Thursday, 22 February 2018

150 - Ben Macdui - Moray, Aberdeenshire - 19th June 2017

I woke up on Day 7 of my Scotland adventure to the sound of rain on my tent, It had been raining pretty much solidly for the last 3 or 4 days and it was really starting to bring me down but it was time to move campsites and head off to a different part for scotland for my next big mountain. So far on this trip I had visited Earl's Seat, Ben Lomond and the difficult Bidean nam Bian but now I was heading north west to visit another beast of a mountain. I packed up my soaking wet equipment and headed off, heaters on full, trying to dry things out in my van (to no avail) and headed north to Fort William. I stopped off in Fort William for a while to get some supplies and have a look around but then I carried on, in the rain towards my next campsite.

It was only about 20 mins past Fort William and I was now to the north of Ben Nevis and suddenly the sun came out, it was glorious, I pulled over an stepped out into the first warm sunshine I had seen for a while, it made me so happy after the last 4 days of solid rain. The drive from now onwards was wonderful, beautiful scenery, amazing stretches of road, I passed by the exact centre of Scotland and had a look around and then continues into the town of Aviemore where I parked up and went for a walk around in the beautiful warm sunshine. after a bite to eat I headed out of Aviemore and into the Cairngorms where I found my home for the next 2 nights, the Glenmore Campsite.

Loch Morlich
I checked in and set up tent, Now because this mountain was such a big one I had arranged to meet up with someone for the walk, Duncan lives in Aberdeen and is familiar with many of the mountains in the area and he was going to join me for the climb, I wasn't going to meet him until later in the day so I decided to use this time to explore the campsite and I was really pleased to find a laundry room. I washed and dried everything I had with me that afternoon and it was lovely to finally have some dry clothes to wear again. Duncan arrived later that day and we took a walk down to Loch Morlich for a wander along the banks and even a paddle too.

The next day I awoke and had breakfast, Duncan was going to drive us up to the car park at the Cairngorms Ski Centre this was great because it literally saved us from walking up the first 600 mtrs of mountain. The morning had started off  with a bit of cloud but now we were up the mountain the cloud had came back, we left the car park and headed past the Ski centre and then we found the path towards the first of 2 mountains we would visit today. The Ski Centre has a funicular going up to about 1100 metres, It would have been cheating to use this but the path we took eventually led us past all the Ski slopes and to the top of the funicular, We stopped here for a bite to eat. it was interesting because we were now in the clouds we could hear all the strange noises from birds around us. I did wonder if any of the noised were Ptarmigan (a Scottish bird).

Cairne Gorm
From the funicular station we carried on upwards, this time a straight path to the top of Cairn Gorm, the mountain which lends its name to the range of mountains we were in. On top of Cairn Gorm there was a radio tower, it was quite thick cloud here and it all looks quite eerie. From Cairn Gorm we headed back down the slopes to pick up another path leading us in a southerly direction. We soon walked out below the clouds but our views were still restricted so we couldn't see too much, we had walked about 3 miles so far and on our right there was a steep drop with some dramatic cliffs below us. It was hard to gauge how far down the drop went as it was so cloudy around us but we continued and eventually picked up the path leading us directly towards our destination. Along this part of the walk we would often see the cloud clear and we would get some spectacular views across the Cairngorms, There were snow patches below us and then we would catch glimpses of other mountains in the area, it really was quite beautiful.


A Ptarmigan
We stopped for some lunch near a small pool and actually caught a glimpse of a Ptarmigan, there was a tent near by but no sign of the occupants, after lunch the path changed and became more rocky for a while, rather than follow a path we were following some handy piles of rocks marking the route, the path soon came back and then we started our final ascent up to our destination. The cloud cover soon came back and we passed the odd walker or 2 as we approached the high point. Eventually after 6 miles of walking we reached the top of Ben Macdui, at 1309 metres it is the highest point of Aberdeenshire and Moray. The county border runs right across the top of Ben Macdui so I managed to tick off 2 counties without even moving, it is also the second highest mountain in the UK.

