Thursday, 12 November 2015

A Berwyns Day Out

As the crow flies the Berwyns are the nearest mountains to Liverpool but despite this, they are relatively unknown and lack the crowds that flock to the big hills of northern Snowdonia.  Although I was well aware of them as they hold are quite a few unticked Nuttalls, my only previous visit was in 2003.

We started from Wales’ highest waterfall – Pistyll Rhaeadr – and after pre-walk refreshments at the falls café we started up the south ridge of Moel Sych.  The main ridge continues to Cadair Berwyn which has only been recognised as the range’s highpoint in recent years and took the title of Denbighshire’s summit from Moel Sych.  After a quick lunch stop, we continued north but turned eastwards towards a ridge rich in summits yet to be visited by me.

the Cadair Berwyn escarpment

Tomle was the first and was quickly followed by Foel Wen, Foel Wen South Top, Mynydd Tarw and the Bridge summit of Rhos.  The Berwyns is an area rich in potential for ticking multiple 2000-foot summits in quick order; I’m looking forward to returning for some productive days out.

Moel Sych, Cadair Berwyn and Tomle from Foel Wen

Before staring the final rise to Mynydd Tarw half of our group dropped down into Cwm Maen Gwynedd to pick up a strategically parked car and drive around to Pistyll Rhaeadr to retrieve the rest of the group’s vehicles.

The rest of us continued along the ridge for the final two summits before heading for the Llidiart-cae-hir junction where we had arranged to be picked up by the drivers.

The walk had covered some continuously straightforward ground but the slapstick moment of the day occurred when one of group’s experienced members went thigh-deep into a bog which was also occupied by the remains of a sheep.  A reminder of the dangers in the hills, and also the value of a spare set of clean clothes in the car boot !

We didn’t have long to wait to be picked up and we retired to The Hand in Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog for a welcome pint in front of a warming log fire.

Merrick

I’ve been on holiday to Galloway a lot over the past ten years or so but the only significant venture to what could be classed as elevated terrain was an afternoon excursion to bag the summit of Criffel.  The lure of Merrick had been gnawing away at me for some time and as it is a TRAIL 100 mountain, a midweek day out from our holiday cabin had been pencilled in the diary.

After parking at the Bruce’s Stone car park in Glen Trool I hastily lacing my boots to minimise exposure to the troublesome midges.  The path leading away from the road quickly left them behind and it wasn’t long before Culsharg bothy came into view.  I stopped for a quick look around when I spend my first night in a bothy, it won’t be here; although reasonably spacious, it just felt a bit tatty to me!  Perhaps Culsharg is not an unusual example and my future bothy experiences are going to be a bit disappointing.

Benyellary above Culsharg bothy

The path from Culsharg quickly reaches the forest road and enters the forest where the ascent starts in earnest.  As the path reaches open ground there is a paving stone marking the terrain boundary which is unique in my hillwalking experience.  From here it is an easy walk to the summit of Benyellary followed by equally easy terrain over the Neive of the Spit to the Merrick’s summit.  The views to the west coast as you traverse this high route are impressive with the granite outpost of Ailsa Craig drawing the eye.

the boundary stone

Neive of the Spit to Merrick

Ailsa Craig

There were a few other walkers on the way up but I soon gained solitude by descending Merrick’s south-east ridge of Redstone Rig, aiming for the Grey Man of Merrick, a geomorphological mimetolith bearing an uncanny resemblance to a bearded man.  A wide gully led me almost directly to it and I tried many angles to take the best photo, but the classic view is unbeatable.  Unusually for a rock feature, it was recognisable as a face from the left, the right and head-on.

the Grey Man of Merrick

I originally had a plan to walk over to the Murder Hole and follow the Gairland Burn path back to the car but I decided that the path marked on the Ordnance Survey Explorer map alongside Buchan Burn would be a shorter route take less time.  The path was hard to follow, which may explain why it wasn’t marked on the Landranger map and when it was clear to see, the ground was somewhat damp!  It turned into a muddy quadbike track in the forest and when the gradient eased it turned into very boggy ground.  At one point I went knee-deep into the morass and as I tried to regain my footing I split my trousers!  But luckily the forest road wasn’t too far away and the walk past Culsharg to Bruce’s Stone was quiet enough to hide my embarrassing attire.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

