Archive for June 2014
All things must end and so 3 days of glorious sunshine came to and end as we woke up to this
It had been a wild night with strong winds tearing at the tent in booming gusts. We knew it was coming so the tent was well battened down and was solid, although sleep was harder to come by. We had a long walk out so we were up early, breakfasted, packed an away sharpish. No views to detain us on this morning
It was a wild day and the wind was strong enough to blow you off balance, accentuated by the still heavy packs
At the col below Cir Mhor we lingered briefly to try standing up in the wind and then pressed on around the path that traverses the western flank. The wind from here to the point of descent into Glen Rosa was ferocious and picking through the bouldery path with a heavy pack was arduous. We had talked of walking out over the ridge of Beinn a Chliabhain but we plunged into Glen Rosa without a pause. Once down the first steep section the wind dropped and suddenly all was calm again. There were even signs that it might clear
Glen Rosa was a superb walk. Broad and wide open with a gorgeous clear stream and plenty of wild swimming pools for warmer weather. The sun became more visible with each step
Slowly but surely all the tops appeared except Cir Mhor which stubbornly refused to show itself
By the time we reached the corner to turn towards Brodick we were in full sun again and it was warm and balmy as it had been on the first day. Glen Rosa needs another visit
In my dreams I’d imagined that Brodick harbour was just down the road but this was a cruel deception. There followed 3 miles of slog down an admittedly stunning valley on tracks and Tarmac and I was feeling the heat and the pain in my knees from 4 days walking and heavy pack on hard roads. GM left me trailing as we walked, or in my case, limped into Brodick under a now cloudless sky
The seafront in Brodick is rather pleasant and we found a cracking spot to wait for the next ferry having just missed one. Several bottles of fizzy pop and a healthy portion of fish and chips from an excellent and well hidden chippy restored our spirits and we sat and whiled away a few hours ready for the boat home
The folly of just missing the previous ferry became apparent. The reason we had just missed it was that it was the earlier ferry that was now an hour late. Problems with docking in Ardrossan meant it couldn’t use it’s normal berth. By the time it had turned around a come back it was well over an hour late and the queue was enormous. We rather sneakily just slipped into the head of the queue, found a spot to sit on the sacks for a swift exit and departed the jewelled Isle
More messing about at Ardrossan meant we were pushing 2 hours late leaving and we had a long drive home. Still, after 4 days of amazing walking the journey seemed to fly by and I was back home in Hereford not long after midnight. Last years trip to Glen Scaddle was unbelievable but I think this year topped it. A long held dream to climb Arrans rocky summits fulfilled under perfect skies. Sensational stuff! 🙂
Another day, another beautiful morning.
Low clouds clung to the ridges but everywhere else was deep blue. A chilly start with a brisk wind but it promised to be another memorable day and so it turned out
We decided on a more easy paced day and packed light for a stroll across the nearby hills of Beinn Bhreac and Beinn Tarsuinn. The views across to Cir Mhor drifting in and out of cloud were majestic
They may not look much on the map but an crisp clear day they were a delight. The lower slopes are layered with deep heather and boulders but picking a grassy route through them was easy, enlivened by regular rodent sightings. One on the top the grassy summits make for grand walking. A summit camp in settled weather would be superb if you can haul water up!
It was a chill wind but with judicious positioning and sitting (a skill I’m justly proud of) we managed to find shelter and soaked up the views. The west was especially inspiring and the long ridge of Beinn Bharrain, Mullach Buidhe, Beinn Bhreac and Meall nam Damh just ached for a route. A walk across those tops is high on my agenda
With time on our side and a glorious day we took in Beinn Tarsuinn as well. Rough ground again on the slopes but the summit again a broad expanse of soft grass
We got our long awaited view of the Paps of Jura into the bargain
We were also paid a visit by a low flying Hercules Transport. Alas I wasn’t quite quick enough to set up the camera with the best settings so this is the best I could do
After a long laze on the summit the underwear insects were active again and we headed off back to the tent for lunch
Down at the tent it was windy but after more sitting expertise involving well placed rucksacks and rocks a warm and sunny lunch was enjoyed. It took a huge effort to follow up on the plan to pack up and move to another site to shorten the walk out the next day
I’d spotted what looked like a cracking site the previous day a flat patch of grass on the hillside just before the col between Cir Mhor and Caisteal Abhail. It took no more than a hour to pack and wander up there and in deed it was a magnificent spot
Still a liitle damp although nothing like the previous site it had a small bank to perch on to cook and make tea. A great supply of fresh running water a couple of hundred yards away and views to die for. The best wild site I’ve found for a long while. I got a little carried away with the photos but the tableau was just so magnificent that it was hard not to
With camp set up and bellies full it was time for an evening stroll across the col.
