Bothy Work Party 2k16 + Scotland Soundtrack 19

It’s Monday.  Here’s a playlist and some words.

This weekend I traveled northward to the lovely Glen Licht House in Kintail aka the EUMC club bothy.  Map below.

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As a lot of you know already know, I’m the Bothy Apprentice for this year.  Next year I’ll take over as Bothy Secretary.  While the rest of the club was tasked with various renovation projects including cleaning the tiled floor, fitting the new kitchen, or building a boot rack to keep mud off of the previously mentioned new tiled floor.  As Bothy Apprentice, I was tasked with feeding the hungry masses.

I decided on mass production of potato corn chowder.  Ellie (my sous-chef for the weekend) and I started early around 10:30.  We had a lot of help from other members of the club, including Eilidh and Caitlin, to chop all the vegetables needed for the soup.  Guys we brought a metric fuck ton of potatoes with us.

And that’s how my day was spent.  We set up shop outside in the gorgeous Highlands, turned on some music (spoiler alert: it’s the playlist above), and set to make four giant vats of soup.

People kept asking if I needed any extra help but I jokingly responded with, ‘Guys, I’m from the Midwest of the United States.  If there’s one thing we do actually know how to do, it’s making enough food for a small army.’ And then when people asked about the recipe, ‘Um… well, I learned how to cook from my dad, who learned to cook from the United States Marine Corps, so I just sort of throw whatever I have in a giant pot and dump spices in until it tastes good.’

It was exactly what I needed after this hectic week.

I needed to just get away from everything for a few days.

I read a lot over the weekend.  I took two of my favourite book with me: Tomorrow is Now by Eleanor Roosevelt and Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman.  I read TIN a lot when I’m upset or generally unmotivated.  It’s one of those books you don’t need to necessarily read in order either.  It’s like the Magic 8 ball of books, you can open up to any random page and find the answer you need.  Same goes for LoG. 

Some food for thought.

In a sense, nearly all great civilizations that perished did so because they had crystallized, because they were incapable of adapting themselves to new conditions, new methods, new points of view.  It is as though people would literally rather die than change.  Sometimes, seeing the stubborn resistance of large groups of Americans to accepting the existence of totally new conditions, their determination to meet the future as though it were the past, I am deeply puzzled.  How did it happen that a people with constantly developing ideas on methods of production and distribution appears unable to develop new ideas, new points of view, new solutions to the problems of adjustment to change? – ER

And.

LONG, too long America,
Traveling roads all even and peaceful you learn’d from joys and
prosperity only,
But now, ah now, to learn from crises of anguish, advancing, grap-
pling with direst fate and recoiling not,
And now to conceive and show to the world what your children
en-masse really are, – WW
By Saturday night, the soup was done and the hungry masses were happily appeased.  Sunday, I took a short walk through the rain up the valley to the waterfall.  I was soaking wet by the time I got back to the Bothy, but I was happy.  It was chance to clear my head.
This weekend was a nice break from the real world where I could get out and not have to think too deeply about things.  This week has deeply upset me. I was really fed up with a lot of aspects of humanity.  It was nice to escape everything, eff off to the mountains for 48 hours, and gather my thoughts.
One last thing.
This loss hurts but please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it. – HRC

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‘Twas the Night Before Classes (+ Scotland Soundtrack 15)

And here we are.  Fresher’s Week has officially ended (thank God).

The last part of this week has been a bit busy, we went to The Cobbler yesterday for the EUMC Fresher day hike.  It was actually a wonderful day out, the visibility was great and I think I actually got a bit of a sunburn.  Knees/asthma are sucky as usual so I’m not going to be the first one to the top … but I won’t be the last!

Since I’m on Committee this year, I helped move the Fresher’s up and down the mountain while answering any questions they might have about the club.  It was honestly a really enjoyable day.  It was nice going back to The Cobbler after last year’s trek up and see how much I’ve improved on the mountaineering front! (Fun with writing this blog is being able to look back things I wrote about.  I’ll try to link the repeats, if nothing but for the embarrassment of Fresher Kennedy.)

I’ll include some photos below of the trip.

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Today, I had another busy day at the National Museum of Scotland.  I’m part of their youth volunteer team and we are currently working on putting together a tour for the museum.  Our general idea for the tour is to present the history of young people to today’s young people.  For instance, most Roman soldiers were actually a lot younger (15-20 years old) than what is depicted in films like Gladiator.  Russell Crowe was 52 at the time of filming.  (Now side tangent: I think aging him up made a better film bc tbh I don’t really want to watch a gritty history film about a whiny 15 yr old boy.)  We’re also looking at The Teen Queen Sensation Mary Queen of Scots and The Mid-Twenties Crisis’ Bonnie Prince Charlies.

