An easy winter munro in Glencoe

I’ve had a couple of winters off from winter mountaineering so I chose an easy munro as my first day in Glencoe – I headed up Buachaille Etive Beag as its close to the road, has an easy to navigate path even in the snow and is jokingly referred to as ‘The People’s Munro’ as its so easy to bag. Frankly on Valentine’s Day in school half term it was bound to be crawling with either couple keen to do something adventurous, or school teachers desperate to get away from it all.

I heard someone say that school teachers constituted 90% of a mountain rescue calls this time last year. Is it because they’re so desperate to get away from a classroom of kids that the forget to pay attention, or just so many of them are flocking to the hills for that reason that the odds were never going to be in their favour?

I don’t know the answer but I met 5 teachers today, so the chances were looking good that it wasn’t going to be me sliding down the windslab.

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I can joke, but I’ve made all the mistakes before and suffered the war wounds – twisted knee from not axe arresting when I slipped on concrete hard ice in the Cairngorms 5 years ago. That’s a war wound that makes an appearance every so often, usually when I’m belting it along the fell tops, or worse happily bouncing my way down the windslab in deep snow. But today it’s been fine.

Which was good, as today was a great first day back in Scottish winter.

The walk up Buachaille Etive Beag isn’t hard, just a slog. Even in the snow it’s not too challenging. Though as you reach the main summit of Stob Dubh there’s a narrow bit in the ridge where the wind whips over the top and as it dumps the snow it does so in a graceful curl, which from a distance looks beautiful. From the centre of it, it feels like I’m having my cheeks sandblasted with the blown icy snow, and my buff fills with snot and wet breath as I pull it as far up my face as I can without my glasses fogging up.

But I can’t complain, views from a Scottish hilltop in winter. I’m not sure I’ve had clear skies much even in summer.

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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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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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A week in the Cairngorms

I love Scottish winters, endless white snow, ice and summits. What more do you need? DSCF7957 DSCF7960  DSC02545DSCF7972 DSCF7978

Beautiful sunshine across to Carn Lochan from our ascent out of Coire an t-Sneachda.

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Rime ice on the weather station on Cairngorm, battling through the wind to reach it.

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Winter skills are an essential for heading in to the mountains in winter and this includes ice axe techniques and self arrest, as well as digging a snow hole for emergencies. This one is a tight fit!