Friday, 30 August 2019

Glyndwr's Way : 2

Certainly a pretty part of the world, this.
I head back east from Machynlleth - I almost got to the coast, in fact I may just about have seen the sea in the distance.  I seem to be getting into slightly more inhabited parts, by which I mean, some of the valleys contain tiny villages, often even with a small shop.  Had I known these were there I could have planned to resupply, but it seems this is a part of the world that internet mapping sights are still unaware of...

Pretty though, and the weather just about holds up, it rains a little most days, and quite a lot at night, but decent walking weather really, all good fun, and I am even enjoying the luxury of proper campsites each evening now.  The first of these is essentially a farm in the middle of nowhere, but after that I get actual pubs with beer, wouldn't be much of a walking trip without these things.

Some of the many random bits of cloth and crochet decor in Meiford.
I continue towards the English border, not too far now, the terrain growing flatter and increasingly forested, I walk on gravel logging tracks much of the time.  Still not seeing many walkers - at one campsite I'm told they do get a lot of people doing it - as much as one or two every month!  Hmm.  People also tell me this is a tough walk, can't say it seems so to me.  Certainly not a terribly long one, I finish the thing in a little less than eight easy days, arriving in Welshpool in plenty of time to get my train.  In fact the train is cancelled, oh well, time for a bit of shopping and a beer before the next one.

Well, this was a good walk anyway, certainly recommended to anybody wanting to get away from it all!  I think the wild camping could be avoided if you were willing to fork out B&B prices, though personally I quite like being by myself in a wood for a night or two.  Do be prepared to get wet though - I think I was quite lucky with the weather, but even so I had a fair bit of bog to walk through.

I succeeded again!
Photos to go with this post can be found here.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Glyndwr's Way : 1

Ruined Bryntail Lead Mine, with the Clywedog Dam on the River Severn behind.
Still in the UK, in what passes for summer in these benighted islands, it seems like a good idea to do another of the National Trails.  I settle on Glyndwr's Way, in mid Wales, finishing in Welshpool this will be handy for a festival I'm going to in nearby Shrewsbury.  I can't say this is a part of the world I'm that familiar, so, nice to see somewhere new.

Starting from Knighton in Herefordshire, the route heads west through lovely countryside, rolling hills and valleys, and easy enough going, the trail seems to mostly be accessible to horses so not too steep.  I do meet one horse rider, and just a few walkers, several say I am the only hiker they've seen, this is not a busy trail.  Often there is no sign of a walked path across the sheep-filled fields, but there are plenty of signs, with that and my GPS I stay on track.

A representative shot of me, with Welsh countryside, light rain and sheep.
This doesn't seem a very well populated part of the world either...  Not exactly wilderness, above a certain height the fields give way to moorland, still with plenty of sheep, but most of this country is farmland, with little in the way of towns or villages.  I do enjoy a beer and burger in Llanidloes, no campsite though, in fact I camp wild my first four nights in Wales.  At least on the fourth night I have a couple of cans of beer from the second place on the Way with actual shops, Machynlleth.  More or less half way along the route, this is where Welsh hero Owain Glyndwr, for whom the Way is named, held his parliament as he briefly ruled an independent Wales at the turn of the fifteenth century.

Site of Owain Glydwr's parliament in Machynlleth.
Photos to go with this post can be found here.

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Munro Madness : 6

Munros this section :
Cairn Bannoch
Broad Cairn
Tom Buidhe
Cairn of Claise
Carn an Tuirc
Glas Maol
Creag Leacach
Carn Aosda
The Cairnwell
Carn a' Gheoidh
An Socach (Glen Ey)
Carn Bhac
Beinn Iutharn Mhor
Carn an Righ
Glas Tulaichean
Carn nan Gabhar (Beinn a' Ghlo)
Braigh Coire Chruinn-Bhalgain (Beinn a' Ghlo)
Carn Liath (Beinn a' Ghlo)
Beinn Dearg
Carn an Fhidhleir
An Sgarsoch
Carn a' Chlamain

Tom Buidhe.
I enjoy another day off in Braemar, this time I buy a ticket to enter the newer of the two castles, fascinating place still fully furnished in fifties aristocratic style.  I have another tough section coming up, some twenty Munros - including one I missed during planning - and a hundred and twenty kilometres in four days...  In the event I make remarkably short work of the first day, powering over six, count 'em Munros before 5pm.  A nice, if breezy day too, makes for fun walking, and I do feel a certain sense of achievement too.  I am a lean, mountain climbing machine, oh yes.   Definitely earned the burgers I've brought from Braemar - what?  Of course they can be cooked on a camp stove.

