Sunday, 19 August 2012

The Dumbarton Alps .Loch Lomond and Route 7.

It may have twigged to some of you that I have been collecting cycle trails recently.Mainly because I,ve bagged everything else I,m interested in within a days drive but I,m having a great time. Many of them are superb. Healthy ,traffic free exercise to keep an ageing man fit and they provide some great opportunities with a camera.This is the Beardmore Sculpture at Dalmuir.Shipyards  and related works used to line the Clyde from Glasgow to Greenock.

Close up of the Titan Crane From a viewpoint beside the Clyde.You can  clearly see a tourist group standing on the top of it.Next to it is the new Clydebank college.
Decided to set off on  Saturday this time as they forecast a good day at the last minute. On Saturday morning in fact.Normally the weather forecasters get it spot on but this year they have been changing maps and their minds every few hours, each with a different outlook.Shows you how unpredictable our weather has become. I didn,t trust the forecast for Sunday though and was proved correct.Set off after lunch for a six hour cycle and had excellent weather throughout after a dull grey morning.
The entrance arch to the high tunnel on the cycle track near Bowling harbour.I,ve been out this way a few times on a bike but not recently.The plan was to cycle all the way out and back to Loch Lomond from my house.Around 30 miles,mostly on cycle tracks and canal tow paths.It was busy with walkers and fellow cyclists but after the nightmare of last week on those packed single track roads still a relaxing canter.
Canal path near Old Kilpatrick.At this point its broad enough to share with other users no problem.Some lovely and interesting scenery throughout. The reason for the title "The Dumbarton Alps? "Well, this is where the Kilpatrick hills are at their most spectacular and impressive,towers and peaks of vertical rock rising high above the main A82. I always remember as a child on day trip coach runs craning my neck up to look out the windows at  the sheer cliffs of Dumbuck soaring above me.There always seemed to be a buzzard wheeling in a crystal blue sky.It was where the highlands really started and if it was good above here the day out would be memorable indeed.That image has never left me.It shaped my entire outdoor philosophy and gave the blog its title,now I think of it.
Its not changed any.It still  has a working quarry in its hidden heart.Seagulls flying around it today for a change.They seem to love gliding over the Whisky bonded warehouses here,maybe they just like the fumes wafting upwards from the barrels,not to mention the roofs for nesting on. Dumbarton has a long association with the water of life.Its one of the towns main Industries. Instead of dogs ,noisy and very vocal attack Geese used to guard and patrol the compounds here but now they have been  mostly superseded by CCTV cameras and alarm systems Although they still had a small  gaggle here last time I looked as an extra deterrent.Not seen them for a while though.'s
Maybe it was the fumes but I had a brilliant idea here.What these soaring cliffs really need are some monkeys or apes on them.The Rock Of Gibraltar is famous for its troops of Barbary Apes. Tourists flock to see them and they add loads of character to the cliffs.
Of course they would just die from the cold here in winter.Can,t have that.
Then I saw on TV recently folk in monkey suits pretending to be apes. Even fooled the real thing.So here,s my great idea. How about if we took  some young  local teenagers or unemployed actors /actresses who cant get a job in the nearby River City  complex off the dole ,put them on a scrambling training course and got them to bounce up and down all over the cliffs above the road in monkey suits for the summer.I,m sure the tourists would flock here boosting the local economy.David Cameron and his glove puppet Nick Clegg would be delighted as its helping to adjust the unemployment figures and the Scottish tourist board and Alex Salmond could give  humping "Brave "a wee rest.Great idea eh?
There,s a lot of bare rock in this area.You could get hundreds of human monkeys dancing on here. It would resemble a planet of the apes film set and wipe out unemployment in the town in one fell swoop once it made international headlines.If you got some cute young actresses bouncing around here the males are always a cert to follow. They could even have an International fun day  every year shooting bananas out of canons over Dumbarton rock with the monkey people catching them in their hands or in other obvious natural openings over on the other side,much like the famous tomato flinging  festival day in Spain.The tomatine.
Speaking of which the next stop was a trip into here. The notorious and scary north face of Dumbarton rock ,a place few tourists to the castle visit and with good reason.I used to go climbing here  back in the day when I wasn,t hiding a beach ball up my tee shirt as is sadly the case now. I always loved the location right on the edge of the River Leven with views over the Clyde  estuary but getting too high off the ground was scary stuff indeed. The rock here has a natural volcanic polish and as its very popular with climbers many of the easier routes are like glass.Not great for grip unless you have prehensile toes and my face always looked  very worried here whenever I spotted it in the so called holds.Also if you slipped off suddenly fingers had an annoying habit of being left behind in the narrow cracks.
All the boulders here have routes on them and the large cliff behind has some of the most intimidating climbs in the country on it.
I always climbed sideways here to be nearer the ground. I was much happier that way pretending to be a crab.
For anyone interested here are the overhanging face routes up the cliff.If you click on any of the pictures they go full size folks.No really!

