Devils in Skirts, Part 1

Linda had threatened me with one for a while, “You’ll love it” and “You’ll suit it” being the  most common bait to lure me in. But as much as I have grown to fully love and embrace my culture and heritage, I was kind of ambivalent about wearing a kilt, it was very much in the I’ll get to it one day file.
Linda is tenacious though and also loves a bargain, so here we are, standing in front of the mirror in a black Sabbath t shirt, Converse and a kilt with a nice amount of purple through it.

I’ve never been one to do anything half hearted. I’ll beat the simplest or most minor distraction to death with enthusiasm and this one was easy: it’s going to be nice, I’m wearing this to the hills.
You go honey she said.
That was all the encouragement I needed, in fact that was an endorsement if ever I heard one.

The first task was a kilt pin, need to add a little weight and stability which I was sure would be needed if I ended up in any weather and mother found my Granny’s silver celtic cross after a good bit of rummaging. Strong pin and clasp, good weight to it and it looks magic, a wee bit of family history to help me on the way.
What to wear with it was something that needed a play around with. The longest socks I have are all very old, either Karrimor’s or Terra Firma’s, both from the 90’s but serviceable. I went with the cream Karrimor’s with some Coolmax liners to pack out the worn spots inside. The Terra Firma’s are far better socks but they’re also bright red and I looked like either a childrens’ TV presenter from the 80’s or a stripper, there was absolutely no Tom Weir sartorial flavour coming off them at all. Dammit.

Underwear was next, 3/4’s, shorts or full length longjons were the choices. The going like a “true Scotsman” and being bare arsed under the kilt is both historically inaccurate and would likely see me in hospital given the temperatures. Long legged shorts like I wear most of the time were fine but left a gap of bare skin to the top of the socks, 3/4 filled the gap at my knees well enough but full length gave me a double layer with my socks which seemed like a good idea and that’s what i went with.
I went with an old pair of well shaped Smartwool’s with a fly (so double thickness crotch) that could be folded up above my knees and didn’t fall down again while I was moving.
Everything else was regular kit, easy peasy.

Driving to Rowardennan was a a lovely new experience too, summer driving in a kilt will be a joy. But although the sky was a beautiful, the loch was very dark and choppy and the trees were swaying. I was chilled as I walked to the ticket machine in the carpark. I had my old Kimmlite Kamleika pants packed but it did have a definite Is this really a good idea... moment. It’s me though and any of my successes in life are fueled by bravado and optimism backed by an average amount of ability. So off I went.

Into the the toilet block. My first pee in the mountains in a kilt was in rather unsavoury surrounds at just above seas level, but the technique was straightforward and is yet another joy of kilt wearing.
Straight out and onto the trail I went, warming as I walked on this so very familiar path to the broad shoulders of Ben Lomond. It was quiet on the this wintry Tuesday but as it was late when I left I did start meeting folks coming downhill as I climbed and these interactions are making me chuckle still, a week or so later.
Hi I threw out with a grin “Oh, er…” came the reply as she looked up and saw me and hurried on.
The two football fans (club scarves, no rucksacks) grimaced as they passed me, gazes fixed ahead like I was a beggar and they had spare change.
“A real Scotsman!” smiled the older lady, Thank you misses, safe down.
“I’m from Australia, can I take your picture, they’ll never believe me”. As the snow beat into from the side I did my best Monarch of the Glen pose.

The wind did indeed get up, the blue above was gone and the temperature dropped sharply. I had my shell on and the hood was up, big gloves were on too. The snow began to coat my left side, socks, bare knees, kilt and Gore Tex. Never felt a thing.

Two young fellas were a little ahead of me, one banging his mate’s arm “Look at this idiot coming towards us” as they both subtly readied their phones to get a photie of the coming evenings’ mountain rescue subject as I passed them.
Oh, it wasn’t looking great up there, we turned back said the concerned and very well equipped mountaineer heading downwards. “Aye? Ach, we’ll see how it goes”.
I’ve been turned off Ben Lomond so many times by the conditions, I know this hill very well and I know it’s not really the tourists easy Munro unless it’s a fine, calm day. I was ready for it, equipment wise and mentally, the physical is still catching up again.
So I was thankful for that fact that advice was offered, I would later give out the same sort of thing to a fella just below the summit track in jeans, directing him to a nice view spot and how to get back quick before it got dark. Instructions he followed to the letter.

