Monday, April 05, 2010

Goodbye winter

The warmth of springtime is coming.  I can feel the ice inside melting.  New season, new opportunities.  Bring it on.
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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Four New Things - Part Four

Any morning like this is going to be special.  We'd paid our dues over the previous three days, taking the weather on the chin, making the most of the cards we'd been dealt and now we'd been promised a cloudless sky and plummeting temperatures.  That was going to make things pretty special.

But going to a new mountain?  That's what makes a day really special.  Around every corner lurks something new, yet another view to etch itself forever in your mind's eye.  Adventure.

But there's more.  Today's objective was the mysterious, legendary Creag Meagiadh.  Renowned for it's impeccable ice climbing but notoriously fickle and avalanche prone, none of us had climbed there, but we'd all yearned for it for a long time.
We could see our route glinting at us from miles away, beckoning us, tickling that urge within us.  We were powerless to resist.
It delivered everything it promised from afar.

And as perfect a day in the mountains as you could ask for
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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Four New Things - Part Three

Today a new mountain. Carried effortlessly past the early morning ski staff by the Aonach Mor gondola, you could be forgiven for thinking we'd gone for some convenience cragging. Not for us, the easy life though, no. With compasses in hand we swam through thick cloud to reach Aonach Mor's baby sister, ever hopeful that we'd be greeted with ribbons of ice. Instead we were mocked by enormous lumps of windslab snow, threatening to pounce on any climber foolhardy enough to approach them. Foiled again.
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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Four New Things - Part Two

Bad weather continuing in the Highlands, we decided to try our arm at a crag we've never been to before.  The gloom of high temperatures and rain showers can always be pushed aside by the anticipation of what this new venue might hold...
Quite often in Scotland, you'll walk through a damp swamp safe in the knowledge that the snow will still be clinging defiantly to the crag.  Sometimes you just have to hope...
...And sometimes there's just nothing to climb when you get there.  What does one do at this point?  It's only about 7 in the morning and you're now wide awake.  You can stomp off in a grump, or if you're a keen bean try and find some outrageous upside-down rock to cling on to.  If, like me, you're a learner driver, you can just get back in the car and go and practice your driving.  Up the highest road in Britain.
Those hills you can see in the distance are on the Isle of Skye.  This is the best place EVER to go and practice your hill starts.

Well, not according to the authorities.  Whoopsies:
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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Four New Things - Part One

The highlands have seen an outrageous amount of snow this year, which is bad for climbing, but great for skiing. Having never really used skis (silksworth dry slope doesn't really count) I've been a bit afraid to invest the time/money in starting out. Turns out there's a good way to learn without putting up with the queues:

If you want to ski down a hill...
You should ski up it first
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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Civilised Sunday

This week, no alpine starts, no hot aches and not a single fig roll. Today was reserved for some of the nicer things in life:

Eggs Benedict

Snowy stroll in the Pentlands

Visiting Bella the Cat.
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Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Fresh Start

Greetings, readers.

After what seems like quite a long time without anything new here, I've decided to give the place an overhaul and return with vim, zeal and a new approach.

In a bid to coax myself into taking more photographs, I'm going to run this more as a photoblog. The idea is to keep waffle levels fairly low and post at the very least one picture each week. Or more.

So welcome back, make yourself comfy and help yourself to a nice cup of tea. Just don't use my Periodic Table mug. That's MINE.
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Tuesday, March 24, 2009



Been far too lazy to blog anything for a while, as all my creative energy is going towards educating the nation's youth.  I have the feeling it'll stay that way for a wee while, but who knows what the future will hold?

In the meantime, you can follow my truncated missives on twitter:

Cheerio for now!

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Kids Are Alright

Whew! I'm on the ol' train wifi again, only this time considerably more tired and deaf. The Reading Festival was a genius way to blow away the cobwebs of my old life as a lab slave. Although there were plenty of great things at the fest, the music was by far the most exciting thing about it so here's my highlights in terms of the bands:


Blood Red Shoes

Wow. Probably surprise of the festival - I'd listened to their album a couple of times but never really 'got it'. I'm now a total convert after witnessing what I can only describe as a perfect set of simple, high octane pop songs. They have that 'how do two people make that noise' thing that Death From Above had but are even tighter players. Only the second band of the festival and the bar was set very high.

