Suffering from Scottishness on Ben Chonzie (number 51)

3 11 2015
Planting (we probably could have planted it) the Finding Your Feet flag on Ben Chonzie

Planting (we probably could have planted it) the Finding Your Feet flag on Ben Chonzie

Ben Chonzie has the distinction of being generally accepted as the most boring hill amongst all the Munros. That’s up against some stiff competition, and I’m not one to argue with its status.

Dennis and I brushed away the memories of last nights premature fireworks in Howwood with an easy walk. With the memories of his over exertions on Colonsay still fresh in the mind, I looked for a nice easy, short and uneventful day. I found it in the dullest hillwalk in Scotland. Dennis loved it tho’. And that I suppose was what it was all about.

Dennis having a shake out at the top(ish)

Dennis having a shake out at the top(ish)

In the car heading for Chonzie, we listened to Dumb Instrument. I had been to the most amazing house gig on Friday with Arlene. Christine and John had kindly invited us along to see one of my current favorites – and also a band we have the privilege to be playing with in December in Glasgow. I listened again to all the familiar tracks as the journey in the bright Scottish autumn sun unfurled. We stopped at a layby to let Dennis out to relieve himself, sniff about a bit and get a bit of a shake out. It was a beautiful day indeed. Then on came Suffering from Scottishness. I left the car door open to enjoy the song in full.

And as we dawdled our way up and down the flat featureless expanse of Ben Chonzie, with not a sign of a single mountain hare and one solitary buzzard hang gliding in the blue sky above, this song rang so appropriately in my ears.

It saved the day for me…..

The stunning vista....

The stunning vista….

and just to prove I suffered it all the way to the top….


And on the way down, we shared a couple of wispas, two humous sandwiched and a wee paddle…..

Haw! your drinkin our pish.....

Haw! your drinkin our pish…..

Well, that’s that one oot the road….


I’ve been away, but I’m back with 3 more summits avoided – 48 and counting..

6 09 2015


Its been a wee while since my last post, however in the interim I have managed another 3 avoidance excursions. Here they are:

Sgor Gaoith

On the way back from a work visit to Balvenie Distillery, i nipped up and blagged Sgor Goaith in the Cairngorms. A rather uneventful walk as it happens, had hoped for company on this walk as the Glasgow comedian Gary Little had arranged to join me the night before only to call off in the morning when he realised that it was HIS birthday and he didn’t think his girlfriend would take too kindly to him missing the meal she had organise to celebrate! Next time Gary.

Gaoith FYF

Stob Coire Sgreamhach

A soaking wet day in Glen Coe with great company, Ewan and his two boys Luke and Frazer joined me in a soaking. A wet walk up through the path leading the the crossing of the river below the zig zags, saw us coming a cropper early on as the river was in full flow and absolutely no chance of getting across (See picture at top!). We made a detour through woods on the right hand side and dropped into the Lost Valley. The famous disappearing burn was making no attempt to live up to its name, I have never seen so much water in the Lost Valley!

Lost Valley and the Disappearing Burn

Lost Valley and the Disappearing Burn

Anyway, what was looking like a wet walk into the Lost Valley turned out to be a summit attempt after all. Entirely due to the enthusiasm and fitness of my fellow walkers it has to be said.

Ewan, Luke and Fraser

Ewan, Luke and Fraser




Carn Mor Dearg

The North face of Ben Nevis from Carn Mor Dearg

The North face of Ben Nevis from Carn Mor Dearg

So, another trip to see my distillery friends in Dufftown, followed by a wee trip in to see Andy and Al at Scottish Mountain Rescue to discuss Big Hex attempts in September, found me driving west to get to the North face car park for about half three. I decided to take a walk in to look at the North Face, I figured that if I got to the CIC Hut early enough, I might even take a wee trip up to Carn Mor Dearg and blag another munro. On the walk in, just shortly after crossing the fence at the MR Car park where it meets the Alt Na Muillin I noticed a rather boggy path heading off to the left. It was apparent that it was an approach path for CMD. So I decided to take it. Always good to try something new! If I’m being honest, I had no real intention of ticking this one, it was late and I was tired – I’d been up since quarter to six. If I could see the North face in all its glory, that would be enough for me today.

And, hey presto, I made it to the top.

Nearly at the top....

Nearly at the top….

The sun setting on the way down.

The sun setting on the way down.

