A dreamlike dawn ascent of Cadair Idris to watch the sunrise turned into a surreal experience in a world of mist and ice before a hasty descent from the bitter cold summit revealed a spectacular early morning view.
Distance: 15.0 miles
Saturday looked crap as I stared out the window of the hall. The clag was down and the rain looked set in. So Jack and I decided to form a splinter group and run/walk the Helvellyn ridge as 4 Inns training.
As we pulled into Patterdale the rain stopped and the clag lifted, showing the snow covered tops all around. Only I’d purposefully left my camera back at base. Sod. We could have decided for a gentler walk for the day, but my mind was geared for a challenge, so we decided to do it anyway.
The path up Grisedale, was as ever, delightful. The route climbs gently and soon we were at the edge of Grisedale Tarn. We made quick progress up Dollywagon Pike, passing over the snow line in the process. Taking a couple of breathers we admired the frankly astonishing views down to Windermere and across to Langdale. This was not the day to be without a camera.
Two hours into the day and we were on Helvellyn. We had a brief chat with some climbers about the chances of those trying to cross Striding Edge. It was incredibly windy by this point. On the decent off Lower Man I almost came a cropper as I was caught by the wind on a steep patch of ice and almost blown clean over the edge. I took the remaining section down the pass very slowly indeed.
Up and down we went, getting blown over once or twice all the way to Great Dodd. Then the weather turned and in came the cloud and the hail. Quickly we sheltered in the summit shelter, before covering our faces and braving the elements to somehow navigate off the correct side of the hill (using a compass with a buff completely covering your face is rather tricky). The mist lifted as we neared the summit of Clough Head, before a thrilling and speedy decent all the way to the A66. Four hours fifty in total. Then we went to the pub.
Distance: 5.7 miles
Sunday was a beautiful day, one of those where words just won’t do my experiences justice. It was quite possibly the best days walking I’ve ever had in Lakeland. So I’ve skimped on words and just added lots of pictures. This time I made sure I had my camera.
The northern fells seemed to have the most of the snow, and so we had Skiddaw in our sights before heading back to London.
As we walked up through the woods around Dodd we were all in base layers in the strong sun. Winter is losing its grip to spring at last.
The final stretch of hillside then presented itself to us, and I had to kick steps in the ice in one or two places to stop myself slipping. It was a good job I’d opted for my boots unlike the day before.
We had lunch just off the summit, and I spied one or two likely looking wild camp spots in the depths of the northern fells. The views in all directions were amazing, in the distance we could see the snow capped Pennines and to the north the snow covered Galloway hills. We then took a quick detour to Little Man before following the tourist track back to the road.
Yet again I’ve let things get out of hand. Currently the weeks are just a blur of activity, and the weekends no better.
I’ve finally taken the plunge and entered the 4 Inns with a couple of mates who are up for making a wreck of themselves. At the moment I”m training most days.
The Lakes are calling however, and as such they are my destination for the weekend. In the pipeline for Saturday is a jaunt round the barren northern fells, where I’m hoping for a lack of people. Sunday will probably consist of a short walk before the long drive back to London.
It’s been far too long.
I’m someone who likes to push. To always take things one step further. Luckily I’m also a pretty cautious person, otherwise I’d be a pretty good canditate for ending up dead after doing something REALLY stupid.
I’m also some one who likes lists. As a result, whilst doodling around the other day I came up with a list of things I’d like to do this year. To push myself and have some fun. They are as follows:
Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon
Lead climb Severe
Climb Hard Very Severe
Enter some fell races
Bivvy on a mountain
But unlike most people who like lists I’m not fussed if I don’t tick them. They’re more guidelines really.
Although I wouldn’t complain if this was a list I did manage to finish.
I should probably write about this day pretty soon. It was interesting.
Initially I wrote a long post detailing my year on the hills of Britain. And then I deleted it. And that’s because what I’d written just couldn’t sum up what I’ve experienced over these past twelve months. I can’t tell someone how I feel about being out in the mountains, and what they mean to me. Either you already know, or you probably never will.
One of the pictures below is of the sun setting over Blencathra. I think it was the first night of our holiday to the Lakes. Me, my brother and my dad went for a walk out the campsite. Just an evening stroll. But what I felt was contentment. Pure joy at being relaxed and somewhere I enjoy being. There are only a few areas where I truly feel that. And I know what it is, it’s the feeling of being home.
But then the one below it, that’s pretty special to me too. A days walking with my family in Snowdonia. Is anything better? And yet it is. Scotland. But only just.
