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Ettrick Pen

I decided to do a walk in the Borders for a change – the Ettrick Horseshoe was to be the destination, a fine and airy round that gives fine views all round.  The only problem is it is a swine to get to.

Struggling to evict my carcass from bed this morning I eventually made it out the door before 10am.  All well and good, but I had miscalculated badly.  It took over 2 hours to get to the start point – much of which was over fairly slow country roads.  You know that you are going somewhere remote when a B road is marked as single track on the map!

The SUW and the bothy just visible. Ettrick Pen is out the shot to the left

Eventually I made it to the start point, setting off at 12 o’clock on the dot in fine weather.  The sun was shining and with the snow lying heavily around 50m above it looked like it could be a good day.  Initially the Southern Upland Way was followed for around a mile or so (it crosses Ettrick Head at its lowest point then proceeds to make its way right down the centre of the horseshoe) at which point I turned off to follow a forest track to Ettrick Pen, the highest point on the route and the start of the round.

The best photo of the day - near the summit

It was here I had to make a decision – as I reached the snow line, very conscious of the fact time was marching on – I decided all I would do was a simple circuit onto Ettrick Pen.  While I could have walked half the Horseshoe and returned on the SUW I wasn’t convinced that I could do it while still light, and more importantly, avoid more snow – rain had been forecast for the afternoon and with some menacing looking cloud coming in the day was to be sensibly shortened.

With no clear path to work with I struck off across country, heading towards a couple of cairns marked on the map.  To say it was tough going was an understatement.  Wandering across the tussocks is sapping at the best of times but add deep snow it becomes far more entertaining.  Eventually I made it to the cairns – the horseshoe gradually appearing in all it’s glory as I gained height.

Looking back at my route in

The view here was fine, showing the lower ground free of snow, but with wisps of mist forming in the low areas.  I pressed on up to the pen, following the fence line along a quad bike track – right up to the summit the track had been followed by a fox, the tracks standing out clearly in the snow.  Unfortunately I must have obliterated most of them, as both myself and the fox were following the line of least resistance.

There is a large summit cairn, and fine views East and South West.  The Eildon Hill stand out as a landmark in the distance, marking Melrose and the start of both the St Cuthberts Way and Borders Abbeys Way.

Following the fenceline I to a turn, I started to descend, first following a barely discernible path until it vanished under the snow, then piling through sometimes knee deep in the stuff, until I finally reached the track I had come up on.

The view from the first Cairn - Worth clicking on

Retracing my steps back to the SUW I popped into the bothy here for a nosey and spent a while sitting in one of their rather comfortable chairs reading the log book.  Curiosity satisfied it was only a short walk back to the car.

Day Rating 7/10

Enjoyable little jaunt.  Not as far as I wanted to go, but I always like a bit of a frolic in the snow and the views were great.  My own fault for sleeping in.

On the journey home. Spectacular view on the Tweedsmuir Road!

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