Bags of Snow. Plastic Bags...

Fake snow in sacks. Delivered all the way from Germany to Glasgow for
use on a shoot in the Scottish Borders area.

Stored temporarily at Visual Impact's building which they share with a
special effects company. I'd called in to order a part for my radio
mic system and found the place full of bags marked 'Bright White'.
Presumably they do different shades of snow. Yellow?

Christening Scotty in the Mountains

We christened Scotty (or Montgommery as we might also call him) with an absolutely superb MTB route. It's one which has huge potential to turn into a multi-day route.  (Photos below).

Right click the image alongside and open it in a separate window - it's a big image with good detail.

From Polloch, just over the hill from our house, we rode up the side of Loch Shiel. The GPS track has us in the water, but that's because it switched itself off for a while.

Lots of timber has been extracted, opening up superb views. After coffee and cake with the friendly folk of the Scottish National Trust shop in Glenfinnan, which was not as expensive as many other cafes around here, we rode on.

Under the 'Harry Potter' viaduct. How Mr MacAlpine must turn in his grave at that now universal description of this engineering beauty he built in 1897 for £18,000. Then up to Corryhully bothy.

I've stayed here a few times when walking across Knoydart from Glen Shiel (not Loch Shiel - confusing eh?). Then we pressed on, discovering we could ride almost to the top of the bealach which leads across to Gleann Cuirneen and down to Strathan.

There's huge potential here.  Go North down this (very boggy) glen to Strathan, East along the road beside Loch Arkaig, then South down the Great Glen Cycleway to Fort William. There, hop the small passenger ferry across to Ardgour, and ride the quiet roads home.

Next time?

Scott Aspect 10 MTB

I felt naked without a mountain bike.  

This was a good excuse to go and replace the old Orange X2 which died on the mountain.  (It would have wanted to go that way).

The Scott Aspect 10 is, in many ways, an inferior bike.  It was certainly cheaper, and I bought the Orange over 15 years ago!

But then I'm an inferior rider nowardays.  I was part of an informal team that blazed challenging multi-day routes across Scotland, long before other mountain bikers got there.  I was the one who photographed and write up the routes / stories for MBUK.  Those days seem to be over, replaced by sea kayaking.

Still, I hope we'll have many miles together. 

Werner Paddle Buttons

A shiny new set of Werner Corryvreckan blades arrived recently along with a set of Shuna blades.

I see werner has now recessed the button in the adjustable ferrule so it can't accidentally be released.  This prompted me to fit the button covers Werner supplied for the old-style shafts on which the button could be knocked. 

So our Ikelos and Cyprus now are protected by these covers.

I'm trying the glass blades as an alternative to the carbon foam core to see if they're more gentle on my left shoulder, which still has a few problems.  

It would be nice if I could be retrofitted with a solution.

Broke Bike Mountain

More of a hill really, but it broke this deer.  And it broke my bike.

She was old.  The bike, not the deer.  Or Liz.  She was an old Orange X2 full suspension that had seen better days.  Every bump made her pivot groan and squeak.  Bike arthritis.  

Grinding uphill, I shifted into the lowest gear and came to a clattering halt.  The derallieur had travelled too far and tangled with the spokes, bending itself off the bike.

A field repair worked enough to get home, but it looked like a new mech was needed.  Too expensive for an old bike.  So her stripped down frame is lying behind the shed.  The wheels / forks / suspension I might be able to sell on ebay.

Now I need a new bike to abuse. 

'We need more photos' says Editor

I thought I had taken enough photos when paddling the Scottish Sea Kayak Trail. Apparently not. The good men at Pesda Press wanted more.
Excerpt from their brief - 'Full page inspirational photos could be absolutely anything... the gyrating heavenly night sky on a super long exposure... the aurora borealis... a lovely close-up of some Ocean Samphire... a line caught mackerel... and of course a lovely campfire.'

I sent out the request to friends in the sea kayaking world and have been astonished and delighted with the response. More than 260 photos are now on a closed website from which Pete at Pesda can choose.

Some of them are so good they make me want to give up photography. Or perhaps just aim to get better.

A HUGE thank you to you all.

Adventure Show - Kayak & Canoe Slalom Event

This rock was my view for most of Saturday.

A was sat on a rock in the middle of the River Tay filming slalom kayaks and canoes as they whizzed past.  It was the Grandtully Premier Race organised by the Scottish Canoe Association.

One of my colleague came over the radio.  "You look like Golem perched there".  Nice.  Thanks Paul.

I was dropped off by a nice woman from the river rafting company Freespirits.  Actually, she deposited me on that rock infront of me.  I had to climb down the river, through that white water, carrying a camera, to land my bottom on a flatter rock.  

I decided it would be more comfortable and secure place to spend six hours.  (Comfort is a relative term in this case.)

At noon, as the racing paused for an hour was given temporary reprieve from 'Alcatraz' as this rock became known.  Just enough time to do a tape change, battery change, grab half a sandwich and head back to the rock.

Fortunately safety cover was being provided by Ken Lacey of Sea Kayak Scotland.  That's him, sitting on the left bank wearing a blue helmet, ready to bag me.  Just in case.

The programme will be shown in the June edition of The Adventure Show on BBC-2 Scotland.