But, tomorrow! Classes.  Well… a class.  All I’ve got tomorrow is my Archaeology 2A Lecture. And honestly, that’s how my entire week is.  I’ve got on average two hour long lectures a day with some bi-weekly hour and half long practicals and tutorials mixed in.  I do have three 9ams so that’s gross.  And Tuesdays will be a little gross with a 9am Archaeology practical and then nothing until my Modern Scottish History lecture at 3pm.  Not complaining though, because I mean I don’t have any room to complain. I’m in Scotland studying archaeology.

I sound like a broken record, but I am so glad to be back to classes.  I want to learn more things and study more cool stuff.  I can’t wait to see what sort of stuff I’ll get to do with my Osteology class!

So yay.  Second Year! Enjoy the jams.

¡Escalada De Roca!

Around the beginning of February, I was talking with a few mountaineering friends (who were, as I was, admittedly very intoxicated).  Great start to a story, I know.  They were discussing their upcoming trip to El Chorro, Spain in April.  Having never been to Spain before I started to ask questions about the trip.  It was a sport climbing trip over Spring Break to a small rural area outside of Malaga in Southern Spain.  A lot of club members were going, both old and new.  They asked if I was going, but I said I wasn’t quite sure… seeing as I didn’t really know how to sport climb.

But, I thought about it for a couple of weeks and late February I booked tickets figuring that if I wanted to learn how to rock climb I had to start somewhere.

For non-climbers reading this, my experience with rock climbing so far had only been top-roping at the CSE (the University gym).  Top-roping is when you are tied into the rope from the top anchor.  I had never climbed outside before or lead.  Lead climbing is when you are tied in at the bottom and bring the rope up with you and clip into bolts, or in the case of Trad, gear as you go.

By booking the trip, I knew that I needed to not only buckle down and finish my essays but train as well.  For the next couple of weeks, I worked on my climbing, took a course with a few friends to learn the basics of outdoor leading (bolt clipping and making an anchor at the top so you don’t lose gear), and bought a rope.

On April 5, a few days after I submitted my last essay for the year I packed everything in my Grandpa’s old USAF parachute bag (which by the way is a little bit of a hassle to move but great for packing everything) and set off for Spain.

I couldn’t be happier with my decision to take this trip.

Everyone stayed in a small B&B/campsite called the Olive Branch.  It’s located in a great central spot with a 5 minute walk to the nearest craig and 25 minutes to the farthest.  It was a great spot for everyone to come back to in the evenings and cook dinner or just hang out.  They even had a small library and on my rest days I found a worn copy of a Bernard Cornwell book (a great historical writer, if you haven’t read his stuff… I recommend Azincourt.  For obvious reasons.)  In the evenings everyone gathered around for drinks and cards, it was honestly a great time getting to meet new people and getting to know friends better.  I learned how to play a lot of new card games… and lost a lot of them.  One game ended with the loser having to jump into the icy cold pool at 1 AM… that loser was me.

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yo tent home for 2 weeks

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this is how you dry the laundry you wash in the shower

Being a sad, pale, albino teen I got terribly sunburned.  Actually that’s an understatement I got absolutely fried.  However, because of my enrollment in Albino Survival 101 I very early on identified the wondrous and wild Aloe Vera plant.  I looked ridiculous cutting up plants and then rubbing the inner goo all over myself… but guys, seriously it was either plant goo or imminent death.

But on to the climbing!

My first day out on the rock was, honestly, a little nerve wracking.  The walls at the CSE are only around 8 meters while the smallest climbs in El Chorro are 10 meters.  I started off slow, gaining more confidence as I moved upward.  And like I said, everyone has to start somewhere.

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I can say though that pole vaulting definitely had gotten rid of my fear of heights.  Looking down from my climbs, I was never nervous from the height… in fact I found being up high sort of exhilarating.  Maybe it’s because I’m a short human.

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To try to recount all my climbs over the past two weeks would be a little silly… and honestly I don’t think I can remember all of them.  But here’s a few of my favourites.

