Tuesday, 12 September 2017

beetling over the pentlands

We had signed up for Cumbrae 10miler on Sunday but when the weather looked terrible for Sunday (and good on Sat) we opted to do another Skyline training run on Saturday, making the most of the weekend. Although some dafties chose to get up at first light and run in the rain, we accidentally set off much later and got a fab run in great weather.

One part of the accidental lateness was my bright idea we should put some air in the Berlingo tyres. The front right looked a bit soft. Normally I'd adhere to the "if it ain't broke..." motto but sometimes you get a notion into your head. Anyway after taking out some air at the Seafield garage we drove round the bypass to the Hillend garage where I put some more air back into the tyres. More than that you do not want to know. 

So it was nearly 2.30pm when we set off. The idea was to do the the S ridge to the Kips then cross over to Black Hill and do some hills before returning to Flotterstone on the contour round Castlelaw. The blue sky was filled with fluffy cartoon clouds. Not too strong a breeze. Perfect!

Mary testing her new shoes

So, first time in the Pentlands with the new camera. Just how good is the zoom? Well those bikers on the summit of Carnethy, were shot from Turnhouse. I pulled back halfway for the midway shot below, and then right the way back for the third shot, 2 below. Although technically x10 zoom, if you are not using raw or full size shots, you get a much longer zoom as it is the equivalent of cropping a small section out the middle of a full sized image. On current settings (of a photo about 4,000 pixels wide) this gives me more than x25 zoom.

As we were going up Carnethy I saw a runner way below, but travelling swiftly. I got to the summit then went back to encourage Mary who was overhauled by Fergus, also out skyline training. He was working hard, and still feeling heavy legged from his run at the UTMB. We stopped for a bit of a chat then we forged on, Fergus leading the way.

Fergus cresting Scald law between hillwalkers

After Scald Law we missed S Black and turned right before the Kips dodging down towards the Howe but cutting round the side of Black Hill, going up to meet the Skyline route.

imperfect panorama but shows how nice it was

Before we started running I asked Mary to guess what exotic wildlife we would see on the hills. I can't remember what she guessed; I thought maybe an emperor moth, but given I have only seen one in all the many years running the Pentlands, this was more optimism than realism. For a while it looked as if Fergus would be the most exotic creature spotted, until we stopped at the fence on Black Hill and I noticed this very glamorous beetle, later confirmed by a couple of "experts in Buglife" as Carabus Nitens. As yet unrecorded in the National Biodiversity Network Atlas Scotland in the Pentlands, although recorded both North and South of here. Apparently the beetle records aren't hugely accurate, although given the few mentions of this creature online I get the feeling it is quite rare. We felt very honoured to meet it, mainly on account of it's dazzling colours, caused by refraction rather than pigment. Swift runner!

Then Fergus appeared again, having taken a longer route, possibly involving the Kips and Hare Hill. I was glad I wasn't running solo or might have had to try to keep up as he manfully pushed on!

Black Hill used to be amusing (during the Skyline) as 16 folk all took different lines through the unmarked heather. These days nearly everyone follows the same single track line upwards. The bird cage has gone but there is this puddle instead. The descent on the other side is going through some changes and is worth a recce though. The farmer has mowed the heather in places making life easier.

Fergus taking the wrong line on the approach to the notorious Bell's Hill

Fergus back on track, Mary taking the "proper" direct line below.

this bit is always memorable in the Skyline


As we went over the watershed towards Harbour Hill a large dark cloud was making it's way across town to intercept us. Luckily it dropped a LOT of it's rain on the West of town and we only got a mild shower going over Harbour Hill. Camera was hidden away in it's case, and then in polybag.

By the time we had slogged up Capelaw the rain had gone off although there were still dramatic skies all around. The visibility often seems sharper after a downpour, and we stood about taking photos for a few minutes.


We then ran round the contouring path on the side of Castlelaw, eventually meeting the path that goes down to Flotterstone in the Skyline, taking us back to the Berlingo. It was closing time at the cafe there but we shouted hello to the proprietor and he gave us protein chocolate square homebake freebies which were delicious. Totally fab run round the hills and a good route to try out many of the skyline peaks without doing the whole thing. (Misses the ugly Caerketton / Allermuir business at beginning and end!)

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