Friendly Fires - Despite having much in common with Klaxons, these guys seem to have escaped the hideous 'nu-rave' title and the twattish trappings that come with it. They were clearly very comfortable playing to a packed-out stage and made the fun they were having contagious. They won me over by having a fuckload of cowbells and some of the most danceable indie-rock I've heard since The Rapture. Most bands would seem like pretentious World Music bores by ending their set with a 5 minute samba breakdown but these guys pulled it off by just making it part of the party. I hope they become huge.

Rage Against The Machine

All anyome spoke about during Friday was how amazing Rage were going to be. After their set everyone croaked about how great they were, and with good reason. Every word, every note played with the utmost of conviction and ferocity. Not a single wasted note. And their music really does matter - looking back I realise what an effect they had on my political views as a teenager. Basically as close to perfect as a rock gig can be.


We Are Scientists - It's great watching performers who are so comfortable with themselves. No attempts to wow the crowd with gimmickry, just some great songs and some superb banter between songs. I tried to sing along but it came out as a croak.

Seasick Steve

A great big beard, a great big smile and a viking on drums. He proved that you don't need your youth, a correctly functioning inner-ear or even all the strings on your guitar to rock the fuck out of a crowd.

Foals - I was actually a bit to crushed in the crowd to see what was going on, but I've since watched it on the BBC website and they were indeed great. The thing that got me was that it was by far the biggest crowd I'd seen in the NME/R1 tent - packed to the rafters with hyper youngsters. And they were dancing to Math Rock. Mull that over in your mind for a while. If there ever need be a sign that the future is in safe hands, it's several thousand teenagers frugging in 7/8 time.


Adam Green - I have to admit that I wasn't keen on the idea of seeing Adam as in my ignorance I thought it would be fairly dull folky noodling. What I actually got was some goood ol' rocknroll complete with a couple of backing singers and a superbly drunk frontman. Amy Winehouse could learn a thing or two from Adam about being completely wasted but still keeping your dignity. "It's only one in the afternoon. Shit, now I feel guilty about drinking that bottle of whiskey. This is another song about crack".

Holy Fuck

Listening to HF on record gives you a bit of an idea what they sound like live, but to actually see is something quite special. Drums, bass and a couple of guys playing what looks like a series of mangled cereal boxes with wires coming out of them. Each song seemed to require completely rebuilding their equipment while playing it. And they fucking rocked too. They managed to get my heavily hungover frame bouncing along, and even solicited a tear of joy during Lovely Allen. Amazing.

CSS - Lovefoxxxx dressed as a jester. Singalongs about coughing up furballs. Glitter cannons. Music is My Hot Hot Sex. I love you CSS.

Right. Now I need to give up drinking forever and let my hearing heal itself.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Future's Bright

I'm pretty easily impressed by technology. Even though I know (roughly) how it all works, I still find it amazing when I can carry all those CDs in such a tiny wee box, or send people letters through wires. Right now I am suppressing yelps of glee due to the fact that I'm doing internets on the train. Like in the future.

The best part is that this train is a total antique - I think it might even be from an era when there was such a thing as British Rail, which is about a billion years ago. I think the router is coal-fired.

I haven't really been giving much thought to my wee trip South as I've been focusing on hating my job and riding my bikes. Now I'm free from my job and have left my bike at home I can ponder what's ahead. Firstly, the cons:

- There will be a whole shitload of people at Reading. And no doubt they'll get in my way.
- This ain't going to be cheap.

But the Pros:

- Free train wifi!
- Get to hang out with Del and catch up with some uni friends.
- Get to laugh at teenagers.
- I might get within licking distance of Lovefoxxxxxxx from CSS
- I will do some raging. Against Machines.
- Foals, Holy Fuck, Justice, Simian Mobile Disco, We Are Scientists and one squillion others.
- I win

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

No Blue Skies

It rains. oh how it rains. I can't believe I just paid £3 for the swimming pool when I could have just stated outside and waited for the waters to rise. I'm both miffed and gobsmacked that the Edinburgh Bike Co-op don't sell snorkels.