Las Cosas de Lucas (5+) This one was an easy climb up the right side of the rock.  I really enjoyed the bridging and crack climbing aspect of this climb.  Plus it was really awesome to get a photo from the top.  Everyone agreed this was ‘the Narcissus climb.’  This craig was also just really cool… you had to walk up stone stairs built in the 1500s to get there. #historyyyyyy

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El Beso de la Flaca (5) This climb was a higher than than other ones that I had previously done and had a lot of different holds and moves.  But, this climb was memorable because of the caves that you had to crawl in and out of to clip bolts (read: embrace your inner cave creature).  It was a lot of fun getting up to the caves and looking out at the view.

Geisha (6a) This was one of the first 6a leads I did on the trip!  It was another crack climb with a small flake.  This was probably my favourite single pitch route of the trip.  This climb was extra memorable as just as I finished the crux and made it to the anchors to rethread and lower-off, it started to downpour. I was soaking wet while trying to work with the rope to get down!

Solo Afeitar (6a) This was a really enjoyable slab climb.  It was one of my first experiences on a slab and I found trusting the small holds a little tricky at first, but I felt like I got the hang of it.

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Lluvia del Asteroides (5+) My first ever multi-pitch!  I seconded this climb with Sam (yet another EUMC friend) (meaning I followed up/removed gear).  This climb was one of my favourites of the trip.  At 250m and 8 pitches (although we did it in 7), it was highest climb I’ve done to date.  To say that it was a step up from the indoor 8m wall at the CSE is an understatement.  I remember looking down off this climb and thinking ‘holy shit that’s high,’ but I was so taken aback by how beautiful Spain was that being that high up didn’t really bother me.  All the pitches were different from each other so I got to try a little bit of everything on this climb.  Topping out on this climb was one of those experiences you remember for a long time afterward.  It was a lot like how I remember so vividly standing on the top of the Duomo in Florence looking out over Italy.  I kept thinking how lucky I was to be in Spain and to be experiencing such a beautiful day rock climbing.

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250m up!!

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the big frontales wall, the multi-pitch is the center rib to the left of the big cave.

I flew back to Edinburgh on the 18th so I decided to spend my last day to visit Malaga. Craig, Chris (More EUMC friends YAY!), and I took the train from El Chorro to Malaga early that morning.  We got to see the Cathedral, a 10c Moorish Castle that had been built on a Roman Amphitheater, and eat fresh fish from the big local market.  Despite having been in Spain for two weeks, we had all really just been camping out in the middle of nowhere and hadn’t really gone into any Spanish towns.  So, I was glad to have had at least one day to experience a bigger Spanish city.  From Malaga I took the train to the airport and then waited there for my flight.  I arrived back in Edinburgh around 1 AM (my flight was delayed by 2 hours….) and finally made it home by 2 AM.

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All in all it was a fantastic trip and I am so grateful I was able to have this opportunity. I cannot wait to see where my climbing goes in the next three years at university!  I hope to get more into Trad climbing soon.  At the end of the day, that’s how I treated the trip.  I took each day as it came and just enjoyed being out on the rock with my friends.  I pushed myself to climb harder but I made sure that I was still having fun.  I ate a lot of food and fully embraced the Spanish siesta.

One thing I learned over my years playing competitive sports (between tae-kwon-do, softball, basketball, track, and cross country) is ‘that if it’s not fun then why are you doing it?’  This was especially true in the case of softball were I pushed myself to continue even when I no longer enjoyed the sport.

That’s why when I came to university I decided to finally give myself a break.  Competitive sports were a great way of learning valuable life skills like being a teamplayer, setting goals, etc.  I am so grateful for the opportunities I gained through them, but I knew that my time with them had come to an end.  I just didn’t feel like competing anymore.  I felt like I don’t have to prove anything to anyone anymore.  I just have to do what makes me happy.

Which, I think is a pretty positive outlook on life and one that I am happy to continue with.

As for now, my dad is currently visiting me in Edinburgh which is awesome because I haven’t seen him in four months!  My 19th birthday is in 8 days!! For my birthday, I’ve finally decided to get my tattoo done.  Exams are quickly approaching with my first one the day after my birthday.  And then next month, it’s off to excavate Neolithic skeletons in Romania.

I guess that’s all for now… jeez this was a long post to write.

The Wild, Wild West

Oh cool, another Kansas themed title pun.

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This weekend was spent wild camping (hence the title. lol I’m so funny.) between Creag Meagaidh and Aonach Mor in the West of Scotland.

It was a pretty fun weekend, but very cold and snowy.  I got to go on some good walks and see some fantastic views.  The weather this weekend was okay on Saturday, but very windy.  The evenings were pretty chilly and since it was wild camping, the tents weren’t on great ground.  But it was a great experience – if a bit cold.

