Absolutely perfect! I couldn't have asked for a nicer day. I got a nice early start and drove North from Inverness with no real plan for the day. I wasn't convinced that the forecast was going to be accurate (it never bloody is up here!) so the predicted sunshine and blue skies were treated with a certain degree of scepticism.

They got it right! The drive was glorious and I stopped to get this photo of Beinn Dearg from the road at Loch Glascarnoch.

I decided to head a bit further North and drove past Ullapool to do climb Cul Mor, if you're into Corbett bagging then this one is the highest in the area. I'm personally not into Munro or Corbett bagging (not to mention the Donalds, Wainwrights and Grahams!) and tend to go to whatever hill suits my fancy.

I parked up at Knockan Crag and grabbed a bite to eat before heading up the hill. Already the views were promising to be pretty spectacular with a panorama taking in Beinn Mor Coigach,
Cul Beag, Stac Pollaidh and Cul Mor.

The walk up Cul Mor is fairly straightforward and only takes about 2 hours. The views are stunning though and it probably took me a bit longer as I kept stopping to take it all in. Suilven in particular caught my eye, standing alone like a great sphinx of the North West. Canisp lay just to the east and I could make out Quinag and Ben More Assynt further away. The hill was utterly deserted with not a soul in sight, unusual for what should be a popular, especially in this weather!

There was a bit of a breeze at the summit, I stood and gawped at the view for a while before deciding to head back a bit lower down to get a bit to eat. I didn't want to leave! The views were that good and the weather so utterly gorgeous that the thought of heading back down to civilisation didn't exactly fill me with joy. My peace was soon to be shattered though, with the arrival of the first people I'd seen all day. The sunshine seems to bring the best out in people, or maybe it's partly due to the fact that everyone you meet out on the hill has something in common with you - the love of being outdoors. We sat and chatted for half an hour putting the world to rights before parting ways.

It looked like most folk had chosen a later start and the hill was pretty busy on the way back down. Each group seemed keen to stop for a blether so it took just as long to get down as it did to get up! A lovely way to spend the day and I think I'll head back up that way again next weekend.

It seems that I’ve been sucked into the world of web comics . I’ve always had a geeky side (hence the fact that I work in IT!) and have a fair sized collection of ‘graphic novels’ already. Webcomics have been something of an unknown for me though and the first one I was really aware of was Questionable Content . Written by Jeph Jacques it follows the lives of Indie Kids Marten and Faye and their slightly dysfunctional relationship. He’s done over 800 strips at this point and I’m making my way through the archives to catch up. It’s interesting to watch the artwork develop along with the relationships of the characters. It has a sit-com feel to it, but the humour is vastly superior to anything you’ll find on an episode of Friends and a touch more risqué too! Jacques obviously loves his music and various indie bands are name checked throughout without feeling contrived or pretentious.

I’ve added a list of webcomics that caught my eye over the last week or so. Read, Enjoy!

I'm a regular poster in UK Climbing and it has a thriving online and offline community, with members regularly getting together for climbing 'meets'. There's one every March in Glen Coe and seeing that it's just down the road from me I thought I'd go along with my daughter.

The weather was wet, windy and generally unpleasant so we didn't go too far, just a short walk along the West Highland Way from behind the Mar lodge in Kinlochleven. All the rivers were very much in full flow and the Blackwater dam had water from the Loch flowing over the top of it! Normally you can walk across it, not in this weather!

The wee one did well considering the dire weather, her efforts were rewarded with a hot chocolate at the Ice Factor in Kinlochleven. It was nice to meet the UKC folk a most of whom I'd never met before.

Fantastic weather today! Got a nice early start and there were no cars in the carpark which was a surprise. I had the whole hill to myself. There was very little wind and bright blue skies all round. I had views across to Ben Wyvis, Torridon, An Teallach and the hills of the far North. It was like a day in Spring, if it hadn't been a bit of a haze I'm fairly sure I would have got a clear view across to the Western Isles.

After the glorious sunshine on Saturday I hoped todays weather would be the same, unfortunately this was not the case. I got to the carpark by the Glascarnoch weather station at about 8am and was greeted with a downpour of biblical proportions. Typical!

Fortunately by the time I'd got my boots on the rain had eased to a light drizzle. The route I was taking follows Abhainn an Torrain Duibh before crossing Allt an Loch Sgeirich and heading up the slopes of Creag Dubh Fannaich and on to Beinn Liath Mor Fannaich.

