#208 – Back to the Carneddau. Again!

Yr Elen and Carnedd Dafydd under cloud – situation normal!

Yr Elen and Carnedd Dafydd under cloud – situation normal!

For all sorts of reasons I haven’t been getting out on the mountains of the Carneddau over the summer months as much as I would have liked, so a free day and a reasonable weather forecast was all it took to tempt me out.    Border Collie ‘Mist’ is always up for a long mountain day, so rucksack packed it was game on!

Setting off to Yr Elen from Gerlan – clouds on the tops

Setting off to Yr Elen from Gerlan – clouds on the tops

Recent Carneddau outings have been on the east side of the range, so I felt ready for a change.  Yr Elen is a firm favourite, but I usually go up the North East Ridge (see posts #159 and #186) so I decided on the approach from the north-west instead.    Setting out from Gerlan near Bethesda, there was low cloud sitting on the tops of Yr Elen and Carnedd Dafydd, but all was going well until the planned stream crossing of the Afon Caseg.

Finally across the stream – looking back towards Bethesda

Finally across the stream – looking back towards Bethesda

Looking across to Carnedd Dafydd with the hills of the North Glyderau behind

Looking across to Carnedd Dafydd with the hills of the North Glyderau behind

The soggy state of the approach to the stream should have been a clue, but on arrival at the Afon Caseg it was obvious that the water level was much higher than on previous visits.  Perhaps I’m just getting soft as I get older, but leaping across slippy, greasy rocks was no more appealing than getting down to it and getting wet!    Regular visitors to the Scottish Highlands such as ‘Mountain Coward’ would have been amazed at the amount of ‘faffing-around’ going on and would have plunged straight in, but I ended up going about 1 km upstream to keep dry feet!

Border Collie ‘Mist’ on the first peak heading towards Yr Elen

Border Collie ‘Mist’ on the first peak heading towards Yr Elen

Mist’ posing again on Foel Ganol

Mist’ posing again on Foel Ganol

Looking back at the rocky top of Foel Ganol

Looking back at the rocky top of Foel Gano

The upper slopes of the northwest side of Yr Elen ….

The upper slopes of the northwest side of Yr Elen ….

…. and looking down from the same location

…. and looking down from the same location

Getting near to the summit

Getting near to the summit

On Yr Elen with Carnedd Llewelyn ahead

On Yr Elen with Carnedd Llewelyn ahead

Once on the slopes above the stream things started to pick up, as did the altitude.    The gradual approach that would have been possible had I crossed the stream earlier was replaced by a more brutal ascent to the tiny un-named peak leading to Foel Ganol, but once there it was steady-away heading along the crested ridge before the shattered stony face of Yr Elen led up to the summit plateau.

Looking from Yr Elen to Carnedd Llewelyn (left) and Carnedd Dafydd (right, under cloud)

Looking from Yr Elen to Carnedd Llewelyn (left) and Carnedd Dafydd (right, under cloud)

Heading for Carnedd Llewelyn from Yr Elen

Heading for Carnedd Llewelyn from Yr Elen

Looking down to the tiny lake in Cwm Caseg below Yr Elen

Looking down to the tiny lake in Cwm Caseg below Yr Elen

Carnedd Llewelyn ahead ….

Carnedd Llewelyn ahead ….

 …. and Yr Elen now behind ….


…. and Yr Elen now behind ….

…. with Carnedd Dafydd still to come

…. with Carnedd Dafydd still to come

Yr Elen must be one of the most cursed at hills in North Wales.    It is one of the 15 ‘Welsh 3000 ft Peaks’, but to tick it off means leaving the main ridge of the Carneddau at Carnedd Llewelyn for a ‘there and back’ trip to Yr Elen before resuming the main ridge, and that at the end of a long mountain day – its saving grace is that it is one of the most beautiful mountains in North Wales.    My day was much less ambitious, and a steady plod soon had me on the summit of Carnedd Llewelyn, the highest peak of the Carneddau at 1064 metres.

 Setting off from Carnedd Llewelyn to Carnedd Dafydd


Setting off from Carnedd Llewelyn to Carnedd Dafydd

 Near Bwlch Cyfryw Drum ….


Near Bwlch Cyfryw Drum ….

…. before heading on to Carnedd Dafydd

…. before heading on to Carnedd Dafydd

Carnedd Dafydd and the descent route of Mynydd Du (just left of centre, right side in shadow)

Carnedd Dafydd and the descent route of Mynydd Du (just left of centre, right side in shadow)

 Final slopes leading to the summit of Carnedd Dafydd ….

