Monday, 16 January 2017

perfect winter weather

It's like pork pies. I forget what they are actually like and eat one. Then I remember what they are really like and don't have another for 2 years until I see one and think hey I fancy a pork pie. Same thing with dawn raids. It can't have been 2 years since we were last standing up the Lammermuirs or Pentlands with chattering teeth waiting for the spectacular dawn, having been promised glories by the weather people. It can't have been, because I still have the fresh memory of disappointment and harumph as the dark night slowly turned into average grey day and there we are sleep filled eyes watering in the grey dawn, cheated again. It happens every 2 years or so and nearly happened last Saturday. Only I couldn't be arsed getting out of bed that early and the weather people have been consistently wide of the mark of late. 

I nearly regretted it as it did look like it was possibly a beautiful sunrise and by the time we were on our way to the Pentlands around 11ish, clouds were growing and beginning to obscure the blue sky and dazzling low sun. However we got lucky and the sky cleared - and it was fabulous weather all day. Crisp and cold and snowy over the high tops (with a bitter wind) but with a warmth in the sun, especially at the lower levels. And everything looked great - I was stopping every other minute to take photos, from the hedgerow glinting in the sun to the ponies in the field on the way up to Torduff Reservoir. We parked at the lower Bonaly car park next to the bypass as the upper one above the scout camp was jammed full and they hadn't opened the overflow field.

We didn't have a specific route planned. About the only idea was we aimed to do some of the Southern ridge - Turnhouse, Carnethy, Scald Law etc as part of a recent enthusiasm for hill training. (The dark threat of the C5 looming in the all-too-near-future.) After Torduff we took a left turn off the road and up the hill, passing an mtb-er who admitted it was tough conditions for mountain biking. Reaching the trees we veered right and headed towards Bonaly Reservoir. Both of us were in need of a toilet stop and the good weather had brought out dozens of ramblers and dogwalkers. You couldn't get away from them. I knew a wee path over a stile and between the trees leading to the shore of the reservoir where there was sufficient tree cover for a pee. 

It was splendid. All the Winter wonderland clich├ęs of blue skies, icy water and frost twinkling in the sunlight. There was a dude on the shore who had a bonfire on the go with his dog running about. We said hello but headed on and back into the trees. Mary doubted it was the right route but I knew from previous it doubled back onto the trail we had just left. In the deepest darkest bit of the trees we came across a small shelter. Sort of thing either Ray Mears or the Blair Witch would have built. Didn't know if it was the dude-on-the-shore's or what. He didn't look tough or dirty enough to have survived a frozen night out. It did give us ideas about bivying though. We recently got the equipment to try bivying but have not yet been reckless enough to want a bad night's sleep outdoors. My feeling would be to wait until the nights are shorter and warmer. Mary is all over the idea of the vast night sky full of stars while the twigs on the bonfire crackle. Hmmm. Watch this space!

the camera got spooked

In order to get across to the S Ridge we had to climb Capelaw and bypass Castlelaw. It was glorious to get up high and see the landscape and to try out the Joneses route round the side of Castlelaw. I should wind up Jim H by reiterating I've never been that way before, again. Mary told me Graham H had brought us up that trail before. Who am I to argue? Obvs I've been there dozens of times and just not been paying attention. It was a bit slippy with frost and snow but very runnable and much better than the choppy descent off Castlelaw.

We felt we had already done quite a lot of running by the time we could see the target hills swing into view. And we still had to get down to Flotterstone and then back up the other side. If only there was some way to cut across the neck of the reservoir, rather than traipse all the way down the road losing height that has to be regained. As we went past the end of the reservoir there were folk coming off the hill at Glen Cottage. Also the old dude who lives there was coming out his house so we hung back to watch the interaction. The signs said private land and we had resigned ourselves to the tarmac until we heard the old shepherd chat in a friendly way with the hillwalkers who reassured him they had closed the gates on their way through. The old guy was remarkably chipper and friendly and we got talking with him. Yes that route was private and closed because of folk throwing themselves into the reservoir and drowning and leaving gates open so his sheep would wander off. But if we hurried through and closed the gates why yes we could pop up the hill from here. RESULT! about 30minutes saved and onto the fast track halfway up Turnhouse. Unfortunately this is prob a one-off as it would be bad form to barge past the private signs without permission. Very pleasing to see Glencorse Res from the other side and miss all that tarmac down towards Flotterstone. 

normally private

up the hill to above the trees at halfway

mountaineers at Turnhouse summit

Hare Hill seemed to have a hidden lexicon of letters

My legs are getting used to the hills again. I set myself the challenge of running the whole way up Carnethy and Scald Law. By running I mean making jogging movements (sometimes almost on the spot) while I tried to get my breathing under control. It's pretty rubbish but there are improvements.

South Black Hill was looking handsome so we did that
before dropping down to the Howe, missing the Kips


It took quite a few attempts to place Mary directly in front of the sun
while all three of us descended.

Usually the Howe looks white.
Today it looked lemony yellow off-white

Since we had done Black Hill summit last time and the troops we getting weary we opted for the contour round the back of Black Hill and down to the end of Threipmuir Reservoir. There was ice on the water and it was not looking welcoming, even in the sunlight. We had now been going quite some time and had not planned for a long run. We weren't even carrying fluids - Mary had said she was thirsty way back at Turnhouse. We had 1.5 protein bars each but nothing to drink. I suggested there was plenty water in the reservoirs, although we managed to hold off until back at the car where we had juice. Although we were dehydrating less than we would in the Summer it was still over 4 hrs running without a drink and the bottles in the car were much anticipated.

Down towards Harlaw, then up Maiden's Cleugh and turn left and contour round the side of Harbour Hill. We were both running on empty by then and the conversation was wilting; but also we were buoyed up by the low sun going down and the fact that it would be 16 miles by the time we got back to the Berlingo. We took the trail back to the top car park at Bonaly and ran down to the Bypass. We hadn't anticipated a 4hr run it just worked out that way and the weather had been so encouraging we had just kept going rather than returning sooner. Top day out! We drove back to Leith in high spirits keen to get lashed into dinner. Mary finished the day perfectly by nailing the parking, first time, into a space only just larger than the van. I celebrated that with a bottle of red. HURRAY!

Map of the day. We started at the topmost point and did a figure 8. Now all these dots are either 1/ the autolap is set to make a dot every mile and 2/ every time I stop to take a photo or to catch my breath auto-pause kicks in. OK auto-pause, you are fired as you have obscured the map line with your dots; back to just the mile markers thanks. (There probably is a way to turn the dots on and off on the map afterwards but I'm not there yet.) And the green line between Carnethy bottom and Scald Law top is where some idiot forgot to turn his Suunto back on after a snack-stop. (581ft diff between ascent and descent! and nearly a mile lost, unsmiley face.)

photo Mary

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