The weather forecast was for a spell of windy and cloudy conditions. Whilst we lost the clear skies we gained something better in the form of an ever changing light show from the setting sun
It was absolutely amazing. Dark mountains and shafts of sunlight, first orange and then deep red played on the western islands. Jura in particular was enlivened by natures own firework display
We both wandered about in a kind of happy daze, lost in our own world yet sharing this display of wonder and pleased that we had this to ourselves and that we’d made the decision to move up high. I’m not sure if I’ve picked the best of the shots but all the photos are in the slideshow at the start of the post
It was sad to see the sun finally go down and the lights go out, especially knowing we were likely to be in for a rough night. A short day from a walking perspective but a fine one
4.5 Miles, 2,000 feet of ascent
Another amazing day to live long in the memory. I’m surely going to pay for this good fortune sometime 🙂
Morning had broken. Another day on the Isle of Arran, another day in the sunshine.
Another day on the ridges was in order but not until breakfast in the morning sun by a mountain stream under a blue sky. Life was pretty fine
We headed across the grassy slopes towards Cir Mhor. What we’d started to notice were the obvious pathways in the grass for the small voles and mice. The whole ground was a maze of them. Then we began to see glimpses of them scuttling through the grass. I’ve only ever seen the most fleeting of glimpses in the past but here they were everywhere. I’m not sure if it was the warm weather drawing them out but they came to be a feature of the weekend and I saw them pretty much everywhere we walked
As with the previous days the weather was glorious and the views especially across to the western hills were magnificent
In what seemed to be no time at all we were at the col between Caisteal Abhail and Cir Mhor. Both mountains looked dramatic beyond their height
The wonderful clean rock of the north face of Cir Mhor is eye-grabbing and we stopped many times on the ascent to take it in
Despite it’s dramatic appearance from most directions it’s an easy climb with a good path all the way to the top
The summit is satisfyingly small though, giving an almost Alpine flavour and considering it’s popularity was relatively quiet. I was enjoying myself but GM as always had ants in his y-fronts and hassled me to get moving
Next on the list was A Chir, Arrans hardest summit. It looks fairly benign from this view but looks can be deceiving
On left of this photo by the way is the famous Rosa Pinnacle on Cir Mhor which GM has climbed in his more adventurous youth
After some excellent easy scrambling we came to this point where the ridge vanished into a deep cleft. One look was enough to tell me I was out of my league as well as the exposed looking ridge beyond it. You can see a couple of guys descending it if you look closely. I turned around and left GM, much the better mountaineer than me to it and headed for the easy path that traverses around. Within minutes GM had caught me up a he didn’t fancy it either. (when we got back home we Googled A Chir and discovered that the point where we turned back was a famous bad step or mauvais pas and that most people take rope for this section. Whoops.
We traversed around and after a stop for lunch tried the summit from the other side. Much easier but still pretty exposed so again I left GM to it and enjoyed ambling about on the lower part of the ridge. This in itself was great fun, with some sheer cliffs, clean rock and a spectacular gash through which the rest of the ridge to Beinn Tarsuin and Beinn Nuis was visible. I wish I’d given the summit a better go bit a combination of being spooked by the other half of the ridge, concern that I’d have to reverse whatever I’d climbed up and just general middle aged wimpiness led to my discretion
Here’s GM posing on the summit ridge
The climb up Beinn Tarsuinn is a stiff one and in the warm sun I found it punishing and hard work. The sky had turned a little hazy but the walking was still magnificent and the views from the summit breathtaking
We had planned on traversing out to Beinn Nuis but we thought an extended late afternoon by the tent and tea in the sunshine was a much better idea. We plunged down the NE ridge which was an inspired choice being a easy angled grassy spring of a descent
We decided to traverse around the hillside back to the tent. Looked easy on the map. In reality after a long stretch of deep grass with a dried crust that made it like a walk through spring snow we hit a steep slope of trackless deep heather and boulders. Schoolboy error. There was even a rather nasty deep ravine to get over. Indiana Jones should be my nickname (I have been called Indy by some wags at work in the past). The ravine did have the advantage of a cool clear mountain stream to grab a well deserved drink from so not all bad but not as good as the extra 100 foot of ascent that would have avoided all this pain altogether.