A Sunday Stroll

On the day before a bank holiday with a good weather forecast and within easy travelling distance from the major Lancashire and Yorkshire conurbations, the Nuttalls above Kettlewell were free of the crowds that almost certainly would be engulfing both the national and Yorkshire 3 peaks.  Despite complaints from some hill-goers that our high places are becoming overcrowded, it’s easy enough to find peace and quiet on the hills if you use some imagination.

Driving through Wharfedale was hampered by the number of cyclists on the road although I left them behind when I drove to the summit of Park Rash Pass – hardly any seemed willing to take on the challenge of such a steep route!  I parked at the top and took aim for Great Whernside, putting a short boggy passage behind me and making my way up a couple of water-eroded gullies to the ridge where the walk to the summit became a very pleasant stroll.  On the way down I had a passing conversation with a paraglider who was bemoaning the lack of breeze – I suppose that each of us has our own definition of good weather!

Pen-y-ghent and Ingleborough from Great Whernside

Great Whernside summit

I reversed my route to the pass and started up the fellside towards Tor Mere Top, a deleted Nuttall but a Bridge summit.  To here, and beyond, the path (for what it was worth!) negotiated hags and boggy terrain until the plateau of Buckden Pike presented itself.  I met only a few other walkers including a couple who sarcastically said that they were “glad it isn’t a wet day”, a sentiment with which I could empathise as the majority of the way up was a peaty mess.  Another encounter was with a family asking if this was the right path to Starbotton – a quick check of the map confirmed it was and I pondered the demise (but maybe it’s always been this way!) of map-reading and navigational skills.  I’m sure that they didn’t realise how lucky they were being able to walk in such good weather.

The final flagged path across the plateau to Buckden Pike’s summit came as a pleasant change.  As with Great Whernside the top afforded an unusual profile of Pen-y-ghent and it is selfishly gratifying knowing that you are seeing familiar mountains from unfamiliar angles.

the path to Buckden Pike summit

Pen-y-ghent from Buckden Pike summit cairn

The solitude of walking on less-frequented routes and summits adds to a greater appreciation of the landscape and, for me, gaining different viewpoints greatly increases the enjoyment of my time on the tops.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Cross Fell

Six of us from my mountaineering club met up east of Penrith at Kirkland in weather that didn’t promise any views, but the boots went on anyway and the walk up to the spine of England began.  Cross Fell is the highest mountain in England outside of the Lake District and is also the highpoint of both the Pennine Way and the Pennines.

Despite occasionally losing the path and straying into ankle-deep bogs, the ascent of almost 2,000 feet was probably one of the easiest I have ever walked.  An easy incline all the way took us to the Pennine Way, where we turned south on to it and followed it to the summit and its recently (2014) reconstructed summit shelter, appropriately cross shaped which guarantees at least one side affords some shelter from the wind.

a misty summit shelter

We left the summit aiming for the Little Dun Fell and Great Dun Fell but as conditions were fairly grim, we decided to descend straight to Wildboar Scar from Tees Head.  My GPS was invaluable in finding the path, which obviously does not having a lot of footfall.  But once on it, the terrain became a lot easier.  As we approached Grumply Hill the view cleared and the panorama of Lake District fells opened out before us.

The only summit of the day was another TRAIL 100 tick which, along with good company, made up for the poor weather.  I’m sure that it would be a much better walk in good visibility and certainly deserving of more attention, but with the big hills of the Lake District only a few miles away Cross Fell is always going to be the poor relation.  If you want a high summit with some peace and quiet, this Pennine giant is well worth a visit.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Lightning

Four of us started out from Penwyllt for a straightforward walk up to the two Nuttall summits of Fan Fraith and Fan Gyhirych.  A dull start soon gave way to torrential rain and a delay putting on waterproofs was a mistake that should have been avoided.

