Garloch Hill - 543m
Earl's Seat - 578m
Sunday 29th June 2008
Weather/Conditions: A warm cumulus-and-sun day initially. Everything north of Loch Lomond looked gloomy but it was pretty nice over the Campsies. A strong wind throughout, more so in the plateau but by Garloch Hill the rain had come on and it was blowing one hell of a gale. Some mist came down over the plateau but it had brightened up by the time I was in Strathblane.
I left the house at 2.55 and was in the usual starting spot in Strathblane - the monument - at 3.20pm. Today was one of my later starts but I'd been feeling a bit rubbish in the morning I may as well get out instead of sitting about and feeling like crap. By the time I was walking down the private road to Dumgoyne, I was feeling superb and so it was an improvement on earlier. I'd do Dumgoyne, maybe go onto Dumfoyn but at this stage I didn't feel I had it in me mentally climbing much.
I turned off the private road to Dumgoyne and walked up the same indistinct path, crossing the same river and past Dumfoyn as ever - 5th time in fact. It was quick to get to the bottom of Dumgoynes last steep sections and although there was a pretty brisk wind coming toward me, the day was otherwise pretty warm with sun out and a lot of green. I smelled a lot of evocative smells off plants reminding me of last summers walks - that same stuffy humid smell that goes along with a pounding sun. Well, today was windy but it felt similar. After all, we were in the height of summer now.
I was pretty easy to get up Dumgoyne and I was certainly feeling strong. I'd put on my 4 season boots as I'd expected the grasses to be sodden with water (we'd had a lot of rain over the last few days) but it was pretty dry and as I'd forgotten to get extra socks, my heels were rubbing once more. How do you eradicate this? My solution on An Caisteal was to walk with socks but that didn't feel terribly relevant here - it wasn't hurting too much anyhow so I continued onwards as the skin would slowly detach itself - ouch. :)
I was on top of Dumgoyne at 4.15pm. That meant it was 55 minutes to the top which wasn't too bad. However, I left the top and went down and sat above the scree slopes. I had a bite to eat and a few pictures, but left and descended by the scree for the first time in a long time. I didn't feel so conscious of my safety compared to September 2nd of 2007 up here, and maybe it was because I felt more comfortable with my capabilities and limits when going by myself. I certainly had more experience of going alone compared to back in September but I had an easy and sometimes even enjoyable descent. It was an efficient way to get down if nothing else. Maybe a little reckless but who knows? I certainly felt fine.
Garloch Hill and the Ballagan Tops
Instead of going back down to Strathblane so soon I now felt I should go up to Garloch Hill and maybe go to Earl's Seat afterwards. (As you can tell, I eventually did) Last time on Garloch Hill, all I could ever see was a group of jumbled bumps and had no idea where the highest point was or whether I could see it at all. Since then I'd done my research and so when I walked up onto the small cairn of Garloch Hill (4.55pm), I instantly spotted Earl's Seat - a small rise but with a cairn on top. It was a good slog up to that point but I was enjoying myself and now and I wasn't too tired either. Weather was still holding, yet everything north of Loch Lomond looked stuck in gloom and grey.
I left Garloch Hill and continued along the front of the Campsies. Below to my left was Killearn and Balfron and I was heading for the next cairn in sight - on the Ballagan Tops. As I reached the cairn, it began to rain, the sky became greyer, rain spitted down and the wind continued blasting it's way over the top.
Like all the tops along here, they seem to have been named from below. If you look at the Ballagan Tops and Garloch Hill from on the Campsie plateau, you see their true nature - they have a prominence that struggles to exceed 30-40 metres and all seem to have Earl's Seat as their parent peak. From below the Campsies, looking up, they are an impressive sight. They rise steeply from the ground and seem to come to summits but they are instead lesser humps of the higher Earl's Seat. Their gently undulating nature made for some nice walking. As I approached the cairn which was of some substantial size, it turned out it was in fact a massive windbreaker which I sat inside and on went the waterproofs. I ate a bit and phoned home before continuing to Earl's Seat.
Earl's Seat and Descent
I should say now that I didn't actually bring any maps. Then again, I hadn't expected it to rain nor had I expected to be approaching Earl's Seat. The weather was getting a little rubbish but the cloud base was still well above the hills - maybe at about 3000 feet. Blasted by the wind and maybe a bit cold I reached the trig point at 5.25pm. It was then that I turned around to look back where I was going when I discovered that cloud was obscuring Garloch Hill. And Garloch Hill was currently below me! Ahead of me I had a walk along a featureless plateau and without maps I wouldn't be in for a fun time. I can't say I was scared by the prospect, but it had come as a bit of a shock that I maybe shouldn't hang around too much to get to familiar ground in case the cloud did descend further.
I picked up a brisk pace over the clumps of grass working my way over the plateau with the aim of getting to a notch to the west of Slackdhu. If the cloud came down then I could still go in that general direction. Yet for the time walking over the plateau, I was clear of fog and the descent back wasn't too bad. I followed the fence down beside Dumfoyn and met the Dumgoyne path back. That took me down past the trees to the private road. In the end I had a few blisters but they were never excruciating enough so all was fine - I'll just need to work out how to stop them coming.
However, it was another 20 or so minutes on the private road and I was back at the Strathblane memorial by 6.45pm. It had even brightened up a bit on the walk back and some sun was back out. The day became a bit more of an adventure than I had planned but was was well and I enjoyed myself - even the quiet exhilaration of the knowledge of not having any maps or GPS. It was a good walk to get back into the way of things and even with the absence of June walks, I managed to cover 14 kilometres and 650 metres of ascent in just 3 and a half hours. Not too bad.