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

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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!

Bheinn Mhich Mhonaidh

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…..

The Beast from the East meets the Brecon Beacons   16 comments

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Nicking a blog title from the cold weather media frenzy is cheap and lazy I know but its 9pm and I can’t be bothered with trying to come up with anything original.

Another classic route. The round of the Brecon Beacons Four Peaks (Corn Du, Pen y Fan, Cribyn, Fan y Big) from the south, a circuit of the Neuadd Valley and its reservoirs. It was cold when we set off but we had no idea how cold it was going to get

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The sky was a sensational deep blue and the few clouds hugging the eastern slopes were soon burnt off. The approach road was glacial

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The walk across the dam of the lower reservoir is always a pleasure

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The path up to the western edges is steep and I found it surprisingly hard work after my bout of flu. When we hit the ridge we felt the full blast of the beast

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The wind was ferocious and staggeringly cold. Its rare on a dry day, even in winter, that I don full fleeces and jacket with the hood up but it was essential. Even then my face was burning with cold

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Luckily the views were spectacular and at least the wind was kind of behind us

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We’d made an early start and I was anxious where we would stop for lunch. I figured we could get out of the wind behind Corn Du as I thought the lower cols would be windier, funnelling the wind

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I was wrong. Even directly behind the summit the wind was just blowing, over and around the summit. We hid behind a couple of rock outcrops, stuffed our faces quickly and moved on

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The walk between Corn Du and Pen y Fan was straight into the wind. The cold was almost unbearable, one of the coldest 10 minutes I can remember in the mountains. I was starting to think that carrying on with this for the next few hours wasn’t all that sensible but as we reached the summit of Pen y Fan the wind abated quite significantly. For the rest of the day the wind only blew in gusts and at times it was relatively pleasant, almost warm. There was of course the usual crowd of seriously under-equipped people on the summit. Some people just have no idea how much difference there is between a sunny sheltered car park and a 3,000 foot summit exposed to an easterly winter wind. Trainers, jeans, exposed ankles, people carrying babies, they were all there. I walked away shaking my head

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90% of people climb Pen y Fan from the Storey Arms. Head off the summit in the other direction and calm and quiet is restored. The view back to Pen y Fan and over to Cribyn’s pointed summit and dark shadowed northern face were majestic

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I took the path along the edge of the cliffs to the summit of Cribyn. This flat grassy spot halfway up has been earmarked for a wild camp some day – just on a less windy and cold day

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A brief rest on the summit and the off along the edge towards the col ahead of Fan y Big

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Another of my favourite sections of the Beacons edges

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The col rather than being wild and windy as I thought was calm and benign so we stopped for a cuppa and second lunch. I was feeling pretty tired but I was convinced that Fan y Big needed an ascent and the views from its summit are exceedingly fine so the convincing wasn’t that hard

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In addition, the walk back from its summit above the reservoirs is far more pleasant than the long drag down the bumpy path to the car park

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The view back to the Four Peaks

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Back to the car to warm up (heated seats were very welcome) and back for a very one-sided cup final to finish off a damned fine day. The beast was tamed for now.

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I’m off to Scotland at the weekend to take it on again – if I can get there!

Slow Return to Outdoor Life   18 comments

That nasty bout of flu stuck with me for three weeks and really hit me for six (I still have a nagging cough four weeks on). Last weekend I tentatively ventured out for a day outdoors for the first time since I got back from my ski trip. A short trip that I’ve done may times before but one of my favourite local walks

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A decent weather forecast and the cold weather had been replaced by almost spring-like conditions

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Through Cwmyoy village and my favourite wonky church

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Ysgyryd Fawr as always dominates the view to the south

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Wild ponies on the summit

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And the beautiful Vale of Ewyas to the north

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We found a relatively sheltered spot on the summit for a bite to eat and a chat about TJS impending choice of University. When we set off the fickle British weather delivered a punch. The skies had gone very dark and within minutes it was raining, a cold slanting rain that replaced the spring conditions of earlier with a taste of winter. After a soaking, the skies cleared and all was sunny again

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The late afternoon views were rather fine

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The Sugar Loaf

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And a dark looking Ysgyryd Fawr

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I particularly like the light in this shot

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Only 6 miles but I was completely wiped out when I got back to the car. Hopefully I can recover some of my lost fitness over the coming weeks now I seem to be over the bug. Always good to use an old favourite to start over

Almost a week’s skiing in the Alps   14 comments

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January brings my little treat of a week-long trip to the Alps for some skiing.

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After a couple of years of less than perfect snow conditions this year was set to be a good one. Tonnes of snow right down to the lowest levels, cold sunny days with a top up of snow forecast for midweek. What could be better

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Not having the flu for the entire time I was out there would have been better. Instead of being out every day I had to try to catch a few hours when I felt well enough to crawl out of bed. For the first few days this was pretty much all the skiing I saw – the view from the apartment balcony

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It probably wasn’t the best idea to head out into -19C cold dry air with flu but I had to try

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I managed a few half days in the first half of the week.

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My friends were the best, they never complained about sharing a flat with a seriously sad and ill-looking mate and were saintly in the way they encouraged me to head out, kept my spirits up and did all the shopping and cooking

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There are worse places to be ill I suppose and many, many people worse off than me so I put a brave face on things, savoured the great skiing that I did manage and accepted the long lay ups in bed to recover. Good company and many laughs still made it a great week

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On the last two days I managed to summon enough energy to ski all day. I paid for it in the evenings but the conditions were superb and as you can see the views magnificent

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The classic view of Mont Blanc to the north, showing just how much bigger than the rest of the Alps it is

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Some wonderful cloud inversions in the Isere valley

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And over towards the Ecrins

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I normally take videos but this year it was as much as I could manage just to get out.

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As I was trying to keep my exertion to a minimum I was skiing much more in control and strangely felt I was skiing better than I ever have done

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It would be easy to look back and be frustrated at how things turned out. seeing the photos now, makes me think of all the good days and half days I enjoyed rather than any regret for the days I missed.

I think I paid a hefty price with my health though. One week after coming back and I’m still not fully recovered although I’m hoping I’ve now seen the back of it. Today has been my first day without painkillers, headaches and a hacking cough. Time to plan some summer holidays in the sun

 

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.

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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.

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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

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

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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

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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

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