Archive for Glencoe

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

the 39 steps

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, Running, Travel with tags , , , , , , , on May 3, 2015 by xi'an

I had never read this classic that inspired Hitchcock’s 39 steps (which I neither watched before).  The setting of the book is slightly different from the film: it takes place in England and Scotland a few weeks before the First  World War. German spies are trying to kill a prominent Greek politician [no connection with the current Euro-crisis intended!] and learn about cooperative plans between France and Britain. The book involves no woman character (contrary to the film, where it adds a comical if artificial level). As in Rogue Male, most of the story is about an unlikely if athletic hero getting into the way of those spies and being pursued through the countryside by those spies. Even though the hunt has some intense moments, it lacks the psychological depth of Rogue Male, while the central notion that those spies are so good that they can play other persons’ roles without being recognised is implausible to the extreme, a feature reminding me of the Blake & Mortimer cartoons which may have been inspired by this type of books. Especially The Francis Blake Affair. (Trivia: John Buchan ended up Governor General of Canada.)

danger zone

Posted in Mountains, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , on February 3, 2013 by xi'an

on Tower Ridge, Ben Nevis, Scotland, Apr. 23, 2012Prior to the ICMS meeting last year in Edinburgh, I spent two days in the Highlands, first in Glencoe climbing Bidean nam Bian, then on the Ben itself, with the classic Tower Ridge route. These were fantastic climbs in still wintry Scottish conditions and I enjoyed them tremendously without feeling any proximity with danger at any time (although I backed down from a snow corridor on Bidean nam Bian for missing an extra iceaxe…) On the previous weekends, there were alas two accidents on those same routes, first a group of four taken by an avalanche near Bidean nam Bian and second a lone climber on the Tower Ridge route… While climbing solo always involves some degree of objective danger, especially on exposed ridges like Tower Ridge, the casualties on Bidean nam Bian sounded more like “shit happens“. An unlikely and very rare accident cause by an accumulation of circumstances that were just too hard to predict. And to avoid (except by spending the day at the Clachaig Inn, which has its own risk!)

camera miracles: once, not twice!

Posted in Books, Mountains, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 27, 2012 by xi'an

As I mentioned in a post last February, I almost lost my (Nikon Coolpix L26) camera to the cloaca maxima, in Roma. It however remained (miraculously) within reach inside the manhole there… Well, this kind of miracle does not happen twice (or only in Roma…)  and I have now lost the camera for good! When climbing Tower Ridge, after the first belay to go up Douglas gap, I took it out of my pocket to take a few pictures of the beginning of the ridge and of the fantastic view of that side of Ben Nevis. As I was mostly paying attention to Kenny going up the blocks above us (to make sure of my holds there), I did not look as I put my camera back inside my overpants and it slid out of the pocket, swiftly accelerating down the snowy slopes to disappear into Coire na Ciste… There was no way we were going to check whether or not it was retrievable, so I called myself a few well-chosen names and we continued our climb along the ridge without further delay. In fact, I had another camera in my bag, my older and bulkier Konica Minolta Dimage Z20, but it was impossible to get hold of it in most places (as I would have had to unpack) and it anyway ran out of battery (which explains why I have so few pictures of the top of the Ben and of the unbelievable [and rare] views of the Highlands invading the ‘Og in the past days!).

Here is thus the last picture taken from my lost camera, a view of the Aonach Eagach ridge from the bottom of Glencoe (and the start of the trail to the Lost Valley). Apart from this miracle in Roma, I have been rather unlucky with cameras lately, loosing first my favourite one in a New York taxi, then this one on Tower Ridge. Actually, I consoled myself with the fact that the quality of this Nikon Coolpix L26 camera was rather unsatisfactory, behaving poorly in anything but clear weather and having grown a mark (fungus?) on the lens (after falling in the snow during my X’mas ski trip). Mark that is clearly visible on the right of  the ptarmigan picture below. Anyway, I will now have to look for a new camera, hopefully supported by ‘Og’s readers (!) via the links to Amazon.com and Amazon.fr there, which earn me a monetary gain [of 4% to 7%] if a purchase [of any product] is made within the 24 hours following the entry on Amazon through this link, thanks to the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com/fr.

UK trip [#4]

Posted in Mountains, pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 17, 2012 by xi'an

Today I am off (again: 4th time this year) to England, then Scotland, for a week. The first stop is in Bristol, where the Statistics group holds a four day workshop on Confronting Intractability in Statistical Inference, supported by SuSTain. This is a perfect theme for presenting and discussing ABC research, most obviously. I am looking forward to be back in Bristol with friends of many years. From Bristol, I will fly to Glasgow, where I give a seminar at the University of Glasgow on Friday and meet with Mike Titterington. Once more, I am looking forward to be back in Glasgow, having visited the University quite regularly since 1995.

Having a free weekend in Scotland can only imply one thing for me: head for the West and get to the mountains. Depending on the weather and on the (dis)continuation of a dark series with bag transportation, I hope to hike up Bidean nam Bian in Glencoe (as I did in 1995 upon Peter Green’s recommendation!) and climb Ben Nevis by Tower Ridge or even Point Five Gully (the epitome of Scottish Grade V!) if the ice and cold weather hold until Sunday (foolish hope!)…

And from Fort William I will drive to Edinburgh, where Mark Girolami, Antonietta Mira and myself are organizing an ICMS meeting on advances in MCMC on Monday-Wednesday of the following week. There is overlap in themes and participants between this workshop and the one in Bristol, but also a broader spectrum in Edinburgh, incl. a coverage of significant applications. Needless to say, I am also looking forward this meeting, as well as being in Edinburgh and staying in the vicinity of Arthur’s Seat once again!