Saturday, 3 August 2013

Scafell Pike from Wasdale

I have decided to join my brother in law Tim on his Three Peaks Challenge in the first weekend of August. In the past fortnight we have been trying to get fit. We have climbed a few mountains together, I've been returning to regularly footy as has Tim and he has also been out running most nights. I am struggling with my fitness which isn't being helped by the fact I am still recovering from my ankle injury and on a heavy daily dose of adrenaline stopping blood pressure control medication. So this weekend we decided to walk one of the routes we would be doing during the challenge and test our fitness by seeing how fast we could make it to the top and back down again.

Scafell Pike and Scafell across Wast Water, Lake District

The nation was still gripped in a heat wave though it was now mixed with spells of thunder storms. Saturdays weather forecast for the Lake District looked promising though with all the thundery weather staying down south and not moving north until later on Saturday night. The drive up was a good one with no problems. As with every trip round to the more remote Wasdale though, you forget just how far and tedious the drive round to that far side is. As the weather was good though the views made it an enjoyable experience. The outlying fell of Black Combe looked absolutely stunning as we passed. I really want to climb up it one day as I would imagine its close proximity to Morecambe Bay and the Southern Fells must make it a fine viewpoint.

My new car by Wast Water with the Scafells in the background

We turned off the main road and headed down the minor roads towards Wasdale Head. Wast Water look amazing with not a cloud in site and England's highest mountains dominating the skyline. Locals and holidaying tourists were swimming in the waters with the stunning Screes behind them. The perfect weather gave me a chance to pull over and take some great photos of Scafell and Scafell Pike that will be ideal for the websites walks pages as I've rarely had the chance to photograph them in these conditions before.

Scafell Pike and Scafell across Wast Water, Lake District

We pulled up at the lay-by opposite the entrance to the camp site road and were surprised to find a few spare parking spaces. We parked up there to save having to pay £4.50 at the National Trust pay and display car park behind the camp site. We kitted up and covered ourselves in factor fifty suncream. Setting off along the track past the campsite towards Brackenclose a large Grey Heron flew right over our heads.

Great Gable from Wast Water, Lake District National Park

We crossed the wide road bridge below Brackenclose then followed the path between the climbing hut and the gill to reach the higher bridge which we crossed to reach the northern side of the gill. The footpath was fairly easy going at the start, the huge western crags of Scafell Pike dominating the skyline ahead of us.

Tim walking up Lingmell Gill towards Scafell Pike, Lake District

We headed through another gate at the last wall and followed the path up the northern side of Lingmell Gill. The path was now starting to get a bit steeper. We crossed Lingmell Gill and made our way up the much steeper Brown Tongue. This short section up Brown Tongue is by far the most difficult part of this ascent route and I really struggled to get up it as I was getting chest pains and stomach cramps. I have to say I am really not looking forward to climbing this section next weekend on the challenge when I will already have struggled up Ben Nevis several hours before.

Wast Water from Lingmell Gill ascent path, Lake District

Finally we reached the section above Brown Tongue where the path finally flattens out for a while as it crosses the tricky boulder strewn section at Hollow Stones. The path disappears a few times over Hollow Stones which is probably why a few inexperienced people doing the Three Peaks Challenge get caught out here. I would imagine a fair few take the wrong way at the fork just before it too and end up on the steep scree climb up to Mickledore.

Mickledore col between Scafell Pike and Scafell, Lake District

The path climbed wide zig zags to reach Lingmell Col between Lingmell Fell and Scafell Pike. Tim took a few desire lines while I stuck to the path as it was easier. As we reached the top of Lingmell Fell there was a loud crashing noise to our right. Ourselves and several other walkers all stopped in our tracks and watch in amazement as a huge rockfall fell down the crags.

Tim ascending the path above Lingmell Col, Scafell Pike, Lake District

We started the final ascent to Scafell Pikes summit from Lingmell Fell. At the start of the climb I could see clearly the top of the Corridor Route that we were supposed to have found the fortnight before on our descent to Seathwaite. Then further up I saw the cairns that forced us to take the more difficult shortcut route.

Great Gable and Styhead Tarn from Scafell Pike, Lake District

At one point on the ascent to the summit the path climbs up some impressive looking slabs. Looking north from the ascent path the view was amazing. You could see as far as Skiddaw, Blencathra and Derwentwater, but what really impressed was the closer views to Great Gable and Styhead Tarn which were awesome.

Broad Crag, Ill Crag and Great End from Scafell Pike, Lake District

This is the fourth time I have climbed to the summit of Scafell Pike and the first time I have seen anything from its lofty summit. We climbed on to the top of the huge stone built platform at the summit. We took a great shot of Tim and myself and a few in each direction. The views were fantastic, particularly along the Broad Crag, Ill Crag, Great End ridge, though it was a little hazy. We had lunch and watched the swarms of people arriving as we ate.

Crowds on Scafell Pike summit, Lake District National Park

Scafell from Scafell Pike summit, Lake District National Park

Myself and Tim on Scafell Pike summit, Lake District

Scafell and Wast Water from Scafell Pike, Lake District National Park

Lingmell Fell and Great Gable from Scafell Pike

Tim stopped his stopwatch when we arrived at the summit. We made it to the top in an impressive one hour and forty eight minutes. We had read that the mountain should be done in four hours maximum on the challenge. This gave us an easy two hours ten minutes to get down.

