Archive for the ‘Scotland’ Category

Winter Weekend – Ben A’an   14 comments

Last day of our winter trip and we needed a walk before we took the long drive home. The forecast was really poor so a small hill was in order. Ben A’an in the Trossachs fitted the bill and its a regular feature in any list of high quality small hills.

The weather on the drive over was appalling. Torrential rain had us at double wiper speeds and we were looking at a wash out and heading home early. As we approached the car park the skies suddenly and abruptly cleared to almost cloudless blue! The views across Loch Achray to Ben Venue were superb. It almost tempted us to climb it again but apart from a hardy trio of Matts and Hard Men we stuck to the plan for Ben A’an.

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What it lacks in altitude, Ben A’an more than makes up for in steepness. Apart from a short level stretch about halfway up its pretty much a thousand feet straight up.

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We got battered by a very heavy shower on the climb but as we neared the top the skies turned blue again and the sun came out.

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We pressed on as quickly as tired legs allowed figuring clear spells might be very short lived.

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The summit is impressively rocky even though in essence its just an outcrop of a higher and blander heathery mound behind.

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As we climbed the views over the Trossachs forest and Loch Venacher were top drawer.

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It warms you up for the sensational view across Loch Katrine from the summit. Its easy to see why this diminutive little hill is so praised and popular.

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Ben Venue across the Trossachs Pass

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The summit was insanely windy and it was quite a challenge to stand up straight or scramble about on the slippery summit rocks.

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We were incredibly lucky to hit the top in the middle of quite a lengthy blue interlude and the views all round were magnificent.

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Looking back towards Ben Ledi we climbed a few years back.

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Despite the ferocious wind we found a superb lunch spot, grassy and completely sheltered. Nothing finer than sharing a summit with good friends, in grand weather with expansive views.

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We had planned to explore some of the other rocky outcrops up there but it was pathless and heathery.

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Our appetites for a walk had been satisfied and we’d had superb views and with a long drive to come decided just to head back down.

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The blue skies belied the fact a massive downpour was on the way which we didn’t quite beat to the car before getting changed.

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We bid everyone a fond farewell after another cracking weekend. Despite some very uncertain and at times wet weather we’d had 2-3 days of great walking and life doesn’t get better than that. As we drove away the sun came out again treating us to one final view of Ben A’an across Loch Achray. Nice memory to sustain us over 7 hours in the car.

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Winter Weekend – Stob Ghabhar   21 comments

The Saturday of our weekend had a much better forecast. There were clearly still some heavy showers around but there more expansive patches of clear sky. We all went our separate ways but a hardy group planned on one of the areas bigger and more dramatic mountains, Stob Ghabhar.

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The morning was bright and clear with great views across Loch Tulla to the group of four munros rising above it to the east.

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Stob Ghabhar is pretty big (pushing up towards 1,100m), you start from low down and its long walk in, so its a serious undertaking in winter. Luckily there was not much snow around to complicate things and there are good paths most of the way up and down.

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The valley of the Abhainn Shira forms the approach and is a classic scottish glacial valley surrounded by big peaks.

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Our goal was to follow the stalkers path up to the western top and then traverse back over the summit, pretty much along the skyline seen here.

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Plentiful sunshine drew us upwards although the path peters out around 750m so the last couple of hundred metres are harder work over rough ground. These stalkers paths from Victorian times are a godsend where they exist.

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Just before the top we were hit by a heavy hail storm. My mate OGS had a novel solution to this. Yes, that is a snorkelling mask he’s wearing. He’s from Yorkshire and genetically programmed not to spend money. Clever idea to re-use old stuff from the house. Tiny flaw in the plan, a completely sealed unit clamped to a hot sweaty face with a freezing cold outer surface has an obvious outcome. He took it off a few seconds later. It gave us probably the biggest laugh of the weekend.

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Days like these are some of the best. Showers tend to be violent but short lived but as they clear the light effects are dramatic and mesmerising.

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Peaks slowly emerge from the clouds bathed in the sunlight that you know is coming your way. The views here across the South Glencoe peaks and the Glen Etive mountains were amazing.

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There was enough snow to make the final walk to the summit both interesting and easier. Nothing finer than a winter walk high on a mountain on hard snow under sunny skies.

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This section of ridge was a sheer delight.

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The summit was windy and brutally cold so we didn’t linger long. The views across the expanse of Rannoch Moor were great as always.

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The two Matts enjoying claiming the summit.

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We headed down looking for a sheltered lunch spot and across the narrow but short ridge of the Aonach Eagach. Not as dramatic or difficult as its more famous counterpart a few miles away in Glencoe but it added some interest. Had it been under a full blanket of winter snow it would have been a more challenging proposition.

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Looking back to the summit of Stob Ghabhar and Coirein Lochain.

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And along the Aonach Eagach.

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After a brief and cold lunch the others set off to do the second munro in the group, Stob a Choire Odhair. I was feeling a little out of sorts and TJS didn’t like the look of the steep descent to the col so we took our leave and headed down. The weather turned a little greyer and showery so not many photos from here on in. Just a last look at the Beinn Dorain group across the valley as we reached the car and sat and waited for the others.

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A long, tough and tiring day, for me anyway, but one with great memories that I can share with TJS who now has four munros to his name, four more than I had at his age!

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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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Small but Challenging – Beinn Bhreac   13 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mandatory selfie

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

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We returned to our lunch spot for a second bite

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

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

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

Corbett Bagging in the Wind   17 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tagged with ,

Walking on Water   19 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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There was even a very odd frozen sand bar to follow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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More winter adventures to come…..

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!)

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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

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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)

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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

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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

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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

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A short walk with TBF on Hatterall Hill

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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

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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

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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!

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

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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.

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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

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

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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

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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

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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)

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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.

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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

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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)

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A monster thunderstorm in Turin

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My favourite seafront walk in Venice

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The Colloseum in Rome – of course

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

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

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

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And the railway bridge over the Rhine in Cologne

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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!

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

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October

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

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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

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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

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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

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And one of my favourite walks in the Black Mountain

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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

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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

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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

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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

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

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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 🙂

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