#267 – Two days in the quietest corner of Snowdon

Looking down into Cwm Glas – Clogwyn y Person in the middle ground, Crib Goch behind

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Llyn Glas with the Crib Goch Pinnacles above

I described the lovely, quiet corner of Cwm Glas in an earlier post after a trip there in 2014 (see post #154).    It’s hard to believe that Cwm Glas is about 1 kilometre as the raven flies from the highest, busiest and most visited mountain in England and Wales, and I had been meaning to explore more of this high mountain valley, but it was 2019 before I returned, along with my usual hill companion, Border Collie ‘Mist’.

Llanberis Pass (centre) with the two routes to the south of the road

The two routes – April 2019 (red) and July 2019 (blue) with the 2014 variation (green)

Well, there’s nowt like making up for lost time, and in the space of three months, the dog and I had two great trips into this haven of peace.    Don’t get me wrong – I’m not moaning, as some do, about the crowds who hike over Snowdon (or Yr Wyddfa to give its correct Welsh name).  Yr Wyddfa is a lovely mountain and it takes more than a few hundred humans to spoil it – it’s just that the lonely  Cwm Glas still has a wildness and grandeur about it.

The April 2019 route in red with the 2014 alternative approach in green

The first trip was on a warm April day.  I decided on the direct route into Cwm Glas (Green Valley) via Cwm Glas Mawr (Big Green Valley).    The bus from Llanberis solves car parking problems, and there’s a stop opposite the start of the route at Blaen y Nant.  I followed the route I had taken in 2014 but decided on a variation, taking a more direct line between the two cwms instead of the variation (green on the map) that I had taken last time.

The direct approach to Cwm Glas from Cwm Glas Mawr (broken ground left of centre)

A handy looking path took me straight on this time, and the short rocky headwall ahead proved to be nothing of a problem – well, not if you have the reach of a human and hands with opposable thumbs.    It soon became obvious that the steep rocky headwall was going to be a bit much for ‘Mist’ until a couple of friendly guys offered the assistance of a rope.

Looking back down Cwm Glas Mawr

I think they were both itching to find an excuse to get the rope out, but I wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth.    I quickly improvised a harness out of a tape sling, clipped the dog on the end of the rope, and climbed up behind giving her an encouraging push up the bum when things became more difficult.

Higher in Cwm Glas with the small lakes of Llyn Bach (right) and Llyn Glas)

Selfie of old git and faithful companion (you decide which is which!)

The difficulties being behind us, I released the dog from her harness and said goodbye to our new buddies.   A retreat from the steep bit would have cost time and effort but it wasn’t long before we reached Llyn Bach (Small Lake) having by-passed Llyn Glas (Green Lake).    The steep slope out of Cwm Glas didn’t seem to take long, and in a short time the dog and I were posing for a celebratory selfie.

Back with the hustle and bustle of the Llanberis Path ….

…. probably the least pleasant way up or down ….

…. but we aren’t going that way!

Having taken the bus from Llanberis, we had to return there to collect the car.    The usual option is the least pleasant part of one of the best mountains in the UK – the Llanberis Path.    It’s a horrible slog, and I’ve never been up to the summit by this route.   The descent isn’t much better, but this time I was going off-piste to follow the skyline above the Llanberis Pass.

View down to the Llanberis Pass

Still following the railway ….

…. and still getting great views of Llanberis Pass

The Llanberis Path drops below the Mountain Railway at Clogwyn Station, and that’s were the crowds were heading.  The dog and I stayed by the railway instead, with great views down to the Llanberis Pass along the way.   It’s the first time I’d come this way, and it would make a superb runners route, but I was happy to amble down in my own good time.

The only sign of human activity – an old wire fence

Looking back along the descent route with Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) in the distance

I re-joined the Llanberis Path near to Hebron Station on the railway, after taking a last look back along the descent route – one thing for sure, I think I’ve walked the Llanberis Path for the last time!

The July 2019 route in blue

The other route into Cwm Glas that I’d been itching to get back to is the Fox’s Path into Cwm Uchaf (High Valley) from the Crib Goch path.   I had written in the 2014 post (see post #154) about the great mountaineering route up the Clogwyn y Person Arête – we had taken the Fox’s Path that day, but I was wondering how difficult it would be to find after a gap of forty years!

Crib Goch summit – often mistaken for Yr Wyddfa by walkers

The summit of Crib Goch (Red Ridge) is the most obvious peak to hikers following the PyG track from Pen y Pass and is frequently mistaken for Yr Wyddfa, so much so that there are now discreet warning signs pointing out the correct route.   The route up to the summit of Crib Goch isn’t too bad unless you absolutely hate steep stuff, but the fun starts on the (in)famous Crib Goch Ridge.

The Crib Goch Ridge (August 2009)

A great day out – but not for the nervous! (August 2009)

It’s very ‘hands on’ as routes go, and although fit hikers with a head for heights have little difficulty, it’s a black spot for Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team who spend a lot of their operational time helping cragfast walkers down to safety.    It’s one of my favourite ways to Yr Wyddfa, but ‘Mist’ isn’t as agile as she was as a young dog, and I didn’t want any dramas, so the Fox’s Path was on the menu instead.

The rough line of the Fox’s Path

On the path to Crib Goch, looking down on the causeway and northern end of Llyn Llydaw

The route up Crib Goch looming ahead ….

