Monday, 22 December 2014

Creigiau Gleision

A fried breakfast at the club’s hut in Llanberis set me up for another day of mopping up Nuttalls and as nobody else expressed any interest in my objectives for the day, the walk turned into another solo expedition.

Three of my fellow club members advantage of my drive over Pen y Pass, asking to be dropped off before their traverse over Snowdon and back down to the hut.  I parked behind Joe Brown’s in Capel Curig and set off on the bridleway leading to the day’s first summit, Crimpiau.  The cloud was obscuring the view but was slowly rising and snow on the ground was first seen at just below 450 metres.  The summit was well-defined, leaving no doubt that the highpoint had been reached.

As the cold and wind made themselves better known I reached into the top pocket of my rucksack for my hat and gloves but the first thing I found was a Christmas bauble, put there by a mischievous hut-dweller!  It could have been worse, I’ve heard stories of rocks being buried in the depths of rucksacks of the unsuspecting.


The drop to the col passed three Carneddau ponies; their dull-coloured coats camouflaging them well.  The final few metres to the top of Craig Wen offered some interesting scrambling with a choice of routes to the summit.  Another drop to a very boggy col was the prelude to the first Nuttall of the day, Craiglwyn.  The views had improved by now with the higher Glyderau tops and the Ogwen valley coming into view, as well as the high Carneddau sporting significant amounts of snow.

Carneddau Llewellyn, Pen yr Helgi Du & Pen Llithrig y Wrach

From Craiglwyn the next two summits could be clearly seen.  Creigiau Gleision was soon reached from where I saw a fellow solitary walker (possibly Steve Smith – see here) on the summit of Pen Llithrig y Wrach with the clear path allowing easy progress to Creigiau Gleision North Top, passing an interesting quartz outcrop.

Creigiau Gleision and North Top
Time had passed too quickly to descend to the dam of the Llyn Cowlyd reservoir and finish the walk in daylight, so I decided to retrace, at least partly, my steps.  I skirted Creigiau Gleision’s summit to the left – a mistake soon realised by the boulder field that I had to negotiate.  I bypassed Craiglwyn on the right through heather, although some sheep trods made like easier.  Then it was just a case of finding a way to the bridleway above Tal-y-waun – a task not too difficult until I encountered the unpassable gorge of Afon Llewesig and an equally unpassable area of gorse !  More retracing of steps, this time uphill, before the final half mile walk along the A5.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Steel Edge and a Confusing Name

Attending an evening AGM in Windermere presented an opportunity to bag Black Sails, a previously unvisited summit in the Coniston Fells.

From Tilberthwaite I followed the track alongside Yewdale Beck to the base of Steel Edge; a north-western spur leading off Wetherlam’s south ridge.  Not as impressive as Sharp, Swirral or Striding, except in name, the edge is a broad ridge that largely follows a shallow waterworn gully.  It’s a reasonable way to high ground but it lacks the splendour of the more famous Lakeland edges.

to Steel Edge and Wetherlam

Steel Edge from the bottom

Steel Edge from the top

Three Tarns at the top of Steel Edge

The top of the edge terminates at a substantial plateau containing three tarns – not as well-known as those at beneath Bowfell.  From here, Wetherlam’s south ridge leads easily up to the south top of Wetherlam, not categorised as anything other than a “Simpson”; belonging to an antiquated list of Lake District 2000 feet summits published in a Wayfarers’ Club journal.  Any one of half-a-dozen rocks could be the actual highpoint and content with the tick, I aimed off to the north-west to gain the summit of Black Sails, a point not far from the main path but one I’m sure is bypassed by many of those Wainwright-baggers heading for Wetherlam.

The descent of Wetherlam Edge wasn’t pleasant.  The way down isn’t overly obvious and in the wet it was too slippery for comfort.  I suspect that I took a line to the right of the most worn path, but was glad to reach the bottom of it and continue on to some minor summits.

There are a number of tops above Tilberthwaite that have Birkett and/or Synge status and I had decided to tick some of them.  Birk Fell came easily, with the west top being considered the higher, although I reached both.  The next summit turns out to have a nomenclature problem.

