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Best Day Challenge -- story + one photo

Best Day Challenge -- story + one photo


Postby kmai1961 » Thu Apr 02, 2020 7:24 am

The Challenge: Tell us about your best walking day ever.

Unlike Mal’s “Your Favourite Views” thread, this one has a few rules:

  • Write no more than 3-4 short paragraphs of text that describe the outing – where you were, when you were there, what made it special (for example, the views, the company, your first, your last, the best/worst weather, etc.).
  • (Optional) Include one – but only one – photo that best represents your story.
  • No links to existing reports allowed; you must write a new description -- think of it as a homeschool assignment. :lol:
  • One item per customer, err, that is, one post per user.

I’m interested to see where this goes. I’ve no doubt that it’s a difficult task for most—it wouldn’t be a challenge otherwise, would it? I’m not sure I’ll be able to do it myself, to be honest. I’ve got a short list of about a dozen in my head, and that’s before I’ve trawled through reports and photos. To pick just one Best Day seems very unfair to all the other Best Days!

Even if you don’t post, thinking about all those days, and what it was that made them Best is likely to put a smile on your face and pass a bit (or a lot) of time!

This idea came to life during my Boris walk this morning. Those walks are done mostly in the dark, which is why I’ve not posted a report, Gordie :wink: .
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Re: Best Day Challenge -- story + one photo

Postby Mal Grey » Thu Apr 02, 2020 9:56 am

An excellent plan, and I've already narrowed my choice down to less than fifty so will give it a go once I narrow it down further! :lol:

Unfortunately my absolute very best days are too long ago for photos, so I'll pick one from a bit more recently.
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Re: Best Day Challenge -- story + one photo

Postby nigheandonn » Thu Apr 02, 2020 10:32 am

Is there a closing date? :)
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Re: Best Day Challenge -- story + one photo

Postby Skyelines » Thu Apr 02, 2020 1:35 pm

Tower Ridge

We turned left at the halfway lochan and skirted round past the hut and below the Douglas Boulder.
Scrambled up and followed crampon scratch marks on dry rock to reach the ridges shoulder.
The memory now has gaps, 38 years have passed, grey rock and concentration, no rope, to some that is a shock.
We traversed left and ducked beneath a giant boulder, a tunnel, then squirmed out on polished rock.
Ever upward to the prize, a narrow, yes very narrow “bridge” and long steep drops both ways were eyed.
This gap, the Tower Gap, was not one lost to memory. A short climb down, a little ledge and steep up the other side.
In no time at all we’re sitting on the summit, no champagne for celebration just the feeling of achievement and exhilaration.
Alas no photo to help recall the day, film was costly and not available in sales, I’ll just have to make do with one of me in Wales. (Sorry)
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Re: Best Day Challenge -- story + one photo

Postby kmai1961 » Thu Apr 02, 2020 2:00 pm

nigheandonn wrote:Is there a closing date? :)


Nope. No prizes, either. Just a bit of fun.

Skyelines wrote:Tower Ridge...


Thanks, Skyelines, for getting us started. Great story! :clap:

I did anticipate that responses might fall roughly into two categories -- from people who know exactly what their standout day was, and for which it's unlikely to be surpassed, and from people who are hard-pressed to choose the Best ever from a long list of Bests. :D
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Re: Best Day Challenge -- story + one photo

Postby Sunset tripper » Sun Apr 05, 2020 1:58 am

I had wanted to visit St. Kilda for a long time. Eventually I found someone daft enough to go with me (on the one condition that we climbed Clisham en route :roll:) so we went there in May 2014.
St. Kilda is a double UNESCO world heritage site, the only one in the UK, and a place that will blow you away.
As for walking, the climb to Conachair, the highest point on St. Kilda is relatively easy but a view like no other. The summits on the other islands of St. Kilda are some of the most difficult in the country. :shock:
Speeding back on the boat to Harris the dolphins were performing about a metre from where I was sitting out back on the deck.
The picture is from the Tarbert Skye ferry on the way home. When looking through the pics I chose this one because I remember how good it felt at this point.

