Archive for March 2019

Winter Weekend – Ben Inverveigh and Meall Tairbh   10 comments

March brings along our annual winter gathering of old university friends. We’ve been holding this event for I think 14 years now and the numbers seem to be as strong as ever. 15 this time for the weekend but some of us were there early for an extra day. That extra day was looking a bad idea as the Friday morning was truly appalling. Heavy horizontal rain lashed the hotel and we sat over a lazy breakfast and morning watching the puddles get bigger. The forecast was for a possible improvement after lunch so we headed out on the off chance. As we parked up, the rain stopped and the first flashes of blue sky and sunshine appeared.

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We took a route I’d done a couple of years back up the small mountains behind the Bridge of Orchy Hotel. It makes a nice if rather soggy circuit for a half day.

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The wind was ferocious and in a couple of places hard to stand up. The views were pretty decent though and far better than anything we could have expected after the morning deluge.

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Views towards Rannoch Moor and Loch Tulla.

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THO enjoying the wild weather.

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And MM and Danish Matt hiding from the wind.

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Looking down on our hotel home for the weekend.

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As we neared the top of Ben Inverveigh we were caught in a wild and nasty rain storm. The rain was stinging my face as we walked and I nearly bailed and ran down. It seemed to last forever but was only a few minutes after which we were treated to some glorious vistas.

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Stob Ghabhar and the Blackmount.

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The happy band on the summit.

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Wild weather and storms all round.

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The twin munros of Beinn Dorain and Beinn an Dothaidh.

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Further rain fell as we crossed the col to the second and higher peak of Meal Tairbh. As we reached the wild and exposed top and hunkered down out of the wind we had more fabulous stormy views.

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Doesn’t really tell just how windy it was here!

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Its a long and rather boggy walk down the ridge and we were hit by a pretty heavy rain shower. I love days like this. The wild weather makes you feel alive and the views when you get them are always so clear and so dramatic.

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From the embers of a poor morning we’d lit the fire of a really good afternoon in these little walked hills.

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The river views of the Allt Tolaghan at the end of the walk were the icing on the cake.

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A decent 8 mile circuit and the weekend off to a great start.

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A Day By the Seaside   2 comments

Seems a bit crazy to want to spend time in the sea in mid-March but that’s the kind of thing I like to do. A decent surf forecast saw me and THO, accompanied by TBF plan a day in the surf in South Wales.

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The weather had been appalling all week but Sunday was bright and sunny if a little windy and cold. Rest Bay is our usual hang out but it was open to the wind and the waves were a bit scary. After a very fine breakfast in our new favourite cafe we headed to the Town beach behind the harbour wall where the waves were more manageable.

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Safe to say we didn’t stay in long even though we had some superb long rides in pretty much prefect conditions. The beach was very busy as was the Theme Park and we finished the day off in style with Waffles and Ice Cream on the sea front before the rain returned.

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Perfect except for the fact that the water was staggeringly cold.

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This was especially noticeable when taking a dunk, water cold enough to make your head ache and feel rather light headed.

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Regardless of activity and the pains to achieve it, I always enjoy a spell of outdoor fun and it most definitely clears the head of any lingering post work lassitude.

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More surfing planned but maybe when the water is not quite as close to freezing!

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Posted March 25, 2019 by surfnslide in Kayaking, Surf Kayaking, Wales

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The Welsh Carneddau (The Other Ones!)   14 comments

Much as I like the more famous Carneddau in Snowdonia they are long way to drive for day out. I’ve discovered there are a bonus range of Carneddau near Builth Wales in darkest mid-Wales. Another Marylin to bag as well, what was I waiting for.

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It was a wild, windy and stormy looking day when I set out but the current outlook was sunny.

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Looks like Pat hasn’t been keeping up the repayments on his van.

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Its an area I’ve not walked before so I was enjoying some new vistas of the upper Wye Valley.

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Once on top the wind was ferocious but it was a stunning area dotted with small outcrops and rounded summits with plenty of paths. Easy going and peaceful if you ignored the howling wind.

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Most of the area is access land but one of the summits with a Trig pillar was outside it. There were gates and paths to reach it but I saved it for another day.

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This was the most substantial cairn I found but not the highest point.

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That was the one behind with was marked by a cairn with stones in single figures!

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The area was clearly heavily used in ancient times with small hill forts and ditches everywhere.

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Expansive views across to mid Wales, Elan Valley and beyond.

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A walk around here to take in every bump and crag would be very fulfilling on a warms summers day but on a cold windy winter one, I settled for a shorter route.

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The various summits and valleys were stunning and it was pleasure too explore them, added to by the fact that I was the only person there. I’m guessing visitors are rare.

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Looking back the way I came down.

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I dropped back down to the road and decided I had time to fit in Aberedw hill as well (another new Marylin). After a brief stop for lunch I pressed on up the steep slopes onto the expansive plateau. I stopped for a breather, turned around and saw this coming my way!

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The walk to the top of Aberedw Hill was in a mix of heavy hail and snow showers for a good hour. I was never in the cloud though so navigation was easy.

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I was surprised to look down and see that I was plastered in wet snow! As quickly as the bad weather arrived, it was gone and the sun appeared again.

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The final walk along the fields and green lanes was splendid in the low afternoon sunlight.

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As I reached the car the weather was much as I’d started. A walk of contrasts between different mountains and very different weather. Hills well worth seeking out if you prefer solitude over big mountains. A great day.

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Posted March 21, 2019 by surfnslide in Mid Wales, Wales, Walking

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An Even Shorter Walk on Garway Hill   7 comments

It’s a time of high winds and storms and walks grabbed in the small windows of opportunity in between.

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Garway Hill is a good one for a short hour outing as you can drive pretty much to the top.

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It was windy but the promised rain didn’t materialise and we enjoyed a brief hour outing.

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Its a pretty decent viewpoint for the Black Mountains, Ysgyryd Fawr and the Sugar Loaf.

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And its a Marilyn as well 🙂

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We extended the usual short walk with a return along the lanes and fields and out of the wind it was surprisingly pleasant and springlike

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More adventurous walking in the next post

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Posted March 19, 2019 by surfnslide in Local Walks, Walking

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Short Walk from Llanthony   2 comments

Clue is in the title. A short post about a short walk on a very grey and windy day before rain and storms swept in a couple of weekends past. The warm sunshine of the Malverns the weekend before was long gone.

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I’d planned a short walk from Cwmyoy but there was some kind of Countryside “Event” on so the Barbour Jacket brigade were out in full force and occupying all the parking spaces. Always eager for a new route I parked up in Llanthony and plotted a new route on the fly.

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Across the Honddu river and up onto the ridge to the west via Cwm Bwchel. Views of Llanthony priory as I climbed.

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It was a wild and windy day and it looked like it could rain at any minute although it never did.

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Not a day for stopping as at times I could barely stand up in the wind. Taste of what seems like the endless winds and storms to come. Bal Bach and Garn Wen quickly came and went.

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I walked as far as I could stand the wind and then plunged back down into the Vale of Ewyas and out of the wind.

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I was a much more pleasant stroll along the valley through Llanthony Wood and back into Llanthony itself.

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A brief but very quiet wander (I saw not another soul other than near the priory)

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Malverns End to End   12 comments

While we sit through a seemingly endless series of storms and heavy rain let’s remind ourselves that we had a small taste of spring a couple weeks back. Temperatures in the high teens and beyond and blue skies.

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The Malverns were a go-to spot for walks (albeit short ones) when I was a kid but we limited ourselves to a small section in the middle. I’ve always had a hankering to walk them end to end and finally an opportunity presented itself.

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The Funsters were watching a play in Malvern so I jumped at the chance to be dropped off at one end and then be collected at the other. I was dutifully left by the road at the base of Chase End Hill and began my challenge.

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A glorious day, warm enough to walk in shorts and short sleeves. No real distant views due to the blue haze that cloaked the horizon but a wonderful day to be out with a long walk planned.

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What the Malverns lack in altitude they more than make up for with descent and re-ascent, about a dozen as I recall, most of them steep.

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Next on the list was Ragged Stone Hill. Just a handful of people but as good a view point as anywhere else in the range.

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Looking north towards my next summit.

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The obelisk on the unnamed hill just off the main ridge.

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Onwards, downwards and steeply upwards to Midsummer Hill. Time for a break and a look at the next series of bumps and dips.

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I wandered out to the obelisk to take a look.

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Through some muddy forest and on to the next rise, Swinyard Hill.

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And then Hangmans Hill.

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And finally to Herefordshire Beacon, also known as British Camp.

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Looking over British Camp Reservoir and the Vale of Evesham.

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Time for a longer rest, a cuppa and a piece of cake while looking at the seemingly endless roll of Malvern summits.

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Refreshed I pushed on along the hardest section due to its constant ups and downs over a list of summits, Black, Pinnacle, Jubilee and Perseverance Hills.

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The blue skies were replaced with grey overcast ones and the wind picked up making it suddenly feel like February which of course it was.

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Last but far from least is the highest point, Worcestershire Beacon. Even though I’ve walked in the Malverns many times, I don’t think I’ve ever been up here and therefore another new summit and Marilyn to add to my collection.

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It was getting late and the texts from the Funsters started to arrive telling me they were done and ready to pick me up. Hurrying on was not a problem as I it was getting pretty cold by now.

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Over the final three summits at the north end of the ridge (Sugar Loaf Hill, Table Hill and the predictably named North Hill) and down to meet the family.

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And I’d made it. It felt like the hike was longer than the 11 miles my maps software told me (probably as I’d walked with only a couple of stops for about 5 hours). My legs did feel every bit of the 3500 feet of ascent. Not bad for a ridge that never goes above 500m. Cracking day.

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Weekend With Long Lost Friends and Offspring   9 comments

Another visit to the very friendly accommodating Hotel de Silverdale an excuse to catch up with our errant son now living the high life up at Lancaster University. As always a splendid weekend of locals walks, banter and great food.

We took several outings the first of which was a wander to Trowbarrow Quarry. Its another of those places that I’m sure Mark must have taken me before, probably many times but I was insistent I’ve never visited.

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A route through Eaves Wood and down to Hawes Water, now being remodelled with new boardwalks to protect the local flora and fauna.

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This local fauna sadly will only be protected to the point where it becomes sausages.

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Trowbarrow Quarry was rather fine. Lots of people rock climbing and the DBs took time showing me all the Mountain Bike routes.

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Rather foolishly I seem to have made a commitment to bring my bike on the next visit so they can take me biking in the quarry. Likely to end in amusement for them and injury for me.

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We stopped off at Leighton Moss on the way back and took a trip up their observation tower where the views were exceedingly fine.

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And then back across the golf course and the fields for lunch of homemade mushroom soup – also exceedingly fine.

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We went out for another brief stroll to the Pepper Pot in Eaves Wood hoping to see the sunset but the clouds had descended and it was a pretty murky. I tried a couple of black and white images to see how they came out.

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The evening was characterised by a takeaway curry and the arrival of Mark’s brother and his two kids. I’ve not seen him since his stag do – pushing 20 years so it was great to catch up and swap some old and new stories.

A morning walk around Jenny Brown’s Point and Jack Scout. Still gloomy and grey but its a fine walk.

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The weather and plenty of chatter meant only a couple of photos.

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Despite a gloomy forecast the afternoon was glorious and sunny and a final walk was in order. It wouldn’t be a Silverdale weekend without a trip up Arnside Knott. and the late afternoon sunshine was very welcome.

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Mark had found a new path to the summit – a very steep way as it happens but we timed our arrival with some stunning light conditions.

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The Lakes were still under the gloom proving that sometimes small and local is best.

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We reckoned if we pushed on at a brisk pace we could reach the Pepper Pot in time for what we hoped would be a better sunset.

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Our route took us past Arnside Tower which looked magnificent lit up by the setting sun.

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It seems rather sad that no-one seems to be looking after it and slowly it seems to falling down and will likely crumble at some point. A sad reflection that this beautiful historic building may not be around forever.

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We reached the Pepper Pot a matter of seconds before the sun went down and whilst not exactly fire in the sky it was a wonderful and peaceful way to finish a cracking weekend

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Thanks as always to Mark and the Family for letting us stay and making us welcome and great to catch up with old friends and enjoy the delights of this wonderful and unspoilt part of the world.

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Skiing in a Winter Wonderland   18 comments

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Just in case any of you are pining for a taste of winter, deep snow and blue skies let me fix that for you. A few photos and tales my my ski trip to the French Alps a few weeks back with some gratuitous food and beer pictures thrown in.

This was the view from the balcony on our second full morning.

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Took a while to reach this point after some travel hassle. We do this same trip every year and its normally gone without a hitch. This year we all faced delays and cancellations and losses. Me and THO had our outbound flight cancelled (ironically due to snow in the UK) and had to fly out the next day from a different airport (that flight itself was over an hour late). MM had his flight from Copenhagen cancelled and UF only just made it. Instead of all arriving in Geneva at the same time on Friday we arrived in 3 stages across 24 hours adding to the grief with transfers and car hire. And as final gesture EasyJet and its partners lost UFs bags for a few days!

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Despite all this we only lost one rather foggy day of skiing and the rest of the week was a cracker. Fresh, deep snow and abundant blue skies, cold enough to keep the snow light and fluffy, not so cold as to be unpleasant.

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Magnificent conditions and views.

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And the company of like minded souls (although this is MM and he’s a bit mad!)

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Probably the best day over in the quiet far reaches of Courcheval 1650.

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Fabulous weather and some awesome untracked powder runs.

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Skiing is energetic and much intake of food is required.

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Haven’t really got the hang of selfies and the ability to smile at the camera – I was happy, honest.

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Beer is not essential but it would be rude not to.

