Archive for January 2018

Wet, Wet, Wet   13 comments

I think I’ve mentioned before on the blog about a day I spent in the Arans in my University days (1983 I think). It was the worst day I’ve ever spent in the hills. hours of heavy, pitiless rain and winds on a high exposed ridge. We got soaked to the skin and were likely hypothermic by the end. It has lived with me longer than many other days from that era. Since then I’ve had some pretty wet days in the hills but nothing have ever come to close to that one. Until last Saturday.

TJS had an open day and interview at Exeter University and we had plans for an overnight and then a days walking on Dartmoor to make a weekend of it. A bad forecast for Sunday put pay to that but Saturday looked ok. Rain in the morning but brightening up at lunchtime, so I thought I go for a solo walk while he was doing his stuff.

I planned a route from Belstone near Okehampton as it was close to the A30 so I could maximise my walking time. It was pretty grim when I set off but I thought it was worth a go as it was due to clear. Once up on the fells it was horrid. Driving heavy rain and strong winds. I pressed on as it was due to clear.

Along the edges of Belstone and Oke Tors and the rain got heavier. I pressed on as it was due to clear.

You can see the pattern emerging here. It was frankly atrocious and any sensible person would have turned around and gone back. I found a sheltered spot and had a bite to eat. I thought about turning back and then stubborn bloody-mindedness set in. I decided that seeing as I was already wet I may as well try to finish the route as a kind of endurance test. I pressed on as it might clear.

In the sheltered spots it wasn’t too bad and it had a wild and stormy atmosphere. On Steeperton Tor the wind was amazing. I was lucky there was an army shelter I could hide behind for a few minutes. I pressed on even though it seemed unlikely to clear. As I traversed around the Hound Tors it actually stopped raining cleared a bit and there was even some blue sky. I even managed a couple of photos.



Then its started raining again. This time with a real vengeance. It did that to me on that Arans day. A flash of blue sky preceded heavy rain. I pressed on, it was definitely not going to clear. I walked past the Stone Circle on Little Hound Tor and managed another photo.


The climb up to and over Cosdon Beacon was one of the longest I can remember. I managed to extract some perverse enjoyment out of the first half of the day but this stretch really tested my resolve, not that I had much choice. There was water everywhere although my feet were the only part of me that was dry (thank heavens I put gaiters on). I got off the hill as quickly as I could and headed down into the valley of the River Taw. Once off the mountains and in the deep dark woods, yes, you guessed it, the rain stopped, the skies cleared and the sun came out! Sometimes I think the weather has a malevolent, malicious streak


At least the walk by the river was quite pleasant if muddy and I could emerge from my waterproofs



When I reached the car every part of me (other than my feet) was sopping wet, right down to my pants. Luckily we’d planned to go out for some food on the way home so I had a change of clothes. It would have been a very uncomfortable drive home if not. A good leg stretcher at 10 miles, I still have wet stuff drying out around the house


I’m now in the rare position of being fully up to date with blog. I’m off to France for some skiing next week so blog silence for a week or so while enjoy the snow in the Alps

A Proper Dose of Winter   12 comments


Back to reality after winter sun in Lanzarote. First weekend back and we were in the grip of a really cold spell. Time to hit the hills. We wanted somewhere a bit different so we took to bagging a summit in the Fforest Fawr area we hadn’t done before.

We parked high up on the road through the middle near the standing stone of Maen Llia. It was bitterly cold, frosty air and a biting east wind


Luckily the pathless, tussocky terrain is hard enough work to keep you warm – a bit anyway


There was a light dusting of snow on the highest tops and the views were superb


Looking across to the Black Mountain


Up on the ridge at Fan Dringarth it was staggeringly cold. In fact it was as cold as I’ve been in the mountains for many a year


Not that I mind. I love days like this, clear skies and a cold wind is invigorating and makes you feel properly alive


These are soggy hills most of the time but everything was frozen solid. A bit slippery mind especially where the wet grass had frozen solid on the way down from the summit of Fan Llia



It was definitely not a day for stopping. I wondered where we’d be able to grab shelter for lunch. Halfway round where the path drops to the road we found a surprisingly sheltered and sunny spot by a ford over the Afon Llia