We walked up the good track towards the col between the two summits and just a few hundred yards below it we were stopped in our tracks by a flash of lightning which was followed by a crack of thunder only 8 seconds.  A hurried discussion about heading to highpoints half a mile away when lightning was striking just over a mile away led to the quick, and sensible, decision to turn tail and descend, although some walkers behind us did not follow our lead.

This was definitely one of those times to remember that the hills are always there for another day!

On the drive home through the rain I tuned in to the radio and heard a news item about a lightning strike on Pen y Fan, resulting in serious injuries.  As details became clearer over the next couple of days, 3 people were hit on Corn Du – 1 fatality, 1 suffering serious burns and 1 being released from hospital the following day – and 1 was hit by a second strike on Cribyn, unfortunately another fatality.

Having been on these mountains yesterday, it is easy to understand their pointed summits attracting lightning although the highest, Pen y Fan, wasn’t hit.  It was still a sobering thought that people had died, and fully justified our decision to retreat.  This was the first time in many years that weather has caused me to abandon a walk, as opposed to modifying plans for the day and, unusually for me, I didn’t feel any disappointment in turning around before reaching the planned summits.

I’m sure that it was just bad luck that those who died were on summits when the lightning struck.  I hadn’t seen any forecasts for thunderstorms and even though we were really close to a strike, there was no smell of ozone that is a tell-tale sign of imminent lightning.

Although hazards exist on the hills, and planning and experience can contribute to some sensible decision making, sometimes the thing that ensures a safe and successful day out is unquantifiable – and that thing is the element of luck.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Mountains for All

A full Storey Arms car park was a good indication of the number of walkers heading up the pitched path into the mist in the direction of Pen y Fan but we left the masses and took aim for the rarely visited Nuttall of Y Gyrn.  This would be the only summit we had to ourselves for the rest of the day.

Continuing into the mist we reached the path curving around to the lip of Cwm Llych and paused for a moment at Tommy Jones’ memorial, an obelisk marking the point where the body of a lost 5 year-old was found in 1900.  It is a poignant tribute funded by the jurors at his inquest, donating their fees, so moved they were by the fate of little Tommy.  Although we were still in the mist, it was hard to imagine the fear and confusion of a little boy lost in the dark on these hills.

Continuing up the north-west ridge of Corn Du to the summit brought us back amongst the throng, with a fair few walkers resting near the broad sandstone summit cairn.  We walked easily to Pen y Fan’s top, joining many more walkers and taking summit photos before being asked by other walkers to take photos of them.  We beat a hasty retreat to avoid being overwhelmed with requests and headed east towards Cribyn.

Summit cairn

Pen y Fan has easy access because of the high start at the Storey Arms and the ease of terrain, most of it being pitched paths, which attracts the usual inappropriately-clad day-trippers.  Many people were wearing jeans, trainers and one group of walkers were wearing judo suits, one of whom – a little girl – was being carried.  Pen y Fan is probably the south Wales equivalent of Snowdon, attracting many who wouldn’t otherwise head for the hills.  Although the way to the top is fairly benign, I feel uncomfortable that the day-trippers probably finish their day out with an unrealistic view of what hillwalking entails.  I fear that my view is somewhat elitist, as dangers exist and novices are unaware of them, but the positive aspect is that people are introduced to the hills and may well be sparked in to continuing hillwalking and mountaineering in the future.

Continuing towards Cribyn the clouds started to clear and some impressive views were revealed.  No doubt that the enjoyment of the day had improved for the hundreds of walkers on the tops but the following day’s events provided a stark contrast as the hazards of being in the hills made national headlines.

Cribyn

On the way back to Pen y Fan, all the more enticing in the sunshine, we enjoyed the views of the mountain ponies grazing with their two foals snoozing in the sun.  On the slopes leading to the summit we were passed by some young men in camouflage and carrying big bergens on a challenge walk to replicate part of the SAS Fan Dance selection.  It’s an admirable way to raise money for charity but as I get older I always think back to my early walking days when I carried far too much weight and the effects it may have had on my now aging knees!

