Monday 31 December 2012

Happy New Year

The last sunset of 2012 seen from the hills above our home.  Wherever you happen to see the Hogmanay sun set on the old year, I wish you health and happiness in the new.

Wednesday 26 December 2012

The second best way to enjoy Christmas turkey?

At last, the weather seems to have settled for a few days. Boxing Day dawned clear and fine; a good day to walk off the Christmas dinner.

We chose Geallaig, erroneously marked as "Geallaig Hill" on the map.  This fine wee hill would give a good walk with great views and the opportunity to extend the day by descending to meet an old drove road, following it to the River Gairn and making a 16 km (10 mile) circuit.

A good track heads up the hill from our starting point at Braenaloin.  It's a steady rather than a steep ascent and we stopped frequently to enjoy the view south west to Ben Avon and Beinn a'Bhuird.

The temperature was near or just below freezing all day, but with no wind it was really very comfortable.  Even in the middle of the day the midwinter sun is very low at this latitude, we threw long shadows all day.

Less than an hour and a half's walk saw us at the 743 metre (2438 ft) summit, where a circular cairn encloses the trig point.  Despite the lack of height, Geallaig commands fine views, particularly southward over the Dee valley

Undoubtedly the best way to eat Christmas turkey is with family around the table.  But Alan and I agreed that this may well be the second best way to enjoy it, in winter sunshine with a view like this!

South across the valley of the River Dee, Lochnagar had been enveloped in a cloud bank but as we sat and ate lunch the cloud dissipated and the distinctive, graceful silhouette of this great mountain appeared through the frosty haze in the air.

We descended as the sun dropped below the cloudbank.  The temperature quickly dropped below freezing but we still had very pleasant walking along the track to the Gairn and back to our car.

Monday 24 December 2012

Happy Christmas

                            Wherever you may be,  I wish you peace and happiness at Christmas

Sunday 23 December 2012


The last few days have seen incessant heavy rain in the north east of Scotland as successive weather fronts stacked up against a high pressure area over Scandinavia.  Unable to progress eastward, the fronts stalled and the rain just kept coming.  On each of the last three days rainfall totals on my weather station have been above 25mm (an inch), with the three day total near to four inches, driven on by very strong southeasterly winds.

On all three days the low cloud level and heavy rain meant that it didn't really get light at all.  Even a short walk was an unpleasant experience in wind, lashing rain and temperatures of about 3.5 Celcius - truly the very worst of all weathers.

The rivers are absolutely roaring, the fields saturated and flooded.  The level at the bridge over the River Don at Montgarrie is very high - further downstream the river has burst whre it enters flatter country.

 The volume of water coming down the Don is astonishing.  There's no massive noise because all the normal features of the river are submerged, just an unsettling sloshing, sucking sort of sound

At last, this morning was rain-free although heavy showers set in later.  In unaccustomed daylight we went to look at the river.  Looking upstream,  it's obvious that much more volume will cause the river to burst here too.  The water coming down the Esset Burn (on the right of this picture) is backing up as it tries to enter the flow.

Looking downstream the width of the river has more than doubled - the flood guage is about three feet below the surface.  The tributary on the right here is actually the riverside path.

Hopefully there will be a respite in the rainfall.

Tuesday 18 December 2012

A winter wood

Early winter snowfall had come and gone whilst I was away from home working, washed away by a violent weather system which caused damage along the length of eastern Scotland.  In the days which followed the weather was quieter with temperatures a few degrees either side of freezing.

On a calm, cool morning I took a walk in Murray Park, a mixed woodland bequeathed to the community by the poet Charles Murray.  A pale winter sun was struggling to burn away the mist and dampness.  At first, all seemed to be monochrome - a dead winter woodland.

But there's life in the wood even at this time of year, close to the winter solstice.  Lichens festooning the Birch trees with delicate and complex growth, a signal of good air quality.

Colour too. The conifers retain a rich green colour among the brons and greys of the deciduous trees; a branch of this fir catching the light and glistening with moisture.

Stopping to absorb  the wood and to look around, other colours peep through.  The hips of this wild rose bush caught in a shaft of sunlight were fairly glowing.

And nearby, a leaf still clinging to an oak (Quercus petraea) and beautifully backlit.

Green, red and gold, here are all the colours of Christmas in a seemingly lifeless winter wood.

Monday 3 December 2012

Equipment Review - Lomo Kayak Trolley

This is the first gear review to appear on the blog. I hope to post occasional reviews in the  future, so here's a bit of context:

I consider that I'm a fairly average user of outdoor equipment whilst hillwalking, kayaking and other outdoor activities, and my gear does get regular use.  Inevitably, although I try to look after gear, given that I'm out regularly in Scottish conditions, things do sometimes get used to death - usually by simply wearing out.

 My preferences are for uncomplicated items which do a particular job well; if a piece of gear can perform more than one function, so much the better. Durability and useability are more important to me than saving a few grams. Function is much more important to me than the latest colour or version. Unless otherwise stated, I don't have any connection with the manufacturers or retailers of the kit I use other than being a normal customer/consumer.

A sea kayak trolley is a really useful item to move a loaded boat, for example when the launch point is some way from the nearest road access, when the tide goes out a long way (like here at the head of Loch Hourn),  for getting a boat onto a ferry or for a portage between two pieces of water.  A trolley can open up all sorts of possibilities!

The Lomo Kayak Trolley is a folding design made of anodised aluminium tubing with stainless steel fittings.  Lomo recommend a maximum loading weight of 60kg; the construction is both solid and of good quality.  You need to supply the straps for securing the boat to the trolley; I use the same straps which are used for securing the boat to the car roof.  The Lomo trolley retails at £37.99, which is very good value compared to similar designs.

So, is it any good?

In a word, yes. Loading and using the trolley is easy and it has proved robust and practical. The trolley has foam pads on the upper tubes to prevent movement when loaded.  Once secured (I found that just aft of the cockpit was a comfortable position for balance and ease of pulling along), there is little or no movement even over bumpy terrain.

The wheels are 26cm "wheelbarrow" type plastic wheels with pneumatic tyres.  The tyres have Schraeder valves for inflation.  In typical use it's best not to inflate the tyres too hard in order to find a balance between performance on soft sand and rocky ground.

The 26cm wheels won't fit in a typical round kayak hatch, but fit easily into an oval hatch.  The body of the trolley folds flat for storage or transport - it's unlikely that this will fit into any hatch.  When carrying the trolley on a trip, I detach the wheels and put the folded trolley with wheels into a waterproof bag on the back deck, secured with one of the straps. 

A folding arm helps with solo loading of a boat onto the trolley.  Once loaded, this arm is swung back up out of the way.

The wheels secure to the frame using gate hinge pins.  The ones supplied (left) seemed a bit fiddly, so I replaced them with larger items bought from my local hardware store for 80p each.  The larger pins will catch the Schraeder valve on the wheel, to avoid this simply mount the wheels with the valves toward the inside of the trolley.

I've used the Lomo trolley for about two years without problems.  It's a comparatively simple design and like just about all Lomo products is solidly built.  The fittings and tubing look like they will last for a good long time.  In use, the trolley has performed well on a variety of terrain and has gone easily over some really challenging rocky ground.  If you're looking for a trolley, I can recommend taking a look at this one.