Category Archives: snow

Bike or Ski?

There’s snow on our local hills, so the dilemma arises. I often manage a wee ski trip or two when conditions are right.

I had already managed one very small one this year so yesterday was a bonus. Snow, sunshine, no wind and the hills had looked good on the bike ride the day before. There was no real choice! I had some of the afternoon free so just had to go. And it was glorious. The snow lower down was perfect, though it turned a bit softer higher up.

A quick drive up (it’s only 10 – 15 minutes away), skins on the skis, heel lifts fitted, hop over the gate, say hello to the sheep and away. Got into a loverly rythym going up with occasional brief pauses for photos. Met the secondd gate and managed to hop(?) over it fairly disgracefully, then the undulating climb upwards to the top of the hill. The views on the way up and at the top were wonderful. Above me was Lammerlaw, but not enough time and the snow was getting too soft for the return journey. So, off with the skins and away. Gliding along the ridge and then the speedier descents. The wax on the skis worked well gripping on the flatter sections and gliding nicely on the faster downhill sections.

Lower down the snow was perfect for telemarking and the turns felt good. Though I was back down I was high as a kite. Glorious!!!!!!

For those who don’t know the terminology, skins are attached to the bottom of the skis with releasable glue. The nap of the fabric (it used to be seal skins in the old days) faces backwards and enables the skier to climb up hills. The heel lifts up the heel of the ski boot, this makes the boot level & puts less strain on your leg muscles. The wax, applied to the bottom of the ski, grips when you put pressure on it to go forward, but glides when there’s no pressure. You need different grades of wax for different temperatures – a real black art! A telemark turn is one where one leg slides backwards behind the other and the two skis form effectively one long one.You can only do this on freewheel skis. I also use telescopic poles, adjusted to be longer for pushing uphill but shorter for the downhills to help with the turns.So there you go, a wonderful pursuit when conditions are right.

There’s worse to come though, a cheesy video is in production!

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-04

Almost ready

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-05

Gorgeous snow conditions lower down

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-06

Have to wait for the descent

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-12

More fence icicles

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-11

Strange icicles growing vertically

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-10

Looking east

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-08

Hare and fox tracks

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-18

Over to Fife and the Firth of Forth

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-16

A gulley to the east over the valley

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-15

Another gully to the east

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-07

Follow the hare in reverse

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-09

Gate number 3

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-13

Sun, sun, sun

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-02

Lammerlaw ahead, waits for another day

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-17

As far as I go, skins off & ready to go

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-19

Haddington, down low

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-14

Time to head down

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-20

Starting the ski back

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-21

These specs were clear when I left the car

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-30

Oh so elegant!!

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-23

Ski tips lead the way down

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-01

Trapain Law and the Bass Rock

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-28

Quad bike & ski tracks up

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-22

Gate number 2

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-25

turns in the snow

 

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-26

The car waits at the bottom

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-24

Ski track up and down, put delight

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-27quad bike, ski and sheep tracks

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-03

The sheep & hill at the finish

Lammermuirs Track

The Strava trace of the ski track up & down

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-29

The road home

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Lethargy and other musings

Some days I’m just content to do very little. Reading, messing around on my iPad or computer or just day dreaming. This morning has been one of those times.
In my early mountaineering days (now over half a century away) we called it festering. Sitting in or out of the tent or bothy, chatting, reading or just absorbing things around us. Sometimes because of the snow, winds or rain, sometimes just too knackered to be bothered.

It’s nowadays a time to contemplate. Think over things that have been, cook up plans for the future that may or may not happen or just meander through my mind, hopefully the better bits of it!

It’s also sometimes good to look over the huge amount of photographs I’ve accumulated, some scanned in, others taken digitally. It’s always good for a giggle or a memory or a touch of sadness.

This afternoon I’ll be busy again. Our community cinema is on so I’ve been tweeting it and will go down to help set up in a wee while.

So where has it all got me? No idea, except for this blog!!

But here’s a few of my memories to invade your life with.
   
Yesterday, cycling below the snowline 

 

The sheep say hi, lined up for my inspection 
  
Near the top of the road

   
Started young! No beard either.


