Tuesday, 26 September 2017


Looked fine this morning
Garbh Coire and Ben Macdui (somewhere)
Steep, rough route out of coire
Garbh Coire Bothy and waterfall
It's not called the rough coire for nothing

Autumn colours

High up on Braeriach
There are some days out in the mountains that just don't go the way you had planned. One of those days was today! The weather forecast looked reasonable, ie we may get some nice views and some sun. I took a wander into the Garbh Coire Mor on Braeriach. It's been a few years since I last walked up here, right to the base of the crags. This is arguably one of the most remote, wildest and highest places in the British Isles. Many miles from a public road, even with a bike up to the start of the Lairig Ghru it is a long way into this magnificent coire. There was sunshine this morning on the ride through the forest. This was short lived though. A bank of thick, low cloud was looking straight at me in the Lairig Ghru. Still I pressed on in hope of better weather. It takes a few hours to get to the entrance of the Garbh Coire on a reasonable path. From the bothy onwards it's pathles and wild. A wonderful place of solitude and no mobile phone signal. One of the reasons to explore in the coire today was to get a final glimpse of  one of just two final snow patches to survive this year. One on Aonach Beag and the other lies here under Braeriachs' massive plateau in Garbh Coire Mor. The Sphinx, has it is named, is now just a tiny patch. Usually much bigger but with the poor winter it looks like it will soon be melted away. This patch of old snow has only disappeared a few times in the last couple of hundred years. The cloud was down and I spent a fair while wandering about looking for it in the clag. No sign so maybe I was just in the wrong area. I then decided on an 'adventerous route out of the coire and  onto the Braeraich plateau. This was certainly an adventurous route. Boulders, steep ground and some scrambling on mossy rocks, I backed off and decided on a long march back out the way I walked in. The Lairig Ghru path during daylight hours is bad enough (rough-bouldery) so even worse in the dark! Of course I carry two torches and spare batteries all year round in my rucsack. 12 hours later I finally arrived home. Worse of all I missed my dinner! A good day out! I'm sure that tiny patch of snow is still sitting there, for now.

Sunday, 24 September 2017


Challenging weather

Out of the wind for some accurate stuff

Oh, oh, into the cloud

4 tops and some excellent navigation later and Kerry on Sgor Gaoithe

Pathless terrain much of the day
Day Two of Kerry's navigation course with me. Today we concentrated on micro navigation, contour interpretation, pacing and relocation techniques. We also took the GPS out for a little ride and looked at the pro's and con's of map versus satellite technology. By the end of the day Kerry became slick at taking many compass bearings has we walked over many of the 'Sgorans'. This area that surrounds the Munro Sgor Gaiothe is a fab place to learn navigation. Featureless ground, much of this pathless and rounded hills above the 1000m contour. Kerry came away after the two days of one to one tuition with far more confidence and lots of skills to venture out into more challenging mountain terrain. The weather was very challenging again today with constant rain throughout and a stiff head wind. These are the conditions where you would be having to use good navigational skills for sure.

Saturday, 23 September 2017


Sun, cloud and wind

Cairngorm plateau

Clear skies over Strathspey

Morning sun, Coire an Lochain

Nice conditions at times
Kerry is out with me for a 2 Day Navigation Course in The Cairngorms. Kerry has been hillwalking for a few years and amassed plenty of Munros but she's wanting to gain more confidence to explore on more adventurous ground. It was a beautiful clear skies morning in Strathspey and up in the Northern Corries. The winds were quite strong, even at lower altitudes. It was around 40mph down at the Cairngorm Mountain car park and a tad more up in Coire an Lochain. We soon got off well graded paths and onto pathless terrain. After mid day we headed up onto the plateau where the cloud kept coming and going. Good , real conditions for navigation. Kerry was soon taking plenty of compass bearings all over the Cairngorm plateau between Ben Macdui and the lip of the Loch Avon Basin. We headed over to the Goat Track for a quic descent back to calmer conditions. The first real winds of the Autumn and feeling chilly.

Thursday, 21 September 2017


Zinal Rothorn piercing the sky
Another wonderful summer season working in The Alps has come to an end. This year the season included a few more Walkers' Haute Route treks, Mont Blanc Treks and a Tour of the Matterhorn. My previous posts gave details of the treks themselves and were accompanied by mobile phone photographs. So this blog post is all about the photography. It contains the really special moments caught on a Mirrorless camera ( Lumix GM1) between mid June and mid September 2017. Hope you enjoy the highlights!

