Category Archives: Quality mountain days

Ennerdale

(March 2015)

Time for another backpacking weekend and another two Quality Mountain Days. I had a long planned trip to Ennerdale in the North-Western Lake District in mind, part of the area I’d not visited before.

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On Friday I rushed home from work, threw the ready-to-go backpack into the car and set off for the three hour drive to Cumbria.

Keswick is about 2 hours from home and Ennerdale isn’t that far from Keswick, on a map. In terms of Lakeland roads it’s another hour.

The plan was to spend Friday night in the Youth Hostel before setting off, up onto the ridge along the Northern edge of the valley, along to the head of the valley and Great Gable and back along the Southern side, finding somewhere to spend the Saturday night.

I parked the car at the car park in the forest and walked the mile or so to the youth hostel in darkness. I soon discovered I was not alone…

The road had a large number of frogs hopping about and so it became necessary to use my torch to prevent me standing on them. Although I never saw what it was,  there was also company in the forest to my side. I’d hear the crack of branches and movement within the trees. Despite casting my torch I never saw what was in there.

Arriving at the youth hostel I was greeted by the friendly warden. A Dutchman. We chatted briefly and I tried to impress with the six or so words of Dutch I know. I settled into the shared lounge with a couple of beers and my maps.

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The next morning I took advantage of a cooked breakfast before heading out into the hills.I only had to follow the low level track a short way before a break in the trees allowed me easy access to the hills above. I paused for a while on the summit of Red Pike (755m) and took photos and checked the map. From here my route followed the ridge to the south east towards Haystacks, the final resting place of Alfred Wainwright.

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Haystacks was crowded, the first time I’d seen more than a single person since I left the youth hostel a few hours earlier.I found a comfortable rock and made my lunch. Tuna and cheese wraps, pretty standard backpacking food for me.

My plan for the afternoon was to continue onward to Green and Great Gable before moving towards Kirk fell and a bed for the evening.

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The crowds thinned out again as I walked away from Haystacks. The weather was superb, beautiful blue skies and not cold at all.

I’d never been on Great Gable before and had heard several people extol its virtues. I thought it was okay but nothing amazing. I preferred Kirk Fell, or more accurately the views from it.

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There was not a breath of wind and so I decided to pitch my tent in an exposed place on Kirk Fell. It was a four season tent so even if the wind picked up I was confident I’d survive. The spot I chose offered me amazing views of the Scafells.

The night sky was beautifully clear and so I spent a long time out of my tent just looking at the stars and at the head torches I could see on Scafell Pike. Eventually it was too cold to stay out to I retreated to the warmth of my tent and sleeping bag.

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The next morning was just as still and clear as the previous and  I enjoyed the views while I made breakfast.

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Frosty camp site

After a light breakfast I packed up and continued on towards Pillar and the descent back to the valley and my car.

 

 

Mountain Leader (Summer) Assessment -day by day

Last week I drove back to Plas Y Brenin at Capel Curig in North Wales. The visit was from Sunday night until Friday afternoon for the Mountain Leader assessment.

I did the training in the February half term in 2014 and I’ve spent many days, nights and weekends wandering the mountains of Scotland, England and Wales between then and now gaining logbook experience ready for the assessment. I booked my place at PyB months ago, as soon as the dates were published. As the months passed I became more anxious, wondering if I really was up to the challenge. Would I make an arse of myself?

I booked in and went to my room. Jim, my room mate and fellow assessment candidate was there already. A fellow teacher -one of several on the assessment (It was half term, after all) but from a very different subject and workplace.

The week began with the standard PyB welcome briefing to all guests and the centre director told us that on that evening Alan Hinkes, Britain’s greatest living Yorkshireman, top mountaineer and one of my heroes would be giving a talk in the evening. We separated off into our groups and Dave, our course director outlined the week ahead for us and introduced us to the assessors we’d spend the week with.

Monday.

1:25k navigation. We were taken down the road by minibus and we set off to walk up Moel Siabod via a tussocky, boggy route. We were a group of four; Jim, Dom, Mike and myself accompanied by Greg, our assessor. We took it in turns to lead a leg and declare when we’d reached our destination. The other members of the group would have to identify where they thought they were by pointing a blade of grass at a relevant point on the map and explaining the evidence they’d used to make that decision.

While we were navigating our way Jim and Mike took the opportunity to deliver their 5 minute hill talks. Jim described what the Romans would have found when they got to Wales. This was a fascinating talk and easily ten minutes of enthusiastically delivered information. Mike explained glacial processes and the impact on the landscape.

Greg commented that as a group we kept up a really good pace as he was a fast walker and we took in the difficult ground without problem. He said that we may need to moderate our pace if we were walking with a less experienced group.

On the final descent back to PyB each of us was given individual feedback about our performance that day, good bits, things to improve on and other tips.

On the evening we were given a route planning task to be done that evening and handed in at reception along with our paper logs, home papers and first aid certificates.

After the homework was done I grabbed a pint and went to the Hinkes talk. Even had opportunity to speak to the man himself!

Tuesday.

1:50K navigation and steep ground. We were dropped off by minibus part way between Pen Y Pass and Llanberis. Our groups was now without Jim who’d been re-assigned to another group due to changes in numbers. Today’s assessor was Dave, the course director. The format was similar; each of us was given a ‘leg’ to navigate and we’d make our way over the broken ground to our target, declare we were there and the others had to say where ‘there’ was. I was given a point to navigate to, which in hindsight was a piece of cake; find the flat bit on the spur down from Crib Goch and head to a small contour line. I completely screwed this leg up. I kept stopping, checking, walking off. I didn’t take in the big picture and got bogged down in the detail and basically lost it! Dave gave handy hints and tips and eventually I made it. On arrival I was questioned thoroughly as to how I knew (partly because I’d previously declared I was ‘there’ when I was nowhere near). This screw up hit me hard and really knocked my confidence. I took extra care over everything else I did that day but the thought that I wasn’t up to it began to take hold.

Coming down a ridge line I slipped on some wet grass and landed on my arse. Unhurt, I leapt up with a ‘Tah-Da!’ but it didn’t help my faltering confidence.

When we were back on easier ground we got our feedback. Dave explained that my poorly done navigation on that one point would have affected a group’s confidence in me if I was their leader. He was completely right, I looked like I didn’t know what I was doing. He gave me some great advice about how to plan the navigation, the big picture and things of that sort. I got back on the minibus beginning to think I was now fighting for a deferral, rather than a failure.

Back at base we were given instructions about the next few days which would be spent on expedition. We spent the remainder of the evening in the bar chatting and having a restful evening before the ‘big days’ ahead. I possibly had two too many beers and ended up getting to bed somewhat later than was ideal.