Final slopes leading to the summit of Carnedd Dafydd ….

…. and looking back to Carnedd Llewelyn with the cliffs of Ysgolion Duon just right of centre

…. and looking back to Carnedd Llewelyn with the cliffs of Ysgolion Duon just right of centre

The route between Carnedd Llewelyn and Carnedd Dafydd involves a height loss of 130 metres before a height gain of 110 metres to get to Carnedd Dafydd, but the gradients are all fairly gradual and the scenery is good enough to distract.    This part of the route is a delight in most conditions, but to see it at its best try winter with loads of snow – you would imagine you were in the Alps.

‘Mist’ takes a break in the summit shelter of Carnedd Dafydd ….

‘Mist’ takes a break in the summit shelter of Carnedd Dafydd ….

…. before the start of the long descent

…. before the start of the long descent

Heading for the ridge of Mynydd Du above the Afon Llafar

Heading for the ridge of Mynydd Du above the Afon Llafar

The final peak of Carnedd Dafydd was soon ticked off, with ‘Mist’ heading straight to the summit shelter – this is nothing to do with being tired, more an association of the likelihood of sandwiches being produced, but we had already carried out that ritual on Carnedd Llewelyn so a dog biscuit had to do instead.    Then it was time for the long descent from Carnedd Dafydd to Gerlan via the ridge of Mynydd Du – a great day out which left me wondering why I had left it so long to re-visit the Mountains of the Carneddau.

Looking back towards Yr Elen (left) and Carnedd Dafydd

Looking back towards Yr Elen (left) and Carnedd Dafydd

Heading home

Heading home

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

Posted in 5. North Wales | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

#207 – Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, Part 2 – Wooltack Point and Marloes

Musselwick Sands near Marloes

Musselwick Sands near Marloes

The Pembrokeshire Coastal Path around St Ann’s Head (see post #206) had been a good day out, so good in fact that this mountain man was ready for another bit of coast the next day.    Repeating the winning formula, we went for another circular route, made possible by leaving the path, then re-joining it for the return leg after visiting the local pub  – it’s good to have a plan!

Marloes route (in blue) and St Ann’s Head route (in red – post #206)

Marloes route (in blue) and St Ann’s Head route (in red – post #206)

Wooltack Point and Marloes route

Wooltack Point and Marloes route

Setting out at Wooltack Point

Setting out at Wooltack Point

Old Coastguard lookout station at Wooltack Point

Old Coastguard lookout station at Wooltack Point

A room with a view

A room with a view

Border Collie ‘Mist’ having a good time

Border Collie ‘Mist’ having a good time

We joined the Coastal Path at Wooltack Point, near the tiny harbour of Martin’s Haven, but briefly left the path to go out to the headland via the old coastguard lookout station.  The view out to the islands was great, and we also had a good preview of our first bit of coast.

Back on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path

Back on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path

Natural rock archway created by the waves

Natural rock archway created by the waves

‘Rainy Rock’ on a non-rainy day

‘Rainy Rock’ on a non-rainy day

Striding out along the cliff tops

Striding out along the cliff tops

One characteristic of walking along coastal paths is the amount of ‘up and down’ that takes place – because of this, coastal walking is rarely an easy option, as every stream heading to the sea usually results in a plunging valley where height is lost then regained.    This wasn’t the case for most of this route, resulting in an easy, level path – I found myself thinking that I could get used to this sort of thing.

First view of Gateholm Island

First view of Gateholm Island

The first notable point along the way was the unmistakable outline of Gateholm Island.  Despite the name, it’s possible to cross the narrow gap between island and mainland at low water – what’s more, the intrepid can take an easy rock-climbing route to gain the flat plateau, which is about ten acres in area.

Looking out to Gateholm from the Coastal Path ….

Looking out to Gateholm from the Coastal Path ….

…. and the view looking back to Gateholm

…. and the view looking back to Gateholm

At one time the island contained about 130 roundhouses built at the time of the Roman Occupation, but the island continued to be used after the Romans left, and may well have been the site of an early Celtic Christian settlement.    It was interesting enough to tempt BBC archaeologists to film there in 2012 for the ‘Time Team’ program, but they used a cableway to get on to the island – the previous residents in Roman times probably found the rock route a bit awkward when popping out to the local Tesco.

