Bright ideas during COVID

Sub 2000s: Cairnpapple Hill

Date walked: 09/10/2020

Approached via a classic Northern aspect, the fine slopes of Eastcraigs Hill rise above the surrounding land of former mines and industry. This hill gives the intrepid walker the opportunity of following in the footsteps of the Schmid brothers, Heckmair, Vörg, Harder and Kasparek, in tackling the great north faces of Europe. A Girdwood which following a challenging ascent across mixed terrain, presents sweeping views across the central belt of Scotland. Rolling hills and big skies rise above the street lights and pin pricks of window light which mark out the former mining and industrial towns of West Lothian and South Lanarkshire.

East Craigs Hill.jpg
Eastcraigs Hill

At this point I should likely address a “Girdwood”, a strange unfamiliar name for most never mind in reference to a small hillock with views across West Lothian. Arising in the remoteness of Sutherland on the 1st of this year, amongst friends dear, 2020 held such promise. So it was to be at first; the purchase of a first home, a once in a lifetime trip to windswept Faroe Islands. Then just as Enniberg rises vertical from the sea to block the waves of the Atlantic on Viðoy so the creeping arms of COVID-19 enveloped and shut off normal life.

To quote John Marsden:

“I’m a person of the mountains and the open paddocks and the big empty sky, that’s me, and I knew if I spent too long away from all that I’d die; I don’t know what of, I just knew I’d die.”

COVID posed a challenge, and efforts to shatter the bonds of monotony have proved diverse, and often debatably sane. From attempts at poetry under lockdown, to carrying a mountain bike up Ben Avon from the Sneck, all sorts of bright ideas have sprung to mind with varying degrees of success.

The “Girdwoods”* are the latest in these bouts of COVID induced silliness. An idea which grew from an offhand comment from a Mr Grumpy Boyne amongst the chaos of a group chat following Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement of restrictions for residents of the Lothians, his idea leading a brilliant but silly plan. 47 hills within the boundaries of NHS Lothian, theoretically with a height of at least 500ft and prominence of 150ft.

However, as with the best of half conceived ideas, the rules for this new category of hills were so perspective and bizarre that even dear old Hugh Munro may have been caused to scoff. But ignoring such worries - and the remonstrations of those with GIS knowledge keen to highlight gaps and errors in the list of 47 - so the challenge was agreed. From 6pm on Friday 9th October, all those intrepid and frustrated baggers taking part had but 14 days to conquer these 47 peaks.

The Girdwoods.PNG
The Girdwoods

Such circumstances found me atop Eastcraigs Hill under the light of the setting sun at just after 6pm, admiring the beauty whilst chuckling at the silliness of our collective bagging-based madness.

But the North Face of Eastcraigs was not to be my only ascent that evening. Cairnpapple, Cockleroi(roy) and Airngarth were quickly to follow as I ticked off my first four hills on this self-named list.

Cairnpapple - In ascending Cairnpapple Hill one’s feet tred in steps left by ancestors long past. A mysterious summit which draws souls to it just as it did thousands of years afore as Neolithic man first climbed a top this 1024ft summit to build a henge the purpose of which draws the mind to ancient rituals, sacrifices and mysticism. A Girdwood best ascended in the twilight of autumn, when orange light envelopes the horizon, and the whisper of wind between Neolithic henge stones and bronze age burials stoke the baggers inner connection to the land over which they stride

Cairnpapple Hill

A short distance from this Neolithic centre of life, lied the next of the evening’s Girdwoods.

Cockleroi - In a land of Brythonic names this fine hill's name is less clear and may lie in the Goidelic tongue of Gaelic. Just as the Tower of Ecthelion rises high above Minas Anor, so does the proud ridge of Cochull-ruadh rise above the fair borough of Linlithgow. A Girdwood that glitters amongst the rolling hills of the central belt, the profile of this hill will have graced the vista of many a bagger from the window of their steed as they return home east along the M9 after a weekend abroad amongst the Highland glens.

Cockleroi Hill

Somewhat further to the base of the next bag, along darkening roads that weaved across rolling hills, and through forest of thinning trees, there branches bereft by the coming of winter’s icy grasp. Taking the narrow road to park for a slight hill of Airngarth.

Airngarth - Death divides but memory clings, as Cairnpapple marked the lives of Neolithic man, Airngarth marks the life of Brig Gen Hope. This Girdwood presents a bagger a rare opportunity to battle a less familiar foe. On far off Highland hills, the Laird's Ghillie was formally the nemesis of the Hillwalker. Yet on Airngarth the bagger must set their courage and pit themself against a less recognizable foe. That strange beast that askews a walk for the mere pleasure of admiring the beautiful world below, and instead follows a strange white ball across the hill pausing only to move it closer to their goal through the illogical means of a bat.

