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Thread: The Joy of Winter in Glen Affric

  1. #1
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    Default The Joy of Winter in Glen Affric

    I have for many years enjoyed camping in winter. There is sense of body and mind being cleansed by a good frost, I feel. Waking up at the end of a cold night, feeling warm and cosy in a down cocoon is both soothing and enjoyable, though interrupted by the need to pee...
    The canoe allows me to carry all manner of luxuries, the only downside being the number of trips along the icy path between boat and car. I set out from the dam at the East end of Loch Beinn a’Mheadhoin.



    There had been a hard frost and a little snow overnight, bringing a sense of winter magic. The sun was out but little of it’s warmth reached through the steep hills and trees around the loch.


    I had not explored this end of the loch before so set out to find my way around the islands and peninsulas, with an eye out for possible camp sites for later on.







    The spirit of Shackleton was evoked when I discovered the channel was mostly iced over. A combination of ramming speed and heavier paddle got through the obstruction.




    This area is beautiful at any time, but was particularly stunning with the combination of snow, sun and light wind. I paddled slowly, pausing frequently to absorb the atmosphere and try to capture something with the camera.














    As I traveled westwards into more open water the wind was more apparent. I found a good place for lunch that was out of the wind but in the sun. As I chewed on a Gorgonzola and marmalade sandwich (try it!) I noticed that the small island directly in the sun was moving. I’d heard of cheese causing hallucinations but never experienced that before. However the island was getting closer and, strangely for a midweek day on a northern loch in winter, turned into a canoe with two people in it. Jamie and Max had had a late start after a night that began with rain, turning to snow and ice. They were on a bus(h)man’s holiday, up from Sheffield where they run Howl Bushcraft. We immediately got on well and arranged to meet up again later in the day.

    I continued along the loch, into the wind which was strong enough to warrant some zigzagging. Having got most of the way down the loch I had a photography break then got the sail up.







    It didn’t take long to get back to my lunch place, where the wind dropped. It wasn’t long before I located the others and set up camp nearby. We had a nice beach with some flat ground for their voyageur style bivvy and some good trees for my hammock. As the sun went down the firebox lit up and cooking got underway. I’d brought the leftover Christmas beer rations which were gratefully received by all.





    It was properly dark quite early, with a clear sky soon speckled by stars. We cooked, talked and ate, with occasional pauses for some photos.




    It was cold that night, getting down to -10c. I was pleased to only have to get up once in the night, despite the tea and beer I’d consumed. My hammock was so warm I had to take off some layers after a couple of hours. The early morning light, with the moon going down, demanded more pictures.



    Max had made a delicious bannock from the bushcraft larder the night before, which was thawed and warmed up for breakfast.



    There was a lot more ice on the sheltered water, which combined with the light to require more photos.
















    After indulging our narcissism Max and Jamie set off to the far end of the loch and a long drive south. I had a more relaxed journey ahead.









    So ended a couple of great days on and off the water.

    Thanks for reading.

    Mike


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

  2. #2
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    Good wee blog , the water level on Loch Beinn a’Mheadhoin was higher the last time I was there , looks about three foot lower just now , its one of my favourite lochs to paddle its stunning at any time of year ,, need to get up that way again soon !!

  3. #3
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    Wonderful time of year to visit this magical glen. Some great photos there, especially the reflections.

    I must get back there.
    Paddler,blogger,camper,pyromaniac: Blog: Wilderness is a State of Mind

    Paddle Points - where to paddle

  4. #4
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    You’ve got a better core temp than I have ... but I’m pleased you do. Lovely photos and blog. Thanks
    MarkL
    www.canoemassifcentral.com
    Open Canoe hire/outfitting in the Massif Central
    ”We will make your trip work”

  5. #5
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    Ash Vale, Surrey (by the Basingstoke Canal)
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    Fantastic photos of a beautiful area. I particularly love the reflection shots. Minus 10 at night is for hardier folk than I, though!

  6. #6
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    Nice one. I still need t o visit this loch one day.
    Matto

    Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea.


  7. #7
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    Nov 2005
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    Lochwinnoch, Scotland
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    I love a winter camp in the cold too. Once you have a set up you know will keep you warm during the night you can really enjoy the cold weather. I do need to get myself a plastic beater paddle though as my wooden ones are not so keen on the ice breaking.
    John

  8. #8
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    Nov 2016
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    Thanks for the kind comments. I’m well aware that we all have different tolerance levels regarding the cold. I’m choosy about when I do these things; -10c when it’s dry and still is much more pleasant than +5 when it’s wet and windy. But as MagiKelly says, having a system that works for you means you can get out and experience these things in relative comfort.
    Regarding water levels, this loch is a hydroelectric reservoir and is topped up by a pipe from Loch Mullardoch. The snow and ice gave a good indication of the water rising and falling while I was there, but what was interesting was the channel by the campsite. First thing in the morning there was a noticeable flow from right to left, but a few hours later the flow had reversed. It made sense to tie the boat to a large tree root overnight!

