Total Pageviews

Monday, April 21, 2014

A week's worth of walks

Walking with; Ruthy, Paul and Stephen

  In the week that the Peak District National Park was celebrating it's 63rd birthday, it seemed appropriate to stay local and enjoy the beautiful weather in the oldest National Park in the UK and the second most visited in the world (behind Mt Fuji apparently). It was the kind of week where no great expeditions were planned but pleasant walks showing the diversity of the area were undertaken and enjoyed.
   The moorland around "The Cat and Fiddle" is an excellent expanse for practicing the art of fine navigation. I traced the route of groughs, located dew ponds and avoided disused mine workings. I skirted quarries, startled Grouse and ended up at Three Shires Head, all whilst basking in the rays of a glorious Spring sun. In the Dark Peak, Lantern Pike was a pleasant jaunt from Hayfield and Bleaklow proved to be a grim and forboding place both by day and by night. Following a navigation challenge undertaken by the Edale Mountain Rescue team led me to be convinced that they could locate a needle in a haystack, I didn't fare badly, but returned the next day to review the area under a somewhat dark and gloomy sky. Mountain Hares were everywhere, their coats changing from Arctic white to a duller brown more associated with the dun coloured moors of the Snake Pass. The Roaches too looked great under sunny skies even if the wind was whipping around the tops. The Bank Holiday weekend had crowds everywhere so I retreated to my urban hideaway to sit it out with little more than a brief jaunt to Marbury Country Park to admire the bluebells and the Great Crested Grebes.
   I suspect I may decide to wander further afield this week, but if I don't it's satisfying to appreciate the fact I have so much here on my doorstep!

To view the full album please click on the link below; 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Mountains beginning with C (and a few others too.....)

Walking with; Nobody

  Wales in the sunshine, there can be few better places to spend a couple of days. I left Manchester under cloud but by the time I arrived in Conwy the sun was shining and the sky was blue dotted with a few cotton wool cumulus. The YHA is a modern building perched on the hillside above the old town, and, as well as offering excellent views from the dining room and roof top viewing area, it is perfectly located to attack Conwy mountain or Mynydd Y Dref (Mountain of the town). At 244m, mountain might be stretching it a little but it's an interesting spot affording amazing views along the coast and across into Snowdonia. The summit ridge is dotted with remains of Neolithic huts and of a very substantial Iron Age hillfort. It made for a very pleasant couple of hours of strolling, there were spring Lambs finding their feet in the fields and Gulls and Ravens wheeling over head and I was reminded of the pleasures of walking by the sea. I finished my day with a walk around the old walls of the city, a mooch along the harbour arm where the Herring Gulls scrounged chips from visitors and a few pints in the excellent Albion alehouse, a gem of a pub situated in the heart of town.
  Wednesday, I headed into the Ogwen valley, one of the most spectacular spots in Wales, possibly even the UK. I parked at Idwal Cottage and set off on to the rocky lower slopes of Pen Yr Ole Wen. I'd admired this mountain many times from excursions up Tryfan,Y Garn and the Glydderau, and it had always looked like a gnarly, scrambly route up, and it proved to be exactly that. Apparently the name means "Head of the White Slope" and by the time I had made my way up on to the surprisingly broad, sloping summit dotted with snow on the North face, the name seemed to make sense. The 360 degree views were stunning and worthy of a short rest after the steep, rocky scramble up. The climb up onto Carnedd Daffyd, Wales's third highest peak and named after Dafydd ap Gruffud, the younger brother of Wales's last independent prince. Dafydd met a grisly end at the hands of Edward I and, as he was in the shadow of his regal brother, so the hill named for him sits in the shadow of Carnedd Llewelyn named after the last Welsh prince. The ridge between the two, known as Ysgolion Duon, is a fine walk with nerve shredding drops on one side, but once traversed the climb up to Llewelyn's summit is an easy one. I descended back on to the ridge before dropping down towards Llyn Ogwen and making my way back to my tent in the grounds of the hostel. I did a night nav that evening around Llyn Idwal, it's a very eerie area, the huge bowl of rock sitting around the lake and there are many myths and legends associated with it.
  Thursday, I drove out of the Ogwen valley and parked in Capel Curing in the shadow of Moel Siabod. I had heard that Plas-Y-Brenin use the area a round Crimpiau as a navigation practice area and had decided if it was good enough for them, it was good enough for me! It's a really beautiful area of lumps and bumps, hummocks, tussocks, marshes and rocks. Buzzards wheeled overhead "mewing" and soaring, Ravens cronked and Wild Ponies picked their way across the rocky slopes. I spent hours aiming off at spot heights, seeking out contours and drinking in the views of Siabod and back down the valley. From the top of Crimpiau itself (name very aptly means fine, high ridge) I watched a navigation workshop taking place far below and then followed the ridge line along to the pretty, turtle shaped Llyn Y Coryn and then onto Clogwyn Mawr which, after a short, steep scramble off the edge, I made my way back to the Moel Siabod cafe where I was rewarded with coffee and an excellent buttery, syrupy flapjack.
   So, a cracking couple of days walking in one of the most beautiful areas of Wales. Lots of mountains beginning with C and a fair few more of Wales's tallest peaks. However, the substantially lower peaks of Crimpiau and Conwy Mountain proved to be more than equal in terms of enjoyment. I can't wait to head back and maybe pick out a few decent wild camp spots tucked in and amongst these magnificent peaks.

