Sunday, 13 December 2009

Islands in the sun.An epic inversion tour.

Alex was working night shifts this week including Saturday.Aw Shame. Building up his Christmas fund no doubt. A solo venture then.Where to go and what to do?
Watched forecast on Saturday night hoping it would inspire me.Inspiration arrived.
Twice now we`d shot right past great inversions to bag a trig.Nothing to stop me now though.
The great Inversion picture hunt was on.
Up in the morning and off in the grey light of dawn,heading for the car park above Lennoxtown.
A spur of the moment detour gave me a real fright on the back roads above the Blairskaith quarry area. Not high enough alas to give me views of Glasgow`s tower blocks soaring out the mist but plenty of unlooked for black ice and interesting, trouser filling steep descents back to the safety of the gritted main roads.Thankfully God`s great grey paw was on my shoulder and I survived to learn my lesson.Keep off the minor roads until later on in the day to give the ice a chance to melt.

Only a few cars in the car park when I arrived (this was taken on the descent).The mist line just below the parking bay.The road up to here was fine but I had some trouble standing up in the ungritted car park and everytime I put my waterbottle and map on the ground to change into boots they slid off down the slope on a magic carpet of ice.Good fun though.
Raced up Cort Ma Law(531m) for the first hill viewpoint of the day.

There were a few other folk on the hill and I said hello and stopped for a quick chat with the lone walkers mainly.Couples and younger folk in groups tend to stick to their own agenda on the hills.
I felt privileged.We, the lucky few, having knowledge of inversions had one up on the rest of humanity down below who, unless they were into hillwalking, would have no idea of this golden chain of islands in the sun floating above them.The Campsies, the northern Munro's ,the Kilpatrick's and the Inverclyde hills were the only ones poking out of a massive sea of fog.It seemed to stretch right round the Firth of Clyde out towards Arran.

I was pleased to see that the long wooded ridge of Blairskaith was just peeping out,scene of my solo cycle ascent in this blog and a cracking day out on two wheels.
Took a dozen pictures then noticed with alarm as my battery darkened a notch.Damn, I`d thought it was fully charged! Would it last the pace.
Off down the hill at a run as a new idea hit me.I would try to climb as many separate island groups as I could before nightfall.A worthy challenge for a glorious day like this.

Up and over to Fintry where I took this then stopped at the high point of the B822 at Kippen Muir where I was blown away by the frost covered landscape. This has always been a favourite viewpoint.

Incidentally Stronend and Carleatheran are two cracking hill days done from Fintry and Gargunock. There was another full inversion filling the valley trench between the Fintry hills and the northern wall of the snow covered distant Munro's.

Had a quick look at the map before I dropped into the fog again and picked the Whangie and Auchineden Hill as it would be an easy climb to bag another island.Driving along the cotton wool trench was the hardest part and I would pass five crashes before the day was out.
Parked at Queens View car park and raced up the path til I got to the famous slit in the hillside.

Met the Clyde valley club up here enjoying the views then raced to the summit of the hill as I just had the perfect ending to my trip.A sudden vision of what sunset would look like from the Largs hills looking over to Arran.It was getting on.2.30pm already.Would I have the time!

Bounded back down to the car and headed for the Erskine bridge and Paisley.This was my downfall as Paisley had a hell of a pea souper going.Busy roads and nervous drivers.As I gradually realised I wouldn't make it in time I swerved off up the B775 to my old childhood backyard ,the Gleniffer Braes,where I wouldn`t need a map if it was dark and mist bound coming back down on minor roads.
Turned off at Lapwing lodge and up the Mid Hartfeild road towards Walls Hill which I knew to be a high point of the area, tyres crunching through the ice filled puddles.
The orange ball of the sun appeared through the mist and I knew I`d called it right coming here.
Followed minor roads like a kid going home to the best spot for views.

A spiders web of minor roads led me to Lochlands hill where I parked in a layby and climbed my third and best little hill range of the day.No wind up here so it wasn`t that cold.

I wasn`t lonely in the gathering darkness and stayed up on the ridges of this area until the last gleam of sun faded and the stars and farm lights came on like a living advent calendar all over the high valley.

Just me and my God,tail twitching and blazing eyes reflecting the orange sun as we watched the sheep move away downhill.
A day snatched from heaven to land here for us.

A starry night saw a creep down to the road in darkness and another icy slide past Belltrees,Howwood and the motorway home.
A unique and spectacular day out.
What a pity Alex missed it!


Alistair said...

Sounds fantastic Bob!

Brian and Martina said...

well done Bob- what a day and great pictures too!

andamento said...

Fantastic photos.

My husband was up on the Glennifer braes on his mountain bike enjoying the sun the same day!

I've noted Lochlands Hill for a future cycle ride for me, not on icy roads though!

Lesley said...

Really fabulous photographs: especially that mandarine orange sunset.

The Glebe Blog said...

Brilliant views Bob.You must feel like your on top of the world when only high peaks are visible.You can certainly cover some distance in a day too.

blueskyscotland said...

Thanks guys and gals. My car came through without a scratch despite a section of minor road posted missing in the dark leaving a foot deep trench I dropped into.I,ve seen a few inversions over the years but nothing as widespread as this one.Wonder what it was like on the east coast,I,ve always wanted to photograph an inversion over the Edinburgh hills.That must be great too.
Cycling round the Barcraigs reservoir roads and over to Walls hill area on a good day is fantastic. Once your up on top of this tableland its not hard work but the views everywhere are stunning.Best place to park.Car park above foxbar(Gleniffer braes country park)then stick to yellow c class roads all the way over to Barcraigs.