It’s been a slow start to 2018 for my hill plans, (and slow to file walk reports, as this is over a month late!) but I had an opportunity to take advantage of a Sunday weather window after all the snow and wind and rain that arrived at the beginning of March. So I decided to head south to Drumelzier and Merlin's resting place for my second Border visit of the year, and a group that seemed to offer a decent circuit, And so it proved—good snowy walking and only a couple of sets of footprints for company.
After a journey south that started in fog, the sun had gradually started to burn through as best as an early March sun can. The Culter Fells and Trahenna seemed to stubbornly stay hidden for most of the day, but I was a little luckier, and had several prolonged periods of warmth and light as the sunshine battled the cloud.
I decided to follow the circuit as described in WalkHighlands, so arrived at the small parking area at Drumelzier around 9am. The birdsong told me that spring was most definitely on its way (ha, little did I know what was to come…). The recommended route across the burn seemed to go through someone’s garden, which didn’t appeal to me (even though the WH route photo indicates this is exactly where you go!). So instead I set off up the main track, past some farm buildings and through a couple of gates, and made good time up to the wee block of forest that marked the start of the proper ascent. From here, the path was hard to follow in places, covered as it was in soft snow.
I had a new pair of walking poles to try out on this walk, and as I’d never used poles before, I spent a lot of the ascent to Pykestone figuring out the right length for a gradual uphill. That was the easy bit—the bit I never quite figured out was what to do with them when I didn’t need them! My OMM daysac was too wee to hold them, so I ended up clutching them in one hand. Maybe I need a quiver
The walk itself was straightforward—the cloud level hovered around the 650-700m mark, so periodically the way ahead disappeared, in between patches of sunshine. Underfoot, the snow was sometimes firm, sometimes soft, but by picking my way, I could make good progress, arriving at Pykestone around 1h 20m.
From there, the fenceposts were always a reliable navigation aid between Pykestone and Middle Hill, although there aren’t many obvious clues as to where the high point of Middle Hill’s flattish summit is.
The big shepherd's cairn was an unmissable landmark approaching Glenstiven Dod, where the route to Drumelzier takes a turn to the W.
Unfortunately, Drumelzier Hill, despite looking the most interesting of the three, was the most reluctant to come out of the cloud, so I didn’t really get to appreciate its isolated location above the two side valleys of the Tweed. But the cloud didn’t last long, and the descent down ATV tracks, was straightforward and pleasant.
I made another aborted attempt to find the route back to the car on the north side of the burn, but this time I crossed the burn too high up and got snarled in a mix of bog and slippy, mossy boulders, so I soon crossed back over. Despite this diversion, I was back at the car in just under 3 and a half hours. Another three Border hills ticked off, but plenty more to go!
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Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.