We drive up the splendid valley containing said reservoir on many occasions to access what I consider to be the better side of the Brecon Beacons. I’ve had in my head an idea to circumnavigate it by a long walk taking in some of the Brecons eastern summits, returning over the expansive moorland to the south and finishing on the fine little hill of Tor y Foel. We attempted this walk in the winter but were turned back by day that promised sunshine and showers but delivered 3 hours of ceaseless rain.
Today was sunny and blue with a keen wind although a late-ish start had us walking at a brisk pace anyway to keep us warm. We made swift progress up the steep slopes of Twyn Du and onto Carn Pica
It was windy on top and decided on the longer walk around the fine and usually deserted edges of Craig y Fan, Gwalciau ‘r Cwm and Cwar y Gigfran (evocative names up here), rather than the direct route over Waun Rydd. The latter of those edges I’ve never walked before so it was good to tread some new ground. As expected they were deserted and the sense of space up here above the deep and broad valley of Caerfannel is immense
We paused briefly to look down on the famous wreckage of a WWII bomber but as we were above it decided to press on.
We turned south and headed along the edges of Craig Fan Las and Craif y Fan Du, one of my favourite stretches of upland in the UK. Busier here as its close to the main car park for the waterfalls but nothing like the main ridge of the Brecons. Pleasant company rather than crowded.
As the wind was still keen we dropped down to the river and found a stonking spot in the warm sun by Nant Bwrefwr for a long lunch and rest as we hadn’t really stopped since we left the car
Then it was onwards onto more new terrain. The slopes up onto the southern side of the valley don’t look all that inspiring from a distance. Lots of cleared coniferous plantations that are always an ugly scar and wide scarred paths.
Indeed the climb up was hard work and uninspiring, the paths badly scarred by trail bikes. These things are becoming a real threat to upland environments in south Wales and seem to be more numerous. Luckily today we only saw their aftermath rather than hear the irritating buzz and smell of fuel. It saddens me every time I see the damage they do. Some paths, like here are little more than 30 foot wide mudslides and will take years to recover if ever, assuming the National Park authority ever decide to do something about the problem
All that negativity ended as we reached the summit of Pant y Creigiau. I hadn’t known what to expect up here, possibley endless bog and tussocks. In fact it was a fantastic high level stroll across sheep nibbled grass with superb views across to the edges and valleys we’d walked on and above in the morning and to the limestone crags and quarries of Mynydd Llangynidr
All the while the reservoir glistened blue below us beckoning us on as we still had a long way to go. Over Bryiau Gleision the it suddenly narrows to a ridge where the views are exceedingly fetching. We found a perch high above the Dyffryn Crawnon valley for a rest in the sun and out of the wind. We’d had another long stretch and I was starting to feel the strain. I could have sat there for hours.
Time was pressing though and I had drag my sorry frame another few miles. We had the option to shorten the route and head straight down to the dam and miss out Tor y Foel this time. TJS looked crestfallen at this suggestion so he convinced me trudge on. Despite the harshness of the gravelled road that leads to the base of the hill it was a good decision. We made light work of the short climb to the top and it’s always good to finish a day on a summit, especially on a day as good as this. Another one for my small hills book :)
From there it was pretty much straight down to the car, brutally steep at the top to start with.
This part of the walk wasn’t on the maps I brought with me so I was guessing my way down. I spied what I thought might be a shortcut down the side of the forest and despite some tenuous brambled sections and some deep mud that covered my boots almost to the top we were down in matter of minutes. Across the dam and back to the car
So glad that what I thought would be a fine walk was even better than expected. I’ve never seen anyone walking on the second section which is surprising as it’s exceptionally fine and highly recommended.
A long walk at 14 miles (TJS longest and probably mine for a few years) but well worth the sunburn and aching knees at the end
Back up to date again. We had grand plans for the half term weekend. We were off to Pembrokeshire in the camper to see the Puffins on Skomer Island and some quality beach time at Marloes. However due to a bout of immense stupidity by me involving a kitchen knife and an avocado, I managed to sever a nerve in my finger, requiring some minor surgery to try to repair it. Considering that the cut was only 1 cm long (albeit deep enough to see the inner workings of my hand) I’m sure you’ll agree the dressing is rather impressive if a little disproportionate. Kind of ruled out a rough camping weekend
No idea what the rest of half term week will hold but we’ll be royally looked after by Mark and his family so hopefully some adventures to report on when I get back.
