Sunday, 23 September 2012

A great start to the autumn in Glencoe

A moment of amazing light on the Aonach Eagach

Something that has really struck me about 2012 is how defined and memorable each change in season has been. Spring started with an almost unbelievable period of high pressure in March with record breaking temperatures and near unbroken sunshine for two solid weeks…summer began in May with a drought and set the trend for an extraordinarily dry Highland summer…

Early morning light on Lost Valley Buttress

And now autumn has made its memorable appearance. Over the last week or so I've been treated to some really special lighting conditions and weather effects, from beams of sunshine breaking through snow showers to startling sunrises and sunsets.

Bizarre clouds on Rannoch, it's not smoke!

It always strikes me how even though I am always wishing for long periods of high pressure and sunshine, quite often the most memorable days are when the light changes from one minute to the next. The Highlands are notorious for their changeable weather…but doesn't that make the place so much more interesting?

Anyway, here's some photos from the last few days. Enjoy!

Crisp lighting in Coire nam Beith

Morning sky over the Aonach Eagach

Shadows on Beinn Fhada and the view from Bidean nam Bian

Evening over the Aonach Eagach

Rannoch Moor at 7am


Thursday, 13 September 2012

Exploring the Isles of Raasay and Fladday

An awesome rainbow off Raasay

So after the disappointment of not getting to the Alps I have been trying to salvage something from my holiday, a task not being made easy by the September weather. Something that usually does the trick in cheering me up is to go and explore somewhere totally new.

And for a country so small, Scotland is brilliant for that….as it has the Hebrides.

Almost every single time I've driven to the Isle of Skye, the only thing on my mind has been the dry rock and adventures promised by the Cuillin. It felt odd yesterday, to be making that familiar drive in the dark towards Skye without any thoughts of climbing in my head.

The beautiful East coast of Raasay

Off the East coast of Skye are a group of wild and sparsely populated islands, usually overlooked by visitors due to their proximity to the famous natural wonders of the Cuillin and Trottenish. But after studying a map I could see the potential for lonely and rewarding exploration was massive. 

Within 2 minutes of getting off the ferry on Raasay I was treated to one of the most startling rainbows I've ever seen. Fairly drenched, but happy, I set off to Raasay's NE coast, walked an overgrown path for a while and waded through ankle deep water over to the Isle of Fladday.

The coast of Fladday with Skye in the distance

I spent the morning wandering over Fladday's boggy ground and rocky coastline, enjoying occasional downpours and watching gannets fishing in the distance, breathing deep in the salty air and smiling inside at total solitude.

To avoid being marooned on Fladday by the tide I didn't linger too long and instead walked out to Creag na Bruaich on Raasay, possibly the weirdest cliffs I've ever seen. Although the cliffs of the Quirang on Skye are famously bizarre, they certainly look at home in the landscape. Creag na Bruaich however looks a bit like it belongs in a different country.

The bizarre cliffs of Creag na Bruaich

Massive and intriguing in equal measure, the cliffs of Creag na Bruaich would be a memorable place to visit at any time. But I was hugely privileged to spend my afternoon watching three white-tailed eagles soaring amongst the buttresses and calling to one another. A truly wonderful sight to see in such impressive surroundings, and something I'll remember for a while for sure.

A close-by pair of white-tailed eagles.

It was topped off by seeing a dolphin jumping through the waves on the ferry journey back to Skye. I already can't wait for the next island.


Sunday, 9 September 2012

The Alps trip which never happened

No Alps trip after-all, but crisp autumn light in the Cairngorms yesterday...could be worse.

So the car broke in Eastern France….camped in a wood overnight…car recovered next day…taken to garage…waited for news….waited some more….drank some beer….ate baguettes….read lots of books….phone call from garage….1,200 euros to repair the car engine. 

That's it in short, and basically I am back in Glencoe a week after leaving, having never even reached Switzerland let alone done any climbing.

Luck was well and truly not with us this time. A mixture of losing the car and the unforeseen expenses surrounding it's recovery etc, added to early heavy snowfall over the Alps made trying to salvage the trip simply not worth it. Gutted.

So after lots of waiting around in rural France, getting sunburnt and impatient, sitting and sleeping on pavements waiting for buses, I am now back in Glencoe.

Autumn has started in the Highlands. The quality of light has changed and I'm already getting that slight feeling of anticipation that I always get at this time of year, excited at the subtle but constant change that will happen over the next few weeks. 

So despite feeling a bit sorry for myself, I'm aware that it is soon going to be my favourite time of year. Before I know it, winter will make its return to the mountains and I'll be able to indulge again in my near-obsession with winter climbing. 

But first I have some work to do. Running and hill-time has suffered a bit over the last few weeks for a variety of reasons and I feel a long way from being on my best form. I can't have my Alpine trip so I'm going to put the time to good use and get fit for winter again. It'll be here before we know it.