29 April 2012

Carneddau Capers

Location - Snowdonia National Park
Height - 3209ft rising to 3491ft
Time - 6 hrs
Distance - Approx 10 miles
Conditions - a mix of sunshine, high winds, snow, freezing temperatures
Walking with - The BM

Today would take us up high into the Welsh mountains again and with the prospect of bagging 3, possibly 4 of the 3000's we were giddy as kippers on the early morning drive over to, what is fast becoming familiar territory of the Snowdonia National Park.  After a quick fuel stop at "Wink's cousin" Jason's Starbucks styled butty van on the A55 we parked on the shores of Llyn Ogwen in the Ogwen Valley to start out on the track up to Glan Dena to begin the initial ascent of Pen Yr Ole Wen.  The first part of our challenge today.

The initial climb was sloggish, through boggy patches, our first unremitting section of the day and true to form our legs and lungs hadn't yet realised that we were in fact climbing a mountain today and they put up their usual 15 - 20 mins of rebellion which we both knew wouldn't last long.

The path we were following caused us to cross the small stream of Afon Lloer several times before we came upon the wooden stile at the stone wall which signified the first part of the climb was over and the real tough stuff started from here on in.

At this point I will say that the views behind us of Tryfan and the Glyders was truly outstanding.  Its an impressive piece of rock that holds your eye refusing to let your gaze wander elsewhere as it taunts you with its rocky surface and impressive form.

Crossing the stile and continuing up the steepening path and we could see the amphitheater like bowl ahead of us which held the impressive glacial cwm.

The spectacular dark waters surrounded by the ridge that we would tackle later in the day but first, ahead of us, was the rocky ascent to Pen Yr Ole Wen.  We knew that there would be a scramble involved in this ascent but we never imagined what a scramble it would turn out to be.  An amazing journey through the rock to lead us up to the top was quite intoxicating and an incredible adrenalin rush.

Once the scramble section was over, we headed up the path that would take us up and over the false summit then up the final winding stony and rocky path that would lead us to the flat plateau of Pen Yr Ole Wen.  The most noticeable change here, once out of the rocks was the wind.

All of a sudden it gathered quite a strength and was blowing us sideways with some force.  Wooly hats were brought out as we slogged up the final path to the summit.

The summit is marked with a small cairn and the views were outstanding.  Over to Anglesey & the Irish Sea to the West, Snowden and the Glyders beyond and in the other direction more peaks and summits to be tackled on another day.  Light was bouncing off the flanks of the surrounding mountains made an attractive and stunning landscape.  Ahead of us however was the rest of the Carneddau range and the ridge leading off the summit towards Carnedd Fach and Carnedd Dafydd.

The weather at this point is changing rapidly.  The wind is gathering some force and buffeting us along the ridge.  The cloud is moving in and the views are ever changing as the cloud billows over, increasing in density and starting to obscure the path ahead.

At the first shelter point on the summit of Carnedd Fach we stopped for a quick cuppa and the usual malt loaf and snacks however with the cloud moving in quickly it was a short stop as we were keen to push on forward to the Carnedds ahead.  I saw a flash of forked lightning in the cloud ahead at it really took me by surprise but there was no time to hang around and soon we were off up the ridge again for our next target of the summit of Carnedd Dafydd.

Along the ridge and then another small ascent to the top of Carnedd Dafydd where a small stone cairn marks the summit and as the third highest mountain in Wales there really should have been more of a marker, no?  The wind by this time seems to be increasing in strength and as we continue along the Cefn Ysgolion Duon ridge we are offered some fantastic views down Cwm Pen-Llafar valley with the Afon Llafar snaking its way along the flat bottom of the impressive valley.

We are being blown left right an centre as the exposed ridge offers little protection from the elements.  The cloud still swirling around changes the views every moment before our eyes.  Looking down from the ridge we could see some impressive cliff walls which are used by serious climbers and looked very ominous and scary indeed.  Not a place I'd like to be today.  The exposed ridge was enough excitement in the ever worsening conditions, thank you very much!

We followed the ridge to its lowest point, still navigating our way around boulders and rocks in the relatively flat and sometimes boggy path.  Wooly  hats and gloves on, hoods up and tied tight against the prevailing weather and the wind continued relentlessly to pound against us as we made our way down the ridge to its lowest point before starting to head along Bwlch Cyfryw-drum before ascending what should have been an easy but steep path to the rocky summit of Carnedd Llewelyn.

The path was hampered by the now deep snow on the ground obscuring any noticeable route and the visibly was now down to a few metres.  So we could do nothing but try to head upwards.  Were we on a path? Who knows!  Were we heading upwards? Well we tried.  Was there any indication of the top?  We couldn't see diddly squat but onwards we ventured and after a good 30 - 40 mins we came upon the cairn that signified we had reached the summit.

