Archive for the ‘Backpacking’ Category

Madcap Backpack in the Black Mountains   8 comments

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I’ve been making promises to myself to get out and do more back packing and wild camping. I read lots of blogs and trip reports about cracking trips, mostly short to take advantage of quality weekend time but I never seem to get around to it. That’s all going to change. Armed with a new tent and after a rushed packing/eating session we’d eaten tea and were out walking in the Black Mountains by 6pm

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It was great to be out after work. Less than two hours after shutting the lid on my work laptop at home I was on my way up the Cats Back ridge

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As we raced up the sun went down

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The light was spectacular and of course at this time on a Friday we had this most wonderful ridge to ourselves

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We hurried on past the trig pillar on Black Hill towards our intended overnight stop

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I’d had my eye on a spot a mile so beyond for several years. A small sheltered area of grass just off the path. Its always been dry but after the recent snowfall and heavy rain it was very soggy. We managed to get the tent up and settled inside just as it got dark.

Also had a new tent to play with. Since the demise of my Quasar I don’t have a two-person tent (other than my Lightwave which is really for 3 people and is pretty heavy). Bring on the Nigor Parula 2. I’m pretty impressed as it’s amazingly light for a two-person tent (around 1.8kg) and fits my needs for two porches and an ability to sit up in comfort. I’m still getting used to its pitching subtleties (especially the porches to stop them sagging) but so far so good. It did pass my first major test in that the very light and thin groundsheet was pitched on some seriously wet ground without any water ingress. I should however point out that seriously impressive tents are seriously expensive!

Not the driest or flattest pitch but we slept well through a cold night.

We woke the next morning to a frosty and damp tent and glorious sunshine

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I left TJS to snooze while I wandered about to soak up the scene. I can almost see our village from the top but it felt a world away up here.

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I smiled as abundantly as the sun shone, and settled down for a hearty and not very healthy breakfast of bacon butties and jaffa cakes. TJS joined me eventually and we savoured the morning and a long leisurely feast

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Packed and ready for the off we considered our route. It was only a one night outing as I’d planned some cycling in the Peak District the following day. Originally we were just going out to Hay Bluff before returning to the car via a round of the Olchon Valley. As the weather was so grand we decided to extend the walk by taking in Lord Herefords Knob and heading back to the car via Capel y FFin

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The high level path along to Hay Bluff was superb

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The views from the summit over the Wye Valley to the Brecon Beacons and Black Mountain even better

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We both seemed untroubled by the heavier packs than we’d use for a day walk and made swift and easy progress to the summit of LHK.

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The views were still superb but there was a very keen and very cold wind so we didn’t linger. Rather than walk along the Darren Lwyd ridge, right into the wind we opted for the Nant Bwch valley for some shelter

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Its a lovely valley with a series of small waterfalls and grassy patches for a lunch stop. Make a decent camp as well although its only a few minutes from the end of the road

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The Vale of Ewyas is one of the finest valleys in the UK in my opinion. A walk along it or above it as always a pleasure especially on a warm sunny day. Spring really did feel in the air down here

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The downside of the walk extension was having to climb up, over and down one of the Black Mountains main ridges. Sheltered from the wind it was a steep and sweaty climb. I was beginning to think I should have brought shorts

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That changed swiftly as we reached the ridge. We were exposed to the wind and thoughts of shorts turned to thoughts of hats and gloves. It was bitterly cold and we had to move quickly to descend the other side to try and reach shelter from the next ridge

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Ample compensation was provided in the views across the pastoral Herefordshire countryside and the ridge we’d walked the night before

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One last steep descent and one last final climb back up to the car completed a very fine short overnight adventure.

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TJS hasn’t been out much recently and he really seemed to enjoy the trip and the long walk in the sunshine. He’s badly out of shape though and was stiff for the next day or so and struggling to keep up with the old man on the ascents. He does take over on the downhill bits but I have my bad knees excuse for that

First part of adventurous weekend for me. More two-wheeled outdoor action planned for the Sunday

Pyrenees Grand Tour Day 6 – The end of the Trail   8 comments

Alas this was our final day. Time to to make the long walk back to the car and begin the journey home. The original plan had been to cross two more passes and spend a final night in a hut before a descent to the car. The difficulty and snow cover rendered that a tough ask and we agreed that we’d just retrace our steps from the first day. I was little disappointed not to continue my planned tour but our new plan gave us chance for a final visit to the wonderful Campoplano and hopefully see some views of the Arrens Valley we’d walked up on that first day. Ample compensation we hoped.