…. but we aren’t going that way

The line of the Fox’s Path sets off as if heading for the summit of Crib Goch, but takes a turn to the right to contour round the flank of the North Ridge instead.    I had managed to acquire a small group of followers who didn’t really look as if the Crib Goch Ridge was their usual sort of route, and when I turned off on the Fox’s Path I wasn’t sure if they would continue following me.    They didn’t, and the Fox’s Path was mine alone – well me and a Border Collie.

The Fox’s Path to Cwm Uchaf and Cwm Glas ….

…. clinging to the hillside above the Llanberis Pass ….

…. before turning the corner into Cwm Uchaf

The view of the Crib Goch Ridge and Pinnacles as seen from Cwm Uchaf

I remembered little of the route from the last visit forty years earlier, but it obviously doesn’t get much traffic.    The path, clinging to the hillside in places, is little wider than a sheep track and is just the sort of place my missus hates!    A tumble or slip would be quite serious in places, but it’s a really neat path which heads round the North Ridge of Crib Goch to end up in Cwm Uchaf.    As the path turns into the cwm, the view of the Crib Goch Ridge above is one that people don’t usually see.

‘Mist’ has a paddle in Llyn Glas

Start of the slog up and out of Cwm Glas

Last view down into Cwm Glas ….

…. before joining the hordes on the top section of the Llanberis Path

‘Mist’ celebrated with a cooling dip in Llyn Glas before we headed up into Cwm Glas for the final ascent to join a short section of the Llanberis Path.    Every time I go to Cwm Glas, I seem to take a slightly different way up, and this time it was probably my worst choice of route ever!    After a slog of an ascent on a warm July afternoon, the dog and I joined the crowds to descend by the Pyg Track.

‘Mist’ at the marker stone at the top of the PyG Track

It had been another great day out, and for the dog it was about to get better in a couple of hours – it was almost dinner time!

Time to head for home

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

p.s.  I always include maps and pics to give an idea of where me and the dog have been. Please, please, please don’t use these as navigational aids if you follow these routes – they are just for illustration and the boys and girls of Llanberis MRT are busy enough!   If anyone needs accurate grid references to find the routes, just get in touch.

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#266 – Moel Ty Mawr

Moel Ty Mawr stone circle, with the valley of the Afon Dyfrdwy (River Dee) below

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The route (centre) with the Berwyn Mountains

The route and the main Berwyn Ridge

The route in close up, showing Llandrillo, the stone circle and Moel Pearce

I’ve featured the Berwyns in this blog before – they are remote, wild hills, though nothing like as rough and gnarly as the nearby Rhinogs. Chris and I (plus Border Collie ‘Mist’) had last been out this way in 2016 (see post #204), with another two trips in 2014 (see posts #162 and #163) so a return trip was long overdue – a new camera to try out was the final excuse needed (the image at the start of this post was taken using the new camera).

Setting out near Llandrillo ….

…. and gaining height on a good track

First views looking down on the inversion

The valley of the Afon Dyfrdwy looking north ….

…. and looking west

We had driven into thick mist (not talking about Collie ‘Mist’ this time as she’s far from being thick!) after passing through Ruthin, but I wasn’t dismayed – there was a strong ridge of high pressure across the area, and it was almost certain that we would leave the mist behind as we gained height. Sure enough, as we left the car behind in fog-bound Llandrillo, we popped out into clear conditions, with a great looking inversion below us in the valley of the Afon Dyfrdwy (River Dee).

Below Moel Ty Mawr, about to head uphill

Border Collie ‘Mist’, waiting for the photographer as usual

At the stone circle

The main objective on this trip was the Moel Ty Mawr stone circle, just a couple of kilometres out of Llandrillo. At 11 metres across, and with 41 stones, it isn’t the biggest stone circle in the UK, but the spectacular location overlooking the valley of the Dee makes up for that. The circle is sited on a small plateau at an altitude of 440 metres and has stood there for about 4000 years.

The circle (and dog!) – the original camera in action

Same camera, same dog, slightly different angle

I’m a big fan of Olympus cameras, and still have an old OM2 film camera, but my usual hill camera (used for most of the images in this post) is an Olympus TG-5, a tough, hard-as-nails camera that can be dropped, drowned and frozen and still bounce back. Although essentially a ‘point and shoot’ camera, the TG-5 is a great piece of kit that is capable of producing good quality images whilst surviving a rough day out in the mountains.

The view to the west using the new camera, showing the inversion

I’ve recently bought an Olympus OM-D E-10 Mk2, which is incredibly versatile and sophisticated compared with the TG-5 – you wouldn’t want to drop it in a puddle though! The image above was taken with the new camera and then edited with ‘Affinity’ Photo Editor. I’ve been editing my pics for the blog since the early days, but Affinity is much more powerful than previous editors I’ve used. I’m learning about RAW images and how to get the best out of them, but it’s still work in progress!

Onwards to Moel Pearce ….

…. with the Berwyn Ridge on the skyline

The stone circle made a good place for a lunch stop as well as a photo opportunity, but winter days are short and we didn’t stay too long. The plan was to head a little higher to Moel Pearce before taking a track down to the valley. Moel Pearce is a bit of a round lump of a hill, though it does just top the 600-metre mark, but we did have views of the main Berwyn Ridge in the distance, standing about 200 metres higher.

On the return route to the valley ….