It’s always worth the risk to help.

The sky cleared in patches although the air was moving no less swiftly past me and I did roll down my longjons which warmed me up instantly. Ventilation, temperature control, it’s so easy, so instant and so much better than zipped thigh vents. I did not expect this, this was all for fun, mischief and photies, something to send to Linda while she was stuck in the office and I was discovering something that had functional elements that were better than the cutting edge of current outdoor design.
Interesting.

I dug in a little for a break. There was maybe forty five minutes of light left and I just wasn’t feeling it for the summit. I could feel the cold creep in when I sat, I was still comfy enough, but the summit was dark under a wreath of icy wind blown cloud and I knew it wouldn’t be as pleasant as I’d want it to be on my first visit in a wee while.
I wandered over to the little crags and out onto the ridge above Coire a Bhathaich. North it was angry looking and the light was fading. I was content and I was going home.

After finding evidence of the path repair team I wrote about a while back my crampons crunched and squeaked me below the snowline where I sat with a cuppa until it got dark enough to need to walk with the headtorch.
A jaunty wander down with a head full of new stuff rattling around it. An empty car park and a slow drive out to Drymen on a very icy road.
It had been business as usual in many ways, me and a favourite local hill in winter. But, the new element made it also something very different.

I will really have to try this again. You can never make your mind up properly the first time about anything.

Devils in Skirts, Part 2

I’d been out earlier in the week, it was late when I left so the day was always going to be short and as seems to be a seasonal norm now my unexpectedly post covid legs and lungs just weren’t where I thought they were going to be. 2022 had been a year of physically rebuilding for me with weight, diet and fitness all addressed, so many miles me and Linda put in. I was coming into winter the readiest I’d been in years until the two red lines changed that plan.
But as fun as it was being out, my pace was slow and as conditions and darkness pressed down on me I stopped short of the summit and wandered back down below the snowline to sit with a cuppa and ponder.

I wasn’t despondent, but I wasn’t exactly resolute in going forward either. It was a “is this it now?” moment. A mental limbo of sorts maybe. I had however just marched up Ben Lomond in a kilt and crampons which as a mixture of mischief and research had perfectly hit all my spots and I’m still smiling about it now having worn a kilt on three days out of last weeks’ seven.

A couple of days on and I was feeling okay, I had some fresh review kit in and the weather was looking excellent. There was no doubt I was going to go but as I packed and piled some clothes on the bed I eyed the kilt again and it made me smile. I had enjoyed the experience of wearing it and there was less wind forecast, so what the hell.

The hills of home dressed like a native? The Arrochar Alps it was.

I swapped around destinations as I went by them. A sea level start was out, I wasn’t wanting to push hard because daylight was short twice in a row so I headed towards the Rest and Be Thankful and ever evolving, permanent and reality defying roadworks. Ben Donich hmm, Beinn an Lochan err, Beinn Luibhean aye, it’s an old favourite. I parked up and looked at the shiny new deer fence half way up the NW slope I like to shin up. Was I in the mood to cross a deer fence and trip across the plantation in a kilt and slightly tired legs. No is the obvious answer.

Butterbridge was the next stop and the delightfully rough and overlooked Stob Coire Creagach is just across the A83 racetrack. Brown and yellow grass, bare birches then dark grey crags with pure white fingers reaching through and around them from above.
I had a little flutter in my chest: caffeine, excitement and I’m admitting to a wee bit apprehension too. It’s not a tall hill, but it’s steep and it looked simple awesome, every inch the winter mountain.

There was a spring in my step as I left the tarmac and headed up the side of the burn.

It’s hard work. There’s no path, no obvious easy line and the happiness of your ascent is very much down to your eyes, your judgement and your map. It’s steep all around, plenty of dead ends and unending fun because of it all.
The views are pure magic too. Unusual angles of familiar peaks and the broken Arrochar Alp terrain all around you too. Add to that you will likely see no one else all day and this is a hill to treasure.
Seriously, in my life I have met one other person up here.

It was getting constantly icy underfoot, the snow was firming up as I got higher so I found a sun trap for a cuppa break and gear rotation. I’m not an idiot so I’ve got merino longjons under my kilt. I messed with a few different ideas and this seemed like it would be the best and after two trips I’m liking it. I have them folded up above me knee when it’s warm lower down and this hasn’t proved uncomfortable, restrictive or annoying yet. When the wind has picked up or the temperature is low enough for me to really feel it I’ll roll them down to the the top of my socks or down to my ankle under my socks if I need to. I had mini gaiters too which works great with my steel Kahtoolas, sealing up the boots and keeping the snow out.

