Yesterday was a wake-up call as to the capabilities of both myself and The Fatdog.
We’d had great success having completed 3 (very) easy hills in 8 days. On what was day 12, we had a somewhat stiffer challenge. With the starting temperature at a frosty -4C we set off from Castle Campbell, above Dollar, in the direction of King’s Seat Hill. Originally called Castle Glume (early 15C), it was passed through marriage to Colin Campbell, 1st Earl of Argyll in the late 15C when it was given the name Castle Campbell. 200 years later the Campbells gave up on the place and did a flit to the Argyll Lodgings just outside Stirling Castle. This impressive tower house sits just few metres upstream of the confluence of the turbulent burns – “Care” and “Sorrow”.
The Ochils are a good testing ground with most ascents beginning within 100m of sea level and rising quickly to over 600m in a couple of kilometres. This was a stage up in difficulty compared with what we’d been doing in the past couple of weeks. We were tested…and we were found wanting!
After a couple of weeks on forestry tracks and a kilometre or so on easy open hill this was Everest by comparison. From the car park we followed well made paths and plummeted 30+ metres into the gorge of “Sorrow”, then stepped steeply back out of the 30+ metres of chasm onto the open hill.
Below – our first stop, Bank Hill (left) with King’s Seat Hill our next target (right)
The hamstrings were hating it…especially the stepping up part. I had to slow dramatically just to keep the legs working. But work they did…and reasonably well once I nailed the required slow pace and the gradient of the hill eased. While we were, for the moment, in sunshine the Forth Valley was in the grip of fog and frost.
The walk was going relatively well until the breeze picked up and our starting temperature of -4C dropped a further few degrees with the wind chill. As we neared the overhead cloud layer the strength of the sun diminished and I pulled on what was my 4th layer…and I still wasn’t heating up properly! We plodded on.
FD was becoming increasingly unhappy. There was a lot of what sounded like gunfire drifting up from somewhere on the lowlands below. She didn’t stop – but the tail was down.
I didn’t remember this spitfire memorial plaque from my earlier visits to this hill. It wasn’t until I was editing the photo that I realised there was something ‘orrible lurking “within”.
We could only have been 200m from the summit when Maisie decided she had had enough of the cold, biting, wind. She wandered off the track and lay down in the longer grass. This is her way of saying “Enough!” The Fatdog’s ascent was over…and so was mine. Worse was to come.
I found what should have been an easy descent hard work.
The hamstrings were so tight that I couldn’t absorb the shock of continually stepping down. My right knee was causing a problem as was a recurring niggle with the ball of my right foot. The person who lurched down that hill was like a 90 year old hunched over granny with walking sticks attempting to get off a moving bus. The descent might possibly have been slower than the ascent.
As we finally climbed back out of the gorge below Castle Campbell I concluded that both our limitations were much greater than I had suspected. We’d tried but there was a sense of the inevitable about it. It was time to focus on what could be done…and leave “Care and “Sorrow” firmly behind.