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Snow-gathering on Culter & Gathersnow, plus 2 Donalds

Snow-gathering on Culter & Gathersnow, plus 2 Donalds

Postby bobble_hat_kenny » Fri Jan 06, 2012 3:21 pm

Route description: Culter Fell circular, near Biggar

Grahams included on this walk: Culter Fell, Gathersnow Hill

Donalds included on this walk: Culter Fell, Gathersnow Hill, Hillshaw Head, Hudderstone

Date walked: 02/01/2012

Time taken: 6 hours

Distance: 18 km

Ascent: 930m

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I'd originally hoped to burn off some of the festive calories by getting a Munro done - a school pal of my wife's who was up for Christmas & the New Year is an experienced winter walker and said he'd do one of the Blair Atholl ones with me - however, his travel plans changed & the weather forecast didn't look too hot. A big storm was forecast for the next day - correctly as it transpires :wtf: - so it was now or never. My usual walking partner Andy was also unavailable, sleeping off his turkey dinner :lol: . Change of plan then - Kenny nae-pals was going to have to go off alone :( . The best of the weather seemed to be in the south-east, and I'd recently acquired Andrew Dempster's fine tome "The Grahams". Inspired by this, and having the necessary permission from the Supreme Executive Authority (as my wife is affectionately dubbed by close family members :lol: :lol: ), I thought I'd have a look at the "Culter hills round" as featured on the website, with Tinto as a Plan B if the weather looked dismal once I got down there.
Fortunately it wasn't looking too bad at all on arrival in Coulter (pretty wee place), and I found the road up to the reservoir OK. The locals don't leave you in any doubt when you have reached the end of the public road, it would have to be said! :o
end of public road...!.jpg
Do you think they want us to leave the car here then?

Luckily there is a small lay-by on the right hand side just before the end of the public road: room for 3 small cars (like mine). Don't laugh now - a Lamborghini it ain't, but it gets me there eventually ... :-|
the Lamborghini.jpg
don't laugh, now...

I set off enthusiastically up the Coulter Reservoir private road, only to realise after about 7 minutes that I'd left my walking poles in the car boot - D'Oh! :oops: Went back for them, for which I was later thankful.
Back off up the Coulter Reservoir road, I arrived at the Landrover track off up Kings Beck on the left hand side of the road after only 500 metres or so.
start of Culter Fell track.jpg
Start of the Culter Fell track
I then saw the ATV track branching up on the right ascending Fell Shin as clearly described in the website's "Detailed Route Description", but stupidly decided that it was too soon to be the right track and carried on up the main Landrover track. :oops: By the time I realised my mistake I was well up the Kings Beck with the headwall of Culter Fell's NW corrie looming ahead.
maybe the wrong way....jpg
Hmm, maybe not the right way...
Neither going back nor hacking up the steep, heathery side of Fell Shin appealed - from the map it looked possible to plough on up Kings Beck with a short steep climb up the headwall of the corrie to the summit plateau - and thankfully so it proved. The Landrover track peters out as shown on the OS map, but a sketchy wee path continues all the way up. For the last wee steep bit, there is a choice between two short gullies on either side of a rocky outcrop. I chose the right-hand one as it was heading in the right direction. This added a bit of interest but wasn't quite a scramble - by sticking to the steep tussocky grass immediately to the right of the scree slope down the gulley, the use of hands is largely avoided. Good fun, though :D - although not the "official route" up Culter Fell, I'd recommend it.
the two gulleys.jpg
The two short gulleys

At the top of the gulley I was on Culter's summit plateau, although there was still a gentle plod of about 150 metres or so of ascent up to Culter Fell's summit trig point.
Culter summit trig point.jpg
Culter Fell summit trig point
Still just about cloud-free with good views back towards Tinto: there was some schadenfreude in seeing that Tinto had its head firmly still in the clouds at this point!
From Culter to Gathersnow involved an easy but enjoyable stoat on a faint path straight along the fence line, taking in the minor hump of Moss Law on the way. From Moss Law, Gathersnow Hill looks surprisingly steep :o
and on to Gathersnow....jpg
north face of Gathersnow
- however, this is deceptive. A well-established ATV track comes charging up heroically from Holm Nick (the name given on the map for the Culter / Gathersnow bealach: like the Galloway Hills, this is a land of strange names!) and completely bypasses the steep northern slopes of Gathersnow on the left, again meeting and following the line of the fence.
Given Gathersnow Hill's appealing name, it was nice to see that it was actually capable of doing what it says on the tin:
Gathersnow hill - not just a pretty name.jpg
Gathersnow Hill: not just a pretty name!

