Sunday, 26 February 2017

West Highland Way

I must be getting old.  I had plans to walk up Schiehallion but I didn’t feel my legs were up to it after yesterday’s big day out on Ben Lomond.  As well as the lie-in I’d had to recover.  And I wasn’t the only one !

We chose a much easier option and decided to walk up the West Highland Way to Tyndrum.  After scrounging a lift to Crianlarich train station, we set off up the well-marked path into the forest.

I’ve never fancied myself as a long-distance walker – summits have more easily held my appeal – but, if I had to choose one to do I’ve always thought that the Milngavie to Fort William option would be a good introduction.  There are options including wild-camping or using one of the baggage transfer companies which allows walkers to travel with minimum weight.  I think I’d go for that, not to be encumbered by a large sack and taking away the end-of-day hunt for a suitable pitch.  Although it wouldn’t allow you any flexibility about lengthening or shortening the day should the mood take you.

We followed a good graded path and had occasional glimpses through the trees of some of the higher ground, notably Beinn Odhar, before dropping down to cross the A82.  This stretch was much flatter and we were soon nearing Tyndrum and The Real Food Cafe, where we had arranged to meet our lift back to the hut.

Beinn Odhar

I enjoyed the walk more than I thought and maybe, at some point in the future, I’ll try the West Highland Way, but I’ve still got a few hills to do first !

Ben Lomond

I didn’t really care what anybody else’s plans were, I was heading for Ben Lomond.  Others in the club mooted the idea of a direct ascent of Ben More from Crianlarich but it was obvious that the route would be relentless.  The promise of more varied terrain on the Ptarmigan ridge proved more alluring.

Although Rowardennan was an hour and a half’s drive from the hut, that didn’t seem that long compared to yesterday’s six hour journey from home.  Five of us headed for the ridge after starting on the West Highland Way and followed a good pitched path to the snowline, avoiding the iced up steps although microspikes made progress somewhat easier for one of us.  As we ascended, the view over to the Arrochar Alps opened out and we made our way up to the Ptarmigan ridge.  Our meanderings along the ridge took us in and out of the wind and we found a suitable spot for lunch, cold but sheltered.

Beinns Arthur, Narnain & Ime

We had been able to see Ben Lomond’s summit ridge and saw walkers in the distance, some descending the north-west ridge.  It looked as if some turned back as we didn’t see them progress to the base of the ridge but we did come across one crampon-shod couple who said that the ridge was not too bad.  A young couple caught us up and overtook, not surprising as they were inadequately equipped – summer boots and a water bottle for the young woman who looked like she was on the way to the gym; jeans and Timberlands for the young man.  No sign of axes or crampons in the single small rucksack being carried !  The minus 5oC temperatures and 30mph plus winds demanded more suitable clothing !

Ben Lomond summit from the Ptarmigan ridge

At the base of the summit ridge we put on our crampons and made our way up.  The spikes made a difference and I was happy to acknowledge that we had made the right decision at the right time.  A couple of us used ice axes but I felt comfortable using my poles – at only one point would I have preferred an axe but the position wasn’t desperate.  And my goggles proved invaluable in the wind.

As we moved up, a group of eight young Poles followed us.  They were as ill-equipped as the previous couple – no winter boots, crampons or ice axes and although they had reasonable jackets their legwear couldn’t have given them much protection from the wind.  After five hours of walking we took our summit photos at the trig point and the Polish group waited for us to start making our way off in the mist; I’m pretty sure that their main method of navigation was to follow footsteps !

We followed the voie normale down to below the cloudbase and after a while dispensed with the crampons.  It’s a pretty uninspiring path and it made me glad that I’d chosen the Ptarmigan ridge as the way up.  Towards the bottom it was muddy and its condition betrayed the huge number of feet that must use it, both up and down.  It’s probably one of the most used ways up any Munro.

Beinn Narnain

And as daylight waned at the end of the walk, the hills took on the fiery tones cast by the sunset with the alpenglow giving the upper reaches of Ben Lomond a spectacular colour.