First view of Marloes Sands

First view of Marloes Sands

The easy way to the beach for the tourists

The easy way to the beach for the tourists

Looking back towards the Coastal Path

Looking back towards the Coastal Path

Marloes Sands

Marloes Sands

Beyond the island, we had our first view of Marloes Sands.    On a coastline full of unspoilt sandy beaches, this was the jewel in the crown.    There is an approach for the tourists which involves a half-mile walk in, losing almost 50 metres in height.    This is a sufficient deterrent to keep the truly idle away, and even on a warm, sunny day the 1.5 kilometre stretch of sand is big enough to absorb crowds without actually getting crowded – there are no ice cream vans though!

Marloes Sands

Marloes Sands

We carried on along the cliff tops, gradually moving beyond Marloes Sands, before it was time to abandon the coast for a while and to head for the disused WW2 airfield that was once RNAS (Royal Naval Air Station) Dale, or to use its more nautical name, HMS Goldcrest.   Although used by the RAF and the Royal Navy for flying operations, the airfield was also the setting for an idea that was bonkers or ingenious, depending on your point of view.

Walls Ice Cream tricycle

Walls Ice Cream tricycle

Adapted for radar training

Adapted for radar training

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dale airfield 2016, previously known as RNAS Dale or HMS Goldcrest

Dale airfield 2016, previously known as RNAS Dale or HMS Goldcrest

Early in WW2, the shortage of aircraft made it difficult to allocate resources to train Fighter Direction Officers (FDO’s).   This problem was overcome by commandeering tricycles from Walls Ice Cream, and using them to simulate aircraft.  One trike representing an enemy aircraft was pedalled in time to a metronome, with the course triangulated and reported to a dummy Fighter Direction Office.   A second trike representing a fighter was vectored to the ‘enemy’ trike by the trainee FDO using radio.   It sounds like something out of Monty Python, but it worked

The clock tower in Marloes village ….

The clock tower in Marloes village ….

…. but the Lobster Pot Inn was far more interesting

…. but the Lobster Pot Inn was far more interesting

The old airfield is now largely overgrown, but the old perimeter track gave us a good access route to the nearby village of Marloes.    The attractive clock tower was built in 1904 in memory of someone rich, ‘knobby’ and famous – far more interesting to me was the nearby Lobster Pot Inn, where there was even a welcome for Border Collie ‘Mist’.

Heading back out to the Coastal Path

Heading back out to the Coastal Path

Musselwick Sands

Musselwick Sands

The route back – along the cliff tops

The route back – along the cliff tops

After a cheeky little cider, it was back to the coast, heading for our start point at Martin’s Haven.    As well as marking our start point, the tiny harbour is also the start point for boat visits to nearby Skomer Island, which, judging by the number of boat crossings, must be a popular destination in summer.    I was happy enough just taking in the sea and the cliffs – with all that and a cider included, I could take to this coast walking lark!

The tiny harbour of Martin’s Haven

The tiny harbour of Martin’s Haven

Journeys end – ancient Celtic cross at Martin’s Haven

Journeys end – ancient Celtic cross at Martin’s Haven

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

Posted in 6. Mid and South Wales | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

#206 – Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, Part 1 – St Ann’s Head

Westdale Bay, near St Ann’s Head, Pembrokeshire

Westdale Bay, near St Ann’s Head, Pembrokeshire

There’s no question about it – first and foremost I am a mountain man!  Still, sometimes a change of scene is a good move, which is why Chris and I, plus Border Collie ‘Mist’, were down by the seaside.    The seaside in this case was the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, part of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.

St Ann's Head and Dale

St Ann’s Head and Dale

Say ‘coastal path’ to most people and they might imagine a gentle stroll across flat beaches, but that’s rarely the case.    The reality is a path that twists and turns for 186 miles along one of the most rugged bits of coastline in Britain, with a total height gain of around 10668 metres (35,000ft), higher than the ascent of Everest if you started from sea-level.  However, Everest was a bit much for the few days we had, so we settled on a walk out by St Ann’s Head near Milford Haven.

Setting off across the fields, near Kete

Setting off across the fields, near Kete

Approaching St Ann’s Head

Approaching St Ann’s Head

The view back to Frenchman’s Bay

The view back to Frenchman’s Bay

Looking down into ‘The Vomit’ near St Ann’s

Looking down into ‘The Vomit’ near St Ann’s

The first thing we had to do was to get to the actual coastline, but down near St Ann’s Head the access is pretty good, and a short section through agricultural land soon got us on the Coastal Path.    In fact, this section was possibly the most interesting, with the path running along the top of the cliffs in places.    Typical of this section was ‘The Vomit’ – I’m guessing that’s due to the white, foaming waters below, and not to the look on Chris’s face as she briefly peered over the edge.

