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Thursday, 22 June 2017

3 days in the rhinogs

I was in Pwllheli for a weeks holiday with family & max and had permission to escape to the hills for 3 days,  this  would give the rest of the gang (wife , daughter , her partner & my 2 eldest grandsons ) the opportunity to do things without us having to worry whether Max ( my 6 yr old springer spaniel ) would be allowed in or not .

I decided to tackle the Rhinogs in Snowdonia , normally it takes me around 2 - 2 1/2 hours to get from my house to this side of Snowdonia , but Being closer  the journey was 50 mins .

Weather forecasts were checked , I wanted to pick the best 3  days ,as this would suit everyone .

I planned a modest route of around 18 mile's - to both give me time to explore , and take into account the terrain in the rhinogs - anyone who has walked there will know only too  well - Rhinog miles are not normal miles !

I set off from the caravan we were staying in at around 7 am  keen to get amongst the hills , the weather forecast suggested a cloudy start ,with patchy rain/drizzle clearing later in the day .

Driving down the single track lane, I could see Rhinog Fawr & Rhinog Fach ahead - their summits in cloud . I hoped they would clear , as navigating these complex hills in the mist is not very easy at all .

Parking the car at Graigddu - isaf  I set off towards Pistyll Gwyn, picking up the path to llyn du further on.  Soon reached it's shores , but with nil views I continued to the summit of Rhinog  Fawr  arriving at the same time as another backpackpacker ( the only person I would see for the next few days ) . By now it was also raining so I didn't hang around for long , I checked the  map & descended on a path heading south east the- terrain getting more complex as I went .

Eventually I made it down to the Bwlch & the cairn .I needed to source water for a camp just beyond the summit of Rhinog Fawr . luckily I cloud hear the sound of running water , only problem was - it was running under a stone wall . Following it downhill, I  located a gap which was big enough to get my MSR Titan mug into , which I used to fill 2 -2 ltr. platypus water carriers.

Surveying the route ahead  I could see no direct path to Rhinog Fach , so I decided to tackle it head on , climbing steeply through the heather  and around rocky outcrops .

As I went there were tantalizing views back towards Rhinog Fawr .









Eventually I arrived at the summit to thick clag - the predicted clearing didn't seem to be happening so I continued on to find a camp spot - Tomorrow (weds.) was forecast to be the best of the week , so I aimed to find somewhere to pitch ,rest up and eat in readiness for an early start.

The area I planned to camp was reached , but the winds had increased - I would need to find shelter on the leeward side .

Half an hour later I still hadn't found anywhere  flat enough that was sheltered , so I weighed up the options before I decided to continue to Y Llethr , although I've not camped there before I knew from previous visits that it was fairly flat grass , with a stout wall for shelter.

Heading for the  summit the terrain changes , dense heather clad slabs of rock are replaced with grass covered hill's and I quickly  located a good spot on the eastern side of the wall . Soon the Duomid was up , and I was settled in side with a brew .


 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A pleasant evening was spent eating  drinking and looking out of the open door , later I noticed very brief glimpses of blue sky- very surreal giving hopes of it clearing . It didn't however and I shut the door of the Duomid and turned in.

I was awoken at around 1 am. The Duomid was lit up by bright moon light , so I put on my Goose feet gear over boots ( first time using these and they worked very well !) and opened the shelter door .

I emerged to  much clearer skies , stars were out , the moon was full , and an inversion was forming below me !

The full moon meant I couldn't get any star pics , but I got some nice eerie moonlight shots though.







After taking it all in I returned to the Duomid , set my alarm for 4 am , and went back to sleep.

I awoke just before the alarm went off - I always sleep better under canvas and peered out under the door , there was a warm predawn glow so I lit my meths stove for a morning brew  and got ready to get up .

There was quite a good sunrise , giving hopes of a better day today , pics were taken - breakfast eaten - followed by more coffee , then I struck camp at around 6 am .





Starting a walk at this time in a morning is one of the things I love about Wild camping , an opportunity to see the changing light on the landscape , watching it wake up and come to life, for me its a magical time - depending on the weather of course !





















After descending to Crib-y-Rhiw and visiting the site of a previous camp a few years back I continued to Diffwys.



