Curleywee - 674m
Saturday 13th November 2010

Weather/Conditions: Strong winds blowing broken cloud across the tops. Views came and went, making route-finding without a map an interesting task.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 3.5km / 440m / 1h 50m
Accompanying: Alone

There's a small back-story as to why I ended up in this corner of Scotland, one so little frequented I've hardly ever been there before.

In June 2010, Mackenzie and I walked the western half of the Southern Upland Way. We covered the 200km's in about five and a half days which made for some crazy daily mileage. On the night of the second day our resting spot would be White Laggan bothy among the mountains of Galloway but we'd come all the way from Laggangarn bothy in the west. By the time we were in Glen Trool we had clocked up around 35kms that day and as we approached White Laggan, the kilometres were moving into the 40's.

Movement was torture, our night's stop always seeming further away than we cared to walk. With spent legs and fried brains we walked, light dimming, as Loch Dee (beside White Laggan) came into view. Even then the bothy was deceivingly far away. Mackenzie and I were like two tortured humans that night, and crashed through the door somewhere around 11pm after fourteen hours of movement. Then we left early the next day. We never really saw the bothy nor the surrounding area. We more than welcomed the warmth and shelter it provided but it always seemed as if we missed out on such a beautiful area.

Wind forward a few months and Mackenzie announced he was leaving Scotland after the New Year. When the various 'traitor' comments subsided, it was great to hear he was planning his going-away trip to White Laggan bothy. I had to be there so when the weekend finally came around, Kevin McKeown picked me up from Glasgow Queen Street, at 2.45pm (planned for 1.30!) then we headed south with him. myself, Joe McKeown and Hugh Hainey in the car. Michael Kerrigan and Mackenzie were already at the bothy and we would meet them there.

So after a bit of car sickness and road-route finding in the dark, we got to the end of the track and started walking from locked forestry gates. It was great fun the in dark, strolling the miles to the bothy with the stars out and wind in my face. The light in the bothy came into view and it looked miles away, but that wasn't the problem. The trailer we'd brought along, full of spirits, coal and a rucksack had to be hoisted across the 100m of marshy ground to the bothy - harder than it sounds. Mackenzie and Michael came out to help, then we settled in for a great night.

It was a blast. I didn't drink much (4 litres of Diet Irn Bru and a tequila slammer) but the other guys were a different kettle of fish. Some got more pished than others, but in any case the night wound up somewhere beyond 2am after nationalistic singing/screaming, laughing fits (cheers Joe) and a lot of good banter.

Curleywee (674m)

In the morning, I began to wake up 8ish. Then again at 9. By half 9 I was lying in my sleeping bag feeling pretty awake, wondering if I should do a hill. There would be about three hours until Kev McK was leaving for home so I got up, packed my stuff and kept wrapped up from the start. (The morning round-the-back piss confirmed the cold wind outside.)

I started uphill in the direction for a wee hill called Curleywee, a summit to the east of the Graham Lamachan Hill. Neither are big hills in height, but this is Galloway and it has it's own charms.

But the problem was, that every one of us had presumed that the other would bring the maps, giving rise to the problem of there being not a map in sight. Mackenzie had the forethought to prepare before but his blew away. And with high winds screeching across the hills and heavy autumnal clouds sitting on the tops, I figured I would leave the summit-desire out unless it was safe to go for a top. Well at least I had my compass. I knew also that the wind originated directly from the west - another navigational aid. And since the clouds weren't blanketing the hills they'd fall down the hillsides, then break up and rise again, giving brief moments of clarity.

Once I'd broken into the way of it, I realised that my sense of direction and awareness was heightening until I was mapping out all the knolls on the hillside, relating it to what I remembered from the map. I was 'tuned-in', if you like. And once I'd made good progress the cloud shifted, revealing a sizeable cairn on the higher hummock next to me.

To the top I went, where there was more wind and more cloud.

I was quite happy to have done just the one and Lamachan Hill would require more of a detour and more complex navigation. If I returned to the bothy now I would get breakfast and time to pack up without rushing around.

Down I went - quickly deciding to nip across to the top of White Hill, a Top. Nonetheless, I was enjoying things - being on a hill before breakfast when everyone else is rising is a good feeling. Then I ran the final metres down to the bothy, feeling a bit tired and hot from the effort.

Bothy and home

Tomato soup followed with Tiger bread dipped in. Kev McK with the most raging hangover didn't get up soon so Mackenzie, Michael, Joe and I walked out to the cars. To lighten the load of the others coming back, I took Kev's car up the forest roads as far as I could, enjoyed confidence built from manoeuvring an unfamiliar car (theory is passed and I need to sit my test - might change everything in term of mountain access).

All back at the cars, we jumped in went back to Glasgow. Kev was great in giving me a lift to my front door - something I apprecite because the drive home was so damn long. So cheers Kev.

Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 9.40am White Laggan
(1.05) 10.45am Curleywee
(1.50) 11.30am White Laggan

Written: 2010-11-16