Sunday 25 April 2010

The Greater Ranges.Part Two.

I was out on Sunday and had a good time cycling round Loch Leven in sunshine but as Alex is still kaput with a bad back I`ll save you numerous pictures of my trusty bike with a backdrop of hills behind it. Instead I have laboured mightily to produce this from a collection of old scanned pictures, some a bit faded, ( like myself) of trips abroad. I`ve actually got enough for several themed galleries but I thought I`d post some pictures relating to the last one two weeks ago so you can still compare them easily.

This is the Alta Via 1 in Italy. The Classic 10 day backpacking route through the Dolomite's. The big cliff is known as the wall of walls. Its over a mile long. We met a guy here, an Italian, who spoke some English and asked him what mountains he thought we might be able to climb without a rope. He rattled off a few names then dismissed them as either too dull, too hard or too prone to stone fall. I had been looking at the guidebook the night before in the tent and mentioned Monte Pelmo, never having seen it before.

His eyes sparkled as he obviously remembered some great exploit on it from years ago.
"Bella Monte Pelmo!!" he roared. "You have to climb this!" Turned out he was a base jumper.
So that was that then. A week of walking later we were right underneath it. I was secretly appalled. How could we climb that! The only route description we could find was a small picture postcard at a hut with a vague zig zag dotted line on it two inches long for 4500 foot of cliff. This was our guide.

At the bottom of a large cliff we found this painted order. We attacked. Luckily for us Brian (he of Brian and Martina`s USA epic walk blog ) is good with heights and an HVS climber. No Alex this time. John (owner of wee white randy dog Chalky featured in a back story) was the third of our team.

Although not that difficult, mild scrambling only, the exposure was immense, nearly 4000 feet straight down at this point.

This hill is also known as God`s Throne due to a huge bowl formation on its upper slopes that makes it look like a vast armchair seen from a distance from this side.
Up close its impressive too. A mass of shimmering white limestone that dazzled us the rest of the way up.

The camera was equally dazzled, kind of a bleached effect here.
The view from the summit rim was stunning. The Throne of God Indeed. Going by the sealed notebook at the cairn it does not get many ascents a year. Very short window of a few months. Would not like to climb it in snow, even with a rope.

We came upon this brilliant bothy protected from stone fall later on in the journey built into the cliff. Inside it looked like Snow White`s cottage full of hand carved chairs awaiting the dwarfs. Amazing place.

We spent a few days here in the town of Cortina as classic easy ( ish) via feratta routes start from the hills around the campsite. This is us starting one. Thunderstorms seemed to build up during the day with big lightning storms hitting the ridges by four o'clock regularly. You could set your watch by them. Not the place to be hanging off a 1000 foot metal ladder :0)

Ordessa Canyon. Spain. This picture is taken below the great prow. Where we were standing is right at the top in the photo 2 weeks ago. Interesting descent with a big rucksack pulling you off balance. Our packs were so heavy it was a real effort to pull them on. Once they were up there on our backs it was ok though. About 30kilos (4 1/2 stone) throughout this trip.

At one point( lower down luckily) I fell over and couldn't get up again, trapped like a beetle on its back under the weight of my pack. No fun that bit as I landed on my poor coupon and spent the rest of the trip in bars or huts looking like I enjoyed a good drink and a good face fight afterwards with the pavement.

Good path down though a bit on the narrow side for my liking after my tumble.

This is the hut perched on the mountainside at the upper entrance to Ordessa Canyon. The horse is bringing up supplies.

This is the start of the canyon. It has great balcony trails running on both sides with wide trails and dry basic shelters. We also stayed overnight in a cracking bothy during a massive thunderstorm that shook the mountains.
Mont Blanc next. A few more pictures from the highest mountain in Western Europe.

This was us going up from the French side.
A few years earlier we had thought of attempting it from the Italian side but the wind was howling and we all had bad hangovers. Someone had a birthday in our group the night before and I`d drank a full mug of Southern Comfort after wine in the hut then fell over my guy lines, lying out the whole night in the open just my boots sticking in the tent entrance. Ah, to be young again!

This is a girl in our old club. Good downhill skier. Always smiling.

Same girl on a rock peak above the Aosta valley near Gran Paradiso. Fantastic area for a hillwalking club to go to. Bags of easy peaks at all levels .Snow above 10,000 feet and rocky Cobbler like hills below that.

Same hill getting near the top. All the way up we were thinking bloody hell, hope we don't have to reverse this!
I`ve got bags more pictures of other areas abroad and at home so fear not, Alex the sunken hunchback can rest easy in his zimmer. We are not undone.
I`m now off for some well earned medicinal cider. Big time happy swally here I come.

Sunday 18 April 2010

Seacliff Beach.A Gallery.

Down an unmarked lane,
Through a special gate,
Two gold coins supplies a key,
To an east coast treasure that awaits,
For those who solve this simple mystery.

Since I discovered this beach a few years ago I`ve been back three times.Enough for a gallery of pictures taken on these occasions.On the first visit it was pretty wild.Ideal if you are into surf kayaking.

The East coast is famed for its big swells.This spring tide most of the wooden stairs down to Seacliff beach had been undermined but there are other easy ways down.

These guys looked as if they were having fun.

Apart from a lovely beach, at low tide you can walk along the base of the cliffs over rock slabs to the area under Tantallon Castle where a waterfall pours off the cliff.Be warned though this is committing as there is no way up from this bay except back via Seacliff.This has a tiny harbour carved out of the old red sandstone,but I`ve never seen it being used by any boats.This was taken on my last visit a few days ago.

Although not well known outside the local area It can get popular on a fine summers day with family groups who enjoy the sandy beach and scrambling on the rocks.

Views are impressive.

A couple of hours here is usually enough though then its off to climb the Glastonbury of North Berwick....North Berwick Law.

Got this just as the daffodils were coming out a few days after the harbour was devastated by huge waves that damaged a lot of boats along this coast.Nice today though.

Yep.I had to go up to see the view from the summit and stroke those replica whale bones again.
Nearby is one of the strangest sculptures I`ve ever seen.Don't have a clue who this character is meant to be.

Any ideas who this three faced man is?

This is Belhaven Bay on a wild day.Unlike hemmed in Seacliff this is vast and open Ideal for sand cycling,sand kites, Fishing, horse riding and most other outdoor sports.My favorite lowland beach.

And on the way back you might even capture one of these opening wings for the first time.

Sunday 11 April 2010

The Cleish HIlls.Dumglow and Cult Hill.

Break out the cigars folks. Me`s a proud daddy!
Now that the last fish has died in my humble back garden pond (after me bringing in the last two survivors indoors to nurse through the winter) a lowly amphibian has spermed magnificently all over the place leaving an abundant cluster of jelly eggs in the water.Ha, Alex! If this was a card game I think you`ll find 200 webbed legged little youngsters beats a couple of bouncing bunnies
any day of the week.
I look forward to teaching them the facts of life once someone teaches them to me .(Sigh, yours truly has been celibate longer than that well known celebrator himself Sir Cliff Richard.)
Anyway I digress somewhat.We decided to go to the Cleish Hills today.We`d looked down on them several times from other higher hill groups and although they didn`t look like much had heard they were in fact delightful little hills, wild and empty with smashing views.
We parked at the deserted car park beside Dowhill Muir,the only car there,got out and walked along the landrover track to Loch Glow.
"I`ve read this is popular with fishermen sometimes." says Alex."Maybe its too early for them."

Although it was a cracking day ,the warmest of the year so far,we were slightly shocked by the numbers involved.They really do like their fishing in Fife.It was a good going concern obviously and we soon found out where the missing cars were.Right beside the loch of course.With all their tackle to carry, 12 pack cans of beer,tents,bivi hoops and umbrellas they had to be close to the water.

It felt a bit like Blackpool pleasure beach,not that I`ve ever been there.

We spotted a big fish getting caught round about here but it slipped off the hook inches from the keep net when he lifted it out the water and was away in an instant.Aw shame.He took it well though.
Alex was a bit peeved by all this activity.I was delighted with the crowds,something different on the hills apart from grass, rocks and snow.It was also easy to get away from them as soon as we walked round this loch towards the empty Black Loch further on.Only two fishermen here and a massive black backed gull we took at first sight to be an osprey it was so big from a distance.

This was also a mystery.Looked far too big a head for a sheep but the tufts of hair still on it didn't look very deer like.Maybe some big pit bull cross bored to death with lying in a tent all day watching his master swally back the cargo under his umbrella.Or a Fifesire T Rex.
We were soon up on the ridge enjoying good views.Although not spectacular hills they were grassy and pleasant reminding us both of our own nearby Kilpatrick's in character.

We soon had the area to ourselves again heading up Dumglow first then the second camel hump nearby with the cairn and hill fort remains and Alex`s trig which he quietly photographed with great care and attention.Then a little pat on its stone bum.He does this with them all.Pervert! He`s probably got a little book of pop up trigs that he thumbs through of an evening.Have fun with that thought.

Next up was a thick forest lying between grassy summit groups but a stile and the obvious line cutting through it was followed to bring us out at the Dummiefarline area where we met a young couple and their kids out for an days adventure.

It was really warm now.The whole of Fife in a tee shirt apart from Alex who operates within narrow temperature limits as some of you may remember from last summer.Up to 19 degrees jacket stays on, a few degrees more he`s in a tee shirt,above that he doesn't go out at all as its too warm except on the highest Munro's.