After the aforementioned tea in the sun, very nice it was too, GM retired for the night and I went for a walk along the path towards Glen Catacol
One of the pleasures of backpacking in good weather is a to take a late evening post prandial stroll. You feel you not only have the local area but the whole world to yourself
Alone with my own thoughts it’s true de-stress in every sense of the word. No pack to weigh you down and no particular goal in mind, you just walk. You enjoy the views, you think, and just absorb
Back at the tent I had another fun evening playing night shots. My best efforts so far
Yet another cracking day.
6.2 Miles, 2,600 feet of ascent
Despite the meagre miles walked and ascent I felt weary when I turned in but relaxed like no other activity can. More of the same please
Easter is backpacking time. For the past few years its been the tradition to use the long bank holiday for a trip to the highlands for some proper backpacking. After much debate with GM we settled on Arran as I’ve never been and GM visited only once several years back. The long drive up was tedious with heavy traffic and dreary weather but we were bouyed by the promise of high pressure settling over Scotland. After a night in a motel in Kilmarnock we woke to a cloudless sky and a frosty car (cue the comedy sight of GM driving the car to a sunny corner of the car park to pack, peering out the only clear portion of the windscreen in the bottom right-hand corner!)
We arrived in Adrossan for the mid-morning ferry and waited with the thronging masses. Arran sat across the water beckoning us with its delights
There is something exciting about traveling to your destination by boat. After fortifying ourselves with a pretty decent fried breakfast on the boat (tip, get straight in the queue when you get on the boat). I was as happy as a clam just wandering the decks watching Arran get closer. I’ve always wanted to climb it’s rocky peaks so to see it under an awesome day was brilliant
Our plan was to approach from the north and walk through to Brodick to catch the ferry home. Arran has an excellent bus service and we were dropped off at Lochranza ready for the adventure.
The weather was superb as was the walk up Gleann Easan Biorach. A trifle boggy in places but the scenery was superb. I’d had a nagging cold and sore throat for several days but it vanished within minutes of setting off. Something to be said for the powers of sunshine and fresh air.
We’d had a plan to camp near Loch na Davie. We had no idea what the terrain would be like although our fear was it might be a little boggy. It was a gorgeous spot but apart from a couple of isolated knolls everywhere was wet. After an hour of wandering about we eventually settled on a spot further down the valley to the south next to the river.
It was a fine position but whilst superficially dry, soon became soggy after we’d trampled around setting up camp. We decided that the front porch needed some protection so we proceeded to pave it with slabs of granite from the river
Lunch in the sun next to the stream was awesome and it took some effort to convince ourselves that more walking was required.
Caisteal Abhail was directly above us so obviously a direct ascent was called for. The steep slopes and deep heather were astonishingly hard work and I was fading badly by the time we broke through to the grassier upper slopes.
What you need at this point is something to lift the spirits and the rocky summit of Caisteal Abhail looming over the spectacular Garbh Choire was just the ticket
What a spot! The long sea lochs spread out below us and the tors of the summit were superb. We’d thought about camping in Garbh Choire and whilst it looks like there are places to pitch, most of it was already in shade. It really was a cracking spot.
Suddenly the going seemed easier and we flew (relative in my terms) to the top. The views to the main Arran ridges of narrow granite edges and tops was amazing, accentuated by the lowering evening sun. The summit is littered with tors of granite and you could spend happy hours up here just scrambling their various tops.
As we reached the summit Arrans most arresting peak Cir Mhor came into view, it’s northern facet a sheer wall of clean rock
Even Ailsa Craig could been seen out in the sea like a life-raft of rock.
The main top is another giant granite tor which GM took direct but I walked around to its easier side.
We sat on the summit pretty much in silence, awestruck by the tapestry below us
We had planned to wander down to the Ceum na Caillich, The Witches Step to see how hard it was and perhaps traverse through Garbh Choire back to the tent. When we realised it was already after 6pm we thought better of it and headed down for tea at the tent. The terrain of heather, bog and large holes was tedious on tired legs. I managed to find one rather large hole with a handily placed sharp edge of rock at shin-bone height causing me to bleed rather lavishly through my trousers. I’ve had worse being a clumsy git.
After a ludicrously outsized tea of noodles and stir fry (we like to eat well) we settled down to enjoy the evening in our little patch of wild Arran heaven. Nothing finer than watching the setting sun splash varying shades of colour across the mountains while you sit in peaceful isolation. It’s hard work lugging a heavy pack around the wild terrin of Scotland but the rewards are well worth it on an evening such as this.
I finished off the evening trying to take night photos using the tripod in particular the glow of light from inside the tent. Much harder than it sounds but I’m learning and it was great to have excuse to wander about in the dark watching the stars when normally you head inside the tent when it gets dark.
