Archive for April 2011

D’s first proper mountain   5 comments

I’ve been promising D for a couple of years now to take him up a real mountain. He’s been up several of the smaller Black Mountain hills but I thought he’d enjoy one with more of a sense of adventure and achievement. My parents now have a caravan on the coast near Aberystwyth so I thought Cadair Idris was a great one to give a go. I’ve been up several times before (not for a few years mind) so I knew it was pretty straightforward and relatively short. Although the weather hadn’t looked promising the night before we woke to cloudless skies so the trip was on!

J had been acting her play the night before back home but the promise of a proper day on the hills prompted her to drive over late the previous night so she joined me a D on our first mountain day.

The route is known as the Minfford path and starts from the car park at the far end of the Tal-y-Llyn, itself a wonderful glacial lake with a classic alluvial flat at the far end. It’s a demanding start with a 300m climb through the woods past the waterfalls.

D on the start of the climb

J & D and the Tal-y-Llyn valley

After 15 minutes it was clearly a day for shorts and T-shirts so we changed into more appropriate apparel. Once clear of the trees the path curves towards the corrie of Cwm Cau, in my mind one of the most fabulous spots in the whole of the UK.

D, Llyn Cau, Craig Cau

We were bathed in warm sunshine as we walked up into the corrie and I took D across to the outflow from the crystal clear lake and introduced him to the delights of fresh mountain stream water – he was amazed to find you can drink it and that it tastes better than the tap stuff. It spurred him on as we continued our climb up to the ridge that bounds Cwm Cau on the Southern side with glimpses down to the lake as we climbed.

D was having no problems with the climb and was in fact leaving J trailing in his wake. We reached the summit of Craig Cau for another lunch stop perched on the edge of the cliffs to really enjoy the panorama and to look forward to the final climb to the summit.

D & J on Craig Cau Summit

The weather wasn’t quite as clear as we’d hoped but it was looking good for a view from the top so we pressed on. Just before the summit we headed off left to follow the ridge to the summit and take in the sensational views across to the Cyfrwy ridge, down to the crags and tarns on the Northern side and over the Mawddach estuary towards Barmouth.

D was well chuffed as he celebrated his first proper mountain – the first of many I hope and he’d made it without any problems.

Hillary and Tenzing on the summit

We’d been hoping to see Snowdon from the top but it just wasn’t clear enough to see that far. Many people assume that Cadair Idris is the highest mountain outside the main Snowdonia massif but in fact Aran Fawddwy takes that honour. I’ve not been up there for 20 years or so since they opened up the access and I reminded J of the time we did it in our University years on one of the worst days of weather I can remember in the hills. I’m planning to get back there this summer if I can find a spare day. We carried on along the top of the ridge towards Mynedd Moel although D was starting to feel a little tired so I went to the summit alone (a fine perch above another dramatic corrie and tarn) while J and D started to head down.

Mynedd Moel

The views back along the ridge give Cadair Idris a real big mountain feel and my eyes were continually drawn to the surrounding hills for some other less well trodden routes in the Tarrens to the South and the Rhinogs in the north.

Cadair Idris from Mynedd Moel

I caught J & D up and we started the long and very steep, rocky descent down towards the trees.

Craig Cau from Mynedd Moel

D finally started to feel the effects of a long day and a small slip knocked his enthusiasm and confidence a bit. Once we reached the bottom a leisurely stop and draft of Welsh spring water and he was back to his old self again and fair raced down the path to the bottom leaving J trailing in his wake.

J & D enjoy a post-steep-bit rest

He was well chuffed with his efforts and rightly so. It’s a 6 mile walk with over 800m of ascent over some pretty rough terrain and whilst he was a little weary at the end of the day he wasn’t the only one! I really hope he gets the hiking bug as he proved he’s up to the task of a big mountain day

Tal-y-Lyn

The full set of photos are here. Pen-y-Fan near home is now a target and once I can work out the practicalities a trip up Snowdon beckons

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Posted April 18, 2011 by surfnslide in Snowdonia, Walking

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Alternative Brecon Beacons   1 comment

This is a walk I’ve had my eye on for a while so with a forecast of warm sunshine and the rest of the family otherwise engaged I headed out early to make the most of the day. The route is over some lesser known hills in the Brecon Beacons. It’s part of the Fforest Fawr (Great Forest) named after its old status as a Royal Hunting ground rather than any trees. The walk starts a couple of miles down from the Storey Arms (where the masses park for the trek up to Pen-y-Fan) and sets out for the national nature reserve of Craig Cerrig-gleisiad (Blue Stone Rock).

