Month: August 2010

Beinn Luibhean

So yesterday should have been a walk up another munro – Beinn Ime, taking in Beinn Luibhean on the way down. It would have been quite a long walk but the views from Beinn Ime would be worth it. However the weather was quite a bit worse than we expected and our route following was crap!

View from Luibhean

Firstly we marched off from the car park down the wrong path, realising only when we’d walked a mile. So we walked back to the road and made probably our second bad choice of the day. We decided to tackle the corbet, Beinn Luibhean, first and then onto Beinn Ime. The ground was pathless, boggy and quite heavy going. After a couple of hundred metres it started to get very windy. In fact we were blasted by 40-50mph winds for the next hour before we finally made it to the top of Beinn Luibhean. We were wet, cold and faces were red raw from the wind. Welcome to summer hill climbing in Scotland.

We found some shelter and decided not to carry on. Ime, like Luibhean, was shrouded in cloud with zero chance of any view. We were also pretty bushed already as the heavy ground and fighting the wind had taken it’s toll. On descending the cloud broke a little and the rain went off so at least I got a few photo’s. Also stumbled across a muddy and broken path which helped but not by much. In fact it was a slog back down which was pretty slippy, especially with lots of small logs lying underfoot which I think caused all of us to slip/fall one way or the other. Thankfully no injuries!

Luibhean Runkeeper Stats

The RunKeeper output from yesterday shows our mistake at the start and also the odd route we took up and the more direct route down. One app I might try for next time is Trailhead from The North Face which allows you to download routes to your iphone prior to the walk so you can track how close you are to the recommended route. Would certainly have helped yesterday. One other note – battery life on the iPhone 4 is much improved on the 3 and 3GS. Used just under 50% of the battery while using RunKeeper which is excellent for a 5 hour walk.

The full set of photo’s are available on Flickr. Used a new camera bag yesterday, the Kata H-10, which proved very useful in the rain and wind. I had it hooked onto the waist strap of my bag which felt quite comfortable and kept the camera fully protected. The rain cover that comes with the bag was invaluable!

So a couple of lessons learned yesterday:

  • Check your bearings before setting off. We had compass and maps but failed to use them properly.
  • Tackle the munro first, then worry about other surrounding climbs.
  • Respect the weather. Mountain Weather Information Service provide accurate forecasts, and winds gusting to 55mph are not to be sniffed at.
  • Weather in July and August can be cold, wet and wild in Scotland. We cancelled a walk at the start of July due to 90mph gusts and yesterday got pretty cold in the wet and biting winds. Be prepared for all weathers no matter the time of year.
  • I need a bigger bag :-)

Just a shame we didn’t arrange the walk for today – glorious weather by the looks of it. We’ll keep Beinn Ime for one of those days.

Beinn Ghlas and Ben Lawers

It’s been a funny year for walking. The first few months was difficult due to the severe winter we had. So much so that we couldn’t do much walking at all without crampons and an ice axe – something I’ll be picking up before the winter season kicks in this time. The last walk was The Cobbler, which was excellent but a few feet short of a munro. So 2/3rds of the year gone and no munro’s…until now. Beinn Ghlas and Ben Lawers are two adjacent munro’s that can be tackled in the same day. Another benefit is that the starting point of the walk is 400 metres so your almost half way just by getting out of the car – excellent!

Jim on Beinn Ghlas

There is also an excellent path leading from the car park and now that I’ve done it, I can say it’s an excellent first munro for anyone looking to get into walking. As for the views, I’m sure on a clear day they are spectacular, but for us what looked like a promising day turned into one lacking any view at all. Low cloud rolled in as we climbed meaning we got zero view from either munro. In fact it got pretty cold at the summits so it wasn’t a day for hanging around. Just a quick mention on weather – we originally planned this walk for the first weekend in July but had to postpone due to 90mph winds. I’m glad we did as we got talking to a couple of other walkers who were trying Bheinn Ghlas for a second time as they had attempted it that weekend but had to literally crawl down the hill as they got near the summit – it was that bad. Despite it being summer, the hills can be still unpredictable so you do need to carry waterproof just in case and it’s also worth checking the mountain forecast rather than the MET office site as they give very different results.

