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Scunnered in the Moorfoots

Scunnered in the Moorfoots

Postby weaselmaster » Sun Feb 14, 2016 9:44 pm

Grahams included on this walk: Blackhope Scar, Tinto

Donalds included on this walk: Blackhope Scar, Tinto

Date walked: 14/02/2016

Time taken: 6.25 hours

Distance: 19.8 km

Ascent: 983m

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After several beautiful days during the week the forecast for Saturday didn't look great, especially in the Edinburgh/Moorfoot area where I had, of course, chosen to go. Needing a campsite that would accommodate Allison's ongoing recuperation, I had chosen Mortonhall in Edinburgh, and thought I'd manage the Blackhope Scar circuit of 3 Donalds - maybe if things went well, she'd manage Tinto on the Sunday. The weather is best in the west as we head east :( .

We got away mid-afternoon on Friday and had a trouble-free drive through to Edinburgh. It seemed strange going to camp in a city I'd lived in for years - indeed I used to go jogging at weekends on a route that took me past the campsite - I'd never ventured in though. We got a pitch - the only tent on the site once again - and took advantage of the kitchen to heat up the tea, and of the Stables bar for a pint and a warm by the fire before venturing out into the cold. I knew snow was forecast overnight and this came pattering on the tent roof in the small hours. It was warm inside the bags and dreich and snowy outside, so little wonder I was tardy in getting up. I had reckoned the circuit would take me 4-4.5 hours, and that there might be a couple inches snow on the hillside, that meant if I got started just before midday I could be back at the site by 5 in good time to head into Edinburgh for something to eat. Well that was the plan :roll: Driving out through Auchendinny and onto the B6372 it was snowing heavily, a blizzard of big thick flakes. I did wonder if the roads would be OK on the return, but then I was driving the Yeti with snow tyres, so there really shouldn't be a problem. I was feeling less than enthusiastic about the day ahead however - no visibility and snow, why not a clear crisp winter's day?

ImageP1120041 by Al, on Flickr

I parked off the road just by the "no parking beyond this point" sign and prepared to set off. My walk took me down a track to Gladhouse cottage, then across the stream. The snow was a couple inches thick on the ground and continually flurrying into my face. I set off directly up the hillside, passing the sheepfold and ruined castle and up trackless heathery slopes of Hirendean Hill. Contrary to my expectations the snow was deep - to the knee in places where it had been trapped by the heather tussocks. This was not particularly enjoyable - the last thing I wanted to be doing was floundering through snow. I continued on towards The Kipps, able to see very little. All the while the snow was getting deeper and I was cursing my decision to take the snowshoes out of the boot on Thursday night ("I'll not be needing those this weekend" :lol: ) The wind was driving the snow into my face, down my neck - this was not much fun at all.

It's going to be one of those days
ImageP1120043 by Al, on Flickr

Track to Gladhouse Cottage
ImageP1120045 by Al, on Flickr

Sheepfold/castle ruin
ImageP1120046 by Al, on Flickr

View back over the route
ImageP1120047 by Al, on Flickr

There seemed to be various ATV tracks crossing the hillside but none going my way (there are grouse butts around here). Finally I could make out a fence line and knew I had simply to follow this up to the summit of Blackhope Scar. In places there was evidence of a track - still under thick snow but more level than the heather clumps. However, there were sections of frozen bog under the snow on the track - frozen with a surface crust only, meaning you crunched through the snow and into freezing bog water of variable deepness on a frequent basis. That didn't serve to improve my humour either. The summit of the hill was further than it seemed on the map and every so often a detour would be needed to avoid deep peat hags. At last I spied the trig point - I sat down heavily on the leeward site to have my lunch and decide what to do. I was cold, miserable and the 6km this far had taken me 2 hours - it was now 1.40pm. I looked at the map as I slurped my coffee - there were 12km still to go, albeit over fairly flat terrain, a drop and gain of 50m here and there over Bowbeat and Dundreich Hills, but the likelihood was that it would be an ongoing slog over deep snow / heather. That meant another 4 hours potentially - i'd be lucky to get down in the light and my plans to head into Edinburgh would be hampered. I just wasn't feeling much appetite for more of this misery today - I think ever since my Ben Lui escapade I have developed something of an aversion to hours spent floundering in deep soft snow. I elected to turn around and head back. That meant another visit to this area would be needed to get the remaining 2 Donalds - not good for my schedule :lol:

ImageP1120049 by Al, on Flickr

Blackhope Scar Summit
ImageP1120050 by Al, on Flickr

(Not) a happy man
ImageP1120051 by Al, on Flickr

My footprints had already been eradicated by the wind and fresh snow, so there was no track to follow, just the same amount of pitching forward footstep after footstep into deep white stuff. I decided to head west off The Kipps and make for the track that descended to Clinty Cleuch. The snow was deep on each side of the gully but I didn't reckon the avalanche risk was large. By the time I reached the floor of the valley and followed the track along the South Esk river, I was glad I'd chosen this route - a 4x4 had been out earlier in the day compressing the snow and making walking much easier. This brightened my spirits a little, although the snow continued to flurry against me. I walked past the cottage and back onto the track. By this time the snow had temporarily abated and the sky had brightened a bit, enabling me to see the outline of the hill I'd just been up. I tramped back to the car enjoying the antics of some crows. To my left was the water of Gladhouse reservoir, bushes and trees dusted white.

Easier going (!) on the valley floor track
ImageP1120052 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1120053 by Al, on Flickr

Yeah, I was up there
ImageP1120054 by Al, on Flickr

Gladhouse Reservoir
ImageP1120055 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1120057 by Al, on Flickr

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

i drove back to the campsite, picked up Allison who had spent the afternoon reading in the tent, and we set off into town on a Number 11 bus. The snow had resumed and was coming down heavily, lying on the road and making christmas card scenes of the houses. I did worry a little if the bus would be able to return up here later on should the snow continue to fall. We stepped off at Tollcross and wandered up to the Royal Mile - the weather had improved now, it was dry. We made for the baked potato shop on Cockburn Street, an old favourite, and munched veggie haggis and bean filled spuds "sitting in" then set off through the Grassmarket for a drink. I'd researched options for beer and The Hanging Bat on Lothian Road had been selected. 26 different craft beers on tap met our gaze as we entered, and we passed a couple of pleasant hours samling some of their wares. I think the final sup - a can of Beaverton's Lord Smog Almighty Imperial Smoked Porter, weighing in at a hefty 11% was probably one too many as I was a little delicate in the morning :wink:


Anyway, most of the snow had gone on the journey back, although it was icy walking from the bus stop to the tent. It was going to be a cold night - glad we had a few beers inside to insulate a little :lol: It snowed again overnight and was indeed a cold morning. I was uncertain if Allison would be able to manage Tinto if there was deep snow on it. Another relaxed start to the day, we headed off from the campsite around 11am and drove out through Penicuik heading for the A702 to Biggar. The Pentlands looked beautiful - completely covered in snow, brilliant white against a blue sky. Snow was still heavy down to West Linton, then began to lighten on the ground as we went further south. By the time we approached Biggar it was apparent that Tinto was not engulfed in white, just a light covering. That was all to the good. We parked at the busy, signposted car park and perpared to set off. I'd put a set of crampons in my sack just in case it was going to be slippy underfoot for Allison - didn't want any slips jerking her back out of place again. The track was wide and easily visible all the way up and there were lots of folk, some with dogs, some with kids, out on the hill. We set off at a good pace and quickly encountered ice on the track, s=needing some care. Most of the bog was frozen, which helped. We gained height gradually, enjoying the sunshine and visibility. Looking back, there was much more snow on the hills in the east compared with those in the west, although the wedge of Ben Lomond stuck out like a white flag.