The North Face of The Ben

The North Face of The Ben

I arrived back at the car at 8:00 and headed home. The car broke down just south on Bridge of Orchy. Pitch dark and with no mobile signal I left the car to start walking towards Tyndrum. it was 9:15. I heard a car draw up in the lay by behind me and a very kind Aussie couple offered to drive me to Tyndrum. When I got there i called the AA and they got a truck from Lix Toll garage to come for me, take me to Killin and give me a car to get me home.

I arrived home at 1.35am having left the house at 6:00am the previous morning.

I had a beer and fell into be exhausted!

An evening walk – 44 and 45 Meall Corranaich and Meall a’Choire Leith

21 06 2015

IMG_4578I had planned to make it an early morning one on Saturday. Get up about 3.00am and head to the far end of Ben Lawers region, park the car, get up and down and head home to get some work done on Saturday afternoon. That was the plan. With that in mind I packed my rucksac and made up some sandwiches about 8:00pm on Friday night. I went to bed about half ten. Before I even had time to drift off I got a call from Calum.

“Dad, where are you?”

“I’m in my bed, where are you?

“I’m on the train from Glasgow, can you pick me up from the station?”

So, up I got, got dressed and got my car keys. When the kids call, there’s nothing you can do but go get them. That’s what dads are for, isn’t it?

And in that moment my plans for the day were scuppered.

During breakfast in the morning, I checked the weather forecast and it looked much better later in the day. I decided to leave later and do a night time walk. If I left around 5:00pm I could be up and down and back home for around 2:00am.

I text Pete to see if he fancied a walk. He did, and so did Dennis.

We set off at 5:00pm. Left the car at 7:00pm, avoided both summits in great weather and got back to the car for 10:00pm. A bit of a bog trot, not too bad though. We followed the route described in the Paul & Helen Webster Guide and encountered some still impressive snow slopes for this time of year.

Pete and Dennis find some amusement in the snow....

Pete and Dennis find some amusement in the snow….

The first one....

The first one….

The second one...

The second one…

Looking down.....

Looking down…..

If you’re new to this, I don’t go to the top. I go nearly to the top. I have been to nearly the top of 45 of Scotland’s munros now. I intend to do them all. Its a cantankery which only those like me can understand. bear with me please……


The Munroblagger

Its a dogs life (at times) – Beinn Chabhair No 36

7 12 2014


View towards An Caisteal

View towards An Caisteal

With every intention to let circumstances conspire to scupper my plans to go out and avoid another summit, I woke and prepared to faff enough until the notion to go out in the rain got the better of me and I could put my feet up on the sofa and listen to some music. I really couldn’t be arsed. As misfortune would have it, every minor mishap – misplacing my iPhone charger, finding sandwich material and locating my gators (they would be needed!) – resolved itself and before I knew it Dennis was safely in the boot of the car and we were heading to The Drovers on Loch Lomond to park up and head up Beinn Chabhair.

I had been warned that it was a bogtrot of a hill and that it was a relatively easy walk. That being the case I decided it was a perfect walk to take Dennis as company. A bit about Dennis here. Dennis has only 3 legs, I’ve had him for about 3 years now. I rescued him from the cat and dog home where i saw him and fell in love with him. He was obviously lame and I was told that an amputation was inevitable and if I wanted him, I could pick him up in a couple of weeks minus a leg. I didn’t have to think twice. He is my companion and I love him so much, a more beautiful dog you could not imagine – and after Elvis’s death some years back, I never thought I could say that about another dog.

So, we unloaded at the Drovers, I got dressed, he got excited, and off we went heading towards Beinglass Farm which signals the start of the sharp rise up past Beinglass Falls, which are the waterfalls visible from The Drovers. Falls which I have viewed from the roadside in winter on my way to Nevis or Coe to climb, and wondered how they would climb when frozen? I hope to answer that soon now that I’m familiar with the access to them.

As we arrived at the Beinglass farm, we were greeted with a huge “No Dogs” sign. Not even a “Dogs should be kept on a lead”, no it was quite apparent that Dennis was not welcome. Equally as aggrieved that the guide book made no mention of this, I decided that I would keep him on a tight lead and continue. I passed through unchallenged, and before too long we were on the steep and eroded path beside the falls. There were a couple of times when I had to pick up Dennis and lift him through cattle fences as I climbed the high stiles, and a couple of times where the steep rock was too high for him to jump off his single back leg and needed a my help. Before too long, it opened up and we were on level if somewhat boggy ground. Dennis was now in his element, with his paws now finding soft wet ground he reveled in the new soft conditions. Never straying too far, he was free to explore his surroundings. Any time he disappeared from view due to the high bracken and grass, a sharp whistle would prompt the white flash on his tail to appear above the grass like a flagpole on a dodgem car, and he would come sprinting towards me. Any burn we crossed which offered a pool deep enough to lie down in, he would wade in then ease himself down on his belly for a cool down.

