.50) at S & R. Ok, so the 2008 version isn't compatible with GSB crampons but to be honest who cares? The chances are your current crampons will be something like G10s or G12s (i.e. not GSB compatible) so it just means you don't have a buy another pair! Also the 2009 version retails for anything between £160 and £200 (is it just us or does each 'new' version of the Manta seem to cost an extra 20 - 30 quid?). Given the popularity of this boot, Scarpa are taking quite a gamble assuming everyone will continue to buy what is already quite an expensive boot as well as a pair of GSB compatible crampons. We see on their website that Scarpa are trying to soften the blow by getting retailers to offer £20 off the Grivel Airtech Newmatic GSB when bought with the Manta.

The Womens Scarpa Manta is often seen as the definitive 4 season boot for the UK and over the years has won a host of "Best in Test" awards (or similar) from the likes of Trail, TGO etc.

Grab yourself a bargain in time for Easter...

  Snow & Rock + Buachaille - Thursday, March 19, 2009

Snow and Rock

We are pleased to announce that Buachaille have teamed up with Snow and Rock and will shortly be showing all their products and prices. This takes the number of outdoor gear retailers featured on to over 20. Snow and Rock have been selling gear for over 25 years and have grown from 1 shop to 20 during that time. In our experience (from one too many excessive shopping trips to their Covent Garden store), S & R staff are well trained and knowledgeable.

In terms of pricing, Snow & Rock are fairly competitive and they tend to run some great sales (there's one going on right now). They also have an "Outlet" section offering gear for rock bottom prices (up to 50% off). Please note, these "Outlet" offers are only available online.

The only place we think S & R could improve is on their delivery charges. For orders up to £50, delivery costs £3.95 which isn't too bad but if your order exceeds £50 then it jumps to £6.95 which we feel is a bit steep. Most gear shops work in reverse (i.e. you usually get free delivery if your order is over £X).

We should have all S & R products added by early next week.

  Bargain of the Day - Rab Latok Alpine Jacket - Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Snow and Rock are selling the Latok Alpine from Rab for £108 (RRP £180). As always, there is a catch - it's only available in red and they only have Small and Extra Large left. Also the £6.95 delivery charge is a bit on the steep side. In any case, you're getting a 4 season (at a push in the UK) Rab waterproof jacket for 115 quid so it's still a nice deal.

  Bargain of the Day - Montane Venture Jacket - Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Field & Trek are currently selling off the Montane Venture Jacket for £45 (RRP £150). The catch is they only have 1 colour and 1 size left (Blue / Medium). Be quick...

  Fatal avalanche on Buachaille Etive Mor - Monday, January 26, 2009

It was a sad weekend for our namesake mountain with an avalanche killing 3 people on Saturday afternoon.

We're not going to regurgitate the information in the papers, however, it's worth noting that despite the press repeatedly referring to the victims as "climbers" (which was technically correct), they were actually on the walkers' route (Coire na Tulaich) when the incident occurred. This makes the incident even more sobering - these poor souls weren't climbing on the face on the Buachaille but simply ascending the same path tens of thousands of walkers/climbers use each year.

SAIS had rated the avalanche risk as category 3 for Glencoe on Saturday. Looking at the text of the forecast (see below), it looks like they got it spot on (Coire na Tulaich faces NNE).

Its been another showery day with snow showers above 300 metres accompanied by brisk South-Westerly winds. New accumulations of soft slab have continued to form in sheltered locations and field tests showed several weakly bonded layers within the snowpack. The greatest accumulations of unstable snow is above 850 metres on North-West through North to East aspects. The avalanche hazard is Considerable (Category 3).

To be honest, many winter walkers go out in Category 3's without necessarily thinking too much about the avalanche risk. It's true this was a freak incident, however, anyone who has done a fair amount of winter walking in Scotland (or read Barton and Wright's Chance in Million) will know that avalanches are very commmon in Scotland. The reason this particular avalanche was so fatal is purely down to the popularity of the route and therefore the number of walkers in close proximity when the avalanche occurred.

