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summit attempt; outsiders perspective

summit attempt; outsiders perspective


Postby desertrat » Sun May 05, 2019 9:04 pm

Route description: Cruach Ardrain and Beinn Tulaichean

Munros included on this walk: Beinn Tulaichean, Cruach Ardrain

Date walked: 05/05/2019

Time taken: 3.4 hours

Distance: 10.9 km

Ascent: 629m

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I set out for my first walk in the Highlands from the Crianlarich train station in good spirits at 12.30 in the afternoon on Saturday May fourth. My plane from the United States had landed earlier that morning and I felt pretty good, so I went for a walk. I noticed that other walkers on the train wore sturdy hiking boots. I thought they were a little over prepared and felt confident in my decision to wear lightweight running shoes. After all, I've walked and jogged several hundred miles and even above 3000m in my trusty running shoes over the years. I figured that these Highlands people just needed to loosen up a little bit and switch to running shoes.

I sauntered along in the finest tradition of John Muir up the gravel roads leading to the forest and Grey Height; soaking in the newness of my first walk in the Highlands. A cheery fellow-walker blew past me just before the power lines. I assumed he was an experienced Highlands walker and that all Highlands walkers are fast. Also, he wore sturdy hiking boots. "Overprepared" I thought and again reflected on hundreds of miles in my running shoes. I considered switching to a jog to keep up with him, but it seemed a pity to run on such a beautiful afternoon.

Upon turning left off the road and into the forest, I took 2 steps and was shocked to find water, literally water, just under the grass and vegetation. This blew my mind. In the American Southwest, where I'm from, we don't have water flowing in the ground and under the grass. What little water we have is generally confined to obvious stream or rivers. To draw from Frank Herbert's Dune: in this moment I felt like someone from the planet Arrakis stepping onto the planet Caladan for the first time. I had never seen nor conceived of such a thing as ground saturated with water everywhere--even on a sloping mountain side.

Suddenly the hiking boots made much, much more sense! My light running shoes, with their open mesh for ventilation, were clearly the wrong choice. I carried on in wet shoes. The temperature was about 7 C and I figured that as long as I kept moving I'd be ok.

Once I left the forest, the ground dried out a little but was still waterlogged in many places. I eventually summitted Grey Height and carried on to the last rise on the ridge toward Cruach Ardrain. My fast hill-walking buddy was about 20 minutes ahead of me and 1/3 of the way up to the summit. I had to catch a train, so I turned around. A few snow pellets fell on the way up and wind picked up considerably blowing out of the northwest. I'd brought the right gear to keep warm, obviously except for the shoes. The views were stunning. The browns, greys and blacks on the step hillsides created a magical landscape that I won't soon forget. Dinner at the Rod and Reel was a wonderful finish.

My feet stayed wet all the way down and then all the way back to Glasgow on the train. All in all, I had wet feet for about 6 hours. Lesson learned.

A delightful day in the Highlands. Everything I'd hoped it would be. Beautiful mountains, great environment, delightful people. Taking the train to a trailhead and then eating a good meal after a long walk were novel treats. Next time I'll wear hiking boots and I'll read the route description here--which clearly states: "avoid the forests on the way to Cruach Ardrain from Crainlarich."
desertrat
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Re: summit attempt; outsiders perspective

Postby Mal Grey » Mon May 06, 2019 8:02 pm

Hi there.

It can be a little damp underfoot in the Highlands, though at Easter much of it was bone dry! Sounds like you had a good day despite the footwear, hope you get out in the hills again before you have to return home.

