Wednesday, 28 November 2018

North Face

Here is a recent painting of the North Face of Ben Nevis under winter conditions.There has already been some snow falls on the higher tops although not quite as much as this. Last weekend we ran up the tourist path to the half way lochan and then around to towards the C.I.C. hut which sits below the cliffs of the North Face. Even though it wasn't many busy it was a relief to to  turn off the tourist path and  head up the valley to enjoy the remoteness and stunning beauty of Allt a Mhuilinn. The weather was fantastic.There was some atmospheric cloud drifting around the corries of the Ben but the sky above was blue. Snow delineated the crags and the the lower slopes of the hills were a rich autumnal brown. We took lots of photographs of the North Face to add to the great many we already have of this stunning view.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

                                                  DULCE ET DECORUM EST
Bent double, like beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distance rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas !GAS! Quick, boys!- An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime.....
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I see him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,-
My friend you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

by Wilfred Owen  18/03/1893-04/11/1918
It is said that his parents received the telegram telling them of his death as the bells rang out announcing the Armistice.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Run from Corrour Station

One of our regular runs  is to get the train to Corrour and then run back home. It is nothing  epic; 17-18 miles on boggy paths and tracks with a moderate amount  of climbing but a net downhill. It is a good run on a bad weather day - we know the route well, and once you step off the train you have no option but to run all the way home. Actually that is not quite true - you could sit in the wonderfully warm and  cosy Station House Restaurant and sip coffee until the afternoon train came to whisk you back to Spean Bridge (on some days when it has been lashing  with rain this has been tempting!) On fine days there is lots of options to add in hills or lengthen the route .Even to run to Fort William via Glen Nevis but that is extremely boggy.
For the last week the weather has been unrelentingly bad - almost continual rain. Oban has had floods and  there have been landslides elsewhere in the Highlands. Yesterday I had a day off and expecting more rain we jumped on the lunchtime train to Corrour, which at 1339 feet above sea level is the highest train station in Britain and often very cold. However to our surprise it was a glorious day; both warm and  sunny. The hills which are turning golden brown at this time of year looked stunning. The stags were roaring too which added to the atmosphere of rugged wilderness.
Loch Treig
The first stage of the run is to Loch Treig and past the sadly boarded up Creag Ghuanach Lodge. From there you climb through the hills  on a boggy path to the Lairig Leacach which is hemmed in by Stob Coire Easain on the right and Stob Ban and Stob Choire Claurigh on the left. We often stop at the little bothy  for a breather and a chat with any walkers there.A bit more climbing then you start the descent towards Spean Bridge which is about 8 miles further on.
The track beyond the Lairig looking down into the sunlit glen
Lastly one reaches the Leanachan Forest which yesterday was delightful, the birds were singing the sun shining and  the trees were a medley of autumnal shades - yellows oranges and browns. We arrived home well satisfied with our afternoon trot through the hills.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Creag Meagaidh

Last week I went to Creag Meagaidh, which has recently become one of my favourite Munros to run up.It lies close to the A86 half way between the Lochaber mountains and the Cairngorms. Previously I have climbed it by the westerly ridge Creag na Cailliche from Moy this a steep and rough ascent although it does give one the opportunity to traverse the entire plateau to get to the top. Strangely I hadn't attempted the more conventional route from the main car park up Allt Coire Ardair until a few months ago. When I did try this I realised how delightful it was. There is a good trail for most of the way - steep enough to be hard work but still runable . First through some attractive woodland then up a broad glen This leads to the beautiful Lochan a Choire which is  surrounded by dark foreboding cliffs. Beyond this the path is steep and with lots of scree until one gets to the bealach between Stob Poite Coire Ardair and Creag Meagaidh. The summit is about a km away across the sloping plateau.

