Saturday, November 26, 2016

Superior Mirage

The forecast was mega-inverted, but for clear skies; great for a hike somewhere and maybe even a flight back down. I packed my wing in the car but in the end I just had a nice walk along the Campsies, a line of lowish (500 m or so) hills to the north of Glasgow. It was frosty down in the valleys, but up on the tops it was glorious sunshine and shirt sleeve weather, with great views of snowy mountains in every direction. But then I realized I was seeing a chain of high, snowy mountains out to the SE. Strange, there are no mountains there! To say the least, it was unsettling; I didn't have a camera, but I took some grainy pics on my phone.
Over in that direction, the only hills are the Pentlands, some low hills just SW of Edinburgh. That's what I was seeing and the image was distorted by the huge inversion. As I walked along the hills got even bigger until they looked like the front range of the Rockies in Colorado. When I got home I checked on the internet; I saw a superior mirage, which is quite unusual.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Ben Lomond - Three Vertical Layers

Ben Lomond is a Munro (3000 + ft mountain) near Glasgow on the east side of Loch Lomond. It was a Sunday with a lovely forecast, featuring fresh snow and sun. All the ingredients for lots of people to head to the mountain, so I knew the hike up was going to be busy!

There were 3 distinct vertical layers; below the cloud (no snow and a bit damp), in the cloud (a bit of snow) and above the cloud (lots of snow and sun, with great views). So I followed the path up, seeing lots of walkers, a couple of fell-runs, a few dogs and even a group of mountain bikers!

Lots of people on the summit, with great views in all directions, before heading back through the cloud layer and - via a short drive - Glasgow. The pics.

Friday, November 18, 2016

A Good Walk Wasted?

I took some lightweight paragliding gear to Scotland; I wasn't sure if I'd get much of a chance to fly (Nov and Dec aren't exactly great flying months), but there was space in the car, so why not? There were actually a couple of decent days for flying but I was busy then. I got away on a not very promising day and met up with Ian - we headed to Dungavel, a little hill near Tinto, just south of Glasgow.

A fresh coat of snow looked really nice, but it couldn't disguise the fact there wasn't enough wind for such a shallow slope. Clouds kept forming on the hill, interfering with our desire to take off. Ian took off and disappeared; I waited a while for the clouds to dissipate and took off but I coundn't stay up and side-hilled before getting flushed. I played this game a couple of times before sledding back to the car, where I found a nice bog under the snow to land in.

A long way to take my gear for 5 minutes of air time! Anyway, a few pics.

Thursday, November 10, 2016


In our stay in Scotland, my wife and I spent the first 8 days in Edinburgh. It's not a city I know terribly well but I've always known it to be a beautiful city. But I must admit, I was blown away by how nice it is. It isn't just that the nice parts (the Castle, the New Town, the Meadows etc) are nice, but really how nice it all is. Several times we went for long walks and everything we saw was lovely. 

The other thing is that the city contains lots of green spaces and also has a definite boundary - when you leave the city, you're in the countryside (instead of endless suburbs or dormitory towns).

It's the most beautiful city by far in Britain, if you get a chance, go there! I'm afraid I didn't take anything like enough photos, but here are some pics that don't do it justice.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Munro Bagging, Ben Vorlich and Stuc a' Chroin

View from Ben Vorlich
Munro bagging is the lowest form of mountaineering. Munro's Tables (named after the original list maker) lists every 3000 ft mountain in Scotland; there are 282 such mountains and they are known as Munros. There are also another 200 or so 'tops', summits which are considered bumps on the side of real Munros. Baggers aim to climb every Munro.

It's quite a satisfying challenge, requiring planning, fitness and determination. Mountains in Scotland tend to start near sea level, so 3000 ft (or 914 m) is 'higher' than it sounds but generally doable even on short winter days. Some isolated Munros take a full day, some combine well - e.g. as a ridge - so several can be bagged in a single day. Of course, given the time it takes, many baggers are retired.

As a youngster I considered Munro baggers rather dull fellows, content to plod up shapeless hills so they could tick a mountain off a list. Now I'm retired I think a bit differently. Funny how things change...

Unless I spend more time in Scotland, bagging them all seems unlikely, but I've decided to keep track of the ones I climb so I've got a chance at doing so. Today I climbed a couple, Ben Vorlich and Stuc a' Chroin (chosen as the two nearest to Edinburgh - Munro bagging also means driving). It was a lovely late fall day and very pleasant. Maybe I will make a special effort and do the lot...

Some pics

Thursday, November 3, 2016


Stow is a very cute little village in the Cotswolds, a range of very low hills to the NW of London. In fact, all the villages seem very cute there; it became a very trendy place for wealthy Londoners to retire to 40 or so years ago and everything seems hyper-gentrified. 

My wife and I were on our way up to Scotland and we stayed overnight there. In the morning we had a stroll around and took some pics before resuming our drive North.

The pics!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Paris Walk

On the way to Scotland, I drove up to Paris to pick up my wife. She was staying with a former school-mate, Sylvie, for a little re-union. I arrived in the middle of the afternoon and we all went out for a very pleasant walk, taking in the Jardin des Plantes, the left bank of the Seine, Notre Dame, the Ile de la Cite and the Ile St Louis. It was all very pleasant and relaxed - the 1st of Nov is a holiday in France, and Parisians were out enjoying it. However, in the aftermath of the terror attacks, it felt a little bit sad too, like a city trying to resume normality.

A few pics.