Folded rock layers at St Ann’s

Folded rock layers at St Ann’s

Heading north, with Milford Haven in the far distance

Heading north, with Milford Haven in the far distance

Coastguard Cottages at St Ann’s

Coastguard Cottages at St Ann’s

We had a quick look at the southernmost point of St Ann’s Head, marked by the HM Coastguard helipad, but far more interesting was the adjacent cliff with one of the best examples of rock folding you could wish for.    Then it was time to head north, passing the old coastguard cottages, built at a time many years ago when the Coastguard actually DID guard the coast.    Obviously before Government cutbacks!

Mill Bay, at the exact landing point of Harri Tudor (later Henry VII) in 1485

Mill Bay, at the exact landing point of Harri Tudor (later Henry VII) in 148

 

Looking down to Mill Bay ….

Looking down to Mill Bay ….

…. and looking back to the same location

…. and looking back to the same location

The view south from Mill Bay towards St Ann’s Head with the Coastguard Cottages (centre)

The view south from Mill Bay towards St Ann’s Head with the Coastguard Cottages (centre)

Next stop was Mill Bay, where a certain Harri Tudor landed in 1485 – he brought a few friends along, 4000 in total carried in 55 ships.  Harri knew this bit of coast well, having been born in Pembroke Castle, but his family supported the Lancastrian side in the War of the Roses so Harri spent part of his life in exile.  When the time seemed right, he landed with his 4000 mates and went in search of the Yorkist King Richard III – they caught up with him at the Battle of Bosworth, leaving Richard dead, buried in what in later years would become a car park and leaving Harri as King Henry VII of England.

The view into Milford Haven from the West Blockhouse

The view into Milford Haven from the West Blockhouse

The sandy beach at Watwick Bay

The sandy beach at Watwick Bay

Castlebeach Bay and Dale Point

Castlebeach Bay and Dale Point

The access point to Castlebeach Bay from the Pembrokeshire Coastal path

The access point to Castlebeach Bay from the Pembrokeshire Coastal path

Not far beyond Mill Bay we passed the West Blockhouse.  The original Blockhouse was built by Henry VII’s son, Henry VIII, with the aim of keeping the Spanish (or French or whoever else England was at war with) out of the huge natural harbour of Milford Haven.  The site was occupied by the military until 1956, but the only time that shots were fired in anger was during WW2 when anti-aircraft guns located there engaged German bombers heading for the naval base at Pembroke Dock.    The harbour is now home to a massive oil terminal, and in 1996 was the setting for the Sea Empress disaster, when the tanker ran aground spilling 72,000 tonnes of crude oil.

The harbour of Dale Roads

The harbour of Dale Roads

Looking out to the harbour from Dale village

Looking out to the harbour from Dale village

The Griffin Inn at Dale (RD)

The Griffin Inn at Dale (RD)

Further up the coast is the small harbour of Dale Roads.  The name Dale doesn’t sound very Welsh, which is probably because it isn’t – the Old Scandinavian word Dalr means ‘Valley’, and it is believed that the area was settled by Norse raiders in the 9th and 10th Centuries.    The area has been English speaking since the 12th Century, and is known as ‘Little England beyond Wales’, and the locals speak English with something like a Somerset accent.    We found a good spot overlooking the bay for our lunch, but a visit to  the Griffin Inn delayed our departure a bit.

Dale Castle

Dale Castle

Border Collie ‘Mist’ checking out Westdale Bay

Border Collie ‘Mist’ checking out Westdale Bay

Heading up the steps towards Great Castle Head ….

Heading up the steps towards Great Castle Head ….

…. with ‘Mist’ in the lead as usual

…. with ‘Mist’ in the lead as usual

A meeting with the locals

A meeting with the locals

Welshman’s Bay from the Coastal Path

Welshman’s Bay from the Coastal Path

A short land crossing by Dale Castle soon had us back on the Coastal Path at Westdale Bay, where it was back to the ‘ups and downs’ routine and a more rugged coastline than the east side of the peninsula.  A herd of young bullocks decided to check us out, but their nerves got the better of them and they scarpered when we turned to check them out.  After that it was time to head back across the fields, but with another outing planned for the next day.

Last view of Welshman’s Bay before heading back across the fields

Last view of Welshman’s Bay before heading back across the fields

Heading for home

Heading for home

Text and images © Paul Shorrock with the exception of the Image tagged (RD), which is © Roger Davies, and taken from the Geograph Project and reproduced here under a Creative Commons Licence.

p.s.  The blog is about five days late this week – sorry for that!

