Pitlochry to Rannoch Moor

At the beginning of March 2017 – i travelled up to Scotland again, wild camping and Hiking. This time I started off walking from Pitlochry. I was heading to Rannoch Moor train station, some 38 miles away, but I only had 4 days to walk this distance. With only two trains a day and none on the Sunday – I had to make sure I made good time and arrived at my destination by the Saturday afternoon.

The weather was not great – I got rained on for most of the for the first two days – it was quite dispiriting at times; but this is undeniably the charm of the Scottish Highlands. Whether beautiful sunshine or heavy rain the drama of the rugged landscape will not be dulled. The Sun eventually came out though and I was able to dry out. I then had two really very pleasant days in the wilds of Scotland.

Everest Base camp trek 2016

everest_base_camp_via_gokyo_trekking_map

I went to Nepal in 2007 with the intention of trying the Everest base camp trek. Mainly due to the circumstances of the weather that year the flights to Lukla were rained off. I’ve been to Nepal several times since, but on each occasion there was some reason or another why the base camp trek remained an unfulfilled ambition. However, this year 2016, that ambition was realised.

Lukla, is the start of the Everest base camp trek. Lukla itself is at an elevation of 2,860 m. It has what is described as the ‘most dangerous’ airport in the world. The runway is only 527 m long and as the planes come in and out of Lukla airport it is easy to see how it gets its reputation.

We arrived at Lukla airport, flying in on Tara Airlines, on the 14th May 2016. We were meant to be flying the day before, but considering this was Friday the 13th – the day after seemed like a better option.

We set out on the trek going through the initial check posts and then got into our stride. The trek to base camp is a 12 day round trip; coming down obviously taking less time than getting up. We decided that we were not going to try for base camp itself, but only to Kalla Pathar, which is one stop before Base Camp. Kalla Pathar, is at an altitude of 5550 meters, and the place from where almost all of the iconic shots of Everest have been taken.

So we headed off towards Namche Bazaar, with a climb that is reckoned to be the hardest part of the trek. Namche is at 3,440 metres (11,286 ft) at its lowest point. In the burning heat of the sun we climbed and climbed this winding route which seemed never-ending. And finally in pouring rain, exhausted and already suffering from altitude sickness, I arrived at Namche.

There was an acclimatisation day here, where I got my first sight of Everest, then we continued the trek the next day.

The altitude as we got higher and higher, became more of a problem for me. Hari, my friend and guide on this trek, seemed entirely unaffected by the altitude and the exertion, but then he is a very experienced guide and has been at the trekking game a long time. He never seemed out of breath and nor once did he break a sweat. While the sweat poured off me and walking and even talking was very difficult.

We made it through Tyengboche, where there is a large and famous Buddhist Monastery. With another siting of Mount Everest in the clear light of the early morning – the day after we arrived.

We pressed on, but by now the altitude was taking its toll. In the end we made it to “Lobuche”. This sits at an altitude of 4930 meters (and which is 16,175 feet). But I was suffering severely from altitude sickness by this time, with an upset stomach, headache and double blindness; which is having double vision and being out of focus at the same time. Altitude sickness is a serious business and cannot be taken lightly. We were going to stay at this altitude in one of the Lodges – but Hari advised that we needed to start heading down immediately. It was a great disappointment to me and somewhat reluctantly, I took his advice and we set off down the mountain. We did pretty well on the way back down, making good time, getting back to Tyengboche in one stage, and Namche Bazaar the next day. We didn’t need the rest days on the way down and on the following day we were back at Lukla ready for the flight home. I was on the whole and particularly in retrospect pleased with my performance. Having finally seen Mount Everest for myself – I was satisfied and we returned to Kathmandu the next day.

Scarfell Pike August 2015

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I love wild camping and any excuse to get away into the hills and I go for it. I’ve just been away with a friend of mine to the Lakes. We caught the train to Windermere and then a bus up to Dungeon Ghyll, from where we set off into the wilds. We camped the night on the side of Scarfell Pike; Bivvying up near an outcrop of trees. The next day we set off up Scarfell Pike and across Bow Fell. In torrential rain and extremely high winds we made our way up the hillside. Scarfell Pike is not quite a mountain being just four meters short of what is required. It is an impressive structure however and demands respect. We decided it was not realistic to summit Scarfell Pike, as the weather had come down too hard so instead headed down the other side of Bow fell into the Wasdale Valley. We camped again there in the valley near the tip of Waswater. The next day setting out for the hike to Dalegarth, a sleepy little village about seven miles across moorland. Arriving there early afternoon, we caught the miniature steam railway from Eskdale to Ravenglass and camped on the beach with a roaring fire. The sunset that night on the beach at Ravenglass was something else.