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After lunch we took on the off piste route down into the Vallee D’Arval. Its down the valley to the snow covered lake in the photo below.

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Amazing route away from the lifts and more deep untracked powder to play in.

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Looking back at our own tracks

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THO had done this before and was a little disingenuous is stating there was a “bit of flat stuff to exit the valley”. For that read a couple of miles of skating and walking in the sunshine. It was well worth it though!

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An evening shot while on our way to do the shopping.

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Shopping is a tedious activity at the best of times. We’ve discovered the best way to dull the pain is with a beer in a very friendly and convivial bar around the corner from the supermarket. We went shopping quite often.

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Look closely at the photos below and you can see the zip wire cables that cross well over 1,000 feet above the valley.

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Its been here a few years but this is the first time I’ve seen it in use. Here’s someone giving it a go, not sure I’d want to!

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We’ve had a few leans snow years but this year was superb. Its rare to see the area looking this white.

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Evening shot of the Aiguille de Fruit from the balcony.

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Not every day was blue sky.

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More off-piste fun off the back of Mont Vallon. Utterly horrid at the top, superb at the bottom.

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Off-piste skiing is hard work, more food was required. My second favourite eating place this one at Cafe del Mott (don’t remember the name of the best one but it was good)

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Our last night saw a superb show of pink Alpenglow from the balcony.

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And one final day of skiing through to the last lift before a rather more trouble free journey home.

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Superb trip with great mates. Hope I’ve not been too smug. I hear winter may be returning to the UK soon 🙂

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Windy   11 comments

Between the last walk up Ysgyryd Fawr and this one we did a short walk on the Begwyns just north of Hay on Wye. The weather was so grey and dreary that I didn’t take a single picture so this is the next on the list.

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The circuit of Hatterrall Hill from Cwmyoy is default walk when we have an afternoon to spare. Long enough for a decent stretch but short enough to fill a half day.

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We’ve walked it many times but always in the same direction – clockwise – so tried it the other way round for a change including parking outside the wonky church at Cwmyoy rather than the village hall to shave off some time (the forecast was very uncertain)

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The forecast showers didn’t seem to materialise and it was in fact a very sunny and pin sharp day. The low winter sun creating some stunning vistas.

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What the photos don’t show is how extraordinarily windy it was. The forecast was for windy weather but not like this.

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I could barely stand up and was blown across the slopes a number of times even braced by my poles. TBF was actually blown off here feet a couple of times.

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Despite the cracking views we’d both had enough battling against the wind and abandoned the idea of the usual high level circuit.

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We pitched down into the corrie losing the wind and picked up what turned out to be a very fine traversing path we’ve never walked before.

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The photo below looking almost calm and spring-like – it wasn’t!

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We had a brief stop for lunch between these two walls. It was calm when sat down but peering over the wall was like looking into a wind tunnel.

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We climbed to the top of the small summit created by an ancient landslip where the wind was incredible. I’ve no idea how I managed to take this photo but the blurred background is indicative of just how hard it was to stand even remotely still.

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TBF has ben forced to remove a tight fitting hat to save from losing it!

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I’m a fan of the bare look of winter trees framing mountain views so here some good ones from the descent back to the car.

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Short, sweet and very, very windy!

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A New Perspective on Ysgyryd Fawr   10 comments

Back to the mundane normality of a cold grey British January. Ysgyryd Fawr is always a favourite when we need a short walk out in the hills. The obvious route has been somewhat marred by car park improvement that seems to have dictated a rather steep charge to park for a walk. Paying to park in the hills is a real bug-bear of mine. We should be encouraging people into the outdoors not putting them off. The end result was looking for a new route so we parked up – for free – in the lyrically named Llanvihangel Crucorney and approached from the north for the first time, passing Llanvihangel Court on the way.

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It was a grey day that looked like rain was imminent but we stayed dry and the route, clearly little known was deserted and pleasant.

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We skirted along the eastern slopes and back up onto the main ridge, turning to head for the summit. It was ferociously windy but refreshing and so far still dry.

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The most noticeable thing was how bare the summit ridge was. There is normally a path bounded by grass but it seemed almost stripped bare to mud across the entire width. I’m not sure if this was due to weather conditions or an increase in foot traffic bit it didn’t feel right at all. I’ll have to to return in the spring and see if the grass is making a recovery.

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We didn’t linger on the top due to the wind and took a similar if slightly variant route down.

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As we descended the skies cleared a little and there was a touch more in the way of blue sky.

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Some of the late afternoon light effects were quite dramatic and it finished off a quite a decent walk and will now be my default route up the mountain.

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Almost 7 miles in the end and a very enjoyable and much quieter route to the top.

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