Saturday, 26 December 2009

John Leigh Park and Dunham Park

Merry christmas and a happy new year to everyone!

THE SITUATION : I had the whole of last week of work. It snowed on Thursday 17th and the snow stuck, it has snowed several times since including a few heavy falls and a very heavy fall on Tuesday 22nd. The snow has been on the ground over a week now here and has accumulated since the 17th, only today has it started thawing! Oh and there is something called Christmas happening too this week.

THE PLAN : Stay well and fit. Drive to the Lake Disrtict, Peak District and North Wales on a few of my days off to go and climb some mountains in the snow and blue skies. Do house work in between when I can. Ignore christmas, don't spend to much money or time on it!

WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED :

Thursday 17th I got extremely excited as the first snows fell while I was at work.

Friday 18th I was at work for my last day before having over a week off and work colleagues put on a buffet organised by staff as we were not having a proper one through work. I drowned my body with Red Wine, ended up doing some bad dancing.

Myself shamelessly pished

Saturday 19th spent most of the lovely blue sky and wintry day in bed hung over instead of in the Lakes.

Sunday 20th saturday night it snowed again and then froze over, we packed for a proper walk but got up not that early and looked at webcams and traffic info to see the Lakes and Peak cloud covered and roads blocked. The world outside our back door was blue skies and snow so decided on a local walk instead via the roof of our local multi storey car park for the views! The park was fantastic as here in Trafford our local park John Leigh Park provides the only hill for miles so every child with a sledge was there. We sat their watching as we ate home made Lochinver Pies which Nicky had postal ordered to our door as a chrismtas present. It started thundering as well as snowing heavilly so we went home and got the fire going.

Winter wonderland at John Leigh Park in Altrincham

Monday 21st I've got a horrid tooth in my mouth which since I had emergency root canal treatment on it eight years ago has been dying. The tooth has been filled several times and cracked in half so it was time to have it out. Only problen is that it was in such a state that I had to be sedated. This meant Nicky having the afternoon off and me being taken to the dentist and knocked out for nearly two hours. So the whole day again sunny and blue skies with snow was spent doing none hill activites.

Tuesday 22nd decided to stop being daft and get out to the hills. Packed a full winters day walking kit including Ice Axe and Crampons and headed towards the Peak District. As I set off it started snowing heavilly. I got to Glossop and the police had closed the Snake Pass so were not letting people into Glossop instead diverting them through hilly Hayfield which made no sense at all. A few dodgy moments in the car and watching others simply abandon their cars and walk made me realise I was best to turn round and go home. I headed back down the M67 which by this time after three hour blizzards was treacherous.

Scary road conditions on the M67 near Hyde

I headed back to Altrincham and decided to go for an easy but always enjoyable walk around Dunham Park our local National Trust house and deer park. It is a fantastic place and only a ten minute walk or drive from our back door. It continued to snow on and off but nothing like the blizzards of the morning. I saw dozens of young Fallow Deer in the park, the odd friendly one too. I sat and ate my lunch in the shelter of the Deer House where a Buck stood and watched me the whole time I was there. He was probably wondering if my Southern Fried Chicken Wrap was as tasty as the trees and ferns he had been munching on all morning.

Beautiful Fallow Deer at Dunham Park

While I was sat watching a Jay foraging in the snowy leaves for a grubby lunch I phoned my friend who organises our football on a Tuesday night and asked if the game was on or not, he told me there was a pitch inspection at 4pm. When I got home he phoned me and let me know that the place we play at said they have cleared the pitches and we could play as normal. It took me two hours of a frightening journey on sheet ice to get to the football. In Altrincham there had been a few accidents and the main roads were covered in ice so cars were sliding all over the place. We got to the pitches to find of the twenty plus pitches they had only cleared the snow off ours and sensibly told every other pitch booking not to bother risking their lives getting there! The snow on the pitch had been swept to the sides and also into the goal!! What kind of moron clears a pitch and puts the snow in the goals!!! They should never have told us to go down in the first place and gave us some sob story about loosing money, I won't even go into the finances of what they make in a normal night! We played a full hour as we'd all made the effort to get there...

Ridiculous playing conditions at The Pitz

Wednesday 23rd was spent mostly out on icy roads shopping for christmas presents. I started getting a cold during the day and had to nip out to get pain killers as my mouth and gums were also hurting from my tooth extraction.

Thursday 24th took my grannie across to my aunties where she was spending the next few days for christmas. The roads were still covered in snow and ice so we had to stick to the main roads. I got a text during the morning from my sister asking i I wanted to go round to theirs and help my brother in law and nine month old nephew build a snowman! Hmm now let me think... YUP!!!! It took us just over two hours to build our five foot tall snowman, depsite having by now a really bad cold and aching mouth...

Christmas Day snowman in my sisters garden

Friday 25th had a fantastic christmas day at my sisters with the family, amazing meal, we didn't leave until 1:30am last night. It was my little nephews first christmas and great for it to be a white one! We had a game of Trivial Pursuit which was taken very seriously, it went on for three hours and forty five minutes and Nicky and I won! The only bad thing was having a cold, sore mouth and had ache for most of the day but pain killers sorted that out, not being able to taste the delicous meal was not great though :-(

Saturday 26th stuck in bed with bad cold and sore mouth :-(

I have uploaded the photos from the John Leigh Park walk here.

I have uploaded the photos from the Dunham Park walk here.

Route Map...