So I have been extremely lax on blogging of late, which is neither an indication that life has been too full to have time or too dull to document. I just couldn't be arsed. THAT'S RIGHT, I DON'T CARE THAT MUCH ABOUT MY BLOG. I'm so old fashioned.

So what's been going on? I've climbed a bunch of rocks (including posting a couple of totally unimpressive personal bests grade-wise) and rode a bunch of bikes (well, two bikes, but I rode them quite a bit). I'm feeling fit, feisty and full of fish. It's all good in SteveTown.

The best thing of all is that tomorrow is the LAST DAY OF MY SHITTY LAB JOB. No more standing in the sweatiest little room in Western Europe making pointless little solutions go pink. No more discussions in the tea room about how someone went shopping at the weekend and there were, like, hunners and hunners of shirts to choose from. No more being told off for clocking in 3 minutes late even though there's dick all work to do. NO MORE WASTING MY TIME PERFORMING POINTLESS TASKS FOR A MEANINGLESS COMPANY THAT I DON'T GIVE TWO SHITS ABOUT. Whoop!

So what next? Well, I have a year of (relative) poverty and hard work ahead of me at uni followed (hopefully) by a rewarding career as an educator. Even two years of quasi-scientific spirit-crushing lever pulling hasn't quashed my love for science, and I really hope that I can instill some of that in some youngsters. Although at first all I ask for is that they don't all leap on me and set fire to me.

Oh and between now and then there's the small matter of the Reading Festival. I'm readying my RockPants right now.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Eternal Reek of Damp Wool

I'm not sure what it says about my teenage years, but much of them was spent idolising a cartoon sheep. Nestling in between adverts for bottom brackets and reviews of the latest knobbly tyres, the Mint Sauce strip in MBUK was a voice of reason amongst the unintelligible clamour of pish that constituted the rest of the magazine.

I've been trying to think of a way to describe why I should care about a comic strip featuring a mountain biking ungulate, but I love it far too much to write anything approaching sensible about it. So all I can say is have a look at this, this and this.

And if you can still see through the tears of joy then just look at the whole damn archive of them.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Rain Drops

A gawdy chinese take-away at the end of a field

If you look on this here internet for reviews of Radiohead gigs, you'll find about 8 billion gushing testimonials to both the quality of the music and their showmanship. And with good reason too, scientific experiments have shown that they are totally fucking amazing.

So instead of recounting how berrrilliant their gig in Glasgow Green the other night was (although I will mention that they played the theme tune for the best climbing movie of all time) I thought I'd have a jolly good moan about some of the downsides of the experience. they are thus:

- Massive Crowds - Being a bit of a misanthrope, any large gathering of humans is likely to rub me up the wrong way, but when I actually have to interact with the bastards I often feel soiled. Why they all seem oblivious to this and still continue to be IN MY WAY I'll never know, but I suspect it's something to do with me not being at the centre of the universe.

- Tall People - When I'm a famous rock star I'm going to make every fucker over 5'9" stand at the back like the giant freak that they are.

- Glasgow rain - It was wetter than an otter's pocket.

- Pickpockets - Some unspeakable urchin filched my ticket from my trouser pocket forcing me to patronise the evil black market in surplus tickets. May a mighty pox cripple the urchin for the rest of its days (and may I remember not to wonder around with gig tickets hanging out of my pocket like a twat).

- The Drunk - Instead of turning to face the rest of the crowd to shout loudly about how this is your favourite song, how about shutting the fuck up and listening to the band we've all paid the best part of fifty quid to see?

- The Security - Firstly, they wouldn't let people back out of the gate so that they could go and get one of the sorely-needed ponchos for sale outside. And then they tried to throw out a guy who'd had the audacity to smuggle in ONE CAN OF BEER. He didn't even protest when they confiscated it from him, but they still tried to oust him. Luckily the rest of the crowd were having none of it, and I witnessed some of the upside of mob justice, as they all told the security nazi to get all the way to fuck.