It had clearly been raining through the night and the sky was mix of blue and threatening blacks and greys. It made for some impressive sunlight shots as we ate breakfast, packed and set off from the hut

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Campoplana was just as magnificent as before and we made light work of the two stream crossings that took us back towards the short steep climb to the Col de St Martin

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Near the top I actually put my waterproofs on as there seemed to be heavy storm approaching. It never amounted to anything and they were soon back in the pack. It was the only time I wore them on the entire trip 🙂

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On the way up on the first day the last 30 minutes had been entirely on snow. Six days later and the reduction was dramatic. Merely patches now. The spot where I’d filled the bottles for a brew rather than being in middle of a huge snow patch was now in the middle of a boulder field.

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The weather seemed to brighten immensely and as hoped we had some wonderful views of the Val D’Arrens that we’d seen nothing of on the way up. Rather than being a repeated walk it was like a brand new route and its a very fine valley and walk

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The Lacs de Remoulis looked stunning under the bright sunshine

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On that first day we’d walked through what seemed like a wide, flat, grassy meadow that would have been perfect for a picnic had we not been walking in dense, cold fog. You can see  it now much better in the image below

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It proved to be the case and we had a long, leisurely and final mountain lunch lazing on the grass by a clear, cold, mountain stream. We made a brave attempt to eat the remaining food we had left but we made only the merest impact on our vast supplies

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The walk through these meadows in the sunshine was a fitting final memory of the trip. A stunning spot that barely gets a mention in the guidebook

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All that was left was the last 3 miles along the track back to the car passing the Lac de Suyen we’d seen nothing of on the way up

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And that was that. Back to the car, another night in a local hotel and long drive home via Caen and the ferry to Portsmouth the next day. As a special treat for sticking with the story (and the mid-season break!) you get the bonus of some nice pictures of Portsmouth and the Spinnaker Tower from the ferry

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A fantastic trip. Superb walking, amazing weather, stupendous views, some eventful moments and a lot of lessons learned. Great excuse to go back and do it all again 🙂

Pyrenees Grand Tour Day 5 – Back on the Trail   9 comments

Enough rest, it was time to continue our adventures. Having decided to avoid the direct route to the next hut we needed an alternative. The hut staff were again marvellous in helping us arrange a taxi that would take us from the road-head below this hut to the end of the road nearer the Respumuso Hut from where we could continue our walk. I was a little disappointed that we were “cheating” but it was the sensible decision and the replacement walk was very fine indeed

After another bright morning with sunlit clouds we were back underway again

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It was a steep and very rocky descent down to Banos de Panticosa. The path took us steeply down towards a deep gorge with thunderous waterfalls before another steep drop down to the village

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The path was very narrow in places and several stretches were protected by cables and handrails

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After all the adventures and edgy moments of the previous few days the closest I came to real mishap was on a tourist path just above the car park. I lost my balance (no doubt due to a shift in cake position in the rucksack) and flailed about desperately to avoid a tumble down a short gravelly slope to a picnic bench. I still don’t know how I managed not come crashing down and do my self a nasty one.

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The taxi arrived bang on time and the very nice lady and her young baby son took us to the road-head at the La Sarra lake above Sallent de Gallego. From there we had an easy steady climb along the valley of the Rio Aguas Limpias.

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The route initially took us through wonderful grass meadows with lots of butterflies for company

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From there it was up through a deep and rocky gorge with more waterfalls and rapids and up through the bouldery slopes towards the hut

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We stopped for lunch below the dam admiring the now expected spread of colourful wild flowers that were a constant and delightful feature of every day

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Before too much longer we were back at the Respumuso Hut we’d visited a few nights before

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The hut was much busier and having arrived relatively early we had a nice lazy afternoon reading and enjoying the surroundings. There had been the threat of heavy showers and rumbles of thunder all day but after the only light shower the skies cleared for some dramatic evening views across to the same magnificent mountain ranges we’d admired from before

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The Pico del Infernos were again catching the eye with their dramatic outline

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This was to be our last night in the mountains and it was a pretty fine one. Tomorrow is was time to start the long journey home