Ben Macdui
We didn't stay too long here, it was cloudy and with no views there was nothing to look at so we had a bite to eat and took some photos then headed off back the way we came. We passed a fairly big group of other walkers heading to the high point, then back down out of the cloud cover, over the rocky paths, past the tent and then we turned off onto a different path leading us back to the car a different route. It was along here that the clouds started to clear more and the sun came out giving us spectacular views over the surrounding mountains and valleys. The walk back to the car park from here was really stunning, to the north we could see Aviemore and beyond, to the south were some incredible cliffs, some of which we walked along earlier in the day.

Back at the campsite I had a bit of a rest and shower and then I headed into Aviemore with Duncan to grab some food in one of the local restaurants, an Australian themed place called Roo's Leep. then it was off back to the campsite for a well earned sleep. After the rain of the last 4 days Ben Macdui turned out to be a really wonderful climb and it was great to have the company of Duncan on the walk too.

View from the campsite

To be continued . . . . . . . .

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

149 - Bidean nam Bian - Argyll - 17th June 2017

Day 5 of my trip to Scotland had arrived and it was time to pack up my tent and move on to another campsite, after a quick breakfast I loaded the car and headed off first south along the banks of Loch Lomond, then along the southern edge, stopping off for some supplies in Balloch and then driving up the long western edge of the Loch. I have driven this road before back on highpoint number 100 when I went to Ben Nevis and I remember how beautiful this journey was, for 24 miles the road runs along side of the Loch allowing amazing views across the Loch towards, Ben Lomond, well it would be the case if the weather wasn't this bad, for the last day or so it had been raining pretty hard, I was lucky to get a dry spell at the top of Ben Lomond but generally the weather was very wet and today it was still raining leaving me with a nice view of the clouds. As I drove I had the heating full on trying to dry various items of clothing, especially my walking boots, so as you can imagine it was a rather warm trip.

The Red Squirrel Campsite
After passing the Loch, the road continues along through some sparsely populated areas of Scotland, through the forests and across the open land for miles and miles. I stopped off at a shop and service area for a break and a wander around the tourist shop and then I was back on my journey eventually driving across the sweeping plains of Rannoch Moor and finally entering the stunning pass of Glencoe and turning off onto a smaller road finding my campsite for the next 2 nights. The Red Squirrel campsite sits right next to the River Coe and it is a beautiful place with lots of different areas to camp in, I chose a quiet little spot near some trees and set up my tent in the pouring rain, it didn't take me long to set up and I was soon unpacked and off for a drive around the local area. I finished the day off with a walk along the river and a nice meal.
The Three Sisters
The next morning it was time to tackle a beast of a mountain, I had breakfast and headed off to a car park next to the road in the Pass of Glencoe, It was still raining on and off so I got on the wet weather gear, collected my back pack of supplies and headed off. The car park was situated across the valley from the route I was taking so the first thing I had to do was descend down from the car park to the valley floor. It was here I noticed a lot of people joining the path ahead of me and heading in the same direction, literally about 30+ people all walking the same way so I imagined I was going to be having some company on the route ahead. After a few minutes of walking with the crowds we reached a river crossing, it was right here that ll those people stopped an turned back leaving me on my own. It was quite a weird feeling at this point, what did they know that I didn't? what was I walking into? Obviously they had just come to look at the river however it was a strange feeling heading off into the unknown.

The path started to ascend now, my route was to take me up the northern most of the famous 3 Sisters valleys of Glencoe, It was still raining a bit but as the path started to enter the valley I did get a bit of shelter which was good, the path was quite steep in places but it was a good path and I made good progress, always climbing up the length of the valley, getting higher and higher. After what seemed like about 4 hours (but was actually only 2 hours) I stopped for a short break to take in the views, Ahead of me the rocks disappeared into the clouds but below me the views were stunning, in the far distance I could still see the tiny car park, the river and path stretching off into the distance, a quick look at the map showed I had gone from the river at about 100 mtr above sea level and I was now at about 550 mtrs above sea level. This meant I had been climbing this steep and slow path for 2 hours and I was now only just half way, I also knew that the path was not going to be getting any easier, time to crack on.

Towards the top of the valley the path crossed a small river and then headed up the side of the valley eventually disappearing altogether leaving me to find my way using the maps alone. The route has become VERY steep here with some scrambling up some difficult slopes and then across areas of marshy land. It felt like I was going the wrong directing for a time because I had to zig zag up the sides of the valley to get to the start of the ridge leading me up. I was now in the cloud and visibility was now very low, the views were gone and it was just me and my thoughts . . . and the rain. 800 mtrs above sea level now and I had turned back to the correct direction, the start of a ridge leading me to a summit and then eventually my destination, the path was back for a while here which made life easy, I had not seen a single person since the valley floor so I was well and truly on my own here.

