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A Lover of the Outdoors

The John Muir Trail

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John Muir Trail by advencap

Once again the blog has been silent for a while, so many things have been going on recently. The biggest single thing is organising my wedding to Traci or rather our Honeymoon walking the John Muir Trail. The wedding itself is very simple with just Traci, myself and the wedding wagon marrying us on the balcony of our Cosmopolitan suite in Las Vegas.

Panorama by Henry Egghart

So what’s this John Muir Trail then?

For me personally the John Muir Trail came to my attention about 5 years ago from conversations with Phil Turner, I subsequently bought the Cicerone Guide glanced at it then it sat on my shelf unread. I have spent quite a bit of time on and off over the intervening years looking at pictures and stories of those that have walked it. So what is it…

It’s a 211 mile walk in the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California, which passes through several national parks (Yosemite, King’s Canyon, John Muir and Ansel Adams wildernesses and Sequoia). Usually starting in Yosemite Valley and ending on the summit of Mt Whitney, which is the highest mountain in the contiguous United States (the 48 adjoining states) at 14,505 ft (4,421 m). Nearly all of the route lies over 8,000 ft in elevation and a third at over 10,000 ft. To put this in perspective, the highest mountain in the UK is Ben Nevis at a mere 4,409 ft.

Mountain Heights

We couldn’t acquire permits for the regular south bound route described above, the idea of permits is a strange concept to us UK walkers. In the US it’s more common and helps to keep popular routes wild by limiting the numbers of people allowed to walk the trail. I will go into more detail regarding permits in another post, but we managed to secure a permit in the opposite direction (North Bound). The John Muir Trail may end or start in our case on Mt Whitney but unless we could parachute in we need to walk to the summit. The closest starting point (Trail head) is Whitney portal but this is one of the most popular starting points in the US due to Mt Whitneys height. We have to start from a Trail head further South at Horseshoe Meadows, this will add an extra 22 miles to our route.

Half Dome, Liberty Cap and Nevada Falls in Yosemite by Miguel Vieira

How long will it take?

Many people take 3 weeks, but after looking at lots of trip reports most of these appear to be a lot slower than we travel or carry huge packs, stop to fish, video the route, etc. So after what feels like months I have a schedule which I think looks realistic. We are aiming to complete the walk in 14 days, we may extend this by a couple of days as there are a couple of long 20+ mile days but these are when our packs are at their lightest and well into the walk. We intend to take it easy at the start to acclimatise to the altitude and the packs will be heavy with 10 days of food. I’m not going to post the actual schedule, it will very likely change as we are walking.

Palisade Creek Canyon by sheenjek

Planning

Planning any walk can feel like a military operation and can be stressful, but when it’s abroad for any extended period and you have the added event of a wedding it becomes a lot of work. I’m sure the planning is simple compared to long distance walks like the PCT or CDT.

  • Permits
  • Food
  • Transport
  • Accommodation
  • Storage (wedding items)
  • Insurance?

These have been the biggest headaches, but gradually I hope I have solved all of them. I hope to write some future posts covering some of these before we actually set off and update them once we return but I can’t commit 100% to that.

All pictures in this post are copyright Creative Commons to their respected attributed owners.

Kitty’s Wood PRoW Success

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PRoW Signs

This website has been on hold for a while, unfortunately I didn’t do a lot of walking in 2014. A few walks locally, the Durham Dales Challenge, Scarborough to Whitby, a couple of walks in the lakes and a trip or two to Scotland. In previous years I would have done this in 1 month.

Traci and I have a few things planned for 2015, the biggest of which will be our July wedding in Las Vegas. Our Honeymoon will be walking the John Muir Trail (presuming we get permits) then returning to Las Vegas to relax, if that’s possible in Vegas.

The main reason for this post is to provide an update on the footpaths around the area I live and in particular Kitty’s Wood. I wrote about the situation back in June 2012. A quick refresh to save reading the full post is the local land was previously owned by Durham County Council and leased as a farm. The farm closed several years ago and was demolished in April 2009, the Council then decided to sell off the land. The farm land had lots of footpaths across it that locals had walked for years and the Council had maintained, but the council had never added these paths as official Public Rights of Way (PRoW). The new land owner then decided to close the majority of these paths which angered a lot of people.

