Sunday, 8 December 2013

The start of winter on Ben Lawers

My summer stroll on the Ochils last weekend was in sharp contrast to my previous weekend's walk.

Winter had arrived and from my position on the Central Belt of Scotland, I could see snow on the summits of the higher hills. My friend and I were keen to get our crampons out of summer mothballs and onto the snow bound hills. What higher hill could we choose near home than Ben Lawers just short of the 4000ft mark.

We has an early start on a promising looking day. Ahead of us.. I could just make out a lone walker disappearing into the swirling mists of Beinn Ghlas... the summit before Ben Lawers

Blue sky and the clear atmosphere made the view over Killin and the western edge of Loch Tay a pleasure to behold.

While the early morning sun still gave Meall nan Tarmachan a golden hue to its snow plastered slopes

With our lungs filled with clear icy air.. the adrenalin of walking made it feel great to be out on the hills.. even though it was hard work.

Nope..the sun hasn't fallen out the sky in this photo..its an illusion caused by the suns reflection off loch Tay.. and the swirling mist blowing over the ridge

Unfortunately, the swirling mist soon engulfed us as we climbed higher up the steep slopes of Beinn Ghlas.

We saw no view from the summit of Beinn Ghlas..and the steep slope up Ben Lawers really sapped our energy. The first walk of winter was taking its toll on our stamina.

By taking one step at a time and not thinking about the steps still to come ... we finally saw the summit loom through the mist and quickened our pace to reach it.

At last.. we stood on the summit cairns. Its unfortunate that Ben Lawers was not just a tad over 4000ft Im sure .. a few feet higher..and we would be in the sun again. was not to be. After a quick lunch stop..the clag still had not dispearsed and it was too cold to wait any we headed back the way we had come.

On the way down..we caught the odd fleeting glimpse of the surrounding countryside..before it all closed in again.

I confess that I was glad when I reached the car again. Im also glad that we had not planned the whole Lawers horseshoe. Im not winter fit yet .....

Sunday, 1 December 2013

A Summer day in December

What better way to kick off the new chapter in my blog, than to post about today's walk in the Ochil Hills.

One thing that I have been very aware of lately is ... that following a lazy summer of sitting in my inflating my boat ... my stomach has also inflated a bit. Not with hot air but with bouncing blubber. I have scoffed too many cakes and chocolates. I weight 10lb more than I did at the start of the year. Its now time to get a grip of my fat and walk the blubber off.

Although Im working "Up North" during the week, I travel to the central belt for the weekend, so decided not to spend any more time travelling in a car today. I chose to bounce my stomach up the nearest hills which are the Ochil Hills.

The route I chose started at Castle Campbell in Dollar, over Kings Seat hill, drop down to the burn of sorrow, then climb to the top of Tarmangie, wobble across to Whitewisp then return to Castle Campbell. A total distance of 6 miles and climbing around 2500 ft with all the ups and downs.

The sun was starting to flood the plains of the Central Belt of Scotland as I started my walk

Early morning mist still clung to the valleys in the clear frosty air. The Lomond Hills looked very close and clear in the still air.

There was hardly a breath of wind to ruffle the fumes coming out of Grangemouths chimneys. Im sure all that polution must have helped make it feel like a summer's day in December. At noon it was around 10 degrees C. Almost unheard of at this time of year.

My stomach was too warm wrapped in my fleece as I headed up the long slopes leading to King's Seat. I took the jacket off and found I was still sweating my way up the hill in only shirt sleeves.

Down below, the last of the morning mist cleared as my glasses started to steam up with my hot breath as I climbed ever upwards.

I paused for a brief rest and a drink of water at the memorial which was errected a few years ago to remember the loss of three Spitfire's from Grangemouth airfield that crashed at this location. Two of the pilots died but amazingly one survived.

It didnt take too long for me to reach the large summit cairns of King Steat.

I have been here many times before and once or twice contemplated dropping the 500 feet or so, then climbing again to reach the top of Tarmangie on the other side of the Burn of Sorrow. However I have always thought that it wasnt worth the effort and returned the way that I had come.

This time I was determined to continue onto the Summit of Tarmangie.. for no other reason that to show my inflated stomach what I was really made of. A bit of puffing and panting and I was on the other side ... approaching the summit cairn of Tarmangie.

This summit offers a great view of... windfarms. Not a blade was turning in the still air. I just hope Alex Salmond has enough wind to justify covering our countryside in them. I dont think they are ugly now that I have accepted them.. but I cant help wonder if they pay for their keep ?

A lot more wind from my lungs...and I was standing on top of Whitewisp... my third top of the day. Although the sweat was blinding me because of my overweight exersion .. I could still see Dundee in the far distance.

Then it was downhill all the way back to Castle Campbell. It was a glorious day to be walking the hills..and I hope I taught my stomach a lesson. I know I have to loose part of it if I want to do the longer winter walks that I so love.