Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Winter comes early

Sat 1st Nov 2008: Northern Corries

The weather was looking good over the last part of this week, so i was optimistic to get out, even if just for a bimble in the snow. However, volunteers (also known as partners) were thin on the ground, so it wasn't till late on Friday night that i collared Dave Strachan and Graham Biostelle, two likely lads who work at AVW and managed to jump in on their trip up north early the next morning.

Come 6 o'clock i jumped in their motor at AVW and was asleep before we made it onto the hawkhill. Waking up somewhere around the Drumochter pass (1500ft), i was greeted by a scene of snow covered hills, much to my amazement! I hadn't seen this much this early in the year for yonks. If there was this much low down, what was it like in the Norries where the base of most routes sit above 3000ft???

Next thing i knew and we were greeted by snow down to the level of Aviemore (generally a good sign that it will be full of snow higher up), then made rapid progress along Glenmore where wer were greeted with fantastic views of the Norries which were PLASTERED in snow. I can't remember ever seeing that much snow up there in the years i have been visitng, so i was quite excited as we headed up the Ski car park road.

It was hovering around the freezing mark as we jumped out of the car and threw all our warm kit on, sorted gear and then bugged out. Soon warming up, we made fairly fast progress into the centre corrie of Coire an t'sneachda (Corrie of the snow). Reaching a hiogh point, it was obvious we were some of the latest climbers to arrive, with the rest of the corrie being covered in climbers, with at one point well over 60 climbers visible from the lochain.
The walk in, with plenty of snow!The Mess of Pottage

Aladdin's Buttress
Dave and Graham beneath the Fiacaill Buttress

We made the decision to avoid the mess of pottage and alladdin's buttress as they were mobbed, so headed west to the Fiacaill Buttress, with the aim of doing a route called 'The Seam' (IV 5)
Having arrived at the gearing up point, we could see one team already on the seam, one on stirling bomber, and one heading up to Invernookie.

Stirling bomber V,7

After a good hour long wait, we made our way up the first pitch, with Graham keen to get on some grade IV ground, so he lead the way with me and Dave bringing up the rear. The first pitch was an easy angled (soft) snow plod until it hit a rock band halfway up, which having not used my axes in anger for over 8 months, i found challenging, but was soon up at the belay beside Graham.
A climber about to start the crux chimney pitch of The Seam

Dave Joined us, and we sorted the gear out then Dave lead through, pushing up some increasingly steeper and looser snow, before he got his first runner in. Few!!! After a couple of exposed steps he was up at the final traverse and made it with relative ease before he noticed his last runner had fallen out, and that any fall off the traverse would mean a long and significant fall then swing to the left. Despite this he made it to the belay stance with no probs and brought both of us up..
Dave watching Graham on the crux pitch


We could now see the crux section of the route, the chimney pitch leading to the summit. It looked an immaculate rock climb, but at this time of year was under a deep covering of powder snow. Graham was keen as mustard to get on it, but a large tangle in the ropes meant he had to wait a while till me and Dave sorted our shit out. Off he went, and made steady progress up the chimney, only stopping to shake some blood back into his rapidly cooling hands, and to dig away at the deep snow cover to find places for protection.

Graham leads up the crux

All too soon and it was my turn to head up. Yikes, this was real grade IV ground, considerably harder and more exposed than anything i had done before. There were a few points where i was happy to have a rope above my head as my hands had turned into blocks of ice, and i had to fish out Grahams very well placed protection at fairly regular intervals, meaning i couldn't get into a rhythm. Despite this, i made my way up to Grahams Belay stance and scrambled up past him to the top, almost puncturing his thigh with my crampons. Sorry...

The view from the top (how many climbers can you spot?)