My take on this was always that the main problem was with the Council in the first place. Selling the land without making these paths PRoW, the land owner legally was perfectly in his rights to stop people walking across them. Even though he must surely have known the extent to which these paths were used, but probably didn’t expect the response. In any case this led to considerable effort by a small group of locals and later the Ramblers to have these paths officially recognised.

Stile

I am happy to report that almost all of the footpaths I originally highlighted are now official PRoW, with a couple of exceptions. Seven new paths have been added to the definitive map and in due course will appear on Ordnance Survey maps. I have already updated OpenStreetMap with these paths and their official designations.

I would encourage everyone to check their local footpaths to ensure they are recorded as official PRoW. If you find they are not, then you need to collect evidence of their use with written statements from as many people as possible but these will likely need to be recorded on the correct forms and a modification order will need to be applied for all this should be explained by your local council. My experience of the process was not good, requests to apply for a modification order were ignored or people were told the Ramblers had already applied but this turned out to not include the same information or the same paths.

The whole process is not easy for an individual to carry out unless you have experience of the process or have lots of spare time, most of us don’t. I would encourage you to approach the Ramblers who do have plenty of experience of this sort of thing and my local Council took more notice of them than anyone else.

Signpost

There are still a couple of paths missing or recorded incorrectly, a footpath that was always used as a bridleway and did have a bridleway sign at each end up until a few years ago is still only recorded as a footpath (FP 43/45). A short footpath which even has a Durham County Council sign on it has not been added as a PROW and several footpaths which are still marked incorrectly (FP 45). Again these are failings from the PRoW team at the Council who would only listen to the Ramblers and told others that they had applied for all the same footpaths, which is why these are missing. The existing footpaths which are marked incorrectly I have reported to them repeatedly long before the land was sold and nothing has ever been done. The whole thing highlights just how difficult it can be for individuals.

I would really like to see the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) help in this area, they appear to be increasing their support for walkers in recognition that the majority of their members are more likely walkers not Alpine mountaineers. They are moving in the right direction with the help of people like Chris Townsend and Carey Davis but appreciate they focus on Mountain areas.

The problems faced by the public appear to be stacking up, there are deadlines for claiming footpaths but Councils and the Ramblers appear to be working to differing information. With an increasing backlog of work for PRoW teams and dwindling staff numbers, resources and uncertainty for those that remain I can feel for them, I’m in the same situation myself.

The public need help and guidance from the likes of the Ramblers and the BMC preferably a combined message. We are all working for the same thing after all.

Walking Mt Toubkal

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Aroumd

Myself and Traci actually did this walk 18 months ago in June 2013, but for some reason I never got around to writing it up. I made extensive notes on the actual days and this is the write up of those notes. Hopefully someone will find this useful.

We were looking for a summer holiday to relax but me being me, I wanted something a bit different. I have always hated sitting around a pool or lazing on a beach. Initially we were looking at Greece and I was contemplating adding a walk up Mount Olympus as you do on your relaxing summer holiday. Yet even with the supposed problems with the Greek economy at the time the holidays were still expensive. I decided to see what else was available that had mountains nearby. Somewhere I had never considered jumped out at me when I realised that the Atlas mountains were close by. The destination was Marrakech.

The obvious target if you have a couple of days to walk in the Atlas mountain is Mt Toubkal, the highest mountain in North Africa at 13,671 ft (4,167 m). It’s a big step up in height for anyone used to the mountains of the UK and something else to consider is the heat in summer.

Planning

I started planning the walk several months before the trip and found a couple of useful sites on the internet, the best of which is here where you can also download KML files of the route. You will also need a map and the best map available from my research is the Cordee Toubkal and Marrakech Map at 1:50,000. Most of the other maps are less detailed or old.

I also bought the Moroccan Atlas - The Trekking Guide Book which has a detailed drawn map of the route with lots of extra information.

Huts or Camping

The previously mentioned site describes doing it in 1 day, which is certainly achievable if you can set off early, know you are fine at altitude and are fit. My plan was to take 2 days and stay in a one of the refuges on the mountain. There are 2 to choose from and are next door to each other at the South col. The original French CAF Neltner hut or the newer Les Mouflon de Toubkal which is where I chose.