Hawk Rigg is listed Bill Birkett’s book (NY300015, 441m) and also in Tim Synge’s book (NY300017, 428m) but both details can’t be right.  Synge’s Hawk Rigg is listed in Birkett’s book as High Fell which I didn’t realise until I got home to update my log – more diligent research will be needed if I decide to tick off any more Birketts or Synges !  The DoBIH data coincides with Birkett’s.

I reached Birkett’s Hawk Rigg and descended a short but steep fellside before the final ascent to Blake Rigg.  Another steep descent to the main Tilberthwaite path was the prelude to the last easy stroll back to the car.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Starting the Second Half

The three Peak District Nuttalls lie some distance from the main groups of other 2000-foot mountains in England and along with Dartmoor and the Cheviot hills I’ve regarded them somewhat as “outliers”.  I had already ticked the two Bleaklow summits so a walk up Kinder Scout would complete the group.

Kinder Scout is also a TRAIL 100 summit and it would be my 51st tick, marking the start of the second half of this geographically diverse list of mountains.  But the remainder are mostly Scottish summits and the logistics to complete the list are going to have a significant influence on how I approach ticking the 49 outstanding summits.

I had never really looked forward to climbing Kinder Scout with discouragement due to the many tales of interminable bogs on the plateau.  I swore that I would only do it in the winter when the ground had frozen or after a significant dry spell.  But the first couple of weeks of September had been highlighted by the weathermen as particularly dry and with a forecast of light winds, sunshine and only a tiny chance of rain I decided that a quick excursion could be made to bag it.

I parked at the Bowden Bridge car park, underneath a plaque commemorating the Kinder Trespass in 1932 and set off on a relaxed stroll to gain the open moorland at Kinderlow End.  At the Edale Cross I left the main path and headed towards to plateau.

Bowden Bridge car park - memorial plaque

The trig point soon came into view and then the hunt was on for the true summit.  I’m sure that many assume that the trig pillar is the highpoint but a comprehensive survey in 2009 found a number of points in contention for the honour and managed to narrow it down.  I headed northeast to a point marked with some embedded rocks.  Although not the summit, it will become so if there is a change of terrain, not unlikely in this peaty expanse.

Kinder Scout trig point

Further northeast is a cairn with poles placed in it, and this has become known by many as the true summit – but it isn’t !  The actual high point is a peat hag 35 metres further on.  The hag is about a foot high, and measures about 4 feet by 2 feet.  If it ever erodes down to its base, the previous point marked by stones will become the summit of Kinder Scout.

false summit cairn - summit hag in the background!

the true summit

In mist, the plateau is a place to avoid and only exceptional navigation or a GPS would locate the true summit.  Also, the top is surrounded by many bogs, which were luckily fairly dry for me – I’d picked a very good day to tick this hill !

After visiting all of the points that are candidates for the summit, I headed due west to pick up the path skirting the edge of the plateau.  Walking north took me past some good viewpoints for the Mermaid’s Pool and eventually I stopped for lunch at a point overlooking the famous downfall.  Kinder Downfall is well known for its water travelling uphill in high winds, but today’s trickle wasn’t impaired by any such weather.

Kinder Downfall
I came away from Kinder with an better opinion of it than I had before.  It’s a better “mountain” than Bleaklow and the views along its edge make it a good objective for those seeking a summit that is not too challenging.  But despite that, I think that I’ll only come back to climb a frozen Kinder Downfall which has been an ambition for a few years.  There are bigger and better hills on my list that now need my attention !

Friday, 5 September 2014

TRAIL 1000 metre peaks – part 2

Following the publication of a new tick list in the June 2013 issue of TRAIL magazine;


I wrote a blog about its composition and some possible exclusions.

The list was linked to an article of Mike Cawthorne’s walk over the 135 Scottish 1000 metre summits as described in his book “Hell of a  Journey” I managed to separate Mike’s summits from TRAIL’s list, coming to the conclusion that Mike’s list was specific (see my previous blog) and that the TRAIL list has no specific link to it, other than a common “1000 metre” criterion.

Of the 141 summits in TRAIL’s list;
            135 are Scottish
            5 are Welsh
            1 is Irish.

The Welsh summits

The 5 Welsh summits are the four 1000 metre Furths as listed in Munro’s tables plus Glyder Fawr (itself a Furth summit) whose height is listed as 999 metres in the tables but has been resurveyed resulting in a new height given as 1001 metres.