Rolling your pants up and down might look like I’m paddling at the beach in the 50s in my slacks but it’s been a revelation how comfy it is. Uphill in a kilt on rough ground is less restrictive than in any trousers I’ve even worn, temperature control is quicker, better and easier too. It’s just an incredibly pleasant thing to be doing.
I know it has limitations, especially in the wet and high wind and I definitely was approaching my low temperature limit eariler in the week, but still, I can’t deny the facts from actually doing it.

Anyway, if it all went wrong my OMM Kamelika’s were in my pack. Aye, I’m no’ daft.

2023 Gore-Tex and Victorian clan culture redux highland wear? Yes please.

The way up was round the left of that crag and onto a lovely smooth snow slope. It was crunchy most of the way from there, even with the modest altitude. You might even say it was perfect.

He’s a happy looking bastard that guy anyway.

I was already losing the light, despite probably making good time in jumble of crags. I probably made as many genuine stopping to look at the view moments as I did stopping to look at the view to actually catch my breath moments.
Time wasn’t important, I was loving every step. Every whisper of wind was a word of encouragement, every crackle as ice crumbled from the rock after a day in the sun a musical note, every drip from the end my nose was, well, wiped on my glove. But if I’m doing it there and not on a paper hankie while I’m at home I must be winning right?

The show and ice was sculpted and formed by the weather and changeable conditions. My footsteps were the only ones other than occasional animal tracks. It was all new, fresh and clean. Quite beautiful.

The rock’s grey took on some of the lowering sun to maybe grudgingly shine a little golden brown out towards me. It’s okay, you don’t have to wear black all the time, if anyone’s on your side it’s me. Shine away.

I did think about walking the ridge and descending to Glen Kinglas for a nice wander back up next to the river but that would have blocked out the sunset and although you can never presume to get that splash of colour, it’s okay to hope and I was definitely but quietly hoping so I stayed on course around the rocks, stitching together the short steep snow slopes.

It was the best way to go as it tuns out. The west was hazing out to see and the sun was sinking into it, diffusing it’s beams into a golden wintry glow. I stood on the summit and soaked it in with a grin so wide.

The snow took on the sun’s new hues of pink and gold and the wind rose a little to see the sights, not enough to chill me, just cool but calm fitting the mood perfectly.

I wandered the chain of tops that make Binnein an Fhidhleir. Snow broken only by now black rock and visited only my my own footprints. The herd of deer by the Eas Riachain to the north saw me or sniffed me out and oh so begrudgingly moved a little further on every time I moved west until the gave up and ignored me.

I had the best fun on the ascent and my legs and lungs were okay. Maybe the stretch out they had on Ben Lomond had been a good thing. Whatever, as the sun went down and I had the summits to my self I was feeling good.
No, I was feeling great.

I wanted to look in every direction at once, I wanted to go over there, no I’ll go there first and stand on that crag and see what’s… Oh, I might descend this gully instead.

I’ve often said we’re just dressing up to go out and play and it rarely feels more accurate than times like this. Joy from finger tip to toe, just to be there.

The scenery just kept on giving. The forms of the frozen summits, the colours of the sky, every step along there was something else to make me stop and stare and maybe take a photie with latest vintage Panasonic. I think that’s shots from my fourth LX5 we’re looking at here. Where would I be without eBay.

As the sun sank away the snow seemed to glow a little brighter once again and the sky and the land were washed over with a pale soft blue streaked distantly with pink.
Other than a lone raven coughing in the coire it was utterly silent. I caught and held my breath and listened. Nothing, absolutely nothing. So close to home, but standing here in these two footprints I was very much on my own.
It wasn’t a lonely feeling though because I know what that’s like, to be busy, to be surrounded but to feel alone. And while I might still get overwhelmed, find myself stuck, be looking for help, I haven’t felt alone in years.
No, this was a moment of solitary contentment.

The gully was steep but the ribbon of snow down it’s length looked like fun and skipped down it with a grin that hadn’t shifted in what felt like hours.
All hill days have something, a memory will be made or a maybe a lesson learned. But some hill days have a sparkle, the little day on a wee local hill will keep shining bright for me.