The Ptarmigan ridge and Ben Lomond

Friday, 17 February 2017

2017 Targets

Lists to tick

My target ticklist is a combination of unclimbed Nuttalls, TRAIL 100s, WASHIS, Simpsons, Bridges and Buxton & Lewis summits.  At the start of 2017 there are 334 individual summits on my ticklist and my goal of completing them in 2023 leaves 7 years to reach the target.

Still to be ticked at the start of this year are 206 of the 446 Nuttalls and 38 of the TRAIL 100 summits.

This coming year

In simple numbers, 14% of my remaining summits based on my remaining 7-year target is an achievable target for 2016, as long as I have some significant multi-summit days out.

Which means I’m aiming for 48 summits, amongst which should be 30 Nuttalls and 6 TRAIL 100s.

Amongst my specific targets (again !) are the 6 Cheviot Nuttalls and Pillar Rock.  I’m also aiming for Snaefell on the Isle of Man but that will depend on ferry times and fares.

Let’s see what happens this year…

A 2016 Summary

At the start of 2016 I had 349 summits on my combined ticklist of TRAIL 100 summits, Nuttalls, WASHIS, Simpsons, Bridges and Buxton & Lewis summits.  2016 was the third year of my 10-year completion target and I had aimed to tick 44 summits on my combined list which would include 27 Nuttalls and 5 TRAIL 100s.

For the third successive year in a row I fell short, and by quite an amount !

Overall I :
            went on             11                                 walks
            walked              77.2                              miles
            ascended          26,309                          feet
            walked for         59 hrs 2 mins               (including rest stops !)
            reached            15                                 individual summits that I hadn’t been to before
            reached            10                                 individual summits that I had been to before
            reached            15                                 summits on my combined ticklist
            reached            2                                  previously unclimbed TRAIL 100 summits
            reached            15                                 previously unclimbed Nuttall summits
            drove                2080                             miles on trips to and from walks

2016 was a year that saw a few changes to the list of Nuttalls.  Calf Top was added following the Ordnance Survey adopting a new geoid model; Craig Gwaun Taf was added after a resurvey but I had previously bagged it as it is also a Bridge and Buxton & Lewis summit; Bram Rigg Top was demoted following a resurvey but I had bagged it not long before its demotion; both Long Fell and Tinside Rigg were added after resurveys, both of which were already on my ticklist because of their Buxton & Lewis status.

Another bonus tick was Glaramara North Top which I worked out that I had bagged following some close study of maps, summit descriptions and my walking log – ticks don’t get a lot easier than that !

So after my walks, promotions, a demotion and some careful research, my ongoing ticklist stands at 334 summits.  That’s a fair amount of walking still left to do !

Of the specific summits that I stated were 2016 I only managed Garbh Bheinn in Ardgour and all bar one of the Howgill Nuttalls.  Yet again, I didn’t get to the 6 Cheviot Nuttalls or Pillar Rock.

2016 was a poor year from a numerical point of view but I still had a couple of good days out.  A winter ascent of Garbh Bheinn was the highlight and a return to the Coniston fells made for a good spring outing.

Hopefully 2017 will prove a little more fruitful.

Thursday, 16 February 2017


Just a couple of days after Christmas produced some good weather for the club’s annual post-festivities walk, this year heading to Crafnant for a circular walk taking in the Creigiau Gleision ridge.

I was first to arrive at the car park and I booted up while awaiting further arrivals.  Cars pulled in at regular intervals and soon a group of thirteen headed up the lane to a track leading uphill through woodland to the Gelli Plantation and past Lledwigan before starting up the open hillside.  The group stretched out and although we followed the path as best we could, a few diversions were needed to avoid some boggy areas before hunkering down in the shelter of some low crags to eat lunch.  Our heathery dining room turned out to be just below the north-east summit with good views of the higher Carneddau and Llyn Cowlyd.

The path along the ridge passed beneath the highpoint of Creigiau Gleision but I took a quick detour to the summit.  At this point I started to wonder who was doing the navigating and wondered whether the rest realised just how close to the summit they were.  Maybe they were just happy to be out and bagging summits didn’t have the relevance to them as it does to me.

