The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Cruach Tairbeirt (NN312058; 415m)

Today dawned lovely and bright, with all of the surrounding tops clear (we’re sitting in Arrochar, looking up, most notably, at The Cobbler), but per the forecast it was a touch on the breezy side. A lazy start to the day was thus had, and eventually we decided to extend our stay at the campsite for another night.

By lunchtime the gusts were becoming less noticeable, the sunny intervals were still good and long, and we needed to go for some sort of a walk, so I suggested that we go and try a route up Cruach Tairbeirt, which sits immediately next to the campsite.

Everyone who has described their route on hill-bagging.co.uk seems to have approached this hill from the south, and there’s a repeated theme in the reports of the impediment of blow-downs on the route through the forest. As we didn’t happen to be sitting on that side of the hill, and as the route that side didn’t sound like a stroll in the park anyway, I decided to see if there was a route that would go up west side, from Glen Loin. The map shows the conifer plantation giving way to natural woodland, a distance up the glen, and it’s often possible to walk relatively unimpeded through such woodland, so it seemed worth a look. With little optimism of success, we set out early in the afternoon.

Well! Not only was it feasible to approach from Glen Loin, but it turned out to be unexpectedly easy. Steep, certainly, but through well-spaced trees, on grassy terrain. There was an unmapped band of conifers at the top (beyond the edge of the woodland shown on the map), but first fears that we were going to be faced with a bash through nasty dense pines proved wrong – there were thin spots where we were able to push easily through.


This was one of the most sparse areas of the natural woodland, but none of it was difficult (taken on the way down).

It was then just another steep pull up some mildly tussocky stuff to the excellent viewpoint of the summit. Loch Long, Loch Lomond, the Arrochar Alps and Ben Lomond were all strong features of that view; well worth the ascent.


Mick loitered at the trig point, whilst I visited the other two lumps on the summit, which looked equally high

In a couple of places on the way up we’d stood a stick in the ground to give a visual marker of our route for the return leg. There was one other place we should have done the same, but didn’t. The gaps through the band of conifers, through which we had so easily found a way on the upwards leg, weren’t so obvious when descending, but after a bit of back-and-forth thrashing around and a few questions of ‘do you recognise any of these trees?’, the way was found.

A surprisingly agreeable little afternoon jaunt, it came in at almost exactly 4 miles, with around 430m of ascent.

 

Very sadly, my Garmin Gadget has stopped talking to my laptop, so I can’t download my recorded routes. I did, however, use my phone to record various waypoints on our ascent, which I’ve copied across into the above representation of our route. We possibly didn’t take lines between those points quite as straight as shown above! After following the waymarked ‘Cowal Way’ along the track up Glen Loin, we struck off uphill at the gate at approx. NN307065.

Mid Hill (NS322964; 657m)

Monday 24 April
Mid Hill was our objective today; a close neighbour to yesterday’s tops, the difference in the underfoot conditions was remarkable. Not a single tussock did we encounter, and only occasional mildly squelchy bits. This hill is obviously more popular than some of its neighbours (no doubt because of its accessibility; it has a signed path starting from the foot of Glen Luss), so whilst our route was surrounded by tussocks, our passage was mainly over compacted bare earth or worn-short grass.

The forecast wasn’t great for today, but neither was it awful, although it did temporarily feel that way when the first snowy squall hit us somewhere between the first summit (Beinn Dubh) and Mid Hill. By the time it had passed, I’d completely lost the feeling in the left side of my face. In between the wintry showers, it was lovely and sunny (and even warm, lower down), but the wind was noticeable both in its strength and chill – and by the fact that it was in our faces for the outward leg.

Fine views were had from the top, but we didn’t linger long. Second breakfast was had hiding behind a peat hag on the way up, and elevenses was had hiding in a dip on the way down. A flask of something hot would have gone down nicely at either or both of the stops.

A suitably easy walk after yesterday’s efforts, this one came in at 7.1 miles with a little over 700m of ascent.

