Adventures under the microscope


Thanks to everyone who sent us an account of their best microadventure.

Here are our favourite five entries, each of which wins a copy of Alastair Humphreys’ book, Microadventures.

A ridge for all seasons by Rachel Keenan

P1040871Climbing one of the Munros is always an adventure, and the ridge walk from Ben Cruachan to Stob Diamh was a mildly terrifying but astonishingly beautiful one. I don’t consider myself the fittest but perseverance is all you need when attacking the Munros. This walk took us 11 hours through all of the seasons. Climbed to the first summit in just leggings and a t-shirt, then was in full snow gear at the second summit on the Peak of the Stag.

The views when the mist cleared were unbelievable, the countryside here in Scotland is just some of the most spectacular in the world. It is effectively right on our doorstep – you just need to head out of the city.

Views from on high by Ross Mackle

PhotoGrid_1403370668207A bivi hike and fly by microlight from the summit of the Cobbler for the sunrise of the summer solstice.

Stargazing and a few drams before getting up at 4am and launching on the west side and flying down over the Rest and Be Thankful road for a nice landing.

Six days of snow by John Turner

Where's the tentWe hiked a long distance high-mountain route in the Cairngorms called The Rigby Round. Initially devised as a fell-running challenge, we used the route for a full winter expedition adventure to summit 18 Munros, covering a distance of over 75 miles, with nearly 23,000 feet of ascent. We did it over six days and five nights and carried everything needed for the whole trip, including camping gear and food.

We snow-holed on two of the nights (some wish we’d snow-holed the whole trip).

Spur of the moment by Mark Adams

Hide-&-Seek-at-Loch-Leven-CastleDuring summer, our family have what we call Get in and Go! days. When the kids are bored, weather and work permitting, we’ll jump in the car and just drive with no destination planned. The key to this is having two rucksacks already pre-packed with camping gear. All that is then required is throwing them in the boot of the car with some food and off we go within 10 minutes of declaring a Get in and Go! day. We’ve had mini adventures to our local hills, the Campsie Fells – a mere 10-minute drive for us – or big adventures further afield in locations such as the Trossachs, the Cairngorms or the beautiful banks of a number of lochs, such as Loch Leven.

The general idea is to drive, preferably to new areas, with no maps for guidance, until we find a nice spot somewhere in the countryside where we can lock up the car for the night and then just walk for 10-20 minutes until civilisation is out of sight and pitch the tent.

The kids – aged 10 and 8 – absolutely love the feeling of being on an adventure to somewhere that seems, to them, like a different world. Next step, in a few years, is to replace the car with bikes.

Ten in a day by Steve Morley

Number 5 An GearanachSeveral months ago I made a passing comment at an Air Na Creagan Mountaineering club night about how I had always fancied doing the entire Mamore ridge. It seemed like such a good idea at the time but less so when we were struggling up the final two Munros, Stob Ban and Mullach nan Coirean in the torrential rain. But back to the beginning…

Surprisingly I wasn’t the only club member to have a long-held ambition of doing all ten Munros on the ridge. Kathryn also expressed an interest and in the end another four, Kenny, Stuart, Gael and John, made up the team. A support team of Elaina, Irene and Eleanor also volunteered to assist with providing additional liquid – more of that later!

Most of the few routes I could find on-line were of people doing the ridge from Glen Nevis. However we decided to go for a Kinlochleven start and finish mainly because the thought of having to drive back to wherever our accommodation was at the end of a long day didn’t appeal. We also knew that we could find a good range of accommodation in Kinlochleven including Bob and Chris’s bed and breakfast and the MacDonald Hotel cabins.

The next decision was whether to go for an east-west or west-east crossing. Normally it’s best to walk with the prevailing westerly wind behind you but the thought of having to do the two outlying Munros, Sgurr Eilde Mor and Binnein Beag, at the end of such a long day made us opt for the east to west option. In the event this turned out to be a stroke of good fortune as we had a south-easterly wind behind us for the entire ridge.

The weekend finally arrived. Fitness regimes complete. Accommodation booked. Plans made with the MacDonald Hotel for late food when we got back. We’d also signed up for the Duke of Edinburgh Awards Commonwealth Munro Flagging project. We also created a schedule of provisional timings for the 23-mile route with almost 11,000 feet of ascent. Naismith’s Rule says 12 hours 48 minutes. Craggy’s Rule suggested around 16 hours 15 minutes might be more realistic!