Stob Coire nan Lochan
The path continued for about 10 mins and then it abruptly stopped, ahead of me as far as I could see into the cloud was just a field of boulders, the boulders climbed steeply upwards but was sloping down to either side of me, my climb was going to be getting much more difficult. I Started the climb across the boulders and then it hit me, gale force winds from the south literally nearly blew me off my feet, I had obviously reached a point where the shelter of the valley was now gone, Another shock happened when I glanced to my left and saw a vertical drop below me, I made a mental note to stick to the right as I moved along these boulders as I knew that was not so steep.  It was hard work, staying on the highest point of the ridge, keeping an eye on the direction of travel and trying not to trip up or get near the vertical drop. For about 20 mins I scrambled over these boulders and then disaster happened, I slipped and ripped half the nail off of my thumb, there I was halfway up a mountain, with my thumb nail hanging off and blood streaming from it. Because of the rain everything was wet, you can imagine if you mix water with blood it goes everywhere, it also looks like you are bleeding about 10 times as much as you actually are.

I always think I am well prepared for all kinds of situations, I was a cub as a youngster so the term 'Be Prepared' was always stuck in my mind, so I sat down, I got my first aid kit out and basically reattached my thumb nail with various plasters and medical tape. I then had a look at the map and noticed I was not too far from the summit of Stob Coire nan Lochan so headed onwards and eventually got there where I could take another stop next to a trig point and asses the situation. After a short stop I continued my walk, a mixture of rough paths, boulders, and lots of scrambling, it was slow and with the rain, gale force winds always trying to blow me over it really was not my idea of a good climb. At last I got to the last final steep scramble up and I had made it to the top, Bidean nam Bian, at 1150 mtrs above sea level it is the highest point of the historic county of Argyll.

I sat down at the top, there was no shelter,  just a pile of stones, there was no view and the wind was really full on, I tried to shelter next to the stones but it really was pointless. I did manage to restock my pockets with food and I got in a cup of tea too so all was not lost . . . . . and then, I was lost. I looked around, nothing but white clouds, wind and rain, I looked to my left, I could see nothing, to my right, again nothing, I literally had no idea which direction I came from or which direction I was going to . . . thankfully I do have my compass, this was the first time I have actually needed to rely on it during my highpoints challenge. I took stock of my situation, my plan was to walk a circular route, continue along and then eventually down another of the 3 Sisters valleys. I made a decision, the route had so far been tough, but I managed it and I knew it, so I decided to turn back and retrace my exact same route, so heading back I started my long scramble, this time avoiding any injury and slowly but surely getting back past the summit of Stob Coire nan Lochan and then back down to the easier walking.

Descending down and across some marshy areas i then scrambled down the few steep areas and back across the small river and rejoining the path back down the side of the valley. My knees were starting to play up along here, they often do when going down steps so I took it slow and I managed to keep the knee problem at bay, about half way down the valley I saw my first people for what seemed like hours, an eager couple who excitedly asked how far it was to the top, when I told them about 3 or 4 hours they gasped and said "I think we will enjoy the view from here". Although it was a LONG walk down the side of the valley, the views were amazing, it was nice to be out of the cloud cover again, it was wonderful seeing ll the tiny cars and ant like people scurrying about below. Reaching the bottom of the valley I crossed the bridge and then had to make one last painful climb back up to the car park,

Back at the campsite I had a wonderful shower, a lovely dinner and then I slept for a really long time time, it was still raining, my hand was in pain from the injury too but I was so tired, nothing was going to stop me from sleeping.

to be continued . . . . . . . . . . 

Monday, 19 February 2018

148 - Ben Lomond - Stirlingshire - 15th June 2017

I was now on day 4 of my 12 day trip to some of the highpoints of Scotland and to give you a quick recap - I was staying at the lovely Forestry Commision run Sallochy campsite on the banks of Loch Lomond, the weather was a mixture of sunny with showers, yesterday I had visited Earl's Seat, the highest point of East Dunbartonshire and I had been visited by a mouse.

