Another Solo Wild Camp   11 comments

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Back a couple of weeks before the weather turned too hot to venture into the outdoors with a heavy pack, I took another Friday night out in the mountains. I wished for a bit of breeze to keep temperatures and insects at bay and certainly got my wish.

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A glorious evening of clear skies and warm sunshine. I chatted to a lady van-camping in the car park with her very friendly Jack Russell pup chewing my laces. No sign of the promised breeze as I set off.

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It was a hot climb through the fly infested bracken as I headed for a summit pitch on Pen y Gadair Fawr. Still no breeze and I felt that the midges were eying me up for a buffet supper

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As I crested the top, the breeze finally kicked in. Less a breeze than a very significant and very chilly wind that I was struggling to stand up in

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It would have made a superb summit camp, lots of flat thick grass but it was just too cold to enjoy the surroundings. I’d also hoped to pick up some water, figuring that at least one of the numerous springs that rise on the summit would be running. No such luck. I decided press on in the hope of finding a sheltered spot

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Trouble its a pretty exposed spot up here and the wind was roaring and grass is in short supply. The compensation was that it was cool and walking along a high level ridge in the late evening is a simple joy

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The bog cotton was giving everything an almost frost-like feeling. The photos can’t do justice to how beguiling it was

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They have massively improved the paths up here so I made swift progress over Waun Fach without ever finding a respite from the wind. I tried a few grassy groughs, but none were suitable

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Eventually I had to plunge a hundred metres or so down the Y Grib Ridge and found a sort of level pitch on a terrace of deep lush grass. What it lacked in comfort it more than made up for with a  superb sunset vista

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There was just enough wind to keep the insects at bay without it being too cold and I sat outside, read and drank many brews of tea before turning in well past 11pm

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Tough to tear yourself away from views like this

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I expected a blazing sun to cook the tent and have me outside early. I awoke at 8am with no sign of the sun. I was in the cloud again. Looking up was clear blue though and the sky was surely to clear and on queue as the water boiled for my last cuppa before I ran out of water, it did

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It was an amazing morning. The east wind had cleared any haze from the air and the sky between the wispy clouds was a deep azure blue. Pen y Fan and Beacons poked above the cloud and I thought of TBF on her 25 mile sponsored walk around the range. She was on Pen y Fan summit round about the time I too this photo

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I decided to walk all around the escarpment to Lord Hereford’s Knob and on a day like this it was amazing. It really puts a spring in the step to have views like this to accompany you and I covered the ground swiftly

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There were several D of E groups out most of whom seemed cheerfully incompetent, walking in various directions none which seemed to be the right one!

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I topped out on the Knob and where the panorama across the Wye valley is breathtaking

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Despite the glorious day I had this very popular and easily accessible summit to myself but it was still very windy and bit chilly. Added to the fact I’d not had breakfast and had no water pushed me onwards to resupply and take on calories

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I had to walk much further down the Nant Bwch stream before the water was flowing sufficiently well to be drinkable. I found a fine spot and set about making my bacon sandwiches and several cups of tea to re-hydrate

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I had thought about dropping down to Capel y Ffin and walking back over the ridge to the car. The fact that out of the wind it was still really hot had me thinking of a better plan. I retraced my steps back toward the edge and the curved off towards the summit of Twyn Talycefn.

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The strong breeze was keeping the skies clear and the temperatures perfect for walking. Much better to be up high in weather like this

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Looking back to the ridge I’d walked the previous evening

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I dropped down to the Grwyne Fawr Reservoir with an idea of a sneaky swim.

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I don’t normally like swimming in reservoirs as they do have their dangers but I found a stunning little spot on the banks and took a short dip without straying too far into the water.

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Another cup of tea seemed in order as I felt like I had the whole place to myself.

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Then it was a simple matter of the long walk back down past the dam to the car

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A nice easy angled path to finish the day with grand views back to the dam and the deep greens of the valley under the still totally clear sky

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Another superb one-nighter although I would have enjoyed a bit of company as I’ve done most of this years trips solo. 15-16 miles over the two days with the aimless wandering I did looking for a pitch and just enjoying being out.