I contacted Les Mouflon de Toubkal by email a couple of months before our trip and booked 2 beds in the dormitory which we were told would cost 286 MAD (£21) each for dinner, bed and breakfast. I beleive this is now 319 MAD (£23.50) each. When we actually got there I was told the dorm would be 500 MAD (£37) for us as a couple, so a little cheaper. We decided to actually pay the extra for a room, which cost us 800 MAD (£59) and personally I think this is a better option. The cost of a room is now 950 MAD (£70).

camping The camping options are limited at higher altitudes, due to the ground being very rocky. You can pay at the refuge for a dusty pitch for 20 MAD (£1.50), there were a few tents slightly below the refuge but I’m not sure I would want to be pitched there.

Food and Water

You need to plan your food and water carefully, the temperatures can be over 40c in Imlil and once out of the village there is no shade. We carried around 4-5 litres of water for the trip from Imlil to the hostel. To be honest this was not enough between 2 of us in the temperatures we experiences at the height of the day.

There are places on the way up where you can buy water or other drinks. Yet most were closed when we passed, other than at Sidi Chamharouch where there were several places you could sit down and drink or hide from the sun. We didn’t stop here though due to time. As for food, again the same places that sold drinks also would have a few things, generally fruit. This was probably our weakest point, the only food we took with us we had scavenged from our hotel breakfast, mainly bread. Plan this better than we did, you will need fuel.

Once you reach the refuge you can buy an array of food from sweets like Snickers and Mars bars to full meals. You can also buy bottled water but it is expensive because it has to be carried up by mule.

Getting there

The easiest way to get to Imlil from Marrakech is to take a Grand Taxi from the Taxi rank which can be found to the South West of the medina, outside Bab er Rob. The taxi rank is quite large but is further outside the medina than I had expected along a dusty road. Although more buildings have been built in the area now.

On our way to the to the Taxi rank a minibus pulled up and we were asked if we were heading to Imlil, we agreed to pay 22 MAD (£1.60) each. An absolute bargain, but the minibus was a 12 seater and there were around 20 of us in it. When we arrived at Asni it got very confusing, we were ushered out of the minibus but we had no idea where we should be going. Luckily 3 teenagers who had been in the minibus directed us to a grand taxi. I shared the front passenger seat with Traci, the teenagers shared the back seat with another local couple. The smell of petrol was overpowering, even with all of the windows open. The journey from Asni to Imlil felt precarious along a roughish road, swerving around people selling fruit and trucks seemingly abandoned in the middle of road while they talked to people on the roadside. We were deposited at a taxi rank which is on the left side as you arrive in Imlil (open triangular area to the right of the road on the embedded map).

If you planned to walk the route in a day you would need to stay in Imlil, unless you managed to arrive a lot earlier than we did. There were various places advertising rooms as we walked up the bank from the taxi rank. A search on Google will find several for around 200 MAD (£15) B&B.

The Walk

Aroumd We set off from Imlil after being dropped off at around 11:30. The village was very busy with vehicles, mules and people rushing around. I always find the hardest part of a walk navigationally is the start when leaving an unknown town or village.

I am always raring to set off and should take time to orientate yourself and map, I had taken the time at home to scan and geo-reference my paper map. so I now had a digital map on my phone which helped locate myself in Imlil and confirm I was indeed heading the direction I thought I was.

We found the track out of the village quite easily but found we had crossed the stream too early and were heading up to Aroumd (marked Around on the Cordee map) earlier than intended. This involved a steep climb through the trees but I could see we would join on to the same path. We walked through the edge of the village, passing a small group of children laughing and playing. As we walked by a small girl spat at me, I didn’t actually notice as she she was behind me. It appeared almost as if she had been dared to do it.

Flood plain After leaving Aroumd behind there is a large rocky open area which looks like a flood plain but was bone dry when we walked. After the the flat stony expanse, you start the climb on a very obvious path. From here on the route is very easy to follow and you rarely need to consult the map, other than checking points off as you climb higher.

I would recommend the Moroccan Atlas Book purely for the hand drawn maps. The Cordee map does not have the detail to help with the navigation out of Imlil, its the hand drawn maps that allowed me to see my route up to Aroumd would join onto the same track I had intended to take. After the climb from the flood plain, I never used the hand drawn maps again until I returned to the same point the next day.

The walking is quite easy, although a constant climb it’s on a track the mules travel daily up to the refuge. Your energy is sapped by the heat and once out of the trees near Imlil there is no escape from the sun. The temperature was in the high 30’s celsius with no let up all day.

