I know everyone is enjoying the balmy heat and sunshine of May – yes I know the weather is crap but we can all dream – but I’d like to take you back to a time of cold, frost and snow that was still dominating over Easter. After my Scottish adventures it was time for family time down at my parents caravan in Wales. The power of mobile broadband meant that I could “work at home” from the caravan on the Friday while the kids enjoyed a day on the beach. At 4pm I’d done my day in front of the laptop and it was time for a stroll. It had clouded up during the day but it was still bright so I headed up into the mountains just inland to climb Plynlimon. You can get the car up to 1000 feet and it’s a relatively short walk so it’s ideal for a late afternoon start.
My progress to my planned start point at Maesnant Farm was abruptly halted by a huge bank of snow drifted across the road. I may be could have ploughed through it, but this is not a spot to get stuck so I just left the car on the grass verge and headed off on foot
No access for cars!
The sky was beginning to clear again and the low angle of sun was creating some superb vista’s and light effects on the reservoir and the snow. Great thing about a late walk is you get the mountains all to yourself and this was the case today as I saw not a soul from start to finish
Nant-y-Moch from the Maesnant road
Looking towards the coast from the Maesnant stream
The common route of ascent to the summit is from the south on the A44 but on my previous visit a couple of years back I discovered an unmarked path leading from the road-head along the Maesnant stream all the way to the summit. It’s a superb little path enlivened by some little waterfalls at the bottom and the broad valley higher up as it approaches the summit.
I fairly romped up the path, picking out the soft snow and ice where I could find it and savouring the expanding views over the coastal hills to Cardigan Bay beyond. I had my skis with me in the car and there was almost enough snow to tour right to the summit. A few days earlier and the conditions would have been perfect but today there were enough gaps and it was too late to be messing about on skis. Having said that the steep west face that was holding a superb bank of snow would have made for an awesome descent. Another day
Across to Pen Cerrig Tewion
Stunning light on the snow
As I approached the summit the snow cover was pretty full and it was just sensational to be up on the summit at 6pm, alone and with the crunch of icy snow underfoot
Approaching the summit
The views all around were majestic
More stunning effects
Northwest to the austere moorlands that hold the sources of the Wye and Severn
South from the summit
Southwest towards Pembrokeshire
Across Nant-y-Moch to Cardigan Bay
I settled in out of the wind for a brew and savoured the scene. 2 hours earlier I’d been stuck in the caravan working and now I was on a sunny, snow covered mountain with a full 360 degree panorama to call my own. The setting sun was creating a myriad of images and the effects on the snow were magical. I took time out for a couple of smug phone calls to GM and TBF, the latter was instructed to get my tea ready for 8pm – bless her!
North to Cadair Idris
Light was fading fast and it was pretty cold so I had to reluctantly head down. I took a last lingering look at the west face and imagined myself skiing down it although from the top it looked pretty steep. Happy with my imagination I strode down
Across the west face
The sun starts to set
The sky was pretty clear by now so the views just got better. The mountains turned deep reddish brown and the low sunlight reflecting of the lake was magnificent
With such a short walk I was able to linger every few hundred strides and take it all in. All too soon the car beckoned and I was back at my transport home (via a very deep snow-hole and a pulled calf muscle for my trouble). I sat and watched the sun set behind the mountains and drove home to my tea – sausages, mash and onion gravy – just the thing to finish off a cracking evening stroll
Time to go home
Enjoy the slideshow with a slice of blues
Those nice people at Berghaus have sent me a jacket to review. When I was in my formative outdoor years back in the 80’s Berghaus were one of THE names in the outdoor gear world. Since then they have slipped from the radar a little and been overtaken by the new breed of suppliers and retailers in an increasingly competitive market dominated by online sales. In recent years they seem to be making a comeback so I was keen to give some of their gear a go to see how it performs
They provided me with a Mens Carrock GORE-TEX Jacket, size large in a fetching green colour. The first thing I noticed is the weight, considerably lighter than my current jacket which is an obvious advantage. It has a hood that can be folded away and a range of pockets both outside and inside, all roomy enough to hold the usual gloves, small cameras and the like. The inside pocket could probably accommodate a map if it was folded. It also has underarm vent zips, a feature I’m very much in favour of and something lacking from my current jacket. The interior has a mesh liner that I assume is to protect the Goretex from wear. All the usual standard features I’d expect in an outdoor jacket.