Pyrenees Grand Tour Day 4 – At Rest   10 comments

After the exertions of the previous day and seeing as we were already booked in for another night we decided to take a day off and enjoy the surroundings of the Bachimana refuge. We walked round the lake in something of a tired daze the night before and we felt we’d earned a day of leisure

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There was more cloud today and there was the threat of thunderstorms all day. We spent a leisurely morning by the hut admiring the scenery and drying out our boots from the previous day’s river crossings

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We packed a lunch and headed back along the lakeshore path to the previous day’s stream crossing for a lazy picnic by the river

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It was a cracking spot towered over by the dramatic Picos del Infernos. Our planned route for the next day  was to head up and over the col and back down to the Respumuso hut. However the col is one of the highest and toughest on the main Pyrenees walking route and was plastered in snow. We decided there and then that we needed to tone down the route in light of the conditions and save this magnificent crossing for another time.

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The walk back along the lake was superb. The sun came out and we could properly appreciate just what a wild and wonderful valley this was

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Even down at 2000m there was still plenty of snow. It was amazing just how much bare rock there was on this side of the main ridge (and little of it they bothered to show on the maps!). We took our time and enjoyed the walk this time

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It also allowed us to appreciate just how perfectly situated the hut was and were grateful that out of season we were amongst only a handful of visitors

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We took an additional stroll up to the dam where there was a small group of Chamois/Izard scrambling about on its terraces. Turns out they are licking the blocks for the minerals and salt that seep through

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We enjoyed some rather splendid evening views from the terrace before the cold and a hangover of tiredness forced us inside and to bed

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Back onto the trail the next day

A Spring Wild Camp in Mid Wales   7 comments

The Hard Man had been driving for a backpack with his two kids for a while. They are much younger than TJS and still in those formative years where the delights of TV and tech are a serious impediment to convincing them them the real world outdoors (i.e. sleeping in tents, in the rain/cold, miles from anywhere, eating dried food and with no phones/iPads etc) is much better. In fact after setting a date for this trip I nearly bailed out having had a long and tiring week at work. THM convinced me otherwise and I am so glad he did

After much discussion we settled on a trip into the wild mountains of mid-Wales around Plynlimon. We met in Llanidloes and then drove into the hills parking up near the high tarn of Glaslyn, after a bumpy drive down the rough track.

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Only one of THMs’ kids had made it, a netball event prevented a full turnout. We packed and headed into the hills. The forecast was reasonable without being spectacular with no rain forecast until Sunday afternoon

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We’d a vague idea to camp in the Hengwm valley. I was sceptical as even though its a place of rare beauty its also a place of extreme sogginess. Still THM was convinced so I went with the flow, hoping the flow wasn’t through the porch of my tent

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We passed by the splendid tarn and ruined farm buildings at Bugeilyn where the track ended and we were into the wild upper reaches of the Hengwm valley

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I’d been equally sceptical about the route through this valley. Its only marked as a right of way and not a path and I had visions of battles with bogs and tussocks, no fun with a full pack. In fact the path was excellent all the way, just the occasional bit of squelch to get through

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As we reached the lower section I suggested we headed for the spot where the Hengwm valley meets the Gwerin valley. I’ve walked through here a few times and its lovely spot complete with waterfalls and a ruined farmhouse. I was still uncertain we’d fine a patch of dry ground big enough but it was worth a go. We headed through a brief zone of tussocks and an uncertain stream crossing and took a look

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My scepticism was unfounded. Just above the falls we found a perfect spot. A patch of bone dry spongy grass with enough space for all of us and a depression behind, sheltered from the wind for cooking. TJS wanted to camp on his own so he used TBFs old Macpac  single hoop and I used my Voyager. THM carried in a substantial tent for extra space. He was also carrying most of the heavy stuff so his sack was outrageously massive. However he is supremely (in fact rather annoyingly) fit so it didn’t seem to bother him. He goes out running and cycling of an evening where I prefer to remain stationary in front of the TV. It was a splendid site with expansive views down the Hengwm valley and to the crags of the hills behind

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After the obligatory brew that follows a period of tent faffing we set out for a wander. This is my favourite pastime on a wild camp. Exploring at some leisure the local vicinity. There is a tendency to always be heading from A to B when hiking so you often have blinkers on, destination paramount. An aimless wander allows you to come across little gems you’d otherwise miss

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In this case we explored an evocative holly tree growing out of major hole between some rocks. We then scrambled through a line of crags and then along the edge below which on its crest was reminiscent of a alpine arete. It was all extremely fine.