When we first visited this fine and quiet corner of the Lake District in 2011 we had 4 of the sunniest, bluest days in memory. I thought then that we’d probably pay for that good fortune and so, in a way we have. We’ve had a few good days in the past few years but mostly the weather has been disappointing. This year was no exception
We’d decided to head up a day early to make the best of things and the Friday was a pretty nice day. A long drive followed by pitching the camper at Church Stile Campsite (now with added shop full of local produce) left us time for an afternoon stroll up Buckbarrow.
A fine rocky hill and one small enough for a worthy place in my guide book. Short on distance and height but big on views over the South West fells and coastline.
The bright skies with dark broody clouds made a very fine backdrop.
Even TJF seemed to enjoy the walk
The day finished off with a grand meal in The Strands pub and beers in the campsite with the gang as they arrived
The forecast for Saturday and Sunday was dire and it was raining by the time we set off on Saturday morning. Enthusiasm was low as we trooped across the fields but it was at least good to catch up with friends and be out and about. The rain seemed to be increasing as forecast so we abandoned the plan to climb Middle Fell instead plumping for an amble to Greendale Tarn to fill the day.
In fact the weather didn’t deteriorate as badly as we thought and after a lunch by the stream decided to climb Middle Fell anyway
Whilst not exactly balmy summer weather it wasn’t as bad or as wet as we’d feared and in the end we made quite a good day of it. By the time we’d reached the campsite the rain had set in and the wind was blasting the campsite. It pretty much wiped out evening frivolities and the planned BBQ as everyone went to bed to listen to the rain. It was a wild night with roaring winds that rocked the camper from side to side and was still raining in the morning. It did stop but it was grim and dreary. Luckily we now have a wet weather plan – Seascale, its beach and the fabulous Mawsons Ice Cream Parlour. We dined like kings and ate like gluttons, the ice cream here is to die for. After a stroll on the beach we went back to the site and, as you’d expect began eating again. Despite still being grey, it was at least dry and therefore a BBQ was feasible. Who says you need warm sunshine to eat outdoors. Most people actually but that’s not the point. It was a fine evening with everyone in much improved spirits after a pretty dismal 36 hours.
Monday was much better. Sunshine warmed the camper as we breakfasted and encouraged the kids out on another walk.
Buckbarrow is such a good hill that its worth doing twice in the same weekend!
It’s perfect for the kids as after a steep start it’s an easy walk and we enjoyed a long leisurely lunch (part 1) by the stream.
The top is littered with crags giving everyone a chance to practice their scrambling skills. Little DB Junior had to be encouraged not to try the E-Grade rock climbs solo!
Another lunch on the top and we all wandered down in slightly different routes.
I paused at Greendale Gill, camera in hand hoping someone would provide some entertainment and fall in. Despite a procession of unwilling stooges no-one did. Some people have no sense of theatre
Despite almost 2 days of rain in the middle it was a pretty damn fine weekend, good company made up for a lack of warm sunshine and let’s face that’s the most important thing
I had a lazy day planned. I’d been out for a few beers on Friday night and needed a weekend off to recover. That’s old age for you. Sunday was grey and dreary and I settled down in front of the TV for some serious couch potato action. Then the sun came out and then blue sky filled the view. Betrayed by the weather I was forced into a walk
I ticked the following boxes on the form. “Short walk”, “Park as high as possible”, “Isolated Summit”, “Fine Views”. Mynydd Troed was the answer
A day of contrasts. In the sun and out of the wind it was like summer. In the wind and shade it was still winter
A brutally steep ascent brings you directly to this fine summit. Views of the Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons and the Wye Valley abound
We sat for a while on the top, pretending it was summer while we shivered. We talked long distance footpaths I recall. TJS and TBF are fans. I’m not
TJS was feeling a little under the weather so rather than head along the ridge we circled back down to the car
A short walk but a fine one under a surprisingly abundant and unforecast blue sky.
