Archive for May 2011

Hatterall Hill   2 comments

This is one of my all-time favourite walks in the Black Mountains. I’ve done it perhaps half-a-dozen times since I moved to Herefordshire in 2002. Whenever I’m stuck for an idea or struggling for choice this one always seems to win. I have numerous walking guides but this walk or a derivative doesn’t appear in any of them. I find this strange as it’s such an obvious looking circuit when seen from Ysgyryd Fawr as in this photo taken a few years ago:

Hatterall Hill from Ysgyrd Fawr

It’s a relatively short walk and having got lucky with a chance to leave work early I took my chance, parking at Cwmyoy village hall. After crossing the river and fields you come to the sleepy heart of the village with its ancient church, leaning tower and bent roof to the fore.

Cwmyoy Church

Cwmyoy Church

The views across the fields to Ysgyrd Fawr are top notch.

Ysgyryd Fawr

The walk goes past a small table-top hill created by an old landslip.

I must take an alternative route and actually climb this one day. For reasons I’m not entirely sure of I always do this walk in the same direction. If I reversed it I’d see the path up this little knoll on the way down rather than on the way up when I’m already above it. Lesson learned. In no time the path is high up on one of the arms of the valley and it’s an easy stroll towards the main ridge, passing some excellent views up the Vale of Ewyas towards Capel-y- Ffin and the Gospel Pass.

Vale of Ewyas

The ridge was incredibly windy as it has been for several weeks so I had to drop down on the far side to get some shelter and admire the views over the Herefordshire countryside. In this photo you can make out Clodock Church which we passed by on our Longtown Lambs walk a couple of months back.

Looking north to Clodock

I headed down with cracking views across to Ysgyrd Fawr and the Sugar Loaf where I walked after work last week.

Sugar Loaf

Ysgyryd Fawr

One of the farm buildings high up on the slopes now sports a nice little poem on one of the Barn Walls

The lower fields were awash with buttercups although the hedgerows of the lane were surprisingly sparse in terms of wild flowers

Ysgyryd Fawr

First time I’ve actually clocked the walk so surprised to find it’s 6.2 miles and 2,000 feet of ascent. Feeling fitter by the day!

Full set of Flickr photos here

Cotswold Outdoor – Naughty, Naughty!   2 comments

I said I might use my blog to have the occasional rant. Well here’s one.

I went to my local Cotswold Outdoor store in Bristol and noticed a sign at the door stating they will match ANY price and ANY offer. I needed a pair of insoles and was planning a walk later in the day so armed with a printout of the price on Amazon, a third cheaper than in store I went in to put them to the test. I was told that they wouldn’t match against an Amazon price and only against “certain” websites. Seems that Cotswold’s definition of “ANY” is different to mine. I thought this was an opportunity for Cotswold to prove they can be competitive against the online retailers. Not only did they prove that they aren’t, they also seem happy to use cheap gimmicks and tactics to try and get you through the door. I’ve not bought anything from a high street outdoor store for several years and based on this experience I won’t be doing so for a while. Understandable that a high street store has to cover costs that online retailers don’t but that doesn’t mean you have to make promises and offers you aren’t prepared to keep to “appear” to be competitive.

Needless to say I bought the insoles from Amazon, £6 saved and a wait of 48 hours for delivery

I’ve written to the store to see what their response is. I’ll let you know if they respond

Posted May 27, 2011 by surfnslide in Rants

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Waterfalls   14 comments

Me, J and D had a full day for a decent walk while L was at Bristol Zoo with her Brownie pack. We had intended to take D up Pen-y-Fan now he was a fully-fledged mountain man but the forecast was uncertain and looked less than promising at 8:30am. A change of plan was called for, so we set off for the Waterfalls Walk in the southern Brecon Beacons. I’d done this walk with J a few years ago and it’s an ideal choice when poor weather rules out a day on the high fells. D seemed to like the idea of a long walk peppered with waterfalls and not too disappointed to miss out on South Wales highest mountain. The walk starts from the car park at Ystradfellte, where the river Mellte vanishes underground leaving a series of caves behind. The sandstone that dominates most of the national park, here gives way to limestone that allows the formation of these caves and the Mellte, Hepste, Pyrddin and Neath rivers to create the greatest concentration of waterfalls in Wales. We started off around 10am by heading down to where the river should be to look at the gaping entrance to Porth-yr-Ogof.