I suppose what I’m trying to say, to condense my rambling a bit, is that the hills are my way of relaxing, and in many ways my spiritual home. And 2011 was the finest year I’ve spent on the hills. I enjoyed (almost) every moment. From sunsets to sunrises. Hills to valleys. And the wildest parts of Scotland to Edale.
Below are some pictures, just a selection from this year. By no means is everything included below. That would take a whole blog to do…
Here’s to 2012. May you all have a good one.
After a 3 week Christmas break, in which I seemingly did very little, I’m now back in London for another 11 weeks of madness. Only this term is going to be a little more relaxed. I honestly don’t think I could survive another term like the last one. I was almost broken by the time I got home. So I’m only planning to go on three trips before Easter. Climbing in two weeks time on Stanage, before walking in the Lakes in mid Feb and mid Wales a month after that.
Now I’ve got to go and do some physics revision. Damn.
Distance: 9.4 miles
We woke with no real plan for the day apart from to end up further east by the time it came to pitch that evening. We half had it in our heads to ascend Mullach Fraoch-choire, however as we were packing, the early morning mist flowing down the glen got caught on the mountain and built up before shrouding it in cloud. It put that plan to bed.
We ambled down into Glen Affric, still not knowing what to do where we promptly bumped into the couple from two days before cycling down the glen. After a bit of a chat we set off on our way once more. Soon we were at the entrance to Gleann ne Ciche and so decided to head down it on a whim to see what the high mountains further down it looked like. Instead we got distracted by the river and found a way onto an ‘island’ in the middle. Sitting around we decided to cook lunch to avoid any midges that evening. In the process of scrabbling around on rocks trying to set up the stove I managed to crack the screen of my camera. Cursing, I inspected it to discover it wasn’t fatal and my camera would live longer yet.
The Munro’s to the south also managed to get a topping of cloud whilst we cooked, and as we were chasing views we chilled out for another hour or so before heading back to Glen Affric. We decided we’d walk up Carn a’ Choire Ghairbh as it was only a “little mountain”, totally forgetting that 865m is a damn big hill in England.
After faffing around trying to find the start of the path up its northern flank (we finally found it after deducing a slight flattening in the side of the mountain to be a path) we set off upwards. The path wound up the side of the mountain, giving views straight up Glen Affric and to the mountains beyond.
It was tough work as the hill was bigger than anticipated and the path petered out a few hundred yards from the summit. We had to pick our way across peat bog to the very bleak and cold top. We lingered for no more than a few seconds before beginning our descent into the nameless glen to the south and took a rather direct (terrifyingly steep) route, startling a massive herd of deer below who promptly stampeded off down the glen.
Once down we realised there didn’t seem to be anywhere flat enough to pitch tents. Aware that if we failed to locate anywhere it would be a long time before we had chance to rest we all kept a sharp eye out. Luckily we soon spotted a grassy area just large enough for two tents. The next day we saw nowhere else in the glen suitable to pitch.
Midges were out in force in the shelter of the mountains and we quickly retired to our tents to eat before making occasional dives outside to admire the remoteness of our location. It truly felt as if no-one had ever been there before. This was wild camping at its height.
Distance: 17.3 miles
The next day we woke to high grey cloud. We picked our way slowly through some very tough terrain before picking up a track into the glen two miles from our camp spot. A very disconcerting river crossing then ensued as we crossed a slippery wooden bridge that was slightly angled to the side.
Continuing along the track we dropped down into Glen Affric along a very muddy path before joining the track in the glen. All along this section of lochside it felt a bit like I was in the Jurassic Period. Tall pines stood around, surrounded by heather, ferns and moss.
However soon the appeal of this terrain wore off, and it turned to slight despair when I realised just how far we had to follow tracks and roads to get to Cannich that evening. It wasn’t that the distance was too great, or the scenery bad, but it just seemed rather dull after our previous experiences the past three days.
We plodded and plodded for a couple of hours before finally appearing at a car park near Dog Falls. We sat and rested by the river, before walking to admire the falls. Unfortunately they are an anti-climax as the water is hidden in a very deep gorge, but you could hear the thunder of the torrent rushing through.
A very dull road walk into Cannich then followed, and we spend much of the evening sheltering under a covered area by the village hall as the rain fell for a few hours. Under cover of darkness we then found a spot to camp in the woods by the village.
The next morning we got up in the freezing dawn and got on the bus to Inverness. My first foray into the highlands was complete. The lands to the north of the border do not disappoint. Now to find the time to go back.