Wednesday.

1:25K Navigation, rope use camp craft and expedition skills. Andy was our assessor for this part of the expedition. I was given the first leg to navigate, a truly easy point on a bend on a footpath! -I found it, using timings, the map and common sense (I had a feeling they’d given me an easy one due to my earlier screw ups). En-route I took the opportunity to give my five minute talk. I’d originally planned to talk about the CroW act the Scottish access code but had decided that it was too dry and instead gave a talk on choosing a water source to drink from. The other guys took their turns and I got my second one. Another easy leg to an easy-to-find lake on the slopes of Snowdon. (I really did think they were giving me the ‘Noddy’ points to keep me going but that I wasn’t going to pass). We walked towards Cwn Tregalan and I was given another point. In retrospect another completely simple piece of nav. I messed up again! I made a ridiculous assessment of the map and declared that the point was about 500m further than it was. Andy questioned me, gave me a bit of info and It fell into place. I was definitely not passing this course. Walking to the point the realisation of just how easy the point was to find hit me. What an idiot!

We reached the place where we’d spend the night. We got the tents up, not without issue, one of the poles from Mike’s Jack Wolfskin tent snapped! Luckily we’d both come prepared with a pole sleeve and I had a roll of duck tape. A repair made, we got the tent up and made a brew. We demonstrated our skills at lowering someone down a cliff and tying up an anchor to belay from. I kept on tying a stopper knot wrong. I climb most weeks and can do a stopper without thinking but something in my brain kept sabotaging me!

Darkness fell and we set off night navigating. The first leg was mine and I got us there no problem. On arrival I explained to Andy what my procedure was and the evidence I had found. A few more points and it was my turn again, a ford on the Watkin path. As we set off uphill to my point we heard a sound. Was that a whistle? A sheep? A person? We waited a while and looked around. It was definitely a whistle and we saw a weak torch on another path almost a kilometre away. We set off at once the whistling continued we also heard a shout for help. We arrived at the path to find a lady and her young daughter seeking help. They’d been up Snowdon with other members of their family but had come down a different route and got caught out by the darkness and had no map. Their torch was a keyring type torch, not really up to the job of navigating.

Our night navigation had become a genuine assistance! We checked they were uninjured and warm and set off. I gave my spare headtorch to the little girl who also had a few of our wine gums. She was very calm considering she was in the dark on a mountain. After a while we came across a pair of well-equipped walkers who were out practicing their night navigation in preparation for an ML assessment! They’d heard the help shout and were looking for the woman too.

We handed the lady and daughter over to them and exchanged phone numbers. We carried on our navigation exercise. Later on we got a text to say that all was well and the party were reunited.

We cooked dinner and crawled into our tents at about ten pm after what had been a long and tiring day.

Thursday

1:50k navigation and security on steep ground, including rope use. We got up, packed up and donned waterproofs. Each of us in turn took a navigation leg. We walked far from tracks and other people eventually stopping for lunch next to Llyn Nadroedd. After lunch Dom gave us his five minute talk which was on the subject of droving. The movement of sheep from the valleys to the markets.

Talk done we shouldered our packs and set off down a small scree and boulder slop where we demonstrated our short-roping technique. Towards the end of the journey I was given a point to get us to and I screwed up. Again! I’d got it into my head that I was leading us to a camp site and this thought took over my brain and I missed the point I was to take us to. I declared “we’re here” when we were no such thing. WHile the others were relocating I re-checked the map and the ground and realised my error. I told Andy I was wrong and showed him the actual location and where we should have been. He said that he’d have been concerned if I hadn’t corrected myself but he was happy I had done. I was certain that  I wasn’t passing the assessment.

We arrived at the location of our camp and set up the tents. We whispered amongst ourselves; “Are we night navving tonight?” “I dunno, hope not” “Lets not mention it…”

Andy came over and told us he’d seen enough the previous night so we didn’t need to leave camp until the next morning. We were very pleased with this! As we sat on a large flat rock enjoying a brew and cooking our dinner I asked if the assessment was effectively complete as we only had about 3km to walk into Llanberis the next morning. Andy said it was more or less over unless we burned our tent down. In which case we’d fail! As the night grew colder we began to yawn. We were all in our tents by 8pm.

The next morning dawned and we wandered into Llanberis and Pete’s Eats café and waited for the minibus.

Back at PyB we returned borrowed kit, showered and awaited our summons to collect the results.

I knew I’d failed. Too many mistakes. I waited glumly with the other candidates. One by one they went in to see Dave and to get their results. Pass, Pass, Pass, Pass, Defer (Ropes), Defer (Navigation).

Dom -Pass. My turn. I was hoping it was defer and not fail. I went to the office and sat down. Dave turned to me and said “Congratulations, you’re a mountain leader”

“Fuck me!” was my ineloquent reply.

I’d done it! I’d fucking done it! I couldn’t believe it. My brain had focused on everything I’d got wrong through the week. Everything I could have done better. I’d forgotten all the things I’d got right.

I came out with a huge grin and returned to the bar. Mike was last. He went in, got his result -a pass and came back to the bar. Our team had done it! The three of us had been together since the Monday and we’d all done it.

The elation of passing even made the five hour journey home (usually 2.5 hours) seem bearable!

Two days in the Glyderau

This last weekend I got in the car and drove the 120 miles or so to the Ogwen valley in Snowdonia. A place that I began my proper mountain walking journey almost twenty years ago.

An old favourite

An old favourite

The views never grow tired. Old friends like Tryfan and Pen Yr Ole Wen on opposite sides of the valley. I’ve been there several times over the years but only recently ventured into the Carneddau on a backpacking trip last year.

This time I was based at Gwern Gof Isaf camp site with a bigger tent and more gear. A comfy weekend of day walks.

The original plan for the Saturday was a walk up Y Garn’s right hand ridge. I’d never been up Y Garn before and the line of the ridge looked really attractive. As we walked (Dan and I) from the campsite along the track near to the valley road we began to think up an alternative. The lower part of the right hand ridge looked a bit, well, dull. The upper part still appealed, it was just the zig-zag trudge to get there. As we approached the mountain a ridge to the left of the stream looked enticing. We imagined a route scrambling up the rocky ridge to the high ground and then maybe cut across to the other side near to Llyn Clyd.

Y Garn showing the two flanking ridges

Y Garn showing the two flanking ridges

The scrambling was great fun. The rock solid and grippy. Little nobbles and bumps adding character and grip. Some of the sections were quite exposed and exciting -especially as we hadn’t brought the rope or scrambling guide with us. After an hour or more we approached the final section, the base of Castell y Geifr. Through the mist all we could see were rock walls with no way through. After a short discussion we headed left and found a gully. The gully wasn’t too loose and we thought it looked reversible if we found we couldn’t make progress through it.