D at Porth yr Ogof

I’ve been caving here many years ago and it’s quite an easy, albeit wet scramble through the cave to the famous blue pool on the other side (home to the dangerous sport of cave diving). The walk proper starts by heading down an open path along the river after it re-appears, passing some lovely spots for picnics and rests, before arriving at the first fall, Sgwd Clun-Gwyn.

Mellte River

The area is a popular spot for canyoning and we could hear the shouts and screams as well as the roar of water as we approached. The water level was quite low but the falls were still impressive and must be thunderous when the river is in spate.

Sgwd Clun Gwyn

The next fall is Sgwd Isaf Clun-Gwyn where the wet-sports people can clamber behind the fall and also provide the passers-by with extra entertainment by jumping from the tops of the waterfalls into the deep green pools below.

Sgwd Isaf Clun Gwyn

What do you mean “not this one”!

This sort of canyoning and river scrambling is one of my favourite sports but I’ve never done it here. Me and GM have long-standing plans to explore the river properly i.e. in wetsuits, one of these days. We passed the next fall Sgwd y Pannwr, which with a leap of imagination sort of resembles the Iagwazu falls in South America!

Sgwd y Pannwr

The walk then continues away from the Mellte and over into the valley of the Hepste river for one of the highlights of the walk, Sgwd yr Eira.

Sgwd yr Eira

It’s a beautiful curtain of water with the added feature that the path takes you BEHIND the waterfall. It looks like you’ll surely get a soaking but in fact other than the misty spray you stay dry-shod. D found this part particularly exciting and I took some video to try and best capture the experience (it’s in the YouTube compilation at the end of the post).

Drier than it looks

From here it’s a seriously steep climb out of the gorge and up to the more open hillsides above. The next section is equally stunning as high level path traverses above the Mellte valley with expansive views over the Neath valley.

Neath Valley

We stopped for lunch to admire the views accompanied by some warm sunshine and some midges on a day trip from the Isle of Skye – there is probably more than enough to go round up there so they obviously felt they could spare a few.

D & J on the high level path

The path eventually drops down to the village of Pontneddfechan and after a drab mile along the road turns north into the next waterfall filled gorge of the Nedd Fechan (Neath). The path starts as an old disused tram-way before narrowing to a gentle path along the fast flowing river. A short detour takes you to Sgwd Gwladus on the Pyrddin river.

Sgwd Gwladus

Returning to the Nedd Fechan the path becomes rockier and the river more dramatic as you pass further stunning waterfalls of Sgwd Ddwli and a final un-named one.

Sgwd Ddwli

Final waterfall

We arrived at the lonely picnic spot at Pont Melin Fach ready for a second lunch but by now the weather had turned and it was drizzling heavily. D wasn’t too impressed by this turn of events but its all good experience and I told him some tales of far, far worse days out in the mountains. We pushed on continuing to follow the Nedd Fechan north through a much less trodden section, almost sub-tropical in its verdant lushness with new formations of limestone Tufa on the banks and everything coated in moss and dripping with water.

Upper Nedd Fechan Valley

We were all starting to feel weary as the miles mounted up and as we emerged from the trees we realised we were actually in the cloud. The rain eased off for the last mile over the fields to the car and we arrived at 4:30pm weary and a bit soggy.

Homeward Bound

A classic walk that I can strongly recommend with something for everyone and a respectable total of 11 miles and 2,000 feet of ascent.

I’ve put together a little compilation slideshow below and the full set of Flickr photos is here.

Post-work wind-down   1 comment

As I work in Bristol and live in Hereford, my drive home takes me either through the Wye Valley or past the Black Mountains providing ample opportunities to get a short walk in on the way home. I did this a couple of times a few years back so I thought it was time to revive the practice. I picked the Sugar Loaf, a prominent hill overlooking Abergavenny as not only is it a nice mountain, you can start from a car park at 1,000 feet! When I got there at 6pm the weather wasn’t quite as sunny as when I left Bristol but it was still pleasant. The views from the car park across the Usk valley and the Heads of the Valleys is great, and for anyone with smaller kids the area is great for a short walk with wide easy paths and expansive views.