The Irish summits

The exclusion of two Irish summits gives rise to an inconsistency.  If the Welsh summits give any precedent, the list should include the Irish Furth summits of at least 1000 metres.  These are Carrauntoohil, Beenkeragh and Caher.  But only Carrauntoohil is included.  Why?

Both Beenkeragh and Caher have a significant drop so it’s not as if they are insignificant summits.  There are quite a few Scottish summits in the list with less!

I have a theory that Carrauntoohil was included so that the list would be a “British Isles” list and whoever compiled it didn’t think to include the other two Furth summits.  Or maybe their research just wasn’t thorough enough.

The Scottish summits

The Scottish summits that make the list are the 1000 metre Munros as listed in the 1997 edition of Munros tables – except for two!  The two missing peaks are the lower Munros of An Teallach (Sgurr Fiona) and Liathach (Mullach an Rathain).

I’ve always found that TRAIL doesn’t seem to recognise that An Teallach and Liathach, both magnificent mountains in their own right, each contain two Munros.  And I’ve always wondered why.  Is it because they are both generally known as a single entity in the eyes of many?  I can’t think of any other reason.

The complete list

TRAIL’s list was published with no specific prominence criteria which means that it can be considered complete.  But it is inconsistent!

If I ever get around to ticking the 1000 metre Peaks of the British Isles, my list will have 145 summits!

Thursday, 4 September 2014

“Hell of a Journey”

Last year I wrote a blog about TRAIL magazine’s list of 1000 metre peaks in the British Isles and the accompanying article about Mike Cawthorne’s winter traverse of the Scottish 1000 metre peaks.  Mike’s book, “Hell of a Journey” quoted that this walk took in 135 such summits, but he didn’t specifically list them.

I managed to buy a copy of his Boardman Tasker award shortlisted book and as I read it I came to the conclusion that this is as good as any mountaineering book that I have previously read.  The title describes the Mike’s endeavour perfectly and I can thoroughly recommend it, particularly to Munro-baggers, winter-walkers, wild-campers and mountaineers.

But back to the list.

There are 137 Munros that are 1000 meters or higher and I wondered where the other two had gone.

Mike started his walk in November 1997 and the most recent edition of Munro’s tables was published in 1997 which implies that two are missing.  But Sgurr Breac in the Fannichs was the clue as it was detailed in Mike’s text as one of his 135 summits with a height of exactly 1000 metres.  But in the 1997 tables it is listed with a height of 999 metres!

This got me thinking – when was it likely that Mike planned his walk?  I came to the conclusion that he used the 1990 edition of the tables, before the 1997 edition was published.  Would the numbers now tally?

The 1997 update to the tables was a significant one with quite a four “new” 1000 metre summits being classified as Munros and one 1000 metre summit being demoted to a Top.  Some research confirmed that Sgurr Breac was listed in 1990’s tables with a height of 1000 metres; the 1997 update had demoted its height to 999 metres.  All of which explains the number of summits increasing from 135 to 137.

So clarity has resulted – Mike’s round was of the 1000 metre Munros (known as Metros in some hillbagging circles) as listed in the 1990 edition of Munros tables.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Glyders in the mist!

The weather forecasters got it right – the remains of Hurricane Bertha arrived and the weather took a turn for the worse.  Although there was some blue in the sky to be seen, it didn’t last for long !

Creigiau Gleision and Craig Wen

Gallt yr Ogof looks impenetrable from the A5 but I during my Carneddau walk I planned a route up its western flank through the bands of small crags.  The midges were out in force as it was still quite warm but as I reached the ridge, the rain arrived.  The view disappeared as quickly as the waterproofs appeared and I started to make my way towards the summit as the mist came and went.  At least I wasn’t going to add to yesterday’s sunburn !

I passed the fore-summit and was soon at the top.  Views of Y Foel Goch were tantalisingly brief and I walked to the col, passing the wrong side of the tarn and ending up knee deep in bog, although I got out of it very quickly, minimising the soaking my right leg got.

Y Foel Goch is the higher summit but is not well defined, being quite a large plateau.  I bagged the cairn and the other two possible contenders for the summit before making my way down towards Llyn y Caseg-fraith.  I was hoping for the classic view of the east face of Tryfan but Bertha put paid to that.  I contoured around Drws Nodded to the Braich y Ddeugwm ridge, trying to stay out of the now gusting winds, and followed this down towards the valley.