Hangover cured, all was back in sync with the world
A weekend for some quality father and daughter time before she disappears, never to be seen again. She’s heading off to a new country. I think they call it “Teenager”
TJS was away with his friends and TBF was away on a “girls” weekend in Snowdonia. I asked TJF if she’d like to go away in the camper or stay at home and play with her friends and I was pleasantly surprised when she chose the former. Back down to the Gower again then, to the same place we visited a month or so back. This time rather than the chill and grey skies at the back-end of winter we were in Spring.
The blue skies of the photos are helping to lift my very dark mood after yesterday’s election travesty. I won’t go all political as that’s not what my blog is about but let me just quote this from a Facebook post by The Daily Mash – “Voters surrender to their inner bastard”
Back to the happy world of the Gower. A glorious day albeit rather windy. We took a walk over the fields and rocky limestone valleys down to Mewslade Bay hoping that this time the tide would be out. It was.
The beach and the surrounding cliffs are magnificent. In many of those top ten beaches lists you see on the Interweb, the beach at Rhossilli always gets in, likely due to its perfect and long curve of sand (and the fact that you can park nearby). Mewslade Bay never gets a mention and I’ve yet to come across anyone who’s even heard of it. Take a look at these pictures and tell me this isn’t one of the most magnificent combinations of sweeping golden sand and dramatic cliffs you’ve seen.
As the cliffs are limestone the sea and rainwater has eroded them into an amazingly complex series of gullies, caves and towering castles of rock.
This narrow spine of rock is particularly dramatic. I need to approach it from the cliff tops some day and see if I am brave enough to teeter out to its point – probably not.
We spent a delightful hour just wandering across the sand, soaking up the views. There is nothing better than the combination of colours from sea to sand to cliff to grass to gorse. The wind kept us moving – not a day to spread a rug and laze on the sand although some brave souls did.
We finished the walk by strolling along the green pastures above the cliffs and through the fields back to the camper for lunch
We also took a late afternoon stroll on the beach at Port Eynon. About as near to a commercial resort as it gets on the Gower it had a whole lot more people there although no-one braving a swim in the sea.
The awning gave us perfect shelter from the wind while facing the evening sun and we had the first BBQ of the year – a fine finish to a really lovely day
The wind dropped the next day and TJF wanted to go to Worms Head to poke around in the rock pools. The natural causeway teems with life so we set off to walk there along the cliffs. TJF is not much for walking but she seemed to enjoy it. This stretch of coast is relatively flat so the going was easy.
It gave us the chance to see Mewslade Bay and the equally fine and adjacent Fall Bay from above.
The tide was just right so dropped down and scrambled across the causeway to Worms Head.
The rock pools were a little disappointing, probably too early in the year with water still wintery cold. We did find a few crabs and one very pathetic looking feather star but we enjoyed having a look. The wind seemed chillier today, not conducive to wet hands from poking about in rock pools. I have heard rumours that you can find Lobsters in the rock pools here but we’ve never seen any
We had lunch on the grass overlooking the bay and then headed back
I convinced TJF to extend the walk a little and make a circular and she seemed happy enough. The walk along the cliffs back to Rhossili is plagued with throngs of tourists but if you stick close to the edge you can avoid them. This of course also provides much better views including an aerial view of the many shipwrecks on the beach
We cut inland and found a rather splendid and peaceful route across the fields and valleys that took us pretty much back to the campsite.
It had been nice spending some time with TBF and we was in good spirits and chatty. Makes a nice change as we do seem to live in different worlds these days. Worth the effort to create and value these special times while I can
We’d had our big day in the sun and after 4 days in the mountains it was time to head home. There are only 3 or 4 trains a day from Corrour so we were up early to make sure we didn’t miss the lunchtime one and have to wait another 6 hours for the evening train. Entertainment is somewhat limited at Corrour. We had some grand ideas about walking out over the Loch Treig hills but we had a long journey home and work the next day – and the packs were still heavy enough even having eaten most of the food. Time to pack up and haul the packs onto tired bodies and off to catch a train
It was an uneventful walk, returning firstly, again back along the riverside path to Loch Treig
From there it’s a bit of long grind along the track by the lake-shore and back to the station. The cloud was down on the summits but the air was still and the reflections of the mountains in the calm waters of Loch Treig enchanting
As we made progress along the track the cloud made progress away from the summits and all became clearer
It was turning into a pretty fine day for our walk out.