A cracking start to the trip. Arran was already delivering in spades
6 Miles, 2800 Feet of ascent
Another weekend in Mid Wales, this time at the start of the Easter holidays.
Such is my poor memory these days I have no recollection of what we did during the day on the Saturday as I have no photographs to remind me. We may have been to Aberystwyth or it may have rained. Forever will that day be lost. What I do remember is dragging the kids out on a cold and windy evening to watch the sunset and watch me take photos with my new camera accessory, a carbon fibre tripod.
I was trying to capture the motion of the waves in low light and shutter speeds to blur the water and give it that milky look. Considering I’m still learning I was pretty pleased with the results
TBF joined us on the Sunday so we went out for a day of exploring.
We took in Dolgoch falls near Towyn. When I’d walked the Tarrens a couple of years ago I’d spied a nice grassy spot by the river at the top of waterfalls that would make a fine picnic stop. The walk up past the falls is interesting with lots on old mine workings and of course waterfalls to keep everyone entertained
The picnic site was indeed very fine and we spent a lazy couple of hours, just enough sunshine for it to feel like summer. TJS in a down jacket rather spoils that image 🙂
On the way back I tried some waterfall motion shots, again aiming for the blurred effect. Again, I’m pretty pleased with the results but more practice needed
There was still time for more adventure so we drove on to Castell y Bere. The remains are a little scant but the situation is dramatic and we had the whole place to ourselves.
Craig yr Aderyn or Bird Rock really catches the eye and I loved the place.
We scrambled and mucked about for a good hour before the grey clouds and cool breeze inspired us to move on
One final stop. Aberdovey, one of those places in this area that despite years on exploring the area I’ve never been to. It’s on the estuary rather than the coast and it was chilly in the breeze
Despite that, there were several people spending a day on the beach. We walked along the edge of the estuary to watch the tide chase us back again. The contrast in the light was amazing. A patch of crystal clear blue sky over the sea and dark clouds over the mountains
It was an action packed day and great to hop around and see several places rather than just one. There was even time to drag the kids back to the beach for more sunsets and more photo opportunities for me.
TBF and the kids stayed for the rest of the week while I headed off home and work and for some more adventures of my own the next weekend…..
March brings about the first possible family trips to the coast as the weather warms up and my parents caravan is open for business.
With a dry day forecast we headed our for the day down to Mwnt Beach near Cardigan. It’s a stunning sandy bay and supposedly a great spot for dolphin spotting
It was dry but cloudy and cool but it was great to be back on the beach for the first time this year. There were actually a few brave kids in the water!! We declined the offer and settled for an hour of poking about in the rock pools, a family favourite. A sheltered spot on the rocks served us well for lunch
It was a liitle too early in the year for a full blown beach day so we took a walk to the top of the hill overlooking the bay and then down the coast. This small church sits quietly between beach and hill
The view from the top was grand and enlivened by a close up of a small raptor. Not sure if it’s a peregrine falcon or a kestrel. I’m sure some knowledgeable sort will correct me
Even though it was cloudy the views were nice with some interesting light effects from the low sun and the grey layered clouds. Despite constant diligence on the sea we never saw a dolphin!
We took a stroll along the prom at Aberystwyth as a fine end to the day
The following looked more promising from a weather perspective so I fulfilled a promise to TJS and took him up Plynlimon (highest mountain in mid-Wales and worthy target for a teenage walker obsessed with facts and figures!) I’ve had a couple of cracking trips up here in the past few years which you can read about here and here
The day was exceedingly warm but very hazy, almost August-like. The views were a little washed out but fine nonetheless
It was clearly frog-breeding season and adults, tadpoles and spawn was everywhere. One small lake was swarming with frogs and you could here their combined voices from several metres away
TJS was pleased to finally reach the summit of this fine and very under-rated summit. As with the previous two visits we saw hardly a soul the entire day
TJS also has an interest in seeing the source of rivers especially our local river Wye. I’ve told him many times that river sources by and large are deeply uninteresting affairs at least visually if not esoterically. The photo below is the Source of the Wye which I think proves my point. Just some wet grass that turns into bog that turns into a snall stream and so on. However he seemed very excited to see it and that’s the main thing
We enjoyed a lunch on the slopes and varied the walk by taking in the dam at Llyn Llygad Rheidol
It actually felt warm enough (at least out of the water) for a swim but we declined!
We ended the day by joining the Funsters in Aberystwyth where it was gorgeously warm and sunny if a little crowded. Most of the West Midlands and Merseyside had taken the chance for a day out by the sea judging by the accents. The first coastal weekend of the year but not the last…