Dennis finds a pool big enough to swim in

Dennis finds a pool big enough to swim in

The weather was kind for us, we had a lovely day, I worried how he would cope and if it was to much for his back leg, but he was showing no signs of fatigue. We walked for 5 hours and for 15km. we ascended 940m. It offered me the perfect opportunity to memorise the words for my gig on Friday. I repeated them over and over, singing with gusto as the landscape unfolded before me offering both inspiration in its beauty and also reassurance of its solitude. Having satisfied myself that the words were now pretty much committed to memory and that any memory failure on the night would be entirely down to nerves, I moved on to some “proper” singing, well it would be proper singing if I could do it. Nonetheless, it is something which I am enjoying more and more. You’re never too old Bobby!

Lunch break at "almost the top"

Lunch break at “almost the top”

So, we arrived back at the car. I opened the boot and Dennis looked at me. I could tell, there was no way he was making it up into the car. I picked him up and sat him in the boot. He immediately curled into a ball. I got changed, and we headed home. I am so used to seeing his head in the rear view mirror excitedly pacing up and down in anticipation of a “walk”, but there was no sign of him, he was curled up cozy and sound asleep. I parked the car in the driveway at home and opened the boot, he hadn’t moved. He had no intention. I lifted him out and sat him on the driveway. He was going nowhere.

I had broken my dog.

After getting him into the house, he slept for about 4 hours in his bed. He could not get up onto his legs. I was worried.

An exhausted dog....

An exhausted dog….

He stayed downstairs as I went to bed, another bad sign! However, the night seemed to do him good, and when I woke in the morning, he was back to normal and looking for his morning walk. Phew!

As you know, I am doing this for my friend Corinne’s charity Finding Your Feet. For more information, you can go to and go and like the Facebook page too. Any donations for my Munroblagging will go to Finding Your Feet and this is my Just Giving page

Thanks! Catch you all soon.



Munro No 22 – Ben Vorlich

20 08 2013
the Munro Blagger strikes again...

the Munro Blagger strikes again…

After all the recent excitement of the launch and first official completion of the Big Hex Climbing Challenge (, it was back to normal yesterday and some summit avoidance in my Munro Blagger persona – the whole reason this blog was initiated in the first place. For those of you uncertain of what Summit Avoidance is and what the Munro Blagger is, let me tell you.

Some time ago, a long time, on a trip to Corrie Bunkhouse on Arran with the Paisley Hillwalking club, we had made our way up onto the saddle at North Goatfell where we were taking a breather – I was breathing hard as hillwalking isn’t really my game. Our plan was to drop back down to the base of Cir Mhor to pick up the start of Sou’wester Slabs and Calibans Creep. While we rested, one of the older members of the club Leon, caught up with us and cheerily announced “only about a hundred feet to the top guys!”. We looked at him in disgust. “Bobby isn’t a ‘getting to the top’ kinda guy” said Eric. He was incredulous that we could get so close to the summit and NOT go to the top.

The “not getting to the top kinda guy” stuck, and it has now fully fledged into the Munro Blagger.

I am slowly working my way around the munros with a single purpose, to almost get to the top of all of them. Some people have asked me why I would even entertain an idea. Easy, nobody else has. And when you’ve seen one trig point at the top of a hill, you’ve seen them all.

From almost the top looking back towards Ben Lomond

From almost the top looking back towards Ben Lomond

So, yesterday I put my Munro Blagger head back on and set off to “not tick” one that has evaded me in the past – Ben Vorlich.

Peter had text me the previous night to say he was going somewhere with his dad with the intention of doing two Munros if I fancied it. With some work commitments early in the day and requirement for me to be back early to head to the studio to rehearse with the band, I declined. I opted to head somewhere closer and bag something quicker. And so it was around 10.00am I found myself parked at the cafe car park at Sloy Power Station on Loch Lomond getting ready to head up the single track road which leads to the start proper of the route to the summit. With work ongoing on the sub station further up the path, I was met with situation I have never experienced whilst walking into a hill in Scotland. I was met with a road sweeper traveling at 2 mph down the track towards me. Cleaning all the site debris and cattle shit as it went!

So I arrived at the part of the tarmac track where you depart and head upwards toward the top – the 4th electricity pylon down from the dam wall (marked with a small pile of stones). I headed on up.

