Thursday, December 19, 2013


It was 'Themselves' 65th wedding anniversary yesterday (18th December). We went down to the Bluebird Cafe for lunch; Mum, Dad, Jen and me.
The weather was typically wild for the time of year with wind and rain lashing up the lake from the south. It was a better day in Ambleside 65 years ago.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Rememberance Day

My Dad on his way to the Remembrance Day service in Conistion.

Waistcoat bought at Binns, Carlisle 1962. Irish tweed Jacket bought at Andrew Houston Ltd., Bank St,  Carlisle 1965. WW2 campaign medals.

He served on the v-class destroyer HMS Venus, in the Mediterranean, and spent time in Cyprus and Haifa, Palestine.  He was involved with British Government's attempt in trying to stop the Jewish 'Exodos' from Europe after the war which was later countermanded by the US Government.

At the age of 19 he got the opportunity to bring HMS Venus into Malta Harbour because the Royalty Petty Officer was too drunk to do it himself! This was no mean feat as the harbour was full of sunken ships after the epic Siege of Malta.

William Mansell Hyslop
HMS Venus
Bombing damage in Valletta, Malta

Friday, August 23, 2013

Broken Back

I had a brilliant trip to Spazzacaldeira with John Topping. We were both moving well on the long granite routes which all involved multiple abs to get off. Any kind of error on the descent would have been fatal. A few days later, back in Aviemore, I did something stupid while abseiling to retrieve some gear and fell 3M onto my back. Don’t ask me what I did wrong, I’m sick of telling the story. Suffice to say it was one of the most common errors.

Moving well. John Topping at Spazzacaldeira

I knew immediately that I’d properly hurt myself. It's all still a bit raw to talk about but I managed to write a log once I'd been stabalised in hospital. Here are the first few days:

Tuesday 23rd

Hit the ground hard. Immediate pain in lower back. Tried to stand and get harness off but only managed to undo main buckle. Eddie goes to road to get a phone signal while I'm hyperventilating with the pain and swearing a lot. Try to drink but can't get water to my mouth between breaths. Worrying spell where my arms went completely numb but eventually regained some feeling. Calmed down a bit and seemed to be controlling the pain with stomach breathing.

The ambulance guys arrive with gas and air which doesn't help much.  They get a line in and inject morphine which also has a fairly disappointing effect. They check my spine and can't find any breaks or direct pain by pressing on vertebrae. Eventually get me in neck brace and back board. More morphine and a carry out directly down through the woods to the road. Much swearing from me. More morphine in the ambulance before we set off which is starting to have  discernible effect. Trying to work out how close we are to Inverness by looking at passing tree tops.

Get into casualty and they try to work out the problem. They do the same check on vertebrae and get an X-ray. Can't see any breaks so try to get me walking.  Pat arrives.

Trying to stand or move is agony. A few comments like 'come on you can do it'. They think I'm not trying hard enough. More drugs and muscle relaxants. Try again and eventually managed to stand and sit down on a chair. Hot sweat and nauseous.  They check blood pressure which is in the red at 77 over something. Obviously a bit worried I might have bleeding. Sent for MRI scan "just as a belt and braces check".  Short wait before being told I have broken back.

 Got to a ward around 10.30pm after being in causality for several hours. Lots of IV morphine and IV paracetamol. 

Don't be such a whimp. Get up and walk!

Wednesday 24th

Spent most of the day in Inverness while they worked out what to do with me. Consultants sounded fairly pessimistic at first but eventually contacted Aberdeen who said they could fix it. Procrastination about how I was going to get there. Weather too bad for air ambulance so eventually went by road cocooned in a full body inflatable support. Fully doped up with morphine and slept most of way (3 hours).

Thursday 25th

Assessed by consultants in morning who said they would operate that day. By lunch time they decided to scan again to see if there was enough ligament to support the fracture without an operation. By evening they decided not to operate (yet) and try for natural healing and a brace.

Friday 26th

Bad night in ward not knowing where I was and slightly delirious. Had a wash and shave in morning and started to feel better. Consultant visited and asked physios to try and get me walking. Managed to end of ward and back. Got moved into single room. Had all IV lines out and catheter. Quite a lot of positive stuff happened that day after the uncertainty of the last couple of days. 

First Steps

Saturday 27th

Slept much better in a single room and on my right side which was a relief from being permanently on my back. Felt annoyed and pissed off in the middle of the day then a bit weepy later on. The big ticks for the day were one, having a shower and two, having shit; the first since the accident. Watched Gladiator on TV.

Sunday 28th

Must have been moving around too much in the night  cos felt soar in the morning. Hard work getting a shower again. Managed to move 1M from bed to a sink but when I tried it again later ended up in agony. All the pain seems to be on the left side and shoots down front of left leg. No big ticks today, probably a step back in reality because I now know how painful it will be if I get it wrong, especially with no bed to fall back on.

They kicked me out of Aberdeen after ten days with a brace and a bladder infection. I had to have the catheter back in after my bladder had expanded to an unfeasible size but once the antibiotics started to work things improved fairly rapidly.