The power or water company are doing some kind of work on the Allt a Chamabhreac for the Loch Ossian Estate and there is now a well made road heading up to the station. It climbs much higher and was much steeper than I’d thought and I found it a bit of grind under the heavy pack with my big mountain boots on. TJS now seemed to be more at ease with the pack and was keeping pace with GM, no mean feat, while I dragged my heels at the back.
As we climbed the views improved and as the road cuts under the railway line and heads away into the estate we were able to pick up a more foot friendly path to the station
We stopped for a bite and took a look at Leum Uilleam, our summit from 4 days ago. The transformation was dramatic. I think these two photos taken 4 days apart told the story
The walk to the station was really rather enjoyable. The streams and rivers gave a soundtrack and there were numerous places to camp. With hindsight, I’d have just walked down here from the train and pitched up for a night, claiming Leum Uilleam without the packs or the cross-country bog trotting of the first day. Still, having had a superb 5 days I wasn’t about to pick apart what we’d done and chose to celebrate in my mind a tremendous trip full of great experiences and great walking.
All that remained was the last mile or so to Corrour, approaching from the north really gives a sense of how remote and bleak a place it is for a train station and the sign reminds you of the altitude
We arrived with an hour to spare and spent a lazy time massaging sore feet and reflecting on our adventures. As the train rolled in, Stob Coire Easain, our Munro from the previous day, finally emerged from the cloud to bid us farewell
It had been an amazing and at times pretty tough adventure but so rewarding especially for TJS. I think we have a new regular for the Easter trip :)
A flicker of bright light caught my eye as I stirred, followed by the sound of zips and a “blam!” from GM. I was outside in a flash and this was the scene that welcomed me into the day
Nothing finer than a wild camp and sunny clear morning, especially after a couple of days under grey skies. It was perishingly cold but you just can’t waste a scene like this. I ate my breakfast outside while GM and TJS cowered in the tents. The views were just sensational
A low mist hung over the valley and the low sunlight highlighted the browns of the heather and the streaks of snow
What really attracted the attention was Ben Nevis and Aonach Beag framed perfectly between the valley sides. We’d been here for two days and had no idea they were there. Whilst not exactly a surprise to find them there it was beguiling to suddenly find them filling the view. They continued to be focus of my attention while around the tent
We packed up and were off before 9, the sun warming the day by the second and making the trudge back down to Loch Treig a little lighter.
Such was the increasing warmth that we paused at the bridge over the Abhainn Rath to de-layer – thermals were not needed.
Then the hard work began. After a brief chat with a guy who seemed to be living off-grid for several months, in a tent by the derelict Creaguaineach Lodge we headed around the edge of the loch and began the long climb.
This was to be TJS first real experience of heavy Scottish conditions, no path’s here to tame the heather and grass. We aimed directly up Creagan a Chaise, 450m of steep heather. Whilst the climb taxed the legs, the views pulled us upwards. Close at hand the small peak of Creag Ghuanach was magnificent, further afield the Mamores dominated the view west.
Binnein Beag in particular, with its perfect cone caught the eye, more so than it’s much higher more dominant neighbours.
As we gained height the full spread of the Southern Highlands were revealed, contrasted by the glass smooth Loch Treig. All the while the warm sun and clear skies made it pretty much the perfect day. I kept reminding TJS that he was lucky to be out in the middle of the Scottish mountains on such a stunning day and he should savour this one
We took an early lunch basking on the rocks near the summit, soaking up nourishment, sun, and views in equal measure. I could have sat there all day to be honest but there was a summit to be bagged and we were only halfway up.
We skirted around the summit trying to find the line of least resistance to the Moine na Gaibhre. It’s a really rather nice area of rock slabs and outcrops and grassy terraces, a perfect place for a high level wild camp.
Once across the boggy peat around the small tarn our next objective was to reach the south ridge of Stob Coire Easain, still 150m above us. The ground was steep and the thawing snow deep and wet. We managed to pick a way through, avoiding the worst of the snow but still managing to get bogged down from time to time.