  9. #9
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    Cranbrook, British Columbia
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    Outstanding.

    looked stunning there.

    have a great one

    Steve
    There are no bad days on the water......its just that some are better than others!!


  10. #10
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    Some great pics.

    So what is your hammock set-up that necessitates disrobing in -10?!

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by firedfromthecircus View Post
    Some great pics.

    So what is your hammock set-up that necessitates disrobing in -10?!
    It was the five-season sleeping bag combined with an insulated jacket that did for me. The hammock is a DD frontline with their under quilt. Lots of sausages and fried potatoes for dinner probably helped!

    Mike

  12. #12
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    Brilliant pics and a great trip , quite fancy it before the end of winter and possibly loch mullardoch as it looks an interesting paddle.

    Craig...

  13. #13
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    Stunning, looked a fantastic trip with pictures match.

  14. #14
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    Stunning, looked a fantastic trip with pictures to match.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bananaboat View Post
    It was the five-season sleeping bag combined with an insulated jacket that did for me. The hammock is a DD frontline with their under quilt. Lots of sausages and fried potatoes for dinner probably helped!

    Mike
    Cheers Mike. I bought a DD underblanket but haven't used it in anger yet. Is your tarp set-up for cold weather different from normal? I have seen various arrangements that give almost full envelopment of the hammock. Obviously experience from folk who have used them in a Scottish winter is the most useful. ;-)

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by firedfromthecircus View Post
    Cheers Mike. I bought a DD underblanket but haven't used it in anger yet. Is your tarp set-up for cold weather different from normal? I have seen various arrangements that give almost full envelopment of the hammock. Obviously experience from folk who have used them in a Scottish winter is the most useful. ;-)
    If it’s going to be very cold then I take the serious sleeping bag. That night I had a sleeping mat as well as the underquilt, but I don’t usually do that. Most of the time I use a two season bag as a quilt in the hammock. I always take an insulated jacket, because it’s sensible even in summer if someone gets wet, and will use that to sleep in if necessary. A hood is good to keep the head warm. And I usually wear a hat! It’s important to have dry clothes for sleeping, I always take a t-shirt and long-johns as pyjamas. As for the tarp, I try to make sure I’m out of any wind. I like the view from my hammock and some headroom so tend to have the tarp quite high. If it’s draughty I’ll have one side lower to keep the wind out. I find the double layer of my hammock is fairly wind proof. I used a tent for many years and initially felt a bit exposed in a hammock/tarp setup but the more I do it the more comfortable I feel.

    Hope that’s useful!

    Mike

  17. #17
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    Very useful. Thanks Mike.

  18. #18
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    I like your pictures of the rocks, logs and other semi-abstract pictures. Very different!
    http://www.davidwperry.blogspot.co.uk/

  19. #19
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    Great to see the Loch again. Thanks for sharing your adventure.
    I only spent a winter day on it several years ago.

    When there's trouble on shore, there's peace on the wave,
    Afloat in the White Canoe.
    Alan Sullivan


  20. #20
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    Loved the post...and the pics were superb!

    It looks as if an opportunity arose and you then grabbed it by the horns with both hands...an thereafter owned it! Inspirational stuff!

    Everytime that the weather turns somewhat towards 'challenging' in my neck of the woods, and beggars me to get out there, I'm always tied-up with work!
    So, posts like yours keep me alive in the mean time.....it so helps!

    Particularly loved this shot...

    As artistic as it is, and worthy very much of an entry into a canoe themed photo competition....it reminds me of the beauty of winter canoe-camping...
    "Just leave the cool boxes at home, and put the eggs,bacon, black pudding, milk & OJ upfront!" ....

    And of course, in the morning ask your friends / guests or co-paddlers how many slices of milk that they would like with their tea or coffee!
    Keep yer paddles wet, and powder dry....

    MB

    ´¯`·.¸¸.·´¯`·.¸ ><(((( ((º>
    `·.¸¸.·´¯`·.¸¸.·´¯`·.¸ ><((((º>

  21. #21
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    Thanks again for all the nice comments. I’m particularly pleased with some of the arty photos.

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