Our Staff Photographer, Lewis McLean, got firmly out of his comfort zone in the Scottish wilderness with the chaps from Fjallraven and Backcountry Survival last weekend. Find out how the self-confessed city boy got on in our latest trip report.
When Ross from Fjallraven invited us on this trip, I’ll be honest, I was pretty nervous. Spending three days with a bunch of outdoor equipment nerds in the wilds of the Scottish highlands was fairly daunting. I know snowsports and snowboarders like the back of my hand ? having worked with and as one for ten years ? however this was completely out of my comfort zone.
I’ve never been to the Lake District, I?m not a huge fan of down jackets in casual settings, and I don’t make a habit of getting involved in daft expeditions in the name of Art. I also have a deeply troubled relationship with walking footwear and will only don it when absolutely necessary.
Basically, I figured (as I?m sure you probably have too) that I?m a bit of a snob, and on this trip I?d be a little out of my depth.
Don’t get me wrong, I love being outside ? after all, a hill’s a hill for aw that ? but I?m definitely not what you?d call an outdoorsman. Having lived in a city my entire life, my relationship with the outdoors is a purely take-take ? a wholly selfish one in the respect of how and why I access it. Going up things just to come back down them serves the purpose of filling some empty part of me. I endure the short-term pain and suffering just to get some bragging rights amongst my pals, and I very much intend to be cosy in my own bed at the end of the night if at all possible. Personally, the idea of simply sleeping out in the arse-end of nowhere for no reason other than to try and exist seemed, honestly, a little dull? but man, was I wrong!
This year I’ve been lucky enough to go on quite a few trips around Europe and I’ll be honest, this one back at home was perhaps the best I’ve been on. I like learning new things, and for that reason alone, my experience with Fjallraven was incredible.
The trip itself was in tandem with Backcountry Survival ? a small team featuring an impressive German Short-Haired Pointer called Hector ? and was based out of a bothy on the Alvie Estate, about ten minutes from Aviemore. They lead bush craft and survival courses ? teaching everything you could possibly need to stay alive in the backcountry, from lighting fires with friction to catching and dressing a rabbit for tea. I won?t try and explain the skills we learned and how best to implement them during survival situations, as frankly, I wouldn’t do the exceptional instruction we received or the incredible location justice. I’ll instead I’ll let you get a flavour of it with the pictures below and give you the strong recommendation that you hit-up Neil and book one of his courses ASAP. You’ll even get a certificate!
I’ll finish with this. This course has completely humbled me and totally renewed my appreciation of what the outdoors can offer. It turns out you don’t need to be chucking yourself off stuff to enjoy what’s out there. Instead, you can appreciate it for what it is at its simplest and purest ? the outdoors is remarkably calming and exceptionally exhilarating in equal measure. Perhaps the biggest take-home, however, was the respect we should have for the outdoors. Cities have their dangers and their challenges, but nine-times-out-of-ten they have a man-made solution. Nature too offers solutions to challenges, you just need be polite and know where to look.
Words and Photos: Lewis McLean