Archive for the ‘Walking’ Category

Wet, Wet, Wet   12 comments

I think I’ve mentioned before on the blog about a day I spent in the Arans in my University days (1983 I think). It was the worst day I’ve ever spent in the hills. hours of heavy, pitiless rain and winds on a high exposed ridge. We got soaked to the skin and were likely hypothermic by the end. It has lived with me longer than many other days from that era. Since then I’ve had some pretty wet days in the hills but nothing have ever come to close to that one. Until last Saturday.

TJS had an open day and interview at Exeter University and we had plans for an overnight and then a days walking on Dartmoor to make a weekend of it. A bad forecast for Sunday put pay to that but Saturday looked ok. Rain in the morning but brightening up at lunchtime, so I thought I go for a solo walk while he was doing his stuff.

I planned a route from Belstone near Okehampton as it was close to the A30 so I could maximise my walking time. It was pretty grim when I set off but I thought it was worth a go as it was due to clear. Once up on the fells it was horrid. Driving heavy rain and strong winds. I pressed on as it was due to clear.

Along the edges of Belstone and Oke Tors and the rain got heavier. I pressed on as it was due to clear.

You can see the pattern emerging here. It was frankly atrocious and any sensible person would have turned around and gone back. I found a sheltered spot and had a bite to eat. I thought about turning back and then stubborn bloody-mindedness set in. I decided that seeing as I was already wet I may as well try to finish the route as a kind of endurance test. I pressed on as it might clear.

In the sheltered spots it wasn’t too bad and it had a wild and stormy atmosphere. On Steeperton Tor the wind was amazing. I was lucky there was an army shelter I could hide behind for a few minutes. I pressed on even though it seemed unlikely to clear. As I traversed around the Hound Tors it actually stopped raining cleared a bit and there was even some blue sky. I even managed a couple of photos.



Then its started raining again. This time with a real vengeance. It did that to me on that Arans day. A flash of blue sky preceded heavy rain. I pressed on, it was definitely not going to clear. I walked past the Stone Circle on Little Hound Tor and managed another photo.


The climb up to and over Cosdon Beacon was one of the longest I can remember. I managed to extract some perverse enjoyment out of the first half of the day but this stretch really tested my resolve, not that I had much choice. There was water everywhere although my feet were the only part of me that was dry (thank heavens I put gaiters on). I got off the hill as quickly as I could and headed down into the valley of the River Taw. Once off the mountains and in the deep dark woods, yes, you guessed it, the rain stopped, the skies cleared and the sun came out! Sometimes I think the weather has a malevolent, malicious streak


At least the walk by the river was quite pleasant if muddy and I could emerge from my waterproofs



When I reached the car every part of me (other than my feet) was sopping wet, right down to my pants. Luckily we’d planned to go out for some food on the way home so I had a change of clothes. It would have been a very uncomfortable drive home if not. A good leg stretcher at 10 miles, I still have wet stuff drying out around the house


I’m now in the rare position of being fully up to date with blog. I’m off to France for some skiing next week so blog silence for a week or so while enjoy the snow in the Alps


A Proper Dose of Winter   12 comments


Back to reality after winter sun in Lanzarote. First weekend back and we were in the grip of a really cold spell. Time to hit the hills. We wanted somewhere a bit different so we took to bagging a summit in the Fforest Fawr area we hadn’t done before.

We parked high up on the road through the middle near the standing stone of Maen Llia. It was bitterly cold, frosty air and a biting east wind


Luckily the pathless, tussocky terrain is hard enough work to keep you warm – a bit anyway


There was a light dusting of snow on the highest tops and the views were superb


Looking across to the Black Mountain


Up on the ridge at Fan Dringarth it was staggeringly cold. In fact it was as cold as I’ve been in the mountains for many a year


Not that I mind. I love days like this, clear skies and a cold wind is invigorating and makes you feel properly alive


These are soggy hills most of the time but everything was frozen solid. A bit slippery mind especially where the wet grass had frozen solid on the way down from the summit of Fan Llia



It was definitely not a day for stopping. I wondered where we’d be able to grab shelter for lunch. Halfway round where the path drops to the road we found a surprisingly sheltered and sunny spot by a ford over the Afon Llia