Conditions eased as I neared the valley, giving a reasonable view of Tryfan.


Despite the conditions and walking solo again, I enjoyed this walk despite the weather; it had been a long time since I had been out in conditions like this and despite the damp, any day in the hills is a good day.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

A Cwm Tal-y-braich Horseshoe

The view of Tryfan’s best side from Caseg Fraith’s dormitory window was exactly as advertised and no further encouragement to get on to the Ogwen hills was needed.  Everybody else wanted to scramble or climb so I set off to enjoy the Carneddau on my own.

Pont y Bedol

I soon reached the picturesque bridge of Pont y Bedol and continued up the trackless southern slopes of Pen Llithrig y Wrach, passing a small herd of Carneddau wild ponies on my way.  There was no semblance of a path until I reached the cliff edge near the summit, at which point the views opened out to the north, but it was still no match for the view looking south.

Llyn Cowlyd


With nothing to accompany me other than the superb panorama, I soon reached the summit.  The view into Colwyn Bay was dominated by the arrays of wind turbines rising out of the sea, definitely preferable to them being sited on our hills and mountains.  As I descended to Bwlch y Tri Marchog a yellow RAF Sea King appeared from over Capel Curig, effortlessly rising and then disappearing over the highest of the Carneddau.

A quick descent to the col with its minor summit of Clogwyn Llech Lefn – rising just 14 meters above the bwlch and so just missing Nuttall status – I took some time to bask in the rare welsh sun.  For the first time during the day I saw other walkers, plodding past me and on to Pen yr Helgi Du, my next target.

Llyn Eigiau

The walk up to the summit of Pen yr Helgi Du felt easier than the day’s first ascent, but the summit is worthy of a more substantial cairn rather than the small pile of stones currently marking the top.  The view to the classic climbing venue of Craig yr Ysfa caught the eye but it was the descent which was to prove the highlight of the day.

Craig yr Ysfa

With Bwlch Eryl Farchog in sight, the ridge leading down to it gave some worthy sport.  Steep and narrow but oddly without the exposure usually associated with similar terrain, it had good steps and had obviously seen much winter passage if the crampon scratches gave any clue.  Care would need to be taken in windy conditions as a fatal fall earlier in the year highlighted the consequences of a slip here.

Pen yr Helgi Du north-west ridge

I had considered continuing to the summit of Carnedd Llewellyn but with the true mindset of a fair-weather walker, a few drops of rain persuaded me to head back to the valley.  I’d been there before and I’d ticked my major objectives for the day, so bailing out and heading for the Ffynnon Llugwy access road came with no pangs of guilt.

Technically a horseshoe walk of Cwm Tal-y-braich would involve a descent of the south ridge of Pen yr Helgi Du, but the north-west ridge gives the better scrambling option.

As I walked down the access road, the unmistakeable roar of jet engines grew and I was quick to spot the Red Arrows flying along Ogwen, towards the coast.  A group of five were followed by a group of four which made me wonder where Red 10 was! They were transiting to an early evening display at Newcastle in County Down, before performing a 9pm flypast at the Edinburgh Tattoo.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Highland Controversy

Following yesterday’s long day out on Quinag, wet weather set in and motivation was lacking amongst our group.  The Inchnadamph caves were an option, as was a trip to Ullapool but with a thirst for education we went to the Knockan Crag visitor centre in the North West Highlands Geopark.

The Highland Controversy was as a result of some radical geological thinking.  There is a geological feature now known as the Moine Thrust which has a layer of rock lying on top of another, a common occurrence, but as layers are often set down as a result of sedimentation, younger rocks lie on top of older rocks.  But at the Moine Thrust the reverse is true with the upper layer being 500 million years older !  Some geologists questioned whether this was actually the case here but these doubters were eventually overcome with the ultimate outcome being the proof of plate tectonic theory.

rock layers showing the Moine Thrust

Geologists Ben Peach and John Horne worked out that the older rocks had been forced over the younger rocks, an American plate had pushed itself over a European plate.  Although controversial at the time, Peach’s and Horne’s resultant paper has come to be regarded as a classic geological text and the discovery is held by some as important as Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Peach and Horne

Knockan Crag has some trails which are easily followed with a number of sculptures and points of particular geological interest.  I would recommend a visit whatever the weather but a wet day in Scotland can be made quite a bit more interesting.