Mission accomplished :D
20140527_124018.jpg


Inverness to St. Kilda as the crow flies :D

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Re: Best Day Challenge -- story + one photo

Postby Mal Grey » Sun Apr 05, 2020 12:31 pm

I've pondered this for a while; a more recent one where I have a photo to show, or one from many years back where I don't. And then half way through writing this report I glanced up, remembering I've had 2 prints from this day on my wall for nearly 20 years!

Runners up include an amazing Coire Lagan round during an outstanding week on Skye in 1991ish when we also managed most of the other summits and a Clach Glas - Bla Bheinn traverse. There have also been incredible days on the winter hills, and relatively recent ones to Mullach Coire Mhich Fhearchair and to Beinn Dearg stand out.


The Longest Day

In the end, there's little doubt about what was the most memorable day though, and in a way it is appropriate for this weird time when we are banned from the hills. In winter 2001, we headed to the Highlands as we have done most years since leaving college in the late 80s. I think we had a couple of nights at Gerry's, then headed to Willie's bunkhouse at the entrance to Glen Elchaig. Conditions were great, there was plenty of snow on the hills, and the weather was stable with high pressure ruling.

Meanwhile, and little known to us, the countryside was closing all around us as Foot & Mouth spread. One evening, Willie popped his head round the door and told us the estate had decided to stop access to the hills. Bugger. However, he added that because we were already there, and he could decontaminate our footwear and other gear, they were happy that we could still go walking if we didn't leave the area. Result.

The next morning we were up early, just after first light. Willie was lending us bicycles to speed up the long walk-in to our intended target, Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan. We saddled up on these somewhat decrepit steeds, and wobbled off up the road with winter packs on our backs festooned with ice axes and crampons. A Landrover pulled us over at Killilan, but the driver was happy once he knew we'd come from Willie's and that he'd sprayed our footwear, and wished us a good day.

Its a long way up to Carnach, and though the track is good, much of it old tarmac, it still took us a while. Leaving the bikes there we crossed the river and started to head up hill, still in the shade of the hills. Only a few hundred metres up we reached the snow line. It was one of those unusually clear boundaries that you get occasionally. One minute you're on brown tussocky grass, the next on crunchy proper snow. With the temperatures low, the snow was pretty good, though slowed us a bit. Coming over the shoulder of the hill into the sunshine, Creag Glas towered above us, our first target for the day. It was quite heavy going, but as the sun reached us, we were now sweating and losing layers.

Reaching the ridge, the snow had firmed up into perfect neve, and our crampons and axes came out. The skies were blue and endless, and ahead of us a glistening series of peaks led on towards the twin summit. Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan is a big hill, 1151m tall, and complex with a series of subsidiary peaks defending the approach. It was still 3 miles to the top and already our legs were feeling it. That snow, though, was wonderful. Our spikes gripped perfectly into the firm surface, no wading required, and the traverse over Stuc Fraoch Coire, Stuc Mor and Stuc Beag was fabulous, weaving between rocks covered in rime ice.

The going was easier on the final slopes to the west top, and we were nearly there. West and East tops are just 500m apart, with only a modest drop, and the view ahead was stunning. A corniced ridge dropped out of site to a small bealach, before rising to the higher peak. We started down cautiously, for the slope was falling away our of sight. As the ridge narrowed, there was a sudden steep section.

This required a little thought. Walking out carefully along a narrow spine of snow, I then turned into the face, the drop sucking at my heels, and traversed diagonally downwards, kicking steps all the way for the lads. It felt secure, but was not a place for a mistake for the slopes below were near vertical until my traverse line reached the gentler gradients of the col.

Ten minutes later we reached the roof of the world. For that is what it felt like on this outstanding day. The summit is just like a roof line, on which we sat in shirt sleeves under the glaring sun, the whole world glistening around us. Peak after peak marched out into the distance, capped on the southern horizon by the hunched shape of The Ben. It is a lunch stop that I will never forget as we sat quietly supping our soup, lost in awe.

