A Winter Wander in the Pentlands
by Sabbathstevie » Fri Jan 06, 2012 6:02 pm
Route description: West Kip, East Kip and Scald Law from Threipmuir
Sub 2000' hills included on this walk: Scald Law
Date walked: 02/01/2012
Time taken: 2.75 hours
Distance: 11.75 km
Ascent: 496m12 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
I’d already posted a few questions (and received some excellent feedback from fellow members) in the “General Discussion” board, particularly on how to compare myself against other walkers’ reports in order to understand my own limitations and, more specifically, how my own walk times might stack up against the estimates on WH. I was extremely concerned that my one and only munro experience (Mayar via the Corrie Fee) had taken as long as the longest estimate on the WH report, and that was in excellent autumnal walking conditions and involved missing one of the described munros - Driesh! How on earth would I ever manage a 9-11 hour walk (many months later and with stamina and experience duly increased of course) if I couldn’t complete one of the simpler walks within the estimated timescales?!
Having said all of that, my walking partner for that day had been...well… less than enthusiastic - the walk featured far more rests than I would have taken myself. So maybe I wasn’t that slow! The problem remained – I had nothing to compare against. Clearly, a benchmark was needed. Having already ruled out adding a second munro to my not-so-impressive tally owing to my lack of winter skills or equipment, my thoughts turned to my local hills which, when viewed from the top deck of a bus in the city centre at least, appeared to be free from the white stuff. The second day of the New Year arrived with sunshine and blue skies across much of Edinburgh and, having scanned WH for a challenging but relatively straightforward local walk, I made my way Westward across the city towards Balerno with my eyes firmly on the Pentland hills.
I carefully threaded my way into the Thriepmuir car park just before 11. I hadn’t expected the significant change in temperature evident from being out of the city and just slightly further from the coast – things were definitely colder up here. The frozen puddles and thin dusting of snow gave everything a suitably festive edge, something I welcomed after the unseasonably dreich and mild Christmas we’d had. I was also surprised (and lucky) to nab the last available space in what is a decent sized car park…it was looking like I wasn’t going to be alone today! I set off at exactly 11:00 with my tiny Jack Russell, Maggie, bounding enthusiastically along beside me, hoping desperately that I’d make it back to the car within the 4.5 - 5.5 hours estimated on WH to give me any hope of completing longer future walks!
My initial dismay at what I thought would be a regional park swarming with fellow walkers (not that I’m greedy but surely all of us walkers like to feel like we’re getting at least some of the walk to ourselves?!) soon dissipated as I strode determinedly across Redford bridge and up the access road – most of the crowds appeared to be peeling off either left or right to wander round the Thriepmuir reservoir itself or the Red Moss nature reserve. Atop the access road, I took the right at the fork before the left hand path branches away from the trees and finally out into moorland where the views begin to open up before you.
And what views! Hard to believe that I was so close to the city – the feeling of open space was unexpected and enjoyable, though the lack of shelter made itself known as a bracing wind brought a few fresh snowflakes down from the broken clouds that had besieged the sky. Sadly, my iPhone captured shots don’t really do the scenery justice but all the classic colours of a winter sky provided a breathtaking backdrop to my walk, with deep clear blues washed with the bruised purpley grey of rogue clouds and shot through with streaks of red and pink. With Maggie brought closely to heel to keep her away from some nearby sheep, we pressed on along the path, rounding Hare hill on the left before my 3 targets of West Kip, East Kip and Scald Law gradually loomed into view with only a handful of walkers visible on or around their peaks.
A quick check of the watch matched against how far along the route I was and I seemed to be making extremely good progress…either that or the approaching climb was to be more strenuous than I had planned and would be the most time-consuming part of the walk. That’s exactly what I thought as I stood at the foot of West Kip staring up the imposingly steep grassy slopes. The mercifully brief flurry of snow had stopped but still the icy wind continued to batter from the West – thankfully at my back as I began the climb. The footing was easy and though I didn’t have crampons or poles or the like, the very thin dusting of snow proved to be no hazard at all, with the grassy path and slightly frozen soil beneath providing plenty of grip. What did prove hazardous was the burning pain in my lungs after I reached the halfway point – in all my zeal to complete a walk in good time, I’d battered on up the slope far faster than I should have without properly warming up. Though it’s been almost a year since stopping smoking, I don’t think my lungs were prepared for such an aggressive climb. I adjusted my pace and turned around to admire the views behind me, catching a glimpse of a lone walker on my tail at the foot of the slope.
It was a relief and a pleasure to gain the rockier summit of West Kip, though I didn’t last long there thanks to the ever present wind. Descending along the ridge to East Kip was much quieter, lying in the natural windbreak of West Kip at my back. The sky had cleared and the views, whether of the other Pentlands stretching to the North and East, looking back up the hill I’d just climbed to the West or of the flatter farmland to the South, were fantastic. While I didn’t have a “proper” break here, I did slow enough to take a few pics and to enjoy a Cadbury’s Caramel (just one of the many leftover Christmas choccies unfortunately!) This was my favourite part of the walk – the distant city might as well have been on another planet and the sight of the path curving up towards the higher summit of Scald Law was an inviting one.
Sure enough, a little effort later I arrived at the trig point on Scald Law – the only difficulty being a brief section of the path which had a slippy coat of ice and required a little more careful stepping in order to cross. The wind was definitely at its fiercest here and I quickly descended to the bealach, overtaking a father and son who were hiding just over the crest of Scald Law with their sandwiches as I did so. At this point I was sorely tempted to carry on and do Carnethy hill as well but that would have thrown my “benchmark” times out of whack and it looked like I still had a wee way to go to get back to the car park. I decided to stick with the planned route and turned left towards the aptly named Green Cleugh to begin the pleasant walk out.
