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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Holmfirth and Hepworth circular

I missed the opportunity to play out in the snow last week as by the time the weekend came around it had all but vanished from the hills of West Yorkshire. Nevertheless I needed air and to stretch my legs so headed out around the Holme Valley in the winter sunshine.

Starting from Holmfirth, we headed up the hillside to Cartworth Moor Road which we followed until reaching the track at Elysium farm, where we swung a sharp left to follow the track towards Hollin Hill Reservoir. Mud galore today! The mountain bikers across Cartworth Moor Road were certainly covered in mud from head to toe.

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From the reservoir we headed on the road, up to the small village of Hade Edge before circling around the north side of the reservoir and then heading along the lane to Hepworth (and the Butcher’s Arms pub for lunch!)

From Hepworth we turned down behind the church to follow an amazing path between drystone walls down to cross between the mill ponds, before returning through Scholes, Totties and back to Holmfirth. Only about 8 miles, but a nice afternoon walk.

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Autumn on Bleaklow

I should have gone cycling on Saturday in training for my next big trip. But I’m not a cyclist at heart, so when a friend asked if I wanted to go hill walking it didn’t take long for me to say yes. Especially when I saw the forecast was going to be sunny.  I’d never been up Bleaklow in the sunshine before.

Bleaklow, in the Peak District, is about 30 minutes drive over country lanes from my house. The typical weather I endure is dense fog and rain, but instead on Saturday I had glorious sunshine, although it was cold and windy.

We parked at the car park at Torside Reservoir, next to the Longdendale Trail. This is a section of the longer Trans-Pennine Trail, which is a fantastic long distance route for cyclists and walkers. Our route for the day was to head up Wildboar Clough to check out a mini scramble up the river before heading across the fell top to the summit cairn. From the Trans-Pennine Trail track we clambered over a couple of rickety stiles and through the woodland on a path that is clearly little used.

We soon found that the river, while being a great route to handrail up  or down the hill in the mist and fog, is largely full of green damp and slippy boulders, making a walk hard work and a bit lethal. As we’d both started to slide on the rocks, we decided to head away from the riverbed and up the grassy sides of the clough avoiding the scramble and the potential catastrophe.

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From here we enjoyed a bog trot to get onto the Pennine Way which we then followed to the cairn marking the summit. Bleaklow summit is a bit of a non event, as a huge plateau larger than its neighbour Kinder Scout (but lower) it is a featureless terrain which can test even the best navigators in poor visibility.

At this point, with time on our side we decided to carry on to High Shelf Stones trig point – while this is not the summit top of the plateau (and busy as close to the Snake Pass road) it is considered a top in its own right and worth a wander over to as it has great views out across Manchester and beyond. However, on Saturday it was windy and cold so we had a look at the aircraft wreckage as we passed it and hid behind rocks near the trig point for lunch.

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The aircraft wreckage on Bleaklow is some of the most complete and extensive that I have seen in the Peak District but it is certainly not the only one around as the area is littered with wreckages.

From High Shelf Stones we contoured around to Dog Rocks and then turned right and headed directly across the moors thankfully not bog trotting. We crossed the line of newly restored grouse butts to pick up the Pennine Way trail and head back to the cars in the valley below. The whole walk took about 5 hours, including a lunch and a lovely 15 minutes lying in the heather gazing at the blue sky.

Limestone in Crummack Dale

Its hard to find peace and quiet in the Yorkshire Dales at the weekend unless the weather is horrible. Despite heading out from Clapham, a favourite starting point for walkers heading to the top of Ingleborough, if you avoid the hill top its possible to find peace and also some fantastic limestone pavements, which in my opinion are more impressive than those at Malham Cove.

Following the track up the river from Clapham you head through woodland and Trow Gill, a narrow ravine. As the path appears out of the top of the ravine follow it onwards to the access point for Gaping Gill one of the largest caves in the UK at 98m deep. Twice a year the cave is open to the general public through the caving clubs.

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From here head across the moorland towards Juniper Gulf, another popular caving point.

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To head around Crummack dale it is necessary to climb over the fence and head across towards the limestone towards the Pennine Bridleway.

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Follow this only a little way as to see the full splendour of Crummack dale you need to skirt around Moughton Scars heading southeast, eventually up towards the trig point.

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The reason I think that Crummack dale is more impressive the Malham Cove is for the expanse of limestone pavement which is far larger than that at Malham, and as you stand near the trig point looking back at Moughton Scar you can see the impact of glaciation and erosion on a large scale. Its also a hell of a lot quieter, I didn’t see anyone once I past the Pennine Bridleway.