Pen y Fan north-east face

The stroll to Corn Du along the escarpment was easy and as the crowds made their way down to the main road, we took the time to seek some quiet on the minor summit of Duwynt. 

Pen y Fan from Corn Du

Sometimes the least trodden tops are the most enjoyable.

Friday, 14 August 2015

A South Wales Evening

An early start meant a mid-afternoon arrival at Penwyllt, the base of the South Wales Caving Club and my accommodation for the weekend.  Unload the car, drink a cup of tea and then head for the hills, albeit a couple of easy summits.  First stop – Abergavenney.

The car park at Llanwenarth Breast effectively makes the ascent of Sugar Loaf a simple stroll, gaining only about 850 feet.  It’s a TRAIL 100 summit and walking up the myriad wide grassy paths in the late afternoon sun is as restful an uphill walk could be.  Sugar Loaf is one of those community mountains, a backyard summit that no doubt shapes many people’s first experience of hillwalking, familiar to locals and easily accessible as well as offering tantalising views of the higher mountains of Pen y Fan and its supporters.

Sugar Loaf summit

The Heads of the Valleys Road headed west before I turned south towards the Rhondda Fawr valley and parked near the summit of the pass.  The highpoint of historic Glamorgan was the objective and a scruffy track headed into the forest which had obviously seen more mountain bikes than walking boots.  A clearing led the way to the top of Cefnfford (known to some as Craig y Llyn) which was marked by a trig pillar, but it was easily the least impressive county top I’ve ticked, being surrounded by trees and sited on ground flat enough and expansive enough to totally disguise the fact that it is a 600-metre summit.

Glamorgan's highpoint - Cefnfford


The walk back to the car along the escarpment had some good views of the Brecon Beacons highest summits, making me just that bit keener to walk over them tomorrow.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Suilven

Different from every angle.

Unique from every angle.

Magnificent from every angle.

For the anglo-centric hillwalker, the monolithic outline of Suilven may not be familiar.  And that’s a shame because it is one of the most magnificent mountains in Scotland.  Looking at it head on from either end, its shape appears to dare you to dare you to climb it; even its profile is defiant with the foreshortened view disguising the fairly straightforward route up to the ridge’s low-point.

Suilven has long been on my list of mountains that must be climbed and even though its height doesn’t qualify it as a Corbett, let alone a Munro, its isolation and form begs an ascent.  Through my eyes there are some mountains that are poorly qualified for inclusion in the TRAIL 100 list, but Suilven is wholly deserving of such status as it is definitely one of the “UK’s finest mountains”.  A couple of readers’ polls by TRAIL magazine placed it at number 9 in the list of the “UK’s Greatest Mountain” and at number 9 in the list of the “UK’s Ultimate Mountain Routes” – not bad for a hill which is a 650-mile drive from London!

Suilven from the north-west

An easy track leads from Glencanisp into the heart of Assynt, passing the path to Suileag bothy, keeping a course parallel to the spine of Suilven,  At the point where the path takes a turn for the mountain, you are faced with a boggy morass, masquerading as a path.  Many yards wide, it’s a challenge to find the least deep way forward to avoid being sucked into the peat before reaching the plateau of lochans that lies below the ascent gully.

Suilven from the north

Aiming for the lowest point in the ridge, Bealach Mor, the way up looks steep.  But foreshortening is always deceptive and height is gained quickly as the slope is never at an angle where walking transforms into scrambling and the caution that comes with it.  As the ridge became closer the gully narrowed and the sandstone walls with their overhangs looked as though they might provide some good rock-climbing for those with a thirst for adventure.  Staying to the right to gain the ridge would only involve a struggle in a very narrow sand gully and would just erode it even further.  Staying to the left reveals some right-trending ledges that top out at the bealach.

And here the view reveals magnificent Assynt.