Anyway, it was still brilliant. Go and see them if you can.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

In Remote Part

Four days in the North West Highlands:

I had to 'disguise' my bike in order to get it on the trainCaramel Wafers - The Official Fuel of my biking holidaysI think this is the biggest road hill in the UK.  We had to push up some of it.Woof!What a place to live.He's got WoodA young pine marten.  Cutest.  Animal.  Ever.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Le Meme du Cinq

Stolen from the splendid blog Slaminsky...

Five snacks I’d enjoy in a perfect, non-weight gaining world

Divine Chocolate, Cambozola, Hill Station Cinnamon Ice Cream, Stroopwaffles and whatever cake my girlfriend's been baking

Five snacks I enjoy in the real world

As above except not so much of the ice cream because its about £5 a tub

Five things I’d do if I were a billionaire:

1 - Build a sustainable house/Convert an old house.

I get fucked off with the green bandwagon. It's kind of taken the idea of living sensibly and hollwed it out until it's just another consumer choice. I do however still think that I waste far too much in terms of resources and would love to live more efficiently. I'd build/convert houses for my family/friends as well.

2 - Give a big wadge to Shelter.

People need decent places to live, and Shelter help make that happen.

3 - Bikes

I'd definitely get a couple of really nice bikes, and ride them around some cool places.

Actually, the more I think about it, the less I know what I'd do if I was a billionaire. I mean, it's just so far from reality. Also, I don't really think that the things that make me happy require huge sums of money. I mean, as long as I get to go and hang around in some beautiful places doing fun things with people I like, what does it matter if I do it in Prada slacks? I don't even know anything about expensive stuff - I couldn't even tell you which bikes I'd want. I'm not sure if that's a lack of ambition or a sign of contentedness.

Five jobs I’ve had

1 - Giant Dancing Gnome

For a couple of summers before I started uni I had a job donning a giant gnome outfit and dancing around the MetroCentre in Gateshead. We had proper dance routines, scripts, the lot. There was even a talking dinosaur. Somewhere in my mounds of useless shite I have little cuddly toys of the gnomes. Brilliant job, if a tad sweaty.

2 - Night Cleaner in Food Packing Factory

Even more grim than it sounds. The floor-mopping, toilet cleaning and whatnot were fine, it was cleaning the giant food splurging machines that wasn't. The smell of reconstituted low grade meat isn't good at any time of the day, let alone 3am. The plus side was that could listen to John Peel as my breakfast show.

3 - Office Monkey at the Scottish Executive

Although I was essentially employed for my advanced skillz with the photocopier (300 copies? Double sided? BAM!) I also got a bit involved with some public consultation. As the Bill we were working on was about Crofting (tenant farming in remote bits of Scotland) I got pretty into it, and got to speak to some cool people around the country. I got to sit in on some ministerial debate sessions in the Parliament and hand notes to the minister (who was a complete plamph). And I got flexitime. I miss flexitime.

4 - Various call-centre jobs

Look, I'm not proud of myself, OK?

5 - Lab Technician.

It's what I do at the moment, and is outrageously boring. The work is dull, the people are dull, the building is dull, the management are dull, my description of it is dull. If I could hand my notice in this week I would. Wait, I AM handing my notice in this week. Sweet.

Five places I have lived

Shiney Row

With the exception of Shiney Row, each one has been an improvement on the last. The only place to go once you've tasted what Edinburgh has is to fuck off to the highlands. Which I intend to do some day.

What was I doing 10 years ago?

Although I was supposed to be revising for my A levels I decided that I should also be in a play. It was John Godber's Bouncers and I was one of the four actors on stage for the whole two hours. I spent more time learning lines for that than learning about Special Relativity. The play turned out a bit shit but my A Levels went OK. The lesson there is that you should never try.

Friday, June 13, 2008


I done did write something for SwissToni's weekly earworms feature. Read it here.

That is all.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Another world

Was it a dream? I'm not so sure. Dreams are seldom as good.