This route is slightly longer than the usual way up the mountain, but I'm trying to get a lot fitter so wanted to push it a little. The way up to the base of the hill is an excruciating bog slog with little or no path to speak of. At one point I was close to going home as I stepped ankle deep into yet another quagmire and the rain lashed down. However I gritted my teeth and kept going. It was a busy hill, not with people but with wildlife.A couple of Dippers accompanied me on the initial walk along the river and there seemed to be an abundance of Ptarmigan on the way up, which was a surprise as I've never seen them outside of the Cairngorms! A flock of Snow Bunting seemed to busying their way the hill too. The highlight was the Mountain Hare that bounded past me just before the summit. I've never seen one before so that was a nice added bonus. I tracked what I thought was a Weasel for a hundred yards or so, the prints were very fresh, unfortunately no other sign if it though.

As I started to get higher the weather started to clear and I got some decent views of the Fannaichs, unfortunately the snow cover has deteriorated over the last few weeks and any winter climbing will be non-existent at the moment.

A steady pace took me over the top of Creag Dubh Fannaich and on up to Beinn Liath Mor Fannaich. Unfortunately it was very claggy so no photos. The weather seemed to deteriorate again near the top of the hill and considerable amount of snow was falling, once I touched the summit I decided to make a hasty retreat back down. Typically once I was half way down the weather cleared again. The views from the top would have no doubt been really good. If only I'd hung on for 10 minutes! I got a good look across to Beinn Dearg and Am Faochagach, very little snow across there too, although it did look like it had recieved a fresh dusting and the gully lines may have saved a bit of ice. It was difficult to tell from that distance though.

I saw this on UK Climbing and thought I'd share it here. Enjoy!

Green Eggs and Slime

Hello my name is Zionwalls.
I've climbed on rocks and taken falls.
I wrote a trip report and posted,
Although I fear I will get toasted.
It isn't long, it isn't short,
I hope you like my trip report.

"I will not read your trip report,
I will not read it , long or short!
It hasn't any puncuation!
A product of a careless nation!
I will not read your trip report,
I will not read it, long or short!"

Would you read it on a ledge?
or hooked on a dime sized-edge?

"I will not read it on a ledge,
nor while hooked upon an edge!
I will not read your trip report,
I will not read it, long or short!"

Would you read it on rappel?
or on a climb that's named Green Hell?

"I would not read it on rappel,
or while climbing on Green Hell.
I will not read it on a ledge,
nor while hooked upon an edge!
I will not read your trip report,
I will not read it, long or short!"

Would you read it on belays?
Or in a bar on resting days?

"Not on belays!
Not on rest days!
Not on rappel!
Not on Green Hell!
Not on a ledge!
Not from an edge!
It hasn't any puncuation!
A product of a careless nation!
I will not read your trip report,
I will not read it, long or short!"

Perhaps because it's trad, not sport?
Would you then read my trip report?

"I do not care if your report
involves either trad or sport!
Paragraph's are what it's lacking!
You are no artist! You were slacking!
I will not read it at belays,
nor in bars on resting days!
I won't read it on rappel,
nor on 11.b Green Hell!
I will not read your trip report,
I will not read it, long or short!"

But we left lots of gear up there.
you could retrieve it if you dare.
Perhaps the ropes could yet be freed,
if my trip report you'd read.
Use them if you climb the Prow.
Free haul lines! Go get them now!

"I do not want your dodgy gear,
and not because I'm filled with fear.
Through written clay I will not plow!
I'll buy my own ropes for the Prow!
I don't care if trad or sport,
is the theme of your report.
I won't read it Zionwalls!
For though you have gorilla balls,
for posting text in solid blocks
about your climbs on chossy rocks,
I still won't read it at belays
or in bars on resting days,
or while dangling on rappel,
nor while smearing up Green Hell,
or while resting on a ledge,
nor while hooking some small edge!
Paragraphs? It hasn't any!
Bad posts on here are far too many!
You do not use punctuation!
A product of a careless nation!
I will not read your trip report,
I will not read it, long or short!"

You will not read it, so you say.
But you may like it, yes you may!
An epic we got thru some how,
I wish you would just read it now.

"Zion if you let me be,
I will read some, then we'll see"

[......time passes.......]

"Hey, I like this trip report!
It's not too long, and not too short!
I will read this on belays,
And in bars on resting days!
I will read it on rappel,
and when I try to send Green Hell!
I will read it up on ledges,
and while hooking fragile edges!
I'll even haul it up the Prow.
I am so glad I read it now.
I really like this trip report!
It's not too long, and not too short!"

by Cat_in_the_Hat

The Highland Year of Culture kicked off on Friday night with a huge party in the centre of Inverness. Around 15,000 people were estimated to attend and I have to say that me and the wee one were thoroughly impressed. Bloody cold though! Nessie's monster friends were just a little bit too realistic for my daughter and we had to go home early. Proof if any was needed, that Inverness can throw a good party!