The thrill of reaching the top was short lived when i was hit with a serious dose of the hotaches, brought on by a combination of hands against cold rock/snow and gripping my axes for dear life. This low point was short lived when i heard the familiar low base notes of the approaching yellow taxi, also known as the RAF search and rescue helicopter. They made a detailed (and low) circuit of the Northen corries, passing within 100m of and well below us at the top of The Seam, then skimming around the corrie and up to cairngorm, before a tour round the neighbouring coire an lochan, then off East to Lochnagar. It seems they were on a familiarisation exercise today, as there were reports of them circling around the North face of the Ben, then the Northern Cairngorms, before taking in the beauty of Lochnagar.

Once everyone was up and safe, we made our way down the Fiacaill ridge (a grade II in its own right in deep snow!) before reaching the col which drops back into Coire an t'Sneachda. Forgoing the safe route, we chose to use gravity to lose height quickly, sliding down the powder slopes on our arse. What a great way to end a climb! Just the walk back to the car, then we can warm up and get some grub. Dave and Graham reminded me of how much fitter they are than me by practically running back to the car, but i made it there in one peice, and was able to appreciate the now setting sun across the alpine wilderness of the Cairngorms.
Twilight in the gorms...

AVW winter bouldering league, round 1

Fri 24th Oct 2008

Averticalworld, Dundee

Friday saw us heading indoors for the first session of the annual AVW winter bouldering league. Normally a fun event, Dave P persuaded me to enter the Men's hard comp, which i had chosen to resist for the last two years. Despite this, we were all looking forward to a good night.

We met many familiar faces that night, and cranked out some hard moves, yet failed on some not so hard moves. Such is life.

I got talking to a really friendly new girl who seems to be working at the wall, who's name turned out to be Erica (or was it Erin ;o). She is from Canada, and is spending a year in Dundee on a creative writing course at Dundee Uni. Going by some of my wandering blogs from the past, i could teach her a thing or two about creative writing.

Anyway, the night was over far too soon, and we all headed off to the pub, where a large group of us congregated for the post boulder comp bash. Well over 30 people made it back to the Globe, so a great night was had spinning the shit about stuff we had, and stuff we want to do.

As for results, Dave P beat me by one bloody point (199), but hey, I beat Alan by one point (197), so next time i am aiming firmly for 200+ points in the hard comp! Just hope my fingers have recovered by then...

Monday, 10 November 2008

Majorca pt 3...

Majorca pt 3.

Sorry it's taken so long, but I've had a very busy few weeks.

After a fun Monday at S'estret, we decided to try something a bit harder, namely this...

The picturesque and awe inspiring arete of Albahida

We made the 30 minute drive to the Sa Gubia crag early on Tuesday morning, knowing we may have a long day ahead of us, as we had our eyes set on the 7pitch arete known as 'Albahida', which is undoubtedly one of the most popular routes on the Island (easy to see why once you've done it!)

Anyway, we parked up next to the local restuarant and headed up the path for about a mile, before following a dry riverbed for another mile upstream to reach the area below the rockface. The riverbed was thankfully dry but proved quite a draining experience, as it was enclosed with no moving air, which combined with the high temperature and humidity, meant we were sweating buckets before we had even reached the crag. Breaking the strain ocassionally were the rare but rewarding views of Albahida afforded by gaps in the foliage, building the tension as Ben, Dave and Iain realised what i hoped to get them to the top of.
Our reward for the struggle up the riverbed

After the initial struggle, we made it to the bottom of the single pitch area of Sa Gubia, where i showed the guys the layout of the land, in case anyone decided against some multi-pitch action. At this point, we could hear the voices of other climbers bouncing across what can only be called the ampitheatre that is Sa Gubia. What an amazing place! I was slightly concerned they may already be on the route ahead of us, and that it may restrict our plans, but thankfully they were off to one side of our intended route, climbing the 3star classic multipitch sport route known as 'Lay de Lesso'.

We scuttled down the hill to the base of your climb and sorted gear, double checked everything, and then spied out the first few pitches of the route. Once happy, I lead up the first pitch, with Ben seconding, and Dave leading his rope, with Iain acting as tail-end charlie. The first pitch was nothing more than a scramble so i ran it out putting in gear only when i felt it was needed, and made it to the belay stance consisting of a welded ring bolted into the rock (I'll never complain about sport climbers or bolts again, well at least not till next time...)'Thank god' bolts...

