Archive for March 2011

Walks for the afflicted   6 comments

I’ve recently had to have some minor surgery on my right knee to repair nearly 30 years of wear and tear from mountain climbing and skiing. They messed about with my cartilages and did something called a lateral release whatever that is. End result is that I spent a week in the house recovering before I went stir crazy and had to get out. It was a lovely, warm early spring day, so me J and the kids went out for a stroll with me hoping I could cope with an easy walk as getting up and down stairs was still a problem.

Above the Wye Valley is a local hill where you can drive to about 1000 feet and walk easily across fields to the common land to the top.

J, D and L enjoying the spring weather

It’s called Merbach Hill and it commands an excellent view of the river Wye and across to the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons as well as the central hills of Wales. It would be a lovely place for a summer picnic but despite the fact that we’ve been up here dozens of times we’ve never done that. We took a slow stroll up towards the summit and then sat to give the kids a snack on the top.

Looking out over the Wye valley towards mid-Wales

It was warm enough to relax without a fleece and almost warm enough to consider shorts. I love winter conditions and snow but once the chance for that has gone I’m all for the warm weather and clear skies that March, April and May sometimes brings.

We headed off down into the scrubby woodland and bracken on the north side, very slowly in my case. Spring was definitely in the air with birdsong filling the air and blossom starting to bud on the trees.

J & L in the wooded glades

We came across a very prominent and substantial animal burrow with several very large entrances all with fresh soil outside. I’d need ED to give me a proper answer but my guess based on the scale would be a badger’s sett as it looked way too big for rabbits and too big for foxes as I think they are more solitary.

Badgers Sett?

Our normal route, sneaking over a gap in the fence had been closed off so we had to return to the top by a path we’d not been on before giving us a pleasant view back across the Wye Valley.

Bracken and Woods on Merbach Hill

Apart from a minor knee twist causing me to collapse in an embarrassing heap, it was encouraging that my knee was recovering and I’m hoping to be fit enough to hit the Scottish mountains for some backpacking over Easter weekend. Watch this blog!

Flickr photos are here

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Posted March 27, 2011 by surfnslide in Local Walks, Walking

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Update – Walks & Maps   Leave a comment

Been playing around with my Mapping software and a free screen capture tool to add 1:50,000 OS Map images to my walks. The quality is a bit variable but they do the job. I’ve added some maps to my Suie Lodge Weekend walks and to the World’s end Walk near Langollen and I’ll try and add something similar for all my other routes

Posted March 27, 2011 by surfnslide in Reviews, Technology

Suie Lodge Weekend March 2011 (aka The Uncle Fester Memorial Weekend)   4 comments

For the past few years our tribe of ex- Manchester University students (plus honoured guests) have been heading up to Scotland for a winter weekend getaway from the pressures – sorry – pleasures of family life. This is the sixth year we’ve done it and previously we’ve stayed in a cheap but not very cheerful hotel near Crianlarich. This year we decided to splash out and try a new hotel and we weren’t disappointed.

Friday 4th March – Glencoe Skiing

We normally gather on the Friday night but this year GM, MM and me took an extra day off and despite there being very little snow (again!) we headed off to try and find some skiing in Glencoe. After the usual hearty and unhealthy fry up in Callendar we arrived at the ski area where it didn’t look promising but the lifts were running and despite the top lifts being out of order we thought we’d give it a go

GM and MM wading through the snow in the car park

Once above 6oo metres at the mid station it was clear there was enough snow for some fun so after a couple of brief runs low down we put the skins on and headed up to the top of Meall A’Bhuridh in overcast but bright and dry conditions. It’s munro number 209 for me and despite GMs protestations that using the ski lift to get half way doesn’t count I’m claiming it – especially as we skinned up it twice this day.

MM and GM enjoying lunch on the summit

Skinning up for the second time

After lunch on the top we did try and get further into the Blackmount but there simply wasn’t enough snow. We satisfied our cravings with some descents back down to the main ski area down Etive Glades. Whilst the snow was a bit heavy it was continuous and, best of all, deserted. and the 400m descent was great. After another couple of runs in the lower area (steep and interestingly patchy at the bottom) we returned to the summit again. The skies began to clear and after some glimpses through the thinning veil of clouds it cleared completely treating us to some spectacular views down over Rannoch Moor and across to Glencoe. We descended Flypaper which is pretty steep and would be fantastic in better conditions especially with the views. Once at the bottom we found we could ski back to the top of the chairlift via the line of the drag lift which provided a really pleasant finish to the days skiing with the ever clearing sky and expansive views

Rannoch Moor

MM with Flypaper to the left

We’d been playing with my Headcam during the day and the collected footage is below. Still need some practice getting the angles right but it is a fantastic way to relive the days fun.