The realisation that time was moving a little too quickly eventually had us moving, back to the west peak. The steep section was much easier to ascend than to descend, and soon we were looking at our return route. Tiring now, we didn't want to go over the 4 subsidiary tops again, so decided to drop down the northwest shoulder to Creag nan Clachan Geala, before descending and following a lower level line above the glen floor to the top of Coire Easach. Of course, this took longer than we expected, for down in the glen the snow was softer and the going tough. We were also shattered.

Normally, a steep path zig zags down over the edge where the Allt Coire Easach tumbles down steep slopes to the valley floor. Today, though, there was just enough snow here for the route to be hidden, and the ground was quite awkward. As we dropped into the glen, we left the snow behind. This led to the sudden realisation that it was actually pretty much dark now. On the snow, the dusk hadn't really mattered, but now we struggled to see where to place our feet. Fortunately there wasn't far to go before the slope levelled out and not long later we wearily reached the bikes.

We still had to cycle all the way back down the glen, in the dark, on an icy track. We strapped feeble Petzl Zooms to our heads, but they were of little use. What made the difference though, was stunning. As our eyes adjusted, the stars came out, wheeling above our heads, their twinkling light shining off the snow covered slopes above us, and we could see just enough to ride. That return down the shimmering, cold, glen was the finest end to a day on the hill I can remember.

The last miles were agony, as the glen floor flattened out and short little climbs taxed our knackered legs, but we'd had the best day you could ever imagine. The next day, the estate closed the hills completely, and our week was over.


Image

Looking to the main summit from the west top



Image

Looking back to the steep section and the west top from the summit. (Naughty rule breaking second photo!)
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Re: Best Day Challenge -- story + one photo

Postby Sgurr » Tue Apr 07, 2020 11:57 pm

There are so may beautiful hills and so many memorable days, it is hard to choose one, but I will be totally conventional and say Sgurr Alasdair . My husband needed the Inaccessible Pinnacle to complete his round, though I had still many to go, and this was the third attempt. We had been with friends and it had rained. The guide Mike Lates had offered us the option of going up Sgurr Bannadich instead and it had rained even more. I ate my lunch near a rock...it could have been a power shower. The second time, the friends had gone and it was an even more convincing wash out, we didn't even start, but told Mike that we would happily join any outing where a client wouldn't mind sharing the cost. A month later we had a phone call on the Sunday that Tuesday looked good to go. On Monday, en route I nearly did my husband in by suggesting that as I hadn't climbed Carn Mor Dearg, and as it was on the way, we could do that too. For good measure we added the Ben. Next day my husband was nearly crippled, but a mixture of adrenaline and ibuprofen got him moving. The other client was a tough looking engineer from Sheffield called Pete whose last Munros this outing was to be. I begged Mike to slow down, as they were going to fast for me (then only 64). I was scared and had gone thinking I would watch the final ascent, but Mike gave me a hard hat and clipped me onto the rope in the novice position just behind him. I had my sun hat underneath and it acted like blinkers preventing me from seeing the drops to either side. I somehow managed to scrabble up and Pete ran over to pick me up when I landed in an ungainly heap off the abseil. Phew. That was it, or so I thought. Then Mike said "Pete wants to do Sgurr M'Coinich too, what about you? " Husband had already done it, but I hadn't. "Is there an easier way?" "No, this is the easy way." Then "Pete wants to do Sgurr Alasdair." Off we went, over Sgurr Tearlich. Pete swearing because he couldn't find a ledge for his feet. Me shaking, because Pete's legs were longer than mine. Pete stretching my legs down onto the ledge. Whoops. Me falling in a heap on Pete, husband and Mike following. Finally Sgurr Alasdair. Then Mike and Pete went skipping down to reposition a car at the bottom and we reverted to being The Saga Tour of the Cuillin. Fourteen years later in a Broadford car park, Mike recognised me. He must have had hundreds of clients since that day. I think I may have traumatised him. Pete wrote away for his certificate, and then found that his brother had done it for him. he would have liked to have been Munroist number 3,000 but is the only person to have two certificates for one round, one just each side of the magic number.

