Archive for the ‘Backpacking’ Category

A Cheeky Wild Camp in the Arans   9 comments

P1050448

I had a Sunday walk planned with a few friends in Shropshire and with a decent forecast thought I could make a proper weekend of things with a one night wild camp and walk in the Arans.  It was pretty gloomy when I parked up with little sign of the promised evening sunshine.

P1050424

It was also warm, humid and airless and a very, steep climb into Cwm Cywarch. I was dripping sweat all the way up and bothered by flies and midges whenever I stopped. I feared the lack of wind would continue and I’d be sharing my planned site with tiny unwanted friends. I was beginning to regret the decision to head out and I wasn’t in high spirits.

All that changed as I reached the broad col below Glasgwm. The sun was emerging from below the mask of heavy cloud and throwing some promising sunlight onto the surrounding hills. Even better there was a breeze to blow the flies away and cool me down

P1050429

Within minutes there was more abundant sunshine. My mood was lifted immeasurably

P1050431

I was heading for the summit of Glasgwm to camp. The climb up to the top is a steep one and on the way up I’d been dreading it. Amazing how sunshine improves your mood and your energy. I fair romped up the steep slopes

P1050434

The views just got better and better as I climbed, keeping ahead of the setting sun so it was still out as I reached the summit

P1050435

On the top it was just stunning. The summit was swept with swirling mists and low angle sunlight

P1050440

The light was fading fast so I had to concentrate as much on setting up  camp as admiring the views (forgetting that even once the sun has gone down, it doesn’t get really dark at this time of year)

P1050442

I’d targeted the summit as a good place to camp on a previous visit. Its broad and largely grassy with numerous spots to throw up a tent (although the grass and turf is only a couple of inches thick before hitting rock)

P1050443

The small Llyn y Fign provides a useful water source although has no outflow worthy of the name so needs to be boiled or filtered to be safe

P1050445

I pitched just below the summit cairn. There is no better feeling than a summit camp especially at sunset

P1050446

I made a brew and watched the sun sink and bathe the summit in glory

P1050447

It took me a while to set up camp while admiring the views

P1050450

I had a very refreshing wash in the lake before I turned in. The views across the lake were amazing with a deep pink sky and thin mist over the water. Alas I hadn’t taken either my phone or my camera so the views went unrecorded other than in my memory.

P1050451

It was pushing 11pm and quite chilly so just lay inside the tent watching the sky darken

P1050452

The sense of peace when wild camping is quite hard to explain and I drifted off to sleep in happy mood

P1050453

The fickleness of the weather brought me back to reality with overnight rain and unzipping the tent to realise I was in the cloud

P1050455

Still I had my feast of Bacon and Eggs to cheer me up and it was still a fine if rather blank spot in the cloud

P1050455a

As morning progressed it kept threatening to clear and then mist up again but after an amble about the summit area looking for other possible pitches for future visits it did clear

P1050464

The photo below was taken from the summit cairn at 772m and shows the green and expansive summit plateau. Sadly being more focused on views than where I was putting the tent meant it wasn’t quite as flat as it appears!

P1050465

I packed up and headed off for a stroll around the Arans

P1050470

It was another warm and muggy day but there was a breeze to keep me cool and the day became sunnier as the morning ticked over into afternoon

P1050473

As always I rejected the main path for an off piste route to the top of Gwaun y LLwyni. It’s a very rough walk and a short steep grassy climb but worth the effort as the views across the deep Hengwm Valley and Cwm Cywarch are immense.

P1050474

A quiet grassy path leads along a broad ridge and then along the edge to Drws Bach

P1050475

P1050478

On Drws Bach I stopped for lunch and the sun came out in force

P1050482

The views across to the main Arans ridge were superb and I felt I had to make the effort to make the summit. I hid the pack and went briskly two the summit unencumbered.

P1050483

P1050485

I have a fondness for the Arans as they have a proper, rocky big mountain feel without being difficult or busy. I only saw a handful of people on this day. Looking north to Arenig Fawr

P1050486

West to Cadair Idris

P1050488

North along the ridge to Bala and its lake

P1050487

And east over Craiglyn Dyfi

P1050490

Selfie to prove I didn’t steal the shots from the Interweb

P1050491

I headed down in the best weather of the day as blue skies took centre stage

P1050493

Hengwm valley

P1050494

Gwaun y LLwyni & Drws Bach

P1050495

P1050498

P1050499

Looking back up Hengwm

P1050503

And full circle to my route of ascent the previous evening

P1050504

Arans 2

Arans 1

A cracking little over-nighter and reward for taking a chance on the weather. One of the best sunsets of I’ve seen in the mountains for a while. Time to head off to meet up with good friends for the second half of my weekend

