Dumgoyne - 427m
Garloch Hill (top) - 543m
Earl's Seat - 578m

Sunday 10th January 2010

Weather/Conditions: Sunny and quite windy up high. Plenty of snow but lying in layers. Witnessed my first ever avalanche which I set off.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 10.3km / 750m / 5h 40m
Accompanying: Ian

A great walk with Ian, who I met through scottishhills.co.uk.

Dumgoyne and Earl's Seat

Having met in Strathblane, we headed up Dumgoyne first and then across to Earl's Seat. It would turn out to be a fine winters day on the Campsie Fells during a spell of cold weather that had already lasted nearly a month. Snow conditions weren't prime but it wasn't a big problem. There were plenty of others out that had broken trail already.

But Dumgoyne was extremely crowded. It was a social hill and a lot of people were out on it's flanks today in the winter sun. And I was delighted to discover that Ian climbed local hills, did Munros, Corbetts, rock climbed, read The Angry Corrie and delved into accounts of Himalayan mountaineering all like myself. I don't think I'd ever met someone that I could draw as many parallels to me. Either people only rock climb, don't read climbing books at all or only climb Munros. It had turned out to be a great day.

Once we'd climbed Dumgoyne, we descended from the windy summit via. the gully on the north slopes. I usually ascend this way, but it was different to climb in the top and emerge at the bottom. Then we headed towards a well beaten track that would take us over Garloch Hill, Bell Craig and the Ballagan Tops to the final destination, Earl's Seat.

It was also busy beyond Garloch Hill, but the snow was deep, and the wind had sculpted fine snow structures and formed wind slab on south facing slopes. We arrived at Earl's Seat without hitch, it being my third time up here, the first time to have good views. They were the most extensive views I'd seen from it's summit. I took a panorama and then we spent five more minutes on top. The Campsie Fells have real quality to them when the snow is down and when the wind blows spindrift about and the sun reflects off icy plateaux, it looks even better.

Descent and Avalanche

On the way back to the car though the real excitement of the day happened. We'd ended up walking out onto deeper snow, that had been deposited by the wind. This is known as wind slab and it's not good to walk onto. I went one step too far out then my foot to dislodged the bank of snow and before I knew what was going on, snow was rushing away between my feet. I heard a hissing sound and looked back as the snow shuffled down the slopes, spilling away like water. It stopped at the bottom, set into it's new form, and all was quiet just as if it hadn't even begun.

It didn't lift me off my feet, it wasn't big enough. But I felt the adrenaline surging and had learnt the reality of avalanches. These are all things I knew, but things I now appreciate much more. They are damn scary for one, and when they come, they'll just begin. No warning, no prompt. I knew the nature of the slopes I was walking onto, but I went anyway. Don't be a fool and do that, the only way to avoid them is to heed the warning signs and steer clear. And they have a life of their own too. That's the creepiest part.

The irony in all this was that we'd discussed a few minutes previously the fact we'd both never seen one in the mountains. But there it was, my first avalanche. Hopefully the second doesn't happen too soon.

But that was the days adventures done. A quick descent alongside Dumgoyne brought us to the distillery slopes and we bum slid/walked back to the car.

360˚ Panorama

Earl's Seat
Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 10.15am Glengoyne Distillery
(1.25) 11.40am Dumgoyne
(2.55) 1.10pm Garloch Hill
(3.45) 2.00pm Earl's Seat
(5.40) 3.55pm Glengoyne Distillery

Written: 2010-01-14-ish