Below, Sgurr Alasdair
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Re: Best Day Challenge -- story + one photo

Postby Mal Grey » Thu Apr 16, 2020 2:13 pm

Just a "bump" to see if anybody else wants to contribute their own story?
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Re: Best Day Challenge -- story + one photo

Postby kmai1961 » Fri Apr 17, 2020 6:15 pm

Although I could easily continue to ponder on this for a few more weeks of lockdown, I feel obligated to make my contribution, given that I was the one that threw down the gauntlet. There’s one that keeps rising to the top, even though posting an entry about Ben Nevis—at least partially—seems unimaginative, and even cliché. There are far worthier hills (imho), from a character standpoint, from an enjoyable walk standpoint, and from an “I almost always prefer quiet and solitude over heaving masses” standpoint. It’s about the best *day* though, not the best hill (hmm….maybe there’s another challenge?), so here goes:

It was the beginning of an action-packed week, with two days’ worth of Paddy’s guiding skills on Skye being the fulcrum around which the trip was planned. It had been logistically challenging, involving ferry trips, a changing cast of characters, and numerous accommodation bookings in various locations. There’d been many petitions to the weather gods in the run up to the event.

The day we climbed Ben Nevis via Carn Mor Dearg and the arête positively sparkled: wall-to-wall sunshine, cloudless blue skies. I was in the company of several of my favourite walking pals; those who weren’t with us today would be joining us in Knoydart a couple of days hence. Spirits were high, and looking over to the impressive North Face kept us occupied during the long, hot, and midge-filled ascent to the summit of CMD.

Image

The arête was exciting, but not terrifying. Traversing the boulder field was a bit tedious and tiring. Our jaws dropped when we reached the summit plateau, trying to reconcile the hundreds of people crawling all over the trig point, the cairns, and the various structures that decorate the summit with the dozen or so souls who’d been in our company across the arête. We could but laugh helplessly and shake our heads as we retreated to a relatively quiet corner to have our lunch.

Even the time it took to descend to the halfway lochan—dodging the hordes who were unfamiliar with path etiquette, inadequately equipped, and ignoring the signs to not cut corners—didn’t dampen the mood much, although it was a huge relief to leave the masses behind, and enjoy the remainder of the descent in relative peace and quiet. We swore, to a (wo)man, “never again…” (via the Mountain Track, that is).

There wasn’t any single thing about the day that was particularly remarkable; it was a series of ordinary things—the weather, the companionship, the route, the sunburn, the post-walk dinner and beers at the Nevis Inn—that aligned spectacularly to make an outing that, nearly four years later, still lingers strong in memory, and still makes me smile. I easily remember the euphoria I felt that day.

Postscript: We went on to spend three tough but tremendously satisfying days in Knoydart, and a further two on Skye, tidying up what we’d started the year before. “That one perfect week in June 2016” saw all of us successfully complete the wish lists we’d drawn up before departing; something that hasn't happened to me since.
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Re: Best Day Challenge -- story + one photo

Postby Mal Grey » Fri Apr 17, 2020 8:10 pm

lingers strong in memory, and still makes me smile


Which is exactly why its such a great choice. Its the people and the moment that make a great day on a fab hill into a truly special one.
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Re: Best Day Challenge -- story + one photo