I was quite excited about my climb today as it was a pretty well known mountain, after a quick breakfast of bacon butties I drove a few miles north to a car park at Rowardennan. I parked up and got myself ready, had a quick look at the local information centre and maps, then I headed off on my climb. My plan was to do a circular route and the first part of this route climbed steadily through a small woodland and then out into the open, a mixture of steps and paths for most of this first part. I soon found myself out onto open ground and I was already at about 200 mtrs above sea level, the incline was fairly steady and a few runners had passed me on their was up the mountain, the route was actually fairly busy and I had already passed some early walkers on their way down the mountain too. It was around this point that the rain started, I was well kitted out with my waterproof jacket but it really was wet weather for the rest of the climb up.
First view of the high point

I continued on my route, the path flattened out a bit and ahead i could see that the climb would become much more of a steeper incline so I figured it would be time for a short break for snacks and a cup of tea. I hadn't passed many people for a while but then an american girl stopped for a quick chat and I was on my own again, I could see a group of people approaching from below, they were still about 15 mins away but I figured I would stay ahead of them and do the last climb to the top before they come along so I started the last steep climb up to the summit. the path zig zagged and then went along the side of the mountain eventually coming out on top of a ridge an I could now see my destination, a short walk further and I was now standing on top of Ben Lomond, at 974 metres it is the highest point of the historic county of Stirlingshire.

It was at this point, the moment I reached the top of Ben Lomond that the rain stopped, the skies cleared for a short while and I was rewarded with amazing panoramic views across the whole of Loch Lomond and beyond. The views were simply incredible and it was a huge wonderful reward after climbing most of the journey in the rain. I stayed for a short while and chatted to a pair of climbers, then I sat and looked at the view for a while. looking south I could see a huge band of rain approaching, it was quite a way off but it looked really heavy so I packed up my stuff an headed off, continuing my circular route back down Ben Lomond. It immediately became clear that the route was not going to be any easier than my accent, it was much steeper and was quite hard work, after about a minute of climbing down I passed 2 girls, one of them was in floods of tears because she was not sure how much further it was to climb up such a steep path, I assured her it was only a short distance and well worth it.

I continued down such a steep slope and eventually it flattened out and passed along the side of a summit called Ptarmigan, It was here that the rain really was starting to become torrential and it was about this time I also passed 2 americans, both dressed in their shorts an t-shirts, soaking wet, no wet weather gear in sight and no food or water to be seen. They asked how far it was to the top and I told them it was a good hour at least and they should consider turning back, I don't think they believed me and they headed off up the mountain. I continued on my downward walk and it must have been only 20 mins later when the 2 americans passed me on their way down at full almost running speed simply saying "You were right, us stupid americans", what can I say? I did warn them.

Ben Lomond, the highest point of Stirlingshire

After a while I was back down at sea (or Loch) level and I had a short walk along some small roads back to the car park, I stopped to look at a lovely memorial and then I was back at the car and off back to my campsite finishing the day off with a nice meal at my tent and then a small wander along the banks of Loch Lomond. I also packed up a lot of my equipment as I was off on my travels further north to my next campsite the following day. The rain looked as if is was sticking around for the night but that didn't stop me enjoying this wonderful campsite for one last night.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

147 - East Dunbartonshire - 14th June 2017

As I progress through my 240+ highpoints I am having to travel further and further to get to them, many of the local ones I have already done and I am now starting to have to travel further north so it made sense for me to start doing some much longer trips away.

After some months of planning it was time to set of on a 12 day trip up to Scotland to get a few high points ticked off my list. the plan was to head up the western side of Scotland, then across to the eastern side and back down home again. So on the evening of Monday 12th June I headed north stopping off at Knutsford services for an overnight stop off in the Travelodge.

The next day I continued my journey north up the M6, past the Lake District and eventually into Scotland, passing through Glasgow and onwards to my campsite on the banks of Loch Lomond, I set up my tent and spent the rest of the day chilling out, when I say it was on the banks of the loch I literally mean right on the banks, my tent was a very short stones throw away from the waters edge which was lovely. I spent the evening relaxing and watching the wildlife around the loch. It was now day 3 and the weather was not too bad, the odd shower here and there but mainly dry which was good news at it was the first of my highpoints on this trip up to Scotland. After breakfast I headed south back down the banks of the Lock and then into the hills, parking near a distillery at the village of Dumgoyne. I left the road and headed up a small lane past a few houses, the lane zig zagged and eventually walking through a small woodland and then across a river with a few waterfalls. I soon came out of the forest and then across a field, over a sty out onto the open hills.

