Viewing entries in
Hillwalking

The “Back” story to the Mountaineering Scotland article

Comment

The “Back” story to the Mountaineering Scotland article

Some of you that know me well will be fully aware of my past moans and groans prior to my back operation in 2012. My moans and groans now usually stem from lack of hill time! It’s true, I begin to get very restless if I’m not out in the hills or glens. Usually a short burst up a wee hill or a walk with Luna (Hillgoers puppy) can help this emotion but the desire for the Cairngorms is very much always there.

Mountain Leader training

Mountain Leader training

I was asked recently to tell the story of my transition of from pre-back operation to Mountain Leader. Gillian Fowler of BackStrong Trust passed on my name to the Cairngorm Club and they asked me to give a presentation at one of their meets. I was a bit apprehensive about this, going in front of seasoned mountaineers to tell them about my hill walking adventures. I was telling Adam Watson about it and he said “just show them some slides” so that’s what I did. There was no need for the apprehension, the crowd were very friendly and they seemed to enjoy me waffling on for an hour. I gave them an overview of my early hill walking days, including a photo I found of myself going on a one-night camp in 2002, no wonder my back gave up, just look at those rucksacks!

Very heavy kit...(for one day....)

Very heavy kit...(for one day....)

I talked though the years before my back operation, the operations itself, then I went on to show my change in lifestyle after the operation. How I build up the walking, the growing love for the outdoors, the multiday treks, the wild camps, the TGO Challenge, then the Mountain Leader assessment. I also talked about my decision to change career, how the Windsor Leadership Programme helped me and made me realise what I actually value in life. Then I went on to talk about Hillgoers, how it’s gone so far and what my aspirations are for the future (this is where you help!).

My TGO Challenge

My TGO Challenge

Before I was asked to do the talk, I was also contacted by Neil Reid from Mountaineering Scotland about an article he was preparing for the latest edition of the magazine. We talked through my transition and he kindly wrote up the article for the magazine and there’s also a webpage on it to. I was featured in the article alongside some really inspirational people and I’m humbled to be on the same page as them.

L4/5 Ouch.

L4/5 Ouch.

Wee metal and plastic thingy now in my back

Wee metal and plastic thingy now in my back

Before my back operation I could hardly walk for more than 30mins without needing to sit down. Every couple of months my back would seize up altogether, leaving me either on my back or walking very strangely! This had gone on for years but progressively got worse as time went on. The first time I put my back out was after a long cycle then I twisted my pelvis playing squash, late 20s I think. Years of chiropractors, osteopaths, physio, etc, then eventually lower disc replacement in 2012. I lost nearly 2 stone, stuck to my physio and built my back and core up again. I’ve still lost some flexibility but I’m fitter than I’ve ever been, apart from the wee niggle or two…!!

So, the moral of the story is, don’t give up. Go to the hills and they will draw you back. I’m forever grateful for the surgery and help I received post operation. There’s also some great support out there if you suffer from back pain, have a look at BackStrong Trust.

Thanks to Neil for publishing the story - You can read it here.

This blog is a cut down version of the story, I'd be very happy to present the story to your club / organisation, all I'd ask is in return is a wee donation to a mountain rescue team near you. 

Comment

Summer Highlights!

Comment

Summer Highlights!

Summer highlights!

As unpredictable summer in Scotland can be, I've been very fortunate not to have postponed any of my planned walks. Only once did I have to change my route plans due to weather and that was with a Bronze DofE group near Rynie! A small burn crossing turned into a fast-flowing river! This of course was an ideal intervention to teach hazards and dynamic risk assessments. The weather is never a barrier though and mostly, for me anyway, it's been a good summer. 

You shall not pass

You shall not pass

I've had a few DofE groups throughout the summer, volunteering for Banchory, also freelancing for other providers. There's always a story, a drama, a moan and a groan but followed by a sense of achievement as they finish their expedition. These expeditions they'll remember forever, locked in the memory for the good and the bad, mostly for the good. If led correctly the experience will nurture a love and respect for the outdoors. This combined with the other sections of DofE, the participants learn life skills you can't learn in a classroom.

Dreich DofE..

Dreich DofE..

Apart from my own groups qualification, my favourite DofE trip this year was a week over in Arran supervising a gold team. I’d not been to Arran for many years and forgot how stunning it was. Dramatic landscapes and beautiful coastal walks. Walking through Glen Sannox, over to Glen Rosa gives you a intricate view of the ridge walks on the island. I’ll have to go back sometime for a proper look over these.

Glen Rosa

Glen Rosa

I’ve continued to run mini introductory hill skills at the Bennachie Visitor Centre and will continue these next year. These give a wee introduction to map reading and navigation. The follow up from this course would be the National Navigation Award Scheme courses, I’ll be running more of these in the next few months too. James in the picture attended a Bennachie session and also achieved the Bronze NNAS award, I’ve no doubt he’ll continue to progress through the stages and soon be better than me!

James, future Mountain Leader!

James, future Mountain Leader!

Map setting below Mither Tap

Map setting below Mither Tap

I’ve also been fortunate to guide some lovely clients (now friends) over the hills this year. The Turriff and District Round Table team continued their quest to find Munro his home. These guys did an excellent job of walking up 17 Munros for local charities, finishing on Ben Nevis last weekend where Munro found his dad… I had great fun walking with those gents. Well done to them!

Turriff Team

Turriff Team

Another satisfying trip to Glencoe with some repeat clients too.

Buachaille Etive Mor

Buachaille Etive Mor

Painting the Stuic just below Lochnagar summit.

Watercolour time.

Watercolour time.

As a family we had some relax time over the school holidays in between my walk, some walking involved obviously… A lovely week with our extended family in Portugal then back to the cooler isle of Harris and Lewis. We also decided to take the leap and get a pooch, Luna will be joining me on the hills next year!

Paddling in Portugal

Paddling in Portugal

Beautiful Harris

Beautiful Harris

Hillgoers latest team member - Luna!

Hillgoers latest team member - Luna!

In between clients I've be strolling over the Cairngorms looking for flora and breathtaking views. My wild camp by Loch Etchachan a couple of months ago under the stars, looking north for the aurora, was a special evening. Watching the sun dip her last rays over Beinn Mheadhoin and waking up to the vibrant colours that early morning brings, has to be seen.

Loch A'an

Loch A'an

As we approach winter please look out for some winter skills training if you intend venturing to the hills in the snow, I can't wait! 

Hillgoers can offer guided winter walks when the snow arrives, low level walks also available.

Lochnagar in winter

Lochnagar in winter

Contact us for any bespoke walks or training :)

Comment