Only 16, just before the beard growth 

    
Winter mountaineering in the Cairngorms- 1970s

 
Soloing Mont Blanc

   
Blasting in blo-karts

  Festering in the French Alps

  
Trapezing on the Forth

 
Dame Rosy Glow – aren’t pantomimes wonderful (oh yes they are, oh no they’re not etc)

   
A wee rescue on the River Tay

 

In the Falls at the Linn of Tummel



   

Telemarking, Glenshee



 

Swiss Alps, Lagginhorn I think

   

Rescue duty, the chimneys were blown up last year

 Local winter cycling 
   

Climbing in Yosemite, a small route, only 600 feet high


  Festering in my bivvied bag on the glacier 

More adventures to come I hope, and lethargy!

The Bad, the Good and the Don’t Understand

‘The Bad’: When I first started this, it felt so good. It was almost balmy at 6°C after -2°C for a wee while, down to 3 layers and beard not freezing. But it just hasn’t been so fine for the last few weeks and it’s been blowing a hooley for the last few days with storms Gertrude & Henry making themselves known and keeping me off the roads with violent winds. I missed the one quiet day in the middle as I’ve been doing the intros & lighting for our local pantomime, ‘Beauty and the Beast’. De-rigging the lights happened on the same day as the calm so ah well!

Beauty & the Beast ELDG Panto

Lighting the Pantomime Dame

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Doing my bit of introduction

Freezing weather with dicy roads, ice, snow, gravel, melt water, mud etc. I think you’ll get the idea.

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Roads a bit uneven!!!

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Snowy hills to be skied up later, roads damp here but not icy

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The Ninja outfit

New brake blocks first, pedal bearing collapsed, back wheel bearings went, replaced chain but one of the rivets came adrift and the chain plate bent back on itself causing a sudden halt but all is sort of back to peace and serenity again. Colin of Belhaven Bikes was superb, went into the shop to see about getting the wheel bearings replaced and he did it just about on the spot, brilliant service. The rest I did myself.

‘The Good’ is I have very much enjoyed my rides recently despite the conditions plus the snow allowed me to get out on skis locally for a couple of hours up in the hills.

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Skiing up – conditions better than it looks

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Wonderful stuff snow.

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Looking towards home, variable under ski

Even this wasn’t without a wee bit of grief though. First of all my collapsible poles decided to collapse when they shouldn’t (new ones have now arrived), then one of the skins on the skis used for climbing uphill decided that the glue holding it on to the ski was a bit old and parted ways a few times. More curses of an inventive nature. Just as well no one else was on the hill with me!! Had a good run down, though the snow was very variable with deep banks of soft stuff, delightful nevee and some solid ice to make life interesting! It was gorgeous scooting along on the lower stretch in the sun with fabby views and the coos keeping their distance.

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After the gate, tractor tracks

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Ready for gliding down

Now the ‘Don’t Understand’ part. Americans on guns, I just  don’t get it! In Britain we have some of the strictest gun laws in the world. Seems to work on some level as we also have some of the lowest gun crime/ murder rate in the world and the majority of our police are not armed. The majority of murders in the USA according to the FBI are by someone know to the victim. Why does an amendment made in the time of flintlock rifles need to apply to a modern situation? What need does a citizen have of semi automatic or worse weapons? Maybe the right to bear arms should apply only to flintlocks? Though it’s probably way too late for that now. I also don’t understand how the American Rifle Association with only just over 3 million members can seem, from my perspective, to dictate to the whole huge population of the States.IMG_3515

known

Figures from the FBI, looks like you’re more likely to be murdered by family or someone you know.

Now I don’t think I want answers to these thoughts, it’s just a highlight of how different two nations can be. Our UK world history has been pretty horrific at times, but I feel we seem to have a better balance these days on the whole. I have travelled in various places around the world and I must admit the country that gave me the most unease was America.

Just don’t get me started on Trump though!

Enough of philosophising, I maybe should have just kept to the biking?

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Our local river in flood, though not too bad this time

 

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The storms bring good sunsets, but turn 90º and it’s all black clouds

SkiSkins

Skis showing the skins attached to the bottom of the skis for climbing up snow slopes plus the ‘freeheel’ bindings. Very marginal snow conditions here though!

What do you Feel? The First Bit.

