As usual when coming down this way I wanted to get across the bridge and past Edinburgh before the traffic built up so another early start and parked up at the road end before 6am. Nice big turning area with space for a few cars, not surprisingly, I was the first visitor today.
A flat calm morning, warm, overcast........................midgies!! It's not the west coast, it's not Linn of Dee car park at it's worst but it was certainly enough to get me moving sharpish and my arms were black with dead midgies by the time I was heading away from the car.
I was following the WH route today so I took the gate to the right of the SUW and headed off uphill (leaving the midgies behind).
Ignoring the signed "Ettrick Horseshoe" (I wanted to take in Bodesbeck Law as well) I continued up the good track through the woods until I was out and onto the slopes of Bught Hill.From here I followed a narrow downtrodden grassy path all the way to the top of Bodesbeck Law.
I knew when leaving the house that there was a good chance of low level cloud in the early morning but that at some point (probably mid to late morning) it would lift.On the drive down all the tops seemed to be clear and it was only in the last probably fifteen miles that the tops became clag bound. I'd have to hope the weather would improve as I'm not really interested in ticking off clag bound summits, I want to see where I am and take in the views. .
Following the fence I dropped down off Bodesbeck Law and headed towards my second hill of the day, Capel Fell. The "Ettrick Horseshoe" path came in from my left as I continued to follow the fence/wall. By now I could hear a constant low rumbling of an engine and then out of the gloom I could see a partially cleared forest so that would explain it. Continuing up and over White Shank I made good time heading for Capel Fell. There was nothing to see from the top so a couple of quick photos and I was on my way.
Again,following the fence line I dropped off Capel Fell and by the time I reached the bottom and linked up with the Southern Upland Way the sun was out and the cloud was gone. Decision time, I had Croft Head and Loch Fell as additional options but in my mind I had decided between Bodesbeck Law and Capel Fell that I would just do the round of four. Loch Fell however looked very close and with the outline of a good grassy track in full view it was just too inviting. I headed over the peat hags following the fence line towards Wind Fell then headed round the lower slopes of Wind Fell and on to Loch Fell.
The gradient on Loch Fell is consistent and undemanding but with the sun out and no breeze to speak off it's now time for the flies to appear. They were just flies, no biting clegs but there were masses of them and they can be ****** annoying when they land on your face and around your ears so I was so engrossed in the battle I reached the top before I knew it.
To reach Wind Fell I retraced my steps then towards the bealach I stayed with the fence line and continued on to Wind Fell where again I could see the outline of a path beside the fence. The hill is well named, a very gentle breeze on the lower slopes but by the time I was on top it was a bit stronger and the flies were gone. As with Loch Fell I was now getting the chance to appreciate the views. To the west I could see the windfarms I encountered a fortnight ago and the surrounding hills all looked very impressive.
So, four down and one to go, Ettrick Pen. I was leaving Wind Fell by about 10am and even with a breeze blowing it was now pretty warm. Maybe starting at 6am was a good thing as nothing tires me more than heat and I was starting to go through my juice pretty quickly.
There is a fair bit of ground to cover between Wind Fell and Ettrick Pen but it is pretty easy walking, a little undulating but always on nice spongy grass.The lower slopes of Ettrick Pen seemed steeper than most of the earlier climbs but it didn't last and the last bit was on a comfortable gradient.
This was my first proper stop of the day, I had some breakfast and just had a good look round as the summit of Ettrick Pen is a great viewpoint.
Using the WH notes I followed a faint path WSW, initially quite close to the fence but gradually leaving it before turning and heading directly towards a forest. Initially I started to question whether or not I was heading in the right direction but then I could see Phawthope bothy in the distance and a track that would get me there. Half way down the hill I came to a trench and stupidly followed it to the right before realising I should have just crossed straight over it and continued downhill. As a result I had to walk down through a newly planted area of forestry which was rough going in places with some well hidden holes in the long grass. Once down on the track I followed it to the bothy then linked up with the SUW for the final walk back to the car.
Having walked the Culter Fell horseshoe a couple of weeks ago I have to admit this area is growing on me and I can see further earlier morning alarm calls in the not too distant future.
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