Ben flew up the route, and was at the belay ready for Dave and Iain to join us, when he realised that in his haste, he had forgotten to pick up our rucksack. Thankfully iain was still at the base of the climb, so made the first pitch acting as pack mule, carrying his and our rucksacks. Well done that man!

Dave wasn't happy with the distinct lack of bolts (the spanish seem not to think that lower grade climbs deserve their hard earned iron-mongery), and waited for Iain to make it to the belay (which was getting cosy by this time), before considering abbing off and spending the day cranking out single pitch routes on the other side of the ampitheatre. After some discussion, it was clear this was the best idea, as climbing in a four is very time consuming, and the route was fairly long, so we re-organised the belay and Dave and Iain abbed down, then headed off to spend the day enjoying themselves on the shorter routes.

My confidence had taken a bit of a bash and i was still uncertain as to wether i was up to leading the whole thing (it seemed huge at this point!), but i knew that the further i got up the climb, the better it got, so pushed on.

Pitch 2 brought back memories as i started it, some of them not good! Last time i was on the route, i was only allowed to 2nd it, and my climbing experience was way below where i was this time around, so much so that at one point i thought i would not be able to get past the hard move, even with a rope above me... Very embarassing for someone looking to lead men, and climbers.

Despite this, as soon as i got 2m up the route i was in a rythm, nothing disturbing my concentration, all the time looking for good footholds, then up for more hand holds. Before i knew it, i was at the hard move, a vertical section of rock with a small crack leading to an easy section of rock. A deep breath, a stonking nut at head height, and i pushed through the hard moves with no real problems. What a difference a year makes! Up to the belay and i brought Ben up with a huge smile on both our faces. We were now 2/7ths of the way up and could see Dave and Iain across the crag.

The view from the 3rd belay (PS, it's not me or ben!)

Pitch 3, After a quick drink i lead on working my way up the face, over and overlap and into a large scoop of bright orange rock, where my belay consisted of two worringly small natural threads. Not too bad on a large ledge, but this ledge was 45 degrees and facing downhill, so i warned Ben not to test the belay by slipping :o) This was a bit of a hairy spot, so i was rather keen to get some metal into the rock to prevent a quick trip to the bottom. As soon as he was up, i slotted in a stonking hex a few feet to our side and felt an immediate relief.

Belay stance at top of pitch 3 is under small Orange patch halfway up arete

Pitch 4 and the view was improving all the time. We were making great time and i was feeling good about the lead, so we decided i would lead it all. Ben was happy just climbing and taking in the whole experience so we both benefited from the certainty of the decision. Moving from our questionable belay, i headed up and right to a natural fault line which was begging to be stuffed with gear, but the climbing was so easy and there was so much insitu gear (peg, threads etc) that it felt easier and more appropriate to slot one bomber nut in and push through. Only when i did push through did i find out why there was so much in-situ gear. The large blocks that made the climbing easy were VERY loose and just waiting to catch a reckless climber. I took care and made it through, enjoying the lovely but exposed climbing, only to be greeted by a rather extraordinary sight.

Home made bolt?

Unsure of it's age and strength i was wary about relying on it, but told myself bad pro is better than no pro, so clipped it and continued the search for somewhere to place my own gear. One nut place, i was a bit happier and ran it out to the belay. Ben came up with no real problem, but did make comment on the loose blocks (lucky the belay was off to one side, and in a small cave) and the 'interesting' bolt.

Posing for the obligatory half way pic

Pitch 5: We had lunch, enjoyed the view and spun the shit before i headed up, moving to a steepening, with the rock now vertical. After a few harder moves (only just harder), it was back onto a pleasant slab, running it out to the belay, this time a far more reasurring series of huge natural thread on a sizeable ledge. Ben came up quickly and we looked up, pleased that we were now over 5/7ths of the way up (closer to the top than the bottom) and that the hardest climbing was now behind us. All in all we felt good about the climb and how it was going.