"Globe" by Joe Smith

Seven Summits of Quinag

“… one of the best mountains in one of the wildest parts of Scotland” (1)

“… one of the most majestic mountains in Scotland” (2)

Quinag from the walk-in

Although all of us had visited Assynt before, none of us had been to the top of Quinag with the summit being just one of three Corbetts that lie within this massif.  In addition to these major summits the Database of British and Irish Hills (DoBIH) lists another 4 lesser summits.  A long day appeared to be ahead of us.

We followed the obvious path for a short while to a cairn which marked the turn past the lochan and up on to the eastern slopes of Spidean Coinich.  Easy-angled quartzite slabs led us up to the first summit of the day which is a minor top before reaching the summit of the first Corbett, Spidean Coinich.  We took in the view with the realisation that there was a lot of mountain still to walk.

Sail Ghorm behind Sail Gharbh

The descent off Spidean Coinich leads below an imposing buttress which has some impressive terrain for the rockclimber.  The guidebook lists quite a few routes but I’m sure that it doesn’t regularly see any climbers.

Spidean Coinich summit crag

Continuing along the ridge leads to the third summit, marked as a spot height of 714 metres on the OS Explorer map, but it is a nondescript heather-clad bump that the footpath passes over without any obvious cairn to mark the spot.  The next summit has a significant climb leading up to it and forms the crossroads that leads to each of the three Corbetts.  It is at this point, Sail Gharbh west top, that decisions can be made about the route to follow.  The easy option is to drop to the bealach between it and Sail Gharbh and head down to Lochan Bealach Cornaidh, picking up the old stalkers’ path back to the car park.  A slightly more strenuous option is to walk over the bealach and up to Sail Gharbh, which is the highpoint of Quinag.  But the big day out is to continue west towards Sail Ghorm.

Spidean Coinich

A couple of our group chose the Sail Gharbh option with the remainder of us choosing the long day out so we left summit number four and headed for Sail Ghorm.  We passed some impressive gullies to our left, making a mental note that they would probably give some good winter sport, if they were ever to come into condition.  The broad ridge led gently to the broad top of the day’s fifth summit which was also the second Corbett of the walk.  We retraced our steps and a couple of us had a little scrambling diversion to summit number six, a tabletop summit marked as a 687 metre spot height.  This left us with only the ultimate summit left to tick.

The path skirts Sail Gharbh’s west summit to a bealach before following some broken terrain up the ridge.  It was here that we saw a ptarmigan in semi-winter plumage, standing proud before flying down into the coire with its white feathers standing out against the snow-free slopes.


The true TRAIL 100 summit of Sail Gharbh, and therefore Quinag, is not the trig point but a block that lies a few yards to the north.  A few silly selfies were taken as some drops of rain fell and then we were off down to Bealach na Chornaidh and the descent to the main path before striding out towards the car park with jelly babies and sherbet lemons providing the end-of-day sugar boost.

While walking out on the stalkers’ path the ascents and descents of the surrounding summits become more obvious.  Some guidebooks suggest ascending Sail Gharbh as the first summit of the walk, but if you intend to tick all three Corbetts, I would strongly recommend following the route that we did – the ascent to Spidean Coinich looks like a brutal way to finish the day.

All of the group met up at the Altnacealgach Inn for refreshment where Guinness isn’t on draught but the device for getting the traditional head on the pint is surely witchcraft !  And the landlord is a Scouser, what more could you want ?

(1)        quoted from     “Scotland’s Best Small Mountains”
            author              Kirsty Shirra
            publisher         Cicerone Press

(2)        quoted from     “Walking the Corbetts Volume 2: North of the Great Glen”
            author              Brian Johnson
            publisher         Cicerone Press

Stac Pollaidh

“… is a perfect mountain in miniature” (1)

Stac Pollaidh

After a five year absence my climbing club was returning to the SMC’s Naismith hut in Elphin, a super little hut in magnificent Assynt.  It’s a long way from Liverpool but the journey is well worth the reward as there are magnificent mountains to be climbed.

