A frosty night with ice on the tents in the morning. A routine had already been established, with gas cylinders, cameras and any electronic devices going in to the sleeping bag to keep them from freezing overnight. It was a shivery start to the day and we where glad to get moving. Mike can be quite deceptive in his manner of walking; a slow, but steady pace that can eat up the miles. Our way led up the valley and we noted a few other possible camp spots. The path plunged in to the forestry and although it only followed the edge of the trees, in places it felt almost Stygian. It was a relief to break out in to the pale, winter sunlight once more. A check of the map at Fairhaugh and then a long steady haul up to the Border Ridge with a pause to admire the view and relish the wintry sunshine. Lunch on the border was a swift affair. The cold was seeping through all our layers, with a light breeze adding to the wind chill factor. However, the walking was magnificent as we headed over to Windy Gyle and then descended in to Scotland down Windy Rig. A great commotion as a mixture of quad bikes, someone on a trail bike and a horse rider, resplendent in a red coat poured over the opposite hillside. The bugling of hounds indicated it was a local hunt. In all probability they where following a pre laid scent trail?
Setting up camp by Back Burn, it became obvious that we where in for a very cold night. By four pm the water in my cooking pot had frozen and my water bladder was also going the same way. Both of us wasted little time in getting in to our sleeping bags. Once supper was cooked and hot drinks made, gas cylinders and cameras where placed in the sleeping bags to protect them from the cold. Winter nights are long and normally I read for an hour or two, retrieve the gas cylinder and make a final hot drink and then settle down for the night. One thing I dread is waking up late at night or in the wee small hours, with an need to go to the loo. As much as I try to ignore it, the pressure in my bladder leaves me with no option but to bow to the inevitable. It is a long process, unzip the sleeping bag, grope for the headtorch, fumble for my boots which are at the bottom of the tent and are stiff and icy. Bear feet jammed in boots, in a state of partial undress, unzip the tent, a deluge of ice crystals showering down adds to the gasp factor. Dive out of the tent with chattering teeth. By the time I get back in to the sleeping bag I feel half frozen and am shivering violently.
The snow fall ceased early in the evening and then the temperature plummeted once more. A dog fox barked close by and owls could be heard in the woods during the night. Once more I had to get up during the night and for some reason found it difficult to settle. Very early in the morning I got the stove out for a hot drink and had breakfast at the same time This morning the tents proved even more difficult to pack than normal. Mine was bundled unceremoniously under the rucksack lid. It was still caked in frozen snow and ice, despite much shaking. Mike had a visitor, a wee mouse and he left it an offering of crumbled oatcake. It was clear and still as we set off down the valley. The footprints of a fox where evident in several places. It was pleasant walking down the valley toward Upper Coquetdale. A check of the map and we swung off to follow the Path Peth up and over the hill. It was our last and really our only hill of the day, but I think we where both a wee bit tired. We where back in Alwinton by early afternoon. Our last night was to be one of sybarite luxury. We where booked in to the hostel at Byrness, where we where made welcome. The sheer bliss of a hot shower and clean clothes, wonderful. A special treat was a hot meal.
Overall a good trip. Thanks Mike.