Friday 31 December 2010

2010 Calendar.

 Bob and I can never agree on anything  :) So,I went ahead and had a few calendars printed of my own pics for friends from the past years photos.December`s was taken a  few years ago as the pics had to be at the printers early.
Still have a few previous reports to blog but this will probably be the last one posted in 2010 as we are away to a bothy in the hills for Hogmanay . Minus 10 forecast but there will be 6 of us to hump in a few bags of coal and maybe the odd can of beer or two :)
Thanks to Bob and the others for the company on the hills over the last 12 months.We had some fantastic days out this year and my vote would go to the Isle of Canna as being the most enjoyable.
Happy New Year to everybody out there who took the time to post a comment.!

Five Sisters of Kintail .

Loch Dochard.

Firth of Clyde .

Beinn Dearg Mor from Shenaval bothy.

Isle of Rum from Laig Bay on the Isle of Eigg.

Isle of Rum from Beinn Buidhe on Eigg.

Sunset over Jura on the way back from Islay.

Bob on the Isle of Canna.

Stac Pollaidh from Cul Beag.

Tenandry in Perthshire.

Ardgour from the Pap of Glencoe.

Sunset over the Buachaille in December 2007.

Wednesday 29 December 2010

The Cobbler. Well, almost !

As you can see I was invited by our club to go out on the traditional big group outing after Christmas to walk off any leftover turkey and sprouts.After being keener than me Alex pulled out at the last minute due to catching a weather forecast.Heavy overnight snowfalls turning to rain by the time of our visit.Like anyone bagging the bigger hills Iv`e spent years in conditions like this.Can`t say I miss that bit much.
What I do miss though is the banter of a big crowd so I went anyway.I was glad I did as it turned out to be a cracker.You missed yourself Alex.
What made it enjoyable for me and everyone else I presume was dry snow and no wind.For once on a big winter hill I was toasty warm.

As you can observe Alex and myself do have other friends.Ugly lot aren't they? We don`t always spend our time roaming the mountains hand in hand picking daises together :o) No sir, we used to go out on the greater ranges with these rough guys and a few rough girls all the time but it got too hard for our old legs to keep that up on a regular basis.
Hence the blog ,still bagging peaks but in ever declining circles,slowly falling to the big box in the ground with a smile. (separate boxes in different cemeteries by the way that daisy thing was just a joke.)
Anyway,gathered as a team in the ice wrapped car park at Arrochar below the Cobbler and set off.The amount of fresh snow that had fallen in one night was amazing.

This is a quarter of the way up the hill where we could still see.Further up at the lunchstop boulders it turned murky.

After lunch it was decided the curve up to the col was too easy.Were we not cabable men,well equipped ,bristling with ice axes, poles and crampons like a 20 legged porcupine?We would climb up via a  suitable gully onto the ridge.

Up we went boldly into the mist.Visibility was down to a stones throw then dropped even further the higher we climbed.
Not wanting to appear too decrepit or past it amongst these young folk I had a tried and tested plan for occasions such as these.Any time anyone pointed at a rock face or steep gully looming out the mist skywards and asked the others  if this was the right direction I nodded sagely and  declared" Looks as if it will go.I,ll follow you up"

Never let it be said I`ve lost my greater range abilities or sense of bold adventure!
Forth the Gallant crew! Up we went  into the murk between barely visible cliffs in a fine caterpillar line of axes, poles,thrashing limbs and in my case crampons.Well,my summer boots are really comfy.The winter ones give me blisters every time and they are heavy.

Up we struggled......then backed down again repulsed by  ever steepening ground and crumbling giant slabs of snow.No risk of an avalanche though due to all the large boulders underfoot.Opps!Sorry folks,didnt see you there.My mistake.My bad.My bad!!!

All the way down then a traverse across to the next gully in thigh deep snow.Everyone kept looking  at me for some reason.I was  good in this stuff at one time but I was out of practice in crap conditions.And there was no way I was taking my warm gloves off to look at a map if nobody else was.:o)
"Looks like it might go  boys!" I offered helpfully.
Forth the club upwards into the murk once more.
And met a headwall spider man couldn't have climbed with a superglue tracksuit on.
My old leadership skills came back to me though.I knew what to do next........