…. with one last look back to the Berwyns

The final images show the return route – we didn’t see a soul all day, from leaving Llandrillo to arriving back. The valley was still fog-bound and gloomy, but the dog and humans had found a spot in the sun, and all I need to do now is to improve my photography so that I can share future trips! ‘Mist’, as usual, wasn’t much impressed with hanging around while I played with my new toy and would have been even less impressed if she had known that we still had a 1½ hour drive home before dinner time!

Llandrillo below in the mist – time to head for home

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

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#265 – Moel Siabod – The Shapely Peak

Moel Siabod – The Shapely Peak

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The route

Close up view of the route

Moel Siabod (which translates as ‘Shapely Hill’) is one of those hills where you don’t bump into crowds, in fact it would be strange to bump into anybody.    All the crowds are over on Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon), the Glyderau or the Carneddau, leaving Siabod a surprisingly quiet mountain.    Which is just fine for those who love a little solitude.

Border Collie ‘Mist’, impatient to be off

Disused quarry tips on the way up ….

…. with the old quarry buildings nearby ….

…. and a small lake that was part of the original workings

I usually start at Pont Cyfyng at the southern end of Capel Curig, as this approach gives the best views of the more interesting south-east face of the mountain – the north-west side of Siabod is little more than a grassy lump, but it makes a good way down, with views over to the mountains of North Snowdonia.    This was the way that I went with Chris on an earlier trip (see post #88) but this time I was taking the more interesting way – with Border Collie ‘Mist’ this time.

Beyond the quarry, with the Daear Ddu Ridge ahead

Llyn y Foel and the Daear Ddu Ridge

Looking up towards the summit

The start of the fun ….

…. with a series of rock steps all the way

Beyond the deserted remains of old quarry workings, lies the Daear Ddu Ridge, which is a direct line from Llyn y Foel (which is ‘the Mountain Lake’) to the summit.    There are quite a few ridges in Snowdonia which justifiably deserve the term ‘knife-edge’ – Daear Ddu isn’t one of them!    The name means ‘Black Earth’, and there’s quite a bit of that – a much better option is to stay as far to the right as possible, where the ridge is a series of rock steps.

The ridge stretches out ahead

The view upwards of the final section of ridge ….

…. and the view back down the ridge

‘Mist’ weighing things up ….

…. but the end is in sight

On the last trip, Chris had been happy enough to follow the broader, earthier route, but this time the dog and I went for the rockier way.    As rock scrambles go, it’s free from excessive drama, because it’s easy to move to the left to avoid anything that looks desperate – as it was, we didn’t find anything remotely like desperate, and although I had fitted the harness on the dog, it wasn’t used, and before too long we were on the summit.

The Snowdon Range just right of centre in the distance

Heading towards the stone shelter ….

…. with a view of the mountains of the Carneddau in the distance

The Coastguard helicopter out for the day

Although the summit of Moel Siabod doesn’t usually set pulses racing (unless you decide to run up it, of course) it does give a grandstand view of the surrounding mountains of the Snowdon, Glyderau and Carneddau ranges.    Remember them? – that’s where the crowds are!  I didn’t see a soul all day, apart from the Coastguard rescue helicopter flying a training mission.    And then it was time (as usual) to head for home.

Great views from higher up ….

…. but it’s soon time to head for home

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

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#264 – It’s that time of year again!

Greg’s Hut – taking the rough ….

…. with the smooth!

Sorry to all my readers, but it’s that time of year when I go to work again as part of the safety crew on the Spine Race, so there’s no post this week.

Most of you will probably have seen this, but here’s one I produced earlier that gives you an insight into the Spine Race and the famous Greg’s Hut noodle bar – see you in a couple of weeks.

Both images this week © John Bamber

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#263 – Coniston Old Man (via Levers Water) and Dow Crag

The Coniston Hills – © John Bamber

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Dow Crag

The Coniston Hills (on the left)

The route

Over the years, I’ve frequently returned to the Coniston Hills in the Lake District.   I’ve posted a few of the more recent trips in this blog (see posts #179, #182 and #233) and have also had a couple of Coniston routes published in Walking World, both of which sold fairly well over the years.    So, you might have thought that by now I had covered all the route options.

Setting out

Looking towards Coppermines Valley

The Pudding Stone

Well, you might have thought wrong then, as there’s always somewhere left to explore, and in this case it was quite a significant omission.    Not far from the Coppermines Valley, there is a huge boulder on the way to Levers Water called the Pudding Stone – rock climbers have been climbing on this for well over 100 years, and in 1916 a climbing guidebook was written to this and other big boulders in the area.

Heading up Boulder Valley to Levers Water

Levers Water at last

Beyond the Pudding Stone is Boulder Valley, and the area is now an important addition to the rock-climbing sport of bouldering, with routes of all grades, from easy, through difficult to virtually impossible.   Boulder Valley is also a great walk out in its own right, and eventually the valley path leads out to the quiet Levers Water.    I had never been out this way, so in April 2018 Chris and I, plus Border Collie ‘Mist’ of course, decided to go and explore.

Levers Water

The steps up to Levers Hawse

Heading away from Levers Water

Border Collie ‘Mist’ waiting for the humans, as usual

Still gaining height ….

…. but not there yet

Just below the ridge at Levers Hawse

Time for a brew!