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Meall nan Sleac via Glen Feshie

I travelled up to Aviemore on Sunday with the intention of bagging a few Munros in the Cairngorms National Park. I have only walked in the Cairngorms once before when I did a three day backpacking trip from Linn of Dee to Corrour Bothy and did the four mountains along the Braeriach ridge in stunning weather several years ago now. That trip was originally a plan to walk the Lairig Ghru from Braemar to Aviemore and back but as is often the way on my planned trips, I am very versitile and don't mind changing the plan at the last minute or from day to day. I did the same on this trip and after planning to do something from the Cairn Gorm ski car park or Linn of Dee again, I instead opted for the more desolate wilderness of Glen Feshie which so many locals rave about and for good reason.

River Feshie
The journey up on Sunday took about six hours and the weather was pretty awful most of the way. The only snow I spotted on the way up was on Kidsty Pike and Cross Fell from the M6 near Shap, that was until I reached the Drumochter Pass when to my delight the rain turned to sleet and then snow for a few miles before returning to rain again on the descent to Aviemore. I arrived and read my email on my phone to find some useful advice from Scott who said that the Rothiemurchus campsite could be closed as it was a fortnight ago due to refurbishments. I found the lovely Kila Guest House for a bargain £20 in Aviemore. The Guest House owners were friendly, the rooms were nice and the breakfast was great and all for just £20. They did say it is that cheap as it is quiet season but even at there usual £25 to £35 they are good value. I was hungry so went across the road to the Roo's Leap restaurant by the railway station which has a mixed reputation but I can confirm that the Nacho's and in particular the Quesadillas are spot on and reasonably priced.

Red Squirrel
Monday morning I woke up to find I hadn't packed any boxer shorts! I had a fantastic breakfast at the Guest House and left to find some non cotton boxers in one of the many outdoor shops. The only thing I could find in all but one of the shops was the Ice Breaker or should that be Mortgage Breaker ones and I refused to pay £35 for soemthing I'd basically be making wiping against my backside for the rest of the day! Luckilly Cairngorm Mountain Sports had some cheaper Patagonia jobbies that I was happy with. I was really excited as I set off as from Aviemore as I could see snow topped mountains, blue skies and sunshine. I drove along the minor road from Aviemore to Feshie Bridge and on the way spotted a lovely young Red Squirrel in the trees so stopped to take some a shot. I reached the car park by Achlean and started gettting all my gear ready. Once ready I set off with a route already in my head and the map round my neck. I took my new Montane North Star down jacket on this trip which I had brought just in case the temperature got too low for my Rab Generator jacket to handle which I left at home. The North Star really was one of the heroes of the trip, I hardly took it off.

Badan Mosach Waterfalls
I passed by Achlean Farm, not through it as the map would indicate, and found myself on one side of the Allt Fhearnagan at a place marked on the map as a ford. Hmm for a car maybe, I headed down stream as I saw the initials FB at the point where the Allt Fhearnagan meets the River Feshie, was it there was it buggery. So I headed off once again this time up stream and followed it all the way into the beautiful Badan Mosach woods and its huge and stunning waterfalls. I had to go uphill from the impressive waterfalls to reach a point in the stream where I could finally cross. I then headed downstream again to reach the other side of the original ford. Passing through the forest I saw two red deer that I startled run off into the protection of the dark gloomy forestry to my left. As I reached the dam area I heared a noise as a Dipper flew upstream not at all happy at my presence in its neighbourhood. I crossed three streams in the two days and on each was a Dipper, fantastic!

Carnachuin Bridge collapsed after floods
I crossed the fields to the surviving footbridge over the River Feshie. The bridge further up stream at Carnachuin was washed away a few months ago in a flood. I suspect that the huge up rooted tree I saw on the rivers banks a few hundred metres down may well have had something to do with it. I had to stop and think here as I had difficulty crossing the ford over Allt Fhearnagan and if I stayed on this side of the River Feshie I would have to cross another stream Allt Garbhlach which appeared wider than the other on the map. I didn't cross the footbridge and instead chanced the east side and walked a lovely path clinging to the river. This path literally skirts the bank of the river in places and I would imagine is probably impassable at times though a higher track on a strange ridge of the flood plain takes just as good a route with even better views. The Allt Garbhlach wasn't as wide as the map illustrated luckilly. I reached the ruined bridge at Carnachuin then had to make a decision, do I go for the ascent of the Munro Mullach Clach a' Bhlair or do I just go to the Bothy or find a camp. I chose to give it a go, despite the snow visible under the dark looming clouds and the forecasted 60mph winds on the MWIS forecast. I ascended the easiest of land rover tracks but only got as far as Cadh na Coin Duibh before the reality hit that it would go dark soon, I had only three season boots and no crampons, the snow was getting deeper and I could hardly stand up as the winds were so strong. When I looked over the edge of the cliffs into the incredible ravine of Coire Garbhlach, I had to throw myself down quickly as I felt my pack rise and try to push me over the edge.

Coire Garnhlach from Meall nan Sleac
I decided to bag the Corbett summit of Meall nan Sleac on the way back down, simply for the sheer sake of standing on the top of a mountain. The views down into Coire Garnhlach were well worth the tiny detour. I descended the landrover track to Glen Feshie and set about finding the bothy. The Ruigh Aiteachain bothy was like a small piece of heaven. The last visitors, the RAF Squadron from Lossiemouth on a training exercise, had left a plentiful pile of wood for me to burn all night long. The main room of the bothy was candle lit and a cozy place to be on this cold winters night. After making a cup of tea and the delicous Mountain House Chicken Tikka meal on my new White Box Solo stove, I sat for hours reading the often hillarious bothy book entries.

