Phone in (sic)

…where the hell is my purple spotty went in the washing so it should be here somewhere…
Riiing Riiing…Riiing Riiing…Riiing Riiing…
Yes? Yes?
“What are you up to?” Came Bobinsons understated tones.
“Packing my rucksack, bugger this, I’m off.”

I nearly didn’t, I nearly just sat down. The morning had gone really well, a days work done by lunch time. I went into the folks for lunch, played with Holly and felt myself slipping down in my chair, a blanket of warm apathy soothing my worries.
But I knew these days of sunshine and snow aren’t going to be here forever and it would worry me if I missed another chance like I hd been doing.
I went home and packed, made a wee flask, and I was out the door and heading North.  My plan was vague, I was thinking Beinn an Lochain, a fine Corbett with huge crags to its NW side, I hadn’t seen them under snow for years. I know I passed a snow capped Ben Lomond but I didn’t even look, the metal was loud and all that was in my mind was that blue sky above as I stepped into fresh snow, one foot after the other, no agenda, no strange gear, just me and the hill.
When I saw the Cobbler, I realised it’s been a while since I was up there and I planned to stop at the big carpark and head up, but the carpark was endowed withn a smattering of cars and I just sped by, today was not a day for meeting and greeting, it was just for me and the hill.
I drove up the Rest and be Thankful and marvelled at the ring of white tops all around me, this is the business I thought to myself as Beinn an Lochain drew nearer.
I was passing the familiar laybys on the uphill side of the Rest, and they were all empty. All that’s here is the dull way up the back of the Cobbler and a rather annonymous peak called Beinn Luibhean. It’s no wonder the laybys are empty.
All the regular access points to Beinn an Lochain had cars at them, I was crestfallen. I stopped at Butterbridge and considered my options. The empty laybys I had passed were calling to me, it’s the only peak I’d seen all day that I haven’t climbed. I spun around and booted it back down the road to Beinn Luibhean.

I pulled into the layby with the little quarry set back from the road. The rock had been used to make the embankment for the road, but it’s still a notorious landslip area, and as I headed up the steep hillside over ground that was peeling away like the pages of a book balanced on its spine, I could see that landslips are going to feature for some time to come.

As I passed my first spot of snow I stopped and took a breath. All the Arrochar Alps are steep and rough, and wet. Snowmelt ran everywhere, but the sun was beating down, the winds were light and I was seeing more and more of what was to come as I gained height. Angular crags and dark jagged rocks, sticking up through fresh snow like mini Cadbury Flakes thrown randomly onto a bucket of ice cream.

There were no footprints. I was making the first, breaking through the thin crust and into the virgin snow. I was grinning ear to ear and I climbed the ridge, passing knolls and crags and peering down the very steep hillside to the road below.
I stopped for a drink and gazed around at the oh-so familiar scene, but the shapes were slightly different because I was somewhere new. I reaquainted myself with trips on the hills around me going back years. It feels like home.
The Cobbler looks odd from the back, a big dome with only the hook of the North Peak hinting at its hidden spikiness.

I reached the 858m summit of Beinn Luibhean too quickly, the ridge was such a joy, the snow was deep and I was coasting along, music loud, top down, shades on and hair blowing in the wind.
For a daft wee hill it’s a cracking viewpoint, Ben Cruachan, Ben Lui, Mull, Arran, Ailsa Craig all right there in front of me.
The sun was getting low and I resolved to wait for it to set, it would be rude not to after all. There was nobody else around to appreciate the effort it was putting in as it selected it’s colour pallet for the day’s cliffhanger ending.

My mate Craig phoned me, and after I broke the news of where I was, I had the interesting addition of the urban chorus of traffic and the like from his phone as he walked through Glasgow as we talked. An unexpected soundtrack to such an occasion indeed.
It was getting really cold, so I dug myself into the snow, made a wind barrier and got myself comfy in my AMK Bivy2.0 with my pack’s foam pad underneath. I got my cuppa and some grub and I was happy as I watched the shadows creep up the side of Ben Ime. It wouldn’t be long to go.

