When your phone buzzes early on a morning and high winds and heavy rain is forecast, it is bound to be someone deciding they have better things to do than run a 30 mile route dreamt up in drier times. Quite understandable. Still, seven Carnethies made the 0744 train from Haymarket to Dalmeny for the inaugural Carnethy Sea to Summit as part of the winter 2016/2017 Ultra Series.
We got it bad. From stepping onto the platform to 20mins from the end, we were wet and battered by the rain-filled wind. Storm Doris may have passed but her tail was long. Why is it the day before is always nice than the actual day? Our route went down to under the FRB and dip our toes in the River Forth (the Sea bit) then followed the old railway line towards Newbridge, quite nice on puddle strewn trails. A fortunate wrong turn took us along the River Almond on a vague trail and a bit of bondoo bashing to hit a building site that looked like a battlefield. This was bypassed on account of an angry guy in high vis, past car salerooms and ways found to continue following the muddy torrent of a river, a bit of canal, then a lovely canal feeder stream till exiting the Almondvale Country Park to a great wee café at Almondell Garden Centre that Jeff Roberts had sweet-talked the owner to open on her birthday for us. He even took a present for her, nice touch Jeff, and we sang her Happy Birthday.
The next leg headed via tracks, waterlogged fields, woods, lots of gate hopping into quagmire, and the odd farmyard, wigwams and steadings out to Selm Muir Wood to pick up the Scottish National Trail to cross the A70 at Little Vantage where the Thieves Road starts. Graham Nash was struggling to keep up since he is not too fit (oh, tell I lie, that was me….!), and he decided to head for Listonsheils and back home to watch the Rugby. The remaining five thought ‘What a total lightweight, Nash can’t hack it’. After 100m along the Thieves Road the remaining five thought ‘What a git, he knew what was coming and didn’t fancy 4km wading through rivers and bog’. The wind was blowing, the rain not far from horizontal, I was weary and using poles to protect the odd niggle. Jim Hardie and Viv Busby were in shorts so wanted to push-on to keep warm. Wet slushy snow from the recent storms made the water very cold with regular wading through long sections cooled the toes till they were numb.
Then relief, or was it? The path climbing up East Cairn Hill was a waterfall. The wind did not relent. We ground it out and thankfully the cairn at the top gave shelter (the Summit bit). Jeff Roberts and Rachel has put their waterproof trousers on while waiting for me. Jim and Viv shivered in their shorts. A Summit piccy then off through wet snow and sphagnum moss holes and peat bog for the Borestane. I found it hard to run the tussocks and being so wet with the wind so chilling and decided to stop and put my Montane Primus (hollofil) jacket. Joy, some warmth.
Our route from the Borestane intended to drop North then head for Bavelaw Castle. We were going to turn right to head down the Cleuch, past the 2 reservoirs then up over Allermuir to the Steading. A team decision agreed to hit Bavelaw and turn left, not right, and head for Balerno. After 5½ hrs being wet and the pub closer that way, with the 44 bus back to town beckoning, we headed down Exponential Hill and on to the Grey Horse Pub in Balerno to dry out. A photo of a local outside is because the passer-by who I asked to get a team shot couldn’t press a button hard enough!
This route ended up about a marathon distance and just under 1000m ascent finishing in Balerno. The trails and paths are great and the scenery really nice with some great bridge architecture. It would be nice in the dry, or in summer, and of course various options from the Borestane to Hillend could add distance and add ascent by doing the the first or second half of the Pentland Skyline….if you want to make it ‘harder’.
Well done to the team for turning up and waiting for me.