Such was my mood that when I took a call just at the snowline (what are we doing about dinner? yes, I’m on my way) I put music on, something I never do and I stood playing air guitar on my ice axe to the first song that played (Ghost’s Kaisarion, in case my aging brain forgets) because it just hit the spot perfectly and the joy that I had absorbed all day had a wee safety valve release to let some of the extra go into the world and hopefully find a new home.

The car was frozen in the Butterbridge car park and while it was thawing we made plans for dinner. I picked up Linda on the way to Sainsbury’s in Drumchapel where we would pick up the makings of a nice steak stir fry. I did still have my hill gear on though so the first thing that happened was people were staring at the man in the skirt which just kept my grin fuelled and then an old fella came up and started talking to us about the telly show Outlander. He was so cheery and thought it was awesome I was wearing a kilt. In a day that had already been made, I think it had just been gilded by that chance encounter.

Shower, lovely dinner with the girls and an early night.

The best day.

Sunday’s here too quick.

It’s been quite the week of trials, discovery and maybe more questions than answers too. The rain came in yesterday and it’s miserable ootside once again but it’s came too late to spoil my fun or dampen my enthusiasm.

Lots to think about, lots to say. 2023 has started very unsteadily but this week was like a being at a gig of a band you don’t really know, when they finally play the singles it’s a breathe out and praise be moment, the energy is there to get through what’s coming next.

Which is… ?

Nearly There

It was looking good as we went into December. My fitness was still improving with so much time out and about, I had work on the books and people owed me money, TGO had lined me up for a bunch of stuff, band stuff was winding up to gigs and recording and I was so looking forward to Christmas with the ones I love.

“Hi Peter, just to let you know me and Dougie have tested positive for covid. As you were with us all day on Tuesday I thought I’d better let you know…”
12 hours later I was flat on my back.

Fully vaxxed means it was lighter on me than it might have been but I was wiped out, still am. The stress was crushing me, did I infect my folks, Holly, Linda?
There’s still the lingering worry of that, who really knows how long the incubation is on recent strains.

On Christmas Eve I tested what looked like negative although a faint line #2 crept up later. Christmas morning I was a definite clear and we had the best day, the best dinner and a few of the rare hours of December I will look back on fondly.
It was me and Linda’s birthday in the middle of this too, 54? Yay in isolation.

Covid free, absolutely exhausted, behind with work, payments left unchased and therefore unpaid and I cannot wait for this year to be over.

There have been highlights, days and nights of joy in wonderful places with wonderful people but I am done with ’22.
One great day was when the frost reached it’s furry zenith.

Onwards.

Run away screaming

I seem to be spending a lot of time stressed out of my nut at the moment which makes every joyous moment found and held a wee bit bigger. When I was caught by the electronic snare on Monday all I could see was a washed out and clear winter sky reflected in the screen. It was a question of when not if I was going to break.

We’re out so much just now I just dressed from the drying pulley out the back and the pile on the chair. A flask, some pieces wrapped up and I was away.
The A82 before the Balloch roundabout was the decider. Conic Hill is close, but I was a little early maybe, I’d be frozen waiting for the sunset of down when it was still light. Ben Lomond, it’s been a while, was I ready for the longer ascent today which I would have to be quick at to catch the best of the evening? Or Luss with its middle-sized bowl of porridge, not too much, not too little and just a few minutes down the road. Aye, that’ll do.

I parked in Luss Estates new and shiny car park which used to be a field where migrating geese used to rest, hundreds of them. I guess money talks and the geese can walk. I hope they enjoy my £6.
Over the footbridge and onto the track with a now uncertain sky all around me, some cloud, a weak sun but some patches of warm light. Gloves on, fleece unzipped, I took to the endless grass slope at the jauntiest pace I could manage.

I was fairly warming up, the slope is consistent and is always very boggy anyway, but after so much rain it was grabbing onto every footfall and it felt like progress was slow. The views here always keep me cheerful though, one side the empty gloomy glen which is actually very pleasant to walk down, the other Loch Lomond with its islands, mountains, roads, people and ach, I’ll keep my eyes higher up.

My wee vintage LX5 camera was struggling today. It just wasn’t focusing so I juggled its constant beeps at not being able to latch onto something to wiping condensation off my phone’s lens to use that instead. This has meant I brought home a joyfully eclectic selection of photies in both content and quality. They’re making me smile as I scribble this inbetween them.