And down we went.
After another traverse under the cliffs we came across another gully.No one asked my opinion this time but they seemed to be getting the hang of it by now......up we went....

And back down again.

Who says snakes and ladders is an obsolete game nowadays.
It was great fun but it was not far off nightfall now so we had to admit  defeat.Our route thus far must have resembled a drunk man staggering home across a city sized kids roundabout  tilting at a steep angles while revolving slowly.
On the plus side it was all good natured with great banter and laughs,everyone returned safely and I don't think anyone was all that bothered about getting to the summit which we would not have seen much of anyway just felt by the  increased strengh of the windchill.It certainly got rid of those Christmas calories.

On the negitive side,once relaxed and back at my house I dropped a spare sock on the ground beside the car and had a real job bending  down to pick it up I was so stiff and sore.Every part of my body ached.It`s a bugger getting old.
Never mind.First guy down off the hill though.There`s some life in the old skool dug yet.
Thanks for a great day out guys.You know who you all are.

Sunday 26 December 2010

Finnich Glen.The Devils Pulpit. A spooky Christmas tale.

Merry Christmas folks. Great to be back online at last.
Many thanks to Alex for all his excellent extra work on our blog and his help and technical knowledge in saving my back photo collections which seemed doomed when my poor old computer snuffed it without warning.

Mind you, maybe the thought of all those future articles ahead of him spurred him to greater efforts but good guy that he is he`s made sure  I`m back to give him a helping hand again scribble wise. Yer man had the usual family commitments over the festive period so here`s a wee solo effort that turned into  a bit of an adventure. I`m not flush enough to munch a big bite of petrol without a good reason (£50 a fill up, its a joke!!!!) so I stayed local reducing my carbon footprint to a mere patter of tiny paws.

Where to go though. A look at the OS  map of Glasgow sheet 64 produced the answer. Just to the north of Glasgow  on the A809  under the shadow of Dumgoyne lay Finnich Glen.
A narrow twisting gorge hidden in a little  patch of woodland.
Until the access hole in the wall was blocked off this used to be fairly popular with walkers and groups exploring its twisty depths and a few times Alex, myself and others in our club thought of traversing it from end to end with wetsuits and maybe a rope. It's mainly flat with a few small waterfalls but extremely photogenic. Other further away trips normally had priority however and it has stayed on the back burner.

It now sits largely forgotten sunk deep  in an otherwise unassuming patch of land. Surely after two weeks of minus 12 below night time temperatures though the access stream that runs through its depths blocking entry would be frozen stiffy  :0) Maybe it would allow a bold explorer into its slippy slot and accept a happy tramp with crampons.
Anyway it was worth a look. There are two entry points. the blocked off hole beside the road or the lay by just up at the b road junction and across a Field to a low point in the banks. The rear entry.
I made for this!

When I arrived it was to find the river indeed stiff. This is the view looking back out from inside.
I crunched off across the ice to claim my prize. Unfortunately though it was not as frozen as I`d hoped and after several crunchy shots at glory tiptoeing across a frozen wonderland and some frantic thrashing by a fat old man still stuffed with turkey over several fallen trees I had to admit defeat. In fact de feet and trousers and socks were rather soggy by this point as I`d crashed through  a few times. Boy was that water cold!
No matter .I  went back, climbed the banks and crunched off towards the middle steps area halfway along which would take me down to the Devil's Pulpit. From here a tricky broken staircase of snow and ice leads down a gully onto the floor of the gorge.

It has an oddly shaped tree guarding the entrance which is only really seen well from below where it resembles a crouching animal from the pages of some ancient bestiary. Best seen in the very top photo.
There is a certain presence down here but I`ve never felt it dark or threatening in any way, just a quiet watch full  stillness,like nature's eyeball on you. Due to the overhangs here this was the first place outdoors I`d visited in two weeks without any snow. Full of colour and hanging curtains of sharp icicles.

