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Monday, 5 April 2010

Peebles – Moffat plan A, Plan B, Plan C

drove road to st marys loch

Well, what can I say? We started out well enough – met up in the bonny Borders Walker-Friendly Town of Moffat, dumped Al’s car and Tony’s campervan and went off to Peebles where we met Humphrey Weightman for a couple of sniftah’s in the Bridge Inn and some essential fuel (including sausages and chips in a Peebles cafe) and orf we jolly well went through the outer suburbs of Peebles and up through the gentle woodlands to the drove road and then into snow.

al meets snow

It weren’t just snow, though, no. No, it were soft and white and with an odd blue tinge after you’d put your foot in it.

phil and al admire their boots

We ascended. It got deeper. We floundered sometimes and other times, on snowless burned heather, we floated up the hill. but mainly we floundered. Tony broke trail quite often. I came last, where the footsteps had been tried and tested and rarely failed after that. Us, by the way, were me, Al Sloman, Phil Lambert and Tony Bennet, all sometime TGO challengers and missing a few key walkers who for various reasons couldn’t be here.

slopping uphill

Eventually, as we struggled uphill, it became camping time, so we investigated some softer heather and a bit of flattened grass here and there and set up a kind of campsite.

tent door view

The sunset was, apparently, quite good. people having a pee after dark remarked opn how pretty were the lights of Peebles. there was thinking thought. The thinkings wot were thought centered around the deep and soft snow and how hard it had been getting all of four and a half miles up the hill out of Peebles. The Megget Stone was an impossible distance away. Tibbie Shiels Inn would be nearer and firmer and easier.

birkscairn hill road to the loch

So in the morning, we continued with our uphill struggle through the nightmare snow and achieved an almost snowless summit of Birkscairn Hill.

We followed the path/drovers route towards St Mary’s Loch, but eschewing this at the forest edge for a more direct descent to forestry roads. Phil, in particular made close contact with very deep snow at one point. But we plunged downhill and eventualy joined the Southern Upland Way to St mary’s Loch, the shores of which gave a pleasant snow-free and sunny ramble as far as Tibbie Shiels Inn where we were met by Ian Shiel and David Albon. We collected in the Inn for bevvies..

phil in a hole

Ian’s family is local to these parts and he knows the place intimately. Ian had transported David for the walking and distributed some fine bottles of beer amongst the team as we put the tents up.

A jolly night in the pub was spoiled only by the knowledge that we had more than twenty miles to walk to Moffat and that the weather forecast was a bit iffy. We resolved to leave at 7:0 am, despite rebellious protests from certain quarters.

st marys loch is less tilted than this

At around the middle of the night, I became aware that the tent was thrashing around and that the rain as lashing down.

At 5:00 am it was still doing the lashing and thrashing and the penny dropped that getting to Moffat in these conditions, including the thawing of the snow, would be a bit more than challenging. I visited each if the participants tents and they all agreed that the game was, in fact, up.

Plan C, therefore, was to transport the entire group to Peebles and then go home.

The Inn offered breakfast and Al booked a taxi.

damp camp

The breakfast was substantial and delicious and they’d hung up our wet stuff to dry as we ate.

We abandoned. There were floods on the road and the rain continued to thrash down. In Peebles, David went off to find public transport home and we drove off towards Moffat.

It was declared to be all over during the tea and buns and soup in the Rumble Tum cafe in Moffat.

Not the end, though. There will be another go at this. When there’s not so much snow and people who couldn’t be here can be here.

Its not the taking part that matters , its knowing when to give up…..

Altogether we did about 16 miles and 2400 feet of uphill.

I’m not showing a map…..

Late edit: Other bloggered versions of this very same event are at's blog) and just the first of a series of live blogposts wot were done live at the time and everything by alan sloman and for Phil's account

And this - just brought to my attention by Tony is substantially great lumps of the originally planned return route - which just nicely illustrates how good these hills are.

Happy surfing!


Phreerunner said...

Hmmm, sorry to hear of this debacle, it really is a great shame.
I shall endeavour to be there next time!
Condolences to all involved.

Louise said...

You might not've completed your intended route, but my oh my what a workout in all that snow!
Better luck next time.

blogpackinglight said...

