Under Saddle yoke horseshoe - Start Location

Loch Ossian Munros - Click to view the route in an Ordnance Survey Map

12th Jul 2015

2 Hours 51 Mins

15.7 km

988 metres

f the 221 Corbett’s only seven are located in the lowlands below the Glasgow to Edinburgh divide. Of these seven, three are located east of the M74. Having climbed two of these; White Coomb and Broad Law. All that remained was Hart Fell. This peak had been in the back of my mind for a while now, mainly because I quite liked the look of the nearby Donald, Under Saddle Yoke. On the Walk Highlands there was a good looking horseshoe that takes in both Broad Law, Under Saddle Yoke and another Donald, Swatte Fell. More importantly the route was only about 15km and just under a thousand metre of ascent. With two weeks until my ‘A Race’ of the year, The Lakeland 100, this seemed the perfect route to stretch the legs without over exerting myself.

Although it is a decent drive down south we did not rush to set off and instead enjoyed a rare Sunday ‘lie-in’. The drive was pleasant enough and by lunch we had arrived at our start location north east of Moffat, a place signposted Blackshope. There was a small parking area next to a cottage and we parked no problem. Problem number one. The lower section of the fell was rammed full of sheep. The dogs knew this and were rampant. Problem number two. The walk description stated the following at the beginning of  Stage 2

Continue over an electric fence (no stile)

What the hell does that mean? And more importantly, how the hell would we get Inca’s fat backside over the thing? We set off along the road and then headed up a faint path. The route description stated that you followed this in a north-east direction but I was struggling to see the path for all the bracken that was on the hillside. With sheep in abundance, the dogs were going berserk so I decided to head west across Hang Burn and the then take a northerly line up the hillside. This would take us away from the majority of the sheep and hopefully calm the pooches down. It was a steep slog up the hill and Emma, who was carrying a cold, was not having a good time of it. We plodded upwards, slowly gaining height. The higher we got the more impressive the view east to Saddle Yoke was. We crossed back over Hang Burn and realised that the change to the route had meant that we were on the ‘correct’ side of the electric fence. Great news! Little did I know that later on we would once again be confronted with the electric fence but this time there would be no alternate option.

The path worked its way up above Nether Coomb Craig and onto the summit plateau of Swatte Fell. There was a small pile of stones near the path and I wondered if this signified the summit top? It certainly did not look like the highest point and I knew from previous experience of climbing Donalds that the summit tops are often a little obscure. I headed west towards where three fence lines met and there was another cairn. This certainly looked the highest point and after a quick look at the map we agreed that this was the summit of Swatte Fell and we could consider this climbed!

Under Saddle Yoke Horseshoe - Inca and I take a breather on the summit of Hart Fell
Inca and I take a breather on the summit of Hart Fell

It was only a couple of kilometres to Hart Fell and we were able to run most of the way along a wonderful path that stayed above Upper Coomb Crag, Falcon Craig and finally Hartfell Craig. All that remained then was a final push up onto the summit plateau. There was no issue identifying the summit of Hart Fell here though. An OS trig point signified this and we chilled out for a while to grab a snack and take some photos.

I am not sure if Emma thought we were returning via Black Hope or that I dropped down lower than expected anticipated when navigating to the col but she was not at all impressed at all when I mentioned that our route back to the car included a climb over two more peaks (Under Saddle Yoke and Saddle Yoke). In fact she was far from impressed and was vocal in letting me know! From our current location, although the climb up did look steep, it was probably hundred metres of ascent maximum.

“We will be up and over the top in no time!” I informed her.

This did little to impress her and she made her thoughts known. What followed was a husband wife back and forth exchange and then a climb up to the summit of Under Saddle Yoke in total silence. When we did reach the top the view was amazing and our tête-à-tête from earlier was soon forgotten.

We dropped down from the summit of Under Saddle Yoke to the col where we were confronted with a fence. Not a normal fence but an electric fence or so the sign said. So we had not escaped the fence after all? I wondered if it actually was electrified so decided to find out. I quickly touched the fence with my finger and pulled it away. Not a thing. Hmmmm was it a fake? How about grabbing it? I reached out and gripped the fence. Nothing for a second then a pulse and I quickly withdrew my hand. The shock was not as bad as some of the shocks I have had back in the day when I used to repair televisions but you could feel it none the less. So a lesson for today is that when a fence has a sign stating it is electrified then it probably is.

There was a stile but the dogs are often clumsy when climbing stiles and the fence was low so maybe we could get the dogs to jump over? I draped my running jacket over the top and pulled Milo over to the fence. A quick launch and he was over, no problem. Next was Inca. You could hardly say our Alaskan Malamute is the most agile of pooches and as expected, what followed was a failed clumsy attempt at a vault over the fence. With a little physical encouragement our next attempt was successful and Inca was on the other side and judging by the look on her face no ill effect either.

With the fence out of the way, it was just a case of knocking off the Saddle Yoke then descending to the car. Rather than head down off the shoulder and through a field full of sheep as the route described we took a north easterly descent down towards Spoon Burn and the Shepherds memorial. It was a steep descent but there was no sheep and to be fair to the dogs they were as good as gold. We were down by the roadside in no time at all. All that remained was a short run back down the A708 and back to the car. Job done!