Archive for Buachaille

Wow! [#2]

Posted in Mountains, pictures, Running with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 17, 2018 by xi'an

Glencoe skyline: my dream race!

Posted in Mountains, pictures, Running, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 26, 2015 by xi'an

I came upon the news by mere chance: the first Salomon Glencoe skyline mountain race took place last month, on Aug. 22, in one of my favourite mountaineering spots, the Valley of Glencoe. I have hiked and climbed in this valley six or seven times, and “bagged” seven of the nine local Munroes, mostly in Winter conditions. The race includes all of them in a 53km route with a 4,256m total ascent (and descent!), with a scramble of Buachaille Etive Mor via the classic Curved Ridge route and the west-to-east traverse of the Aonach Eagach. Absolutely awesome!

The winners completed the route in 7:36 for Joe Symmons and 7:44 for Emelie Forsberg, with the last runner finishing in 14 hours. I really wish I could enter this race but the organisers screen quite thoroughly entrances based on past experience, insisting on previous mountain races, and so this must remain a dream..!

from top of Stob Choire down towards northern plateau, Glencoe, Apr. 21, 2012

Mixtures: Estimation and Applications out!

Posted in Books, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , on April 27, 2011 by xi'an

The book I co-edited with Kerrie Mengersen and Mike Titterington, Mixture: Estimation and Applications, has just been published by Wiley! It is a pleasure to flip through the chapters contributed by the participants to the ICMS workshop of about a year ago in Edinburgh. While there may (must) be residual typos, I did not spot any obvious mishap in the production of figures and Buachaille Etive Beag proudly stands on the cover (despite contrary advice from some ‘Og readers). It is also a pleasure to have this book published in the same series as references like Titterington, Smith and Makov’s Statistical Analysis of Finite Mixture Distributions, and McLachlan and Peel’s Finite Mixture Model.  (The “product description” on amazon does not start very well, though: “This book uses the EM (expectation maximization) algorithm to simultaneously estimate the missing data and unknown parameter(s) associated with a data set. The parameters describe the component distributions of the mixture; the distributions may be continuous or discrete.” It fortunately improves by reproducing the back cover.)

Mixture book cover proposal

Posted in Books, Mountains, pictures, Statistics with tags , , , , on January 24, 2011 by xi'an

Here is a proposal for the cover of the mixture book on Mixture Estimation and Applications we are editing, with a stylised rendering of Buachaille Etive Mor… I am not sure it sufficiently fits the topic of the book, other than being taken a few hours and 107 miles from the start of the meeting at ICMS (!), so the cover may end up with a more scientific picture. However, this is my favourite sight when approaching Glencoe, Buachaille rising by itself from Etive Mor, especially with abundant snow and crisp cold sunny skies as I got last March…. Other than those aesthetic considerations, the book is very close to production. I spent Tuesday working on the index and the proofs should be sent to the authors pretty soon.

A beautiful if hellish trip

Posted in Mountains, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , on March 4, 2010 by xi'an

My trip to Scotland had an inauspicious start: when I went through security, I was first “randomly” frisked, then, after watching me putting back all my X-rayed stuff in my bag-pack, the lady in charge asked for a “random” search of my bag… This did not make me very happy and I stuffed everything back in the bag and rushed to the gate. Then, in the bus ride to the plane (which lasted for ever, as often in Charles de Gaulle), I got the impression I had left my computer at the security counter! Getting ready to ask the bus driver to get me back to security, I ran a last check of my (large) bag-pack and found the computer! Phew!