Airngarth Hill

4 down only 43 to go.

Non, je ne regrette rien

The above may not be quite true of my Girdwood bagging experiences on the 57th Anniversary of Edith Piaf's death (more commonly known as the 10th October). Today's rather humble target was the Five Sisters Bing, a rather benign sounding thing, just one of the many sites across where West Lothian where nature is making a concerted effort to reclaim the land from its in industrial past of shale mining.

My rather low expectations were rather surpassed however, wide open views across West Lothian it was a stunning summit to ascend. Standing atop this fine monument to man's effort to reshape this world I looked down to see the Mr Grumpy who first proposed this idea, along with the Nun, another old friend, and Mr Grumpy's significantly better other half. It seems this game has got rather out of hand with the aforementioned having just summited Auchinoon Hill, and decided the day was ripe for more bagging. Meanwhile messages came in from durham94 fresh back from his efforts on the Cape Wrath Trail, and now desperately scouring East Lothian for a way up Skid Hill. A silly little idea may be going too far.

Anyway, back to Five Sister's Bing, to paraphrase Pete Postlethwaite in Brassed Off - certainly a much more likeable appearance than as Sgt. Obadiah Hakeswill:

"If this lot were Munros or Corbetts, you'd all be up in bloody crowds. But they're not, are they, no, no they're not. They're just ordinary common-or-garden honest, decent mining bings"

Five Sisters Bing.jpg
Five Sisters Bing

Author's Note: In the aid of transparency in this time of a complete lack of it politically...it must be noted that to reach the highest bing, the author did have to fight their way through gorse, with cow pats making tricky terrain below, it was at this point that I could no longer merrily sign along with Miss Piaf. Yet as with any true mountain day this final barrier should be considered as a challenge only to encourage the enthusiastic bagger's desire to claim this oft forgotten gem.


Beans Means Heinz

Setting up for another day of the sense unknown that Girdwood bagging presents - one friend had been "unable to find that hill" yesterday - it was only fitting to celebrate the 176th anniversary (11th October) of Henry J. Heinz with a hearty plate of beans.

On the face of it Warklaw would appear a rather insignificant bump on the edge of the Pentlands, however, it seems it's past was rather more fiery. The Starfish Decoys were seemingly a successful endeavour to divert the German bombers, with other sites across Edinburgh. Since then the most notable achievement of Warklaw may lie in its mere survival. The step walls of Torphin Quarry can be glimpsed on the walk in, with the sheer precipses metres from the summit.

Warklaw's View of the Pentlands

The third day of this silly little challenge had started to reveal the challenges presented by a series of hills which are low down on the list of most walkers. Struggles to find hills, barbed fences, and controlled moorland burns among just a few of the highlights of the day amongst the mad little group pursuing this endeavour.

6 down 31 to go


No Running
No running.gif
Don't run

I run because someday soon a Navy PTI, bigger and louder than me is going to shout at me as I drag myself round a football pitch for a mile and half. Cross-country at school was horrific, but I had just started to enjoy running, particularly the trail variety. Deciding to test this new found enjoyment running up Dalmahoy was an error. The sunset at least made up for this fundamental error in judgement (my second of late, the first being to doing this daft thing). I then plodded my way back down in the closing dark, slipping on mud and soaking my feet. Don't run.


Nine Simple Rules for Bagging the Girdwoods

1. A Girdwood is a summit within NHS Lothian with a height of at least 500ft and prominence of 150ft, as per PeakVisor.
2. Bagging begins at 6pm Friday 9th October 2020. You should not start the walk till 6pm.
3. Bagging finishes Sunday 25th October 2020 (Deadline to be reviewed in light of any change in COVID restrictions).
4. No previously bagged summit may be claimed.
5. Any round completion should be celebrated with a bowl of port on the final summit. Port bowl must be filled at the beginning of final bagging walk, i.e. full bowl should be carried for entirity of walk. A lack of port bowl (ribena if avoiding alcohol) invalidates a bagged sumit and it must be reascended. Possibly a rather in joke only understandable to EUHWC Members of 2012-2017
6. Recognising the restrictions on public transport all summits claimed should be marked with method of accessing beginning of walk. F - foot, B - bike, C - Car. This is to allow fair comparison for those without transport.
7. Peaks and prominence based on PeakVisor. Blame them not us.
8. Prominence basis - see PeakVisor Prominence
9. All arguments as to heights, prominence or validity of summits should be saved until beside a fire over beer in a cosy pub when these things return.

* Name suggestion not my own...

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Comments: 6


Activity: Hill Bagger

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