Friday, 19 October 2018

The Allt-fawr Affair


The Crimea Pass car park makes the ascent of Allt-fawr that bit easier as you start at over 1200 feet which is more than halfway up before you’ve even laced up your boots!  But the smug feeling was tempered by the grey conditions, matching the grey quarries hereabouts.

above Llyn Iwerddon

Light drizzle accompanied me along the ridge and up to the final slopes as they rose above Llyn Iwerddon before I entered the mist that was obscuring the summit.  As there was no view of note, my attention turned to reaching the next objective of the day, Moel Druman South Top.

I decided to take a route that would skirt the south shore of Llyn Conglog and lead me to the isolated Moss summit.  But the mistake I made was to use my live track on my GPS unit as a way of navigating instead of taking a bearing.  Finding myself descending a re-entrant a lot wider than anticipated I checked the map and decided to carry on as, although packed with close contours, I felt that the ground ahead wouldn’t pose any problem to traverse and that the height I had unnecessarily lost could be easily regained.  The reality was a little different!

The ground was steep but looked reasonable to cross.  Ahead I spotted a group of sheep who had seen me and headed away on a traverse line that I decided would be my way across.  It turned out to be a very narrow trod – often narrower than the width of one of my boots – and it led across steepening ground.  My ankles had to work hard to support me on the slope and although walking poles would have significantly eased the traverse, I reckoned that getting them out of my rucksack would have been a greater risk than just carrying on.  This headwall of Cwmorthin wasn’t letting up and a slip here would have been calamitous.  I checked the ground above looking for any weakness so I could directly ascend but none was forthcoming; it was steep and grassy and wet.  I had no option but to continue the traverse until the ground eased, which it eventually did.

I followed the stream up to the outflow of Llyn Conglog and although easily crossed, I still ended up with one leg plunged knee-deep in peat.  Easy ground led to the two 630-metre contour lines which I crossed but I wasn’t able to clearly work out which one held the summit.  But I went over both and claimed the tick.

the face of Moel Druman

The shroud of mist continued to lay down as I continued to Moel Druman, passing an eerie profile of a face outlined in a rock outcrop, and the poor visibility dissuaded me from staying on high ground towards Ysgafell Wen.  I decided to head back to the car and crossed the northern slopes of Allt-fawr before rejoining the ridge above Llyn Iwerddon at which point the mist had lifted and I could now see the highpoints of today’s route.

Moel Druman and Ysgafell Wen

Allt-fawr and Moel Druman

It’s now obvious that my approach to navigating in poor visibility isn’t as accurate as it could be.  My problems arose from an unjustified confidence in navigating using a small screen, despite the undoubted accuracy of the GPS system.  The use of a map to see the “bigger picture” and a compass to direct me on accurate bearings needs to be brought back into my hillwalking method.

I think only my experience and confidence of crossing challenging terrain got me out of a situation that many may have seen as one to call for help on.

A lesson has been learnt.

Friday, 12 October 2018

Gragareth Revisited


I’d been up here before I added the Moss and Wright lists to my own seemingly never-ending ticklist and with those lists came Gragareth North Top and Green Hill South Top, both of which I might have walked over on the previous visit but I couldn’t be sure.

Eight of us plus Pebbles the dog started the walk from Leck Fell and headed uphill into the fog towards the Three Men of Gragareth.  The cairns made for a welcome photo opportunity, particularly for three women, before we walked to the trig pillar and then the rather nondescript true summit of Gragareth which is marked by a small and unimpressive cairn.  Surely the highpoint of the county of Lancashire deserves something of grander stature!

Gragareth North Top lay just west of the path and was easily bagged although it was probable that I hadn’t previously been to that point.  Green Hill South Top lay on the path and no extra effort was needed with a high likelihood that this had been reached on earlier walk on these hills.

There was a fair amount of snow on the ground but nothing that merited the use of axe or crampons as the recent warm spell had ensured that the ground beneath was not frozen.  There were some colourful exclamations from party members when the occasional bog plunge occurred!  We followed the ridge to Green Hill, Great Coum and the trig point of Crag Hill before descending the broad spur to Bullpot Farm.  From there an easy path led to the bone-dry bed of Ease Gill before we trudged up the long heathery slope of Leck Fell to the cars.

