The Vault Regulars

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Herring Road Pt 2.

 Day 3.

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.

Day 4.

 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?


Dawn said...

Nice one Alan, good write up, fantastic photos. Plan A possibly later in the year?

AlanR said...

Thanks Dawn,
Yes i should have said later in the year. It’s summer now isn’t it.

Laura said...

Well done - not an easy trip! Plan A in the sunshine seems a good idea.....

afootinthehills said...

Great stuff Alan. The turbine crossing looked horrendous though.

John J said...

Wow, 3.5degC? Positively tropical!
Plan A is definitely worth doing....probably won't be a bothy at the end of it though.

AlanR said...

Hi Gibson,
Going through the wind farm wasn't that bad. Probably because we had to keep an eye on the route.
There are so many turbines in these and adjacent hills, its so awful.

AlanR said...

Hope it comes off Laura. It will be good to meet up.

AlanR said...

10 degrees more would have been better.
We need to set a date for plan A.

Martin Rye said...

Wise call to do less in those conditions. Great stuff Alan.

AlanR said...

Cheers Martin.

-maria- said...

How lucky you woke in time to see the orange disc before it disappeared - it's beautiful.

Good you didn't lose your boot into that hole (and of course better still you didn't break your knee!). My son once did on the playground and the boot was found only in the spring (smelly). He was too busy playing with mates that he didn't tell right away he had lost his boot and then it was just impossible to know where he had lost it...

A very cosy picture that last one! A well deserved evening.

AlanR said...

Catching the sunrise wasn’t planed so yes, it was fortuitous.

I was very lucky with the knee. I had a swelling at the back for a few days but it’s gone down now and all seems ok.

A lovely bothy, and exceptionally windproof.

Gayle said...

Mick & I also had an interesting time navigating through Crystal Rig windfarm in 2011.

Having realised that the 'follow the red markers' advice wasn't possible (we saw two markers, one as we entered the windfarm, one as we left it), we took a bearing and agreed to 'head for the turbine which isn't working'. That was fine until the man in a white van, tinkering with said turbine, finished his job and started it up again! Once they're all whirring around it's quite difficult to keep your eyes on any one in particular!

The following day we came to possess a map which showed all of the 'wind farm tracks', which would have been quite handy the day before!

AlanR said...

Yes, I thought the same thing, Streetmap has the turbines on now but the OS map and the GPS didn't. With the “Route” being under fresh snow it was quite difficult and funnily enough the way did pass a non turning turbine with a white van and a man in the gear box up high. Might be the same man, frozen to death.
I would have been easier to stick to the turbine roads.

Phreerunner said...

Well done Alan, pleased to see you survived in good enough condition to crawl around the floor of a bothy playing tiddlywinks!
Nice new (bisected) pic BTW

AlanR said...

Thanks Martin,
Yes, strange that photo. I have no idea how it happens and i doubt it will happen again.

The bothy, luxury. Strange how the carpet kept so clean with all those boots crossing it. Ha The MBA do a good job here.

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