The trouble with peak bagging…. part 2

The real trouble with peak bagging it that its addictive. Having a burning need to finish lists and explore places I’ve never been before peak bagging provides me with the solution in a simple to organise method – look at the map identify unclimbed peaks and go.

So having had a great morning cycling around Lake Vyrnwy I still couldn’t cope with the idea of being so close to summits that need bagging. Clearly there’s a certain amount of madness in the need to be on the top of a relatively insignificant summit but nevertheless, its on a list and is technically a mountain so I had to go.

Heading from the Lake up the tiny mountain pass heading north to Bala I parked at the top of the pass and headed quickly up to Foel y Geifr trig point. When I say quick it took an hour there and back to bag the three peaks on this ridge – hardly a quality mountain day. That said, the view was amazing.

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Turning around though I could see the madness in the peak bagging idea. Across the other side of the pass are 5 ‘summits’ which could clearly be bagged in an off road vehicle as a stone track runs across the fell top. Even I’m not that mad!

I did however drive down into Bala and back over the fell top on the B4391, parking just below the road summit to head up the track to reach Foel Cwm Sian Llwyd trig point. By now it was late in the afternoon but the sun was baking and I was heading up the fell, knee deep in heather. So I am mad after all. The view was worth it though!

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The trouble with peak bagging…. part 1

Peak bagging is great. It gets me to places I wouldn’t ordinarily visit – sometimes away from the crowds of the popular mountains. That’s not to say I only climb mountains once – but peak bagging is a great way to quickly think of somewhere to go when I have the urge to be somewhere new.

However, peak bagging has frequently found me in vast expanses of moorland staring at a plateau trying to identify the summit. Or wandering through peat bogs with wet feet and wondering why I’m there and not at the seaside. Or on a proper mountain.

Having ‘bagged’ the Berwyns the day before, that left me with the plan to get the range of summits between there and the Arans. But I woke to cloud and a lack of motivation to head over miles of moors for the sake of it. So plan B.

Having never visited Lake Vyrnwy and spotting a visitors centre on the map it seemed like a good excuse to not bog trot.

Lake Vyrnwy and the surrounding landscape is a Special Conservation Area, part managed by the RSPB and is therefore a good place for bird watching – I’d certainly seen Red Kites around the Berywns. You can also hire a bike, which is exactly what I did.

Created in 1880 the Lake is actually a reservoir built to take water to Liverpool. It only takes an hour or so to cycle around the Lake but is a great way to see the area, and the roads are very quiet with traffic.

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How to find a quiet bank holiday – The Berwyns

Sometimes charging up a pointy mountain of rock and scaring myself silly is all I want to do. Other times I need peace and quiet and chance to recharge – this bank holiday was the latter. Knowing Snowdonia was going to be busy and having an urge to visit somewhere I’d never been, I headed to the Berwyn Mountains in mid-Wales.

More like rolling hills of peat bogs and open grass land the Berwyns at 832m remind me of Skiddaw or the Howgill Fells. Open, vast and crucially – quiet. I saw three people all day. Bliss.

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As you can imagine I was grateful it had been dry or this much peat would have been a boggy walk! I took the direct route straight up the front of Cadair Berwyn, which involved a diversion to get to the top of Moel Sych before heading for the trig point of Berwyn.

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The route from Berwyn to Cadair Bronwen is clearly boggy at times as much of it has been boarded. I usually hate to see man’s mark on a landscape, but at times it is a gift. I’ve spent enough time bog trotting to know that boards can be a godsend in wet conditions. This part of the route is also a permissive path across a SSSI so if nothing else the boards are protecting the rare habitats in this area from erosion.

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From Cadair Bronwen I headed across to Tomle to head across the fell tops and back to my car. Just before Tomle top at the fence line there is a very impressive boundary stone between Powys and Gwynedd.

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The moors across the tops here are less well trodden despite them still counting as summits in their own rights – and reaching the end at Mynydd Tarw, a mere 681m high there is an impressively large cairn (considering few people clearly walk across this top).

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Great and Green Gale

Yes that typo is intentional- it was certainly a gale Saturday when we decided to head up Great Gable from Honister and we battled the wind across the fell tops.