Inevitably, the group was keen for post-walk refreshment and quite by accident we found The Royal Barn in Kirkby Lonsdale, home of the eponymous brewery, where the fine selection of ales and dog-friendly bar provided a very welcoming atmosphere.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

A Winter Follais

In the days immediately preceding this day out, Storm Fionn had taken her toll and dumped so much snow in such a short period that the M74 was closed because of the number of stranded vehicles and Police Scotland had, at one point, issued advice to not use the roads at all.  The drive to the Cairngorms wasn’t too bad in the aftermath but it was obvious that much of the snow on the ground wasn’t going to be consolidated.

Seven of us left the comfort of Milehouse Cottage and strode out along the East Highland Way towards the day’s objectives of Creag Dubh and the Argyll Stone.  After a snack stop at Drake’s Bothy the uphill started in earnest, weaving our way through the forest at the lower part of Coire Follais.  Both the Ordnance Survey Explorer and Landranger maps indicated a path up the coire but even using GPS to place us right on top of it, we found no sign that it existed.

Drake's Bothy

Progress was slow as we plodded through unconsolidated knee-deep snow resulting in some colourful language from one of our shorter-legged ladies!


Monadhliath from Coire Follais

It became quickly apparent that the group was not going to reach the summit and descend in daylight, or even dusk.  Three of our fittest continued as the rest of us turned tail.  The sky was clear and the view good enough for us to make out a lone walker at the Argyll Stone and also note the slow progress of our summit party.  Deep drifts took their toll on them and they also decided to turn around head downhill.

The Argyll Stone

Although we didn’t actually achieve very much on the day, the laughter and good company will last long in the memory.

Saturday, 18 August 2018

2018 Targets

Lists to tick

My target ticklist is a combination of unclimbed Nuttalls, TRAIL 100s, WASHIS, Simpsons, Dawsons, Deweys, Mosses, Wrights,Bridges and Buxton & Lewis summits.  At the start of 2018 there are 459 individual summits on my ticklist.

In 2017 I added the Dawsons, Deweys, Mosses and Wrights to my list which increase the total by 137 summits.  My previous goal of completing the list in 2023 has been extended to 2026 because of this, which now gives me 9 years to reach the target.

Still to be ticked at the start of this year are 201 of the 445 Nuttalls and 38 of the TRAIL 100 summits.

This coming year

In simple numbers, 11% of my remaining summits based on my remaining 9-year plan should be an achievable target for 2018, as long as I have some significant multi-summit days out.  11% means 51 summits, but I’m going to round this up to 1 per week.


Which means I’m aiming for 52 summits, amongst which should be 23 Nuttalls and 4 TRAIL 100s.

Because of a number of years of not meeting targets with regard to specific summits, this year I won’t be naming any but I do hope to claim a few that lie further afield.

It’s time to start studying the maps!

A 2017 Summary

At the start of 2017 I had 334 summits on my combined ticklist of TRAIL 100 summits, Nuttalls, WASHIS, Simpsons, Bridges and Buxton & Lewis summits.  2017 was the fourth year of my fairly arbitrary 10-year completion target and I had aimed to tick 48 summits on my combined list which would include 30 Nuttalls and 6 TRAIL 100s.

And now, for the fourth year in a row I didn’t reach my targets and, yet again, by some distance!

Overall I :
            went on             9                                   walks
            walked              77.7                              miles
            ascended          29,206                          feet
            walked for         53 hrs 43 mins            (including rest stops !)
            reached            16                                 individual summits that I hadn’t been to before
            reached            6                                   individual summits that I had been to before
            reached            12                                 summits on my combined ticklist
            reached            1                                   previously unclimbed TRAIL 100 summits
            reached            5                                   previously unclimbed Nuttall summits
            drove                2074                             miles on trips to and from walks

2017 only saw one change to the Nuttalls list.  Carnedd y Ddelw in the Carneddau was demoted following a resurvey but it didn’t have any effect on my list as I had ticked it way back in 1988!

