Lowther Hills Ski Club
The Lowther Hills Ski Club www.skiclub.lowtherhills.com/ is a community interest company building and managing snow sport facilities in and above the Southern Uplands villages of Wanlockhead and Leadhills in the south of Scotland. We are all volunteers, and volunteers from far and wide are the lifeblood of the ski club, making the most of the freely given materials and generous donations that have brought us so far already. I've taken lots of photos of our work and some of the people doing it over the last 2 and a bit years so as to document our progress and I'll be adding more as we go along.
A Lowther Hill sunset
Looking west from Lowther Hill to sunset over the mountains on the island of Mull.
Summer 2014 - Imagining the ski slopes
On the access road, chief architect Anjo Abelaira shares his vision.
At Harwood summit
August 2014 - salvaging equipment from the hill at Harwood in the English Pennines.
Dismantling Harwood's ski tows
This old machinery is enjoying a new lease of life on Lowther Hill. The Harwood Ski area in the English Pennines ran ski tows from the mid-1960's but eventually closed due to lack of volunteer support.
At Harwood, we load the pylons onto a trailer belonging to one of our volunteers, Donald Chalmers of Dumfries who carries it up to Scotland.
Back in Scotland
On Lowther Hill, digging in towers - the work parties in October and November 2014 were well supported and most of the ex-Harwood pylons were dug in over the course of just a few weekends.
Although we worked in cold and often muddy conditions, the physical effort kept us warm and cheerful.
Late November 2014 - lunch stop
The slopes of the gully provided adequate shelter from the wind for sandwiches and hot coffee.
Engine shed groundworks
Work party group playing on the hill before we'd brought up the engine, or built the shed around it.
Loading the engine
December 2014 - Donald Chalmers and other volunteers preparing to move the engine from Leadhills to the summit of Lowther Hill. The tractor engine is equipped with sled rails so as it can slide on mud, snow and grass.
Digging in another pylon
Typical working conditions on Lowther Hill. Rain, sleet or snow, cloud and often, a howling gale.
Late 2014, even more digging in the rain. Anjo and Bruce Wilkinson from Cumbria trying to keep up their spirits in the damp conditions.
Early 2015 - making doors for the rope
Anjo works on the latch doors to the engine shed which will allow the rope to run unimpeded. The shed was formerly a garage in Leadhills and after some basic groundwork preparations, we quite literally rebuilt it on the hill around the tractor engine.
Tightening the rope
We have set-up a ratchet system to allow the rope to be correctly tensioned and adjusted for length. The hemp rope is subject to a little shrinkage and expansion as the humidity and temperature change throughout the season so this needs to be mitigated for. In this picture you can also see the results of our temporary snow fence experiment.
Winter 2014/2015 - a mile long drift on Lowther Hill
In certain wind directions, our terrain lends itself to creating lengthy drifts which can be easily turned to skiable runs. With snow fencing, we expect to be able to make the runs bigger, deeper, and in resisting thaws, with the assistance of the snow groomer which we are currently raising funds towards, to offer well groomed and highly reliable ski pistes.
From Whiteside, sunset over East Mount Lowther
The Southern Upland Way long distance path leads off the summit, crosses the ridge and runs to Lowther Hilll before descending to Wanlockhead.
Winter at the engine shed.
Our solar panels provide power to charge the batteries which operate the webcams.
Thanks to the generosity of our members and supporters, we successfully crowdfunded our webcams and got them installed and set-up with the freely given time and expertise of the Inverness based Alan Mackay of winterhighland, a linchpin of the Scottish skiing world.
At the top of the tow on Lowther Hill is a set of rollers, or rope guides. These allow the up and down feeds to remain separate and friction free as they run from the drive to the top pylon.
Painting the shed
To protect it from the wind and rain, the wooden shed enclosing the engine is painted by volunteers, children and adults alike.
One of the emergency stop buttons we have fitted so as to upgrade the safety of the old ski tow.
First used in January 2014, we run several of these petrol powered portable ski rope tows which can be moved to the snow at short notice.
Leadhills 2015 - the first winter in which open membership was offered for skiing on the golf course.
Rope tow and snow boarder
Lots of children and adults are learning to ski and board at our facilities.
In Leadhills, January 2016. The ski club uses rechargeable LED floodlights to enable snow sports after darkness.