Tim descending slabs down Scafell Pike with Great Gable beyond 

Tim started the stopwatch again as we set off on our descent. We were quick but by no means uncomfortably or annoyingly to other walkers. The only point at which we really rushed and started to  jog was right at the end after we reached the crossing of Lingmell Gill under Brown Tongue and Tim pointed out that if we got to the start in twenty minutes we would make the whole walk up and down in less than three hours.

Tim descending Hollow Stones with Wast Water beyond

We made it back to the National Trust car park in just one hour and eight minutes, meaning that we did the entire walk up and down in just two hours and fifty six minutes. We were really impressed, especially as I was struggling so badly up Brown Tongue on the ascent. This gave us great confidence in our ability to complete Three Peaks Challenge this next weekend.

Contrasting colours towards Pillar on Scafell Pike descent

Its going to be one of the hardest challenges of my life. I know I have a lot of hill experience, but at the moment I am really struggling for fitness. If you have a spare fiver please donate to my just giving page. I am doing the challenge with my brother in law Tim's and his friends from the Great British Food Festival and the Onion Ring website. We are hoping to raise as much money as we can for the fantastic Rainbow House. Rainbow House helps children with physical disabilities to become more active and independent through conductive education and early years services, aiming to achieve each child's goal in sitting, standing and walking and improve their social skills in eating, dressing and toileting, making integration into mainstream school and the community easier. Not only do they help children with disabilities such as Cerebral Palsy, Downs Syndrome, Metabolic and other genetic motor disorders, they also provide support for their families and carers...

Click here for my Just Giving donation page...

Tim descending Hollow Stones with Wast Water beyond

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Thursday, 1 August 2013

Moel Siabod from Pont Cyfyng

My friend Simon recently traversed the Crib Goch ridge on Snowdon and like most adventurous and outgoing people who experience the thrill of Crib Goch he wants more. He has discovered the fun, excitement and satisfaction you get from hands on scrambling. So when Simon arranged his next walk via Facebook it was no surprise that he chose a mountain with a ridge scrambling route. If you ask anyone the locals that live or work in Snowdonia what is their favourite mountain the name you will hear the most is Moel Siabod. It has everything the three main popular mountain massifs have yet it is totally over looked by most hill walkers. It has glacial cwms, disused quarries, ridges, geology, wildlife, stunning panoramic views and a high exposed summit. All this and the lack of people make it the locals favourite and their best kept secret.

Tim, Andrew and Simon heading towards Moel Siabod, Snowdonia

I wasn't lucky with the weather the last two times I climbed Moel Siabod. The first attempt was a disaster as the winds were incredibly strong. In fact they were so bad that there was a National Trust ranger at the lay-by warning people how bad the winds were on the summit. The second attempt was an enjoyable day out but the summit was shrouded in thick cloud so there were no views again. On that trip we ascended the steep unforgiving scree slope by the side of the Daear Ddu ridge instead of the ridge itself which wasn't the best choice. This time however we were guaranteed clear blue skies as the nation was gripped in a fortnight long heat wave.

Tim, Andrew and Simon walking past quarry lake below Moel Siabod

After a very easy drive along the A55 we parked up in the Pont Cyfyng lay-by and waited for the arrival of Simon and Andrew who arrived only minutes later. We crossed the bridge over the Afon Llugwy river which is stunning as it cascades through a chasm below the bridge. We turned right crossing the cattle grid and ascended the steep tarmac road towards Rhos. At the top of the road where it bends right we headed up the new footpath that now diverts walkers round the farm and is actually a much nicer route through bracken and heather. The footpath rejoined the track above the farm where we turned left and continued in the direction of Moel Siabod.

Tim passing huge quarry tips below Moel Siabod, Snowdonia

I first walked up Moel Siabdod just over a decade ago as the Crow Act was coming into play. The popular guide book I used at the time showed a different route to this one and the maps I used at the time had no Access Land shading on them. Therefore when I wrote up the walk which was one of the first to appear on my website I hadn't realised that the farmer and council had negotiated the access land around his private land. This meant that the route I put up was now unfortunately no longer crossing designated open access land but the farmers private land. Unfortunately the farmer at the time decided to write to me with an immediately very negative and unnecessary attitude which somewhat effected the speed at which I chose to correct the page.

Quarry buildings below Moel Siabod, Snowdonia National Park

We crossed a few stiles and made our way left of the end of the mountain skirting the right hand side of  the dammed lake below the disused quarry. We explored the disused quarry buildings and Simon did his best impression of Gollum exploring an old tunnel.

Simon exploring quarry tunnel below Moel Siabod, Snowdonia 

We continued on our ascent, passing the huge disused quarry tips. We reached the small yet deep quarry now filled with water. Usually here there is a waterfall that runs down a slab chute but today after the last fortnight's heat wave there was not even a trickle.

