Thursday, 30 September 2010

Mike's Handrailing Masterclass or Peebles to Moffat - the rematch

Regular and attentive readers may recall that last Easter weekend four of us were snowed off in an attempt at backpacking between Peebles and Moffat in the Scottish Southern Uplands.

Well this was to be the rematch. Women, men and dog versus nature.  The team this time comprised three of the previous four: Mike (Northern Pies) Knipe, Alan Sloman and myself plus Shirley (Peewiglet) Worral, Martin (Phreerunner) Banfield, John Jocys, Andrew Walker, Mike Pope and Christine King, seven of the nine having completed the TGO Challenge with a combined number of  (I think it came to) 45 successful crossings.  With such a scorecard, you would think we should have greater success this time round. We were also to be accompanied by Piglet, Shirl's dog.  Or maybe we were accompanied by Shirl, Piglet's provider - I'm never sure with dogs, how the relationship works.

Martin, Mike P and Mike K in The Bridge

As has now become tradition (can you have a tradition after only one previous occasion?) we met up in The Bridge in Peebles with David Albon and Hmp3 Weightman.  The latter handed over a substantial quantity of pie like materials to our eponymous leader, which were never seen again.  Shame on you, you naughty pieman (I feel a limerick coming on here).

"We're going to start with the low route this time and follow the river up Glen Sax.  After that, we'll be following fences and walls for the next two days", explained Mike.  "It's called handrailing".

And so we did.  Everyone was well behaved and vacated the Bridge after only one drink and David walked some way up the glen with us to bless us on our journey before dancing his way back to Moffat.  Don't ask.

The team (L-R): Martin, John, The Pieman, Andrew, Mike P, Christine, me and Alan with Piglet and Shirl at front

We strolled up the glen crossing and re-crossing the stream (for the practice, I assume). 

Glen Sax

As we approached the upper reaches there was some suggestion of sending a Ranger to scout out a camping spot on the saddle at Glenrath Heights but I ignored this crazy talk and suggested the vaguely flattish area about 10m above where we were stopped.  To reinforce this proposal, I got my tent out.  It turned out this was a good decision. Further up would have been less comodious and colder, 'cos it was quite nippy that night on account of clear skies.

Saturday night's wild camp

Day 2: Upper Glen Sax to Megget Stone

Sunday dawned at it's usual time for a largely cloudless 26'th September but it was still too early and we were walking by 8 (ish).  We continued upstream to our first fence.  Martin and Shirl went for a little detour up Dun Rig (it's tickable, I think) and one or two others went off for walks through the heather clutching little trowels. 

Looking for a hand rail or a towel rail or maybe a hand towel. 

We handrailed along the ridge line, in a generally south-easterly direction, high-stepping over heather, and I started to wonder where the footpath had gone.  I'd just assumed at Easter that it had been covered by the snow.  By the time we reached Moffat, at the end of the following day, I finally accepted there wasn't going to be one.

Christine demonstrates eXtreme Handrailing

We dropped down somewhere for lunch and held our ground when some off-road bikers came past.  I believe the front one had expected Mike to open the gate for him but soon got the hint when the Pieman outstared him.  Then after lunch we climbed up some more, without the security of a fence for a while, before Martin disappeared for some considerable time to tick off some more roundy lumps.  It was hard to tell who had more energy, Piglet or Martin.  Piglet was doing most of the walk three times over, running up and down the line, checking we were all there, whilst Martin did the route the rest of us were walking whilst throwing in a few extra klicks and tops for good measure.  Duracell bunnies would have been hard pressed to better either if them.   

Shirl picks heather from Piglet's fluffy belly.  In deference to social conventions borne out of 30,0000 years of human evolution, the rest of us (sadly) didn't get similar treatment.

We followed some more fences and the heather mercifully gave way to short grass and easier walking, with Broad Law appearing in the far, far distance.  "Oh look, it's not far now", I said to Christine encouragingly but I could tell she didn't believe me.

Broad Law in the distance (and a fence in the foreground!)

The ascent to the summit of Broad Law was a bit of a grunty one, coming towards the end of the day, and the descent was interminable.  Well actually of course it wasn't because it did eventually end and we found ourselves at (or at least somewhere close to) The Megget Stone.  John, whose knee was well dodgy, had taken a different route and was already camped by the time we got there.

Unlike the previous night, the wild camp at the Megget Stone was level and benefited from some tins of beer and a bottle of wine, which Mike had cached the previous afternoon,  accompanied by Saucisson sec, assorted cheeses and other nibbles from Shirl and digestifs in the form of whisky based beverages from Alan and Mike P.  How absolutely splendid it all was.  The world seemed a good place and I remember looking out of the tent door around 10:30 to see Jupiter shining brightly in the eastern night sky.

Megget Stone wild camp - the team enjoying an aperatif and crudites

Day 3: Megget Stone to Moffat

I looked out of the tent door and was faced with clag.  The other tents were still there but someone had stolen the tops of the hills from about 30m up.  We packed up and were away by 8:30.  The day started with a stream crossing and a 300m climb, following the fence up the shoulder onto Molls Cleuch Dodd.  (No, I've no idea how you are supposed to pronounce that middle word.)  This may have been a convenient hand-rail but quite honestly, a Stannah stair lift would have been more useful.