Even just about warm enough for a brew although TJS looked rather dis-chuffed at the protracted stop so I could have a cuppa



Second part of the day was to traverse Fan Nedd back to the car


After  a sheltered lunch it seemed even colder once we hit the wind again. The walking in the crisp snow along the broad ridge was sensational though




Winter days are still the best for me. Nothing better than the crunch of snow under foot and views like this



On the far end of the ridge we exchanged some very brief pleasantries with another hiker – it was arctic by now. I reckon taking windchill into account it was somewhere around -15C




Even though it was still early, it was time to head down, too cold to linger and we’d had our fill of winter for the day


The broad Senni valley opens up as you descend and its a real beauty




A shortish route of around 6 miles but good one

Fforest Fawr

Cracking day. Cold day.

Lanzarote – Montana Blanca   14 comments


Time to bag another volcanic summit. We’d had another leisurely morning of poolside lazing and strolls along the seafront so an afternoon hike was in order. Today’s outing was on the far side of the Timanfaya National Park to Montana Blanca, or Caldera Blanca. The name seems to vary depending on which map or guidebook you use. It’s obviously quite well-known as the parking area was very busy when we pulled up and its obvious to see why once you reach the top.

First things first, we had to reach the bottom that involved a path carved through one of the lava flows from the Timanfaya eruptions


The fact that someone has decided to drive a path through this stuff is extraordinary. You only have to walk two or three paces off the path to realise how impossible it is to cross without help and how much effort it must take to build


They are interesting with features that form like “rivers” albeit from lava rather than water


They are pretty hard going however and you soon long for easier ground


On the way to the main summit you base the smaller sibling of Montana Caldereta, itself not exactly insubstantial


These volcanic relics of much older eruptions are very reminiscent of the Auvergne in France at least in shape. Those are much older and now covered in grassland and forests


The main summit looks loose and hard to climb from below and you expect it to be a loose pile of dust and rubble. In fact it was quite hard and rocky and a decent path takes you onto the rim of the Caldera. It’s striking and the base of the crater is pretty deep, good few hundred feet I’d guess


This is Montana Caldereta from above. These older cones are called Isoltes (Isolates I assume) and are the older relics that the more recent lava simply flowed around. You can see it quite clearly in this shot


The weather had changed with a bank of cloud rolling in and a pretty ferocious wind blowing. The rim is narrow enough to make it interesting without being dangerous but I was glad the wind was blowing away from the drop into the crater


We reached the top at 461m without incident and in fact just a couple of feet below the summit marker all was calm


The views across this particularly remote and uninhabited corner of the island were amazing


The panorama shot below got a bit interrupted mid-flow as it were (hard taking one in a strong wind) but gives an idea of the massive size and depth of the crater


One of my favourite shots of the day, bright sunshine and moody clouds


I think the big peak on the right is Guardilama that we climbed a few days earlier


Looking out over the Atlantic


Time to head down and continue around the crater rim. There is a path up to the next summit along, Risco Quebrado but we’d started late and still had a way to go, so took a rain check on that one



As with most days as the sun lowers the light highlights the volcanic summits to greater effect




I think (not 100% sure) that this is the Aloe Vera plant that seems to thrive in these landscapes. There are lots of dedicated museums and shops on the island to this little plant and its various unguents and potions


We found a nice traversing path down to the base on the far side of the crater taking in the last of the sunny photos before it started to set


It was a long walk back through the lava fields to the car and it was pretty much dark when we reached it. We were only one of two cars left


Another stunning walk on this strange and beguiling island

Lanzarote – Hiking a High Point   12 comments


Time to get back to more serious walking. After a morning of lazy strolls and chilling by the pool me, TJS and TBF headed out for a walk in the afternoon. The weather was still stunningly clear and we wanted to bag one of the higher summits.