As you can see it was beautiful down here, red walls and deep pools of black water running under the ice.
Like the entry staircase however it required a cautious approach. The stone mushroom ahead is the Devil`s Pulpit  and this is where I headed next.
I set forth, jaggy paws scratching across the groaning ice which just held my weight.
When I reached said mushroom however this was the end of the line. Way too much deep water, steep sides and not enough good ice lay ahead. I did get this photo though.

As my wet feet were freezing now I was happy with what I`d attempted. I`d already padded across several stretches of ice above unknown depths just to reach here. I was not going to push my luck. If you came unstuck down here it would be spring before they dug a wee bury pit for the bones.

       When I came out again the setting sun was just painting the surrounding hills with a reddish glow. Very fitting for the end of a trip into the underworld.

On the way home with a dry pair of socks I stopped off in Drumchapel to see the Christmas lights. They always try to put on a good show here for the community and its nice to end with a bit of sparkle.

                                                   Even fed some swans. Aw!

Update. those who liked this story might also like Autohighography by Bob Law. It's my new novel. A humorous tale of a Glasgow hillwalking club and their exploits, love affairs (or lack of them) adventures and mishaps as they explore the high seas, island hop, go caving, and backpack across mountain ranges all over Scotland and the wilder parts of Europe. Fully illustrated with 56 colour photographs which adorn each chapter the first couple of chapters are free to view here by clicking on this link.
Dark surprises await within.

Monday 20 December 2010

Pap of Glencoe.

14th November 2010

A weekend away with our climbing club to Blackrock Cottage in Glencoe.The usual routine on our trips is to leave after work on Friday,arrive at the hut around 9 or 10pm,get the fire going and get the alcohol out.Friday is usually party night as was the case this trip and I eventually staggered to bed at 3am which some considered to be wimping out.Up early the next morning and out with Bob but more of which anon when he gets his ISP sorted out.Saturday night is usually a more subdued affair as you can well imagine.Well...afraid not this time.!

Our friend Jamie had sold everything he owned and probably some things he didn`t own into the bargain, accessed loans and borrowed the rest to buy the old aluminium smelter in Kinlochleven and turn it into the worlds first ice climbing centre....the Ice Factor. As you can imagine he doesn`t get much time off but he wangled the Saturday night and came down to Blackrock.When he does have some free time off he likes to party so it was a jam session and major swally until 4am.Well,that`s when I crawled off to bed anyway.!

The Bad Boys have a fag break outside the cottage.Scott,Jamie,Alan,Jules and Gavin.Gavin doesn`t smoke but likes to hang out with the Bad Boys :)

 Up at 7am again ...hardly worth going to bed,was it :)

A cup of coffee outside in the cold of a beautiful morning soon brought me round and unfuddled my brain.

People were going here,there and everywhere.Bob was going up Beinn A`Chrulaiste and some were going to the Buachaille and further afield.I`d last been up Beinn A`Chrulaiste in December 2007 to witness a fantastic sunset achieved by not setting off up the hill until two in the afternoon,so fancied something different.

Sunset over the Buachaille in December 2007...

Jamie was going back home to Glencoe village so Jules and I jumped in and got dropped off further down the glen for a walk up Sgorr na Ciche otherwise known as the Pap of Glencoe.Another blue sky day in the offing although bitterly cold in the shade.No easy walk in here...straight out of the car and onto the steep stuff....

The views opened up as we gained height.Beinn a`Bheitheir in the sunshine....

Looking back into Glencoe things weren`t looking too promising for the rest of them up there with the clouds boiling around the glen...

The advantage of a steep path is that you gain height quickly though in our hungover state we failed to fully appreciate this at the time :) All good things come to he who waits though and we soon had our reward.

Jules looks down onto Loch Leven....

A wee bit of cloud had drifted in as you can see but it would be a fool who would complain about that in November in Scotland. The fresh snow was lying to a depth of about six inches and made it quite awkward crossing over the boulder field below the summit cone.
Jules on the last lap to the summit....

