If I’d known a few years ago what I now know myself to have become, I wouldn’t have needed to make a special trip up East Cairn Hill today. In 2008 (on our LEJOG walk) and in 2010 (on our Kent to Cape Wrath walk), we passed half a mile to the west of this hill, and in 2014 (on our Home to Edinburgh walk) we passed a mile to the east. On any of those occasions I could easily have dropped my pack and have nipped up and down, but, of course, I had no idea even three years ago that hills with 150m of prominence would become of interest to me.
All of which means that this hill was calling to me, as we were so close by, so having dragged Mick out of bed earlier than he would have liked, we relocated to Little Vantage, and I left Mick breakfasting whilst I set out, overly optomistically dressed in tights and trail runners, for a speedy up and down of this objective.
Conrad – you wouldn’t have been pitching a tent on the bed of Haperrig Reservoir today – it was rather more full than it was in June 2008!
My quest for speed was thwarted as it turned out the ground was too waterlogged to make me want to run even the flat and downhill bits, so I just walked as fast as I could – which at times wasn’t awfully fast as I fussed around the boggiest bits and tried to remain vertical.
I was merrily making progress towards the pass of Cauldstane Slap, from where I was going to turn towards my objective, when I happened to look behind me and spotted that I’d just walked past a path that was obviously heading up my the west side of my hill. I duly doubled back and followed it, finding it to be a very steep, quite eroded and remarkably slippery line. I was soon resolving not to return the same way.
The benefit of steepness is that it causes you to gain height quickly, and I was pleased when the ground levelled out and a large cairn/shelter was before me, although not because I was at the top (I still had half a mile of walking, involving a very boggy dip, to go), but because at least the significant climb was over.
Looking back at the large cairn on the first of this hill’s two summits
A patch of drizzle, significant enough to have me stop to change from windshirt to waterproof (and five minutes later back again) was almost the only thing that had me pause, after I’d dropped off the side of the hill (deep heather and killer tussocks). The only other distraction was stopping to record this early frogspawn:
Mick had a cup of coffee and a croissant waiting for me by the time I got back to Bertie (not by his psychic powers, but because I’d sent him a text message asking him to put the kettle on). The stats were 7 miles with around 350m of ascent, in 2 hours 25 minutes, which equated to a distance a mile less than I’d expected and a time 25 minutes longer than I’d hoped.
(As an aside: When I write these Marilyn blog posts, I usually start by referring to Alan Dawson’s book ‘The Relative Hills of Britain’ to obtain the relevant OS Grid Reference and height information. In doing that for this hill, I was temporarily alarmed to find West Cairn Hill, not East Cairn Hill, to be listed (they sit opposite sides of the pass of Cauldstane Slap). For a few moments I questioned whether it was possible that I had erroneously gone up the wrong hill before thinking to look at the list of updates made to the hill list since the book was published. Panic over. I hadn’t gone up the wrong hill.)