Black Mountain Backpack

May be the last such trip for a while. The last couple of weeks have been just too hot and sultry for walking so I’ve been getting my exercise in the water with some wild swimming, more of which in future posts. Then its holiday time for me and the family as we head to Wales and France for some sociable fun with friends

 

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Perfect Midsummer Sunset   20 comments

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In the midst of a UK heatwave the best place to spend the night is on a cool mountain summit. Another stunning day and another chance for a wild camp. I headed to mid Wales for a camp on the summit of Pumlumon Fawr (or Plynlimon depending on which name you choose). Its not that high and you can drive to a high access point giving less than an hours walk to the top. A worthy consideration as I had to carry several litres of water to keep the brews flowing. It was the day after the longest day and the views were wonderful as I parked up and set off. I should warn you that I took a lot of photos so settle in for the feature presentation.

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Its a short climb but has some steep bits which I found hard work after a day at work and carrying all that water. Luckily there was a decent breeze blowing to keep the heat at bay

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My target summit in shot

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Sheep watching me on the horizon

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Looking north over towards Snowdonia

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A final steep slog brought me to the top. Stunning view to mountains and across Cardigan Bay

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Its a perfect summit for a wild camp, flat with plenty of spongy moss and grass. The vegetation is only a couple of inches thick though so anchoring the pegs takes a bit of work although in weather like this it hardly matters. My usual routine was initiated. Stove out and water boiling for a brew while I put the tent up.

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The setting was magnificent and I was in the perfect spot to watch the setting sun over the next couple of hours

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I sat, drank tea, took in the views, wandered about, ate jaffa cakes, drank more tea, ate more jaffa cakes, you get the idea

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The moon even put in an appearance.

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There was a grand view of the Llyn Peninsula where I’ve spent many happy weekends and holidays. I was chuffed that the sun went down just behind one of my favourite small hills, Carn Fadryn.

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I didn’t have the whole summit to myself. A couple of friendly chaps and their equally friendly dog shared the sunset with me and provided a nice foreground for a photo

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My bedtime view

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The mountains of Snowdonia

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Nant y Moch reservoir

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And a darker shot of the moon

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An isolated hill, overlooking the sea with a flat spot on the summit. One of the finest spots I can recall to watch a sunset. Simply magnificent

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I never sleep all that well when camping but in weather like this it hardly matters. I got up around 3am to answer the call of nature and watched a spectacular moon-set over the bay (no photos alas). I awoke to a hot morning and got up for a pre-breakfast stroll around my camp site

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Sadly the wind had dropped and the midges came out to have their breakfast, namely me, while I had mine

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I packed up in a cloud of midges but as I finished up the breeze picked up and blew them away. The breeze stayed with me so insect problems – other than a few clegs – kept them away

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I went for a stroll around the hills to the east, normally pretty soggy but after a dry spell the going was easy on springy dry turf

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I headed down via the Nant Felen stream which has some pretty waterfalls and pools. The one below was just deep enough for a quick skinny dip in icy cold water

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This part of Cwm Gwerin is rough pathless terrain with plenty of tussocks but its stunningly beautiful and untouched

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I wandered past the spot where we camped a couple of years back and found a breezy spot for an extended lunch

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Al that was left was the return along the broad Hengwm valley and along by the reservoir to the car. The valley was as tough and rough as always, albeit much drier than usual. It looks like there is a much better path on the north side of the valley which I need to try next time I visit as I surely will

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The route below is hand drawn so I’ve no accurate idea of how far I walked, maybe 10 miles in total with my summit wanderings. Still, it wasn’t a trip about clocking miles

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A memorable outing and I’m really enjoying these one-night outings straight after work on a Friday. A real pick me up and still time left in the weekend to spend with the rest of the family. Another one coming in the next post

 

Wild Camp on Cadair Idris   14 comments

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We had a pretty successful wild camp trip last summer with many of the kids and wanted to repeat this year. Unfortunately Mark and his gang couldn’t make it and the Hard Man’s youngest couldn’t be persuaded so it was a more exclusive group this year. I pored over maps and decided that a camp by the wild and rocky Llyn y Gadair under Cadair Idris would be a fine spot so we agreed to meet in Dolgellau for lunch prior to setting off. The forecast wasn’t great but it did say it might stop raining after lunch and Sunday might be ok so we decided to go for it.