Friday night we drove out from Edinburgh, luckily the club was able to rent a car so Gregor (EUMC friend) drove.  I called shotgun.  The club stopped in Pitlochry for food as usual and then we carried on north and west.  Once we reached a small shoulder on the road and turned off.  Unloading the bags from the cars and minivan, we set off to find a campsite around ten o’clock..  It was a little boggy Friday night.  We pitched tents quickly using what decent ground we could find and then everyone went to sleep.

Saturday morning, I got up around seven because I was a keen bean who wanted to get moving.  But it was also really cold and I was very unmotivated to get out of my tent.  The day plan for Saturday was to do two summits near Aonach Mor… we quickly had to change that plan.

The first approach was quite good, the view was fantastic.  But the wind picked up as we started the ascent – probably over 40 mph going up.  Everyone linked arms to make our trek a bit more stable.  I was just glad that the visibility was still good, the snow was blowing around by our feet, but we could still see everything in front.  We reached the summit and everyone burrowed down behind a drift to eat a quick lunch and then plan for the rest of the day.  It was decided that it was too windy to carry on and it would be safer to descend and do a different walk for the rest of the day.  The descent was a little bit windier with winds around 60-70 mph.

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Two of the committee members said to think of winds like pints, with 1 pint = 10 mph.  1-3 pints is fine, maybe stop after 4-5, 6-7 is probably too much, and by 8 you’re crawling.  I thought this was a pretty good representation of the day.

For the rest of the day we drove to Glen Nevis and walked to the steel bridge, a steel rope bridge that runs across the river.  A group went off to do a scramble and then I went with the group that was doing a nice calm walk – my knees were not doing too well with the cold.  It was a really gorgeous glen with a fantastic waterfall.  I was so tired from the busy week at Uni that I actually took a nap.

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Everyone met back up and we all went to Fort William to watch the Wales v. Scotland rugby match.  That evening we returned late and I made a quick dinner and went to sleep.

Sunday morning was cold.  A group left early to go climbing, but there was still a number of us at the campsite figuring out a route for the day.  But, no one wanted to leave their tents because it was, really, really, cold.

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Finally it was decided that we would drive to an area by Loch Rannoch and do a nice, calm route there.  It was a very gorgeous day despite being cold in the morning.  I could see for miles.  It actually warmed up a bit and the visibility lasted until we were nearly back to the cars.  My walking group got back early and so we packed up and waited for the climbing group to return.

Everyone packed up quickly and then we were on our way back to Edinburgh.  All in all it was a pretty fun weekend with some great vistas.

This week starts Innovative Learning Week, and I will be staying around in Edinburgh.  I am taking a Forensic Anthropology class on Wednesday where I will learn how to clean and 3D model bones.  Should be pretty humerous.  Some mountaineering friends and I want to plan a day to go to Stirling Castle and Walk the Moon (aka my favourite band in the world)  is here on Friday, but don’t know if I’ll be able to go because they’re American and not too many people here know them. 😦

But, as for now, I am just finishing my laundry from the weekend and airing out my tent in the pantry.  It’s quite a sight.

Until next time!

Bleowan Windas!

That’s some Old English for you that roughly translates to ‘effing crazy death winds.’ This is a good summary of my weekend up in Loch Tay.

This weekend,I took a Winter Skills Course at the Firbush Centre owned by the University.  Meaning home cooked meals, nice warm beds, and heating!  It was a great weekend full of a lot of information and fun people!

The centre is located on Loch Tay in the Trossachs National Park (Eastern Scotland).  Loch Tay is a really cool place with a bunch of archaeological sites.  Most famously are the crannogs, a sort of wooden roundhouse that was built on stilts over the loch during the Iron Age.  They have since fallen into the water but most of the contents inside are preserved due to the lack of oxygen fueling artifact deterioration.  There are also a bunch of old ruined croft houses and shielings.  A sheiling is a square stone house usually used by people who went up into the mountains during the summer months to allow for the animals to graze.

I didn’t get a chance to see the crannogs, but I did see quite a few sheilings during the weekend!  That was, of course, when I could see!  The weather this weekend was not great.  That is putting it lightly.  As many of you American readers are aware, the big storms that hit New York a few weeks ago have now made their way to Scotland.  We are now in the midst of Storm Henry.  I have never felt more betrayed by something named ‘Henry.’

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either a lime kiln or something else… archaeology! 

We drove from Edinburgh friday night and arrived at the centre around eight.  We ate dinner and then had a talk about Navigation.  We looked at the maps for the next day and talked through the routes.  The wind was really loud throughout the entire talk… and then the power went out.  Everyone at the lodge got out their head torches and lamps. The power stayed out for the entire night and into the next morning.  The window in my room overlooked the loch and the water was really choppy.  I was definitely glad to be inside.