Les Dru after a fresh dusting of snow
Recent seasons have seen large areas of winter snow lingering high up on many of the major trekking routes in the Alps. However, the previous winter had been a poor season snow-wise which, coupled with an unusually warm Spring, meant there was hardly any snow patches on the TMB cols. As always, there can be snowfall at any time during the summer months, but it doesn't usually linger for long. I was lucky enough to capture the summer snow after one of these periods. The Dru looked particularly fine on this day in mid June.

Val d' Herens & Pigne d' Arolla
 A crystal clear morning on the trail up to the Col de Torrent. Some stunning views of the Dent Blanche, Pigne d'Arolla and Mont Blanc de Cheillon. Never fails to impress from this easy, zig-zag path through meadows.

The Trient Glacier from Tseppes Alp
Throughout the Tour of Mont Blanc, there are some 'variations' on the standard route. Many groups prefer the standard, easier routes, but even the smallest of adaptations can lead to a far better scenic perspective. One of these is the beautiful trail that heads up to the Col de Balme from Trient via the remote and peaceful Tseppes Alp. Here you get an amazing view of the Trient Valley and the Trient Glacier.

Cloudscapes over Dent Blanche
The temperatures were up into the 30s C in many Alpine valleys between end of June and beginning of July. When we get these kind of temperatures, it usually means a hot Southerly wind coming from the Mediterranean. Unfortunately, this can result in poor air quality in terms of photography. Cold air mixing with warm air can bring bad weather, but on this particular day on the Haute Route we had fabulous cloud formations before the weather front arrived.
Male Ibex
One of the joys of walking in The Alps are the wildlife. High up in the mountains, the animals are the ones who are best adapted to the wide range of terrain and weather, not us humans. Watching the ibex wander around steep hillsides is a fantastic experience. To get close up to an individual and to spend over twenty minutes taking photos is a real privilege. And if you get the right light and pose, then it comes close to being a perfect moment.

Temperature Inversion on Lac Dix

Another one of those cloud phenomenon in the mountains are Temperature Inversions. Cold air sinking the night before with the warmer air being pushed above leaving some dramatic cloud formations like on this early morning in August above Lac Dix

The Weisshorn North Ridge
The usual weather pattern on a typical Alpine day is clear mornings with cloud gradually increasing by afternoon. To get a clear afternoon is not usual  in the Alps, the heat of the day causing cloud to form on high ground. This day over the Meidpass was stunning. We arrived about 4pm with the North ridge of the Weisshorn still clear of cloud and beautiful views all the way down into the Turtmantal.

King of the Alps
If you enjoy the wealth of flora that is abundant throughout the Alpine regions then the end of June into July is probably the finest period. My favourite flower is the small, rare and beautiful King of The Alps. In flower for only a few weeks of the year and growing high up on cold windswept ground. A delightful flower to discover on your trek.

Mont Collon above Arolla
Meadows, forest, high glaciated peaks and wild flowers, the descent trail into Arolla has it all. An absolute delight, even at the end of a long day. The afternoon light is in the perfect position to show off the mountains in all their glory.

Aiguille Charmoz and Aiguille Chamonix
The sunsets can be enjoyed from the comfort of your hotel balcony. I was blessed this summer with spectacular light on many occasions. The granite towers and pinnacles around Chamonix offer some beautiful colours at the end of the day.

Adult Marmot
Young Marmot
The sound of the Alps and constant companions along the trails. The marmot. Who doesn't love a marmot? These wonderful characters are an absolute joy to behold.

Atmospheric cloud as the Matterhorn clears
That most iconic of mountains, The Matterhorn. It cannot be confused with any other mountain across the globe. Unfortunately, on the Tour of the Matterhorn this year we never saw it once in the three days that we were in Cervinia and Zermatt due to low cloud and poor weather. On the final Haute Route this season it looked like it was going to be the same. All the way along the Europaweg we were stuck in thick clag, not unlike Scotland. Then, just before we descended into the forest the cloud suddenly broke and we were treated to an unveiling of this stunning mountain.