The other four hills I had earmarked in that area are now going to have to wait until another time. The weather forecast for tomorrow is such that we decided that reading books and crocheting will be the order of the day. As our attempts to stay at the Caravan and Camping Club site at Luss were a failure (footnote 1), and as we didn’t want to spend a day and a half sitting in an exempt-from-the-outrageous-camping-management-bylaws layby (footnote 2), we’ve had to move further north to find a campsite, and we won’t be backtracking on this trip to return to pick up those hills (footnote 3).  

^^Footnotes:

1. Luss C&CC site is for members only, and you have to have been a member for 24 hours before you stay. As this prevented us from staying yesterday, we tried to join on the spot to book a pitch for today, but our membership request was apparently too difficult for the staff to administer. That’s twice I’ve tried to join the C&CC in the last couple of years and twice that the campsite has been confounded by the request.

2. Plus there was the fact that we only left home with 60 litres of water on board and, a week later, are feeling the need to top up the tank.

3. Not again, anyway. There was a backtrack on Saturday when we realised that we didn’t have as much LPG as we thought and searches of LPG location resources suggested that we’d passed the last LPG station on our entire route two days, and 20 miles, earlier. Doh!

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Cruach an t-Sidhein, Doune Hill and Beinn Eich

Cruach an t-Sidhein (NS275975; 684m), Doune Hill (290971; 734m) and Beinn Eich (302947; 703m)

That was novel! We set out on a circuit to visit 3 Marilyns - and that’s exactly what we did, but with the twist that we only visited one of our intended hills. Here's how the day evolved:

Plan A: The original plan had been to visit four hills in this area by way of a linear walk. We would start out together, from the west of our first objective, then Mick would turn back after the second summit and drive around to meet me in Glen Douglas, to the north.

Plan B: I decided last night to do as almost everyone else seems to do and set out from Luss (to the east) instead. With the outing now being a lollipop, Mick could do the whole route, but due to the length of walk-in, and the lie of the land, only three summits would be visited (three of the four from Plan A).

Plan B, Version 1: A minor modification. To save us the long walk in/out along Glen Luss, I would cycle up to the end of the public road and Mick would walk. On the way back, Mick would cycle and I would walk (for the avoidance of doubt, we only have one bicycle).

Plan C: Another quite minor mod. For reasons I can't quite remember it seemed sensible to reverse the intended order of our route from clockwise to anti. Without this mod, our day would have been quite different.

Plan D: I had started waivering by the time we stopped for elevenses. The going up the Glen was a bit rougher/wetter/wiggly than I had anticipated, but the big factor was that I could see the lie of the land by this point and I wasn't sure I really felt like that hard a day. Various options were discussed and we decided to start as intended but potentially omit the final hill.

Plan E: when we finally reached the point where we were going to start climbing out of the glen (3 hours in!), we could see that by far the nicer looking outing was to do our first intended hill, then nip over to the lovely looking ridge above us, to return via Beinn Eich. A good compromise: an easier outing than intended, but a lovely looking walk.

Plan F: Atop Cruach an t-Sidhein, I looked at the map and confirmed what I thought I could see. If we were going to return via Beinn Eich then really would have been silly to omit a quick jaunt (180m extra ascent) up Doune Hill.

Plans finally stopped changing at that point - except for the return cycle ride. Mick insisted on walking and thus it was me who got to zoom down the glen (with just three sneaky uphills thrown in).

Except for our changing plans, other occurrences of the day included:
-A French man showing us through his neighbour's garden and over his back wall because he misunderstood where we were trying to go. I didn't have the heart to backtrack and tell him of the communication error, so we took a little detour to pick up the track further along.
- Mick slipping off a rock into a deep stream (fortunately remaining on his feet) only for us to have to backtrack and recross a few minutes later when we reached another, less easily crossed, ford. By then we could see the bridge a little way upstream (don't you just hate it when that happens?). To make matters worse, I had actually noted, before we forded, that the map said that the path didn't cross, yet we assumed that as the obvious track went that way, it was the way we should go. If only we had spotted the nearby waymark sooner...
- A woman being so surprised when I passed her on my bike that she staggered across the road ans fell in a ditch! I was oblivious to this, but as it happened right in front of Mick, and as he stopped to help her up, I learnt of it later. In my defence, I did ding my bell repeatedly before passing, but as she wasn't actually in my way, I didn't shout (lesson learnt - I will in future). Happily, she was uninjured.

In spite of everything, it was a fine outing, with superb views, on a pretty fine day, coming in at 10.5 miles (for me, nearer 15 for Mick). I've not calculated the ascent. Here are some snaps:

It was a long walk along this glen, with the constant quandary of whether to wiggle around following the burn, or follow a straighter but undulating line a distance away:


Atop Doune Hill - where our plan said we weren't to be:


Atop Beinn Eich, Loch Lomond behind:


Mick, somewhere in between the two photos above, with lots of pleasing lumps behind him:

Friday, 21 April 2017

The Fruin and Ben Bowie

The Fruin (NS276872; 361m)
Our ascent of The Fruin this morning was a case study in making sub-optimal route decisions. We had set out from the parking area at the imaginatively named 'Reservoir No 1' (it's next to Reservoirs No 2 and No 3) in the rain to wander along the road a short way to pick up the John Muir Way. That was a very good path, and although we didn't follow it for long, we continued on a good path until the point where the path was going merrily to bypass our objective. From there, we headed upwards, shunning the obvious line along the fence (which I'd read was overly rough and wet) in favour of just yomping directly up to the mast we could see at the top of the adjacent forest.

That was very wet and a bit rough, but in the scheme of things it wasn't bad going. Approaching the mast, a good trod was found, which had apparently ascended the slope a few metres adrift from our line. We joined that path's soggy line to continue on to the first lump on this hill.

That may have seemed like a good thing to do, except that it pretty well petered out at the top, and what we found on the other side was the worst corrugations in the land that I can remember ever having encountered. It must have once been forest, which has long been felled, leaving a landscape with such peaks and troughs that every two paces we were at the bottom of a trough and then two paces later we were at the top of a peak ... and repeat ... at length.

Beyond that section were two barbed wire fences and some large patches of impressively boggy bog. Then suddenly, there was the summit (the other side of a comprehensively padlocked gate, complete with a wire strung above it, bordered either side by more barbed wire).


I think I've made that sound pretty miserable, but it was reasonably good fun actually, even in the frequent prolonged showers. I'm not sure when I became mad enough to consider something like that fun!

Our descent was much better executed, involving less bog, fewer tussocks, no barbed wire, no corrugations and no unnecessary climbing - all achieved by simply keeping to the NE side of the fenceline. Beyond the mast we picked up the trodden line that we had shunned on our way up and found the going good for more than 90% of the way.

Impressively (I thought) I arrived back from this bogfest of an outing with completely dry feet, unlike Mick (who, admittedly, was wearing boots which have been replaced for being known to be leaky).

The stats came in at 7.1 miles with somewhere in the region of 290m of ascent.

Ben Bowie (NS339828; 314m)
I am not a cyclist. I have always considered cycling as something to do only for commuting when there is not a better form of transport available. In that vein, I had to concede that there are times when a bicycle would be a very good form of transport to access Marilyns, whether in order to save needing to drive Bertie up tiny roads, or to speed up passage through lengthy forest track approaches. So, last week I bought a bike and this hill was to be its maiden voyage.

It went surprisingly well! My intention was simply to ride a mile and a half along the road to the start of the forest track, but things were going so well (perhaps because it was downhill to that point!) that I thought I would see how far I could get up the track. Further than expected, was the answer, with me stopping only when I reached active forestry works, where the level of mud was getting too much (really should have fitted those mudguards I bought...).

Then I walked, easily finding the break through the forest I was after, where there turned out to be a trodden line. Aided by directions I'd noted from hill-bagging.co.uk, I was soon out on the open hill, where there was a superb view over Loch Lomond:


The Clyde wasn't looking bad, as seen from the daffodil-clad summit, either:


I met two chaps on my way down who had misplaced the John Muir Way. I told them how I had ascended from said Way, and we had a little chat before they wished me well and I scurried on down at my usual pace. I must have been half way down before it occurred to me that I should have positively asked if they wanted to walk with me. They gave the impression of just wanting to know which way I was going, but maybe they had hoped to follow discretely behind, without wanting to put me out - in which case I would have gone a lot slower. Being a lovely day by then, with excellent visibility, I'm sure they soon sorted themselves out anyway.

Meanwhile, I recovered my new wheels and very timidly made my way back down to the road, then back up to Bertie. I had walked 1.8 miles with around 140m of ascent.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Duncolm (NS470775; 401m)

Upon arrival in Kilpatrick this morning we found the road in which I'd intended us to park (based on other people's walk reports and perusal on StreetView) to be decked out with double yellow lines and a 'no parking beyond this point' sign. Neither were strictly legal, but we did as the signage asked, and went and parked in the new car park which has been created a few hundred metres away.

We sat a while, over coffee and croissants, looking at the low cloud shrouding the hills and the drizzle on the windscreen. It was still the same when we finally stirred ourselves to get organised and to get outside.

The drizzle soon overwhelmed our wind shirts, but it wasn't all bad as the cloud base lifted as we ascended and, although we had numerous clothing faffs to deal with the drizzly spells, we never did ascend into the cloud.

A track took us up to Loch Humphrey, where the surroundings were fine, even if marred by a bit of modern infrastructure...

...and beyond the loch, a well-trodden (but often sodden) path continued into the lovely shades-of-beige-and-green lumpiness beyond.

Middle Duncolm was one of the little lumps in the landscape and, as it lay between us and our objective, we had the option of going over or around. 'Over' was chosen for the outward leg, but for a bit of variety we went for 'around' on the way back.

As well as lots of undulations in the landscape, there were lots of lochs to be seen from the top...

...although in the direction of Loch Lomond the views were severely curtailed by another drizzly shower, of which we only caught the edge.

I admired it all whilst slouching dreadfully...

...and then back we went, pausing at Loch Humphrey for lunch on our way.

The Kilpatrick Hills are obviously popular. There were people aplenty making their way up to the loch as we strode down.

A smidge over 8.5 miles were walked, with around 430m of ascent.

Muncaster Fell

At the end of my post about our short backpack around Wasdale I made reference to having followed our large lunch with another hill, and said that I would write about it separately. I then completely forgot. It was only this morning, when I read Mike's report about the very same hill (northernpies.blogspot.com) that my memory was jogged.

As you'll have gathered from the post title, the hill in question was Muncaster Fell, which I visited on my solo trip around the Lakes last June. It was some months later when I came to log my ascent on hill-bagging.co.uk that I found that, subsequent to my visit, someone had picked up the summit and moved it by a good few hundred metres. A revisit was thus in order and as we were so close by, it would have been silly not to tack it onto the end of the Wasdale trip. This time Mick had the pleasure of bagging the high point of this nobbly ridge too.

Here he is at the trig point. There seems to be a concensus of opinion that irrespective of last year's survey, the nobble on which sits the trig still looks higher than the new summit.


And here's me on one of a couple of rocks that I thought valid contenders for the highest point on the new summit:


I have no recollection of the exact stats as to distance and ascent, but it was all very straightforward, with only a couple of minor boggy obstacles to negotiate.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Common Hill (NS792308; 488m)

A run along the seafront at Lytham St Annes preceeded a monster 'all you can eat' breakfast this morning. The former didn't justify the latter and I made such a pig of myself that no lunch was required and as we set out for Common Hill* at 3.30pm, a banana was all I needed for further sustenance.

There’s not much to be said about Common Hill. We parked outside the Outdoor Centre (as marked on the 1:50k map) at West Douglas, from where a wind farm road took us, via lots of wind turbines, to within metres of the top.

The light wasn't right for this snap of me at the top:


It was better for this one of Mick by the trig point, which sits just a short distance away:


Looking through the turbines, the views were good, including various tops that even I could identify, like Lowther Hill, with its 'golf ball' radar station, on which we camped a couple of years ago.

The descent was made marginally more interesting than the ascent by taking a direct line from the trig to cut out a large wiggle in the track. Otherwise, it was all thoroughly unremarkable.

It came in at 5.4 miles with around 250m of ascent.

(* there was driving involved between these events. Common Hill sits to the W of the M74, N of Moffat and S of Glasgow)

Saturday, 8 April 2017

6/7 April 2017: Around Wasdale

I had a trio of Marilyns outstanding around Wasdale, Mick needed to do a pre-TGO Challenge backpacking trip, and the weather forecast was looking pretty good, so our backpacks were packed for the first time since last August and off we set at an unreasonably early hour of Thursday morning. Arriving at Wasdale Head by quarter to ten, the sunny morning that had accompanied most of our drive had been hidden by cloud, exactly per the forecast for the western Lakeland fells, and most of the tops were hidden:20170406_102134

As Friday’s forecast was for clear tops, it made sense to leave Scafell Pike until last, thus our intended circuit was reversed, giving us a start with a couple of miles on tarmac, to get us down to the obvious starting point for Seatallan.

A quick digression: because we were only going to be out for one night, I’d packed minimalistically and as we went through the backpacking checklist, a debate was had about my decision not to take a spare handkerchief. Mick insisted that it was a serious omission; I disagreed. I’ve never lost a hanky in my life, so why would I need more than one for a 24 hour trip? You know what’s coming, don’t you? Within an hour of setting out, my hand went into my pocket and came out empty. A quick retracing of my steps didn’t find it and thus I had the dual annoyance of having dropped litter on a hillside, and of having to beg Mick’s spare off him. I don’t think he actually uttered the words “I told you so”…

I’d plotted a conservative route to get us to the top of Seatallan, but as we progressed we could see no reason why we couldn’t cut up sooner, so that’s what we did. The steepness soon had us glowing, although the excess heat dissipated when we paused for second breakfast. It was during that period that a whole flock of Herdwicks came running past us, only to return and run past us again a few minutes later. Odd behaviour, we thought, but soon explained when we heard the shepherd’s shouts a few moments later and he and his dogs appeared over the rise.

An area of bog soaked our feet (the downside of doing the circuit in this direction was that we got the boggy ground at the start, rather than the end), but we sped up the final steep pull to the top, being chased by an unladen twelve(ish) year old, who abandoned his family in his quest to beat us to the trig.

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As you can see, we had clear air up there, and there was so little cloud covering our next objective (Haycock), that I had optimisim that it would clear before we arrived:

20170406_121958

Haycock is the cloud-covered lump on the left

No photo was taken on Haycock. By then I was wearing two pairs of gloves and was fearing that the blocks of ice enclosed in my shoes were going to last for the rest of the day. Happily, the extremities did warm up, but unhapilly we didn’t see much on Pillar either. That was a real shame, as the approach gave all appearances of being a stunning walk in fine conditions.

20170406_145054

The trig point is apparently the summit feature of Pillar, but it looked to me like there were a couple of lumps of rock (including the one on which I’m standing in this snap) that are higher.

Our vague intention had been to make it to Styhead Tarn for the night, but by the time we had bypassed Kirk Fell (I went up there in appalling visibility last September and felt no need to experience it in the same conditions again) the lack of backpacking hill fitness was showing and I declared a halt. A nice pitch it was too, even if the cloud soon descended to cover us:

20170406_170205

I fully expected to open the door yesterday morning and find us still within the cloud, but the forecast had held true and the base had lifted, albeit not far enough to clear the tops. Accordingly, I wasn’t moved to repeat Great Gable, so we went around it instead, which allowed us to see our surroundings, but only saved something like 140m of ascent.

20170407_084727

Styhead Tarn, where we didn’t spend the night

The hills were all our own (save for a few sheep) as we made our way down to Styhead Tarn and then sought out the Corridor Route.

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Mick strides along the Corridor Route

In fact, it wasn’t until we were almost on the ridge, at the top of Piers Gill, that we saw another person. That wasn’t a situtation that persisted after we reached the top of Scafell Pike!

Alas, having had clear visibility until about 50m below the summit, by the time we stood at the high point, there was little to be seen:

20170407_102900

We duly sat around for ten minutes or so, until I suggested that perhaps if we moved on then it would provoke the cloud to break up, for the benefit of everyone else. It worked a treat. this is how far we had got when we looked back and saw the chap to whom we had been talking (who had bivvied the night on the summit) enjoying the views:

20170407_104612

Dozens of people were walking towards us up the main path as we descended, but we soon veered off, as Lingmell is so close by that it would have been silly not to nip over it.

The grassy path off Lingmell was generally pleasant underfoot (save for one short horribly eroded section), but goodness, our knees were aching by the time we had descended steeply down the spur to pick up the main path coming in from Wasdale Head.

I was ready to eat a scabby dog by the time we returned our packs to the boot of the car, so we didn’t even take the time to change out of our damp footwear before hotfooting it to the Inn for a bit of sustenance…

20170407_125959

…because a big meal is exactly what you want before going out to walk up another hill. I’ll leave that one for another post.

I didn’t record our track, but the map below shows an approximation of what we did (albeit in the opposite direction to the arrows). It came in at around 17.25 miles with around 2300m of ascent, and involved three previously unvisited Marilyns, as well as a couple of bonus Wainwrights.

image

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Wisp Hill and Pikethaw Hill

Wisp Hill (NY386993, 595m) and Pikethaw Hill (NY369978, 564m)

At 6.30 this morning I sprang out of bed, almost in the manner of a scalded cat, when I realised that it wasn't raining and didn't seem overly windy. Alas, by the time we were breakfasted and back opposite the old Mosspaul Hotel, conditions had deteriorated.

The combination of Mick watching the rain blow horizontally past Bertie's windows, his observations of 'it looks awful out there', combined with his not making a move towards waterproofing himself, gave me the first hints that he was having second thoughts about coming with me. It was a sensible decision to stay behind; no point having two sets of wet stuff to need to get dry in a confined space.

Off and up I went, with the rain blowing full in my face. The going involved a mix of useful sheep trods and yomping across the rough stuff.

I'm not sure what else I can say about my ascent. I'm certainly glad I got to see the loveliness of this area yesterday, as it wasn't something I could appreciate today. Before the top, low cloud had been added to the rain and headwind, so it was wet and hard work without any rewards. A good time to remind myself again that I have the privilege of choosing my suffering, and having chosen to go up hills in full knowledge of the weather forecast, I had no right to moan.

The top of Wisp Hill was reached more quickly than expected, and the descent down to Ewes Doors (another cracking name), which lies between Wisp Hill and my second objective, was also speedy, being downhill and with a fence to follow.

From Ewes Doors, Pikethaw Hill looked rather steep, and I found myself often standing contemplating what lay before me, rather than getting on with it - even though I was blessed with being out of the wind for a while here. Accordingly, it was a slow ascent.

I was very pleased when the top of Pikethaw Hill came into view

I had asked Mick to meet me in a layby a mile and a half down the A7 from my start point and as I sheltered in the lee of the large cairn at the top I gave him my ETA. The spanner in the works was that he found that layby to be closed and he had to go another mile down the road to find somewhere to turn. Had I been 15 yards ahead of myself, that would have worked out nicely, as that’s how far I was from the road when Mick sailed past (from the wrong direction) without noticing me, meaning I didn't get to avoid a road walk.


I would have been 15 yards ahead of myself if I hadn't paused to snap there - just two interesting machines in a farmyard stuffed full of various types of relics

A gap in the cones allowed him to squeeze into the closed layby from a southerly approach, and that's where I arrived, fairly well dripping, a few minutes later (and only 2 minutes off my ETA).

The outing had come in at 5.2 miles with around 570m of ascent.