I had already climbed up about 100 mtrs but now the climb really started with a steep incline up an around the mountain of Dumgoyne, I did not climb to the top as it was not my goal so I continues around and past the hill carrying on in an easterly direction. I had now climbed to about 400 metres and I was to stay at this height for quite a while as I continued my walk towards my destination. I was rewarded with some pretty spectacular views north over Loch Lomond and beyond. My walk now started to head upward now and I finally reached the highest point known at Earl's Seat, at 578 mtrs it is the highest point of East Dunbartonshire.

I sat here and had some lunch for a while and admired the view then set off a slightly different direction back to my car, The direction I took was a bit more direct but that led me through some marshy areas, I got my boots a bit wet but it was not too much of a problem and the sun was starting to shine a bit more now so I was quite happy wandering along.

I made it back to my car and then headed back to the campsite where I cooked up a lovely dinner and sat by the lake reading. I did notice that a mouse had chewed a hole in my tent so did spend some time repairing that and mouse proofing the rest of the tent finally ending the evening by watching the Germans skinny dipping in the Loch.

To be continued . . . . . .

Friday, 9 February 2018

146 - Brighton - 7th April 2017

In April I was lucky to spend a few days with a good friend in Hastings, on the way home I drove fairly close to a high point I had not yet done, so it was time for a quick stop off to see it.

The highpoint in question is called Bullock Hill, the highest point of Brighton, found to the east of the city it is 195 mts above sea level and has views over the city. I parked up not too far from the summit and walked along a few country paths (avoiding the dog mess) to get to a point as near as I could from the top. The field that the high point was situated in was full of crops so I avoided entering the field just in case but I did get as near as I could.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

March 2017 update

Hello folks, I thought I would give you all an update on my progress on visiting all the highest points of every modern county, historical counties and unitary authorities in England Scotland and Wales.

Here is my current map of completed areas, as you can see I have large areas yet to do in the North east and up in Scotland plus lots of random patches still to do all over place but I AM getting there. Click on the map to enlarge.

If you are into your numbers then here are a few bits of information for you -
Out of the total of 239 high points I have done 146 leaving me just 93 to go. This means I have done 61.34 percent so far and if I were to take all the high points I have visited so far and place them on top of each other I would be 24.62 miles above sea level.

Thanks for looking in everyone

Thursday, 23 March 2017

137-145 - Stockton, Liverpool and Manchester - 14th-16th March 2017

Green walk
Sometime in 2017 I was asked if I would attend an event in Blackpool, it was a weekend event and although I have already visited the highpoint of Blackpool I decided there and then that I would try and head up a few days early so that I could visit a few more highpoints while I am up in the north of England.
My basecamp for a few nights was to be the Travelodge near St Helens, just to the north east of Liverpool, it was the perfect spot as it was surrounded by many high points. My first destination was about 8 miles to the south west of Manchester, I left my hotel and headed down the M6 and then along the M56 to the town of Altrincham, where I easily found my first high point, this was in a road called Green walk and I was able to park my van right on the road that marked the highest point of Trafford. Green walk is the location of a few large houses and a rather old and lovely church of which I had a walk around. On the way to Green walk I had passed a sign for a national trust property so as a NT member I decided to call in and have a look around.

The Church at Green Walk
Dunham Massey Mill
The property was called Dunham Massey and I only visited the gardens, it is quite large with a deer park and some beautiful areas to walk around. I stayed here for an hour or so and then headed off to destination number 2. This next highpoint was situated south east of Manchester and after a drive along some motorways, through a few towns and villages then finally along a series of country roads I arrived at a parking place near the village of Mellor. It was a short walk from my van past a farm and along a few more country tracks then eventually I was walking along some steep paths uphill to to the highest point of Stockport, Mellor Moor. From the trig point on top of Mellor Moor I had amazing views all around, to the east was Kinder Scout, then to the north was Manchester and Stockport, it had turned out to be a beautiful sunny day so it was lovely to stop here and take it all in. A short walk back to the van and it was then a drive back to the hotel for some dinner and a relax.
Mellor Moor

