Archive for January 2012
Back from my skiing trip to the Swiss Alps. Had an “awesome” time. Full write up of my adventures to follow once I’ve edited the vast amounts of video I took with my HD Headcam but while I get around to it here are a few photos and a little video clip to get you in the mood.
Cloud Inversion with Mont Blanc behind
View from the apartment balcony
GM and Mont Blanc
Mont Blanc from Mont Fort
Valais Alps from Mont Fort
Bet you can’t wait – but just be patient 🙂
There you go – kick off the post with a little fact-ette. One of the few words that does.
Me a D had set off for a little jaunt up Ysgyryd Fawr but the car park was full so I thought we’d go somewhere different and Blorenge fitted the bill
It’s a fairly massive looking – well – mass that overlooks Abergavenney from the south. We’d been for a walk up here several years ago but never been back so time to correct that. It has the advantage that you can drive pretty much to the summit and as we’d set off late that suited us just fine. We parked next to the large transmitter on the summit and while it is kind of an eyesore it did make an interesting foreground to the low winter light.
Technology meets nature
It looks like they have created a number of trails around the area and there were several really interesting looking longer routes. You are on the northern end of the Welsh valleys so the area is rich in industrial heritage and old workings so a wander around these parts armed with a decent guide would make a grand day out. Today however we were just out for a stroll to top across to the edge overlooking the Usk valley and back to the car.
Towards the Forest of Dean
The path to the summit is pretty boggy but the views are pretty impressive in the winter light.
D & Blorenge Summit
It was mild but very windy so we didn’t hang about much and soon felt the need to wander to the edge and take in the view. And what a view it is.
Abergavenny and Ysgyryd Fawr
Sugar Loaf and Black Mountains
Suddenly the ground drops away and you are perched above the valley seemingly able to jump into Abergavenney with Ysgyryd Fawr standing proud behind. I took some video and a few photos before we slipped and slithered along the edge path to the small hut on the edge that was unsurprisingly full of beer cans (why anyone would want to sit in the shack is beyond me – it’s seriously manky).
D looks out and beyond
The edge is sculpted into a series of small hummocks – no idea what they are, natural or old industrial remnants, quite fetching and would make a nice picnic site on a warm summers day.
D poses on the hummocks
The bumps and the grotty hut
We headed back across to the road and the car and it was clear D was a little out of shape having not done much walking lately. He’s also been laid up with a gastric virus in the week which he kindly shared with me, taking me out of action the following weekend. Bit of slog back up the road but the views were still enchanting.
A fine afternoon for father and son on a fascinating little summit
Well that’s all folks for a week or so. I’m off skiing to Verbier in the Swiss Alps tomorrow for a week. Watch out for some skiing footage when I get back – TTFN
The last part of our New Year walking trilogy. GM and S decided to stay an extra day so that meant another potential day in the hills. As before we were up late as the forecast wasn’t great but in fact the day looked promising with blue sky about and dark storm clouds over the Black Mountains. Me and GM decided to leave the kids and ladies behind and made a swift exit to try to make the most of the day. I’d been keen to show GM some of the best of what the Black Mountains has to offer so I chose one of my favourites, a round of the Olchon Valley to Hay Bluff and back over Black Hill and the Cats Back ridge. I’ve blogged this route before in the summer and you can read that version of events here
9 miles, 2,500 feet of ascent
When we arrived at the car park it was heaving with a whole mass of cars slithering around in the mud trying to grab a parking space. Luckily most people just head straight up the ridge and as we were heading the other way we would soon leave the crowds behind. It was much colder and still windy and as we prepared to set off we were hit by a heavy fall of sleet – nice!
Sleet to start
Didn’t last long mind and we soon had the lovely Olchon valley to ourself, picking up another of those long grassy paths up onto the main ridge.
Olchon Valley and up to the main ridge
Raking path to the ridge
As we hit the ridge I realised that a T-shirt wasn’t suitable attire what with a biting cold wind and ice particles in the air. The views were impressive with a bright blue sky out east and dark stormy clouds to the west…….
The clouds gather
Yes, the west where the weather predominantly comes from and we were suddenly enveloped in a biting cold snow shower. In a perverse kind of way I like weather like this. We were high enough up for the snow to be dry and it’s kind of exhilarating to be out in the storm. I tried to capture the mood in some photos but I’m not sure it does the whole vibe justice.