Ogwen valley

looking back to /Creigiau Gleision

Pen Llithrig y Wrach

As we walked south, the views along the Ogwen valley impressed as the Glyderau broke up the low sunrays, casting their shadows across to the Carneddau.

At Craiglwyn summit we put our heads together to decide which way to descend, particularly as daylight was starting to ebb away.  A line between Moel Ddefaid and Clogwyn yr Eryr was chosen and as there was no path we followed the line of an old wall and new fence, neither of them marked on the map, to the head of the Crafnant valley.

Crafnant valley

A leisurely stroll along the road ended the walk but not the day.  An enjoyable hour was spent in Ye Olde Bull Inn in Tal-y-bont where a welcome pint beckoned.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

An Outlying Carnedd

I arrived at the Cwm Eigiau roadhead carpark, albeit a little later than planned, and was surprised that there were no spaces left.  I had expected this tucked away corner of the Carneddau to be less popular than this but perhaps quiet areas in the mountains are becoming increasingly difficult to find.

With more daylight I would probably have added Pen y Castell to the walk but the afternoon really only offered the option of a quick up-and-down of Craig Eigiau if I wanted a relaxing walk.  I started up the track leading to Melynllyn and as I turned the corner the highest tops showed off their snowy summits.  My objective was over 200 metres lower and held a lot less snow cover.

the northern Carneddau

At the fence which rises meridian-straight up towards Foel-fras, a faint path leads away leftwards from the track towards the ridgeline of Craig Eigiau.  It led up amongst the snowfields which, if steeper, would have needed crampons to safely cross.

My leisurely pace gave another walker the chance to catch me up and he said that he was heading for Carnedd Llewellyn, admitting that he may have left it a bit late in the day to reach the summit as it was almost mid-afternoon with only a couple of hours of good daylight remaining.  Although in his fifties, he said that his mother had coerced him into attending chapel earlier in the day, hence his late start.  Pleasantries completed, we wished each other well and he continued ahead of me.

Carnedd Llewellyn

Craig Eigiau’s summit ridge has some interesting terrain with rocky outcrops to explore.  The summit itself was a smooth sloping shelf of rock which, from a certain angle, replicated the outline of the main Carneddau ridge in front of it.  The clear skies allowed good views from the sea to the tops and after the obligatory summit shots I turned to retrace my steps.

Craig Eigiau summit rocks

The Welsh Matterhorn

There are many areas that claim a mountain or hill is their “Matterhorn” and Wales is no exception.  My one and only previous visit to Cnicht was 12 years ago and before I was actively ticking the Nuttalls.  I’d reached the summit on a misty day and there was a chance that I had also bagged the north top but as I hadn’t logged it, I may not have done.  But it gave me a good excuse to revisit this fine mountain.

Moel Hebog and the Nantlle Ridge

From Croesor it looks steep and intimidating, not unlike the Matterhorn, but in reality the ridge affords an fairly easy walk as the view is a classic example of foreshortening.  Easy to navigate and easy underfoot, only the top section of the route offers a change in character with some scrambling to reach the summit.  There were quite a few family parties enjoying a taste of adventure but the shoulders of mums and dads were being used to carry the toddlers !

At the small plateau below the scramble we saw a family with three small boys descending the face to the left of the normal route.  It looked a bit hairy so I kept myself ready to help just in case they needed it – luckily they didn’t.  At the same time a fellrunner took a direct line up the face and made it look easy !

From the summit we headed over to the north top.  As we got nearer it became clear that the path skirts the top and it was obvious that I hadn’t been to it on my previous visit.  A short detour bagged the summit and we walked to the top of Cwm-y-foel, dropping down beyond the few snow patches into the hanging valley to find a suitable spot for lunch.

Tremadoc Bay from Cwm-y-foel

The walk along the edge of the dammed tarn led to the descent into Cwm Croesor and an easy walk back to the car, ending an enjoyable day out in one of Snowdonia’s less popular corners.

Cnicht from Cwm Croesor