Sidi Chamharouch I don’t intend to write a detailed description of the walk up to the refuge, it’s too long ago and there are various books and websites which do a better job than I could. As we walked higher we did pass a few places that would be selling drinks and fruit, but they were closed maybe because it was now the middle of the day. They are just stalls or tiny stone buildings at the side of the track.

Some of these places are marked on the hand drawn maps in the Moroccon Atlas book. The last place you could actually find a proper place to buy drinks or take a rest is at Sidi Chamharouch, there were 2 places I spotted selling drinks and a few small places selling scarves and other items. The hamlet is built around a muslim shrine. You can see a large whitewashed rock as you pass. You cross over a bridge and again climb steeply. I can remember thinking the section above the hamlet must be the hardest part for the mules.

Mules Mules are the only way items can be brought to places above the flood plain we passed earlier, their destinations would be the 2 refuge higher up or Sidi Chamharouch. It’s amazing watching the array of items the mules are carrying from gas bottles to building supplies and of course food. We felt sorry for the mules often struggling up or down steep sections overburdened with supplies. Our walk up was surprisingly quiet, the higher we got the more people we saw heading in the opposite direction. Some of the mules were carrying people who were too lazy to walk or their luggage. We also passed several groups who were being lead by guides.

There are lots of mention of guides when researching the walk up to Mt. Toubkal, I chose not to pay for one. There was honestly no need, the route is very easy to follow. In winter my advice would likely be different, unless you had plenty of experience. You will be bombarded with people back in Imlil asking if you want a guide. Clearly this is a source of employment for people in the area but in summer an experienced walker would not need one. If you do decide to pay for a guide be careful to get one who can clearly speak your language, many spoke French better than English.

Traci and the path We made good progress keeping a slow but steady pace, we were beginning to wonder if we were ever going to reach the refuge. The water was running low and the blazing sun which was being shaded slightly by cloud now was still very strong. We were starting to feel more tired than expected, probably due to the heat and the altitude. As our energy started to sap the refuge came into view. We stopped to eat some of the bread we had taken from breakfast and drink some of our remaining water. Looking up there were still odd patches of snow in places clinging on in shaded areas above us. There were a few tents below the buildings, I was happy we hadn’t decided to camp up here.

Refuge We were booked into the Les Mouflon de Toubkal, walking through the door at 16:30 we couldn’t see a thing until our eyes adjusted to the darkness.

There were a small number of people inside, some clearly who worked there. Most did not speak English and wore traditional clothes. This was in contrast to the person who appeared to be running the refuge who spoke perfect English and wore clothes like we would wear back home, T-shirt and jeans if I recall correctly.

We had booked 2 beds in a dorm but decided once we got there to change to a private room. We were pleased we did, there was a large number of older Japanese hikers staying who were very loud. We just wanted to relax and this would have been hard with the noise from the group. We were given some mint tea, which is very refreshing and is drank everywhere we went in Morocco.

Room in the refuge view from room The room we were given was just off the open area and had a view back down the valley we had walked up. There were 2 single beds in the room with thick blankets. We had considered bringing sleeping bags, but instead brought just sleeping bag liners to protect us from any bed bugs, etc. I think this was a good idea, the blankets felt very itchy but cosy and warm. We asked for an evening meal, I can’t remember if we had any choice but it was the best meal either of us had ever had. We think it was lamb tagine, but its possible it was goat. No matter what meat it was, Traci still states it was the best meal she has ever eaten. We had a large Tagine and bread to ourselves and would highly recommend doing this rather than carrying your own food up.

We arranged to have some breakfast ready for 6:30 the following day, then headed to bed to read and relax before going to sleep.

We had a very broken nights sleep due to strange loud noises all through the night, which sounded like tunneling beneath the refuge. This was the only negative thing about our stay there. They even had flushing toilets, unless I imagined that. We got up at 6:15 and our breakfast was already out for us with hot water for coffee brought once we sat at the table. Breakfast was jam and bread, we took some of the bread to eat during the day. We also bought 2 bottles of water and snickers before we left at 7:10.

view back to refuge The path above the refuge crosses in front of a waterfall and steeply up a scree slope. We missed the track to the left which avoids the worst of the scree. Traci was struggling and was having problems with earache caused by the strong winds and possibly the altitude. She was also struggling to catch her breath and started telling me to do it on my own. We either did it together or we went down together.

boulders We carried on and found a path marked by cairns. The wind was lighter in the gully and the sun hadn’t reached us yet due to the mountainsides. It was slow going, finding ourselves out of breath sooner than as UK heights. Traci was feeling it more than me, but I was happy to stop and catch my own breath. We worked our way up, we could see 2 hikers in the distance with the gap to them steadily decreasing. The path split into three at some point and we missed the initial split but stuck to the right where the scree was easier to cross.

