Thursday 30 December 2021

Craigmore (and memories) Revisited. The Whangie.

                                                   ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.


This is a post from the autumn months just past. It's been 20 years since I did any rock climbing but having visited Dumbarton Rock in the summer for a spot of youthful nostalgia I was curious to see how the climbing crag of Craigmore was getting on. See photo above for the crag and note the large pine tree on the left with an obvious deep crack below it. This is Craigmore Corner.  42 feet high or 13metres. 5b HVS.

 A closer look at it from below. It is the classic route of this crag and as there are no holds to speak of  until you reach the obvious square block jutting out, around 20 foot up, it requires strenuous, (legs and arms wide apart), bridging until you reach this point and grab the first good hold. Hard Very Severe was the upper limit of my climbing potential in my prime and I only managed to get up this tricky bugger once. Imagine back and footing or bridging up a smooth concrete corner of a large warehouse building for 20 feet, moving upwards a painstaking twelve inches at a time with each foot, only kept in place by maximum pressure exerted to maintain friction on all four limbs splayed out at once, starfish fashion, and you get some idea of the effort involved. When I made it to the top of the route I was so exhausted it took me ages to get the strength back in my arms and fingers to untie the rope. I made a lot of noise apparently, grunting and straining with every move but I was also elated. This was a route I'd walked past many times over a ten year period, attempted it at least five times and only succeeded at last after giving it full 110% commitment. Unless you are a very good technical climber or have gymnastic ability and love bridging it is an immense struggle and I was in no rush to repeat it once I'd achieved my prize. That single ascent was enough.

 Another look at Craigmore Corner. 5b. HVS.  Tom and Jerry Wall. 13metres. 5a. and Rampage 16 metres 4b VS. Both lie to the right of CC. All starred routes of quality in my old guide book. I mention this as Craigmore lies just north of Glasgow and Bearsden, is 30 mins away or less in the car, and was one of the more popular local climbing crags in the Central Belt with a dozen or more starred enjoyable routes. My climbing club used to go here nights and sunny weekends every summer for over a decade but looking at the crag close up I did not notice much evidence of chalk marks. With all the indoor climbing walls around I don't know if outdoor climbing on local crags is still as popular as it used to be. Or maybe with a lack of local crag climbers nesting birds are more of a problem these days? I did visit around 10 years ago and the crag then looked more mossy and vegetated than it looks today but it's hard to tell with just two visits years apart and no one around to ask.


A view from the top of the routes. It is easy to get to however, with great views of the surrounding Campsie Fells, a four car layby spot not far away, and a nice landscape feature. It was a beautiful sunny Sunday after a long dry summer so I half expected to see some current generation rock climbers or bouldering folk around but just like the last time I visited, it remained deserted yet nesting birds should only be a problem in the spring/ early summer. 



Being deserted was handy in one sense in that no-one was around to see how ungainly I've become as I clambered over uneven ground like a human elephant seal to get to the base of this long line of crags over a jumble of fallen rocks. Thick summer vegetation, several deep hidden holes, and a lack of well trampled paths was another indication this place might not get the foot traffic it once did in my heyday 30 years ago. The above dotted route is Autobahn 10 metres 5a and another classic. I always got up this one as it does have holds and is a beautiful, delicate dance sequence of precise movements on a vertical chessboard instead of Craigmore Corner's brutal thrutch of a route using sheer power. This one was a favourite and an elegant pleasure to ascend every time. 

Rock climbs definitely have their own unique personality. The first a macho great ape glaring down at you with malice and intent, silently willing you to retreat backwards to ground level with every shaky move taken upwards.... feeling like invisible fingers pushing on your head, .... which is merely the effect of gravity of course, but a fearsome presence on every inch of this route to the block, given the lack of positive holds. Autobahn, by contrast, was always a delicate European chanteuse anytime I met her, one that could be coaxed to smile and even lend a slender helping hand upwards with the correct polite approach. A much repeated, lighter than air, joy.

 Another place we climbed in those days was Loudoun Hill but that was a volcanic plug of rock near Darvel in Ayrshire so not as handy or as easy to get to from North Glasgow although it did have a wide range of routes in a pleasant rural setting.  The highest climbs on this crag felt like proper mountain routes. This one above is Brian on The Edge VS. 45 metres long or 148 feet high. The classic route on the crag and an eye-catching wonder as it takes the boldest line up a sharp thin arete. I wasn't planing on climbing this but after Brian had done the hard part by leading it I grabbed my chance to second it. Another memorable climb ticked off. This is the middle section up the dramatic, and to all outward appearances, barely attached, fin. There is a bottom tier of rock below this one so it feels airy and committing.