Quinag

The full extent of the landscape is mesmerising.  From the Quinag massif to the pyramidal Canisp and all the way around to Cul Mor, Cul Beag, the intricacies of Ben More Coigach and the decaying tooth of Stac Pollaidh, the landscape is a hillwalker’s dream.  But as you ascend the ridge westwards towards the summit, the best view is behind you, along the ridge to Meall Meadhonach.  Reaching its top from here looks challenging and by all accounts it is terrain for competent scramblers only and I’m not sure that I would do it solo.  Perhaps one day in the future though.

The ground ahead was crossed by the oddity that is a drystone wall prompting the question “why here?”  Easy scrambling yielded a subsidiary summit, a flat grassy area that would make an impressive wildcamping pitch.  A small descent to a very narrow col – any collapse of the path here would make reaching the summit a significant problem – and then easy walking led to the summit cairn of Caisteal Liath and one of the best 360° views I’ve ever seen, of the Assynt hills inland and the Summer Isles just out to sea.  Here is a place to linger.

Canisp, Suilven summit cairn, Meall Meadhonach

Thursday, 4 June 2015

The Red Bridge

The media was abuzz with articles about the Paper Bridge, an outdoor “installation” that had been erected in Grisedale from 4 tons of red paper.  It was the brainchild of the artist Steve Messam and had gathered some vociferous comment, both positive and negative.  I’m clear about outdoor art, I quite like it and am a fan of Andy Goldsworthy and I saw this piece as a kindred idea.

Grisedale

There was plenty of space in the Patterdale Hotel car park and I set off up the Grisedale valley with the brightly coloured bridge soon coming into view.  There were a few people around when I reached the arch – a packhorse-style bridge made from numerous sheets of red paper and I set up my camera on its self-timer to make sure I was on the top of the bridge before the shutter fired.  There were a few people at the bridge and I’m sure that its position just off the Coast-to-Coast route brought it a few more visitors.  It had been quite a few years since I had walked in Grisedale and it really is a beautiful valley.

"PaperBridge"

As I left, many more visitors were arriving, some of the thousand or more that visited on the day!  I headed up the valley past Ruthwaite Lodge towards a peaceful Grisedale Tarn where I set off for Deepdale Hause before the walk to the day’s highpoint.  St Sunday Crag was quickly ticked and I headed to Gavel Pike which, as an unclimbed Simpson summit, was the target for the day.  The Nuttall and Wainwright summits of Birks soon came and went and a steep descent towards Arnison Crag was followed by some undulating ground with a short steep rise to gain the last summit of the day.

Fairfield, Seat Sandal and Dollywagon Pike overlooking Grisedale Tarn

The car park was a lot busier than at the start of the day and I read some reports on Twitter that visitors who wanted to walk to the bridge couldn’t find a parking space in Patterdale and had to forgo the pleasant walk to, at least in my opinion, a really interesting outdoor artwork.


Thanks Steve, for getting me out of the house!

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

The Furthest Nuttall

In England and Wales most of the hills and mountains on the tick lists that I’m pursuing (mostly Nuttalls and TRAIL 100s) are grouped together in not unexpected areas – the Lake District, Pennines, north Wales and mid-Wales – but the outliers stick out like sore thumbs.  I’ve still to do the Cheviots but I’ve bagged Roseberry Topping, the others being the ones I pursued on this hugely long day out.

The Dartmoor Nuttalls are over 200 miles away from where I live and the plan was to tick them as well as the TRAIL 100 summits of Hound Tor and Worcestershire Beacon.  A long day meant a very early 3:20am start.

Hound Tor is just a simple stroll from the road but a little adventure is needed to reach the top.  In drier conditions the scramble wouldn’t be hard at all with the granite providing good friction underfoot, but the strong wind and rain made conditions a bit too slippery to instil confidence.  I took a lot of care with each foot placement and slowly reached the top, although it was too windy to actually stand up on the summit for fear of a big fall into the void, the bottom of which I couldn’t see because of the mist!

an atmospheric Hound Tor

I drove to Meldon reservoir and for the first time in many years I set off on a walk in heavy rain.  Most of the walk up Yes Tor was not as bad as the rain eased a little and the prominent tracks made for easy walking.  But the full force of the wind became apparent as I approached the top and I took shelter in a large metal shelter, complete with some interesting graffiti, just below the summit which was only just tantalisingly in view through the mist.  A quick tap of the trig and I set off for the highest point in the south of England.

still grey at Yes Tor

The walk to High Willhays was easy enough although the group of youngsters I passed were taking their time, often pausing to huddle around their map.  The summit had an impressive arch of rocks balanced atop the cairn and I was surprised that it stayed in place in the windy conditions.

