A Pentland recon mission

Yesterday was another long walk in the Pentland Hills. But instead of seeking out old WWII crash sites and geocaches, I was on a reconnaissance mission so that I could gather first-hand intelligence about the difficulty of part of a longer walk I plan to do later this summer.

The initial plan for the day was to summit 6 hills along the eastern edge of the Pentland range: Turnhouse Hill, Carnethy Hill, Scald Law, South Black Hill, East Kip, and West Kip. However, despite the forecast for sun, the weather was such that I skipped South Black Hill, as it is a slight divergence from the main path across the ridge. (More on that decision below.) The weather also meant that I skipped my plans to grab some geocaches along the way. But they will be there next time, so that’s OK!

I set out with a friend just before 8.30 am and we made our way towards the hills. The weather was looking good, and I removed my jacket before we began the climb up Turnhouse – the longest and hardest climb of the day! I was feeling confident about it, although I had to stop to catch my breath a couple of times. Which was OK, until three men passed me running and chatting as they made their way to the summit. (Show-offs!)

From the Turnhouse Hill summit (1,660 feet) we continued across to Carnethy Hill. As we climbed the hill, I could feel occasional raindrops, but I was naively hoping it would not turn to rain. But at the summit (1,880 feet) it was starting to get colder and windier, so I had to put my jacket back on. However, the views were lovely, and I was feeling positive that the rain would be gentle if it came at all.

I’m the Queen of Carnethy Hill!!

Carnethy Hill was meant to be the first geocache of the day, but the weather was just dreary enough that I announced to my non-geocaching friend that I was going to skip the caching. And I am glad I did because as we made our way to the next hill (Scald Law) the mist began to roll in and the rain went from one or two small droplets to a steady (but light) stream of water falling from the sky. Indeed, the mist and clouds came in so quickly that, when I turned to look back at Carnethy, it was gone!

One of the things I was most looking forward to on the walk was the views from Scald Law (1,900 feet), which is the highest peak in The Pentlands. However, by the time we go to the trig point marking the summit, there was no view to be had. Our visibility was nearly gone, and the rain had set in hard and fast. A disappointment, but that’s the risk you take when hillwalking in Scotland. (Also, the hill is on my doorstep, so there will be more opportunities.)

On leaving the Scald Law summit, we decided to skip the detour to South Black Hill. By this point, it was raining heavily with the rain coming hardest from the direction of the detour. There was nothing I could do about it though, so I just resigned myself to getting soaked for a bit. And with my glasses fogging up, I didn’t want to risk a smaller, narrower path. So, we continued towards the Kips.

As we came down from the top of Scald Law, the rain stopped, and we were greeted with a gentle breeze – but the clouds looked like they weren’t done with us so we remained sceptical. However, we did make it up and down both East Kip (1,751 feet) and West Kip (1,808 feet) without rain. Indeed, the breeze was almost warm and helped to dry us off by the time we got to the base of Hare Hill where we stopped for a picnic lunch.

The 5 Pentland Summits

By this time, we had walked 7 miles in nearly 4 hours and we needed to decide on the route to take back. We decided to walk along the path towards Bavelaw Castle then cut across to the reservoir valley through Green Cleugh.

As we came to the end of Green Cleugh, almost to the top end of Loganlea Reservoir, the rain started in again. However, we were sheltered from the wind and the rain didn’t last long. Indeed, by the time we got to Glencorse Reservoir, we were dry once again. And by the time we got to the far edge of the Pentlands, we were even on the warm side. (But it was still jacket weather!) At that point, we stopped at the little café for some hot chocolate and another sandwich before walking the final mile back to my cottage.

In the end, we walked 15.25 miles in 7 hours and 13 minutes. We managed 5 summits with a 2,340-foot elevation gain, all in just over 33,000 steps. Not a bad day out, if I do say so!

As for the recon intelligence report, I feel like I can say my Pentland Perambulation Plans for a 13+ summit, nearly 20-mile, full-day hike later this summer is feasible – and possibly in less time than I initially thought. That walk will begin the same as today’s walk but will include South Black Hill. Once I am off the Kips, I will climb Hare Hill (instead of just walking around it) then I will cross over to Black Hill and several others – all but one (Bells Hill) I have climbed before.

So, now I have timings for all the segments of the big walk and I can begin to make plans for tackling the challenge. I will complete the challenge as a solo adventure which will mean I can take my time (or alter my route) without negotiating with someone else. It will also be a nice opportunity for me to reflect on myself, my life, and my (hopeful) future. Watch this space for that story!

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