Posted in 6. Mid and South Wales | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

#205 – Rhobell Fawr and Dduallt

Rhobell Fawr from the ridge of Dduallt (Distant hills – Cadair Idris left and the Rhinogs right)

Rhobell Fawr from the ridge of Dduallt (Distant hills – Cadair Idris left and the Rhinogs right)

The panorama coming down from Cadair Bronwen at the end of our Berwyn day (see post #204) had views of some old familiar hills from entirely new directions.  The outline of the Rhinog Mountains was particularly easy to identify, but as I added the image to the blog post I noticed another couple of hills in the hazy light – I had an idea what was lurking there, but projected the view on the map to check.    No doubt about it – Rhobell Fawr and Dduallt, two mountains I had never visited.  Well, that was the next trip planned then!

X marks the spot! Rhobell Fawr, between Dolgellau and Bala)

X marks the spot! Rhobell Fawr, between Dolgellau and Bala)

The route – Rhobell Fawr and Dduallt

The route – Rhobell Fawr and Dduallt

There must be loads of people who walk the mountains of the UK who have ever heard of Rhobell Fawr, and many of those who know the name have never been there.  That included me – I had heard of Rhobell Fawr (Big Saddle) but would have struggled to find it on the map, but I didn’t have a clue where Dduallt (Black Hillside) was.  All I did know was that these isolated outliers of the Arenigs were somewhere close to the Dolgellau-Bala road.  Time to find out more.

Starting out with Rhobell Fawr on the skyline, left of centre

Starting out with Rhobell Fawr on the skyline, left of centre

View towards Rhobell Fawr from the forestry track

View towards Rhobell Fawr from the forestry track

The map indicated two small, sprawling hills, with Dduallt being the better defined of the two with an obvious ridgeline.  Also evident was a load of forestry, some of which lay between the two summits – bushwhacking through dense pine forest is rarely fun!   The map indicated several forest rides and fire-breaks, but even the excellent UK OS Mapping can often be wrong in woods.

Almost time for a bit of uphill ….

Almost time for a bit of uphill ….

…. in fact, some fairly steep uphill!

…. in fact, some fairly steep uphill!

Rock steps on the way up

Rock steps on the way up

One feature that existed beyond any doubt was a good forestry track running north-south through the woods.  The track gave rapid progress to the edge of Rhobell Fawr.   From there, the spacing of the contour lines suggested a steep ascent – the contour lines suggested correctly!

The view looking back ….

The view looking back ….

…. but still more uphill

…. but still more uphill

 

 

The soggy plateau below the summit ….

The soggy plateau below the summit ….

…. with the Trig Point coming into view

…. with the Trig Point coming into view

The logical route followed the line of a stone wall heading steeply up hill.  The builders had routed their wall through a series of craggy steps, which provided a bit of amusement in threading a way through them.    Eventually the angle relented, leading to a soggy, boggy plateau below the summit.

Border Collie ‘Mist’ at the summit Trig Point with the author (Thanks to the Slik Pro-Mini tripod)

Border Collie ‘Mist’ at the summit Trig Point with the author (Thanks to the Slik Pro-Mini tripod)

View of Dduallt from Rhobell Fawr

View of Dduallt from Rhobell Fawr

Summit rocks of Rhobell Fawr, surprisingly bumpy for a grassy hill

Summit rocks of Rhobell Fawr, surprisingly bumpy for a grassy hill

The summit was every bit as sprawling as the map view had indicated, but the old survey Trig Point was an unmistakable feature.    I took time out for a sandwich and a coffee, assisted by Border Collie ‘Mist’ who can locate a sandwich from 100 metres.  The day was hot, and I kept a careful eye on ‘Mist’ in case she became too warm – Border Collies will keep going until they drop, but they are also clever enough to seek out water and shade at every opportunity.

The steepest part of the descent ….

The steepest part of the descent ….

…. and the craggy east side of Rhobell Fawr

…. and the craggy east side of Rhobell Fawr

Back on the forestry track ….

Back on the forestry track ….

…. but not for long – time to take to the trees

…. but not for long – time to take to the trees

The descent line by another wall was one of the steepest I had followed in a long while, and at one point I deviated away from the wall for an easier gradient.   Dog and I were soon back on the forestry track which led to one of the wide breaks shown on the map – fortunately no ‘lumber jacking’ was involved, though collapsed trees were occasionally an obstacle

Emerging from the forest – the ridge leading to the summit of Dduallt

Emerging from the forest – the ridge leading to the summit of Dduallt

Blueberries, and lots of them!

Blueberries, and lots of them!