OK, yet another ramble in the realm of the senses. This one has been a long time ruminating, wondering and generally meandering through ideas. There are two sides to feeling, the physical and the mental. So, I thought I’d put my thoughts down about the first type.

Cruising well, no aches!!

Cruising well, no aches!!

It’s Spring now officially, so though the temperature is in double figures, how come snow has recently been pelting on the windows? So the sensations of the weather, that soft snow caressing your face or the hail at the other extreme causing agony to any exposed bits. The rain, so different every time. That ‘soft rain’ as the Irish call it, a wee smurr that gently makes contact. Then another contrast, that lashing gale where it feels like sandblasting might be a preferable experience. Even when there’s nothing falling from above, there’s the wind, almost always present here. If there’s dust or sand mixed in then there’s the delight of the perfect exfoliant on your skin. When the wind blows hard behind the sudden warmth of that still bubble of air around you if you’re going downwind at the same speed. On a still clear day there’s the feeling of the sun on your skin, reminding you that your sun screen has not been rubbed in it usually is. So just a few of the feelings we get in our changeable climate. Then there are the internal physical feelings – oh no! Those knees are twinging again, overdoing it, seat too high or low, too far forward or back or just the glorious ageing process? The pain in the shoulders as the 90th mile goes past. That slight pain in my feet, shoes done up too tight, too many socks to combat the cold? Also, the various aches in the legs either top or bottom, that tightness after a hard week, that pain that tells you that a rest day is in order, but worst of all CRAMP – aghghghghg. The one that comes last here is the behind, that bad saddle sore or better, the discovery that chamois cream really does work. Best of all though is the ride where once you have finished you realise you haven’t thought about your body at all, except maybe to delight in the smooth workings of all your bits – yes, it does happen. I’m certain there are masses of things good and bad I have missed out, there is just so much to enjoy and hate about your physical feelings. On a totally different tack, the other day was wildly windy. We had battled upwind to visit a local castle.       Talk turned to Strava segments on the return. So it was hell for leather on the way back, with a final dash hard up our local hill, yoh must be a PR. Alas no, the Garmin had gone nuts. Ah well, I’ll just have to wait for the next gale! The segment was from the railway crossing up to the B1377, never mind.

A Wee Seasonal Vid

On Tuesdays I usually go out with a bunch of mature folk such as myself. A couple of years back (or more) we were riding in the snow on our mountain bikes & I was filming. One of the guys shouted out something like ‘I bet you’ll put this on Youtube with the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies’. So how could I resist?

I filmed it with a Panasonic FZ18 hanging round my neck – interesting one handed shots and all done real time as it were.

A special for you all on this festive season.

Adventure – Thoughts on a Talk.

Soloing Mont Blanc a few years ago

Soloing Mont Blanc quite a few years ago

For the last couple of years I’ve been giving occasional talks to various groups and I’ve committed myself to another soon.
To me I’ve led what seemed to be a fairly normal life, but seeing things through the eyes of others it seems less so.
Previous offerings for talks have been a trip to Nepal, climbing & trekking, and another on ‘Hidden East Lothian’, showing all the odd places, objects, and wildlife in the area that folk normally don’t see or notice.
I was asked to do another one which is coming up soon. So what to talk about – I decided on ‘Adventures’

So, first look up Adventure, how is it defined?
1a : an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks
b : the encountering of risks
2: an exciting or remarkable experience
Origin of ADVENTURE
Middle English aventure, chance, risk, from Anglo-French, from Vulgar Latin *adventura, from Latin adventus, past participle of advenire to arrive, from ad- + venire to come — more at come
First Known Use: 14th century

Ah yes, done a bit of this!

Looking into Tibet from Yala Peak, Nepal

Looking into Tibet from Yala Peak, Nepal

Started early, with my Ma & Pa, trekking over the hills & Youth Hostelling before we were 10. Staying in odd locations around Britain and so on. By the age of 16, I’d been on a few multi day canoe/ camping trips with pals, including a canal trip with a total gale which blew canal boats out of the water, we managed to keep our tent down somehow. I’d also started climbing & mountaineering so used to hitchhike off to the hills. Me and my pals also from an earlier age used to go off on our bikes for the day & set up off road courses on old bomb sites in the city.

So when it came to a career, Outdoor Education was the thing, first as a schoolteacher, then into local authority centres. So adventure just became a normal part of life.

