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Introduced to the Clag in the Southern Uplands - Hartfell

Introduced to the Clag in the Southern Uplands - Hartfell


Postby Sabbathstevie » Tue Apr 24, 2012 11:50 am

Route description: Hart Fell ridges horseshoe, near Moffat

Corbetts included on this walk: Hart Fell

Donalds included on this walk: Hart Fell, Swatte Fell, Under Saddle Yoke

Date walked: 08/04/2012

Time taken: 6.5 hours

Distance: 13.5 km

Ascent: 803m

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The Easter weekend was looming large and the promise of a fine hill walk was one I’d been savouring for a long time. Having practically bullied one of my oldest friends, Andrew, into submission with endlessly enthusiastic discussion of hills and then having both completed our “training” in the Pentlands, we were both looking forward to enjoying a route that was a little further afield from the Capital. Additionally, my time spent climbing Clisham in Harris had given me a taste of the kind of excitement that a rockier ridge might provide and I was keen to share a similar experience with Andrew.

But where to go? :problem: Available time and fuel costs ruled out anything that was too far north or west but even so, the options seemed endless…head up to Crianlarich and “enjoy” the brutal slog of Ben More and its seemingly never-ending slopes? Or perhaps we’d head slightly further north to Loch Tay and cut our scrambling teeth on the Tarmachan ridge? We both hail from the Blairgowrie area in Perthshire, so the option of a combined family visit/hill walk would also open up the hills of Blair Atholl, Glen Shee, Angus and the White Mounth, with Lochnagar looking to be a hot favourite.

Then, as it so often does in our glorious country, the weather took a rather large and unceremonious poo all over my plans, with my multi-area, multi-day forecast scouring returning nothing but rain, rain and more sodding rain and, as the weekend approached, those forecasts were only getting worse. :evil: I now realised the foolishness of my idealistic “don’t do a hillwalk unless the weather is glorious” approach – applying such a nonsensical policy might yield around 10 hill walks over a lifetime in Scotland! I still wanted to preserve the “awesomeness” of some of my ideal future hills (list is too long to note here!) for nicer weather so instead I turned my attention elsewhere. Accepting that conditions wouldn’t be great, I noticed that the best weather actually appeared to be happening south of Edinburgh. A little more delving and I stumbled upon the WH listing for the impressive looking hills to the north east of Moffat before quickly deciding that the Hart Fell horseshoe easily looked to be the best of the bunch and perhaps a more fitting “next step” after our Pentlands jaunt than graduating up to a munro or two.

Setting off from Edinburgh at a leisurely pace saw us arriving at the roadside parking space by Blackshope at 11:00. The weather was looking interesting – fleeting moments of warm sunshine and brilliant clarity were interspersed with washy white haze and light rain. The hills surrounding the glen looked to be far more impressive than I had imagined these lowland hills to be, though the cloud line at this point was low enough to ensure that the best views of the Saddle Yoke and surrounding peaks were tantalisingly hidden. After booting and suiting appropriately, we stopped to chat with another couple who were undertaking a shorter wander into the glen, and staunchly advised us that the “classic” route ascends via the Saddle Yoke, while advising that the near vertical approach up Swatte Fell which we were heading towards was best avoided. After a cheery goodbye, it may have seemed somewhat rude that we then plodded off in exactly the opposite direction as we had been told, so if you’re reading this I apologise but given the potentially claggy conditions I wanted to stick with the route I had studied! :lol:

Saddle Yoke.jpg
Saddle Yoke


We crossed the bridge as per the WH route before turning right through the gate and winding our way up the incredibly boggy and muddy path. As the route climbed steeply beside the impressively gouged cleft in the hill to our left, the temperature rose and outer layers were quickly shed, the physical effect of our efforts starting to show. The gradient began to flatten as we overcame the first “hump” of the hill however the rain had restarted and the path had disappeared. Looking to use the side of the glen as a handrail, we veered off to the east until the clag moved on and the stunning views of the mighty Saddle Yoke were opened up before us. It didn’t take long to figure out that our wayward route was taking us straight into the Black Craig and actually appeared to be heading down into the glen, so we quickly turned back to the West in order to climb steeply back onto the route – the only advantage being that we arrived at the gate in the electric which negated any crossing difficulties! It was shortly after this that we had our first encounter with the skittish goats that inhabit these hills – definitely adds a unique touch to this route!

