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Stravaiging by night in the dark heart of the Ochils

Stravaiging by night in the dark heart of the Ochils


Postby Graeme D » Fri Mar 16, 2012 11:33 pm

Donalds included on this walk: Innerdownie, Tarmangie Hill

Date walked: 13/03/2012

Time taken: 4.3 hours

Distance: 15.8 km

Ascent: 718m

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With the Kintail meet fast approaching at the end of the month, I needed to get out to get my hill fitness up to speed. The problem was that the last few weeks had been hectic with one thing and another, and opportunities had been limited. I had not been out for a "real" walk since doing Meal na Letter and Monamenach on the 21st of January - nearly two months ago! Myself and a couple of colleagues are also scheduled to do a WGL Assessment at the end of April as we now require National Governing Body awards to lead Duke of Edinburgh groups, so I wanted to brush up on my walking in the hours of darkness techniques. That and the fact that the school had invested in a couple of GPS units for us to play around with and I wanted to put it through its paces.

So, with my wife not working today and therefore me not having to rush home after work to relieve my mother-in-law from childcare duties, or to my parents to relieve them from the same duty, I took the opportunity to head to the Ochils and do something about my paltry Donald count!

I made a sharp exit from the Lubyanka building on Oakbank Road in Perth and was parked at the big roadside parking area alongside Castlehill Reservoir by 4.20pm. To me, this area around Glendevon and the Tormaukin Hotel is the real heart of the Ochil Hills.

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South east along Castlehill reservoir towards the dam wall

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Looking the other way down the reservoir


I was away from the car by 4.30 in the warm glow of the late afternoon springtime sunshine. I chose to head north along the main A823 road and access the hills via the minor road which leads up to the houses at Glenfoot above Glendevon.

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Onto the minor road to Glenfoot - not sure what this grand building across the River Devon is

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Glendevon from near Glenfoot


My first destination was the 611 metre summit of Innerdownie. Ultimately,I intended to head from there across to Whitewisp Hill and then on to Tarmangie Hill. Then I would have options - either continue to King's Seat Hill and then descend down to Castle Campbell near Dollar and back along the Public Right of Way past Glenquey Reservoir towards Glendevon; descend from Tarmangie into the Glen of Sorrow below the steep flanks of King's Seat Hill and pick up the path at Castle Campbell; or return to Whitewisp Hill and descend south east from there towards the path between Castle Campbell and Glenquey Reservoir.

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Start of the steep ascent of Innerdownie


I had read a couple of reports on other sites about routes around these hills so I knew I was in for a lung bursting ascent up the long, steep, tapering ridge of Innerdownie and that is exactly what I got! Good preparation for the ascent up onto the Five Sisters Ridge????

The reward for the steep haul was the views that opened up to reveal a huge swathe of east central Scotland laid out below me. Various bodies of water sprung into view - Glenquey Reservoir immediately down to my left, Castlehill Reservoir beyond the A823, and Loch Leven surrounded by the Lomond Hills and Benarty Hill away to the east. Northwest up Gleneagles towards the hotel and Crieff, gateway to the Highlands. Across to the Forth Valley, Knockhill and the poisonous flares of Grangemouth. And I was absolutely delighted to see Lendrick Hill standing out proud behind me - that most unassuming little hill that I had once nipped up and down in little over an hour and which I had always thought had no character at all. Tonight it stood out proudly, bathed in sunshine and looking like a very fine little hill indeed.

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Glenquey Reservoir and Auchlinsky Hill

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Castlehill Reservoir and Lendrick Hill

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Sun sinking behind Innerdownie

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Innerdownie ascent ridge

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Loch Leven and Benarty Hill beyond Castlehill Reservoir


Not surprisingly for a Tuesday evening, I had the place to myself apart from one fell runner who flew past me in a blur and on a downward trajectory not far from the summit. At about the same time, it suddenly got very chilly and I had to tog up with warm jacket, hat and gloves.

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Back down Innerdownie with the steel giants of Steele's Knowe in the distance

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Lomonds now coming into view


The GPS seemed to be giving me some weird readings in terms of the line it had me on but the altitude readings were spot on with my own readings of the OS map. I took a few shots of the encroaching nightime from the summit before heading for Whitewisp and Tarmangie, but not before spotting a handy looking wee howff just below the summit which afforded total shelter from the stiffening breeze and where I had my dinner of hoisin duck wraps and a chocolate bar!

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Lomonds from Innerdownie summit

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To Steele's Knowe

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Distant Tarmangie Hill


It always seems to me that at this time of year, somewhere midway between the long dark nights of winter and the long light days of summer, walking into the approaching night is a magical and mystical thing. The transistion from day to night just seems to happen in fast forward right before your eyes. And so it was, as I approached Whitewisp Hill, that day just slipped away and suddenly it was unmistakably night.

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North up Gleneagles

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Ahead towards Tarmangie

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Back to Innerdownie

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Innerdownie and Glenquey Reservoir

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Forth Valley from summit of Whitewisp Hill

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Whitewisp summit


I kept the headtorch off at this stage and allowed my eyes to become accustomed to the dark. It was a straightforward tramp over to Tarmangie Hill, with King's Seat Hill looking like a very fine hill across the Glen of Sorrow to my left. However, it also looked like another very steep line of ascent from this side and time was slipping away.

