Monday, 24 January 2011

Kayak trip Stonehaven

A high pressure above Scotland last Saturday meant calm seas, so off we went to our usual lanch site at Stonehaven harbour to explore the south coast there by sea kayak. Although we've been there many times, I was surprised to see caves I hadn't been in before (well, probably I have but I didn't remember anymore like with so many things according to Jaap!). Anyway, the conditions were just perfect to really take in the details of the rocks, spot a big seal and watch hundreds of guillemots flying off the cliffs just above our heads. Definitely food for the soul, as my neighbour (also a keen kayaker) told me when we got back!

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Ski adventures

With so much snow early in the winter season, I decided to change my current alpine ski bindings into mountaineering ones, and buy skins and special ski boots so that I could also explore the local hills and mountains without a ski lift. First I managed to walk up Hill of Fare, near Banchory. It wasn't as easy as I had hoped; walking uphill went fine, but as soon as I got near the top, I sunk through the icy layer on top of the powder snow and got stuck in the heavy heather underneath! Skiing down was also a challenge because I didn't want to follow the same route. When I saw this beautiful, pristine slope I just had to take the risk and make my tracks. The fact that I could see it would end up in front of a dense forest, didn't put me off. By following my instinct and sense of direction (I know the hill quite well), ploughing through that lovely white powder, around tree trunks and following a deer helped me finally finding my way back to the forest track again.

My second adventure was Clachnaben on the 23rd of December. This was a complete different experience. First I had to negiotiate my way through a hunting party from London who were there to shoot their own game for Christmas dinner. After they assured me that I wouldn't be treated the same way, I continued my way up the track. I soon found out that ski mountaineering equipment is not the best for long tracks; you don't want to fiddle too much with your skins, taking them on and off everytime, but carrying your skis on your shoulders is not a good alternative either (I found out the hard way the next day). Another problem was that there was hardly enough snow underneath the trees alongside the forest. But after about an hour and a half I reached the bottom of the hill and started the proper walk uphill. Hard work, yes, but when you finally reach the top, have taken off your skins in a relatively sheltered spot behind a rock to shelter from a gusty and cold wind, fuelled up with hot drink and some carbos, take in the stunning views across the area and realise that you're the only person there, and know that you'll be making fresh tracks soon, the hardship is soon forgotten!


After my Scottish skiing trips it was time for something else. Jaap was soon going to start a new job and he had some extra holidays left, so we decided to go to Voss in Norway. I've never seen so much snow falling in such a short time (about half a meter in a day!). Even the Norwegians couldn't remember such a winter for a very long time (an ex-ski instructor told us he lived there since the 70's and never experienced this). Lucky us!