Usk Valley and Blorenge from the Car Park

You can just go pretty much straight up and down but there is a much nicer route that heads across to the SW and W ridge. It involves some extra descent/ascent but it’s well worth it. The ridge is a pleasant stroll and the views across to the SW reaches of the Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons are great.

Pen Cerrig-calch

Summit from the W ridge

The summit has a nice, rocky, airy feel and at 7:30pm you have the advantage of having it to yourself (it’s a popular summit).

Summit Rocks, Ysgryd Fawr behind

Summit, distant Brecon Beacons behind

I sat for a while on the top picking out other post-work walks like Ysgyrd Fawr, Bryn Arw and Hatterall Hill and watching a hot-air ballon rise up over Bryn Arw.

Hot-air balloon over Bryn Arw

Downside of being on a hill on a cloudy, windy evening at 7:30pm is that it’s cold and I was hungry so I headed down and past the usual groups of wild horses back to the car.

Wild horses

4.4 miles and 1,000 feet of ascent, not bad for an evening workout.

Full set of Flickr Photos here

A vist later in 2011 is posted here

Posted May 20, 2011 by surfnslide in Black Mountains, Walking

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FA Cup Final Warm-up – Hay Bluff and Black Hill   4 comments

As part of my personal drive to get out more often, keep my weight in check and so protect my knees, I woke early and decided to head out for a half a day. My footy team Manchester City were playing in the FA Cup Final so I could do a brisk walk and still be home in time for a lazy afternoon in front of the TV to watch the match. I didn’t want to drive far so I headed to the car park at the foot of the ridge known locally as the Cats Back for a circuit of the upper reaches of the Olchon valley

The forecast was for a sunny morning with heavy showers for later in the day so I was out of the house and in the car park with my boots on before 8am. To say I was a trifle disappointed to see that the clouds were on the ridge and looking dark and threatening with rain in the air is an understatement. It was cold and windy which made my choice of shorts instead of trousers something of a schoolboy error. If the clouds continued to build I was likely to get a real soaking but seeing as I was here I thought I’d give it a go. The advantage of this kind of weather is an exceptional clarity to the light especially at this early hour.

Main ridge looking south from the car park

The car park is up at 400m and is a cracking place for a picnic (in warmer weather). There was no-one about as I set off, choosing to walk down into the valley before climbing up to the main ridge and then back along the Cats Back rather than face the steep climb back to the car at the end of the walk. The early morning views were stunning in particular this photo of tree in full bloom and a rainbow against the backdrop of the mountains.

As always I needed my mate ED to tell me what the tree is as I’m hopeless. I really must get a pocket, interactive or holographic version of him to take on walks with me – where is Star Trek Tech when you need it. Or a book!

The fields under the trees as I climbed out of the valley were still thick with Bluebells although dying off now. As you exit the trees you face a long raking climb right across the east flank of the main ridge.

The bracken was still just unfurling but it grows at an astonishing rate and to an equally astonishing height. Once you get beyond June it can be real barrier to the higher hills on the Black Mountains unless you stick to the popular paths. At times it’s like walking through a hedge maze but for now it was just a pleasant green addition

One of the other minor problems with these less-frequented paths is they tend to disappear as the gradient eases leaving with you a few hundred feet of heather, grass and bilberries to wade through. Finding them from the top is a matter of pure luck, another reason I chose this way round. By the time I reached the broad path along the ridge I realised it was very windy and very cold, time for fleece, gloves, hat and trousers – oh of course I’d forgotten the trousers – idiot. Still the weather had improved markedly and the black clouds had pretty much melted back.

Waun Fach and Pen y Gadair Fawr

I strode on briskly (too cold to do much else). One of the nice things about the Black Mountains is once on the ridge it’s pretty flat so you can lose yourself in your own world and just plod or motor on as the mood takes you. Between admiring the view and reliving the many routes I’ve done in the area my mind wandered all over the place from the usual work problems, to planning the upcoming holidays and of course how the game was going to go later.

