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Windlestraw winter wonderland

Windlestraw winter wonderland


Postby nxmjm » Sun Mar 10, 2013 7:31 pm

Grahams included on this walk: Windlestraw Law

Donalds included on this walk: Whitehope Law, Windlestraw Law

Date walked: 09/03/2013

Time taken: 5.6 hours

Distance: 15.3 km

Ascent: 838m

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9.48 miles 5h 37m ascent 838m

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Glentress Rig-Windlestraw Law-Siller Road-Whitehope Law

A winter’s day. Snow fell as I got my kit on and it proved colder than I expected. My fingers were soon numb making rummaging in the rucksack difficult.

I parked by the road between Glentress and Blackhopebyre and walked up the road to join the path climbing Glentress Rig. This proved to be muddy despite the temperature forcing me to walk on the heather rather than the path in some sections. Once on the flatter section of Glentress Rig the ground became boggier and the track even less usable, the passage of vehicles having frightened off the grass and heather, leaving semi-submerged sphagnum moss. I had also climbed into cloud in snow and a very cold wind. My camera was stowed in a waterproof bag and whenever I brought it out my fingers numbed within seconds. I can’t seem to work the buttons while wearing thick gloves.

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Hillside Knowe from Glentress Rig

The path leads to a line of grouse butts on Wallet Knowe which would have been tempting spots for a break had I come across them later in the walk. I think the track ended here but it was difficult to tell in the snow. I am uncertain whether the track led me into a gap between peat hags or this gap was still the path.

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Wallet Knowe by the grouse butts

The weather had worked wonders here. There was ice, a little too tilted to walk on, which must presumably have frozen while running off the higher ground. A nearby fence had horizontal icicles and blobs of ice hanging from clubmoss on the fence posts. I was then rudely awoken from my nature induced wonder as the snow beneath my feet gave way leaving me in a thigh-deep hole. I cannot understand how an arch of snow had formed in this way and I trod somewhat more carefully after that. I was not the first to walk this way, however, there were paw prints (from a hare according to subsequent research) which gave me some warning of hidden holes further along.

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Icy fence on Wallet Knowe

The peat hags then gave way to heather, and a tiring walk in strong winds and poor visibility. I was guided by the frozen fence and a little after the gradient eased I met another fence and the trig pillar was visible perhaps 20m away. The wind here was too strong for self portraits but I treated myself to coffee and kit-kat sheltering behind the trig. Very welcome warmth without any of that melted chocolate mess one gets in the summertime.

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Windlestraw Law trig

The fence icicles here were vertical and even the grass was covered in ice, a separate shard for each blade. These cracked beneath my feet as if a giant chandelier had shed its crystals on the hilltop. The fence guided me to the SW top (just 2m lower across a col at 628m). I suspect this is boggy at times but the ground had frozen firm. I spied a large thing in the mist just north of the fence and thought it might be a cairn, but it gradually resolved into a large boulder, the second-summit cairn being further along near a fence junction. This cairn was adorned with horizontal icicles.

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Cairn on Windlestraw Law SW top – close up

My plan was to walk along Bareback Knowe to the col between it and Dod Hill, then cut across to Glentress cottage or take the Siller Road if the terrain looked especially unpleasant. So perhaps now is the time to introduce the concept of quantum navigation. Much as in quantum theory, in quantum theory it is possible to exist in many locations, with varying probabilities, but certain actions can cause the quantum probabilities to collapse into a single reality.

I set off from the SW top, following the fence, on a heading for Bareback Knowe but contrived in the mist, to turn right about 200m too late. There were many reasons for this, but for the sake of brevity let’s just call it ineptness. I was in two places at the same time: where I thought I was and where I actually was. Both continued to exist as separate places while the corroborating evidence supported both.

As height was lost visibility improved. On the ridge of Bareback Knowe I would have expected the ground either side of me to be lower (the first law of ridges) but I found I was in a depression (geographically). The quantum possibilities collapsed. Could I be approaching the Glentress burn or the Hope burn. Direction of travel would have supported either but my fervent hope that it was the former was dashed when I checked the time. I couldn’t have covered that much ground in the time.

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Standing stone on slopes of Bareback Knowe

I was in the upper reaches of Hope Burn’s valley. The valley floor was carpeted in reed type grass, the southern slopes steep, so I headed down the northern slopes. The vegetation was tussock grass, not the easiest terrain, and it and the snow hid some holes that kept my balance mechanisms on full alert. I spied a rock and headed for it hoping it would be a cairn marking a track of some kind but it wasn’t. Then I saw a wooden feeder and thought that a farmer would need to reach it somehow, so it was my next target. I can only presume that it is filled by helicopter or teleportation. Next port of call was a sheep fold at about 400m, beyond which the burn ran through a narrow cleuch, but the ground was now emerging from the snow.

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Sheep pen in Hope glen

A short climb up a steep slippery section after crossing the burn had me on a flatter shelf where I found a faint track. This crossed the burn a couple of times but led me easily to another sheep fold at 300m where I joined the grassy track of Siller Road. I presume in better weather the ridges would offer better views but I doubt the going would be any easier.

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Approaching Siller Road

There are the remains of Colquhar Tower where Siller Road joins the B709, but it a sorry ruin. If it had any lingering soul, it was probably exorcised when the telegraph pole was erected amongst the ruins. Or perhaps I just wasn’t in the mood to experience a ruin.

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Colquhar Tower

Having come down Siller Road I had a few minutes walk up the road to Whitehope. Since I had come this way I intended to take the farm track onto Windside Hill, whereas had I come down via Glentress cottage I would have taken a direct route up. The Leithen Valley was merely cold rather than freezing so I could take off my now soaking gloves and have a look around. In that short time I saw a couple of birds of prey, a smaller one with a ginger tinge, a red kite perhaps, and a larger one silhouetted so hiding its colouring.