Ben Lomond was catching a bit of cloud although Conic was clear. The Ben’s summit looked awesome as the pale ribbons streaked over and around it. I chose my destination wisely, it was glorious to watch.

The angle doesn’t change much and the path is pretty straight, just because of the terrain which is a rounded ridge of sorts. It was getting dull above me and I was running out of steam.
There’s a break in the uniformity not too far from the top. The way ahead narrows to the flat summit and to the right is a little ridge that heads out towards the loch. I generally don’t care about summits anymore, I just wanted a comfy spot to get fed and watered and this looked likely.
I took the hard right turn and set off to find some complex topography that I had no idea existed on this hill. The ground fell away steeply to my left as the views opened up over the loch and to the north. I could feel my grin widening as I saw bare broken rock and then a deep black lochan that I had no idea even existed. It’s not on any map I’ve got. And I’ve got a lot of maps.
So, I’m claiming it and shall name it at a later date.

A herd of deer scattered northwards just below me and I had a definite spring in my step now as I explored this new secret world. The sky seemed brighter too and I was contouring upwards as I wandered north. Aye okay, I’ll see what’s happening on the top.

A lot of the cloud had cleared by the time the western horizon was back in view. The colours were lovely and the natives were friendly if mildly surprised. I could feel the temperature dropping as fast as the light was fading and as sprightly as I was now feeling with the lochan discovery second wind syndrome, my plan of sauntering round the horseshoe and walking back along the glen was dropped in favour of layering up, breaking out dinner and fannying about the summit for a while.

I am completely at home here. The darkness comes quickly and even if it nips at my fingers it warms my heart and soothes my soul. You’re never really away from the troubles of life but you can fill your senses so that they are very much pushed to the edges and out of sight for a while.

I sat on a rock, wrapped up warm with a cuppa in my hand looking at the day disappearing and all I could see, all I could hear, all I could feel in that moment was happy.

I did get a bit excited about this fence as well though and I took many photies. It’s so wonderfully and pointlessly situated cross the hill and has an air of going somewhere but nowhere. It’s a bit like an arrow pointing to the Arrochar Alps, the familiar shapes of the Cobbler, Ben Ime and Beinn Narnain lying dead ahead.

Fog was forming in the glens and streaks of cloud crept from nowhere onto slopes and summits around me and although I was thinking “inversion in the morning!” it all came to nothing.
That’s okay, there’s always next time.

et

Complete darkness was only two coffees away, aye that’s fast. I got to see some stars as I wandered down towards Luss, wet to my knees on this grassy waterslide. Didn’t land on my arse once though which is a miracle.

Night time descents are so very pleasant. Well, if the terrain is good I suppose, so many near misses in the past. Now though it’s easy mode and the lights in the distance aren’t houses and streets and shouting, they’re just pretty.

The moon wasn’t the only other inhabitant of the hilltop night, I saw flares going up at the military base over by Loch Long. Wargames?

Ach, the fence was better, I like this fence. One day, we’re going to follow it to the last post.

Which might be in that military base. That’s ironic or something maybe.

A Bit of Finger

In with the new indeed, but the old will be staying in reserve.

Don’t think I’ve ever felt the cold as much as I feel it just now with this still odd feeling narrower sillouette and my hands are getting the worst of it.

My old and worn but excellent Redwing sheepskins have no insulation left in the fingers where years of use have word it away so I’m hoping these Primaloft lined Hestra’s that just beat the postal strike (stick it to the man folks) will save my days (and nights) until Spring.

This is a big change for me though and it makes me nervous, some gear is part of your story just because it was there, and those old gloves really were there, for everything.

We shall see.

Helensburgh Fireworks

Helensburgh is a funny place, build on a grid to echo Glasgow’s efficient city centre it mixes old sandstone affluence with 60’s roughcast expansion and it’s seafront shopfronts are either bright with queues or dim with dirty glass and peeling paint. It’s hard to know where it’s going but I hope it finds something other than just the minging new sports centre right on the pier.
Besides, we like coming here for the chippy and ice cream, And we were born here, both me and Linda, just a few hours apart on the same day in ’68. There’s coincidence and the there’s that.

Tonight though was the the only night we could get together for fireworks. Holly’s 15th various birthday events (15… wtf?) had kept us away but this was it.
We got the last table inside the busy chippy just before the stressed out manager shut the door and missed the rain that fell for an hour before the show started. Chips were magic too.

