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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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..
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.
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.
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 http://pennineranger.blogspot.com/2010/04/peebles-to-moffat-by-any-means.html(Tony's blog) and http://alansloman.blogspot.com/2010/04/peebles-to-moffat-day-1-lunchtime.html just the first of a series of live blogposts wot were done live at the time and everything by alan sloman and http://www.doodlecat.com/ for Phil's account
And this - just brought to my attention by Tony http://backpackingbongos.wordpress.com/2010/02/27/backpacking-the-ettrick-hills-from-moffat-dale/ is substantially great lumps of the originally planned return route - which just nicely illustrates how good these hills are.