Friday, 29 May 2015
Thursday, 28 May 2015
We didn't ignore them completely, though, as we nipped up Allermuir Hill on our way past, which (being so close to the city) is an excellent vantage point over Edinburgh. In the other direction is a scene of lumpiness.
Having visited our top (where we shared the summit with five other people, even though the day was still relatively young), the sensible route back down seemed to be along the ridge and over Caerketton Hill, so that's exactly where we went. I can't say that the second top gave views that were wildly different from the first, but the walk was a very nice one (3.5 miles, 1200').
Back down at our starting point, Colin's nose was then set towards the Lammermuir Hills, where we arrived just at lunchtime.
After a nice leisurely lunch (which, it turned out should have been at least 10 minutes shorter), my inclination to sit under a blanket with a book was far greater than my inclination to go and walk up a heathery lump which was smothered in tracks. I did, however, drag myself (and Mick) out, and soon discovered that my initial, unfavourable opinion of the hill was unjust, as we were soon off the surfaced tracks and onto tyre lines through heather, which eventually petered out completely to give us a rough heathery yomp to the top. (The OS has that track down as double dotted lines; I don't think it warrants that status; neither did our descent route, for that matter.)
So much did my opinion of the hill increase whilst we were on it that I decided against the option of retracing our steps and went back to the original plan of forming a circuit over Little Meikle Law. That was rough and heathery too, but easier going than the last bit of the ascent.
Having left Colin at around 1350', and with a summit height of around 1750', at a very quick glance this may have looked like a very low ascent sort of an outing. However, the first thing we did when setting out was to descend quickly down to a burn. That, of course, meant that the final thing we had to do was regain that height: a sting in the tail. To make that final climb worse, the rain which had already been falling lightly for a while really upped the tempo for the final ten minutes of our outing. With our end in sight, it didn't seem worth stopping to don overtrousers, so all we could do as our legs got soggier was to rue not finishing our lunch ten minutes earlier. (5.6 miles, 900')
(If today's snap was of better quality, you'd be able to make out Colin and a windfarm in amongst the landscape (incidentally, six windfarms could be seen from Meikle Says Law))
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Tuesday, 26 May 2015
We are now at a campsite. The laptop is powered up, and I’ve spent a couple of hours plotting and contemplating – yet I still can’t decide whether to go to the Pentland Hills next and head home via the M6, or head for the Lammermuir Hills and go home via the M1. Decisions, decisions (gosh, I’m really not good at making decisions).
Anyway, before the campsite chores and the powering of devices, there were a couple of hills. Surprisingly nice hills too (I’m not sure why I didn’t expect either to be nice; maybe it was how they looked on the map?).
Mick didn’t much like the parking spot for Benarty Hill, so off I went by myself, almost immediately making a meal of the ascent as I walked back and forth trying to find the track I needed to get out of the forest. I didn’t find the track, but I did eventually find a path which led me nicely to the top of the forest, from where clear lines through the heather took me slightly circuitously to the summit. An excellent viewpoint, it was, and I enjoyed a few minutes up there before heading back down. I made a better job of the ‘down’ portion of the outing: I’d covered 1.7 miles in 45 minutes to get up, contrasted with 1.1 miles in 21 minutes to get back down!
Not dreadfully far away was Dumglow Hill, which was even worse for parking, although this time it wasn’t a litter-strewn lane (in fact the lane by the first hill had been one of the most litter-strewn and fly-tipped lanes I’ve ever seen) causing an uncomfortable feeling, it was a complete lack of parking for a Colin-sized vehicle at my chosen start point. Mick duly waited again (moving Colin when someone needed access to the gateway he was blocking), as I headed off.
With this hill being well protected by forest I had taken careful note of other people’s routes and knew that at the track end I needed to go: “35m left, 35m south, 300m right”, which seemed like an odd set of directions (why left and right rather than points of the compass?), but on the ground they made perfect sense and worked a treat.
Breaking out of the forest my objective was still hidden by trees, and it was a treat to finally catch sight of it standing proud before me:
(there would be a photo here if I wasn't having technical issues)
A few minutes later I was on the top, waving down to Mick.