From the trig point head down hill, cross the Dales High Way and head across fields to walk below Norber, passing the erratics left by the ice age, to head back to Clapham.

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Wandering down the Irwell

Manchester. Not somewhere I would have ever thought I’d write about on here. To start with its not my definition of an adventure since I spent 7 years at the universities there. Manchester is the city I feel at home in, if a country girl is ever going to feel at home in a city.

Nevertheless I found myself out on a city walk run by new manchester walks on Saturday and explored the Irwell, a bit of the city I’ve never really explored before.

We met at Manchester Victoria station which has my favourite map in a building –

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I hadn’t realised though that this map was originally an advertising poster for the rail company which explains why the line between Manchester and Sheffield doesn’t exist on it. It doesn’t explain why there are stations for Meltham and Holmfirth despite neither of these places having rail lines!

Fun facts learnt:

– Victoria station once had the longest platform in Europe when Victoria had an adjacent station called Exchange, run by a rival company, and the platforms joined.

– Arches on the wall at the Irwell near the station are originally boat access point from a ticket office which was underground near the Cathedral. During the war these were used as air raid shelters.

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– Mr Brotherton was one of the founders of the Vegetarian Society

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– New Bailey near Salford Station is the site of the last public hanging in Britain in 1867,  for three men who were responsible for shooting a police officer. Their deaths were gruesome as only one died immediately from hanging so it was decided that executions would no longer be done in public.

– The old building next to the People’s History Museum was the pump house talking water from the Rochdale Canal for powering trams in the city and nearby buildings as well as the town hall clock.

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– Spinningfields is not named after the textile industry (prevalent in the city) but from the name of a copse of trees in the area.

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– Bees are the symbol of Manchester representing the industrial nature of the city, and the City’s crest represents the trade it did with the rest of the world. Salford’s crest emulates its relationship with Manchester as the hub of industrious working and packing.

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– The name of the Irwell river comes from ‘ere well, meaning good wishes for trade.

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Bruised knees, bashed elbows and stuck bums

I have to start this post by stating that I am not a climber. I have dabbled indoors, but having never had a consisted partner to climb with I rarely manage the local climbing wall. I do however lack the ability to turn down a good offer and the chance to do something new, irrespective of the level of pain or humiliation it might cause.

Armed with brimming optimism and boundless ignorance I set off to North Wales with two friends (both very good climbers). I’d made them well aware of my lack of ability so thought nothing more of it, we are all Mountain Rescue team members so they’d understand I was being serious, right? A few training walls and perhaps I’d be left to potter off on my own for the afternoon while they tackled something more interesting? How wrong I was.

Saturday kicked off with what was going to be an epic walk of the Ogwen valley’s ridges, tackling the North face of Tryfan (a particular favourite of mine as I do like scrambling) and then onto Y Gribin ridge to ascend the Glyders and back down Bristly Ridge. I was happy with this, scrambling is loads of fun.

We headed off in typical North Wales murky weather and started our ascent up Tryfan.

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For those of you unfamiliar with the area, Tryfan rises up out of the Ogwen valley like a half buried prehistoric dinosaur (think stegosaurus) and the North ridge is a very popular scramble.

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It is however, responsible for a significant proportion of the 150+ Ogwen Mountain Rescue Team‘s call outs per year, due to its seemingly obvious path from the road, which soon disappears as you have to navigate your own route through the rocks to the summit. The ascent is short and steep, and at times it is easy to drift too far east or west and find yourself in serious climbing territory. Hence the high number of call outs the team has from inexperienced walkers unaware of the dangers.

We were acutely aware of the number of people on the mountain that day who were woefully under-prepared – from one person wearing jeans, to a family out with a child wearing trainers. I really can not emphasis enough that this is not a mountain to take lightly.

That said it is a tricky mountain that can catch out even experienced climbers and mountaineers, you only have to read the team’s call out list to discover that even hard core climbers come unstuck on Tryfan. Despite our experience we still managed to find ourselves in awkward cracks and exposed steps requiring a confident grip and the occasional removal of rucksacks to get ourselves up and through the rocks.

Of course the cloud descended as we reached the summit so we had a quick lunch and headed off the back of Tryfan and down to the valley.

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Our plans quickly changed as the heavens opened so we decided to retreat to our rather lovely accommodation for the weekend at Ogwen Team’s HQ. (Being able to use another team’s base for the weekend is definitely a perk!)

Sunday was always planned as climbing day due to the better weather predicted. Well, I survived scrambling with the two hardcore climbers so how hard could it be? I’d be on rope and they’d be warned about my lack of experience…

We set off on Sunday knowing we were heading for great weather later in the day. I mean this is virtually the same shot as from the day before and look at the sunshine! In Wales no less!

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We started out on Tryfan Bach tackling Slab 2 route – apparently a VDiff. (Which in my book constitutes a route which takes the skin from the end of your knees and your fingers, but is easy enough to not ruin your confidence!)

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This was however my first outdoor climbing so I was impressed (rather than terrified) that they thought it wise to take me on a short multi pitch route.  After a bit of swearing I made it to the top with ego intact.

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Since the sun was out we decided to finish the day round at Milestone Buttress to tackle the Direct Route which despite the glorious weather was quiet. 5 pitches, yeah I can do that! Commence a bit of swearing and praying resulting in very sore knees and toes.

Pitch one was ok – follow the crack and then step out and over the rock. It’s a bit polished to start but otherwise ok, although the step around the rock at the top of the pitch caused a few leg jitters.

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I’ll be honest I don’t remember much detail of the other pitches as I continued to climb upwards and despite the swearing and wondering why I was climbing a rock instead of walking over mountain tops, I was also having loads of fun.

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Pitch 3 did cause a fair bit of swearing as I confronted the chimney and my fears of sliding down the rock gripped only by pressure from my bum on one side and my feet on the other. Very undignified but I managed it. Eventually. And I had feet to greet me at the top!

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Pitch 4 had a scarily long step across a void after traversing a crack and round a rock. So that had to be done in one go to prevent me sitting on one side and refusing to get back up.

After an easy pitch 5 we descended the gully to get back to our kit via abseil as it was very wet and fully of midges, so speed was our priority. In all it took about 6 and half hours for three of us to scale Milestone Buttress and get back to our kit.

Despite the moaning, swearing, sore knees and toes I thoroughly loved my first venture into rock climbing outdoors and it was loads of fun to second a multi-pitch route. I’m a long way off ever leading anything though!

I should thank Owen Phillips for the mis-use of his photos – though I’ve only used those with me in them (yellow helmet) so I assume it was ok to use!

11 days to go…. Rescue Ramble 2014

Got a free day on the 13th September 2014 and fancy a day walking around the gorgeous countryside of the Holme Valley in Huddersfield?? Fancy doing so on behalf of the local Mountain Rescue Team to help raise a bit of money for their Headquarters appeal?

There are 3 length of walk to undertake – 8 miles, 16 miles and the full 25 miles of the Holme Valley Way.

All routes are on the Bradford & Hudderfield Explorer Map No. 288 which is 1:25,000 scale.  The major part of the routes will be along tracks and paths crossing fells and pastures, with some pathless sections crossing moorland.
While the routes are way‐marked and a full route description will be sent to you prior to the walk if you pre-register, the onus for route finding is with you, the walker. So the challenge is all yours!

If nothing more its a great chance to see the local area, grab yourself some homemade cake at each check point, and get chance to meet members of the team and learn about their work in the local area.

For more details and a registration form see:

http://holmevalleymrt.org.uk/fundraising/hvmrt-rescue-ramble/

Borrowdale and Easedale

The joy of assessing young people doing the Duke of Edinburgh expeditions is the excuse to be out in the hills myself. So last weekend I spent a few days around Borrowdale and Easedale as they headed off on their expeditions. Thankfully the weather was pretty good.

I met the at Walla crag first walking in from Ashness Bridge. I had to wait a while but great views over Derwent and Keswick so who cares?!

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I then had time to head up to the National Trust cafe at Watendlath tarn for a coffee and toast before heading up the hill onto High Tove to meet them. I did get caught in a few heavy showers but in between the sun was glorious.photo 4

After they camped at Blea Tarn the following day I walked in up Easedale valley to meet them at Greenup Edge. They were struggling with the walk this day so I had plenty of time to enjoy the sunshine and a flask.

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Weekends in Oxford

Oxford is a lovely city which I definitely recommend for a weekend break and whilst here a few times over the summer I’ve stayed in some of the neighbourhoods surrounding, which are worth a visit too. Cowley is a young and vibrant neighbourhood with lots of bars and restaurants and Iffley is a quiet relaxed place just next to Cowley and yet so different in feel.

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I also had a trip out to the Vale of the White Horse, a lovely spot for a walk. From the summit you can see forever and the landscape is vastly different from my home in the Pennines with its wild moors; here it is neatly managed farmland and collections of little villages.

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