Pitch 6: I continued up the now easy angled slab, with awesome jug holds and super grippy limestone making the climbing easy and enjoyable. From here on, the rock alters from crumbly occasionally fractured limestone, to solid and immaculately weathered limestone, with countless natural thread providing awesome and quick to place protection. Trending around to the right then up, i could see the top now, and set up belay then brought Ben up. We could taste victory!!!

The weathered but amazingly grippy limestone high up on Albahida

Pitch 7: This pitch was almost a formality with easy angled slabs, and no real need for much protection, until right at the end where it steepens to a short vertical step lurking as a sting in the tail. As i reached this point, i felt a strong sense of achievement, knowing i had almost done it, and once i pulled up and over the final lip, a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. I can only liken it to what i expect big wall climbers feel after spending days battling against and living on blank rock faces. It was almost spiritual, and we both shared it once Ben was up and secure. Certainly a life affirming experience for me.

This didn't last long, as we looked behind us to see the route to the summit (and ultimately down to the car) was longer, steeper and more exposed than we had imagined. Normally a scramble, with the wind picking up, i was not willing to sacrifice protection for safety so we stayed roped up and used natural protection to safeguard us as we ran out 70m rope length time and time again. After 5 full rope lengths of exposed scrambling we were on safe ground and removed the rope before racing to the summit.

The scramble at the end, almost as long as the bloody climb!

Mountain men, 2 of...

Time was starting to zoom by, so we thought it only polite to phone Dave and Iain to let them know we were on our way down, and not to call the local MRT quite yet... The guide suggests around 90mins for the descent, in daylight. We were so desperate to get back for a beer that we did it in 4omins, in the dark, in climbing shoes. Walking back along the main road, we could see the lights of the pub over a mile away but we were so close but so far. Arriving at the bar, guess who we found propping up the bar? A certain Mr P his drinking companion Mr Irvine, slightly the worse for wear, having located the bar some time earlier that afternoon. After a swift beer, we all got back into the car and zoomed off back to the flat for some sustenance in the form of steaks and beers. Well deserved to a man!
Sa Gubia crags, showing the arete and (long) scramble in profile.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Majorca pt2

Majorca madness pt2

Monday morning, and we were up reasonably early for a return trip to s'estret in the hope of bagging the route we were denied by the greedy English and Spanish climbers. Parking up, we were the first car there, but once at the crag, were met by a few parties already there. Staking our place, we made a bee-line for the two slab lines of Mario Moreno 1 and 2.

Dave and Iain cracked Marion Moreno with no probs, so me and Ben tackled Mario Moreno 2, enjoying the easy and consistent slab climbing on large and friendly (but sometimes polished) flakes. We then swapped and completed the route next door. Of the two Mario Moreno is harder, with a few more technical moves off smaller and more polished holds, but both are equally nice climbs. By this time, the sun had burnt off all clouds and we were in for a scorcher, with temps reaching the high 20's.Ben showboating on mario moreno (F5)
Me pushing through the crux of Mario Morerno, awaiting the arrival of the sun!

We all moved up towards the harder section and set out sights on some of the harder routes. Dave and Iain lead the way with an all out assault on Movimento Sexy (F5+), which Iain made look easy. Ben flashed up it, with no problems, but i came off on the crux, unable to fathom the move through the crux. After some choice words, i pushed through it to the top and was lowered off in a rather less than amused state...

Dave and Iain moved up the scale, with an assault on Part Forana (F5+), a slightly more technical route.

Look guys, one hand!

Iain making it look easy...

After a leisurely lunch, we decided to head up to the higher section of crag called Sector Passion. We had our eye on the classic Passion interminable (f5 top 50), but like with everything in life, the Germans had beaten us to it, so we made our way round to find El Culo Lefthand (f5). After an initial hard pull over and overhang (which i bypassed), the route leads up an airy and bold slab to a belay 20m up, with great views down to the Islands capital, Palma. Zapped by the heat, we all had a bit of a drama getting up and over the first move, but Ben and Iain finally cracked it, and made their way up to the belay with no further probs.

