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Some Donald-bothering in the Moffat Hills

Some Donald-bothering in the Moffat Hills

Postby bobble_hat_kenny » Sun Aug 30, 2015 5:45 pm

Route description: White Coomb by the Grey Mare's Tail

Corbetts included on this walk: White Coomb

Donalds included on this walk: Lochcraig Head , Molls Cleuch Dod, White Coomb

Date walked: 29/08/2015

Time taken: 6.5 hours

Distance: 19.2 km

Ascent: 1000m

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This was one of those hill days when the longer-range www.mwis.org.uk forecast looked promising, but then deteriorated rapidly at the last minute :-x ... that rotten Atlantic Jetstream being to blame again, no doubt :? . The Borders looked the best of a bad lot, so I thought I'd give the Munros a rest this time, and go for a day of Donald-bothering in the Moffat hills instead. The classic round of Loch Skeen, taking in the Corbett White Coomb plus two other Donalds, looked like a scenic option not far from Glasgow, so I decided to give that a go.

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I didn't get a particularly early start however, and it was almost half ten before I got to the Grey Mare's Tail NTS car park. At least it wasn't raining yet!
WR1 - view from Grey Mare's Tail car park.jpg

From the back of the car park, an excellent path (thanks once again to those NTS volunteers :clap: !) rises up the side of Bran Law, becoming a stone staircase in its steeper sections, and giving tremendous views of the famous Grey Mare's Tail waterfall as it ascends.
WR2 - first view of waterfall.jpg
WR3 - close to waterfall.jpg

The distraction of the waterfall made the height gain remarkably painless, and soon enough the path started to level off along the east side of the Tail Burn, in a pleasant area of glacial drumlins just south of Loch Skeen.
WR4 - drumlins below Loch Skeen.jpg

A wee bit further up, and Loch Skeen came suddenly into view - a real moment of revelation. Here's a pano shot: White Coomb over on the far left; the steep SE ridge of Firthybrig Head in the middle; and Lochcraig Head looking impressively craggy to the right at the head of the loch.
WR5 - pano shot of Loch Skeen.jpg

I followed the path for a couple of hundred metres round the east shore of the loch, then headed off-piste through the heather to follow a line of fencing that heads off north onto the eastern shoulder of Lochcraig Head. The fence definitely takes the easiest line up, but all the same it was difficult terrain at first, with a mixture of bog and tussocky heather. Once through the boggy bit, however, there was a fine view back down over the loch:
WR6 - back down to Loch Skeen.jpg

A bit higher up, there was a nice vista over the hills out to the east:
WR7 - view out east on Lochcraig Head ascent.jpg

It's amazing what a difference a mere 20 metres or so can make to a view. From Lochcraig Head's summit cairn, the southern tip of Loch Skeen is only just visible.
WR8 - Lochcraig Head cairn.jpg

Walk just 20 metres south from the Donald to the edge of its southern crags, however, and this classic vista of Loch Skeen appears :D !
WR9 - the classic view of Loch Skeen.jpg

To make a bit more of a walk, I'd decided to take in the outlying Donald Top of Nickies Knowe, plus a third Donald in the area, Molls Cleuch Dod, which is again an outlier a bit further round the loop. Nickies Knowe was next up: it's the lump at the end of Lochcraig Head's north ridge. There was a handy line of fencing that I just followed all the way over.
WR10 - onwards to Nickies Knowe.jpg

It proved to be a fairly scenic wee hill, with a good view over Talla Reservoir from its rather bijou cairn.
WR11 - Loch Talla reservoir from Nickies Knowe cairn.jpg

I also got a good look at my next target, Molls Cleuch Dod.
WR12 - Molls Cleuch Dod from Nickies Knowe.jpg

Sadly, history has not recorded exactly who Nickie and Moll were. Two keen Donald-bagging lassies of the eighteenth century, perhaps :? ?
Anyway, it was off back along the fence to Lochcraig Head, and then down westwards across the boggy bealach with Firthybrig Head. There was another pleasing view down over Loch Skeen from here.
WR13 - Loch Skeen from shoulder of Firthybrig Head.jpg

From here I detoured again, northwestwards this time, to take in Molls Cleuch Dod. This rounded Donald turns out to have two cairns, a big one beside the fence, and a smaller one a bit further east which I suspect marks the true summit. I made sure to visit both, and then stopped for lunch at the wee cairn.
WR14 - Molls Cleuch Dod Big Cairn.jpg
WR15 - Molls Cleuch Dod Wee Cairn.jpg

From here, I headed back to Firthybrig Head and then on southwest over the minor rise of Donald's Cleuch Head, which despite its name is strangely enough neither a Donald nor even a Donald Top :? . There is an option of detouring from here to take in yet another Donald Top, which rather optimistically calls itself 'Great Hill'. Well, fair fa' its honest sonsie face and all that, but as my granny used to say, 'Self-praise is no honour', and I found it hard to enthuse. Particularly since it had started to rain quite heavily at this point :( .
WR16 - Great Hill - or not.jpg

...So I decided to leave my life unenriched by Great Hill's charms, and plodded on southwards to Firthhope Rig, another Donald Top. There was an interesting view from its wee cairn to the craggy hills at the south-east end of the Hart Fell range.
WR17 - Firthhope Rig cairn with lumpy bit at south end of Hart Fell range.jpg

The Corbett, White Coomb, was finally looking very close now.
WR18 - White Coomb from Firthhope Rig cairn.jpg

On the way across, I got a better look at those craggy southwestern outliers of Hart Fell, Raven Craig and Saddle Yoke. The low boggy area to the north-east of Saddle Yoke is rather pleasingly named 'Rotten Bottom' on the OS Landranger map :lol: ...
WR19 - view SW to Raven Craig & Saddle Yoke from Firthhope & Coomb bealach.jpg

It didn't take much longer to get up to White Coomb's sizeable summit cairn. The best views were probably back east to Lochcraig Head:
WR20 - back to Lochcraig Head from White Coomb cairn.jpg

From here I headed down southwest to take in one last Donald Top, the oddly named Carrifran Gans (answers on a postcard, anyone :? ?).
WR21 - Carrifran Gans with wee lochan at bealach.jpg

At this late stage in the day, the sun finally had the cheek to come out for ten minutes :roll: . Here's the view back to White Coomb, this time bathed in sunlight:
WR22 - White Coomb now in sunshine.jpg

A view from Carrifran Gans' cairn:
WR23 - Carrifran Gans cairn.jpg

The descent route from here goes down Carrifran Gans' rollicking east ridge, following an ATV track right the way down to meet a forest track at the boundary of the conifers. The end of the track is at the middle of the three breaks in the trees visible in this photo (the leftwards one is the course of the burn that runs down from the Carrifran Gans / White Coomb bealach; the rightwards one is a forest ride that could be used as an alternative descent route).
WR24 - descending east ridge of Carrifran Gans.jpg
Anyway, I rollicked down the ridge for a bit until it started to steepen just before the forestry, then plodded down through the Christmas trees for what seemed an unfeasibly long time, before finally coming back out onto the A708. The only disadvantage of this route is that it then left me with a bit of a road walk back to the car park, but thankfully it didn't take too long :) . All in all, a very scenic day's walking in these southern hills :D .
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Posts: 385
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Re: Some Donald-bothering in the Moffat Hills

Postby Graeme D » Sun Aug 30, 2015 8:51 pm

Aye, that looks like a fine round indeed. I must make a point of bothering some more Donalds this coming winter! :D
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Graeme D
Posts: 4020
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Joined: Oct 17, 2008
Location: Perth

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