Last week the weather had been kind all he way up but once on the plateau I could see a squall approaching from the west. Half way across the plateau the wind became quite ferocious and very cold and the visibility deteriorated .Rain then hail lashed down. There is a false summit just before the true top called Mad Meg's Cairn . Apparently a  poor lady who committed suicide in the 18th century was buried there by her family as it was forbidden for suicides to be buried in church yards. I decided to turn around there rather than continue to the true summit.Even so I was chilled to the bone and didn't warm up until I was back to the lochan. Then of course the clouds cleared and beyond the lowering shadow of the cliffs the sides of the glen were illuminated by bright sunshine. The painting below is from a photo I took at that point.

Yesterday I was meant to go to Rum but the capricious Scottish weather meant that the return ferry was cancelled.
 Instead  we took the train to Corrour and ran home through the wind and the rain sloshing our way through bogs and streams, and having a thoroughly good time.
The islands of Eigg (on the left) and Rum from Mallaig on a clam day.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Ring o Fire 2018

 A few weeks ago we completed the Ring O Fire Race in Anglesey for the 4th time .
I did  a reasonable amount of training chiefly comprising of 35 mile runs once every week to 10 days. I had also spent a week in Essex during  some very hot weather during which I ran about a hundred miles. However my fitness was still very lacking.
We stayed near Beaumaris which is a picture postcard like coastal town with lots of interesting shops and  cafes. We arrived a day before the race which gave us the chance to buy last minute supplies and recover from the long drive south.
The race starts at the Breakwater Park at Holyhead which is on a separate smaller island off Angelsey. It was great to meet up with old friends including John Kynaston who we know from the West Highland Way Race and also the Hardmoors110.
The race started at 1pm. I had expected cold and wet weather but it turned out to be hot and sunny. In fact many of the runners suffered from the heat.The initial part of the race is not that inspiring - through the streets of Holyhead and parkland  beyond. However this soon gives way to the beautiful coastline. It is quite flat until the second  checkpoint at Church Bay when the cliffs and bays start. From then on the scenery was gorgeous . Time after time we would turn a corner to find another idyllic deserted sandy bay wreathed with cliffs and set off against a turquoise sea and cloudless blue sky. We saw quite a few choughs- rare birds looking  like crows but with an orange beak and a distinctive call.
Before Wylfa power station checkpoint there is a shingle spit that one has to run along , I always find this hard .The shingle is particularly strength sapping . Consequently I was very glad to to get to the checkpoint. Despite eating and drinking I struggled to get going afterwards and the group of runner I was with got ahead. Gradually though I recovered and reeled some of them in.Some of the biggest hills occur between Cemaes and Bull Bay, but again the scenery is fantastic.
I was pleased to finally arrive in Almwch in daylight after a really enjoyable days' running.

Day 2 was cooler and overcast.I started off quite well and enjoyed a good second breakfast and mug of tea at Ligny Bay. The owner of the cafe there had very kindly provided free food for all the runners. Soon the tiredness started to kick in and my pace slowed.Unusually I ran on my own for most of the day. I didn't see a single runner from Beaumaris until Newborough forest. My parents met me at Beaumaris and I had phoned ahead to ask them to buy me a cup of tea and a J20. Although still overcast it was quite warm and the ice cold J20 was very welcome.
It is a long way ( 66 miles) on day 2 but gradually the miles passed despite my snail like pace. On Newborough Beach I could see no one until I was almost at the honesty book flag. Then I spotted a rapidly approaching runner. I was only a few hundred yards beyond the honesty book when the runner overtook me.What a rate he was going! I later learnt that he had had a bad patch at Penmon Point but had recovered after a rest and a pie and chips in Beaumaris.
It was dark when I left the last checkpoint for the last 10km to Aberfraw boosted my some lovely spicy lentil soup. I managed the route OK despite the intense blackness of the moonless night. At Aberfraw the marshals were very attentive as usual and I was able to enjoy multiple mugs of tea and two bowls of pasta.