We wandered around to the pier where the barge  that was the base for the display was moored but it was mobbed and I was the only one that was going to see anything.
So, I said excuse me to the folks sitting on the wall and jumped over onto the breakwater boulders and helped the girls down too. Pretty soon the boulders were full of folk and everybody was going to get a view. And hope fully not a broken ankle.

The moon came out and the fireworks did their best to reach it casting as much light onto the water as they did in the sky. The rain came in and the youngsters on the boulders retreated but we stayed cosy say shoulder to shoulder with hoods up.

There was a walk in the dark back to the car and a stop at the ice cream shop on the way home. The best of times.

Craigmore, Aberfoyle

I don’t know where this path goes, but we’ll get to see the top of the waterfall going this way at least. The rain pattered onto my hood as I ran ahead a wee distance after the very hard to actually see top of the waterfall bit. Aye, it just goes to the road I think. My phone was already wet, the speaker was gurgling with every sound coming through it, I wasn’t checking any closer.

Two weeks later…
Ooh, mind that path that went up to the road? It goes somewhere. Want to go somewhere? Yes, yes we did.

However, it doesn’t matter if you’ve booked a day off, shit happens and gets in the way and then with the clocks back, it was definitely too late when we left. Especially when we had to get cuppas on the way which was definitely for both mental and physical nutrition.

A fiver was paid to the emotionless parking robot at David Marshall Lodge and we took to the trail from a couple of weeks ago, this time in unexpected but oh so very welcome fine weather.

The most colourful days of autumn passed us by too quickly under too many grey skies but the leaves that are left might shine a little brighter because of the bare gaps between them.
It was a pleasant climb away from the regular visitor circuits past the top of the waterfall, you can see it on your tiptoes, and below the road to very sudden crossing at a fast corner.
A corner I know so well from the tarmac side. I’ve been driving past here for what, 35 years, and now I know what the wee gates are for. I shake my head at no one but myself all the time now while we’re out, all these local adventures are such a joy and show me what I’ve missed all these years. So much to make up for, and time is not on our side is it.

The road crossing changes everything as the views suddenly appear. The Campsies and Meikle Bin being a fine sight for such a little effort spent so far.
The colours stay strong all around us, the rusty bracken and golden leaves, flashes of apple green and more blue sky than we would have asked for without feeling cheeky. What a glorious day for such a lovely trail.

The path winds its well maintained course onto the bed of the tramway that brought slate from the mines to the north round to the railhead at Aberfoyle below. I think it’s walkable right round to the mines and I also think we’ll back for that another day. For now though, someone’s left a bench here. Oh well.

The lodge looks like something we should be viewing through binoculars while wearing camoflage and counting troop numbers as they jump off of half-tracks in the car park. Yes, them theme from Where Eagle Dare was in my head the rest of the day.

The path from here is a proper hill path, it’s rough, boggy and steep in places and the views keep opening up. And not a single soul to be seen but us. From the car park back to the car park on a clear day and on an accessible hill we saw no one. is it always like this here? I’m not telling anyone, I like it like this, it’s just between us right?

The light had been beautiful the whole walk but as we got near to what felt like the highest contours the sun was getting caught in thin layers of cloud out to the west and the golden rays were throttled back. But the views were not diminished by this because all of a sudden, there were the mountains. I saw the Crainlarich twins first then started picking out the rest. Ben Lomond I could probably had skimmed a bit of the old slate on the loch and landed it on its eastern flanks and there was the Cobbler too.
I laughed out loud and grinned and pointed as Linda uttered those immortal lines: “Woop Woop!”

Again, we’re just thinking “Where’s the people?” Maybe on Ben Venue which felt so close ahead, but the path while easy to follow isn’t eroded as such, it’s just not busy. Ah what joy.

I’m still on a fleece wearing crusade and this 100 weight Berghaus Ascent went out to play totally because of fit and performance, not because of the colour of the trim.
Berghaus might say ’91 on the label of this fleece, but that silver beard I’m wearing is pure ’22.

I think my first ever proper fleece was a black Berghaus Sangar IA, so I’m back home here in some ways. More on fleece at some point, probably a mild rant of some sort.