Glen Feshie Bothy
After six hours of chilling by the fire I settled down for the night and was happy until about 15 minutes later when the noises started. I've been in a bothy before and had a mouse run across me at Corrour but this was the most persistant I'd ever experienced. I had to listen to my MP3 player eventually to drown out the noise as the little sod would not stop playing around with my gear and ripping shreds out of a chair in the bothy which I presume it used for its bedding. At 1am a loud crashing noise woke me and scared the living daylights out of me, the little sod had knocked over my titanium mug onto the stone floor of the bothy. I'm a big softy when it comes to the dark as it is, so you can imagine what I was like. At 6am after much interupted sleep I really had had enough so I set about making a fire as I just couldn't sleep anymore. It was pitch black outside until about 6:30am when all of a sudden a light appeared, at first I though it was a fellow walker but it was a bright moon. With the brightness of the moon a view opened up through the bothy window of a pure white and sparkly Glen Feshie. I went outside just to see the sparkling effect, it was awesome.

Myself in the cold morning outside Glen Feshie Bothy
As light came at dawn I went out to find replacement firewood and did a good job finding enough dead wood on the ground for the next lucky wanderer to experience the warm cosy bothy I did. The weather started well in the morning and I even pondered over another attempt at Mullach Clach a' Bhlair but just an hour later a few light showers, cold easterly breeze and clouds rolling in made my mind up to head back out to the car. On the walk out I passed the wild horses I had seen round the bothy at night. The streams seemed easier to cross though maybe that was because the fear of crossing them had gone from my head. I have to admit that if I hadn't taken my Pacer Poles with me I would never have been able to ford any of the streams so they were the real heroes of the weekend, I don't know how I walked without these poles in the past. Before I reached the end of the glen I sat by the River Feshie and contemplated my last few days and life in general like I often do at the end of such experiences. I was glad I was in the middle of nowhere and hadn't seen anyone for 28 hours but I was also missing home so after I reached the car and chilled out over a cuppa I then set off home to see Nicky and Bonnie the cat. I was home by 6pm, at the kebab shop by 6:45pm and sat watching the United match by 7:45pm. It is amazing what you can do in just 48 hours!

I have uploaded the photos from the adventure here.

Route Map...

Kinder Downfall from Hayfield Trip Report

I had a planned trip to Scotland this last weekend but a few weeks ago injured my knee ligament playing football so as I had the Friday before the weekend off I thought I'd best go check my knee was okay for it. I decided I would go to the Lakes if I was up early enough or the Peak for something less time consuming. Of course lazy as I am I got up quite late so had to go to the Peak District instead! Other than climbing Snowdon which I do on a regular basis, the Kinder Downfall from Hayfield walk is the one I do most often, mainly because its not only a great place but its only 30 to 40 minutes from my house to the start of the walk.

Kinder Reservoir

I arrived at the Bowden Bridge car park to find I could either park for free on the road or pay something close to a fiver for several hours at the quarry car park, bet you can guess what I did! If it was something reasonable like a pound then I would probably have paid the money as I do like to support the areas I visit, but I refuse to pay such extortionate prices so unfortunately the area loses out instead. I set off along the usual route to the dam and climbed the path to the level of the reservoir. The Kinder Reservoir was deadly still and I managed to get some great shots of the water reflecting the surrounding hills that sweep away from the Kinder Plateau. After a Grouse scared the hell out of me, like they always do jumping out from heather making the usual racket, I got to the gate at the bottom of William Clough where I have always made my way up the popular but well worn William Clough path. I decided instead that I cut the walk short and take the less trodden route via open moorland over Hollin Head to the South West ridge that heads out from Sandy Heys. I've often looked down this ridge from on the plateau path itself as it looks interesting with its random mini boulder field that seems to defend its ridge crest like a set of road speed humps. It was a different, easy and much quiter ascent, I wouldn't recommend everyone go that way as it'll end up a mess but for those of us on the quiet days like this day its well worth doing.

Grouse on Sandy Heys

I followed the plateau path along the edge to Kinder Downfall. By now the weather wasn't the best as I was totally surrounded by thick cloud and could hardly see a thing. My glasses did the usual thing of steaming up and fogging on one eye only which is really really annoying. I could hear the downfall waterfall but not see it which was a shame as I'd never been here when it is in full flow. After the downfall I followed the path to Kinder Low with the cloud breaking eventually the views opened up. I even managed to find a bit of snow still lingering around which always puts a smile on my face no matter how little.

Kinder Low summit cairns

At Kinder Low the skies were open and the day was looking good. I descended via the Kinderlow End ridge and ate my lunch and flask of hot chocolate sat on the rocks on Kinderlow End. I sat and thought of the madness of city life going on in the distance that I was not at all sad about missing as Grouse and Mountain Hares joined me for lunch. I descended the steep path on Kinderlow End and found myself in the usual frustrating situation at the bottom of that descent where the footpath signs and rights of way through the farmland are not at all clear. Disappointing considering how popular the route is. I still get annoyed when farmers and land owners don't make it easier for people to find their way around their land, it would benefit everyone in the equation if they had more signs and signs that actually pointed the right way. To make things worse it was getting much darker so I reached into my hip belt pocket to grab my normal glasses as I'd been wearing my darker prescription sunglasses most of the day, to my horror my normal glasses were not there! I knew that within half an hour or less it would be completely dark and I was already starting to struggle. I completely mis-read the map and ended up sharing large fields with sheep and descending found myself just above a farm called The Ashes where no doubt an angry farmer would be coming 'with his gun gun gun' as the nursery rhymes used to say! I detoured away from the farm and heading over stone walls and fences managed to find the bridleway near Coldwell Clough. I got back to my car in pitch blackness and did the last kilometre back to Bowden Bridge in sun glasses and complete darkness which really wasn't fun. Lesson most certainly learned! Had a great day though as I love Kinder.