On Day 3 I was very stiff and my left hip was sore- I could barely run at the start. Fortunately my hip eased off and I was able to get going - otherwise it would have been a very long walk. Helen my wife always does well on Day 3 so I was pleased when I managed to catch up with her. We ran together through Rhosneigr  where a we all got  a second breakfast courtesy of Sandy's Bistro. Helen got ahead of me just before Four mile Bridge  as I started to flag. The weather had been forecast to be good but in the event  we had fine drizzle on and off  all day.
Before the beautiful Silver Bay I missed a turning and had to back track. Fortunately I didn't loose too much time. Also I didn't miss the  honesty book unlike two poor runners who we met a few miles later on who must have added at least an hour to their time returning to pick up a page from the honesty book.
At Trearddur Bay bought myself a mug of tea from a cafe .
I always struggle on the third day and  this year was no exception . I felt that my breathing was quite compromised and I as restricted to a survival shuffle. I kept passing and  being passed by a tall runner who was striding  along but who I never saw running . I was sure I would be able to get ahead but he left me for dust climbing the last hill of the race. Holy mountain was as beautiful as ever.
Finally I was running across the field to the sounds of Johnny Cash singing 'Ring O Fire' . It was all over for another year except for cheering, drinking beer and chatting with friends.
John Bottomley was first runner home in an amazing time of 23 hours and 23 minutes. Patrizia Sini was first lady in 29 hours and 9 minutes.Helen was 3rd lady.
A view from  Henlleys in Beaumaris (where we stayed before and after the race) looking across the Menai Strait.

After a day relaxing day in Beaumaris we sadly started the long drive home.It had been a very enjoyable holiday, and  the Ring O Fire was as always a fantastic race.We will be back!

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Some Recent Paintings

Loch Lochy

Sketching has taken a back seat recently ( as has this blog) because work has been very busy. However I have completed a few paintings which I have posted here.
 The weather has been colder this winter than we normally experience on the west coast and there have been  some glorious bright frosty days with the mountains looking very alpine. The ice climbers and skiers have had a very good season. Last Thursday I went up Ben Nevis in beautiful weather, although the top was in cloud .The ruins of the observatory were completely buried and the summit cairn which sits on a rock pedestal about 12 foot high was only just poking out of the surface of the snow.
 I find it far more pleasant climbing the Ben in the snow because my knees get less of a battering on the way down. In fact going down was very quick as I was able to glissade ( ie slide on my bum using an ice axe to control speed) down some sections- great fun but cold when you are wearing shorts! I took lots of photos which I hope to paint  soon. I avoided the last section of the tourist path by taking the path to the right of the Half Way Lochan and down to Torlundy.
Loch Lochy from the A82

Loch Eil from Torlundy.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Snowy Weather

I haven't written a blog post for a few weeks partly due to a lack of material . However I now realise that I have completed quite a few paintings. Here is a selection:
 Below is a picture I painted from a photo taken on a snowy run to Gairlochy and  along the Caledonian canal.We have had more snow this Winter than any other in the six years I've lived on the West coast.
The River at Gairlochy

A few weeks ago we ran out to Invermallie bothy on Loch Arkaig , a large well appointed bothy that I would like to stay in one day . On the way back there was a glorious sunset over the loch.

Sunset at Loch Arkaig

The Blackwater Chelmer Canal
Above is a painting of the canal near my parents home in Essex- one of my favourite running  routes. This reminds me that summer will return!

Ben Nevis from Carn Mor Dearg
Last weekend we had a lot of snow. I climbed Carn Mor Dearg (the first mountain east of Ben Nevis). Once I had left the forest above Torlundy the mist cleared and I was in bright sunshine. A carpet of cloud filled the valley below with an  endless chain of  peaks poking through. The conditions were perfect! I was glad to find that somebody had already blazed the trail as the snow was thigh deep in places.
The above picture is from a photo I took on the way down. The sun was getting low but was illuminating a patch of cloud on top of Ben Nevis and the upper slopes of Carn Mor Dearg;

The River Lochy
Finally another painting of the river at Gairlochy  on another snowy day.