Monday 30 April 2012

Island Of Rum Trip.Day Two.The Ridge.

There are three great ridge walks in Scotland on islands, arguably the three best ridge walks anywhere in the British Isles for their length and complexity. Knife edged Skye is first of course, then I,d pick Arran for its miles of sweeping granite and  rocky tors, plus ease of access, then Rum a very close third.
As I,d retired to bed early, completely knackered, I was up around 5.00am to catch the sun making its first appearance.
By the time I,d had my breakfast (a tin of cold beans and sausage on a buttered roll...class act eh?) the sun was just starting to burst in the door of the tent.
It doesn't get much better than this unless a supermodel/ top actress/call girl escort/ pony or rent boy is sharing the tent with you. Tick which you prefer.Maybe all at once if it's a large tent and you are a politician or have mountains of cash to splash around.
I was happy with a bottle of coke and a lone heron in the distance.Alex surfaced at 6:00am and was ready to go at 7:00am after three cups of coffee and several of those little white sticks that he seems to prefer to food.Actually that's how most supermodels or actresses also start their day now I think of it, though he,s getting nowhere near my tent.
Lush surroundings in the woodland around the castle grounds soon gave way to more spartan upper levels as the bare ridge came into sight,summits still covered in early morning cloud.We were hopeful it would burn off and were in  no hurry to run up into it. Easy pace was preferred.
Met a few wild goats on the way up the path,this one high on top of a large boulder admiring the view.I,m sure that most animals get the same basic pleasures as us at times and spring makes them frisky and want to do new things. Maybe it was looking across at other mountainsides wondering what they were like.
Soon the first two mountains on the ridge came into view. Hallival and Askival. All the peaks of the ridge have distinctive pyramid shapes to them. I,d forgotten how spectacular they were close up.Or how exposed.

Askival in particular looked huge and knife edged.There is a Diff grade scramble up the Askival Pinnacle seen here. Twenty five years ago myself and J.B climbed this straight and it seemed easy then, just one or two exposed moves high up. Today, still damp, vegetation dripping wet and cold from the overnight clouds we bypassed it on the left for an easy if strenuous scramble to the summit. I still can't kneel down on my knees properly on a carpet after my road accident without pain but it's amazing how a large vertical drop below you makes pain in the knees seem irrelevant. I kneed and elbowed my way up various awkward rock steps like a champion elephant seal on a bouldery beach. We topped out in bright sunshine then met a young Polish guy searching for the way down. He didn't fancy the Pinnacle either. (we found out later a small day rucksack on his back was his entire kit for travelling. Best example I've seen yet for minimalism and ultra lightweight gear. Hat's off to him for preparation.
The Small Isle of Muck could be seen in the distance with its sandy beaches and hill, Beinn Airein, which we have still to do. In spite of the busy village area most visitors seemed happy pottering around at lower levels today. Apart from the two guys with the dog and then a second pair of folk seen much later the ridge was empty.
I was keeping up with Alex on the uphill push but was miles behind on the descent off each as I was having to favour my right leg and knee at each step downwards and couldn't bend my legs properly, sitting down to handle any drops in the path.
Here,s a view of some of the other peaks. Ainshval and Trollabhal. I,m sure this used to be called Trollval.....Mind you Rum was Rhum back then on most maps.
The soaring peak of Ainshval came next looking very steep and Intimidating.There is actually a reasonable if faint path  up this, zig zagging across the right hand edge. As I,d climbed it before I bailed out of this a quarter of the way up, my excuse being Alex had left his camera behind at the last rest stop so I offered to go back to get it. Truth be told after my long lay off I was feeling the pace and the painkillers had still to kick in properly.
I gave him my back up camera and left him in good company...two fellow Corbett baggers, one of which put us to shame.He was older than us by the looks of him and had two plastic hip replacements.He gave me a cheery wave and together the three of them weaved upwards over steep scree.

This is one of them a quarter way up Ainshval. Hallival is in the distance.Most of the mountains of Rum have Norse names as they were islands well known to Viking raiders from the north. Trollabhal seems to have been made more Gaelic on my modern map for some reason. It was named after the Manx Shearwater who nest in old rabbit or puffin burrows over several summits here. 60,000 pairs or thereabouts each season.A bird of the open ocean ranging far out at sea they only land here to breed.They catch fish and sand eels on the surface or underwater but this has left them with a long streamlined body and small set back legs. Highly adapted to a life at sea they only land  here at night. During the day predatory gulls and skuas would get them.They find it easier to slide across the grass to the burrows than walk upright. It was these night time gurgling's, whispers and cackles below brave but superstitious feet that convinced the Viking,s Trolls inhabited these lonely mountains hence the name.

Even during the day we heard strange sounds coming from below ground. I tried a tasty almond slice, Mr Kipling's finest but no show from the chick.("What,s this crap?"  It probably thought below. "Where,s my ********  regurgitated  juicy fish!" I soon found Alex's camera so I went round and climbed Trollabhal next. It's one of the lower summits on the ridge but a belter. I couldn't really remember why it was so good but just knew it was not to be missed.

I remembered near the top.It may not be the highest  peak around but it's got an exposed and very airy ridge scramble to reach the summit. Back in the day I used to walk across stuff like this with something approaching style. Now a few years away from sixty it was all hands ,knees, bum and silent prayers to be good in future. I m definitely losing my head for heights as the years pass. Having only one trustworthy leg at present doesn't help.
One Alex took looking the other way from the summit,with my borrowed spare camera.

The view across to Ainshval which he'd just climbed. Few folk go on to Sgurr Nan Gillean behind this or climb nearby Ruinsival unless they depart from Harris bothy. Another outlier usually missed is Beinn Nan Stac which has a deep cleft  almost cutting its summit in half. It lies above Dibidil bothy.
Even without these additions it was an eleven hour day and 5000 feet of ascent for Alex, slightly less for myself. Just as well I missed out Ainshval as I was cream crackered on the long walk back to the tents.

A final zoomed shot of Fionchra with deer feeding below the summit. Heat haze affecting the quality of the photograph. A long hard day but great weather.

Island Of Rum Trip.Day One.

It was always our intention to go back to the Small Isles off the western seaboard of Scotland after successfully bagging Eigg And Canna in previous years.(also featured on this blog.)   June 2010 and August 2010 respectively.  Alex had never been to Rum, the largest of this island group. I'd been twice. Once on a glorious camping  trip over 25 years ago when myself , J.B and a keen Dutch guy who was part of an outdoor club we were in at that time walked the entire spine of the ridge,and stayed in the fabulous Guirdil Bothy sitting under the cliffs of Bloodstone Hill. It was a magical trip that still lives as a great if slightly hazy memory.(I think he was Dutch :o)
The second time about eight years later, again with a mountaineering club,was a grim visit that is also remembered for different reasons. It rained non stop for  the four days we were there. Some went up the now invisible,wind blown,cloud covered ,rain lashed ridge and came back with glum though very clean dripping faces. Myself and J.B went to a couple of bothies ...Harris and Dibidil... to pass the long grey days and still got soaked at low level.It was utterly miserable,damp and cold and most folk seemed happy it ended.
Sums up Scotland really,in particular ,the west coast.When you get it in good conditions it has some of the best scenery in the world.It bad,ll be lucky to take any decent photographs up the mountains. When you can see  the top of Ben Nevis,the highest mountain in the UK however you know you might be onto a winner.This was taken from Corpach on the journey up.
Alex had spotted a weather window of a few days duration. He,d also phoned our man in Skye the day before, our old friend Alistair and asked him to look out his own weather window towards Rum.Nothing like local knowledge. No snow and sunny on the ridge was the answer.Hope you both sink on the boat you Jammy *********s.  Have a good time.
On the morning in question, Monday it was a 3.30 am  rise and Alex appeared  over at my door by 5:00am.
I groaned a half awake greeting and shoved my mountain bike and rucksack into his car.We were off.