At the head of the gully we reached a short wall which we could climb onto from the right hand side. From here guarding the summit was an airy rock walkway and an imposing steep section with a large crack in it. Both sides of the walkway had long, steep drops. One side the gully, the other a boulder and scree field.

I must admit that the thought of attempting to climb the last section with its inevitable consequences for failure didn’t appeal. Not without a rope (or even a guidebook to encourage us). After a look at the map and a short conversation we climbed down the opposite side of the wall and began to traverse below the walls of Castell y Geifr looking for an easier route onto the summit ridge.

After a few hundred metres the wall dipped and all that separated us from the summit ridge was a short scramble over large boulders.

After a quick lunch on the summit we turned to walk along the tops to Glyder Fawr. We encountered a large number of runners and walkers attempting the Welsh 3000 challenge. We passed and were passed by the same people several times over the next few kilometres. They were faster than us on the flat, then struggled on the ascents. Dan and I kept a fairly even pace over all the terrain.

A while later, as we bypassed Castell y Gwynt a voice behind us asked if we were heading to the Ogwen Valley. We turned to see a man in mountain running kit, sporting a competitor’s number. We told him we were, heading to the campsite. He said he had been in the race but was giving up and wanted to head down to the car park. We pointed him in the right direction; “Get to that lake (Llyn Caseg-fraith) then turn left”. “This way” he said, pointing in the opposite direction. “no” we replied. “that way”.

“Oh, Ok. Thanks” and off he jogged.

We got to the lake and there he was again looking confused. “This is the Ogwen valley, isn’t it?”. “Yes” I replied taking out the map. The man looked puzzled and wondered aloud if that was actually the valley he wanted, or if he wanted to be in Llanberis! We sent him on his way to the valley where we knew there were marshals for the race.

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We carried on down a rocky outcrop straight to the campsite where we spent the evening wondering what became of the runner.

On Sunday we set off for Moel Siabod. Via the café of the same name to eat the eponymous breakfast (highly recommended).

From the café a short walk through the forest to the Plas Y Brenin mountain skills training centre took us to the start of the path to Moel Siabod. We eschewed the tourist path (dull) for a more interesting walk to the back of the mountain and an easy (striding edge-esqe) scramble to the summit. This route had none of the technicalities of the previous day but was just as much fun. Again the rock was dry and grippy and nobbly. I’m not sure what type it is but it makes good climbing rock!

Sub-zero summer in the Cairngorms

Lairig Ghru I spent an unseasonably cold August Bank holiday wandering the Cairngorm mountains of Scotland. I’ve been there before, twice. But in winter and from the Northern side where all the skiing is. I’d never really ventured far beyond a few km from the ski station car park. As this part of Scotland is 6 hours away from home by car I need to have a long weekend at least to make a visit feasible. On Thursday morning I loaded the car and set off up the M6 and over the border. By 5pm I was getting out of the car in the Linn of Dee car park and swatting away the infamous midges.

Mar lodge estate forest

Mar lodge estate forest

I quickly applied some insect repellent, steeling myself for the airborne plague I would undoubtedly suffer for the next few days. Its rare I get from parking the car to getting on the trail as quickly as I did that day but I didn’t fancy getting eaten before leaving the car park.

My route began with a few hundred metres down a forestry track to the edge of the woodland. Out here on the open moor there were no flies, I suspect the breeze had grounded them all. Stopping to put on my gaiters I surveyed my intended route. Uphill, through calf-deep heather towards a little hill called Carn an ‘Ic Duibhe. Halfway up the hill was a long and apparently recently erected double fence. The fence had little signs along it at intervals. The signs said ‘Caution! Electric Fence’. Hazard number one. There was a sufficient gap at the bottom of the fence to squeeze through without my pack on. I through my walking poles over lay down on my back and shuffled through taking great care to avoid the wires. Reaching back through I pulled on my backpack. Once on the other side I was free to continue my journey.

Puffing and panting up the heathery hillside I was feeling decidedly unfit. I hadn’t been backpacking for a few months and had put on about half a stone whilst on holiday. Coupled with the heaviest pack I’d had all year and the toughest terrain I wondered about the wisdom of my plans. After a couple of hours walking I reached my intended stop for the night, a sheltered area just below the summit of Sgor Mor (813m). I’d seen an area on the map just lower than the summit and on the Southern side. I’d hoped it would be protected from the Northerly wind which was blowing in. It is amazing just how much difference a couple of metres makes. Down at my tent it was calm and not too cold. Outside the shelter of the hillock it was breezy and cold.IMG_0365

I prepared my kit for the night and sorted out what I’d have for dinner. It made sense to have the heaviest food first so it was stuffed ricotta and spinach tortellini with meatballs in a tomato sauce. Pudding was a Mars bar.

I popped my head out of the tent to look around and saw a group of deer about 20m from me. As soon as they realised I was there they bounded away over the hill and were never seen again.

I’d brought the harmonica I’d been given for my birthday so I could continue my practicing while I was away. Checking there was no one about to be upset the noise of my terrible playing I played through a few short tunes that I’d learned from my ‘harmonica for beginners book’.

Bed time comes early on backpacking trips so I was into my sleeping bag not long after 9pm.

Luibeg Burn During the night it rained and so in the morning I had to put away the tent wet. This isn’t so bad if you’re going home but not great if you need to use it again. I checked the map and set off over the brow of the hill Northwards. Today’s target was Ben Macdui, the highest mountain in the Cairngorms and the second highest in the UK.

The reason I chose to head over the tops towards Ben Macdui was that in the weeks prior to my visit a ‘once in 200 hundred years’ flood had knocked out at least one of the footbridges over the river flowing from Glen Derry. Large parts of the footpath had also been damaged.

The route from my campsite to Ben Macdui took me down into Glen Lui towards a bridge over the river. The latest information I’d found on the net was that this bridge was still extant. I could see the water level was still high in the burn but the bridge was still there. I stopped to fill my water bottle from a stream, no large flocks of sheep or people here. The river flowing quickly and clearly over a stony base. -It ticked all the boxes to be drunk without treatment of any sort. As I proceded up Glen Lui I needed to re-cross the river to get on to the hill Sron Riach. My recently purchased map (OL403, 2011 edition) showed a footbridge at NO012951 but I could not find it anywhere. There was no sign of a bridge washed away or damaged by floods either. (Later I noticed on the older version of the map (2004 edition) the bridge is not marked at this point. I wondered if it was an Ordnance Survey ‘fingerprint’ to identify copying).