I have uploaded the photos from the day here.

Route Map...

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

The Cobbler, Loch Ossian & Carn Dearg

Day One Flight to Glasgow, Steve and Elaina, The Cobbler, Sandy, The Real Food Cafe, Corrour Station, Loch Ossian Wild Camp. Nicky gave me a lift on Saturday morning to the airport so I could catch my early morning flight to Glasgow. I grabbed a quick breaky from WH Smiths and purchased the 'Adventures on the High Teas' book by Stuart Marcone, who I like. The flight was brilliant as the whole journey took a similar route to that you would take in the car and the pilot never went to any great height so I spent the entire journey looking out the window spotting The Lake District, Haweswater Reservoir, Ullswater, Carlisle ( see left ), Solway Firth, Moffat, Tinto, New Lanark, Mothwerwell, Ben Lomond, The Cobbler and of course the River Clyde as we landed. I took some great pictures of these places from the air. I landed at 9:40 and phoned Steve and Elaina to let them know I had landed as they were coming to pick me up, Elaina requested a Vanilla Skinny Latte as I mentioned I was going to Starbucks to get a Mocha from the terminal.

Carlisle from the air

Steve and Elaina soon appeared in the Jazz and off we sped up the A82 in glorious sunshine on a cold crisp autumn morning to go do The Cobber. We soon reached our destination, the pay and display car park by Loch Long at Succoth but found it full of fellow good weather hikers. We parked further down the road instead where Steve, strangely for a tight Yorkshire man, panicked a bit about the ticket machine being broken! We set off up the zig zags and we were soon heading along the Allt a Bhalachain path towards the Narnain Boulders. I wasn't feeling too well at this point and there was an unavoidable detour for myself to go use the local wild amenities much to my relief! Feeling good after that and also seeing the extraordinary Cobbler up close for my fist time, I decided to climb on top of one of the Narnain Boulders as you'll see on Steve or Elaina's blogs. We left the popular track that goes round the back of The Cobbler and instead headed up the slight scramble up its front face which was much more fun!

The Cobbler and the Narnain Boulders

On the ascending scramble we met a young lad who started telling us how he was on his own and doing the mountain by himself. A little surprised we asked if the lad meant he'd just gone ahead of his folks or something. Our new found friend Keiran said that his family and friends don't like walking so he'd gone off on his own to climb the mountain and that he lives in Arrochar just across the loch. We were quite impressed, the young lad seemed really confident and was obviously proud of climbing the mountain by himself. He had no food on him and told us he suffers from Asthma. We took him with us up the mountain and to the summit where Elaina had unselfishly promised him her precious Snickers bar for his hard work.

Myself on The Cobbler

We wished him well and pointed out the best way down for him to go. The three of us sat on top of the Cobbler talking about the 'youth of today' and how it was such a great thing to see someone so out of the ordinary, confident and enthusiastic. Later in the day we found out our little star was telling a few porkies. In fact as we made our way across The Cobbler from the north peak to the actual summit we spotted him with another group of people with a tiny black dog. Later on the descent we caught up with the group and also Keiran who looked extremely sheepish as his Auntie called him along as we passed. The cheeky little sod, even though embarrassed had the cheek to say to us "what took you lot so long". We all had a right laugh remembering all that the lad had told us which was probably only half true but we all had a real soft spot for him and still thought he was a bit of a star!

Myself in "Argyll's Eyeglass"

The Cobbler is an incredible mountain, I said to Steve and Elaina several times that it looks like it should be in the far north of the Isle of Skye as it is so unique. The actual top summit of The Cobbler is a large piece of rock that sicks out from the mountain. This is the true summit and the only way to it is to go through one of two bizarre holes in the rock. The larger one known as "Argyll's eyeglass" gets you to the back of the rock along a ledge then up a move onto the top, the highest point of the mountain. This is great fun which Steve and Elaina had told me about before and is known locally as "threading the needle". Elaina and myself threaded the needle while Steve elected himself purely on "I've done it before, its not that I'm scared or anything" terms, as the camera man to capture our summit shot. We came off the mountain the more popular way and half way down we met up with Sandy who had wild camped the night before up on Ben Lomond which we could see on our descent.

In the dark at Corrour Station

We drove to the Real Food Cafe in Tyndrum where we were going to eat then wait for the arrival of Petesy, Bobinson and the other guys doing the WHW Falldoon. The food was as delicious as it always is and we all sat comfortably by the new fireplace waiting their arrival. At 8:15pm I realised I probably wasn't going to see Petesy and Bobinson as my train for Corrour left in 15 minutes time so I collected some water and said my goodbyes and thanked the guys for a fantastic day and picking me up. I am told that Petesy and Bobinson and the others turned up not too long after and were certainly exhausted and not surprisingly. Read up Petesy's blog here for the complete story of the WHW Falldoon. I set of up the long dark and stupidly unlit track to Uppr Tyndrum station. They have lights a plenty in Tyndrum but none on the two small roads to either of the two train stations, where is the sense in that?! I caught the train as planned and got myself ready for a scary two mile walk into pitch black somewhere I hadn't been before. As I got off the train at Corrour Station I expected to see not a single person but instead was nearly ran over by a hen party running for the train, apparently the hen party were staying at the B&B on the station. The train went off into the darkness of Rannoch Moor, I put on my head torch and headed down the track towards the Youth Hostel at Loch Ossian which luckily I could see a light of in the distance.

