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Culter Fells: A Blown Circuit
by iangpark » Wed Oct 03, 2018 5:25 pm
Grahams included on this walk: Culter Fell, Gathersnow Hill
Donalds included on this walk: Chapelgill Hill, Culter Fell, Gathersnow Hill, Hillshaw Head, Hudderstone
Date walked: 02/10/2018
Time taken: 7.75 hours
Distance: 32.7 km
Ascent: 1483m3 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
After trying not to nod off for too long on the increasingly less dark bus journey, I finally got off and was immediately made clear how cold it was going to be. As I am still in the process of moving, I had no jacket or gloves and instead had a hat and 4 fabric layers. This ended up being absolutely fine but I was initially apprehensive. There wasn't one turn I needed to make the whole way along the road other than a right fork in the road. Some interesting wildlife on the way to Culter Allers: a ton of male and female pheasant and red grouse, lots of sheep varieties and a buzzard standing about in a field.
Unnamed glen east of Coulter (Broughton Heights in background; Goseland Hill midground):
Culter Fell and Fell Shin ahead:
I had intended to walk through the steadings of Culter Allers Farm but the two daughters were on their way to school and thought it mannerful to not walk past their house unpermitted. Instead I kept going until the road turns left then head up onto the rig from there. After investigating some odd Dog Sick slime mould and heather burning remains, I finally made it to the top of the ridge - easily the most difficult and infuriating ascent of the day due to the deep heather. The sunrise peeping over King Bank Head made up for it.
Knowe Dod looking particularly Dalveen Pass-esque:
Up to King Bank Head:
Along to Cardon Hill:
...and Chapelgill Hill, the first Donald of the day (and my 50th):
The ascent up to Birnies Bowrock was much longer than I thought, although was quite gradual. It was exactly 2 hours from getting off the bus to BB, according to my watch. It was unbelievably cold due to the winds at the top so I tried my best to hide behind the cairn. I had put milk into my flask after asking Iain if he could bring a teabag for me, but after he slept in, all I had was diluted milk. Furthermore; reminiscent of a weaselmaster situation on the same fells, I hadn't warmed my water up enough on my new flat's hob and it was lukewarm at best. I held my nose and drank it down after a ham sandwich. Ditched the bag and ran over to Cardon Hill. At the summit, it was almost the windiest it got all day. I couldn't open my mouth in the direction of the wind as I couldn't breathe!
Cardon Hill from Birnies Bowrock:
Over to Chapelgill Hill from Cardon Hill:
The terrain over to Chapelgill was the worst of the whole day - boggy, slidey and with barely any decent water to drink. I dumped the bag once again about half way up. I think the actual top is the grassy knoll a bit west of the cairn.
Gathersnow Hill from Chapelgill Summit:
Culter Fell from Chapelgill:
The descent and ascent of Culter Fell was nice and easy, with only a small bumpy ride over the peat hags to contend with. My calves (and stamina in general) were definitely feeling the ascent though. A straightforward fenceline to follow to the small summit and trig. Although the highest lowlands Graham, I barely stuck around at the top.
Trig over to Tinto:
Coomb Hill, Gathersnow Hill and Moss Law below:
I was really enjoying the walk now despite the extremely strong wind but couldn't wait to get down to Holm Nick for a sit down and some chocolate. The descent to Moss Law was particularly boggy but not too bad on the feet. After my brief break, I began up the path that briefly zig-zags up to Glenwhappen Rig. I found a sheep's horn on the way up and considered taking it until I found the rest of the poor animal as a splayed out skeleton slightly above. I had expected the way up to be long and steep but it ended up being much shorter than I thought, except at the top. After reaching the distant fence, I dumped the bag once again and started over to Coomb Hill. At the top, there were gusts that must have reached about 60mph. A poor lark was trying not to get blown away, as was a hare at the cairn. I could lie back at 30° and not fall over.
Coomb Hill summit:
After that it was a riveting ascent back up Gathersnow Hill:
Looking back to Coomb Hill:
It was a long walk to Gathersnow's summit, but it was at least very gradual. The views from the summit were very good despite the visibility. I enjoyed trying to name the hills to the south, which I have barely touched, and seeing the Fruid and Talla reservoirs for the first time.
Hill layers over to the ever-present Queensberry:
I was surprised to see how far off Hillshaw Head was, and how close to Hillshaw Coomb Dod was. The new turbines were definitely getting their money's worth today.