Fording the stream with the help of my walking poles I was on my way again, climbing into the mist. There was no footpath from Sron Riach to Ben Macdui either on the ground or the map so I followed the edge over a tricky boulder field to the stream running SW from the mountain. Following this stream to its source I got onto a clear track to the summit.

The summit of Ben Macdui has many stone wind shelters, (perhaps a clue to the prevailing weather up there) a trig point and a view point stone. I could see very little from the summit, certainly none of the peaks listed on the view point stone. After a short while I retraced my steps towards the ruin and the path. I’d taken a bearing from the ruin to the summit on the way up in case I couldn’t see it on the way back. I’m glad I did because with all the wind shelters the summit looks similar in all directions when its misty.

Descending towards Loch Etchachan I met a walker coming the other way. We stopped and chatted for a while. He was in shirt sleeves and feeling warm, he expressed surprise and my fastened up coat, hat and gloves. He said he was staying at the bothy below the loch. I had intended to camp near the loch but as I was cold and the weather was not expected to improve I decided to give the bothy a try.

Loch Etchachan

The Hutchinson Memorial Hut (Coire Etchachan Bothy) is a simple stone hut recently refurbished by the Mountain Bothy Association. It has a small entry porch with space to hang a few coats, leave boots and some backpacks and a larger room with a bench along one side and a stove.  Bothies are free for anyone to use and are very popular. This was my first night in a UK bothy but I have stayed in similar huts in the Picos, Pyrenees and Sierra de Gredos in Spain.

At the same time as I arrived at the Bothy a young French couple arrived from the opposite direction. Already inside was a German chap whom I’d expected as the man I’d met on the mountain mentioned he was there. We got chatting and worked out how many people were likely to stay in the small hut and thinking at least some of us will need to camp. I didn’t mind the thought of camping but I was looking forward to be able to sit and cook indoors.

Eventually there were 7 people and 2 dogs at the bothy, this would have made it more than cosy. The man who’d brought the dogs and the German pitched their tents outside leaving 5 of us to sleep in the hut. We all cooked and ate inside and spent the evening chatting about mountains, veganism, Scottish independence and a variety of other topics. The conversation was helped along by a hip flask of Jura I’d brought along, just for this sort of occasion. Bed time came early and with three of us on the floor and two on the bench we said good night.

Huthcinson Bothy

The next morning dawned cloudy and cold but not raining and after breakfast I headed back up to Loch Etchachan. Three of the others took the opposite direction, back towards Braemar.

I climbed up to the Loch feeling heavy and unfit, but happy after my enjoyable evening in the bothy. I crossed the stream as it left the loch and headed Northwest towards Loch A’an.

The wind picked up and the rain started and got heavy. I stopped to don waterproof gear and carried on into the wind, descending to the Western edge of Loch A’an. I’d been told that I might see reindeer near to the loch so I kept my eyes open to see them. I saw no reindeer but I did see a couple of tents pitched on the loch shore near to a sandy beach. A beautiful spot, I made a note of it for future use.

My path on the other side of the loch was a steep track up the side of a cascading stream. I stopped to remove the waterproofs before beginning the climb and set off. I made surprisingly good progress up the 250m or so climb to the flat ground at the top. Looking back over the loch to where I’d come from I remembered why I was there. I love being in wild places, hardly a sign of the modern world. For a while even the weather seemed kind. It didn’t last.

Waterproofs back on I continued along the path towards the summit of Cairngorm itself. The heaviness returned. I felt slow and unfit once more. Eventually I reached the summit which was marked by a large cairn and a radio transmitter. I took shelter on the southern side of the cairn and made myself some lunch. I had to remove my gloves to prepare my food and by the time I had got them back on they were numb and losing mobility.

I wasn’t having the most fun being SO COLD IN AUGUST and thought about my options. I knew the weather wasn’t going to be brilliant but this felt like Winter and I wasn’t quite equipped for that. I had cold weather gear but I was missing my thick down jacket and winter gloves.

I looked up the weather facts when I got home. When I was sat on Cairngorm it was 1.5°C. The wind was blowing at 25mph and above. This calculates to a wind chill factor of below -5°C!!

It seemed like I had three choices;

-Descend towards the ski stations and work my way around to the car at lower level. -Maybe through Glen Feshie. No. That’s too far and I don’t have all the route on my map.

-Stick to the plan and head West across the northern edge of the plateau, descending in to the Lairig Ghru. -This was a high level walk using the edge of the plateau as a ‘handrail’ until I could descend. I was confident in my ability to manage the walk but it didn’t seem like a ‘fun’ trip in the weather.

-Retrace my steps and get back to the bothy where I know I’d be warm again and could dry off -This looked like the most sensible option. I’d be walking with the wind behind me and descending out of it.

Right then. Back to the bothy it was. I packed up, wrapped up and set off. After less than 1km I’d reached the fork in the path; left to the bothy, straight on across the plateau.

At that moment the wind dropped, the rain stopped and the mist lifted. I could see the Northern coires ahead of me and took it as a sign to carry on and not retrace my steps. I pressed on, stopping a while later to remove my waterproof gear once again.

The walking felt easy, over Stob Coire an t-Sneachda, Cairn Lochan each footstep felt good. The views superb. I heard a helicopter below me and looked over the edge of the cliffs to see the search and rescue chopper hovering close to the rock walls before turning and flying away.

The mist returned and a little drizzle but thankfully the wind stayed away. As I approached Lurcher’s crag I looked down into the coire I saw a small herd of reindeer. Too far away to photograph but definitely reindeer.

I turned north and climbed over Lurcher’s crag looking for a path down off the plateau into the Lairig Ghru. The map showed it as indistinct and I saw no trace on the ground. I checked my distances from summits and points on the map, I was definitely in the right place. Scanning the hillside below I saw a path a little way below me but nothing close by. I made up my own route to join up with the path and made it with no trouble.

The descent was long and tedious. The path was rocky in places, boulder in others, long and occasionally steep. I was very pleased to get down to the river. I refilled my water bottle and set off South into the Lairig Ghru. Seven km to the South of me was another bothy, the Corrour bothy. I had no intention of trying to make it there as my feet were tiring and a bothy in the middle of the Lairig Ghru would be absolutely heaving on a bank holiday Saturday evening.

My map showed some potential camping spots a couple of km away, flat spots on the map -but would they be bogs? I needed a place which was flattish, levelish and with a little breeze to keep the midges down. The first potential spots turned out to be bogs but a spot a little further along, too small to see on the map turned out to fit the bill. It wasn’t the most level site (I spent the night sliding down the tent) but it was midge-free and close to water.

