Monday, 29 January 2018

North West Glasgow. A Cross Country Ski Tour. Part Two and End.

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The second part of my two ski tour trips roughly 14 days apart to coincide with two separate heavy dumps of fresh snow with melting taking place at lower levels between times.
A busy pond. To get to this park pond I had to ski from Anniesland then Bearsden, then Westerton Train Station then over Knightswood's hills. Most folk in Glasgow think of Knightswood as a flat, low house district but it does have several small grassy hills, each boasting different views over the city and that was the magnet for me now as I was trying to follow a circular route through parks, quiet green corridors and canal tow paths to avoid most of the built up areas.

As I was still finding my balance on skis I was not going to be overly ambitious and moderately angled slopes like these would suit me just fine. After the empty streets and quiet parks of the other districts this was another honey pot drawing a crowd but this time for families rather than wildlife.
Both hills (this is the other one taken from the first) are perfect for younger kids starting out or bolder teenage children on plastic sledges as they are safe. This photo brings back memories of my own youthful sledging adventures although we mainly made our own wooden ones in those days and put wooden runners on them, supposedly for control- a daft idea as any rectangle of thick rubber or linoleum always went far faster albeit with very little control over direction taken or speed limits. It seems to be more disciplined and safety conscious now as in our estate it was always a largely unsupervised free for all and potentially dangerous every time you set off. I grew up on a hilltop where the best and highest slopes had an un-fenced busy main road at the bottom lying in wait so sliding straight across it into traffic was a dreaded but not infrequent occurrence. In the days before health and safety and less public awareness of potential dangers children did have much greater outdoor freedom in every way and more independence but so did adults- sometimes free to abuse that trust and innocence if they were that way inclined, hence the constant stream of historical child mistreatment and cruelty cases from that time cropping up in the headlines now regarding institutions. Every age seems to have a yin and yang construct going on- far less cynicism, more trust in adult authority figures and personal freedom in those days but less safeguards, more accidents and death from simply playing outdoors, or hidden deeds carried out behind closed institution walls then routinely covered up more often than not... the downside of that freedom.
It just stuck me seeing this one that you do not see many snow mummies around, even now. With 50 percent of the population female on average, and the ones usually helping to build them you would think it would be a more even split when construction takes place. Unless it's mummy's personal image of an ideal man of course. Along with tending burning slabs of meat on garden BBQs is this the last male bastion and stronghold of social engineering perhaps?
A down and out homeless snow person next.?  So synonymous with UK cities now in the 2000s that it's a modern cultural icon and an image brand/ tourist attraction in their own right. Like old time outlaws prowling the fringes of society. Cool Britannia 2018 style.
The sledging hill from a distance. Very L.S. Lowry this image as he often used white backgrounds to highlight his figures in paintings.
This one was slightly creepy as it suddenly appeared out of a featureless expanse of snow as a disembodied floating head. Usually the only time you get to explore golf courses within a city environment happens after heavy snow falls so I try to take full advantage if I can as it opens up new views and large expanses of normally out of bounds territory.
The short grass underneath also provides great smooth skiing with very few tussocks or bumps.
This is a post featuring two separate ski trips... one of them ran into nighttime... as I had to wait until after lunch on one occasion before heavy snow stopped falling to allow clear distance views like this one to be taken.
Another of the sledging group. I've often thought of skiing and rock climbing as being just an  acceptable way to enable grown up folk to continue sliding down hillsides and climb trees on a regular basis as they get older. And why not... if you enjoy it do it. It's good fun.
One of the pond at dusk.
Gentle flakes of snow falling now and a 'ghost in the machine' effect caused by a tiny smear of moisture on the camera lens. A nice ghostly smudge when you brush it lightly with a fingertip to spread it out.
And another with a transparent cloud hanging over the flats.
The icy road back to Anniesland.
Skiing across the golf course at dusk. Magical.
Homeward bound with a cold night ahead and rapidly dropping temperatures.

Talking of magical events very occasionally a book or film comes along that is so different, strange and compelling that it's like a much needed gust of fresh air blowing into a stale room.' Let the right one in' is a classic horror film with some disturbing moments to be sure but it also manages to be a tender love story filled with wonderful memorable imagery and some dark ambiguity regarding ultimate motives that leaves you thinking even after the film ends. An intriguing mix. It's in a class of its own- reinventing a tired and dated genre with new life and vigor, spawning loads of copy cat imitations- none of which match it for originality or poetic intelligence. IMHO this film and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy (the original Swedish films in both cases) largely inspired the whole Scandinavian noir crime phenomenon on TV for the last decade. They made American remakes of both these films for folk that don't like reading subtitles but left the sparkle, mystery and strangeness behind completely when they did so. This is the real deal and the full Swedish film is currently available to watch on You Tube I noticed recently.
 Stockholm in winter and dark by lunchtime. Really captures the cold bleak essence of a northern city locked in a freezer for months, not so far away from the Arctic Circle where some are vegetarian... while others prefer alternatives. Still 'Frozen' as a general theme but a very different landscape and mood from the recent Disney children's classic.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Exploring North West Glasgow. A Cross Country Ski Tour. Part One.