Advertisements

Bank Holiday Backpack in the Black Mountain   18 comments

P1050366

My good friend the Hard Man and his two kids came to pay us a visit over the recent BH weekend. They were spending the week in South Wales doing touristy stuff and seeing relatives and took a chance to come see us and try to convince me to go walking in the rain. The Hard Man seems to have taken over the mantle of blind weather optimism from my friend EWO and always sees good weather prospects in the worst of forecasts. On this occasion we were faced with a forecast of heavy thundery showers, not exactly ideal weather to be sitting in a small tent. He even tried to convince that the tent poles would act as some sort of Faraday Cage if we got struck. Deluded!

Anyway as the weekend progressed the forecast improved and seemed to indicate we might get a dry evening on the Sunday and a dry albeit cloudy Monday. Against my better judgement we decided go for it. Packing up on Sunday morning it seemed like a very bad idea. We had the lot. Torrential rain, thunder, lightning, hail. We set off in an almighty downpour that had us dodging several pretty serious floods. Most of us looked out of the window with severe trepidation. The Hard Man simply looked happy that he’d at least got us in the car. We shopped like aristocrats in Waitrose and it had stopped raining by the time we were done. Shortly afterwards the sun came out. It didn’t rain again for the rest of the weekend.

Before the backpacking festivities we took a short stroll to Henrhyd Falls. I’ve never been to these (this corner of South Wales has loads of waterfalls) and very fine they were too.

P1050310

Like all the very best waterfalls you can walk behind them

P1050311

P1050312

It’s a popular spot and there were plenty of people about so we didn’t linger

P1050315

There were mountains to be climbed and wild campsites to be occupied

P1050316

Our route was a local classic. A camp by the wonderful Llyn y Fan Fawr and a walk along the edges the next day. The summits looked dark and gloomy as we set off (after a monumental faff by the family Hard Man).

P1050318

It’s a relatively easy walk up to the tarn now I’ve finally discovered a way through the boggiest bits

P1050324

As we climbed up the clouds parted and there was sunshine aplenty. It’s a really fine spot for a night in the hills

P1050325

After a little deliberation we found a great spot by a small beach on the Lake. We set up camp and basked in sunshine. The pointing is showing TJS that the sun was shining as he’d mocked us when we left about how wet we were going to get. I even managed a very quick and very cold swim to wash away the grime of the walk in

P1050328

The Hard Man returns from a water gathering exercise

P1050330

The wind had dropped and the water was stunningly calm and mirror-like

P1050331

The downside of warm weather, no wind and clouds is obvious. Midges! That’s the reason TBF has her hood up by way of protection. They were not even close to the scale and numbers of a Scottish midge attack but there was enough to be irritating while trying to cook

P1050333

As evening drew in and the temperature dropped they went back to their evil lair for the night and we enjoyed a pleasant late evening stroll to collect some fresh running water to save having to filter the lake water

P1050342

P1050345

The moon was dazzlingly bright. Not a bad picture with a handheld zoom

P1050348

The next morning we were shrouded in cloud when we woke. It was a still a nice peaceful spot so I still got up and cooked my breakfast early and alone before the midges came out. As everyone else stirred and came to life the cloud began to break and we saw the first tentative rays of sunshine (and the first of the midges)

P1050351

P1050355

It soon turned into a quite amazing morning with expansive and clear blue skies interspersed with mist. Stunning. Way better than anything forecast had us believing.

P1050356

Nice that the Hard Man purchased a tent that blends so well into the landscape you can barely see it!

P1050362

We set off for a walk and the views were amazing. It’s rare to walk in the UK without so much as a breath of wind and see such a mirror like calm on a lake surface

P1050365

P1050370

It was quite mesmerizing. Our pitch is at the far end of the lake towards the right

P1050372

P1050373

P1050375

As we crested the top there was a welcome puff of breeze – it was exceptionally hot for May. The fickleness of British weather never fails to amaze me. We camped by the lake a few years back in July and it was too cold to eat outside the tent!