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Darkness descending on Tarmangie


At the summit of Tarmangie Hill, I decided to give King's Seat Hill a miss tonight but did set off in a south westerly direction intending to head down into the Glen Of Sorrow and take the long way home. However, after only a couple of hundred metres, I had a change of heart and decided to take the short option of heading back out over Whitewisp Hill and down to the path from there.

The descent down off Whitewisp Hill was straightforward enough apart from at the very bottom where i encountered the small crags which I had noted on the map but in the dark and in real life they posed a few awkward moments before I found myself safely on the flat and narrow! I tried switching my headtorch off at this stage to see what vision I had but it was as dark as the grave down there in the narrow defile of the Glenquey Burn. It was also at this stage that I realised that I had no spare batteries - just as well the set I had in were still burning strongly and showing no signs of fading fast!

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Back down beside the Glenquey Burn


From here it was a long, straightforward, tiring but highly satisfying headtorch yomp on a good path which then became a good track, along the side of the Glenquey Reservoir and onto the tarmac road beyond the houses at the far end which eventually led back out to the car at the side of Castlehill Reservoir.

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Arriving at Glenquey Reservoir


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Graeme D
 
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Re: Stravaiging by night in the dark heart of the Ochils

Postby Bod » Fri Mar 16, 2012 11:46 pm

Nice one Graeme, just the same area where we were out with groups doing D of E silver training expeditions. Like your view over towards Benarty Hill, we live just over the back of there. See you soon :D :D :D
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Re: Stravaiging by night in the dark heart of the Ochils

Postby laconic surf » Fri Mar 16, 2012 11:48 pm

Planning on doing a variation on this when I make my first visit to Ochils in the next couple of weeks or so.
I love the blues and purples that come out in the photos as the light fades, looks like you had great fun :D
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Re: Stravaiging by night in the dark heart of the Ochils

Postby rockhopper » Sat Mar 17, 2012 12:55 am

Lovely evening's walk Graeme - bet it's good to get back out after such a long break - cheers :D
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Re: Stravaiging by night in the dark heart of the Ochils

Postby pollyh33 » Sat Mar 17, 2012 1:33 am

Graeme,

I love reports like this. :clap: Beautiful photos, cracking narrative and no feeling of impending death whatsoever!!! Cannae be from Kintail then!!!! :lol: :lol: :lol:


See you soon Mr D :wink:
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Re: Stravaiging by night in the dark heart of the Ochils

Postby ChrisW » Sat Mar 17, 2012 5:55 am

A fascinating read as always Graeme with lovely photos to help bring it to life, I can't believe there wasn't at least one spooky moment :shock: out there......all alone......in the dark :lol:
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Re: Stravaiging by night in the dark heart of the Ochils

Postby SMRussell » Sat Mar 17, 2012 10:05 am

Haven't been out since January :shock:

Getting some practice in the dark on little hills is a grand idea. I've tried to get my other half open to the idea of long hikes where some walking in the dark would be involved... don't think he's too keen.

Oh and the property by the river is a restored Victorian shooting lodge that's now being run as self catering accommodation
http://www.glentowerhouse.co.uk/
:D
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Re: Stravaiging by night in the dark heart of the Ochils

Postby RicKamila » Sat Mar 17, 2012 12:54 pm

As much as I love being in the middle of nowhere, theres just something special about being up high with the lights of the city shimmering away in the distance.

Great report, liked this one a lot :thumbup:
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Re: Stravaiging by night in the dark heart of the Ochils

Postby monty » Sat Mar 17, 2012 1:16 pm

Nice set of Photos G. Been in the ochils many times but not on these hills. Spotted those little unobtrusive crags on the map but I am sure they were a bit daunting in the dark :D Good to see you fitting a walk in in prep for Kintail. :D
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Re: Stravaiging by night in the dark heart of the Ochils

Postby jonny616 » Sun Mar 18, 2012 1:30 pm

Good read & lovely photo's. Only had one foray into the Ochils so far. must go from this side sometime.
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Re: Stravaiging by night in the dark heart of the Ochils

Postby Graeme D » Mon Mar 19, 2012 10:02 am

Thanks guys and gals! 8)
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Re: Stravaiging by night in the dark heart of the Ochils

Postby kiltedbiggles » Sun Mar 25, 2012 12:01 pm

Great walk report Graeme

My Mum is dragging me up Innerdownie this afternoon, your route seems the way to go!!

Will make sure to hi to you in Kintail next weekend

Cheers
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Re: Stravaiging by night in the dark heart of the Ochils

Postby alfie » Sun Mar 25, 2012 5:43 pm

great report with amazing pics!i am all over the ochils as often as possible!i can see them from my living room!and for years av been a postie in dollar ,muckhart and glendevon!never been up in the dark before but you have just inspired me to do so!!thanks :D
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Re: Stravaiging by night in the dark heart of the Ochils

Postby 2dalmatians » Sun Mar 25, 2012 6:32 pm

Great report there Graeme. Love the late day/early evening pics. I am up in the ochills every week to keep my fitness going - mainly Dumyat though I have walked most of the others - except innerdownie which was on my route when I did Tarmangie but left out due to zero visibility on the day. Dumyat was my first night walk (only a few weeks ago). All was going well until I crossed the brow of a hill and about a dozen pairs of red eyes stared back reflected in my head torch. Scared the s#*% out of both me and Ruby. Looked like we had interrupted a black magic coven!! The flock of sheep didn't seem bothered one way or the other :lol: :lol:
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