High Willhays summit cairn

I descended west of where I’d planned but decided that following the small valley between Homerton Hill and Longstone Hill shouldn’t be too difficult.  Some careful crossings of the stream led to better paths from where the walk back to the car was a relaxing stroll.

The drive up the M5 started to tire me out so I stopped for an hour to snooze – the day was starting to take its toll.

My final hill of the day was Worcestershire Beacon.  I parked in West Malvern and made my way up to the summit ridge just as the light was starting to fade.  There weren’t many people around and I pretty much had the top to myself.  The eroded ground underfoot indicated that this is a popular hill and it reminded me of Catbells in the Lake District, another family favourite.

Worcestershire Beacon

The journey home ended a tiring 18 hour day with over 600 miles of driving but at least my To Do map looks a lot tidier.  And while I’m in a tidying mood, I’ll start to make a plan to tick the 6 Cheviot Nuttalls.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

A Lancashire Inversion

The drive up the M6 and then over to Ingleton was largely in fog but it had mostly cleared by the time I had reached the layby just past the Hill Inn.  A look up to Ingleborough revealed only sparse snow cover so I decided to leave behind my ice-axe and crampons.

The start of the walk is a gentle stroll through fields until a path of flagstones and duckboards crossed the open moorland.  Although well-made, the flagged path was iced over because water had seeped over the edges and frozen.  To avoid the ice and inevitable injury I had to walk on the frozen vegetation on either side, somewhat negating the value of the work done to prevent erosion !

As I gained height, the lower slopes started to disappear under cloud with only the highest tops being seen clearly in the bright sunshine.  I reached the start of the steep final slope and started to regret leaving behind the crampons as the path was completely iced.

I had to take a lot of care to reach the top and passed a couple descending with some trepidation, the young lady deciding that the easiest way to get down was on her bottom.  I didn’t feel that an ice-axe was needed as my poles helped my stability but if I had brought my crampons I would have put them on; the path was treacherous.

Pen-y-ghent

Whernside

At the plateau I turned toward the summit of Ingleborough which was just an easy stroll away.  The hills to the east could be clearly seen with Pen-y-ghent prominent.  Whernside poked out above the clouds and both the Scafell and Helvellyn ranges in the Lake District were easily identifiable.  But to the south, Lancashire was completely covered in cloud making it the most extensive inversion I’ve ever seen.

the Lake District

I was pleasantly surprised to find a topograph mounted on the pillar at the centre of the cruciform shelter.  I had not seen this on my previous visit and speaking to a friend about it later revealed that he didn’t know about it either, despite more than one visit to the summit.  Such is the advantage of always visiting the highest point !


The walk to the top of Simon Fell was a simple jaunt and I was soon needing to make a decision about where to descend of the plateau to avoid the ascent path.  I picked a point a few hundred yards east of the icy path and easily made my way down to Humphrey Bottom and onto the flags and duckboards once again.

Simon Fell from Ingleborough

Ingleborough from Simon Fell

An Suidhe

Probably ignored by the masses powering up the A9 to the northern Cairngorms, An Suidhe overlooks Kincraig and provides a relatively easy half-day’s walk with some expansive views.

The barking erupted from the barns and kennels as we walked through the sheepdog centre, trying to find a way beyond the farm and onto the hill, eventually running the gauntlet of the chickens once we’d passed through a gate into their run.  A more defined track emerged, despite the snow, and breaking trail was arduous.  The terrain opened up to moorland and we saw a herd of deer in the distance, making their way across the ground using a lot less effort than us.  As we walked further onto the hillsides, we saw lots of mountain hares scurrying away from their scrapes underneath the peat at the side of the track, more than I’ve even seen in such a small area.  And there was just one brave hare that sat still long enough for it to have its photo taken !