After half an hour I was truly wondering why the hell i do this, after all I hate walking. So to take my mind off the mindless trudge, I started singing some of the songs which we would be practicing later tonight in the studio with band. It was a good way of memorising my lyrics and I was surprised how easily they came to me:

I wanted to write a song for you,

Like “Into my arms” or “A girl Like you”,

But the words that tumbled out were dark and blue,

I wanted to make the words convey,

All the love you give and the joy you share,

But you and I both know that its not true,


And Just my luck to find myself with a girl who’s place is on the shelf,

So self obsessed and vain that its not true,

And whats a guy supposed to do when he tries to find the words for you,

And “You’re so vain’s” been done and its all true,


So take it on the chin,

Some you lose and some you win,

And “You’re so vain’s” been done and its just you.


I wanted to make a case for you,

So all my friends could know for sure,

That they were wrong you’re just misunderstood,

But in trying hard to justify,

The place in my heart that you occupy,

It lead me to conclude that you’re no good.


Just my luck to find myself with a girl who’s place is on the shelf,

So self obsessed and vain that its not true,

And whats a guy supposed to do when he tries to find the words for you,

and “You’re so vain’s” been done and its just you,


So take it on the chin,

Some you lose and some you win,

And “You’re so vain’s” been done and its just you.


So that pretty much kept me going all the way up and the way back down too………… And sometimes the veiw was alright too.

From almost the top....the clouds rolling in...

From almost the top….the clouds rolling in…

So that’s 22 done now, I’ll be doing it at my own pace.

I’ll probably never complete them…..

Breaking the Hex

3 07 2013
Ben Nevis - North East Buttress and Tower Ridge from the CIC Hut

Ben Nevis – North East Buttress and Tower Ridge from the CIC Hut

It was many years ago since we sat together in a cold bothy somewhere in northern Scotland – I cannot remember where –  and hatched a plan to develop a “3 peak type challenge” for climbers. Fueled mostly by whisky and enthusiastic climbing tales, we came up with Big Hex. It didn’t have a name then, and I don’t think we were really sure that any of us would ever get down to actually doing it, but it was our project and we revelled in long protracted discussions about the feasibility of such a challenge.

And so here we were, Eric Horne, Kenny Harris and myself finally, after all those years, making our first attempt at the Big Hex Challenge.

I have documented the events below for posterity and also as an informative narrative for those who will follow us. I will spare you the description of what Big Hex actually is as It has been laboured by myself on this very blog and anyway, anything you need to know about it and how to get involved in doing Big Hex and raising funds for Mountain Rescue Committee for Scotland can be found at

Some thanks are due to the following people for all their help and assistance:

Alfie Ingram (MRCofS), Andy Rockall (MRCofS), Jonathan Hart (MRCofS), Alan James (UKClimbing), Alan Halewood, Alistair Humphreys, Douglas Nicholson (our photographer), Steven Ireland, Peter Dorrington, Sue Riches, and our wives, families and friends for all their support.

Most importantly to the kind people who donated over £500.00 to our bid and to Mountain Rescue in Scotland. Thank you all.

Walking in to Pinnacle Ridge on the Skye Cuillin on Day 2

Walking in to Pinnacle Ridge on the Skye Cuillin on Day 2

And so it begins…..

Monday 24th June

We set off from Howwood around 6.00pm Eric and I, we picked up Kenny from Kilbarchan in a carefully packed car and set off for Fort William. I had booked tonight’s accommodation at Alan Kimber’s Bunkhouse “Calluna” and our accommodation on Skye the following night was at the Slig Bunkhouse. We arrived at Calluna in time to drop off our stuff, claim our beds and head down to the Fort for a couple of pints – “not too many remember, we are supposed to be taking this seriously”. We were greeted at the bunkhouse by the man himself, his voice instantly recognizable as “Norman Collie“, the short role he played in the Triple Echo TV production of The Edge (A History of Mountaineering in Scotland) where he re enacted some of the classic climbs which Norman Collie and John McKenzie put up in Skye in the golden age of climbing, and in full period costume. I was tempted to ask him to say “Fine climbing John!”, but I didn’t. I don’t think he would have appreciated it.

We picked up some chips on the way back from the pub and headed home, we would regret them in the morning.

Tuesday 25th July

I woke around 4.30am and couldn’t get back to sleep, my own snoring had woken me up around an hour earlier and a sound sleep had been broken. I dozed restlessly and finally surfaced around 5.45am. Eric and Kenny soon followed. We had agreed that an early-ish start from North Face car park would give us the best of the weather. A dry morning was forecast with cloud and wet moving in during the afternoon. We agreed to start at 7.00am. This being the starting point, if we were to achieve the 36 hour category, we would need to complete our challenge by 7.00pm the following day.