Despite the patchy snow it was a really superb day and well worth the effort to get out. The brew in the cafe with the view across to Buchaille Etive Mor was well earned

A well earned brew

Buchaille Etive Mor

We drove back across to our weekend hotel under a cloudless sky with awesome views of the Blackmount, Ben Dorain and Ben More. We arrived at at the Suie Lodge Hotel to a warm welcome ready for a few beers and a hearty meal to await the arrival of the rest of the posse. By 11pm the numbers were complete minus, alas, UF who had been struck down by nasty case of “feeling a bit glandy”. After we’d recovered from the shock, wiped away the tears and raised a glass to our missing comrade, we proceeded to take the p**s out of him for the rest of the weekend. UF – we salute you!!

Saturday 5th March

After the usual haggling between the 11 of us about where to go – we split into two groups, 4 heading off towards Ben Lawers while the rest of us sought a route befitting our level of fitness i.e. not very far. Independently ED and me came up with a route to traverse Stuchd An Lochain by leaving a car on one side at Pubil in Glen Lyon and then driving round to the dam at Loch an Diamh. We could then start at 400 metres and walk over to the car.

It’s an eventful drive to Pubil as the “road” from Glen Lyon is ever so slightly potholed but enjoyable nontheless unless you happen to be in the back of my car when I’m driving. Strangely no-one fancied that option. Glen Lyon is a wild spot and not somewhere I’ve been before and my eyes were drawn to the north facing corries on Meall Ghaordie – one for next year.

Glen Lyon

It was pretty damp and dismal when we set off but these weekends are great for catching up with the boys. We only meet up a few times a year so it’s a great chance to catch up and tell a bunch of old stories – a bit sad but they still make us laugh and that’s the main thing.

The dam at Loch an Diamh

A quality baggers path led us easily up to the summit ridge for a lengthy lunch and more stories and chat.

Lunch on the summit

The ridge is broad and easy angled, giving just the right terrain for walking and talking, and as we progressed the cloud thinned in places giving some views north and south into the impressive corries particularly down to Lochan nan Cat. Despite the encouraging signs we never saw the sun that kept promising to show up.

EWO and GM enjoying what passed for sunshine

GM and Lochan nan Cat

Having bagged the summit (munro 210 for me) we felt our appetite unsatisfied and the now named Eternal Weather Optimist (EWO) convinced us that his personal patch of blue sky that forever sits above his head (the deluded fool) would show itself to all of us if we climbed up the Corbett next door. He always says this and always (and I mean ALWAYS) climbs an extra hill at the end of the day so no real surprise at his suggestion. This time however he was nearly right. When we arrived at the summit of Sron a Choire Chnapanich the sky started to clear, there was blue sky above, the sun came out (kind of) and we were treated to some misty views back down to Loch an Diamh. Sadly it never really cleared but in Scotland you take what you can get and we savoured the views, just long enough to get cold and decide that it wasn’t going to clear fully.

"It's blueing up laaads"

Loch an Diamh

Time to head back down to Pubil over the boggy ground that can only be Scotland, play at taxis and back to Suie Lodge for more beer, food and stories – and yes, some of the same ones from earlier in the day!

Sunday 6th March

After saying goodbye to our excellent hosts at Suie Lodge, this morning’s “where shall we go” argument was between Ben Venue and Beinn Chabair.

Suie Lodge Hotel

There was heated debate, factions, claims, counter claims, negotiations, arbitrations before we all gave up and fell in behind the Hard Man (HM) who seemed to have a real urge for Ben Chabair so we met up again in Inverarnan by Loch Lomond.

ED had already set off when we arrived and it took us a good 45 minutes of serious effort (for me anyway) to reel him in. He’s suffered a bit with his health and fitness over the last few years so it’s great to see him really able to enjoy long days in the hills again.

An excellent path got us easily past the really steep lower slopes to emerge on the wild and VERY boggy moorland where the path  promptly vanished. It’s a long trek up towards Ben Chabair and the heathery/boggy terrain was becoming a little tiresome but once we hit the wild corrie holding Lochan Beinn Chabair the ground improved and we could see our route above.

Lochan Beinn Chabair, summit looming behind

The weather was pretty dreary and grey but it would be a fabulous place when clear with the complex crags and knolls of the west ridge of Beinn Chabair looming high above. As we climbed higher everything became coated in ice and frost but unlike the day before there was no sign of the cloud clearing. We ascended the south ridge and all reached the summit (munro 211 for me) for the obligatory team photo. ED compares us to the Bash Street Kids in his blog. All I can say is we’re an excellent testimonial for Care in the Community.