(there would be a photo here too...)
I resisted all urges to try out other breaks through the forest (short cuts make for long delays and all that), so retraced my steps … until I got back to the track when suddenly a good break on my right seemed too good to ignore. My instinct was (for once!) right, and it cut off a chunk of distance without throwing any obstacles or difficulty in my way, although I suspect that in a few weeks once the undergrowth has got a bit higher, it may be a less straightforward option.
The stats for the outings were incredibly similar: both were 2.8 miles long, but the second hill involved 100’ more ascent at 800’.
Now, what do you reckon? Pentland or Lammermuir Hills next?
Monday, 25 May 2015
At 4pm, with the car park rapidly emptying, off we set for East Lomond. The delay was worthwhile for more than one reason: the haze had lessened and the sunny periods become longer, with just the occasional wispy cloud drifting in to obscure it.
An easy path led us the mile and a quarter to the summit, and a topograph there told us what we could see in the 360 degree view. We didn't need any help to identify some of the landmarks, such as this morning's hills. Berwick Law, which we visited in February last year, was barely visible through the remaining haze.
Within an hour we were back at Colin, having met not a single person on this clearly (and justifiably) popular pimple.
(The snap is West Lomond and Bishop Hill, taken from East Lomond.)
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My incredible run this month of 25 hills in excellent air clarity came to an end today. But, I can't complain; whilst there may have been a haze, it was still a fine day with plenty of sunny spells, albeit cool when we set out early this morning.
Our first objective of the day was West Lomond: one of a pair of very distinctive protruding pimples which sit either end of a ridge (I remember first remarking on them when walking on the south side of the Firth of Forth during one of our Big Walks).
After an easy walk in on a motorway-esque path it was a relatively short, but quite sharp, pull up to the excellent viewpoint of the summit, where we tarried just long enough to lose the heat we'd generated on the way up.
Steeply down to the south we then went before starting our ascent of our next objective: Bishop Hill. We were joined during that ascent by three gliders who kept us company until after we had cleared the summit. We were now to head back east, whereas they preferred the west side of the escarpment.
The route taken off Bishop Hill didn't feel particularly sensible at the time (as we yomped through heather, bog and tussocks), but as the outing came in 2 miles shorter than the route I had measured, it seems that we simply took a much more direct line than intended. I confess, there was a complete failure to navigate; not a single glance was had at the map - we could see where we needed to get to and we simply dead-headed towards it.
We reached the car park just at lunchtime, and had every intention of heading back out to East Lomond as soon as we had eaten. Then it came to our attention that it is a bank holiday today as, by the time lunch had been despatched, the car park was full to the gunwales. East Lomond has thus been postponed until late afternoon so that we don't find ourselves walking in procession.
Incredibly, considering the number of cars now parked around us, the only people we passed during this morning's 8 miles formed one large group of RAF personnel in camouflage gear. After passing them, about half a mile into our walk, they disappeared; I'm not sure whether it was the effectiveness of their camouflage, or whether they headed off over a lump in the landscape.
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Sunday, 24 May 2015
The first stop en-route was Turin Hill, the site of a hill fort/castle, to the NE of Forfar. I'd been unable to locate anywhere nearby to park for this one (although there was a layby relatively close, on the B road, we discovered), so Mick offered to drop me at the bottom of the track and pick me up afterwards.
Had I read the route notes I'd made, I wouldn't have found myself climbing over barbed wire, with a strand of electric fence protruding either side, on my way up. It was only as I stood on the summit, looking back the way I had come, that the instruction of 'continue to the end of the woodland, where there's a gate' came back to me. So, having enjoyed the far-reaching views from the summit (and waved to Mick, who I could see parked up in a layby up the road) I took a slightly longer route back down, to take full advantage of the gates.