At the top there was a showdown with men and compasses and we all 'aimed off' for different points on the same fence.  Successfully regrouped, we trudged through the clag to Rotten Bottom, where we stopped for some lunch, which was made less rotten by blagging some cheese and salami off Christine, who had taken on board my previous comments in July about needing more protein on these walks, whilst I had completely forgotten. Well duh!

After lunch, we set off into some horrific splodging territory and seemingly endless miles of clag and barren moorland and to break the monotony, Andrew started up a game of I-Spy and we felt like a proper rambling group.  F for fence was relatively easy to guess but W for wire proved troublesome, which was odd since we had been following it for miles.

I spy Fences and Wire

Shirl demonstrates splodging

The last big ascent of the trip was Hart Fell, which left the group a bit spread out for a while before regrouping on the summit.

Summit of Hart Fell

From the top of Hart Fell, we dropped down towards Moffat, the cloud lifted and we got to see some fine views.  We stopped at Greygill Head for a snack before the final steep descent by the side of a wood. 

Greygill Head

Descent from Greygill Head

And this was where things went bad and Alan, in crossing a particularly nasty and unnecessary barbed wire fence, lost his footing and cut his hand open, really quite badly.  The full and gory detail can be found on PeeWiglet's plog.  Suffice to say there was a lot of blood and Andrew and Shirl did some first class first aid stuff while Martin jogged back to Moffat to bring a car up to the end of the track.

Alan in an unreasonably chirpy mood

It was an unfortunate end to what had been a fabulous trip.  What I brought away from this incident is that I should go on a first aid course, so that I know a bit more than how to open a band-aid.

For other accounts of this adventure, see

Doubtless Alan will one day be able to type again as well as hold a glass of beer and scratch his nuts, so check here as well

Total distance about 34 miles and around 7,200 ft of upness (by my reckoning).


John J said...

What a great trip....great route, great company - what more could you wish for?

Apart from a lack of barbed-wire fences.

A nice report Tony, it was almost as though I had been there......'ere, hang on a minit...


The Odyssee said...

Good post Tony. Glad you had a memorable time. Is that barbed wire stuck out the top of Alan's head in the pic?

Pennine Ranger said...

LOL. Yes, Alan does look a bit punk in that pic but I didn't feel I could to ask him to pose for another one!

AKKW said...

A good account Mike.
A really enjoyable trip with a great bunch.
Thanks for your company and many chats along the way.
Hope to see you again on another walk.
If not before, certainly on the return leg Moffat to Peebles.

AKKW said...

Of course when I said Mike I didn't mean Mike (sorry).
I had just been reading the Pieman's blog ("that's the bloke what ate our Pies").

Anonymous said...

A brilliant write-up, Tony ♥ I love the piccy of little Piglet having her chest fondled; when I zoomed in I saw that her eyes are closed. She must have been enjoying it. Normally she's trying to get away when I try to give her a cuddle :)

It was great to meet you, and the others I'd not met before as well as the Usual Suspects. Piglet and I are very much looking forward to the next attempt. Roll on next... April?

GeoffC said...

I found you via Martins's blog - great account. This is one of the linear routes I've been thinking about.
I recognise the eXtreme handrailing across a bog with help from a fence, done plenty of that in the Pennines and Wales.
I don't recall Rotten Bottom being that rotten on our backpack around the Moffatt Hills!.

Pennine Ranger said...

I suspect Rotten Bottom would look much more inviting on a sunny day. Soggy Bottom would be a better name for it!

Phreerunner said...

Excellent write up Tony. You should get more comments now that you've changed your settings. You'll find that the word verification will stop most (but not quite all) spam.

Pennine Ranger said...

John, Andrew, Shirl, Martin: Thanks for your great comments. I know I've said this already but what a great weekend it was and I really enjoyed walking with you. Looking forward to the April return trip and hope to see you all somewhere on the Challenge - my form is ready to go in the postbox in the morning.

John J said...

I hope you've convinced Christine to apply for the Challenge too!


Pennine Ranger said...

Yes. Well I didn't do much pursuading really - I think it was more you guys. Anyway, we've just put the forms in the post this lunchtime. How exciting!

Laura said...

I'm a bit late reading this (just back in action after a 3 week trip away) but a great read. I'm even more determined to be there next time - having missed out on the two previous trips! (Really relieved that Alan's hand was not as bad as feared.) I won't be going near any barbed wire fences for a long time. (Shudder...)

Mike Knipe said...

Molls (Cluff) Dodd. So it is.
What are you doing next April?

Alan Sloman said...

Hi Tony!
Better late than never! What a great report.
It's now over four weeks since the barbed wire and it's slowly healing. I found another two stitches today that hadn't been taken out, so I pulled them out with tweezers... that's twenty stitches in one little pinkie!
Ho hum. I am amazed that you managed to persuade Christine to go on the Challenge after the toughness of this particular walk. If she can cope with that she should cope fine with the Challenge. Made of the right stuff, she is.

Cheers fella

Pennine Ranger said...

I've been a bit tardy in responding to recent comments.

Laura: thanks. hope to meet you (finally) on the next trip

Mike: Cluff eh? That's just such a peverse spelling (or pronounciation). April - yes, I hope to be available for Moff-Peebling

Alan: Twenty in one finger? That must have been some very delicate needlework. I have a mental picture of you downing a slug of whisky and biting on a bullet whilst removing those last two. Anyway, pleased to hear it's on the mend.