Talla Donalds Day 2&3: Last Donald, Statistics & Reflections

Corbetts: White Coomb
Donalds: Cape Law, Erie Hill , Garelet Dod, Lochcraig Head , Molls Cleuch Dod, Under Saddle Yoke, White Coomb

Date walked: 14/09/2019

Time taken: 26 hours

Distance: 33.6km

Ascent: 2007m

DAY 2:

Date: 14/09/2019
Distance: 23.7km
Ascent: 1439m

My first night's sleep in the car (or any car) was surprisingly warm but particularly uncomfortable. I'd had a harder time getting to sleep despite a hike and bike of >40km as my car key refused to turn, meaning I couldn't charge my phone. With no service until on the hills, I was starting to worry I'd need to phone for help. Turned out I just had to force it round almost to the point of snapping it, but I didn't figure that out until the next morning. I digress. My cold from the day before had effectively vanished and after devouring 4 bacon rashers and some hot water and packing my heavy rucksack, I began the gruelling ascent of Garelet Hill.

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The air was cold as it had been the morning before so I had two layers on; there were some BFT saplings on the way up too which should cancel out the wind in a decade or so. After relieving myself (in the darker sense) half way up, the rest of the ascent really wasn't that bad, taking about 45 minutes all in all, and the hardest bit of the day was over.

The hard life of the Garelet Hill trig:
1 - the hard life of the garelet hill trig.jpg

Laird's Cleuch Rig was almost unnoticeable in its ascent, but Erie Hill appeared a little harder.

The beginning of yesterday from today:
2 - the beginning of yesterday from today.jpg

The expanse of the day ahead opened up - I could tell it was going to be a very big day. There was almost no track to Erie Hill and I was stuck in those awful spaces in between the dyke and the fence. I dumped the rucksack and got to the top, where it was the windiest it got all day; I could barely stand. A nice compact summit though. Garelet Dod had threw me as I forgot it was there and I was mistaking Common Law for Din Law and it for Cape Law. Something seemed far too easy - I realised my mistake by Common Law.

Erie Hill with Laird's Cleuch Rig behind:
3 - erie hill with garelet hill and talla cleuch head behind.jpg

It was an equally straightforward jaunt to the dry stane dyke corner where I once again dumped the rucksack and bagged the top. I was beginning to notice that yesterday and today I had barely stopped at the top of any of the hills I had climbed, probably due to the wind. I could now at least see the Din and Cape Laws; as usual bigger than they appear on the map.

Din Law with Cape Law behind:
4 - din law with cape law behind.jpg

It was a pretty uneventful walk up both of them, and their ascents were almost identical in difficulty. It was good to see Gameshope Loch, just lower than Loch Skene which I'd see the day after.

Gameshope Loch:
5 - highest loch in southen scotland.jpg

The distance over to the Saddle Yokes was alarming; it even looked big on the map and they looked miles away in person, not to mention even higher up than I already was. I could see now why they're normally included as part of the Hart Fell horseshoe. After a huge boggy trod to the unnamed fence junction above Raven Craig, I dumped the rucksack once again for an enormous out and back. I was a bit apprehensive about leaving it for so long, but the hills were so quiet I doubted anyone would actually see it. I took some digestives, my camera, flask top and water filter with me (the water filter had effectively been my lifeline during the past week). There was in fact a path following the fence but I didn't see it at the time so went a bit off-course. It was a difficult ascent as the path ended at the pot of Priest Gill. I was so surprised at how little human paths there were amongst these hills; almost everywhere I went it was sheep paths I was following, which tend to go parallel, not up or down. After half an hour of climbing or so, I made it to the lovely shapely summit. I had a smile on my face as I'd been eyeing these two up for almost three years now.

Saddle Yoke from Under Saddle Yoke:
6 - saddle yoke from under saddle yoke.jpg

Coomb Craig Ridge:
7 - coomb craig ridge.jpg

Criffel - The first hill I ever climbed by myself, while in 1st Year and still my longest ever walk (yesterday was 0.75km short):
8 - criffel, the first hill i climbed myself and my longest ever walk.jpg

Majestic Carrifran from USY:
9 - majestic carrifran from USY.jpg

I nipped over to both the tops and began my way back down, much faster this time. A round trip of about an hour. Rotten Bottom really wasn't as intimidating as I had guessed, rather the ascent out of it worried me now. I was really beginning to appreciate the wellies now as I'd have had wet feet almost from the beginning of the walk otherwise. I made it across unscathed, although one section in the middle is one really deep (3-4ft) puddle to cross; gripping the fence was imperative. I took a quick bag of Games Castle (although I thought at the time that Rock Bottom was a much better name).

