Category Archives: travelling

Visiting far places and cycling Great Glens


After a day of enforced rest due to yet more high winds. We opted for a tour to the furthest westerly point in mainland UK. Ardnamurchan.
This gorgeous peninsular involved a short ferry trip before creeping along the roads that meandered along the coastline. It was gorgeous particularly as the colours were changing as autumn approached. Behind us lay a bank of cloud while the sun shone down on this peninsular.
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Catching the ferry to Ardenmurchan
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Possibly my two favourite vehicles
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It was an interesting reminder following the Brexit vote
We finally arrived at the end point. A lighthouse perched on a rocky outcrop and protected on all sides by stone built walls. We even became aquatinted to the local goat population. Before heading to a nearby beach to enjoy the white sandy beaches of Scotland. Almost like Barbados just a tad on the cooler side of things.

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white sandy beaches even in scotland
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The next day we woke early from our cosy glamping hut at wigwam. Our sights set on some nearby hills. Coming to our first option the wind began to increase and so we adapted our plan to a nearby summit. Later we found out this one was renowned for being windy. Making our way up the wind was increasing dramatically and the cloud level dropping. As we got closer to the top and with and the wind increasing substantially I thought it wiser to come down rather than to keep slogging for the sake of it. We managed it a few days later under slightly calmer conditions. The route up would have been ok particularly as the slightly more technical part of the route was in the lee of the wind.
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We made up for it with a fantastic cycle from Killin to Lochearnhead along a fantastic cycle route. The going was great heading quickly through the valley past streams and squeezing over cattle grids. We came across a Canadian cycling round Europe and was looking to head further north before it became too cold we headed our separate ways wishing him luck. With only an occasional shower and with the sun poking its head out we could enjoy the change of pace. Turning round we realised it had been a bit more of a downhill than we realised and the wind had been behind us. It was going to be tight with the bike hire place shutting. The last mile we lost our luck with the weather and it chucked it down.
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Finishing up we headed to our accommodation for the night. With views over the loch it was a gorgeous setting despite the clouds.
We certainly felt fresher for the more relaxed day and the cosy accommodation.

The Final Countdown


Now for a couple of my previous challenges I have wanted to use this sound track but I have been saving it. I think it is an awesome tune to start this expedition that myself, Jamie Anderson and Team leader Alex Hibbert are soon to start.

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In the next couple of days once everything is ready, people are fully recovered from illness and we will be heading out onto the ice along this epic route, with staggering scenery and a fantastic team.

Like all good plans there has been a slight change of plan. Due to the conditions, a non-supported route of this length isn’t feasible for this expedition. The more than average snow that has fallen this year slowed us considerably during our test run. So instead we are going to be resupplied.
There are lots of cliches that we can use like we have adapted and overcome or something a long those lines.
The good news though is that it was resolved with a lot of discussions around routes, logistics and ice forecasts. We are all extremely excited about the start of it and will keep you up dated with our progress.

Mountain Leader Training in Wales


We spent the evening driving over to a hostel called Pete’s cafe which has a well deserved reputation for huge breakfasts and a bit of a Mecca for all things outdoors in North Wales. Compared to the last hostel of having an entire flat to myself it was time to go back to a shared room. It was a beautiful evening, a ripple less lake with the back drop of the setting sun basking the hill tops in golden hues. Apart from around the bobbing orange head as one of the group opted for an open water swim. The rest of us chose a cold beer, should have taken my swim shorts!

The area for the day
The area for the day

The next morning we sat in the hostel drinking large steaming mugs of coffee and pouring over maps, before deciding on where to go. Parking up outside the National Trust centre at Caneddau and Glyderau with large slate stones marking the start of the path. Heading straight up into the Glyders towards to top of Y Garn.

Views part way up
Views part way up

The objective for the day was to put into practise our risk assessing of groups on scrambling terrain, with the idea being to understand when assistance was required and in its different forms. After a few alterations to our initial route we weaved our way onto the beginning of the ridge. We came to the conclusion (admittedly it had been pointed out to us before hand) on the importance of route planning from a distance by using what you can see of the terrain as well as hints from the flora and fauna. So once you are on a section of it you have a rough picture in your head of any key features or obstacles. So on this occasion if we strayed too far to the one side we would find ourselves off the ridge and if we went too far the other the ground resembled more of a rock climb than a wee scramble.

Supporting Each other up the ridge
Supporting Each other up the ridge
Making it look much easier
Making it look much easier

Making our way up and along the ridge line we stopped occasionally to discuss areas of concern and have the odd snack. The weather had done a complete change and was beginning to warm up as sweat began to slowly drip from us. Arriving to the top and it was time to find the path downwards. For this we opted to find a mountain goat track.

