Saturday, 24 January 2015

White Coomb

Walk Summary
Anticipation of clear skies and snow covered summit plateaus.
Under Saddle Yoke and Saddle Yoke on way up Carrifran Burn
Three routes planned as options to visit White Coomb and like all my walks each route tries to pick up as many of the surrounding summits. The longest at 11.18 miles with 6 peaks is really too long for short winter days, even in perfect weather conditions, so I had set my heart on the “medium” route at 8.57 miles and 4 peaks. The third route, a straight up and downer from Corrifran on the A708 was planned but in all honesty not expected to be used.
Well the conditions on Hart Fell yesterday made me rethink that idea.
Today’s forecast was better with sunny intervals and the same wind strength as yesterday but from a colder NNW direction. That was until 2pm when showers for Moffat, hence snow on high ground, were expected to move in. Even so I still harboured thoughts to pick up the extra two peaks of Firthope Rig and Great Hill. You can’t fault my optimism. At just over 6 miles, including the extra peaks, a much shorter walk than yesterday but duration of just under 5 hours at the 1.25mph planned pace was much slower than that achieved yesterday, but closer to the anticipated pace. Not surprised really the wind more or less assisted the ascent yesterday but more importantly the gradient today up Dun Knowe and on to Carrifran Gans in deep snow was a killer.

Walk Statistics
Walk Date - 24 January 2015
Walkers - Steve Smith

Accommodation - 
Howslack Farm Caravan Club (CL) Campsite
Start Point - Off road parking on A708 near Carrifran Burn (GR - NT 15895 11487)
Start Time - 09:26
Finish Point 
Off road parking on A708 near Carrifran Burn (GR - NT 15895 11487)
Finish Time - 13:31
Duration - 4hrs 05mins
Average pace - 1.29mph
Distance Walked - 5.26miles
Height Ascended - 722.14metres

Other walks on this trip

23rd Hart Fell
24th White Coomb
26th Broad Law
27th Capel Fell

Peaks visited
Munro (282)

Murdo (443)

Corbett (221)

White Coomb (8)
Graham (224)

Marilyn (1218S - 1552E,W&S))

White Coomb (37S - 118E,W&S)
Hump (2168S - 2976E,W&S)

White Coomb (48S - 182E,W&S)
S: Scotland. 
E,W&S:England,Wales & Scotland

GPX can be downloaded from

Walk Description
Carrifran Gans

Carrifran Gans from walk start point and off road
parking near bridge on A708 over Carrifran Burns
Not many options for parking near Carrifran and the cattle grid on the A708. In fact the only option is just before Carrifran on off road parking near the bridge over Carrifran Burn.
Rather than follow the fence straight up I opted to take the track to Keld Pot Spring leaving the track to the right heading up the tongue towards Dun Knowe. As expected it was really steep going requiring frequent rests to recover breathe.
In the absence of an established path looking up and picking the best line was essential. Fortunately visibility was good because the relentless slog on a bearing without sight of the next ridge would at best dampen spirits and at worst make you drift round ending up on crags off the south west shoulder.
Towards Moffat beyond Peat Hill.
Can still see walk start point on bend in road
After finally joining the fence near Dun Knowe skirting round a heather bed snow was more evident on the ground. Not sure it was the best strategy to follow the fence line. The snow was soft and as I followed the line of the fence, became progressively deeper. One stretch of this was at least a 1 in 2 gradient and in the soft snow each step became extremely difficult. Kick stepping was the order of the day but most steps sunk in about 12 inches continuing all the way to about the 740m contour and bend in the fence.
A right lung buster.
This marked the end of the hard work with effectively a level walk to the first summit of the day approx 400m to the north At the bend in the fence go over the stile to the east side of the fence to avoid having to climb over it later to the summit cairn of Carrifran Gans. I didn’t!
White Coomb
White Coomb and bealch
from bend in fence from Carrifran Gans
The fence although not marked on the map continues down to the 715m bealach and turns north east all the way to the summit of White Coomb. Easy navigation if visibility is poor. A gentle 100m ascent follows with a fairly large summit plateau making you wonder if the cairn no longer exists and you have walked over the high point.
Eventually it did appear out of the newly arrived cloud ahead and to the right. I was actually on the wrong side of the fence but was able to step over it without climbing due to the deep but now hard snow.
The next summit would have been Firthope Rig followed by Great Hill. Navigation was not an issue as the fence continued to Firthope Rig and if the map was correct would carry on to Great Hill. However the wind buffeting me from the right had weakened my resolve so the prospect of walking straight in to it towards Firthope Rig was not at all appealing. Once again, like yesterday, discretion was the better part of valour resulting quite correctly in heading back home after the main peak of the day had been reached.
Steep descent along fence.
Took the diagonal less steep gradient to the right
The wind and spin drift was straight in my face resulting in me having to put on snow goggles, but was down hill so took about the same time to return to Carrifran Gans from White Coomb as the journey to White Coomb had taken. However the descent from Carrifran Gans was a lot quicker and easier on the lungs than the ascent. More or less following my tracks in the snow but this time heel stepping rather than toe kicking. Leaving the fence and taking a more westerly diagonal descent avoided the really steep part just above Dun Know and although I frequently found footprints from the ascent did not manage to follow the route taken during the ascent for very long. Probably because most people go up and down via Grey Mares Waterfalls, however given the conditions of the day and small window of good weather I reckon this was the best option.

Weather closing in around next summit Firthope Rig.
Think I will give it a miss. After all it is only a sub-Corbett!
This was the second day I had cut the walk short due to adverse conditions. Not a bad thing it is always important to recognise when you are near your limits and take appropriate action. i.e. get off the hill back to transport or base as quickly and as safely as possible.
The lesson is one I actually recognised with Gina during our Leith Hill walk. Her resolve was definitely weakened after spending a lot of time looking for TuMPs without getting closer to the days main objective – Leith Hill. Fortunately lunch and refreshment rekindled spirits and she did really well to finish the walk as planned albeit we did not finish until nearly dark.
In winter conditions I should always plan to go straight for the main objective of the day. That way you do not use up valuable energy on minor summits that can be bagged another time and more importantly make ill judged decisions to carry on for the next summit.

Not a bad policy at any time of the year really, some of these hills are hard enough without making things more difficult.

More Photographs
Looking towards Herman Law from south end of summit ridge to Carrifran Gans
Click on photograph to view slide-show

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