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Above the clouds on the Rhinns of Kells

Above the clouds on the Rhinns of Kells

Postby denfinella » Wed Dec 10, 2014 3:18 pm

Route description: Corserine and the Rhinns of Kells, Forrest Lodge

Corbetts included on this walk: Corserine

Donalds included on this walk: Corserine, Meikle Millyea, Milldown

Date walked: 15/11/2014

Time taken: 6.5 hours

Distance: 17 km

Ascent: 900m

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Driving back from Kintyre the other week had reawakened the desire to get back to the West Highlands. This autumn they seemed better named the "Wet" Highlands sadly, and the MWIS forecast for the Saturday brought issues of a different kind. Dry but with only a 40% chance of cloud-free summits just didn't cut the mustard for our fussy selves, so we traveled south on across Ayrshire's potholed roads to the Rhinns of Kells, where 80% doubled our chances of seeing something at the top.

After early-morning mist soon cleared on the M77, bright blue skies accompanied us all the way around the Ayrshire towns and along the A713. Passing through Dalmellington, hearts sank as a huge hat of cloud sat low over the Rhinns of Kells ridge, perfectly positioned for us to walk straight into. Not knowing the area and only having the one OS map, going elsewhere wasn't really an option so we crossed our fingers and hoped the mist would clear.

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

We parked at the Forrest Estate, situated at the end of a very long, narrow, smooth and undulating road along Polharrow Burn. The estate is a weird place, with seemingly unnecessary no-right-turn signs, one-way systems and official-sounding road names for narrow forestry tracks. The track up past Fore Bush and Loch Harrow was also exceptionally busy with a constant stream of cars driving up and down! A strange spool of thread also ran alongside the track almost all the way up to the loch - all in all, very strange.

The cars were turning off a little while past Loch Harrow, so we finally got some peace and quiet shortly before turning off the main track ourselves onto a narrower, grassy one - signposted for walkers. A pile of rubble acts as a bridge to cross the Folk Burn, after which it was particularly boggy for a short while through the trees. The underfoot conditions improved on exiting the forest, but the cloud height hadn't.


The path was still a little wet but it wasn't raining, and views improved with the gradual ascent of Corserine. Looking back we could see the edge of the area of cloud, which seemed to be a little closer than when we'd left the car.


The path steepened, faint but easy to follow, as we headed into the mist. Through the greyness, we could just about see the sun peeking through at times, giving us hope for later - still plenty of time for it to clear!





Corserine seemed to be reached without too much effort - it's a nice, fairly gradual ascent without taking ages and ages. A couple of photos around the trig point while we optimistically waited for the cloud to clear...


Heading off the summit, we managed to take an inaccurate compass bearing which took us slightly too far to the east and to the wrong side of one of the sources of Hawse Burn. Still in the mist, we got back onto the correct side and soon caught up (again) with a couple of walkers who we'd originally left behind at the summit! Never mind...

The traverse of the broad ridge seemed a lengthy process with the lack of views, and was soggy in places. 700m was a depressing height to be at - we knew the cloud base had been at about 600m, and the cloud top somewhere above 820m, so we were right in the middle of it.

Or were we? Heading up the slope towards Milldown, the lowest of today's three Donalds, the sky above took on a hint of blue.



The top of Milldown was only another 20m or so higher, so were we just going to miss out again? All became clear, literally, as the clouds suddenly rolled away and tantalising views opened up!





This lovely surprise alone made the misty ridge walk worth it. But the icing on the cake was our first proper Brocken Spectre, and a wonderful sea of clouds...





Finally, to complete the scene, a small herd of wild goats wandered out of the clouds and gathered on the rocky outcrop to the right of the Spectre.


Eventually... onwards. Meikle Millyea, the third Donald, was just about visible through the mist.


The cloud came and went on the descent and reascent, past the Lochans of Auchniebut at the bealach.


Looking back as Milldown tucked its head back under the blanket:



The weather gods must have decided that once was enough for today, and Meikle Millyea was (just) back in the cloud.


This was a bit of a wake-up call - it was getting late and was already getting dark under the cloud. With a third of the distance still to cover as well as a lengthy descent, quick progress was necessary down the ridge over Meikle Lump - one of the less imaginative names given to the often dramatic-sounding landscape around here. In the mist again, the path became wetter and unexpectedly forked at one point (we took the more direct-looking left fork, although perhaps they joined up again later on. There was also one short scrambly bit coming off Meikle Lump which would be easier if dry.

Re-emerging, underneath the cloud this time, opened up a rather depressing vista of the murky Forrest Estate, oncoming darkness, and the long walk back.


But at least it was all on straightforward forestry roads, right? The final sting in the tail came about 100m from the track, where a succession of fallen trees completely blocked the old path. This necessitated a laughable ten minutes fighting through sodden undergrowth and balancing gingerly on rotten branches over deep mud, before eventually emerging, brushing off branches and leaves from faces and clothes, on the track.

From here it was easy. Truth be told, what turned out to be a memorable occasion would have been a long, wet and fairly uninspiring day if it hadn't been for the few moments on Milldown. But as is often the case, nature delivered at the most unlikely of times!
Last edited by denfinella on Thu Dec 18, 2014 2:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Above the clouds on the Rhinns of Kells

Postby kev_russ » Wed Dec 10, 2014 6:36 pm

Braw :clap:
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Re: Above the clouds on the Rhinns of Kells

Postby Huff_n_Puff » Wed Dec 10, 2014 10:49 pm

Some great photos here - I don't know this area at all, but your report makes it seem really appealing - despite the clouds :clap: :clap: Love the Broken Spectre photos.
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Re: Above the clouds on the Rhinns of Kells

Postby litljortindan » Thu Dec 11, 2014 9:05 pm

Well done for keeping going into the cloud on unfamiliar terrain. You got some great pictures there.

We used to live in Dukieston, the house on the left of that long road in, near the end. My mother told me it felt very isolated. We used to get a lift to Castle Douglas once a fortnight in the estate landrover to do some shopping and we'd get a rip off butcher's van visiting once a week. I took my parents on a visit once a few years ago and they wondered at how they'd managed there. I suppose you can do that sort of thing when you are younger though.
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