Friday 5 August 2011

Scotland- Ice Climbing, Harry Potter and a Big Waterfall…

A few days later than planned but here's the next installation of our adventures in Scotland!

After our walk up Ben Nevis we planned a fairly relaxing day on the Saturday with just an ice-climbing session at the Ice Factor Kinlochleven, but of course relaxation is not what we go on holiday for, so we hired a car and tried to fit as much as possible in one day as we could!

Waking up I (Sarah) was surprised at how little pain I was in from Ben Nevis the previous day. Sore knees and a little bit stiff, which I thought would make ice climbing interesting, but felt relatively good.

The Ice Factor is Europe’s largest indoor climbing facility, set in the old Alcan buildings, and the chamber is literally a giant walk in freezer! There’s some impressive indoor walls too, which I had contemplated on giving ago after the ice session… but seeing as my arms felt like they were going to fall off a walk around their shop felt like a better option.

I was really excited about this, I loved the ice climbing in Finland, even though I found it tough and putting on the crampons and ice climbing boots reminded me how much I loved it. Ben was really excited too and we couldn’t wait to get in and get going.

Andy, our instructor, ran over the basics again and let us play around on the lower part of the wall, practising moving with crampons and putting the ice axes into the wall. Then it was off up the first wall. At first I struggled, but once in a rhythm and remembering to keep the axes close together and feet wide apart I made it to the top.

Next up was Ben, he was doing well and I was in a rhythm belaying when he slipped. Thankfully I reacted quickly, sat down to take the weight and held him before he fell too far.

We had three goes each, the last one on a steeper wall which really tested those tender muscles from the walking. Our knot tying and belaying skills seem to be good after the sessions at Leeds Wall and we are almost ready to be let loose on our own!

Next up was Glencoe Visitor Centre, I visited it last year with my parents and standing on the viewing deck with the mountains towering around you is just an amazing feeling and makes you feel very small! We took the woodland walk, but unfortunately there is a lot of tree felling at the moment so parts of it were a bit boring.

After asking at Glencoe information desk about the Ben Nevis Distillery tours, we hopped back in the car and drove North, pulling up we jumped out of the car expecting tours very half an hour, as we had been told. Presuming the sign was wrong, that said the next tour was the following day, a very unfriendly man informed us it was correct- only one tour per day! There were plenty of us milling around and a mini bus pulled up for a tour just as we were leaving, so there definitely wasn’t a lack of interest.

After a bit of indecision, it was then off west to Glenfinnan to look at the Harry Potter viaduct from below. One thing we weren’t prepared for was the cost of parking, toilets and entry everywhere- so a tip is to make sure you always have change, especially 20p for the loos!

We took some great pictures at the Viaduct and across Loch Sheil- also famous in the movies as the backdrop of the viaduct. Heading back to the car we spotted a huge stag on the hillside- even from a distance his antlers were very impressive!

Then it was off back to Glen Nevis and up to waterfalls at the head of the glen. The Lower Falls actually run right under the road and we watched some crazy guys jumping off the bridge, and off the roof of a van, into the pool at the foot of the falls. The higher falls, or Steall Falls were a short drive up a single track to a car park then a walk up the gorge.

By this point there were a few dark clouds coming over the mountains and as we set off the storm alarm on my watch started to bleep. We had a rucksack with the necessities for highland walking, but not knowing how long the walk was, how strenuous and it was getting late in the day, I was quite nervous. We asked a few walkers coming our direction but got different answers, so we set a time to turn back and carried on walking.

Having seen some people come back from the falls in flip flops, suit jackets and various other ‘not suitable for walking’ clothes, we were surprised at the scrambling and slippery rocks on the route that runs high above the gorge, with the sound of water pounding below. Suddenly the gorge opens up to a wide meadow and in front is a waterfall straight out of Jurassic Park. Even from a distance the height is magnificent.

Reaching the river we found it was either a river crossing or a steal rope bridge and with my storm alarm still going off I made the decision it was time to turn back. Later we found it was extremely muddy on the other side anyway, so it’s on our list to still do next time we go back.

So that was out last hectic day in the Highlands, before heading down to Comrie, just north of Stirling. Still to come… open campfires, camping, woolly cows and proper Scottish weather!

1 comment:

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