The dream begins on Friday night, as we speed North. I mean really North. Go up to Inverness, follow signs for North. Hold your nerve as the welcoming lights of Ullapool pass you by and keep going. It's worth it. I promise.

We finally pitched our tents in the midnight gloaming somewhere North of Lochinver. We'd left the clouds back in Aviemore, so now each improbable mass of mountain stood stark against the dusk. Still sticky with the grime of a week's work, we began to clean ourselves from the inside out, breathing in that rare air, pushing the smog of the real world away. We retired to bed weary, wired and slightly nervous.

The next morning we're peering over every cliff edge, worried that we'll miss it. We're all but swimming through the fog, trapped in our own tiny bubble of visibility. All of a sudden, there it is, scowling at us through the mist and daring us to climb it.

We'd arrived at our objective for the weekend - the Old Man of Stoer. I don't know if it was the insidious fog, or the 60m of overhanging rock, but it looked far more intimidating than I expected. Looking at it from the approach cliffs you really understand the meaning of the word 'awesome'. At the bottom, we drew lots to see who would have to make the swim over and before long I was plunging into the icy cold brine so I could fix the line for the others to cross.

There's no gear here and these holds are shit. This next bit looks steep. Fuckfuckfuck. Hold it together Steve, it's only a VS. Take some deep breaths and think about your feet. There you go. Now go for it.

As we sat smugly on the summit, the fog eased away letting the sun through to light our smiles and revealing the endless blue Atlantic. We'd done it. Still elated when we'd reached the bottom, we threw ourselves into the sea and baked ourselves in the sun. We swarmed to the top of the nearby hill where we lay silently gazing at what seemed like infinite beauty, listening to the skylark work through its manic songbook. Later that evening, we pitched our tents in our own little paradise amongst the otters and the seabirds. We cooked on the open fire and laughed the laughter of four great friends on their own great adventure.

As the roads get bigger and more busy, so the swoop of the windscreen wipers get more frequent. It's time to head back to the real world. Back to the rain. The dream is over, but you smile, knowing that it was better than any dream, and looking forward to the next one...

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Run to the Hills

Late spring/early summer is prime time for heading to Scotland's mountain crags for some fine rock action. There's usually a spell of great weather at this time of year, and the evil midges haven't awoken from their winter slumber.

I've been out and about a wee bit in the hills the past couple of weekends - Garbh Bhienn, Glen Nevis and Lochnagar - and had myself a blast. It's led me to ponder the wondrous nature of it all, which I bring to you via those magic internet tubes they've been digging up your street to install.

I love the full-sensory experience of mountain cragging. The 'crackcrackcrack' of the nesting grouse, the musky aroma of bog myrtle, the welcome feel of the lip at the back of that granite sloper, the tin-foil taste of adrenaline in your mouth. Most of all, though, it's the views. Spending so much time on a rock face means you get to see the landscape transform throughout the day - herds of deer swarm by, the clouds do their thing (sometimes all the way down in the valley) and the shadows stretch off into the evening. There's no way I'd have the patience to see that sort of thing in real life, so getting to experience it is like getting the free gift in your bowl of climb-o-pops (except you don't end up leaving it lying around and eventually just getting it stuck in your foot).

The climbing itself is usually great too. Being four pitches up from the corrie floor makes everything that little bit more committing, and a spot of exposure always makes things more fun.

I think, though, that the most compelling thing about mountain cragging is exemplified by the chap in the foreground:

Sam's a fairly gnarly sport climber who's just crossed about 100m of steep snow to get to the base of the rock. He's in the most excruciating pain any man is likely to feel because of the hot aches in his hands. The route he's come to climb is almost comically easier (on paper) than his usual fare of overhanging crimp-fests, but will feel disproportionately hard. There's no glory to be had for him climbing this, or anything approaching what most people would call 'fun'. I ask him the next day what he thought of the route, and he grins from ear to ear and says 'awesome'.

Says it all, really.

Sunday, May 04, 2008


Who's that dashing chap in the red Jersey?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Too Tired

What with a combination of being a weakling and easily frightened as a child, I didn't learn to ride a bike until I was about 8 or 9 years old. When I did finally learn, I spent months in a state of permanent bruisedness - unable to operate the brakes properly I tended to use walls and trees to stop.