P1050377

Whilst we weren’t above the cloud there was a bank of it seemingly all around that gave a similar vibe

P1050378

The highest point of the Black Mountain, Fan Brycheiniog

P1050379

P1050381

It’s a classic walk and the first time for the Hard Man for many a year (he spent a good part of his youth in these parts)

P1050384

Heading off for Bannau Sir Gaer

P1050386

P1050387

We hoped to have a first lunch somewhere on the summit but as always seems to be the case it was overrun with flies despite the wind which seemed to be blowing them in. The walk along the edges, normally so wonderful was an unpleasant affair as we picked flies from every facial orifice. We did manage to find a windy spot to keep them at bay for a while until it dropped, the midges came out in force and we ran for cover

P1050390

The walk back to the tents along the base of the cliffs is one of my favourites and in baking sunshine it was a joy

P1050392

P1050393

P1050394

P1050395

We returned to base camp for more food and to think about packing up. It had been a hot walk and all that I’d been thinking about was a swim.

P1050396

It was fabulous if very cold but so refreshing after a hot and sweaty hike. Yours truly enjoying the cold clear water

P1050399

TBF joined in as well

P1050400

As we packed up the clouds started to bubble and we heard a few rumbles of thunder. Time to get the hell out of there

P1050402

As we followed the stream back to the car we turned and saw that the clouds had completely enveloped the summits again and all looked very threatening. It appeared we caught the weather window perfectly. The sun shines on the righteous and all that

P1050403

Luckily the mindless and delusional optimism of the Hard Man had worked wonders and we had a cracking little trip out. Another weekend out planned in a couple of weeks time so more of the same will be in order

A Review of 2017   18 comments

I’ve read quite a few blog post in the past few days reviewing other peoples 2017 exploits. I enjoyed them so much I thought I’d do the same. Good excuse to look back through my photos and remember what we got up to. At my age I need help remembering stuff!.

Acutely conscious of the modern trend for these awful “round robin” letters you get at Xmas (we get one of these smugograms every year) I tried to select photos that bring back a particular memory for me so its more a personal, family introspection on outdoorsy stuff, than a blow by blow account of the year. As its based on my photo collection if I didn’t photograph it, it ain’t here!

January

We started the year off in Tenerife and New Years Day was spent on this rather splendid beach (the earlier part of the day was in the mountains but I cocked up the photos from that part of the day!)

IMG_2319

Returning to the British winter, a walk along the Cats Back in the Black Mountains with TBF, memorable for a cloud inversion after a very wet morning. A reminder that despite our travels we are lucky to have some stunning scenery on our doorstep

IMG_2314

A solo day out in the Brecon Beacons, the first snowy walk near to home and pretty much the only one with significant snow during the early part of the year (made up for it at the end)

IMG_0009

A glorious day out in the Black Mountains with TJS and a cooked breakfast on a cold Table Mountain. I like this photo though as it has Mynydd Troed in centre shot, my very first mountain climbed when I was about 10

IMG_2376

And my usual skiing trip (only a weekend this year) to finish off the month. Snow was a bit rubbish but we had a laugh nonetheless

P1291187

February

Another solo day on Fan Fawr in the Brecon Beacons. I remember this day for a very mild Friday afternoon (16C) and snow in the mountains 18 hours later

IMG_2408

A short walk with TBF on Hatterall Hill

IMG_2449

March

The first weekend of the month is always spent in Scotland with friends of long standing. A new location at Bridge of Orchy and a two out of three days were magnificent winter days. The walk along this ridge high above Rannoch Moor on the first day was superb

IMG_2523

Me and TJS also managed a cheeky backpack into the Black Mountains. Straight from work on the Friday for a one nighter in my new tent. Need to do more of these this year

P3251293

2017 is the year I rediscovered cycling – mainly to help my knee and also to be less of a lazy layabout during the week. The Hardman – a VERY keen and VERY fit cyclist caught wind and insisted we meet up in the Peak for a trip along a couple of the old railway trails. A cracking sunny day and I survived cycling with the Hardman!

P3261343

And we finally managed a meet up in the Berwyns with Uncle Fester after a few aborted attempts

IMG_2558

April

More cycling and solo trip through the Brecon Beacons on the “Gap” route. Cycling to over 600m was a first for me and I started to feel that I almost, might, actually enjoy cycling.

IMG_0671

Easter and a major backpacking trip with TJS to the Cairngorms. The weather was wild and windy but we had a couple of superb wild camps and TJS bagged his first Scottish 4000 footer

P4131365

I even coaxed TJF out for a bike ride along the Brecon and Usk canal

P4231533

May Day weekend was mostly in April. Mixed weather but we had a fine gaggle of friends on a hike around Greendale, taking in Buckbarrow and Seatallan

P4291564

May

No finer way to celebrate a birthday than a lunchtime hike. This one was on one of my local hills, Bryn Arw with TBF

IMG_2595

Followed by a weekend away in Cornwall. It almost felt tropical on the white sands just north of Padstow on one of our walks

