A quick return to the Cheviots after last weekends return to hillwalking. I’d hardly seen any snow this winter, but now the hills were glistening brightly. Whilst others were enjoying epic days in the Lakes and Highlands, this might be my only chance. It was time to play out in the snow.
Late start again, parking at Trows Road End just west of Barrowburn. Last weekend a temporary base for an army exercise, today virtually deserted. Hopefully a quiet day, though the red flags were flying on the Otterburn Ranges, so possible heavy artillery fire!
The plan was to build up some fitness by doing a similar but longer route to last weekend. First addition would be a personal favourite, walking straight up Shillhope Law (1,644ft).
Nice and easy start walking along the road by the Coquet until the short sharp grassy ascent begins. Shillhope Law can serve as a pretty reliable fitness test; today’s result was pretty poor! Have reached the top in just over 30 mins, today it was more like 45. A thin snow covering wasn’t helping either, I’d forgotten this might slow things down. No real problem though, (that would come much later).
Views are usually really satisfying from Shillhope, always worth the diversion. Just visible on the southern horizon were the northern Pennines and Lakeland Fells. To the north Windy Gyle and the Cheviot both looked to have plenty of snow. This might take a while.
BOOM!! Just when you forget about the artillery a bloody big one rattles off! Always feels a bit too close for comfort up here especially when you see the gunsmoke rising.
Only downside of adding Shillhope is having to retrace your steps losing precious height. The upside is continuing up and over Kyloe Shin, for this is a splendid section with outstanding views. Always makes me smile, I’m easily pleased ya know.
Next the descent then reascent through the Kidland Forest (to the left on the photo above). No diversion to Fairhaugh this time as I needed to get moving. Up and over the Middle, then down again to the Usway valley before the plod up to the Border Ridge. Some threatening clouds cleared and everywhere looked pretty damn good. Very uplifting, great to be up here and completely alone.
May look lovely but that snow slows you down. Luckily some tracks made progress doable.
The ground funnels just before the Border Gate is reached, then comes a bit of Cheviot magic as views suddenly open up all around. I’ve often sat on the plank of wood here, but not today for obvious reasons.
Dramatic views up here today. Ah hold on, those footprints don’t carry onto Windy Gyle do they, in fact there’s no footprints. Great, it’s virgin snow ahead, this’ll be fun and I’ll be the first and only person on this section today! See, easily pleased.
My first step missed the underlying pavement and disappeared. This fun virgin snow thing soon started wearing a bit thin – unlike the snow! Rarely firm enough to walk on without feet sinking to varying levels. There’s boggy stuff around so a bit of concentration needed too – and getting slower!
My footprints zigzagged looking for the best line but it didn’t seem to matter. Wherever I tried was pretty tiring work, yet strangely fun, especially when I fell over. Eventually the final stile was reached and I stood on a heap of snow to get the photo below. Took three attempts as first one leg then the other collapsed; thank goodness no one was watching.
Found footprints again and fortunately the snow wasn’t quite as bad/good up here. Despite the sky having clouded over, the sun still managed to burst through impressively. Zoom on the horizon in photo below to see the northern Lake District fells (left of the trig).
Now to continue last weekends gloves test. The new Montane Powershell Pro Gippy’s were doing fine. Not quite grippy enough to keep my Pacer Poles tight, but as they’re smartphone friendly, you can keep them on for phone photos. After a bit of gloveless faffing about I still managed to get my hands cold again, so tried two pairs of Buffalo Mitts for the descent. There’s obviously a loss of dexterity but they did prevent that eye-watering stinging feeling, so will definitely stay as part of the winter kit. They’re lightweight and will easily fit into a extra small stuffsack (to stop me dropping them).
I’d long since given up my intended descent along the Street in favour of the shorter route south via the Rowhope Burn and Trows Farm. Snow was definitely easier than up on the Border Ridge and the Border Gate ascent. Must be a wind thing dumping the snow on certain areas, and it’s certainly noted for future trips. Need to allow more time, or get fitter, though any more snow walking will certainly help the latter.
Last car in the car park, just before dark. Managed to hit a pothole driving back passing Wedder Leap, there’s a few bad ones about so beware especially any puddles. Think I’ll angle my headlamps down a bit next time to illuminate the tarmac.
A great day in the hills: Just goes to show that you can walk the same walks repeatedly, yet due to weather and light it can be feel different every time. BOOM!
- 10.3 miles distance, 2,489ft ascent, max height Windy Gyle 2,031ft (619m)
- Start/Finish = Trows Rd End/Slymefoot near Barrowburn, Sunday 6th March 2016
- More detailed description of this route (a favourite)
- Alternative 13 miler inc Bloodbush edge & Davidsons Linn
- Trows Rd End inc Lamb Hill – 15 miles
Link to Windy Gyle weather forecast