Tinto from the car park
ImageP1120058 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1120059 by Al, on Flickr

She's out and about again
ImageP1120062 by Al, on Flickr

About halfway up Allison put the crampons on for a bit, but reported feeling stupid. The path soon went from slippy to gravelly and she was able to remove them again. Over to our left, on Scaut Hill, the heather burning had been carried out in strange circular/ovoid shapes which seemed unusual in the snow - you've seen the Long Man of Wilmington and the White Horse of Uffington - welcome to the Paramecium and Amoeba of Tinto :lol: We made the final pull to the summit of Tinto amidst a chill wind with the threat of snow coming at us. There was variety in the garb of the other folks - from well equipped winter walkers to folk going up in shorts and a couple of lassies wearing three quarter length leggings and light tops. I suppose it had been sunny at the bottom of the hill :lol: We paused for a late lunch behind the large cairn on the southern side of the hill, out of the worst of the wind, pleased that Allison had managed the ascent without much discomfort. We visited the trig point (clearly the cairn is the Graham summit and the Trig the Donald summit :wink: ) then headed back down. The passing of so many feet had rendered the snow slippier than on the ascent and after I fell, bruising my already sore elbow, Allison decided to re-instate her crampons and was able to whisk down as sure footedly as a goat, whilst others picked their way more gingerly downwards. Back at the car in under 3 hours - Yay - another step on the recovery journey.

ImageP1120063 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1120066 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1120067 by Al, on Flickr

"The Paramecium of Tinto"
ImageP1120068 by Al, on Flickr

Weather threatens
ImageP1120069 by Al, on Flickr

Almost there..
ImageP1120070 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1120071 by Al, on Flickr

View South
ImageP1120072 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1120075 by Al, on Flickr
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Re: Scunnered in the Moorfoots

Postby malky_c » Sun Feb 14, 2016 9:55 pm

Schedule, schmedule - you should have been out in the sun in the Highlands this weekend, not knee-deep on the moorlands south of Edinburgh :lol: . I confess I made the same mistake back in November - was up Blackhope Scar in miserable (but much easier) conditions while everyone else was enjoying surprise sunshine at the Torridon meet :? .

Still, at least Tinto looked rather nice 8)
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Re: Scunnered in the Moorfoots

Postby Sgurr » Sun Feb 14, 2016 10:52 pm

I hand it to you weasel, you really know how to give a recovering partner a good Valentine's day :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:
Weaselmaster wrote:We got a pitch - the only tent on the site once again -

What's wrong with a romantic night NOT under canvas?
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Re: Scunnered in the Moorfoots

Postby Guinessman » Sun Feb 14, 2016 10:53 pm

Enjoyed your report.

Scunnered, Great word that.

Must give that 11% stuff a try, now there's a challenge! :roll:
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Re: Scunnered in the Moorfoots

Postby prog99 » Sun Feb 14, 2016 11:49 pm

Good choice of bars to visit. The stable is my local(few mins walk) and the hanging bat is a good one in town. Not tried that Beavertown beer, must look it up (their gamma ray is good).

I've vowed never to return to Blakehope Scar although Tinto is nice.
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Re: Scunnered in the Moorfoots

Postby Tinto63 » Mon Feb 15, 2016 6:04 pm

Nice report, but from previous posts on Moorfoot walks I think that the general consensus is that it is very easy to be scunnered in these hills. I agree that the combination of deep soft snow and deep cold water underneath is particularly unpleasant. Nevertheless, you must have been pushing on to have a moving average of over 4kph in these conditions.

The only time time I have enjoyed a walk to Blackhope Scar was when there was a very hard frost and only a dusting of snow.
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Re: Scunnered in the Moorfoots

Postby rockhopper » Tue Feb 16, 2016 12:00 am

ah well, not a bad result and at least you got out......but maybe you should've headed NW instead :wink: - cheers :)
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