Pah! And pah again!
Stronend is another of the Fintry area hills I’ve put off until now. No particular reason other than other hills have always made themselves seem more preferable. Anyway, I read Jack GM4COX’s route, loaded it into the GPS, packed the car and headed off.
Parking is at the Culreuch Castle Hotel in Fintry. As I drove up towards Fintry the amount of snow started to build up on the sides of the road. Now last weekend we had another huge dump of 6in of snow which was why I didn’t get out on the hills. It was nasty wet stuff not the nice dry fluffy snow. Anyway it’s sat on all the fields and not moved but has consolidated a lot around here especially after the cold nights we’ve had. Well Fintry way looks like it’s had two or three times as much snow. Gulp! Anyway I wasn’t sure which of the roads to take out of the hotel car park so I asked at reception. The correct route is marked Culreuch Farm (Private). Also the hotel has no problem with walkers parking at the far end of the car park out of the way of the customers.
I set off up the road to the farm and there was lots of melt water and significant chunks of ice where vehicles had squashed the snow. The track runs very close to the farmhouse and all the sheepdogs started barking. As I continued around a big tractor the farmer appeared. “I’m sorry I’ve disturbed your dogs and is this the way up Stronend?” The farmer was a very friendly and also had no problems with walkers which is nice to know though his parting words were “Stronend? There’s a huge amount of snow up there!”
I continued up the track. The snow was very soft so your feet just sank in or you could walk in the torrent of melt water running down making the ground soft and muddy. It was hard work but you climb quickly. The WX was very heavy grey skies and a bit murky but it was threatening to burn off and turn into a nice day. I continued to the end of the path shown on the map and things were getting hard now. The snow depth was increasing all the time and it was wet and heavy. Every step was a sinker up to the knee! Still I battled on towards high ground and a fence. Even trying to hop on the bits of greenery sticking through was hard work as the ground was so uneven you may find you had 3in of snow and then 2ft.
Jack’s route stresses getting to the right place for the path through the crags to the plateau. The problem being the crags are impressive. I’m sure on a nice dry day it’s nothing more than a wee bit of a scramble. The problem today was that I was achieving about 1/4 of my normal speed and there was a full metric shedload of snow on the crags complete with cornices and signs of where it had slipped in the past. I struggled on further but was rapidly coming to the conclusion that the crags were becoming ( as we don’t have problems just opportunities) and insurmountable opportunity!
The problem was that the snow was so sloppy crampons would be little help and with there being so much snow it was hard to know just what the correct route was. When you look at this kind of terrain you can normally pick out a likely route and you tend to find boot prints etc. to confirm others have been this way. Today that was a non-starter as a lot of the crags were under snow and you couldn’t tell what was really underneath. I stood there having a breather looking at the crags and looking South. To the South the grey was breaking up and lovely blue sky was appearing.
Whumpffff! I turned round to see the cornice from the top of one of the crags had broken off and fallen down the crags. Probably not enough to call an avalanche but enough to convince me that climbing on the crags was not a sensible plan. It was suprising loud considering I was over 1/2km from the crags proper. So I about faced, announced my cancellation on SOTAwatch and walked back out where I met the farmer. “Too much snow” I said. “Thought so” said the farmer. Back to car, boots off and home. My drive back was across the Campsie Fells and it was now a belter of a Spring day, 10C, bright sun, blue sky and in the valley, daffodils and croci were pushing through. There was some proper snow ploughed to the sides of the road over the top and in the sun Meikle Bin looked staggering for such a wee hill. Of course there was nowhere to stop and take a photo. Pah again!
So this is the 1st time I’ve had to turn back on a walk. I’ve had occasions when the hill was out of bounds due to stalking, or I’ve turned back because the WX has gone nasty. But this is the 1st one where I didn’t feel safe going much further. So I had a bit of a walk, heard a woodpecker, saw an ENORMOUS buzzard and saw Meikle Bin looking like it should be in the Alps. So not a complete failure.