We took turns to lead the way through the drifted snow and at the far end of the forest we struck out for the west ridge of An Suidhe and into increasing winds.

looking towards the A'Bhuidheanaich ridge

The best views were of the hills overlooking Kingussie but for most of the time we had our heads down and concentrated on avoiding sudden plunges into the deepest areas of snow.  The terrain became a little more forgiving as we neared the summit and we were soon taking shelter in the lee of a large cairn.

west towards Creag Mhor, Creag Dubh & A' Chailleach

We headed back the same way, using our own footsteps to help us get back to the car, making the return walk a lot quicker than the outward equivalent. 

And now only a 350 mile drive home giving us plenty of time to look back on a rewarding weekend !

Meall a’Bhuachaille

Rather than battle through the deep drifts that were likely to have been deposited in the northern corries following the heavy snowfalls of the past I suggested a walk up and over Meall a’Bhuachaille, a Corbett that overlooks Glenmore Lodge and has a grandstand view of the Cairngorms.  We parked at the lodge and walked in to Ryvoan bothy, seeing only a few people on the path, a couple of whom were heading for Bynack More which sounded an ambitious objective to me !  We had a very early lunch-stop at the bothy before setting off up the east ridge on a tracked path.

Bynack More

We slowly worked our way up and thought we had the mountain to ourselves but as we neared the top a large group of a dozen or more came down the way we were heading.  I thought it unusual that none of them were using poles to make the walking easier, especially for the chap who was holding an arm gingerly, obviously having fallen on it.  A few more were at the summit when we arrived with more making their way up from the more direct Glenmore route.

the Northern Corries

I’m always keen to get to the absolute highest point of a mountain so I climbed the large cairn at the edge of the summit shelter; I don’t think many were as keen because of how snowed-up it was.  Summit photos were taken, snacks were eaten and I chatted to a couple who gave me some suggestions for future walks – local knowledge is always valuable.

Creagan Gorm and the west ridge

As we descended the slope became icier and my confidence in my footing was misplaced as I slipped and fell heavily on my rucksack and bent a new pole that I was using.  It took quite a bit of effort to bend it back to something resembling straight so that I could collapse it down to storage size.  The crampons went on and stayed on for most of the rest of the walk.

Meall a'Bhuachaille from the west

Having passed a lot of walkers heading for the summit the col was reached where I recognised a face that I’d only seen on Twitter and Youtube.  Ben Dolphin (@CountrysideBen) is a blogger who posts some interesting videos of his walks in Scotland and we stopped and had a chat about the route we were on.  He said that there wasn’t enough snow to fully justify using the snowshoes he was carrying and that this was the first time that he’d been recognised in the mountains.  Get used to it Ben, you’ll soon be famous !

After a quick team talk at the col, we decided to walk up to the next summit, Creagan Gorm.  Walking a few yards north from the summit cairn we saw our Brocken Spectres, only the second time I’d seen one.  It was a fleeting sight with it disappearing and appearing again as the mist moved across the front of us.

a faint Brocken Spectre

At this point we had the option of carrying along the ridge or descending back to the col and head straight down to the valley.  We took the more relaxed option, making a beeline from the col back to the path across some untracked snow-covered heather before finishing the walk through the forest. 


Tuesday, 3 February 2015

2015 Targets

Lists to tick

My target ticklist is a combination of Nuttalls, TRAIL 100 summits, WASHIS, Bridges and Buxton & Lewis summits.  At the start of 2015 there are 308 individual summits on this list (following the “discovery” of a new WASHIS summit) and I have set myself the goal of completing them in 2023 which leaves 9 years until the self-imposed deadline.  You may think that is plenty of time but my efforts last year fell short of a fairly non-challenging yearly goal.

Still to be ticked at the start of the year are 231 of the 444 Nuttalls and 49 of the TRAIL 100 summits.

This coming year

In simple numbers, 11% of my remaining summits based on my remaining 9-year target appears to be a reasonable goal for 2015.