Oh, and there are a few Highland walkers who prefer mesh lightweight shoes anyway, feeling that the travelling light thing makes up for the wet feet, which will dry anyway. I'm not one of them, I'll be sticking with my boots!
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Re: summit attempt; outsiders perspective

Postby gaffr » Tue May 07, 2019 9:13 am

I too would agree with the boot wearing folks. For Scotland I wouldn't consider any other type of footwear regardless of the weather conditions. I have got the feeling that there is a big push from the 'shoe making' folks to inveigle folks to go lightweight.
Abroad where condition on trails are generally dry I see lots of folks wearing these shoe things....basically not much different from a pair of trainers. When the trail becomes rocky and descents are made on rough broken stones the 'shoes' take a real battering. On a very rough trail in France I was aware of the problems that a group of folks had with these shoe things....strapped up feet, legs and even tape wrapped around the shoes to hold them together.
Since I always carry my trainers in the sack to change into in the evening after a stage on a multi day route and it does give me the option to carry the boots and use the trainers to walk in on softer terrain during a walk.
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Re: summit attempt; outsiders perspective

Postby Sack the Juggler » Tue May 07, 2019 10:44 am

great report and welcome to the forum.

I also like the Dune analogy there, the Scots are definitely Fremen and Scotland is the source of the drug that extends life and enhances mental abilities (whisky).
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Re: summit attempt; outsiders perspective

Postby Phil the Hill » Tue May 07, 2019 1:04 pm

Good to get an outsider's perspective!

Lightweight running shoes are viable in Scotland, but you need to know the conditions and choose your routes with care. If in doubt, go for boots. Fabric Gore-tex lined boots can be a good compromise.
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Re: summit attempt; outsiders perspective

Postby Raynor » Tue May 07, 2019 4:54 pm

If it's any consolation, boots usually end up wet as well, even the waterproof ones. A good pair of merino socks though and you will barely notice.

The term to describe such conditions is "bogfest" :lol:
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Re: summit attempt; outsiders perspective

Postby Sack the Juggler » Tue May 07, 2019 5:34 pm

Raynor wrote:If it's any consolation, boots usually end up wet as well, even the waterproof ones. A good pair of merino socks though and you will barely notice.

The term to describe such conditions is "bogfest" :lol:
I went up Colden here on the Island a few weeks ago, just to do a round, coming back over the summit. I went with a friend who was wearing waterproof boots but no gaiters (I had both).

The route up we chose was absolutely sodden, knee deep in places and luckily, it was my friend who managed to find the really deep bits, whilst I avoided them mainly by avoiding stepping where he did :D

We got to the top of the valley to turn along the path to take us along to the other side of the hill and he had to stop and empty his boots, which were full to the brim, then he had to wring out his socks, I tried not to laugh while he was doing this, unsuccessfully, so I made us a brew to compensate.

It was cold and windy, so I cut the walk short by heading directly up and over the summit from there and back down to the car. I kept asking how his feet were and he said that his feet were not too bad as they had warmed the water up, a little like the wetsuit effect :lol:
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Re: summit attempt; outsiders perspective

Postby desertrat » Fri May 10, 2019 4:36 pm

Loved reading all the discussion. A couple updates.
- After getting home here in the western US, I described the walk to my teenage daughters. They just could not get their head around the idea of water just below the surface on a hillside. It was cute.
- When I come back to walk in the Highlands again, definitely going to put the boots in my suitcase--even for a single day walk. Maybe even some gaiters. Typically in the western US, the boots stay home unless we are expecting extended travel through snow.
- Just for some additional context, here's a picture of my shoes at the train station. Clearly not the optimal choice for the conditions and route :shock:

Cheers to all!

wet_shoes.jpg
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Re: summit attempt; outsiders perspective

Postby Sgurr » Fri May 10, 2019 5:06 pm

In our upstairs cupboard we keep the boots, gaiters, waterproof trousers and collapsible walking poles our US friend needs for his annual trip to the Highlands from the US. These have been gradually acquired over the years from bitter experience. He is gradually walking his way through the Munros, and is now FAR fitter than us, and we need to get him to slow down. (He has a personal trainer). One day in mid May he wore shorts, and had no gloves or hat. Husband managed to find a reserve balaclava, but his hands became frozen. So that is another thing to add to your list. Hope you are back again soon.
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