Mont Blanc de Cheillon
Clouds and mountains really do spice up the atmosphere, another one here. Mont Blanc de Cheillon is passed by on the Haute Route. A fabulous looking mountain with no roads in sight or within many miles.
Sunset from the Cabane Montfort
The Cabane du Montfort refuge is perched up at over 2400m and has wonderful views out to the Mont Blanc range, an unusual view and some distance away. From the patio and beer garden you are treated to some wonderful sunsets.

The Grand and Petit Combin
The Walkers Haute Route has a section of trail known as the Sentier de Chamois. You get fantastic views of The Grand Combin all the way from Cabane Montfort to Col Termin, and beyond! Get an early start from the Montfort and you get beautiful morning light onto this isolated '4000 er'.

Female Chamois and her young
It's not called the Sentier de Chamois for nothing. Chamois live high up and prefer rocky ground mixed with good vegetation. More elusive than the ibex. Lovely to see the adults with their young.

The Treient Glacier
The Fenetre Arppette route on the TMB is one of the toughest days on the entire trek. It offers the walker a glimpse into the world of high mountains and glaciers. The Trient Glacier is quite close to the trail but like all glaciers around the world it is retreating at an alarming rate. To get good light for photography means an early start. On this particular day we had no cloud, excellent air clarity and timed nicely, it's also a great spot for ibex on the rocks to the left.

Val d'Annivers & Dent Blanche
Day after day on the TMB and Haute Route you leave and finish in different valleys. One of the most spectacular of these is the Val d' Annivers on the Walkers Haute Route. Within an hour or two of leaving Zinal you get one of the most beautiful scenes of high mountain and valley. You need to keep looking back as you walk though!

Mont Blanc & Val Veny
For me the finest views of Mont Blanc are on the Italian side of the TMB. From high above Val Veny you get an amazing scale of the mountain . Rivers, forest, meadows, steep rock and glaciers in one glorious view.
Temperature inversion above Prarayer
On the Tour of the Matterhorn the section of trail between the Col Collon and Cervinia is the reostest and wildest section on the tour. The wee farm/refuge at Prarayer is the only valley accommodation in the area. At 2000m it is high up. On this morning we had left the refuge in thick, cold cloud. Within an hour we had walked up into warm blue skies looking down on the top of the clouds.

Mont Blanc above Chamonix
It doesn't take much effort to get above the town of Chamonix and get some spectacular views of Mont Blanc.

Nutcracker ( Nucifraga caryocatactes)
Another constant companion throughout the forests in the Alps is the symbiotic bird, The Nutcracker. The bird coexists with a certain tree, The Arolla Pine . You'll always see them fluttering about the trees and their call is unmistakable. Another give away is half nibbled and chewed pine cones scattered over the trails.

Sunrise on the Matterhorn
Finally The Matterhorn. Probably the most iconic, instantly recognisable mountain in the world. Captivating at every viewpoint and at any time of day. Particularly beautiful on a sunrise with fresh snow on it's faces.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017


Danni enjoying the Fiacaill Ridge
I'm liking this!
Tranquil in Coire an t-Sneachda
Fiacaill a' Choire Sneachda
More scrambling, Coire an Lochain now
Navigation, Cairngorm plateau
Fabulous day to be on the hills
A great place for fun

Coire an t-Sneachda
Danni has just got into hillwalking and 'bagging' Munros quite recently. She's walked up some of the easier to navigate hills but wants the confidence and skills to get into more remote and challenging terrain. She initially wanted a day purely of navigation with me. After a few minutes of discussion we turned the day into a mountain skills, navigation and scrambling course. The beauty of joining on one of my courses, flexibility and what the individual wants to get out of it. It's never just a standard 'Navigation Course'.
What a stonker of a day it was. Wall to wall sun, not a breath of wind and warm temperatures. We walked into Coire an t-Sneachda and made our way up to the notch on the Fiacaill a' Coire an t-Sneachda. The terrain up in the coire is pathless, a new experience for Danni. Also a new experience was scrambling along the ridge. She took to it quickly and was soon grinning all the way along. We did some navigation on the plateau before sadly heading back to civilisation.
Brilliant day out with some great banter, don't think I have had anyone chat so much throughout the day! Good craic and laughs along the way, except the 'scary biscuits' bits along the ridge :)
It's good to be home!