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...