Not much has changed on that front (I spent last weekend crashing expensive Demo bikes) but I now appear, according to Bike Snob NYC blog, to qualify as a proper cyclist:

1) A “cyclist” rides a bike even when he or she does not have to.

Aside from the fact that I could easily catch the bus to work each day instead of the 6 mile grind, I'm not sure I could ever pass off a trip to Glen Tress as 'necessary'.

2) A “cyclist” is someone who owns a floor pump.

Damn right I do, and I am secretly suspicious of anyone who doesn't know what pressure their bike tyres are at.

Anyway, reading BSNYC's post about the nature of cycling I'm inspired to blurt my own musings about the joy of two tyred transport:


Remember the scenes in Return of the Jedi where they're on those nifty wee speeder things going through the forest? Remember wanting to join in the fun? Go maountain biking, and ride as fast as you can - it's pretty much the same thing. (Riding road bikes fast is fun too, but harder to describe.)

Calories Out >> Calories In

Anyone who eats as much cake as me should be a massive fatty. No prizes for guessing why I'm not.


I'm as prone as many to succumbing to the lure of sexy carbon fibre thrunge brackets and rotary combobulators, but bike porn is a fairly shallow enjoyment. What's far more satisfying about bikes is their sheer simplicity. Even a doofus like me can understand how they work, and indeed fix them. You barely notice when you're riding a well designed and well maintained bike because you're having too much fun.


You can use a bike to get to places you'd never bother walking to or that you'd just just speed through in a car.


Ok, maybe not.

So, what to listen to while pondering such things?

Why, bikeforthree! of course!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Lazy Holiday Post.

Whup whup whup.

Here's what happened when I went to font with Sam.

- I got delayed on the Eurostar by a bunch of people demonstrating at Gare de Nord. Was then greeted by a bunch of heavily armed riot cops upon arrival so went to hide in a kebab shop for a bit.

- All the car hire firms in France only take credit cards for deposit. As a result we managed to reduce the carbon footprint of our trip dramatically and also got to experience the excellent Paris public transport system. We also spent far more time than we otherwise would have walking through the forest, which was a rather pleasant experience.

- We ate cheese.

- We met some great people at the campsite, including some very loud geordies and some very committed climbing bums. Makes me wish I had a shitload of money and no direction in life so that I could spend months at a time wearing my skin away.

- Asked/was asked the question 'How are you tips?' repeatedly.

- Sam got things living in his ears and trying to eat through to his brains.

- I took a few photos.

- I learned that if you can't speak much French, you can often get away by using english words in a gay accent. I also learned that if you ask people if they speak english they'll say no, but if you try to speak french badly they'll just speak english.

- Cheese.

- I climbed so much I gave myself tendonitis in my elbows. I think everybody gets it.

- I 'slept' on the platform at Fontainebleau station and swore at every TGV. They are loud in a way that bruises your mind.

- I'll go back again, but yearn for a more adventurous holiday now.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

A Whole Pack of Jaffa Cakes (And Other Stories)

I heart lists:

- Just spent today with my lady cycling through the East Neuk of Fife. Lowlights included strong winds, misleading cycleway signs and the advent of Kircaldy. Highlights included glorious coastline, nice wee villages, The Best Chip Shop In All Of Christendom (or whatever) and some mild sunburn. Not a bad way to spend one's time.

- I have tickets to see Radiohead at Glasgow Green in June. I'm not usually a fan of big gigs like that, but it is Radiohead, so I'm bound to like it. I even like Amnesiac ferchrissakes. Excitement is not the word for it.

- Speaking of excitement - DUUUHHHH DUNNNA DUNNN DUNNN DUUUUUUH KILLING IN THE NAME OF! I may also have Reading tickets too. So I get to see Rage Against The Machine. It makes me want to travel back in time to meet teenage Stevious and tell him it'll all work out in the end. Not sure how I'm going to cope with the sea of angsty teenagers (although I suspect that's something I'll have to get used to).