The best bit about going away for the weekend with Mountain Rescue friends is the fact that many of them are climbers. Usually this means I get a chance to improve my frankly terrible techniques. The bonus this weekend was the lack of urgency to get out of bed and leave the bunkhouse as it had rained and snowed overnight, ruining any plans of climbing.

Thankfully by the time we’d got up the rain has stopped so we headed down the Borrowdale valley to the Honister Slate Quarry for a quick ascent onto the fells. Considering I was in the Lakes last weekend when the dregs of winter snow had almost vanished, it was a surprise to find a fresh dusting to play in.

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After a spot of lunch below Windy Gap we headed on the north west side of Great Gable to ascend out of the wind, which as we got on to the summit it became clear the return walk over Green Gable was going to be tricky to stay upright.

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Just before sitting on the summit for a quick nibble of sugary sweets, the wind literally blew me off my feet and onto my backside then my camera died due to the cold batteries. Time to head back.

Sca Fell via Cam Crag and Foxes Tarn

It was a last minute decision to go the the Lake District over Easter, one I thought I was going to regret as I sat parked in traffic on the M6 watching it rain.

I’d arranged to meet Tony from the Yorkshire Mountaineering Club at their huts in Coniston to find out more about the club and make the most of the weekend and 4 long hours later I arrived.

The Club’s huts are located near the Coppermines Youth Hostel, up a dirt track about two miles out of the centre of Coniston. As someone who camps regularly and is only an occasional user of Youth Hostels I thought the huts are a bargain for guests to stay in (less than camping!) and are in a fantastic location.

Waking up at 6am to the sound of the dehumidifier in the drying room, it was clear that Tony is an early riser and was keen I was too. We’d decided the night before to head round to Eskdale to go up Sca Fell and so set off bright and early.

The path up the River Esk is a gentle start to the day, which was good as while Tony is a keen mountaineer, in his 70’s now he’s certainly not running up fells anymore.

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We headed up the path next to Cowcove Beck to reach Great Moss – a boggy plateau in spring but with perfect views across the back of Crinkle Crag, Bowfell and the Scafell range.

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We’d opted for Sca fell rather than Scafell Pike as that was going to be notoriously busy on Easter weekend, and given we’d passed two couples each navigating with their phones and no maps, there was no way we were going to spend the whole day assisting the lost. Especially when one of the couples complained they couldn’t understand why Scafell Pike wasn’t better waymarked. I’m not elitist in anyway, the mountains are for everyone – but within reason. I don’t expect to have to teach map reading skills to hikers miles from the nearest road. Tony didn’t mind – the endless stopping gave him chance to keep eating.

We eventually scrambled up the rock face next to Cam Crag Spout waterfall.

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Being out with a seasoned mountaineer I had to admit that I was a bit wary that Tony would want a more challenging route and chance to get climbing up rocks, but it seemed the route up to Foxes Tarn was enough scrambling for both of us. To reach Foxes Tarn, a tiny tarn in the cwm at Sca fell, we picked a route across the rocks and grass to wind around the crag to the south of Broad Stand. It was a fun scramble, though not entirely on rock.

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I was more than a bit disappointed to see Foxes Tarn, its certainly not worth the scramble, being nothing more than a puddle with a rock in the middle. Its location though is certainly impressive and this route up Sca Fell is better than the trudge from Wasdale.

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There were some people on the summit of Sca Fell but nowhere near as many as could be seen on the summit of Scafell Pike. We headed across the top to descend down to Slight Side crag and back down across the bogs towards Eskdale- finishing with a well earned meal in the pub.

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Calder Valley Greenway – Huddersfield to Sowerby Bridge

Despite the grey skies I headed out on my trusty/rusty bike on Sunday. Having cycled the Huddersfield Narrow Canal a few times I decided in the drizzle it would be quicker and nicer to stick to the A62, so I made good time into Huddersfield as I bombed down the main road.

Knowing full well I was going to have to cycle around the backstreets of Huddersfield anyway as the Narrow Canal disappears around the university at street level, I decided against jumping on the Broad Canal and opted for the A62 right out of town, until I got near to Deighton train station, where I then joined the canal to cycle to Cooper Bridge. (Following the green line that follows the canal on Sustrans map below.) I’d not previously cycled this section of the canal network so I wanted to check it out.

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The route is a bit rough but otherwise a nice alternative to the main A62 road, which at this point can start to get a bit congested with traffic, even on Sunday morning it isn’t much fun. The Huddersfield Broad Canal along the section from Deighton to Cooper Bridge is a great and quiet alternative; bumpy to cycle and the path is narrow in places, but it looks like the towpath is undergoing improvements.

IMG_3397 IMG_3404Once you reach this final lock you join back with the A62 and are faced with 2 choices in order to get to Brighouse and onto Sowerby Bridge (my intended destination) on the Calder Valley Greenway – 1) the A644 which takes you direct to Brighouse but across Junction 25 of the M62 (no thank you!) or to continue along the Canal, following the Calder Hebble Navigation. No contest in my opinion, traffic free canal wins hands down. Or so I thought.

I quickly realised why this section isn’t marked as a cycle route on Sustrans website.

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To start with the route is a nice amble along a rough road across fields away from the canal, that is until you reach the road end at Brearley Bridge. Here your first challenge is to get onto the canal. With a bike this involves wheeling across the adjacent muddy field – the lovely steps next to the bridge for access to the towpath are no good for getting a bike down.

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From here the towpath slowly disintegrates into what I could only describe as a quagmire. Had it been raining heavily I would have struggled to make it at all on a bike. I’m a bit disappointed with myself for not stopping and taking a picture of how horrendous the route becomes as it gets closer to and goes under the M62.

Frankly it was so muddy that despite a tow path nearly 2 metres wide I was hugging the tree line to stay out of the super deep sections – its beyond ruts and puddles. Even peddling slowly with feet out I nearly slid off a few times in the stretch of mud 1 foot deep that lasted for about half a mile. I needed a mountain bike to make it through.

I was surprised to see two dog walkers out, as even for walkers this section of towpath isn’t much fun. Which is a massive shame as its the only alternative to dicing with death at the M62 roundabout and is actually a pleasant section of canal. I’ve read somewhere that this is in a section of planned improvements to ensure a connected cycleway in the region – so fingers crossed!

Here’s a snap from the Pennine Waterways website of this section taken from the water.

Thankfully, as you near Brighouse its easy to hop on to the road to cycle into town and then pick up the very lovely tarmac Calder Valley Greenway which takes you into Sowerby Bridge.

The Greenway along this stretch of the Calder Hebble Navigation is fantastic as its mostly off the roads and very well surfaced. But in between dodging the hoard of Sunday morning dog walkers and peddling fast to get to Sowerby Bridge before I was totally soaked and starved, I didn’t take photos. I was pleased to have got there in 2 hours despite the slower speed along the muddy section.

Had it not been raining hard as I got into Sowerby I might have cycled on to Hebden Bridge, but it was lunchtime so food was calling.

Celebrating 30 years of Slaithwaite Moonraking

Someone’s just made a passing comment that the further you get from civilisation strange rituals and celebrations exist. That may be the case (I live a community which certainly has some interesting festivals). However I prefer to think that the further you get from the monotony of urban life, art and creativity flourish.

Slaithwaite Moonraking Festival certainly demonstrates that. Started 30 years ago by Satellite Arts the festival takes place every other year, and this weekend saw the birthday celebrations.

In the 8 years I’ve lived in the valley Slaithwaite has transformed into a place with growth in artisan businesses creating and selling individuality and uniqueness – from the local cooperative Green Valley Grocers to the Emporium with space for local artists to sell their creations – from the Handmade Bakery with its amazing range of breads and pastries to Empire Brewery creating a range of locally named real ales.

So it was fantastic that this year’s Moonraking festival included a celebration of all that is fantastic about the village and providing the influx of visitors with an opportunity to see more than just the lantern parade. I have to admit to being surprised to find McNair Shirts tucked away in the mill creating high quality merino shirts. Gorgeous and designed as a lifetime investment, but a bit out of my price range.

So by the time the Festival kicked off we were already a bit merry from eating and drinking.

Here’s the story of Moonraking from their website and some of my photos from the evening:

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Winter bog trotting on Kinder Scout

There’s few reasons to get out of bed at 7.30am on Sunday morning, but having the opportunity to go for a decent hike with friends is definitely one of them. In the depths of winter I would much rather be tucked up in bed unless I have a Mountain Rescue training exercise to get to, and even then I drag myself out of bed disgruntled.

Sunday started with dense fog too, as I drove over Holme Moss wondering why I had bothered to get out of my nice warm bed to spend the day in cloud. I could barely see beyond 50m as I headed over the summit. Thankfully as I headed over the Snake Pass it was clear that the fog wasn’t quite as dense the further south in the Peak District so I was relieved.

After a bit of joking about how we’d hoped for the remains of snow but were going to instead spend the day bog trotting, we headed out from the Snake Pass Inn car park and up Ashop Clough track, to where it meets the Pennine Way.

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From there we had a bit of a silent race to the top of the Kinder Plateau with the fell runner in the group being the first, and me second. Which considering the winter junk food splurge I’d indulged in, I was impressed. Especially since I was a long way second.

It was amazing to see the sun shining as we got to the top and be able to see views out across Glossop.

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As we walked around to the Kinder Downfall we had fantastic views and a few remaining snowdrifts, which were deep enough for snow angels and jumping in up to our knees.

IMG_2917 IMG_2920From the Kinder Downfall we stopped for a snack and then headed straight across the moors (and into the fog) to Fairbrook Clough. The purpose of the walk had been to recce a route for a DofE walk later in the year so it was important we checked compasses in the fog for bearings for groups to have later on, but really instinct took us across the moors to the Clough, where we headed down back to the pub and a lunch time pint. The remaining snow drift across the top were certainly fun to disappear in up to our waists!

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Welsh winter – Wearing t-shirts in the snow

Having the opportunity to disappear to Wales for the weekend is always a welcome relief and with a forecast for sunshine it was always going to be a fantastic walk wherever we ended up going.

With only a couple of winter seasons under my belt I’ll admit to being daunted by the thought of being the one in charge, since the friend who was meeting me in Capel Curig had only had one weekend in the mountains previously. I had confidence in his strength to cope with the mountains in winter and confidence in his resilience to cope with a bit of punishing. I should have pondered a bit more about his ability to let others lead, he is a teacher after all.

Having sunk a few pints in the Tyn-y-coed Inn the night before, it was already 9am before we pulled up on the A5 at Glen Dinas in the Ogwen Valley. The sun was shining, there was hardly wind and by the time we reached Ffynnon Lloer there was already a throng of climbers heading up the rock face of Pen y Ole Wen.

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Having reached the Llyn we found ourselves shedding fleeces and heading on upwards with just t-shirts on, which was certainly a first for a trip to Wales. The route up on to Pen y Ole Wen summit was via the cwm wall to the left of the large crag.

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Once on the col we could see an amazing view of the cloud inversion in the valleys around us. We’d definitely picked the right activity for the day!

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From there we headed across Carnedd Daffyd and onto Carnedd Llewellyn and while it was windy at times across the tops it was still gorgeous sunshine. I really needed my sunglasses!

En route to Llewellyn my friend lost the axe I’d lent him (I can only assume it dropped off his rucksack since he’s sure he tied it on when we’d stopped for lunch and while I made him back track to check he never found it). So instead of carrying on across the rocky edge to head south east off the summit, I decided we should back track over the south ridge and head south off the hill back to the Ogwen Valley.

Check out the broken spectre – I couldn’t get myself in it though!

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The sun was just starting to go down (though the valley was dark with mist so it was hard to tell!), so once back at the car we headed to Plas y Brenin’s bar for a pint of ale. Check out this amazing sunset across to Snowdon!

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The long way to Slaithwaite for lunch

Ok, so I didn’t get out on a big hike this weekend  – and all I really wanted when I woke up Sunday was a fantastic coffee and to play out in the snow which is still on the hills around the South Pennines.

So, with no great trek involved I headed the longest way I could manage down the valley to Slaithwaite for a coffee and lunch. Lazy I know, but just look at the views whilst I headed on the Colne Valley Way from Marsden up to Cupwith Reservoir and down Merrydale Clough into Slaithwaite centre. All in all about a 6 miles circle, heading back along the Huddersfield Canal.

The Colne Valley Way is a fantastic 13 miles walk around the top of the valley – but as much of it is on either the moors or farmland it is boggy, unless you tackle it at this time of the year when the ground is frozen. Its a great walk though with some fantastic pubs en-route and this is certainly my favourite section.

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