The reason for the early start was to catch the Mallaig ferry at 10:00am. After a casual uneventful drive up the west coast we arrived in this bustling seaport got the bikes and gear ready and boarded.
The usual amazing views opened up once out at sea.
Looking across at the Island of Skye with the peaks of the Black Cuillin rising behind.

One of Alistair,s favourite Skye mountains judging by the number of times he,s climbed it. The mighty Bla Bheinn.Cant argue with that. It is above his house after all.
An Sgurr on the island of Eigg which we arrived at first. It's a great pelagic this as being an island lifeline the ferry visits another island in the group,which one depending on the days you visit. It was Eigg's turn this Monday and it looked as beautiful as ever in the sunshine. Loads of bird life on the water around the boat.Razorbills ,Manx Shearwater,Guillemots etc....
The Rum ridge came next, spotted over this low shoulder on Eigg. It was a smooth crossing, just a light breeze and fairly warm for April.
This is the campsite on Rum. A great spot on the edge of  Loch Scresort. Considering it was early in the season and mid week  the island was fairly busy. We,d been the only campers on both Eigg and Canna, here there were already large groups staying at the youth hostel,village accommodation,bunkhouses and adjacent bothies. Obviously Rum was now firmly down in many minds as the place to visit. It has been featured on television several times in the last couple of years.The red deer rut on Autumnwatch at Kilmory, Restoration(a feature on Kinloch castle) and a few others. Pete Edwards(Writes of Way blog linked to here) also has a timely new guide book out on Rum ,the other Small Isles  plus Coll And Tiree which the girl in the next tent already knew about.It's a small world as we bumped into Pete recently in Glasgow.
I must admit with all the new signposts, facilities, range of accents and groups of tourists milling about the immediate area  the village felt more English Lake district than Scottish west coast Island.It no longer seemed the remote outpost from 25 years ago. Obviously it has been discovered big time.
As it was too late in the day to do the full ridge Alex suggested the lower hill above the village. Mullach Mor. It was obviously down on one of his lists somewhere. A Marilyn ,Shelia,Yvette,or Senga.Take your pick.I forget which one
At under a thousand feet of ascent I was keen.It looked easy.
This proved to be a misconception.If there was any path up it we didn't find it.The terrain underfoot was unbelievable, every second step a leg swallowing hole of scrotum damaging depth hidden under a thick blanket of tussock,heather or long grass.On the plus side little lizards seemed to love this hill,dozens of them scampering away at our laboured approach.Maybe they didn't get many visitors up here. We soldiered on upwards,cursing ,slipping and falling.The ground under this vegetation seemed to be either made of marbles or missing altogether.Crawling on hands and knees  up the steeper sections proved to be the best way to move ahead sometimes without major damage.
How the deer could run across this hillside without mishap is a mystery.This is higher up however, out of the thigh high flounder zone of the lower slopes.
The summit was more to my tastes.Minor rock escarpments at last giving us a solid platform to walk along and extensive views over to Skye,The Main Cuillin Ridge and a fair chunk of the west coast mainland.
Now this was more like it.Some sort of major Nato war games seemed to be happening out to sea with destroyers,ships,helicopters and other assorted battleship grey craft glimpsed over the next few days.
Far from disturbing the outlook it just gave us something extra to look at. I,m sure this ship was built  on the Clyde not far from  me at Scotstoun. Its sister ship with its distinctive ball tower is still there getting the finishing touches ready to go to sea. It's higher than the four story tenement buildings around it.
Going down proved easier and we soon reached level ground again where we bumped into these guys.
The Rum ponies.They look cute here but when they came up to the gate they proceeded to bite the shit out of each other in front of us then one chewed the do not feed the horses sign, of which there were two more heavily chewed and spat out below the gate.We patted them warily,watching those cute playful teeth didn't nip fingers and spit them out to join the signs below the gate.Maybe they,d just come down from Mullach Mor too.That would make even a saint mean as hell.
A good first day. Evening was spent around this little shelter,where you could cook ,chat and hang out. These two guys  and dog were our fellow campers as was the hardy lady behind who preferred to bivi in here despite a cold wind getting up after sunset.There was no midge around thankfully as I remember them being very bad here in the past. I,d packed a large amount of midge cream just in case.
A good introduction to Rum and even better would follow.......

