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Four out of Five ain't bad

Four out of Five ain't bad

Postby Fife Flyer » Mon Dec 05, 2016 9:25 pm

Grahams included on this walk: Blackcraig Hill, Windy Standard

Donalds included on this walk: Alhang, Blackcraig Hill, Blacklorg Hill, Windy Standard

Date walked: 04/12/2016

Time taken: 5.5 hours

Distance: 19.5 km

Ascent: 1060m

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As a famous singer almost said :lol:

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As my last venture into the Borders was over a week ago I was getting withdrawal symptoms and as the weather was about change I decided to head out on a Sunday for a change.
I already knew where I was heading and read every WR for the hills involved at least twice :roll: My plan was to 'loosely' follow Rockhopper's route starting off with Blackcraig Hill, however I was going to tackle Blackcraig the more challenging way having read nxmjm's exploits - straight up, rather than the tourist route :lol: :lol:
As I am not familiar with the area I was also unsure of exactly where to park, you can study maps, but one thing they don't tell you is where you can park - one of the reasons I usually take a photo of the parking area :wink:
At this time of year hours of daylight are in shorter supply so my plan was to set off as the sun was scheduled to appear, sunrise was 8.27 and sunset 15.49. Rockhopper had taken around about 8 hours and he is definitely no slouch, hence the reason I opted for the direct route up Blackcraig - in theory to save a few minutes :lol: The clever ones amongst you will have worked out that a headtorch may be required and mine is always in my rucksack just in case - like so much other stuff :lol:
I was hoping to be on the road from Fife by 5.30 and I needn't have worried as Mrs F's dogs wanted out to the toilet at 4.30 so I decided to surface and was mobile at 5am. I still find it amazing how much traffic is on the roads before 6am on a SUNDAY morning, unless there are plenty of other dafties like me :(
As I was way ahead of schedule - it is only 88 miles to the other side of New Cumnock so I opted to drive like Miss Daisy (again), the bonus being I got almost 50mpg :lol:
I arrived near Craigdarroch Farm in the pitch dark and found a suitable parking spot that was just off the road and would let the farmer (when he gets up) get access to his field.
As I said it was still very dark so I thought I would relax and maybe get a few minutes shut eye before venturing out into the cold morning air. Was a good idea but a waste of time and I was starting to cool down, so I opted to get kitted up and start off in the dark, knowing that it would only be minutes before I could see exactly where I was going :lol: The temerature outside was around about zero and I wasn't exactly roasting, even with 4 layers, gloves and hat :roll:

Image This is what we call a rather early start :lol:

Image It's getting lighter

The initial part of the walk on my route follows a track and then across a bridge over the Afton Water, daylight was just appearing and my plan was cross the Craig Burn and stay on the far side (east) of it and head uphill. The western slopes of Blackcraig Hill is littered with rocky outcrops and random loose rocks so great care was needed. Walking on the rocks was actually far easier than on the tufty grass as it was soft and spongy. It wasn't long before I was warming up along with the usual uphill huffing and puffing :lol:

Image Early morning look back towards Craigdarroch

Image Looking down on the glen named "Horse Craig"

Image Angle of ascent up Blackcraig, was cold when I started but by now I was warming up nicely :lol: :lol:

Image Sun about to make an appearance

Even on the large summit plateau of Blackcraig the walk across to the cairn was tough, the ground was so soft - a bit like walking on snow that was 6" deep :roll:

Image Looking SW

Image Looking W

Image Arty shot of the trig on Blackcraig Hill with the sun hiding behind it 8)

Image Looking north(ish)

Image Shelter on the summit - work in progress

Image Nice early morning shot

After the usual photo's I was keen to get on my way, the way ahead was fairly obvious as is most of route, which either follows a fence or ATV tracks. The was a descent of over 150m before the obvious ascent of a similar height.

Image Sun is awake, very long shadows

Image Looking across to Windy Standard

Image Not a cloud in the sky, looking back to Blackcraig

Image Sun peeking over the horizon

Image Looks nice and crisp but it wasn't really

Image Looking back to Blackcraig, just a shame the view is spoilt by 'you know what' :(

Image Looking NE

I was making good progress time wise and it certainly helps when you are able to walk on a track. That said as anyone who has walked in the Borders will know, just about every hill has a boggy section in close vicinity. Even though the ground was crisp, the boggy areas were determined to try and make my feet wet :(

Image Summit of Blacklorg Hill

Image Looking across to Windy Standard again

Image Blackcraig in the sunshine

Image Looking back, still a few white patches

Image First glimpse of Afton Reservoir

It was whilst on the ascent of Alwhat I heard a male voice shouting, I stopped and had a good look round but couldn't see anyone, so set off again. A minute or so later I heard the same shouting, this time I spotted a quad bike in the distance and a dog nearby, then I saw the sheep ambling along with a few stragglers who were obviously the target for the dog :lol:

Image Farmer on his quad

Image Sheep doing as they are told

Image Summit of the hump called Alwhat with the 2 previous hills in the distance

Image Afton Reservoir

Image Above shot zoomed

Image Looking back again

Image 'Rockhoppers' footsteps :lol:

Image Large summit cairn on Alhang, bit off the beaten track - easily missed

As you follow the fence towards Alhang keep your eyes peeled to your left, as the summit is on the other side of the fence :lol: Don't expect to see a monstrous cairn because if you do you will be very disappointed, I knew what to expect so was scanning the horizon. I guess from the trampled down grass that everyone passes the summit and has to kind of double back :roll:

Image Looking across to Windy Standard & the bog fest in the middle

Image Bit of a path down, but not much through the swamp or on the ascent - follow the fence

The descent off Alhang follows the fence down the shoulder at a nice gradual gradient, I could see from the type of grass in the distance that the next bit wasn't going to be much fun. My main aim was to try and not get into ankle deep mud/water which I actually managed 8) Then the sting in the tail, the ascent up Blackgrane towards Windy Standard was hard going and contributed greatly to my later decision. Once I reached the fence it was just a matter of following it towards the summit area. I could see a good ATV track on the other side of the fence so the obvious thing was to climb over the fence. As soon as I touched the fence I realised it was electrified, it certainly gave me a shock in a couple of ways :lol: :lol: Normally there are signs with warnings but I couldn't see any :roll: I was still determined to make life easier by crossing the fence so I located a lower part and straddled the fence very gingerly and carefully :lol:
Maybe all the electricity produced by the nearby wind farm is being channelled into powering the fence :lol:

Image Rather strange mast stuck in the middle of nowhere and in a dip as well :roll:

Image Nice looking forest

Image Above shot zoomed

Once on the high ground near Windy Standard, the trig can be seen easily so it is just a matter of wandering through the turbines to reach it. If you are a wind turbine fan then Windy Standard is a must visit, not sure how many there are but they are quite well scattered over a large area.

Image For the "wind farm" baggers

Image Kind of copying Rockhoppers idea, only problem the turbine was moving a bit quicker than usual :lol:


Image How to ruin a superb view :(

Image Looking NE

After Windy Standard the plan was to head off to the final Donald of the day Moorbrock Hill. I was feeling a bit weary and my legs weren't exactly loving the underfoot conditions, I still set off downhill and the descent looked pretty uninviting and Moorbrock looked quite a distance away, after about 50m of descent I decided to save it for another day :lol:

Image Started on the descent to Moorbrock Hill but wimped out :lol:

After plodding back up Windy Standard it was then a matter of following the fence and the ATV track over Millaneoch Hill, then Wedder Hill and finally Lamb Hill.

Image Looking across to the 3 previous hills

Image Heading back to the car off Windy Standard

Image Afton Reservoir with Blackcraig on the other side

Image Looking east

After the descent of Lamb Hill the ground becomes very boggy and the ground to the west has been decimated by deforestation. After the bog, which I can imagine after a wet spell would be very challenging you then walk back along the track all the way to the car 8)

Image Plenty of logs waiting to be uplifted


Image We do like our sign posts in the UK :(

Image Low level shot of Afton

Image Craigbraneoch Rig

Image Plenty of vehicles using the single track road in & out

Image The way I went up Blackcraig, not the best decision, I would recommend the 'tourist' route unless you like a challenge :lol:

Image Restricted parking, the other car was a late arrival :lol: :lol:

Image The road in and the better ascent of Blackcraig on the right

An interesting and enjoyable day, one benefit about finishing earlier than planned was that I drove home in daylight and even traffic on the M8 in Glasgow was actually moving all the time 8) The drawback about not visiting Moorbrock is that I now have to probably tackle it from the south :roll:
Next on the menu will probably be a couple of stragglers Talla Cleuch Head & Whitehope.
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Re: Four out of Five ain't bad

Postby Gordie12 » Mon Dec 05, 2016 10:12 pm

Brilliant looking day FF - the rate you are going through the Donalds it will soon be Corbett time!!
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Re: Four out of Five ain't bad

Postby Graeme D » Mon Dec 05, 2016 10:45 pm

You want to be changing your name to Donald mate! Then again maybe not....... :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Re: Four out of Five ain't bad

Postby rockhopper » Mon Dec 05, 2016 11:31 pm

Enjoyed that - good result all the same and a nice day to be out and about. Don't think I crossed the fence but think I did maybe touch it when traversing some of the bogs so perhaps it wasn't switched on - cheers :)
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Re: Four out of Five ain't bad

Postby ExpatEddie » Tue Dec 06, 2016 7:16 pm

:clap: Liked reading this report Flyer as I was on 2 of those hills (Blackcraig and Blacklorg) 4 weeks before with friends. That was some ascent of Blackcraig definitely out of our league when there is a more gradual approach – but we had the luxury of a car at Blackcraig (farmhouse) and one at the water works. I’ll be taking the same group to Alhang/Windy Standard in the Spring. Thanks for the update on the ground conditions and fence hazards. It was there I saw an electrified fence powered by a solar panel – cheeky blighters :shock: ; at least they didn’t put up another turbine.

On the day you were there our group was a few miles away above Sanquhar and agree it was a smashing day. We looked over to your area and remembered our walk there but didn’t see you, of course. As for Moorbrock I think you made the right choice. It would probably be better combined with Cairnsmore of Carsphairn :)
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Re: Four out of Five ain't bad

Postby Jaywizz » Wed Dec 07, 2016 8:39 am

Really impressed with your (extra early) alpine start!! And the rate at which you are logging the Donalds - brilliant!! :D
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Re: Four out of Five ain't bad

Postby Borderhugh » Wed Dec 07, 2016 9:39 am

Well done Martin for getting out and pushing yourself. Not too sure when I will be on the trail of the Donalds but I do love the Southern Uplands. Those wind turbines look intense. :clap:
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Re: Four out of Five ain't bad

Postby Mountainlove » Wed Dec 07, 2016 12:27 pm

So true regarding parking spaces! And thanks for posting pictures...I tend to look for them in reports as well!
Great effort to get quite a big number of hills done and you are right about the wind turbines! Horrible to look at!
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Re: Four out of Five ain't bad

Postby Outnabout » Fri Oct 05, 2018 11:35 am

Good report, going to do this route on Sunday hopefully
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