The main ridge makes for really easy walking and we made swift progress along to Hay Bluff without a pause with some stunning winter light to pull us along.
Golden winter glow
The summit of Hay Bluff was bitingly cold. We thought perhaps we could sit on the B&Q picnic table and chairs someone appears to have carted up there but settled for a rapid lunch in a drafty hollow. The views were tremendous but it just wasn’t a day for stopping and we started back along to Black Hill tracing a narrow path along the edge of the cliffs overlooking Cusop Dingle.
Above Cusop Dingle
As we reached Black Hill I pointed out the Satellite Earth Station a mile from my house that were lit up by the winter sun.
Home - well close enough
Pen y Gadair Fawr
The highlight of the walk is the Cats Back Ridge, narrow by Black Mountain standards with small rocky outcrops and a wonderful airy view over Herefordshire. Alas we timed our walk along it to coincide with a much longer, heavier and altogether wetter snow shower so we just romped back along it to the now empty car park.
Snow on the Cats Back
It was a cracker of winter jaunt, and I was pleased to give GM a flavour of the area on this and the other days. For me it was the end of happy period of increased outdoor action as I regularly skived off my dying job at Nokia to go walking. The next day saw the start of my new job and a proper 5 day a week commitment. At least I still work in Bristol so come Spring I’ll be able to get out in the week after work again on my home
Big thanks to GM and S for making it another great new year, enjoy the slide show
After the less than hedonistic New Year celebrations, New Years Day dawned dark, gloomy and unpromising. After a very leisurely morning and much wasted effort trying to persuade the kids to go out for a walk, me GM and Jane decided to go out anyway. I’d wanted to introduce GM to the delights of the Black Mountains so we headed for the steep slopes above Longtown for a little amble around the Black Darren
Black Darren, 1,000 feet of ascent, 3 miles
This is a walk I’ve done a few times in the summer when the east facing slopes still catch the sun and it provides a short walk onto the tops from a high start. The weather looked very threatening with dark skies all around and wind howling through the trees but it wasn’t all that bad and reasonably clear albeit dull.
Jane, GM and Black Darren
The climb up to the main ridge is relentlessly steep but the cold wind pushed us on.
GM climbs the steep slopes
In summer the lower slopes are smothered in bracken and the paths resemble Hampton Court Maze with long avenues of fly filled vegetation. No such problems today but when we hit the ridge the wind was ferocious and we barely paused as we strode down the ridge awhile
Patchwork fields of Herefordshire
The best part of the walk is the descent through the cliffs and rocks of the Black Darren. The “Darren” is local term that seems to relate to features caused by landslips off the steep slopes. There are several in the Black Mountains and this is one of the most impressive, creating an mini-alpine feel of narrow ridge and boulder strewn valley not unlike a glacial moraine. We found a bit of shelter just above them and spent time playing with the camera settings and taking various artistic shots.
Jane looking quirky
We then headed down and along the “arête” formed by the crest of the landslip, an unusual and airy experience.
The valley of rocks
The end is quite a rocky scramble which Jane wasn’t too impressed by but GM compensated by posing for a photo on the edge.
The rocky prow
As we reached the easy slopes the rain that had threatened all day finally arrived and it chucked it down for the dash back to the car. Not a bad day all in all and a few beers and some mulled wine well earned
Enjoy the slideshow
The Sugar Loaf, just outside Abergavenny is a favourite of mine for many reasons. It stands out on its own so the views are expansive, the walking is easy and trouble-free and you can park high up for a short day. I last went up here in the summer for one of my after work jaunts so I won’t put the full route description in here just a few photos, flickr slide show and some recollections
Over New Year we had Jane’s sister (S) and GM down for a few days. They’ve been down for the last couple of years and it’s become a bit of regular event. Lots of playing Wii games with the kids, eating and drinking and we really look forward to the visit now. We also like to get out and do some walking as well but the weather over the weekend was pretty ordinary so we had to take what we could get. On New Years Eve we decided to try to get everyone out including the kids so the Sugar Loaf for the reasons above seemed a good choice.
Sugar Loaf - 4.4 miles, 1,000 feet of ascent
The weather didn’t look too promising but as you can see from the photos it wasn’t too bad.
Sugar Loaf from the Car Park
L was not happy to be out but with some regular encouragement and snacks we actually managed to get her to the top. We took the main path to the summit and it was as busy as I’ve ever seen it. Lots of people out taking some fresh air before the hedonistic celebrations to follow.