Combined Years 350+, combined mental age 100 (mostly Old Father Sheffield)

The route down twists and turns through the aforementioned west ridge knolls. On a better day it would be interesting to take this ridge all the way down and explore the many crags and hollows. On a dreary Sunday with legs wilting after a couple of decent days and long drive home we simply retraced our steps back to the end of Lochan Beinn Chabair and back down to the cars.

As always my flickr photos are here or you can take a look at the slideshow below that I’ve posted on YouTube

The “Jolly Boys Outing” over for another year – roll on 2012!

Boys and their toys – Update   2 comments

I’ve now had time to play at being a film editor with my Go Pro HD Headcam footage from Porthcawl. I’ve been using CyberLink PowerDirector 9 to put it all together and it’s pretty easy although takes a bit of practice to choose the right output file and retain the High Definition footage. The clip is below and I’ve also added back into the main blog entry

Hope you enjoy it!

GM is now in on the video editing act. I’ve added his masterpiece to my Skiing blog from January but here it is if you can’t be bothered to scroll down

Posted March 17, 2011 by surfnslide in Kayaking, Surf Kayaking

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It’s the end of the world as we know it…   3 comments

Worlds End and Eglywseg Mountain – 26th February 2011

J, D & L had spent a few days with our old university friends (M & J) and their kids (Z & E) who were taking a half-term holiday in Llangollen. As J had booked a motel room for a couple of nights I thought I’d drive up after work on Friday night for an impromptu mini-break. After a pleasant evening in M & J’s holiday cottage we agreed to meet up in the morning for a walk with all the kids.

It didn’t look promising as we drove up from Oswestry with the rain battering down, M had assured us that it was due to brighten up from 11am although he always says that. This time however, on cue, at 11am it stopped raining and stayed dry the rest of the day. We all met up at a place called Worlds End, which is out to the East of the Horseshoe Pass and is the starting point of a little known but magnificent limestone escarpment. Me and UF discovered it last summer (photos here) so I was more than happy to go back and take another look.

We set off down the road where you reach a ford and stepping stones which the kids of course loved.

Ford over the Worlds End Stream

The path then traverses under the limestone cliffs and steep slopes of grass and scree for a couple of miles. It’s a really superb and in places quite narrow path but easy for kids with lovely views across the valley to Llantysilio Mountain and above to the cliffs. (At this point it’s actually the Offa’s Dyke long distance walk).

Offa's Dyke Path below Eglwyseg Mountain

In places the edges are cut by deep valleys leading up to cliffs, some accessible others impassable.

One of the un-named valley's cutting into the edge

The path is pretty much level all the way and in several places opens out into some lovely spots for a sit down or a picnic lunch. There were babbling streams running on this day after the heavy overnight rain but I guess they would dry up in summer.

The weather continued to improve as they day went on with some lovely sunny spells although with a cold wind. We stopped for lunch where the patch hits the road on a bench with great views back to the cliffs and a plentiful supply of dog poo. Anyone who has kids will know their unfailing knack to tread in it wherever it might be so it was a relief that despite D’s best efforts no-one collected any extra “mud” on their boots

Team Photo

After lunch, the girls and the kids headed down the road into Llangollen while me and M walked back to collect the cars. We headed up one of the gaps in the cliffs to an almost hidden valley with a lovely stream complete with new deposits of Tufa.

M on the way through through the hidden valley

Once you reach the top there are several paths along the edges that reveal spectacular views over the edges and across towards Snowdonia as far as the Berwyns and what we thought were the Arenigs above Bala. Some of the paths run right along the cliff edge with some hair-raising views down. There are no rights of way but there are several permission paths and stiles so it’s easy going all the way back to where the edges meet the road at Worlds end just a few yards from the car park

Looking South along the edge

I was surprised on both my visits at how quiet this walk is considering what a fabulous walk it is. Anywhere else and it would be crowded with walkers. It’s similar in character to Malham and anyone who has visited there will know how popular it is. I suppose it’s a result of being a little known spot in a little-visited area for walking. Most people will give it no more than a passing glance on their way to Snowdonia and the Welsh coast which is pretty much what I’ve been doing. I know better now. The area can be linked with longer walks taking in some of the other hills in the region or as part of a grand traverse from Corwen to Trevor at the far end of the range.

Late afternoon (& late winter) sunshine

All the photos from the day are here

Posted March 1, 2011 by surfnslide in Family Trips, Llangollen, Wales, Walking

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