From there I descended towards Cwm mynach following a steep , but enjoyable path towards Llyn Cwm Mynach . My next target Y Garn and tonights wild camp spot dominated the sky line in front.

I hadn't intended to visit Llyn Cwm Mynach  but the heat of the day  combined with a hot dog that needed cooling down, I wandered down to it's shoreline , and i'm glad I did - it's a delightful location .




After spening some time here I headed back to the track that follows a curved line around the forest , a check of the map showed no water sources once I started the descent to Y Garn , but the path crossed a stream en route and I collected very good clear /cool water here . I filtered a litre which I drank to keep hydtrated on the climb and added 4 ltrs to my pack for use at camp .

From here I couldn't see any signs of path so I continued on the track for a little while longer , to where the angle of ascent lessens and tackled it head on from here .

The first obstacle was reached - a solid high stone wall  with barbed wire above it . I followed it until I found somewhere to cross, then  commenced the hard upward slog  through wild rough and pathless slopes . Further up a path starts to appear , it is hard to follow in amongst the deep bracken , but the key is to look at the line and see where it continues further along .

Y Garn has a lot of false summits , the heat of the day combined with the terrain made for hot /tiring work and I reached the upper slopes - and a welcome breeze to much relief , 1 final push and I gained the summit .




I located of pitch with an excellent view back to Rhinog Fawr & Rhinog Fach , with Llyn Trawsfynydd in the distance & Cadair Idris behind.






The mist came in again in the evening spoiling the chance of a good sunset , but it was enjoyable non the less - going over the last few days , relaxing with a nice single malt .

The next morning I awoke to strong winds - 40 mph gusts & heavy rain , lighting my meths stove for a morning brew I readied myself for a wet / windy decsent .

Once breakfast was eaten , a 2nd coffee drank I packed everything away under the cover of the Duomid , leaving just the fly sheet which was hastily packed away once outside .

Descending the pathless and often very boggy  terrain  I aimed for the wall which I handrailed to get down to the valley floor . By now the rain was easing and the return journey was a rather enjoyable one and soon I was back at forest where I started , all that remained was to find the minor path through the forest that led to the track back to the car park .

I located the ladder stile at the start of the path , but it was evident that it hadn't been walked for a very long time - I could find no signs of a path .

After a little head scratching , I decided to just go for it - it didn't seem very far , the next 3 - 400 yards were some of the roughest I have ever walked , felled trees had been laced in some sort of criss cross pattern , with was over grown with grass with deep bog underneath , every step was a slow one - feeling the way using my poles , even then I went through to my thighs on a couple of occasions !












 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 









Once back on the main track all was forgiven and I was back at my car , another very enjoayable trip over.

Till next time ....
Happy Wild Camping.

Daron :-))

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Around Thirlmere

The plan was for a 3 day backpack starting  from Grasmere- Heading up over Helm Crag, then onto the Ullscarf ridge continuing to Bleaberry Fell - where I planned to camp before dropping down to St. johns in the vale. From there I would head onto Clough head and camp somewhere around the Dodd's. The next day I would return via Helvellyn to  Grasmere via Tongue Gill.

This was essentially a route I attempted some 3 yrs. ago , On that trip I ascended to ullscarf via Tarn Crag & codale Head to camp at low saddle - where I was to spend the next 36 hrs camped in my akto, unable to move on due to torrential rain combined with strong winds , before retreating back to Grasmere.

Arriving back at Grasmere at around 7.45 I loaded my pack and set off towards Helm crag for round two ! It was quite humid and warm, The climb to Helm Crag although a short one was a hot stickly affair , and I reached the summit and a breeze with much relief.

The views were quite hazy - not the best for photography , but I took a few pic's as a record of the day.






















The forecast was for heavy torrential rain/ thunder from about mid day  onwards , so I was keen to make good progress in case I needed to descend during the storms , they were predicted to clear late afternoon / early evening.

Continuing on the summit of Gibson Knott is reached fairly quickly , with Calf Crag shortly after.

















After I reached Brownrigg Moss I decided to ascend to the Ullscarf ridge via Birks Gill, as I needed water and decided to have lunch here before continuing on. There was a nice view over to the Helvellyn ridge , where I would be walking on day 3





After resting and soaking up the views I continued on over pathless terrain towards Greenup Edge , passing a good campsite on the way ( marked the position in viewranger as a possible for  future use ) . From there I joined the main path to Ullscarf.