 

But, regardless of the weather we still got to hit the hills!  Saturday was spent learning land navigation.  I learned how to read the contour markers on the map to find my location and how to take a read a bearing off of a compass.  Everyone in the group took turns leading the group to a spot on the map, mine was a small outcropping on a contour line overlooking a river.  I got a bit turned around, but I found my way through it.  It was really neat learning how to navigate!

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Not only is it a critical skill in mountaineering, but in archaeology as well.  Being able to not only read a map, but orient yourself makes excavation and surveying a lot easier.  Not to mention any skill that you can bring to an excavation is great.  My dad has actually been encouraging me to get certified in scuba diving so I can do underwater archaeology.  Side tangent: which honestly is a hella good idea and I should look into it because there is actually quite a few submerged sites around the UK.

Okay back to Saturday.

We ascended the ridge before the weather turned too sour, but by the time we reached a small ring contour the wind had picked up and it was nearly a white out!  We decided it was best to turn back and, of course, it was my turn to navigate.  My spot was a small bend in a river next to a large cluster of trees.  From the ridge I took a bearing and then set my compass.  I sighted out onto the cluster of trees, but it wasn’t always reliable because of the poor visibility.  The trees continually disappeared and reappeared in my sights.  It was a little nerve racking, but that is exactly why I took the course in the first place.

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one of the more clearer views of the day.

That evening was a short lecture about avalanches and safety while on the mountains.  It was a really interesting talk and I learned a lot.  Because, you know the biggest avalanches we have in Kansas is the snow that falls off the roof of the car when you open the door.

Sunday was a little bit better.  Most of the hail and rain had blown over and the visibility was actually fairly decent.  We went to the other side of Loch Tay to practice crampons and axe arrests.  Sunday was a lot of sliding in the snow and working with gear.  We also looked a lot at snow layers and tested which ones were stable and which ones were avalanche prone.  There is a lot of technical gear knowledge involved in Winter Mountaineering, but there is also a lot of practical knowledge about the landscape.  It was honestly a lot of fun.  I learned a lot.

My mountain skills have improved a lot since September.  I am slowly losing my Kansas mountain naivety – which is a good thing!  I am lot more confident with my feet and my knowledge of the landscape.  I honestly can’t wait to see where I am in four years!

On the academic side of the things, I am loving my classes!  I am currently writing my first essay which is a source analysis of Gildas’s ‘Ruin of Britain’ which is a 6c manuscript written by the Briton Cleric Gildas about the state of the British isles now the Anglo-Saxons have all moved in and, well… ruined it.

An Axe-cellent Weekend

This weekend I traveled up north to the Cairngorms, a fantastic mountain range in Northeastern Scotland.  The Scottish Winter is in full swing and there was a TON of snow.  So, so, so, so much snow.

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On the top of Cairn Gorm

Friday night, the EUMC left from Edinburgh around 6 pm and we made our journey northward.  It’s always exciting to get away from the city and get out into the countryside.  Especially, when there is snow on the ground.  Within an hour we were properly in the highlands and there was snow everywhere.

We stayed at the Woodlan Lodge, a house the Uni owns near Aviemore.  It was a lot more luxurious that what I am typically used to on the weekend trips, but it was nice to come home to a warm house with hot water and proper bunks after a long day on the hills.

Saturday was an early start.  I got up at 6.20 am to make breakfast and have a cup of coffee in the kitchen.  Again, really thankful for the real house to stay in because I didn’t have to crawl out of a tent and scramble to get my Tranger started.  After breakfast, I packed my day bag for the safety course I was taking.  I had signed up to one of the 12 spots on the day course.  Since I had very little mountian knowledge prior to moving to Scotland it would be smart to learn some basic Winter Safety.

(In two weeks, I will be taking a weekend long safety course to learn some more.  I’ve learned that Scottish Winters can be really fun, but Mountaineering can also be dangerous and often times it is the people that don’t know what they are doing that get hurt.)

The course covered a variety of things ranging from survival skills like recognizing different types of snow and what they indicated about the climate and how to dig a snow cave.  A snow cave is for in case you get stranded on the mountain and do not have any shelter.  You can dig one out with a shovel or even your ice axe.  (I am learning very quickly just how useful ice axes can be, from survival to even serving as a bottle opener.)

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snow cave hermit.