Top of gully A man travelling fast up towards us, soon caught us up. I’m not sure of his nationality, he may have been Moroccan but he spoke good English. Explaining it was his second time up having to return for pictures after his camera had been either lost or stolen. Soon after this we reached the top of the gully and the ridge where we turned left, continuing to follow the clear path. We passed the 2 hikers we had been closing in on, two women.

Shortly after passing the women we passed another 2 groups who were heading down. The first who were French, spoke to us in English telling us it was about 40 minutes to the top. Traci thought they were joking, thinking we were almost there. The group of 3 was British with a guide. The young lady looked ina bad way, clearly struggling and in tears. The guide was helping her down as best he could.

summit in view A couple of minutes after this the summit came into view but the track went to the left of the ridge before heading to the right and the summit. It took around 20 minutes.

Summit of Mt Toubkal us on the summit We met the guy at the top who had lost his pictures on his previous trip. We took pictures for each other before he left us alone at the summit. After around 20 minutes we decided to head back down as we were leaving the two ladies we past earlier had arrived and asked us to take pictures for them.

Nearly back to Imlil We descended fast retracing our path, which was more obvious on the descent. We didn’t hang around when we reached the refuge but continued on. We stopped to eat some of our bread below the refuge, it took less than 2 hours from the refuge to Sidi Chamharouch and the white rock which we passed quickly. There were a lot less people on our return journey.

Twenty minutes later and we were at the zigzags above the flood plain. I decided to ignore the route description and head the more obvious route which was far easier and faster.

We arrived in Imlil just before 4pm and bartered for a grand taxi back to Marrakech for 200 MAD (£15), although I also had to pay the guy I was bartering with not the driver. The smallest amount I had was 50 MAD (£3.66). We had the taxi to ourselves this time, although the driver was crazy, driving very fast, over taking vehicles with cars heading towards us. He had to go onto the dirt at the side of the road to avoid collisions on more than one occasion. We were pleased when we made it back to Bab er Rob and the Taxi rank in one piece.

I was conscious that we could make the last free shuttle bus of the day back to our hotel if we were fast. I set off at pace for the pickup point, but Traci was struggling to keep up. We made it to the shuttle bus with a minute to spare before it arrived.

We both loved the walk and Morocco, we returned the following year for a more relaxing holiday. I would highly recommend Marrakech and the walk up Mt. Toubkal.

You can find the zipped GPX track for the 2 days here, which could help with timings and the actual route we took.

The Most Visible Mountain & New Mountain Classifications

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The Most Visible Mountain in Scotland

The most successful projects, to me at least, are those where you learn so much more than you ever expected to. I started the Peak Visibility project to find the answer to what seamed like a very simple question “Which Scottish Mountain can you see the most?”. You can find out how this question arose in the first Peak Visibility post or at the end of this post.

It was not quite as simple as I had thought, the first thing was to define the question more specifically.

I decided to limit my criteria to Munro (mountains in Scotland over 3000 feet), this reduced the list considerably down to 282 mountains at the current count. I then set the criteria, which I defined as “If I stood on the highest point of the mountain (summit) what land would be visible”, this would give me the answer “Which summits could I see from any point in Scotland”. I also decided I could also work out “If I stood on a Munro summit which other summits could I see”.

The Top 10 most visible Munro in Scotland.

Top 10 Visible Scottish Munro

No. Name Height (metres) Height (feet)

Visible Area (km2)

Visible Munro
1 Stob Binnein 1165 3822 5454.05 174
2 Ben More 1174 3852 5395.04 178
3 Ben Lawers 1214 3983 5284.86 205
4 Ben Macdui 1309 4295 4570.33 216
5 Lochnagar 1155 3789 4178.17 147
6 Cairn Gorm 1244 4081 4038.33 180
7 Ben Cruachan 1126 3694 3851.54 187
8 Ben Lui 1130 3707 3782.59 143
9 Braeriach 1296 4252 3686.65 113
10 Ben Nevis 1344 4409 3454.84 205

The table above may be different to many would have expected, yes Ben Nevis and Ben Macdui are in there. When you actually think about it they both have some very large neighbours which block the view. Both also have quite large summit plateaus. For a view on Ben Nevis I have always walked away from the summit, close to the edge. I am still waiting to see anything though after 7 cloudy summit visits.