Over to Hillshaw Head:
I followed a narrow sheep track along the rig until rejoining the fence closer to the top. Not a difficult ascent at all.
Coomb Dod from HH:
Down to the Kingledores Glen:
The wind had seriously picked up again as I descended to the wind farm road scarring the hillside. After joining it for a couple of minutes, I left it again to summit Coomb Dod in almost the same time. There were two cars visiting one of the main site buildings past Hudderstone.
Coomb Dod trig:
And again, lit:
I hid behind the trig for a brief sandwich and diluted milk before getting back to the road again, slightly out of the wind. Hudderstone was a long way off still and I ended up walking quite fast along the serpentining track.
A long way off:
As I reached The Bank, I checked the bus times to see when I could get out of Lamington. The only buses were 2:45pm and after that, 18:50pm. I was not going to wait about for that long when it was only 1:05pm. I recalled foggieclimber's report which said that Coomb Dod to Hudderstone took a bit over an hour. I thought that I could then make it to the summit by 1:45pm and get from Hudderstone to Lamington in an hour - a big ask. The challenge was on to average 7km/h the rest of the journey.
I broke out into a jog as often as I could, reaching Dod Hill, thinking it was Hudderstone, in around 15 minutes. It was then just under 10 minutes to the final hill and Donald of the day. I couldn't see the tiny summit flags so went to a few grassy bumps and began the mad dash (constant near-falling) down to Cowgill Rig, clapping sheep out the way as I ran. I reached it in around 8 minutes from Hudderstone. After that, I went off track and joined the rig down the east side of Ha' Gill down to Cowgill.
Down Ha' Gill with Tinto and Lamington Hill in background:
After a quick stop to take a drink and cool off, I joined the track that follows Key Cleuch down into Lamington. It was 15 minutes from the summit to the beginning of the track. I wish I hadn't been in a rush as the sun was out and the path was absolutely stunning. Although having a few leg spasms, I continued running whenever I could manage, with a bright red, salty face and dizzying vision. Continuing to check the time and the map on my phone, I eventually reached the forestry to the side of Baitlaws Cottage. I chose a random track through the forestry past an unknown lochan and through the kennels' private path. I eventually spotted the brass deer and knew where I was so kept running despite all the dogs barking. The man in the house chased me in his John Deere down to the gate above the Holy Trinity Chapel and kept trying tell me off for passing through. I just kept apologising until he couldn't be bothered. I escaped through the churchyard onto the road, with 3 minutes to spare. I filled up the flask in the Lamington Burn and sat down at the bus stop, waiting for only a couple of minutes before it showed up. I fell asleep a good few times on the way back and my four layers didn't dry off until they'd been put in the dryer after being washed!
by iainR » Wed Oct 03, 2018 6:41 pm
by iangpark » Wed Oct 03, 2018 6:54 pm
iainR wrote:Enjoyed reading that as the Culter Hills are a regular fixture for me. Proves how much i take car ownership for granted as i've never had to consider a hill circuit based on the availability of public transport. Great report on an unusual route.
Cheers Iain, yes I’ve only got one Donald trip left that doesn’t need a car! Going to need to get one bought in 2019 as I’ve got the license sorted. Your Rhinns report brought back some great memories from last year too.
by desmondo1 » Sun Nov 11, 2018 6:43 pm
by iangpark » Sun Nov 11, 2018 10:50 pm
desmondo1 wrote:That was an epic trip, well done I enjoyed your report and I felt for you at the end, meeting buses after a walk always ends in a rush. Good stuff.
Thanks a lot Des, it was my longest single day walk so far but barely felt it thanks to the easy terrain. Hopefully I'll never need to repeat the ending again as it turned into a pretty horrible experience. Only one Donald trip left without needing a car!
by razzah » Mon Nov 12, 2018 10:52 am
I bet your friend is sad he missed this - it looked a great walk despite the wind.
by iangpark » Mon Nov 12, 2018 11:58 am
razzah wrote:Cracking report - enjoyed reading that. I cannot believe you got chased by a tractor !! Some folk have no life
I bet your friend is sad he missed this - it looked a great walk despite the wind.
Cheers razzah! Yes he's the Lamington Kennels owner. Comes across as a lovely guy on his website but in person definitely not so much! If he'd come with me I think it would have been a lot more of a relaxed day, without the mad dash at the end