Typical, weeks of still weather and some of the most glorious days recently but the Circo 2017 managed to get a wet and manky day. Good news though, no wind, or we would have been Les Miserables. Twelve runners and 4 on bikes hopped up and down to keep warm in the carpark as the Leaders Jim Hardie and Mark Hartree arrived promptly – a bit late. The first leg to Portobello followed a tested route. The junk filled railway section near Drum has been cleaned up but we faced an medical emergency when Jim H got a large thorn in his pinky. Amputation was avoided and a plaster put on to stop him trying to gnaw it out with his teeth. The Beach House café in Porty was great but despite booking and sending orders in advance, still slow.
It did stop raining a bit, then started again on the run to Cramond. A couple of guys – Pete and Nick, had joined us, then we lost a Lee and Lucas Lefevre who ducked out on the way to Cramond. Flat tarmac is not my favourite surface and various pains grew so the pub was a welcome stop and a chance to dry off. The bikers left as we arrived and we left not long after for the final longest leg leaving Nicola Dunn and Neil Rutherford at the 20 mile point. Matt Jones and Jeff Roberts joined us here. It was now trying to snow and the paths very wet and slippery on the mud. The wooden steps along the River Almond were fenced off so we ignored the barriers and used them anyway to avoid a detour. A few piccies in the Cammo estate and on past the airport and tram depot to the Gyle. I dropped out here with Sarah Robertson and got a pick-up from Neil Rutherford who had retired at Cramond after having completed The Spine Race a few weeks ago, so was no doubt a bit weary still.
Without Mark and Sarah, the remaining few made their way into the Industrial Estate of the South Gyle. The final stage of the Circo has always been the best – the gradual climb to the Pentlands. From South Gyle we pottered over the canal, shimmied through Heriot Watt Campus, over the train tracks and up Donkey Brae into Currie. It seemed only right and sensible to stop for a swift half to brace ourselves for the climbs ahead, so we popped into the Kinleith Arms for cola and beer. Time was against us though, sunset was coming and not all of us had headtorches, so we needed to get back out there pronto! Over the Water Of Leith, past the new Horse place, up towards Torphin, round the old golf course and over the Torduff dam. Looking towards the hills ahead we could see that snow would feature heavily.
At Bonaly we said our goodbyes to Nick and Peter who were taking a faster route down to Leith, and then goodbye to Andy as he didn’t fancy the hills. White Hill was the first proper climb into the snow, and on the track there were the tyre treads from the Circo cyclists – a clear sign that they were near…and crazy for shoving their bikes into the snowy Pentlands! By this point the world was white, everything covered in snow. It was glorious! Up Capelaw, and finally Allermuir into whiteout conditions, with no view and driving snow. We agreed that Allermuir would be the final hill, a quick photo, and then slip, slid and skidded our way down to The Steading. I took a tumble, bruising some ribs, but recovered enough to complain about it for the remaining run. A good run, made all the better by great company!
34.4miles in total, nearly 3,000ft ascent.
Thanks to all those that joined (Peter, Nick, Matt and Jeff)!
Well done to all those that done most of it (Lee, Lucas, Nicola, Neil, Sarah, Mark and Andy)!
Fantastic work by the cyclists (Keith, Nick, Jonathan and Eric)!
And finally well done to those that done the full Circo (John, Jeremy, Dougie, Alan and me)!
Massive thanks to Mark for organising all the hard stuff!
The Cyclists report:
The 24-hour ahead weather forecast is not often as badly wrong in the wrong direction as it was for Saturday. We cyclists were down to a hard core of five, but not all at the same time. The opening leg to Portobello prom set a new record for discomfort from rain, mud and high wind chill, causing complaints of frozen fingers and toes; some would say appropriate conditions for this tour of Edinburgh’s unloved badlands which only the connoisseur appreciates. The Beach Café (a name inducing childhood memories of sunshine, ice cream and candy floss) provided us with life saving bacon and egg rolls and tea, but at an eye watering price. As usual, the runners appeared not long after. It’s much easier to keep warm on foot than on a bike; there was even plenty of exposed flesh being flashed. The bikers left early for Cramond. The cold was moderating from desperate to mildly uncomfortable. The beach refugee camp at the sewage treatment plant was gone. There was a welcome absence of the usual nuisance of dog walkers with telescopic leads on the Granton – Cramond prom. Hospitality at the Cramond Inn was excellent for a relaxing long lunch – until the runners burst in, reminding us that we needed to start building our lead before the trials of the Pentlands foothills and the White Hill crux. The Almond riverside path presented the unusual challenge of an impenetrable council safety fence protecting the perilous decaying Salveson steps overhanging the river. Combined tactics got the bikes safely around the fence overhang, down the rickety steps and a repeat across the fence at the bottom. Back on the bikes for the rest of the riverside path, finishing with the Fat Man’s Agony taking us to the Cammo estate entrance. The rough path to the rubbish dump wasn’t too muddy. I noted more interesting stuff to collect later at the rubbish dump, then a straightforward passage to the tram depot and new Gyle railway station interchange. A new underpass took us across the A8 into the Gyle commercial utopia with its landscaped tumbling burn between a million executive desks and glowing screens. Who would swop those for the bracing arctic downpour we were enjoying in the sweet fresh air? Next under the city bypass culvert alongside a suspiciously whiffy ditch to join the long road climb to Haston’s Currie Wa’s and his new memorial. Now falling snow prompted a final hot brew before tackling the Pentlands closing stage. We were down to two to finish the end game. The Currie Brae was despatched with gusto as a re-warmer, thankfully turning downwind for a fast passage past the reservoirs to Bonaly car park. No sign of snowy footprints or screams to the rear so we were clear for the White Hill climb ahead of the runners. The snow made pushing the bikes a battle for traction to the top. During the swampy struggle we heard screams from behind – they were closing on us. A couple of over-the-bars face plants cleared us down to the burn with only the traverse across past the horse depot to finish in the failing light. The runners had pressed on over Allermuir to find deeper snowdrifts in the dark. Just under 8 hours including relaxation stops. The longest continuous rain and snow session I can remember for some time. The first pint and fish and chips went down very well. And we finished without losing any toes or fingers. Herman Buhl would have approved. Much thanks to Mark for the excellent catering arrangements.
The bikers, variously: Jonathon Whitehead, Shane Bouchier, Eric Brown, Nick Macdonald, Keith Burns