The map shows a path winding steeply up the hillside to the col at Levers Hawse – at one time it could well have been an earthy scramble up Gill Cove, but the path is now a neat set of steps that have blended well into their surroundings.    We made rapid progress, but it soon became obvious that there was a cool wind blowing over the wide ridge between Coniston Old Man and Swirl How, so we took the opportunity to grab a brew and a bite to eat before heading on.

Emerging on to the ridge, with Swirl How in the background

Heading south towards the Old Man

Rare photo of the author and ‘Mist’

Out on the ridge there was a stiff breeze, and it was time to get another layer on.    It might have been cool, but the views were fantastic as often happens in cooler weather, so it was photo time.    I even ended up in a photo myself, which is a rare happening – look at the pic and you will see why I’m happier to be on the other end of the camera.

Coniston Old Man summit ahead

Goats Hawse with Dow Crag on the left and Goats Water below

Rock-climbing sheep

OK, confession time, we didn’t actually top the summit of the Old Man – we’ve both been there before and it doesn’t change much.   Instead, we took the shortcut path to Goats Hawse and headed down to Goats Water.   Unlike North Wales, there aren’t any goats now, or if there are they must be good at hiding!  We did see a bunch of rock climbing sheep though.

Start of the descent to Goats Water

On the east shore of Goats Water

We soon reached the shore of Goats Water, with a steady walk out in front of us across the moor to the Walna Scar Road.  The Levers Water path to Levers Hawse turned out to be a little gem – watch out for a return visit.

Crossing the moor – time to head for home

Text and images © Paul Shorrock except ‘The Coniston Hills’ © John Bamber

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#262 – It’s that time of year again!

Well, it’s that time of year again! When I was a kid, one of the best bits of Christmas was taking out the old, familiar tree decorations – by the time I reached early teens they were like old friends, especially the little plastic bells you could play a tune on.

My blog equivalent is letting the dog take over the blog for the Christmas post – she doesn’t realise that I know it’s all her work, but the paw prints and dog-biscuit crumbs on the computer keyboard are a dead giveaway. So, here are some of Mist’s favourite dog walks of 2019

My blog this week

Wooof – it’s me again, ‘Mist’ the Border Collie. The Boss is off doing something and he left the computer unattended, so it’s my chance to show you some of the dog walks I’ve done on our Scottish trip this year.

A big improvement

One of our first was on Skye, where the Boss met his mate Richie and I met up with my doggie mates Caizer and AJ., and we all had a walk up Glamaig. That Caizer loves having his picture taken and so does AJ, but I’m not so keen. Still, a dog’s got to do what a dog’s got to do, so I usually cooperate in the end.

The Red Cuillin Mountains of Skye

Glamaig

Me (left) and my mates Caizer (middle) and AJ (right)

Now I don’t really like having my picture taken ….

…. so much so that I stuck my tongue out at the Boss …

…. but in the end I agreed to pose

Me and the Boss – © Richie Boardwell

Me and the Boss had a great walk out over Cairngorm and Ben Macdui. Some really big open spaces there, I can tell you, but I was amazed to see a herd of reindeer – and it wasn’t even Christmas!

Me on Cairngorm

Big open spaces for a dog to run in

Ben Macdui

Heading back

Reindeer herd in the distance

We had lots of shorter walks out to what you humans call bothies, but I know they are big kennels really. The Missus usually has a look round ( I think she wants to tidy things up) and the Boss amuses himself by pouring hot water on to dried leaves – can’t say I see the point, but if that’s what floats your boat …..

We started with Duror Bothy near Glencoe.

Duror Bothy

Nearly there

The Missus having a look round

I hope she has a dog biscuit for me!

The Boss having fun

WE all had a nice little seaside stroll out to Craig Kennel – sorry must remember, it’s a BOTHY not a kennel. These seaside walks do have a lot of up and down walking, but I usually find a place for a paddle.

Seaside walk to Craig Bothy

Not all flat walking ….

…. in fact, quite a lot of up and down ….

…. but there’s always a pool somewhere to cool down in

Craig Kennel – woops sorry, Craig Bothy

A nice place for a lie down

I know the Boss liked Shenavall Bothy the best – I’ve got to say, the mountains out that way were really impressive. It was nice and cosy inside the bothy and the Boss poured hot water on dried leaves again – I was happy just to have an extra biscuit.

Setting off to Shenavall Bothy

Hmm, bigger ups and downs on this walk

The Fisherfield Mountains

Shenavall Bothy

Cosy inside

Someone having a joke – strange things these humans!

We all enjoyed the walk out to Bob Scott’s Bothy, and I managed to find yet another place for a paddle. Oh, there was more hot water and dry leaves from the Boss.

On the way to Bob Scott’s Bothy

Time for another paddle

The bothy

Another cosy place to sit ….

…. and for the Boss to have a bit more fun

We followed Bob Scott’s with a walk out to Callater Stables Bothy – now that was a nice little dog walk.

Heading out to Callater Stables Bothy

Nice little dog walk!

Here at last ….

…. and the Missus having her usual look round

We also had a nice dog walk out to Gleann Dubh Lighe Bothy.

Gleann Dubh Lighe Bothy – © UKH

A walk through the woods to start with

There at last

Another cosy place to sit

My favourite bothy walk, though, was Ryvoan, mainly because I got to have a paddle twice!

Ryvoan Bothy

Time for a paddle on the way

Looks like a bothy to me

The Boss having fun again

Time to head back ….

