Archive for March 2018

Spring Interlude   12 comments

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The Beasts from the East seem to have had domain over the British weather this year with another one apparently on the horizon for Easter. How pleasant it was then for a walk that didn’t involve putting on goggles and burying my head in a waterproof. The rest of the family were otherwise engaged so a solo walk in one of my favourite parts of the Black Mountains.

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Parking was full in Capel y Ffin so I headed up the very narrow lane in the Nant Bwch valley. Where you reach open fell there is plenty of off-road parking. As I’d be walking back that way anyway it made no difference to the route. It was a glorious day and warm enough to ditch warm hats for a baseball cap to keep the sun off

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I dropped into the village having decided to do the route the other way around from how I’ve tackled it before.

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The best part of the route is a splendid path that traverses between the fields and the open fell. I’ve always walked this stretch at the end of the day when it’s in shadow. This time it was in warm sunshine and its an absolute pleasure

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Despite the number of cars in the village and on the valley road, I saw no-one. Not sure why I’ve never seen anyone on this path as it’s an obvious route and a joy to walk

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Lost in my own thoughts and in the views of fell and field I ate up the miles as the path slowly climbs onto the shoulder of Bal Mawr

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It was half past lunchtime when I reached the ridge so I hunkered down in a heather and horse manure filled hollow for lunch. The views across Ysgyryd Mawr and the Sugar Loaf, all the way to the Severn Estuary and the Mendips were extensive

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So began the long back along the ridge paralleling my route in the valley below

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Its a fine ridge and the miles continued to roll by

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It was clear and sunny but the clouds were starting to fill in and it was chilly in the breeze

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Always hard not look self-conscious and concerned whenever I take a selfie

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The stretch that leads along towards the north edge of the Black Mountains escarpment is a bit of trudge and a boggy one at that.

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Time for a brief rest while sun was out

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Once above the higher reaches of the Nant Bwch valley I cut off from the path across country and back down to the path home. It looked a little rough but I managed to thread together a mix of sheep and pony tracks that made a rather easy route

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Quite surprised to see this walk ended up over 13 miles. My knees, feet and hips were feeling it by the end. A fine warm day before another spell of winter

Mini Beast on the Sugar Loaf   20 comments

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I was reminded by Facebook that on this day a few years back we were sat outside in the front garden soaking up warm sunshine and drinking a chilled beer. Yesterday was slightly different. Another cold snap was back – the Mini-Beast from the East apparently. Mr and TBF headed out for a brief walk on the Sugar Loaf.

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There was a light dusting of snow and it was bitterly cold.

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There were dark clouds and snow showers all around but we picked a lucky break in the weather. We had several sunny intervals and the snow only found us when we were back at the car

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Some of the views with dark clouds, bright sunshine and snow cover

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We sort spiralled around the summit to make a more interesting route. The long traversing path across the Northern slopes was plastered in ice and snow. All the heavy rain and wet ground from Thursday night was frozen solid. I should have taken my spikes

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The contrast between the sheltered South flank and the summit was staggering. Out of the wind you could have sat and had a break quite comfortably. A couple of yards away up on the summit I could barely stand up. It was as windy and cold as when were in Scotland a couple of weeks back

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The sun came out on the top and the views for a short while were superb. Ysgyryd Fawr taking pride of place

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It was a day for a full winter wrap up

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The paths were treacherous. Much easier to walk through the heather

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The storm clouds were gathering so it was time to quicken the pace and try to get back to the car before the snow storm hit

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We just about made it!

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Excellent couple of hours out in the wild winter that seems to go on forever. I had plans to head out again today. Another heavy fall of 6-8 inches of snow put paid to that. Gives me the chance to stay up to date with the blog .:)

 

Small but Challenging – Beinn Bhreac   13 comments

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The final day of our trip and more of the same in terms of weather. It’s a long way home on a Sunday afternoon so we were after a shorter day. Somewhere down by Loch Lomond would be on the way home as it were. After much scouring of maps I found the small hill of Beinn Bhreac that seemed to fit the bill. We toyed with the idea of an end to end traverse splitting the cars but decided that was too much hassle and a round trip from Glen Douglas was settled on.

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We’d hoped for a few coastal views and over Loch Lomond but it turned out to be the worst day of the trip. After the steep lower slopes we found a very handy large boulder that made a perfect first lunch stop

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The cloud was much lower today and we were enshrouded in mist most of the way to the top. There were some steep rocky steps that proved interesting with loose powdery snow covering frozen grass. I took no other photos on the way up until we reached the summit

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It was, as expected, brutally wild up on the top. In strong easterly winds even a smaller summit like this (681m) represents quite a challenge of technique, route finding and resilience.

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Much like yesterday you’d think this would make for a grim outing but we were all in our element. We thrived on the challenges and we were all sharing smiles again even on the summit with the wind blowing us around

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However we did agree that there was little point in making a circuit of the day and that returning the way we had come would be adventure enough

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The descent presented no problems and as we dropped down the wind abated and we were able to enjoy the walking in good company again

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Looking back to the summit and our route up, still shrouded in cloud

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Mandatory selfie

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The weather improved as we descended and we got some views of sorts. Not exactly expansive but you take what you can get on a day like this

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We returned to our lunch spot for a second bite

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Before the finally steep and slippery descent down to the cars and the long drive back south

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Only 4.5 miles and a couple of thousand feet of ascent but it felt much longer and tougher. That’s winter mountaineering!

Beinn Bhreac

Not the sunniest weekend I’ve ever had but still memorable for the conditions the challenge and the company. Already seems a long time ago and possibly a while to wait for more of the same as winter starts to draw to a close

Corbett Bagging in the Wind   17 comments

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The rest of the party joined us late Friday night and the usual protracted planing session took place on Saturday morning to decide where to go. There seemed to be a consensus that the high mountains were out of the question as the winds would be vicious and the cloud base down to around 800m. Time to bag a Corbett and luckily the area around Bridge of Orchy has plenty.

We chose Beinn Mhic Mhonaidh further down Glen Orchy. I was pleased as I’d never been down the Glen before and was looking forward to some new terrain. The first obstacle was the fact they were building a new bridge and the diversion involved walking several miles back up the Glen to where the hotel was and several miles back again! Very helpful – not! A bit of subtle moving of site fencing (the bridge was pretty much complete) and a short trespass through the “no go zone” as referred to on the signs and we were back on track

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The weather looked a little better than the previous day. Snow was still falling gently and it was bitterly cold but the sky was noticeabley brighter with odd clearer (albeit very small) patches of blue sky and scant sunshine

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I normally hate forest tracks but this one was rather pleasant and scenic and mostly a path rather than a track. It gave a nice warm up as it steadily climbed towards our goal

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At the edge of the forest we found a very nice and sheltered spot in the trees for first lunch. We figured there would be little chance for further stops higher up and our return route would bring us back here for second lunch later

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From here it was 400m of relentlessly steep ground. Snow covered grass at the bottom becoming icier as we climbed

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The snow was hiding the watery ground beneath which of course was now solid ice. For a short stretch it became unnerving so ice axes were unclipped and crampons donned

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From here to the summit ridge was steep hard snow. Perfect for practice walking with the metalwork. In places the slopes were steep enough to need front points for security. Great fun

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You can tell from the broad smiles in these photos that we were all enjoying a chance to walk in proper winter conditions immensely

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As the slopes eased we had our only proper burst of sunshine for the weekend. Grins grew broader

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The slope may have eased but as we reached the ridge the weather hit us hard. The wind was pushing us around like rag dolls and it was difficult to walk in a straight line. My face was scoured by ice and snow and it was bitterly cold. I was loving it!

The summit scene where I found the courage to expose my hands and take a photo

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We didn’t hang around and plunged back down towards the forests. It was amazing just how quickly the wind dropped as we descended from the ridge

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These slopes were the only ones where we found any significant accumulations of snow with some very deep drifts

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Back to the welcome shelter of the forest for another late lunch

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Sometimes a long return walk can be bind but I really enjoyed this one. The views were pretty fine and the provided a nice sheltered route

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9 miles, 2,500 feet of ascent Summit achieved and another Corbett ticked. I think I only have a couple of hundred left now!

Bheinn Mhich Mhonaidh

Back to the hotel for another cheeky post walk beer before a grand 3 course meal, stories old and older and falling asleep in the residents lounge. Party on!

Posted March 8, 2018 by surfnslide in Scotland, Walking, Western Highlands

Tagged with ,

Walking on Water   19 comments

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Early March is always the time to meet in Scotland with old friends from long and not so long ago. This year plans were somewhat affected by the Beast from the East meaning a few couldn’t make it due to excessive snow and cancelled flights. I headed up early with TBF and The Hairy Oatcake and had one of the easiest journeys I’ve ever had to Scotland. All the doom and gloom meant that despite the fact there was precious little fresh snow on the western side of the UK, everyone stayed home and the roads were deserted.

We spent our first night at the excellent Bridge of Orchy Hotel and the next day were ready for some proper winter conditions. We thought it prudent to stay away from the high summits due to the wind and picked a couple of small summits overlooking Rannoch Moor. As the weather was so cold we thought trying to walk along the shore of the many frozen lakes would add some interest to the day and so it proved

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The terrain around Rannoch Moor is flat yet highly complex with small tarns linking into streams and rivers. You’d be completely mad to want to wander about in here in mild weather but when everything is frozen solid and the weather rules out the higher tops it’s a fascinating place to explore

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We had enormous fun sliding around the shores of the shores of the Lakes and picking our way across the frozen ground. Firstly Lochan na Stainge

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In truth the lakes were not quite as frozen as we’d hoped (a couple of breakthroughs here and there) and the streams were wide and tricky to cross. This didn’t matter much as it added to the adventure and our plans were not ambitious in terms of distance or height

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The views whilst not exactly stunning were interesting in their way and the seriously cold weather added to the challenge. These are our two target hills below although as the phrase goes, there is no such thing as winter hill-walking just winter mountaineering

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We came upon the last of the lakes, Loch Buidhe, which was wide enough and its entry stream fast flowing and broad enough to give us pause for thought and some slippery boulder crossing tactics

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There was even a very odd frozen sand bar to follow

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We eventually headed for our target hills of Meall Beag and its slightly higher yet unnamed sibling. We managed to find a handy boulder to hunker down out of the wind and have lunch

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Once on the slopes the wind and spindrift was – to coin a phrase from a few years back on this trip – mental! You could barely stand up in the wind and we reckoned the wind-chill was in excess of -20C. We donned crampons and sought out some pretty steep slopes of rock hard icy snow to add to the excitement

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Goggles were essential in these conditions, modelled here by yours truly

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The second top had a monument which THO was keen to look at even though we were in the cloud. We were buried down out of the wind and took a while to study the map, work out where we were take bearings etc to see if we could locate it. When we stood up it was clearly visible and only a hundred yards away. Muppets!

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We found an equally steep icy slope to plunge down and back to the last and largest lake, Lochan na h’Achlaise

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The water seemed more frozen but made ominous groaning and cracking sounds so we stayed on terra firma

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THO was not feeling his best (he’s been suffering from a derivative of the same bug that I had). We took a break by the lake for some recuperative snacks

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He decided he was far too weak to walk back down the road to the car so being the saintly person I am I agreed to do the hard yards and pick him up on the way back. I was glad the roads were quiet. The A82 across Rannoch Moor is no place for a pedestrian

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I collected my companion and headed back to the hotel for further refreshments (a cold pint is the perfect finish to a cold day). We took some video of our adventures, compiled below. I should do that more often as it enhances the days experiences when reliving

 

A shortish day of 6 miles and not much ascent but in the conditions it felt much tougher. Added bonus to discover that whilst small the higher of the hills is isolated enough to be classified as a Marilyn – a new tick list to start! 🙂

Rannoch Moor

More winter adventures to come…..

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