Looking across from Craigmore Crag at the wooded slopes of Mugdock Country Park.


Rolling pastureland.


Dumgoyne and the Campsie fells from the walk into the crag.

 A different view of it from the ridge line. Just being up here again is a pleasure.

 Another view of Craigmore Corner and the belay tree. 

View looking East from the top of the crag.

A small wooded hill near the West Highland Way long distance footpath.

 The belay sling at the top of Craigmore Corner. I would always put my own sling round the tree as well, just to be on the safe side and use both rather than trust old gear left out in the elements. You can always retrieve your own gear after climbing the route

 The beauty of Scotland in late August.

 On the same day I also visited another favourite rock climbing venue just a ten minute drive from Craigmore. Family favourite The Whangie which is a deep cleft in the rock caused by 'glacial puckering', as in a large mass of ice 'sucking' the rock apart along a fault line to create a dry chasm you can walk through. A geological oddity popular with children... and adults. 

 Walking through the cleft at The Whangie.

 This has also produced, on the north facing outer side, a small line of cliffs where rock climbing still takes place. The infamous Ivy Crack 10 metres. Severe. Backstep Chimney. 12 metres. Severe.  and Backbreak Wall 13 metres VS 4c. Also Horror Route at E1. As the rock tends to be loose near the upper edges top roping is advised for this crag as accidents have occurred.

 View looking north and east from The Whangie with the village of Killearn visible. A pleasant outing and a glimpse of a more youthful me I hardly identify with anymore. I suppose everyone feels like that about their past days self, looking back as almost belonging to a different person.



Purple heather walking across  the Kilpatrick's flat plateau.


 Free standing railway pillar attempt.  Where once upon a time climbing ambition soared upwards with few boundaries...

 and even skyscraper rock towers like this one failed to dim our enthusiasm for what we always assumed was achievable...

(The Toenail Traverse. Hard Severe climb in Wales. No handholds at all just balance and nifty footwork edging slowly along a two inch wide ledge....) A slightly deceptive photo as the ground is a long way below on a multi pitch route.  Nowadays I might stumble over foot high boulders or embarrassingly falter at fences or other sundry Grandad stoppers I used to leap over without consciously thinking about it and I just shudder my way past vertical walls now with no intention of ever going up them....

 Oh, how the once mighty bodies crumble with age...

 Vertical Railway Wall Practice in Glasgow.... good for increasing toe, leg, and finger strength apparently. Training 1980s style.

Watched a good You Tube video recently. No rent, a tent, and a camera: Backpacking Britain.

An enjoyable mini film of a solo trip  down the length of the UK, end to end, that reminded me strongly of my first adventures as a teenager, venturing off alone into the wilds with a tent.

Tuesday 21 December 2021

Christmas Lights. The Colours of Christmas Past.

 Seeing as how it is Christmas I thought I would put together a gallery of Christmas lights in various Scottish cities I've happened to visit around the festive period in times past.

 A Perth Christmas walk from a few years ago. 2018 in fact.

 Perth's Christmas tree beside the river.

  Shopping Streets in Perth.

 Christmas Lights in Paisley.

 With a river running through its town centre and an open plaza right beside it Paisley can be a very colourful place at Christmas, using its natural features to great advantage.

 Which I embellished even further with my tribute to The Impressionists, blending photography with art. One of my favourite photographs thanks to deliberate camera slippage at just the right speed. Ten attempts at it but this was the best effort by far. Vincent would be proud!


The Electric Santa. Paisley.

Electric Jesus and friends in Paisley.

 Paisley Town Hall.

 The Scottish capital. City of Edinburgh's Christmas Lights.

Silent Night display in Edinburgh.

 Edinburgh street life at Christmas.

 George Street lights. Edinburgh.

Harry Potter University. Edinburgh.

 Silent Night display. Edinburgh.



'The party town'. Edinburgh.



where everything is illuminated...

 and the creatures of the night.....

 come out to play....

 George Square in Glasgow.                      Merry Christmas everybody.

Sunday 12 December 2021

Falls of Clyde. New Lanark. Two Seasons. Christmas and Summer.

                                           ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.

Recently I found an old set of photo folders I thought I'd lost and while I was looking through them all, taken between five to ten years ago now, two things were apparent. I was younger and more adventurous then.... still in my frisky 50s.   And I got around a lot more.

So without further ado here they are.  

Corra Linn Falls. Not the highest waterfall in the British Isles but reputedly the largest for sheer volume of water in spate. (Note the people on the right hand side of the gorge giving it some scale.) The constant roar, spray, and vibration close up is very impressive.