Acting the goat.jpg
Acting the Goat


As the steep climb continued, the weather resumed its schizophrenic dance between sun and clag, with jaw-dropping views across to the saddle being offered and then whisked away before they could be fully absorbed. Still we continued to climb, stopping only for the obligatory photo shot on the impressive “mini-pinnacle” which juts out from the crag, giving a fantastically airy feeling of exposure as the ground slopes away steeply on all but one of your four sides. :D

Mini-pinnacle.jpg
Andrew on the Mini-Pinnacle

Looking down.jpg
Over the Edge...


The clag had come down completely by the time we reached the mercifully flat plateau of Swatte Fell, enveloping everything in a fine but soaks-you-in-an-instant haze of rain. The views into the glen now gone, we decided to veer away from the steep drops to our right and opted to stick close to the fence which runs in a line all the way to the summit of Hart Fell, ensuring our first ever meeting with Mr. Clag wouldn’t result in a navigational nightmare. After rounding another small group of nervous goats, we descended to the bealach after Falcon Craig and began the punishing ascent of Hart Fell itself.

You must be yoking.jpg
You Must Be Yoking!


And what a punishing ascent it was. :( While not particularly challenging in terms of terrain, gradient or indeed navigation (thanks to the handy fence), we were both nearing the end of our energy reserves and a much needed food & drink stop was definitely on the cards though not, we decided, until we had at least summitted Hart Fell. To compound matters, not only had the clag enveloped everything in sight but the rain was now lashing down, torn horizontally across us in vicious slashes by the bitingly cold wind which had seemingly sprung from nowhere in a challenge to our climb to the highest point of the day. Wearily, we squelched our way onwards through the bog to the summit, our “waterproofs” having long since surrendered unto the merciless batterings of the weather. The trig point and “sheltered” cairn eventually loomed into view, but any sense of triumph was robbed by our urgent need to refuel and the complete lack of anywhere sheltered enough in which to do so. Wearily, we pressed on, hoping to find some solace after dropping down a hundred metres or so on the East side of Hartfell Rig.

We did eventually find a windbreak, slightly downhill from where the fence we had dutifully followed veers off to the left. It was only after sitting down in the lap of the driest hump of heather we could find that I realised just how soaked we were and now, having come to a rest, how cold it was. The last strand of the days optimism was destroyed as the clag almost mockingly lifted, revealing the pathless and steep (from this angle) looking climb over Whirly Gill and up to Redhill Craig. Waterlogged, freezing, knackered and feeling no little guilt at having taken Andrew along for the “experience” and with some distance still to go, this was indeed the toughest moment so far in my short hill walking career. :shock:

But then, as everyone keeps reminding me, “things can change very quickly in the hills”. For once I’m not referring to the weather but the mood – it’s amazing how your outlook can change when the clag lifts and you’ve benefited from the restorative powers of a very sugary hot cup of coffee, a vegetable samosa and half a chocolate flapjack. Reinvigorated by food, drink, and the temporary abatement of the clag, we set off again across the pathless moorland - sodden but enthusiastic once more. We ascended somewhat to the North in order to find a good spot to cross the small but ever growing burn which flowed down the Whirly Gill, before beginning the climb again up Redhill Craig. With the clag mostly lifted, the views back across to Nubbery Knowes and into Black Hope glen were impressive, as were the views on the other side over to Carrifran. The clag still clung to anything over about 750m however, so we couldn’t see anything of White Coomb, and the summit of Hart Fell will forever be a hill which I have stood upon but never seen…I’m sure fellow WHers have a number of those under their belts! This mattered little however, for the real prize of the day, the tantalising ridge of Under Saddle Yoke and across Saddle Yoke began to loom into view. :D