Next up was Craigowl Hill, a good handful of miles SW of Forfar. It seems that the majority of people who log their Marilyns on hill-bagging.co.uk approach this hill via the tarmac track which leads all the way to the masts on its summit. However, as exploration of Streetview and aerial photos had failed to reveal a Colin-sized place to park for that approach, instead we went to the car park in the community woodland further W along the road. The result was a far more pleasing walk than the tarmac track would have been. A waymarked trail took us through the native woodland, and after only 200m on an old track, a gateway gave us access to a trodden line on grass all the way to the top. The result was not only a nice walk, but one that was half the distance I'd anticipated (I'd hoped there would be a way through the forest, but had measured a longer route in case there wasn't). It's just a pity about all of the masts and buildings on this top, which otherwise gave fine views down to Dundee and the Tay to the south and snow-spotted hills to the north.
The car park in that woodland was so nice (save for the multitude of bags of dog poo; it seems that many people there pick up after their dogs, only to then deposit the bag of poo neatly next to their cars) that it was tempting to stay the night - but the day was young...
... so off to King's Seat we went.
I'd decided that I fancied a linear walk over this one, so Mick dropped me off to the SE of it, and off I went. I soon decided that people don't usually tackle this hill from this direction (probably because of the lack of parking for this start point), and thus there was no trodden line. Well-advanced nettles stung my legs through my trousers before I weaved through blooming gorse, following which I picked my way up a section of gorse-graveyard, before finally yomping through heather.
It was the worst heather of any hill of this trip, being very old, very woody and knee-deep. I was certainly glad to reach the gleaming trig at the top.
A trodden line led me away from the summit and towards Black Hill, and I thought the rest of my outing would be relatively quick and easy. It wasn't. In fact it was hard work, through yet more heather, with a bit of bog and some very uneven path thrown in. I strongly suspect I had lost the line taken by most people. It was only when I climbed up to the top of Black Hill that I found not just a well-trodden line, but boot prints - and finally, the rest of the route was easy.
Another walker, heading towards King's Seat himself, was encountered on the hill fort to the SW of Black Hill, and from there it was just an easy trundle down hill to find Mick patiently waiting exactly where I expected to find him.
The next on the list, Moncreiffe Hill (lying to the S of Perth) wasn't on the agenda until tomorrow, as I had rather hoped that its car park would be suitable for a night stop. My hopes were dashed when we found it to be too sloping, so the hill was brought forward to today. To my surprise, Mick chose to sit this one out, so I was on my lonesome as I trundled up to the higher of the two hill forts and back, which I achieved in just under 35 minutes. It's a very good (and fast) path which has been engineered to wend its way gently up, forming one of a number of waymarked routes.
So, four hills and four excellent view-points on this very clear-aired day. I'll happily take more of the same tomorrow, please...
Distances: Turin - 2.3 miles; Craigowl - 2.8 miles; King's Seat - 4 miles; Moncreiffe - 1.9 miles.
(Today's snap: the trig poing on Craigowl Hill, together with a taste of the industrial nature of the top and hopefully a glimpse of the fine views to the north.)
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TGO Challenge Control closed promptly at 1700 last night (the final finisher having come in an hour earlier), which left us free to head out of Montrose. The question was: to where? We hadn't even decided in which direction to travel next, but we couldn't stay put, such was our aversion to giving the campsite in Montrose a seventh night of our business.
Eventually a decision was made to head south, but as we sat in Tesco's car park cooking and eating tea, we were struggling to come up with somewhere to stay. So, we started our southbound journey by heading northwest, spending the night at Tarfside (well known to the Challenge community; this year well over half of all participants stayed there). I'd like to say it was a quiet night, but one of the groups camped on the playing fields didn't heed the "please be quiet between 2200 and 0800" bit of the notice that says you can camp there for free. We could have driven four miles further for a quiet night, as that's where we were headed first thing this morning, but such was our fatigue by half eight last night that even four more miles of driving was too much. It's a tiring business, sitting in a room for a week, you know!
Having relocated those final four miles at just after nine this morning, we watched the car park fill around us as we drank tea, before heading off ourselves. I had been a little undecided as to which hill to visit and had finally opted for Hunt Hill. A good decision, I thought, as we watched most people (including a particularly large group, with a clipboard-wielding leader) head for Mount Keen, which had been the other main contender for our time today.
