Category Archives: pictures & trips

Fail

Last week’s trip to the Lakes was a bit of a failure. I guess it was a bit optimistic to expect to concoct a trip where two of the three days were forecast to have severe storms. On Wednesday, it was very stormy and we had torrential rain and high winds. After a period of comparative calm, on Thursday, midday, it started raining and didn’t stop until sixteen hours later. On Friday, it was overcast and drizzly, but overnight, the storm had dumped snow down to about 350m. I decided to give up and go home a day early rather than have a miserable trudge around the fells.

DSC00022Rigg Beck

I did get a bit of wild camping and walking done. On Tuesday evening I walked to Rigg Beck for a wild camp. It got very windy early morning. I discovered that my Fizan trekking pole which was supporting the Tramplite shelter wouldn’t lock properly. The pressure on the pole meant it kept shortening leading to a very flappy shelter. I should have taken my flick lock poles. I bailed out just as it started to get light.

I went back to the camp site at Braithwaite where I’d left my car and base camp tent. After meeting David, we quickly popped into Keswick to get a flick lock pole. We knew the weather forecast was bad, so we decided that a modest bimble along Borrowdale to Langstrath was probably our best option.

Not long after we started, it began to rain, well ahead of the forecast. It took us about two hours to reach Grange. Although we were mainly sheltered by the trees, the rain and wind was pretty ferocious. At one point I fell and bruised my thigh. At Grange we decided lunch in the cafe was a good idea.

DSC00030Rain in Grange

We had a pleasant lunch, while outside the storm intensified. We had a bit of a discussion about what to do next. My concern was the camping spot I’d chosen in Langstrath was rough pasture and might be waterlogged. So we decided to walk back to Braithwaite. At least the wind would be at our back rather than in our faces.

After negotiating some seriously flooded roads, we made the path below Cat Bells, where the rain relented. The rest of the walk back to Braithwaite was quite pleasant. David decided to camp at the camp site and we went down to the pub later in the evening. You can find David’s account here.

DSC00031Derwent Water

On Thursday, David decided he wanted to do a bit of a walk in the morning. However, I knew that rain was forecast for midday and would continue well into Friday morning. I didn’t particularly want to get wet, so I decided to stay put, with a view to possibly doing a walk next day.

Well, the rain arrived and pretty soon, the camp site was saturated with water standing in many places. Fortunately, I had repositioned my tent on a small rise the previous evening. It rained and rained and rained. Not very exciting, but at least I was dry.

DSC00034Snow on the fells

The rain had been forecast to continue until lunchtime on Friday, but around 5 a.m. it petered out. When I got out of the tent, I was a bit surprised to see that higher up it had snowed, with snow capping Stile End and the higher fells. As it wasn’t actually raining but the fells looked cold and miserable under clag, I thought it best to pack and go home.  As I passed Keswick, it started to rain again and didn’t let up until Birmingham.

Looking on the bright side, at least on Wednesday, including the early morning walk back to the camp site, I’d done a 21km day and felt pretty fit (admittedly with not much up). I also discovered you need a strong pole with the Tramplite, so a valuable lesson had been learnt. I’ve only got one more trip left before the Challenge.

I’m going anyway!



Weather! Why does it conspire against me? I booked next week off ages ago to go to the Lake District. I’m meeting with David Williams for a bit of training for the TGO Challenge. The original plan was a circuit of the Nortern Fells, but I decided it would be more interesting to do the High Stile ridge. 

Until a few days ago, the forecast looked pretty decent, then WHAM! It changed to high winds and heavy rain. Well, stuff it, I’m going anyway. We’ll probably do a lower route, especially on Wednesday, which looks gnarly. 

This may be the second time High Stile has baulked me, as I wanted to do it back in September 2013, when high winds foiled me. Oh well, it will be a good chance to stretch my legs and test a few things to take on the Challenge. I’ll report back in a week’s time. 



2014 Trip Review

2014 has been a bit of an odd year. I’ve not been able to get out as much as I would have liked, with only four trips. However, with the TGO Challenge, I have managed a total twenty one days backpacking, so not too bad overall.

The first trip of the year was in April to the Monadhliath with Alan and Andy. It was a lovely introduction to the area, with a gentle walk along the River Dulnain. Despite not particularly brilliant weather, it was very enjoyable. Hopefully, I will be revisiting a short section on next year’s TGO Challenge.

DSC01196Carn Fhreiceadeain, Monadhliath

If you haven’t yet been to the Monadhliath, I suggest you try to visit next year as the area is under very serious threat from planned wind farms. The Loch Ness side is already being despoiled. Unless there is a change of mind, Stronelairg and Allt Duine are next in line. If they go ahead, it will largely destroy the Monadhliath as a wilderness area.

My second trip was a two day pre-Challenge shake down on Dartmoor. I’ve really grown to love Dartmoor over the past few years. In terms of backpacking and wild camping, it’s possibly the finest area in England. Although it lacks spectacular hills, I love the openness and the ability to wander wherever you want (assuming there’s no firing on the ranges).

DSC01260Incoming rain on Hangingstone Hill, Dartmoor

Strong winds and heavy rain proved to be a good test for my Challenge gear. It persuaded me to take my Scarp rather than the Trailstar. It didn’t rain all the time and there was some enjoyable walking. For me, the great joy of Dartmoor is the wild camping. If you know where to look, there’s some brilliant places.

Obviously, the highlight of the year was the TGO Challenge. Although the weather for the first three days was not great, for most of the rest of the time it was good. While it was quite windy, it was generally mild, especially compared with the previous year.

IMG_0939Camp at Loch Monar, TGO Challenge

Once I got into the swing of the Challenge (about day 4), I relaxed and really enjoyed myself. I was very pleased with the route I chose, which had a decent amount of wilderness walking and camping, but wasn’t too arduous. All in all, everything went exceptionally well.

If I had to pick some highlights, the first two days from Strathcarron and along Loch Monar were terrific, despite the weather. Crossing the Monadhliath via Glen Mazeran was excellent. I enjoyed the traverse through the Cairngorms both for the scenery and the company. I thought nearing the end might be disappointing, but Mount Keen was a highlight and I loved the camaraderie at Tarfside.

DSC01420 Challenge camaraderie

What makes the TGO Challenge special is the people you meet along the way. As a solo walker, I had the best of both worlds. I had times of solitude and times of enjoyable company. It’s good to meet with like minded people from all different backgrounds. I had so many interesting conversations on a whole variety of topics.

I had intended to do some trips in the summer. In particular, I wanted to do a week on Dartmoor in August, when there’s no firing on the ranges. However, due to circumstances beyond my control, it didn’t work out.

My final trip of the year was to the Lake District in September. This had a dual purpose of getting our daughter to university at Manchester and giving me a well earned break on the Far Eastern Fells. Despite taking the wrong inner for my Trailstar, I improvised and had a great trip.

DSC02085Deepdale, Lake District

I achieved a long held ambition of camping in Deepdale, which must be one of the finest wild camping locations in the Lake District (perhaps not quite as good as below Scafell, though). Although I only had two full days of walking and not very arduous ones at that, it was a good trip. I was blessed with good weather and some fine walking.

I made some preparations to visit Dartmoor in October/November, but, again, for various reasons those plans had to be abandoned. The only thing fixed for next year is the TGO Challenge in May. I’m hoping to start my walking year with a February visit to the Lake District and get a couple more trips before the Challenge. With a more ambitious route, I’m going to need to improve my fitness levels.

Wishing everyone a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Maeneira, O how I miss thee

DSC00688This will be the first year since 2009 that I’ve not visited the Carneddau and Maeneira. For those that don’t know, Maeneira is an abandoned farmstead (built c. 1800), above Tal-y-Bont on the Afon Dulyn.

P1020581High above the Conwy valley and sheltered on the west by one of the ridges that extends from Carnedd Llewelyn, it’s an idyllic spot, especially when the sun is shining. Its rough pasture provides superb camping on either side of the Afon Dulyn.

DSC00702I first camped there in 2004, although I’m fairly sure that I’ve walked past it well before that, noting its potential as a place to camp. In 2004, the weather was quite gloomy, but even so it had a magic about it.

P1000108

I returned five years later with Alan Sloman. We had a glorious walk over Carnedd Llewelyn ending at Maeneira. It was a crisp March day with deep azure sky. A camp at Maeneira was a perfect end to a perfect day.

DSC00689One remarkable feature of Maeneira is the trees that grow on top of some of the boulders and rock outcrops. I don’t know whether they are natural or have been deliberately planted there, but they add to the magic of the place.

DSC00686I’ve spent about thirteen nights camping there all told. It always surprises me how it changes. Sometimes there’s deep, lush, green bracken on the hillside, sometimes it’s bare. One magical trip, the hillside was covered in purple foxgloves. Other times, it’s surrounded by brown, dead bracken.

P1000378Mostly I’ve camped in the shelter of the walled fields on the western side of the Afon Dulyn, often beneath a rocky outcrop with a tree growing out of it. It’s a lovely sheltered spot. Last year, I decided to camp on the eastern side, where there is a tussocky unenclosed pasture.

DSC00698

While it is a beautifully peaceful spot, it must have been a hard life living there and scratching a living in the hills. Nonetheless, it’s a wonderful place. There must have been some sadness when the farmhouse was abandoned.

P1000662

For one reason or another,  I’ve not managed a trip to the Carneddau this year. Hopefully, next year, I will be able visit my beloved Maeneira again.