walkhighlands

5 Ettrick Donalds and a Winter Camp

Grahams: Capel Fell, Croft Head, Ettrick Pen
Donalds: Capel Fell, Croft Head, Ettrick Pen, Loch Fell, Wind Fell

Date walked: 01/12/2019

Time taken: 10 hours

Distance: 29km

Ascent: 1421m

After a fortnight of miserable wet weather, a fantastic hill forecast for the weekend was too good an opportunity to pass up. A plan was hatched to head for Moffat, take in a few Donalds around Ettrick Head and throw in a first winter wild camp for good measure. After much faffing about making sure I had enough warm layers, I finally set off around lunchtime from Selcoth fisheries. The afternoon sunshine was glorious as I made my way up the shoulder of Croft Head. There looked to be a more established track alongside Steinstane burn, however the faint path up the shoulder made for fairly easy going, the ground firm and crisp underfoot.

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Great to be out
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Looking back down the shoulder of Croft Head

Joining a more substantial ATV track further up, I was soon on the summit before turning left to head down cat shoulder. I paused to admire the view from here which really is stunning in every direction, before starting my descent down the zig zags to the sheepfold below. A direct ascent of West Knowe looked painfully steep from here (especially fully loaded), so I decided instead to contour around, stopping to fill my water bottles from the burn before heading up the North East shoulder.

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Great viewpoint
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Quick breather at the sheepfold
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Collecting some water before starting up the hill

As I started the climb a thick mist suddenly rolled in and a bit of map and compass work was needed to stay on the right bearing. The views then opened up as I approached the summit, the mist blowing through and the sun beginning to set. Wonderful. A short stroll along the fence line from here and I was on the summit of Loch Fell. A quick scout around revealed a couple of flat spots for the tent so I decided to pitch up here for the night rather than push on into the darkness.

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Sun and Mist on the slopes of West Knowe
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Enjoying the sunset from West Knowe
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Tent up and layers on!

The views from camp were lovely, but it was also bloody freezing, so I was quickly inside, layered up and settling down for the night. I tried and failed to get the stove going, the gas being too cold – so settled instead for a cold snack and an early night after venturing out to look at the stars. The temperature I think dropped to around -7 overnight but I found with all the layers on I was able to stay warm. I slept well, waking around 8 as the sun came up. I’d had the gas canister with me in my sleeping bag overnight so was able to make a brew and some porridge and felt immediately transformed – so obviously needed defrosting after all :) Stepping outside it was a beautiful morning, around -3 still, but down to -10 with the wind chill.

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Tent views
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Morning has broken
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Windchill reading
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Frosty Poles

After another brew I was soon packed up and making my way across to the top of Wind Fell. Dropping the rucksack here, I continued on to Hopetoun Craig and then to the summit of Ettrick Pen. It was nice to get the pack off for a bit, making progress a lot easier with the odd stop to savour the views and conditions.

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Wind Fell Summit
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Looking over to Ettrick Pen from Hopetoun Craig
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Ettrick Pen Summit Cairn

Returning the way I came, I collected the pack and headed down towards Ettrick Head and then back up the shoulder of Capel Fell. Reaching the top – and with most of the climbing now done for the day, I could enjoy the fantastic views over to Hart Fell and a lovely ridge walk taking in a few more tops before dropping down to the Bodesbeck burn. On the way down to the burn I considered including a quick ascent of Bodesbeck law, but in the end decided against it with time now pressing on. Instead I picked up a good firm track heading out of the hills alongside the burn. Going was a bit slower than I’d anticipated as there was thick ice across the path in places, but I was in no rush so took my time, enjoying the beautiful afternoon light striking the hills around me.

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View from Capel Fell
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Gorgeous colours

Passing through a farm and out to a main road, it was then a short trek back to the start and home. A fantastic couple of days out enjoying the hills, so lucky to get these conditions two days on the bounce at this time of the year. A fantastic walking area and I was surprised to have the hills to myself, didn’t see a soul over the two days. Really enjoying walking the Donalds.


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Comments: 7


hendry670


Activity: Munro compleatist

Munros: 50
Corbetts: 15
Grahams: 8
Donalds: 25
Wainwrights: 214
Hewitts: 99



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Statistics

2019

Trips: 1
Distance: 29 km
Ascent: 1421m
Grahams: 3
Donalds: 5


Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Last visited: Jan 06, 2020
Total posts: 4 | Search posts