Looking back towards Rhobell Fawr from the Dduallt Ridge

Looking back towards Rhobell Fawr from the Dduallt Ridge

Two fellow travellers on the summit of Dduallt

Two fellow travellers on the summit of Dduallt

Emerging from the forest, the next objective was obvious.  I won’t dwell too much on the ascent of Dduallt, other to say it was rough, tussocky and boggy.    Added to that was the heat of the day and my earlier ascent of Rhobell, which was probably too fast for the hot conditions.   The one crumb of comfort was a good crop of blueberries on the way, but it was with some relief that I arrived at the summit, to find it already occupied by the only people I had seen all day – I left them to it.

Looking north from Dduallt towards Arenig Fawr (on the right)

Looking north from Dduallt towards Arenig Fawr (on the right)

Heading down towards the forest

Heading down towards the forest

On the descent, the views towards Arenig Fawr were superb and from an angle that was new to me.    It was then a slog of a descent down more bog and tussocks followed by a bit of bushwackery through the wood to get to the forest trail – easier walking and a bit of shade brought a return of energy, and as usual ‘Mist’ was keen to be moving on.  No wonder – it was already past Collie feeding time!

On the forestry track, heading for home

On the forestry track, heading for home

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

 

Posted in 5. North Wales | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

#204 – Beautiful Berwyns

Cadair Bronwen in the Berwyns

Cadair Bronwen in the Berwyns

The Berwyn mountains are the Cinderella hills of North Wales.  These rough and lonely hills feel like they should be part of the Snowdonia National Park, but on the day that the guy drew the Park boundary, he must have been having a bad day at the office, leaving the Berwyns in a ‘No Man’s Land’ between the Aran Ridge and the Arenigs on one side and the Limestone hills of the Clwydian and Llangollen hills on the other.

The Berwyns - between Bala and Llangollen

The Berwyns – between Bala and Llangollen

The route – anti-clockwise from Llandrillo

The route – anti-clockwise from Llandrillo

It’s only recently that I started exploring these hills (see posts #85, #162 and #163) but the Berwyns are everything that the honeypot areas such as The Snowdon Range and the Glyderau are not – OK, they don’t have the jagged rocky peaks and the technical scrambling and climbing routes, but they don’t have the crowds either, and a day out here doesn’t disappoint.  Which is why Chris and I, plus Border Collie ‘Mist’ recently set out from Llandrillo on a Berwyn day.

Looking down to the start point, Llandrillo

Looking down to the start point, Llandrillo

A wander through the woods ….

A wander through the woods ….

…. then on to open moorland

…. then on to open moorland

We set out from the attractive village of Llandrillo.  The approaches to the main Berwyn Ridge usually involve a bit of a walk in, and this trip was no exception.  Leaving the village behind, we passed through woodland, but for a change it was all native broadleaf woods instead of conifer plantations.  It wasn’t long before we reached open moorland, and wide open spaces.

Wide open spaces

Wide open spaces

The route past the plantation

The route past the plantation

Looking back down Clochnant towards the wood ….

Looking back down Clochnant towards the wood ….

…. and looking forwards towards the Berwyn Ridge

…. and looking forwards towards the Berwyn Ridge

The moor was mainly bog, but most of it was avoidable.  There was a path of sorts, heading towards our target for the day, Cadair Bronwen, or Bronwen’s Chair.  One incongruous landmark was a small plantation of fir trees, which probably wasn’t of any commercial value, but which provided us with a good navigational feature on an otherwise empty moor.

The path finally reaches the ridge at the bwlch ….

The path finally reaches the ridge at the bwlch ….

…. but it’s still more uphill to Cadair Bronwen

…. but it’s still more uphill to Cadair Bronwen

In fact, there’s quite a bit of uphill ….

In fact, there’s quite a bit of uphill ….

…. before things finally level out (Cadair Berwyn behind)

…. before things finally level out (Cadair Berwyn behind)

The ascent was fairly steady, with things only getting steeper as we approached the bwlch (pass) between Cadair Bronwen (784 metres/2,572 ft)  and Cadair Berwyn (830 metres/2,723 ft).  The idle chatter died down for a bit, but it was only a short pull before the summit came into view.  We had picked a good day for the trip, and the views extended right across to most of the mountains of North Wales – just as impressive were the views of the rest of the Berwyn range.

The summit of Cadair Bronwen ahead ….

The summit of Cadair Bronwen ahead ….

…. With good views back towards Cadair Bronwen ….

…. With good views back towards Cadair Bronwen ….