There were a few boulders by the bridge over Leithen Water so I had a riverside lunch. My latest piece of equipment is shown in the photo, a banana protector. (A gift rather than a personal purchase). But what do you get for the man who has everything?

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Banana protector: don't go walking without one

Replenished and rested I set off past Whitehope farm. I was met by a terrier pup working hard to earn his guard-dog badge. I gave him some feedback: need to lose the cuteness, and wagging your tail gives away your real intentions. I doubt he listened, they never do at his age.

The farm had quite a collection of birdlife: chickens, some white, some brown some mixed; a variety of geese and a huge muscovy duck. I wish I’d had my bird book with me for the geese.

The farm track crosses and then follows the Whitehope burn. I followed it to about 330m then took a fainter path up Windside Hill. This path gradually faded and before long I was back on featureless moorland in poor visibility, freezing winds and snow. This proved to be a very trying ascent, I was making slow progress and uncertain of how far I had left to climb. The heather was often deep and my energy and spirits were ebbing despite having stopped for lunch about an hour earlier.

I decided that the hillwalking equivalent of a hamlet cigar was in order so I found the edge of a heather covered hag to sit on, had a drink (the water was nicely chilled) and a bite to eat, then dug out the GPS to get a grid reference. I was almost there, further along than I had thought, about 400m from (and 100m below) the summit.

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Whitehope Law summit

Whitehope Law’s summit cairn was small enough to have been passed through the alimentary tract of a large mammal. The views were breathtaking mostly because the wind took my breath away, visibility being only a few metres. But I must be honest and say there is something special about being on a hill in these conditions.

For descent I took a bearing for Blackhopebyre and set off over the heather, compass in hand. It was easier to follow grass filled tussocks between the heather where they existed and I was making excellent time but then stepped into a heather covered hole. My ballast (rucksack) proved not to be a securely fixed as I had thought, and shifted, forcing my balance mechanisms into slapstick mode. My face was planted then hammered home a fraction of a second later by my rucksack. Hilarious to observe (personal experience), embarrassing to experience (personal experience). Mind you, who can really claim to have conquered a hill if they have not rolled in its heather?

I emerged from the clouds heading directly for Blackhopebyre and soon found a track to follow. I was pleased to see a bridge over the burn, but then noticed it was enclosed within the garden of the buildings. there was a two trunk crossing but I dismissed that as likely to be dangerously slippery. The burn itself was not particularly high and I surprised myself when after turning away having decided one section was just too wide, another part of my brain decided to over-ride the decision. The words “sod it” escaped my mouth, I turned back, ran at the burn and leapt across.

By now my car was almost within a stone’s throw. I just need to cross a small fence and a boggy field. I leant on a large fence post, the top of which disintegrated at a vital moment pitching me into the sodden field on the other side. At least I missed the sheep droppings.

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Icy grass on Windlestraw Law

Most of the Donalds lie in a broad swathe below the southern upland fault with some outliers further north below the highland fault line and a couple to the south on the Iapetus suture line. Windlestraw Law and Whitehope Law (my 80th and 81st Donalds) complete my southern upland fault Donalds. And done in drow n smirr, the weather of the southern uplands.


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User avatar
nxmjm
 
Posts: 97
Munros:1   Corbetts:11
Grahams:24   Donalds:89
Sub 2000:29   Hewitts:16
Wainwrights:21   Islands:2
Joined: Dec 23, 2011
Location: D&G

Re: Windlestraw winter wonderland

Postby gmr82 » Sun Mar 10, 2013 9:50 pm

nxmjm wrote:
Much as in quantum theory, in quantum theory it is possible to exist in many locations, with varying probabilities, but certain actions can cause the quantum probabilities to collapse into a single reality.

I was in two places at the same time: where I thought I was and where I actually was. Both continued to exist as separate places while the corroborating evidence supported both.
:lol: :lol: :lol:

Very enjoyable report, perhaps most so in the description of your falling face first! I see you had the same conditions I had on Culter Fell yesterday too. I didn't think it would be too long until you walked this having checked your Donald red balloons after your last report. Nice that you found evidence of Mountain Hare too, I really enjoy seeing them.

As to the cold fingers and using a camera, I've got a pair of convertible fingerless mitts - they worked very well again yesterday. I had originally planned to do these two hills today randomly enough, but didn't fancy the B-road journey with the heavy snow forecast
gmr82
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 299
Munros:27   Corbetts:7
Grahams:21   Donalds:51
Sub 2000:39   Hewitts:1
Wainwrights:3   
Joined: Sep 9, 2012
Location: Edinburgh

Re: Windlestraw winter wonderland

Postby nxmjm » Sun Mar 10, 2013 10:15 pm

You're right, the red balloons are begging to be blued. I've decided to leave Windy Gyle as my last Donald. I have a two day outing planned for the Ochils in a couple of weeks, so Glen Artney beckons.

I have being trying to think of a locally appropriate celebration for the Windy Gyle summit. Presumably riding down into England, reiving a farmstead, stealing the livestock and taking any noble folk for ransom wouldn't be acceptable nowadays. I suspect I'll be driving so I will have to find a non-alcoholic celebration.
User avatar
nxmjm
 
Posts: 97
Munros:1   Corbetts:11
Grahams:24   Donalds:89
Sub 2000:29   Hewitts:16
Wainwrights:21   Islands:2
Joined: Dec 23, 2011
Location: D&G

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