Escaping the Rotten Bottom:
10 - escaping the rotten bottom.jpg

Much to my delight and surprise, the ascent to Firthhope Rig wasn't a problem at all. Maybe yesterday had toughened me up as normally I'd be panting and complaining! I passed a fellrunner who certainly was not running by the time he had fully descended into the bog. After bagging the top, I once again took the risk of leaving the rucksack unattended. It would be worth it though as it would likely add another half hour at least onto my trip if I took it. Onto the plateau properly now, the walk up was an easy one. I should have stuck to the fence but thought the grass would be easier. At this elevation, it was all quite easy walking now anyway. It felt great to have *finally* got to the highest point in Dumfriesshire.

The penultimate Donald from White Coomb with Broad Law at the back:
11 - the penultimate donald with broad law in background.jpg

Carrifran Gans:
12 - carrifran gans from white coomb.jpg

The descent to Carrifran Gans, particularly with the view over to Dumfries, allowed me time to reflect on the times I'd had over the past four years, what I would have changed, what I wouldn't have, what I wish I'd done and what I wish I'd not! I was so engrossed in thought I almost forgot I was climbing; it was an easy summit anyway despite the very strong wind.

My first Donald, Queensberry, behind Nether Coomb Craig and the Saddle Yokes:
13 - my first donald behind nether coomb craig and saddle yokes.jpg

Seeing Queensberry reminded me of my Lowthers trip in 2016 and how under-prepared I was. It taught me a lot about hillwalking, even though the second day was possibly the most physically demanding day of my life and all I could think about was a nice, long, hot shower back at the flat. It was a little boggy at Gupe Craig, and there was no path to speak of, but getting back to the fenceline and then the rucksack wasn't much effort. I saw a couple nearby who were thinking what way best to descend after White Coomb; I could only tell them that there was likely a good path on the W side of the loch, forgetting that WC is SW of the loch. They wished me well as I began the easy walk over to Great Hill.

Ever-visible Culter Fells:
14 - ever visible culter fells.jpg

View N from Great Hill:
15 - view N from great hill.jpg

There was a decent sheep path on the way over but the top was very flat and the exact summit unlocateable. Regardless, there was a great view down into Gameshope where I was to spend the night.

Last descent of the day:
16 - descent into gameshope.jpg

The terrain got really bad here and I slipped a few times but none badly. I eventually reached a sheepfold where it became quite boggy over to the path beside the burn itself. Looking at these sheepfolds always eludes me at the amount of labour involved and the incessantly harsh life the shepherds here had. Perhaps I over-emphasise it, but the thought of no central heating, no promise of a long wash, drenched from wind and rain, at the end of the day, no sewage and considerable isolation from others seems so harrowing. I was getting aggravated at the unevenness of the path, which eventually became more human-influenced than sheep-influenced, but by this point I'd crossed the burn in hopes of it being easier to cross than at the bothy. Turns out it wouldn't have mattered. It was at least extremely picturesque.

Surprisingly for a Saturday, I had the place to myself. It had been a pretty long 8.5 hours so I filled up my flask, the saucepan and the kettle full of water for the stove, got into dry socks, devoured 4 breakfast bars I'd forgotten I had and settled down quite early. I read the bothy book for an hour, then the Carrifran Wildwood Story for another before getting to sleep for about 19:30.



Date: 15/09/2019
Distance: 9.9km
Ascent: 568m

The night's sleep had been worse than in the car, as it was extremely cold in my 1/2 season sleeping bag with a hole in it (at the time of writing I have ordered a new one). To make matters worse I had forgotten to put my food on the mouse-proof shelf and I could hear it nibbling away at my stuff all night, too cold to want to move to prevent it. Once I finally got up the next morning, I assessed the damage. Not too bad really other than a mug that needed cleaning and a burst instant coffee sachet. I ate half a bag of cereal I'd carried in, had a hot chocolate, got everything together and was off by 07:55. My method of ascent this morning was what most would describe as 'stupid'. It was infact 50m lower than the day before but noticeably steeper. It would have been too much effort to walk back up the hope to the easier section so I just went straight in.