Wild Camp spot on Loch Ossian shoreline

I turned off my head torch and looked up all I could see was stars, there was thousands of them, I felt like I was in a dream or something. I eventually reached track near the Youth Hostel and was surprised to see its lights on as I was told it was now closed for winter. I headed along a fainter track now to reach the south shore of Loch Ossian and as I turned two grouse scared the living daylights out of me as they flew up and away making a hell of a noise in the pitch black. Getting chills down my neck partly from fear and partly as it was cold I set about finding a nice spot in the heather by the loch to pitch the tent. Within 10 minutes the tent was up and the sleeping bag out and I was making a cup of tea to go with my chocolate hob nobs.

Loch Ossian Youth Hostel

Day Two Rainy Loch Ossian, Road to The Isles, Loch Ossian Circular Walk, Dinner by the Loch and the Secret Shed. It was a surprisingly warm night in the tent as the wind was from the south. The other factor being that it had clouded over during the night and by morning was chucking it down with rain which woke me. I had some sleep but most of the night kept being woken by he noise of the roaring Red Deer stags. It is rutting season and I had already been warned I may get no sleep as they roar all through the night and they sure did. It was great fun at first listening to them but the novelty soon wore off after a few hours! So after a cup of tea and porridge I got up with a plan of doing the two Munros of Carn Dearg and Sgor Gaibhre. I packed away in the rain and set off along the track to pickup the Road to the Isles track that leads up to Peter's Rock and really wish I hadn't as it was soaked and I put my foot into foot deep mud on several occasions. I reached Peter's Rock and was soaked and cold and couldn't see a thing so decided to instead go back down to Loch Osian and do a circular walk round the loch. Loch Ossian is simply stunning! It is the perfect place with hardly anyone around and awesome scenery.

The far end of Loch Ossian

I would recommend a train journey to Corrour and the circular walk around the loch to anyone. This time of year the woodland in autumnal colour was breathtaking in places. I walked along the south shore to the Corrour Estate where the bizarre looking Corrour Shooting Lodge with its mix of old and modern stands guarded by a big iron fence all round. After passing over the outflow of the loch I headed back along the north shore where I found a great place to sit and eat the lovely Mountain House lunch that Sandy so kindly gave me the day before. I sat here for almost an hour on a sloped bed of dry pine needles just taking in the view as the sunshine started breaking through the gloomy clouds. I made my way back to the western end of the loch and went over to the Youth Hostel to check it out.

My luxurious shed in the woodland by Loch Ossian

The manager of the Youth Hostel who I think lives on site there was on hand to provide a chat and tell me a bit about the area. The hostel is open this time of year but only for group bookings. He told me that the weather forecast for the night wasn't too good and if I didn't fancy wild camping again he could tell me where there is a secret shed in the woods built and used by people auditing the forest and woodland. I took this location and headed off after thanking him. It took a bit of finding but eventually I found the shed. I expected a dark damp old thing with a broken door and holes and spiders, what I found though was absolute heaven, it looked like it had been made yesterday and was perfect. I emptied my ruck sack and started hanging my wet kit around the shed to dry. Making dinner that night the stove suddenly packed in which was extremely worrying as I would have had no way to boil water for food or drinks. This made me realise when out here so long I am probably best carrying a small ultralight esbit burner just in case. Luckily after some fiddling around it started working again. Shortly after I had my next problem, the camera battery had ran out, not a problem as I had the spare battery, only problem being the spare battery wasn't charged fully so ran out quickly. So most of the photos from then on would have to be taken on my mobile phone camera, gutted!

The rains really did come down during the night but I just sat and read my book while making brews and eating chocolate hob nobs before dozing off to the sound of the rain, the stags roaring in the background and dreaming about the easy Sunday I'd had walking round the loch.

Ascending Coire Odhar Beag with Loch Ossian beyond

Day Three Carn Dearg, Rannoch Station, By The Way Youth Hostel, Ukranian Friend and Train Home. I was woken by heavy rain on the shed roof, the roaring stags and birds in the woods. I made my porridge and sat for an hour or so deciding what to do. It is amazing how when you first wake up you just can' be bothred doing anything but after packing away, making breakfast, making a brew and puting your gear back on you suddenly feel up for another day. I left my lovely palatial home for the night that I had become very fond of and set back along the shores of Loch Ossian heading towards Peter's Rock again, on the way along the loch I saw again the Grey Heron I had seen several times already. From Peter's Rock I yomped my way up the heather slopes of Coire Odhar Beag to the north western ridge of Carn Dearg. I decided that I wasn't going to come all the way up here and not climb a mountain so picked on Carn Dearg as it is a Munro, probably the easiest around and I could continue along it to Rannoch Station and wild camp somewhere close by.