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This is part one of a long cross country- well... across Glasgow at any rate... ski tour on a pair of borrowed cross country skis. As four to six inches of snow has fallen in the last month over the Central Belt- on two separate occasions a couple of weeks apart- I made the most of them by planning ahead.
Looking at the Glasgow map and my own detailed knowledge of the area I knew a circular ski tour starting from Anniesland then taking in Bearsden (seen here, above) Dawsholm Park (skirting the edge of Maryhill) then the Forth and Clyde canal running down through Knightswood then the park there- plus the golf course then back to Anniesland via a different route should be possible.
Most of it would be travelling through green open spaces but occasionally using quiet back streets between the green areas--- travelling down roads or pavements when necessary. As it was a weekend outing the roads (most of the back streets almost blocked out by snow anyway) were very quiet. Apart from essential services- buses, trains, taxis -police etc  most folk had opted to stay home and not use their cars. (I heard later a six mile tail back traffic jam had occurred in Glencoe- caused by keen skiers flocking to the ski resort there then getting stuck and trapped for hours when they were already full up with visitors.
None of that hassle here though - even the pavements were empty as no-one seems to walk much in Bearsden over car driving age and it's the same as any other upmarket area I've noticed on previous cycling or walking trips around the various city suburbs- which is great from my point of view. The Kilpatrick  Hills in the distance here.
Some of the back streets had so much snow covering them it was hard to see where the road was underneath. There are two roads here.
I deliberately picked a route over several small hills for the views and a spot of downhill interest although truth be told I was only going at walking pace- deliberately so where I had to use pavements between green spaces and parks out of consideration. Not that I spotted anyone else around.
I also knew of a woodland trail that avoided most of built up Bearsden by linking Dawsholm Park with the Forth and Clyde canal.
A view of Anniesland, Jordanhill in the distance, and Anniesland Tower.
Anniesland Train Station and Glasgow's new super hospital at Govan, one of the largest in Europe, with a helipad on the roof. Dawsholm Park sits on a hilltop with good views over the city and a great network of trails.
Westerton Train Station. I had to take the skis off here to cross from Bearsden over into Anniesland to reach the Forth and Clyde canal via this pedestrian bridge.
A view over Anniesland from the other side of the bridge. You can see the gas towers I started off close to in the distance.
To reach the canal on the other side.
A few km of skiing along here followed, where I had some very easy downhill runs. Having skied so infrequently in the last ten years I was still finding my balance and technique and I never did get good enough to master the graceful but tricky telemark turns on anything other than a perfect gentle and wide slope so any turning involved was a clumsy bunny hop on planks. Not much room for snowplough turns either but useful for stopping or slowing down. I was improving though and was now bombing along- at a fast glide- sightly faster than fast walking pace but only just....

The real deal here. I need a lot more practice. Tricky when you only get low level snow so infrequently in Scotland. Some years none at all.

It was good fun though and felt great. A lone maverick nutter in a pristine, almost empty, world.
Apart from bird life of course. A moorhen here- a bird of wet moors, marshes, ponds and rivers. There used to be plenty of coots on the canal as well but moorhens have the distinct advantage of being able to leave the water and forage on the land for food whereas you don't see coots doing that much.
Very few coots on this canal now compared to 20 years ago but bird, insect,and animal numbers have all crashed dramatically world wide overall in that time. Some by 70 percent- some by 30 percent. I like to think of myself as a realist rather than a pessimist but the continuous downward trend of wildlife everywhere is obvious to anyone looking at the numbers.
So you might get a false picture here of this honeypot pond with its plentiful range of species. Gulls, tufted ducks, swans, mallards and geese- the numbers just enough to keep the pond from freezing over completely. Instead, it was a slushy thick porridge affair but very draining to swim or wade through I'd imagine.
Tufted ducks.
Swans and pigeons.
End of part one... in part two I tackle some mighty city hills....on Santa's magic planks!

A different kind of white. The chalk cliffs of the iconic Needles and an incredible climb up a caster sugar looking arete in this amazing video. I've never rock climbed on chalk before so I've no idea how good the protection is in the event of a fall off this thrilling knife edge. Probably best not to fall at all when relying on such crumbing crack lines or old metal pegs with a few hopeful nuts and hexes wedged in as a back up.  Well worth a full screen look in this link. Spectacular camerawork and effort. A real and very different adventure. Ah, to be young again.