Looking south, Ysgryd Fawr and Sugar Loaf in the distance

Almost before I knew it I was at the point where you can decide whether to turn right and start heading back over Black Hill or extend the walk to take in Hay Bluff. I was feeling pretty chipper so decided to do the extra bit.

Looking north to Hay Bluff

Well worthwhile as Hay Bluff is a cracking viewpoint over the Wye valley and across to the Brecon Beacons.

Lord Herefords Knob and Brecon Beacons from Hay Bluff

Wye Valley from Hay Bluff

Still too windy to linger so I immediately started heading back. Just after I headed off towards Black Hill I suddenly felt weary and found a sheltered spot for a rest and snack. Checking my GPS tracker I realised I’d done 6 miles straight in a little over 2 hours – no wonder I was knackered. As I set off I was overtaken by several fell runners, then more and more and more. It was clear there was a bit of race or event on, confirmed by the presence of a couple of tents and some people with clipboards on the path. I was going to stop and ask them what it was all about but they were all busy checking people in and recording times etc so I pressed on. As I continued towards Black Hill I came across an excellent sheltered spot for a campsite tucked away next to the path, an excellent place for an overnight stop although you’d have to carry a load of water up. I reached the trig point where the sun came out again and the views were great.

Black Hill

You can even see my house from here (well nearly). The photo below is of the Madley Satellite Earth Station and I live about a mile to the left in this photo.

Madley - nearly

To finish the route you walk down over the Cats Back – what passes as a narrow ridge in the Black Mountains. Not exactly Crib Goch but an airy walk with wonderful views over Herefordshire and back across the Black Mountains. Its a short walk and easy climb from the car park, so I’ve been up here several times in all seasons. The kids like it as there are plenty of rocky bits to scramble about on. L was up here last week on her Longtown adventure trip.  I took loads of photos to try and capture the sense of the ridge so hope the one’s I’ve chosen do it justice.

Cats Back Ridge

Cats Back Ridge

Cats Back Ridge

Looking across to where I’d gone up you could clearly make out the blueish tint of the bluebells in the meadows I walked through on the way up. I tried a photo or two but it didn’t show through. The weather had held off for me and it was almost warm as I started to head down.

Olchon valley

When I reached the car I was surprised to find that the walk was a few yards shy of 9 miles (I thought it was about 6) with 2,500 feet of ascent that I’d done in about 3.5 hours. Not bad!

Full Flickr Photo set here

Time to head home for a well-earned brunch of Mexican scrambled eggs and then settle down for the cup final.

MAN CITY 1 – STOKE CITY 0

Yeeeeeeeeeeessssssssss!!!!!!!!!!!

Days don’t get much better than this!

Posted May 14, 2011 by surfnslide in Black Mountains, Walking

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Nether Wasdale – May Day Weekend 2011   2 comments

For as long as I can remember all my old university friends have got together for a camping and walking weekend on the first of the May bank holidays. Over the past 10 years as our respective families have grown so have the numbers and now it’s quite a major gathering. This year, thanks to Will and Kate we got an extra day although it made it hard to find a campsite with space. Fortunately The Yorkshire Gardener (TYG) and EWO rang around and got us all into the Church Stile campsite at Nether Wasdale, an inspired choice as it turns out. The weather has been pretty poor the last few years so we were hoping for something better this time around.

My lot arrived first on the Thursday evening and after a warm welcome from the owners found a perfect spot to accommodate all the tents.

The Jones family home at Church Stile

By late evening most of the party had arrived and all the kids were playing on the park and building dens in the woods while the adults put tents up and had a few beers. The site is superb with nice well laid out camping pitches, superb views and excellent facilities.

Buckbarrow from the campsite

EWO promised a decent day on Friday and wall to wall sunshine for the rest of weekend. If you read my blog you’ll know he always says this. Would he be right for once? Read on.

Friday – Middle Fell and Seatallan


The day was lovely and sunny although with a cool wind. We agreed that J would look after the kids and I’d head off for a walk so a few us headed for Middle Fell across the fields. It was warm but a strong wind was blowing that was to become a feature of the weekend.