1. Requiem 46metres. E7. once one of the hardest routes in Britain. Took over 10 years before more than a handful of  top climbers could boast to having climbed it.Now the hardest grade is around E11 or E12 or something suitably ridiculous.
2.Cyclops. E4.    3. Chemin de Fer. E5.   4 The Big Zipper E4.   5 Stonefall Crack Direct  HVS.
Even some of the boulders have  huge overhanging faces with routes where feet don,t touch rock at all til the top and these are usually done  minus a rope.
When I wandered round to the front of the castle beside the bowling club I had a great zoomed view of this massive cruise ship docked at Greenock. This thing was the height of a multi story building and almost dwarfed the cranes beside it.Gives you some idea of scale. A cruise at sea is my idea of hell mind you.I,d rather get dressed  up in a monkey suit then climb Dumbuck.
For anyone visiting the area there is also a nice flat walk along the foreshore here towards the Erskine bridge that starts at the castle itself and runs for a mile or so,tarmac at first then getting rougher underfoot the further away you get.Plenty of wildlife and wading birds to see though.
Different view entirely.Taken further up the cycle path where it skirts the edge of the Leven Swamp marshlands.A few folk fishing in waders.
The Leven drains Loch Lomond and is the 2nd fastest flowing river in Scotland.After days of heavy rain ,In spate conditions, its an impressive sight,flooding a large area of the banks and fields either side as it struggles to cope with being the only outflow from  Scotland's largest loch.As you can see  its now turned into a cracking summers evening.

A view over towards Overtoun house and The Lang Craigs behind. Another great area for walking with a network of  paths and trails below and along the  top of these cliffs. A signed cycle path...To the Crags ...goes up into this estate as well from Dumbarton for anyone wanting a bit of uphill panting on the pedals.
Another view nearer Dumbarton. The Kilpatricks are really impressive here in sunshine. Taken from the cycle track just next to Ballantines huge plant set in its own  leafy countryside estate where the bottling takes place.
Anyone who hasn,t walked along the edge of this  long escarpment  yet has missed one of the great delights of the central belt.Its fantastic,especially in springtime around May/June when the lower slopes are  completely covered in a  vibrant profusion of Rhododendron flowers,one of the largest displays anywhere in Scotland,part of  the long forgotten and abandoned Overtoun house alpine garden trail.No doubt however  if a National Park or other authority got their hands on it they'd  have to wipe out this amazing yearly display as an invasive weed. Or maybe I,m wrong.
A view of the deep water markers I walked along a few months ago at low tide. Now obviously at full water depth. Don't think I,d like to be stuck out here on one of the towers overnight. It was fairly windy and This little boat was bobbing up and down like a cork.Also spotted what looked like a dolphin fin out here,or maybe a small whale.
Had a great but uneventful run back to my house. Going back it was a lot quieter and  I could power down on the pedals more.A great trip.
Still think the monkey suit idea would be a winner.Off to email the Prime Minister,s office right now as he,s always looking for new ways to get the unemployed earning their keep.Shit , I may even volunteer myself depending on the calibre of the actresses involved .I,ve always fancied myself as an action star.


The Glebe Blog said...

Another very informative post Bob.
I love the Titan crane. I'm old enough to remember when we were the foremost shipping country in the world. It was sad to watch over the collapse of heavy industry in this country. The powers that be knew it was coming, but never did a thing about it.
The Dumbarton Alps and Lang Crags look great for exploration.
Over at Haigs Whisky Bonded Warehouses it used to be pigeons that liked the 'Angels Share'.
I like your idea of job creation, I wouldn't mind sweating in a monkey suit if the perks were attractive. I've a couple of actresses in mind !
Cosmo Smallpiece lives.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Jim.
So Have I but I,ll mention two you might not expect :)
Louise Brooks in pandora,s box.A german silent classic (1929)thats been a major influence in films,music and fashion ever since in so many ways.For Instance Her character,s hairstyle and name has never went out of fashion yet.Also her best freind Marion Davies may reputedly have be the "rosebud" in Citizen Kane.Bet you thought it was a wooden sledge.

Claudette Colbert. Still the best "Cleopatra"(1930)and "It happened one night".They dont make them like the used to thank God. Spoilt,arrogant,contemptous,Insolent,severely damaged...What do you mean nothings changed in eight decades? :)
Thought I,d throw you in a curve ball.

The Glebe Blog said...

I remember 'It happened one night Bob. That was a daring show of leg in the hitch hiking scene.
Drums along the Mohawk was another, but the Claudette Colbert that sticks in my mind is 'Three came home'.
You've made my day by mentioning her name, because I see that the film can be watched on Openflix via YouTube.
That's my evening sorted.

blueskyscotland said...

Glad to be of service Jim.

Carol said...

So, were the seagulls wavering around everywhere drunk on the fumes? ;-)

I was wondering at first what you meant saying cycling was healthy and traffic-free... then as I read further, I remembered you guys have lots of cycle tracks and things up there. We don't have anything like that round our way :-(

And a cruise would be my idea of a boring hell too!

Neil said...

I really must drag my bike out of the garage again' that reads like a really interesting trip. And less chance of encountering some of the yobs that seem to frequent the canal towpaths nearer the centre of town!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol.
Hope you are still keeping your spirits up.If you feel like reading a good book."Wicked" by Gregory Maguire is both funny and outstanding with a great female character.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Neil.
Its a good run and popular.Even good in winter with the canal iced up and the tow path empty of people.Fairly sheltered on a windy day.

Carol said...

I've been doing a lot of reading - I've been visiting a church hall (for coffee and cakes ;-) ) every Sunday afternoon and they sell cheap second-hand books so I've been coming away with armfuls most weeks! Thanks for that recommendation - I'll have to have a look for it...

Jane said...

Cruising is great, not sure I would want to do one around the British Isles but cruising is the best way to travel and see other places. That's one of the Princess Cruise liners. Nice images:) Hasn't been much of a blue sky lately here in Scotland though, well certainly not in the Central area anyway.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Jane.
My sister is also a big cruise fan and went on one from OZ around New Zealand last year.I,ve always been more of a cheap plane ticket,tent and foot man myself.I grudge the money for hotels and cabins and the only holidays I take tend to be in mountain areas.