Hiking in the Yorkshire Dales 2015

I’ve just returned from hiking and wild camping with a friend of mine in the Yorkshire Dales. We hiked from Settle to Horton-in-Ribblesdale, setting out from Settle on the Monday night. We arrivied at Scaleber Foss in the early evening and set up camp putting our bivvies up and having a night round the fire. The next day we hiked onto the majestic Malham Cove, stopping briefly at the Buck inn, in Malham village. The next day after camping at Malham cove, we went across the limestone pavement and headed up the gorge up to Malham Tarn. After a night at Malham Tarn, where a thunder-storm with hail stones the size of walnuts coming down on us. The following day we walked over Fountains Fell to the base of Pen-y-ghent and there again pitched up. Early in the morning we set off to climb Pen-y-ghent and then after the summit down into Horton-in-Ribblesdale and the train home.

Wild Camping in the Lakes 2014

Last week myself and a friend set out for the Lakes. This was my first experience of wild camping with some else for a while and my first activity of the year. We arrived at Penrith, late into the afternoon and caught the bus to Keswick. Just short of Keswick, we got off the bus and headed for the hills, arriving at Castlerigg Stone Circle just before sunset to begin our adventure. Setting off from there we made our way across some incredibly muddy fields and after becoming bogged down several times we decided to camp at a proper camp site for the night. The next day we made our way on towards Derwent Water – our plan was to circle the lake. Our weeks hiking and camping wild in the hills around Derwent Water was accompanied by some great weather and some wonderful views of the lake and surrounding countryside. These are images I took with my Olympus Tough TG-810….

The journey to Muktinath 2013

Muktinath is a sacred place both for Hindus and Buddhists. It is located in Muktinath Valley at an altitude of 3,710 meters at the foot of the Thorong La mountain pass, in the Himalayas. Hindus call the sacred place ‘Mukti Kshetra’, which means literally ‘place of salvation’. This is because it is believed that if one manages to reach the Muktinath and Vishnu temple there, one will achieve Nirvana in the next life. Muktinath is within the Mustang region of Nepal which was formerly known as the Kingdom of Lo. Mustang is divided into lower and upper Mustang with the town of Kagbeni providing the marking for the border. We began our trek from a place called Beni, located on the confluence of Kali River and Myagdi River at an altitude of 899 meters, and trekked the 90 or so Kilometers to Muktinath. The most dramatic aspect of the trek was obviously the mountain scenery of the Himalayas; but not only this the way in which the landscape changed the closer we got to Muktinath was amazing.

Wild Camping in the Highlands 2012

Hiking and wild camping are my thing. A couple of times a year I like to pack my rucksack and head off up to the Highlands to explore the remoter regions of Scotland. This year was no exception. Towards the end of July I caught the train to Glasgow and then a coach to the Bridge of Orchy which is just south of Fort William. The weather was pleasant, although not as nice as usual. I set out from the Bridge of Orchy, taking the West Highland Way to Fort William.

In Scotland there are no trespass laws and wild camping is permitted anywhere within reason. Mainly due to weight restrictions, I only take a bivouac sheet and a bivvy bag. I take rations but the emphasis is always on, if I can find wild food then this is a superior alternative. I started my hike towards Fort William taking a couple of days to cover the forty or so miles. I took a diversion from the West Highland Way to Glen Coe and camped there. I arrived at Fort William to torrential rain, and got a room in a back packing hostel. I decided the next day I was going to climb Ben Nevis, something I have never done. But the weather came down with no look of improvement. So the next day I caught the bus to Inverness, and from Inverness got a train to Lairg, which is in North east Scotland. Here the scenery of the Highlands is less dramatic than in the West, with low hills but I wanted to see Lairg. I had noticed on the map before I left there were a number of Stone Circles marked there. The weather had improved no end from the previous day; Fort William is known for its rain and this being the other side of the country, Lairg was less affected. The hill upon which the stone circles were mark was small and the stones themselves unimpressive. However I found a lovely place to camp and set up there for the next two days. Here sunsets were incredible, the second night’s sundown being the most impressive.

After Lairg, I headed north to Thurso on the train and caught the ferry to Stromness in Orkney; there were stone circles I wanted to see on Orkney also so my adventure continued….

Lairg S

Lairg Sky 2

Lairg Sky 3