The top 2 Stob Binnein and Ben More are next to each other and are often tackled in a single day walk. There are not too many other high mountains within the immediate vicinity. If you ignore the few Munro to the South West, the next closest Munro is 5 miles away (Sgiath Chuil) and is quite low.

Compare that to Ben Macdui which has Braeriach and Cairn Gorm very close along with a host of other Munro in all directions, these block the viewability yet Ben Macdui still manages position number 4.

The Least visible Munro in Scotland

The Bottom 10 Visible Munro

No. Name Height (metres) Height (feet)

Visible Area (km2)

Visible Munro
273 Beinn Liath Mhor 926 3038 162.63 33
274 Beinn a'Chaorainn 1052 3451 154.92 28
275 Ciste Dhubh 979 3212 144.54 39
276 The Devil's Point 1004 3294 138.94 19
277 Stob Poite Coire Ardair 1054 3458 136.16 15
278 Sgurr na Carnach 1002 3287 126.99 34
279 An Socach 921 3022 114.43 27
280 Sgurr na Sgine 946 3104 102.14 43
281 Meall Garbh 968 3176 95.88 43
282 Carn Aosda 917 3009 30.21 9

The Visible Area column of the 2 tables above show the number of square Kilometres the summits can be viewed from (or be seen from). The higher the number the larger the area it can be seen from. Something to note, these figures are on land only. I masked the sea, but does includes visibility from land locked lochs.

Highest number of visible Munro

I mentioned that I could work out which other Munro you could see from the top of each Munro. Looking at the data this way gives a different list.

No. Name Height (metres) Height (feet)

Visible Area (km2)

Visible Munro
1 Ben Macdui 1309 4295 4570.33 216
2 Geal-charn 1132 3714 1903.89 213
3= Ben Lawers 1214 3983 5284.86 205
3= Ben Nevis 1344 4409 3454.84 205
5 Creag Meagaidh 1128 3701 1986.23 198
6 Stob Choire Claurigh 1177 3862 2114.97 193
7 Ben Alder 1148 3766 2082.27 190
8= Cairn Toul 1291 4236 2574.53 189
8= Aonach Beag 1115.7 3660 1466.08 189
10 Monadh Mor 1113 3652 1710.43 188

There are a few similar names in the list, Ben Macdui, Ben Nevis and Ben Lawers but Geal-charn?

I will be honest that I had never heard of Geal-charn yet there are actually 4 Munros with the same name, 2 “Geal-charn” and 2 spelt “Geal charn” without the hyphen. The one in the table above is North West of Ben Alder at grid ref NN469746. This almost topped the list, until I re-ran the data in newer software it was relegated to Number 2.

New Classifications

For a bit of fun I decided that from the data I have produced I would create 2 new Classifications like Munro, Marilyns, Wainwrights etc. The new ones are Horners and Tracis.

Mountains Classified as Horners

A mountain summit which can be viewed from 1000 square Kilometres excluding from the sea. There are currently 112 Horners and if you have completed the Munros then you have done them. This will change though and will expand to include all of Great Britain (Scotland, England and Wales).

Why create more classifications, becuase many of us like lists and these are slightly different to the thers which are normally based on height and/or drop.

You can download the list of Horners below, this list can easily be linked to The Database of British and Irish Hills by using the Number column (it is their number).

Download the Horners in the following formats: CSV, SHP, GeoJSON.

Mountains Classified as Tracis

A 3000 foot mountain summit where you can view at least 100 other 3000 foot mountain summits. There are currently 75 Tracis all in Scotland. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that there will be none in England or Wales because there aren’t enough mountains over 3000 feet there to make the grade unless you can see enough of the Scottish Munro from the Skiddaw.

Why call these Tracis, they are named after my long suffering Girlfriend who has had to put up with me working for weeks/months on the Peak Visibility Project often late into the night while she is trying to sleep with me randomly talking to myself working out heights, distances, projections and various other related stuff. The Tracis are also something special just like her, oh and she will likely have to put up with me dragging her up all of them.

You can download the list of Tracis below, this list can easily be linked to The Database of British and Irish Hills by using the Number column (it is their number).