IMG_2704

Whitsun weekend was spent with our good friends in Silverdale. The Sunday was a real winner with a long but easy stroll and a fantastic pub lunch. Weather was mixed the rest of the time but great company, many laughs and a chance to relax

IMG_2725

June

A different walk from the usual mountains. One of the small hills that overlook Gloucester and across to the Cotswolds. Not something I’d do every day but a nice change

IMG_2768

One of the highlights of the year was the long-planned backpacking trip with the kids into the Howgills. Despite poor weather we gave it a go and it was a huge success. The kids really enjoyed the adventure and I’m hoping they have caught the wild camping bug

P6101657

July

After the backpack trip I was out of action for a few weeks recuperating and resting after a minor knee op. Didn’t affect my water based fun though, a nice albeit far too long trip down the river Wye

P7091729

By the end of July I was back in the hills again (the knee op has been a great success I’m pleased to say). A fine evening stroll with TBF and TJS on Ysgyryd Fawr (we even took a cheeky cold beer to drink on the top)

P1000139

Another “local walk for local people” – this time Garway Hill where we reached the top, saw this nasty storm approaching and raced it back to the car. We won.

P1000151

Late July brings the annual camping trip to Towyn Farm on the Llyn Peninsula. We packed in lots of walks and beach fun in a very mixed few days of weather. My abiding memory though was this game of Kubb which was huge fun with both adults and kids alike taking it far too seriously and larking about in equal measure. A happy afternoon

P1000237

August

The big family trip of the year, a rail trip around some of Europe’s finest cities. An real change from our usual outdoor camping trips and it was real success. We all took took to the city life rather well you might say. One of my best ever holidays. A few photos that made me smile

One of the many fountains in Paris (we called this one the fountain of throttled fish)

P1000350

A monster thunderstorm in Turin

P1000550

My favourite seafront walk in Venice

P1000909

The Colloseum in Rome – of course

P1010063

Schloss Belvedere in Vienna (courtesy of an unplanned extra couple of hours from a very late train)

IMG_1238-2

The thermal baths in Budapest – “like taking a bath in a wedding cake”

P1020184t

A stroll along the Spree river in Berlin on a sunny Sunday afternoon

P1020495

And the railway bridge over the Rhine in Cologne

P1020608

September

Back to earth with a bump. A few days after the heat and sun of Europe we were walking in the Black Mountains in driving rain and cold winds!

P9100010

But there was still enough warm weather left for a round of the hills near the Talybont Reservoir in the Brecon Beacons

P1020704

October

A walk with friends in the Roaches on the dreariest day of the year (when everywhere else was sunny – I’m not bitter)

IMG_2382

More evidence of my new found cycling passion (probably too strong a word). A ride around the tracks of the New Forest while TJS took a look around Southampton University

PA140023a

And why settle for one trip to see major cities when you can do it twice. As a special treat for TJS 18th Birthday we spent a week in Barcelona. Probably my favourite city but despite all its famous sights, this little known hill and its view overlooking the city was my favourite spot

P1020859-2

November

After sunshine comes the reality of winter. A couple of cold but beautiful days. One in the Black Mountains on the Sugar Loaf and Crug Mawr

P1030499

And one of my favourite walks in the Black Mountain

IMG_2558

A delayed birthday treat weekend for TBF saw us in Padstow for a couple of nice meals and walks along the Cornish coast and Dartmoor

IMG_2653-2

December

And last into the proper depths of winter. The first snows saw me and TJS head into the highest peaks of the Black Mountains

P1030581

The day after saw the biggest dump of snow I’ve seen in my own backyard for many a year. Walks around my village in deep snow under crisp blue skies were wonderful

IMG_2831

The start of the Xmas holidays is marked with an annual get together of my University friends and their families. Always great fun but this year we could climb the hills in snow (rather than wet rain) and play at snowballs

P1030622

Finally coming full circle with a return to the Canary Islands to spend Xmas in Lanzarote and Xmas Day sunning ourselves on the beach

P1040068

Well I enjoyed looking through my photos, choosing a few and reliving a great year. Hope you enjoyed it too. All the best for 2018 🙂

Wild Camping – The Next Generation   17 comments

P6101657

The delights of Wild Camping are not always obvious to the younger members of the family. We’ve been hatching a plan for a couple of years to get more of the kids involved after Mark took A out on a couple of trips and me, TJS, the Hardman and his eldest did the same last year

To coordinate a weekend is easier said than done so we just picked a date and agreed to decide closer to the time to see if was a goer.