Saturday 21 April 2012

Rainbow Collective.Cycling in Glasgow in Springtime..

Although I look for good weather during the entire year my favourite time has always been Spring
Here,s a collection of photographs that will hopefully show why.Its such an unpredictable affair these days.
This year,due to a warm spell in late march,half the cherry blossom exploded out then but the other half waited until now.Even trees a short distance from each other had different flowering periods.Weird.
I live near Great Western road and for me in Spring its as good as any park with its miles of Daffodils down the central green strip From Old Kilpatrick To Anniesland and its stunning collection of flowering trees.
Its the real yellow brick road brought to life by  creative town planners many years ago,as if everyone of them had been forced to watch that Iconic Judy Garland film just before meetings.
I,ve been listening to a  modern song of the same name recently by Angus and Julia Stone which gave me the idea for this post.
Basically its a collection of Cycling pictures over spring showing what a Technicolour explosion it is for the senses.If it were only that easy though.
Spring some years is such a fleeting affair,all but ruined by bad weather and if you are working and only get weekends off it might only allow you a few precious days each year to capture it fully.
I love cycling round the parks as you can capture far more over a greater distance.This is Knightswood Park,a lesser known but delightful area  and a good walk when combined with the  Nearby Forth and Clyde Canal then Trinley Brae,a low hill with great views.
In spring ,after a wet drab winter this place comes alive again,year round dog walkers being joined by cyclists and families out for a stroll.
I once cycled all the way along it to the East Coast and the Carron sea lochs and back one Spring.66 miles there and back and a lot of lock gates.Its the time of year you just do things like that.Not only trees feel the sap rising and buds bursting out at this time of year all living things just feel special  in spring.The time to shine in a land of magical colour.
Heron on the Canal.

The view from Trinley Brae,a little known but favourite place of mine with great views over to the  Barrhead Braes and the Kilpatricks.
Even  bare walls in gardens explode in a splash of colour as folk celebrate what they can grow again with just a little water and sunshine after those  dull  soggy months just past.
Even a few hours canter along a green ribbon brings a feeling of contentment.

Well to some anyway.....

Last spring I think it was I persuaded Alex to Join me on a grand cycle tour round Glasgow.Visited Rangers heartland of Ibrox,Kinning Park and Plantation....
Took in the Parks with Bellahouston and its wonderful views.Alex,s bike and jacket just blending in here  above perfectly with the backdrop...though he didnt intend to as only I knew the route beforehand.

Laid on spectacular entertainment for him of the highest order.This is the very last rays of golden spring sunset hitting the summit slopes of Bellahouston.Park.A spur of the moment solo walk coming back from Mosspark one evening last week.Ahem...Alex was not around that time I think I should add.Only myself and one of the best sunsets of this year yet.The view from here is beautiful.In the middle of a large city and all you see is miles of trees,a few houses on hilltops and green rolling downs stretching to the far horizon.How can you hide half a city so well? So many wonders on one easy bike trip.
Visited parks that looked as if 30 different giant buckets of paint had dropped on them at one time...
Watched the Sea plane  landing right in front of us on the Clyde before mooring  in Govan Basin.Interesting photo this though I didn,t intend it to be a social commentary when I took it.The  lifestyle of the rich punters in Glasgow gliding past only feet away from the urban poor,a gang of unemployed young men passing the long hours by the looks of it on the Govan side.I suppose we are somewhere in the middle of this picture.Fairly Mobile but fairly poor as well.
Every country in the world has that contrast  between two worlds that rarely meet and have little in common apart from their basic humanity towards other living things.

