Clyde to Cape Wrath – day 2

Day two of the Clyde to Cape Wrath trail, off-road bike route  There are a number of routes linking Callandar with Aberfoyle and onward to Killin, my next overnight stop. The Duke’s Pass is well known amongst those cycling on the road, but my chosen route followed the off-road Sustrans route 7 steeply out of Aberfoyle, northwards through Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, traversing forest roads and lochans, before heading east alongside Loch Venachar. A delightful section, rewarded with plenty of good downhill speed. My chain had been skipping gears but fortunately I found Scottish Cycling Centre and a quick fix, plus plenty of Callander shortbread and pots of tea. A great place, friendly and helpful.

Pointing north from Callander the good cycle track alongside Loch Lubnaig leads to one of the best feed and drink stations on the whole trip The Broch Cafe at Strathyre. Suitably replenished, the journey leads on to Lochearnhead and then follows the old railway route, steeply at first and then more easily, ascending Glen Ogle to the A85 road pass, before descending into Killin and the Falls of Dochart. The reward was a cosy night at Lochleven B&B A really good day with minimal traffic on the small amount of side roads used at times.


Clyde to Cape Wrath – day 1


Day one of the Clyde to Cape Wrath trail, off-road bike route  which I followed during the first week of May this year. The inspiration came from my good pal, Dave Wilson. The An Turas Mor website is his idea alone, without which I would have struggled to finish. The route is iconic and should become the best off-road bicycle route in the UK. Using the restful four hour train journey from Fort William to Glasgow (Dalmuir station), allowed a gentle start to this adventure, towards the north-west highlands. Other start points in Glasgow are available. Personally, I found the Kelvin Walkway to offer the least enjoyable section of the whole journey. It was impossible (for me) to gain any sort of rythym of travel. Fences and muddy ruts, next to a deep river did not play well for me on the first day. The journey improved as time passed by. Dave had joined me on this first day and we found a good driniking ‘hole’ in Aberfoyle to enjoy supper and a few pints, watching footie. A wild camp in Aberfoyle, down by the river was restful.

Con Higgins

'con higgins'

Con Higgins

Con Higgins
March 1940 – April 2018
There’s a story to be told and I don’t have much of the text. In fact, Con would most likely have approved. At one time he felt that climbing west and north of the Great Glen should not be recorded and that large tract of mountainous country, be left for exploration only, with nothing recorded in print. He helped me with the fourth edition of ‘Winter Climbs – Ben Nevis & Glencoe’, but preferred not to be acknowledged. There will be many of those reading this obituary, who can fill in some of the big gaps that I’m left with. Cunningham, Geddes, Docherty, MacIntyre, Chambers are no longer with us. They all climbed with Con. To me, and many others, he was always encouraging and helpful. Nicolson and ‘Skip’ are amongst those who agree that Con was “one of the good guys”.
Arriving in Fort William in 1971 I discovered an active winter climbing scene, that included Con and other members of the Creagh Dhu mountaineering club. Some had work, some not. They all had a passion for the mountains. Even on marginal weather days, Con and the team would go up…. “for a look”…. This attitude of ….“if you don’t go, you’ll not know”…., produced a good clutch of new climbs on Ben Nevis. I went into Carnmore in the winter with another pal and Con, but nothing doing, so we walked out again. Competition for new ground was intense, especially between east and west and the SMC and Creagh Dhu. The poor winter of 1973 only produced three new climbs. Boomer’s Requiem, by Con Higgins and Dougie MacArthur being one of them. The crux pitch is fierce and much steeper than anything on Point Five Gully. Who was Boomer, by the way? Con often turned up with axes he had made himself. He was a brass fitter by trade with an engineering background. A variety of shapes and axe sizes, at a time when anyone with a knowledge of metalwork was experimenting, from Clydeside to California. We all have a lot to thank these fertile minds, when clinging on to modern tools. Climbing with Con on Ben Nevis was always interesting, challenging, hard and successful. At the start of every day, heading towards a new climb I knew very little of the destination. Meeting and climbing with Con improved my ice climbing ability dramatically, at a time when lower grades were all I had in the bag. It was a natural progression and Con showed me what was possible on winter climbs.
The social scene enhanced days out. In particular, a small flat above the West Highland Museum, where the curator was friendly with one of the crowd! Drunken nights in the back bar of the Kingshouse. Performing involuntary 360deg skids on an icy A82 in Glencoe, on the way home to Fort William. A trip home, using the Ballachulish ferry, before the bridge was built, when one member of the party, dived over the side and swam the rest of the way. He asked for a refund on the other side. Some Creagh Dhu members were present and very encouraging of these aquatic efforts. Climbing by comparison was a lot safer.
Mountains were the common gel that joined us all. It’s on the mountains of Scotland and particularly Ben Nevis, where Con Higgins left us a fine legacy of great climbs. To me and many others, Con Higgins was a good and trusted companion on the rope. He’s at rest now and I’m thankful for that, as well as being able to share in a small part of his life.
Co-op Funeral Parlour, Hume Street, Glasgow. Near the Singer Railway Station (Clydebank)
12:30, Friday 13th, April 2018.