Right on cue the forecast was really poor. I almost bailed out, not fancying spending a weekend in the rain with grumpy kids. However it was said kids who convinced me I was the grumpy one and we decided to give it a go. We had planned a trip to upper Eskdale but the weather looked truly awful so we plumped on a less ambitious route into the Howgills.

The Saturday morning was as horrid as the forecast, several hours of ceaseless rain had us lounging about Mark’s place while he filled us up with a nourishing soup. We headed out anyway and as luck would have it got delayed by a traffic jam on the M6 long enough for the rain to have pretty much stopped by the time we parked up. All packed and ready to go we headed for the hills

P6101628

P6101629

P6101631

The original plan had been to walk up Carlingill Beck. Its a superb valley and has possible camp spots at the far end. The wet weather had the streams in spate though and crossing them would have been a challenge. We changed tack and headed up and around the head of Carlingill by going over Linghaw and picking up an interesting looking traversing path high above the waterfalls at the head of the valley

P6101633

The horses kept us company clearly waiting for us to disappear so they could get up to mischief, more of this later

P6101634

P6101635

Considering how poor the forecast had been the weather wasn’t all that bad. It had stopped raining and whilst it was windy, the cloud lifted a bit and we had views of a sort

P6101636

We easily picked up the high level traversing path and what a find (thanks to Mark). Even in gloomy weather it was a real delight, easy, yet elevated high above the deep cleft of Carlingill Beck

P6101639

P6101641

We even had a few glimpses of sunshine on the valley below

P6101644

The path cut across the top of the dramatic Black Force

P6101646

P6101648

The kids seemed in great spirits and were enjoying the challenge of the walk into the wilds

P6101649

There were even steam crossings to delight and amuse for young and old alike

P6101652

P6101653

P6101654

It was just a short walk from there to Blakethwaite Bottom, our intended pitch, having read favourable reviews online as a great spot. It was seriously windy and exposed but we found a great spot on the far side sheltered enough to make sitting outside the tents quite pleasent.

The Hardman had a new tent to try out, an enormous 3 -person Vango affair, in a discrete scarlet colour

P6101655

I lent Mark my large Lightwave 3 person tent for him and two of his dangerous offspring. He was very taken with it. So taken I’ve lent it to him long term as his kids are really taking to the wild camping and this tent really hits that 3 person spot. I don’t have much use for it any more (TJS prefers to sleep solo when there’s the three of us – I snore apparently as well) and I’d much rather see it in use than under my bed gathering dust

P6101656

We had a really enjoyable time cooking tea, messing about and having a laugh. The kids seemed to really enjoy themselves and being outdoors with a trio of middle-aged grey hikers

P6101659

We even had some brief sunny spells and decided to take an evening walk up Uldale Head

P6101663

P6101665

P6101666

It was brutally steep and when crested the top, amazingly windy.

P6101667

P6101669

We had a few fleeting views but the real fun was had from surfing in the wind. The smiles on the faces below tell how much we all enjoyed being kids. We also discovered that turning cagoules inside out made a fairly effective parachute to drag us around the summit. I forgot to take photos alas

P6101671

It had been cracking day, all the better for the fact we hadn’t expected to get much out of it other than a soaking and long periods sat in the tent. In the event we only went under canvas when it was time for bed after an improvised game of Petanques with rocks, many brews of tea and lots of biscuits

P6101673

We woke the next morning with company. A small gathering of wild horses and ponies on our doorstep. A bacon breakfast got the day off to a grand start

P6111674

P6111675

Soon there was celebrity death-match between some cows and the horses. The cows won and spent an age just stood close by looking at us curiously, nudging each other out the way for a closer look. Very comical. I’ve had a few run ins with cows recently but these were harmless if a little disconcerting but soon dispersed with a little encouragement

P6111676

We didn’t want to hang around as the forecast was for strengthening winds and rain in the afternoon. We packed up and headed back down but were hit by the only bad weather of the weekend. We walked straight into a cold deluge that had us all soaked within seconds and for a short period it was deeply unpleasent. It stopped soon enough though and apart from a few short sprinkles we stayed dry the rest of the day

P6111678

We dropped back down to Carlingill Beck by the side of Black Force. An impressive ravine and extremely steep so we took our time. Again I think the kids enjoyed the challenge and the rain hadn’t doused their spirits in any way

P6111680

P6111685

We had a brief lunch by the river and embraced the challenge of a couple of river crossings

P6111686

P6111690

The walk along Carlingill Beck is superb and provided a fitting finish to what was a superb if short trip out to the wilds