Iain on the hanging slab above the overhang

We had had enough by that time, so i thought i had better show the guys some of the islands hidden beauties. I drove them through valdemossa, and onwards to port d'valdemossa, passing by the roadside crags just outside the town. These make for a real eye-opener, being right on the roadside, with care nescessary to avoid being clipped by a local car.

Valldemossa, perfect roadside cragging?

We continued on down the road to Port d'valldemossa, following the winding, and often very thin road down the hill through numerous hairpin bends and out towards the sea. After about 4km of continuously winding and exposed roads (and around a 500mm vertical drop) we emerged into the picturesque town and headed to the port. We hit it really lucky as the sun was at an amazing angle to the port, giving us a prime viewing point to watch it sink in to the med, casting amazing and awe-inspiring sunlight over the town and surrounding hillside.

Adam's angels?

Picturesque port d'valldemossa

Gagging for a beer...

The power of one man (and his imagination)

The end of a wonderful day

Friday, 10 October 2008

Back from the Island of Sun and Rock (and rain...)

Friday 10th October 2008 Majorca Trip 08

Well, we all got back into Dundee early this morning from our lads climbing trip to Majorca, and there are some cracking photos floating around, and certainly some cracking memories floating around my head, both of which i will do my best to give you a taste of over this (and perhaps one or two smaller additions to this post).

I'm not really sure where to start, but the holiday started with a whacky idea of a boys trip abroad for some hot rock, suggested on a rainy night at AVW, and Dave being one for adventure seemed interested straight away. Fast forward 3-4months later, numerous call offs, and unfortunate clashes of timetables, we had our line up. Dave P (the restraining force), Iain Irvine (the boy in the bubble), Ben Johnstone (The love machine) and me (the one who needed restraining from myself!)

Anyway, we (Dave, Iain and myself) made it to the airport and caught our flight to Palma with little trouble, but were not sure if Ben had made it (as he was on another flight, and needed transport to the airport), so it was with some reflief that we met him at the arrivals section.

Car hire sorted, we zoomed around the Palma ring road and off up in the hills, through Valdemossa and off to our Hotel on the North coast. Arriving well after 0100hrs, there was little sign of life, so we made a quick recce around the grounds (thank god they had no guard dogs!), and someone managed to phone the front desk, asking them to let us in. 30mins later, we were safely tucked up in our beds, snoozing away.
The view from our hotel balcony (and beer den)

Up early the next morning to bright sunshine and clear skies, we zoomed down to Valdemossa to get some grub, and stopped at the local market to get supplies. After haggling with the locals over melons and grapes, we thought it only right to treat ourselves to lunch before climbing. Straight off to the local crag at S'estret (2Km south of Valdemossa) after lunch, where i showed the guys the delights of Limestone bouldering. Having come from the relatively reasuring high friction of Sandstone, we all took our time to get confident on the sometime smooth and polished limestone, forcing us to focus on good footwork and technique.

All of us messing about on a rather hard boulder problem.

After a good few problems, we decided we wanted some real climbing, so crossed the road and walked to the easy sections. Starting easy, we cracked Pipe 1, 2 and 3 (f4, f5, f4+), then moved to do the lovely Zarza mora (f4+) which combines a lovely slab climb, with a powerful but easy overhanging top section. Lunch was called for, so we cracked open the melons and baggeutes. Bliss!!!

A large group of Englanders were hogging some of the popular routes, so we moved uphill and found the best section of climbing on that side of the road. Even busier (and cosmopolitan) than the other sector, we squeezed in on the easier free routes, and bagged another 3 decent climbs. Las Cagao (f5 **) was my favourite, with lovely climbing up an immaculate crack line, with wonderful flakes for hands all the way up. Next Door, End Slab 1 and 2 (Both F5) were a bit bolder, and thinner than Las Cagao, but provided an interesting challenge none the less.