Packed and ready, we set off for the North Face car park, the chips were beginning to negotiate our collective digestion systems.

And so it begins.... The start of Big Hex

And so it begins…. The start of Big Hex

We set of at 7.00am. It was finally happening. I don’t know about the others, but I was a bit apprehensive, I also had the words of my son Louie ringing in my ears from a phone call I got from him whilst in the pub the night before, he was crying “I miss you dad, and I love you”. This was going to be tough.

By 8.15am we were at the CIC hut. North East Buttress and Tower Ridge still had some clag hanging over them, but it did look to be lifting. We refueled and set off to find the start of North East Buttress which can be problematic in poor visibility. We followed the base of the buttress round and up to the point where you can just about make out a goat track which leads across to the ridge proper. The rock was wet in parts and proving slippery. We made our way carefully and slowly across. It was at this point that we realised that this would be a slow and careful ascent on damp rock. We gained the ridge proper and got geared up. Harness, helmet and gear were all removed from the rucksack, leaving just the rope for its appearance at the Mantrap. Our combined recollections of the route should have seen us fly up it, however at the very start we were not entirely sure which way to go, with apparently three options available to us. I was rather apprehensive of the route I had chosen due to the wetness of the rock, however after Eric and Kenny had assessed the other options, it was clear that it was indeed up the chimney I had started on. My confidence at this point was not at an all time high. We moved up carefully and slowly, we knew that we did not have to make record time on this part of the challenge, but we were aware of the forecast which threatened rain later. Rain on the way down Tower Ridge did not appeal to any of us. Eventually, we arrived at the Mantrap.

Approaching the infamous Mantrap on N E Buttress

Approaching the infamous Mantrap on N E Buttress

Eric set up a belay as it was obvious that we would not be soloing it. I volunteered to lead. I had lead it the last time and fallen off it once before, finally succeeding at the second attempt; I wanted to make amends. It wasn’t to be. I made an almighty hash of it. Some very positive belaying (Ahem!) from Eric saw me through the initial move and a bit of faffing got me up and over it. I set up a belay and took the guys up. Now came the real problem. Eric confirmed Kenny’s worse fears, the 40ft Corner was indeed wet. We stood looking at each other for what seemed like an eternity, each hoping the other would volunteer to lead in the wet. Kenny took the initiative.

The 40ft corner on N E Buttress

The 40ft corner on N E Buttress

It has to be said , he made great work of it in damp and treacherous conditions. Before too long we were up and and on the summit at 12.20pm along with what seemed to be the entire population of Fort William.

With no time to stop, and each of us dispatching gaseous remnants of last nights chips onto the summit plateau, we headed round to pick up the decent into Tower Ridge. If only we could find it. Again our memory betrayed us. We descended into what we thought was the top of the ridge. It wasn’t. What followed was easily the most scary descent and traverse we would encounter. Damp, loose and broken wet rock led down to the top of Tower Ridge, we made our way down towards the Gap and it was apparent that the rock was getting drier as we descended. Eric arrived at the Gap and made the airy exit onto the ridge.

Climbing out of Tower Gap on the descent down Tower Ridge

Climbing out of Tower Gap on the descent down Tower Ridge

He took us both up and we prepared for the decent down to the chimney before the Eastern Traverse. I abseiled cagily down to find a landing spot immediately above the hole leading into the chimney. Eric arrived and looked down. “That looks soakin!” he said. And indeed he was right. And slimy!

Eric abbed down and checked that the rope would still run free. It did, and Kenny and I followed him. We skirted the Eastern Traverse and began a more straightforward descent down the little tower. It was certainly drier now and with the main difficulties over, we were all feeling a bit more relaxed as we were almost onto walking ground. Still, concentration had to be maintained, we were well aware of that. We made our way down to the right just before the Douglas Boulder and onto the scree which would bring us round and out at the CIC. It was at this point we were reminded of how costly fatigue and lack of concentration can be. Whilst crossing a steep scree slope, Kenny managed to dislodge some scree which was supporting a huge boulder immediately above him. The boulder – easily a couple of tonnes in weight – started sliding slowly towards him. Kenny desperately put both hands on the boulder and together they started sliding down the scree slope, Kenny below the huge rock, feet sliding down through the scree. He disappeared from our sight. Fortunately, he and the boulder both came to a halt at the same moment. A lucky escape. had he stopped sliding before the boulder, the consequences didn’t bear thinking about.