Bank Holidays, don't you just love them! Al's new "top" is a bit eye-popping. Hope you had sunglasses ;)

Martin Rye said...

Still it looked a fine route and next time it will be great. Chin up - soon you can all do it again on the Challenge.

Laura said...

Glad to hear you're safe and intact though. Now only a tiny bit sorry I couldn't be there! But put me down for the next try..........

'lacesms' to you all!

Meanqueen said...

Wise decision, it sounded horrible. Maybe I am a fair weather camper :0)

mike knipe said...

In an email under the title "Border Hills Repel Southern Interlopers", Ian Shiel said this:
Oops fancy me a btinternet user getting final part of your email wrong, too early in morning.
Very good account of your travails.


mike knipe said...

I expect you're all feeling rather smug in the knowledge that you were all tucked up cosy whilst we we blatterring across the sloppy tundra.
Thanks each for the comments - another crack at this walk will be undertaken in, hopefully, better conditions.
Should have known it would do this in April, though...dhuhhhh....

David Albon said...

Mike, the wind is still blowing a hoolie here this morning and did all last night (so Mrs. A tells me - I slept right right through unlike the night before!!!).

Great to see you and thanks again for all you organising - we'll be ready for next time!

See you soon.


The Odyssee said...

A valiant effort.
Still you had a go and got out there where it hurts.
It is knowing when to call it a day thats important.
I'm sure you will achieve the goal next time. It looked a fine route.

mike knipe said...

David: Nice to see you there and the post mortem kind words. (I'm not really happy that its still so windy up there....)
And to Oddysee and potential participants in Plan D (2nd attempt) - it is, indeed a fine walk and its still there and waiting for happy boots to trip lightly across it's tops.
And you'll be reassured that we do know when to stop banging the head on the wall....

Karl said...

Mike, it was lashing it down in the Lakes as well, glad you got home safe and well. Funnily enough i was thinking of you as i trudged along the flooded lanes remembering how you endured a full week of interesting weather. Hope you have more luck next time.

Phil said...

It was a fab weekend Mike - thanks for organising it. After the taster, I've got to do this route, so count me in for Plan D.


mike knipe said...

Karl - the penny's dropped. Its me wot attracts the duff weather.... I'd forgotten about the wet week in Cumbria last year....

Thanks Phil - Plan D Invasion From Mars is starting the very first hints of a low simmer.
I'll be taking suggestions for improving the plan, I think....

Pennine Ranger said...

Hi Mike. Got back to Sheffield this afternoon. Decided to spend last night in Hawes and visit my mum and dad (!). Despite the ultimate rout, it was a great trip and I really enjoyed it and meeting other challengers and bloggers. Just finished my version of the event and posted some pics. Put me down for Plan D. If we don't speak before the Challenge, have a great 10'th crossing. Tony

mike knipe said...

Just read your account on pennineranger.... hmmmmm as they say..
I must put some links in to all of the accounts. If we ever manage this walk (and we will!) - there could be loads of blogs about the same thing. We could, in fact, go for the record.
The loop will be as inclusive as poss, Tony.
And I'm taking suggestions/comments by email if anybody is bursting with ideas.

Judith said...

Coo, what an adventure! I'm sorry I couldn't be there, especially as it sounds like my sort of trip with beer, sleepless nights, cooked breakfasts, changed routes and tea, oh, and walking of course.
I look forward to joining the next attempt.

mike knipe said...

Ah, yer shudder been there, Judith. But there's always the next time. I suspect this will eventually respond to a bit of pig-headedness - and should, of course, include a return route through Ettrick.

James Boulter said...

I did try and provide a pessimistic warning as I swam through the snow up there a couple of days before but you were all optermistic! Its a damn shame the weather did not play ball but at least it gives you the chance for another bash. Good training for the TGO challenge though!

mike knipe said...

Some people just won;t be told, James. But we travel hopefully, or we wouldn't travel at all!

Alan Sloman said...

Woo Hooo!
That's a fine report Michael.

Put my name down for Plan F?.....

mike knipe said...

How do you know about plan F, Alan? - or The F Plan as I like to call it. This involves me directing operations from a lounge bar in Moffat. Or Peebles, I'm not bothered, really....