And so I arrived at Gathersnow Hill's award-winning summit cairn :lol: , an impressively monumental structure that is visible from, oh, I would say at least 5 metres away...
Gathersnow summit cairn - is that IT....jpg
Gathersnow summit cairn - is that IT?!

Size isn't everything they say, but one can't help feeling that poor Gathersnow Hill must suffer from acute Cairn Envy every time it glimpses Tinto's ridiculously well-endowed summit, with its colossal cairn clearly visible from here some 14 km away across the glen :lol: :lol: !
The weather was clearing by now however :) , and Gathersnow did however have lovely summit views, particularly down NW to Coulter Reservoir.
Coulter reservoir from Culter Fell.jpg
Coulter Reservoir

Anyway, having appreciated the architectural splendours of Gathersnow's cairn, it was now decision-time: given limited daylight and a rather dodgy forecast, should I cut my losses and stoat back down the ATV track via Holm Nick and the east side of Culter Reservoir, or go for the Grand Mendonka of the full round of Coulter Reservoir, taking in the Donalds of Hillshaw Head and Hudderstone too :? ? An easy decision: with the weather holding better than expected, and a reasonable amount of daylight left despite my dodgy route-finding at the start, the Grand Mendonka just proved too tempting :twisted: !
The first Donald, Hillshaw Head, must only make the relative height requirement to qualify as a separate Donald from Gathersnow: it certainly felt more like a southern top of Gathersnow than a hill in its own right. All the same, there was a good view of it from Gathersnow summit.
Hillshaw Head from Gathersnow.jpg
Hillshaw Head from Gathersnow

To digress (again), Andrew Dempster makes the very good point in his "Grahams" book that Grahams tend to give better views than either Munros or Corbetts, for the simple reason that they're much more likely to stay below the clouds. These are only my second and third Grahams respectively (after Ben Bharrain in Arran as a teenager), but I can certainly see what he means. The views on this walk were consistently excellent, and I can imagine that bagging Grahams could get quite more-ish, particularly in the winter.
Also taken from Andrew Dempster's book is a rather withering comment that "Donalds have never been very popular"! (I presume that he means the hills - no offence to any Donalds out there :lol: !! Anyway, who am I to talk about popularity, out walking on my own :lol: ?) However, Hillshaw Head proved an enjoyable enough romp. It is actually no longer an "unmarked summit", having acquired a small summit marker made of sticks, actually decidedly more impressive than Gathersnow's bijou summit cairn:
Hillshaw Head summit thingy.jpg
Hillshaw Head's summit thingamajig...

The water in the background was Talla Reservoir, I think :? .
Interesting to note that the next hill south, Coomb Dod, looks more of a distinct hill than Hillshaw (although lower), and sports a summit trig point, although it is neither a Graham nor a Donald. I didn't go up it though.
Hudderstone (a.k.a. "Heatherstane Law" in some books) is a somewhat more serious proposition than Hillshaw, however - a big, featureless, convex hill that is exactly the type that tends to get itself described as an "unrepentant lump" in hillwalking books. It is also a good distance west of Hillshaw Head, with the intervening ground being heathery, tussocky bog. As you can probably tell, I thoroughly enjoyed it: presumably just the natural fellow-feeling of one unrepentant lump for another :lol: !
Here is Hudderstone viewed from Hillshaw, with Tinto looking strangely like Mount Fuji in the background (maybe I'd just overdone the brandy cream with my plum duff the day before, though..):
Hudderstone with Tinto-yama behind.jpg
Hudderstone with Tinto-yama in the background