GM and EWO, Buckbarrow behind

After climbing halfway up Middle Fell we decided it was time for a break. GM and Hard Man (HM) had found a quality spot complete with back-rests so this turned into a very lengthy stop to allow a snooze in the sun and in the case of HM and UF some loud snoring. It tried to rain and looked very threatening towards Scafell but it soon faded

"I wasn't asleep!" - could have fooled me

Galvanised by the rest we plodded a further 30 minutes to the top of Middle Fell.

Approaching Middle Fell summit

EWO with Scafell range behind

After all that effort we decided that another lengthy stop was in order once we found a sunny spot out of the wind.

Time for lunch -again

HM needed another sleep (he’s getting on poor fella) while the rest of us watched three people acting rather strangely down by the Lake. Opinions ranged from dubious terrorist related activity to the making of a porn movie (prompting many smutty remarks). Most of decided we needed some more exercise and pushed on to Seatallan while UF and S went back to the campsite.

Middle Fell

Seatallan is a nice grassy hill with some interesting views over the little-visited far western fells. The Isle of Man was clearly visible and the first signs of much clearer weather were appearing. It was a pleasant easy stroll across the grassy slopes of Buckbarrow and back to the campsite. 7.7 miles and 2500 feet of ascent completed at a very leisurely pace

GM, HM, EWO heading home

A BBQ in the fading sunshine seemed in order and while the kids built their den in the woods the adults sat round in the late evening sun and then cold wind, chatting until we all agreed it was far too stupid to sit outside any longer

The gangs all here

Women cook, men BBQ

Saturday – Whin Rigg

Before we move on to the days activities I must point out the disturbing attire that J now chooses to wear in bed when its cold. I’m not sure which kind of “special” retailer one visits in order to acquire an adult sized baby-grow but I doubyou find them in the high street.

Words fail me....

For once EWO was right! The clear skies that he +promised were here although the wind was now pretty strong. My turn to look after the kids so J and the ladies headed off to repeat our walk of yesterday while me ED and few others took the kids off to climb Whin Rigg, the southern summit of the long ridge of the famous Wasdale screes.

Wasdale Screes, Whin Rigg summit to the left

Wasdale Screes, Whin Rigg summit to the left

The wind was incredibly strong so we didn’t think the kids would like it on the top so we headed down to find some shelter by the river. After a bit of searching we found a lovely spot in the trees for a picnic and the kids got chance to play by the river, chucking stones and the like

Little rogues gallery

Picnic by the River Irt

Aaaaaahhh!

We decided to give Whin Rigg a go although ED didn’t feel his youngest (he’s only 3 bless him) would make it so he took his lot off for a lovely stroll by the Lake and we headed up the steep slopes towards the top.

The start of the climb

The wind wasn’t as strong as earlier and I have to say that all the kids (age range 4 to 11) did really well and all made it to the top. There were some low points but that was easily fixed by a plentiful supply of biscuits for that sugar hit.

Biscuit time!

Victorious on the summit

The views were sensational with a deep blue sky set off by the green hills and dark inky blue of Wast Water.

Wast Water and the Wasdale Head Mountains

They all seemed pretty pleased with themselves for getting to the top but the cold wind and late hour meant we couldn’t linger so we headed back along the ridge and down towards the campsite

Homeward Bound

The valley bottom just before we hit the road has one of the most beautiful open pastures I’ve ever seen that was just sensational in the evening light. It only took about 10 minutes to cross but it was one of the most memorable 10 minutes walking I’ve ever had. Hope these photographs do it justice.

Despite a pretty long day, 6.4 miles and 1800 feet of ascent, the kids all seemed to have energy to spare for yet more play and the usual tactics to avoid going to bed. Have to admit that I was pretty jaded as well. Back at the campsite we had a belated celebration for GM’s birthday with lighted balloons, cake and chocolates and of course a few beers.

"Happy Birthday to you"

The wind really picked up through the night but the tent seemed ok so I pretty much slept through.