Friday, 19 January 2018

Cnoc Coinnich. A New Scottish Corbett. Lochgoilhead in Winter.

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A day out on a newly promoted Corbett above Lochgoilhead, an isolated but beautiful village on a sea loch situated west of Arrochar and Loch Lomond. We passed The Cobbler, seen here, on the way and knew it was going to be a stunning winter outing of crystal clear blue skies and snow covered peaks.
Beinn an Lochain, 901 metres, rising high above the steep sided valley of Glen Croe. Impressive metal fences line the road here to prevent further land slides as this road has been blocked several times in past years due to increased rainfall causing mud and rock slides down the mountains. A long detour is the only option when that happens.
A Glen Croe view of The Cobbler cliffs and Ardgartan Arete. A classic severe rock climb in summer up the left hand peak in the first photo. You can just see a tiny person near the summit in this one (middle of skyline ridge.)
Lochgoilhead and Loch Goil. I was here with my friend John who is collecting Corbett's but both of us were surprised to see ice sheets forming on this sheltered fjord like sea loch. It hadn't reached the shoreline yet and was far too thin to walk on but you could see the process starting, probably as a result of several days of minus -5 to  minus -10 nights below zero in a row and static seawater with no wave action.
A dump of snow had also cooled the land, dropping daytime temperatures further. A view of Ben Cruachan here, one of the giants of the region at 1,126 metres, or 3, 694 feet, the highest summit in Argyll.
Our summit, Cnoc Coinnich, was a lowly Corbett at 763 metres, 2,505 feet, and had gained Corbett status after remeasuring. Like all west coast mountains though they give good value for that modest height with a sea level start point. Most of them are also steep sided and ringed with cliffs.
A view of a neighbouring small peak.
Down in the forests below the snow line we had also spotted a male pheasant in its bright plumage, an Indian introduction used as target practice all over the Scottish Highlands and Southern Uplands. Beautiful bird, as are all the game birds we shoot in Scotland. Could not believe how wonderful a partridge looks when I spotted one a few years ago for the first time. A doubled edged sword as they are only in this country thanks to an unlucky ability to shout their presence on taking off then flying poorly in a highly visible straight line and therefore far easier to hit than other, more evasive birds.

 Funny how we always manage to kill off or want to own the prettiest and most precious things in existence as a trophy. When you think about it these are the UK game equivalent of Birds of Paradise.
A view of The Cobbler, side on, from Cnoc Coinnich. The long distance foot path, The Cowal Way, travels through this district for around 90km from Portavadie to Loch Lomondside following a twisting line through this still largely unfrequented and mainly mountainous Cowal peninsula cut off by narrow sea lochs.  Info link and zoom in detailed map of the route here.
From the shoreline car park and public toilets in Lochgoilhead a signposted route leads up through pine woods and a small gorge to cross the high level pass over towards Arrochar. We followed this steeply uphill until it leveled out above the forest then made for the snow line and our summit slopes.
Although The Cobbler had visible hill-walkers moving on it and a usually crowded car park these days, this area has far less outdoor folk in general but there was a faint trail uphill through the snow created by Corbett baggers attracted to this peak. Anything under this list height is still largely trackless thankfully- few folk making it onto the lesser lists of hills as knees pack in, old age advances, or enthusiasm fades. A snowy Cowal Way high point in this photo above from the slopes of Cnoc Coinnich. A lone hardy winter backpacker meets two trail runners.
John on the uphill push. The snow was firm and consolidated in most places with just enough grip to avoid putting crampons on.
The upper slopes. Really good fun crunching up here and an easy enough angle without punishing the legs too much- ascent or descent.  This was just perfect for old guys looking for adventure without too much effort involved as some of the other hills in this district are really tough- especially in winter.
And fantastic views from the summit itself. Ben Lomond here.
Arrochar Alps. Beinn Ime, 1011 metres, ....probably. ( It was too cold to get the map out again at this point as I was enjoying some feeling returning back into my frozen fingers for once- winter summits and keen frequent photography makes for painful extremities most of the day when its ten below zero with any wind at height.)
On the summit and a happy John. Another Corbett bagged. I think he's about halfway through them now.

Watched this film a while ago (on Anne's recommendation) and didn't think I would like it ( I remembered the original Danny Kaye version- not so keen on that effort) ... so was pleasantly surprised when I did, mainly because of the spectacular outdoor scenes- some shot in Iceland. It also introduced me to the growing sport of long boarding (seen here) as a bored 9 to 5 city worker, at a turning point in his life, decides to track down action photographer Sean Penn when he goes missing on an assignment and discovers adventure outdoors for himself. Best watched full screen.