Scottish Sea Kayak Trail - Website

I've updated the website Scottish Sea Kayak

As well as links to Pesda's page, there is also a forum where I hope people will share their knowledge of the area through which the trail passes.  Particularly if they feel I've made a mistake or missed something vital.

I can also add information about the trail as I receive it.

There's another section of the forum for anyone offering services along the trail, such as kayak rental, guiding or accommodation.

And there's a little piece of video too.  It's a cut-down of longer piece I'll show at the book launch during the (fully booked) Scottish Sea Kayak Symposium.


Review - Sea Kayak Handling by Doug Cooper

Sea Kayak Handling does not touch on rolling, rescues or many of the myriad skills which make a good sea kayaker. That’s not the brief Doug Cooper has set himself.

Instead he will steer you through the following: Foundation skills (how to connect with the boat); forward paddling; travelling in a straight line; reverse paddling; edging; static turning; forward turns on the move; reverse turns on the move; stern rudders; moving sideways; support strokes; use of skegs and use of rudders.

All this comes from the Head of Paddlesport at Glenmore Lodge, Scotland’s National Outdoor Centre. Any fool can waffle on for ages. Distilling their great volume of knowledge into the essential elements is a complex skill in its own right. Doug clearly knows what he’s doing, both on the page and in the kayak.

A truly innovative idea by Doug was to link the book to a website with videos of him performing the strokes. I shot those clips with Doug and now I see the whole package together I realize what a superb idea it was. I suspect we’ll see more of this – and hopefully I’ll get to film it.

Here's an example. E-mail to purchase higher quality clips on DVD.

The size and layout of Sea Kayak Handling by Doug Cooper is very similar to Sea Kayak Navigation by Franco Ferrero, and both bear the sub-title ‘A practical manual’. Both are recommended as support material for BCU courses which should ensure they sell well.

Don’t take this to bed expecting a cracking good read. Do take it to pool practice sessions. Better still, buy two copies, cut one up and laminate the pages so you can take them out on the water.

Lismore Circumnavigation

Our first real paddle of the year was a 45km circumnavigation of Lismore.  We'd done it before in June 2006 when we took two days, even though we really only needed one.  This time the tides were perfect to do it as a single journey.    

Incidentally, there's a team of decorators at work on that lighthouse.  We went around it, after the ferry had gone, and saw their work close up.  That must be a pretty good contract to get - painting Scotland's lighthouses!

Click the map for a larger version of the GPS track.

National Geographic Adventure Article - 'Will Paddle for Whisky'

Sea kayaking around Jura and Islay linking distilleries.

Organised by Tony Hammock of it's a good read. And very good publicity for Tony. 

From Crinan they go through the Gulf of Corryvreckan and... well, you read it. Photograph by David Leathborough.

Here the author Andrew Todhunter writes about hiking to one of the raised beaches on the remote north coast of Jura.

Before dinner, I rallied some strength to hike up through a field of fern and bog cotton to inspect one of those raised beaches, a hundred-yard-long swath of packed stones piled steeply into a well-defined wall. Could the wind have blown them into such a sharp ridge, I wondered, given enough time? Not stones of that size—nothing could have formed this but the pounding waves. This wall, I realized, had been beaten into shape by storms that struck the beach more than 10,000 years before Christ, more than 7,000 years before Khufu built the Great Pyramid. The stones had sat this way ever since, unneeded and thus undisturbed for more than 400 generations. I picked one up, weighed it in my hand, and set it carefully back in place.

Good stuff.

Cross-country Ski, Cross-training

With the Glen Affric Duathlon just two weeks away I could try to claim we went to Norway for some quality aerobic conditioning. Nordic cross-country ski-ing being a superb work-out for upper and lower body.

I could admit we put ourselves in the hands of ex-competition skier / runner / kayaker and all round good friend Erling. He helped us stay upright on this very different type of skiing. No chair lifts or tows here. Just two pairs of grooves cut in the snow along which our skinny skis could slide.

It's unlikely I could successfully claim we hardy types endured the privations of a basic cabin, this being the winter weekend home of Erling's friend - a championship standard ski-athlete.

But I can honestly claim a superbly relaxing holiday. That duathlon? Oh it's two weeks away.

The Great Kayaker Clean Up - do your bit

Today is 1st April, but this is no April Fool. The Scottish Canoe Association is asking all canoeists and kayakers to take a bin bag out with them and bring it back full of someone else's rubbish.

The initiative is called Clear Water 2009. SCA board member Eddie Palmer said: “We are asking individual paddlers, clubs and outdoor centres to make an even greater effort than normal to pick up litter from one of their favourite stretches of water during the month of April. We are not stipulating a particular date, just anytime in April.”

Their press release continues: Whilst the SCA wishes to publicise the problems associated with litter, especially in and around water, we accept that mass litter picks are not the ultimate solution to this problem. From a recreational point of view we believe that everyone taking their recreation in the countryside should remove at least one piece of litter every time they go out. That simple act of everyone picking up a piece of litter every time would make a huge difference. Eventually, however, we need to really get tough on those who drop litter and leave their rubbish lying around the countryside.

I shot this video two years ago close to Mallaig.