There are many cairns and a large stone shelter on the summit of Carnedd Lleweyln so our plan was to find the shelter and have a quick refreshment stop so we headed out, across the vast and eerie landscape of snow and rocks to see if we could find it.  The visibility was so poor and not knowing what was underfoot beneath the snow we settled for a large group of rocks that provided at least some degree of protection from the driving winds.

 The view in front of us as we clasped our hot drinks firmly was indeed a strange one.  A misty eerie landscape, no other person around and temperatures that were most definitely well below freezing.

The next challenge was - How do we get off this thing? - The earlier thoughts of tagging Yr Elen onto the end of our Carnedd walk was quickly dismissed as we couldn't even see the mountain nor the path that would take us there so we concentrated on finding the path that would take us down off the mountain and back to our start point.  The notes we had told us to head South East then East down a very obvious path.  The chances of finding such a path in these conditions were slim but having the trusty mini compass with us we soon found the path and were joined by a few others which confirmed we were heading in the right direction.

Almost as soon as we started the descent, even after a few steps, my knee gave way and very quickly I was in considerable pain.  I very slowly made my way through the rocks downwards and whereas under normal conditions we'd be skipping down through the rocks my knee was struggling to step through the rocks far less skip or run........very frustrating!!!!! The unfolding views brought a welcome distraction.

It seemed quite quickly that we were out of the cloud and could start to see the route and path ahead of us.  The notes had told us that there would be some scrambling on the descent and that giddiness set in again.  Down through the rocky, snakey path we were once again provided with some spectacular views of where we'd come from to the sheer drops down to Cwm Eigiau to the left and ahead to the path that followed the flanks of Pen yr Helgi Du which would take us home.

The rocky ridge of Bwlch Eryl Farchog was soon upon us and it was a welcome relief to my knee.  Walking downwards caused great pain however scrambling through rocks downwards caused no pain at all.......strange!  The scramble down was again a problem solving exercises and as with all of our walks, we always seem to choose the most challenging route.  Down the left hand side of the rocks would have proved an easy and safe route down, however that is not our way and we inadvertently chose the left hand side that would prove a little more difficult but between us we made our way, precariously and carefully through the rocks, backwards, frontwards, using both hands and feet we soon found ourselves down onto a more level footing.  Brilliant stuff!

Following the path down to the low point of the col between Carnedd Llewelyn and Pen yr Helgi Du we turned right and started the steep and zig zag descent.  This path is rough and was a complete nightmare for my knee but as with all tricky parts it was one step in front of the other.  I was offered some support and distraction by with a rendition of "Knees up mother Brown" .....sigh..... and through relentless pain for me (firstly by my knee and secondly by the entertainment on offer!) we finally made it down to the reservoir where the path became more level and took us up to the service road that would ultimately take us back to the main road and the car.

Our achievement today was immense.  The weather was with us and against us and again proved how quickly the conditions can change and preparation is key to the full enjoyment of the mountains.  3 major peaks conquered today and it was one of the most enjoyable and exciting walks we have done.  Its difficult to explain the intoxicating effect different parts of the mountain bring out but why explain.......those that understand most definitely understand.

23 April 2012

Double Header - Whernside & Ingleborough

Location - Yorkshire Dales
Height - 2415ft & 2375ft
Time - 6.15 hrs
Distance - 14.8 miles
Conditions - Sunny morning turning to hail later
Walking with - Solo walk

The aim of this mammoth walk today was 2 fold.  1.  To give my legs a good workout before heading back down to Wales next weekend and 2.  To burn as many calories as I could in order to compensate for the naughty snacks I'd had earlier in the week.  The weather forecast was not looking that great but I was determined to do it anyway as my own little personal challenge.  So early doors on Sunday I found myself packed up and in my car heading north on the M6 and towards Ribblehead.

On a previous trip to Whernside the visibility was poor so it was a pleasure to start my walk today with the sun glinting of the first hill to tackle and the viaduct was looking as impressive as ever. As the weather forecast was for heavy rain I left the big camera at home and just had my little compact with me.  Quality not as good but still gives a me a picture story for my walk.

Its always exciting to see a train on the viaduct and today was no exception.  Pity it wasn't a steam train with the smoke blowing but I guess that's just too much to ask for.

The first initial path and to be honest most of this walk is paved this way which is really good, good that is when its not wet.  For now it was dry and I was thankful for that.

The weather is still unsure what its going to do today.  Billowing clouds but ever increasing blue sky means that it may turn out better afterall.

Looking back I can see Ingleborough which will be my afternoon delight today. Even now with the sun out it looks a looming presence on the landscape and I'm secretly looking forward to tackling it again today but for now, my focus is Whernside.
 After the week's rain the stone gulley is flowing quite fast and I seem to remember it was dry the last time I was here so it was nice to see and hear the water rushing through.
 Left turn on the path to the summit and again pleasantly surprised by the views on offer today.  Time to strip a layer off as the sun does indeed have some heat in it.

The last time I was here the clouds were so low that we could only see glimpses of this little lake through bits of broken cloud.  It was a delight to see it today and again Ingleborough was there waiting in the background.