Glas Maol.
I begin the next day by climbing Glas Maol, which brings back memories - this was my first ever Munro, I came here during, hard to believe though it may seem, a golfing holiday.  After a few days I was quite heartily sick of golf, so climbing a big hill was a great improvement!  This time I follow it up with four more, all close to the Glen Shee ski centre, which is handily open for lunch.  More familiar hills too, did them on a proper walking holiday a few, well, many years back - well, no harm going up them again.  The next day is very hard, another five Munros, this time I think over five thousand feet of ascent in total, it takes over twelve hours and I am pretty shattered by the end.  Then one more day to get to Blair Atholl, only three Munros, but it rains all day, this does not help. My thighs chafe in my wet trousers - think I can see why they wear kilts around here - it is not much fun.  At least on reaching Blair Atholl, I find it has pizza, in an odd place, a pub in a marquee, a venue for beer festivals and live music it seems, but not tonight.

Beinn Dearg.
No time for a day off, but I am reaching the end of the trip, just two days to go.  I walk out of Blair Atholl past Blair Castle, there are lots of private road signs, typical of Scotland.  Three Munros today, it is hard work, a lot of trackless hacking through bog, I keep going, quite tired now, but the end is in sight, indeed this is my last night camped out on the hill.  And the last day is easy enough, just a single Munro, bringing the count to seventy-seven I think, go me.  Back to Blair Atholl where I have definitely earned a burger plus a beer or five... shame about the 7am train the next morning but what can you do.

Carn a' Chlamain.
Photos to go with this post can be found here.

Friday, 5 July 2019

Munro Madness : 5

Munros this section :
Mount Keen
Cac Carn Beag
Carn a' Choire Bhoideach
Carn an t-Sagairt Mor

Mount Keen.
Braemar is a good place for a day off - so good, I'll be back for another in a few days time.  There are two castles, the ancient ruins of Kindrochit, and the imposing seventeenth century Braemar Castle.  And cheap beer in the Invercauld Arms, all good.  I have an easy section now - compared to the last one at least.  I'm heading east towards the isolated Munro, Mount Keen, so my first day has no climbing at all, in fact it's a familiar route past Balmoral, I came this way on my walk from Inverness to Aberdeen a few years back.  This time on reaching Ballater I check out its second curry house - also good!

From Ballater I have a simple enough day, over thirty kilometres but good paths and just a single Munro, lonely Mount Keen - there's a fine panoramic view from the top.  Turns out there is another stiff climb, over a thousand feet out of Glen Lee, then I find a camp spot in a high valley far from anywhere.  Two more Munros the next day, the evocatively named neighbouring peaks Driesh and Mayar, ascending the first of these the path on my map seems not to exist in reality, instead there is just a scarily steep slope that I am very glad to reach the top of.  Plenty of other climbs too, out of deep glens, this section is not as easy as I had hoped, still I am getting through it.  At least I seem to have stopped breaking things, touch wood.

Cac Carn Beag.
My return to Braemar is surprisingly easy, given there are three Munros, including the peak of Lochnagar, or Cac Carn Beag as it is properly called.  A bit of a treat for me up there too, I'm just passing the lesser summit, Cac Carn Mhor, when the Red Arrows  fly by in formation, very cool.  I think I've built some muscles, as I power up the climbs and reach camp before 5pm, all good.  Maybe I was hurrying a bit as the weather has turned again, back to howling arctic wind.  Or maybe I just wanted to get back to the pub...

Photos to go with this post can be found here and here.

Sunday, 30 June 2019

Munro Madness : 4

Munros this section :
Sgor an Lochain Uaine
Cairn Toul
The Devils Point
Beinn Bhrotain (two ascents!)
Monadh Mor
Carn a' Mhaim
Ben MacDui
Cairn Gorm
Bynack More
Beinn Mheadhoin
Derry Cairngorm
Beinn a' Chaorainn (Glen Derry)
Beinn Bhreac (Glen Derry)
Beinn a' Bhuird
Leabaidh an Daimh Bhuide (Ben Avon)

The Devils Point.
I've not done a great job of planning this next section - a hundred and sixty kilometres in five days, fine on flat terrain, but with many huge hills to climb, plus the need to find somewhere sheltered at a lower altitude to camp, it seems impossible.  But perhaps I can find some shortcuts, we'll see.  Things start OK at least, a long ascent of Braeriach, well over four thousand feet, then three more Munros, all in cloud except the last, the Devils Point.  Warm enough and dry though, and if I don't reach camp until eight, so what, still plenty of daylight left.  Lots of people here, both camped and in a small stone hut or 'bothy' - it even has a toilet!

Ben MacDui - second highest point in Britain!
Day two out of Aviemore, beautiful blue skies, it is actually hot and I need to filter water - well, not hard to find up here.  I manage the planned two Munros, ascending one of them twice in fact - still better than my original route which had me backtracking from the Devils Point over two big hills.  But, I'm only at the fifty kilometre point at the end of the day, I need to pick up the pace.
Day three, the glorious weather continues and I keep walking, four more Munros including mighty Ben MacDui and the iconic Cairn Gorm.  A long day, I walk from 8am to 8pm, but with a few cunning shortcuts I get to a nice campsite by Loch Avon, some ninety-three kilometres into the route, this is better.