We started from another of the small quiet villages of the island, Uga. Heading out of the village and along a wide track into the hills


We crunched our way along the ash track, reminded me of walking on snow in very strange way


This is the valley of La Geria. It’s close to the area that erupted and was devastated not by lava but by ash. The area was quite well farmed and verdant before the eruption but after it happened most people left and never returned. More recently the area has been turned into a vast collection of vineyards. Each of these small hollows surrounded by a wall contains a single vine. Rather than protect from the wind the construction allows the dew to collect and trickle down into the hollow in miniscule amounts but its enough to sustain the vines. As you’ll see from the rest of the photos they dominate the landscape in such number as to be a marvel of effort to create that many. The unique pattern they create is one of the abiding memories of the island


Back to our walk and we were heading for the peak in the centre right of the photo, Montana de Guardilama. Its one of the “Three Peaks” over 600m I mentioned and had supposedly stunning views


We caught a glimpse of one of the Timanfaya tour buses traversing the slopes a few miles away


The panorama shot gives a feel for the width and desolation of the uncultivated parts of the valley


This lone palm tree caught my eye



Our target peak getting closer


As we reached the col the views along the east coast towards the resort of Puetro de Carmen and the capital Arrecife opened up


All we had to do was climb to the top. Hard work on the loose rubble slopes and took far longer than I thought


Fortunately the views from the top were stunning



TJS struggling to keep up with the old man



Couple of panoramas taking in 3/4 of the island



We had an extended stay on the top. The air was stunningly sharp and clear. An absolutely perfect day for walking


Looking south towards Playa Blanca


The National Park where Hell was unleashed a few hundred years back



TBF providing some foreground



We’d started late and we had another summit to climb and a few miles to go so we had to push on. We slithered down the slippery slopes and I waited for the others to catch up. While I was there an old German man walked up and abruptly asked what the climb was like. I gave him the low down about how long the climb might take etc but that the views were well worth it. He then set off just as abruptly without another word or a thank you. Some people!



We headed back up towards our second summit of Montana Tinasoria. Much lower and less steep it was an easy climb. We passed these ruined buildings, an area heavily used for paragliders as a launch site


As the sun was starting to go down the shadows and the golden light on the islands dusty brown summits was just mesmerizing




One of the things I loved about the island were the smooth sinuous curves of its volcanic cones. The low angle of the sun highlights them and the vine hollows perfectly


It is the age of the selfie



Reluctantly we headed down. I didn’t much fancy loose volcanic ash slopes in the dark


We passed through the crater of the much smaller Montana Mojon. These Prickly Pears providing a welcome splash of green to the landscape


There was a shallow crater rim so we wandered along it for some bonus views. By now the light was just sensational



As we reached Uga again the sun was catching the white houses perfectly, picking them out against the black lava and darkening blue sky



One final treat as we drove home and saw the sun setting as we crossed the col at Femes


I wasn’t sure what to expect from the walking on Lanzarote but its magnificent, fascinating and surreally beautiful. This half a day walk was amazing and one of the highlights of the trip. Boxing Day sales in a retail park or a walk like this?

Lanzarote – A walk from Femes   8 comments


Time to explore the mountains. Again, Lanzarote’s diminutive size was handy. Just a 10 minute drive to the pretty village of Femes in the mountains behind the resort and a start at over thousand feet. There were lots of walkers paths and it looked good for our first look at the islands mountains and old volcanos. We left the Funsters to go shopping and headed for the mountains


We headed up from the village and a short steep climb to a goat farm and cheese making facility


The path traversed across eastern flanks of Pico Aceituna. It looks a bit exposed but it was easy and safe


A view down the Barranco de la Higuera to the sea


And back towards the goat farm and the peaks above the Femes valley


It was a short walk out and back to the summit of Pico Aceituna so we thought we’d bag our first summit. Grand views across the Rubicon Plain to Playa Blanca and Fuerteventura in the distance


The Femes valley and the rest of the island


Atalaya de Femes, second highest point on the island and one of what I liked to call the “Three Peaks” of Lanzarote. There are four summits over 600m although you can’t access the highest point as its covered in military paraphernalia. They like to do this in Spain. The highest peak in Mallorca is similarly inaccessible. We only managed one of the three peaks so good reasons to go back



Panorama looking NE along the spine of the island


And the expanse of the Rubicon Plain, Montana Roja in the centre of the shot



The path then cut across the flanks of Pico Redondo, this time on the western flank, seen in the photo below. Again it looks exposed but again it was perfectly safe and easy