We made our way down to the CIC and on towards the car at the North Face Car Park.

We had completed the first leg. We arrived at the North Face Car park at 17.30pm. It had taken us 10 hours and 30 minutes.

We packed the car poorly – it reminded us of our climbing holiday in Colorado many years ago where the baggage seemed to take over the car! – and headed for Skye to meet up with Dougie Nicholson who was coming to stay at the Slig Bunkhouse with us and take some pictures on the Skye and Glen Coe leg tomorrow. We stopped at the Co-operative in Kyle of Lochalsh for some sandwiches, a much need intake of sugar and salt from Coke and Walkers Tomato Sauce crisps, then we headed on to the Slig. The stretch of the legs between the supermarket car park and the shop itself was a warning of how stiff the legs might feel should we reach out target of Glen Coe the following night after a long morning on Skye.

The midges were waiting to greet us on our arrival at the Slig bunkhouse along with the lovely girl who runs the place. She handed us the pass codes for the room and the front door and asked what time we would be leaving?

“Around six I think” I said.

“You going up there?” she asked tilting her head towards the Cuillin. We nodded.

“You guys are nuts, there’s a rescue on at the moment – my husband is away to it, he’s in Mountain Rescue”.

I don’t know about Kenny and Eric but I felt a sense of pride that we were doing something to help, albeit in a very small way.

A quick shower and change saw us at the Sligachan Inn for beer and crisps where Dougie caught up with us. Thankfully, we left early to head to our bunk, as it could all have went wrong at that point had another beer been bought.

The Skye Cuillin from Sligachan

The Skye Cuillin from Sligachan

Wednesday 26th July

My inbuilt mental alarm went off at 3.30am. It has a habit of doing that when it hasn’t been subdued by beer or whisky. I got up, faffed and went back to bed. I got up again at 5.00am, had some breakfast, coffee and started packing my stuff away and getting my rucksac sorted. The plan was to leave the Sligachan Inn car park at 6.00am to give ourselves a chance to be back at the car for mid day. Dougie and Eric soon followed, whilst Kenny made the most of his bed. Dougie fought outside with the midges for a while – I offered him my midge hood which he gratefully accepted, he may need it more than us if he is going to stay within the corrie to take pictures. Eric decided that it may be time to waken Kenny, so he did. We packed and left for the long drive to The Slig – across the road.

Pinnacle Ridge and the West Ridge of Sgurr nan Gillean

Pinnacle Ridge and the West Ridge of Sgurr nan Gillean

We set off at 6.10 for the gentle walk in. We all felt surprisingly loose considering the long day on the Ben the previous day, and I certainly felt much looser from the results of last nights beer and the Fort William chips. The weather was looking fine, some clag hung over the top of the peaks on Pinnacle Ridge but we concluded that it would burn off as the morning passed. With only one minor minor mistake on the path – we walked past the section which takes you up into the corrie – we arrived at the bottom of the buttress around 7.50am. We readied ourselves for the climb and said cheerio to Dougie, we would catch up with him again on the abseil from the West Ridge chimney.

Preparing for Pinnacle Ridge

Preparing for Pinnacle Ridge

The start of the first pinnacle is relatively straightforward once you find it, and following the line of least resistance sees you on the crest quite early and enjoying some outstanding scrambling on the rough Skye gabbro. It was cold and there was a slight breeze offering unwelcome wind chill. We soon opted for gloves. As we climbed we became more relaxed and I was really enjoying the morning.

Moving up the first pinnacle

Moving up the first pinnacle

The weather never bettered any during the course of the morning, and deteriorated into a mist with some smirly rain to hinder our route finding on the last two pinnacles. It is however a glorious route. From memory, I had always thought that after the abseil from the third pinnacle, the job was done. however, as was proved on the Ben yesterday, my memory can no longer be relied upon!

A wrong turning at the top of the next pinnacle, the Knights Peak, saw us down climbing on some slippery, sloping basalt to regain the goat track which would take us down to a final steep saddle which linked to Sgur nan Gillean. A few awkward rising moves found us on easier ground which curved around onto the Bhasteir face of Sgurr nan Gillean. The mist cleared momentarily to allow us a view of the West Ridge, our descent, and we were thankful for it. As we moved down, we caught sight of Dougie, who coincidentally was sitting just at the bottom of Nicolson’s Chimney! We reached the descent chimney and set up an abseil from the tat attached to the rock.