We had to start further away than we planned as there is no overnight parking rate at the main car park (why don’t they offer this for backpackers!). We drove down the road to the free car park at Cregennen Lakes, in the end not a bad plan as it’s a fine spot in its own right and the walk back to the climb up to the mountain was rather nice.

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The lakes are dominated by pronounced nose of Pared y Cefn Hir.

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Blue skies seemed to be approaching from the west

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The walk around the lakes and over to the valley that marked our ascent was exceedingly fine

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We had some sunshine and smatterings of blue sky and for a while even the summit of Cadair Idris came out of the clouds. It was however a fleeting appearance and was soon enveloped again never to re-appear, at least for this weekend

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After a short road walk we started the climb

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Steep at first but then easing into a nice day easy angled approach to our target

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As we climbed pretty well all the nearby summits became smothered in dark clouds but there was bright light and sunshine on the lower slopes

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We reached our target, the dramatic corrie that holds Llyn y Gadair. I’ve climbed Cadair Idris many times but always from the south so while I’d seen this place from above I’ve never visited up close and personal

It’s a rocky place and flat spots are very hard to come by. After a little searching around we settled on a spot between the main lake and a smaller sibling. A bit rocky but it did the job and the setting was magnificent

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Unlike our last group camp it was chilly and windy so the midges didn’t bother us

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We made the place our home and cooked tea including a pudding of Guinness flavoured chocolate cake brought up from the cafe.

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Appetites sated we set off on one of the joys of a wild camp, a gentle stroll around the surroundings

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In this case a circuit of the lake and the small knolls and outcrops that surround it

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There wasn’t a sunset as such but there were some interesting light effects and we had a great evening poking about the area, chatting and looking for other potential spots to camp

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We kept hoping that the summit would make an appearance but it never did.

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Still, our wild site and the setting were hard to beat. A real big mountain feel

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We returned to camp for another round of brews before deciding it was too cold to sit outside and turned in for nights sleep, hoping for some clearer weather the next day

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Sadly, that was as good as it got. We were in the cloud when I woke up and while we eating breakfast the light drizzle increased in intensity and set in for the rest of the day. Despite the forecast stating “mainly dry” or words to that effect, the rain was relentless. We took a slightly longer route back and whilst we had the wind behind us and then walked through the trees it wasn’t too bad. When we emerged from the trees and walked into the wind and rain for the last hour back to the car it was utterly miserable and we were soaked through when we reached the car.

Didn’t make much of a dent in the enjoyment of a good trip though, slight disappointment that in the midst of what’s turning into a pretty sunny summer we picked the only wet weekend for a trip out

Only one way to finish off. A return to the superb cafe in Dolgellau, TH Roberts, that we’d started out from. An exceptional range of home-baked cakes and meals, exceptional value and all served with a smile. Well worth seeking out when you are in the area

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I’ve been trying to make more effort to get out and camp this year. This was the third outing for me with another one to come in the next post

Shropshire Heatwave on Stiperstones   16 comments

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After my Arans trip I headed back to Shropshire for a meet up with THO ready for a walk the next day. Quite by chance we found the Brow Farm campsite near Ratlinghope. A real find, pretty basic but a wonderful open field and relaxed atmosphere. The D of E groups were a little noisy after hours but no harm done and a site I’d love to go back to. Especially with the excellent Bridges Inn just down the road

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We had a fine meal and a few beers over a catch up in the sunshine. I’d been looking forward to a couple of cold ones throughout my hot walk in the Arans

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We met more friends for breakfast back at the Bridges Inn on Sunday and set out to repeat a walk we’d done on a very dark, very humid and very wet day in August a few years ago.