P6111691

P6111692

P6111695

P6111696

P6111698

P6111700

I wasn’t sure how the kids would take to a wild camp in less than perfect conditions but they were all superb company. My abiding memory of the weekend was smiles and laughter. They took everything in their stride and were a pleasure to be with from start to finish. For me, there was a real sense of pride that they enjoyed it far more than I hoped and seemed to share in the simple pleasures of just being out in the mountains. Their youthful enthusiasm was infectious and I hope we can do this on a much more regular basis. Cracking stuff. If only those pesky ponies I mentioned hadn’t sheltered by my car and barged into it, denting the front wing, the little pests. Still that’s why we have insurance I guess

 

That brings my blog back up to date. I’m out of action for a few weeks having just had some minor surgery on my left knee. All went well and healing nicely so blog service will be resumed in a couple of weeks

Wild camping in Big Country Part 3   8 comments

P4171497

Sleep comes so much easier when the wind isn’t roaring and your mind starts to imagine scenarios of tents blowing down and trying to rescue everything in the dark of night. All we had was gentle rain to soothe us. By morning it had stopped and there were tentative glimpses of sunshine. Enough to tempt us outside for breakfast. Life was pretty good in a boil in the bag sausage and then porridge kind of way

P4171482

P4171483

There was no urgency to head home so we took a walk back up towards Corrour. There was plenty of blue sky and sunshine but it was still windy high up and pretty chilly. On a whim I decided to head for the skyline to the south as it looked moderately interesting. A chance to make a summit

P4171485

TJS was less convinced by the bog and tussocks to reach it so he returned to the tent while I covered the ground more briskly than I thought

P4171488

Having crossed Creagan nan Gabhar, Sgor Mor didn’t look much, just a bare high point surrounded by heather

P4171489

I traversed over to the SW ridge and found it pleasantly rocky and a joy to climb very easily to its summit. The view became ever better as I ascended, both north to the main Cairngorm summits and south across Glenshee and Beinn a Ghlo.

P4171493

P4171494

I got my reward for making the effort as my stay on the summit coincided with a lovely sunny spell. I grinned to the sky at my good fortune and sat on a rock to ponder

P4171496

P4171498

I tried another attempt at panorama shots but I still haven’t sussed them. Either I’m moving the camera too slowly or quickly but there is always a break in them at 2/3 across. Not quite sure why. If you click on them you can see a larger version. The second one (looking south) is much better and there is a video 360 in the slideshow at the end

P4171495

P4171500

I particularly enjoyed the views to the south as I hadn’t seen much of those the previous couple of days. It reminded me of a backpack through to Bynack Lodge many years ago, a trip remembered for very heavy showers, a very scary crossing of the Geldie Burn and two days of wearing shorts when I really should have known better

P4171502

I also thought of the many bloggers who I read and enjoy who will (about now in fact) be walking through this area on the TGO challenge. If any of them are camped up near White Bridge and get a decent day they could do worse than take a trip up this fine mountain. Sitting between the bigger ranges of hills its a perfect vantage point across some wonderful wild and remote landscape

P4171503

When  I got back I was further cheered to find out it was a Corbett. It doesn’t look high enough until you realise that all the valleys are already at 500m in these parts. Didn’t make the last few hundred meters to camp through some of the deepest heather I’ve ever seen any easier but at least I had another tick on the round of Corbetts that I’ll never finish

P4171504

Cairngorms 5

All that was left was to have lunch in the sun outside the tent, pack up, and head back to the car. TJS resisting the photo call from dad to fall in for some extra blog novelty value

P4171507

The trudge down Glen Lui was just as long, perhaps a little longer with a heavy heart of great trip nearly over

P4171509

P4171510

A last look along the Lui Water and we were back at the surprisingly empty Linn of Dee car park. Best part of 50 miles walked over the 5 days which we were both well chuffed about. As we finished getting ready to leave it started snowing!

P4171511

I commented on the previous post how I look back on this trip as an adventure in challenging conditions. By Cairngorm standards it was pretty benign but when I think of the fact it was cold, windy, snowy, that we were in some remote spots, that we saw few people hiking and almost no-one wild camping the feeling of achievement grows still further. This is especially true for TJS as he still has limited mountain experience and for me as I am ultimately responsible for keeping us safe (as opposed to leaning on the experience of friends). It would have been easy to bail out to a B&B or a campsite (and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t consider it at a couple of points) but we stuck with it and got reward with some fine spells of weather, great views and for TJS one the UK’s great summits and another long trip into the mountains under his belt.

Cairngorms 6

Next years plan is already forming for more adventures. My friends that went to Arran had a good time but didn’t wild camp saying its too early in the year. What do they know! 🙂

I need to backpack while I still can as I don’t know how many I have left in me (private joke!)