…. but another paddle for me on the way

Now, I know it looks like the Boss is at his happiest when he’s pouring hot water into a cup of leaves, but he’s also had fun taking pictures of sunsets again this year – a bit more practice and he might even get to be good at it!

The Boss seems to do a lot of this

Red Cuillin sunset

Sunset at Redpoint, near Craig Bothy

Sunset over An Teallach near Shenavall

Anyway, I can hear him coming back, so I’d better wipe my paw prints off the computer keyboard and shift the dog-biscuit crumbs. In the meantime, I’m still trying to work out how he manages to shrink the Missus – perhaps those dry leaves he pours hot water on are magic leaves!

Have a great Christmas!

I still don’t know how he does this!

Text and images © Border Collie ‘Mist’ unless indicated otherwise (with thanks to her human for doing the camera thing)

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#261 – Cwmorthin and the mountains of the Moelwynion (Moelwyns)

Llyn Cwmorthin above Tanygrisiau

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It was a Team training night, and several of us drifted down to the pub afterwards.  The chat is always varied, but I overheard ‘Gaz’ talking about the worlds biggest and deepest slate mine, with miles of passages and hundreds of chambers.   It looked like a trip out that way would fill in a day nicely, which is why Chris and I, plus Border Collie ‘Mist’, were at Tanygrisiau on a fine May morning in 2018.

Setting out from Tanygrisiau

The route

Blaenau Ffestiniog and Tanygrisiau

Blaenau Ffestiniog is well known as being a town that was literally built on the slate quarrying industry, but the huge slate spoil heaps above ground are insignificant compared with the vast underground slate mines in the area.   Amongst the most famous of these is the complex of mines and tunnels of Cwmorthin and Rhosydd, just above Tanygrisiau.

Llyn Cwmorthin and some of the surface works of the slate mine

The ‘barracks’ where slate miners would live during the week

Heading on past Llyn Cwmorthin ….

…. but too slow for Border Collie ‘Mist’

Mining started at Cwmorthin in 1810, but by the 1880’s a series of roof collapses combined with disputes with other mining companies, made the site less viable.   Mining continued though, and tunnels on five different floors were dug below the level of the lake (Llyn Cwmorthin) but when the original company went out of business, the neighbouring Oakeley mining company bought Cwmorthin mine and allowed it to flood to protect their own business interests.

Remains of the chapel ….

…. and the manager’s house, Plas Cwmorthin

Ruined buildings from the quarry workings

Cascades on Allt y Ceffylau

Between the two World Wars, the flooded passages were pumped out to allow mining to resume, but the mine was abandoned during WW2, with only the pumps working to keep the water at bay.  Mining operations were finally halted in 1970 and the works abandoned.  It is possible to visit the underground passages by contacting the Friends of Cwmorthin Slate Quarry, but for most visitors, the abandoned chapel and former manager’s house of Plas Cwmorthin are the most accessible relics.

Start of the track to the upper quarry

Looking back down the cwm towards the lake

Nearly there at the upper quarry

Just a small part of the extensive remains

Flooded mine entrance

At the head of the valley of Cwmorthin, an old quarry track leads to the upper quarry, and just as the visitor becomes used to the scale of the workings at lake level, a whole new complex of abandoned quarry workings comes into view.   Over the many decades, the old waste tips have blended in to become a part of the mountains and are a testament to the hard men who worked here.

Heading up to Rhosydd Quarry

Continuing upwards….

…. with ‘Mist’ ahead as always

The ruins at Rhosydd quarry with Cnicht in the background

At the upper quarry level, an incline carries on gaining height to Rhosydd quarry, with most of the workings here being above ground on what was the ninth level of the workings.    At last we had views of the surrounding mountains, including Cnicht, known as the ‘Welsh Matterhorn’ due to its ‘pointy’ nature viewed from the southwest, and Moelwyn Mawr with Moelwyn Bach beyond, and Rhosydd made an ideal place to stop for a bite and a drink.

Heading towards Bwlch Stwlan below Moelwyn Mawr

The track clinging to the eastern flank of Moelwyn Mawr ….

…. with a steep drop-off to Llyn Stwlan coming up!

From the upper level of Rhosydd, we carried on towards the pass of Bwlch Stwlan, with what should have been a straightforward track running along the eastern flank of Moelwyn Mawr.   For most of the way the track is as wide and as flat as a town pavement, but the weather and seasons have caused the occasional landslip – this might not have been a problem had there not been a steep drop-off to the lake below, and for a short while, Chris was not a happy bunny!

Chris, happy to be off the narrow path ….

…. and heading down to Llyn Stwlan

The dam at Llyn Stwlan ….

…. with a final view of Moelwyn Mawr

Eventually it was possible to escape the narrow path to head down to the lake of Lynn Stwlan, which like so many Welsh lakes is a reservoir.   Despite the hard outline of the dam, the lake looks at home here and part of the mountain scenery.   The dam also makes a handy bridge, leading to an even handier service road running down to Tanygrisiau, and it was a straightforward yomp back to the waiting car, and for ‘Mist’ the ride home for a long-overdue dinner time!