To view the full album please click on the following link;

Saturday, April 5, 2014

A Wasdale Wild camp

Walking with; Al

Choosing my favourite Lakeland valley is a little bit like being asked to name the best player in the Welsh rugby team of the 70s or the best pub in Manchester, there are many, many viable options in the frame. However, just as the names of JPR and "The Briton's Protection" end up coming to the fore more times than any other contender can manage, Wasdale is their Lake District equivalent. Ennerdale, Eskdale and Borrowdale all have their qualities and charms but in Wasdale you feel you are properly in real mountain country. It has the deepest lake and highest peak in England, it has "The Wasdale Head Inn" beloved of generations of climbers, the view of the lake from Scafell Pike was voted Britain's favourite and it is home to Joss Naylor, the greatest ever fell runner, it is a land worthy of the superlatives!
  Al and I parked up on the shores of Wastwater and after shouldering overnight packs (a bit of a shock to the system) headed off up Greendale Gill in distinctly un-Lakeland like sunshine. Greendale Tarn is beautifully situated between Seatallan and Middle Fell and after a quick lunch stop it was onwards in the direction of Haycock. The cloud level was low, but there was little breeze and the views down Nether Beck were sublime. The summit of Haycock was attained after a short, rocky scramble and it was on to Scoat Fell masked in cloud. Luckily, the cloud lifted and there stood the magnificent ridge of Steeple jutting out toward the re-wilding Ennerdale, another runner in the race for best valley. Wainwright said of Steeple, “Seen on a map, it commands the eye and quickens the pulse, seen in reality it does the same“ and he is right! It's a short scramble along the ridgeline to reach the summit and it's expansive views over Ennerdale are well worth the detour. From Steeple it was on to Pillar, the eighth highest peak in the Lakes, and a huge, broad summit topped with a wind shelter and number of cairns. The descent from Pillar is hard on the knees and by the time we reached the Black Sail Pass the packs were feeling heavy and our bellies growling, so we decided to set up camp for the night just above the second of the two small tarns in a perfectly sheltered spot. There was barely a breath of wind and the clouds were rolling over the hills into Ennerdale as we sat and cooked up our tea. It was a clear night and under a starry sky I did a little night nav whilst Al enjoyed the utter peace and solitude of this fantastic camp spot.
  A cuppa and porridge pot watching the sunrise....not a bad way to start the day, and then we were away to Kirk Fell. The scramble up Kirkfell Crags is a decent challenge with full pack but it wasn't long before we were crossing the expansive plateau towards the summit with views of the Scafell massif and Wastwater far below. Great Gable came next, a genuine contender for the best mountain in the Lakes and squeaking in at a disappointingly specific 899m! The climb up was not as gruelling as I remembered and it wasn't too long before we were stood before the Fell and Rock Climbing Club memorial plaque, there were still plenty of poppies and crosses remembering the fallen. Last time I'd been up there I'd ended up descending the screes in a state of exhilarated terror but this time we took the steep, but less terrifying route down to Styhead. Styhead is the Spaghetti Junction of this part of the world and as we approached we saw our first other walkers of the day, coming from all directions, we were amongst those carrying on to "The Corridor Route". Having only ascended Scafell Pike from Wasdale before this was a pleasantly walker free route with Wasdale Head sitting far below and the awesome slash of Piers Gill cutting through the rock beneath Lingmell. Ravens circled overhead as we hit Lingmell Coll and slogged up the last ascent to temporarily be the highest people in the whole of England. Scafell Pike often disappoints in terms of views due to cloud and rain but the views today were some of the best I've seen from this particular summit. As the highest peak in the country it is rarely quiet on the summit and it's less than pretty top is also rarely litter free. It's perplexing that anyone willing to expend the energy to climb to the top is unwilling to expend the additional energy to carry their crap off the top with them. It's hardly an original rant, but no less heartfelt for all that. We dropped down to Mickledore and from there descended the scree slope down to Hollow Stones before following the well trodden path down Brown Tongue to the lake and then on alongside the forboding body of water to our cars and a welcome rest.
   Al had to head home but I fancied a wee bit more navigation practice so headed over to the excellent Grasmere YHA for a well earned kip. I left the hostel the next morning and made my way up towards the lumpy, bumpy land between Brigstone and Blindtarn Mosses! It's a great area for navigation and I wrestled with my 1:50,000, which I still find a tougher scale to work with, but eventually had some success finding my way around the area and enjoyed the views from Lang How down towards Langdale. The path that skirts the summit took me round to Silver How and after a final view down towards Grasmere and Rydal it was back to the hostel and home after a cracking couple of days of Lakeland exploration.