Other reports of this trip are listed at the end of this post.
We’d planned for a 4 day arduous winter expedition. We knew that the snow had lain thick on the ground for months and that progress would be slow. We had a rethink. Plan B (or was it Plan B2) would be a shorter walk following the Herring Road from Lauder to Dunbar and missing out some of the higher, riskier sections.
With the temperature reaching -7 degrees C overnight, our camp at Lauder was a little chilly. Maybe we’d have managed to keep warmer if we’d broken the Six Metre Rule – but the Warden was most insistent. She also failed to mention that the pitch we chose was the last part of the site to get any sun in the morning, but we sensibly chose to visit the local greasy spoon (in the Leisure Centre!) while we waited for the tents to defrost. No point rushing an arduous expedition.
Plan B got underway in beautiful sunshine and, within half a mile, we found a perfect wild campsite – but the yobbo chucking rocks into the river put me off camping there. With my Tilley Hat on my head, my Paramo smock in my pack and my trousers rolled up Plan B was starting to look like the Wimps’ Walk. Where was the snow? Why was I carrying my micro-spikes? Had we got it wrong?
We soon found the snow. Patchy at first, but it had the annoying habit of completely covering the paths and tracks and leaving us with the choice of slogging our way across deep crunchy snow (with icy mud underneath) or crossing the equally energy-sapping heather (also with icy mud underneath). In my Inov-8 Terrocs, my feet were soon soaked; they weren’t cold in the snow – but did I mention the icy mud?
Our first night’s wild pitch by Watch Water was a little tufty and boggy but by spreading out we all found somewhere good enough and we waved at the windfarm workers as they drove home on the new road.
Day 2 was colder, although it had only been as low as -3 overnight. As I had my standard TGO Challenge kit with me, I didn’t have the luxury of any “winter” clothing or equipment; I just had to make do with what I had and wear multiple layers if necessary. My Rab Quantum 400 sleeping bag would not have been warm enough on its own but with a fleece jumper and a Terra Nova Moonlite sleeping bag cover I was warm enough – if not exactly warm.
There was a bit more snow on the ground than yesterday but not complete coverage.
The main concern was the bogginess of the ground when we came to pitch our tents but we found a reasonable patch of ground, near Whiteadder Water, which almost certainly breached the Six Metre Rule (apart from The Snorer’s tent which, by popular vote, had to comply with the Sixty Metre Rule).
We awoke to a very white Day 3. Not only had there been a light sprinkling of snow overnight, but the temperature must have then dropped as the new snow was hard and crunchy.Day 3 was the final day of walking and, in true TGO Challenge-style, was a dash for the coast but first we had to deal with some of the deepest snow we’d encountered and a curse of modern-day “wild” Scotland.
We’d been able to see the Wind Farm for miles but, when we reached it, we found an interesting information board.
I particularly valued the instruction to enjoy Scotland’s Outdoors Responsibly. What? By filling it with eighty (80) huge wind turbines? Oh, the irony – but thanks for the sentiment.We had a few miles of deep snow that was not quite firm enough to take our weight and it was quite hard going (so thanks to Alan for making those really handy post-holes). Suddenly Dunbar came into view and the snow stopped.
Whilst scoffing chips (and ice cream) in an eat-in chip-shop, we hatched a plan to break into an empty house and avail ourselves of the luxury facilities. After a shower and curry, we enjoyed a very posh Bothy Night around a roaring coal fire. A pleasantly warm end to a cold walk.