Goodbye Gameshope:
17 - gameshope goodbye.jpg

It was quite immediately horrible but I was making quick progress up until the 500m mark or so, when my calves and ankles began to complain. I was stopping almost every 10-20 seconds from this point until 650m or so, when it began to even out and the terrain improved. I had a plentiful array of blaeberries to choose from thankfully and was at the top after about 55 minutes.

A long way down to Gameshope with Garelet Dod above:
18 - long way down to gameshope with garelet dod above.jpg

Carlavin Hill had an obvious summit and good views but the cloud was obscuring most of them.

Erie Hill from its pointier side:
19 - erie hill from its pointier side.jpg

Molls Cleuch Dod looked a particularly dull hill at this time of year, but the view of my final Donald beckoned and kept me invigorated. After an easy and long ascent, I visited both potential tops and kept moving without a break. I began to hear the noise of light rain on my rucksack, it eventually becoming heavy enough to warrant putting on my otherwise unused jacket when beginning the descent into Talla Nick, after bypassing the Firthybrig Head top. I was glad to know this was the last difficult ascent of the trip.

Not even that bad, really:
20 - talla nick.jpg

I had to cross the fence to stop a lone sheep needlessly running the whole way to the top of Lochcraig Head away from me. I quickly visited the scenic cairn before the big drop off , where the well-known view is. It wasn't quite as spectacular as in others' photos.

Not the view I had envisioned down to Loch Skene:
21 - not the view i had envisioned down to loch skene.jpg

The wind was immensely strong at 800m and I think I'd have needed to put that jacket on regardless of the rain. The exact summit of my final Donald hill had eluded me, I just hopped to both cairns on both tops which were quite far apart really.

The final top, Nickie's Knowe, from Lochcraig Head:
22 - nickies knowe from lochcraig.jpg

I was feeling particularly unphased by the thought of completing the round but was thinking back to some of the good Donald moments on all the different trips. The ascent was, as you would expect for a final hill, barely thought about. On the way up I prepared to type out the time of arrival at the top: 10:11am. I reached the little cairn, let out an "eeey-oow" at the top of my lungs and briefly jumped the fence to stand on the iron rod stone. Every mountain in Southern Scotland was climbed.

Completion at the Nickie's Knowe summit:
23 - nickies knowe summit.jpg

In the same jest as the rest of the trip, I headed almost straight off the hill, eager to get back out the wind. It was again a slippery descent following plans for a new fenceline (the ones the man from the end of Day 1 had been working on I believe) until I reached a rocky section, where I slipped and landed on my upper behind, letting out an expletive I wont share here. I wasn't really too bothered as I only had one bad bit to cross before the road, bypassing the fence corner. I very nearly got wet feet as it was immensely boggy just before the new gate. How I'd survived three days without once getting them wet was miraculous.

Nickie's Knowe from the road:
24 - nickies knowe from road.jpg

It was now a half hour walk back to the car, where I changed into drier socks once again, got out the wind, devoured some chocolate, said my goodbyes to Talla Linnfoots and was swiftly making my way to the relaxed Sunday M74 back to Greenock.



Time to complete: 3 years, 9 days and 19 hours
No. of Donald tops climbed: 145 (5 repeats: Ballencleuch Law, Scawd Law, Lowther Hill, Smidhope Hill & Capel Fell)
First Donald: Queensberry (05/09/2016)
Last Donald: Nickie's Knowe (15/09/2019)
Number of trips: 18 (11 solo; 7 in company) (12 1-day trips; 5 2-day trips; 1 3-day trip)
- Longest time in between Donald trips: 259 days (Lowthers-Tinto)
- Shortest time in between Donald trips: 2 days (Windy Gyle-Talla Day 1)
Longest Donald day trip: Talla Day 1 (37.25km)
- Including bike: Talla Day 1 (43.6km)
Shortest Donald day trip: Cauldcleuch Head (8.65km)
- Including bike: Minnigaff Donalds (36.2km)
Longest multi-day Donald trip: Lowthers (51.3km)
Shortest multi-day Donald trip: Talla Days 2 & 3 (33.6km)
Total hours (sleeps within multi-day trips included): approx. 275hrs
Total ascent (± approx. 1000m): 30,116m
Number of separate times I became annoyed at tussocks: ∞