Time to head for home

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

p.s.  Our Scottish trips and bothy walks have taken over the blog  for several months now, so it’s nice to be back on home ground in North Wales with this post

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#260 – Gleann Dubh Lighe bothy

Gleann Dubh Lighe bothy © UKH

Hogwarts Express, AKA The Jacobite Steam Train, crossing Glenfinnan Viaduct ©96tommy

 

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I blame Harry Potter!    The plan had been to walk out to Corryhully bothy, known as ‘The Electric Bothy’ due to its being connected to a modest hydro-electric generator.   We had arrived expecting a short hike out and back, but what we hadn’t allowed for was that unpredictable but growing hazard in the Scottish Highlands – the Tourist Trap.    In this case, the attraction was Harry Potter’s ‘Hogwarts’s Express’, known in real life as ‘The Jacobite Steam Train’.

Fort William and the Road to the Isles

Routes to the bothies – Corryhully (red) and Gleann Dubh Lighe (blue)

Glenfinnan and the route to Gleann Dubh Lighe bothy

The train makes a daily run from Fort William to Mallaig and back again, and I’m sure it’s a fantastic sight as it crosses Glenfinnan Viaduct, but don’t expect a solitary experience.  We arrived at a reasonable time to start the trip,  only to find the start point at the railway viaduct had become a car park, and a full car park at that.   Luckily, we had a backup plan, so leaving crowds of disappointed and sulky kids behind us, we headed down to road to walk out to Gleann Dubh Lighe bothy instead.

Setting out ….

…. and heading towards the forest

Cascades in the ‘Dubh Lighe’ or ‘Black Torrent’

The only people likely to show interest in Glean Dubh Lighe are hikers going out to the bothy, or heading beyond to Streap (909 metres) and the wilderness area of the Rough Bounds of Knoydart, so there was no competition from the multitude of Harry Potter fans.  Unfortunately, the start of the revised route was a bimble through the woods, though the cascades of the Dubh Lighe stream (translates as ‘Black Torrent’) provided some interest.

A bridge too far?

The view down to the ‘Black Torrent’ below

Out of the woods and into the open

Regular readers will know that Chris and I are not great fans of routes through forests, especially commercial forests, though Border Collie ‘Mist’ is happy enough and spends much of her time checking out the scents of other four-legged visitors.  There was, however, a wee bit of excitement (for Chris at least) before we left the forest, in the shape of a bridge over the stream, with the Dubh Lighe running through a narrow gorge below.  My request for her to stand on the middle of the bridge for a photo was declined, and none too politely at that!

First view of the bothy

Closer view of the bothy

There at last

Having survived the bridge (wide enough to drive a light truck over as it happens), we finally emerged into more open ground and soon after that the bothy came into sight.   In the early 1900s, the bothy was home to the McLennan family – seven children and their parents lived here, with dad working as a shepherd, forester, ghillie and stalker on the Fassfern estate.   When the cottage became unoccupied, it came under the care of the Loch Eil Outward Bound Centre, before the MBA (Mountain Bothies Association) accepted responsibility for its upkeep.

The bothy after the fire of 2011 © MBA

The buildings in the care of the MBA are maintained by the association with the agreement of the owners, to be used as free accommodation for travellers and mountaineers.   A surprising number of the bothies are damaged by fires, and earlier on our May 2019 trip to the Highlands we had visited Bob Scott’s bothy near Braemar, which has the dubious distinction of being in ‘version 3’, the previous two having been destroyed by fire.

The burned-out bothy in a sorry state © Allan

Glean Dubh Lighe bothy was badly damaged by fire in 2011 and was a subject of prolonged debate as to whether it should be rebuilt – thankfully for hill-goers, the bothy was repaired by MBA volunteers.   A faulty gas cartridge was the culprit in this case, though readers looking for a more interesting tale should read ‘The Night the Bothy Burned’ by outdoors writer John Burns.

Border Collie ‘Mist’ ready to try out the renovated bothy

The name on the door – looks like we found the right place

Just inside the entrance

The main room with the fireplace

The sleeping platform in the main room

Looking through the entrance hall to the second room

The second room and the ‘library’

The renovated bothy is light and airy, and undoubtedly an improvement on the original with wooden floors and wood-clad walls.   The main room has the original fireplace and a sleeping platform, and would make a cosy stopover.   The second room lacks a fire but has the benefit of a well-stocked bookshelf – those placing more importance on comfort over reading are advised to arrive early and head for the room with the fire.

The track continuing up the glen

Beyond the glen – wide open spaces with Streap beyond © Andrew Spenceley

We stayed for a short while for a brew and a bite to eat, before setting off back down the track.   Before leaving, Chris walked a short distance up the track to check out the view, but the cloud had descended and there wasn’t much to see.   In better weather it looks much more inviting, as seen in the photo above by Andrew Spenceley, so we have a good reason to return – that’s if Chris is ready to cross the Dubh Lighe bridge again!

Time to head for home

Text and images © Paul Shorrock except where indicated otherwise.

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#259 – Callater Stables Bothy and the Jock’s Road Tragedy of 1959

The summit of Jock’s Road from Braemar to Glen Clova (SA)

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One fixed point in every day, whether at home or on hols, is a walk for Border Collie ‘Mist’.   That’s every day, rain or shine (but always hoping for the shine).   We had escaped a drenching the previous day on our trip out to Bob Scott’s Bothy (see post #258), but the rain had hammered down overnight.   Fortunately for us, the monsoon finished before dawn and although the sky was grey, it looked like we would get a walk without a soaking.


The Cairngorms with Callater Stables Bothy in the centre

Our route to Callater Stables and Loch Callater Lodge

Closer view of the route

The start of the route up Glen Callater

The plan was simple – a walk up Glen Callater to Loch Callater Lodge and Callater Stables Bothy, a quick brew with our sarnies and a walk back down to the start point at Auchallater.    5kms each way, 10kms in total, plus a height gain on the outward leg of 150 metres – enough to keep dog and humans happy, at least for one day.