Ghru camp

The rain began again and the wind picked up. I spent the evening in a very damp tent. Dinner was Super Noodles (I’ve remembered why I gave up on them as camping food now) and a dehydrated stew which was better than the noodles. A spot of harmonica practice and then bed time again.IMG_0402

The next morning dawned cold and wet and I decided against getting a brew on in favour of a sharp exit. By seven o clock I was on my way to the car. I wanted to get back for about 1pm so I could arrive home before it was too late.

The first two kilometres took me 1 hour as my legs refused to move quickly over the boulders. After the terrain improved my speed picked up and soon I was striding along past Corrour bothy and greeting my first passer-by of the day.

 

I had chosen to follow the River Dee from its source to the car. This was because It looked good on the map and didn’t require me to cross any missing bridges.

The final section of my journey began at the Chests of Dee where the track turned into hard-packed land rover trail back to the car. The final five kilometres flew past but my feet felt worn by the end of them.

Chests of Dee

The journey complete I dived into the car before the midges realised I was there.

 

I’d spent three days wandering the cairngorms in the height of summer and had barely seen the legendary pests. It had been close to freezing though and occasionally below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two days from Coniston

Another weekend adventure. Its a hard life pursuing logbook days for ML (summer). I had decided that it was summer and packed accordingly. My backpack weight had gone down several kilos to about 11kg, fully laden. I’d changed to a lighter sleeping bag, left out the  waterproof trousers and gone as ultralight as possible on the cook kit. The weather forecast was for sunny days, with a gentle breeze -strengthening on the Sunday.

Tent

Near blind tarn

It had been a long week at work, an Ofsted inspection on the Wednesday and Thursday putting everything into overdrive. I was feeling very tired by Friday afternoon but had thankfully perked up when it came to depart. By 8.30 pm I was locking the car at the Walna Scar car park above Coniston. Shouldering my pack I set off along the old access track towards Blind Tarn, my home for the night. A few other people seemed not to have noticed the ‘no unauthorised vehicles beyond this point’ sign and had set up camp, caravans and all, a few hundred metres down the track. There was ample evidence of previous campers -fire rings could be spotted on the flat green borders to the road.

Before long I reached a large flat area which was bounded at the west by the hill up to Blind Tarn and to the north by Goats water and Dow Crag. After a brief search I found a sufficiently dry, flat patch for my tent. Within a couple of minutes the tent was pitched and I was moving in. The evening was still bright enough to see without a torch, despite it being heading for 9.30. Once I’d moved in I got out my tiny stove and heated some water for a hot chocolate. I had pitched the tent so that the porch opened away from the prevailing wind to shelter my stove. This also afforded me an excellent view of Blind Tarn Screes, my first stopping point for the next morning.

Naturally, the wind had completely reversed direction in the time between putting the first pegs in and unpacking my rucksack. I knew the wind wouldn’t get too strong and I couldn’t really be bothered to re-pitch the tent so I just left it. As the evening was so pleasant I took the opportunity to fiddle about with my camera, try to take some photographs using long exposures and remembering to use the mini-tripod I always carry and rarely use.

ghostly image

Messing about with long exposure

By half past ten I was tucked into my sleeping bag with the door of the tent closed against the breeze. By midnight I was awake again, feeling cold. I put on some clothes and fell back to sleep. By two thirty I was awake again. I really needed a thicker sleeping bag. I struggled with being chilly and dozed until about 5.30 when I decided that coffee and beginning the day was the best option. The moon shone brightly above the crags, no sign of the sun at this point.

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By half past six everything was packed away and I set off, first to the stream to collect some water then on to find Blind Tarn -a small tarn not visible from below, with no outflowing streams. A short climb later and the tarn was in sight, as was a fellow wild camper -a small tent perched near the shore of the lake. I took a few photos before scrambling up the screes onto the ridge. I’ve long wanted to be the first person to the summit of a mountain one day. Today wasn’t it. Ahead of me three walkers, catching up with me a fell runner. The weather forecast was proving to be spot-on. Not a breath of wind, clear skies and not too chilly. I followed the ridge northwards over Dow Crag, occasionally peering off the edge down gullies and over cliffs. After Dow Crag there is a short descent to Goats Hause before climbing again to Coniston Old Man (Or the Old Man of Coniston, if you prefer). By 8.30 I was on the summit of the Old Man, not another soul there with me. On this exposed summit the wind had picked up so I sheltered behind the summit cairn and looked down into the copper mines valley below.

 

stone arch

Mining ruins remain

The path down to the copper mines was a manufactured zig zag. Good in terms of preventing erosion but not the most inspiring. About half way down there is the rusting evidence of the industrial past; a toppled pylon, corroded cables and pipes sticking up from the ground like petrified metal worms. A man with a confused face and apparently no map asked me which way the summit was. I showed him and said it would be about another hour to the top. There were more people wandering the various tracks and trails near to the Youth Hostel.

I didn’t have an exact target for the day, just a vague plan of where I wanted to go -towards crinkle crags. To this end I followed the paths which would take me to Levers water reservoir. I sat at the shore of the lake and enjoyed a snack, the view and refilled my water bottle. As I set off again I met a man hoping to fish in the lake. Due to the breeze he needed to go to the far side or else all he’d catch would be the grass behind him. Instead of the obvious path towards Black Sails and Wetherlam I made my own way up over a rocky rib parallel to the main path. It was quite hard work in some places but not technically challenging. I reached the top and turned north east towards the summit of Wetherlam. There were about a dozen people coming down from the summit and when I got there about another forty or so passing by or stopped for lunch.

 

me near water

Enjoying the view

After a brief, 25 minute, lunch stop I was off again. Heading north east along Wetherlam edge towards Birk Fell. I followed this ridge to the end before descending into the Greenburn Beck valley. My legs were getting a little tired now as they’d gone up and down over several mountains and into two valleys. Checking the map I considered my options. North west was towards Pike of Blisco and Crinkle Crags. West was back along another ridge which would eventually curve back towards Wetherlam. I decided to continue on towards the North. A short while later I was climbing again up onto the ridge which lead eventually to the unfairly named Hell Gill. Before reaching this scary sounding hill I turned and descended again to the Wrynose pass, crossing the road and climbing once more. By 4pm I was walking next to Red Tarn, under Pike of Blisco, looking for a place to set up camp.

By this point my knees had made it clear that they would not support any notion of carrying on to Crinkle Crags. The wind had picked up now and it was blowing directly along the valley which meant I needed to find a sheltered spot. If the ground was flat, it was probably exposed. If it wasn’t exposed it was a marsh. After about an hour of testing potential spots I found a place just big enough for the tent and not a marsh and not in the full force of the wind.

