Sunday, 8 February 2015

Largs. Great Cumbrae. Arran. Mont Blanc.

                                                ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
A day trip over to Millport and Great Cumbrae in the depths of winter is not most folks idea of a grand day out. The area is popular in summer on good days but for a photographer or lover of spectacular scenery a winter trip with the mountains of Arran plastered in snow as a backdrop is very memorable. Ferries are every half hour giving you plenty of time to walk round the island.
From certain places on the island the jagged peaks of Arran look very close and much higher than their 874 metre height. (around 2000- 2,500 feet on the summits) This is a local man walking his dog who just happened to walk around the corner as I was zooming in on Cir Mhor, by the looks of it. .
A little wren on the beach looking for insects. In harsh conditions the tiny birds like wrens, gold crests, blue tits, long tailed tits etc really suffer and have to pack together tightly in cracks or holes in trees or other forms of shelter away from the frost. Mortality is high as they don't have enough bulk or fat reserves in freezing conditions but they have a large clutch of eggs each spring and if its a good one they bounce back in numbers. Big birds will actually eat the smaller ones in the battle to survive and bigger tits will actually kill and eat the smaller ones in grim winters.
Two views of the rock monolith of Ailsa Craig. This one has the castle on Trail island off Little Cumbrae in it with the actual shape of Ailsa Craig taken from one hundred metres up on Great Cumbrae.
The same island from the same angle but taken at sea level. I've seen this diamond shape optical trick before with cameras caused by the heat /cold distortion over the water similar to a mirage in deserts.
Ailsa Craig looks as if its floating on the sea here.
The famous painted rock, The Crocodile, loved by generations of children and adults makes a fine lurking monster in Millport Bay.
I think these diving ducks are a type of pochard going by the brown heads but the body markings are different to the ones on the internet images as these have pink breasts and  white under feathers leaving a distinctive stripe on the males. I think they can interbreed with other diving ducks though of similar types. Correction. Widgeon. Thanks Paul. (see comments.)
A seal came up to say hello. Seals are very inquisitive and I've often had them cluster around my kayak years ago and I used to play them folk music and sing to them as a 20 something on holidays around Port Appin and Oban. They seem to enjoy music and certain instruments but I,ll do a separate post on that in the near future. I remember one time I had a group of six only 15 feet away listening as I sat on a rock and played them "Morning on a Distant Shore by the Furey brothers and Davey Arthur. They seem to enjoy violin, acoustic guitar and the wailing of Irish pipes the best.
This goosander didn't trust it though as seals sometimes catch sea birds and eat them if they cant find enough fish. It got off its mark pretty sharpish.
I like this view. Very Hebridean somehow. I've always thought Scotland is missing a trick when it comes to house colours. They should be painted up like rainbows in yellow, black, blue, green, pink, crimson, etc. but pastel colours only. Instead most of them are boring grey and white. Very drab in winter. The tourists would love "happy colours" so why don't we do it?  It's always puzzled me why more highland villages don't adopt the Tobermory/ Scandinavian example.
Palm trees at minus 3 below zero. The beach was a sheet of solid ice in places. I like the humour of the "Dancing Midge Cafe" in the above photo. Funny because I've never been troubled by midges on this island or Bute as its small, cultivated, with minimum bracken and surrounded by the Firth of Clyde. Although cold it was a sunny day with light winds and Great Cumbrae has several lovely scenic walks around the island so I avoided the bus from the ferry into Millport and walked the minor road up to the highest point at the Glaid Stone 127 metres instead.
For two islands only a short distance apart the contrast was noticeable. Not exactly spring on Great Cumbrae but green, snow free and sunny. Arran meanwhile looked cold and stayed dull and overcast for long periods. This was taken from Largs looking across at  central Cumbrae and towards Goatfell.
The northern section of the Arran Peaks seen from the forest on Great Cumbrae.
Sunset over the Arran Peaks from the mainland hills above Largs.
I liked this view of the recessed benches on Largs sea front. Over 80 great walks and cycle routes from easy half days to full excursions are available on kindle bookstore in my photo heavy guidebook to the River Clyde and the Firth of Clyde detailing great walks and bike rides I've enjoyed for decades from Lanark to Girvan. 148 original colour photographs along the River and Firth of Clyde islands on a journey "Doon the Watter" Different photos in book to these obviously, mainly taken on summer trips. £ 2:32. My comedy novel Autohighography about a Scottish Hillwalking club and their adventures is also available here in this link for £1:14 which is a bargain for 500 plus pages and photos. It's a love story, twisty thriller, and outdoor book combined. Both books are free to sample here in this link.

Largs from the ferry.
Over 20 years ago when I still had my mojo working I had the strength and courage to shuffle up alpine peaks on holiday. The ascent of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in western Europe, was a highlight and stays fresh in the memory. At 4,810 metres or 15,781 feet it is a complex mass of snow and ice ridges with numerous glaciers, rock falls and serac fields making it tricky in poor conditions or high winds when the temperatures can plummet dramatically. We climbed it, more or less in a oner, up the Bossons glacier to the Grand Mulets hut. This hut is perched halfway up a steep cliff above the glacier. As it is a dangerous route nowadays, prone to stone fall, it is no longer used by walkers much but I found this excellent video which brought back a few highlights and dangers of this memorable and dramatic route. Because of the numbers climbing it and the unforgiving nature of the terrain it is one of the most dangerous mountains in the world for fatalities, between a staggering 6000 to 8000 in total on the Mont Blanc Massif alone since the first ascent. Great video- great song.


