Archive for the ‘Southern Highlands’ Category

Showers – and – Sunshine!   17 comments

The Sunday didn’t start well with dark skies and regular heavy showers. We figured the further south we headed away from the bulk of the Southern Highlands would give a better chance of drier weather as well as knocking an hour off the journey home.

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We parked up in the village of Luss based on my plan to climb one of the Luss hills, Mid Hill, that seemed to fit the bill for a summit, not too high but with potential for good views. There was even a path marked, always a bonus in Scotland. It rained on and off during the protracted time we spent faffing around in the car park and on the first part of the walk. We did at least start to get some views over the island studded lower part of Loch Lomond.

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However it was still pretty damp and it looked like another day with waterproofs on.

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As we climbed it stopped raining and there was a little more brightness in the sky. Then as if by magic patches of blue appeared.

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They formed together into larger blue patches and then, miraculously, the sun came out.

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It was fiercely windy but we were happy and surprised just to see sunshine. The forecast wasn’t really promising any but it looked like the decision to head south was paying dividends.

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Even Ben Lomond appeared even though the main Southern Highlands still looked gloomy, dark and stormy.

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Our spirits soared and all was right with the world. The air was clear and the views stupendous. Ben and Loch Lomond make for very fetching views indeed, as do the rest of the Luss Hills range.

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It was a steep climb and very exposed to the wind but with the sun finally appearing we soared up towards the top.

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We were even lucky enough to find a sheltered patch of snow to sit in for lunch. Result.

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The steep ridge ended on the first top Beinn Dubh and onwards to the expansive plateau summit.

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The weather was way better than any of us expected and what had been looking like a bit of a washout weekend was transformed with a superb walk on a little known mountain.

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There are a couple of substantial corries, Coire na h Eanachen and Coire Carlaig that gave a bigger mountain feel.

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Views to Beinn Bhreac that we climbed a couple of trips back.

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Ben Lomond.

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The Trossachs.

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By the time we reached the high point we’d used up all our weather good fortune. We were blasted by a severe and very nasty snow and hail storm you can see approaching below.

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For fifteen minutes it was as nasty a spell as I’ve been out in for a while. We were all coated in icy wet snow and mad a very swift exit down the ridge above Glen Striddle.

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As quickly as the blizzard arrived, it stopped and blue skies came back although not for very long as the rest of the afternoon was punctuated by several short showers.

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We still had our couple of hours in the sunshine and sometimes when the weather in Scotland is in an unsettled phase you have to take that.

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All that was left was to walk/squelch down the ridge to the road and the walk back along Glen Luss to the cars.

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It was a longer day than I thought, over 7 miles and even though we only crested just over 600m, we had started pretty much from sea level and it felt like a proper mountain day with all the weather thrown at us.

In the end a weekend we all look back with fond memories. Sometimes just a couple of hours of sunshine is enough.

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Rain!   13 comments

A short post entirely in proportion to the amount of time we spent outdoors.

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The forecast was biblically bad. Heavy rain from the previous night, all through the day and into the following night. Not a day for high mountains (although a couple mad fools took on a Corbett and got a soaking). We opted for a short walk around Glen Orchy just to make sure we had some fresh air and exercise.

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The rain was as heavy and persistent as promised “near-incessant rain almost everywhere” was the MWIS forecast) That at least meant that the waterfalls on the the River Orchy were very impressive (the one above is the Eas Urchaidh). We kept the good humour going as best we could but in all honesty it was as miserable a day as I’ve been out in since my Dartmoor soaking a couple of years back.

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We had a plan to follow an easy forest trail into the Caledonian Pine Forest Reserve around a lake, and back down to the Glen. We had one very soggy river crossing and then came across this ford on the Allt Coire Thoraidh!

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I imagine in normal weather it would be a rock hop across. Today it was completely impassable and had you fallen in you would have been very lucky to survive. We poked around for a bit looking for anywhere to cross but it was pretty obvious our route for the day was over. On the way back the soggy crossing we’d managed before was now wider and wetter. At least everyone’s feet were equally wet!

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We walked up this track a couple of years back in the Beast from the East, walking alongside the Allt Broighleachan. I barely remember it but today it was a deafening torrent!

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Back at the car the Orchy had risen several more feet while we’d been out. Where the were rocks and falls was now just once crashing torrent water. I thought I had a comparison photo from when we crossed earlier. Unfortunately one of my friends thought it would be a laugh to bounce the bridge while I was leaning over to take the photo and it came out rather blurred – lucky I didn’t drop my phone. Funny eh!

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The river Orchy is a big one but I’ve never seen it even remotely this high in numerous visits over the years.

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The forecast for the next day, whilst better, was still not terribly encouraging but we were hopeful and we had a nice hotel bar to relax in.

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Back on Skis!   6 comments

Several hours in the car and it’s time for our annual highland gathering up at Bridge of Orchy. No shortage of the white stuff on the first day before most people arrived so time for a day on skis.

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Me, THO and The Plant Scientist parked up at the Kingshouse (next to the swanky new building which isn’t as much of a eyesore as I’d been told) and loaded very heavy packs with winter mountain gear and ski gear for a couple of miles up the track to Black Corries Lodge to reach the snow.

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Cloudy day but it was largely dry and wind-free which is much as you can hope for in Scotland. Buachaille Etive Mor and the Blackmount looked very impressive.

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The snow was pretty much down to Black Corries Lodge so we strapped the skis on and headed up. The snow was frozen after the overnight frost but a couple of guys walking nearby seemed to be post-holing and struggling. Skis come in to their own in these conditions, gliding over the surface (although you lose the time gained taking them on and off and removing/putting on skins).

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Almost unnoticed we moved from partial to total snow cover as we headed up towards the summit ridge.

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Our target was Beinn a Chrulaiste but we thought we may as well bag the top at the eastern end, Meall Nan Ruadhag. Pleasingly its a HUMP so one one more done in my quest to complete all 3000+!

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Time for a short downhill stretch into the col before the climb to the middle twin summits of Meall Bhalach.

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We stopped on the top while it was fairly benign for lunch

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Another nice but short downhill stretch before the steep climb to the main summit.

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We were pleased we stopped earlier as it was far from benign on the top. In fact it was a complete white-out and we had something of a challenge finding our way back off the top without plopping through a cornice.

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The descent at the top would have been superb had we been able to see anything but care dictated skiing in pitches and slow careful progress. As we came out of the cloud we dropped into Coire Bhalach for a wonderful easy paced cruise over deep and complete snow cover.

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A few action shots of me courtesy of THO.

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Inevitably as we approached the car park the snow cover thinned and what snow there was was wet, patchy and punctuated with rocks. After falling over 2 or 3 times in the pace of a few yards I decided that was enough, strapped my skis to my pack and began the short walk down to the car. TPS also went one turn too far and ended up in a heap in the bog.

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We’d done pretty well, with just a couple of miles walk up the track to reach the end of the ridge and no more than a few hundred yards back to the car (although it was an outrageously boggy few hundred yards). We’d kept skis on for almost the whole day and it had been a pretty good tour.

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As we reached the car we even had some patches of blue and little watery sunshine.

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Perhaps the forecast could be wrong and Saturday might not be that bad. A quick pint back in the hotel bar, outside to return to my room and it was chucking it down. A taster of things to come!

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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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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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