I set up my tent, moved in and made a coffee. I watched the final people descend from the valley and I was alone again. As I had such an early start I spent the evening dozing in my tent before cooking dinner -dehydrated chicken tikka and more coffee. The backpacking meal was tasty enough, hot and filling. For dessert an Alpen bar and a Mars bar. I spent most of my time inside the tent where it was sun-warmed and out of the wind.

mountains

crinkle crags and friends

Prepared for another cold night I slept fully clothed. It helped but wasn’t the most comfortable night I’ve spent in a tent. By five the next morning I was wide-awake. By five thirty I’d had my coffee and was onto the porridge -strictly speaking, hot Alpen. By six I’d packed and was off to find water. Below me I found two ladies out bivying. You’re never quite as alone as you think in the wilds!

 

Today I was taking a more direct route back to the car. Much less ascent, descent and fewer kilometres. Back to the Wrynose pass and on up to Hell Gill. The wind was strong on the ridge and cold. I was glad to have my windshirt which I fastened up tight. I was concerned I might lose my hat and so tightened up the chin strap as far as I could while maintaining the ability to breathe. Following the ridge south of Hell Gill I came across a memorial to the crew of a crashed WWII plane. A Halifax bomber. I didn’t linger long it was feeling really cold and I wanted to descend to the sheltered side of the hill where I could warm up again.

remembering the victims of a crash

remembering the victims of a crash

South of the memorial the path began to descend on the leeward side of the hill and almost instantly it became much warmer. I realised I’d not seen a single person since the two ladies near my camp site.

Carrying on towards Brim Fell and Goat’s Water I could see groups of other walkers heading for the Old Man. I descended to Goat’s Water where two men were preparing to climb something on Dow Crag. There is a mountain rescue box at the base of the crag containing emergency equipment and a stretcher. There are several of these across the Lake District. This was the second I’ve seen.

 

The path from Goat’s Water soon joined the Walna Scar path that I’d walked in on the Friday night. Before long I was back at the car, glad to get my boots off and ready for home.

 

lake

But they were sheep, not goats

Amazing weather on Ben Nevis

Near the halfway lochan on Ben Nevis

Near the halfway lochan on Ben Nevis

I’d never been up Ben Nevis before and had heard mainly bad things about the ‘Tourist Route’ -recently rebranded the ‘Mountain Track’ to imply a level of seriousness and to reduce the number of mountain rescue team callouts.

A bit of research led me to the Carn Mor Dearg Arete route (CMD arete). This route takes a more scenic and challenging approach from the Northern side of the mountain and an extended time on a high ridge.

First steps on the CMD

First steps on the CMD

I followed a route from the Walkhighlands website. It began at the car park for the Glen Nevis visitor centre (Parking £3 for the day).

The route begins along the river then picks up the main ‘mountain track’ as far as the ‘Halfway Lochan’. Here the tourist herd turn right and my route turned left.

I wouldn’t see another soul for over an hour after this point.

The path contoured around the end of the mountain before entering the valley between Ben Nevis’ North face and Carn Mor Dearg.

 

After a while I reached the CIC hut, a private bothy for climbers.

 

 

From here it was a steep climb over loose scree, boulders and  up a snow field. Eventually I reached the ridge and stopped to admire the view. On my living room wall I have a large, framed poster of the North Face of Ben Nevis. Until today I’d never seen it. Now, the scene before me was the same as the poster. The famous ridges and buttresses spread out in front of me.

Snowy cliffs

The Ben’s best side

 

The ridge was mostly clear of snow, only patches below the top remained. I was equipped with an ice axe and crampons but was glad not to need them. The scrambling wasn’t too difficult and the conditions were perfect; not a breath of wind and bone dry rock.

Reaching the summit of Carn Mor Dearg I stopped for a brief lunch before continuing on descending first then re-climbing to the edge of Ben Nevis.

Between me and the summit now was a steep boulder field without clearly defined paths. I scrambled, clambered, walked and shuffled upwards and towards the top. After an eternity I realised that the view ahead of me contained more sky than rock. I was nearing the summit! Spurred on I sped towards the blue.

After hours alone I reached the summit and the hordes of tourists enjoying the May sunshine.

People atop mountain

After hours of peace, the summit swarm

There were dozens of people sat, wandering, being photographed, exploring the summit. The trig point was crowded, the ruins surrounded. There was even what appeared to be a fridge strapped to someones backpack!

 

 

 

The weather forecast had said there would be rain later in the afternoon and I didn’t want to wait for it on the summit of the UK’s highest mountain.

 

After ten minutes I was off again.

 

As part of my preparations I’d marked my map with the bearings and distances for the safe descent in poor visibility.

I could clearly see the way down but for interests sake I followed the compass bearings to see how it compared to the ground in front of me.

The route taken by the masses closely matched the bearings I was following, so I followed the people and the footprints.

 

The descent route was still very deep in snow so I used a ‘ski-less’ skiing technique to get down quickly. Slipping, sliding and skidding down the snow field to the zigzags of the mountain track.

Snowy descent

Snowy descent

 

The snow cover extended far past the top of the zigzags and so I decided to keep on sliding, skidding and slipping down the mountain. Most of the crowd had by this time returned to following the zigzags but a few of us remained on the snow.

The direct route over the snow saved so much time over the tedious looking zigzags I was back at the halfway lochan in no time.

Stopping to remove my gaiters and have a drink I looked back up, impressed at the ground I’d covered.

Back on the mountain track I was back at the car in a little over an hour.

Overall I’d been out for 8 hours 10 minutes. The guide reckoned 10-12 hours!
Travelling over the snow had definitely been worth it.

 

Four Days in the Carneddau

I’ve visited Snowdonia several times over the years, never backpacking and never in the Carneddau. Always went to the South side of the Ogwen Valley road.
During the ML training we spent two days wandering around the Northern end of the Carneddau. It really whetted my appetite for a further exploration.

Maps were ordered, received and studied, Google Earth was zoomed, panned and tilted and a plan was formed. I realised that I could take the train to the North coast and make a four-day circuit of the area, taking in many of the main peaks.

Easter weekend became the obvious choice of dates, four non-working days where my wife would be able to look after the children without taking any of her precious leave (which she ran out of months before, the perils of a ‘normal job’). The return train ticket from Bradford to Llanfairfechan (a short distance before Bangor) was about £45, not too far off the cost of diesel in the car and without the hassle of finding a suitable parking spot for four days.

View of the North Wales coast

Beautiful weather at the start of the walk

 

From Llanfairfechan I could be into open countryside, climbing into the mountains within 2 miles, it was the ideal starting point. Excitingly I discovered en route that Llanfairfechan was a request stop and I needed to speak to the guard to ensure the driver knew to stop! The departure required me to flag down the train to get on board -I never knew this was ‘a thing’ that one could do in the UK.

