Archive for the ‘Wales’ Category

“They’re Friends from Work”   12 comments

The fact that I like to hike in the hills seems a source of constant humour for my work colleagues with me the butt of the jokes. I was surprised to find that secretly some of them actually hankered for a hike in the hills so I said I’d lead them out on one my favourite south Wales hikes in the Brecon Beacons.

A little gang of four assembled at the cafe in Talybont on Usk for a fry up before heading for the mountains. (The title of the blog is in reference to one of my favourite lines from the Marvel movies – very topical at this time)

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A round of the Neuadd Reservoirs taking in the highest summits of the Beacons range. We were all rather caught out by just how cold it was.

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Here is the first of our little band posing for a photo. She decided to tone down the colours for this hike!

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Its a short and very steep climb up on to the edges that had is puffing hard. Luckily the sweat was soon removed by the ferocious and icy wind that was blasting at us across the valley.

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The photos don’t really do justice to just how cold and windy it was, enough to blow one our team clean off her feet a few times.

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Whilst the sun disappeared for the rest of the day, the cloud base was high and it stayed dry, which is a much as you can ask for on day planned a long way in advance.

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I had inform my new comrades that a key objective of any hike is make regular and lengthy stops to brew up and eat lots of food. They seemed quite keen on the idea despite the chilly wind, especially when I produced home-made cake that TBF had lovingly prepared.

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We reached the top of Pen y Fan – together with a few dozen other people and posed for a team photo for me on south Wales highest peak.

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Despite blisters and foot problems (this is quite a tough walk by south Wales standards) they agreed to continue the summit bagging and we took in Cribyn as well.

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And another couple of happy looking group shots.

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Including one with yours truly in it, demonstrating an odd pose and leg angle that says very clearly why I try and avoid being photographed in the first place.

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After another brew and scoff stop I convinced them that we could bag one more summit. The fact that my work colleagues share a distinctly smutty sense of humour and that the summit was called Fan y Big had nothing to do with it.

One last summit photo on the rock outcrop on the summit. They look happy that I’ve dragged them out on a bitterly cold day to wander about in the hills when they could have been home watching TV and doing domestic chores.

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And then it was time to head down across grassy slopes and bog and return to the real world.

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I normally walk either on my own or with the family down here so walks can be a little repetitive. I really enjoyed this day immensely for a variety of reasons. It was great to share my passion for both hiking (or should I say mountaineering) and for the Brecon Beacons with new companions. It was equally good to see them really enjoying the day as much as I was (well they said they did anyway) and I have to admit I enjoyed showing off a bit. They have all been out in the mountains before but never as regular thing and seemed to relish the challenge and chance to enjoy the outdoors. This is what keeps me sane through the drudgery of modern life and I really hope they went home with the same feeling of spirits lifted. We certainly laughed a lot on this hike as we always do at work. We are close knit bunch and my working life would likely be intolerable if they weren’t around to make me smile and keep me grounded.

I really hope we can do this more often and hopefully persuade some of my other work friends to join us. Who can’t love a hike!

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Snowdon Horseshoe with The Hardman   21 comments

I’m behind again – just when I’d caught up as well. Back to the last weekend in March for a rare trip out to Snowdonia with The Hardman. He’s planning on a run over the Welsh 3’s and some of his friends haven’t done the narrow ridge of Crib Goch so he wanted a reconnaissance mission. I agreed to join him as the forecast looked like it might be a decent day and worth the 5 hours return trip in the car.

Things didn’t start well. TH wasn’t at the appointed spot we’d agreed to meet (a very handy lay-by that’s free to park and only a few hundred yards from where you have to pay £4). After 45 minutes he still hadn’t arrived and I was worried he might have had some car problems (or maybe just forgotten that the clocks went forward!).

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With no phone signal there was nothing I could do but set off and see what transpired. As I reached the start of the new path up to Pen y Pass from Pen y Gwryd there he was! He’d decided to completely ignore my well written instructions and paid to park. Ah well, times to set off and the increasingly good views soon had us back in tune with the day.

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The weather improved markedly, much more than expected such that by the time we started up the PYG Track there was abundant blue sky. On decent days the path is normally a long train of people but the gloomy start seemed to have kept the crowds at bay.

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The views down the Llanberis Pass and across to the Glyders were amazing.

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And of course Crib Goch looms large and dramatic in the view from here. East Ridge (our route) on the left, North Ridge on the right.

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Fine views across Llyn Llydaw and to Y Lliwedd from Bwlch y Moch.

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Onwards with the steep climb up to Crib Goch. A tough undertaking at the best of times but at Hardman pace even more so! The rocky spur halfway up gives some great, easy scrambling.

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The final section of the ridge pulls you up towards the summit.

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The summit is one of the few in England or Wales with a real sense of narrow exposure. This is looking down the North Ridge. I did this one a couple of years back. Harder and narrower than the East Ridge but its a real pain to get to.

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And the the highlight of the day, the narrow crest of the ridge. In my youth I was able to hop along the crest, mostly only a foot wide but in these less nimble days I prefer the handrail approach.

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It really is quite narrow and exposed and you’d have to head to Lochaber or Skye to find anything quite as challenging in the UK.

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Looking back from the final pinnacle.

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The Hardman on the short steep (and exposed scramble) over the final pinnacle.

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A brief stop for first lunch and onwards to the ridge of Crib y Ddysgl, not as narrow but with plenty of interesting scrambling moves of its own.

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Over the summit of Garnedd Ugain and on to to join the masses on the main Snowdon routes to the summit.

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Not as crowded as it can be, but still the usual comical mixture of under-equipped and unhappy people clearly surprised by just what a long climb it is and how cold it was up there. We didn’t linger and just walked straight over the top heading away from the crowds and towards the other half of the horseshoe (the full route enclosing the dramatic east corries of Snowdon).

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The distant views were a bit hazy and for most of the day we were under a cap of dark cloud. However it was localised and as the sun dropped into the western sky where clouds were less we had some extensive sunny spells and dramatic light effects. The route down to Bwlch Ciliau is still under improvement and the final section is very loose and unpleasant.

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As we reached the bottom the sun came out and we stopped for lunch number two.

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Y Lliwedd is a wonderful peak but its always quiet whenever I’ve done it no matter how busy Snowdon is. Probably its just too much extra effort for the main mob and possibly as its not over 3000 feet. Whatever the climb up its west ridge is a delight with lots of scrambling if you have the energy to seek it out.

Looking back to Crib Goch.

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And Snowdon.

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Watching you, watching Crib Goch.

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The ridge is not narrow but the views from the edge are magnificent and precipitous.

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And our two heroes on the final summit.

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Moel Siabod cast in sunshine in the distance.

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Just the matter of a long descent back to the car.

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And see final sunshine on the Glyders to finish an awesome day on one of the UK’s finest (if not its quietest) mountaineering routes.

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I drew the route into my OS Map software. It told me there was over 6000 feet of ascent so I’m now rather unsure of any figures it comes up with. The the 10 miles distance seems about right though at least.

Thanks to TH for convincing me it was worth the drive.

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A Day By the Seaside   2 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Welsh Carneddau (The Other Ones!)   14 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Looking back the way I came down.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Short Walk from Llanthony   2 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Windy   11 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Short, sweet and very, very windy!

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A New Perspective on Ysgyryd Fawr   10 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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