Derry Cairngorm.
It doesn't get any easier, I walk a twelve hour day with four Munros, tough, but really, the more time out in this amazing landscape on another lovely day the better.  Pity about the hour or so tramping through bog to finish mind.  Then, an easy enough day with just a couple of Munros and a lot of gentle trail gets me to Braemar.  I still need to find a shortcut, this one involves a thigh deep wade of the river Dee, worth it to get to the pub in good time.

Photos to go with this post can be found here.

Monday, 24 June 2019

Munro Madness : 3

Munros this section :
Geal Charn (Drumochter Pass)
A' Mharconaich
Beinn Udlamain
Sgairneach Mhor
A' Bhuidheanach Beag
Carn na Caim
Meall Chuaich
Mullach Clach a' Bhlair
Sgor Gaoith

Sgairneach Mhor.
Dalwhinnie is the highest village in the UK, and the coldest, according to a sign I read there - I can well believe this.  Still I am toasty in my B&B, and breakfast is excellent - there is, of course, haggis.  Then back into the hills, a little easier here as there seem to be more paths, I get up four more Munros and nothing breaks, a good day, for all that it rains for much of it.  Onwards, the Munros keep coming and I keep climbing them.  There seem to be quite a few people about, maybe it is the weekend?  I think these are more popular hills too, this is good, paths to walk on and good gravel roads, courtesy of the grouse industry.  And then the skies clear, I walk and then camp in glorious sunshine, has summer finally come to the highlands?  I sure hope so.

Meall Chuaich.
Getting close to Aviemore now, I am in need of a break I must say, feet are sore and I am tired.  Two more Munros first, and one is a beast, Sgor Gaoith is around 3,700 feet high with a dramatic pointed summit.  Good view from it anyway, for all that it has clouded over again.  Indeed I can see Newtonmore where I started walking a little way away, I really haven't walked far as the crow flies.
I've made good time and it is just a short morning's walk into Aviemore, a pretty big place bustling with tourists, time for proper hot food and beer, and a day off from walking, I need these things.  This is the closest town to the Cairngorm ski centre, and there's a definite ski resort vibe, live music in the evening and all, I approve.  I splurge out shopping a bit too, new socks, gas for cooking and lots of food... a big stage coming up, into the high Cairngorms, good to be prepared for it.

Sgor Gaoith.

Photos to go with this post can be found here.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Munro Madness : 2

Munros this section :
Stob Coire Sgriodain
Chno Dearg
Beinn na Lap
Carn Dearg (Rannoch region)
Sgor Gaibhre
Beinn Bheoil
Ben Alder
Beinn Eibhinn
Aonach Beag (Alder region)
Geal-Charn (Alder region)
Carn Dearg (Alder region)
Beinn a' Chlachair
Creag Pitridh
Geal Charn (Loch Laggan)

Stob Coire Sgriodain.
Not giving up on the madness yet.  The tent now has guy ropes - string from the nice people at the campsite.  My sleeping bag is dry thanks to their tumble dryer, and wrapped in two layers of black rubbish sacks, so I am prepared.  Two Munros the first day out of Roy Bridge, Stob Coire Sgriodain and Chno Dearg.  And the climbs go well, it does seem warmer, and there is an awesome view from the tops, several lochs visible, many pointy hills, and little sign of humanity.  I make camp around 5pm, there is even some sunshine, this is good.

Chno Dearg.
The next day brings three more Munros, and good views from each, this is more like it.  Really rather awesome to stand atop these high mountains with the wild country spread out below me.  There's some more sun in the afternoon, and I am making decent time again, shame about the five kilometres of trackless bog to end the day, still, I can take it.  But then, a tussock collapses beneath my foot, I end up on my bottom, and one of my poles jams into the peat, bending in two places.  Sigh...

Sgor Gaibhre.
The ups and downs, both literal and figurative, continue.  I climb five Munros in a day, and four more the next, wow.  And something of a miracle, I find a newish trekking pole just lying around near the summit of Ben Alder!  But, in another peat bog related incident, I bend my remaining Walmart pole - just a little though, it is still functional.  Worse, I descend from a mountain where the usual hurricane is blowing and try to put up the tent - doesn't seem to windy to me, but the tent disagrees, before I know it one of the poles has snapped.  Well, this is why I have repair sleeves... I get to Dalwhinnie anyway, only one night here, but it is in a B&B, so, a proper bed and real food.  Warmth!

Ben Alder.
Photos to go with this post can be found here.