Still a way to go

Not stunningly beautiful …. but pleasant enough

Glen Callater isn’t stunningly beautiful, at least not the section we were walking, but it’s pleasant enough and a walk is a walk.    Further on, beyond Loch Callater Lodge and the bothy, the track becomes a path which eventually rises more steeply to cross a col at 880 metres – that’s as high as many respectable English mountains, and that’s just the col!  The path is a centuries-old drove road, popularly known as Jock’s Road.

Approaching Loch Callater Lodge at last

Callater Lodge on the right and Callater Stables Bothy on the left

It’s about 25kms from Braemar to Glen Clova following Jock’s Road, with about 20% of that above 600 metres altitude, which doesn’t sound too serious.    I had walked the route from Braemar to Clova once before in 1977, as a member of 45 Commando Royal Marines, and we often used the area for mountain training.    We would have been carrying military kit and rifles, but the day was a bit of a ‘jolly’ and a welcome break from the Base at Arbroath.    As we marched, I remembered the story of an incident 18 years earlier in 1959, which had resulted in the tragic deaths of five hikers.

*        *        *        *        *

The route taken by the Universal Hiking Club party, New Year’s Day 1959

Closer view of the 1959 route (Intended route blue, actual route red)

It was New Year’s Day, 1959, and members of the Universal Hiking Club of Glasgow had come to the Cairngorms for Hogmanay.    Most of the group left Braemar by car to drive round to Glen Doll Youth Hostel, a distance of 110kms, but five members of the club set out to walk the 25km route over Jock’s Road.    In the group was the club President and Vice-President, plus the Secretary and the Hiking Convenor.   The fifth member of the group was 17 years old, with just two years of Scottish mountain walking behind him, but the other four were well experienced and skilled.

View from Tolmount looking back towards Loch Callater (just right of centre) (G&J A)

The intended descent route to Glen Doll (RW)

The group was overtaken by an unexpected storm, and a straightforward walk became a fight for survival.    The group left Jock’s Road at the head of Glen Callater, passing to the west of Tolmount instead of the east.   One possible reason was a navigational error, but with the experience in the party, this seems unlikely – a far more plausible reason would be that they were trying to avoid the foul weather for a little longer by following a more sheltered route.

Looking back up the descent route towards Tolmount (RW)

From Tolmount, it was possible to follow the ‘Glen of the White Water’ running below Jock’s Road, and at a point below Cairn Lunkard, a short height gain of 30 metres would get them back on Jock’s Road.   Vice-President Frank Daly, who in his mid-forties was the oldest, was the first to collapse.   He died soon afterwards and was left by the others.  Another two, both in their mid-thirties, collapsed along the way, leaving the strongest member of the party, club President Harry Duffin and the 17-year-old James Boyle to continue.

The waterfalls and crags of the ‘White Water’ (RW)

James Boyle was the first of the group to be found by searchers on 4th January – he had sustained injuries consistent with a fall in a short gully but had died from hypothermia.  The search was abandoned a couple of days later, due to bad weather and deep snow and it was February before Duffin was found, at the bottom of the gully where Boyle had died.  It’s possible that he fell whilst trying to go to assist Boyle.

Memorial Plaque (AI)

On 9th March, searchers found Robert McFaul, who was said to have been one of the most experienced members of the Universal club.    On 15th March the body of Joseph Devlin was found, about 400 metres from where McFaul had been discovered.   The final member, Frank Daly, was found on 19th April.   All had died from hypothermia.   The tragedy is second only in Scottish mountaineering to the cairngorm Tragedy of 1971, in which six young people died (see post #253).

Davie Glen’s shelter, known as ‘Davy’s Bourach’ (DN)

One name that crops up constantly in the story is Davie Glen.    He was a self-sufficient hill man who had grown to love the area – it seemed to become an obsession with him to find the missing men, as if their loss has somehow disturbed the peace of the area, and Davie Glen went out time after time to search with organised parties, or even alone; he personally found two of the victims.   In the 1960’s he built a shelter known as ‘Davy’s Bourach’, not far from where Duffin and Boyle were found, and personally carried most of the heavier building materials to the site.

*        *        *        *        *

Callater Stables Bothy

Chris checks out the notices whilst Border Collie ‘Mist’ chills out

The bunk room

Time for a welcome brew

It didn’t take us long to get to Callater Lodge and the bothy.   Callater Stables Bothy doesn’t have a fire or stove, as is quite common with bothies, but it’s well maintained and dry, and would be cosy enough in most conditions.     We had a brew in the common room after a quick tour of the premises – the second room is a bunk room with real bunks, as an alternative to the usual communal sleeping platform.

Callater Lodge ….

…. temporarily providing hospitality on the Great Outdoors Challenge

On the way out, we had a closer look at Callater Lodge, which estate workers Bill and Stan had taken over as a rest spot for those on the TGO Challenge which runs for a couple of weeks every year in May (click here to find out more) – for those making the crossing via Jock’s Road, this would be a welcome break for a brew before tackling the steep ascent ahead.