Our pace quickened and in no time we were enjoying the feeling of open space afforded by the grand views down the glen either side of us as we clung to relatively narrow path over both of the Saddle Yoke’s grassy humps. If anything, it felt like this, the absolute highlight of the day, was over all too quickly as we made the gradual descent along the broader part of the ridge before veering off to the right to meet the landrover track at the centre of the glen. It’s worth pointing out that from this angle, the steep dark slopes of Swatte Fell are incredibly mighty, with the Black Craig commanding the views into the glen. We quickly completed short walk out before arriving back at my trusty Clio, sodden through but both feeling the sense of achievement from completing the horseshoe and our first hill walk in what might be termed “adverse” weather conditions.

Swatte Fell.jpg
Swatte Fell


IMG_5246.jpg
Me, paying more attention to my phone than the amazing views...


Back through the glen.jpg
Black Hope Glen



Hart Fell Horseshoe.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts



So an unexpectedly epic-feeling day then, and one which left me with a new found appreciation for the “near” hills of the Southern Uplands. Something tells me it won’t be too long before visiting them again…White Coomb anyone?
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Sabbathstevie
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Re: Introduced to the Clag in the Southern Uplands - Hartfel

Postby meangarry » Tue Apr 24, 2012 2:13 pm

White Coomb indeed, definately on a clag free day though mate. I have missed out on the view onto loch skeen a couple of times and it does not bear thinking about.
There are a few good walks down this way if you are skittled by the weather again. Broad Law's snow poles can be followed in the worst weather and I'm sure you'll get to see the rounded top of Hartfell another time. The route from the devil's beef tub is a good one and not too far from the burgh. Plenty of history and interest in the southern uplands. Glad you had a good walk! :D
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Re: Introduced to the Clag in the Southern Uplands - Hartfel

Postby ChrisW » Wed Apr 25, 2012 2:23 am

Great effort Stevie, a real shame the weather took such a hard line with you guys but you stuck with it and eventually got a little reward for your efforts, keep it up mate....these days a few compared to the wonderful days awaiting you in the years ahead :D ....though your mate might not agree :lol:
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Re: Introduced to the Clag in the Southern Uplands - Hartfel

Postby Sabbathstevie » Thu Apr 26, 2012 4:58 pm

meangarry wrote: by meangarry » Tue Apr 24, 2012 2:13 pm
White Coomb indeed, definately on a clag free day though mate. I have missed out on the view onto loch skeen a couple of times and it does not bear thinking about.
There are a few good walks down this way if you are skittled by the weather again. Broad Law's snow poles can be followed in the worst weather and I'm sure you'll get to see the rounded top of Hartfell another time. The route from the devil's beef tub is a good one and not too far from the burgh. Plenty of history and interest in the southern uplands. Glad you had a good walk!


Thanks man! It was definately en eye opener - I'd expected these to be more like the Pentlands and not like the great beasts they actually trurned out to be! Pleasantly suprised and will definately be back for more!

ChrisW wrote:Great effort Stevie, a real shame the weather took such a hard line with you guys but you stuck with it and eventually got a little reward for your efforts, keep it up mate....these days a few compared to the wonderful days awaiting you in the years ahead :D ....though your mate might not agree :lol:


Thanks Chris, I can but hope that at some point I'll get some long sunny days to explore in depth the hills of my beloved Angus/Perthshire... thats not to say that a day in the clag put me off and these hills were fantastic, though I can see how it would be a killer if it was a complete clagfest all day! :lol:
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Re: Introduced to the Clag in the Southern Uplands - Hartfel

Postby SouthernUplandKing » Thu Apr 26, 2012 5:11 pm

Nice report there Stevie, the "little hills" shouldn't be under estimated.

Saddle Yoke and Under-Saddle Yoke have got two be two of my favourite hills, never cease to be amazed by them towering above Moffat Dale.
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