Myself on Carn Dearg summit cairn

I reached the large stone cairn on the summit of Carn Dearg fairly quickly despite the heay pack. The views to Rannoch Moor from up here are incredible, you have to see Rannoch Moor from above to understand the sheer size of this wild and desolate place, but I had no decent camera to take any photo's with, though luckilly the views weren't there very often as it was raining and cloudy. I pushed on after Carn Dearg along its south ridge over Meall na Fiadh and Sron Leachd a' Chaorainn. The views opened up from time to time which were amazing but I was too bothered about being battered by the strong winds and rain, I saw a Ptarmigan with both summer and winter colours, it glided safely away from me, and the Red Deer on the slopes below on both sides of the ridge continued their roaring. I reached the end of the ridge and could see Rannoch Station in the far distance. I descended the heather slopes of Sron Leachd a' Chaorainn and picked up the muddy Road to the Isles path. I followed the path which eventually became track and crossed a bridge over the Allt Eigheach and onto a landrover track that took me down to the B846 road at Loch Eigheach reservoir.

Train leaving Rannoch Station

A hard road walk along the B846 road and I was at Rannoch Station. The area surrounding Rannoch Station is nowhere near as wild or scenic as Corrour Station or Loch Ossian so I decided that instead of hanging around for the train in the morning I would instead get the 18:36 train and go a few stops back to Tyndrum where I knew I could use a bank machine and get a hostel bed for the night and a fish from the Real Food Cafe. I had a full hour before the train came so I setup my stove on the picnic table at the end of the station and made a brew and watched as several deer watched me from the field next to the station and the stags roared on from a far. I reached Tyndrum around 19:30 and got myself a warm, soft, comfortable bed at the By The Way indepipendant hostel at the lower station and then went to the Real Food Cafe for a few hours eating fish and jame and scones!

Jam and Scones in The Real Food Cafe

In the morning I made breakfast then said goodbye to the really nice Ukranian chap who I had shared the room with. He was on a hitch hiking holiday in Scotland and told me of going to Skye and even sleeping on benches in Kyle of Lochalsh. He was a really nice fella who told me all about the Ukraine and even gave me a postcard of his home city of Dnipropetrovsk for me to look up when I get home. As I left Tyndrum on Tuesday morning he was thumbs up at the bus stop below the Upper Station, I waved goodbye. I left a sunny Tyndrum and the journey out of the village gave stunning views of Ben Lui, a mountain I really want to do soon. The journey from Tyndrum to Glasgow is a real eye opener, the Cobbler was on view as we rounded to Arrochar, Loch Long which I had never really seen before was lovely, but one the most surprising things for me was how wild the estuary of the River Clyde was. I have never seen so many Oyster Catchrs in my lfe, there was hundreds of them in huge flocks all sat at an angle to the waters edge. In Glasgow I had to rush across the city from Queen Street Station to Central Station, i'm not sure how many older or less able people can make this little hop in the ticket they buy! The train then to Preston, then off again for the train to Manchester and back to reality with a final journey sat with hundreds of other mancunians packed into one of those horrid sardine cans they call a tram.

Photos from The Cobbler from Arrochar walk here.

Photos from the Loch Ossian Circular Walk here.

Photos from the Corrour to Rannoch via Carn Dearg walk here.

Route Map... ( The Cobbler from Arrochar )



Route Map... ( Loch Ossian Circular Walk )



Route Map... ( Corrour to Rannoch via Carn Dearg )

Monday, 5 October 2009

Edale to Glossop via Crowden Head Trip Report

My good lady was off to see a mate at lunch time on Sunday and then on to her parents who live in Glossop so I planned my walk around her plans. My plan was to get dropped off at Piccadilly train station in the morning, get the train to Edale in the heart of the Peak District and walk up and over the Kinder Plateau then down into Glossop in time for tea at the future in laws. All went to plan and I had a cracking day on the hills!

Sheffield train in Manchester Piccadilly Station

Got up Sunday morning and the weather was great! I was dropped off at Piccadilly at around 10:15 to find that I had missed the earlier Sheffield train and was an hour and a half early for the next one. I had time to waste and there was one piece of shiny new gear that was still on my wish list that I knew I could get in town so I headed out of the station and into the city centre. I can tell you, walking around the Manchester Arndale shopping centre in full hiking gear with poles hanging off your sack gets a few funny looks! Dixons was open and had the Gorilla Pod in stock. This week I was going to purchase the camera mount for my Pacer Poles, then I thought to myself what is the point when I can do the exact same thing with the Gorilla Pod and have the versatility that comes with one. I tested the Gorilla Pod yesterday and was really impressed with the many situations you can use it in and also the way in which it clips on and off my camera so quickly, its very light too and just hangs off your sack. In a week or two I will do a proper review of it. So after buying the Gorilla Pod and visiting WH Smiths to get a copy of this months TGO Magazine I headed back to the station and got on the 11:45 train to Sheffield stopping at Edale.

Grindsbrook Clough

The train was full of outdoor folk as always, which brings a comfortable feeling to the journey. Its a journey I love to make and a journey that city dwelling Mancunians have traditionally done for decades. An easy journey took us out of the bustling city and into the country side where folk smile and ask you how your day has been. On route I saw a Buzzard circle the train above Strines railway station which put a smile on my face. I absolutely love the buzz that suddenly starts as the train speeds through the long and dark Cowburn Tunnel as all the outdoor folk start to get their bags ready in anticipation of getting off at the beautifully located Edale railway station. A short pleasant road walk from the station takes you to the village centre. From the village I went ahead and then turned right going down and over Grinds Brook bridge and started the long slow ascent up Grindsbrook Clough. Unfortunately the big dark cloud I'd seen in the distance from the train window had suddenly made its way above me and was now throwing down a squally shower but it was soon over and I didn't even need the waterproofs. I've never taken the entire route up Grindsbrook Clough before and was really impressed, the final rocky scramble at the top was great fun!