As an aside, it’s worth pointing out that at the Howe you should take the path to the left BEFORE the burn rather than staying on the wider track which crosses the burn before heading left. I hadn’t looked in great detail at the fully zoomed in version of the OS map which shows this clearly and, instead, I walked over the bridge before heading left. While this for all the world looks like the obvious way to go, you are then left with the prospect of an awkward jump over the burn as I was! I just about made it over dry – Maggie (and her little legs!) wasn’t so lucky. The ford included a little further along the route was much simpler, with a few stepping stones making for an easy crossing. As I enjoyed the sunny outward walk, I passed battalions of walkers heading in the opposite direction. I couldn’t help but notice the seriousness with which they strode, bedecked in full Arctic gear and each equipped with twin walking poles! They probably thought I looked pretty shabby in my muddy jeans and battered Karrimors by comparison but I guess the main thing is that we were each comfortable in our chosen attire!
A little later, and after stopping to chat with a few other lone walkers, I once again rounded Hare Hill and was winding my way back down the steep access road towards the still busy car park. As I finally sat down and poured myself a hot coffee, I checked my watch – 13:45! I couldn’t quite believe that I’d done it in 2 and ¾ hours! Filled with no little satisfaction at having proven that the WH estimates were not only do-able but quite surpassable for me, I left the Pentlands behind and made my way home. I’ve clearly got some way to go in terms of building stamina before I can tackle some of the more impressive hills to the North and West of the Central belt, but it was certainly a helpful benchmark. I’ve (or more accurately, my lungs) also learned a very valuable lesson – don’t charge straight up a slope that you’re not prepared for! But far greater than any stamina building, time checking or benchmark setting achieved was the appreciation and respect I’ve gained for my local hills which, up until now, I haven’t thought that much of - I’ve been very pleasantly surprised. The Pentlands? I’ll definitely be back. And next time I might just go for Carnethy as well…
by kev_russ » Fri Jan 06, 2012 7:38 pm
by Sidewinder » Fri Jan 06, 2012 8:37 pm
Nice photos too, really like the one from West Kip
So you managed to tear yourself away from Cammo then
by Redrock » Fri Jan 06, 2012 9:59 pm
by Sabbathstevie » Sat Jan 07, 2012 2:12 pm
As to the walking times, I completely agree that as you as you are comfortable with it and have a great time then it shouldn't really matter how long it takes (unless darkness is closing in!) but for the purposes of this walk I just wanted to see if the WH estimate times would be a good indicator for me - at least now I know they are reasonable! will definately be back in these hills to get my stamina up and purely for the enjoyment of them as well - it's amazing how long you can take something for-granted that's just on your doorstep.
by yokehead » Sat Jan 07, 2012 3:38 pm
Now that you've been able to dispel your concern about speed of travel I reckon that may be you fully hooked on the hills! Whilst we can all improve on stamina, as we walk more, it seems to me that you've proved what you set out to do and you now have no worries on that score so can put it behind you.
I look forward to more of your reports!
by Malckyb » Sat Jan 07, 2012 4:54 pm
by Johnny Corbett » Sat Jan 07, 2012 5:04 pm
by mrssanta » Sat Jan 07, 2012 9:08 pm
by Sabbathstevie » Mon Jan 09, 2012 1:54 pm
Originally wondered if my rambling reports wouldn't appeal to fellow members but glad to see a few of you have enjoyed it - definately more to come!
Now that I realise how good the Pentlands are, I'm likely to make it a more regular "training ground" (as Johnny says) so I can get hill fit for longer trips up North!
Or South....the Southern Uplands round Moffat look excellent...I wonder if there's a chance that some of those peaks will be snow-free before most of the munros are? I need to find something with a feeling of exposure so I can see how I handle it.
by Crabbit » Thu Jan 19, 2012 10:46 am
- Munro compleatist
- Posts: 16
- Joined: May 3, 2009
- Location: Lanarkshire.
by MarilynMunro » Fri Jan 20, 2012 12:30 am
by ChrisW » Fri Jan 20, 2012 7:49 am
by Sabbathstevie » Mon Jan 23, 2012 10:27 am
Crabbit wrote:As an aside are there no walks (routes) listed on the site for these charming hills in the heart of Scotland? If not I will post one up.
Thanks Crabbit. There is a few walk routes - the one I did was taken fromt he Edinburgh & Lothians - Pentlands section http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/lothian/pentland-hills.shtml .
MarilynMunro wrote:There is a great walk all the way from the ski centre to Nine MileBurn, my favourite.
Thanks MM, that sounds like a good one so I'll add it to the list, along with the book!
ChrisW wrote:great report Stevie, as an ex smoker myself I sympathise with your lungs. Love the pics of maggie who looks like she enjoys the hills as much as you
Many thanks Chris - hopefully once I get a few more under my belt the lung burning will subside - it's almost a year to the day since I stopped the cigs and still they haunt me! Yes, that's Maggie's second hill now though since she's up, down, up, down etc she's probably climbed about 10 by now! Enjoying your Canada reports though looking back my favourite is still your TR of Hunt Hill and loch Lee - looks amazing (particularly the pics of that ruined church and graveyard on the banks of loch Lee!)and almost unknown so it's now definately on my list for when I next visit my family in nearby Coupar Angus!