We also learned how to use our gear such as the almighty ice axe and crampons (steel points you attach to the bottoms of your boots so you can walk easier on ice).  We learned how to perform a self-arrest with the ice axe in case we slip whilst walking up the mountain.  We finished the course by trekking to the top of Cairn Gorm, the central mountain in the park.

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Saturday Survival Squad.

The weather on Saturday was amazing.  The temperatures were cold at right around -4C (24.8 F). But, when you keep moving you stay pretty warm – also the temperatures were pretty much the standard Kansas winter, if not warmer.  I was fine in a base layer, midlayer, and outer jacket.  For bottoms, I had fleece lined legging with knee high wool socks over the top and then my outer softshell layer.  Over my boots I wore gaiters to keep out the snow.

I cannot get over how clear the skies were on Saturday and there was practically no wind at all.  The visibility was perfect – you could even see mountains near Inverness that were nearly 40 km away.

(Click through the slideshow to see more pictures… also photo creds to my wonderful friends for letting me steal some of these because the cold killed my phone.)

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Saturday night, was actually pretty chill compared to previous mountaineering Saturdays.  Everyone sat around in the common room sharing stories from the day and planning routes for Sunday.

Sunday morning, a few friends and I got a lift back to the Ski Lodge where most of the trails could be easily accessed.  A few people from the club decided to go skiing instead of hillwalking or climbing – I figured since the last time I went skiing I fell off the lift it would probably be better to stick to walking.

The weather on Sunday was still really good for the weekend, but it was colder and windier than Saturday.  The temperatures were around -6 C and the wind was pretty bad in the morning.  I put on my sunglasses and had to keep my buff up around my face, but my lips and cheeks are still pretty chapped.  We did a great ridge on Sunday and got some fantastic views.  I used my crampons to get up an icier part of the route.

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My patella tendonitis also really started to act up this weekend, which I figured it would considering that my knees are always worse in the cold.  The knee pain levels are still tolerable, but it’s definitely annoying when my cardio is up to par but my legs physically can’t move faster because my kneecaps are genetically crooked (Your fault, Dad.)  But, I rested them up at the lodge and stretched out the best I could.  There really isn’t a lot I can do about it except continue to wear my braces and just be a bit more mindful when I’m on uneven ground. Meh.

The funniest part of the weekend was definitely the new gear.  Not going to lie, it was pretty cool using an ice axe and crampons to get up a mountain.  (I basically aspire to be Lara Croft.) But, I am still a beginner and there were a few slip ups in the snow that ended up with me buried up to my waist after walking head first into a drift.

I can say though, I am enjoying my first Scottish Winter and can’t wait to see where I am at in the coming years.  I’d love to try my hand at ice climbing!

This weekend was the best way to start off the week and semester.  I’ve got upcoming lectures about Medieval Scottish archaeology!

(p.s. Mom before you freak out… yes I am being totally safe.  Yes, I am taking the proper safety courses.  Yes, I make sure to double check my gear.)

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New Country, New Sport

Since moving to Scotland, I’ve picked up an entirely new sport – climbing.  I’ve talked a lot about it in my vlogs and posts so I figured I’d upload a video and show you all what I’ve been up to.  Climbing is something I’ve always wanted to do, but never had the opportunity… because you know Kansas is sorta flat.

I’ve never climbed before September, or much less hiked a mountain… or done much camping… so I figured the best way to learn was by throwing myself in the fire.  So, as many of you know, I joined the Mountaineering Club here at Uni.

While my mom was here, she treated me to my very own climbing kit: rock shoes, harness, belay plate (the thing that the person on the ground uses to lower you down), and chalk bag.  We planned on having her come to the gym to see me try out my new kit, but we got busy with other things and she left before we could make it to the gym.

Never fear! My great mountaineering friends filmed me climbing one of my favourite routes in the university gym.  It’s a 6A flake! (Just a bit on climbing grades, they usually start around 4 and can go up to a 9B+.  Past 6ish the grades start getting the A,B, A+, B+ grades.) I really like climbing the flakes compared to routes with holds because they mimic real rock.

I’ve learned a lot in the past three months and I’ve been really improving!  My best climb so far is a 6B.  I’ve still got a lot to learn, but it’s a brand new sport and I’ve still got nearly 3.5 years here at Uni!  The dynamic movements are a lot like pole vaulting and heights have never bothered me so it’s really a great workout.   I’m really hoping to finally try some outdoor climbing this spring!

Enjoy!

 

 

Do You Want To Build a Snowman?!