Sunday – Red Pike, Scoat Fell, Steeple

It was a double-take look as I emerged into the daylight to see that well over half the tents had gone. Several had blown down in the night and several more people had bailed out early morning and gone home. “My camping days are over” seemed to be a common theme. The rubbish bins were full of discarded tents and MM had a jolly time scavenging the ground for lost pegs to call his own. Apart from a few loosened pegs all our tents seemed fine

Time for another proper walk. The weather if anything was even clearer and even windier than before. MM drove us halfway up the Lake and we set off for Red Pike hoping to meet ED who had set off earlier and was also traversing Yewbarrow.

GM at Over Beck bridge

Wasdale Screes

Another couple of very lengthy stops in the sun, by Over Beck and Low Tarn, put pay to that plan.

Lunch by Over Beck

We eventually got moving and reached the summit of Red Pike in a ferocious wind but with a sky as clear as I’ve seen in the UK for many a year. It’s been several years since I’ve been up here and I’d forgotten just what an awe inspiring valley Mosedale and the crags of Red Pike are.

Scafell & Scafell Pike

The walking on the grassy ridge was just sensational and one of those days when you just don’t want to go down.

Red Pike

Mind you let’s keep it real here, we did plan on doing Pillar but it looked a long way off so we settled on the much nearer and easier Scoat Fell and its excellent views to the north over Ennerdale and the Solway Firth.

The Buttermere fells from Scoat Fell

Ennerdale Water from Steeple

We did manage to pick off the small rocky outlier of Steeple but then it really was time to head back. We descended by Scoat Tarn and Nether Beck, a superb Lakeland valley with endless places for wild camping.

Nether Beck below Scoat Tarn

Another cracking day on the hills, and another 7.8 miles and 3,300 feet of ascent.

The balloons from the previus night had popped but the lights were still working. GM and EWO displayed a childlike wonder at the effects of a small light when placed behind a finger, in the mouth, up the nose and in the ear. Must have been the tiredness but I haven’t laughed that much in ages. Nice finish to a grand day.

GM discovers "Light"

Monday – Buckbarrow

Yet another day of cloudless skies and wind and a morning spent taking the tent down and packing – much easier when it’s not raining. Quite a few of the posse headed off to other commitments but my lot together with TYG/EHO and kids plus MM and F headed for Buckbarrow, the small rocky hill that overlooks the campsite.

L, Z, D and J striding out

The walk over the fields was lovely but as soon as we started the climb it was clear the kids needed feeding so we found a quality sheltered lunch spot by the stream.

Lunch by stream for kids and responsible adults

We all need our beauty sleep

Fully fuelled the kids made great time to the top, enjoying scrambling on the summit rocks.

Scrambling on the summit rocks, Scafell behind

TYG, E and D reaching the top

Z & L practicing their new climbing skills

The wind was fierce but we did manage to find a sheltered spot for another stop to allow L and Z to throw sheep s**t and moss at us. The way down was steep but the final walk across the fields and through the flowering gorse was a fitting finish to a cracking weekend.

The gorse in full flower

D & EWO discuss maths

A shorter walk today a mere 5.5 miles and 1,500 feet of ascent but an ideal little mountain for the kids to enjoy.

Buckbarrow - our mountain for the day

A lovely meal in the local pub with MM and F finished things off nicely and we headed home. These smaller fells away from the magnets of Scafell and Great Gable are cracking hills. Considering the weather and the fact it was a holiday weekend we saw only a handful of people on each of the days we were out. Flickr photos here and compilation on YouTube is below:

I’ve nearly run out of superlatives so I’ll finish with my favourite one – AWESOME!

Easter in Glen Kingie   14 comments

I don’t get up to Scotland as often as I’d like to since I moved to Herefordshire and the kids arrived. However for the last couple of years I’ve been able to use the Easter weekend as an opportunity to head north for some backpacking. This year it was just me and GM and after the usual debate about where to go we settled on Glen Kingie. There were a couple of new Munros for me and several new Corbetts for GM. The forecast sounded excellent so we headed up on the Thursday night and stopped off at the Roybridge Bunkhouse for a cheap bed and a few preparatory beers.

Day 1 – The walk in and Sgurr Mhurlagain

Gairich from the Dam on Loch Quoich

The weather was glorious, sunny and hazy and after a hearty Little Chef breakfast in Spean Bridge we drove up to the Dam at the end of Loch Quoich. We had considered starting from the far end of Loch Arkaig as the walk in was much shorter but anyone who has driven it can tell you the road along the side of the Loch is a rollercoaster of bumps and sharp bends for 20 miles and no fun (especially as passenger when I’m driving).