Found the route down, somewhere to his right
Found the route down, somewhere to his left

From the top it certainly didn’t look like a route as we tracked our way down by the side of a stream and taking it easy to make sure we didn’t slip or dislodge the loose rock onto those below.

Our route down
Our route down

The track narrowed as it followed the slope across the hillside with a bit of a drop to one side and water flowing down it. We finally reached the devils appendix which I believe is an area for ice climbing when the conditions are right. As it was not cold enough this provided us with a quick shower instead. Making it to the bottom beside a crystal clear lake our instructor, Dave, opted for a route that would bring together the skills we had learnt with getting groups up a challenging scramble as well as the risk assessing/ route finding that we had done previously. With some larger steps up rock faces being involved we certainly had to think a lot more and it was certainly not something we envisaged doing when we have large packs on our back. Reaching a good stopping point we turned around and repeated the process down hill. The interesting bit being that heading down the hill is much harder to do as you can’t see as easily where to put your hands and feet, which if you had to do unexpectedly really highlight the point of knowing your and the groups skills. We cris crossed a stream over, down and around rocks some of the group making it look far easier than myself. All comes with practise apparently!

Checking out the valley below, it was quite a steep drop!
Checking out the valley below, it was quite a steep drop!

The nights activities was to plan our expedition. With maps, empty mugs of coffee and beer bottles littering the table, fingers traced different potential routes across the grid lines in front of us as plans began to hatch. Ensuring it would be a realistic distance to cover in the time period and give us enough potential to test our navigational skills. Each route was discussed at length as we each tried to sell our ideas. Part of the fun in all these is in the planning. That initial building of an idea into a concept and looking at try to realise it. In the end we decided to present a couple of options to our instructor the following day one of which was Matt.

Mountain leader training stage 1


Having been on the cards for a while I had the opportunity to go on mountain leader training with peak mountain training who are based up in the Peak District. Driving up with forecasts of rain and relatively high winds wasn’t the most appealing to be out in the Peak District but it would certainly make for a more interesting experience!

My room in the bunk house, with beautiful views onto the hills
My room in the bunk house, with beautiful views onto the hills

After the long drive I reached the bunkhouse at Pindale Farm where it turned out I was the only one in my room out of a possible 7 others. So with kit spread out I began making myself at home and although relatively basic it had everything I wanted and was comfortable enough. I woke early the next day to get all my kit ready and have a look over the map to see where I could head on my first day. Normally the course is a 6 day course but for a number of reasons outside of my control I could only start it after the first day. My plan for the day was to make a loop around the local hills before heading back. The forecast hadn’t improved as I sat with my coffee cupped between my hands viewing the map but with a plan, lunch packed and kit ready it was time to go.

Planning time
Planning time

The initial section was heading up a valley with a castle overlooking the area; the recent weather had turned the path into a wee stream as water swirled between the rocks and my feet.

The Castle overlooking the valley
The Castle overlooking the valley

The day was certainly one of all seasons with patches of sun mixed with rain, strong winds and hail that stung any patch of skin that was exposed to it!

One of a couple patches of sunshine
One of a couple patches of sunshine

While I saw quite a few groups hunkering down behind stone walls avoiding the worst of it.

My turn to hide behind a wall
My turn to hide behind a wall

I made my way round admiring the view from each of the peaks despite it being slightly imposed on by a rather large cement factory. I finished up at a cafe full of cyclists, motorcyclists, walkers and runners enjoying a final blast of coffee and a sugar hit before heading back to make homemade pizza.

another wet evening
another wet evening

The next day was much more classroom focused with us learning about risk assessing both before and during an expedition, understanding weather patterns and looking at emergency situations involving mountain rescue. This was quite appropriate given the wet conditions outside. The afternoon was spent out in the hills to put into practise the risk assessing we had been doing in the classroom into practise. Heading to some of the steeper areas I had been on the previous day where we would consider the potential for an accident and the severity of it. We also practised the art of walking slowly and I mean really slowly to the point where one bystander stopped to witness the event. Stopping for a bite to eat we tried experiencing how it would feel just needing to wait around in a relatively cool day to see how quickly we would start feeling the cold. The results were quite surprising in terms of the speed by which our body temperature fell and certainly highlighted the need for the right equipment in the mountains. Heading back for some cold pizza, soreen malt loaf and setting my tent up to make sure it was all ok ahead of our expedition phase.

Day 1 sunshine
Day 1 sunshine
Day 1 rain and hail
Day 1 rain and hail
Day 1 strong winds
Day 1 strong winds!!