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After following a few sheep tracks high above Cwm Gwerin we dropped down to a small un-named stream that had some very fine small falls

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The bright sunshine backed by dark stormy looking clouds were dramatic as we wandered through the tussocks and bogs spotting other potential wild campsites as we went. Its a complete fascination for me when out in the hills, always looking for a possible site to throw a tent up

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Back at base camp it was time to eat. For me and TJS a bowl of freshly cooked anchovy & bacon carbonara. For THM and his compatriot one of those freeze dried instant meals that looked suspiciously like cat food (in fact it it tasted ok). THM needed to find some way of keeping the weight down but I have to say these freeze dried “just add water meals” don’t really appeal to me. I prefer the weight of real food and the fuel needed to cook them although I can see their attraction on a long trip with several days worth to be carried

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This is the youngest member of the party who I’ve known since she was a babe in arms. We spent a while discussing the fact that she needed a moniker on my blog. We settled on “Loud and Cheeky” seeing as she is (in the nicest way) so she became LAC. I had thought that perhaps she would be an unwilling accomplice under duress to “get outdoors” from her old-man. However she seems to love the whole outdoor and wild camping experience as much as TJS does. She appeared to have a great time and was great company the whole weekend. I just wish I get my youngest to appreciate these same delights

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As we cleared up from evening meal, the skies cleared and we were treated to a super sunset, all shafts of light, glowing hillsides and pink clouds

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We spent ages wandering about, snapping photos and celebrating our good fortune at finding such a perfect campsite in such fine conditions

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Being April, once the sun went down it got cold pretty cold and we all retired for an early and rather chilly night

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I’m sure I heard it rain in the night so I wasn’t hopeful when THM woke me at 7:45. It seemed unreasonably early until I stuck my head out the door and realised why he was up and about. It was a glorious morning. My main DSLR camera is out of action so I was using my new point and shoot. Alas its rather too easy to change the settings accidentally so the first few look a bit strange (they were on some sort of arty setting) but they do give the right overall impression

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We breakfasted in the warming sun (well LAC decided a lie in was in order)

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Normal camera service was resumed

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We hadn’t expected such  a fine day so we headed our for a climb up Plynlimon. I’ve done it loads of times in the past few years having discovered its charms but it was missing from the THM’s check list

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The terrain in these parts is either paths (where they exist) or one of (or all of in some places), tussocks, spongy moss, bog and heather. The first few hundred meters off piste above the campsite were hard going, including one very steep grassy gully

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Once up on the ridge of Pen Cerrig Tewion the going was much easier, a successions of sheep tracks leading us upwards

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The views were expansive and clear but there was a chilly wind blowing

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LAC was finding it tough going having missed breakfast and needed a few stops and regular chocolate to keep going. In conditions like this though, regular stops to admire the scenery is hardly a chore. To be fair she is still a novice in hiking terms and mid-Wales is a real test of stamina and will when the underfoot conditions are pathless (something I can vouch for). In the circumstances the steady progress was more than acceptable

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We made it to the summit and took on more fuel/chocolate/cereal bars/out of date pork pies.

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The views out to the coast over Nant y Moch reservoir were especially grand

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The weather didn’t look like deteriorating as forecast but we had a long way to go back to the tent, pack up and back to the car so we headed down

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The photo below gives a great aerial view of of wild site surroundings. You can just make out the tents in the middle of the shot

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The route down took us through some of the most bizarre underfoot vegetation I’ve ever walked on. It was a deep spongy moss that completely enveloped your boots when you trod on it. Like walking on marshmallows (if such a thing were possible). It was very steep but we sort of bounced down. It was quite surreal

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After a great hike and then lunch we broke camp and took the long wander back to the car. The forecast rains never arrived and it stayed bright and sunny all the way back to Glaslyn and the cars.

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We were back much later than planned but it had been a absolute stonker of a weekend. The walking had been easy and dry, the wild site pretty much perfect and the climb to Plynlimon a sheer delight.