The route we were following was doing a complete circuit of Pico Redondo but I wanted to climb it. It looked ok, if a bit rough going. TJS wanted no part in such a risky plan (he likes to stay on paths) so we agreed to meet around the far side. It was an easy climb in the end and the summit had a nice, narrow, rocky summit with extensive views. The mountains on Lanzarote are not especially high but their prozimity to the coast gives them a real sense of height and the views are excellent and of course unusual



This is Hacha Grande, the highest point on this side of the ridge. One to save for another day




The descent was on pathless terrain and pretty tedious. The photo tries to give some scale to the uniformity of the slope. All loose volcanic dirt and rubble


I just took my time and despite losing my footing numerous times managed to avoid falling on my backside. We arrived at the broad col below within a few seconds of each other, barely breaking stride as we headed up to the top of the small peak below, Lomo del Pozo for some lunch


The stunning views of our route and the rest of the island more than made up for possibly the worst pre-packed sandwiches it’s ever been my misfortune to eat. Luckily we had Paprika crisps, cookies and chocolate donuts to soften the blow




Time to head back and a very pleasant stroll along the Barranco de la Higuera


And a steep climb through the volcanic rocks to the Goat Farm where we started


One of the many volcanic dikes on the island. Nature’s dry stone wall


A view back down the Barranco de la Higuera to Lomo del Pozo



Last views of Femes before we reached the car and headed back down to Playa Blanca


A short route and short drive gives time to pack in some more activity. Nothing better than finishing off a day in the mountains with a stroll along the coast.


And an hour on the beach to catch some rays and take a cooling swim at Playa Dorada



Obligatory lazing on the beach/feet shot




Nice time to be on the beach while the sun starts to go down


Excellent way to finish the day

Lanzarote – Montana Roja   15 comments


Playa Blanca sits at the bottom of the island at end of vast expanse of volcanic desert called the Rubicon Plain, that’s pretty flat and featureless. What it also has is its own volcano or least a relic of one, Montana Roja, that overlooks the resort. A tempting target for a walk so first afternoon we headed out to take a look.


We stopped off at the tip of the island near the lighthouse for a coastal stroll first. Not one of the best walks, it’s all a bit untidy with loads of half-finished villas and roads



It gave a different view of Montana Roja. It looks deceptively big from here even though its only 194m above sea level


Add to the fact you can drive a good way up the slopes and it makes a very easy and very splendid short hike. On the way up the views across the old volcanic peaks above the village of Femes opens out, the outskirts of Playa Blanca in the foreground


A panorama looking north towards the rest of the island


TJF wasn’t greatly enthused by the walk and chose to sit on the rim of the crater with her phone pressed to her face. The rest of us chose to walk around the crater to the high point.



The sun was close to setting so the light was stunning, turning the rocks and peaks a deep golden reddish-brown



The walk around the crater is superb, albeit quite short. Nothing better than elevated views above the coast.



A nice contrast between the stark landscape and the gleaming white buildings of the resort



Had TJF not been sitting waiting for us (and we had food shopping to do) we’d have stayed to watch the sunset


As it was, we enjoyed the short stroll and the changing colours. Lanzarote does reds and browns (and black) pretty well


A last lingering shot of Fuerteventura across the water


I meant to walk up here a few times as its such a wonderful viewpoint but we never seemed to get the chance. We did head up on last evening to watch the sunset but there was more cloud about and the views not so great. We did get a few interesting cloud effects though



A small sunny patch on the village of El Golfo


And the Timanfaya National Park (more on both places in later posts)



A sunset hole in the clouds


Fading light on the Femes Hills (my name – they don’t seem to have a name of their own)


There seemed to be thin strip of oddly coloured yellow cloud hanging above Fuerteventura. You can just about make it out in the photos below.


No idea what it was. My guess is sand in the atmosphere from the sand dunes on the north of the island


Our first Lanzarote volcano. More to come

Posted January 10, 2018 by surfnslide in Lanzarote, Spain, Walking

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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!


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!)


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


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)


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


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



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


A short walk with TBF on Hatterall Hill



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


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


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!


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



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.


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


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


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



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


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


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



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


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



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


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)


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.


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



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)


A monster thunderstorm in Turin


My favourite seafront walk in Venice


The Colloseum in Rome – of course


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


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


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


And the railway bridge over the Rhine in Cologne



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!


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



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


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


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



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


And one of my favourite walks in the Black Mountain


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



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


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


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


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


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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