John Biggar.com : Climbing Instructor and Guidebook Author

Ski Touring in Dumfries & Galloway

This page has some brief information about the ski-touring and ski mountaineering possibilities in Dumfries and Galloway in southern Scotland. Flexibility is the most important issue by a long way. You need to get out there as soon as it snows because it never lasts long in the Galloway Hills..! You also need a creative attitude to how much snow is really necessary to ski on (see some of the pictures of Merrick  below)  plus an old pair of skis and skins.

A further piece of advice is to look carefully at the direction the snow has arrived from. So if it has come from the east head to the Moffat or Lowther Hills, if it has come from the west try the Merrick or Cairnsmore of Fleet.

At it's best it can be brilliant. Skiing out down the Kirriereoch burn after descending the steep northwest headwall off the summit of the Merrick.

At it's best it can be brilliant. Skiing out down the Kirriereoch burn after descending the steep northwest headwall (behind the skiers head) off the summit of the Merrick.

 

Moffat Hills

Lowther Hills

Cairnsmore of Carsphairn

Corserine / Rhinns of Kells

The Merrick

Cairnsmore of Fleet

Several of the routes I've skied in Galloway are mentioned in the late Malcolm Slessor's book Scottish Mountains on Ski (West Col 1970). It is optimistically titled Volume 1, but I don't think Volume 2 ever appeared. There are tours on Green Lowther, the traverse of Cairnsmore of Carsphairn and an ascent of Corserine in Dumfries and Galloway as well as some unusual and interesting sounding stuff on Tinto, the Campsies and the Pentlands.

Malcolm Slessor's book Ski Mountaineering in Scotland includes tours on Green Lowther, the traverse of Cairnsmore of Carsphairn and an ascent of Corserine.

 


Moffat Hills

Probably the most reliable for snow on easterly weather, they also have good short grass so less cover is needed. We've done tours from the A701 road at the top of the Devils Beeftub to the top of Hart Fell (808m), and along the hills on the south side of Moffat Water.

 


Lowther Hills

The area around the A702 at the Dalveen Pass is good and easily accessible, with steep grassy slopes requiring fairly small amounts of snow to become skiable. The high roads around the villages of Leadhills and Wanlockhead provide easy access to the highest summits as well, although the terrain is a bit more rolling.

Lowther Hills from the south, under snow (there's even a  full depth slab avalanche in the centre of the picture.!).

Lowther Hills from the south, after heavy snowfall (there's even a full depth slab avalanche in the centre of the picture.!).

Myself and Kenny Livingston skiing back down to the Dalveen pass in excellent conditions in March 2010.

Myself and Kenny Livingston skiing back down to the Dalveen pass from Lowther Hill. Excellent conditions in March 2010.

and the last turns back to the road at the Dalveen Pass.

.....and the last turns back to the road at the Dalveen Pass.

 


Cairnsmore of Carsphairn

This 797m high hill is one of the more reliable for snow and easily reached by road. The standard route is from the A713 road at the bridge about 1km north of the village of Carsphairn. From here a farm track leads towards the hill, then two different drystane dykes run up onto the plateau - these are useful  for catching snow of course.

Good snow cover on the slopes of Dunool,  March 2013. We had generally good skiing that day and a particularly fine 200m run down the northwest slope of Dunool.


Rhinns of Kells

The full traverse of the Rhinns makes a great day out, especially on skis.  After two failed attempts we finally did this tour in 2003, starting at the north end (Brochloch on the A713 road), skiing up onto Corran of Portmark, over Carlin's Cairn and Corserine then finishing by skiing east off Meikle Millyea and descending the forestry roads in the dark back to Forrest Lodge (where we had earlier left a shuttle car).

The view westwards form the Rhinns of Kells

The view westwards form the Rhinns of Kells.


Merrick

The highest peak in Galloway, Kirkcudbrightshire and indeed the whole of the Southern Uplands, the 843m high Merrick has some good skiing potential, with short grass on the higher plateaus needing minimal snow cover to be skiable. The classic tour is to ski in over Benyellary to the summit. The Howe of the Cauldron is a good steep descent that holds snow well, although it is rocky enough to need some depth or drifting before it is skiable.

Classic ribbon skiing on the Merrick in Galloway

Classic ribbon skiing high up on the Merrick in Galloway. Beyond the wind-scoured grass there were some reasonably big snow patches...

Stephen arriving at the summit.

Stephen arriving at the summit.

Skiing down into the top of the Howe of the Cauldron.

Some good steep, skiing down into the top of the Howe of the Cauldron, with Loch Enoch and Meikle Millyea in the background Photo courtesy of Stephen Reid at  Needlesports. My distinctive orange jacket is courtesy of Adobe Photoshop!

Climbing Chippy's Downfall in March 2013 after skiing in to the very bottom of the route...... and afterwards we skiied right back to the car!


Cairnsmore of Fleet

After the descent, a great run right off the summit to where we took this photo!


Galloway Climbing Links

Merrick Summit Panorama The longest theoretical  line of sight possible in the British Isles is from the top of the Merrick to Snowdon in Wales, a distance of 232km  - see this site for details and other great summit panoramas.

Galloway Climbing Index  Route Diagrams and topos on this website. An index page on this website with links to lots of information about climbing on the various crags in Galloway - mostly the Kirkcudbrightshire end.

Galloway Climbing  A web page run by Stephen Reid of Needlesports with some good Galloway climbing information, including some more new route information.

Winter Climbing in Galloway  Some winter photos.

Galloway Mountain Rescue Team  The local rescue team. 





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