The SAIS provide a great service - we should all continue to make good use of it and encourage others to do the same.

Our thoughts are with the families of those involved.

Related BBC news article

  Our Journey from Oban to Fort Bill - Sunday, September 10, 2006

This post is a summary of our "Journey for the Wild". The event was a walk/bike/sail/kayak covering over 2,500 miles with the aim of raising awareness of The John Muir Trust - a charity which conserves the wild places of the UK. Our leg from Oban to Fort William consisted of 6 days, 120km, many mountains and lots of blisters.

A big thank you to everyone who sponsored us - you helped us raise £800!

We should mention that the stick appearing in some of the photos below is a "baton" passed between each leg of the event.

Innes & Jaye.

Day 1: Oban North Pier to Ben Cruachan

26 kms / 750m ascent

Mood: positive

"Innes, the straps of my rucksack are digging in to my shoulders....." Such was my plaintive cry as we struck out from Oban North Pier headed for Taynuilt and then a high level camping spot partway up Ben Cruachan. But rucksack issues aside, life was good - it wasn't raining, we had a plentiful supply of food and there was a hotel at Taynuilt we had earmarked for a late lunch. Even the discovery that our precious macaroon supply was in fact 2 days out of date and tasted like washing-up liquid could not dampen our spirits (apologies to the ducks to whom we fed said macaroon). This was the calm before the storm of course - the wander along a pretty country road and the last (hot) supper before we got up into the hills and the wilderness. We were fresh of leg and full of belly and we hoovered up the miles. After a slight tussle with the new tent, we settled in for our first night under canvas somewhere in the clouds.

Day 2: Ben Cruachan to Beinn a'Chochuil

14 kms / 1700m ascent

Mood: fair to middling

Ben Cruachan was in cloud when we woke up. It clears by the time we reach the peak later on that morning. Good views of the Cruachan reservoir. I feel sleepy and doze off leaning against my rucksack. Don't want to move but Innes makes me. To be honest, the day is a bit of a blur - lots of hills and lots of plodding up them. The only thing I clearly remember is the last half hour or so when we are searching for a camping spot just before Beinn a'Chochuil (or Ben Chocolate for those unable to pronounce Gaelic!) - the light changes and everything is illuminated. Somehow it makes all the plodding worthwhile. Life is beautiful.

Day 3: Ben Chocolate to Glen Etive

27 kms / 1000m ascent

Mood: dark
Grey skies and moisture in the air. A slow start but we quickly gained some more height and finished the last of the Cruachan hills, Ben Chocolate (!) and Beinn Eunaich . Then a couple of Corbetts and the promise of a path down to the track which would take us round to the head of Loch Etive. But the path proved impossible to locate and we stumbled and bumbled our way down through grassy tufts and heather to finally reach the magical track. Being at low level again brought with it new problems - namely the Midge. It was time for some Avon Skin-So-Soft and a fast pace. Loch Etive was a sight for sore eyes but stopping to take in the view was for the foolhardy only. So it was off the track and onto a narrow, boggy path which ran alongside the Loch. Heads down now. Innes stopping occasionally to take photos. I resort to my mini disc player to spur me on. 14 miles of bog and Midge and beauty. Dusk falling. We are not speaking now - both having inner battles. And finally, past the bothy and up onto the Dalness road where we throw the tent up and collapse inside. I am briefly convinced we can flag down a car and hitch a lift to the Kingshouse hotel. We have oatcakes and peanut butter and listen to the rain instead.