…. in fact good views whichever way you look

…. in fact good views whichever way you look

Although lacking the drama of the peaks to the north, the Berwyns are quite an obstacle – in 1165 the English King Henry II decided to fill in a bit of ‘down-time’ by invading Wales, but instead of following the usual easy route by the North Coast, he decided instead on a full-frontal invasion over the Berwyns.  A combination of days of rain and the rough Berwyn terrain ended in an English retreat.

On the descent towards Moel Pearce

On the descent towards Moel Pearce

Final view back to the main Berwyn Ridge ….

Final view back to the main Berwyn Ridge ….

…. and a good view out towards the Rhinog mountains

…. and a good view out towards the Rhinog mountains

What goes up must come down, and the walk out was as long as the approach route had been.  It was all steady walking though, with no drama.  If that sounds dull it certainly wasn’t, with a combination of big skies and long views to the distant higher mountains.  The only problem was that every view of a familiar group of hills made me think about how long it had been since my last visit – the ‘wish list’ keeps getting bigger and bigger!

Time to head for home

Time to head for home

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

Posted in 5. North Wales | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

#203 – Over the Sea to Skye (Part 2) – Storr Rocks

Storr Rocks – North Skye

Storr Rocks – North Skye

Skye holds many great mountaineering memories for me, but I would be the first to admit that the island gets more than its fair share of bad weather, and when conditions eventually turn fine the curse of the Scottish midge can make life almost unbearable.    Our May trip was proving to be far from typical though, and with blue skies and an absence of insect pests it was clear that our luck was holding.

Below Storr Rocks

Below Storr Rocks

On the previous day Chris hadn’t liked the look of an awkward little rock step on the way out to the Quiraing (see post #202) so I was determined to come up with a short walk that included some spectacular scenery but wasn’t likely to involve any death-defying leaps over an abys.    Storr Rocks fitted the bill perfectly.

Setting out from the car park

Setting out from the car park

Things start to get steeper – and not a tree in sight.

Things start to get steeper – and not a tree in sight.

The view south towards Loch Leathan, now minus trees!

The view south towards Loch Leathan, now minus trees!

The qualities that had flagged up Storr Rocks as a destination had also ticked the box for quite a few visitors to the island, and although we were at the car park at a reasonably early hour, it was clear by the number of cars already parked that we were not going to spend the day in splendid isolation.   Surprise number two was that the forested slopes below Storr Rocks were now completely bare, with the previously wooded hillside completely felled.

Storr Rocks ahead

Storr Rocks ahead

Getting closer to the action

Getting closer to the action

On this occasion the foresters had done us a good turn, with great views in every direction and a pleasant and well-maintained path in place of the previous muddy trudge.   The downside is that the walk is now much busier than it was previously, but it’s still good enough to share.

Storr Rocks

Storr Rocks

Storr Rocks

Storr Rocks

In fact, there was a steady procession of hot and bothered walkers making their way up to the rocks, many having underestimated the power and heat of the sun when the sky clears – in those conditions it’s a case of ‘steady away’ rather than a dash to the top.

Looking across to the Old Man of Storr – note the tiny figure in the centre

Looking across to the Old Man of Storr – note the tiny figure in the centre

Closer view of the Old Man with two figures in the gap

Closer view of the Old Man with two figures in the gap

Storr Rocks is a crazy collection of weird pinnacles, left behind by a giant landslip.    Much of the rock is unstable, though there are climbing routes hereabouts – the Old Man of Storr was first climbed in 1955 by mountaineering hero Don Whillans, though a local legend has it that a thirteen-year-old American girl nipped up and down in her plimsolls to claim the first ascent.   In the words of the late Scottish climber Tom Patey “The date is not specified, but it may be assumed that no pitons* were used!”

(*Pitons – metal pegs used by climbers to create anchors, though traditionally frowned on by purists on UK rock climbs)

Note the rock window at the left

Note the rock window at the left

The rock window

The rock window

 

Just beyond the Old Man there is a jumbled mass of crag with ‘windows’ in the rock, climbed by Chris Bonnington in 1960, with Tom Patey in support.  (Bonnington was nearly marooned on the summit due to the difficulty of the descent!)   Both Whillans and Patey noted that the quality of the rock is highly suspect from a climber’s point of view, and much of the rock remains highly insecure – we were more than happy to restrict our activities to a bimble round the base of pinnacles.

Border Collie ‘Mist’ chills out!

Border Collie ‘Mist’ chills out!

Making our way down again

Making our way down again

Border Collie ‘Mist’ spent much of her time in ‘chill out’ mode rather than her usual mile-munching lope round the mountain, and the warm day left us all feeling a little bit lazy – having had a good wander it was time to head down to the van, and the ice-cold cider in the fridge!