Even just about warm enough for a brew although TJS looked rather dis-chuffed at the protracted stop so I could have a cuppa



Second part of the day was to traverse Fan Nedd back to the car


After  a sheltered lunch it seemed even colder once we hit the wind again. The walking in the crisp snow along the broad ridge was sensational though




Winter days are still the best for me. Nothing better than the crunch of snow under foot and views like this



On the far end of the ridge we exchanged some very brief pleasantries with another hiker – it was arctic by now. I reckon taking windchill into account it was somewhere around -15C




Even though it was still early, it was time to head down, too cold to linger and we’d had our fill of winter for the day


The broad Senni valley opens up as you descend and its a real beauty




A shortish route of around 6 miles but good one

Fforest Fawr

Cracking day. Cold day.

Lanzarote – The Final Day   13 comments


Just one more post to do from our final day. We decided to head up north again and I was anxious for another walk. Finding a short walk that TJF would be happy with (never easy) was proving a challenge until I spotted a walk in my guide-book that started with a long walk up a road and a footnote that said it had been recently improved. If we could drive up the road we could have a short walk up another couple of old volcanic craters without breaking sweat. Plan

We found the road at the back of the village of Maguez and indeed it was now metalled and easy enough to drive. We parked up at 520m to leave us a monumental 71m to climb to the top.


We were heading up the twin volcanoes of La Quemada and Los Helechos. This is the crater of La Quemada


And this is Los Helechos with Montana Corona in the background


They are perched high above the cliffs of Famara with superb views over the coast and the island of La Graciosa


It was a splendid easy stroll to the top (not easy enough for TJF to be honest)



A view over the crater of Los Helechos and Montana Corona behind


Looking south along the spine of the island. In the middle ground you can see the road we drove up zigzagging across the hillside



Family shot on the top


Montana Corona – one of the 600m peaks and one for the next trip



More superb views across the high valley of Guinate to la Graciosa


A short drive away and we were able to walk to edge of the cliffs. It’s a sensational spot. the cliffs plummeting 400m down to the sea


The photos just don’t do justice to how exposed it was. It made me feel giddy looking down


Lots of interesting looking walks along the cliffs and farmland up here. Looking forward to a return visit



We went back to one of our favourite restaurants of the trip in Orzola for lunch. We had hoped to spend the afternoon on the beach for a final swim but it turned a bit overcast and cool for that. Instead we took a look around one the other big resorts of the island. Costa Teguise. Its a huge place and as one of the older resorts it does look a bit tired and dated. It much more “Brits abroad” than Playa Blanca and needs some money spent to bring it back up to scratch although we didn’t see it in the sunny weather. It has a nice beach though and we took a wander about before heading home


Me and TBF found time for one last wander up Montana Roja in Playa Blanca (featured in an earlier post)


Not a bad finish to a superb couple of weeks away from the Xmas madness


A chance to see the sunrise on the last morning before we headed off to the airport and back home to winter


Lanzarote is a superb place and if you make a small amount of effort there are untold, unspoilt corners to discover. In reality its nothing like the holiday brochures and for the outdoor types like us a wonderful, almost perfect place for a winter break. From one extreme to the other in the next post

Lanzarote – Montana Blanca   14 comments


Time to bag another volcanic summit. We’d had another leisurely morning of poolside lazing and strolls along the seafront so an afternoon hike was in order. Today’s outing was on the far side of the Timanfaya National Park to Montana Blanca, or Caldera Blanca. The name seems to vary depending on which map or guidebook you use. It’s obviously quite well-known as the parking area was very busy when we pulled up and its obvious to see why once you reach the top.

First things first, we had to reach the bottom that involved a path carved through one of the lava flows from the Timanfaya eruptions


The fact that someone has decided to drive a path through this stuff is extraordinary. You only have to walk two or three paces off the path to realise how impossible it is to cross without help and how much effort it must take to build


They are interesting with features that form like “rivers” albeit from lava rather than water


They are pretty hard going however and you soon long for easier ground


On the way to the main summit you base the smaller sibling of Montana Caldereta, itself not exactly insubstantial


These volcanic relics of much older eruptions are very reminiscent of the Auvergne in France at least in shape. Those are much older and now covered in grassland and forests


The main summit looks loose and hard to climb from below and you expect it to be a loose pile of dust and rubble. In fact it was quite hard and rocky and a decent path takes you onto the rim of the Caldera. It’s striking and the base of the crater is pretty deep, good few hundred feet I’d guess


This is Montana Caldereta from above. These older cones are called Isoltes (Isolates I assume) and are the older relics that the more recent lava simply flowed around. You can see it quite clearly in this shot


The weather had changed with a bank of cloud rolling in and a pretty ferocious wind blowing. The rim is narrow enough to make it interesting without being dangerous but I was glad the wind was blowing away from the drop into the crater


We reached the top at 461m without incident and in fact just a couple of feet below the summit marker all was calm


The views across this particularly remote and uninhabited corner of the island were amazing


The panorama shot below got a bit interrupted mid-flow as it were (hard taking one in a strong wind) but gives an idea of the massive size and depth of the crater


One of my favourite shots of the day, bright sunshine and moody clouds


I think the big peak on the right is Guardilama that we climbed a few days earlier


Looking out over the Atlantic


Time to head down and continue around the crater rim. There is a path up to the next summit along, Risco Quebrado but we’d started late and still had a way to go, so took a rain check on that one



As with most days as the sun lowers the light highlights the volcanic summits to greater effect




I think (not 100% sure) that this is the Aloe Vera plant that seems to thrive in these landscapes. There are lots of dedicated museums and shops on the island to this little plant and its various unguents and potions


We found a nice traversing path down to the base on the far side of the crater taking in the last of the sunny photos before it started to set


It was a long walk back through the lava fields to the car and it was pretty much dark when we reached it. We were only one of two cars left


Another stunning walk on this strange and beguiling island

Lanzarote – La Graciosa   8 comments


Why visit one island when you can visit two. From Orzola at the north end of the island you can take a boat trip around the Punta Fariones to the island of La Graciosa. Of course we had to give this a go.

The boat trip was rather excellent if a little cool and breezy


The views of Punta Fariones were superb



And the island of la Graciosa came into view (the island we’d seen from the top of the cliffs at the Mirador del Rio a few days earlier)



The highest point on the island, Agujas Grandes


And the harbour of the main town Caleta del Sobo



We took a little wander around the town before lunch. All the roads are sand and there are few vehicles


It’s a pleasant sleepy little place with a few shops and a handful of restaurants


After a fine lunch we went off for a walk. There are some small peaks to climb and some stunning beaches. TJF is not the keenest of walkers so we wandered down the coast to the nearest beach




The island is dry, dusty and peaceful and I really enjoyed the walk along the coast


The dark summit of Montana Amarilla dominates the southern part of the island


While the views back across the water the cliffs of the Risco de Famara on Lanzarote were superb



We reached our destination at Playa Francesca and its a beauty


Golden, sand, clear water and overlooked by a volcanic remnant


Being the main organiser I’d packed the water, snacks, towels, beach rugs, snorkel stuff and everyone’s swimming gear – except mine. Can’t turn down a swim on such an idyllic beach so pants (discretely covered by a rash vest) were the order of the day



There were a few day trippers from the big catamaran but they departed not long after we arrived and beach was wonderfully peaceful




We spent a happy hour sunbathing and pithering about on the beach/rocks and admiring the views




The walk back was equally fine. As on most the days the late afternoon delivered a wonderful light that highlighted the stark landscape to perfection







There is a lagoon that holds water at very high tide but today it was bone dry




We timed our walk back perfectly to catch the last ferry back to Lanzarote




The light was fading and the cloud building on the way back so photography was a little challenging




I liked this slope of what looked like soft earth eroded by water over a matter of days


It those clouds look dark enough to drop some rain you’d be right. We had a few spots on the boat (and a brief shower on the drive home), the only rain of the trip



La Graciosa disappeared into the distance


Another fine day out and we were finding so much quality stuff to do. When I return to Lanzarote I’d like to spend a couple of days on La Graciosa, there is some quality walking and more great beaches to explore and its wonderfully peaceful

Lanzarote – Hiking a High Point   12 comments


Time to get back to more serious walking. After a morning of lazy strolls and chilling by the pool me, TJS and TBF headed out for a walk in the afternoon. The weather was still stunningly clear and we wanted to bag one of the higher summits.

We started from another of the small quiet villages of the island, Uga. Heading out of the village and along a wide track into the hills


We crunched our way along the ash track, reminded me of walking on snow in very strange way


This is the valley of La Geria. It’s close to the area that erupted and was devastated not by lava but by ash. The area was quite well farmed and verdant before the eruption but after it happened most people left and never returned. More recently the area has been turned into a vast collection of vineyards. Each of these small hollows surrounded by a wall contains a single vine. Rather than protect from the wind the construction allows the dew to collect and trickle down into the hollow in miniscule amounts but its enough to sustain the vines. As you’ll see from the rest of the photos they dominate the landscape in such number as to be a marvel of effort to create that many. The unique pattern they create is one of the abiding memories of the island


Back to our walk and we were heading for the peak in the centre right of the photo, Montana de Guardilama. Its one of the “Three Peaks” over 600m I mentioned and had supposedly stunning views


We caught a glimpse of one of the Timanfaya tour buses traversing the slopes a few miles away


The panorama shot gives a feel for the width and desolation of the uncultivated parts of the valley


This lone palm tree caught my eye



Our target peak getting closer


As we reached the col the views along the east coast towards the resort of Puetro de Carmen and the capital Arrecife opened up


All we had to do was climb to the top. Hard work on the loose rubble slopes and took far longer than I thought


Fortunately the views from the top were stunning



TJS struggling to keep up with the old man



Couple of panoramas taking in 3/4 of the island



We had an extended stay on the top. The air was stunningly sharp and clear. An absolutely perfect day for walking


Looking south towards Playa Blanca


The National Park where Hell was unleashed a few hundred years back



TBF providing some foreground



We’d started late and we had another summit to climb and a few miles to go so we had to push on. We slithered down the slippery slopes and I waited for the others to catch up. While I was there an old German man walked up and abruptly asked what the climb was like. I gave him the low down about how long the climb might take etc but that the views were well worth it. He then set off just as abruptly without another word or a thank you. Some people!



We headed back up towards our second summit of Montana Tinasoria. Much lower and less steep it was an easy climb. We passed these ruined buildings, an area heavily used for paragliders as a launch site


As the sun was starting to go down the shadows and the golden light on the islands dusty brown summits was just mesmerizing




One of the things I loved about the island were the smooth sinuous curves of its volcanic cones. The low angle of the sun highlights them and the vine hollows perfectly


It is the age of the selfie



Reluctantly we headed down. I didn’t much fancy loose volcanic ash slopes in the dark


We passed through the crater of the much smaller Montana Mojon. These Prickly Pears providing a welcome splash of green to the landscape


There was a shallow crater rim so we wandered along it for some bonus views. By now the light was just sensational



As we reached Uga again the sun was catching the white houses perfectly, picking them out against the black lava and darkening blue sky



One final treat as we drove home and saw the sun setting as we crossed the col at Femes


I wasn’t sure what to expect from the walking on Lanzarote but its magnificent, fascinating and surreally beautiful. This half a day walk was amazing and one of the highlights of the trip. Boxing Day sales in a retail park or a walk like this?

Lanzarote – Schedule for a Perfect Xmas Day   10 comments



Tell the family there will be no Xmas presents, keep the tree in and decorations in the loft. Avoid all expressions of Xmas while on holiday

Leave cold, storms, rain and snow behind and head somewhere warm and sunny

Xmas Morning:

Take a stroll before breakfast in the sunshine while there is no-one else about





After breakfast on the patio take a long lazy stroll along the seafront to the beach (Playa Dorada)


Pose on the beach for smug Xmas day photo



Take a paddle in the sea



Look at (but don’t buy) any souvenir tat from the shops


Have lunch on the patio


Xmas Afternoon:

Return to the beach (Playa del Papagayo), pose for another smug photo


Enjoy the expansive blue sky, golden sand and calm clear water


Take a scramble around the rocks to the beach next door, Playa de la Cera




Take a swim in said calm clear water




Return to the apartment for a late afternoon beer in the sun on the patio


Take another stroll on the sea front to watch the setting sun








Finish the day with an improvised Xmas dinner (no dates in blankets!) and a bottle of cheap Cava.

Now that’s what I call a good Xmas Day 🙂

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