Once up on the ridge the going always seems easier and with the goal in sight we picked up the pace. Coire Easain Mor was just a wall of perfect snow that looked primed and ready to slide off into Loch Treig.
There were massive cornices to be steered away from as we hit the snow slopes that drew us up to the summit. GM and TJS seemed to have summit fever as they left me trailing on the final slopes that seemed to go on forever.
Finally, after a long climb (long mostly as we’d been savouring the day as we should) we reached the top and TJS had his first Munro.
Despite being an Easter weekend and the mountain being relatively accessible we had the place to ourselves. We had a full spread from Southern Highlands through Glencoe to the North West Highland beyond the Great Glen. East was Ben Alder and the Cairngorms.
Schiehallion as always from this direction looked pointy, rather than its real whale-backed shaped, the most false-summitted mountain in the world I seem to remember from when I climbed it
As always on a such a grand day it’s tough to drag yourself away. We returned along the ridge and to vary the route a little we headed down the western slopes towards the Allt na Lairige.
I preferred the long runs of deep wet snow for rapid and cushioned progress, benefitting from having over-boot gaiters to keep my feet dry. This killed about half the descent in a matter of minutes. To celebrate we stopped and had second lunch by a cool and refreshing snow-melt stream. Me and TJS felt the benefit of our load from the first two days as we feasted on wraps filled with salami, cheese and chutney.
GM had oatcakes. He protests (a little too much if you ask me) at how fine they are but to me they are truly the driest and blandest creation. He once convinced me to use them as the basis for my lunch on a backpacking trip. I was hungry most of the time and often wished I’d just eaten the packet. Such was the barrage of sarcasm and gloating that he received as we tucked in he could take it no more and headed back down although I did offer him some pork pie as a peace-offering. It seemed to do the trick as he had a brew ready when we got back
The descent from there was easy and trouble-free and the Allt na Lairige a splendid valley full of wild camping potential.
There was a small sting in the tail as the river plunges into a deep ravine before it enters Loch Treig giving you a surprising and unwelcome 200 feet of ascent that wasn’t needed. We were tired and heavy legged as we returned to base camp after a top drawer day. We have been so lucky that the past three Easter trips have delivered so many awesome days. I’m not sure when I’m going to pay for it
We had a long relaxing lie on the grass and many brews of tea to recuperate and recover and were able to eat or evening meal outside in the watery sunshine.
There had been a bank of heavy cirrus cloud that drifted over us when we returned to camp but as the sun set the skies cleared again and treated us to a magnificent sunset. The colours deepened and intensified as the sun went down.
Then the remaining wisps of cloud went pink and red before the skies darkened on a magnificent day.
There was just time for the ritual burning of the rubbish into a less messy and more manageable quantity.
No wood unfortunately to get a proper fire going but meths made an acceptable substitute.
Second day of our Easter adventures was a total contrast. Blue skies and clear bold sunshine was replaced with leaden grey skies and a persistent rain. It had rained all night and a continuation led to an indoor breakfast. We finally emerged late morning as the rain stopped into a landscape drained of colour.
We pithered and pottered about the vicinity unsure what to do. We were still a little tired after the previous days exploits and as even the lower summits were smothered there seemed little point in any kind of hill climb.
After a leisurely lunch we perused options and decided to move on. Whilst a pleasant enough spot the campsite wasn’t what we had in mind and wasn’t well placed for what we’d planned. I still really wanted to see the valley around Staoineag bothy so we hoisted the still rather too heavy packs and pushed on
It’s only a short walk with no climbing but it was still hard work, not helped by the intermittent drizzle that kept falling. We decided on the path along the south side of the Abhainn Rath, a fairly mighty river. A somewhat sketchy and infuriating path but even on a grey day a fine stretch of Scottish valley.
We passed by the deserted bothy, quite a fine one, but no-one was around and no-one had made an entry in the book for a couple of weeks. Despite its remoteness I was sure it was a well-known and popular bothy and was surprised that even on an Easter weekend we saw no-one this day or any other indulging in its charms. TJS was curious to see his first bothy up close and seemed to agree with me that they can appear rather gloomy and depressing. We had planned on walking a couple of km up-river from the bothy but a few hundred yards beyond seemed far enough and we found a rather splendid spot by the river. There are any number of cracking riverside spots along this stretch on both sides of the river but the one that allowed us to drop the packs at the earliest opportunity seemed the best one.