The Scottish winter is upon us!  This weekend was yet another EUMC meet up to the Club’s very own bothy near the Five Sisters of Kintail.

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We left Edinburgh around 6.30 PM and set off for the 4 hour journey north.  As usual we stopped at a chippy for dinner.  The minibuses could actually drive right up to the bothy, which was fantastic because by the time we got there it was late, snowy, muddy, and no one was wanting to trek.

There were around 30 people on the meet and we all piled into the bothy.  It had two floors with two rooms each – they were not big, but they were warm and dry.  The downstairs rooms each had fireplaces and between that, 30 people, and my warm sleeping bag it was nice and toasty.

Nothing much exciting happens Friday nights, it’s mostly just a grule to get to the campsite and grab the best spot.

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I did have a late night adventure trying to find a bathroom spot outside (bothys never have proper latrines).  It’s around 1 AM, I’m outside with my head torch a good 3/4 of a mile away from the bothy trying to find a good hidden rock because of my irrational fear of someone stumbling upon me mid bathroom break when my torch catches something on the ground.

It was a tibia – and for a spilt second I thought, ‘well damn there’s been a murder and the murderer is probably lurking here and not only is my irrational fear of bathroom intruders true but I’m going to get murdered.’

Luckily, I then saw the hoof and realized it was a sheep tibia.  It was still gross. I cried.

The next morning was like stepping into a Christmas card.  Literally.  It had snowed all night and the entire ridge was covered with snow.  The bothy had both of the fireplaces going and everyone was up and about making breakfast and getting ready for the day.

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bothy2Saturday’s hike was up to the Five Sisters, a ridge with two munros.  My group trekked out around 10 AM and had enough time to do two of the five.  It’s starting to get dark really early here, and no one wanted to be up on the ridge too late.  The sun starts setting by 3.30 PM.  It was honestly an amazing day, the weather was fantastic.  It was cold, but not rainy.  It snowed lightly the whole day.  And the snow was great!  We had so many snowball fights all throughout the trek!  We made it back to the bothy around 5 PM, when it was nearly dark.

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Saturday night was the Bothy Party to celebrate the brand new roof that the National Trust of Scotland put on the bothy.  And because, as I mentioned before, we didn’t have to trek to the bothy and drove the minibus literally up to the doorstep – people brought a lot of stuff.  There were huge speakers, plenty of food, and large quantities of beverages.  It was a killer evening up in the highlands of Scotland.

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Sunday morning was very slow.  I brewed myself a pot of coffee (I brought Starbucks Christmas Blend 2015 VIA packets with me because I’m #basic) and made breakfast.  People weren’t very keen on doing another big day out so a group of us went for a nice paced hike up the trail.  It was another gorgeous day out and the fresh air was sorely needed.

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And not only was this weekend a good workout but as a history student there were plenty of old croft ruins for me to explore!  During the late 18c to the mid 19c, many Highland croft farmers were removed from the land to make way for sheep.  That and lot of them had been supporters of the Jacobite cause.  A lot of the houses and barns are still standing partially or were used to make fences like the one in the picture below!

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While on the hike, some people decided to go swimming in the river.  I did not go swimming in the river.  The river was very cold.  Those people were crazy.

This weekend was my first ever Winter Meet!   I’ve never hiked a mountain in the snow before, I fell a lot of times, but it was really fun.  We don’t get much snow in Edinburgh, so it was nice to be able to go out and get a good weekend of snow.  It’s one of the things about home that I really do miss.

The Christmas lights are all on now so it’s really starting feel like the holidays!  I can’t wait for my mom to get here on Wednesday… I just need to finish my Archaeology paper!

We Few, We Happy Few

Sunday was the 600th Year Anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt.

Researching the battle has now been a 5+ year personal project (read: borderline obsession) that started with reading the St. Crispin’s Day Speech in 8th grade, to my huge 20 page research paper on the socio-economic effect of the English Longbowmen sophomore year in AP European History, and recently my State qualifying Kansas History Day documentary about the Leadership and Legacy of Henry V.

The time I have spend working with this topic has really shaped my studies and honestly could be pinpointed as the origins of my interest in medieval history.  There is just something about the legacy of the battle and the people surrounding it that speaks volumes about personal loyalty and self-sacrifice.  I think those ideas are so easily transferable to modern day and are valued just as much now as they were in 1415.

Okay hold onto that Agincourt idea, it’ll be back…

This weekend I went backpacking with the Mountaineering Club.  This weekend was different from the other meets in more than one way as well.  For starters it was the Mystery Meet, so I had no idea where I would be going.  Secondly, this meet was a full pack weekend meaning that we carried everything with us and camped in different spots on Friday and Saturday night.