When the sun went down it lined itself up with Beinn an Lochain and a cloud so it looked a bit like a volcano erupting, I’m sure the sun thought it was funnier than it actually was but still, well done.
I packed up and started to move, my thumbs were numb and there were mince and tatties to be had at home.
The ridge was just as much fun on the way back down, I didn’t retrace my steps and found more dramatic rock, more snow slopes to run or slide down and I realised that I adored this hill. It’s trackless, it’s deserted and it’s wonderful. I’ll be back again. Especially as I found a cave, there’s icicles in it just now, but you’d maybe squeeze two bivy bags in there. and the view out of the entrance? Crivvens!
My meandering scared the pants off of a mountain hare as well, I’m sure it had to go back and get its ears once I was out sight.

The moon rose as the sun disappeared, and it moves bloody fast across the sky as well for an old timer. It gave enough light that when it went completely dark all I needed was a single red LED to descend in confidence.
Soon the cars were becoming intrusive again, their lights and their engines prodded at my bubble of joy, but they couldn’t burst it.

Scattered cloud started moving in and sticking to the summits, but inbetween, the dark sky was full of stars.
I found the quarry and the motor again thanks to the passing cars picking it out with their lights, and once down sat with the last of my flask looking at the sky and the moolight catching the snow on the tops. 
And I was apparently unnerving passing motorists, as they braked and were probably wondering exactly what the hell I was doing, always a bonus.
A small day on a small hill, but the happiness was this big. It was just me and the hill.

49 thoughts on “Phone in (sic)”

  1. … and there was me phoning you about 8pm as I walked to the shops leaving you a msg on the answering service telling you to look at the cool moon: big, bright, full moon low in the sky … what a great picture that would make, how good is the zoom on that fancy camera of yours … blah, blah, blah …

    I should know better by now, shouldn’t I?

    This is why I keep tuning in – fab as ever. The last two photos look quite volcano-like to me also.

  2. Gonnae stop hogging all the good weather.

    I’m off this friday for an overnighter, destination unknown. But if the weather is pish I’ll be cursing you from a distant hillside.

  3. Hey guys, glad to spread a little midweek joy :o)
    Apart from bobinson to whom I say “…it was all a dream…”

    Vorlich you’ll be fine, I only get good weather during the week when it’s governed by the full time staff, the part time weather fairies that come in at the weekend never read the memos and just do their own thing.

  4. That just served to remind me that I’m taking work way too seriously these days. I was looking over at The Ochils all wistful-like yesterday wishing I was there. Time I got my priorities sorted again.

    Awfy nice write up tho’. Vicarious hill-thrills a go-go :o)

  5. Easy done Kev.
    I haven’t had a proper escape-from-customers trip for a while.
    I like it, it’s like dogging school and going down the shopping centre and looking at the record shops.

    Record shops…old bastard…

  6. Cool pics as always.

    The shot with Orion in makes me think of Blade Runner and Rutger Hauer “Atack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion blah blah blah”.

    Do you use a tripod for the night photos?

  7. It always looks like a teddy bear with an arm missing to me…

    I carry a wee tripod these days, it collapses small enough to go in a rucksack bottle pocket but goes to about four feet when extended.
    The pink moonrise and the stars shots were using the tripod, the others were just stuck on a rock. Most of the time I can’t be arsed fishing the thing out :o)

  8. It occurs to me that I fudged the issue on what bit was the Cobbler in that photie with the two mountains. The Cobbler’s North peak is just to the right of my napper in this one below.


  9. I shall not use any expletives but just wishing that I get at leat some descent weather when I manage to get out to play

    Keep it coming :-)

  10. They’re bloody marvellous these posts. Lovely write up and photos. Ah to be near such good hills to play in…

  11. “Sunny summer evenings on the Arrochar Alps are just round round the corner :o)”

    I plan on trying “Tarping” this year, I also have my eyes on a pyratarptentomid type thingy this year as well and if all that fails, well my wee Laser Comp will forgive me for straying…..if it ever finds out that is.

    Have you heard the weather out there tonight? we’dve been droont oot there on them Kilpatricks.

  12. Benjamin, it is very handy! Saves on fuel and after 40 years here I still stood on a new peak last night. Magic :o)

    BBF, that was a lucky escape, the water is running down my windows. It would have character building though…
    There will indeed be tarping, bivying and even sitting in tents, crivvens there’s even youth hosteling in couple of weeks.
    All good.