Crowden Head

I reached the top of Grindsbrook Clough and the edge of the vast Kinder Plateau. I have often done walks that incorporate the edge path of Kinder Plateau and sometimes ventured a little way in simply to experience the peat and get a photograph of the fascinating Mountain Hares. I have never attempted to walk across the plateau or find one of the many hard to find spots on the boggy wilderness. I took a compass bearing from the top of Grindsbrook Clough, and using the leapfrogging technique, which in good weather is a lot easier on Kinder as you can use peat hags that are further away, I managed to find the wild and desolate cairn at Crowden Head. The peat bogs were horrendous at times, my feet sinking all the time. My Pacer Poles were a huge help at keeping me on my feet though they often sank too, if I use them up there in future I would take the larger baskets on them. I left Crowden Head with another compass bearing, this time I wanted to get to the River Kinder.

River Kinder

I have only experienced the River Kinder from the Kinder Downfall to the Kinder Reservoir. As I reached the River Kinder the horrendous boggy terrain turned into what I can only describe as the equivalent of a sandy river behind a Cornish beach in summer. It was like I'd gone from hell to heaven. The River Kinder on its kilometre long run before it drops over the Kinder Downfall is an absolute delight. Standing at the Kinder Downfall as I have on numerous visits in the past I would never think of following it upstream across the plateau as I always presumed it would just split up into many smaller tributaries and disappear into the dark peat like the other streams. Instead the river is stunning and actually gets wider in parts as it follows a wide sandy course sheltered on either side by a huge wall of peat hags and groughs

Myself lunching by the River Kinder

Following the course of the River Kinder I then came across Kinder Gates where two huge gritstone rocks stand on either side of the river giving the spot its name. Eventually I reached the Kinder Downfall and watched as huge black clouds made their way across Cheshire towards me and gave another short downpour. I walked the usual route along the plateau edge path passing Sandy Heys, the views from here open up across Greater Manchester and Cheshire. I love searching for the many landmarks in view, from left to right on a good day like yesterday you can see the huge Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank, Beeston Castle on the Sandstone Ridge, Manchester Airport and Runway, the high mountains of Snowdonia, the huge cooling towers of Fiddlers Ferry power station by the Mersey Estuary, the higher buildings and cathedrals of Liverpool, the Granada regions TV mast on Winter Hill, the South Pennines and of course the whole of Greater Manchester and Manchester City Centre.

Aircraft Wreckage on Mill Hill

I descended from the plateau and went up Mill Hill then headed across an easy path to Burnt Hill, passing the plane wreckage of Liberator B-24J 42-52003 of U.S.A.F. 310 Ferrying Squadron which crashed here on the western side of Mill Hill on October 11th 1944. My next target was Harry Hut, easy to identify with its bright white trig point but there seemed no obvious route, I took a direct route across some of the thickest healthiest heather I had seen all day, it was no wonder that I'd seen more Red Grouse here than on any other part of the walk. Heather especially when it is thick can be very dangerous as it hides many streams or holes underneath its thick cover. About half way across to Harry Hut my left leg literally disappeared down a large hole, immediately I could feel a little pain but nothing to worry me, but the worrying thing was the crack noise I heard. As my leg went down the large hole my pole took all the weight of my body and went down its own smaller hole, it was bad news, I dragged myself out of the hole and picked up the carbon Pacer Pole to find it had snapped on the middle section, I took extreme care at this point as it was still slightly attached and I realised straight away that the most important thing was to keep that attached and try my hardest to gently release the tightener inside so I could get the whole of the damaged section out without leaving the tightener inside otherwise that would render both parts useless and in need of replacing. I managed to get the tightener part out which means only one part needs replacing.

Harry Hut summit trig pillar

A Mountain Hare, first of the day surprisingly, darted away from me as I approached the summit of Harry Hut and as I got to the summit I got a phone call from Nicky to let me know that tea would be ready in less than an hour. I explained I was just on my way down into Glossop and she came with Max from her folks house and met me half way so by the time I had gone over Worm Stones I could see her ascending towards me. It was a fantastic day out, the highlights were the River Kinder which is just heavenly before the Kinder Downfall and the scrambly section at the top of Grindsbrook Clough. In the crossing of the plateau from Grindsbrook Clough to Kinder Downfall I did not see a single person for hours. If you wanted to do this walk then get the earliest train possible from Manchester Piccadilly to Sheffield, get off at Edale, do the walk then get a train from Glossop back to Manchester that evening. I will write up this walk for the website at some point.

I have uploaded the photos from the day here.

Route Map...

Monday, 21 September 2009

Glencoe OM Meet Trip Report

Just got back from another cracking weekend with friends from Outdoors Magic this time in Glencoe. We headed up the M6 on Friday afternoon with the usual bridge works causing havoc near Preston and Lancaster but soon got in our stride, bombing past the ever beautiful Howgills and crossing the border in good time. As we crossed the border we saw several large skeins of Geese heading towards the Solway, most likely stopping off there on their way to warmer climates for the winter. We on the other hand are more hardened and were heading north through Glasgow then up to the meteorologically unpredictable Highlands.

Binnein Beag summit cairn

We arrived at the Red Squirrel campsite at around 9pm and it was dark. Finding a bunch of lightweight outdoors fanatics isn't hard on a campsite to be honest, you just look for the main identifiers like empty beer cans and stupidly lightweight tents in close proximity. We found hidden away a Golite Hex, Golitee Shangri-La 3 and Lightwave tent and knew that only one bunch of people have such good taste! We tried to setup the tent, which a fortnight ago took us three minutes to erect, half an hour later I was still stressing! The ground was full of rocks and so damp and chalky it wouldn't take the pegs and when it did they didn't stay in despite being y pegs.