The burn lines are rarely frozen at 600-700 metres ASL, but snow bridges usually allow crossings.
In the shortcleuch gully
March 2015 - even without snow fencing, a one km long ski run runs down alongside the gully off Lowther Hill summit.
Snow after Storm Desmond
Colder conditions commonly follow the end of the late autumn/early winter storm season. Here we're on the hill beginning the clean-up.
In the 'magnetic gully'
In early December 2015, a storm lifted up the 1,500 kg portacabin we'd used as a shelter and club hut, and hurled it into what's come to be known as the 'Magnetic Gully'.
The loch in the glen
A dusting of snow, and the rope's not yet on the pylons. When it's not in use, we keep the rope off to protect it from the wind and the elements.
Weekend work party camp
Sometimes work parties last all weekend. When Alan Mackay of winterhighland came down from Inverness in August 2016 to install additional webcam components and solar panels, we all camped on the hill to save on time and costs.
View west from the hill
A stunning sunset and a view towards the distant hills of the Kintyre peninsula.
Just after sunset, the Wanlockhead village lights can be well seen from Lowther Hill.
View north west
I identified the hills of the Highlands on the picture I took on a superbly clear evening in April 2015.
April 2016 - a drift by the plastic snow fencing
A season 2015-2016 experiment, alongside the 200 metre stretch of plastic fencing was a 25 metre wide and 50 cm deep drift which lasted long after the thaws. We are (as of October 2016) installing permanent wooden fencing because the plastic mesh proved to be both too fragile and required too much maintenance.
Ross of Moffat, Anjo of Wanlockhead and Des and Cath of Edinburgh pose against our latest handiwork, a safety barrier to ensure users cannot approach the moving parts of the rope tow machinery without triggering a switch which will stop the engine.
October 2016 snow fencing
The generosity and freely given time of our members is what makes the ski club thrive. Here, thanks to a member who's a fencer, we're building a new snow fence from scratch on Lowther Hill.
Avalanche search and rescue exercises
There's always snow close to Scotland's highest villages in winter time - here we're doing transceiver search practice within sight of Leadhills.
Snowholing in Leadhills
After transceiver search and avalanche rescue exercises above Leadhills village, we built a snowhole in which Craig and volunteer Jamie enjoyed a rest from the cold and some hot soup.
The snow can be wind ripped and shallow but snow fencing will help to build a deep base in key areas. Nonetheless, fun can be had even on thin snow cover if you work for it.
The wind was ripping hard across the hill and the light was dazzling in this view of the main slope on Lowther Hill.
Drift by the ski tow.
The shortcleuch gully provides a natural rollover which promotes the formation of deep drifts above it.
Wanlockhead and the hills
Thaws come and go, but the light and colours between snowfalls can be sublime.
Southern Upland Way
With Stuart McWilliam of Dumfries, as we explore the Southern Upland Way off the summit.
Chris on the summit
On Lowther Hill summit, volunteer and snowboarder, Chris Penny, takes it all in.
First snow for 2016/2017
And it looks like the slats in the fence left of picture are gathering snow.
The NATS road affords some colourful chance encounters. This time, the snow fencing work party volunteers meet with a mountain biker who uses metal-studded tyres to enjoy the ride to the summit all year round.
On one side of the tow, we've woven pallet slatting into a stock fence as a cheap and cheerful solution to gather up wind-blown snow.
Barrier making by loading area
The first Sunday in November 2017, the loading area for the main ski tow gets a new safety barrier built by volunteers.
The portable tows started !!
First skiable snows for the 2017/2018 season, and the portable rope tow is running :-)
Sony A7II and Minolta MD 50 f/1.4
Mid-winter on the Lowther nursery slopes
Skiers finishing for the day at Leadhills.
Sony A7II and Minolta MD 35-70 f/3.5
Top of Lowther Hill rope tow
A late season bonanza on Lowther Hill.
Sony A7II and Minolta MD 35-70 f/3.5
A happy crowd on Lowther Hill
Our home-made rope tow on Lowther Hill is well used when the weather is fair at the weekend.
A mile long ski run down from the top.
Off the community built and run ski slope on Lowther Hill, lush spring snow and a long ski run.
Groomer in the clubhouse
A bit grimy after its journey across the European mainland to Scotland from the French Alps, groomer has arrived.