On Thursday evening at the pub there were seven names on the list for Sunday. By the time we reached Tesco’s car park in the morning there were only two left standing.
Undeterred, despite the low turnout and the uninviting weather, Fraser and I set out for West Linton and headed up a side road towards Baddingsgill. It was waterproofs on from the start and it was not long before we felt the effects of the squally winds. The forecast ‘showers’ showed no sign of being anything less than solid rain, but at least the temperature was above zero.
After crossing the Lyne Water we headed up the opposite bank and walked briefly south until we reached a wall which climbed up toward Faw Mount. We followed the line of the wall and soon reached our first top; then it was a short drop and a long pull up to Mount Maw with its trig point at 535 metres. Views of the Kips and Scald Law were excellent. Underfoot it was pretty wet where the snow cover had recently melted and in places we walked in soft snow: what was falling was now sleet! At this stage our whole route ahead was visible, but this would change…
Walking along the ridge towards the Mount would have been lovely on a better day, but the buffeting from the strong wind was tiring. Little birds were being driven helplessly along by the wind. A slight steep diversion was needed to take in the summit of The Mount before we dropped down to the rather soggy Deer Hope. Then we had a steep climb up Wether Law and another drop to the head of the Henshaw Burn. Here we reached much rougher territory and although the path was in the lee of a substantial drystane dyke the wind was stronger and as the cloud level dropped visibility was much reduced. There was also more snow underfoot so we had to pick our steps more carefully as we started up the slope towards our target – East Cairn Hill. On reaching the 660 metre contour on a minor summit conditions were bleak. We decided to stop for lunch and then look at our options.
Horizontal sleet was being driven across the col ahead of us and the top of the hill was cloud covered. The wind was brutal and it was cold. We decided to retrace our steps to the previous col and then find our way across the Cairn Muir to pick up the old drove road – the Thieves’ Road – for our walk out.
Walking across the moor past ruined shooting butts was quite rough and in places like tramping through a stream. We reached a bluff where we looked over the upper reaches of the swollen Lyne Water and decided to head downstream to the bridge that was marked on Fraser’s map. It didn’t look too promising when we reached it, but nothing daunted we did an Indiana Jones impression on the tilted and rotting planks and safely reached the other side.
After a further slog across the moor we reached the drove road – and suddenly the day changed. A strange, slightly hazy, disk appeared in the heavens; the Cairns reappeared and there were patches of blue sky – it was hard to believe it was the same day. We disturbed a snipe and a couple of curlews and there were larks singing overhead.
On the walk back to the car we had to shed gloves, jackets and hats. Sadly, Fraser discovered his trousers are no longer waterproof so a trip to an outdoor shop will be necessary. We ‘passed’ on the customary post-walk pub stop and headed home for showers and dry trousers.
Fraser, thanks for your company and a great day in the ‘fresh air’. Let’s return with the reporter on a better day and finish the ridge, or even the full round.