Day 1: Llanfairfechan to Dulyn Bothy

My only previous experience of the Carneddau was in the Llyn Anafon area – an attractive spot a few miles inland from Aber Falls. My first day’s walking took me over some familiar ground  into the mountains. From Llanfairfechan I followed a good trail to the west of the Anafon valley over Foel Ganol up to Drum. The sun was shining and the air was warm -quite unlike my last experience of North Wales which was positively Wintery. I stripped to baselayers and fixed the solar panel for my PowerMonkey charger onto the top of my backpack. A few Km into the walk I came across a group of three Americans, exploring the area before heading off elsewhere on a European tour. They were holding up a guidebook and trying to fit its sketch maps to the view in front of them. “Hi” one of them said to me, “Is this Drum?” he continued, pointing at a hill to the East. “No” I replied. “Drum is a few Km further on, you can’t see it from here”. I took my OS map from my belt pack and showed them. “Wow, you have a topo!” he said, sounding genuinely impressed. I showed them Drum and we all carried on together along the track chatting. After a few hundred metres more we’d separated, they stopped for photos and I carried on ahead.

Clear mountain track

As I wandered alone I began to daydream. I thought ‘wouldn’t it be cool to bump into Chris Townsend (Backpacking legend) when out in the mountains’. I looked up from my thoughts and heading towards me was a familiar face. Not Chris Townsend, but Dan English. A friend I’d met on the ML training months before and had since been backpacking around Helvellyn with. “Hello!” I said, with a broad smile and most likely a surprised look. “Hi, fancy seeing you here” he replied. We walked together to the summit of Drum, from where Dan had recently left. We sat and chatted a while, discussing our plans and discovered that we planned to wild camp in the same place the next night. After a short break we said good bye and went our separate ways.

From Drum I left the clearly marked trail and set off on a bearing across the hillside towards Dulyn Reservoir. The ground was generally fine for walking, tussocky grass with only the occasional boggy part. After a while the reservoir came into view, bounded at its Western edge by the cliffs of Craig y Dulyn

 

Reservoir and cliffs

Wild camp destination

 

As I approached the reservoir I kept my eyes open for a suitable place to pitch my tent for the night. There were a few spots here and there above the lake I made a mental note of one or two as I passed. Before pitching I went to check out the bothy, an old mine building a few hundred metres from the lake.

As I took the trail for the bothy I saw the perfect wild(ish) camp site. An area of perfectly flat ground -obviously man-made not far from the lake shore. That was the place for me!

The bothy is a small hut, containing two rooms, one sleeping and one communal cooking area. There was a small dome tent pitched on the front porch area. I opened the door and received a friendly  greeting from the occupants. About 5 people were there, all set up for the night. They asked if I was going to join them, I told them no, I would camp near the lake.

I left the bothy and returned to my perfect camp spot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I put down my pack and got out my Hilleberg Akto. Within a few minutes it was up and I was moving in. The weather was perfect for wild camping, clear skies, not too cold. The ground under the tent was a little hard but the pegs went in deep enough for me to be happy -perhaps not too happy in a storm!

Small tent and rucksack

After I’d got myself set up and a brew on a group of five more people arrived, looking to camp. They told me there were now about ten people in the bothy. That would make for a warm night in there!

Dinner was ‘look what we found’ meatballs and a pasta mugshot (tikka). It tasted fine and was the heaviest meal in the bag so I was glad to eat it first.

 

As the evening went on I wandered on the hill above the reservoir took some photos and watched some of the wild ponies graze. As usual, I was in bed before 10pm.

A nocturnal need had me getting out of them tent at about 2am. I saw the most amazing night sky. So many stars! I’m always happy to have woken up when that is my reward.

 

Day 2: Dulyn to Ffynnon LLugwy (Easier typed than said!)

two small lakes

Mountain lakes

The second day dawned cool and clear, another cloudless sky.

After a quick breakfast of Alpen I packed my kit away and set off uphill towards Melynllyn, a smaller lake slightly higher than Dulyn. A clear track, presumably used by the miners led the way to the second lake. The bothy was clear to see back down the valley and the calls of birds could be heard.

cliff view

At Melynllyn I took out the map to decide where I was going next.

I had an idea of where I wanted to go, just not exactly how I was going to get there. Looking across the lake I saw  the mountain walls that I needed to be on top of. The most sensible approach was to climb up the shorter hill to the left and then circle around the lake from above.

After a short climb I followed a stream onto the top of the hill. The views were excellent, back to the North from where I’d come and down to the South West towards Carnedd Llewelyn and South to Cwm Eigiau. Studying the map I decided to head towards Llewelyn and from there take a ridge to the South East towards Pen yr Helgi Du.

It was easy enough to get to the summit of Carnedd Llewelyn as the weather was good but the ground was fairly featureless from this side, it could be a different proposition in mist or darkness.

The views South West from the Llewelyn summit are amazing. The black ladders (Ysgolion Duon) of Carnedd Dafydd look imposing from across the valley.

Imposing cliffs

Cliffs of Carnedd Dafydd from Carned Llewelyn

The ridge SE from Llewelyn looked fantastic walking. Undulating a little, with sheer cliffs on the Northern edge, terminating with a scramble up the edge of Pen yr Helgi Du.

The walking was great, comfortable terrain, great views, great weather. I looked ahead at the scramble up Pen yr Helgi Du, hoping that it was ‘just’ a scramble and I wasn’t going to get stuck halfway up and need Ogwen valley MRT to come and unstick me.

 

Cliffs

Craig Yr Ysfa

 

The ridge walk was fairly quiet, in fact, I’d not really seen anyone since I left camp in the morning. The Carneddau really are the quiet side of the Ogwen Valley -unjustifiably so, there is great walking to be had here.

 

After a while I came to a steep downward section of ridge and I needed to put away my poles and get my hands on the rock. I love scrambling but it really is a lot better when you’re not carrying a heavy backpack.

 

I was getting closer to Pen yr Helgi Du and I was confident that I could make the summit without issue. There was a path off to the side if I needed a last minute change of route.

 

Keeping my poles strapped to my pack I began the climb up the edge of Pen yr Helgi Du. The rock was firm and dry, the sun shining. It felt great to be scrambling alone, hardly a soul in sight as I ducked and weaved between overhanging rocks to the summit.

Mountain ridge

Lovely walking

 

I gained the summit and found I had the whole plateau to myself. Taking advantage of the solitude I dropped my pack, took off my boots and socks and lay down in the sunshine.

 

After re-fitting by boots I carried on, following a compass bearing towards Pen Llithrig y Wrach and a col between the mountains.