Even a trip to visit Crookston Castle and its stunning,surprisingly green roof top views over the city,just miles of woods and fields below despite being in the middle of an urban area and in the middle of the largest housing scheme in Glasgow....Pulled out all the stops so I did...

After a good day...from my point of view...with oodles of interest and  more colour than an impressionists paintbrush I awaited his verdict on the outing.
"Well its OK I suppose .... But Its not mountains is it?" There,s nothing for me to do here is there?

Which is why I cycle alone now :)
By the way its Bluesky congratulation,s time.This makes 200 posts so far I see.

Thursday 19 April 2012

North Third Reservoir.Lewis Hill Walk.

Although I,ve cycled and driven past the  lowly  Lewis hill(266 metres) many times in the past I,ve never been up it until now.To be honest it looked a bit scrappy from below and walking through pine forests is not a big turn on for me these days.I prefer decidious woodland walks normally.How wrong can you be.
It was only when I looked at the excellent photos on a fellow bloggers site,(Inflatable boat journeys  from around Scotland) that I realised its potential for views and outlook were better than I thought so thanks to Donny for a new walking route.
A bright Sunday dawned a couple of weeks ago so I thought it was time to have a look myself.
This hill sits to the west of Stirling on the Campsie uplands,a high plateau of rough grassland and rolling hills,perfect for a cycling tour over the minor roads if you don't mind a few steep hill climbs.
Its a beautiful but empty quarter,just a few Isolated  farms and a small  cluster of wooden  huts around the Carron Bridge hotel.Although a nice sunny day these minor back roads had several inches of ice on them in places where seepage water  had crossed the tarmac.One stretch under trees lasted 30 metres and came as a surprise as it was at a bend and then down a steep  hidden dip.Braking proved somewhat interesting at this point.The Carron valley reservoir itself was covered in ice as were most of the other dams and lochs up here.At a guess It was about minus 4 or 5 degrees out the sun.I was very  glad I was not on a bike this time.The heater went up a notch as I climbed out the valley towards the crags..
This was lucky  for me as North Third Reservoir below the crags seemed to be the only ice free body of water in the area.Hundreds of Greylag geese had noticed this fact as well with large squadrons arriving and settling around the islands after feeding in the feilds.
The view from the summit cliffs is delightful  and a faint path runs right along the top of this escarpment.Its an easy walk but very worthwhile.I knew there were various climbing routes on these crags,some on the Red Tower  near the dam reaching  20 odd metres in height but most of the climbs here are  awkward jamming cracks, in the main going straight up.Guide book descrptions like " a hard start....trying middle section... and .....bold, exiting  moves over a bulge to finish" tended to put me off  here in my climbing days.I seem to remember there were a few climbs with rather rude titles no doubt on account of the amount of flesh lost  off limbs on the way up.Jamming your fingers,hands, knees and toes into  thin cracklines then hanging  the full weight of your  body off these poor  battered extremities as you shuffle upwards was never my idea of a fun day out.Probably why I,ve avoided it for years.
The plan was to park on the highest point of the minor road near the crags where there are a couple of laybys then walk north along the top of the crags,returning via the dam and Greathill. (a farm)
Views north showed a landscape of high grassland and moor.Its not a place to walk or cycle in bad weather unless you like it grim.Some do I believe but I,m not one of them.

Greylags are very vocal birds and kept up a noisy grumble throughout the walk although I was nowhere near them for most of it.
I like this photograph though as it looks like a painting.
Geese flying across the road on the way back.It was wall to wall wings as more arrived to spend the afternoon and evening out on the water.

View over the dam which can be walked across. Its not a long walk and only takes a couple of hours but I,d definitely recommend it on a nice day.Short enough to fit into a morning or afternoon and not too far from Glasgow, Edinburgh or Stirling.
Its also a popular fishing spot in season going by the number of boats lined up here ready for the spring.
On the way back I went via the Carman road for the usual icy sunset over Inverclyde.A short but highly enjoyable outing.