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Friday, 6 July 2018

4 days in the Aran & Dyfi hills Snowdonia.

With my wife in Spain with her sister, I had 4 days to backpack somewhere. The last time she went - around 2 yrs ago I backpacked a 4 day circuit around Haweswater. Rain was a constant feature on that occasion... this time I hoped conditions would be better, my previous two 3 day trips were walked in splendid weather... no rain, light winds & plenty of sunshine.

Keeping an eye on the weather a week beforehand, it became clear that a change in the weather would coincide with my trip. A low pressure system would bring Gale force winds with periods of rain.

 My first choice of route was one I had planned a while back- 4 days exploring around The Southern Uplands, an area I'm yet to visit.

It looked like Scotland would catch for the worst of the weather, so I came up with Plan a,b & c !
With 3 routes planned I would make a decision where to head at the last minute.
Plan a was a wainwrights bagging trip to add to my tally, which currently  stands  at 149.
Plan b- a trip to the Howgill Fells.
Plan c a 4 day trip round the Glyderau & Carneddau.

With the weather looking slightly better for Eastern Wales, so in the end I chose to revisit the Aran's in Snowdonia, planning the next few days on the hoof so as to speak.

Pulling into  Llanuwchllyn, I got Max out of the van and with 4 days of supplies plus camping gear we sett of on a familiar path towards the Aran ridge.

Views were very hazy, with the higher tops in cloud. This turned to rain with a strong wind further up windchill was around 1 - 2 degrees c, quite a shock after the warmer conditions on my previous 2 trips. Conditions for the next 4 days didn't lend themselves to photography.. or indeed video, so I only took pics as a record of the trip. There were 1 or 2 brief moments of moody, atmospheric light and I took advantage of these.

Climbing to Aran Benllyn, my baselayer/windshirt combo was only just about keeping me warm, so I added my Hard Shell and gloves which kept me very comfortable over the higher tops.

My intended Camp spot was reached around 3 pm and although early I would have happily pitched here but the winds were very strong and nowhere seemed to offer any shelter. A quick scan of the map and I decided to drop towards Craig Cywarch then pick up the path Heading towards Graig Wen.
The map showed the path going through a wooded area, but as is often the case it had been extensively felled and good pitches were hard to find - the weather conditions adding to the difficulty as it was hard to scan the ground ahead. A handy spring/stream provided very good water, one less thing to worry about, then I continued towards Pen y Brynfforchog.

The track ended at the point shown on the OS map, leaving a rough walk over an overgrown felled area, the kind where it is very easy to turn an ankle so I took my time.
Several tree lines were visited to see if there was any suitable spots, all were very sheltered but the ground was very rough. I continued on and was relieved to find a half descent spot just beyond the fence line- It turned out to be a  very comfortable site.

With my trusty Trailstar pitched, I could relax listening to the rain whilst I ate & drank.

Later that evening  whilst gazing out of the open door, listening to the sound of rain drops on the flysheet ,with a map and a single malt in hand I planned the next days walking.

Awaking the next morning to a world of swirling mist and slightly better views I made breakfast and a brew before striking camp and setting of towards the summit of Pen y Brynfforchog.

My destination for today was the Dyfi hills, so I dropped down to the valley car park before ascending to Cribin Fach.

Once on the high ground, once again I entered a world dominated by clag, very limited views and  rain.. it was to stay this way till around midday the next day. Winds were forecast to reach gale force over night so with this in mind I continued over Cribin Fawr, Craig portas then out to Maesglase.
Collecting water near Craig Maesglase I headed South towards a wooded area, the map sowing there was a good chance of finding flat sheltered ground here. This time I found a lovely spot right next to the tree line, Trailstar up, time for camp 2. No camp pics due to conditions, but there is footage in the video below.

The next morning I was greeted with heavy rain and after a brew I settled down for a few more hours whilst I waited for the rain to ease. Around 8.30 it was still raining but the forecast was for dryer weather early afternoon, with this in mind I struck camp and continued in the hope of better weather.

I decided to drop down to Maes- glase-bach and take the valley track down to the A470 follow it North to Mynogau Isaf , picking up the forestry track (or so I thought !)  to bring me back to the Bwlch North of Y cribin. The forestry track I intended following was almost non existent - it was a very long time since anyone had passed this and had become very overgrown, cursing my stupidity I climbed through very rough ground, heading towards waterfall crossing the track further on. I figured there was a better chance of picking up a good track further up. My heart sank when I reached the falls - a very idyllic spot but still no sign of a good path. By now it had started to rain heavily, which combined with the midges made me reluctant to stop and put on my rainshell ( I had got my newly acquired Patagonia Houdini wind shirt on)  and as it was so humid  I figured if I got wet It would be no hardship. A short climb later, and to much relief I picked up a good track and followed it east. Such was my relief at finding a good path that I didn't bother checking the map! a classical school boy error. When this abruptly ended, a little head scratching whilst looking at the map I realised this was a new track put in for forestry operations, and was not my intended path, in fact it was not shown on the map.

