Thursday, December 29, 2005

Return To Victory !

Image by Chris Bowles

Well yesterday saw me return to a hill that had me beat last year.

Previously myself and AT had climbed a hill called A' Chralaig in heavy snow, icy sections and very poor visibility. We were heading north to the next hill on the list Mullach Fraoch-coire along a narrow ridge with several pinnacles. The visibilty by this time was so that you could see where your next step was going but that was about all. We ended up on a pinnacle looking down into nothing. Now and againg the next pinnacle would appear out of the gloom but there was no way of getting to it. we gave up and went home.

Yesterday was better, forecast was for temps arounf 0 degC, low wind and no cloud. I set off up the glen, ignoring A' Chralaig and making a direct accent to the nasty ridge. It was icy and I was on my arse in five minutes! I made my way along what was an enjoyable fairly exciting ridge with some good exposure and a couple of 'hands on' sections. I found the bit that had stumped us last time. It was a pinnacle which was easily passable via a path to the side, this was not visible last time. Trying to find such a path could easily have resulted in a fall. Thinking about this has re-assured me that we made a good decision last time.

I easily gained the summit and scanned around 360 to take in the amazing views, I could see for a million miles !


Sunday, December 18, 2005

Cold Windy And Scary, but Great Fun.

Todays paddle was another one in the Cromarty Firth, are you seeing a pattern here ?
I started near the Burial Ground at Kiltearn near Evanton (615,653). It was still only 1 degC from the night before but due to warm up a bit. The plan was to observe the seals which hang about on the sand near both sides of the Cromarty Bridge. I was not supposed to be paddling alone but the other person pulled out at the last minute.

Despite the very singular nature of the party I decided to go ahead with the plan and cross SW into the 11knot ( 20kph ) wind and head for the south side causeway of the bridge. Near the middle it was very lively, the tide was on it's third hour of coming in and in the middle of the channel it was arguing with the wind coming in the other direction I was caught in the crossfire with waves breaking over the bow and big spray hitting me in the face, great fun.

On reaching the causeway I took shelter for a wee while as I could see that the next part of my journey was going to be more difficult. I planned to head to the north side of the bridge but the waves would be coming at me from a bad angle on my left, and they were getting big with plenty of white tops now visible. Ach what the hell, I paddles out.

This part of the trip had me sneaking my way north whilst also 'surfing' the bigger waves NNE, laughing with excitement but also crapping myself when there were nasty sideways hits. I have never seen so many different wave conditions in such a short space of time. There were sets of big ones that looked like rapids on a river but they were moving, these were a great help and good fun when caught right. I dared to look at my GPS a few times and I was getting 7.7 kph from them. I continued sneaking my way north when the waves weren't looking and going with them when they were.

I reached the north causeway without having a fishes view of the firth, I remember saying " I can't believe I just did that ". This time last year I was someone who didn't like water, disliked swimming and didn't do any water sports.
I had arranged to meet the wife and kids at the Foulis Point restaurant at midday and had to burn up time as the old adrenaline had been like nitro in the engine and I was way too early.

The worst part of the day was waiting in the cold for the nice warm car and change of clothes to arrive, but a big turkey dinner made up for it.

Oh I only saw one seal near the start of the trip, Berty the Gull must have told them I was coming :-)

Monday, December 05, 2005

More Paddling In The Firth

The picture shows the view down the Cromarty Firth. In the distance you can see the sutors where the Cromarty Firth runs into the Moray firth. Closer is the crossing point point between Invergordon on the left and Newhall Point on the Black Isle on the right.

Ref. OS Landranger 21

Got out paddling again on Sunday 5th December. I started checking the weather report on Wednesday as I had already established that the tide was suitable for the trip.
The weather was rather less predictable. On Wednesday we were expecting Sunday to bring a 10mph easterly with heavy rain showers. After several predicted wind direction and speed changes the forecast on the day was light showers and a 5mph north westerly !

Andy and I put in at Nigg ( 796,687 ) which is on the North sutor of the Cromarty firth. There was a swell coming into the firth and real waves landing on the beach. We got our gear sorted and broke through the surf into the swell and started toward the pier at Cromarty. It was a great experience, a few weeks ago I did my first crossing further west but this crossing was very close to the real sea and the incoming tide and swell was funneling in through the sutors pushing us sideways and helping us on our way. Andy seemed to be loving it too.

The exciting bit over we neared the coast of the Black Isle and slogged along westward through constant heavy showers, the sun just managed to make an appearance for about 8 minutes and that was it. We beached about half way along ( 744,655 ) and had a flask of hot coffee each and a bit to eat.

The rest of the trip from Cromarty to Newhall Point ( 709,672 ) near Balblair was rather dull and damp, mostly into the wind. We were both glad to reach the crossing point and had a good rest before we did.

We crossed from Newhall Point back over to the north side of the firth and along to our individual take out points. The trip had taken 3 hours.

I tested most of my new kit on the trip. The paddle leash was, well a paddle leash, I didn't lose my paddle so I guess it worked :-) I was also wearing my new Yak Kalyx cag. I opened the under arm zips quite quickly as the early excitement caused a sweat, later I zipped them back up again, I have a Mountain Equipment jacket I use for winter hillwalking which has underarm zips and I have NEVER used them. The hood also came in handy in the frequent wintery downpours a very useful comfy piece of kit, nice touch having a piece of soft fleece on the inside of the collar.

The other piece of kit deserving a mention are the pogies. These were the Suzy 40 Below ones which are nylon with some foil like heat reflecting material on the inside. They did a great job at keeping the old handys warm even on the odd occasion when water dripped in my hands were warm throughout the day. The only time they got cold was when we stopped for a snack !