It's actually four different waterfalls or Linns on the River Clyde where it travels down through a steep wooded gorge. This is Bonnington Linn in summer conditions with full flow levels allowed.

Winter version.  Normally the flow nowadays is reduced to a trickle over the falls as it is diverted away to a power station and the National Grid but on certain days they let it pour over full force. In the late 1700s and throughout the 1800s loads of famous artists, romantic poets, politicians, the great and the good, made their way here, even from far off London, as in the days before safe continental and world travel, sightseeing and travelling in a newly tamed Scotland, after the massacre at Culloden in 1746 which crushed the clans, was a big draw. This in its own way was Scotland's Niagara Falls and people wanted to see it.

Another view of Corra Linn from higher up in full spate conditions.

An icy boardwalk standoff between two dogs.

A closer look. Note visitors. This right hand look out point is not easy to get to however from New Lanark. A circular trail runs from New Lanark for around a km to the Corra Linn waterfall where I took these photos. This is as far as most tourists get. The trail/path continues further from here, passing several lesser waterfalls like Bonnington Linn and eventually reaches a bridge across the river leading to the opposite bank. Very few people do the full circuit of the gorge by continuing down the other side of the river, past several lookout points, past New Lanark, now unreachable across the water, until they end up at Clydesholm Bridge downstream where they can cross again. From here you can either follow the main A 72 road uphill or continue more pleasantly, and flatter, along the riverbank on good trails to take you back to New Lanark again. The full circuit is a good 4 to 5 hours duration. I've only walked it a couple of times and I'm always really glad to see the car at the end of it. A good full circuit on reasonable paths but a long one.

 Years ago I picked a day in winter after a big freeze, around minus 10 below for over a week yet not much snow- just a severe penetrating frost, even during the day. So I thought the gorge at New Lanark would be good for icicles... and I was proved right.

Loads of icicles on show. Hard to access or get up close to them.

Luckily I had crampons and an ice axe with me so I was able to to climb up this stone staircase of sloping terraces of rock, seen here, and ascend the middle of the river that way on spiky paws as it was reduced to a trickle.

 An ice cave you could enter... A Frozen world. No Elsa or Anna sitting inside though, just a dead blackbird.

 At the top of the Corra Linn waterfall looking into the deep plunge pool. No doubt about it....I was far more nimble and adventurous ten years ago. I would never dream of attempting this route now. Far too dangerous. No wild swimming for me!

 Showing the difference with more water in the river. In my rock climbing days, in summer, I've climbed up waterfalls similar to this one near the edge as several Classic Rock gully routes have them included. Not pleasant and shockingly cold and powerful, even with full waterproofs on. Me no like Clachaig Gully or The Chasm for that reason. At some point in them you have to climb up inside several waterfalls pouring down on you, usually collected from melting house sized snow blocks high above, while still looking for easy to miss hand and foot holds on moss covered,  dripping wet, vertical walls. An acquired taste in rock climbing I failed to appreciate.

 A much milder December day.

 Going back to the frozen minus -12 day I timed it just right, returning to New Lanark for dusk and the light fading...

...again around Christmas time as you can see.

 And had a prowl through these long rows of former cotton mill buildings, some of them now lived in by residents and others open for visitor attractions and period displays. An interior stone lined lade diverted water power to run several of these giant wheels, seen here, providing a cheap constant energy source in the early days, hence the location choice and pioneering self contained workforce who had better conditions than most mills of that time with is own school, time off for children to get educated, a well stocked shop, and more enlightened work practices for adults. A big draw for visitors, along with the four falls walk beside it.

Summer view.

The descent path down. A large car park exists at the top of the gorge and visitors normally park high then walk down unless you phone first and get permission to park down in the village itself if you have a valid reason to do so. I used to drive down, drop my elderly parents off at the bottom then drive back up and park up high, walking down myself to explore, then, when it was time to leave, I'd run up, collect the car, and pick them up again down here as this saved them a steep walk uphill. The village is flat once you get down here and anyone infirm could probably park below. Might be better to phone in advance though. No need if you are just dropping people off below then parking high up.

 It does look a magical place, nestling snug in its glen.... even at minus 12 below.

 Then a long slow drive back in the darkness on icy roads to my own district.

 Anniesland Tower here in Glasgow.

 And a cracking tinfoil treat of a meal, done in the oven, sealed up and steamed for 35 mins above 200. Chicken, sprouts, carrots, sliced spuds, cherry tomatoes, onion, salt and black pepper, a quarter teacup of water for extra moisture to keep it from drying out too much . Them were the good old days alright! Happy times!