So how does it perform in action. Most of my gear is large size and this fitted well, neither too baggy or snug and could easily fit over multiple layers in cold conditions. It was cut high enough to be comfortable but low enough so it’s kept snug under the hip belt. It kept out the wind and had a range of drawcords to make sure it keeps out the worst of the elements.It doesn’t have a wired hood which is essential in my book as I hate having a hood flapping about and impacting my vision
Was it waterproof? I took it out in a howling wind and rain on the sea front in Aberystwyth and took a real soaking with no water ingress. Was it breathable? Seems to be but I’m always sceptical on the claims of any breathable fabric in so much as they are all breathable to a degree (more than neoprene anyway!) but never quite the miracle of dryness they claim to be. In this instance having worn the jacket several times I’ve not noticed any major damp patches although the lack of warm weather to work up a sweat hasn’t really given it a tough test.
My main concern would be its long-term durability. It’s light weight gives it a slightly flimsy feel so I’d be concerned as to how it would stand up to a full blast of winter conditions and the general rough and tumble of being stuffed in sacks, scraped on rocks, poles, axes and the like. The inner mesh lining looks tailor-made to get caught up and torn, especially by a clumsy oaf like me. However only time will tell on that score. I would however say that some of these concerns are as a result of trying to compromise on weight.
So in summary I’m quite pleased with the jacket. I like the light weight, the fit and armpit vents, I don’t like the flimsy feel and the lack of the wired hood. Would I buy the jacket as a 4/5 season full on winter jacket for all conditions – no, but then again at its price point (£160.00 RRP) I doubt that’s its market. Would I buy it as a 3 season jacket – yes. That light weight is a real winner for me and the durability issues are less of a concern and it fulfills its major purpose, it keeps you dry. It will now become my 3 season waterproof jacket and a real bonus when backpacking and keeping the weight down. I will certainly use it through next winter and see how it performs.
If you want to take a look at the specs and view the Mens Waterproof Jackets range from Berghaus visit: http://store.berghaus.com/
Our final day in Glen Scaddle and we woke to another glorious morning of clear blue skies. It was wickedly cold again with the easterly breeze adding an extra bite
We took a whole host more photos as we savoured our surroundings before we had to head back home. Mornings like this are inspiring and depressing in equal measure. Inspiring as the soaring peaks and wild glens lift your spirits. Depressing in the knowledge that the following morning I’d be waking up to another day of work in a stifling office.
We enjoyed a fine breakfast. Well I did anyway (GM is still in the pigeon loft scrapings club). It was then time to break down the tent, pack up, take a last lingering look at our splendid home for the past 4 days, hoist the packs and trudge off
The walk out was every bit as magnificent as the walk in (albeit with tired feet and a heavy heart). The views with sun now behind us were different and yet as always with a few days spent in the same area familiar and welcoming
The Long Walk
This time we decided against the riverside path and took the forestry track. Partly for a change of scene and partly for an easier walk. It was a result on both counts and despite my very sore feet I thoroughly enjoyed it. The views back up Glen Scaddle from a break in the forest at it’s highest point were particularly fetching
GM & the Lone Pine
Green on Brown
The Wild Beauty of Glen Scaddle
Heading east, it was Ben Nevis that really held the attention and it was great to watch it become larger in view as we plodded back out
GM on the Forest Track, Ben Nevis behind
I have to admit that I found the final couple of miles along the freshly gravelled track a real chore. My feet ached and the sack was a real burden even though I’d eaten a good portion of the weight. Probably it was just the low feeling of a cracking trip coming to an end. I was glad to reach the car, drop the weight for the last time and change into some clean clothes.
The weight is off
The weather was still glorious and I enjoyed again the superb views while waiting for the Corran Ferry
Beinn a Bheithir across the Corran Ferry
Scotland had one last treat for us. The drive through Glencoe was truly magnificent. The sky a deep blue and all the big summits were in full winter conditions. They were just begging to be climbed on such a perfect day but we had long journeys home and I had to content myself with the views from the car and a few photos taken through the windscreen.
Southern Ardgour from the A82
Pap of Glencoe from the A82
Buachaille Etive Mhor
And that was it. We headed back to Berwick via the chippy in Callander and then for for another 5 hours back home to Hereford. It was a long and lonely drive but my head was swimming with memories of a spectacular trip, one that will live long in the memory and take some beating wherever we end up next Easter
Another very cold night but in the morning the skies were more hazy, a thin veneer of cirrus cloud giving the day a less bold and bright feel. It was almost disappointing after the glory of the previous day but we had to tell ourselves that by Scottish standards it was still a cracker. It was dry and the tops were clear and the sun was still out. Time for another day on these fine and rocky mountains
Gleann Mhic Phail, Sgurr a Chaorainn & Beinn na h-Uamha
After another fine fry-up it was time for the off. Our route for today were the twin summits of Sgurr a’ Chaorainn and Beinn na-h-Uamha, the latter the high point, just, and the Corbett that GM was after.
