Having moved through to Edinburgh last year it’s taken to get started, but I’m certainly taking advantage of the fact the Pentland Hills are virtually on my doorstep. They’ve become much more familiar to me and I’ve slowly learned to ditch the heavy gear and travel light. That allows me pack more in to a shorter time. That came in handy a few days ago when my early morning walk was pushed back through a combination of factors and I didn’t manage to get off the bus at Bush Campus near Roslin until half past two in the afternoon. It’s a short walk through the Bush estate, past the Scottish agricultural College buildings and out on to the busy A702 near Crosshouse Farm. It’s a bad bend here and traffic does come at speed, and you have to take care crossing here. From there onwards to Flotterstone Inn, following the route up Turnouse Hill and along the ridge line which I wrote about in 2013: Munro Bagging in the Pentlands.
For this walk I’ve ditched my heavy equipment, my camera, spare clothing, in fact everything that I’d usually take carry; instead I’m using an old Lowe Alpine bumbag, containing a Harvey’s 1:40,000 scale Ultramap. Measuring around 7cm x 15cm folded and printed on waterproof paper it’s ideal for these walks as it not only reduces bulk, but removes the need for a map case too. Water and a few energy gels are the only food I’m carrying today, with the last of my load consisting of my smaller Silva classic compass, GPS and mobile phone. I’m also using my lightweight poles, but as far as equipment goes, that’s it. Boots have been replaced by trail running shoes and my protection from the weather was a Paramo Fuera smock. The lightness in weight was immediately noticeable and I barely paused on the steep ascent up Turnhouse Hill, where normally I’d plod and sweat my way up. That’s not to say I didn’t stop though, the view of a rainbow below me was too good to ignore and the phone camera was used a couple of times.
I was joined by a fell runner for a few minutes and the lack of heavy equipment allowed us to chat as we climbed, passing a large herd of cows as we went. It’s always unnerving when there’s no fence between you and the beasts, luckily they weren’t interested in us and we passed without incident. Soon I was looking at the soles of his shoes as he powered ahead, although I wasn’t overly slacking myself.
The weather took a decidedly nasty turn as I hit the ridge and by the time I was atop Carnethy Hill I was on the receiving end of a strong wind which made standing difficult, and driving rain. Luckily the rain passed almost as quickly as it arrived and my smock did it’s job well, keeping me warm enough and drying out quickly afterwards. Another descent and reascent followed and I was on top of Scald Law only an hour and forty minutes after getting off the bus. With bags of energy left I dropped off the summit towards the final two hills of the day, East and West Kip. I was aghast at the mess which had been created in the “improvements”carried out to an existing track there, reminding me of the mess I saw some time back on the West Highland Way.
With East and West Kip behind me I followed the public right of way north towards Balerno. I’d walked this route a few weeks back with my usual hillwalking buddy Jim, so there was no need for navigation stops and although my legs were starting to feel the pace I was able to keep it up, passing Bavelaw estate and Threipmuir Reservoir before arriving in Balerno. my timing was slightly off though, as I crested the hill there I saw the bus pull away. Checking my phone I saw that my walk was just shy of 10 miles, and with a bit of time to spare I decided to tidy it up a bit…
10 miles over Turnhouse Hill, Carnethy Hill, Scald Law, East Kip and West Kip in 3 and a half hours? I’m happy with that. Cutting out the excess weight was a huge help though. It’s not always practical, but when it is, it’s more than worth it!