Quarry below Moel Siabod, Snowdonia National Park, North Wales

After another easy ascent over grassy and slightly boggy ground we reached the stunning Llyn y Foel. This really is a magical place and one of the best wild camping spots you are likely to find. The lake had a surprising number of rocky islands and muddy beaches as its water levels were unusually low.

Approaching Llyn y Foel, Moel Siabod, Snowdonia National Park

As we approached Llyn y Foel we got our first view of our ascent route, the Daear Ddu ridge. On both of my previous visits to Llyn y Foel the cloud base was a the same height as the lake and I saw nothing of the ridge. Today it however it was totally clear. I never realised what a huge amphitheatre Moel Siabod created behind Llyn y Foel as most photos are taken towards the lake and not towards the mountain and its huge cliffs.

Panorama of Moel Siabod from Llyn y Foel, Snowdonia National Park

We had lunch above Llyn y Foel at the foot of the ridge and slapped sun cream over our exposed skin. Simon attached his new GoPro camera to his chest and we were ready to go. Tim had never done any scrambling before and was looking a little apprehensive after looking up at the ridge.

Tim, Andrew and Simon below Moel Siabod, Snowdonia National Park

The scrambling up the Daear Ddu ridge was awesome. The rock was so grippy it was almost impossible to make a wrong move.

Andrew scrambling up the Daear Ddu ridge on Moel Siabod, Snowdonia

I found it hard to concentrate on the scrambling as the photo opportunities of the guys scrambling and the views down to Llyn y Foel were endless.

Simon Daear Ddu above Llyn y Foel, Moel Siabod

The only thing I had to concentrate on at times was being Dad to Simon and telling him to be careful. He was like a small child that had been giving a giant climbing frame in his back garden for Christmas.

Simon scrambling up Daear Ddu on Moel Siabod, Snowdonia

Andrew taking a break on the Daear Ddu ridge on Moel Siabod

Simon high on the Daear Ddu ridge above Llyn y Foel, Snowdonia

Tim was by now loving the experience of his first proper scramble and said afterwards how glad he was that he had done it. He is really starting to see the benefits of the confidence and techniques gained from hill time. He is super fit at the moment and now watching him walk up and down mountains I can see him creating his own technical style and gaining confidence. Its amazing how differently and with more confidence someone handles things like rocky descents after they have had a few days out in the hills.

Tim ascending the Daear Ddu ridge on Moel Siabod, Snowdonia

Scrambling section on top of the Daear Ddu ridge on Moel Siabod

The scrambling wasn't constant along the ridge and at the half way point there the rocks gave way to a grassier easy going slope. Looking up from here the top part of the ridge looked pretty frightening, but apart from one hands on section the rest was fairly simple scrambling and we reached the top surprisingly quickly. The ridge tops out almost literally at the summit too so when the scrambling stops you are only a dozen metres from the top.

Simon on the Moel Siabod summit trig point pillar, Snowdonia

Snowdon, The Glyders and The Carneddau from Moel Siabod, Snowdonia

The summit of Moel Siabod is most famous for its perfect panoramic views. It stands alone in an outlying position just south of Snowdonia's three main mountain massifs. There are three hundred and sixty degree all round views but the views that grab your attention are those to the Snowdon, Glyderrau and Carneddau massifs.

Tim at the Moel Siabod trig point pillar, Snowdonia National Park

Llyn y Foel and the Daear Ddu ridge from Moel Siabod, Snowdonia

We had a bite to eat, took dozens of photos and Simon and I took turns climbing up on to the trig point pillar for the standard arms out photo before descending north east along the mountains main ridge. There is an easier path to the left of the ridge crest but we took the far more exciting route along the ridge crest which consists of slanting grippy rock.

Myself on the Moel Siabod trip point pillar, Snowdonia National Park

It was great looking back down to the Daear Ddu ridge knowing that we had ascended the ridge. It is an awesome looking ridge with pointy slanted rocks and fairly serious cliff drops.

Daear Ddu ridge from Moel Siabod, Snowdonia National Park

Llyn y Foel from Moel Siabod, Snowdonia National Park, North Wales
Llyn y Foel also looked awesome from above. It is a fantastic shape which really adds to its mystical reputation. I hope to come back one day and wild camp by the lake and head up the ridge at dawn to see the sunset from the summit.

Llyn y Foel from Moel Siabod, Snowdonia National Park, North Wales

Looking down from the north eastern end of the main north east ridge we could see our entire ascent route. The aerial view of the disused quarries was really interesting too.  The whole way down the ridge we had huge panoramic horizon views and blue skies.

Andrew looking down on our ascent route from Moel Siabod

The end of the ridge was quite strange as the paths just totally disappeared. I'm guessing we should probably have headed off to the left to that easier path. We met the track we ascended earlier and followed it back down to Pont Cyfyng. The Bryn Glo pub across the road at the start of the walk now has an outdoor wood fired stone baked pizza oven which I really wanted to take advantage of, but we had a family barbecue awaiting our attendance back at home. So we said our goodbyes, all agreed it was a great day out and set off for home along the A55 which was busy but not as bad as previous trips. Moel Siabod is a fantastic mountain and its no wonder the locals say it is their favourite.

Simon looks fetching in local wool hair piece

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