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Around 16 miles walking in total. Apart from a few bikers at the car park and a solitary runner on top of Plynlimon we’d seen no-one on such a fine weather weekend. We congratulated ourselves, made plans to do this more often and then went our separate ways. And to think I nearly decided not to go

Lakes and Vanishing Rivers in the Black Mountain   6 comments

The annual summer backpacking trip for me, TBF and TJS is now a firm fixture in the calendar. We’ve done a couple of trips to the Moelwyns and one to fight with the tussocks in the Elan Valley. I had grand plans this year for a high level tour of the Carneddau but a poor weather forecast for Saturday night put pay to that idea. As Friday evening and Saturday sounded ok it seemed prudent to make good use of that rather than spend hours driving. To that end and with TJF safely in the care of my Mum and Dad we were to be found packing up just before 8pm on the lonely mountain road to the east of the Black Mountain. Our plan was to camp up at Llyn y Fan Fawr a short walk from the car and then take things from there

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

There were dark stormy clouds scudding across the summits fringed and illuminated by low shafts of sunlight, as we hurried up the boggy slopes to the tarn.

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

It’s a stunning lake nestled beneath the cliffs of Fan Brycheiniog.

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

There are plenty of reasonable pitches around the lake but I had my on a particular spot. In an idle few minutes before we left home, I’d done a You Tube search for wild camping spots in the Black Mountain and found a rather charming video of a young family camping on a small elevated grassy terrace just above the lakes NW corner. It was a perfect spot, flat and dry with a stunning view across the Lake. We had time to pitch up and take in the scene with a cuppa before turning in.

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

Next morning was pretty much unchanged weather-wise, dark clouds with occasional shafts of blue sky and sunshine. I tried to pretend that it was summer and that it was warm enough to breakfast outside the tent. I was alone. I took the sociable and sensible decision to fry up indoors and admire the view from the tent window.

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

The only downside of the lake is that it lacks a reliable source of running water. Time to try out a new investment, my Sawyer Mini-Works Water Filter. What an outstanding piece of kit. A filter about the size of a box of smarties and a small water pouch. Fill the pouch with water, screw in the filter, squeeze and you have clean clear water. It weighs next to nothing and the screw top fits most plastic drinks bottles and it also has a straw for sucking water out of manky pools. To be honest I had no issue with drinking the water straight from the lake – it’s large, deep and clear but no sense in having toys and not playing with them. I’ve seen several glowing reviews including a couple of wins in a “gear of the year” type of thing when up against more glamorous and expensive bits of kit. Its well deserved at only £20. It lives in my rucksack now so I can always get a drink as long as there is standing water somewhere which in the UK is not hard. Apart from the fact it takes a while to filter water for 3 people I can’t fault it. Well worth a purchase and carrying one around in the mountains if you’re out of water or have worries about your water source

Back to the main order of the day. TBF was keen to stay and certainly it was a fine spot. However both TJS and me wanted a proper backpack so we packed up and pressed on. With a forecast of improving weather later in the day we took the path that skirts under the cliffs of Fan Brycheiniog, Fan Foel and Bannau Sir Gaer around to Lyn y Fan Fach.

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

It’s one of my favourite walks, easy-going grassy paths with expansive views to the east and north, looming grassy crags above and glimpses of these two jewelled tarns at either end. Blue sky became more prevalent and despite having a mammoth breakfast TJS insisted we needed a lunch stop at the lake despite having not climbed anything and only been walking for a little over an hour.

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

Still plentiful stops on a walk is a good thing and despite the occasional spots of rain the weather seemed set fair. The short steep climb up to the edges seemed a breeze as both me and TJS savoured the light packs – light when compared to the outsize packs we hauled into Lochaber over Easter anyway

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

The walk along the edges and back to the summit of Bannau Sir Gaer is a delight, Lyn y Fan Fach glistening below. It was windy – as it seems to have been all year – but the sun was warm but the effort to reach the summit seemed minimal.

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

From there we decided that rather than take in the rest of the edges we’d head south to find a spot to camp. Relaxation in fine surroundings is as important as clocking up miles and summits after all. When I explored this area a couple of years back with TJS we’d passed through the limestone area around Pwll y Cig. Not only did it look fascinating there also seemed to be littered with great wild camping spots albeit with limited water as the stream disappears into the limestone holes beneath. We carved a route across Carnau Gwys and down to the Afon Gledd.

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

I’d also thought that we might pitch up by the river before it vanished. This seemed unlikely as most of the ground by the water had been claimed by tussocks. Then as if by magic we came to one spot with level lush grass and wild flowers and we’d found our home.