Now I'm off to plan the next trip, maybe the Dornoch Firth ?

Friday, November 18, 2005

Kind of Open Water

So far I have been hugging the coast as much as possible in my trips about the Cromarty Firth. Today I crossed at the narrowest point just 1.5Km between Invergordon and Balblair Pier on the Black Isle.( 702,685 ) to ( 703,672 ) OS map 21.

I headed east for 800 metres before heading straight back to the slip at Saltburn ( 728,701 ).

The crossing took me 20 mins and was a bit scary. I found it strange not being able to look left or right and see the land passing by. The sea was dead calm and I had timed my trip to get in a t high water and come back when the tide was starting to go out.

I never noticed the tide until I got to Newhall point, the thinnest part of the firth and I could see the water flowing east. I stopped paddling and was carried along. I put the nose of the boat ashore and had a quick slug of coffee out of the flask before pushing off towards home. The last bit was more or less straight to the take out point.

I saw ducks and comorants but no swimming creatures.

Now where can I go next ?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Paddling Latest

I have recently been arsing about when it's windy. The boat seems stable enough, the only difficult bit is turning. The wind has it's own ideas as to how you should be pointing.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

First Wee Trip

If you want a better idea of whats going on then get out OS Landranger 21 or see google maps and look at the Cromarty Firth from Invergordon up west to the bridge at Ardullie.

Tuesday 18th October, first wee trip in boat. Started out at Ardullie bridge parking car next to roundabout (grid 587,623). I was joined by T in a P&H Quest and S in a P&H Capella, both proper sea Kayaks and T and S are both really fit people. I knew I could easily fall behind in my very stable but slower Contour.

The weather was nice and sunny with a slight breeze, lovely paddling. We progressed nicely looking out for Seals and other such fauna. We hit a choppy bit or two and assumed it was just the tide turning, thing were going great and I was keeping up nicely although the others may have going slow for me :-)

We passed the Yankee pier ( in grid 66,67 ) and things changed, there was a strong wind blowing from the east south east and things were getting choppy. T and S were getting further and further ahead, I did notice S turning around to check I was OK. The fact is that although I was making slow progress in the wind I was really enjoying it ! The front of the boat was bouncing up and down and spray was hitting me in the face, I felt like I was on a whale catcher somewhere in the South Atlantic ! I had a couple of scares when I thought I had a wave sussed but it collapsed and the boat fell off the side of it, pardon my lack of sea dog parlance.

T&S were quite far ahead and I noticed they were heading for land at Invergordon ( grid 699,687 ). T landed but S came back to make sure I was OK. "T doesn't like it like that " said S. It appears T was having visions of being tipped freaked a bit and made a dash for land, that's why they got so far ahead of me.

Me and S had a look around the corner and tried to convince T that it was OK, there were in fact quite large waves bouncing along by the harbour and T decided to go back to land and wait for S to pick him up in the car.

Me and S continued on our journey and reached the take out point at ( grid 728,700 ). I worked it out as 17 Km and it took 3hrs 20 minutes.

Lessons learned:
Force 4's are good fun for some but not all paddlers.
Your group of three can become a group of 2 and 1 quite easily.
Don't stop, you get cold quick !

Monday, October 10, 2005

My New Boat

This is the Perception Contour that I bought on 7th October from Highland Canoes in Aviemore. Pretty hairy getting it home as the wind was bad on Friday and I only had some old rope to tie it onto the car !
Despite the high winds on Friday I attempted a paddle and got beached twice :-)
Saturday was less windy so I managed over an hours paddling up and down in front of the house.
Sunday was my two star assesment day which was done on the Ness with 12 others and a load of coaches. Several rapids were negotiated and there was also a few break in and outs, what a great day. Oh and I passed, think I'll pay the 2 quid for a shiny certificate :-)

Thursday, May 12, 2005

No Walk But A Cycle

Well I went out for a cycle today as I had no car to go hillwalking. The route I took heads up north on the A9 from Invergordon and goes over the Dornoch Firth bridge. One heads then to Spinningdale and Bonar Bridge.

The leg breaking climb up the Struie hill follows then descend into Alness and back along to Invergordon, Phew.

My cycle comp measured it at 83 Km and it took me a whoppinf 4 hours.

Checking the database I see I done it eight years ago in only three hours !

Sunday, May 08, 2005

No Walking Today

CRAP No walking today. I was due to take a beginner but the strong north winds and constant showers mean't it wasn't possible. I'll have to wait for the next window of opportunity to open in the next few weeks. Went shopping in Inverness instead. Bought a wee mic for using with Skype, just a wee round thing made by Hama. Picks up the voice at a short distence but there is a bit of background hum.
I'm off to muck about with it.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

A recent Wander

Near A Chralaig. Posted by Hello
I got up in the middle of the night tonight as my body still thinks it's on night shift. Thought I would post a pic of my last hillwalk a few weeks back. I'm supposed to be getting out again this Sunday but I'm taking a 'learner' with me so I won't bother unless the firecast is really good.

Thursday, May 05, 2005


Well people this is my very first post. I live in the Highlands of Scotland. Married with two kids. I work shifts, not sure whether I'll say where I work yet we'll see how it goes.
Started listening to podcasts only last week and got Gmail from Murray Eddie who does Tedpod.

I have used computers since I was thirteen. I remember seeing an ad for the Sinclair ZX81 and I was hooked from then on. Never really went the computer road as a vocation it's just a hobby.

I'll expand more on my interests in future posts but that's a start...