The weather forecast in the days leading up to the weekend had indicated that low pressure sitting out to the west would drag warm air up from the continent leading to heavy rain and thunderstorms in southern Scotland. We were just hoping that the northern extent would be south of Lochaber or at least arrive late in the day.

A 4.30am start from the car park at Grid Reference NN188623 was planned but we set off ten minutes later and made excellent progress to reach the summit of Sgurr Eilde Mor at 7am, well ahead of schedule. We had originally intended to both ascend and descend by the westerly ridge but in the end took the relatively easy southwesterly slope up. We descended as planned and picked up the good path round to the lochan at the foot of Binnein Beag. A relatively easy up and down then saw us heading for the northern ridge of Binnein Mor. Now this is where it became interesting.

In the past Kathryn and myself have descended this ridge from a path that descends from about half way along and it seemed a reasonable idea to simply do it in reverse. From a distance it looked like nice easy grassy slopes but as we got nearer we realised that there was a scattering of avalanche debris littering the slopes and any grass that had been there had been swept away sometime over the winter. At this point I was acutely away that my decision to wear my trusted, but well worn, Keen boots was potentially not the best one I had ever made but managed to get enough traction to get up on to the ridge proper.

Still making good progress, we made it to the airy summit of Munro number three, Binnein Mor. From there we headed over to the double summits of Na Gruagaichean including the increasingly eroded descent between the two. We then ascended the southeasterly slopes of Stob Choire a’ Chairn before heading north along the by-pass path towards Munro number four, An Gearanach, including a short but steep snow patch that Kenny, Stuart, Gael and John negotiated. Kathryn and I, with the memory of the Binnein Mor slopes still fresh in our minds, avoided it. From there we left our rucksacks and negotiated the return trip along the scrambly ridge before ascending Stob Coire a’ Chairn, Munro number five. By this time we had lost some of the time gained on the earlier Munros but were more or less on schedule.

It was here that we had arranged to meet the “support” team of Elaina, Irene and Eleanor. However their plans for a start at Mamore Lodge, thus saving a good 200m of ascent were thwarted by a locked gate at the bottom of the access road. They were therefore running a bit later than scheduled and there was no sign of them. In the distance about half way along the ridge towards Am Bodach we could see a group of people sitting waiting and it looked like it could be our missing support crew. However as we approached them it turned out to be a group who had been wild camping the night before having a well earned rest. Looking back to Stob Choire a Chairn we could see three figures silhouetted against the ridge and realised we had finished up in front of our now non-support team. Irene had joked earlier about having a support team to support the support team – it didn’t seem like such a daft idea after all now.

We had various attempts at communication but not wanting to get behind schedule we made the decision to carry on. It was a steep climb up on to Am Bodach, Munro number seven and from there on to the now demoted Sgurr an Iubhair. It was still dry although storm clouds were gathering from the south. As on An Gearanach we decided to leave the rucksacks before crossing the Devil’s Ridge to Sgurr a’ Mhaim. One of my hopes at the beginning of the day was that the forecast rain would hold off until we had at least made the double crossing of the ridge. We almost managed it but the inevitable happened about two thirds of the way back so we hastily retrieved our rucksacks and donned waterproof jackets before carrying on towards Stob Ban, Munro number nine.

I think we were all really feeling tired by this time and the rain certainly didn’t help. But at least it was at our back so we plodded on only stopping at Stob Ban for a very quick photo. From there we just had to follow the ridge round to the final Munro, Mullach nan Coirean. Even though we had done this end of the ridge just a few weeks earlier I don’t think any of us appreciated just how long that 3km stretch would feel. But we got there just as the clouds dropped to give no views at all for the first time all day.

Being tired and not wanting to make a simple navigational error, we checked the compass and headed southeast then south down to the West Highland Way for the 6km walk back to Kinlochleven. There is a stream that runs alongside the West Highland Way, which I safely negotiated, but then I had spectacular slip into a very wet bog just as I tried to reach the Land Rover track. Thankfully it was just wet and not muddy.

I don’t think I would have been much wetter had I fallen in a river.

The wind was in our faces now but we didn’t really care. We’d done what we had set off to achieve and it was much relief that we staggered in to the hotel at 9.45pm, 17 hours and 5 minutes after setting off, for beers and lasagne.

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