We had music by the Blazing Fiddles and the Inverness Gaelic choir. The choir were incredible, singing one of the most haunting and powerful songs I've hear in a long time. It all made me very proud to be Scottish.

If anyone reading this is up in the Highlands this year, then check out the Highland Year of Culture website for a list of events. There's plenty of things to go and see. I'm in danger of sounding like a member of the Tourist Office (well I suppose I do work for them now!) but I honestly think this will be a good year in the Highlands.

Gaelic Word for the day (week?) : Partaidh! Party! Pronounced pretty much the same as the English (Part-ay)

Tioraidh an t-drasda.

Went for a walk in the Cairngorms yesterday afternoon. After a quick drive down the A9 I got to the Cairngorm Ski Car Park at about 11.30am. The snow had begun to fall and it was bitterly cold. My original plan was to walk up to the summit of Cairngorm, a mountain I've climbed many, many times. Mainly because it's quick and easy! But yesterday I felt pulled towards the Northern Corries, in particular Coire an t-sneachda. This Corrie and Coire an Lochan next door to it are popular venues for winter climbing, they are one of the first places in the UK to get snow and are relatively easy to get to, only being about and hours walk from the carpark.

It was one of those unusual days for the Cairngorms, not a breath of wind! I've walked into the corries many, many times and have rarely encountered conditions like that in winter. It was absolutely still, all around me I could hear Ptarmigan calls echoing around the corrie. Their call is something akin to a 2-stroke engine, if I closed my eyes I could almost imagine a group of Mods buzzing around the Corrie on their Vespas!

There was a good layer of crisp snow underfoot which made for easy and straightforward walking. The visibility wasn't too good with the cloud base sitting at around the 700m mark. As I walked deeper into the Corrie I started to hear the noise of climbers on the corrie headwall. The clink of gear rattling on harnesses and the steady 'thunk, thunk' of ice axes biting into the ice reverberated across the corrie basin. Interspersed with climbers calling out 'safe', 'climb when ready' and not a few curses! As I got closer the cloud started to lift to reveal the buttresses of Coire an t-sneachda. Conditions were lean, but there seemed to be a reasonable build up of ice on the buttresses. The gullies had a decent amount of snow in them and the trident gullies in particular were picking up quite a bit of attention. I made my way to the Mountain Rescue box and stopped to grab a bite to eat. The cloud moved on, revealing blue skies and a fantastic view of the cliffs. There were about 10 different teams of climbers in the main area and I could hear at least another couple of parties over on the Fiacaill buttress.

As I was sat having a bite to eat I was accosted by a group of about 10
Snow Bunting . Are these birds the Neds of the Cairngorms? The gathered around me in a group chirruping away in what I guess is Bunting for 'Gies a peck of yer sarnie ye dobber'. They're very brave little birds and come very close to you. A couple went as far as to sit on the toe of my boots and belligerently puff themselves up! Once they'd mugged me for the last bits of sandwich they'd move on to the next group of climbers who'd stopped for something to eat, where they'd repeat the process before flitting on to the next likely group.

My appetite sated (not mention those of the Snow Buntings) I packed my stuff and started to move off and make my way back home. I meandered my way through the boulder field, occasionally turning back to take another look at the cliffs and the people climbing. Realising that time was getting on I started to pick up my pace. A loud noise and a panicked shout made me turn round and to my horror I saw a figure somersault over one of the buttresses and crash into the ground below. I turned and ran towards where he lay, someone else had managed to get there sooner, my heart sank as he checked the guy over and then took a few steps back from him. The fact that he wasn't trying to do anything did not bode well. I got closer and asked if there was anything I could do. The reply was short and crushing. 'He's Dead'. Nothing to be done.

Out of respect to his friends and family I'll not speculate as to the whys and wherefores of what happened. Suffice it to say that it was a tragic accident. We sat with the chap till the mountain rescue chopper came and uplifted him. The funny thing was whilst we were sat with him, the Snow Buntings returned en masse and seemed very curious about the dead climber. After a short period they all took off and left. Part of me likes to think that they were escorting his spirit on to the next world.

The people he was climbing with had come to a halt in the gully they were climbing and were obviously scared and shocked. Fortunately the Mountain Rescue Team were quickly on site to assist them out of the gully. Myself and the others who were on scene carried his kit back to the Ranger lodge at the carpark where we were met by some of his friends.

I'm still a bit shocked by it all and didn't really sleep last night. I spent most of the night replaying events in my head and wondering what his poor family and friends must be going through. I didn't find out his name, but he'll not be out of my thoughts.

Rest in Peace mate.

Bliadhna Mhath Úr!

My brains a bit scrambled as I've started the New Year with some kind of winter virus thing. Needless to say I'm not really able to write anything particularly coherent or sensible a the moment.