Monday, 27 June 2011

chasing the sun

We have a bit of a boring propensity to talk about the weather in these parts but hang in there for just a minute. This year has proven more of a conversation piece than usual. There is drought in the South East of England while up here we enjoyed 250% of the average rainfall in May. The most since records began in 1910. And no doubt June will look pretty similar. The solstice has already past and we've yet to complete a ride without the aid of a gilet, arm warmers, rain-jacket or some combo of the three. It’s enough to bring on the Celtic melancholy.

So with more rain forecast in the city at the weekend, cyclesguff set off in search of some sun. We have a favoured route that takes us out of Abington to Crawfordjohn then south and returning through the Mennock Pass with a spicy detour to the top of Lowther Hill. We escaped a rainy Glasgow and sped south on a promise of much anticipated sun. Not even road works at Happendon could dent our spirits, though the delay did mean we had to take more time for a bite to eat.

Finally on our way the run into Crawfordjohn is a road of delights. Rolling, traffic free and good quality surface though we were conscious of a gathering headwind. The road south proved more of a challenge with turns shared at the front to protect against the southerly blast. Our teeth to the wind in marked contrast to our usual fast run to the turn at Sanqhuar.
Beyond Mennock comes the delight of one of the longest climbs in Scotland. At 9 miles with 6 to Wanlockhead and 3 more on Lowther Hill it is the closest we've got to those European mountain climbs. The Mennock Pass never rests on a consistent gradient as it gains 300m to Wanlockhead. 

You may remember that we set off in search of some sun and still out of luck we took the turn to Lowther Hill. The sun wasn't up there either.

It is a private road to the radar station and we were left in little doubt of this fact. A barrier with extensions to the sides is an attempt to minimise any possibility of getting past. Luckily we have skinny tyres so we slipped through and found 10, yes 10 padlocks on the barrier. No we don’t understand either, other than maybe there was a problem in the past with crafty lock-picking joy-riders. In the next 3 miles there is 300m to gain as the road snakes south then switches back and up in 10-13% ramps.

The Low cloud swathed us in an eerie cocoon of mist and obscured the golf ball of the radar on the summit. It wasn't too cold but with no view to speak of we were not for hanging round. Wrapped in extra layers and with only minimal visibility we made a slippery descent to the main road before picking up pace through Leadhills. For a change we took a left off the B797 signposted for Crawfordjohn. From the road below, the climb looks quite intimidating but it is no more than a few hundred metres and then you can just about freewheel to Crawfordjohn. On the top there was the chance to enjoy some hilly rolling scenery before the final turns to Abington and a total of 74km (46miles) with 1050m ascent.
Even without the elusive sun we declared ourselves satisfied with a challenging away day and licked our lips at the prospect of more.

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