With the advent of my first solo camp nearly upon me; an event which I never seen to stop banging on about, I thought it best to finish up these seemingly never-ending list of Donalds, New Donald and Donald Tops that make up the range of hills with which I started. Had I known about the latter two lists in September last year, I would have surely split it into 2 trips, but I have now returned twice. The first was to mop up Well Hill, Rodger Law and Glenleith Fell, all of which I decided were "essential", but this trip only required Cold Moss - the other 2 sub-2ks I added just so I wasn't waiting for a bus for half the day.
I was unsure if I'd be able to walk the 21.4km in under 6hrs but I ended up being 40 minutes early, for which I am most thankful as it would have meant I'd be waiting for 3 hours in the middle of Dalveen Pass (which in retrospect isn't too awful I suppose!) I must admit I definitely suffered later on in the day as I'd survived on a 1l flask of tea and 8 mini gingerbread men for the trip (despite having enough food to last me all day). An '8" Big Man Calzone' from Kilmarnock saw to that issue.
My full gallery can be found here: http://ianparkphotography.blogspot.co.uk/2017/10/cairn-hill-green-hill-lowther-hill-cold.html].
Dropped off by the girlfriend (as usual) at Elvanfoot and followed the path up. Accidentally went on the first left and ended up on a train track, second left was a good 300m further up.
Woodpecker sighting in first 5 minutes:
Took Kirkbride Churchyard path up to the farmhouse. Must have seen at least 70 pheasants all dawdling along the path at this section, quickly waddling from nettle bush to nettle bush. My estimate is that I saw at least 200 throughout the day.
Reached the farmhouse and eventually joined the path of forestry, after getting barked at by the farmer's dog and nearly falling over their sealed gate. The forest had the most amazing fungal display I have ever seen; Fly Agaric was bursting out from the mossy terrain below in spectacularly abundant swathes. I could have fallen in any direction and landed on at least 3 or 4. There were decaying toadstools everywhere and some others I doubt I've seen before. I felt like I was walking on top of mouldy bread.
The path becomes much fainter, but just keep slightly to the right and you'll end up at the other end of the forest. It was an easy, if not boggy, 15 minute trundle to the summit of Cairn Hill.
I had planned to sweep around to Knockconey Dod, but half-expectedly, I followed the contours along and down to the Long Cleuch burn. I ate some gingerbread men, took a good drink from the burn and headed over the tail end of Knockconey Dod. I should really have followed it down and joined the path to the west, but I made it difficult on myself.
'Upper Lagnee' Glen:
Briefly curving around Glenim, I joined the Dempster Road and into the Mennock Pass - my first time visiting it. What a place! I didn't think the hills in D&G could get any steeper than Steygail but I was wrong! I made my way steeply down through the bracken to the deep and fast-flowing Mennock Water where I refuelled once again.
Steep gradient up Mennock Pass:
I was aiming just to the west of the circular sheepfold not present on the map. This was easily the steepest ascent of the day - a good 70 degrees in places, but the sheep tracks gave me excellent footholds anyway. The hike up to the path on Middle Moor was longer than expected. Some areas of heather burning made the going a bit easier. I realised at this point that I was probably going to have more than enough time to get the early bus back. After a long and uneventful walk to Black Hill (which I briefly believed was the summit), it was a short and very easy climb to the top of Green Hill. There is a iron rod at the top but I doubt it's on the official summit.
Green Hill summit area:
Wanlockhead was just as picturesque in person as it looks in photos. I took the path to the W side of Black Hill down to the village in 15 minutes.
Wouldn't be a Southern Uplands TR without a Wanlockhead photo:
Some of the sights in Scotland's highest village:
Although having visited Lowther Hill last time, I thought I might as well try find the actual top this time. I hadn't been sure what way to take up, but I spotted the SUW from Black Hill and decided it was the fastest way to 'the road'. It is a steep climb that seems to go on forever, but I made good progress. The section on the road is in fact the worst part - tarmac doesn't seem to counteract incline!
Better view of Green Hill:
I passed two people on the way up: one was sitting half way up the road for a rest, after being a good 10 minutes ahead of me, and the other was cycling to the top! It was getting pretty cold by now and I was only wearing one layer so quickly headed to the rusty shed south of the golf ball and had my 'lunch'. I felt much better after it but it was a very well needed rest. I was bang on the cloud line - I could see mist passing by the radar station. I searched about for a summit feature but to no success - at least I could see >10m in front of myself this time!
I had expected the way down to Cold Moss to not be too bad but on approach I saw the fenceline disappear and reappear 100m in front. The way down was sore on the feet but the way back up was fine, if a bit tiring. The feature of 'Hund Craig' was an interesting landmark. A few minutes later I had made it to the only essential hill of the day (and last Lowther hill!) A New Donald and Donald Top, Cold Moss may also have the coolest name of any hill so far, albeit with a featureless summit.
Cold Moss summit:
The Dalveen Pass was now in full view and it was mesmerising, especially with the evening sky and patchy cloud overshadowing it like enormous ink splashes.
It was now a case of getting back down - the tumble down to Thors Cleuch was agonising and took much longer than I had thought. No rush as I knew I was in plenty of time. I joined the road a few metres before it begins to curve downwards and from then it was a 20 minute walk along the roadside and embankment to Toll Cottage bus stop. I had a good 45 minutes to ponder the day and think that this was likely my last time in the Lowthers.
A day finishing the Lowthers, much more pleasant than my day starting them!:
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