What a delight these views were.  Pea soup the last time so nothing was on offer but today I could see as far as my eyes would let me and the light bouncing off the faraway hills was just beautiful.  Pity my little camera didn't do it justice.
 Still climbing and still the views open up.  I wish I had a map or even a compass with me as I've no idea which direction this is however its still breathtaking.

 Still climbing it was a pleasure to look back down to the viaduct and where I'm parked.  This is my favorite view of the viaduct.  Such an impressive feature up close and looking so small from up high.
The trig finally.  The last time up Whernside the weather was so bad and visibility so poor that we walked right past where the trig point was.  Its hidden on the other side of the wall and accessed through a small hole.  Today however it was hard not to miss.

Me, at the trig, I had my tripod with me so was able to use the self timer on the camera and I had a few mins of fun setting that up to get a "me" picture to add to my collection.  Good job there was no one around as it was a bit comical getting it set up but a lot of fun!
Leaving the top my thoughts start to turn to that beastie right ahead and it seems so far away.  Time was still on my side and I had no doubts that I would be up there in no time.  Now for the descent........
The descent of Whernside was tougher than I'd remembered.  The previous rain made everything muddier and slippier and although its clearly paved it was tricky coming down the rocky path and took a bit longer than I'd anticipated.  Following the dig deep and one step after another method it wasnt long before I was practically on level ground again.  My knees are aching at this point and I'm starting to doubt whether they have another descent in them today.....time will tell!  
My ultimate favorite picture of Whernside.  I have the same one from a previous visit and its a fitting picture to say goodbye to what is not my favorite of the 3 Yorkshire peaks but one that has served its purpose today. 
Heading towards Ingleborough I couldn't help but notice the light changing and the darker clouds congregating as a warning to what was up ahead.  It would have been nice today to get a clear view from the top but I'm not sure that's going to be possible judging by the gathering clouds.  Typical, I'm sure that the closer I get the darker it becomes and its almost like it knows I'm coming and saving up all its wrath just for me.

Not looking good in the other direction either as the blackness seems to be overtaking any blue sky that I'd enjoyed earlier in the day.  The temperature has dropped too and this is the first time today when I seriously doubt whether I'll actually make this second peak today......hmmmmm! 

True to form, Ingleborough never disappoints and as I have a last brew stop before tackling the wall of steps I can see the cloud gathering on the top.  Lovely, just what I didn't want and I'm seriously debating now whether to actually go right to the top or whether to scale the wall of steps (or the gates of hell as I've renamed them) and just turn and go along the ridge...........

With a mixture of "this is good for me" and "omg what am I doing here" I ventured up the path and about half way Ingleborough unleashed its worst - Hail, hard and driving hail.  At the top part of these steps there is a small bit of scrambling and it was a joy to reach that part however not as much fun in the hail as things became just a little bit slippy.  Yikes!

At the top the hail stopped, typical, and I decided that it would be a shame to come all this way and not make the climb up the the summit.  The thought that I wouldn't go now seemed ludicrous so I headed right, up the rocky path, meeting several folk coming down who'd experienced the hail at the summit and looked suitibly drenched and weary.  Looking back down the ridge it was lovely to see the sun bouncing of the distant hills.
Oh good god, here comes the hail again.  Just what I needed on the flat and exposed summit.  It was almost laughable but the trig awaited so it was hood up, head down, slog on. 
 All hail the trig! 

Things brightened up a bit on my initial descent however the hail had turned to rain and this initial rocky bit soon turned into a bit of a river.  I met several people on their way up who were struggling and moved to the side to let them pass and turned my thoughts to getting back to the car.  It was a pleasure to finally make it back to the ridge where its relatively flat going for a bit. 
Slippy, muddy, hail in your face, water dripping off your nose, hands cold, knees sore, legs weary........oh yes, I'd had a workout today and it wasn't over yet! 

The descent was torturous.  The rain heavy and visibility poor.  My knees and legs rebelled against any downward turn and at one point I thought I was going to be on the side of that hill for hrs and hrs when infact I did come down quite quickly.  It was hard going and I was thankful to finally see the road that would take me back along to the viaduct where my car was parked.   The rain/hail had stopped now and the sun was trying to come back out but my only thoughts were getting the heater on in the car, getting my wet jacket off and having a cuppa.
I am absolutely thrilled that I completed my goal for today.  There were times that I didnt think I would do it, times I doubted myself and formulated excuses in my head but I overcame them all and did it and I'm completely chuffed to bits.  As usual I met some lovely people along the way, including:

Mr Reading who was up here for the week to get away from family life and doing the 3 Yorkshire peaks individually then by the end of the week the 3pk challenge.

Mr & Mrs Derbyshire and their hipflask.

George & Dad who were completing the 3pk challenge today and well within their goal time.

Mr Fell runner who lived locally and was running the 3pks today.  How fit?

The 2 young girls who were out on their first walk and wanted to do the 3pk challenge in the Summer.

All of them on their own personal journey today and a pleasure to chat to them all.