It looked like the light had gone and the colour drained from the sky and the hills. We hid from the strengthening wind behind a random conifer on the wee summit plateau and had cuppas and pieces.
It was as lovely a spot as it was unlikely, it’s not like nature to leave you a random shelter so near to the top and it stopped us descending to find somewhere out of the wind to eat which was lucky because the sun found some gaps again and in it’s final half hour is brought the whole landscape to life which shots of lazy, hazy, honey hued evening light.

I’ve spend a lot of dusks and dawns standing on a hill waiting to see what would happen in this was straight into the best sellers list. Simply glorious.

We only left when the sun sank over the edge, the cold bit a little deeper into out fingers and we knew we would have to have headtorches on for some of the descent. Linda as you know likes to meet the scenery and personal and horizontal fashion and this just wasn’t the day to be relearning technical night time maneuvers.

But we did leave with full hearts, heads and tummies too. Summit (aye I’m claiming Craigmore as a summit, fight me) dinners are always the best.

 

There was one incident. One of our party went knee deep in some mud, and I do mean knee deep. There was some laughter, some swearing, some grunting and I don’t think that boot is ever going to be quite the same again.

The moon saw us home and our headtorch beams were diffused by breath that was clouding in the cold air. Noses and cheeks were nipped but fingers were coming back to life inside my gloves. Ach, you can never get it quite right.

Oh wait, that’s rubbish. Today was exactly right.

There was no need to run. See, I told you it would be fine.

I don’t think I’ve ever drunk out of a flask as much as I have these past few months. Normally I’d pack a wee stove but the flasks have become a quick and easy solution for unexpected dashes like this one. The current main one is nearly 20 years old and has outlived every piece of test kit that has came in after I bought it in Ambleside one day when I was er, young. That’s the only thing you really can’t put onto review gear, years.

Flasks always go at the seal, it either breaks from getting dropped or expansion during immersion. You don’t notice until you have a cold cuppa five miles into a walk though.
We’ll see how we get on with this old dented Thermos for now. Another winter maybe?

That winter isn’t too far away either. Gloves and hats have been worn for weeks now and my windshirt sometimes has more than just a baselayer under it.
I have mixed emotions about the imminent arrival of short days and tall ideas. I don’t think I’m physically as ready as I’d hoped, I am slim but not necessarily racey, I’ve been putting in the miles, but not so much ascent. So I guess we’ll see.

We’re having fun though, whatever the pace is, and whatever the place is. Local exploring has taken us to even more new places but sometimes it’s just as good to stay right at home and play.

There’s nowhere to beat the crags when the light is right.

This was a reminder to look down when there’s a sunset, the trees were sparkling in the dying light in lazy golden waves. I now wonder if I’ve been missing this stuff all the time, surely I would have noticed…

The Arrochar Alps and Ben Lomond are always so close and always so far. When was my last afternoon dash up one of these? Could I still do that? Should I?

We made a new friend on Round Wood Hill. Alex, just moved up here for a new job and he was finding his way around the local points of interest and had started strong indeed standing up here in such a lovely evening.
The poor bugger went home with a phone full of notes and a head full of nonsense after hanging out with us. I think Linda wanted to adopt him.

What joy there is to be found in the world, probably just enough to keep us on our feet as the current tide of chaos runs past our legs.

Rossdhu

We have a few local favourites and over the last couple of years this stretch of the genuinely Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond has seen us exploring many times. It’s always rucksack and snacks though, don’t think we’ve ever just ran round. You’ve got to sit down, I mean what’s the point of going anywhere if you don’t stop to take in?

We could hardly believe our luck when the island was deserted and the water was low enough to let us sit on our wee mats and have dinner. The water was choppy, there was enough breeze to have us put on our jackets depsite the still warm sun.
The sound of the water and the rustling leaves was all we could hear until a wee boat passed us by with a family waving at us. They seemed amazed are where we were sitting, from a distance we must have been walking on water.

We went for a paddle, us and the Lego us. The water was warmer than the air that whistled past out bare knees. The pebbles are worn and round, the sand soft and the sensation on tired Friday feet is sublime.

The constantly changing water level gives nature opportunities and then takes them away. There are many tree stumps beyond the waters edge and the rotting wood is always home to something willing to take a chance.

The sun was low when we headed back and what clouds there were caught the warm peachy light lazily flowing from the west. No wild swimmers tonight which is unusual, it’s a favourite for these guys too.