Striding up the main path (L dithering out of shot!)
L & GM Brecons looming behind
The summit was really windy but we managed to find a sheltered spot. On the way down Jane decided to take L straight back down while me, GM, S and D walked down the fine West ridge, one of the Sugar Loafs best and little walked as most people just head up and down the quick route.
GM on the summit
We managed some half decent views across to the south-western fringes of the Black Mountains where me and Jane had walked in September. It seemed a little strange to think that it was only 3 months before we’d sat on those hills in baking hot sunshine in T-shirts and shorts.
Looking under the blanket of cloud to the Usk Valley
Table Mountain and Pen Cerrig Calch
We managed to meet up at the car and headed home for what I’d like to pretend was a wild night of new year celebration. In truth it was a much lower key but nonetheless splendid evening with a roast dinner, champagne and seeing in the New Year watching Jools Hollands Hootenanny with the usual selection of new music for me and GM to download
A brief little post-ette. I posted a few weeks before xmas about a little stroll up one of our local hills, Hergest Ridge near Kington. It was a thoroughly dreary day and we spent the whole time enveloped in cold claggy mist with only the Monkey Puzzle trees and a few fungi to highlight the day.
We made a return trip in the xmas break and this time the weather was a little kinder albeit windier and colder. For those of you interested in what it really looks like here are few choice photos and Flickr slide show to get into the Hergest vibe
Jane and kids on the way up
D approaches the Monkey Puzzle trees
Out of place trees
Looking to the Radnor Hills
After the action packed day, revelry and all night partying of the previous night (well a couple of beers and a handful of quality street anyway) we had a bit of lie in on the Sunday. The day started cloudy but it soon started to clear into what looked like a cracker of day.
Me, GM and ED (now fully recovered from his dunking on the first day) decided on”a bit of a stroll”. We said we’d be back shortly but in the end we were out most of the day
We left the ladies in charge of the kids sledging. The previous year the lads all had a go as well but after a mix of major injuries (ED – again! why does he attract so much incident) and busted sledges resulting from fat gits sitting on them, we thought we’d better leave it to the junior members of the party.
TYG, L and Z
E in full flow
B makes and igloo - sort of!
"Girls just wanna have fun"
We took in a stroll along Mohope Burn where the sun was casting a glorious winter light over the snow-covered landscape. We spent the time chatting as we walked and playing with the cameras taking “artistic” shots – yeah right! Still, don’t think I do too bad for a rank amateur with his point and press multiple approach.
It was a simple walk over the fields and green (well white) lanes up to the lower slopes of Greenleycleugh crags.
Surveying the scene - with a slightly suspect pose
Once onto the open moor the going became tougher with deep snow on even deeper tussocks and grass.
This was more than compensated by the views which were inspiring with a virtually cloudless bright blue sky and views for miles. The “Christmas Cake” look.
GM poses artistically
Cross Fell was showing its bulk and you could clearly make out the communications domes on Dun Fell. You could even make out the tower blocks of Newcastle.
Cross Fell and Dun Fell
I’ve been astonishingly lucky this year. I’ve lost count of the number of days of crystal clear blue sky days I’ve had and here I had another one. It’s good to be alive on a day like this and whilst I’ve had longer, more dramatic, tougher days than this, few can beat the 30 minutes I spent on this little known and I bet little visited hillside.
We lingered as long as the cold wind would let us drinking from flasks and sharing the Apple Crumble I’d thoughtfully carted up with me and kindly shared around (these boys don’t deserve me).
Even though it was relatively early as we returned along Mohope Burn the sun was already dipping below the hills and the temperature dropping. Another truly memorable day
The kids were still sledging and building igloos when we got back but it was time for a brew and some serious festering back at the hostel.
The evening was pleasant but quieter as many of the posse had to return home as their schools had yet to break up (when will there be a coordinated set of school holiday dates – how hard can that be!). We had plans to do a short walk on the Monday morning but the weather turned foul so it was just a long drive back home.
Another top drawer weekend and a big thanks to EWO and TYG for booking everything. Already counting the days to Ninebanks 2012. ED has his own report the day here including a brief summary of the various nicknames for members of our pathetic band of tedious anecdoters. The slide show below includes some kiddy sledging action as well as the usual mountain vistas spoilt by a couple of middle-aged walkers in the frame