- Galloway (82.16km) was the longest and shortest multi-day Donald trip to include a bike as it was the only one.
- There are a few Donalds that I doubt I reached the *exact* summit of but none more than a few metres out.
- I'd love to have a easiest/hardest or favourite/least-favourite section but all four are much too variable to decide.
- The only Donald I didn't write a report for was Cairnsmore of Fleet and her tops. I was just a bit busy at the time and didn't bring my camera.



I had only ever climbed 7 hills before the Donalds: Torr Morr, Dunrod Hill, Ben Lomond, Birkhouse Moor, The Cobbler (E Top), Criffel and Woodhead Hill. I started them in my 2nd Year of university as I had climbed Criffel myself (19/12/2015 - my first walk report) and loved it. I had always liked the thought of hillwalking but never really tried it. Apart from a brief spell of running in 1st Year, we were doing very little to keep ourselves fit. I recall finding the website and seeing "The Donalds" and thinking "Hah! How sad", unaware of how many hours I would end up putting in to reading reports, making maps, reading up on public transport timetables and writing/editing reports myself. I genuinely think it could be >750 hours and it was not uncommon for me to find myself as the only registered user online at 3am, fortunately now less so. I only found out about NDs and DTs after my first walk in the Lowthers, hence my repeated walk. I do regret now not factoring in the xDTs, as I could have bagged easily over half of them with a minuscule bit of extra effort; in a few cases only moving <10m off course. The Donalds have also inadvertently been my introduction to bothies - I have visited 5 and slept in 4. They were absolutely paramount in linking up my bigger days and 3 of them I got to myself!

For these reasons, my time with the Donalds is inherently tied with my time at university and it was only appropriate I finish them off this year. I enjoyed my time in Dumfries and the Southern Uplands to a degree that I can't really describe in words. I find it difficult to think of the Donalds now without thinking even further about the people I've got to know, the people I wont see again, the beautiful places, wonderful times and moments and some very fond memories (in particular the first ten months of 1st Year which was, in retrospect, heaven on earth - the knowledge that that will certainly remain the best year of my life, and that it is over, is still difficult to digest three years later). The past year or so saw my mental health decline quite dramatically, and to a point that I never really thought it would reach. Many folk say that hillwalking alleviates their symptoms but for me it tends to direct any anxiety onto something else, rather than actually reduce it, but the Donalds have still been immensely valuable as something to fill up my spare time with, a concept I have always tried to avoid, often to my detriment. I have recovered pretty well since the beginning of the year and am on the way back up again.

I should wish to note my dissatisfaction with the way in which many hillwalkers look down upon the hills of the Southern Uplands. To look at them purely aesthetically or from a perspective of magnificence is to wholly miss the point. It is the way in which they are able to blend into the local culture, ecology, infrastructure, industry and society that gives them their quaint appeal, a feat which a great deal of Munros simply do not achieve, mainly due to their imposing nature. I have learnt more local history through the past 4 years of hillwalking than I have in the museums we've visited.

As for what's next, I certainly do not intend to begin another list; instead I will be picking a handful of the very best from the other big lists and checking them off throughout my life. I've never quite understood the appeal of the 'round' and climbing a number of hills more than once. There are around 60 Munros I've got written down to climb, as well as some of the best Corbetts, Grahams and Sub-2ks. I'm now more than half way through the county tops so might do a few more of them. If there were any Donalds I'd wish to do again it's probably the Minnigaff 4, as I think in the summer they would be much more enjoyable. Reports-wise I've certainly calmed down as the thought of having to write a report after every hill was just draining the fun out of climbing them in the first place. From now on I'll only try to write a report when it is a particularly obscure hill - I have spent more than enough time on this website for the past 4 years!

Finally, I'd really like to thank other Donaldist users for their very kind words on my reports and for the excellent reports they have written themselves, which were useful to a paramount degree in getting the Donalds finished off while avoiding the bogs!