The next day was our last day in the Peak District and it was due to be a pretty interesting one. The morning began in the classroom, planning expeditions before we decided to head to an area called Stanage Edge to do some scrambling and rope work. The emphasis of the exercise was that rope work within mountain leading is definitely a last resort but if the terrain, group and/ or conditions require it then we need be to able to do it safely. Soon we were all tying ourselves in and climbing up and down areas. For those interested it was using the remote belay using a rock as an anchor as it is designed to be safer method if anything goes unexpectedly wrong.

Remote belaying and the challenge of finding a suitable anchor
Remote belaying and the challenge of finding a suitable anchor
Finally in a suitable spot
Finally in a suitable spot

Whilst standing admiring the surroundings we could make out bands of rain rolling towards our position as it rain began waterproof trousers and jackets were donned. The area is very popular with climbers particularly in the area and you could certainly see why with options of bouldering and climbing on shorter pitches. The final exercise was leading an individual down and up steep slippy terrain which was now in perfect condition thanks to the recent rain. The idea wasn’t to create the impression of danger but more act as a confidence rope. With the exercises all done it was time for a quick bite to eat and driving over to Wales for stage 2 of the training.

Stanage Edge on my way to Wales
Stanage Edge on my way to Wales

Photo Frenzy


The summer has certainly hit the UK shores and with holiday season in full swing I thought it would be great to share some of your travels, adventures and weekend mini adventures. If you have any epic pictures that you would like to share drop me an email with the picture and a bit about the moment. I’m wanting to do a picture a week, I cant offer prizes or anything like that but maybe it will inspire others to check somewhere new out which is always good.

At the same time and partly because I’m currently massively behind on writing about them all I had a bit of a brain wave, doesn’t happen often but here it goes, the plan is to give you a sneak preview of a selection of my pictures or if I don’t get round to writing about it as they say a picture is worth a thousand words. Check out the link below which is also on my links, save it to your favourites and share it.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/bennorawlinson/

Happy snapping and I hope if provides a big of inspiration for some photos or trips.

Lunga Estate Scotland
Lunga Estate, west coast of Scotland

Into the Atlas Mountains


The alarm sounded or at least I initially thought so, it was in fact the local mosque’s call to prayers, known as Adhan, in the early hours of the morning. After this initial disruption we had a long lie in thanks to some confusion within the group, our phones and we realised the local vicinity as no one really seemed to know what the time was or should be. We were instead woken by a knocking on our door wondering where we were at what ever time it was.
Breakfast arrived and I stuffed my face as if the expedition had already started with bread, omelette, muffins, pancakes coated in honey all washed down with copious amounts of sweet mint tea. It did however lack one ingredient initially, much to the dismay of some coffee lovers within the group. We were soon on our way into the foothills of the Atlas Mountains.

 

Heading into the Atlas Mountains
Heading into the Atlas Mountains

The drive was broken up by a quick stop at an argan oil factory. This was also the time to experience having a snake wrapped round your neck as a guy came over and draped it over me. It all felt very touristy!

The snake to be draped round our Necks
The snake to be draped round our Necks

We continued the drive, passing an estate car which quite literally had the entire football team squeezed inside of it before finally arriving at the lunch stop and the point we were to begin the walk up the valley. It had felt like we had spent the whole day eating! Whilst sitting there with me trying to get comfortable in the cross legged position, which seemed much easier when I was smaller, we began to notice a change in the weather. The wind was picking up with the trees swaying and the dust being whipped into the air.

The bags were tied onto the mules which are different to donkeys we discovered  as we were off.

We began the trek wondering up the dirt track past terraced plots and olive trees. It was like a green oasis curving along the side of the river that meander it’s way down the valley. The villages that we passed through appeared to be becoming more basic with the animals living on the ground floor and the family upstairs with mud walls and roofs. Yet there were still the satellite dishes fixed to their sides, it was quite a contrasting sight especially with the smells mixed into it of smoke and manure.

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Villages Gripping onto the Hillside
Local bus service with vertical drops

It started to spit ever now and again, finally the heavens opened, the temperature dropped and we could no longer hold off from wearing a waterproof. It was the first time it had rained in weeks apparently. It was a case of hunkering down and getting to the gite quickly.
We arrived dripping wet and fumbling around for places to hang all the wet items in the low light under head torch. A light bulb was found and screwed in giving us time to take in our surroundings. The village only got electricity a few years ago and mobile reception the following year. It sounded like such a dramatic and quick transition.

Our sleeping area for the next couple of days was effectively a massive covered balcony open to the elements but with loads of blankets laid out.

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Clothes Everywhere (our sleeping area was behind the wall)

Gas fired light bulb
Gas fired light bulb

The wind continued to increase and the clouds rolled in further as we munched down food. We tested our oxygen levels so we could start seeing how we were dealing with the altitude before getting our heads down for the night.

Storm Rolling In
Storm Rolling In