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Landscape by Keith Ratcliffe  
© 2010

Dancing on ice

You don't see many peak baggers on Colsnaur hill, it is only really an eminence on an outlying ridge of high ground in the Ochils but you get a real feeling of being in the High Sierra of Stirlingshire once you arrive at the top.

High Sierra

The ascent starts from Menstrie village by a good track that zig zags its way up the hillside being the original cart track that gave access to the Glen. I eventually leave the track to pull up grassy slopes to the top of Myreton Hill. This top has a cairn overlooking the Hillfoots road and is a good viewpoint for the Forth valley on a clear day. The next section drops down to a col between Myreton & Colsnaur which always seems deeper than it is – losing hard won height that has to be regained on the steeper slopes up the other side. Today this section is enlivened by the presence of several connected snow patches that allow some practise in kicking steps. The snow is quite hard having been through several freeze – thaw cycles and I experiment with smaller & smaller indents to make upward progress. Its great fun and even in my old bendy walking boots I am amazed at how small the step can be to work. With a gentle slope and a good run out it is a great place to play. Eventually the snow gives way to grassy tussocks and a wall & fence appear from the right that accompany me all the way to the top.

The summit has a sprawling cairn with a wooden post stuck in it and a nice little quarry where I got some shelter from a piercing wind and had a snack. The top does have good views into Menstrie Glen which features in the book "Well sheltered & watered". This publication by RCAHMS (Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historic Monuments of Scotland) is a report on an extensive archaeological survey conducted in the Glen to understand its agricultural use in times gone by. The land reveals its past in the network of dykes that are still clearly visible and also in patterns of ridges that are less easy to see and are evidence of previous cultivation. Aerial photographs first provided this subtle marking and to see it live requires a low sun glancing off the hillside but once seen they can be picked out in ordinary conditions. There are ruins also which indicate habitation on both a permanent and seasonal basis - in the c18th this place would have been teeming with activity.

Avalanch debris

I take the descent that heads west from the top to get better views of Menstrie Glen then pick a way down a steeper slope that has more snow patches. More practice in heel kicking descent technique is brought to an abrupt halt when the snow runs out as the ground steepens even more. The reason for the dearth is soon obvious, there has been an avalanche that has cleared the slope to end up as the classic mass of tumbled slabs of snow at the bottom of the slope. I skirt round on better ground to survey the fall from below. It is not recent as the slabs have rounded edges where they have partially thawed but there is quite a lot of it. A face of about 100m wide by 50m high has collapsed and left a sharp edge where it broke away. The break coincides with a distinct increase in slope (The average is probably less than 20 degrees) and a change of underlying terrain from grass to rocky outcrops. It’s a great opportunity to see this first hand but I am glad I wasn’t coming down the slope when it slid. This sobering thought stays with me on the return walk down grassy slopes to meet the track that I had followed on the way up.

© January 2010

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