Tag Archives: Lochnagar

Highland Hobo #6

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My favourite photo from the last month. Ben Alder, the ‘hill of rock and water’. A fitting title for a mountain which exhibits so flawlessly all the elemental aspects of the outdoors.

This is my final update before my Winter Mountain Leader (WML) assessment starts on Monday. It’s strange to think that I stepped onto the hillside of Lochnagar on New’s Year’s Day, a month ago yesterday.

 

I want to revisit briefly a legacy post to bring this little chronicle neatly to a close. I quoted from Ulysses, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson in Scotland, Skyfall & Ulysses and would like to mention The Charge of the Light Brigade in conclusion.

 

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of hell
Rode the six hundred.

 

I’ve invested a lot of time, effort and money into working towards the WML award. There have been sacrifices – family, comforts and conveniences – and it’s taken a lot of determination, and it all boils down to this coming week. Perhaps the process has become all-engrossing; I do feel that it’s now do or die.

 

The reference to The Charge of the Light Brigade is not meant to create an overly-heroic or macho image. Life will go on after the assessment regardless of the result. However, I have thought a lot about family, fathers and children while I’ve been away – unsurprising, I suppose, with a small family at home and in the face of very harsh and unrelenting conditions.

 

Little boys and girls idolise their fathers, and love to maintain their daddy as a hero who does great things and then comes home for hugs. All fathers are human and prone to fault, but all too often the role model of a father is lacking. Children don’t demand perfection, they are willing to forgive, but do look for a true heart. I quote The Charge of the Light Brigade because I want to be an inspiring role model to my girls and to encourage other fathers to be all they can be to their children.

 

It’s not about war heroism, putting on a façade or being false. Let’s not be melodramatic, no one’s going to die, but it’s about getting a job done. It’s about being all you can be and giving it your all. The poem talks about carrying on in the face of errors:

 

Not though the soldier knew
Someone had blundered.
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.

 

This week the weather may have some tricks up it’s sleeve . It’s a bit of an unknown, wondering how you’ll cope in gales and storms, whilst juggling all the other demands of a winter leader – navigation, avalanche and group safety, route choice. At the end of the end of the day, though, I hope I can put aside replies and reasoning whys and simply put to good affect the skills, knowledge and enthusiasm that I’ve built up over the last while.

 

I’m looking forward to a big hug with my wife and little girls next Sunday too.

 

 

Simon is the Morocco Director and an instructor with The Mountain People. He is currently preparing for his Winter Mountain Leader assessment, as chronicled by the ‘Highland Hobo’ series.


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Highland Hobo #1

The cliffs of Lochnagar. Photo courtesy of Nick Bramhall. Some rights reserved.

The cliffs of Lochnagar. Photo courtesy of Nick Bramhall. Some rights reserved.

Rather than sticking to a typically prosaic and bland title, for example, ‘WML Update’, I feel that ‘Highland Hobo’ better befits my current lifestyle and state of mind.

 

I write from the quaint, sleepy town of Ballater, having spent the last three days in the Lochnagar area. Southern Cairngorms. The conditions were rather lacking in the winter department, apart from New Year’s Day, which was was cold and viciously windy. Thereafter, the onset of a rather prolonged thaw brought rain and mild weather, depleting the snowpack and rendering most areas a soggy mess.

 

Nevertheless, I managed three big days, traversing Lochnagar south to north on day one; the plateau east to west on day two; and finally returning from Loch Callater to Loch Muick (pronounced ‘Mick’) yesterday. On all days I took in high Munros and the opportunity to practise WML (Winter Mountain Leader) skills.

 

The main challenge I found was the mental one – all elements, whether decision-making, risk assessment or potential for failure were reduced to a factor of one. There is no one to talk to, no one with whom to share thoughts or plans, no one to ease one’s anxieties and no one with whom to laugh. Solo winter hillwalking or mountaineering requires a great degree of self reliance and determination – something that is key in the UK outdoor ethic – all the more so when undertaking a multi-day expedition.

 

Still, the chance to savour the unique Highland scenery, beautiful light and wild weather was wonderful. I especially enjoyed the freedom in abandoning the continual temptation to check the weather and avalanche forecasts, consulting them once at the beginning with a three day outlook in mind, and then making my progress and choices based on current hill conditions. The snowpack was no doubt benign, but the three-day hill journey seemed to contain a greater degree of consistency and integrity as a result of focussing more on directly underfoot and overhead conditions than those gained electronically.

 

I am glad for a rest day and the chance to wash and shave (a sell-out hobo, clearly!), but keen to get out again tomorrow for the next instalment in the Northern Cairngorms. You can’t keep a hobo down…

 

 

Simon is the Morocco Director and an instructor with The Mountain People. He is currently preparing for his Winter Mountain Leader assessment, as chronicled by the ‘Highland Hobo’ series.

Categories: Blog, NGBs, Personal, Simon, Winter
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