We split the journey with an overnight stop at the Alex MacIntyre hut in Onich before the final leg to the far north.  Most of those on the meet had been up Stac Pollaidh before but I found a couple of willing volunteers to accompany me.  After donning the boots we started to make our anticlockwise way on the pitched path which gradually winds around to the back of the hill, avoiding the horribly eroded direct ascent which is now actively discouraged as a way up.  The path carries on to surround the hill but at some point you have to decide on a way up to the crest.

There are tantalising glimpses of a ruggedly crenelated ridge above but it is only when you arrive that you can start to fully appreciate the landscape.  A 360 degree panorama of the Assynt peaks rising out of the surrounding moorland evokes a longing to extend your visit to climb them all; the walking in this far north-western citadel of Scotland is superb.

Quinag, Suilven, Canisp, Cul Mor

The scrambling on the ridge can be as easy or as hard as you choose to make it.  I made a long step across an exposed gap only having to reverse it when I encountered some far more exposed moves shortly after.  I’m sure that I wouldn’t have thought too much of the seriousness of the moves if I had a harness on and was attached to a rope but the lack of that security gave me pause to consider the seriousness of a slip.  So I dropped down to path that traverses under the crest to avoid unknown difficulties.

An easy scramble up the top of the old ascent gully regained the ridge an easier ground led to the crux of the route.  At this point it is reputed that many who ascend regard the moves ahead to the true summit as too hard and claim the tick as the ridge hereabouts is almost as high.  Ralph Storer says in his guidebook(2) that “perhaps more expletives are uttered here than on any other Scottish mountain” which may be true considering that the moves to gain the true summit are graded “Difficult” in rockclimbing terms.  Claiming an ascent of Stac Pollaidh when only this point has been reached is a cop-out; the summit is the highest point and only surmounting this difficulty will lead there.

Although only a few moves long, the way up the final obstruction will feel a lot easier to someone who has rock-climbing experience.  It’s been a few years since I have done any serious climbing but I was happy that I’ve got a reasonable number of mountain routes under my belt.  A steady nerve is needed to find the best holds before arriving at the gentle stroll along to last few yards to the summit cairn.  After taking the obligatory photos of the view it was time to consider reversing the crux moves !

Cul Beag from the ridge

Now is the time not to panic – climbing down is always harder than climbing up.  But traversing in from the right (facing out) makes the most of some good ledges before getting to the hardest moves.  At this point you’ll be facing the rock and if you can find the good hidden sidepull handhold on the right your way down to the notch will be a lot easier.

At some point further along the ridge a decision has to be made about where to descend back to the main path.  There are many options and if you choose wisely you’ll back on it in a matter of minutes.  From this point you can relax and enjoy looking up towards the pinnacles of the western slopes.

Pollaidh's pinnacles

Stac Pollaidh is a TRAIL 100 mountain and is fully deserving of its inclusion in that list.  It may be just a few feet higher than 2000 feet and is little more than a half-day’s walk, but it is worth the long journey.

(1) (2)  quoted from     “100 Best Routes on Scottish Mountains”
            author              Ralph Storer

Thursday, 29 May 2014

A Mountain? Really?

As a Nuttall and a TRAIL 100 mountain, Bleaklow Head had at least a couple of reasons for me to tick it.  As it is just over an hour’s drive from home and with roadside parking available at the top of the Snake Pass, leaving only about 400 feet of ascent to the summit, this was going to be an easy day.  Although I was mostly enclosed by mist, the well-paved path of the Pennine Way wound its way through the groughs of the peat moorland.

The bleak landscape offered little promise of seeing any wildlife but I disturbed a few grouse, battering their way into the air, and watched as a curlew, bigger than I imagined it would be, cruised silently past and onwards into the mist.

The mist thickened as I reached a large cairn with an embedded pole marking the summit; or does it ?  The hills database says that the summit is a “tiny cairn on peat hag” which is “0.75m higher than top of large cairn”.  In the gloom it is not easy to find the true summit amongst the many hags on the summit plateau.