  13. Great wee story PTC*. Settled in to read it at work this morning with my cup of tea and ginger nut biscuit and it did not disapoint! The pics are wonderful too. I need a new camera, my own one gave up last week with only 3 weeks until i’m off to Nepal – want to take fab pictures…

  14. Bless you misses! I have no biscuits so I’m away to make some toast now…

    That timing was good for the camera, could you imagine if it broke after you’d left for Nepal? There would be tears.
    Three weeks, not long to go :o)

  15. What is the tripod you use ptc ? A small one might make me want to use one when on the hills,my usual one is a bit much when just out walking.

  16. It’s a Velbon Compact something or other. It’s quite heavy as it’s got a chunky head, but it’s small and the rest of my gear’s light enough so I don’t mind!
    It was cheap as well :o)

  17. Oh I would’ve cried… real tears too if i’d got all the way to Nepal and it crashed on me there!!! But.. got my new camera on order! just hope it’s a good one.


  18. Me too except there was no walking involved, a friend I met on my travels in OZ is over here backpacking. She arrived in london last week and came up for a wee visit so I was being tour guide.

    I’ll deffo be out in a tent at height this weekend coming no matter what the weater is playing at.

  19. Magic!! :))

    Loved the night shots. Inspired here, I’ve been remembering to do some on my last couple of trips, the SUW and Norway – pure guesswork on the composition and exposure, but trial and error gets some cracking results. Bizarrely (or perhaps not, it’s the same sky) Orion figures regularly in mine too…. :)

    I’ve got a Velbon Ultra Maxi SF which is light enough at 750g including a ball & socket head for a proper tripod that doesn’t break the bank or the back. But my recent attempts have relied only on my ever-present, years old Ultrapod. Does anyone else think Gorillapods are pants?

  20. Theres a wee card through my door from the postie, it might even be a tarp I’m under although that depends on the wind/rain.

  21. Good job Matt, nights shots are great fun. There’s somethingabout being out after hours that can’t be beat :o)

    BBF, I will watching with interest!

  22. Boibinson’s got a Gorillapod, I think he likes it? I’ve got a wee Hama mini thing that stands about 3 inches high, that’s been handy over the years.
    I want a tripod made out of spare Mountain King Trail Blaze pole sections.

  23. Dammit, it was my bananagaurd not the tarp. The comp could do with an airing anyway’s.

  24. nope unfortunately, I’m not sure on the salomons I got either. They’re fine for a wee while but I can feel my wee toe on the left one again, some more miles will tel though.

    I wonder if there’s anyone who make custom trail runners like in the same way Altberg do boots. If not why not?

  25. Ach, that’s a bugger if they don’t fit. They look gallus as well.

    Custom trail runners? Too much stitching on most models to be done economically outside of a far easten sweat shop I’d think, and I’m not even being funny there.

    I’d keep the shoes and ditch the toe :o)

  26. I must have the widest left forefoot ever.

    My road runners still have the best fit yet but obviusly the sole is rotten for wet muddy hills.

    The Salomon uppers are genius though, the lacing system is fantastic and my right foot its fine its always the left one thats the problem.

  27. Poor BBF’s mutant feet…

    Matt, they photies are magic, the nights shots all worked really well.
    Man, that is a shit load of snow over there :o)

  28. The locals we met, forming a working party getting Joldalshytta ready for Easter, reckoned that was only about half the amount of snow they’d expect in a ‘normal’ winter! :)

    Norway’s something of a winter paradise (except the prices!), and despite the weather the country just keeps working!

  29. Aye, when you see photies of folk here digging trains out of the snow and skating on frozen rivers then going home to light their coal fire, and then you see the disaster that slight flurry causes these days you realise just how rubbish we’ve become.

  30. Okay so I’m picking up on a couple of the old postings that looked chunky that I’ve been saving… and what a treat.

    Damn *PTC – this a classic :)

  31. Ah man, I’m so glad you stuck a comment on here, I’d forgotten that I’d put the big photies just above.
    That’s cheered me up seeing those :o)

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