I soon learnt, as we approached Loch Lee (the length of which Mick had walked only a week ago) that the clear blue skies were deceiving as to the true nature of the day. That head-wind had a bite to it and, rather than dejumpering (as I had expected to need to do), I was soon digging around for my gloves.
Only one couple was seen up to the point where we left the track to head up our hill, and unsurprisingly nobody was encountered on the hill itself. We did see plenty of hares and there must be quite a population of deer, as their trods helped us through some of the heathery sections. Dropping down off the hill into Glen Lee was another story; it was busy with day-walkers and the occasional backpacker.
The plod back alongside Loch Lee (oh to have a couple of bicycles to hand...) was broken by a good chat with a family group, before we returned to a car park which had overflowed onto all nearby verges.
Although it clouded over whilst we were out, it proved to be a fine day to be out and quite warm as the day went on. A very enjoyable day it was too, with gorgeous surroundings, and excellent views from our hill (the snap attached is looking down to Loch Lee, from our ascent route).
The stats for the day came out at 10.9 miles with an amount of ascent that I've not yet worked out.
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Saturday, 16 May 2015
I just couldn’t resist! When I saw last night that there was a little pimple of a Marilyn that sits just off the road in Ballater, by the name of Craigendarroch, I had a vague thought that maybe I could visit it on my way over to Montrose, and that’s exactly what I did.
There are paths which lead to its summit, but for my ascent I took a direct line through the pleasant woodland. Not fancying the same route for my descent (it having been so steep in places that I could reach out and touch the ground ahead of me), a slightly more gentle route, down a well-trodden line, was taken.
No clever measuring device was carried, so my best estimate from measuring on the map is that the outing came in at 0.9 of a mile, with 600’ of up, taking smack on half an hour. I might have lingered a few minutes on the top, except that my arrival was timed perfectly to coincide with a passing shower. A shame, as two thirds of the outing was done under fine skies.
Not only did I not think to take my Garmin Gadget, but I also omitted to take a camera. Thank goodness for multi-purpose devices - here are a couple of snaps taken with my phone*:
(*My proper, modern phone that is, so hopefully better quality than the last few which I’ve posted from my old (but trusty) Blackberry.)
Friday, 15 May 2015
For no good reason, I awoke too early this morning and after a little lounging around, decided that I may as well take advantage of the long hours of daylight and seize the day. Thus, it was before 6am when I left the Linn of Dee car park and headed for the track that I knew Mick would be treading this morning.
I didn’t expect to meet him, as I was only going to overlap his route for less than half a kilometre, but I did leave a note so prominently in the middle of the path that I felt sure that he would see it (just to let him know that I’d changed my route and thus he needn’t worry when he didn’t walk past Colin later on his way to Braemar).
Leaving the main tracks behind, it was quite a pretty walk along an old heather-bound track, as I made my way up to what proved to be a quite unremarkable hill. When the paths ceased to head in the right direction for my purposes, uphill I bashed. It turned out that the heather wasn’t quite as deep as it looked from a distance, so I wasn’t having to pick my leg up high on every single step. Even so, I certainly generated some heat, which was quickly lost when I got into the cold wind on the top.
I set out on this trip with a plan involving 18 Marilyns, but with no expectation of actually achieving that many. This was number 20 (17 from the original plan, plus three bonus ones) and what I found absolutely incredible as I stood on this top was that I have achieved a cloud-free summit on every single one of them. Today’s was a close run thing, with the cloud base not being far above me, meaning it was the only hill of the trip from which the surrounding higher tops have been shrouded (those higher tops cleared within a couple of hours; if only I hadn’t woken so early).
My note had gone by the time I got back (it turned out Mick, walking with Byron today, had passed within half an hour). We subsequently bumped into each other in Braemar.
I’m now off to Montrose for the next week, which will involve a lot of sitting in a room answering a phone and no hills. Hopefully we’ll squeeze a few more in on our way home, if the weather is favourable.
