By the time i had got settled down and finished tea. Real Turmat Beef and potato casserole followed by Apple and custard it was 8.45pm. The temperature had taken a real dip and unfortunately, not much of a sunset tonight due to the cloud in the west.
Mike was pitched far enough away that i could only just hear the snoring. Well i’m pretty sure it was Mike anyway. And i dropped off listening to James Taylor on the mp3 watsit. I didn’t get to the point of turning it off so the next thing i knew it was starting to get light over the horizon. I checked my watch and the temperature was -2 degrees C. It didn’t seem that cold overnight, so i guess it probably dropped another degree or 2.
Within 15 minutes of me sticking my head out of the tent door the sun started to appear above the slopes in front of the tent. I checked to see if anyone else was up but all doors were shut.
It was a sunrise but not the greatest and within 10 minutes or so the orange disc had disappeared behind the increasing cloud cover.
Dawn or pre-dawn even, the birds were doing flypasts and the sounds were reminiscent of tundra regions. I lay there for a while comfy and warm just listening to the Curlew, Lapwings, Grouse and Geese. As i opened my tent door to pay a call of nature, 2 hare’s shot out from there hiding places and quickly disappeared again.
Striking camp, it was obvious today was going to be dull and overcast. Not a bit like yesterday. I had a brief look at the archaeological site nearby and the marker stone and then we headed off along the windfarm track. The old path to Dye Cottage runs parallel to the new track and as the new track was clear of snow, decided to stay on it.
Somehow, probably due to being obliterated by snow or by chatting we missed the turnoff to the bridge over the Dye water. It was only a short detour that got us back on track. There was no swearing, honest.
The route north between Lamb and Black Hills was particularly hard work and numerous short breathing stops were had which gave us a few chances to look back. The weather was deteriorating, black stormy clouds had taken over the view and our ridge walk of yesterday was disappearing fast.
We carried on over the watershed and headed for Killpallet. Here the snow was the deepest so far being higher than the fenced enclosures and almost topping the gates and stiles. At one stile, i cleared the snow from the steps and as i dropped down the other side my right leg went down a good 3+ feet and with the momentum and the weight of the backpack moving forward, i collapsed in a heap unable to turn or get out. My knee felt sore as it doesn’t normally bend in that direction. I lay there a few seconds and tried to twist myself onto my back. Eventually i made enough space down the hole to pull my booted foot out.
Thankfully there didn’t seem to be any damage done and we carried on to the bridge where a minor road crosses the Killpallet Burn. It was brew time or more like lunch time. I checked the knee and although there was slight bruising it wasn’t painfull. Just lucky i guess.
The temperature was now 3.5 degrees C and not sunbathing weather. We were soon away.
The path over to Whiteadder reservoir was very wide and made for vehicles. It was extremely muddy and clung to the boots. Passing through the glen between Southern Law and Priestlaw Hill is quite pleasant and would be a good place to sit on a fine sunny day.
More snow and then down to Penshiel where we were greeted with a barking pack of Alsatians. Fortunately the owner came out to see what the noise was about and we passed with no bother. Further up the minor road Mike knew of a good place to camp along the Writerspath Burn. A sheepfold that he had used before. Unfortunately on this occasion it was more like a pond.
We looked for some flat land adjacent to the burn and although rabbit holes were abundant it was the best place and here we pitched for the night.
A breeze was building and i inadvertently pitched with my doorway open to the breeze. It wasn’t fierce and so decided it would do for tonight. it was just after 4.00pm, an early stop.
It wasn’t long before the group had succumbed to some shut eye.
I awoke about 6.30pm hungry. It was cold, felt like zero but it was still 3.5 degrees. I made coffee and then had MX3 foods rice and chicken, and soon after turned in with the door open. It wasn’t long before a Barn Owl flew by and scoured the opposite hillside for a meal. I believe the owls are having a rough time at the moment due to the snow lasting far longer than normal.
Fortunately i didn’t need to exit the tent during the night and it was quite warm. Warmer certainly than the previous two. As i opened the tent door snow slid off the tent and engulfed the porchway. That was a bit of a shock. At no point during the night did i envisage that it was snowing. Mike said it definitely wasn’t snowing at 2.00am.
I looked across at the others and they were still covered. It was still early so i went back to sleep for an hour.
It seemed to take me ages to pack up today for some reason. Just one of those days. Mike was already packed but JJ and Judith hadn’t started as yet. I took my time and re-packed.
Once away it wasn’t long before we were in deep snow again. Pristine, untouched and crisp. We were heading into a new windfarm which believe it or not the powers that be had erected tourist information boards and had put a heading "Enjoy Scotland’s Outdoors Responsibly”. What planet do they come from, that thinks creating wide roads through heather moorland, felling plantations and erecting 80+ wind turbines is acting responsibly.
Navigation through Crystal Rig wind farm is actually difficult and more so in bad weather. You would think that having spent so much money that they could ensure that the signage for the path is 100% accurate and in place. It’s far too easy to wander off track when the snow is covering the route. It’s also very boggy in parts.
We checked the map and the GPS a number of times but considering the windfarm wasn’t on the map or the GPS i was quite pleased we could actually see where we were heading.
I think it would be advantageous to stick to the new roads, where at least you would keep your feet dry if taking a little longer to exit the other side. (But that’s only my opinion).
Once through, the day brightened up as did the view although again the wind was bitterly cold. We caught a glimpse of Bass Rock out in the Firth of Forth and then a short time later Dunbar came into view.
The snow was still quite deep as we descended the eastern slopes towards Redscar Burn and Hartside.
The hills were now behind us and the end was near. A few miles of road walking passing through Spott and the Witches Stone, brought us in Dunbar. Mike had parked the car in the station car park where we dropped the bags before demolishing fish and chips in Central Cafe.
Then to our surprise we were taken to a bothy of great grandeur. It came with a chauffeur and running hot water and flushing loo’s.
The fire was lit and all was well. After a trip to Asda for a couple of celebratory bottles of vino fallover and a meal in the Sharmin tandoori. I think that’s what it was called. We were Chauffeured back, to an evening of good conversation and rhetoric.
Considering all things, i believe it was the right decision to change the original Plan A route of 70km to Plan B at 50km. The snow conditions definitely slowed us down and also drains energy much faster in comparison to no snow conditions.
It would have been a disaster so close to the actual TGO Challenge if there had been any muscle tears due to pushing too hard. The muscles were certainly stretched and my achilles tendon problem cleared up during the walk. It might come back over the next few weeks but for now it’s great to have no pain.
Gear was tested, some new gear worked well and some didn’t and was disappointing. I will do a gear round up soon.
Thanks Mike, JJ, Judith for making it a walk to remember and not forgetting Becky of course.
Plan A in the summer?