Download the Tracis in the following formats: CSV, SHP, GeoJSON.

Schiehallion?

So what happened to Schiehallion?

Schiehallion rank

Schiehallion is down there in position number 83 on Visibility. Something to be aware of is that the whole data is worked out on the visibility of the actual summit. If you have ever walked up Ben Nevis via the tourist route you will know you can’t see the summit until near the end of the walk. The summit is completely hidden by the mass of the mountain. So thinking about it a mountain that is pointy, quite high and not surrounded by too many high mountains should rank highly.

Errors, thanks and stuff

I will start by saying I am confident this data is not 100% accurate. Much like the Munro tables were not accurate and have been gradually updated over the years, so will the Peak Visibility Project along with the Horner and Traci classifications. I will go into more detail over on the Peak Visibility Github page over the coming weeks, where you can also find much of the raw data and results but I’m going to take a little break from it, so don’t expect to to see full explanations in the next couple of days.

I Would like to thank Michael Spencer (Scottishsnow) for a few helpful pointers early on in the process and his Caleb’s List post which gave me the spark I needed. His site is well worth following. I also need to thank or blame Phil Turner who if he reads this will probably wonder why, he pointed out Schiehallion one winter while walking from Bridge of Orchy to Kinlochleven and mentioned it being one of the most visible mountains, that stuck.

I mentioned at the start that the most sucessful projects are those where you learn, in the course of this project I have worked with Virtualization, Ubuntu server, Ubuntu Desktop, QGIS (1.8, 2.0.1, 2.1.0), GDAL, GRASS, python, projections and a multitude of other stuff. I thoroughly enjoyed the process.

To produce the data and results I have used a variety of data from the following sources:

Maps on this page use Ordnance Survey OpenData which is © Crown copyright and database right 2013.

Mountain Leader Training

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Training in Lake DistrictOver a year ago now I attended a Mountain Leader Summer Training course with the intention of deciding if I would like to guide walks for a living. I had taken many friends and family walking over the years and wanted to know what it would be like to do it for a job.

If I decided not to follow that ML path the money (£450) wouldn’t be wasted because I knew I would gain new skills which I’m always eager to learn. I originally hoped to do the course at Glenmore Lodge, having heard good things from others who had attended. Unfortunately they were fully booked, my next choice would be in the Lake District.

Top of the list was Apex not just because they begin with A, but because the prices were competitive, included accommodation in Holly How Youth Hostel where I had stayed before and they had good feedback on their courses. Upon arrival at the Youth Hostel I checked in and waited for the others to arrive. The other attendees had a range of backgrounds and reasons for attending. I was surprised that some had never wildcamped a night in their lives.

Entry Requirements

To attend a Mountain Leader course you are supposed to have a minimum of 20 Quality mountain days, be registered with the Mountain Training Association in your country and have a log book completed to show that you have this experience. I had typed my log book up and had over 40 quality mountain days from all over the UK, this was only a fraction of the quality days I could have actually entered. Not everyone else was this organised or experienced, some had not completed the log book at all. Some clearly didn’t have anywhere near that level of experience. Log Book

Numbers and Reasons

There were 5 of us who arrived for the course on the Sunday evening, also Marc from Pass and Peak who is a qualified Mountain Leader tagged along to keep his hand in and helped out for the first few days. We were joined on the Tuesday by Dean from Active Edge who I had more in common with (not paragliding) but I will get to that shortly.

I already mentioned my reasons for attending but the other attendees generally had different reasons. Two were from the Glasgow hill walking club and they wanted to learn skills to help with the group walks they did. Another attendee worked for the scouts, but was more of a climber. There was only one who was really doing the course for the mountain leader qualification so he could use that as part of his business as a paraglider teacher, this was Dean who joined us on the second day after having started a course previously and breaking an ankle. There was 3 males and 3 females which I think is unusual, generally I believe the males outnumber the women.

What do you learn?

Below is a overview of the things we covered in my course, I can’t guarantee I got this in correct order, it was over a year since my course.

Weather Forecasting

The weather reading was really interesting and I learned a lot, I understood what an isobar was before the course but not much more. Each evening we spent time studying the next few days weather charts and making our predictions. We would also review what we had predicted for the previous day. This could sound dull to some, but I really enjoyed this and I now read the synoptic charts myself before heading to the hills as well as checking what MWIS say.