Which means I’m aiming for 34 summits, amongst which should be 26 Nuttalls and 6 TRAIL 100s.

My unticked summits still include some of the more isolated groups of English mountains which I’d like to tick this year.  These are :

  • the Cheviots                 (6 summits)
  • the Malverns                 (1 summit)
  • Dartmoor                      (3 summits)

And I’d like to climb Pillar Rock if I can find a partner or two willing to brave the long walk-in !

Forthcoming blog entries will chronicle how I’m doing; I hope progress is better than last year !

A 2014 Summary

At the start of 2014 I had 324 summits on my combined ticklist of TRAIL 100 summits, Nuttalls, WASHIS, Bridges and Buxton & Lewis summits.  I had set myself a target of 10 years to complete them and in 2014 aimed to tick 33 of them which should include 6 TRAIL 100s and 25 Nuttalls.

I fell some way short !

Overall I :
            went on            11                                 walks
            walked              69.9                              miles
            ascended          25,528                           feet
            walked for         54 hrs 50 mins              (including rest stops !)
            reached            33                                  individual summits that I hadn’t been to before
            reached            1                                    individual summit that I had been to before
            reached            17                                  summits on my combined ticklist
            reached            5                                    previously unclimbed TRAIL 100 summits
            reached            14                                  previously unclimbed Nuttall summits
            drove                2498                              miles on trips to and from walks

Of the specific summits that I stated were 2014 targets, I did manage to tick the 3 Peak district Nuttalls but didn’t manage to get near the 6 Cheviot, 3 Dartmoor and 1 Malvern summits on my list.  And Pillar Rock still needs to be done !

I didn’t get out as much as I’d have liked but I was satisfied with the summits that I did reach the top of.  The highlights were all in Scotland – Buachaille Etive Mor, Stac Pollaidh and Quinag all lived up to their excellent reputations.

Lancashire’s Highest Point

Until the 1974 county boundary changes of 1974, Lancashire had a highpoint worthy of such a great and historic county, but The Old Man of Coniston was wrenched from the grasp of the red rose and placed firmly within the manufactured county of Cumbria.  The new highpoint was Gragareth, a much less worthy mountain, only a stone’s throw from Lancashire’s arch-rival – Yorkshire.

In recent years, there has been some debate as to the true county top with Green Hill claiming the honour with a published spot height just 1 metre superior to that of Gragareth.  But a recent GPS survey has conclusively determined that Gragareth is actually the true top.

The Three Men of Gragareth

From the parking area just short of Fell House I could see The Three Men of Gragareth and set off towards them, avoiding the worst of the boulder fields.  Close to them was an impressive alcove shelter which could be likened to a hollowed-out cairn but it was too early to consider using it for a rest.  As the mist enveloped me I aimed for the trig point and soon reached it.  But this is not the true summit.  I walked east for 100 metres to a small cairn marking the top and felt a tinge of disappointment that a county summit could be marked by such a small pile of stones.

Gragareth summit cairn

The impressive drystone wall that follows the county boundary led to the summit of Green Hill, an equally unimpressive summit that I soon left behind.  The junction of the old counties of Lancashire, Westmorland and the West Riding of Yorkshire is marked by the “County Stone” which is almost overwhelmed by the walls that meet at it and if you didn’t already know about it, its significance would easily be overlooked.  Great Coum was only a short distance away and quickly bagged as was Crag Hill, its trig point looming out of the mist amidst a promise of clearing skies.

Crag Hill trig point

I contoured around the head of the Ease Gill valley and despite the recent freezing conditions still managed to go knee deep into bog !  Resisting ticking Green Hill again, I took a bearing from the col between it and Gragareth to the shooter’s track clearly marked on the map.  Many brace of grouse flew away as I disturbed them while trying to avoid the worst of the groughs.

The track is one of the worst I’ve walked and would be a challenge for all but the hardiest 4x4 but the last kilometre or so was rewarded with a magnificent sunset over Morecambe Bay.


Morecambe Bay sunset