As we packed the dawning reality of a heavy rucksack with far too much food in it was lightened by the spectacular views unfolding. The early mist was clearing to leave wonderful smoky views of Gairich across Loch Quoich.

Gairich from the Loch Quoich dam

As we set off it was turning into a perfect day for walking, warm and sunny but not hot enough to be a problem. I had thought about walking in over Gairich but as soon as the pack was on my shoulders I ditched that idea. I’m way past such foolishness.

GM crossing the Loch Quoich dam

Apart from the first mile where the path is submerged under the loch the way into Glen Kingie was easy going.

GM crossing the trackless bog towards Glen Kingie

The views across the Loch were replaced with equally fine ones along Glen Kingie. We followed the river towards Kinbreack bothy rather than the stalkers path. The valley floor is nearly flat so the river is broad and extremely deep and would represent a real challenge to cross it other than a few isolated shallow spots.

Me alongside the river Kingie, Fraoch Bheinn behind

Once we had passed the point where the river that flows past the bothy enters the Kingie we found a quality campsite next to a shallow crossing point. Just as well as we’d both had enough of carrying the packs by then. Time scatter our gear over an acre of riverbank and start to consume the large quantities of food I’d lugged in.

GM at Base Camp, Fraoch Bheinn behind

Someone has to make the tea!

After a leisurely lunch, brew and tent set up it was still early afternoon so plenty of time to get a summit in. We chose Sgurr Mhurlagain behind the bothy that involved 350m of really steep grass that I found really hard work, probably a result of carrying my extravagant supplies for 8 miles. GM too pity on me and helped reduce my load scrounging most of my leftovers. Scotch Pies aren’t so appetising when cold and stale but GM will eat any old crap. I prefer them the traditional Scottish way – deep fried.

Once we reached the NE ridge the going was much easier and we reached the summit by 5pm

Approaching the summit of Sgurr Mhurlagain

A picture of weariness...

It’s a really interesting mountain with a line of broken cliffs below the summit and expansive views across to Knoydart although it was hazy. Looking east along the length of Loch Arkaig made me feel vindicated in my decision not drive along it again. Proof that smaller hills are often better than the big ones

GM on the summit of Sgurr Mhurlagain

Me on the summit of Sgurr Mhurlagain!

We headed down the SW ridge and then turned down the W slopes to reach the stalkers path down past the bothy and back to the tent.

Gairich and Kinbreack bothy

Crossing the Kingie back to base camp

It was still a warm evening so GM convinced me a swim was in order. It was as cold as you’d expect but really refreshing, first time I’ve swum in Scottish river for over 20 years

A refreshing dip at the end of a long day

We dined in relative luxury on stir fry with noodles and watched the sun set after a day of 12.3 miles and 2,300 feet of ascent. As we climbed into the tent for the night our thoughts were around how we were going to cope with another full day in the hot sun tomorrow. 30 minutes later it was raining.

Shorts over thermals - straight off the catwalk

Sunset over Glen Kingie

Day 2 – Sgurr Mor

We woke to a typical Scottish day, wet and windy, but after a lie-in and leisurely breakfast the weather looked better so we headed for the main ridge to the north so I could bag Sgurr Mor. There is an excellent stalkers path that heads up the valley and then turns to head up to, and along the ridge. As the local terrain is rough and grassy it’s a real bonus to follow a well-made path especially with weary legs after the previous day’s efforts. The weather was still damp but with occasional bright spots and only a couple of really heavy showers.

Normal Scottish weather service resumed

Local wildlife

Looking back down Glen Kingie

With the path leading us up, we made steady progress over Sgurr Beag and on to Sgurr Mor (Munro 213 for me).

GM heading for Sgurr Mor

Sgurr an Fhuarain

On the stalkers path up Sgurr Mor

The weather was still promising so we decided to carry on to the Corbett at the end of the ridge Sgurr an Fhuarain. On the way down the East Ridge we had the best spell of weather with some pleasant sunny spells and much clearer views across to the Corbetts to the south and over Loch Quoich to South Kintail.