Garbh Bheinn from the summit...

There wasn`t a breath of wind up there so we relaxed and wandered around.I was hoping to wait and see if the clouds would lift over the mountains of Ardgour.For a minute or so the sun came out we were treated to the crisp views that only winter brings....

A severe case of the drouth curtailed our otherwise enjoyable stay so we headed off the opposite side of the hill in the direction of the Clachaig Inn for a refreshment.Bob was going to pick us up here at 2.30ish.We were soon down and a half hours tarmac bashing saw us ensconced in the bar :)

Back at the other end of the glen we dropped into the Kingshouse to pick someone up.The deer here have taken to mooching around the carpark for titbits.The stags are very wary but the hinds are quite approachable at the prospect of a free lunch.....

As this was the first time I had touched a drop of alcohol since Italy in May this year it took me almost a week to recover.We`ve just had news that the hut we have booked for our next trip up to Elphin in Sutherland has been flooded by burst pipes and thus cancelled.Bad news for the club but good news for my liver I think :)

Sunday 5 December 2010

Black Mount.

Bob and I were meant to be working all week but only managed one day due to the snow and ice.The forecast was good all over for Sunday though and with no dump on Saturday we had high hopes of a hill.
Where to go though.Even if the minor roads had been ploughed the snow would have been piled up into any potential parking spots...a hill from a town or village and a short drive then.
Black Mount at Dolphinton near the southern end of the Pentlands seemed to fit the bill with the added bonus of a 360 degree view.True to forecast it was a lovely morning indeed-i-o....freshly baked mince pies from the baker in Carnwath and views to die for....

Mist hanging over the Clyde valley...

Arriving in Dolphinton we found that the minor road that snakes around the north of Black Mount looked in not too bad condition.So it proved to be and we managed to get the car in at the start of the track at NT073470 with some minor spade work.The sheep in the field were delighted to see what they thought were two farmers arriving with some slap up fodder and bounded through the snow towards us.

You can see the disappointed look etched into their faces....

It was bitterly cold as we were in the shade on the northern side of the hill.Dunno what the air temperature was but I had a full weight down jacket and two pairs of mitts on.( Outside today in the garden it was minus 18 in the shade at 11am and it felt similar to Sunday ) The cold just enveloped me like a blanket.Never mind,it was only temporary until we got going.We followed the line of the land rover track for a few hundred yards before escaping the snow drifts and heading up onto the
north west ridge where hopefully the wind had blown some of the snow off.It did indeed prove easier going although there was still the odd thigh deep snow drift to elicit a few curses.

Looking back to the north to Dunsyre Hill with the Ochils in the background...

The ridge steepened near the top.Frustrating stuff with a nice crisp crust which you are convinced will take your weight...before you plunge through to knee depth.Still,it didn`t last for long.

Once we were up above the 1500 foot level the snow took on a more solid consistency and made for easier walking along the side of the half buried fence....

The freezing weather had its benefits.Culter Fell and it`s outliers...

Over to Tinto..........

Spent about 15 minutes at the summit which was enough I can assure you :) We had seen several avalanche cones on the northern slopes on the way up so headed towards the 388 metre top before plunging down towards the land rover track again.

Nearly back at the car...

....where the sheep were still awaiting a delivery of neeps...

It was still earlyish and a shame to waste a good day.Bob had a look at the map and fancied the look of a deep gorge just to the west of the village of Carlops about 6 miles up the road.Squeezed into the car park under the Carlops Rock and set off up a track in the general direction.The track soon ran out and so did my patience as we trudged across fields through deep powder snow.We eventually managed to get to the tame part but daylight was now running out so we decided to leave it for another time.One of the old mine buildings near the gorge...

Back to civilisation...

Lovely drive home in the fading light passing in and out of freezing fog patches.A last look at Tinto again as we pass by....

Still to come...a three parter on Glencoe when Bob gets his pc back online.Meanwhile I`ve just got meself an £18 return to Malaga for January.Me likey the snow but the sunshine is muchos better :)