Bleaklow's large cairn

The true summit

If you were to ask a child to draw a mountain, I’m sure that the result would be pointy and nothing like the flat top of Bleaklow.  From the summit you have to walk at least a kilometre in order to descend 250 feet – if you walk just north of west towards Barrow Stones, you have to walk over 4 kilometres to achieve the same descent !  Although the summit of Bleaklow Head lies at an altitude of 2077 feet, a reasonable height above the accepted threshold of 2000 feet, it’s hard for me to accept that it deserves its “mountain” status and even less that it is one of the 100 “Finest UK Mountains” according to TRAIL magazine’s list.

The next landmark of this walk was the Wain Stones which were considerably more interesting than Bleaklow’s summit.

"Give us a kiss !"

I took a bearing towards Higher Shelf Stones and soon reached the trig point and summit rocks, at least two of which lay claim to being the highpoint of the day’s second Nuttall.

Higher Shelf Stones trig point

the stones of Higher Shelf

A couple of hundred metres to the east are the remains of a USAF B-29 Superfortress that crashed in 1948.  Some of the engines and undercarriage are clear to see, within a significant debris field.  It is thought that the plane was descending through low cloud and that the crew never saw the ground before the impact.  A memorial has been erected in memory of the crew and a large cross made of stones has been shaped into a nearby peat hag; poignant reminders of those who died far from home.

Superfortress memorial

B-29 engine

B-29 undercarriage

Leaving the tangled wreckage behind, I headed east across untracked terrain to reach the Pennine Way path by the shortest route.  The cloud had cleared now and I strolled back to the summit of the Snake at a leisurely pace under the early afternoon sun.

Thursday, 20 February 2014


There is a memorial bench in the Altnafeadh car park…

Despite many years as a member of my climbing club, I had never been to a Lagangarbh meet.  There have been many meets there over the years but circumstances conspired to keep me away but this year, the planets must have aligned and I found myself in the legendary SMC hut for a weekend.

Coire na Tulaich is probably one of the most notorious accident blackspots in Scotland, with a number of fatalities in recent years due to avalanche.  It is also the voie normale to the summit of Buachaille Etive Mor, that great bastion of rock that stands guard over the entrance to Glen Coe.  Recent SAIS reports had rated the avalanche risk as “High” but it had been downgraded to “Considerable” only a few days earlier, particularly for north-facing slopes of which the route up is.

Lagangarbh and Buachaille Etive Mor
I was very keen to avoid the coire and decided on a route to the right, following the broad ridge leading up to Stob Coire na Tulaich (point 902).  Although the ground at Lagangarbh wasn’t frozen despite a dusting of overnight snow, nine of us  set off up the untracked snow which was knee-deep in many places, with an occasional thigh-deep plunge catching us out by surprise.  On one short but steep pitch, I led but got caught out by the almost waist-deep snow, providing much amusement for the others as they bypassed me through shallower snow on the left !  As we moved up the snow started to harden with some hard névé needing steps kicking to reach a small plateau where we put on our crampons and goggles.  From here we moved out of the protection of the ridge and into the gusting wind as we headed towards the minor summit of Stob Coire na Tulaich.

towards Stob Coire na Tulaich
Conditions worsened as we crossed the col with 60+mph gusts of wind causing us to drop to our knees, with occasional whiteout conditions making progress even more arduous.  We got together to make a decision about what to do next in the harsh conditions and I made it clear that I was determined to get to the summit.  The others agreed to come and I stayed at the back of the group to encourage one or two of the others, for whom conditions were tiring them quicker than the main body of the group.  At the top we rested for a short while, had a bite to eat and took some traditional summit photos amongst the poor visibility.

We started back down the ridge in poor visibility and what felt like worsening winds, forcing us to our knees again.  The gusts were now taking longer to ease and keeping us on the ground, at which point I was becoming concerned that we were staying still for too long.  I was about to give the group a serious gee-up about getting down, even if it meant crawling to the col, but the winds lessened and visibility improved allowing us to progress to the col.

It became obvious that the wind was blowing snow into Coire na Tulaich over a big cornice, justifying the day’s route choice.  One of us spotted about five other walkers heading up to Stob na Doire, these being the only other people any of us saw all day.  The conditions were obviously keeping many others off the hills !

We followed our ascent route back down and enjoyed a few bumslides on the way giving some of us the chance to practice our ice axe braking !