Once I relocated myself, I backtracked a few miles to pick up the correct path... lesson learned, always consult the map!

With the forecast predicting lighter winds I decided to return to Glasgwm for my last wildcamp. the rain continued on my ascent which combined with strong winds made for a chilly ascent. I put faith in the forecast and continued. Nearing the summit I put on my water proofs over my now wet baselayer, windshell and trousers to fend of the chill whilst pitching. With the Trailstar pitched, I got in and stripped of my waterproofs. To my amazement I was bone dry underneath, the heat generated on the ascent had allowed my baselayer/ windshirt and trousers to dry. I was pleased with the performance of my Patagonia Houdini but was most impressed with the breathability of my phd alpamaya smock allowing my underlayers to dry.

The next day dawned grey but calm, and after a leisurely breakfast I packed and moved on.
By the time I started on the ascent back to Aran Fawddwy to skies were beginning to clear, a change in the weather was coinciding with my return home. It had however been a very enjoyable trip, and I got to test my hill craft and new gear. I'll leave you with some pics from my return journey... thanks for taking the time to read.

Till next time..Happy wildcamping.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Central Fells, Around Thirlmere.#2

Around a year ago I did a 3 day route from Grasmere around Thirlmere. This is a slightly cut down route as I needed to be home early on the 3rd day. The outward route on this occasion was via Tarn Crag & High Raise before continuing on towards Ullscarth. Last Time I omitted Armboth and from High Seat I continued onto Bleaberry fell  where I camped.

Parking in the layby, pack shouldered, I set of through Grasmere taking the woodland path to reach the Easedale  road which I followed to Lancrigg where a path takes over to ascend to Tarn Crag.

Path through Easdale

Crossing a  foot bridge, I headed south towards Stenners Crag to pick up a faint path ascending NW towards Greathead Crag. Shortly after Tarn Crag comes into view and a stiff pull bought me to the summit.

Bridge over Easdale Gill

Helm Crag, from ascent to Tarn Crag.

Looking back to Grasmere.

Approaching Tarn Crag.

Easedale Tarn.

Tarn Crag.

After stopping for lunch I continued to High Raise, passing Sergeant Man which had quite a few folk on its summit. Arriving at High Raise there was a family having lunch in the stone shelter,so I took a few pics then left them in peace and continued on to Low White Stones.

High Raise

Low white Stones.

From Low White Stones I left the crowds behind as I headed for Ullscarf , from here on I would see no one till the next day.

View from Ullscarth.

Just before High Saddle I branched of NNE following the fence line towards Standing Crag before dropping down to arc round its base whilst trying to avoid dropping too low, I remember some very boggy ground below from my last trip here.

Blea Tarn.

Standing Crag.

Looking back to Standing Crag.

At Middle crag I intended to head to Armboth Fell, but decided to head onto High Tove - High Seat then possibly Bleaberry Fell to camp. Once on High Seat I reluctantly decided it would be too windy for a camp at height. Those who know me, know I always try to camp as high as possible - for the best views but on this occasion a sheltered camp would be more comfortable. Retracing my route back to Middle Crag I headed west towards Armboth Fell.

Armboth Fell, with Browncove crags beyond.

Looking back to High Tove from Armboth Fell.

View towards Thirlmere from Armboth Fell.

After Armboth Fell, my thoughts turned to finding a comfortable camp site for the night , and locating water. Scanning the hillside I noticed a deep ravine which looked like a good prospect for finding water. The recent dry spell meant the tops were very dry , good for walking boggy areas, but at the same time making water harder to source at height. As I neared I heard the heart warming sound of running water and with 4 litres of lakelands finest added to my pack I set about finding a pitch for the night.

I decided to head towards Raven Crag and check out potential spots, the tree line would provide shelter from the strong winds. After around 1/2 hr I decided there wasn't anywhere flat enough that was dry, so I ascended back towards High Seat in the hope of finding Flatter/ dryer ground. Shortly after I found a lovely flat grassy site that wasn't too windy , with a fantastic view towards Thirlmere.

Evening light on Thirlmere from camp.

Camp near Armboth Fell.

With the Trailstar pitched I sat outside and made a brew. Whilst waiting for the water to boil I had my customary whisky to toast the mountains  and my day walking amongst them, It was too warm to sit inside the shelter so I sat and watched the lengthening shadows as the sun sank lower in the sky. Eventually it was cool enough to get in my shelter and prepare my evening meal whilst I waited for sunset, But on entering my trailstar I noticed a red ant nest smack bang in the middle of my camp !what to do - move ?  I didn't fancy moving camp, and there was no guarantee that another pitch wouldn't have the same problem. In the end I decided to stay put, and covered them with a polycro groundsheet I had - It worked, and they stayed under it - I only received 1 bite, and that was the next morning whilst I was packing, a painful experience that I don't want to repeat any time soon !
Max slept very soundly so they didn't bother him. The sunset was a good one , and after taking some pics and footage I settled down for the night.