So now, retired I look back and realise that life has been a real adventure,

Singing & playing for the seals after a force 10 gale at sea, just below Loch Coruisk, Skye

Singing & playing for the seals after a force 10 gale at sea, just below Loch Coruisk, Skye

Square Rigger, Inca - The Clipper Challange 1982

Square Rigger, Inca – The Clipper Challange 1982

sailing in gales,

Canoeing the Falls on the River Tummel - I'm there somewhere.

Kayaking the Falls on the River Tummel – I’m in there somewhere.

The Grade III falls at Gradtully

The Grade III falls at Gradtully

white water, sea and loch canoeing trips,

Wandering up the Concordia Glacier in the Alps, this was a rock bridge over a deep crevasse

Wandering up the Concordia Glacier in the Alps, this was a rock bridge over a deep crevasse

Ski Mountaineering Scottish Highlands

Ski Mountaineering Scottish Highlands

Winter solo canoe camping & mountaineering

Winter solo canoe camping & mountaineering

mountaineering (summer, winter, on ski & foot), climbing, glacier wanders, bivvying on the ice,

Cyclist's road hazard on Mull, Scotland - a highland 'coo'

Cyclist’s road hazard on Mull, Scotland – a highland ‘coo’

cycle trips,

Cheatah

stroking cheatahs and so on. All not at a super high level, but generally just getting out into the wilds.

Now, as I get a wee bitty older, I maybe should slow down, but to hell with that. For my 60th I did a solo road trip round California and Nevada, sleeping in the car or woods,

Climbing in Yosemite, a few hundred feet up

Climbing in Yosemite, a few hundred feet up

climbing and rafting at Yosemite, skiing down the Palisades at Lake Tahoe & meeting many interesting folk.
Six years later, I’ve cycled more than ever over the last year and am hoping to do a few ski trips into the Scottish hills this winter and the rivers are up and calling.

So where did all this thirst for adventure come from? Well both grandads were in the Merchant Navy wandering all over the world. One of them was part of an Arctic expedition to the then relatively unknown Kara Sea.

My Grandad on the Kara Sea expedition, very early 1920s

My Grandad on the Kara Sea expedition, very early 1920s

As I said my mum & dad were into cycling & youth hostelling in a big way in their youth, so some of this has rubbed off too I reckon.
So for the next 66 years – well, life’s just an adventure isn’t it?

What Do You See?

A wet, chilly miserable day near Kinross

A wet, chilly miserable day near Kinross

My rides vary as we have such different terrain here. Keep to the coastal strip and the ground is undulating, though still with a few sharp hills. Head south and you climb up to the moorland with a lot of steep hills and ascents.

Just a wee local hill

Just a wee local hill – Lothian Edge behind

Then there’s the weather, varies daily from thick haar (smist) floating in from the North Sea, sunshine, gales, calm, clouds, rain, hail, snow – we do have a somewhat variable climate.

There’s also who you are cycling with, solo, with a bunch of friends (coffee stop mandatory), with the ‘Young Thrusters’ wheeling along at a pace that sends my heart rate into orbit.

A flock of swans in a local field with the LAmmermuir hills behind

A flock of swans in a local field with the LAmmermuir hills behind

So, do you keep your head down, do you sit up and look around or just mix and match? I’m usually the latter, my cycling aim is enjoyment, but sometimes that might be the fun of testing myself or screaming down one of our fantastic descents. Other times it’s with a bunch of cycling pals, riding beside each other & chewing the fat, gossiping or discussing the meaning of life. Some times I stop to look at a sunset, what’s scurrying in the hedge row, or watch an adder snaking across the road. Or at times I dangle the camera from my neck and go deliberately to look, photograph or film.

Riding back home, crunchty, crunchety.

Riding back home, crunchty, crunchety.

Some of the places I’ve cycled have been just amazing, especially one’s just around the corner if you don’t take them for granted.

So do you hang over the handlebars, watching the bike a few centimetres in front, do you hang loose or are you just a mixture like me?

Just a couple of miles from our village

Just a couple of miles from our village

A dramatic local castle above the sea

A dramatic local castle above the sea

Mid ride rest beside the loch

Mid ride rest beside the loch