Snow before Christmas: adventures in the Cheviots!

Early December – the met office promised a week or more of freezing conditions and supposedly there would be several days of snow showers.  Mostly along the North Sea coast, we were desperate for snow to come far enough inland and enough of it to ski.

By the weekend of 10/11th December we had had only a half inch of snow but it was staying cold and frosty.  Not enough to ski.  But some dogged research by Jon Mellor revealed a Facebook posting showing snow on the summit of The Cheviot (815m).  Neil, David and Alan were persuaded to team up for a trip north – and thus we arrived in the Harthope Valley on Monday morning.  More in hope than expectation.  But it was soon apparent that we could ski right from the valley!  The summit of Cheviot was 600m above us.

We had chosen to use Telemark skis rather than lightweight Nordic touring gear.  Modern day Telemark gear is much easier on the descent.

We started up beside the Hawsen Burn and hit the ridge line below Scald Hill.  The snow was good and the sun shone.  It was a cloudless sky with no wind and the 600m of ascent was warm work.

Following the fence line towards the Cheviot we were mostly ascending on good snow (with the exception of a pesky heather-filled gully below Scald Hill). The steeper sections nearer the summit were quite punishing (Nordic touring skis would have been easier).

We reached the summit at 2.30pm after 4 hours of ascent.  We were level with the trig point, which was a few hundred metres beyond the stile.  But time constraints meant that we had only an hour and a half of daylight for the descent.

Neil on the summit of The Cheviot (815m)
Looking along the fence line with the trig point just beyond.

Most of the descent was excellent skiing and very enjoyable.  We veered away from the fence to get an easier line away from the steep track.  But inevitably it got more challenging and we had to ski some steeper terrain and thick grassy clumps and heather until it was again pleasant skiing on good snow and nice tracks.  Other than 200m of stony track near the bottom, we had skied all the way and finished in the gathering dusk!

It was a fabulous day out.  Mmission accomplished!

Roll on to Friday.  There didn’t seem to have been any more snow, though it had stayed below freezing all week.  The only good snow was back in the Harthope Valley.  David and I decided to have a go at Hedgehope, which faces The Cheviot across the valley.  Ambitious!  Two major Cheviot peaks in the same week! Paramjeet chose to meet usat the parking spot in the Harthope Valley. 

Despite being 100m lower at 714m, Hedgehope was going to be more challenging than The Cheviot.  The was more vegetation and less snow cover.  And much of the ascent was either quite steep (especially the top) or fairly flat.  A strong westerly wind added to the challenge as we got nearer to the summit.

Hedgehope summit block – how the heck can I ski this?!

The top 200m of ascent was a steep grind (hard work) over hummocky vegetation interspersed with pockets of powder.  But we kept going until 30m below the summit.  Then finally we gave up because the wind was making it hard to stay upright and we were being blasted with ice crystals (quite unpleasant).  I skied about 80m of the steep section below the summit, over a mix of tussocks and patches of powder – though not very elegantly!  Further down into the valley, the last field had good snow, so at last we had 150 metres of easy skiing.  All in all, it was a disappointing day but we were pleased we had tried!

That seems to be it for pre-Christmas skiing.  Monday on Cheviot was wonderful!  But it was a shame that the snow was not more widespread.