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Back to the Ochills

Back to the Ochills


Postby weaselmaster » Sun Jan 31, 2016 10:52 pm

Donalds included on this walk: Blairdenon Hill, Innerdownie

Date walked: 31/01/2016

Time taken: 5.75 hours

Distance: 20.7 km

Ascent: 1364m

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The weather was one of the variables getting me down this week - Allison's injuries the other. I'd originally planned to head down to Hawick and do a couple of short hillwalks in that area, with some time to go into the metropolis of Hawick itself for entertainment as I knew Allison wouldn't be fit enough for anything up hil. However the campsite we'd chosen emailed to say they were flooded on wednesday, and I saw pictures of the River Hawick spilling over its banks on Thursday, so an alternative had to be found. Not easy getting a campsite that's open at this time of year, in an area you remotely want to be in (ie near some Donalds) that also leaves the option of being able to walk somewhere nearby if you can't do hills....but i managed to find Woods Caravan Site in Alva. Allison could wander into Alva whilst I went up one of my remaining Ochills, Blairdenon, then she could wait in the car the following day whilst I nipped up Innerdownie. Result!

The rainfall overnight on Thursday was substantial, as were the winds on Friday morning and it was with some trepidation that we set off. Fortunately the afternoon on Friday was dry and we got pitched without difficulty. No other tents in the site (funny that) and a lot of the surrounding land flooded with resident geese and swans bobbing about. Not a trace of snow on the Ochills - with snow forecast overnight I suspectred they wouldn't look so green on Saturday morning. A very gusty night in the tent, Allison waking up to beat imaginary snow off the tent roof about 3am, then real snow later in the night. When we did get up and look out there was a modest covering on the ground, but the hills were indeed white. I breakfasted on porridge and set off in the car, parking at Alva Glen - Allison could always walk in and get a lift back to the campsite if she wished.

View to the Ochills - Friday pm
ImageP1110951 by Al, on Flickr

View to the Ochills - Sat am
ImageP1110952 by Al, on Flickr


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



I can't remember ever being in this Glen before, although I'm almost sure I have been...followed the walkway round to The Gowls then along to the west of The Nebit to a small bridge over the stream and up the slopes of Craighorn. The snow was only a couple of inches deep most of the time, the wind intermittently ferocious when it could get a blow at you. I laboured up to the summit of Craighorn and was rewarded with some views over to Ben Cleuch. From here, the route I was following took me west, rather than keeping height and going the slightly longer route to the north - a sizeable dip down into Birken Glen and a steepish ascent up the southern flank of Blairdenon followed. I needed the exercise anyway :lol: The weather cleared with some blue sky apparent. I could see a cyclist coming over from Ben Cleuch direction - into the strong wind and ploughing through deep snow - oof! I stopped for some food and set off up the remaining distance to the summit of Blairdenon, coming across a track as I neared the top. The weather had closed in as I reached the cairn, just before the cyclist caught me up.

ImageP1110954 by Al, on Flickr

Big Torry
ImageP1110957 by Al, on Flickr

Walking up the Glen
ImageP1110959 by Al, on Flickr

Light on the Forth
ImageP1110960 by Al, on Flickr

Top of Craighorn
ImageP1110962 by Al, on Flickr

Dark skies over Alva
ImageP1110964 by Al, on Flickr

Blairdenon
ImageP1110965 by Al, on Flickr

Bengengie
ImageP1110967 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110968 by Al, on Flickr

Ben Cleuch
ImageP1110969 by Al, on Flickr

Blairdenon summit
ImageP1110971 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110972 by Al, on Flickr


My descent route had been to go over Bengengie Hill and to continue south to the end of the ridge, but I could see the another snowstorm coming on and decided to cut things short and head down steeply by the West Cameron Burn to pick up the track along Alva Glen. There were a number of sheep startled by me sudden appearance as I wended my way down the grassy/snowy slopes and hit the track. There's a sizeable cutback at The Cloves and I did swither about dropping down into the glen itself and following the course of the burn, but I reckoned it would get a bit steep (it did) so I was glad I'd chosen to do the extra distance and keep to the track. The storm hit me from behind, darkening the sky and sending spindrift high into the air - not to mention almost blowing me off my feet. I kept trotting along and passed the section where I'd headed up Craighorn, then retraced my steps back down into the Glen. Allison had texted me to say she'd gone back to the tent (after finding a coffee shop to pass some time in). Rain put paid to heading out anywhere else after I'd got back to the tent myself.