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

Wraps and tea energised us for making the place home, this time with cold running water.

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

To work up an appetite for tea we took a stroll downstream to explore Pwll y Cig and the surrounding hills. Right on cue the water slowly runs to a trickle and then disappears into a chaos of stones. The valley beyond twists and turns through a shallow limestone gorge, a perfect dry valley. The grassy patches between the bends are all perfect for wild camping except for the fact that there is just a river of stones instead of a river of water. It’s really quite surreal.

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

I’d say that water was flowing through here relatively recently (in geological terms anyway). As you reach the end you realise the valley is blind with nowhere for the water to have gone. Except underground that is. You can clearly see the hole where the water would have gone. You tend to forget until you walk these hills that there is a very significant swathe of limestone upland in South Wales, home to very significant cave systems.

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

We then walked through a land pocked with sink holes on the climb towards Disgwylfa. It looks like the whole area is about to collapse and reveal some huge hidden cavern just below the surface. Luckily not today and we arrived at the summit without further incident.

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

The views from the top were magnificent revealing an expanse of wild, untamed land that must see few footprints. It’s superb and well worth a wander if you like your walks quiet with a sense of space rather than epic grandeur.

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

Back to the tent for a lazy meal and the general pottering about that I love about a camping spot in the mountains. There is a peace and simplicity to this kind of life that’s hard to beat although secretly, a cold bottle of Becks would make it perfect. We stayed up late to watch the last of the evening light conscious that there was bad weather on the way.

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

Overnight it arrived, heavy rain and strong winds that battered the tent so we enjoyed a snug and cosy lie in (except for the inevitable comfort breaks in the rain that come with middle age for me and TBF).

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

We stayed in as long as we could but eventually we had to pack up as we had a couple of hours to walk out and to be honest I was a bit worried about finding the col seeing as we were already in the cloud. As I started throwing stuff out the tent door the rain stopped and within 30 minutes the cloud had lifted and patches of blue were appearing. Perfect timing.

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

The clearer skies and scudding clouds were a real surprise and after an hour of walking there was abundant sunshine

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

Rather than just walk out over the col I convinced the other two that a bit of off piste to pick up the far end of the Fan Hir edge would make a much more satisfying finish to the day. TBF is not a big fan of off piste with a pack. Being somewhat vertically challenged she often loses her balance so prefers paths to tusssocks (don’t we all).

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

Still the long edge is a superb and easy stroll and it did indeed make for a fitting finale to the weekend.

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

It was especially pleasing to finish with views down over our first night’s stay to Llyn y Fan Fawr, now firmly established as my favourite lake in the UK. Under a clear blue sky it has a magic and perfection that’s beyond enchanting.

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

I’ve had so many good times in its company and it bade us farewell as we lunched above its shores before heading back to the car. 15 miles of proper backpacking under our hip-belts

Black Mountain

A fine weekend in a range of mountains that rewards the dedicated walker and backpacker with majestic edges and austere charm.

Reflections, Lighter Packs and Trains   6 comments

We’d had our big day in the sun and after 4 days in the mountains it was time to head home. There are only 3 or 4 trains a day from Corrour so we were up early to make sure we didn’t miss the lunchtime one and have to wait another 6 hours for the evening train. Entertainment is somewhat limited at Corrour. We had some grand ideas about walking out over the Loch Treig hills but we had a long journey home and work the next day – and the packs were still heavy enough even having eaten most of the food. Time to pack up and haul the packs onto tired bodies and off to catch a train

Lochaber 4

It was an uneventful walk, returning firstly, again back along the riverside path to Loch Treig

backpacking, corrour, crianlarich, leum uilleim, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, west highland line, Wild Camping, Allt a Chamabhreac, loch treig, abhainn rath

From there it’s a bit of long grind along the track by the lake-shore and back to the station. The cloud was down on the summits but the air was still and the reflections of the mountains in the calm waters of Loch Treig enchanting

backpacking, corrour, crianlarich, leum uilleim, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, west highland line, Wild Camping, Allt a Chamabhreac, loch treig, abhainn rath

backpacking, corrour, crianlarich, leum uilleim, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, west highland line, Wild Camping, Allt a Chamabhreac, loch treig, abhainn rath

backpacking, corrour, crianlarich, leum uilleim, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, west highland line, Wild Camping, Allt a Chamabhreac, loch treig, abhainn rath