1) Ord Ban
It was third time lucky on this tiny pimple that sits beside Loch an Eilein. On the last visit I abandoned before even setting foot on the hill, due to very strong winds (and the fact that reaching the top of this hill requires a walk through ancient woodland, with the attendant danger of falling limbs). On the visit before I think it was snow (or more precisely ‘I’m not sure I can be bothered in this snow’) that caused it to be dropped from a circuit of the loch.
Today it was very straightforward. Once I’d heaved myself over the excuse-for-a-stile over the deer fence, a trodden line (mainly following the line of a very-long-abandoned trackway) took me all the way to the top. It’s surprising that it’s only a thin (and at times relatively feint) trodden line, considering how popular Loch an Eilein is, and how good a viewpoint this little hill provides. I’ll bet that given a sign from the car park and a couple of way-markers, it’d be heaving with people on a fine summer’s day.
As it went, I was up and back in 40 minutes, returning to the car park just before 8am, and saw not a single person (although there was a car in the car park when I arrived and a different one when I left).
(1.2 miles, 550’)
2) Carn Ealasaid
According to the Cicerone guide to the Corbetts, there is nothing to recommend the route that I took up this hill, which was from The Lecht Ski Centre. I would beg to differ. I’ve certainly had far duller walks up hills (take yesterday’s for example).
Up a track past the infrastructure of ski lifts and slopes I went to reach Beinn a’ Chruinnich where a big flock of gulls escorted me, whirling around overhead, for a good ten minutes. From there I was off-piste, with excellent views, making my way down to the col and through peat hags before picking up a path which led to my objective.
The cairngorms looked fine under skies which were beginning to brighten (I’d been promised clear skies again today, but they took quite a while to materialise where I was), and I thought of Mick, who was on his way up Ben MacDui.
The gulls escorted me again on the way back, yet somehow I completed my outing without getting ‘splatted’.
(4.3 miles, 1100’)
3) Geallaig Hill
Both this hill and the one above were late additions to my plan, both getting added a few minutes before bed-time last night, when I was looking at the map thinking I hadn’t got enough hills to keep me entertained today. The unknown about this one was whether there would be anywhere to park, so when I happened across a pull-in a few hundred yards before the track I wanted to take, I took advantage. Lunch was had there, then I wandered off down the road to my track, whereupon I found a much bigger and more off-road parking area, so back I went to move Colin.
Faffing complete, off I set for a walk that didn’t look interesting on the map, due to the number of tracks in this area, including the one which would take me the whole way to the summit. The difference between this outing and yesterday’s, however, was that today’s track wasn’t lorry-loads of aggregate dumped and rollered, creating a track which stands out as a scar on the landscape. This was an old one, where two rough, rocky lines make their way through heather. It was far more pleasant to walk; moreover, there was barely a cloud left in the sky now, and the views up the River Gairn were particularly enticing, along with Lochnagar in the other direction.
Oddly, the trig point on this summit is fully enclosed within a substantial stone shelter, but it’s easy enough to clamber over.
My favourite hill of the day, was this one.
(4.2 miles, 1200’)
4) Meall Alvie
Three easy hills had set my expectations for this little one to be the height of simplicity, even though it sits completely covered in forest. Alas, the presence of a walkers’ car park at its foot, and various way-marked walks nearby, doesn’t seem to cause many people visit the top of this pimple. I can see why, really. It’s a bit of a bash through heather at times, and there’s not great reward when you get to the top, with the trees robbing it of views. On the plus side, the forest isn’t a commercial plantation, so at least forest-bashing wasn’t an issue.
Approaching the top (gasping for a drink, which I’d realised, about a third of the way up, was still in Colin) I paused for a moment to check my note to find if there was any feature marking the highest point. “Small cairn by a tree” was the answer I got, which seemed of scant help given that I was surrounded by trees. For once my instinct was right and I found it almost immediately. Then I legged it back down with my mind on a nice drink of squash. By now it wasn’t just a clear-skied day, but a warm one too.
(3.9 miles, 900’)