The Cheviots in winter – a walk in the snow

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).

Wintry Windy Gyle walk March 2016

Walking to Barrowburn with snowy Shillhope Law ahead

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.

Wintry Windy Gyle walk March 2016_1

Views north from Shillhope Law, Windy Gyle left, the Cheviot right

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.

Wintry Windy Gyle walk March 2016_2

From Kyloe Shin, Fairhaugh and Usway Burn below, Border Ridge on the horizon

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.

Wintry Windy Gyle walk March 2016_3

Snow Plateau walk to the Border Gate

May look lovely but that snow slows you down. Luckily some tracks made progress doable.

Wintry Windy Gyle walk March 2016_4

Windy Gyle – please reserve that blue sky for me, I won’t be long!

Wintry Windy Gyle walk March 2016_5

Looking back, loving that snow and light

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.

Wintry Windy Gyle walk March 2016_6

Border Gate, Pennine Way and the Cheviot looking east

Wintry Windy Gyle walk March 2016_7

Border Gate, Border Ridge, Pennine Way & Windy Gyle west

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.

Wintry Windy Gyle walk March 2016_8

The way ahead, fantastic scenery, can’t wait to get up there

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!

Wintry Windy Gyle walk March 2016_9

Slow walking across the Pennine Way to Windy Gyle

Wintry Windy Gyle walk March 2016_10

Eventually nearing Windy Gyle

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.

Wintry Windy Gyle walk March 2016_11

Windy Gyle summit cairn, step into Scotland

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).

Wintry Windy Gyle walk March 2016_12

Windy Gyle with northern fells on the horizon

Wintry Windy Gyle walk March 2016_13

view south from Windy Gyle

Wintry Windy Gyle walk March 2016_14

The Cheviot looking almost nice

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).


Buffalo Mitts and Montane Powershell Pro Grippy

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.

Wintry Windy Gyle walk March 2016_15

Racing back (well almost), nice!

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.

Wintry Windy Gyle walk March 2016_16

Last car, Rowhope Burn and distant Shillhope in fading light

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
Barrowburn, Shillhope Law and Windy Gyle from Trows Rd March 2016

Barrowburn, Shillhope Law and Windy Gyle from Trows Rd March 2016

Link to Windy Gyle weather forecast


Hillwalker with dodgy knees and dodgier sense of humour. Lover of the outdoors, Lakes, Highlands, Cheviots, nature, good food, real ale and leaf tea.
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10 Responses to The Cheviots in winter – a walk in the snow

  1. Jane says:

    Beautiful snowy scenery. So different to my surroundings here in sunny Queensland. I expect it would be a challenge to hike in though.

    • Thanks for the comment Jane. Yes it was hard going uphill in the snow, but usually the Cheviots are very forgiving. Rolling hills mean fairly gentle ascents and descents. A good training ground for dodgy knees and regaining fitness. If you avoid the peat bogs 🙂
      Sunny Queensland sounds good!

    • Looking at your walks, the spiders might put me off 😉

      • Jane says:

        Haha…most are harmless and you’d be fine if you wore shoes. I hope to get over to your part of the world one daysand do some walking. At least I know there won’t be highly venomous snakes and spiders…I think? 🙂

      • I’d have to dress up like an astronaut!
        No venomous spiders here and only one slightly venomous snake, the adder/viper. Never seen one, I like snakes though 🙂

  2. Anonymous says:

    Nice walknow, write up and photos. Enjoyed it. Reminded me of our border ridge walk from 1 October 2015 which still isn’t posted yet! Nearly six months on ….. was a beautiful blue skies day then on top of Windy Gyle.

  3. Reread this post. Great winter scenes. Even more faffing with gloves and glove options. Loved it!! 😉😉 Only laughing because I’m the same. Have multiple pairs, all first different purposes of course! Back onto walking. Need to get up to Hexpethgate and turn left/ west!!

  4. Pingback: A return to hillwalking, featuring the Cheviots, new gloves and 50 men trained to kill | MART IN THE HILLS

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