As we made progress along the track the cloud made progress away from the summits and all became clearer

backpacking, corrour, crianlarich, leum uilleim, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, west highland line, Wild Camping, Allt a Chamabhreac, loch treig, abhainn rath

backpacking, corrour, crianlarich, leum uilleim, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, west highland line, Wild Camping, Allt a Chamabhreac, loch treig, abhainn rath

backpacking, corrour, crianlarich, leum uilleim, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, west highland line, Wild Camping, Allt a Chamabhreac, loch treig, abhainn rath

It was turning into a pretty fine day for our walk out.

backpacking, corrour, crianlarich, leum uilleim, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, west highland line, Wild Camping, Allt a Chamabhreac, loch treig, abhainn rath

backpacking, corrour, crianlarich, leum uilleim, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, west highland line, Wild Camping, Allt a Chamabhreac, loch treig, abhainn rath

The power or water company are doing some kind of work on the Allt a Chamabhreac for the Loch Ossian Estate and there is now a well made road heading up to the station. It climbs much higher and was much steeper than I’d thought and I found it a bit of grind under the heavy pack with my big mountain boots on. TJS now seemed to be more at ease with the pack and was keeping pace with GM, no mean feat, while I dragged my heels at the back.

backpacking, corrour, crianlarich, leum uilleim, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, west highland line, Wild Camping, Allt a Chamabhreac, loch treig, abhainn rath

backpacking, corrour, crianlarich, leum uilleim, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, west highland line, Wild Camping, Allt a Chamabhreac, loch treig, abhainn rath

As we climbed the views improved and as the road cuts under the railway line and heads away into the estate we were able to pick up a more foot friendly path to the station

backpacking, corrour, crianlarich, leum uilleim, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, west highland line, Wild Camping, Allt a Chamabhreac, loch treig, abhainn rath

backpacking, corrour, crianlarich, leum uilleim, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, west highland line, Wild Camping, Allt a Chamabhreac, loch treig, abhainn rath

We stopped for a bite and took a look at Leum Uilleam, our summit from 4 days ago. The transformation was dramatic. I think these two photos taken 4 days apart told the story

backpacking, corrour, crianlarich, leum uilleim, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, west highland line, Wild Camping, Allt a Chamabhreac, loch treig, abhainn rath

backpacking, corrour, crianlarich, leum uilleim, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, west highland line, Wild Camping, Allt a Chamabhreac, loch treig, abhainn rath

The walk to the station was really rather enjoyable. The streams and rivers gave a soundtrack and there were numerous places to camp. With hindsight, I’d have just walked down here from the train and pitched up for a night, claiming Leum Uilleam without the packs or the cross-country bog trotting of the first day. Still, having had a superb 5 days I wasn’t about to pick apart what we’d done and chose to celebrate in my mind a tremendous trip full of great experiences and great walking.

backpacking, corrour, crianlarich, leum uilleim, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, west highland line, Wild Camping, Allt a Chamabhreac, loch treig, abhainn rath

backpacking, corrour, crianlarich, leum uilleim, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, west highland line, Wild Camping, Allt a Chamabhreac, loch treig, abhainn rath

All that remained was the last mile or so to Corrour, approaching from the north really gives a sense of how remote and bleak a place it is for a train station and the sign reminds you of the altitude

backpacking, corrour, crianlarich, leum uilleim, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, west highland line, Wild Camping, Allt a Chamabhreac, loch treig, abhainn rath

backpacking, corrour, crianlarich, leum uilleim, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, west highland line, Wild Camping, Allt a Chamabhreac, loch treig, abhainn rath

We arrived with an hour to spare and spent a lazy time massaging sore feet and reflecting on our adventures. As the train rolled in, Stob Coire Easain, our Munro from the previous day, finally emerged from the cloud to bid us farewell

backpacking, corrour, crianlarich, leum uilleim, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, west highland line, Wild Camping, Allt a Chamabhreac, loch treig, abhainn rath

backpacking, corrour, crianlarich, leum uilleim, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, west highland line, Wild Camping, Allt a Chamabhreac, loch treig, abhainn rath

It had been an amazing and at times pretty tough adventure but so rewarding especially for TJS. I think we have a new regular for the Easter trip 🙂

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