Wild Camping in Big Country Part 2   8 comments

P4151452

The wind picked up overnight. Quite dramatically so. One of those winds you can hear coming before it batters the tent. My new Nigor Parula 2 tent is not classed as 3 seasons (by the manufacturer anyway) so my remaining concern was how well it would stand up to a Scottish gale. Answer is very well. It does flex quite a bit (as its supposed to) but withstood the battering flawlessly. It was a restless night but we woke to bright skies and decided to stick with our plan to move on, hopefully into the area below the Lairig Ghru. We left behind our home for the past few days and made tracks.

P4151424

P4151425

We agreed to take the alternative path down the west side of the river. Inspired. We were out of the wind, the sun came out and the forest was stunning. This short stretch was one of the highlights of the weekend. Photos don’t really do justice to how gorgeous it was

P4151427

P4151429

We then headed west into the strong wind along the upper reaches Glen Lui. I’ve walked through here a couple of times but hadn’t recalled how stunning it was

P4151430

P4151431

We headed up towards the Luibeg bridge to avoid the ford but as we reached it the skies suddenly darkened and we were hit with an extremely heavy hail and snow shower. The wind roared and I felt the Lairig Ghru would be hugely exposed and I didn’t fancy camping there. I’d spotted a patch of green down by the ford and we headed down primarily to shelter.

It was a wonderful spot, an almost perfect wild camp site. I figured we could tuck the tent in behind some of the trees and gain a small degree of shelter so we pitched here on the spur of the moment. It was right next to the path but this is a remote spot en-route to even more remote areas so only and handful of people passed by while we were there

P4151434

P4151435

Cairngorms 3

The showers were nasty while they emptied but they were few and far between and when the sun was out the views were stunning. We took an afternoon stroll up the path towards the Lairig Ghru and Corrour bothy

P4151436

P4151438

The views back down Glen Lui were sublime and up towards the massive peaks above the Lairig Ghru dramatic

P4151443

P4151448

P4151446

As we wandered back down the light became even clearer and the now abundant sunshine bathed the forest and heather in glorious colour

P4151455

P4151456

When we reached the tent the wind seemed to have dropped completely and it was warm enough – just – to cook outside in the sunshine

P4151457

No better feeling than tucking into a well earned meal in the wilds under an evening sun. One of the joys of backpacking and wild camping

P4151459

We’d hoped the weather would be sunny the next day but it dawned rather grey and gloomy although without the winds of the previous day. We were well placed for an attempt at Ben Macdui with good paths around an obvious horseshoe. There was light snow in the air all the way up but the path and then the easy terrain had us most of the way up Sron Riach in great time

P4161463

P4161464

The summit plateau is a wild and lonely place and deep snow cover still lay on the ground. It was an amazing contrast to the wild winds of the day before without so much as a breath of wind on one of the most notoriously windy places in Scotland. There were even wisps of blue sky to encourage us it might clear but it never did

P4161466

TJS was well chuffed to reach his second munro and the second highest peak in the UK despite the mixed weather

P4161468

After a celebratory cup of soup we headed on towards our second peak of the day. Its a long and tiring descent down the seemingly endless SW slopes of Ben Macdui

P4161471

Carn a Mhaim is a fine peak and different in character to most of the Cairngorms. Rather than the extensive plateau its a long ridge with a couple of moderately rocky sections and excellent views into the depths of the Lairig Ghru far below

P4161473

P4161474

P4161475

P4161476

We stopped for a second lunch and brew on the summit to celebrate TJS third munro (only 280 or so to go). For a time it looked like the skies might clear and our ascent route and the summit of Ben Macdui was revealed. Alas this was a goodbye rather than a greeting. It began to drizzle on the way down which turned into a steady rain that lasted the rest of the day

P4161481

We had to cook inside again due to the rain but it mattered not. We’d earned our feast and slept well without the wind and with the patter of raindrops on the nylon

Cairngorms 4

It had still been a grand day, 10 miles and 4000 feet of climbing on some true big scale mountains from a wild camp base. Epic!

 

Wild Camping in Big Country Part 1   12 comments

P4131365

The annual Easter wild camping trip. We’d made some plans to meet friends and pay a second visit to Arran. However the weather looked more settled in the East and while they stuck to their plan for Arran we headed east for TJS first visit to the Cairngorms, Scotland’s Big Country.