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It was pretty hot this time but thunder clouds were replaced with abundant blue skies and no army of flies that plagued us on the previous attempt

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Our route took us up onto Linley Hill

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With great views across to the south end of the Stiperstones ridge

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Along through Nipstone Woods where we found this line of sheep sheltering from the heat of the midday sun

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I really like this grassy meadow just before the main ridge. The grass has always been long when I’ve walked through and it waves in the breeze in a mesmerising way

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The main ridge seems completely out of character for the rest of the rolling green fields and heather moorlands that characterise the rest of the Shire

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It bristles with rocky outcrops and tors, most of which require a little scrambling and a head for heights to reach

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The Trig Point is perched on top of Manstone Rock and further along is the Devils Chair, both of which providing some entertaining rock scrambles

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A well earned snack break between the two

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THO showing off his rock skills on the Devils Chair ridge

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I’ve read that these are the hardest English summits and whilst it takes only mild scrambling to reach the top, I can’t think of another summit in England where the easiest route is harder than these. Possibly Parkhouse Hill in the Peak now its open to the public

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We did have a plan for a mid-walk beer but in the heat we couldn’t be bothered to walk down to the village and back up again (when there was a pub conveniently placed at the end of the walk!)

Instead we took a walk over the un-named hill to the east and very fine it was too

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The views across the northern half of the Shire were mighty fine, all rolling green fields and small hills, some wooded, some grassy

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Earls Hill in the distance really caught the eye and more ideas for further exploration of this fine county were planned

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A walk along the road (and through a farm yard with the most extraordinary collection of clutter that included a tank!) brought us back to the cars, a cold drink and to head back home after a long, varied and very fine weekend of walking. This one was around 11 miles

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A Cheeky Wild Camp in the Arans   12 comments

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I had a Sunday walk planned with a few friends in Shropshire and with a decent forecast thought I could make a proper weekend of things with a one night wild camp and walk in the Arans.  It was pretty gloomy when I parked up with little sign of the promised evening sunshine.

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It was also warm, humid and airless and a very, steep climb into Cwm Cywarch. I was dripping sweat all the way up and bothered by flies and midges whenever I stopped. I feared the lack of wind would continue and I’d be sharing my planned site with tiny unwanted friends. I was beginning to regret the decision to head out and I wasn’t in high spirits.

All that changed as I reached the broad col below Glasgwm. The sun was emerging from below the mask of heavy cloud and throwing some promising sunlight onto the surrounding hills. Even better there was a breeze to blow the flies away and cool me down

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Within minutes there was more abundant sunshine. My mood was lifted immeasurably

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I was heading for the summit of Glasgwm to camp. The climb up to the top is a steep one and on the way up I’d been dreading it. Amazing how sunshine improves your mood and your energy. I fair romped up the steep slopes

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The views just got better and better as I climbed, keeping ahead of the setting sun so it was still out as I reached the summit

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On the top it was just stunning. The summit was swept with swirling mists and low angle sunlight

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The light was fading fast so I had to concentrate as much on setting up  camp as admiring the views (forgetting that even once the sun has gone down, it doesn’t get really dark at this time of year)

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I’d targeted the summit as a good place to camp on a previous visit. Its broad and largely grassy with numerous spots to throw up a tent (although the grass and turf is only a couple of inches thick before hitting rock)

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The small Llyn y Fign provides a useful water source although has no outflow worthy of the name so needs to be boiled or filtered to be safe

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I pitched just below the summit cairn. There is no better feeling than a summit camp especially at sunset

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I made a brew and watched the sun sink and bathe the summit in glory

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It took me a while to set up camp while admiring the views

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I had a very refreshing wash in the lake before I turned in. The views across the lake were amazing with a deep pink sky and thin mist over the water. Alas I hadn’t taken either my phone or my camera so the views went unrecorded other than in my memory.