7.1 Miles, 2,850 feet of ascent
The start was a long trudge up the valley of Gleann Mhic Phail. There was a pretty good stalkers path and we made good time to the first of the rocky gorges that characterise the glen and where the path abruptly stops.
Gleann Mhic Phail
Another short spell of foot repair and we decided that the left bank was a better option, crossing while we could and avoiding the spots higher up where the slopes directly above the gorge became steep
GM in Gleann Mhic Phail
Gleann Mhic Phail
It was tough going with peat hags and small side streams to traverse and everything watery (which as we know is everything in the highlands) frozen solid. As the heather changed to grass the going became easier and we traversed upwards to try and reach the west ridge of Sgurr a’ Chaorainn.
We stopped partway up for lunch figuring it would be windy on the ridge. It was a cold rocky spot so I pulled out my trusty sit mat, or I would have done if I hadn’t left it on a rock where we’d sat by the gorge earlier. Being a middle aged forgetful (and clumsy) git can be a real pain sometimes. We pressed on up the steep slopes to the ridge, picking out the scrambling sections at will.
When we hit the ridge we were in the lee of the summit and it was calm. We were surprised to be already at the snowline and very close to the summit so another stop was in order. I checked my messages and received one from James saying he’d found an awesome high level camp site and wouldn’t be joining us in the evening as planned. Having seen his photos it was a good call as he had a tremendous spot. Kind of thing I should be doing really, a bit more than this slack-packing I seem to drift into.
Sgurr a Chaorainn
The snow slopes were still hard packed and made for more great winter snow walking to the easy summit. As with the day before most was easy angled with no difficulties but it was great just seeking out the little climbs and interesting micro-situations
Glencoe from Sgurr a Chaorainn
The views from the top were again sensational. We didn’t linger as were back in the cold wind and we’d already had our stops for lunch. The route onwards was down easy snow slopes and interesting rocky outcrops.
GM Descending, Sgurr a Chaorainn
Beinn na h-Uamha from Sgurr a Chaorainn
There were even some moderately steep slopes to attempt some ice braking practice!
Ice Axe Practice 1
The route to Beinn na h-Uamha was over a mix of steep little rocky outcrops and snow slopes. There was no need for crampons but I stuck them on and sought out what steep slopes I could – great fun and pretty much kept on snow all the way to the summit. Cresting the final rise it was a surprise to find a distinctive little summit outcrop.
GM on Beinn na h-Uamha summit
More spectacular views were in order on this marvellous peak. As per the previous couple of days and despite the quality of the mountains and cracking weather we hadn’t seen a soul.
Ben Nevis & Mamores from Beinn na h-Uamha
The final slopes
On the way down I had some more (impromptu) ice axe practice 🙂
Ice Axe Practice 2
The snow slopes on Sgurr Dhomhnuill really caught the eye with their distinctive pattern
X Marks the Spot
As we headed down the northern cliffs of the mountain came into view. They are hidden from Glen Scaddle and were surprisingly rocky and holding plenty of snow. There were lots of intriguing ascent lines up the snow-filled gullies. Another day
North Cliffs of Beinn na h-Uamha
GM left me to my own pace again to sprint down and get my post walk brew ready
With the thin cloud still in place we were treated to some cracking light shows from the sun, playing light onto the mountains, river and the tent
Glow on the Tent
Sgurr a Chaorainn, Beinn na h-Uamha and Gleann Mhic Phail
As befits two grown men who should know better we messed about chucking stones about and taking childish pictures before a hearty chilli for tea (extra bag of chilli needed next time)
Post-chilli the light was just spectacular as the temperature started to plummet again.
Time for the real business of the evening. Plenty of dead wood about so we managed to get a decent fire going. Primarily this was to burn the rubbish down to a more manageable size and weight to carry out but such was the fuel supply we got a decent blaze going for a couple of hours
Playing with Fire
Sitting around on the banks of the river with a brew watching the setting sun play with the surroundings and tending to the fire was perfection
Sgurr a Chaorainn, Beinn na h-Uamha and Gleann Mhic Phail
What is it with blokes and fire? Must be some kind of elemental hunter/gatherer/provider thing. Whatever it is, all my mates love messing with fires and out here it gives a real sense of the wilderness. Everything was tinder dry so we were cautious, using the bare stone and gravel of the river bed as a base and putting out the embers with water before we retired. With a proper wood fire we completely incinerated the rubbish, absolutely nothing left but ash which we buried
It’s a bloke thing….
…and just to prove it!
Like the previous couple of nights as darkness fell the frost started to form on the tents and we were forced into tent and bag. The pink sky bid us goodnight as we turned in
Another stupendous day on these magnificent mountains.