"Where do you want to go now then?" says he.
"I fancy Kinross and Loch Leven for a change."
"OK ,but only If I can do Cult Hill after that.
Off we went to the car park beside the loch.Alex having decided it was now too warm for walking stayed in the car reading the paper while I wandered round a bit of the Loch Leven heritage trail looking to see if it was bike friendly.It was (pick a quiet day though as it was packed solid today) and ran all the way round to Vane farm nature centre.If you didn't mind cycling on fairly busy roads for a stretch you could go right round the entire loch I noted happily for a future outing.The views would be really good all the way with the Lomonds and Benarty groups reminding me of the T in the park outdoor broadcast from near here.

Two guys paddling were having fun with the increasingly choppy conditions out in the middle of the loch.Open canoes are much easier to capsize than a kayak.
Returned to Alex after a good meander across meadows alive with day trippers .He was buried in the sports pages.
"Right. Cult Hill then.Lets get away from this circus show." Off we went.It wasn't far.

Heading towards this trig Alex found what he thought was a snake skin.Pah!He was more interested in taking a picture of his beloved white lump and we couldn't find it again on the way down.Had to settle for this picture of him instead,at it again.Another one for his wee pop up book collection of trigs.

Saturday 10 April 2010

The Greater Ranges

Hi. I`ve been threatening Alex I`d put a few of our old photos up from the days when we had a lot more energy than we have now and the heady juice of youth flowed fast and endless into our little legs.We weren't always two old smelly duffers shuffling up wee pimples.There was a time when we strode the greater ranges like bloody Titans I`ll have you know........ .Ah for those long gone effortless days again.

In those far off times even I loved the big mountains,probably because my job was a lot easier on me then.This was taken on a winter bagging trip over 20 years ago,around the time we first realised something funny was happening to the weather,long before global warming was getting a mention but if you went up the 3000 foot hills you noticed a marked difference in the snow.

One of Alex going up the Cioch in search of the broadsword reputedly lost up here from the film Highlander.

One of yer man Alex on Bidean in Glencoe.His head for heights was even better when he was younger.

Arran has always been one of our clubs favorite islands.We used to go here every spring to camp then climb the peaks.One of my best remembered climbs was this one.

Full of dark chimneys,chockstones, awkward thrusty edges and big drops.The reason for the two grades is it has two different end pitches one of which goes up the right hand ramp line above the climbers to the chock stone exit at the very top.Never laughed so much on a climb.

Never laughed much on this mountain.I was far too nervous. Probably the most incredible breathtaking hill I`ve ever been up.Monte Pelmo in the Italian Dolomites done at the end of the Alta Via One,the classic route through these mountains.Best mountain I`ve ever seen.

The descent without a rope was somewhat worrying,we could see a herd of ant sized horses galloping on the meadows 4,000 feet below,more or less straight down from here.I don`t mind admitting it a wee bit of pee came out here.

This was easier, the Bossons glacier on Mont Blanc reputedly one of the fastest in the Alps due to its steepness.Many big holes you could drop a double decker bus down.We were roped up for this.

Amazing day out apart from the altitude,caused by our on stupidity racing up it maybe a bit too fast but we wanted to catch the weather window.15,800 feet I think( can`t be bothered looking it up, too busy with this one fingered typing epic.)

As you can see we weren`t alone.A popular route from the Grande Mullets hut.(big mules) We were just going to sleep here when the bell rang to get up. A crampon army dressed in the dark and head torched up in unison.

One of George and Alex in Skye.Although this is called the Prison from this angle I think it looks more like a hungry snapping turtle.

One from the days when we were bagging Classic Rock- (the book). Cracking route.Every September weekend we used to go a bagging down south all over England and twice here.

Like the clouds on this one .Soaking wet sleeping bags and tents waiting for the sun to dry them out- and us!

Alex on a lovely traverse then straight up the corner climb at a certain seacliffs in Galloway.

Had a great early holiday here in the Aosta valley of northern Italy.Filled with easy snow peaks and 10,000 foot Cobbler like hills.The highlight of the trip was climbing Gran Paradiso a truly beautiful hill.At 14,000 feet the highest mountain wholly within Italy.

I must have been taking my bravery pills here!

What a view from the summit.

An unusual one from a belay on Integrity.A hard feeling route with tremendous exposure.Not often you can look down onto the Cioch.

Ordessa Canyon.Magnificent place.We had to backpack down here next morning and spent a good while looking for a path down in the fading light.Fantastic backpacking along the walls of this and a lesser known canyon but the equal of the Grand Canyon as it is wilder and more unexpected.We had dramatic thunder and lightning storms here most afternoons into the evening.The rain was so hard a fine spray of mist came straight through the tent canvas onto your face and our eyes were zapped by sudden white bolts hitting the peaks nearby.Alpine thunderstorms are a blast.

Mind bending exposure on this summit.There are climbs up the front face and basejumpers leap off.Now thats mad!!
Hope you enjoyed my wee gallery of what we got up to when we were young.

One of the highlights of the GR20 on Corsica. A fantastic backpacking two week trip. Very hot!! First time I`d seen prickly pears in Europe when I stood on one coming off the boat.