West Highland Way cycle loop

Check this Cycling link for a map of the route. A fairly arduous local trip, following the West Highland Way (WHW) from Fort William to Lochan Lundavra and then back along the B road to home in Fort William. 50% on public roads, 20% on forestry tracks and 30% on single track (WHW). I needed to walk some of the single track, especially the uphill sections and occasional drainage dykes. I’m no downhill MTB, so parts of the WHW were fairly technical. This route has plenty of slow uphill to be dealt with.

Carn Mor Dearg Arete, Ben Nevis 4th February, 2018

From a group who spent a high, snow hole bivouac at approximately 3000ft in Coire Leis. This classic traverse is very popular. Surrounded on all sides by steep icy slopes, dropping towards Glen Nevis or the Allt a’Mhuilinn. The easier approach is from the north-west, starting at the North Face car park. In this direction, an ascent of Ben Nevis can be included and descend by the ordinary ‘mountain track’ towards the halfway lochan. On this day, we descended back towards the snow-holes in Coire Leis by steep, sustained and icy slopes from the summit of Carn Mor Dearg. Treat this descent with great respect, as a slip could have a serious outcome. We used a rope in ‘alpine’ mode for the whole descent. Take care.

Plenty of teams out on Tower Ridge. Some on Orion Direct, Point Five Gully, Observatory Gully, N.E.Buttress. Those who started up Zero Gully backed off in the face of poor protection. Not very busy, considering the good forecast.

Poor climbing conditions on Aonach Mor

Today we had an explore around the East Face of Aonach Mor. Abseiled in to Left Twin, which was pretty thin, lean and unconsolidated. There were pockets of shallow wind slab, as it had snowed overnight, but a conservative approach to Easy Gully and plenty of rock belays on the side walls, allowed for  a gentle ascent of that route on a beautiful day out.

Lanyards and personal anchor systems

Lanyards and  personal anchor systems Black Diamond

Belays by DMM

Glen Roy cycle


A visit to the Scottish Mountain Heritage Museum  put together by Mick and Kathy Tighe is well worth the trip. Give them a call to make sure they will be around, before making the journey.

The collection of ancient mountaineering kit is considerable, fully archived and continues to grow. In fact, if anyone has any kit they no longer need or has been passed down from generations, Mick and Kathy would love to hear from you. Anything from old photos and books/magazines to clothing and hardwear is of interest.

The weather finally gave a decent day for an outing on the bike  outing on the bike Venturing further up this remote glen is not to  be missed, to view the Parallel Roads


Sailing amongst the Virgin Islands

A recent trip of eleven days cruising around the British Virgin Islands. Steady trade winds, stunning beaches and reasonable snorkeling. Our boat was a 40ft Lagoon catamaran from Dream Yacht Charters, Hodge Creek Marina on Tortola. We sailed bare boat with no skipper. This area is pretty safe, having very few offshore reefs and plenty of deep water. Overnight we normally used moorings supplied at approximately $30 a night. Plenty of restaurants and bars ashore each evening, or stock up with grub and beer before leaving. Happy hour is normally 4-6 p.m. and the Rum cocktails go down very easily!

Staffin – Rona – Raasay – Applecross – Kyleakin