Postby HalfManHalfTitanium » Sun Apr 19, 2020 7:46 pm

“Daddy, will there be snow on the big mountain?”
“No. Are your boots comfy?”
Buffet breakfast, Marriott Hotel, Flagstaff, Arizona. 6.00am, but the television is on. Forecast for a clear, sunny day. 29 October 2007.
Outside, a thin frost on the hire car. It’s not quite dawn. Black triangles rise into a cobalt sky: the Kachina Range, topped by Humphreys Peak, 12,633 ft, the highest point in Arizona. Me and my two children, aged 8 and 5. Is this a mad idea?
The switchback road snakes up through forest. Beyond the car park, a broad sloping prairie they’ll soon be using for skiing: the Arizona Snowbowl. We reach a dark line of forest.
“The Gruffalo lives in here, Daddy.”
“What does the Gruffalo eat?”
“Owl ice cream, owl ice cream!”
A trail leads into the woods, deeper and deeper. But these aren’t half-tame British woods. They’re home for puma and black bears (obviously, I triple-checked all potential risks!) but more to the point, there are fallen trees across the trail. Trees bigger than any I’ve seen in Britain. Each one is a five-minute obstacle course for us to clamber over or tunnel under, which the children enjoy more than I do. Between the branches high above us, the moon looks down on our efforts. The sky is pale now, as the sun begins to climb.
The trail is narrow but clear, weaving this way and that way through the woods, but with every step it climbs steadily, like a well-built stalker’s path.
Of course, I don’t expect to reach the top. A five year old child summitting a 12,000 foot peak? But I hope we’ll reach the col between Humphreys and its equally imposing neighbour Agassiz.
As we wander along, I tell them stories of my schooldays. “Daddy, were the children naughty at your school? What was the naughtiest thing they did?”
The trees are much smaller now, and there are patches of scree and dusty, barren slopes. And then I see the first one. “Look, there it is! A thousand times older than you are.”
It’s one of the world’s oldest living things - a bristlecone pine. It’s small and scabby. If there was such a thing as a toilet brush tree, then it would look like this.
Amid the scattered bristlecones, suddenly, we’re here. The col. A new view open below us, and the scale is stupendous. The col is a low point on the rim of the caldera of a monster volcano, perhaps the height of Kilimanjaro, that exploded two million years ago. Humphreys, Agassiz and their many satellites are the jagged rim of the resulting crater.
We have an early lunch, and admire the astonishing view. The children scamper about and try to climb a bristlecone pine. I thought this would be our turn-round point, but they’re full of energy.
So on we go. The caldera edge towers into the sky ahead of us, a tall fin of basalt, but the trail weaves cunningly round to the right of it. A short, Cuillin-ish scramble, and we’re on the crest. Time for another break, and a post-lunch snack, and plenty of water.
From here on, the ridge is broad and bouldery, a volcanic jumble. We reach one false summit, then another.
“I’ve invented a drink, Daddy. I mixed up the ingredients last night. It’s in my water bottle”
“What’s in the drink?”
“Cream soda, coca cola and sweets. And chocolates, they melted in my pocket. Do you want some, Daddy?”
We sit down, and they share the drink. After a while , we get up and walk up another section of rocky ridge.
And then it stops rising. Ahead, beyond a cairn, we’re looking down.
There’s a piece of wood on top of the cairn, with the altitude written on it: 12,633 ft. It’s as if the mountain is saying to us “Yes, you’ve done it.”
The world below feels rather like looking down from space: everything is small. Major landscape features - Monument Valley, the Ship Rock in New Mexico, Meteor Crater - can be made out, but they look tiny. Even the Grand Canyon is a thin dark line along the horizon. But the children are very pleased to spot Flagstaff below us, like the tiniest toy town surrounded by vast forests, and on a little hill the Lowell Observatory which we visited yesterday.
Another walker appears: the first person we’ve seen all day. He takes our photo, we chat, and we soak in this extraordinary moment.
“We’re up in the sky here, Daddy.”
It’s a long walk down. Back in the forest, the number of fallen trees we have to clamber over seems to have doubled. But finally, we step out of the forest and look across the prairie, with the setting sun silhouetting the faraway peaks of the western Mogollon Rim.
“I can see the car!”
“Who wants pizza for tea?”

I’ve not put in a photo - they are all there in my TR at https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=64484
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Re: Best Day Challenge -- story + one photo

Postby Mal Grey » Sun Apr 19, 2020 11:04 pm

Just fabulous. A day in a million.
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Re: Best Day Challenge -- story + one photo

Postby HalfManHalfTitanium » Mon Apr 20, 2020 3:31 pm

Mal Grey wrote:Just fabulous. A day in a million.


thanks Mal Grey! yours was a great story too - and love the photos!

tim
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