The brash green is softening, there’s yellow and brown in there. I love autumn, but the arrival of the cold months this year brings worries to us all at home, but out here we’ll welcome it with open arms and buttoned jackets.

“It’s alright for you!” Linda often says when I’ve put something useful or commonly used on a high shelf and my usual reply is something about everything has its advantages, you can get into the bottom of the fridge easier than I can etc
Here though I think I can finally see what it’s like to be four foot eleven and following me through the scenery.

Poor wee bugger.

Wait For It

Due to unexpectedly severe solar activity shaving off a layer of our vital and protective upper atmosphere and consequently also affecting the amount of internet available over the next week, Letty has very wisely taken to her Bunker of Rock and will emerge (possibly with superpowers) next week to stand victorious on the ruins of civilization. And then play Colours.
Wednesday 21st, 6 til 8, K107fm

Whitelee Windfarm

One or our recent last minute excursions to explore more local places was an afternoon dash down the A77 to Whitelee Windfarm. It’s maybe half an hour from the door but I’d never even been beyond the gate of the place. Did I have it right or wrong all this time?

I wasn’t sure what to expect, we didn’t exactly research it other than to see what the parking was like and that “Oh look, there’s a cafe…” so we dressed on the casual side so as not to look like we were tackling the ascent of Compston Road in Ambleside. It was after all a well signposted and maintained visitor attraction, it would be like visiting the Botanic Gardens in town.

It wasn’t too busy and we got the motor right in at the visitor centre. Despite subconsciously probably trying to play it cool, we were already oohing and aahing at the view. The “farm” part of the name is suddenly obvious when you’re at the very edge of it. As far as the eye can see, shining in the sun or dark grey in the shade, blades as high as the sky spinning hypnotically in unison. Wow.

We went inside, grabbed a map and went to the cafe. The folks were very nice indeed as was our lunch and I’m glad we didn’t miss it, leaving late does have it’s potential drawbacks.
We sat on the breezy verandah and gazed over at it all, trying to pick the routes out from the map. Jeezo, there’s more than we thought.
Itchy feet and eager eyes had us down the path to the first whispering giant. A whisper which is almost a roar when you stand right under the blades.

The grins were wide as we wandering the tracks which still had a good scattering of folks of all shapes, sizes and ages in the late afternoon. You can explore or follow designated routes and you really can spend a day here if you wanted with miles to to walk or ride. We had just started and we were talking about coming back better prepared.

We drifted off to the side to Dunwan Hill past an alarmingly rattle Turbine 55. There’s a bit of a path up the hill but you can tell most folk like the wide gravel of the main drag. The view from this wee hump is fantastic and it stretches from the Kilpatricks to the Campsies with Ben Lomond sitting distant but obvious inbetween.
The moor is never much higher than 300m but it makes the most its altitude today with low well broken cloud flowing past for our whole visit. This brought scale and texture to the wide landscape with bright patched of light being chases eastwards by grey patched of cloud shadow. Weather is glorious, nothing is quite so dull to look at then nothing much happening, be it clear blue or thick grey.

The next viewpoint is bit more official feeling with the brass viewfinder thing as seen at the start of this post and a wee round walled enclosure to sit on or shelter behind depending on the conditions on day you visit.
None of this is hard to get to either, but the payback for the effort, the feeling of being out and even up is quite remarkable.

I’ve always been suspicious of wind turbines. I don’t like that their installation remodels the landscape so extensively and the talk of their effect on wildlife has always really worried me. It’s probably why I never thought of coming here before, it was off the list by default in the same way that Weatherspoons is.

However. Having spent a few hours here we’ve seen some stuff that’s changed that. Flocks of birds weaving in and out of the spinning blades and raptors hovering close to the turbines looking for something furry for dinner.
The birds seem to have adapted and there’s obviously food for them meaning there’s a viable eco system here after the upheaval of the invasive installation.

I think I expected a barren industrial landscape and what there seems to be is a blend of human necessity and nature doing what it does best, evolving to make the most it.
It’s really made me think.

Bottom line though, this is a great place to visit. I think it’ll be a perfect place to visit as the seasons change and the colours of the landscape with it. Imagine it under snow cover?

I wonder of the cafe is open all year…

Colours

Bless Letty for giving us our first airplay and bless her again for giving the new one its first play anywhere.

What’s hilarious is that we’ll be shooting the video for it while the show is on air.

53, good grief.