The echo chamber of our group chat had tricked us again. With the woes of our Gameshope miss-adventure now in the past the idea of getting out for the first bothy adventure of 2019 had got us excited. Once the naysayers left the conversation it was all carefree positivity with little consideration that the weather report was predicting -2ºC and snow flurries. Especially on the part of Euan and myself. I had not considered that one pair of socks and some summer SPD’s was not a recipe for warm feet*. Euan had somehow managed to convince himself that he wouldn’t need a jacket for a night ride in January. We both failed to have sympathy for Scott who was overdressed and sweating on the climbs.
It had been a cold 55 miles from Edinburgh but as we reached the start of the Ettrick Valley we all knew that we were only 8 miles from the bothy. The approach to the bothy is a long climb that follows Ettrick Water and this grind was welcomed tonight as I hoped it would bring some warmth back to my frozen feet and fingers.
Scott however was nervous as we reached the junction and rightly so. Around this time last year everyone had embarked on a similar trip, in similar conditions and had been faced with terrifyingly unrideable ice in the morning. I did nothing to ease his mind by falling victim to some slippery slush and having an ungracious slow speed front wheel washout.
The snow was getting harder and with heads down we pushed on. I was grumpy after my fall as my newly purchased leg warmers were now newly ripped leg warmers. Our tyres forged fresh tracks through the layer of snow that was forming on the road, slowly getting thicker as we worked up the climb. The little conversation that was made was almost solely focused around whether it was likely that the fire would be lit on our arrival.
Once we got close to the bothy we could see a warm glow through the windows. A welcoming sight and as we dismounted our bikes we were met by Kenny at the door. Bikes were quickly brought in and we filed through to the warmth of the main room. Kennys wife Beth (Kenny and Beth are the caretakers for a number of Southern bothies) and two old geordies were gathered round the fire. A couple of dogs ran around the floor in the excitement of our arrival before settling down on the sofas to curl up and sleep. Clothes were quickly changed and hung up by the fire before we all began preparing hot food and drinks. The troubles of our journey were easily forgotten now we were indoors.
Outside the night was quiet and cold but inside we talked around the stove which was stoked until the stove itself glowed red hot. I had met Kenny and Beth in the same bothy a few years ago whilst on my first bothy bike trip. We talked of the comings and goings over the last few years; upgrades, future plans and the people who had passed through the bothy.
Kenny was quickly up in the morning and stoking the fire to keep the dawn chill at bay. Euan was also awake as he needed to get an early start back to Edinburgh. We took things at a steadier pace, seeing Euan off before getting started on our breakfast.
Although still bitterly cold the threat of snow had not escalated during the night. The dusting that we had experienced the night before still hung around which rekindled our worries of ice. Climbing on icy surfaces is not much of an issue but now that we were descending down the valley we were aware of potential dangers. We took it easy. Managing our speed and avoided our front brakes at all costs.
The long descent was cold. Quickly my feet and hands returned to being bitterly cold as they had been last night. Our concerns of ice were mostly miss-placed and we all reached the bottom with very little drama.
The roads after the Ettrick Valley were clear and we made quick progress. An unmissable stop at No1 Peebles Rd in Innerleithen for tasty veggie breakfast rolls and coffee to fuel us back over the Granites and homewards.
Over Phawhope is a superb little bothy and a good distance from Edinburgh for after work micro-adventures. The Mountain Bothy Association have a very interesting read about the history of Over Phawhope Bothy which you can find on their website.
MAKE FIXED GEAR GREAT AGAIN
*No excuses considering I mentioned their warmth in a review of these shoes last month.