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Cheviot North Circular: The Purist Walker Approach (nearly)

Cheviot North Circular: The Purist Walker Approach (nearly)


Postby OpenC » Sun May 08, 2016 5:04 pm

Hewitts included on this walk: The Cheviot

Date walked: 08/05/2016

Time taken: 6.5

Distance: 21.5 km

Ascent: 1200m

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I worry sometimes that I'm running out of ways to connect the paths through the Cheviots and post them on here. Not one step of this walk hasn't already been recorded, reported, photographed and uploaded.. but still, this is one I should have done a long time ago and just haven't. I've been getting myself into shape for some longer days in the Cairngorms - I've never really been sure whether it's distance, or ascent, or a combination of both which really does me in on big days, so I thought I'd try to work it out (I have. It's both, I'm just unfit in every respect, really).

No, the Cheviots aren't Munros. They top out just above 800m, and the car parks are usually between 200 and 300m so - if it's your desire - you can knock most of them off with a minimum of fuss (depending on your tolerance for mud). All the same, though, once you get into that enlightened state that lets you realise that going uphill and then having to come back down again before you reascend is a nuisance, yes, but allows you to extend your days in all kinds of exciting ways - well, things can be interesting. Even in the Cheviots.

I've long admired the secret Northern side of Cheviot - seen by few thanks to the private road that runs down that valley, but showing a big lump of a hill in a much better light. All the interesting features are hidden to people driving past the hills, or people who head up the trade route from Langleeford via Scald Hill just to get it ticked off. The North side is hard (or expensive) to get to, and if you're walking it from Langleeford, it also means a reasonable reascent to get out of it at the end of the day. I've posted about it on here; the unsuspected craggy corrie of Bizzle Crags, the wholly incongruous rocky little gully of Hen Hole. But I've never gone all the way around the North side and then actually climbed the hill; I've always dropped off at Cairn Hill, the West summit, and continued the scenic charms in the Southern valley, Harthope.

Today was going to be no different - I was going all the way around the North, over the shoulder at Auchope and Cairn Hill, then down to the col and continuing over Comb Fell to the much more pleasant summit of Hedgehope Hill. It was going to be a big, testing day - 24km, 1300m ascent; that would have put me on top (and back down from) a lot of those remote Cairngorms.

As it happened, though, the first fine day of the year (27 degrees in Langleeford when I got back to the car) forced me to change my plans. I was halfway through my water when I got to Auchope Cairn and I knew it was essentially a dry route from there - nothing for me, nothing for the dog. I rolled my eyes at the prospect of heading over Cheviot summit again, but headed for the top. As I pulled past Cairn Hill toward the summit, I started to get cramps in my legs (the sort that you can see if you're wearing shorts, always an unnerving moment), just like I do on the higher Munros. Thrilling. Heading over the unusually quiet summit, I noticed that the trade route is actually a rather lovely way to finish the walk, with massive expanses of Northumberland laid out ahead. And when I looked at the GPS report later, I found that it had been more than 21km and 1200m ascent anyway, which is still by any measure a reasonable stretch in the UK hills. I got back to the car six and a half hours after I'd started, long since out of water and with a happy little buzz of achievement which I don't usually get in these local hills of mine.

I'll be ready for summer in the Cairngorms yet.

[re. the title: the proper purist walker route, of course, wouldn't have headed down the Scald Hill trade route to get back to the car park - it would have grudgingly visited the bleak and resolutely unpretty summit, then retraced itself to Cairn Hill and headed down the Harthope Valley, or taken a brave route directly down from Cheviot summit to pass the worst sections of that sometimes nightmarish little gulch. And the proper purist mountaineer route would have gone through Hen Hole, not above it, but I much prefer looking down into its craggy depths simply because it's such an unusual sensation to be able to do so in Northumberland].

Some pictures:

The Hawsen Burn, an awkward and sometimes scrambly little start to the walk
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Looking back to Langleeford as the mist rolled back up the valley
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Cheviot North Side, looking like a lost Southern Cairngorm hill.
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Looking toward the private College Valley; ominous mist.
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Onto the private road at Goldscleugh. I usually hate road walking; this is a pleasure. Ominous mist. Looked like I was going to get cold (but by then I was starting to think, "well, that might be nice actually").
Image

View up to Bizzle Crags from the house at Dunsdale. I saw somebody there today for the first time in my life.
Image

The route around Fawcett Shank, the second forced ascent of the day with a descent into the College Valley to follow. It was becoming clear to me at this point that the water situation might be problematic; it was very warm indeed and paths that are usually sopping wet were bone dry. Irritatingly, this would have been one of the few perfect days to get across Comb Fell without falling waist deep in soft peat.
Image

Head of the College Valley above Mounthooley. Mountain Refuge Hut at Auchope visible on skyline.
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View back down the very lovely College Valley toward Newton Tors, a shapely hill from this angle. The mist obligingly rolled back for me and I didn't have to go through it.
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Hen Hole, from the Mountain Refuge Hut.
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Hen Hole, from the ascent of the spur up to Auchope Cairn.
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Cheviot summit environment. An acquired taste.
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The final obstacle. This being Cheviot, there are some things that never dry out. This is about 20m from the summit.
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The view back into Langleeford from the descent of Scald Hill. Trade route indeed, it's lovely.
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Attachments

2016-05-08 Cheviot North.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

User avatar
OpenC
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 446
Munros:82   
Donalds:2
Sub 2000:1   Hewitts:53
Wainwrights:63   
Joined: Aug 4, 2013
Location: Northumberland

Re: Cheviot North Circular: The Purist Walker Approach (near

Postby ChrisW » Sun May 08, 2016 11:29 pm

The Cheviots never looked so good OC, shame it was a little too hot for comfort and water shortage + cramp is always awful. I rarely get cramp owing to my high salt diet but I get through some water when I'm out and any shortage of it really gets me thinking about heading back :roll: Wonderful mist in the valley shots and all in all a pretty good long haul with plenty of ascent...I reckon you'll be skipping through the Cairngorms :wink: :clap: :clap:
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ChrisW
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Location: Cochrane- Alberta - Canada

Re: Cheviot North Circular: The Purist Walker Approach (near

Postby trailmasher » Tue May 10, 2016 7:21 pm

Couldn't think of a better way to get hill fit OpenC and thanks for a good report and photos :clap: :clap: Lucky you to walk this in dry underfoot conditions it was damn wet on Hedgehope when I did it :( and thanks for indicating a different route from the usual 'tourist' one :)
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trailmasher
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Re: Cheviot North Circular: The Purist Walker Approach (near

Postby OpenC » Tue May 24, 2016 6:31 pm

Did this again on a cooler, overcast day. One hour and one litre of water fewer, but still hard work. Back up to Braeriach next, I think, to see if that's any easier than it was last time after a winter covering long miles in the Cheviots :)
User avatar
OpenC
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 446
Munros:82   
Donalds:2
Sub 2000:1   Hewitts:53
Wainwrights:63   
Joined: Aug 4, 2013
Location: Northumberland

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