- There's still plenty of snow and ice in the mountains. And the days are longer. Nice.

- I conducted an experiment on the relative toughness of my knee versus the ground at Glen Tress. Whilst I did make an impressive furrow in the mud, I feel that it might be gone by now whereas I predict the scabs on my knee will still be there when I'm 40.

- Ferric refers to compounds containing Iron in its +3 oxidation state, whereas Ferrous refers to the +2 oxidation state.

- Foals are at number 2 (or was it three? something like that) in the UK album charts AND THEY'RE A MATH-ROCK BAND. Great.

- In the time it took me to write this post I have eaten a whole packet of Jaffa Cakes. Feel free to salute me next time you see me.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Well, the mighty borough of Lochaber was a far different prospect at the weekend than my last visit.

I stayed in a wee cottage in Duror with a whole international melange of folk, many of whom were yet to experience the highlands. The highlands didn't disappoint, showing an uncharacteristic tendency towards clement weather and providing japes a-plenty for first-time climbers.

On Sat I plodded up Observatory Ridge with Manjoe. It's a superb route with wonderfully varied climbing, although finding protection and belays was time consuming. Joe deserves maximum hero points for leading the first pitch with nary a bit of gear betwixt myself and he. Here's some photos:

After a late start on Sunday we headed for Scotland's Most Photographed Mountain™, Buchaille Etive Mor. Being a (relatively) small hill, it provides the option of a short day, and routes such as North Buttress and Curved Ridge providing fun in any condition.

On arriving at the base of curved ridge I was surprised to see the number of people who were inappropriately equipped for the climbing. The lower sections of rock were somewhat bare, making axes and crampons more hindrance than help, yet there were several parties struggling their way up in full ice-climbing regalia. You really do have to worry about some folk when a numpty like me can exhibit more common sense than them.

The ridge was wintrier higher up, becoming somewhat of a snowy staircase. The views across Rannoch Moor from there are mindblowing, though, and the company was good fun so there were many larks to be had as we romped to the top. More Photos:

I can't help but feel that the days of great weather were well deserved after so many soggy trudges this year. I suppose that one of the great things about Scottish climbing is that when the days of great weather come along, they seem so much sweeter than, say in the alps where good weather is more common. Here's to hoping for a few more sunny weekends before the winter expires!

Sunday, March 16, 2008


I had an interview just over a week ago. It went a bit like this:

Ok, so it was for secondary teaching, but I got the place anyway. Go Me!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Lochaber Winter Trip - Day Four

Mr Blue Sky
Please tell us why
You had to hide away for so long
Where did we go wrong?

Today the ming was in full effect here in the West so we busted a move over to the Cairngorms. Alex and I decided to go and have a poke at the mega-classic Route Major on Carn Etchecan, which lies over in the Loch Avon basin.

The basin is a truly spectacular place - just the promise of a glimpse of the deep blue loch being towered over by Shelterstone crag is enough to carry me through the slog over the cairngorm plateau. And the climbing there is incredible.

Unfortunately, our route finding skills were left lacking today, so we ended up 'new routing' and climbing ourselves into a bit of a corner. One very awkward abseil later and we were back on the corrie floor. Curses, foiled again.

Nevertheless, Mr Blue sky made an appearance, so there were views like these:

Not all was lost, then, and after a quick ascent of a rather spindrifty Castle Gates Gully we high-tailed it across the plateau, bumping into Gaz and Jones on the way:

So, another potentially frustrating day on the hill, but the climbing we did do was fun and the views were well worth it. Just goes to show that the odd bout of shitty weather and a case of incompetence needn't necessarily ruin a day out.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Lochaber Winter Trip - Day Three

What happened to 'The Storm of the Winter?' We didn't see much of it up here.

Nevertheless, it seemed like a good excuse for a lie-in so today we explored the limits of human tea consumption. And popped down to the Ice Factor in Kinlochleven to play on the dry-tooling wall. It's a mildly terrifying pursuit, as you're always worried that you're going to hit yourself in the face with an ice-axe, but 'tis still a lark.

Off east tomorrow, and who knows, we might even see a break in the clouds.
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