The abseil off West Ridge

The abseil off West Ridge

All off safely, we started the long descent down the scree path on route to the car park at the Slig Inn.

Walking out from Pinnacle Ridge

Walking out from Pinnacle Ridge

We arrived at the car at 12.25pm. Our time for this leg was 6 hours 15 minutes. We were 25minutes later than we had anticipated. The combination of clagged peaks and damp rock sections had slowed us down. It would all depend on how we fared on the Buachaille.

We packed the car – sorry, we stuffed the car full of our gear, dressed ourselves for the next part of the challenge and headed off.

We  had anticipated an approximate time of 4 hours to do the Buachaille Etiv Mor leg of up North Buttress and down Curved Ridge. A route which I have done fresh in under 3 hours before, however tiredness we knew would come into play after a long day on Ben Nevis and a morning in Skye. To give ourselves a chance, we had to be at the car park at Lagangarbh at 3.00pm for a finish before 7.00pm to fit the 36 hour slot. We were pushing it. Still, we had decided from day one that nothing would compromise mountain and/or road safety, and what would be would be.

We arrived safely at Lagangarbh and started the final leg at 3.45pm. We had 3 hours and 15 minutes to to do it.

The mad faff at Lagangarbh, Glen Coe

The mad faff at Lagangarbh, Glen Coe

With such a short walk in, and with some significant experience between us of this ascent and descent, we were thankful that this was the final leg of the challenge. I must admit that, at this point I was both physically and mentally drained. I was also convinced that a successful completion of the challenge was inevitable. This optimism and the significant improvement in the weather lifted our spirits. Until that is, we came to the first granny stopper on North Buttress. Where had the strength I normally had in my arms and legs disappeared to? What was normally no more than an awkward step and pull up, was now a Font boulder problem! We struggled over it and moved on, each of us I am sure noting that the rest of this route, and particularly the exposed chimneys may prove more testing than normal. Thanks goodness for the positive dry rock!

Making a meal of the first granny stopper!

Making a meal of the first granny stopper!

We passed the next granny stopper easily, giving it more respect than the first one proved helpful, and then we were on the route proper. The long wonderful chimneys loomed. I entered the grooves first and moved up with Kenny and Eric following.

Taking a rest before the chimneys on North Buttress, Buachaille Etive Mor

Taking a rest before the chimneys on North Buttress, Buachaille Etive Mor

It was like playing the last leg of a cup tie at home, I knew this route so well and i was comfortable on it. I also knew that there was a steep difficult section looming above. When we reached it, I could feel that my strength was waning, both in my arms and my legs. I hesitated, made a move, hesitated then broke out onto the big spike, pulling with all my strength to establish my feet on the wall to the right. I had struggled, but I made it. Eric had watched me intently and wisely opted for a more delicate but less strenuous route to the left of the chimneys, Kenny followed him, by now his ability to raise his body weight on one leg was doubtful. We met up at the base of the final chimney, climbed it and exited onto the platform above Slime Wall. A series of small rock bands followed which saw us to the top, we traversed along and down into Crowberry Gully. We were now on the descent of Curved Ridge.

Mixed emotions followed. We knew now that the major difficulties on all routes had been overcome, there was just the down climbing of Curved Ridge to go, barring any disaster we would undoubtedly succeed, however we were later than we thought. We knew that we would not be at Lagangarbh by 7.00pm. This would not be a 36 hour completion, this would fall into the 48 hour category.

The descent down Curved Ridge still had to be done, we moved with purpose and with care and in relative silence. I think we were all mentally tired.

We stopped at the waterslide to take in some water. Shattered.

At the waterslide.....

At the waterslide…..

“OK, lets go” said Eric “Lets make Lagangarbh by half seven”.

And we did. The final leg of Big Hex had taken us 3 hours and 45 minutes.

Our total time for the challenge was 36 hours and 30 minutes. Our total combined climbing time for all routes was 20 hours and 30 minutes.

It is the toughest thing I have ever done in my life. We all learned a lot about ourselves, about the preparation and the importance of timing your days, relying on good weather forecasts, the impact a 3 man team has on the time taken to do it, the mental stress and concentration required, and also the physical effort required – particularly by three guys in their fifties! Was it fun? In hindsight yes. Will I do it again? Who knows? I said I would never do another marathon, and I did.

We had climbed and descended 6 of Scotland’s most outstanding mountain routes, on 3 of our country’s most beautiful mountains, all in just over 36 hours. We had finally done it, after all the years of planning, after all the wondering if we would ever get around to do it, after all the doubt that anything would ever come of it, we had finally broken the Hex.