The bus left at 6 PM and we started the journey north – I could tell that much.  We passed through Glasgow, and then headed up toward Inverness… and even more north to Assynt (one of the most northern parts of Scotland).

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The bus arrived in Assynt around midnight, but we had 4-5km to go before we reached the campground for the night.  Bundling up and putting the rain covers over our rucksacks, the group of us (around 50 people) set off into the dark Scottish wilderness. (If this update is sounding cheesy already just wait)

It started to rain and the wind howled as we scrambled up the hills of the trail to reach a good spot to camp.  We stopped around 2 AM and had to pitch our tents in the rain.  Everyone was careful not to pitch to far into the mud or, god-forbid, a puddle.  The next morning… it was still raining.  We also didn’t have proper bathrooms.

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The group waited for the rain to at least calm down a bit before setting off.  We had a long day ahead over 20km to the bothy, a sort of croft house that is free to camp in and usually has a fire.

Let me just say now that it was way over 20km to the bothy.

It wasn’t a super mountainy hike but between the distance and the weather it was a doozy.  The wind was crazy and then it started hailing.  It even snowed a bit.  I fell in a bog up to my waist and soaked through my boots.  There were many moments when I was questioning why I was there.

i was so thrilled when the hail started lol

i was so thrilled when the hail started lol

But, the landscape.  We saw the biggest waterfall in Britain and as always the views from the top make everything worth it.  Especially in Scotland, there is just something about the landscapes that make them seem so untouched.  It was honestly as if anything from a wooly mammoth to a Jacobite soldier could have turned up and I wouldn’t have even been phased.

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Between the near death experiences, I really did enjoy being out of Edinburgh for the weekend and having time just to think and enjoy being outside.  All the stress of essay writing really just fades away and now that I’m back I feel like I can get back to work.  And I’m slowly becoming a camping expert, when I come home you all better be ready to go camping!

Everything hurt but it was bearable until we reached the first bothy.  I saw a bothy in the distance and thought it was the one that we were stopping at the for the night – I got excited and ran.  It was around 6.30 PM. I was tired, hungry, and the sun was setting.

Then I learned this was not our bothy.

Then I learned that we still had 6-7km to our bothy.

Our bothy was over the mountian.

Our bothy was on the other side of the sea loch.

I cried.

This was the moment when I only saw two options, either I was going to make it to the bothy or die here.

This was also the nerdiest moment of the night.  I realized that it was St. Crispin’s Eve and that Sunday would be October 25, the 600th year anniversary of Agincourt.  As much as I study Agincourt, I never will be able to experience exactly what happened.  Saturday came close.

I was tired, worn out from 20km already.  I was covered in mud with all my gear on my back.  It was all the factors that faced Henry’s army.

So we started off – up the hill.  The sun set and then it was dark.  I stepped in more bogs, but my feet were so cold I did not really even feel it.  We lost the trail (multiple times) – I fell in another hole.

It was dark by the time we saw the first glimpse of the Glenhu Bothy – a small light across the sea loch.  I was so tired and the trail had basically turned into a river.  My feet were on total autopilot and I really just wanted to eat something and sleep.

We made it to the bothy around midnight and I have never in my life been happier to see an old croft house.

I made dinner on the floor with my Tranger and it was the best canned soup I have ever had in my life.  My boats were soaked so I put them next to the fire, they started steaming almost instantly.

After dinner came the celebration. There was a warm fire and I drank a toast to Henry V while reciting some of the speech (St. Crispin’s eve after all).  Everyone joined in with some festive songs and enjoyed the evening after nearly dying that day.  The group died down to a dull roar of the same songs and the fire slowly went out to embers when I turned in for the night.  I was beyond sore but glad that I made it.

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The bothy!!

The bothy!!

The next morning no one got up.

I got up slowly.

We spend the morning at the bothy making breakfast and enjoying the sea loch, some people even went for a swim.  I can’t even imagine how cold it must have been.  We packed up for the hike to Kylesku and the bus around noon, it was a fun easy hike on a proper trail.  We had to cross a long car bridge and it was raining and windy.  I thought I was going to fall off the bridge.  Makes a good story now.

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The bus picked us up around 4 PM and it was a 6.5 hour drive back to Edinburgh.

I know the original plan for Agincourt Weekend was to make it to France, but honestly trekking through mud, hail, rain, snow with some really great people and then celebrating our victory in an old Scottish croft house around a warm fire was just as good – if not better.