We were soon pitched up, again in more drizzle, with the sight and sound of a roaring waterfall on the river our companion for the next 3 nights. More rain forced us to cook inside and, well, that was that for the second day. We hoped for better the next day
It was, but only marginally. The cloud had lifted a bit and the rain had stopped but it was still generally grey. Having achieved GM’s objective (Leum Uilleim) now it was my turn and we headed off up the valley towards Sgurr Eilde Mor, the only one of the mighty Mamores ridge I’ve not done. I have a fondness for these majestic range of mountains and not just because their name means mammaries! :) One of the best ridges on the mainland with an array of massive peaks and narrow twisting ridges
We’d only gone a few hundred meters when we hit our first problem. The Allt Gleann na Giubhsachan doesn’t look like much on the map but it was wide and deep enough to need a substantial wade which none of us fancied. One look up at the hills that were white 2 days ago and now merely streaked white highlighted the blindingly obvious point that there was a thaw in progress and the rivers were full of snowmelt. We wandered up the eastern bank looking for somewhere to cross but it became obvious we weren’t going to cross it.
Where the river was wide and slow it was still enough to be a least a knee-deep wade. Where it was narrow enough to consider a salmon-leap the penalties for a mistake were serious. It was clear any progress further west was out of the question and my Munro bagging had gone for the weekend. Had we realised we could have easily chosen to walk up and camp on the northern side of the Abhainn Rath and stood a chance of progress west. Too late now though so a new plan was needed. (There are stepping stones at Staoineag, but they were deep underwater and must only be exposed in the driest of conditions – a contradiction in terms in the Highlands!)
Luckily there was a Corbett within reach, the remote and lofty Glas Bheinn. Even so we still had travel pretty much to the source of the river near the watershed before we could cross it, GM daringly, me and TJS a little more cautiously.
The higher corries appeared momentarily from the gloom giving a glimmer of hope for better weather and the river valley was wild, remote and rather splendid. Sometimes you can extract enjoyment just exploring a valley the probably sees almost no human traffic.
After a brief lunch we made a direct line up the slopes to the summit ridge and then pressed on to the top. It was cold, damp and cloudy up there and the snow was deep, wet and tiresome.
We lingered no more than a minute on the summit before heading straight back down, pleased to have made a decent summit on such a day.
As we returned to our point of ascent the cloud started to break and we got some tantalising glimpses of mountains and the wild remote moors and lakes of Rannoch Moor and Blackwater Reservoir. There was even some sunshine and the air seemed to dry out while we watched. The snow was even worse on the descent and snow melt was filling every gully with water. TJS was getting his first experience of truly wet feet, anything he’d experienced before but a mere damp rag compared to the proper slosh of a boot exposed to Scottish bog and melting snow.
GM left us behind, hopefully to get the brew on (which he did, bless him) and me and TJS ambled down at our own pace. In fact TJS put on a bit of burst near the end and left me trailing in his wake. All the time the weather was improving and there were even some patches of blue. He’d gone a little quiet and I think he was disappointed that his first Munro seemed unlikely now that the melting snow had cut off our planned objectives in the Mamore or the Grey Corries
It had been a pretty good day.
We had the first chance to enjoy our chosen site. It was a rather grand spot and we were pleased with our choice and relaxed into wild campsite slumming about
It was chilly enough to want to eat inside the tent though. When we emerged again, the light dimmed and the sun weakly appeared. We were treated to a show of cloud billowing over Glas Bheinn and fleeting glimpses of the surrounding and smaller hills. A fitting finale
Our mood and enthusiasm brightened considerably. Nothing like a calm evening out in the wilds with a cuppa and a fruit pie. TJS mood was even more brightened when GM gave us a plan for the next day. The Easains above Loch Treig were in reach for some Munro bagging providing we didn’t mind the out and back down to Loch Treig again the way we’d walked in. A hefty old day as they top out over 1100m but well within reach. I’d forgotten they were there to be honest such was my desire to bag the ridges further west. Now we had a plan for the next day and the hope of a further improvement in the weather to send us away to bed