It’s a stunning setting with dark heathery earthy cliffs dropping to a grassy bowl with a number of bubbling streams.

Taking a path that skirts the edge of the lower pastures to reach the ridge and then the path heads up towards the grassy plateau that crowns the cliffs.

The views were a little hazier than I had hoped and there was a surprisingly strong, cool breeze but it was still a lovely morning.

The main summits of the Beacons as well visited and on sunny summer days I’ve seen as many as 150 people on the summit of Pen-y-Fan. On this lesser known route I saw only about 10 people for the duration of the walk. The “summit” Trig Pillar (Fan Frynych) is set back from the edge and I’d hoped for a brief rest on the top but it was far too windy and cold so I pressed on. There are numerous smalll bodies of water all of which were full of frogspawn but no frogs or even tadpoles yet. I guess spring is still in its very earliest stages at this height.

You can take the path that runs right along the edge of the cliffs for some sensational views and the main summits of Pen-y-Fan and Corn Du were becoming clearer as the sun rose higher.

At the highest point of the cliffs I managed to find a sheltered spot out of the wind for a leisurely lunch and to sit and soak up the spring weather and views.

After a brief detour along the edge to peer down the vegetated cliffs I hopped over the Fence and headed towards Fan Fawr, the highest point. It’s quite a long trek and I guess pretty boggy after a wet spell. It would be a long and tiresome trudge on a grey damp day but on this sunny morning the springy grass and moss was just perfect for strolling. The views West out to the Black Mountain were excellent and some of the hills between also looked worthy of a day out in future. I suspect they are rarely climbed so I’d like to think I’d have them to myself.

It’s a pretty steep climb to the top but the views in all directions were top notch albeit still hazy. When I reached the top the wind was strong enough to blow me off my walking stride which really caught me by surprise for what looked like a day that should be warm and calm. I headed down towards the Storey Arms and managed to find another sheltered stop for second lunch and watch the traffic streaming along the A470 and the people streaming up and down Pen-y-Fan.

On the way down I passed a group of students dressed in DJs and carrying chairs and food for a picnic. If they planning on partying on the summit they were in for a nasty shock when the wind hit them!

I passed a group of wild welsh ponies on my down and then quickly passed by the mess, noise and cars at Storey Arms and headed down the Taff Trail – the old road between Merthyr and Brecon. Despite the noise of the traffic on the A470 it’s a really pleasant stroll with great views across to the high ground I’d been across earlier in the day.

A drop down to the stream (a lovely picnic spot with swimming hole for future reference) and a steep climb back up to the road and I was back at the car.

My GPS software said 8.3 miles and 514m of ascent. Apart from feeling a little cautious on the steep sections my knee seemed to cope pretty well and sitting at home now it feels fine so I’m really hopeful that the Op has been a success and that I can continue building up the strength over the next few weeks. Probably about time I started with my daily exercise routine again!

As always I’ve posted all the photos from the day on Flickr here

Longtown Lambs   4 comments

As part of my recovery program from my knee op I decided to drag the kids out on a walk. It was a lovely warm spring day so we decided to take stroll round the local village of Longtown. It’s a walk we’ve taken a few times, nice and easy for the kids with plenty of wild flowers and great views up to the main ridge of the Black Mountains – and this time we hoped we weren’t too late to see some spring lambs.

The route is below and I’ve created the map for free using a combination of some GPS Sports tracking software on my mobile, Bing Maps which now has OS 1:50,000 and 1:25,000 maps and some freeware screen capture software. I’ll put a post/page up to describe how it works so any of you budding walking bloggers can add maps and routes for nowt. Not quite as clear as using proper map software but not bad for free

The walk takes you from Longtown village down to and across the Olchon Brook. From there it’s a pleasant stroll over fields, stiles and streams towards the main ridge. It only ascends about 100m so easy with the kids. Both D and L were thrilled to see that the fields were filled new lambs and plenty of “aaahhhh” moments.

D & L, Black Mountains behind

Spring Lambs

The walk then crosses the fields down to the lovely old church at Clodock where we had a leisurely lunch in the Churchyard in the sun.

Clodock Church

Clodock Church

D & L with a healthy lunch of crisps and biscuits

The walk then follows the river Monnow (where we saw a horse rolling around on the bank and then back through the fields to Longtown.

That's how scratch that itch...

It’s a perfect family walk with lots to see and do and neither too far or too steep. Combined with a sunny aspect and views up to the Black Mountains it’s perfect for lazy day out. Flickr photos here

Posted April 5, 2011 by surfnslide in Black Mountains, Walking

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