Although the day’s conditions were challenging, I enjoyed them a lot and bad as they were, I could imagine myself still enjoying even greater windspeeds.  The day’s mileage and ascent weren’t the most I’d ever done and dropping through the freezing level resulted in a lot of wet gear but bagging a TRAIL 100 mountain and a Munro in full winter conditions was greatly satisfying.

It had rained overnight on Saturday and continued to do so sporadically as I decided whether or not to walk up Beinn a’ Chrulaiste with the group.  I had made up my mind that I didn’t want another soaking as a prelude to a long damp journey home.  But the rain stopped so I changed my mind !

Most of yesterday’s group with a couple of others saw nine of us set off across boggy ground to reach the broad west ridge, soon reaching the snowline before the minor summit of Stob Beinn a’ Chrulaiste.  Walking poles were proving very useful on when crossing the hollows to where snow had drifted.  The windspeed increased and visibility decreased as we made our way up and a correction to the bearing soon had us heading for the summit.

Although visibility was poor, we managed to get some good views of the snow-plastered Buachaille Etive Mor.  Beinn a’ Chrulaiste isn’t the most exciting mountain but the view across the valley is unsurpassed.

Buachaille Etive Mor
We could just make out the trig point from a foresummit and soon the summit photos of my first Corbett were taken after goggles were quickly donned in the cutting wind.  A quick decision was made to reverse the route rather than traverse the mountain which gave us a more leisurely opportunity to enjoy the view over to Buachaille Etive Mor and Coire na Tulaich.

Crowberry Tower on the upper left skyline 
Walking back to Lagangarbh via the Altnafeadh car park, I passed a bench with a memorial plaque to Allan Lang, Richard Lang and Paul Bower.  On 21st February 1995 they were caught in an avalanche in Coire na Tulaich.  Such were the continued high avalanche risk at the time rescue teams abandoned the search – their bodies were recovered 6 weeks later.  The bench looks towards the coire and serves as a poignant reminder for us all to understand the power of the mountains and how lucky we are to be able to enjoy our days amongst them.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

2014 Targets

Lists to tick

Entering 2014, I am doing a lot of work behind the scenes to work out walking routes to tick the remaining summits of the lists I have chosen to pursue in my now post-Wainwright days.

I have decided to aim for completion of the English and Welsh 2000-foot mountains, these being the Nuttalls.  However, there are a couple of historic lists of 2000-footers, particularly the Bridge list and Buxton & Lewis list.  As you would expect, there are a lot of common summits across all three lists, but there are a few summits on the two older lists that are not Nuttalls.  I have chosen Bridge and Buxton & Lewis as opposed to other similar lists for two reasons; these classifications are included in the DoBIH spreadsheet and many of the 2000-foot completions on the LDWA website are for these lists.

Another long-term goal is completion of the TRAIL100 summits.  Most of my remaining TRAIL100s are in Scotland but those left in England and Wales are also Nuttalls and so should be simple to tick.

The WASHIS is a Welsh-specific list of 600-metre mountains.  Most of these are also Nuttalls and the extra 5 that aren’t can be ticked with a little extra effort.

In the long term

If my sums are correct, I have 324 summits to tick to complete all of the above lists.  The summits range from the very far north of Scotland to Dartmoor and I have set myself a goal of 10 years to finish them.  It’s not very ambitious but it does allow a large contingency for whatever life events arrive in the coming years.

Of 444 Nuttalls I have 245 left to tick; of the 100 TRAIL summits, I have 54 unticked.

This year

In simple numbers, 10% of my remaining summits based on my 10-year plan seems reasonable.

Which means I’m aiming for 33 summits, amongst which should be 25 Nuttalls and 6 TRAIL100s.

Looking at a map of my unticked summits, I’d like to mop up the more isolated groups of English mountains this year.  These are :
  • the Cheviots                  (6 summits)
  • the Peak District           (3 summits)
  • the Malverns                 (1 summit)
  • Dartmoor                      (3 summits) 

In addition, one English summit that I’d like to climb is Pillar Rock.  Strictly speaking, it is beyond the reach of ordinary hillwalkers but my previous rock-climbing experience gives me the confidence that this otherwise tricky summit shouldn’t pose me too many problems.

Keep an eye on my forthcoming blog entries and I’ll let you know how I’m doing.