Navigation

The first full day started with finding out our natural pacing by walking 100m and seeing how many steps it took. We then did compass work and map reading with lots of practise. While I could read a map well and had basic compass skills, this highlighted I needed more practise. We were each taught about a different plant that we would then have to point out to the others and explain more about it. The day finished back at the Youth Hostel with predicting the weather and reviewing our previous predictions. Practising

Rope Work

The second day was Rope work and steep ground, we also practised map and compass work. The rope work was another area I was keen to learn in, while I climbed indoors the techniques used on the Mountain Leader training is very different. We had fun trying out the different knots, altough you can get away with only one. You learn everything you need to lower someone down rock faces with only a rope and no other climbing equipment (we had helmets). Besides for the brushing up my map reading skills this was the most enjoyable part of the week. Again the day ends with the weather for the coming days and review.

Rope practise & Trip planning

Day three we practised steep ground and crossed loose shale, again map and compass work. We then put our new skills from the rope lessons the day before to practise by setting up everything ourselves with the instructor checking just before we lowered each other. We then headed back to the Youth Hostel to do some planning work, this involved planning a trip for groups as if we were qualified mountain leaders. We would have to take into account the ability of the people we were given, the weather, the area, the desires of the group and a lot more. This was actually easier for me than the others because I knew the Lake District far better than the others but I don’t really like doing this. Again we finished with the weather.

Overnighter

Day four is the day we would be setting off for our overnighter, obviously to me this is nothing new but for several of the others this was a huge deal. One had never done a wildcamp before and it looked like from the size of her pack that she had brought the entire contents of her house. A slight exageration, I’m not sure she had practised pitching the tent she had borrowed either. Yes I took the Trailstar, you can imagine the others faces when I described it. Yet it wasn’t the only one in our group, Dean also had a Trailstar and had read my review and pitching guide for it. I wonder how often 2 Trailstars had been used on an ML course at that point.

The weather was poor when we headed out, I don’t think it stopped raining all day. We spent the day taking turns navigating the rest of the group to the locations we were given. You learn a lot more than just navigating but taking into account the groups abilities and pacing rather than racing off. After a wet day navigating we pitched our shelters, the instructor was keen to look at the Trailstar and was happy with it. I think he had visions of me and Dean having to share his tent with us. We then practised river crossings not in the river because it was in flood. A few hours rest before we had to get up for night nav.

Night Nav

This was another part of the course I was looking forward to, when we emerged from our shelters not only was it dark but the fog had descended and we could only see a few feet ahead of us. Perfect weather for really learning. We may as well have been blind folded the visibility was so poor, yet the rain had stopped. The streams were flooded and we had several to cross. I think all of us enjoyed the night nav, it’s the perfect way to put all skills learned earlier in the week to practise.

The final day we walked back to our pickup location which was at the Old Dungeeon Ghyll. We then returned to the Youth Hostel where we were individually debriefed by our instructor.

Debrief

The instructor was very happy with me over the week and with my levels of experience and knowledge. I didn’t have much I needed to work on, he commented on the depth of experience I already had. He did comment on footwear because during the week I had discussed my dislike for boots which I had worn all week. He said they had passed people with Trailrunners but while that might be fine for the guide, if you were actually leading you would probably want to wear boots so that your clients who have less or no experience wear boots that they should be safer in. He wore trailrunners when not working.

Bed Time Reading

Reading

While training to become a Summer Mountain Leader there are a couple of useful books that are worth reading:

The above are essential reading even if you have no interest in leading. The following 2 books are useful if you decide to go for the Winter Mountain leader or one of the climbing awards.

Summary

I loved it, the people in my group had a wide variety of skill levels but all were there to learn and no one dropped out. I decided not to persue a career Leading. I will continue to take friends and family out walking but I would hate the planning side that I would need to do if taking paying customers, which is strange considering how much I love maps. I would just prefer not to have the hassle, I go walking to get away from things not to take more potential problems with me.

While we were doing the Mountain Leader Training there was was an Assessment course running at the same time. It was interesting to talk to them and It was obvious to me some of them didn’t have the skills to be a leader. Only 1 passed out 5.

I would highly recommend going on the course even if you have no intention of taking the assessment and becoming a leader. The skills you will learn and refine during the week are worth every penny.

Unfortunately I forgot to take many pictures during the course and the ones I did take are very poor quality. Sorry about that.

Be aware that there have been changes to the course since I attended, the rope work has changed considerably. Please read this.