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  • Writer's pictureLesley

The Mighty Tinto Versus Omicron!

Updated: Dec 11, 2021

Clydesdale's Fiery Giant takes on Omicron


Its hard to get lost in Clydesdale with Tinto hill dominating the South Lanarkshire landscape. Whether you’re driving along the M74 passing between Abington and Lesmahagow or walking around the Blackwood estate, Tinto remains that focal point, a point where you can get your bearings and know which way is home.



Although I must confess, and I maybe giving the north side of the Clyde far too much respect here, but I do think the best view of Tinto has to be seen from the northern edge of Strathclyde Pond. Get down there at sunrise and watch early in the morning, when the water is still and the mist begins to rise, the sleepy giant Tinto awakes, emerging from the mist with a veil of silky white clouds around its crown, who needs Mount Fiji, we have Tinto!



Tinto belongs to Clydesdale! And if you’re a local, you may well have climbed the fiery mountain.


There are few different historical stories explaining the meaning behind Tinto's name, however I have my own idea; Watch the sun set on Tinto’s north face and witness it glow red as the sun drops behind the Paps of Jura out to the West, or as we will read in a minute, climb her red shingle path and you will feel your lungs burning… Tinto has attitude!



Do you remember your first time climbing the fiery giant? I do!


I remember walking up the narrow leeward path with the car park disappearing into the distance behind me. On my left was the heather coated slopes, to the right was the vistas stretching your eyes out towards Lanark, Carnwath and Forth. I remember looking ahead as normal breathing gave way to panting, sweating and a heart-rate reverberating off the insides of my rib-cage, as I looked up I could see the narrow pathway giving way to clear blue skies, I remember thinking YAS! I am nearly at the top, just a few more meters to go… Salivating at the thought of my Kirkmuirhill standard packed lunch and a well-deserved rest from my epic climb, step by step, I drew closer and closer to the edge of that blue sky, dreaming of well deserved rest and just being able to breath like a normal human being.


Tackling the False Summits


If you have climbed Tinto, then you will know, I was about to experience my first false summit. My joy was about to be crushed.


The path on Tinto goes over the leeward edge opening up onto a plateau where nature draws back the curtains and unveils the views of the Southern Uplands, the Lead-Hills, Coulter-Fell and the Moffat Hills. It’s simply stunning, literally breath-taking as the exposed wind sweeps down your throat and leaves you choking on a wave of fresh air! The sweat on your brow dissipates as a blanket of cold air wraps around your face, the feeling of a thousand frozen needles stings your rosy cheeks, bringing down your body’s thermostat. However, Tinto has a sleekit side! As the path swings right, you realize, this is not over, there is a another climb to go, and at that, a harder climb!


Like many first timers, and like our journey through-out COVID, we thought we were at the end, we thought it was over, and as much as we enjoyed the plateau of rest, there was more hard work ahead.

As we went into the first lockdown back in 2020, we knew COVID would reach a peak, we knew we had to take this virus a day at a time, step by step and get through this together. And likewise, in the summer of 2020, restrictions began to ease, and we enjoyed a COVID plateau. Some of us thought it was over, some of us by that point had been through enough, and some of us were looking around the winter-corner and could see another peak looming in the distance.


More Lockdowns and Restrictions


As I headed along Tinto’s beaten track, the feeling of dread started to loom over me, I knew more pain was coming. My hamstrings were filled with lactic acid and my legs were feeling like dead weight, looking up the red gravel path, a wall of steepness was bearing down on me, no turns, no breaks, just a straight steep climb. This was the next nemesis on my journey to beat Tinto! My Tinto winter lockdown


The high intensity, fast paced, sugar fueled first climb was over, the first peak was behind us, the body and mind was now feeding off the reserve tank, carbs and slow burn energy was required. COVID was never going to be a sprint, but a marathon. The red gravel climb was painful, the gleeful happy snappy photo moments where stressfully packed away into the ruck-sack as a ‘head down and get on with it’ attitude took over.


When we were heading into the winter lockdown of Christmas 2020 heading into 2021, we knew it was going to be a dark time for everyone. Cold, frosty winter nights, isolation and restrictions brought so much mental health misery to so many people. A Christmas without friends or family and the first Christmas after losing so many loved ones to the pandemic, the winter peak was going to be tough on us all.


We got over the first peak and we knew we could get over the next peak, we were determined, and we had to pace ourselves, we had to find it deep within ourselves. It was going to be a hard climb but like the first peak, a plateau of rest and a sense of normal would soon be with us.



Nearing the top of Tinto's second false summit, I began to catch my 'second wind', like all physical exercise, you find your legs, you find your pace and you settle into a rhythm. You are into a “new normal” a new pace of life and a new way of life, you are striding along, and you believe the end is near, running on the fumes of optimism and hope. Hope in the vaccination, hope in the low positive case numbers and reading the hints that normality is edging closer.


Living up to its fiery reputation, Tinto can be a menace! You think it’s all over; you think the false peaks are behind you, you can almost taste those ham sandwiches and walker’s crisps, a mirage of sugary snacks flash in front of your eyes and your taste buds are dreaming of warm soup. Your hamstrings are screaming for mercy, your heart rate is through the roof, every breath burns the back of your throat and lungs.


You climb those last 5 meters, clinging on to hill-walking salvation, using the wire fence posts to pull yourself up, and there in those final few meters is the jewel in Tinto’s crown, a heap of grey rugged rocks glistening before your very eyes. Her 43ft ancient burial cairn is the final monster which needs to be slain before you can touch that precious trig point!


Somehow, you find the strength, you are at the top, bragging rights and photo evidence of that trig-point are within touching distance, the hard work will soon be over and somehow, somewhere within you is energy to conquer the cairn. Then, when you finally touch that trig-point, you are filled with relief, the serotonin takes over and you can begin to enjoy those spectacular views stretching from Goat-Fell on Arran to The Forth Bridges, you can follow the Clyde as it meanders down to the Corra Linn waterfall, you can look over the roof tops of Clydesdale and try to find your house! The pain, the striving and the dark times are over... good times are ahead.



Another False Peak or The End?


Omicron might well be our cairn, the final battle ground with COVID, or it might be another false peak, but whatever it is, remember that we have come this far and somewhere deep within you is the strength to keep going.


Like any hill climb, like any false summit, it can break your spirit, it can crush your moral, and it can drive you to the point of giving up. You will witness other people ‘cheating’ their way through COVID, cheating their way through the peaks “one rule for us and a Christmas party at No. 10”. Hypocrisy and contradictions from leaders may cause you to doubt and question yourself, but please don’t let that break you. Their unjust actions do not deter from the severity of COVID nor the reality we are face. Following the actions of cheaters does not balance the game, and it’s certainly no standard to stoop down to. Conspiracy theories and false news will fill your head with doubt, voters of different political persuasion will be reluctant to conform to opposing party leadership and an attitude of “the rules don’t apply to me” will only prolong the misery.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step

None of us can or will escape COVID, we all need to find the strength to conquer the peaks and enjoy the plateaus on the other side, but we won’t get there if we give up. We wont get there by discarding the guidance and setting our own rules. Please don’t give up with social distancing, hand washing, face masks and restrictions and so on.


We have come this far, time will tell if omicron is our final peak, like touching Tintos trig-point, or if this is another peak to climb on our journey towards the end, but either way, we need to do it together and not allow the actions of others sway us off track.


Keep going folks

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