Time to head for home

Text and images © Paul Shorrock except images tagged SA (Stuart Anthony), G&J A (Gwen & James Anderson), RW (Richard Webb), AO (Ali Ogden) and DN (Douglas Nelson) which are taken from the Geograph Project and are reproduced under a Creative Commons Licence

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#258 – Bob Scott’s Bothy

The current ‘Bob Scott’s Bothy’ © Brian Barclay

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The Cairngorms, including Braemar and our Bob Scott’s route

The route to Bob Scott’s from Linn of Dee

Closer view of the route

May 2019, and Chris and I (plus Border Collie ‘Mist’ of course) were steadily working through my ‘bothy walks’ wish-list. Shenavall in Wester Ross had been all I had hoped for, a lovely bothy in a magnificent setting, and the delightful Ryvoan in the Cairngorms didn’t disappoint either. I still had my wish-list to complete though, and one bothy stood out from those remaining, if only for its history – ‘Bob Scott’s’.

Leaving the Lin of Dee carpark – lots of trees!

Out of the wood …. but still lots of trees!

Setting out from the Linn of Dee carpark, it soon became apparent that the only views we would be getting for the next couple of kilometres would be views of trees. Border Collie ‘Mist’ wasn’t complaining though – for her a walk is a walk, and she had waited patiently while I had faffed about deciding which jacket to wear, from the several mountain jackets I had brought on the trip. Looking at the clouds, something waterproof seemed to be a good idea ….

Finally out of the forestry and in to big open spaces – walking by the Lui Water ….

…. with a large crowd following

We eventually emerged from the forestry, with big open views up the Lui Water ahead of us. Hot on our heels was a large walking group, on a guided hike organised by the Mar Lodge estate. Mar Lodge is a modern-day success story – for many years it was a commercial ‘shooting’ estate but is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland, who have expanded the original sporting use to include conservation and recreational use by hikers, cyclists and climbers …. plus the occasional, large guided-walking party.

The track to Luibeg and Derry Lodge …. and the mighty Cairngorms beyond

First view of Bob Scott’s v3

We built up a good gap between ourselves and the following group by opening up the pace a little, and it wasn’t long before we were on the final approach to the bothy. The present ‘Bob Scott’s’ is the third bothy to carry the name, but before going in for a brew, I decided to check out the buildings ahead of us at Derry Lodge and Luibeg that are part of the Bob Scott story. So, who was Bob Scott?

Closer view of the ‘New’ Bob Scott’s

The original Bob Scott’s Bothy at Luibeg (© unknown)

Bob Scott was born in 1903, the son of a gamekeeper on the Mar Estate, and apart from service in the army in WW2, he spent his life working and living on the estate. In 1947 he moved to a small cottage called Luibeg, near to the now-abandoned Derry Lodge and about 600 metres upstream from the present bothy. He allowed climbers and walkers the use of a wooden hut next to the cottage, which became the original Bob Scott’s Bothy, and as such he was an important figure in the Golden Age of Cairngorm rock and Ice climbing in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Derry Lodge, once a shooting lodge, now empty and deserted

The track to Luibeg, with the house just visible, low of centre

Bob Scott did more than merely tolerate the climbers. He would leave a candle burning in a window of the cottage to guide those coming off the mountains in the dark, and frequently used his local knowledge to assist on mountain rescues. He was also a regular at the bar at Mar Lodge, and after ‘last orders’ would often offer climbers a lift from Mar to Luibeg in his Landrover, though he had a reputation for having a mischievous sense of humour – he would load the climbers rucksacks into his vehicle, then drive off without their owners, though that might have had something to do with the amount of alcohol Bob had shifted that night!

Luibeg – once Bob Scott’s house and the site of the old bothy

Border Collie ‘Mist’ enjoying a paddle just downstream of Luibeg

He retired in 1973 and died in July 1981. The next occupant of Luibeg was not as tolerant as Bob Scott, but allowed climbers to continue using the bothy until March 1986, when the building was destroyed in a fire. Cairngorm mountaineers formed the ‘Friends of Bob Scott’s’ association and managed to persuade the Mar Estate that the bothy should be rebuilt. The second Bob Scott’s was built in the location of the present bothy where it stood until it too was destroyed by fire in 2003. Once again, the estate agreed to allow a rebuild, and the third Bob Scott’s remains one of the most popular bothies in Scotland.

17

The path into Bob Scott’s v3 ….

…. with the sign to prove it

Bob Scott’s

Inside, with the sleeping platform just behind ‘Mist’

The multi-fuel stove

Time for a well-earned brew

The present bothy is a warm and comfortable half-timbered building. Rather than tempt fate a third time, the open fire of Bob’s #2 has been replaced by a multi-fuel stove. Unusual in the bothy scene, there is even a toilet for the use of visitors. We stayed long enough to have a brew and a bite to eat before returning to the camper at Linn of Dee, accompanied on the way back by gathering storm clouds.

Time to head for home

We found a great overnight stop for the camper overlooking the River Dee. I’m still kicking myself for not taking a couple of ‘before and after’ photos – the image below shows the river as we saw it that evening, before a virtual monsoon hit the valley that night. In the morning, the meandering River Dee was a raging torrent that filled the valley bottom, a truly impressive demonstration of the power of nature. Without photographic evidence, you will just have to take my word for it!

The River Dee near our overnight stop (SR)

Text and images © Paul Shorrock except Images tagged BB (Brian Barclay) and SR (Scott Robinson) which are taken from the Geograph Project, and are reproduced under a Creative Commons Licence.

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