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 ?