Base camp at Red Squirrel camp site in Glencoe

Eventually I gave up and used some big rocks to keep the pegs in. I'm not a huge fan of the Red Squirel campsite to be honest. I like its location but that is about it. The amount of money this site makes in a year is a huge amount, however the amount invested back into the sites facilities is simply atrocious by comparison in my opinion. The toilet doors for example are so old and decrepit that on the first morning, I had to rescue a young lad crying as he couldn't get the lock open, Sandy got quite a shock when he entered the toilets to find me leaning over the cubicle into the cubicle where a little boy was crying, the rumours started as you can imagine and were not helped by the young lads dad who thought it was funny to send me from 'Hero' to 'Zero' in one false rumour!

Myself, Sir Jimmy Saville, Polly the Parrot and Elaina

So after setting up camp we rushed down to the Clachaig Inn. Surely the world's greatest establishment! The Boots Bar at the back of the place was absolutely buzzing and cramped full of outdoors people who had spent the day on the hills. The joy of sitting listening to peoples experiences in this very bar is the reason I decided to go on my first ever mountain walk many years ago. We took Max the border collie with us and let him off his lead to run round the place making friends all night. We immediately spotted the Outdoor Magic lot and went over to say hello to friends Elaina, Steve and Sandy who introduced us to his lovely new lady Louise. After mingling we spotted a healthy looking Frank in the corner. Other people we hadn't met before like Ian, Mole, Tim and Stephen introduced themselves and we had a good chinwag with everyone.

Sandy and Sir Jimmy Saville

Half an hour after entering the pub a familiar face entered the pub much to every ones surprise, none other than the legend himself Jimmy Saville! At first I thought he was Doug Scott with the white hair and rounded glasses, though I can't imagine Doug wearing yellow Lennonesque glasses and yellow track suit tops. We had a great laugh with him and Elaina told him all about International Talk Like A Pirate Day and he agreed to photo us all with Polly the Parrot! After the pub we all took the often dodgy walk home along the dark road, one lad who was with another group and a lot more drunk than any of our party went over in a bad way and ended up in plaster cast at Fort William at the end of the night.

Heading along the Mamore Lodge track towards the mountains

Morning came and the weather wasn't too bad, the worst of the weather had been forecast for the afternoon so we all prepared for the worst. We all drove up to the Mamore Lodge car park, a handy 200m above sea level. Setting off along the track to Loch Eilde Mor the weather held up but the clouds around were lowering and distance curtains of grey showed us what to expect. By the time we reached the Loch it dawned on us as we checked the map for the first time that we had as usually missed the path we needed to take to shoulder the side of Sgor Eilde Beag.

Heading towards Binnein Beag on Coire a Bhinnein

So as the rain started pouring down we donned our waterproofs and yomped over the heather using the Allt Coire nan Laogh as a hand rail to get us to the path we should have been on. We gained the path and rounded Sgor Eilde Mor expecting to see one of the Mamores greatest sights Sgurr Eilde Mor reflected in the oddly shaped lochans at its foot, instead all we saw was rain and clag. at this point Sandy and Louise decided they would leave the rest of us and climb Sgurr Eilde Mor instead of the planned ascent of the remote munro Binnein Beag. We still do not know exactly what the young couple got up too while they were off on their own though many of us made up our own stories as you can imagine.

Ptarmigain on Binnein Beag

As we eventually reached the foot of the final ascent to Binnein Beag the rain stopped and blue skies started teasing above the ridges above us. We climbed the rocky boulder strewn ascent to reach the summit and the weather gave us a perfectly timed good weather window. Mole spotted a pair of Ptarmigan on the ascent. Fascinating and surprisingly tame birds. The views stretched far and down the full length of Glen Nevis. After photos and food we descended and decided that given the time and the ever changing weather that would be it for the day and headed back along the right path this time.

Myself on Binnein Beag summit with the Grey Corries behind

There was a moment of head shaking on the return leg when we stumbled across the blatantly obvious path and cairn we should have taken earlier! Ach well we all blamed Steve as usual! After removing much soaked clothes and watching a stunning rainbow at Mamore Lodge we set off for warmth and food and found it in Kinlochleven at the McDonald Hotel. Venison Pate, Haggis Fritters, Steak Lasagne, Stick Toffee Pudding all happily consumed. The best part of the evening was when a small child ran in the place and her feet went from underneath her, most of the hotel looking in horror as we all chuckled at the table and Sandy accused Nicky and Louise of sticking their legs out. Knackered from the days adventures we all went back to camp where some took a shower and power nap.

Camp fire at Red Squirrel camp site in Glencoe

One thing I'd learned about Red Squirrel is to take a good supply of fire wood, we took a big box with us and on Saturday night it was a delight to sit around the warm fire with friends. Sandy and myself had a play with some slow shutter settings on our cameras and played around. At 11pm the site wardens came over and threw a large bucket of water of the fire and that was the end of that! We headed home the next day as we were tired and all our gear was soaking, plan was to watch the rather important football match on the way home somewhere but in the end we just listened to Radio 5 and listened to a great match where Manchester's premier football team showed the wannabies that they have a long way to go yet!

I have uploaded the photos from the weekend here.

Route Map...