I could walk down to the pub, but something very strange had happened to my taste for trad beer. In the words of the Aviemore locals I denounced it as ‘Mingin’. Only lager seems to do the trick these days; I wonder what was in those Aberdeen IV lines?

Craigellachie, a BIG tick!

Sitting at a desk is painful but I’m managing to walk a bit further every day. Walking up Craigellachie today was a bit of a mile stone.

I don’t know when I’ll be climbing again but I’m in no hurry. Most people seem horrified by my enforced lay-off but actually I’m feeling remarkably positive about life in general. Obviously the accident could have been much worse and it looks like I’ll make a full recovery; quite a few of my friends have not been so lucky.

This is the first time in 40 years of climbing that haven’t felt compelled to head out into the hills at every available opportunity and its strangely calming to not have the rat continually gnawing for a change.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Ski Touring Round Up

I have been holding off writing this post until the end of winter but with snow on the ground in Aviemore this morning it looks like there might be at least another week of skiing to come.

The best conditions came after the big storm in March which effected most of the UK. High winds stripped a lot of snow from the plateaus and formed amazing (and occasionally lethal), snow structures down to 500M.

Cárn Dearg Mor 20/03

An afternoon trip with Rob Edmond out the back of Aviemore. We cycled from High Burnside up to the commercial forest gate then walked up through the Caledonian Pines to break out on the Mor at about 550M. Lack of time prevented us from reaching the summit but we had a great run down through the trees on snow covered heather.

Rob Edmond, Aviemore behind

Sgor Gaoith 25/03

This was the first skiable day after the storm. The ascent was icy and scoured back to grit in some places but the up side was that the burn lines were packed with snow. This enabled a long descent down the Alt Ruadh to a point where it become too steep and narrow to ski. A short hike back up through the trees regained the path.

An arctic Braeriach from Sgor Gaoith

Bynack Moor 28/03

I wasn’t sure what to expect heading down Ciste Mhearad to The Saddle, but conditions were fantastic with a light covering of powder on a firm base, and even better, there were no tracks. Allt a’ Choire Dhubh wasn’t in as good a condition but still skiable for most of its length down to Strath Nethy.

Loch Avon and fresh tracks

Coire Gorm 30/03

Another trip with Rob Endmond to the shallow burn line in the NW slope of Sròn na Lairge. Rob had permission to drive up to Rothiemurchus Lodge from where we were able to ski right from the car park. Huge amounts of snow had been dumped in The Ghru, transforming it into a 50M wide piste. Conditions in the Coire were slightly disappointing with lots of sastrugi and variable cover.

The Lairig Ghru transformed into a 50M wide piste

Ben Avon 31/03

I finally worked out a stable method of attaching skis to a bike. The key was to attach the boots to the bindings and mount the whole lot as far back on the frame as possible to stop your legs catching on the bindings. Fortunately the estate road from Tomintoul to Inchrory had been cleared allowing an easy 10k cycle to within a short walk of the hill. I returned via Caol Ghleann.

The SkiBike at Inchrory

Beinn Mheadhoin 05/04

I had been wanting to do this tour for a couple of years. The descent from Cairngorm and down Coire Raibert was awkward but not difficult. Loch Avon was frozen and there were tracks straight across the middle. I whimped out on the direct route and cut across the ice closer to the head of the loch.

The plateau of Beinn Mheadhoin was scoured bare but the descent down the NW slope was in good condition with a final high speed schuss across the frozen loch towards The Saddle.

Loch Avon

Coire Gorm Revisted 19/04

A very early start (3am) with aspirations for a long tour over to Deeside. Unfortunately I was a bit too early for the weather and bailed out between Sròn na Lairge and Braeriach in strong winds and a white out. The descent back down Coire Gorm was in much better condition than in March.

Coire Gorm at 7am

March Burn (not)

I had a speculative trip across the plateau to see if I could get down the March Burn with my relatively lightweight gear. A gentle approach led to an icy funnel. I couldn't see over the edge so I removed skis and tried to kick steps to where I could get an idea of what I would be committing myself to. Not having an ice axe or crampons I gave up that idea fairly quickly.

Having admitted defeat I headed back towards Lurchers and also hoped to get a better view of the March Burn from further along the rim. I definitely made the right decision! The strong winds of previous weeks looked to have built a steep icy headwall with no easy entry to the lower slopes.

The top of the March Burn, Cairn Toul behind

The Escalator 03/05

The weather was not quite as advertised in the morning but I cycled up Glen Einich anyway. It took an hour to reach the point on the track opposite The Escalator. From there it was a short walk to reach the snow. Too steep for skinning, I booted it up to around the 1000M contour before the weather got to ferocious to continue.

A brilliant descent! The snow was soft and smooth, quite steep in a couple of places, probably a similar angle to The West Wall on Cairngorm or an average alpine back run. I was back in Aviemore for 12.30pm

The Escalator from Glen Einich

Ciste Gully 04/05

Possibly the last run of the season. An evening trip with Ole from Norway; astounded that he was skiing in Scotland, in May!

Mud and rain on the walk out from the Ciste at 8pm