Thursday, 17 January 2013

PentlandSnow 17th Jan.

I had to do an estimate in Colinton at midday.
The forecast has been toying with us – suggesting sunshine and threatening blizzards; neither has come to pass until today. I did the estimate in my running kit then doubled back and up to Bonaly car park – possibly my favourite gateway to the Penlands – at 1.15ish. It was still looking grey but I had some kit I wanted to try out so thought a couple of hours might make for some snowy photos. I took the G3 on the tripod.

I went round by Bonaly reservoir to see if there was ice. A bit, but nothing spectacular. I then headed directly up and over Capelaw at which point the sun emerged although it was racing the clouds to the horizon and I suspected the bright skies would fade quickly. Then over to Castlelaw. A favourite spot by the red flag to take shots right up the valley with the hills on either side. Coming down a snowy Castlelaw filled me with trepidation and I skittered down like a child not wanting to fling my camera.

As I was following the Skyline route to Turnhouse I was thinking I maybe should have taken Phantoms Cleugh and reached the S Ridge sooner. I didn't have an agenda other than the kit test so realised I had given myself more work going that way. I was also regularly stopping to set the camera to take snippets of film as I ran past, a technique often employed by Bruce Mathieson. Good if you are out on your own and are short of willing subjects. I carry the camera screwed into its tripod to keep my sweaty mitts off the hardware but it still takes time running back and forth.

There were maybe less than half a dozen walkers out today but we all greeted each other heartily in the snowy sunny earlier part of the afternoon.

There was an alarming amount of cattle at the gate through onto Turnhouse. I gingerly snuck past speaking gently and trying not to think about the 15 unfortunates who are killed by cattle annually. Mary would have been finding an alternative route through gorse and stream to avoid them. Nobody stirred and I got past unmolested. At the top of Turnhouse I did a quick filmed drive-by but the weather was getting colder and gloomier by the minute. I pushed on, already calculating I'd drop down after Scald Law. The views over to Fife and the Ochils were lovely but fading fast.

Scooted over Carnethy – too cold and blowy for a drive by – then at the col between there and Scald Law I forced myself to eat a Cliff Bar. It was so nearly frozen solid I wondered if my teeth would snap before the bar. While I enjoyed that I struggled to put on a pair of YakTrax Pro over my shoes. They are elasticated overshoes for gripping icy trails. A coiled wire over stretchy elastics. I nearly couldn't be bothered with the hassle but I wanted to know whether they were worth wearing for Saturday's race. I thought today would be an ideal time to test them. It was and they worked well particularly on the icy stretches of road along the reservoirs. And they don't feel clumpy under your feet nor seem to catch on the heather, my main concerns. I tried to give them a good hard work out and although not going at race pace I think they are pretty good on icy ground or I imagine compacted snow. I wore them for the rest of the run.

Again, too cold to fanny about at the top of Scald Law. Shot a film on the hoof at the summit then took the quickest route down to the Howe. I was glad to get off the high tops. My hands (in 2 pairs of gloves) were freezing and I had to keep swapping my camera from one to the other and blowing on the empty one. Fine once I got to lower ground.

The reservoirs looked dark and deadly. I stayed more than a slipping distance away from any deep water. I was getting tired and a bit dim from the cold. It took ages skirting the reservoirs and I was glad of the YakTrax as there was lots of ice across the road. Then a left turn and a right up Phantoms Cleugh. The light was fading fast and after setting up a couple of quick drive-bys I was glad to get to the gate that leads down to Bonaly. Strangely 2 young lads came out the gate as if to set off on an adventure. I told them not to stay out all night. Over the last hummock and the lights of Edinburgh spread out below. I hadn't looked at my watch (I forgot to take a Garmin) since I set off and was surprised to see it was 4.57 when I got back to my bike. Its always a relief to find the bike is still there after a long run. It was a cold and dangerous cycle back through rush hour traffic and I was trying to be vigilant and safe knowing my head was stupid with the cold. It was only as I stood trying to warm up in the shower that I began to recover. A good day out. And probably enough material to make a small wintry video if I can process/edit about half of the 400 photos I took.

View the Video here

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