Day 4: Glen Etive to Glencoe Youth Hostel

15 kms / 1150m ascent

Mood: darker

The day began with a black haze of Midge which hung outside the tent, waiting. I peeked out of the ventilation flap and was greeted by a slug sitting on my rucksack, waving its antennae at me. Our bodies were broken. So were our last oatcakes. Innes went into impressive organisational mode and directed a military operation of packing up sleeping bags, thermarests etc without disturbing the black haze. We dismantled the tent in seconds and ran along the road towards Dalness, trailing the Midge behind us. The cloud was down. The only thing keeping us going was the thought of a hot meal at the Clachaig and a shower and a proper bed at Glencoe Youth Hostel. Most of the ascent and descent of Bidean Nam Bian is a blur. Innes was "walking on hedgehogs"; I was feeling sick. All thoughts of the Journey had faded away - we had retreated into ourselves; it was not about getting from Oban to Fort William; it was about getting from this rock to that rock or from this patch of heather to that patch of heather. It was a Journey in miniature. And then, the healing process. The body is a marvellous thing. Food and shelter and a read of the papers and a phonecall to mum and dad. Strange being back in civilisation. A nice lady in Glencoe Youth Hostel offers antihistamine cream for our midge bites. The hostel warden is interested in the Journey and wants to talk about hills. The bigger picture reveals itself once more. The Aonach Eagach awaits.

Day 5: Glencoe Youth Hostel to Kinlochleven

16 kms / 1700m ascent

Mood: buoyant
The weather is perfect as we make our way up the Clachaig Gully. We pop up onto the ridge and there are goats standing on the path! I take this as a good omen. The ridge stretches out ahead of us, all glorious pinnacles and fierce jagged edges. The cars whizz by down in Glencoe, oblivious to the "pavement in the sky" as Innes calls it. I feel like a child who has found a secret passageway. I want to click my heels together; instead I eat some Bourneville and grin. Innes is raring to go - he relishes the airy places offered up by the ridge. I am more cautious and irritated by my heavy rucksack which swings out at the most inopportune moments. We dance the dance of the Aonach Eagach - quick quick along the little paths; slow over the spikes and down the chimneys. Everyone else is moving in the opposite direction - from Am Bodach to the Clachaig Gully. We pass with smiles and hellos, this secret club walking the secret pavement. It is a great day and even when we pass the traditional endpoint of the ridge and continue our long walk over the less trodden hills of Sron Gharbh and Sron a Choire Odhair-bhig to pick up the path of the West Highland Way into Kinlochleven, spirits are still high. The dark days of Glen Etive are all but forgotten and we think ahead to Glen Nevis and the end of our Journey.

Day 6: Kinlochleven to Glen Nevis Visitor Centre

15 kms / 1000m ascent

Mood: reflective

It is an early start - we have to reach Glen Nevis Visitor Centre by 2pm to join the ceremony. We set off along the West Highland Way for a few kilometres before cutting up the hillside towards Stob Ban. The sun reflects on Loch Leven and the Pap of Glencoe looks jaunty. It is hot and hard-going once we are off the path. It takes a bag of jelly sweets to get me up onto the bealach. Lunch at the top of Stob Ban - the great Ben even sheds its clouds momentarily for our viewing pleasure - back down and we pick up the path which runs down into Glen Nevis. Innes bowls on ahead, the sun shines and the Journey is almost at an end for us. I think of all the ground we have covered; the highs and the lows. Our beautiful, wild, country - so harsh yet so rewarding; it does not suffer fools gladly. I think of all the other people who have carried the batons to link up this Journey and of the people we have passed on our merry way; of the friends and family who sponsored us and offered words of support and weather reports by text. Life is a journey, as they say. May we dance on through these wild places.

Words by J. Martin, Photos by I. Martin

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Digital Camera Found on Ben Vorlich Scarpa Manta (Women's) - Bargain of the Day Snow & Rock + Buachaille Bargain of the Day - Rab Latok Alpine Jacket Bargain of the Day - Montane Venture Jacket Fatal avalanche on Buachaille Etive Mor Our Journey from Oban to Fort Bill Midge survival guide Photos: Canoeing to Meith Bheinn Photos: Tourists in Glenfinnan


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