 

I stopped for a lunch of Primula cheese, Chorizo, Tuna and Pitta breads on the rocks of Bwlch Tri Marchog. Looking at Pen Llithrig I thought it looked uninspiring and debated whether or not to bother with it.

I decided to climb it, for completeness sake, but without my pack.

I stashed my backpack behind some rocks and set off unencumbered to the summit. There and back was less than an hour and I was right, it was uninspiring. Decent enough views down the far side though!

 

 

 

 

Returning to my pack I now set off contouring around the hillside towards Glan Llugwy and the track to the lake. I followed faint animal tracks through the heather and then climbed onto the Southern spur of Pen yr Helgi Du.

Ffynnon Llugwy came into view far below and I needed to pick a route to get down. Directly beneath me were steep rocky drops so I walked South a little way to a boundary fence and descended to the access track to the lake.

As I was hoping to meet up with Dan this evening I thought I’d best chose a pitch which would be visible to him on his approach. I checked the map and decided where I thought his most likely approach would be. I pitched the tent on a finger of land which lead into the lake. It was decently flat and not too exposed as the forecast was more increasing wind and some rain.

Sunlit mountain

Tryfan glowing in the sun

 

 

I got the tent up, made a brew, boiled some water for the evening and went for a lie down in the tent. A short while later a familiar voice outside asked if anyone was home.

 

Dan pitched his tent near to mine and we set about making our dinner. I went for the gourmet option of  a packet  of Mediterranean vegetable cous-cous to which I added some chunks of chorizo and chopped up dried apricots. It tasted fantastic! We joked about our last trip where I’d experimented with a packet of  mixed grains with Quinoa. I somehow managed to burn this and leave it cold! It was horrid. I’ll be sticking to cous cous or pasta in future.

 

The evening grew chilly so we both took to our tents, continuing the chat through sheets of nylon. There were three other tents pitched about the lake that evening. Unsurprising really as it was a short walk up from the road.

 

 

 

 

Day 3: Ffynnon Llugwy to Afon Anafon

The next morning brought light showers and a breeze. We packed quickly and set off our separate ways. Dan had originally thought of joining me on the first few Km of my walk towards Pen yr Ole Wen but changed his mind when he realised he could instead head for the Moel Siabod cafe for a fry up! We parted company at the road head and I began to climb up and over Craig Llugwy towards Ffynnon Lloer and Pen Yr Ole Wen.

Many times I’ve seen Pen Yr Ole Wen from the campsite in the valley (Gwern Gof Isaf) and fancied walking up it, especially something scrambly but I’d never got around to it.

Approaching ‘Ole Wen’ from the East I could see the rocky spur where I’d find a route to the summit. Arriving at the lakeside I found what looked like a path heading up into the rocks. It looked like a sensible scrambling route so I put away the poles, adjusted the pack and set off upwards.

 

The scrambling was great fun. Good holds, good foot placements and brilliant views. One part was a large, smooth slab with nobbles of quartz poking out. On a wet day a slip here could have been very serious I thought as I scrambled up.

Crags and grass

Approaching Ffynnon Lloer

 

After a while I reached the summit and enjoyed the views back over the Ogwen Valley. Familiar peaks of Tryfan and the Glyders. I made a note to climb Y Garn next time I’m here it is a very attractive mountain.

 

The weather forecast today predicted poor visibility and strong gusts on ‘exposed ridges’ -much like the Carneddau ridge that I would be on in an hour or so.

 

Ironically, the poor visibility was easy to see, a wall of mist creeping down from the North East and I was walking straight towards it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I set off towards Carnedd Dafydd and before I was halfway there I was in thick mist. The wind, as predicted picked up and I was suddenly very cold. I made a quick stop at a cairn shelter to add layers, check and set compass bearings and was on my way again. I got to Carnedd Daffydd in a short time and reset the compass. There was a family of about six people taking shelter and deciding what to do. I set off into the mist, all too aware of the sharp drop from the black ladders to my left. Typically, that was the direction the wind wanted to push me so I kept a fair distance from the edge, but close enough that I could see it and use it as a ‘handrail’.

After what felt like hours I got to the ascent up to Carnedd Llewelyn. This felt like hard work. I was hot in my layers, but would have been cold without them. I got to the summit about midday but didn’t want to hang around to eat my lunch. I rechecked the map, reset a compass bearing and strode off towards Foel Grach. A voice behind me caught my attention. A man from a group of three friends and a dog asked if they could walk with me as they were unsure of the way. I said they could but made no promises as to competence!

 

Finding the path was tricky, the limit of visibility was perhaps 10-15m and the best I had to go on was a bearing from the day before, when it was clear.

We walked a little way, found a faint track which was close enough to my expected bearing so we followed it, chatting as we went. After a few hundred metres I began to doubt we were on the right track. I stopped, checked bearings, contours and all the other bits on the map. We had drifted slightly to the East and downhill.
I set a new bearing and we started off, regaining some of the height we’d lost. The going was OK, terrain fairly firm and grassy. After fifteen minutes or so we arrived at what we believed to be the rocky summit of Foel Grach but there was no sign of the shelter I’d been expecting to find there. We searched a small area but to no avail.
I was certain we were at the summit, but where was the shelter?! I took out my smartphone and used an app to get a grid reference. A minute or so later our location was confirmed. We were at the summit, only about 20m from the shelter. We walked towards where the map said the shelter was and almost missed it. The mist thinning just enough to make it out.

We piled into the shelter glad to be out of the wind. It was small and dark, really not a place to spend a night except in an emergency. I ate a quick lunch and we put on the packs, locked the shelter behind us and walked off towards Foel Fras.

After Foel Fras the wind abated and the mist lifted (or perhaps we descended below it!) We could now see the hills in front of us and some of where we’d come from.

Hill track

Into the mist

Drum was the next hill and we passed with only a brief stop at the summit. We continued down the track where I’d begun my journey. My fellow travellers were heading for Rowen and a well-earned pint.

I said good bye and set off to Pen Bryn Du and a descent into Afon Anafon. I was aiming for an old sheep fold where we’d stayed on the ML course. It was flattish ground and the walls made a good wind break. Following a stream down into the valley floor my home for the night came into view.

 

sheepfold

The night was peaceful. I spent a lot of time just soaking up the views and drinking coffee and hot chocolate.

mountain trail

Day 4: Afon Anafon to Llanfairfechan

The next morning was calm and clear. I felt no urgency to hurry so I made a brew, ate my breakfast and enjoyed the morning before packing away.

 

The track out was easy walking and each step gave better views to the North and the coast.

 

After a few hours I was on the coast. The last few miles on the North Wales Coastal path back to Llanfairfechan and the train home.

 

 

a tree on the coast