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Comments: 16

Talla Donalds Day 1: A Bagging Bogathon

Attachment(s) Corbetts: Broad Law
Donalds: Black Law, Broad Law, Cramalt Craig, Dollar Law, Greenside Law, Talla Cleuch Head
Date walked: 13/09/2019
Distance: 37.25km
Ascent: 2002m
Comments: 4
Views: 192

The Windy Gyle & The Gale Force Cheviot

Attachment(s) Donalds: Windy Gyle
Date walked: 11/09/2019
Distance: 20.2km
Ascent: 795m
Comments: 2
Views: 206

Peebles Donalds mk. ii: The Moorfoots

Attachment(s) Grahams: Blackhope Scar, Windlestraw Law
Donalds: Blackhope Scar, Bowbeat Hill, Dundreich, Whitehope Law, Windlestraw Law
Date walked: 13/08/2019
Distance: 41.5km
Ascent: 1832m
Comments: 2
Views: 319

Peebles Horseshoe Scorcher

Attachment(s) Grahams: Dun Rig
Donalds: Birkscairn Hill, Dun Rig, Glenrath Heights, Stob Law
Date walked: 15/05/2019
Distance: 22.4km
Ascent: 949m
Views: 352

Three 'Celebratory' Days in the Lakes

Attachment(s) Wainwrights: Barrow, Birkhouse Moor, Haystacks, Helvellyn, High Crag, High Stile, Outerside, Raise, Red Pike (Buttermere), Sail, Stybarrow Dodd, Wandope, Watson's Dodd, White Side, Whiteless Pike
Hewitts: Helvellyn, High Crag, High Stile, Raise, Red Pike (Buttermere), Sail, Stybarrow Dodd, Wandope, White Side, Whiteless Pike
Date walked: 24/04/2019
Distance: 42.4km
Ascent: 3630m
Comments: 5
Views: 401

Drumelzier Donalds in Winter

Attachment(s) Donalds: Drumelzier Law, Middle Hill, Pykestone Hill
Date walked: 31/01/2019
Distance: 18.9km
Ascent: 964m
Comments: 8
Views: 1024

Ettrick Hills via Over Phawhope

Attachment(s) Grahams: Andrewhinney Hill, Capel Fell, Croft Head, Ettrick Pen
Donalds: Andrewhinney Hill, Bell Craig, Bodesbeck Law, Capel Fell, Croft Head, Ettrick Pen, Herman Law, Loch Fell, Wind Fell
Date walked: 08/12/2018
Distance: 37.7km
Ascent: 1958m
Comments: 4
Views: 809

Cruach Lusach from Tayvallich

Attachment(s) Sub 2000s: Cruach Lusach
Date walked: 18/10/2018
Distance: 37km
Ascent: 1344m
Views: 318

Culter Fells: A Blown Circuit

Attachment(s) Grahams: Culter Fell, Gathersnow Hill
Donalds: Chapelgill Hill, Culter Fell, Gathersnow Hill, Hillshaw Head, Hudderstone
Date walked: 02/10/2018
Distance: 32.7km
Ascent: 1483m
Comments: 6
Views: 990


User avatar
Location: Greenock
Occupation: Estate Ranger
Activity: Mountain Walker
Camera: d7000 (usually)
Ideal day out: Bit lost & sunny

Munros: 5
Corbetts: 13
Grahams: 23
Donalds: 89
Wainwrights: 15
Hewitts: 12
Sub 2000: 40
Islands: 9

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Trips: 7
Distance: 216.25 km
Ascent: 12179m
Corbetts: 2
Grahams: 3
Donalds: 26
Hewitts: 10
Wainwrights 15


Trips: 13
Distance: 285.9 km
Ascent: 16244m
Munros: 2
Corbetts: 6
Grahams: 10
Donalds: 28
Sub2000s: 4


Trips: 13
Distance: 238.5 km
Ascent: 14849m
Corbetts: 3
Grahams: 6
Donalds: 23
Sub2000s: 16


Trips: 5
Distance: 100.3 km
Ascent: 3546m
Grahams: 3
Donalds: 12
Sub2000s: 5


Trips: 1
Distance: 38 km
Ascent: 569m
Sub2000s: 1

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Last visited: Oct 21, 2019
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