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.

Great to be out
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.

Great viewpoint
Quick breather at the sheepfold
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.

Sun and Mist on the slopes of West Knowe
Enjoying the sunset from West Knowe
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.

Tent views
Morning has broken
Windchill reading
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.

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

View from Capel Fell
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


Activity: Munro compleatist

Munros: 50
Corbetts: 15
Grahams: 8
Donalds: 25
Wainwrights: 214
Hewitts: 98

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

Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Last visited: May 10, 2022
Total posts: 4 | Search posts