Iain pumping his way up Quarried wall (f5+)

Dave climbing like a bat (in the dark!)

With the day drawing on, we decided one more route was in order, so moved back down hill to do the overhanging and pumpy route known as Quarried wall (f5+). Iain and Dave made easy progress to the last clip before coming off because of the pumpy and compressed nature of the route. I made it up clean, but have done it on top rope previously. Ben tried the route, and made it up halfway before suffering from a lack of climbing over the last few months, and was unable to make it up clean. Despite this he 'manned up' (his term, not mine...) and finished it as dusk set in. All that was left was a moonlit walk back to the car after an amazing first day on the Island.


Monday, 22 September 2008

A crowded Glen.

Sunday 21st Sept 2008

Crowds in the glen.

Ellis, Ben and I met Phil on the way to Glen Clova on Sunday morning, and made our way along the road expecting to get the crags to ourselves, but upon our arrival were shocked at the huge number of people at the bottom of proud corner. Using my binos, i counted no less than 26 people spread out across the lower North West crag, and around the central crack region out to the right.

After the strenuous walk upto rockface, we discovered that of all the days we chose to climb, we had picked the bloody Edinburgh University Mountaineering Club freshers trip, with a coach load of scruffy and hormone fuelled whipper snappers. Still, at least they were keen to try some hard routes, so we squirmed in amongst them and made our way up some interesting routes.

Ben had joined us after spending 2weeks digging mortar pits in Poland on exercise with 7 SCOTS, and was keen to try his first trad route. Not wanting to bore him with technical issues, i felt it was best just to drag him up as many routes as possible, to give him a feel for trad. We started on Monsters crack, not far from the ever prominent Proud Corner. Graded at HS, it is not technically hard, but has 3 distinct sections, with the crux right at the top in the form of an exposed overhanging layback. I felt a wee bit wobbly on it, so took my time and sorted my head, before topping out and enjoying the view.

Just a shame the peace was marred by screaming students (more commonly known as Braying Jeffries) letting their mates know they were safe whilst hanging around the loose and slippery cliff edge. Highlight of the stupidity had to be the guy who abbed off the top crag to get his gear back, only to find out his rope was too short, and he had forgotten to knot the end. Luckily the vigilance of his climbing partner saved him from a nasty plunge!

Ben came up and was not best impressed, so i thought it was time to step it up a bit. We moved to the right and saw Ellis top out on Wandered, an HVS he was desperate to crack. Welldone mate. Excellent climb.

Me and Ben moved over and climbed Parapet Route Direct (HS), which is a lovely easy climb, with awesome holds and just enough gear, but not too much to encumber the climb. Highlight of the climb was being greeted by two stunning fresher girls on the halfway ledge. YUM!!!! Ben raced up and was soon beside me enjoying the view (of the glen, honest!) Despite his slick West coast banter, they were having none of it, so we made our exit swiftly and had lunch.

Ellis and Phil, joined us and we enjoyed the food, and listening to the students struggle on routes they thought would be easy. Ha! Clova is not easy, it's complicated, but classy!

I felt obliged to push the grade a bit, so queued up at the bottom of Wanderd, only to be sat behind two parties with their eyes set on it. Buggers! Not wanting to sit around all day, we moved bak over to Parapet route, a 3star Severe, and climbed that. I lead through the chimney and up to the VS variation, deciding it was a better option, only having a single rope. Once above it, I followed the wonderful flake line up to a small pinacle then up the slab. It was only as i neared the top of the slab that i realised my nearest gear was jangling down the rope towards Ben, then past the overhang, a good 15m below me. Gulp... Two more steps and i was safe. Few

Ben came up with little triuble, until he made it through the overhang, where he appeared and told me he couldn't get my cam out lower down. Well i was not for losing another one (see previous posts!), so i showed him how to work it out, and lowered him down, this time he got it no prob, making the rest of the climb with no probs.