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It was pushing 11pm and quite chilly so just lay inside the tent watching the sky darken

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The sense of peace when wild camping is quite hard to explain and I drifted off to sleep in happy mood

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The fickleness of the weather brought me back to reality with overnight rain and unzipping the tent to realise I was in the cloud

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Still I had my feast of Bacon and Eggs to cheer me up and it was still a fine if rather blank spot in the cloud

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As morning progressed it kept threatening to clear and then mist up again but after an amble about the summit area looking for other possible pitches for future visits it did clear

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The photo below was taken from the summit cairn at 772m and shows the green and expansive summit plateau. Sadly being more focused on views than where I was putting the tent meant it wasn’t quite as flat as it appears!

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I packed up and headed off for a stroll around the Arans

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It was another warm and muggy day but there was a breeze to keep me cool and the day became sunnier as the morning ticked over into afternoon

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As always I rejected the main path for an off piste route to the top of Gwaun y LLwyni. It’s a very rough walk and a short steep grassy climb but worth the effort as the views across the deep Hengwm Valley and Cwm Cywarch are immense.

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A quiet grassy path leads along a broad ridge and then along the edge to Drws Bach

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On Drws Bach I stopped for lunch and the sun came out in force

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The views across to the main Arans ridge were superb and I felt I had to make the effort to make the summit. I hid the pack and went briskly two the summit unencumbered.

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I have a fondness for the Arans as they have a proper, rocky big mountain feel without being difficult or busy. I only saw a handful of people on this day. Looking north to Arenig Fawr

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West to Cadair Idris

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North along the ridge to Bala and its lake

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And east over Craiglyn Dyfi

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Selfie to prove I didn’t steal the shots from the Interweb

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I headed down in the best weather of the day as blue skies took centre stage

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Hengwm valley

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Gwaun y LLwyni & Drws Bach

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Looking back up Hengwm

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And full circle to my route of ascent the previous evening

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A cracking little over-nighter and reward for taking a chance on the weather. One of the best sunsets of I’ve seen in the mountains for a while. Time to head off to meet up with good friends for the second half of my weekend

Breakfast in the Black Mountains   14 comments

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A short post from a week or so back onto one of my nearest and dearest strolls in my local Black Mountains

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It was warm and humid and I figured another early start and breakfast on the hill might beat the heat of the day

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Wrong! Even at 9am it was sweltering hot on the steep climb up onto the ridge

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It’s a fine ridge however and worth the sweaty effort

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I walked briskly along the ridge hoping for a breath of wind to keep cool and have breakfast alone (without the company of insects)

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I passed the summit pillar in totally calm conditions but when I reached the grassy spot where I’d camped with TJS last year the was a gentle breeze and I set up my kitchen

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Bacon and Egg butty on the mountain

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I took in the circuit around the Olchon Valley but declined the out and back to Hay Bluff this time. Wild ponies kept me company from time to time

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A steep descent into the valley, brought a lighter tone to the gloomy skies

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And the short steep climb back to the car

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8 mile round trip and back in time for a short rest before joining the Funsters at Bredwardine for a cooling dip in the Wye

Cats Back

Bank Holiday Backpack in the Black Mountain   25 comments

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My good friend the Hard Man and his two kids came to pay us a visit over the recent BH weekend. They were spending the week in South Wales doing touristy stuff and seeing relatives and took a chance to come see us and try to convince me to go walking in the rain. The Hard Man seems to have taken over the mantle of blind weather optimism from my friend EWO and always sees good weather prospects in the worst of forecasts. On this occasion we were faced with a forecast of heavy thundery showers, not exactly ideal weather to be sitting in a small tent. He even tried to convince that the tent poles would act as some sort of Faraday Cage if we got struck. Deluded!

Anyway as the weekend progressed the forecast improved and seemed to indicate we might get a dry evening on the Sunday and a dry albeit cloudy Monday. Against my better judgement we decided go for it. Packing up on Sunday morning it seemed like a very bad idea. We had the lot. Torrential rain, thunder, lightning, hail. We set off in an almighty downpour that had us dodging several pretty serious floods. Most of us looked out of the window with severe trepidation. The Hard Man simply looked happy that he’d at least got us in the car. We shopped like aristocrats in Waitrose and it had stopped raining by the time we were done. Shortly afterwards the sun came out. It didn’t rain again for the rest of the weekend.