Notable walks included Ben Lomond, Bowfell to mop up a couple of Nuttalls, Arenig Fawr and High Cup Nick which saw another Nuttall put in the bag.

My targets of Snaefell, the 6 Cheviot Nuttalls and Pillar Rock were unsurprisingly untouched – maybe it’s time not to name specific targets!

During the year I added a few more lists – Dawson, Dewey, Moss & Wright – to my own list; another 137 summits!  They are all of 2000-foot mountains in England & Wales and are recognised by the LDWA.  My reasoning for including these takes a little bit of explaining so maybe I will write a blog about it in the future.

So after my walks, a demotion and list additions, my ongoing ticklist increased from 334 to 459 summits!

I think that 2018 will see a different approach when setting targets.

Friday, 17 August 2018

A Daear Ddu Day Out

The club’s post-Christmas walk took aim for a familiar mountain this year 16 of us met up at the Siabod café to consume some calories before making strides along the tracks leading to Moel Siabod’s Daear Ddu ridge.

on the approach

I wouldn’t necessarily say that conditions were full-on winter, but there was enough snow on the higher ground to give the walk a seasonal feel.  We had soon passed through the long-deserted quarries and successfully negotiated the boggy area of ground just west of Llyn y Foel before reaching the base of the ridge.

the Daear Ddu ridge

nearing the ridge

If there is an obvious start to the route gaining the Daear Ddu ridge it wasn’t clear as there were a few possibilities presenting themselves.  However once on the ridge, progress was steady with route-finding options available to vary the challenge if you felt the need to with some of the rock steps presenting some thoughtful decisions when selecting footholds in particular as they were partially obscured by snow.  The group had now extended itself along the ridge and I stayed towards the rear to ensure that nobody was left behind.  I think that if I had been on a solo trip I would have put on my crampons just to make life a bit easier.

approaching the summit of Moel Siabod

The ridge leads inexorably to the summit trig point at which the strength of the wind let itself be known.  The highpoint was not a place to linger and enjoy the view so everyone started their descent promptly.  We followed the path – boggy in places – that leads towards Plas y Brenin and once amongst the forest the trail took us back to the Siabod café where cake was the chosen restorative for many!

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Snowdon Silly Season

Even on a murky day in December, Snowdon still sees plenty of people heading for the summit.  A small group of us decided to forego the ways of the masses and after alighting the Snowdon Sherpa bus at Pen-y-Pass we headed for an ascent of the Y Gribin ridge.

The easy Miners’ path took us to the outflow of Llyn Glaslyn which we forded and then started on the scramble.  It was raining, but not heavily, and as the route started to steepen, the rock became uncomfortably slippy and the mist obscured the top of the ridge, giving rise to doubts about its ease or more likely, difficulty.  Caution seemed the sensible decision and we made our way back to the Miners’ path before taking on an off-piste scree slope to reach the PyG track.

Which is where we met the masses we were originally hoping to avoid.

On the approach to the zig-zags the path started to fill out with snow.  Although the path was not overly crowded, there were still plenty of inappropriately dressed walkers.  Trainers, wellies and even deck shoes were the footwear of choice for many who were slithering the way down the path, as often as not on backsides rather than on feet.  No doubt they would probably get off the mountain without incident and have a great story to tell in the pub but it wouldn’t have taken much of a slip for a serious accident to spoil their day.

Even in my winter boots there came a point where I decided it prudent to put on my crampons.  As I was strapping them on, I heard a voice behind me that said “good move”, from a similarly shod and obviously experienced walker.

I almost felt overdressed in my winter boots and crampons, but the ease with which I made progress soon overruled that thought.

At the top of the zig-zags we decided that there wasn’t much point following the railway up into the clag to the summit so we turned right and made our way down the Llanberis path.  I’ve been to the top seven times so far so I didn’t feel as if I was missing out on anything.  And a couple of beers at the club’s hut made an acceptable end to the day.