AFTER November’s rain and gloom, it was a welcome change to have cold, frosty weather in the first week of December, writes David Carnduff.
The sixth of the month — a Sunday — was a gem of a day: clear, frosty and invigorating, with winter colours at their most intense.
Energised by the rare appearance of the sun, I drove to the Greenock Cut Centre, Loch Thom, with the aim of climbing Dunrod Hill.
Standing at just under 1,000 feet, Dunrod is a mere molehill compared to Scotland’s Munros (hills of 3,000 feet and over) but the short, sharp climb sets the heart racing and the lungs working hard.
It’s a walk I have done innumerable times before, but the feeling of elation when you reach the summit and see the amazing view never fails to lift the spirit.
The 360-degree panorama takes in Arran and Holy Isle, Bute, Kintyre, and Cowal, the Arrochar Alps, Ben Lomond and the central lowlands stretching away to the Pentland Hills to the south of Edinburgh.
As I stood marvelling at the view on that still, crisp morning, I was struck by another aspect — total silence. In today’s world, silence seems in short supply, but it’s there if you search for it.
There was a time, of course, when you could stand on Dunrod and hear, albeit distantly, the sound of industry ringing out from the shipyards: the clang of metal, the rumble of machinery and sirens proclaiming shift changes or the end of the working day.
The sound of men at work, keels being laid and hulls riveted was accepted as part of Greenock and Port Glasgow’s DNA and, after a week’s graft, I am sure many yard workers would have sought solitude among these hills and moors.
I am also sure that Hamish MacInnes, the world-renowned climber, explorer, adventurer and author who died in November aged 90, would have known the Renfrewshire uplands in his young days.
The MacInnes family moved to Greenock from Gatehouse of Fleet when Hamish was 14, the year he started climbing.
One national newspaper’s obituary described how his father ran a shop in the town, but Hamish found Greenock claustrophobic. One day he watched a neighbour loading a motorbike with climbing gear and asked to join him.
His first climb was on the Cobbler above Arrochar, a challenging enough summit for any aspiring mountain man, but greater achievements lay ahead as he made pioneering climbs in Scotland and around the world, including the ascent of Everest’s south west face in 1975 with Chris Bonnington.
Meanwhile, many folk have had their own personal “Everests” to climb during this difficult year of the pandemic.
Scotland’s deputy chief medical officer, Dr Nicola Steedman, used a mountain metaphor during a televised briefing on covid-19 to offer some optimism for the New Year, especially with the start of the vaccines roll-out.
She quoted Dr Martin Luther King’s inspirational words which are written on his memorial in Washington: “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”
Whatever horizons you pursue in 2021, and whatever heights you aspire to, keep safe and well. Happy New Year to all.