Down into the glen
ImageP1110973 by Al, on Flickr

More snowstorms
ImageP1110975 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110976 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110978 by Al, on Flickr

On Sunday I packed up the tent. Allison suffering a bit from her exertions the previous day was just planning to sit in the car and read whilst I nipped up Innerdownie from Glendevon - I was hoping to be back within 2 hours. As we drove past Dollar and round to Yetts o Muckart it was evident that there had been more snow here overnight - most round the southern side of the Ochills seemed to have melted, but not here. We parked down the wee lane at the church over fresh snow several inches deep - this might retard my time goal. I set off, having decided to pack my snow shoes and headed along the road to the bridge at the Watch Tower Lodge. From here I went straight up the northern aspect of Glenquey Hill - knee deep in snow for much of it. At the top is a waymark post and I paused here to put my snowshoes on, the terrain having flattened out suitably and the snow being 4-6 inches deep in the main. There was a trail, buried under snow but visible and I stuck to this as it wound up the hillside. Snowshoes definately helped progress, although I was still quite tired as I lumbered up to the cairn. Turn about and head down, following my distinctive tracks, meeting a group of 4 walkers coming up, stopped for a chat. Kept the snowshoes on even over the steeper tussocky ground and managed not to break an ankle, only tripped up once :D Back at the car in 1 hour 47 - Allison had had to pull a sleeping bag over herself to keep warm :cry:


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Up Glenquey Hill
ImageP1110980 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110981 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110982 by Al, on Flickr

In case you were lost
ImageP1110983 by Al, on Flickr

It's up there
ImageP1110984 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110985 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110986 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110987 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110988 by Al, on Flickr
So the Ochills done (for now - no doubt a certain person will be encouraging me to do them again with her at soem future point when she has regained the use of her legs). Have quite enjoyed these hills, be good to see them in better weather conditions too.
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weaselmaster
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Re: Back to the Ochills

Postby Dave Hewitt » Mon Feb 01, 2016 11:23 am

weaselmaster wrote:So the Ochills done (for now - no doubt a certain person will be encouraging me to do them again with her at soem future point when she has regained the use of her legs). Have quite enjoyed these hills, be good to see them in better weather conditions too.

You still have the Law to pick off, do you not? I know it's not in the New Donalds list because of lack of drop, but it's a Top in Percy Donald's original list and is one of the main Ochil summits in terms of shape and character - would be odd to omit it. I keep the list of Donaldists and almost everyone on this has done everything in the original list (which includes all the NDs); a few people have just done the main summits in the original list (along the lines of the modern way of doing the Munros), but they're few and far between and pure New Donaldists are likewise rare.

For all that I published the NDs list, I personally don't agree with the drop-only approach, and the Law is a good example of why drop+distance is more appropriate, especially in moorland or plateaux contexts as you tend to get with the Donalds. The Law and Ben Ever are equidistant in terms of time from Ben Cleuch, and form a natural three-summit horseshoe - just because the Law dip is slightly shallower than the Ever one doesn't make it any less of a Top - and it makes up for it in terms of extra distance anyway.

Take in the Law sometime as part of a circuit from Tilli: Law-Cleuch-Ever-Wood Hill then back by the upper path in the wood is a very nice half-day, and Law-Cleuch-Ever-Nebit then back by the lower woodland path is good too.

Good to see you went up Craighorn - nice hill even if it doesn't quite make the 2000ft mark. That track you were on tends to be called "the new track", even though it was put in sometime in the late 1980s. Fair effort to get to Blairdenon in Saturday's weather. The Torry-Bengengie ridge is well worth a look sometime - Torry's arguably the best summit in the Ochils. And it looks like you had more snow and brighter conditions on Innerdownie on Sunday than I had further west - what time, ish, were you there? I set off about 11.15am for a Law-Cleuch-Andrew Gannel-King's Seat loop and had cloud above 550m. Nice enough, though - good to have not much in the way of a wind blowing for a change (unlike today).

Innerdownie's a nice hill. Other good ways up/down include starting at the Glensherup car park and taking the forest track then a slightly hard-to-find path through the trees that emerges to meet your route about two-thirds of the way up; and the glen road from the big Castlehill reservoir layby, followed by the rather odd mown path that wiggles its way almost to the top from the Quey dam. Whitewisp and Innerdownie from the Dollar side, then back through the pass, is another good outing. Lots of options, as ever.
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Re: Back to the Ochills

Postby Collaciotach » Mon Feb 01, 2016 12:07 pm

If i suggested to Mrs Colla that she hang about for a few hours in the car while i nipped up a hill i think she would likely have a fit :wink:

Your some fella :clap: :clap:
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Re: Back to the Ochills

Postby weaselmaster » Mon Feb 01, 2016 1:16 pm

Dave Hewitt wrote:You still have the Law to pick off, do you not? I know it's not in the New Donalds list because of lack of drop, but it's a Top in Percy Donald's original list and is one of the main Ochil summits in terms of shape and character - would be odd to omit it. I keep the list of Donaldists and almost everyone on this has done everything in the original list (which includes all the NDs); a few people have just done the main summits in the original list (along the lines of the modern way of doing the Munros), but they're few and far between and pure New Donaldists are likewise rare.