It does get significantly swampy on the way across though, especially in the region of the bealach between Hillshaw Head and Dod Hill. Afterwards, I noticed the "4 bullrushes" symbol (i.e. "snorkel & flippers advised") on the walkhighlands.co.uk "Detailed Route Description" for this walk. Rather sweet, this: it reminds me of that wee "4 chillis" symbol that often appears on restaurant menus nowadays, presumably to warn semi-literate diners that they might be aboot to order something a bit nippy :lol: . Anyway, you have been warned - from the point of view of spicing things up with a good wet bit of bog, this next bit is definitely a "4 chillis" section. Winter is probably the time to do it, though - a frozen bog is always preferable to a fresh, squelchy bog.
From Dod Hill onwards, however, things improved substantially with the worst of the bog and tussocks disappearing; also, a sketchy path appears just to the left of the fence, and some helpful soul has laid bits of waste timber across the worst sections of bog :D . Before carrying on to the right of a transmission mast on Dod Hill, I stopped for a quick lunch. Lovely cloudscape SW to ? Camps Reservoir:
Camps reservoir cloudscape from Dodds Hill.jpg
Cloudscape over ? Camps Reservoir

Then a fairly unrelenting plod up past the transmission mast and on to Hudderstone summit. And with the wind picking up and the sun getting lower in the sky, jolly glad to get it done too :) .
Hudderstone summit.jpg
Hudderstone summit

From Hudderstone's unmarked summit, things got much easier: an ATV track soon appeared, meeting a more established track coming down on the left further down, and giving a long but very straightforward return almost due north down a very pretty glen to meet the Cowgills Reservoir road. The views on this section were particularly fine, with Tinto-yama showing off in the late afternoon sunshine:
Tinto-yama in sunshine from Hudderstone.jpg
Tinto-yama in sunshine, from Hudderstone's northern slopes

On the track back down, I encountered a couple having a late lunch by the side of a wee wooded bit, and realised that they were the first humans I'd seen outside a car since leaving the house - another pleasant change from Munros & Corbetts!
And so back to the Lamborghini, which unaccountably hadn't been nicked despite being left unattended all day :lol: .
A great wee walk very close to Glasgow, I'd say - particularly recommended for a winter day when the boggy bits are well frozen.
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Re: Snow-gathering on Culter & Gathersnow, plus 2 Donalds

Postby Gavin99 » Fri Jan 06, 2012 5:09 pm

A nice report from what looks like a lovely day . Interesting observations on cairn -envy , chilli ratings and Tinto-yama . Seems like a good option for when the SE is getting a better deal weatherwise then the West . Thanks for posting . :)
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Re: Snow-gathering on Culter & Gathersnow, plus 2 Donalds

Postby vixana » Mon Dec 01, 2014 8:13 pm

Great walk report, off to do this in two days, so thanks for the pics, maybe the only views i get to see :wink:
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Re: Snow-gathering on Culter & Gathersnow, plus 2 Donalds

Postby PeteR » Tue Dec 02, 2014 1:08 pm

vixana wrote:Great walk report, off to do this in two days, so thanks for the pics, maybe the only views i get to see :wink:

Take a snorkel vixana. There's a section of boggy ground between the two Donalds (3rd and fourth summits if you do Culter Fell first). These photos below don't do the degree of bogginess justice though

ImageP1130425 by Riedel2012, on Flickr

ImageP1130440 by Riedel2012, on Flickr

It is a great walk though......enjoy :D
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Re: Snow-gathering on Culter & Gathersnow, plus 2 Donalds

Postby lorann65 » Sun Oct 23, 2016 2:40 am

Fantastic, detailed report of this round and great photos too! I grew up living near this round of hills, but never actually been up them as I tended to be a Munro-bagger! Have been up Tinto several times, but must give this round a go. Good advice for winter when the bogs are a bit frozen. Bit out of practice these days, so I think I will have to build up to this! :D
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