Before the backpacking festivities we took a short stroll to Henrhyd Falls. I’ve never been to these (this corner of South Wales has loads of waterfalls) and very fine they were too.

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Like all the very best waterfalls you can walk behind them

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It’s a popular spot and there were plenty of people about so we didn’t linger

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There were mountains to be climbed and wild campsites to be occupied

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Our route was a local classic. A camp by the wonderful Llyn y Fan Fawr and a walk along the edges the next day. The summits looked dark and gloomy as we set off (after a monumental faff by the family Hard Man).

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It’s a relatively easy walk up to the tarn now I’ve finally discovered a way through the boggiest bits

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As we climbed up the clouds parted and there was sunshine aplenty. It’s a really fine spot for a night in the hills

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After a little deliberation we found a great spot by a small beach on the Lake. We set up camp and basked in sunshine. The pointing is showing TJS that the sun was shining as he’d mocked us when we left about how wet we were going to get. I even managed a very quick and very cold swim to wash away the grime of the walk in

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The Hard Man returns from a water gathering exercise

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The wind had dropped and the water was stunningly calm and mirror-like

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The downside of warm weather, no wind and clouds is obvious. Midges! That’s the reason TBF has her hood up by way of protection. They were not even close to the scale and numbers of a Scottish midge attack but there was enough to be irritating while trying to cook

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As evening drew in and the temperature dropped they went back to their evil lair for the night and we enjoyed a pleasant late evening stroll to collect some fresh running water to save having to filter the lake water

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The moon was dazzlingly bright. Not a bad picture with a handheld zoom

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The next morning we were shrouded in cloud when we woke. It was a still a nice peaceful spot so I still got up and cooked my breakfast early and alone before the midges came out. As everyone else stirred and came to life the cloud began to break and we saw the first tentative rays of sunshine (and the first of the midges)

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It soon turned into a quite amazing morning with expansive and clear blue skies interspersed with mist. Stunning. Way better than anything forecast had us believing.

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Nice that the Hard Man purchased a tent that blends so well into the landscape you can barely see it!

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We set off for a walk and the views were amazing. It’s rare to walk in the UK without so much as a breath of wind and see such a mirror like calm on a lake surface

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It was quite mesmerizing. Our pitch is at the far end of the lake towards the right

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As we crested the top there was a welcome puff of breeze – it was exceptionally hot for May. The fickleness of British weather never fails to amaze me. We camped by the lake a few years back in July and it was too cold to eat outside the tent!

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Whilst we weren’t above the cloud there was a bank of it seemingly all around that gave a similar vibe

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The highest point of the Black Mountain, Fan Brycheiniog

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It’s a classic walk and the first time for the Hard Man for many a year (he spent a good part of his youth in these parts)

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Heading off for Bannau Sir Gaer

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We hoped to have a first lunch somewhere on the summit but as always seems to be the case it was overrun with flies despite the wind which seemed to be blowing them in. The walk along the edges, normally so wonderful was an unpleasant affair as we picked flies from every facial orifice. We did manage to find a windy spot to keep them at bay for a while until it dropped, the midges came out in force and we ran for cover

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The walk back to the tents along the base of the cliffs is one of my favourites and in baking sunshine it was a joy

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We returned to base camp for more food and to think about packing up. It had been a hot walk and all that I’d been thinking about was a swim.

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It was fabulous if very cold but so refreshing after a hot and sweaty hike. Yours truly enjoying the cold clear water

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TBF joined in as well

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As we packed up the clouds started to bubble and we heard a few rumbles of thunder. Time to get the hell out of there

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As we followed the stream back to the car we turned and saw that the clouds had completely enveloped the summits again and all looked very threatening. It appeared we caught the weather window perfectly. The sun shines on the righteous and all that

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Luckily the mindless and delusional optimism of the Hard Man had worked wonders and we had a cracking little trip out. Another weekend out planned in a couple of weeks time so more of the same will be in order

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