For all that I published the NDs list, I personally don't agree with the drop-only approach, and the Law is a good example of why drop+distance is more appropriate, especially in moorland or plateaux contexts as you tend to get with the Donalds. The Law and Ben Ever are equidistant in terms of time from Ben Cleuch, and form a natural three-summit horseshoe - just because the Law dip is slightly shallower than the Ever one doesn't make it any less of a Top - and it makes up for it in terms of extra distance anyway.

Take in the Law sometime as part of a circuit from Tilli: Law-Cleuch-Ever-Wood Hill then back by the upper path in the wood is a very nice half-day, and Law-Cleuch-Ever-Nebit then back by the lower woodland path is good too.

Good to see you went up Craighorn - nice hill even if it doesn't quite make the 2000ft mark. That track you were on tends to be called "the new track", even though it was put in sometime in the late 1980s. Fair effort to get to Blairdenon in Saturday's weather. The Torry-Bengengie ridge is well worth a look sometime - Torry's arguably the best summit in the Ochils. And it looks like you had more snow and brighter conditions on Innerdownie on Sunday than I had further west - what time, ish, were you there? I set off about 11.15am for a Law-Cleuch-Andrew Gannel-King's Seat loop and had cloud above 550m. Nice enough, though - good to have not much in the way of a wind blowing for a change (unlike today).

Innerdownie's a nice hill. Other good ways up/down include starting at the Glensherup car park and taking the forest track then a slightly hard-to-find path through the trees that emerges to meet your route about two-thirds of the way up; and the glen road from the big Castlehill reservoir layby, followed by the rather odd mown path that wiggles its way almost to the top from the Quey dam. Whitewisp and Innerdownie from the Dollar side, then back through the pass, is another good outing. Lots of options, as ever.


Yep - the Law will no doubt feature when I go back over the hills with Allison in some configuration or other. I feel much more comfortable with the topography of the hills now to be able to arrange some alternative routes, when the time comes.

I was up Innerdownie between 10.30 and 12 on the sunday - it was definately brighter in the first hour of that time
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weaselmaster
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Re: Back to the Ochills

Postby weaselmaster » Mon Feb 01, 2016 1:17 pm

Collaciotach wrote:If i suggested to Mrs Colla that she hang about for a few hours in the car while i nipped up a hill i think she would likely have a fit :wink:

Your some fella :clap: :clap:


To be fair it was less than 2 hours I was away plus she had a book and a sleeping bag to wrap up in...luxury, no? :lol:
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weaselmaster
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Posts: 1913
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Location: Greenock

Re: Back to the Ochills

Postby PeteR » Mon Feb 01, 2016 1:53 pm

Had I not been so attentive to MrsR on her weekend off I would have been up Blairdenon on Sunday (I was given the opportunity, but skilfully chose to spend a second day with the Mrs - she is working next weekend, so perhaps get a double header in if the weather relents :wink: )

Looks good up there with the snow :D
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Re: Back to the Ochills

Postby Dave Hewitt » Mon Feb 01, 2016 2:31 pm

weaselmaster wrote:Yep - the Law will no doubt feature when I go back over the hills with Allison in some configuration or other. I feel much more comfortable with the topography of the hills now to be able to arrange some alternative routes, when the time comes.

The Law has the reputation of being one of those long steady grinds - like the SW shoulder of Gulvain or Kirk Fell from Wasdale Head - but it's pleasant enough and certainly gets you up pretty quickly. Opinions vary between those who mainly see it as a way on or a way off - I do both, but generally prefer it as a way up at the start of proceedings. When I got to 500 Law ascents I worked out what the split had been, and it was almost exactly 60% up, 40% down, more or less what I'd expected.

Almost everyone just uses the main path, but there are some decent alternative options - eg taking the main path to the top of the initial steep section then angling right to meet the fence and following that up. Or seeking out the old Daiglen Green bridge (which is getting quite rickety and might not last much longer - it's mainly just corrugated metal) and then heading up the SW flank of the Law from there. If you go straight up you meet the main path in due course, but if you drift left there's scope for hitting the summit bang on from the side. That flank is even steeper than the path, though, so hardly anyone ever goes that way.

I was up Innerdownie between 10.30 and 12 on the sunday - it was definately brighter in the first hour of that time

Yeah, it was brighter when I started, then it gradually murked in. Quite a few people out, here and there - the Ochils tend to be quite busy on winter weekends when the weather and road conditions discourage central belt walkers from going further north and dicing with dodgy glen roads etc.
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