Sunrise was a good colourful one and after the usual pics/ footage I made another brew and ate breakfast before packing away- made easier since discovering cuben packing cells from Paul at Treadlite gear, these are excellent for efficient packing and camp organisation.

Pre dawn glow from camp.

Before setting of I checked to see if  I'd left anything behind before setting of on day 2.

Sunrise from camp.

Leave no trace... Max didn't want to leave.

Heading back to the fence line I followed the path that skirts the trees Northwards towards Iron Crag. On my last trip I descended past the crags- a lovely quiet wild area. I left the path to take the track that heads towards Castle Crag. Arriving at a gate I found a notice sating my descent path was closed ! I looked at the map but couldn't see another viable option without a lengthy detour, then I noticed the date on the sign which was put  there after the strorm back in march , and a statement that it would be closed for no longer than 31 days. As we were now in June I chose to ignore it - presuming that it was now out of date. Firstly though I took the wooden steps to visit Raven Crag - a spot that I was last at with my wife some 7 yrs ago , on that occasion the path was closed and was unpassable so we found another route over rough ground to the summit.

I didn't expect to see anyone one here , but on the summit there was a guy having his morning coffee having spent the night on the exposed summit, in gale force wind in a hammock! he said it wasn't too bad , but rather him than me. After a chat I left him to descend to Thirlmere.

Looking towards Iron Crag.

View towards Iron Crag on ascent to Raven Crag.

Once down in the valley it was clear that today was going to be a warm one, walking along the lane at the damn wall there was a little breeze which disappeared when I joined the path through an attractive wood on the eastern side of Thirlmere. There was still the steep climb to Helvellyn via Browncove Crags ahead, but for now I concentrated on enjoying the walk along the shoreline.

Shortly before the path ascends back towards the road, I took a lunch break at a spot that has become a favourite stop off for my family and me on our way to Keswick for family holiday over the years.

Looking Back to Raven Crag.

Northern end of Thirlmere.

Damn Wall on Thirlmere.

Woodland Path & Bluebells.

Thirlmere from Great How path.

Rested and fed we continued on, joining the path towards Browncove Crags and Helvellyn. It's always a relentless slog up to Helvellyn from here, the heat and necessity to carry 5 ltrs of water up meant it would also be a very warm one.

Just before Browncove Crags I took a break sitting on some handily placed rocks just of the path , a perfect place to absorb the views.  A few folk who I'd passed lower down came passed, 1 young couple asked how much further to the summit, when I told them the summit visible wasn't Helvellyn but Browncove Crags they looked shocked. I told them it would be worth it once they reached the top, I hope they continued to the summit .

Thirlmere from Helvellyn ascent.

Continuing on  I soon reached the summit, as expected it was fairly busy and after taking a few pics from various viewpoints I continued on.

Approaching Lower Man.

Swirral edge & Catstye Cam.

A busy Striding Edge.

A short walk south and the summit of Nethermost Pike is reached and more spectacular views.

View from Nethermost pike summit.

High Crag, Dollwagon Pike with Fairfield beyond.

After High Crag I descended to the post marked on the map which indicates the start of the steep descent to Grisdale Tarn. A swim in the tarn was the perfect opportunity for max to cool down, we spent a good 1/2 hr here Max didn't want to leave. It is important to note however if your dog has had any flea treatments applied then they really shouldn't be allowed into tarns, streams ect. due to adverse effect the chemicals have on the wildlife that inhabit these areas.

Grisedale Tarn.

Grisedale Tarn panorama. 

Next up was the last major climb of the day - Fairfield. The heat and exertions of the day were beginning to take its toll on make and me, and I was looking forward to relaxing at camp. From Fairfield I bagged a couple of new Wainwrights'- Great Rigg & Heron pike before I found a sheltered spot on the western side to spend the night.

Light on St. Sunday Crag.

Great Rigg & Heron Pike.

Looking back to Fairfield.

Heron Pike from Great Rigg.

View towards Widermere from Great Rigg.

Camp on Heron Pike.

Alcock Tarn & Grasmere from camp.

Sunset from camp.


The pitch was a very comfortable one, I spent some time relaxing in the porch of the Trailstar, firstly watching a good sunset, then later watching the lights come on far below me as day turned to night.

At dawn the wind had completely dropped, another good sunrise followed. After breakfast I packed away before a short walk back to Grasmere. I made a short detour to visit Alcock Tarn Arriving back at my van just as the heat was beginning to build once more.

Early morming light from camp on Heron Pike.

Leave no Trace.

Stone Arthur.

Path back to Grasmere.
Below is a map of my intended route , I made 2  changes - I headed up to High Tove and High Seat with a view to camping on Bleaberry Fell , the wind was too strong for a camp at height so I returned to Armboth Fell. The 2nd minor one was to visit Alcock Tarn. These added to the mileage and ascent. I don't track progress once on the hill.

24.51 miles, 7945 ft ascent.

Thanks for taking the time to read...
Till next time,
Happy Wildcamping,