Continuing onto High Saddle - Low Saddle came into view . I had thought of camping here again but it was very early , I revisited it though gaining the summit just as the thunder started , it is fairly exposed so I descended fairly quickly !





Descending towards Standing Crag I could see the storm clouds over Helvellyn - I hoped they would stay there !



Continuing on to the High Tove ridge I did the short detour from the main path to bag Bell Crags then continued to High Tove, thunder continuing to sound in the distance.

Whilst walking along the ridge I experienced a phenomenon I had heard about , but never experienced - one of my walking poles started buzzing - similar to the noise made by pylons in damp weather, then a spark shot between the pole and my wrist ! I tossed poles away to my side , called max in then crouched down low . Almost immediately there was a very loud thunder clap - the storm must have been very close , a few moments later there was another lightening flash and I started counting- Mississippi 1, Mississippi 2, Mississippi 3 , Mississippi - then another loud thunder clap followed by lightening moments later . I started counting again - this time I got to 4 , then 6 - phew ! it was passing over !

I waited a little while longer before continuing to High Seat , at Eddy Grave stake the heavy rain started - the kind that soaks you through before getting the water proofs on. I continued to Bleaberry Fell looking for a camp spot . By now it had been a long day and I was keen to get the duomid up , I eventually settled on a flat spot not far from the summit cairn.







The thunder rumbled away in the distance for a few hours after pitching , heavy rain & strong gusting winds continued into the night. I was impressed with the stability of the Cuben Duomid . Cuben has very little stretch so it didn't flap as much in the wind as a silnylon shelter would do , this lake of stretch meant it remained taught and didn't require any re-tightening of the guylines. This lack of stretch does mean that solid guy points are needed  as all the force is directed straight to the pegs , I had used 2 msr blizzard pegs on the windward side  with 9" Easton's on the other main guying points ,  it remained solid all night , despite some hefty gusts .

I spent a very comfortable evening , eating , drinking , and listening to the sound of rain on the flysheet before setting my alarm and drifting of to sleep.

The alarm woke me a 4 am the next morning. On un- zipping the door I was greeted by thick clag & zero views -little chance of a good sunrise this morning. I got out anyway, to stretch my legs & answer a call of nature before returning to the Duomid , Sliding back under my mld spirit quilt & lighting my meths stove for my morning coffee .

A 2nd coffee was made , breakfast was eaten , then I started to pack things away ready to strike camp .

From  the summit cairn I set a compass bearing to take me to Goat crag, from where I could descend to a shelf below it & pick up the wall which I could handrail down to Bracken Riggs. From there I headed to Snipeshow Tarn - very dry today , little more than a puddle .

Soon I was at Dale Bottom where I followed the lane to Naddle  , then skirting around High Rigg to arrive in st john's in the vale . The weather had turned quite sunny and warm by now , giving good  views to my next destination - clough head .















Ascending the path to Hausewell Brow there were good views across the valley to Blencathra & Skiddaw , so I stopped for lunch at the top of some old quarry workings .









Taking the steep direct route to Clough head I found out there was a fell race on today. I had thought of camping around its summit  but decided against it as it would be quite busy there was still plenty of  time  so I continued  on , eventually descending east from Great Dodd to camp at Randerside .

I had high hopes for a good sunset, and relaxed laying in the duomid - doors wide open in the late afternoon sun, enjoying the views with a nice single malt .















Later that evening I could see the mist rolling in , I waited as long as possible before reluctantly closing the outer doors .

I managed to get an updated weather forecast  it didn't look good , thunder , heavy rain & gusts to 40 mph were forecast for next morning ! I hoped it was wrong & enjoyed the rest of the evening before setting the alarm & turning in

The next morning I again woke to thick clag -but no rain / thunder  so a quick coffee & breakfast were had before striking camp hoping to get down before the rain .

As per my wastwater trip I made my way along the ridge with zero views , the rain started at around 11.00 am - I was back down into Grasmere at around 12.30 pm so not so bad , no pics though due to conditions .


Heres a map of the route I followed .

till next time , happy wildcamping :-)

daron


stats 31.4 miles height gain 8772 ft. height loss 8775