This is a report of my second half-day ski tour in the Campsie Fells. This time, Hubby G and I skied from the Crow Road, via Lecket Hill to Meikle Bin summit – and back again.
It seems strange now that I had not skied in the Campsies before this year, but perhaps that is because we normally have such a wide choice of destinations for skiing in Scotland and abroad.
Our first ski tour of the Campsies the weekend before took us west from the Crow Road to Dumgoyne, via Earl’s Seat.
With another dump of snow in Central Scotland last week – and a desire to explore further on skis locally – Hubby G and I again set out from Crow Road, just above Lennoxtown in East Dunbartonshire, but this time we headed east.
We climbed first to Lecket Hill at 547m and then on to Meikle Bin with a summit of 570m. The route, there and back, was 12km. The total elevation gain was just more than 550m. See OS Map for the route.
Checking the weather forecast, we knew the weather would change for the worse around noon. So we decided to set off before sunrise. It was -7.5C as we got out of the car on the B822 (Crow Road) just past Alnwick Bridge.
Skinning uphill, we were delighted to be treated to a fantastic sunrise to the east. The sky changed from a gentle pink to a bright orange – and when the sun popped up above the snowy hills it was spectacular.
The slope was steeper than the ski tour the weekend before, but we managed to progress without too much difficulty.
On and on we climbed, relishing the calm, although cold, conditions and oohing and ahhing at the beauty of the natural environment.
At first, the snow seemed a bit thin and icy, but the higher we went, the thicker it became until only the very tops of the tallest vegetation stuck out of the white stuff. This was the best we could hope for in Central Scotland on fairly low hills.
There were still places where we needed to cross icy bog and barely covered streams but, on the whole, the snow blanketed the landscape.
The fells are criss-crossed with fences, which we had to get over , and we needed to pass through a metal gate while still on our skis but this simply added to the unique feel of the ski tour in our local hills.
Every time I looked up and around me, I felt very lucky to have such a stunning landscape on my doorstep, as well as the skills, experience and fitness to be able to ski amid it.
Lecket Hill to Meikle Bin
After a couple of kilometres, we reached the cairn on Lecket Hill, from where we could survey the eastern end of the Campsies and look towards our goal of Meikle Bin. It seemed like a very long way, especially as we planned to ski around a forest in between Lecket Hill and Meikle Bin.
We thought that the snow would be thin and icy on the ground beneath the trees and a long circuit around the forest seemed like a better idea.
Taking it in turns to break the trail, we pushed on. Skiing over snow that sits on top of heather is a bit of an art form and it requires you to lift the skis up as you ski forwards. Without care, you end up with the ski tips planted in vegetation.
Our aim was to contour as much as possible, and stay as high as possible, although there were still plenty of ups and downs.
I don’t think we had imagined it would take as long as it did to reach a narrower strip of the woodland at the base of the Bin – and, by the time we got there, the weather had started to change.
The wind had picked up, yet we still had a tricky section of forest and icy bog to negotiate. I took off my skis and carried them down a steep muddy slope and then up the other side. The wind swirled and howled noisily above and it felt rather eerie.
From the other side of the forest, we were able to ski again. The snow was icy and the slope was steep on the southern side of Meikle Bin. The wind buffeted us from the side and it wasn’t an easy final ascent.
From the trig at the top of the Bin, the views were wide-sweeping but they were not as far-reaching as earlier that morning and we were aware we needed to head back as soon as we could.
The return ski
Because we had been skiing with the wind behind us for most of the outward tour, it was only when we began the return journey that we realised just how strong the wind was going to be.
The clouds had also thickened and the wind blew snow from the land into our faces. We had hoped to be able to ski back on the tracks we had already made but the snowdrift meant they were not so easy to follow.
After a short ski descent from Meikle Bin on a narrow and icy track, we again negotiated the forest. Sticking the skins back on to the skis, then placing them on our packs, we set off to walk back through the woodland. It was much warmer amid the trees thankfully because the descent from the Bin summit had felt very, very cold.
As we climbed a fence and once again set off on skis cross-country, my legs felt suddenly tired. In fact, the return ski was a sharp contrast to the outward ski and it was simply a case of getting my head down and pushing on.
Again (I have done this so many times over the years), I thanked my good fortune to have a pair of Berghaus Hydrodown gloves. The brand doesn’t make them any more, which is very sad, because they are the best gloves I have ever owned for keeping my hands warm in very cold and windy weather.
As well as tired legs, my shoulders were starting to feel sore. Ski touring requires both upper and lower body strength and my shoulders were not used to the push and pull of the ski touring.
As we skied, any exposed skin, such as on our faces, was hit by snow being swept up from the ground and icy rain. The views we had enjoyed earlier in the day were almost totally obscured by a whiteout.
Yet, still, it felt like a treat to be able to ski when we had almost lost hope of spending any time on our skis this winter due to Covid lockdown.
Final descent from Lecket Hill
Apart from short and icy descent from Meikle Bin, there was little chance to remove the skins for a slide downhill during this tour. It was only when we reached Lecket Hill for the second time that we could enjoy a “bit of a proper ski”.
It was what I call survival skiing – when you keep going by willing yourself to make the right turns, neatly and tightly, and not hit rock, heather, ice or other obstacles. However, the skiing was still good fun and felt like a great reward after many hours of “skins on” skiing.
The tour took around 4.5 hours, including stops to take off skins, put on skins, take photos, chat to people we met and stop for a quick flask of tea and snacks.