Fraoch Bheinn

Sgurr Mhurlagain and Fraoch Bheinn

Loch Quoich and South Kintail

The weather out west still looked threatening so we headed back to the tent after another pretty long day of 8.5 miles and 4,000 feet of ascent. No swimming tonight but the evening was lightened by the discovery that Anchovy Carbonara, despite looking pretty awful is a high quality backpacking meal – big thanks to EWO for the Anchovy tip! We also heard a very unusual sound like a small helicopter. Was it a bird? Was it a bat? We needed ED with his vastly superior nature knowledge as me and GM are pretty hopeless with such things. It drove us nuts every night trying to wok out what it was. It wasn’t until we got back that we discovered it’s likely to be a member of the Snipe family. As we turned in, you guessed, it started to rain

Rainbow over the glen

Day 3 – Fraoch Bheinn

Heavy rain through the morning kept us in the tent, eating granola, drinking tea and playing lateral thinking puzzles, but by lunchtime it stopped and patches of blue sky appeared (I’m turning into the EWO these days). We headed off up Fraoch Bheinn the prominent pyramid directly across the river. First obstacle are the huge tussocks that proliferate the valley. GM calls them babies heads – I thought they looked more like Critters from that crap 1980’s movie.

Attack of the killer tussocks...

It’s another steep climb but with plenty of rocky patches to keep the interest going.

Fraoch Bheinn NE ridge

Sgurr Beag & Sgurr Mor

Once over 600m the NE ridge narrows into an excellent, broad, rocky crest with excellent views in all directions. I doubt the ridge gets many ascent and we certainly saw no-one today.

GM admires the NE ridge of Fraoch Bheinn

It’s another quality small mountain and possibly the best in the area (Sgurr Mor by comparison is a little bland). The summit is broad flat and stony and after a brief lunch on the summit we headed back down, following the extremely steep N ridge before heading right into Coire a Chaorainn picking up shallow rocky ridge which broke up the steep descent and gave some interest on the way back to the tent

GM on the summit of Fraoch Bheinn

After a chilli and a fun session trying to burn the rubbish we turned in and planned an early start the next day to head home with another 4.4. miles and 2,300 feet of ascent completed

A well earned chilli

Glow in the dark

Day 4 – Gairich and home

We breakfasted early, packed and were away from the campsite by 7:30am. We picked up the stalkers path towards Gairich where it climbs steeply up the W flank. I wasn’t looking forward to hauling my sorry ass and pack over a Munro. However the Victorian estate workers had done us proud again with a quality stalkers path that took us most of the way to 700m and from there it was a lovely high level walk under improving weather and clearing skies to the top.

On the stalkers path on the west slopes of Gairich

GM approaching Gairich from the west

GM approaching Gairich summit

We were on the summit by 10am and I don’t mind admitting I was pretty pleased with myself. We celebrated our achievement (Munro 214 for me) with a pretty squalid 4 day old rhubarb pie but 4 days into a backpacking trip you have to take what small pleasures you can.

The summit reward - a 4 day old Morrisons rhubarb pie!

Gairich is a high quality summit, its isolated position giving fine views across Knoydart and across Loch Quoich to Kintail and South towards Glenfinnan and Moidart.

Me gazing out to the east

It was too cold to linger so we headed down the surprisingly steep and rocky E flank and then across the broad eastern flanks to pick up our route in and back across the dam to the car. Another 9 miles and 2500 feet of ascent completed

Heading home

The home straight

"Can I take this bloody pack off now"

A top quality trip even though the weather wasn’t quite as good as we’d been led to believe (the rest of the UK including J, D, and L at my parents caravan in Wales was still basking in an April heat-wave). I’d recommend Glen Kingie for a weekend trip as classic, remote and little trodden glen. We only met two people at the bothy and passed a few day walkers on their way up Gairich while we were coming down. In total, 34 miles and 11,000 feet of ascent and I was especially pleased that my knee stood up to challenge without any real problems.

Both me and GM have put together a compilation slideshow so they are both below. As usual my full set of photos can be found here on Flickr

Roll on Easter 2012!

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