Heading for home

Heading for home

The view out to sea

The view out to sea

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

p.s.  a few days later the good weather was still holding when I had a great day out on Quinag (see post #201)

Posted in 1. Scotland | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

#202 – Over the sea to Skye (Part 1) – The Quiraing

North Skye, near the Quiraing

North Skye, near the Quiraing

The mountain walking highlight of our Scottish trip in May was undoubtedly my trip up Quinag (see post #201), but I had also pre-planned a couple of shorter days out that Chris might enjoy, both of them on Skye.    There is always something special about travelling to an island, and even though Skye is now joined to the mainland by a road bridge, there is still a certain magic about crossing the narrow straits between Kyle of Lochalsh and Kyleakin.

The route - anti-clockwise from the road

The route – anti-clockwise from the road

Setting out from the bealach

Setting out from the bealach

Looking south soon after setting off

Looking south soon after setting off

Summer visitors to Skye will soon learn (if they didn’t know already) that the Scottish midge can make life truly miserable, with the Skye midge nominated as the worst (well, it certainly feels like it is!).    In May, however, the little blighters aren’t yet active and a settled spell of weather can often give conditions far superior to what passes for summer.  The plan for the day was to have an extended dog-walk with Border Collie ‘Mist’ that would also be interesting for Chris – a walk out to the Quiraing was on the cards.

Heading towards 'The Prison' ….

Heading towards ‘The Prison’ ….

…. with an obstacle in the way! - the 'Bad Step'

…. with an obstacle in the way! – the ‘Bad Step’

Looking back at the ‘Bad Step’

Looking back at the ‘Bad Step’

The phrase ‘be careful what you wish for’ came to mind soon after setting off from the car park at the bealach (pass) when we came across an obstacle that Chris found a bit too ‘interesting’ – a narrow path with a steep drop-off to one side suddenly arrived at a narrow rocky gully, where the crucial steps across to the other side had water streaming across.   It soon became apparent that ‘me missus’ had no intention of taking the ‘leap of faith’ necessary to make the crossing – in fact, she was more concerned about the ‘leap of death’ that might result if she slipped.  Time for Plan B!

The view to the narrow path, heading back to the car park

The view to the narrow path, heading back to the car park

Border Collie ‘Mist’ weighing things up after setting off again

Border Collie ‘Mist’ weighing things up after setting off again

'The Prison' (on the right of the gap)

‘The Prison’ (on the right of the gap)

Plan B was simple – retrace our steps along the narrow path, escort ‘me missus’ back to safe ground, where she could walk back to our camper van parked at the bealach, then turn round and start out again.    The Quiraing is a weird, other-worldly sort of place – the geologists will tell you it was caused by landslips, some of which are still active today, but it looks like something out of Tolkien!   In mist it must be even more dramatic, with features called ‘The Prison’ and ‘The Needle’ looming above.

Mountain bikers in action

Mountain bikers in action

'The Needle'

‘The Needle’

Enough room for a collie!

Enough room for a collie!

As I reached ‘The Prison’ I met a bunch of mountain bikers going the opposite way.    The cyclist leading the group gave a perfect masterclass on how to descend the steep slope, followed by more hesitant performances by his mates – they all displayed amazing skill on what must be a fairly technical trip for mountain bikers.   Beyond there, ‘Mist’ and I carried through a rocky section before the views opened out and the narrow valley I was in became wider – it was nearly time to head back.

The path goes along for a bit ….

The path goes along for a bit ….

…. before starting to rise

…. before starting to rise

The path continued meandering below high cliffs on the left, before rising gently, heading for a breach in the cliffs.    I almost had the hill to myself, with just a German couple heading the same way – they had been surprised that the path was not waymarked as in the European Alps, but after checking out the route with me they were happy to continue.

The start of the path above the cliffs ….

The start of the path above the cliffs ….

…. heading back towards the start ….

…. heading back towards the start ….

…. with views down to the outward leg

…. with views down to the outward leg

The rising section of path wasn’t really steep, and didn’t last long, and I was soon on the path crossing the tops of the cliffs I had been walking under.   The panorama really opened up now, with views out to sea and down to ‘The Prison’, and I stayed on the cliff edge rather than heading for the nearby summit of Meall na Suiramach.   A gentle descent across the moor eventually gave great views back to the start point.   The final steep descent to the Bealach was muddy and unpleasant, but didn’t diminish in any way what had been a great little walk – ‘Mist’ still wanted more of course!

Back across the moor ….

Back across the moor ….

…. on the way home

…. on the way home

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

Posted in 1. Scotland | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments