Saturday, 28 May 2016
I've always enjoyed a wide range of outdoor sports and will have a go at most things to see if I like it as that's just the way I'm made. ( As highlighted in my comedy novel Autohighography)
Although I enjoy hill walking and I'm very lucky to have a group of friends to go out with nearly every weekend I sometimes get frustrated by the seeming unwillingness of everyone around me to embrace the same kaleidoscopic approach to the outdoors -for a large section of the outdoor fraternity over the last 40 years it has to be hill walking every week and nothing else but hill walking. I also enjoy cycling, rural rambles, beach walks, caving, island bagging (just for the sake of it and not to capture a high point as the prime motive :o) urban city explorations, flower photography, wildlife, sex with penguins, day's out with furry triangular aliens, and anything else that comes to mind.
Most folk are not like that and tend to stick to one hobby at a time so years can go by before I meet someone like Alan, seen above, who is willing to try out other pursuits if you suggest them instead of the usual "but this is a hill walking club!?!!!" and " Why would we do anything else?!!!". People like him are surprisingly few in number so when he expressed an interest in kayaking, and already liked cycling and any kind of walk as long as it was interesting, I knew I had found a like minded kaleidoscope like myself. Ben Lomond looking huge and impressive seen from Loch Ard.
I also try and match any selected videos to correspond with the posts and they always have great vivid imagery in them.( to my way of thinking anyway)
Another Stunning Water World Within. The Ocean Deeps. Best watched full screen.
Tuesday, 24 May 2016
With a period of good stable weather over Scotland Alex suggested a day trip to do one of his remaining 7 Corbetts. Hills falling between 2,500 feet and 2,999 feet. Above is Ben Lui, 1130 metres, a shapely Munro near Bridge of Orchy and a hill labeled the "Queen of the Southern Highlands" due to its magnificent central corrie crowned by a sparkling white tiara of upper cliffs, that often lasts into early summer before melting completely
Having recently obtained 1000 of these little cards for £30 quid I was determined to shift them over the summer and at least try to get my investment back.
Whether they wanted one or not :o)
Between photography, blatant book promotion, and trying to catch up with a driven committed corbett bagger on the hunt to capture his prize I was already knackered by the time we reached Corryhully and was left far behind. It's hard work being an unappreciated author! Bet JK doesn't get blank expressions, sullen looks, or complete apathy when she brings out her latest opus. Or nervous strangers backing away hurriedly when you bounce enthusiastically towards them with all the charm of a friendly Rottweiler. Some of the fitter cyclists were determined not to be caught, despite my best efforts to force a card on them. Rejection can be cruel.
I've said it before but you cant beat the OS paper Landranger maps for cheapness, reliability, and also to give you a large scale overview of the area you are walking/ cycling in. Recently, we have bumped into a few young folk using only smart phones and a three inch screen as navigational aids outdoors but I can't see the attraction myself. To my eyes it's like a horse with blinkers on that can only view the road in front of its feet instead of a constant panorama of other surrounding mountains but many folk under 50 are so conditioned to using smart phones now for everything that it is completely changing the planet. Paper may well die out and become almost obsolete, same with actual cash transactions, and the current migrant situation has been largely facilitated with the growing use of smart phones where anyone anywhere in the world who has one can access information very easily on any country in great detail with unforeseen consequences.
I for one will proudly stand with a twenty pound note held high and declare with my dying breath ..."from this dead hand will you take my cash money and not a single minute before !"
Mind you, I don't have much to take anyway but I do like to have real money in my pocket and would feel strange leaving the house with just a smart phone/ smart watch and online access. Point is... if this becomes the norm everywhere then that choice is taken away, along with many others already being phased out and shown the back exit.
It had taken us ages to climb up the steep slopes in punishing heat and a lack of breeze in the sheltered glen had us sweating profusely. A kilometer back from the 471 pass high point we decided to tackle Streap from this angle, navigating through a band of vertical cliffs as Alex cheerily informed me 13 people had lost their lives on this mountain. I could see why as it is relentlessly "Streap" from every angle yet a peak on most hill walkers radar, unlike a lot of remote Corbetts that only other dedicated Corbett baggers have ever heard of as it towers above several surrounding glens and has a prominent summit with a knife edged ridge. Certainly from this direction there was no path and good navigation was required up and down to weave a safe route through the vertical rock bands running across this hillside with only a few grass gullies permitting entry upwards. The Corbetts today are very similar to the Munros from 40 years ago with distinct paths on only a few out of the 221 total number.
We did meet a young twenty something? girl down in the glen after chaining the bikes up in a small wood near the bothy who was walking the Cape Wrath Long Distance Trail, reputedly one of the toughest in the UK. Link and map here.
I must admit these new long distance walking routes seem to pop up almost every year now across Scotland but this one is really special, travelling through remote glens and spectacular scenery but it's not a route for everyone with few villages or refueling points available throughout its length. She seemed very fit though, being a competitive fell runner, and was travelling light and fast between isolated bothies but not fast enough to avoid a few cards.. Every new stranger a potential victim :o)
Fitter than us certainly as the equally steep descent off Streap was torture on my poor long suffering knees and I had to take painkillers just to reach the bottom and the bikes.
One thing about rock climbers is that they get to know rock types and rock architecture intimately. You might think you know rocks pretty well as hill-walkers going up hills but it's the difference between partners as non intimate friends and associates compared to long term lovers, aware of every detail of flesh, contour, birthmark, and bone. When your life depends on what you are hanging off at any given moment it pays to know the properties of the various materials you are dealing with. Some rocks are fine when dry but treacherous when any moisture hits them. Others are full of good holds and cracks for protection all the way up while some are conspicuous by their absence.
Spartan Slab, VS, lies on the Etive Slabs and has 600 plus feet of climbing up smooth granite. It is one of the easier grades of rock climb on this ancient landslip leaving a large section of bare rock exposed at a critical angle and a good introduction to "friction climbing".... i.e. trusting the granite surface to keep you on it by toe pressure alone between holds. As the rock grades get harder on this steep exposed cliff so too the increasing gap between holds widens alarmingly and more technical padding up bare surfaces between runners occurs, requiring considerable faith and nerve.
A cracking route and video that brought back memories. Not having the necessary bottle for harder stuff this climb was my limit for friction moves although Alex managed The Pause HVS and Hammer HVS. Gets much better 1:30 mins in when that awful piano bar music changes and the slabs appear onscreen. Well worth the wait.
Saturday, 14 May 2016
Renfrewshire is special because, like Glasgow, it is covered in drumlins. These are low hills of glacial enhanced construction left over from the last ice age that create a rolling landscape of open meadows, sheltered wooded valleys, small kettle lochs and rugged small escarpments on gentle ridges. I've been coming here since I could travel on my own four paws and I never grow tired of it. The first time I set eyes on the sea was from a hill around here and that thrill has never left me. It is completely unique and there is nowhere else like it in Scotland- probably Britain. Summed up perfectly in the line "A shire like no other, neither highland nor lowland but placed somewhere in-between - resembling the rolling waves of a mighty ocean calming down slowly after a day of storm."
A Scottish glimpse of Arcadia or far off Byzantium perhaps, where the drumlins roll freely, uncluttered by housing, ridge after exquisite ridge merging into a blue distant horizon where all dreams are possible and just within reach of wildly straining fingers. A mere eight hundred years ago Glasgow must have looked very similar to this with a small ecclesiastical village straddling an open hillside around a tiny High Street and modest church perched below a higher Drumlin. The birth and beginning of the mighty Drumlin City of the future which would eventually come to dominate sea borne trade, ship building, and locomotive production across the globe from the 1700s on-wards swelled by refugees from the highland clearances, which gradually transformed that area into a Victorian theme park, game reserve and sheep farm, a situation that still continues to this day, more or less. The unfashionable but prolific workhorse of the British Empire had its numbers swelled further with refugees coming over from Ireland looking for work as an alternative to starving on the streets there during the famine years of the mid 1800s.
By way of contrast Renfrewshire is easy, delicious and delightful like a really nice fruit sundae with
three flavours of ice cream, cherries, strawberries, sliced bananas, seedless sweet grapes then topped with sprinkled crushed chocolate flake, nuts and raspberry drizzle on a hot summers day. It is that good.
Kilmacolm village seen above.
In short it's relaxing and enjoyable, just like exploration cycling and can even be euphoric at times.( head down, full throttle racing cycling is a different game entirely and not for me)
Knapps Loch above.
If 'King' Arthur did exist as a real person he might well have visited here before he died as many southern Celtic tribes were forced into the extremities of Britain by successive waves of overseas intruders. It's no coincidence that Cornwall, Devon, Scotland, Cumbria, Wales and Ireland all have shared Celtic roots as these remote, often mountainous, places provided a refuge for displaced tribes fleeing persecution. An early form of Welsh, (Brythonic) was spoken in this area then and Merlin gets a mention visiting here in an ancient account of the period. Arthur, Merlin, and even Camelon crop up as old place names through the Borders and Central Belt regions although its impossible at the moment to attach any value to them unless new evidence is found, which is not likely to happen. The "Fort of the Britons" is still impressive today and a visit to the castle is a memorable experience for those able to ascend its steep walkways to reach both summits. A low level path runs around the base of the rock to the overhanging north facing cliff that contains some of the hardest rock climbs in Scotland.
For Camelon see link below.
Especially in late spring/ early summer, with the sweet spicy infusion of richly scented gorse all around and shimmering heat of 26c degrees (not that common in May for chilly old Scotland) every special kaleidoscopic inch of ground should be savoured to the full. Well, you don't gulp down ice cream and assorted fruit pieces, do you?...or jump around frantically in a deck chair. It's that sort of day here. A gentle, slow, lascivious and luscious pace, taking it all in, soaking up the heat in this sheltered magical hollow.
Winnie the Pooh could not have been happier with his hairy head stuck in a honey jar than fat old Bobby on that modest summit taking in the panorama below.... teeth deep in a succulent red berried tart. Every vampires dream.
Although a circular walk exists around this small loch we headed downhill to pick up a farm track leading up between a golf course and green fields to bring us out at Lawfield Farm , a minor road and the nearby Lawfield Dam fishery pond which was busy with anglers dipping their rods in the water.
From here we walked along this quiet tarmac ribbon for a short distance past the golf course then took a signposted right of way through it to bring us out at Glen Moss, a local nature reserve of ancient bog and watery swamp.
Here we walked along the cycle track for a short distance then cut down to the right on a grass covered path to pick up the old green-way track, which is not as busy with cyclists and brings you out past North Denniston fishery and the B788. We then regained the cycle track following it down into Quarriers Village. A very special place indeed.
With such a colourful post it requires a suitable video to match it. I've been a fan of Kate Bush since her first album came out in the late 1970s but I prefer to discover new music and bands that I haven't heard rather than stuff I know well. A few years ago I stumbled on these fan made videos appearing on You Tube and immediately thought they were excellent. If the guy that puts them together (the highly talented Mr Marrs) doesn't work in the visual arts field already someone should snap him up as they are better than the artist's official videos put out with large bags of cash behind them.
Fascinating images spliced together to perfectly match the lyrics of the song, sumptuous beauty, sparkle and elegance as a given, seem to be his trademark.
A real joy to watch even if you don't like her music and a poem prologue courtesy of Alfred Lord Tennyson, (The Coming of Arthur) one of the inspirations for the Ninth Wave segment about a passenger swept overboard then struggling to stay conscious and afloat in a vast empty ocean.
Best watched full screen from the start. Now this is 'Art' as I understand it and better than 90 per cent of modern conceptual art , highly priced head scratchers, or pretentious gobbledygook, hanging in galleries today. If you only watch one video on this blog in your lifetime let it be this one, viewed full screen.