Ian and Ben Lawers Trig Point

Bheinn Ghlas is reached first and if your not careful it’s easy to walk by as it’s a tiny cairn that marks the summit. It’s then about a half hour to 40 minute walk to Ben Lawers summit. This is more substantial, marked with a cairn and trig point but as mentioned, zero views for us. Despite the easy walk you are now just 17 feet short of 4000 feet so quite a height. We decided to take the same route back to the car park although you can descend and go around the base of Bheinn Ghlas, but it did brighten up a bit so we wanted to keep some height…and it also meant that climbing back over Bheinn Ghlas counts as another munro climb, no?

Runkeeper Summary

As ever I used RunKeeper to track the walk and I’m pretty pleased with the pace we kept up throughout. I don’t really bother stopping the clock when I start taking pictures or we take pauses for breath so actual time walked is probably about a half hour less. I almost forgot to mention one thing. Fucking midges. The car park was swarming with them – I covered myself with jungle insect repellant and ended up with around 6-8 bites which is a lot better than on Ben Lomond last year. If you do go out walking around now make sure you take some sort of repellant. Can’t wait until it gets a bit cooler and they will be gone for the year.

So thats munro 5 and 6 done. Hopefully get another 2 or 3 done before the end of the year – weather permitting!

Lessons Learned

Thursday night was the best to try and view the Perseids meteor shower. I’d not tried the Canon at night – in fact I’ve not done any night shooting before. I’ve always wanted to take pictures of the moon, stars etc but been let down by two things. Firstly, having a camera and lens that could take good clear pictures. Secondly, and most importantly, is the light pollution in Glasgow. The orange glow from streetlights is only managed by that of the fake tan parlours in Partick.

So with that myself and Shakeel set off off for…where could we go to escape the light pollution. We ended up heading to Whitelees where we knew it would be dark and also we could have easy access to an open space. This was the first mistake of the evening – missing a glorious sunset. If we’d got there a half hour earlier we would have had some great pics…instead we missed the sun but still saw the fiery sky left behind.

Sunset

We then waited for the sky to get dark which took another hour or so. I’ve picked up a remote trigger but no matter what I did, I couldn’t get it to work so I had to give up on that and use the normal shutter button. Frustrating as it introduced a bit of vibration and I wanted to use bulb mode on the camera, which keeps shooting as long as I hold the shutter button. For a couple of shots I wanted to have exposure lengths of 2 to 3 minutes but that just wasn’t practical without the remote. More frustrating – I realised the next day that I had the cable between the camera and receiver the wrong way round. Lack of preparation had let me down.

Night Sky, low Iso

So the pictures we were getting were good but didn’t seem to be picking everything up that we could see with our eyes. Asa test we then tried capturing one of the turbines by increasing the ISO while keeping the exposures long. That gave us some pretty dramatic shots.

Turbine, high ISO

We then used the higher ISO settings on the sky itself. This seemed to give better shots when reviewing them on the camera screen but with hindsight the lower ISO settings would have given a clearer shot of the sky so should have varied that a bit more. Looking at the shots I managed to get of Perseids meteors, they are pretty faint against the not so black night sky. A wee bit more patience would have paid dividends here. I should have reviewed the pictures on the iPad to see more clearly the shots I was taking.

Perseids

Compare that to these shots on Flickr – I’ve got a lot to learn. Another important lesson is location. We waited patiently for the last remnants of the sun to go but there was still a glow from Glasgow. Despite being well outside Glasgow the glow from the streetlights was getting in the way of some of the pictures. Wispy cloud that we couldn’t see appeared as orange streaks in our photo’s which was disappointing.

But let’s not be too negative. It was my first attempt, I did manage to get some shots of the meteors and it was a good learning experience. In fact I’m really pleased to have tried night shooting as we are planning to visit Galloway Park which is one of only a handful of dark parks around the world. We’ll visit during winter as it’s dark a lot earlier. I also plan to hire out a large lens to make the most of the visit. At least this time I’ll have a remote trigger that will work and also understand the impact of ISO settings a little better. Practise makes perfect.

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