Date: Sunday 19th February 2012
Start: National Trust Car park, A708
Weather: Sunny and cloud free summits
Time taken: 13 Hours 36 Minutes
Ascent: 718 metres
Accompanied by: Emma, Milo and Inca
Corbett: White Coomb (821 metres)
Donald: Lochcraig Head (801 metres)
ith two decent hikes under my belt since the turn of 2012 I decided it was about time I got my fells shoes back on and got a decent run in. The Pembrokeshire Coastal Challenge withstanding, I had not been running on any trails of note since my trip to San Francisco and the amazing run in Mount Tamalpais national park. A quick look on MWIS and the best weather looked to be towards the Scottish Borders so we planned a trip up White Coomb.
At 821 metres, White Coomb is the highest peak east of the M74 and with a distance of about 12km and 750 metres of ascent, it would be an ideal peak to blow the fell running cobwebs off. There was not a cloud in sight as we drove south and there was plenty of black ice on the A708 so progress was pretty slow. There was only one other car in the National Trust car park which was good news. This looked a popular route but fortunately we had arrived before the ‘Jeans and training shoes’ brigade had rocked up.
Wasting no time, we kitted up and set off, crossing the Tail Burn and ascended up the well-made path above the gorge. It did not take long to gain height and with the dogs pulling hard on their harnesses we soon reached the impressive Grey Mare’s Tail waterfall. There was some wild mountain goats lingering near the path but they did not seem too bothered by our presence. Once above the waterfall, the path levelled out slightly and we were able to start running. There were patches of ice on the path and after a couple of near slips; we decided to stop to put on our micro spikes. With traction restored, we made good progress to the picturesque Loch Skeen where the views across the plateau were amazing.
We followed the shoreline for a while then hacked it across the tussocks towards a wall which we would use as a hand rail onto the east shoulder of the Donald, Lochcraig Head. The climb to the summit was steep but height was gained quickly and the view back across the loch was awesome. From the top of Lochcraig Head we ran across the plateau and dropped down into Tella Nick and then up to Firthybrigg Head. The path was frozen solid and with our micro spikes offering excellent grip we ran across Donald’s Cleuch Head to Firthhope Rig.
We had a breather than pushed on up to the summit of White Coomb. One of the best things about heading up in the fells in the winter is the incredible air clarity. The views were ‘top-drawer’ especially over to Hart Fell, the other Corbett in the area. We grabbed a butty and set off down from the summit top. The plan was to drop down Rough Craigs, skirting over the shoulder of Upper Tarnberry towards Tail Burn and picking up the path back down past Grey Mare’s Tail.
Although there were a couple of steepish crags to negotiate, we were pretty much able to run most of it and soon we were crossing the burn and back on the path down towards the car park. It was early afternoon now and there was a stream of people heading up (and down) the path. Our early start to miss the crowds had paid dividends. We descended without mishap and were back at the car in good time for the journey back north and home to Dunfermline. 🙂