Alas, this was not yet over as, upon arrival in Edinburgh, my larger bag with all my mountaineering stuff (the kind of cutting and spiky things you definitely cannot take as carry-on luggage!) did not show up! It has been left in Paris (with a bunch of other bags)… Faced with the dilemma of waiting for the next plane, possibly still not carrying my bag, or driving right away to Fort William, to take advantage of the possibility of renting equipment there if my bag was not there, I decided for the later, preferring to avoid a ride at night on possibly icy roads. When the luggage service told me my bag was in the 5pm plane, I felt relieved and trusted for the bag to arrive late at night. Alas, the delivery service called later to let me know they could not find a courier to Fort William (a mere 2 hours and a half away) before the next day, which was about as useful as delivering the bag on the 14th of July…! In retrospect, I should have of course waited for the next plane to pick my bag… The “only” reward of this choice was to cross Rannoch Moor and the Pap of Glencoe in full sunlight, with the spectacle of the mountains and of the plateau plastered with ice and snow under a clear blue sky. (Crossing Rannoch on the way back was another blessed moment as dusk was setting in. The snow then turned a definitive blue in the minus ten temperatures and with hardly any other car on the road it felt even more outworldy. There were also many deers trying to get some grass from under the snow, but I was not sufficiently unlucky to hit one!)  The drawback was to be forced to wait for one hour the next morning to rent the basic equipment (first and foremost the shoes to go climbing!). Fortunately, my guide had spare clothes to share for the day so this did not end up as a total rip-off! (The bag eventually showed up this morning, meaning it took 63 hours for the delivery service to ride the 13 kilometers. with a sloth speed of 250 meters per hour!)

Iced Steall

Posted in Mountains, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , on March 3, 2010 by xi'an

I am starting to think that one-day mountaineering trips are not worth it, as they are too dependent on the weather. This trip to Fort William is exemplary: while I got a perfect blue sky and nice temperature, the snowfalls of the past weekend were too heavy to allow access to even the most protected routes on Ben Nevis and in the Glencoe range. As I had to rent a pair of shoes because of my lost bag, we were too late for Tower Ridge, but in any case, my guide (whose own report is available here) thought it was inaccessible (although Mike Pescod seemingly managed another ridge on Ben Nevis). So we headed to Glencoe, which somehow works as a magnet for my Scottish mountaineering visits since my first climb of Stob Coire nan Lochan in 1995. Getting there at 10, we headed for Curved Ridge on Buachaille Etive Mor. Buachaille is one of the most beautiful peaks in the range and it stands as a beacon when you are crossing Rannoch Mor towards Glencoe. (Curved Ridge is the most classic climbing route on Buachaille, with only a Grade III difficulty.) After about half an hour of following a track in the snow, we came across Alan Kimber and a couple of clients who had made those tracks and who were going back as the snow was getting too deep to reach the start of the route…

Any other route being too exposed to avalanches, Max Hunter decided to turn back and to go for ice-climbing on Steall falls instead. We thus came back to Fort William and drove down Glen Nevis to reach the parking lot at the end of the glen by noon, half a day already wasted (except for the great views of the Aonach Eagach and the Bidean nam Bian ranges. The path to the Steall horseshoe was well frozen and we were able to cross the Water of Nevis on the thick ice cover, instead of using the cable bridge. This was the third time I was in Steall, after a failed and a successful attempts to complete the ring. The exceptionally nice weather with a cloudless blue sky and a very warm light was the same as last time and made for great views of the south end of Ben Nevis. When we arrived at the frozen Steall fall, it was swarming with climbers, but it happened to be two large groups of people who were lumped together most of the time. Beside sending us ice blocks the whole climb, this was therefore a moderate nuisance. The ice climb itself was very easy, a grade II/III at most, as the fall is quite inclined, and we did the five short pitches in about two hours (with a forced five minute intermission when I dropped my glove and Max had to abseil down 50m to get it). This was the first time I was climbing with ice-picks that had lanyards secured to my belt instead of wrist-leashes and I found the change quite handy, even though it remains to be tested on harder climbs. We abseilled down along with another group and ended back at the car in a beautiful sunset light a bit after 4, which left plenty of time to drop the (very comfy!) boots back at Ellis Bingham. So, in the end, this was not a completely wasted day, but still a far shot from my expected engaged climb of Tower Ridge…