We planned one more route, but it was filled with young hot blonde girlies, so we chose not to climb, and instead to watch (purely out of interest, honest). As seemed to be the trend for the day, one of the girls leading was having a nightmare, leading 3 J's chimney a short vdiff. Despite her protestations, he belayer was not having any of it and urger her up, finally clearing the last move.

As we watched, something caught my eye, and i looked up towards Wander only to see Ellis topping out. The bugger had only cleaned it (an HVS!) straight after Wandered (another HVS). It was obviously the attention of all the Nubile blonde lovelies that drove him to greatness. (Pam, if you read this, he was a true gent, directing them all in my direction ;o). Despite Phil's ongoing wrist problems, he still made both climbs look easy, so i'm looking forward to him getting it sorted and getting back pushing hard grades.

We made our way the pub, and nearly ran over a few of the studos on the way back to their bus that was about to leave without them (and did leave a few behind!). A nice meal and a drink in the pub, then off home. All in all a fantastic weekend, one of the best this year, which says a lot. I've had quite a few good weekends, and looking back i am very please with all that me and my climbing buds have achieved this summer.

Ellis leading E1 (by mistake!)
Phil still cranking out the grades despite his disability
Dave getting back into trad with aplomb
Euan's first trad lead
Ben's first trad climb
Iain's firs trad lead in a few years
Me passing SPA, leading E1, bagging a classic cairngorm multipitch route, and the weekend in Ben Nevis.

Still more to look forward to this year though!!!

Andy K's Psychovertical lecture in Birnam
Kendal Mountain film festival
Dunde Mountain film festival
Winter in Scotland
Possible Ice trip abroad

It's looking back at the year, and looking forward to things to come that makes me reaslise how lucky i am with so many great adventurous people to call my mates. Life would be boring without you guys!

Up the hills.

Sat 20th Sept 2008

With a slightly fuzzy head (thanks to birthday drinks with my mate John the night before), i drove to the picturesque town of Falkland, located on the flank of the Lomond hills, which dominate the Kingdom of Fife.

I parked up on the side of East Lomond, and tried to ignore the monstrosity that is the communication network located next the to carpark, instead taking in the view North, towards the Tay (unfortunately hidden by haze). After 10 minutes of huff and puff, i was up on top of East Lomond, amazed at the wonderful views of Fife, stretching from the East Neuk, south to Edinburgh (Could just make out the bridges...), West to Loch Leven, and North up towards the Tay.

Unfortunately, the peace was ruined by the incessant drone of model aeroplanes circling round the south slope of the hill, with the 'pilots' sending their planes round and round in seemingly endless (and pointless) circles.

I had started the walk with the thought of bagging both Lomonds, but once at the top i realised that West Lomond was considerably further than i had anticipated. Despite that, the path looked fine, and it was a lovely day so i ran down the hill and made my way West.

Despite only being around 3-400m in height, the plateau between East and West Lomond is very different from the surrounding fertile farm lands, instead having a highland like atmosphere, something that is very accesible, but very wild. Ideal for those who want to escape from the central belt, but don't have the time to head North of Perth.

Despite my rapid progress along the plateau (two dog power), West Lomond seemed never to get any closer, always seeming miles away, then all of a sudden it was there, all imposing in its majesty (compared to the flat lands for miles all round). Only when i noticed someone half way up the hill (that i had mistaken for a huge boulder), did i realise how small the hill itself was. As i reached the base of the steep path up, the wind dropped and it became calm and surreal, the hustle and bussle of Edinburgh less than 30km from where i stood.

Ten minutes of slog straight up and i was into a howling gale, forcing me to keep my balance whilst trying to capture some of the surrounding landscape on my camera. What difference a few metres can make!

Running (half draggged) down the easy track, i made rapid progress back down to the plateau, and traced my route back to the slopes of East Lomond, where the plastic pilots were still flying round in circles on the thremals of the South slope.

A final hard push up the steep path, and i was back on top enjoying the view, this time slightly shorter than last time, as the clouds had rolled in up the Forth, obscuring my view of the capital. All in all, it was a wonderful walk, and i fully intend running the route next summer when the good weather returns.