“It was on everyone’s lips, we just gave it a name” Tyler Durden (Fight Club)

Big Hex

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Big Hex - Scotland's Climbing Challenge

Big Hex – Scotland’s Climbing Challenge

Big Hex – A climbing micro adventure in Scotland

7 05 2013


With only a couple of weeks until our intended attempt at the “microadventure” which has become known as Big Hex, the excitement, anticipation and preparation for the challenge is as consuming as it is imminent. Big Hex, for those unaware of the concept, is a climbing challenge akin to a “3 Peak Challenge” which myself and my 2 mates, Kenny and Eric, have contrived and developed over many years now, emerging from conversations during whiskey fuelled bothy nights in remote parts of Scotland, as we concocted a plan to give climbers their very own 3 peaker in Scotland.

A brief description at this stage would be appropriate I suppose. A simple idea, similar in substance to the “3 Peak Challenge”, but with a requirement for a climbing ability and set entirely in the mountains of Scotland. Covering 3 mountain ranges – Ben Nevis, Buachaille Etive Mor and the Cuillin on Skye – we set the challenge to climb and descend 6 ridges on each mountain within a given timescale. Initially the timescale was fixed at 36 hours, however due to feedback from message boards on and on the Big Hex Facebook page and Twitter feeds, we have made the challenge more inclusive and added categories for 48 and 72 hours. There is also a requirement for each participant to raise funds for the Mountain Rescue Committee for Scotland, and contribute to the brave souls who we rely on if we are unfortunate enough to find ourselves in difficult circumstances on our mountains.

We would spend hours during the bothy nights, discussing the merits of different routes on each mountain, finding arguments for and against each other suggestions, arguing on points of historical merit of each route and difficulty and suitability of each for the technical pitching of the challenge. However one thing we were all agreed on was the 3 mountain ranges we selected. For those of you reading this and never having been on Ben Nevis, Buachaille Etive Mor or The Cuillin, you will do yourself no greater favour than to take some time out of your busy lives and get yourself among them, they are utterly stunning! Therefore the choice was simple, and the opportunity to take these ranges in over 2 days is not only a challenge, but a venture into the most beautiful landscapes and terrain that Scotland can offer.

The routes we settled for are as follows:

Buachaille Etive Mor – Ascend North Buttress and descend Curved Ridge

Ben Nevis – Ascend North East Buttress and descend Tower Ridge

The Cuillin – Ascend Pinnacle Ridge and descend West Ridge of Sgurr Nan Gillean

Abseil Pinnacle Ridge

The abseil on Pinnacle Ridge on Skye


So, where did the name “Big Hex” come from then? I hear you ask. Well, in climbing terminology, a Big Hex is a piece of climbing protection equipment – originally an old hex nut – which, when placed in a crack in the rock, will hopefully protect you in the event of a fall. It is deemed to be the safest piece of gear you can place, a “bomber” placement, if you will. A hex, is also a six sided object, which fits perfectly with our six classic routes chosen as the routes for the Big Hex Challenge. It is a challenge which is open to all comers, we strongly recommend that a degree of climbing ability is a must as some of the routes, whilst not technically difficult in climbing terms, are serious commitments which will require in some instances rope work, and should not be underestimated. What we can guarantee is an experience unlike any other challenge you will take part in on Scotland’s mountains, and mountain scenery and memories which will live with you for years to come.

So as I sit here and write this, having only recently taken a wee trip into Ben Nevis to check weather conditions, and today, when I bought a new pair of boots specially for the event, I can feel the excitement and anticipation bubbling up inside. I will revel in the preparation over the coming days and weeks.  We will meet – the other members of the team, Kenny, Eric and Steven and our support team Peter and Dougie (Big Hex photographer) and myself – to discuss the logistics and the necessary equipment, food, drink and sleeping arrangements, and I will drink it all in because all too soon it will be over, and the anticipation and preparation is as much a part of any micro adventure as the participation.

All I can say is that I am so looking forward to it more than any other climbing trip I have been on, and we are delighted that others have taken up the baton and decided to join us in participating and making Big Hex their very own micro adventure, and more importantly, raising vital funds for Mountain Rescue along the way.

I would love you all to join us.

For more information go to or visit us on or follow us on twitter @big_hex

If you can help us spread the word, we will be forever in your debt.


“Whatever you do, or dream you can do, do it now. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”

WH Murray

Scottish Mountaineer and writer



I’m beginning it now!

Bobby Motherwell




North Buttress on Buachaille Etive Mor


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