Mellor Moor
Mellor Moor

The next day started out with a Little Chef breakfast and then I was on my way just a short 15 min drive to my first destination of the day. Just to the west of the small town of Billinge lies 2 high points, I parked my van in a small parking spot and headed off to find the first of 2. Billinge hill is home to several transmitter masts and right on top sits a stone tower, the views from this point were amazing, it was not particularly sunny at this point however I could see right across Liverpool and across the Mersey all the way to Snowdonia, I was quite impressed with the views from here, apparently it is a well known spot to watch fireworks from on November 5th. The Summit of Billinge hill is the highest point of St Helens.

Billinge Hill
Looking towards Billinge hill 2

Back to the parking spot and before leaving I had to cross the road and walk down a small driveway to visit the second highpoint in the area, this one also part of Billinge hill is the highest point of Wigan. Highpoint number 3 was about a 30 min drive westwards, Finding my way to the M58 I joined it for a while before turning off to find Melling mount, the highest point of Sefton. This one was not as attractive as the last 2, the home of a garage and a run down pub but still it was good to tick it off.

Melling Mount
Knowsley Safari Park
My next highpoint was a bit of a problem, about a 15 min drive to the south of Melling mount is Knowsley Park, the highest point of Knowsley, the problem is that it sits deep within a private estate. I have done a bit of research and it seems the land owners are very reluctant to let people come into the park to find the high point. the nearest you can get is to visit Knowsley safari park and drive around the Lion enclosure but that is an extra £15, I wasnt going to spend half the day looking at animals on my own so I decided to park nearby and take a short walk to get as near as I could. The entrance of the Safari Park would have to do and I have always said that if I can't get to the high point then I would get as near as I could.
Woolton Hill
John Lennon's house
I have never been to Liverpool so on the way to my next destination I decided to take a short detour through the city and along the Mersey, a quick top off to see the famous river and then I was just a stones throw from Woolton hill, the highest point of Liverpool. Woolton hill was quite nice, although it was just a road there was a rather cool water tower here. Another interesting thing about Woolton hill is the fact that just around the corner is a property called Strawberry fields, sound familiar? it should do because just along the road a short distance was John Lennon's childhood home. I stopped off here for a quick look and then it was time to make my way to my last 2 highpoints of the day to the north of Manchester.

Heaton Park

Heaton Park is a large park to the north of Manchester and is home to Heaton hall, a golf course, boating lake, farm and of course the highest point of Manchester. I found Heaton park a rather lovely place, I had a good walk exploring the stately home and many of the gardens. It was sunny so I enjoyed my first ice cream of the year plus I found the highest point called the Temple, mainly because of the temple situated right on the top. Apparently this circular structure was once used as an observatory and still had a working fireplace inside. I was treated to some more views here, mainly looking east and south over Manchester and again over to Kinder Scout and the surrounding hills, nearby within the park was the golf course which was once the deer park. I spent quite a long time at Heaton park wandering around but after a while it was time to head off and find my last high point.

Heaton Hall

Newcome Drive
Heading back west toward my hotel I took a small detour to find the high point, this one could be found in the small town of Little Hulton, around 5 miles south of Bolton, Newcome drive is the highest point of Salford and being it was just a housing estate is was not too exciting but again it was good to tick it off my list. It was at this point in my 2 days of visiting hills that the heavens finally opened and it rained, I was just lucky to get back into my car and avoid getting wet so that was great. I headed back to my hotel after completing 9 high points over the last 2 days.

When I got back to the hotel and I looked into the hills I had visited I realised I had passed a milestone, Mellor Moor was my 139th high point, as I have 239 in total it means I now have less than 100 to go, in fact I am now down to just 93 hills to visit to complete my list, does that mean the end is in sight?

Here are the details of the hills I have visited during this trip

Name Highest point of  Height in metres
Green Walk  Trafford   67
Mellor Moor Stockport   327
Billinge Hill St Helens   179
Billinge Hill  Wigan   169
Melling Mount Sefton   36
Knowsley Park Knowsley   100
Woolton Hill Liverpool   89
Heaton Park Manchester   108
Newcombe Drive  Salford   116