An unbelievably cold day in Southern Scotland.

An unbelievably cold day in Southern Scotland.

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Feb 24, 2004
Activities Activities: Hiking
Seasons Season: Winter

It was that cold we almost didn't leave the car.

A lonely figure on the way up Lochraig Head.
As per usual there were all sorts of promises of extra walking guests. In the end it would be the usual crowd of Mark, Clyde, Stu, Paul and myself who were joined for the first time in years by Gary. Gary is to come on this years Scotland trip and therefore needed to undertake a good leg stretcher. This would be our first day return trip to Scotland for a good few years and thankfully we had the use of two company cars. Our choice of hills was a throw back to Mark’s days of running the Karrimor International Mountain Marathon (KIMM for short). For many a year Mark had been threatening to treat us to the delights of these great unfrequented hills that we had passed on every trip to and from the mountain delights further north. Ten miles beyond Moffat we arrived at a freezing cold car park, Stu and I dumped the rest of the crew and drove south to take my car to the far end of the walk so that we could carry out a much more convenient end to end walk.

Back at the starting point the car park was filling up with the local mountain rescue crew who appeared to be meeting up for some form of exercise. As it was that cold there was no point in hanging around, we simply had to get a move on. We were clad in all manner of layers. Mark was leading the way with his Michelin Man impression, but Stu took the biscuit with a combination of storm trooping headgear and a scarf wound around his chin like an old fashioned dentist’s bandage. The ascent soon had us all sweating our way past “The Grey Mares Tail” and up into the wasteland that lay beyond. It was right out of the top drawer. The sun was out, the hills that were slowly coming into view and were dusted with icing as though they were great cakes in a bakers window. These views and the glorious sunshine really lifted the mood. Here we were walking through an area that was unknown to all of us, following the snaking stream and then all of a sudden there we were at the outlet Loch Skeen. What a breath taking view it was. There were hills all around this loch with just the one sign of man. Someone had found an ideal spot by the loch and pitched their tent within a yard or two of its lapping shoreline. This mood soon changed as we started the ascent up the exceptionally steep flank of Lochcraig Head. Gravity almost proved too much. There was many an occasion when the only thing that stopped me from taking a tumble back down were a few handfuls of grass. In the end we all straggled up to the summit at our own pace and slumped on the icy snow that had built up behind the summit wall.

Nearing the top of White Coombe
Our next objectives would be Firthybrig Head and Firthhope Rig. This would prove to be pretty hard terrain which was constantly changing from tussocks to bog, to ice to snow. Given the effort required to cross this wilderness it wasn’t too much of a surprise when Paul announced that he was struggling and ready to cut the walk short. He was simply goosed and hadn’t been feeling well before we set off. White Coomb which would be the days high point would also be an appropriate place for Paul to make his way back. Just before his return whilst hunkered up on this freezing cold summit we took an opportunity to take a team photo. Paul would also take Stu with him, who just for a change was deprived of sleep and also ready to put his feet up. For the rest of us, we would retrace our steps back to Firthope Rig and then take on the route march all the way to Hart Fell. With the sun making an appearance, the terrain constantly changing, the hassle of crossing “Rotten Bottom” and cracking views of the northern hills including Broad Law meant that Paul and Stu really had missed out on a treat.

The last mile to the summit followed the rim of a huge corrie and looked as though it would provide an interesting route of descent. Mark for some reason seemed keen to inspect the way down; however I could see from the map that there was a possibility of staying high for some time longer. We were about to split again, this time Mark and Clyde took a route down into the great bowl of Blackhope whilst Gary and I motored on at great pace along the top of the south western crags. What a brilliant choice we seemed to have made. Or so we thought. By the time we started to make the final descent to Blackhope Farm our knees were turning to jelly. So much so that rather embarrassingly I had to come down the last few hundred feet backwards. I was in absolute agony. Somehow even with our unusual style of descent we still managed to arrive back at the car at the same time as Mark and Clyde.

All we needed now was a cracking bar meal and a three hour drive home. Another top notch day.


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ScotlandTrip Reports
The Moffat HillsTrip Reports
Broad LawTrip Reports