Unknown said...

An other great report with the usual fine pics, your wee ducks are wigeon.

Kay G. said...

Wow, that is an incredible video. I felt as if I had climbed the snowy mountain at the end.
Looking forward to the post of you singing to the seals. I think I must like the same kind of music that they do.
Birds really do have a rough time in cold weather. Even here in Georgia, we have seen them line up against the base of buildings if it is bitterly cold.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Paul,
you know your wildlife.I didn't think it was right but have lost my trusty bird book and a google images search of this bird photo didn't bring up any useful candidates except tufted duck.I have corrected the photo label for google images.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Kay,
Yes, the glaciers are amazing on Mont Blanc but are altering due to climate change,making the traditional ascents more dangerous than ever. The mountain also has the highest toilets in Europe :o)

Neil said...

Hi Bob, Just finished reading your Autohighography- really excellent. It's scary how much of it I can relate to goings on in the club that I was in in the 1980s. I had better not say which of the exploits you describe also went on in my club!! Must be a mountaineering club thing; maybe got something to do with the fact that folk are thrust together (no pun intended) for days at a time.

When's the sequel coming out?

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Neil,
Cheers. A big thank you from me. I was beginning to question my own judgement regarding that book. I still think it's easily the best thing I've ever written or ever will write as I've poured thousands of hours into its construction already and I,m currently adding a few little extra touches and corrections here and there one final time. This is my "one ring" so I want it to be as perfect as I can make it. I wanted folk in the outdoor world to relate to it but also make it interesting and appealing to readers who had no experience of climbing mountains but could relate and understand the characters and personal relationships universal in any group situation.
In a few weeks time I,m going to do a post on "The Secrets of Autohighography" which you may find illuminating as each chapter has an underlying theme which I hinted at in the novel.
Unfortunately, I would only write a follow up or something similar if I had the time, money and motive to do so as persuading people to read anything these days is a far harder task than actually writing it. I,m even handing out cards to random people I meet on hills now but most folk wont be inclined to even look at the free chapters on kindle or click on the link.
"50 shades of grey" is a perfect example of the herd mentality. A massive worldwide sensation yet all the girls I've spoken to said it wasn't up to much.(their words not mine as I would be delighted if people thought my book was crap but at least bothered to read it and talk about it :o)

It's actually a fairly toned down version in parts as some incidents I couldn't or wouldn't put in as everyone has things in their past they regret later so I've only hinted at things on occasion. It's not meant to be a kiss and tell and I hope the warmth and integrity of the various characters shines through.
I cant see me writing anything as complex and detailed as this again without a definite paycheck at the end of it. Three years of unrelenting work,3 of 4 hours most nights for under £100 so far doesn't add up business wise so this may be my Magnum opus :o)

The Glebe Blog said...

Another cracking post Bob and as usual great pictures.
Now there's an age thing cropped up. When you mentioned The Furey's and Davey Arthur I immediately thought of 'Isn't it grand boys'.
Of course it wasn't, that was the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. An easy mistake as Eddie and Finbar performed with the Clancys in 69/70.
Finbar recorded a great version of Carrickfergus a while back.
Love the Led Zep accompanied vid.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Jim,
I had a good few folk LP's in the past and I know one of them was The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. I also still have Finbar Furey's LP Prince of Pipers but couldn't find a decent version of "Morning on a distant shore" on You Tube with the same evocative keening pipes of the version I and the seals liked.Long trembling liquid notes which probably reminded them of whale song underwater.
If you think that is in the past wait until you hear the musical secret that lies at the heart of the book :o)

Lux G. said...

The crocodile got me to look again, haha. All these shots are just wonderful. Always so surreal.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi SuperLux,
There are half a dozen, all different, painted rocks around the Clyde coast dating from the time of the paddle steamers.

Carol said...

I've flown over Mont Blanc - it looked nothing like as difficult as it looks close-up in that video - that looked terrible. It must be bloody hard work with all those glaciers, crevasses and seracs all over the place. I'm amazed you did it in a 'oner'.

I like Great Cumbrae but have only done it the once. I hired a bike from Millport and really enjoyed my afternoon.

One of the reasons I love seals so much is that they're so friendly and curious.

blueskyscotland said...

Great Cumbrae is a lovely little island and still under £5 return to reach it from Largs as a foot passenger.
We stopped overnight at the Grand Mulets hut, halfway up, but we arrived late in the afternoon then relaxed with a few cheeky pints at the bar.(it had a warden then not sure if its still staffed today)Went to bed around midnight... got up around 2 or 3 am when the hut bell rang out to set off for the summit.Didn't feel like much of a rest and acclimatization ascent but it was a very brief weather window we had to climb it in good conditions. The normal ascent route avoids the Bossons Glacier by keeping to a ridge line but we took the route through it because it looked so spectacular.