Sunday, 19 July 2015

An Cliseam

An Cliseam (Clisham)  (2,261ft)
Simon was delighted at the thought of running up Clisham...

Some hills I have a love-hate relationship with. With An Cliseam (Clisham) I can truthfully say that it is a hate-hate relationship. This Corbett sized lump of boulder strewn, steep, sopping wet tussocky bog has left me not just defeated but cold, wet, tired, lost, bruised AND defeated several times over the years and in all my visits to the summit I have never once seen the view as the hill is always shrouded in a thick claggy mist and more often than not is accompanied by a howling gale and horizontal rain. My last attempt was the Clisham hill race last year where soaking wet I was clinging pathetically to the summit cairn looking for some sympathy from the marshall. I finished a very convincing last of the 8 competitors who towed the start line but one was a DNF (so technically I wasn’t last was I?). A similar attempt at this hill was during the Heb Challenge nearly 10 years ago when one of the stages was again a blast up and down the hill straight from the road and yes, you’ve guessed it, this run was done in thick mist and rain with me desperately trying to keep up with faster team members. I think I can see a pattern developing…

Going up...
and up...
Almost there...
It was forecast to be the hottest day of the year, a heat wave was hitting south east England-shire and people were expiring in the 35 deg + heat. On the isle of Harris it might have scraped just past 20 degrees. It was dry and the summits were clear however it didn’t seem to be any less wet and boggy underfoot as we set out from the road taking a direct route to the top. We didn’t seem to be climbing for long before we were at the top taking in the panorama before us. The views stretched across the islands and to the hills of the mainland and the landscape seemed a lot greener than I could remember it with the lochs and the sea sparkling blue in the sunshine. For such a stunning day in the middle of the holiday season I was amazed that we had the hill to ourselves, our car was the only car in the car park when we set off. The lack of people everywhere is definitely one aspect on these islands that I find so appealing and keeps drawing me back. I bet on the same day the “tourist path” on Ben Nevis would closely resemble Sauchiehall street.

Looking across the hills of Harris to the west of Clisham
The view to the south and the road to Tarbert going past the old whaling station
Trotting along the ridge
We picked our way along the ridge watching out for mountain hares that darted manically past every so often and two of the most gigantic bumble bees that I have ever seen before we slowly descended through the boulders while trying not to slide over in the bogs. Well I slowly descended while Simon skipped on merrily ahead like a mountain goat. A very smug mountain goat.

A wee bivvy
The view to the east
Looking north towards Lewis

As the terrain became flatter it also became more boggy so despite the warm dry day we were actually fairly wet and muddy by the time we got back to the car. This really isn’t my favourite type of running terrain and I managed to sustain a large graze on my leg as I somehow dislodged a boulder but I did feel somewhat vindicated when Simon actually agreed that it was quite tricky terrain – and he’s a pretty good hill runner particularly on the descents which are not exactly where my strengths lie. The clear conditions meant that for the first time I had a chance to look at and study routes up the other hills surrounding Clisham and there seem to be plenty of opportunities for some more adventures here in this real wilderness….watch this space….obviously the terrain and the very high odds of wet misty conditions are not quite enough to put me off....
A slog through the bog
And a quick dip!
Reward for the run!
Clouds gathering over Clisham

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