An overnight in Perth, a hearty breakfast in The Bothy in Braemar and round to Linn of Dee ready for a 5 day trip into the heart of this wild and remote corner of the Scottish Hills

P4131353

P4131354

We took the long walk in along Glen Lui, weighed down with 5 days supplies for a 4 night trip. Skies were threatening and spots of rain were in the air but never heavy enough for waterproofs

P4131355

It’s a long walk along the glen but there is a real sense of heading into the wilds. TJS has had a trip to Lochaber where long ridges predominate. The Cairngorms promise something different I told him. Long, deep valleys, high sculpted corries and extensive tundra-like plateaus.

P4131356

We passed Derry Lodge before turning north for Glen Derry. In my youth you could use the building for shelter, albeit a draughty one with all the windows and doors open to the elements. Its boarded up now with unfulfilled planning permission for something grander. There were a couple of people camping in the woods nearby, the only other wild campers we saw all weekend

P4131358

Our plan was to camp in Glen Derry. It’s a fabulous valley, broad, open, surrounded by towering summits and studded with natural scots pine

P4131362

P4131363

I wanted to return to a spot I’d camped in around 20 years ago and managed to find it! It’s an idyllic spot by the river and we found a sheltered spot under a tree

P4131364

We spent a couple of hours making it our home and having lunch. It was more tussocky than I remember and the photo below from the first trip proves it was indeed a much flatter grassier spot (although it was late May rather than Easter). That was a memorable trip for many reasons. Good times

Image 002

I wonder if it was the time of year or whether the translation from grass to tussock is part of the natural evolution of the landscape.

Cairngorms 1

We took a stroll in the late afternoon with a view to reaching Loch Etchachan. It was sunny when we set off but we caught a couple of heavy, wet snow showers, the only time we really got wet the whole weekend

P4131366

We passed by the Hutchison Hut, clearly now much improved, as are most of the Cairngorm bothies. We got a good way up towards the Loch before the cold and wet sent us back down to the tent to eat tea and get cosy in the tent for our first night in the wilds. A day of 11 miles and just shy of 3000 feet of ascent. Off to a good start

P4131368

The next day dawned overcast but bright and cold. We had a vague plan to repeat a walk I done on the previous trip, down to Loch Avon and back via Cairn Gorm and Ben Macdui. The walk over the Lairig an Laoigh takes you into some real wild and remote country and its a stunning walk even on a grey day

P4141375

P4141376

We crossed the Fords of Avon without too much difficulty and took a peek in the Refuge. This has been massively improved to say the least. Last time I was here it was in effect, a small, squalid dark cave in a large cairn. Now its a wooden shelter (albeit with no windows) and rather snug and cosy for a couple of people.

P4141380

We pressed on to Loch Avon. One of the most dramatic locations in the UK if you ask me (I’m sure someone should). After a brief lunch stop at one end we walked to the other. The weather had dipped a little and it was snowing when we reached the other end

P4141381

We stopped for some soup and the sun came out! The beach is rather splendid and the water crystal clear, if a little chilly for a swim. There are plenty of spots for a tent so I must pay the place a longer visit.

P4141391

P4141390

By now we’d decided that the main summits were out-of-bounds with the weather so unpredictable, so a circuit around Beinn Mheadhoin seemed better. Onwards and upwards to Loch Etchachan with snow flurries still in the air but gorgeous views across Loch Avon as we climbed.

P4141394

P4141395

P4141398

After a heavy snow shower we had one of the best spells of the day at the Loch. It’s a magnificent spot, a dark corrie and lake, one of the highest in the UK. I camped up here with TBF and my dog Harry many years ago and this visit rekindled some fine memories. I took a bonus circuit of the smaller lake to take it all in

P4141402

P4141404

We had a spell of abundant sunshine and blue sky on the way down to Glen Derry and all was right with the world. I can handle a few brief soakings if the spells between are as good as this

P4141410

P4141412

TJS seemed to be enjoying it despite the cold weather. The Cairngorms has miles of high quality paths and he hates off-piste walking. He soared ahead of me most of the weekend waiting for me to catch up and show him how to cross awkward rivers and the like!

P4141414

P4141415

A view down Glen Derry. Our pitch is by the two dark trees in the right centre of the shot

P4141418

TJS feasting on his preferred snack of choice, Jaffa Cakes

P4141419

The day ended in fine fashion.  A few isolated showers and chill wind forced us to retire inside to cook.

P4141420

When we emerged for the usual post meal chores and ablutions we were treated a decent late evening light show for as long as our cold hands and other extremities could stand it before retiring

P4141421

P4141422

A highly satisfying and enjoyable day out in wild, big country and another 12 miles and 2800 feet of climbing under our belts. Not bad for ageing and novice sherpas

Cairngorms 2

%d bloggers like this: