The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Wednesday 31 August 2016

Bogrie Hill and Fell Hill

A new day, a new location. We're down in Dumfries and Galloway now, which is where we will remain for the rest of this trip.

Bogrie Hill (NX789859; 432m)
I had intended to try a novel route (i.e. nobody else has been daft enough to try it) up this hill, purely for ease of access from the A702, avoiding any driving down little lanes. Then I read all of the trip reports telling of an easy ATV track from the usual start point and suddenly the little lanes seemed like a good choice after all.

The drive-in turned out not to be bad at all and as a bonus the parking place, which I hadn't even been able to see on StreetView, proved to be big enough for a Colin.

There’s not much to say about the hill. The ATV track was found exactly where I was told it would be (a good thing as, left to my own devices, I wouldn't have spotted it) and it led me all the way up to the summit.

The tyre marks through the tussocks were a little harder to follow in descent (or I just wasn't paying much attention), but I made it down regardless and on we went for my next hill, and a bit of an adventure...

Fell Hill (NX722844; 417m)

I had also decided to do this one from the A702, so as to save the detour along lanes to get to the usual start point. What I'd completely failed to notice until we got to my start point on the west side was that we'd been within a kilometre of the usual start (to the east) when we drove to and from Bogrie Hill. Mick offered to drive me back around there, but aerial photos had suggested that my route would go. Who knew? Perhaps I was about to find a much better way up this hill? Or maybe I was about to have an absolute 'mare. Either way, I insisted that I was going to find out.

I'd only made it about 100m from the road when I landed myself up to mid-thigh in a stinking pool of bog. It wasn't the best start (particularly as I'd worn boots; oh how I wished I'd chosen my usual mesh trail runners, which would have let the water back out). Alas, the going didn't get any better, even if it did get drier.

I was only half way up at the time I'd estimated for my arrival at the top, so duly texted Mick to convey that there was no way I was coming down the same way, whereupon he relocated himself to the other side of the hill.

The going outside of the forest was so bad (the usual rough terrain, but with monster tussocks, and reeds and grasses between hip and shoulder high) that I took to weaving my way between the trees. Contending with stuff like this...

...was much quicker and easier than the alternative wade through rough greenery.

That worked for a while but then I got to a new plantation, followed by an old but dense one, where I had no option but to fight my way up the break.

Here’s a photo looking back. What amused me was the presence of fire beaters in a place where there is no evidence that anyone has ever been daft enough to go. Except for the person who put them there, of course.

I was nearly at the top of the forest, and pitching about like a drunk, when suddenly a truck drove from left to right just above me at a speed that suggested a good driving surface. I came out on this...
...and was soon walking through a windfarm construction site.

After a few minutes I abandoned the road (not knowing where it went) for another upwards yomp, this time an easy one (as these things go) up to the summit. Gosh, I was pleased to be there!
Part of my decision to try to the west side of the hill had been based on a recollection of reports of the track on the east side being a wet approach. It turns out that it is newly upgraded, I think for forestry operations, rather than being the windfarm access. Thus, having resisted asking for a lift from the forestry man who was just leaving, getting down to the road was unexpectedly quick and easy.

It had taken me an hour and a half to get up the hill. My descent took half an hour, even though it was a little further. (4.2 miles total, with just 200m ascent.)

After all that, I decided against my third hill today!

Newtyle Hill (NO050419; 317m)

Tuesday 29 August

It was approaching 4pm by the time I got out the door for the only hill I'd put on the agenda for yesterday (and not without a great deal of indecision as to which hill alongside the A9 to choose).

The Visitor Centre car park at Loch of Lowes, just outside of Dunkeld, was my start point (and my intended end point too...) from where a gentle route took me, through woodland, around to Dean's Burn on the west side of the hill. An old track past a mast became a trod and then I came out onto the open hillside. Exactly as the map had suggested would be the case, the going from there was rough. Heather, bracken, reeds and bog featured.
The top was a good viewpoint and from there I considered a more direct route back, before deciding that less yomping and more track would be the more efficient route, particularly as I could run down the grass centres of the tracks.

I was merrily running along when a gate appeared before me, exactly as it had on my outward route (albeit I most definitely wasn't running on the way up!) and, as I re-fastened it, I said a brief hello to the woman loitering the other side. Then I barrelled down the hill a bit (but not much) further before it struck me that I didn't remember walking up anything of the same gradient on my outward leg. That was followed swiftly by the recollection that I was meant to turn back on myself almost immediately after the gate. I'd not been looking out for the turn and didn't notice it at all.

I could have turned back, as I can't have gone more than a couple of hundred metres adrift, but given the knowledge that both Mick and I had phone reception and that there was a road just ahead of me, I took the much quicker option: I asked Mick to meet me on the other side of the hill. And after asking, quite incredulously, how I'd managed to descend the wrong side of the hill, he willingly complied.

The stats came in at 3.9 miles with around 700' of ascent.

Always important, if you're going to have your bra strap peeking out on display, to colour co-ordinate with your sunglasses, I think!

Tuesday 30 August 2016

Carn na Loine (NJ070361; 549m)

It’s always good to go for a walk with Louise and David. Aside from the excellent company, it means that I don’t have to put any thought into the day. Louise has never yet failed to come up with a good walk for us, and thus I only asked the scantest of information about what the plan was for yesterday (Q: “What sort of terrain?” A: “There’ll be some yomping through heather and it may be boggy”, Q: “How far” A: “Not very far” – that was sufficient information to tell me that it was a suitable outing to try out my ‘new*’ boots). The only other information I knew when we set out was that the main objective was to bag a trig point.

I recognised the first part of our journey to our start point, but after some little lanes had been involved, I confess that I didn’t really know where we were when David parked the car and we set out. Up the lane was the first direction of travel, and you may notice that Louise had (once again) organised some good weather for us:


The lane was soon abandoned in favour of a track and in due course the track was abandoned in favour of a yomp, as our objective was now right before us. The boys soon scuttled on ahead, giving us useful information like “that’s a stream, not a trod”, but in general the going underfoot wasn’t more than a bit squelchy, and the heather and tussocks weren’t extreme either.


Putting a bit of a sprint on, Louise and I reached trig point first and, as you can see, we were happy to be there:


I didn’t take a photo over towards the Cairngorms, but it was a clear day so we did a spot of hill identification before we cooled down enough to encourage us to move on.

I’m certainly glad that we didn’t do this route in reverse, as I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to describe the tussocks on our descent route as ‘severe’. There were quite a few deep holes between them too, some of which I investigated a little too closely. Fortunately, as I keep observing, tussocks and heather in descent are much easier than in ascent, so with some contouring thrown in, we did make it over to the track we wanted, just by where it runs past Huntley’s Cave. Being gone 1330 by now, the first big rock we saw was declared to be the lunch rock.

Our afternoon was quick and easy (except for the little detour to see Hutley’s Cave; if what we think was the cave was in fact the cave then, as caves go, it wasn’t impressive!), being two kilometres gently downhill on a track.

It was a fine outing, in fine company, but the real surprise about the route didn’t come until much later in the evening. I happened to be looking at the mapping on my computer and, now knowing the name of the hill up which we had been, I looked it up, only to find that it was, in fact, a Marilyn. Bonus! And quite amusing that I’d managed to bag a Marilyn without any knowledge that I was so doing. (There was a minor panic as to whether we’d been to the true summit, but it didn’t take me many seconds to confirm that this is a hill on which the trig is at the highest point.)

Here’s the hill in question (the lump just slightly left of centre): 


Thanks, as ever, go to Louise and David for all of their hospitality.


(*The boots aren’t new at all. I’ve had them in the wardrobe since at least 2007, and they can’t have been used more than half a dozen times before they fell out of my favour for being too big and heavy. Being the most expensive boots I’ve owned, and with all of my other boots now leaking badly, I dusted this pair off to see if I can get on with them. Yesterday’s outing indicated that they will be fine and thus the new boot purchase can be put off for a while yet.)

Sunday 28 August 2016

Hill of the Wangie and Burgiehill

Hill of the Wangie (NJ137537; 319m)


It wasn’t a good morning for going up a hill, with cloud down as low as 250m. Fortunately, Mick was quite happy to go out in the dull showery weather, so whilst I devoted some time to reading, off Mick went to run 4 miles out and 4 miles back along the Dava Way. By the time we reached the start point for my first hill, it was early afternoon and the cloud base had lifted, even if it was still a bit grey out.

Hill of the Wangie is such a fabulous name. Unfortunately, it’s not a hill which lives up to its name; in fact, it’s rather a dull lump of forestry. Happily, it’s a forest which houses some well established mountain bike trails (which looked quite technical to me, although I’ve never mountain biked in my life, so I’m really not the best person to express an opinion on the subject) which, provided you don’t meet any bikes, gives a good route to walk to within a short distance of the summit.

Even though I chose the wrong break in the forest at the top of the mountain bike trail (I looked at the map and looked at the break in front of me, completely failing to notice that there was another break to my left which would take me even nearer to the trig) and found myself climbing over blow-downs, followed by a straight-line through the forest when I realised my error, it was still a very easy hill, and I even managed to come out exactly at the trig point:


I thought that such a dull hill, with no view whatsoever, deserved something different from my usual ‘fixed grin’ selfie, so I experimented with a couple of facial expressions, including the ‘oh my god, there’s a bear running at me’ look:


Making my way back down, I might have struggled to remember where I’d left the mountain bike trail, if it wasn’t for this handy bit of engineering, which stood out:


An impressive bit of informal engineering, using tree trunks and logs to build a bridge

Thirty two minutes after setting out, I was back (which was, to the minute, the time Mick had guessed it would take me), having covered a whole mile and a half with 170m of ascent.

Burgiehill (NJ097559; 254m)


Neither of today’s hills was going to fill much time, and this one was even more straightforward than Hill of the Wangie, even if I did throw in a little bit of spice by not entirely following the track which leads the whole way to the summit. At the point where it started heading slightly downhill, before reascending, I could see no reason why I couldn’t just yomp across a felled area of the forest, so that’s what I did. The bonus of this route was that it brought me out at the trig point, which apparently proves a little elusive for some people.


The trig isn’t at the very top, so I did the usual wandering around before deciding that the break which runs through the forest to the NE looked perfectly doable, so that’s the way I headed down.

With a whole 35m of ascent, and a total distance of two miles, it wasn’t a taxing outing and I was back in 39 minutes. A bit freakily, that was (to the minute) the time Mick had guessed it would take me. He’s getting good at this ‘guess the time’ game!

Friday 26 August 2016

Knock of Braemoray (NJ011418; 456m)

Friday 26 August

Knock of Braemoray presents itself (particularly when viewed from the north side) as being a standalone pimple of such a pleasing shape that it invites you to climb it. As it happens to sit on the list of Marilyns and lie right next to a road along which we were going to be driving, that's exactly what I decided to do this morning.

Parking in a layby just to the SE of the hill, over a fence I stepped and, within yards, a hint of a trodden line through the tussocks and heather was before me. Naturally I followed that line and, save for maybe 30 yards of high-stepping through old heather at a point when it temporarily disappeared, that trodden line took me all the way to the summit. Well, that was a lot easier than expected!

The true summit of this one isn't marked by anything. It's another of those where the high point is a tussock that has been declared to be a tiny bit higher than the other tussocks surrounding it. So, I can't say for certain that I've stood on the high point, but I visited the ten digit grid reference for the right spot and then visited the nearby tussocks for good measure.

I then nipped over to the trig point, donned a blindfold, span around three times and then tried to relocate that trodden line. I may be lying about the blindfold and the spinning, but the end result was the same: I had no idea where that little path lay and, per the nature of these trods through heather, they can only be seen when you're on top of them.

It took me most of the descent finally to recognise something in the landscape which in turn led me back to the trod. Fortunately, yomping downhill through heather is not the same energetic activity as yomping up through it. Moments later I was back at the layby, 33 minutes after having left, with 1.6 miles walked with somewhere around 150m ascent.

It's a nice little hill and a good viewpoint. Maybe next time we're passing Mick will pop up it too. Today he was focussed on an outing rather faster and flatter than mine; as I type he's out running on the Dava Way.
Edit: now I look at the GPS track I recorded, it looks like my outward and return legs varied very little, which makes it surprising that I didn’t find the trodden line until so late on the return. I must have been almost on top of it!

Thursday 25 August 2016

Birnam Hill (NO032402; 404m)

Thursday 25 August

Driving our way north yesterday afternoon, in glorious sunshine and high temperatures, I had my sights set on an evening hill. By Glasgow, I had to concede that the SatNav's ETA, combined with the current daylight hours, combined with the need to eat at some point, were ruling out that plan. A night-stop further south was found and I turned my thoughts to getting to watch the first in the new series of Bake Off instead.

The result of a morning of essential administration, an afternoon of travelling and an evening of cooking, eating and TV watching meant that it was dark by the time we headed out to make sure we didn't miss out daily Fitbit step targets (my unbroken chain, currently standing at around a year and eight months, makes missing a day unthinkable).

Even though both travelling and visiting friends were on the agenda today, there was time for a quick hill this morning and Birnam Hill sits right next to the A9 by Dunkeld. I knew that because the map told me so; I didn't know it from sight as yesterday’s glorious weather had been replaced by mist and mizzle (boo hiss).

There's not much to say about my outing. A good path took me to the big cairn at the top, from where I saw very little and the same good path took me back down again as I wasn't sure I had time to do the full circuit via the quarry to the south.

I got back to the station car park exactly one hour after leaving, with 2.4 miles walked and around 1000' of up (the distance would have been a touch shorter if I hadn't made a brief foray in the wrong direction soon after leaving the station, following a 'Birnam Hill Path' sign without first checking it was the path I wanted).

Meanwhile Mick went for a jogette. One of my challenges for the planning of this trip has been finding places for Mick to run in the vicinity of the hills I want to visit. On this occasion there was a convenient cycle path from the station car park running adjacent to the A9. Unfortunately it's only just over a kilometre before it joins a B road. Back and forth repetition was thus the name of the game for Mick this morning.

Scotland! No, Wales! No, Definitely Scotland

Last weekend I spent a day planning some hills for our upcoming trip to Scotland. Then I remembered that we're now in stalking season and a bit of Internet research suggested that my chosen area may well have access restrictions at this time of year. Fortunately, with 90% of the Scottish Marilyns still unvisited, I had plenty of scope to shift my attention to a different area where the potential for conflict between stalking activities and my desired routes was less. Two more days of planning ensued.

With our trip just half a day away, on Tuesday lunchtime we had a rethink. So many reports and photos of horrible midge situations had been seen that Scotland was looking like less of a good idea.

I still have Pembrokeshire Coast Path to walk, to finish the Welsh Coast, so it seemed sensible to slot that in before Scotland. Away went the Scottish Hill resources and my attention switched to Wales (including taking the Scottish 1:25k maps back off my phone and replacing them with Wales, and packing paper maps for Wales too).

After an evening of considering distances and meeting points (as Mick would be driving Colin in support, as he does on all of my coastal walks) I was concerned about the tiny coastal roads around Pembrokeshire, combined with an influx of visitors to this popular area over the summer bank holiday weekend. Everything was pointing to late September being a better time for that trip after all.

What to do? Finally get around to replacing the kitchen or the bathroom at home? Or revert to Plan A so that we would be away and not noticing the awful datedness of those rooms of our house (a ploy which has been working for years and may well continue to be used for some time yet)?

Nine hours before our planned departure time, and Scotland was back on. Unfortunately, I didn't think to replace the 1:25k maps on my phone or in my map case with the Scottish ones (the former I can, admittedly, do from the road, but limiting the time I can use the laptop for other things, as both of its batteries are well past their best).

Alas, the shortlived change of plan to the Welsh Coast had diverted me from an administration task that needed completing before we left home (as the Welsh trip would be shorter and I'd be home again before said task's deadline loomed). Our departure was thus delayed as the admin was completed. We finally got away just before lunchtime yesterday, and by evening were well over the border, doing a sunshine dance to encourage the weather to stay fine for a while longer yet.

Friday 19 August 2016

Tal y Fan and Mynydd y Cwm

Thursday 18 August

Tal y Fan (SH729726; 610m)


My decision to approach Tal y Fan from the nearest road required a few miles of tiny little lanes to be driven. Colin gets taken along little lanes quite often in my pursuit of Marilyn summits, but this one was particularly ‘interesting’ as Colin is 6’6” wide (without his wing mirrors) but, with the summer growth on the hedgerows, this lane was about 6’5” wide. Thus, it was impossible to drive without dragging one side or the other against the hedges (always the passenger side – there’s only one plastic window on that side and it was already very scratched when we bought Colin!). It certainly wasn’t a lane where you would want to meet an oncoming vehicle, and thus it was down for either a late evening or an early morning.

Ordinarily, it would have been tackled late in the evening, with the night being spent at the lane end, but given the desire for a BBC TV signal for the Olympics this week, an early start was had on Thursday morning. It was half past six when Mick dropped me at the point where the footpath hits the road, before he continued on to the road-end car park and I marched off up the hill.

It was a rather pleasant early morning walk, initially on easy grassy paths then with a little bit of boulderiness towards the top, and it wasn’t long before I was standing by the unusual trig point (not that you can see the detail of it in this snap):


The plan had been that I was going to get myself to the road end by going over the adjacent top, Foel Lwyd, but in the interests of getting back off the tiny lanes before anyone else was likely to be up and about, I decided that the much faster option would be to return the way I’d come, mainly because the path that way was so nice that it seemed eminently suitable for running down.

Unfortunately, Mick didn’t have a phone signal where he was parked, so having reached the road I had no option but to then trundle another 0.7 of a mile along the tarmac to find him. I still finished the outing well within the hour, with 2.6 miles covered and 800(ish)’ of ascent.

Mynydd y Cwm (SJ073767; 305m)


Mynydd y Cwm gave a ridiculously easy (and relatively uninteresting) tick, within a mile of the A55 trunk road and within spitting distance of Offa’s Dyke Path (although we omitted it from our walk of that Path back in April).

Mick joined me on this one and it took us a whole 11 minutes to cover the 0.5 of a mile (with 150’ of ascent) to the top, where there sits a memorial to a Halifax which crashed on the hill in 1947. It took us seven minutes to get back down.

And then we went home, as this was forecast to be the last good weather day of the latest dry spell. Call me a fair weather walker, but thanks to a combination of luck and good planning, my current tally of British hills for 2016 stands at 108, and all bar 5 have been completed in dry weather! I fear that record may become eroded over the next few weeks :-(.

Thursday 18 August 2016

Pen Llithrig y Wrach and Creigiau Gleision

Thursday 17 August

Having kicked myself for not extending Wednesday’s walk to go over Pen Llithrig y Wrach, it was the first summit on my agenda for Thursday. A considerable amount of time had been spent poring over the map, internally debating the merits of various route options, and what I decided (absolutely definitely, and on good sound bases) to do was not this:


For one thing, I’d decided to take a longer-but-easier approach to the hill by walking up the reservoir access track, just to the west of where my GPS track starts, then along the leat (the man-made water channel which contours this hill). Mick duly pulled into my chosen start point and I had my bag on my back and sticks in my hand, when it suddenly struck me (despite all thought put into the subject the evening prior) to use the path a couple or three hundred metres to the east. Asking Mick to drop me there instead, he then found himself with a car on his tail and had to go on past before he could stop safely. I may just as well have walked down the road from the original start point, or even have stuck with my original plan.

It soon came back to me why I’d decided to take the longer route. Instead of moseying up a tarmac track for a while, up to a nice level path alongside the leat, I found myself playing ‘hunt the path’ through bracken and gorse, and wading through bog. I probably saved myself about 500m of distance, at the cost of very wet feet and with no time benefit.

My next deviation from plan came below the pass Bwlch y Tri Marchog, when I decided that heading up to the pass would be a much nicer route, even though I could clearly see that between me and it lay a huge area of bog and tussock. As it goes, this was a good decision, and undoubtedly more pleasing that my intended out-and-back up the south spur of the hill. My feet were wet anyway, so there was no point in dancing around the bog; I just waded on through.

The views from the pass were excellent, and the path from there good and easy.20160817_084108

It was 0840 when I reached the top, and in spite of having had breakfast before I set out, I was starving and wondering whether it was a reasonable hour to eat my packed lunch. I settled on having just one of my sandwiches, before heading down to the the path which runs along Llyn Colwyn Reservoir (along whose length we walked on our Length of Wales walk in 2012).


Just beyond the end of the reservoir was a good viewpoint for both of the day’s hills. The long-named one is on the left; Creigiau Gleision is on the right.

The Cicerone ‘Hillwalking in Wales’ book said that the only problem with my chosen route up Creigiau Gleision was one of boredom. I don’t think there was a single walk that I did last week where I agreed with that author’s perception of a route. I was not bored for a moment on this ascent – I was far too busy wading through bog, high-stepping on every pace, trying to pick out the best line and wondering if there was a trodden line hidden in the heather/bilberry/tussocks somewhere (possibly even a few feet away; the problem with this sort of terrain is that you can generally only see a trod if you’re on top of it). I was also thinking that shorts are not the best legwear for walking through woody knee-deep heather.

After no small amount of energy expenditure, I picked up the ridge path and from there it was easy. I even managed to make myself look composed for the summit selfie:


My first hill of the day had been that one in the centre of the snap.

My second sandwich met my stomach on top of this hill, whilst I considered the map some more and contemplated the option of calling Mick and asking him to meet me in Trefriw, on the east side of the hill, so that I wouldn’t have to wade through the heather again. But heather, bog and tussocks are always much easier in descent, so the original plan held and down I went. I even found the trodden line for the first and last bit of the descent. (As I’d started my ascent from the bridge at the end of the reservoir, I found myself with a choice of two trods, and (per my usual policy) chose the one which was best trodden (the left fork), but which soon ceased to be useful to me. I now know that if I’d followed my first instinct and retraced to the right fork, I would have had a happier ascent.)

It was a joy to get onto the bridleway which lies between the bridge and the A5, which (contrary to what the Cicerone book told me) wasn’t a bogfest at all. In fact, I got back to the road without any more water entering my shoes. It could have been what saved me from getting webbed feet after what had been the boggiest walk of the week.

With 8.1 miles walked, and around 2500’ of ascent, I entered the car park in Capel Curig and found Mick exactly where I expected him to be, poised ready to put the kettle on for me.

Pen yr Ole Wen, Carnedd Dafydd, Carnedd Llewelyn

Tuesday 16 August

Tuesday gave us another grand day out!


The gap is because the battery of the Garmin Gadget expired. It had lasted for almost exactly 12 hours over the course of two days. Quite impressive, considering the age of the Gadget, I thought.

The hill of real interest of these three was Carnedd Llewelyn (Marilyn, 1064m), but as the Ogwen Valley seemed like the most logistically sensible start point (from our night-stop at Betws-y-Coed), the most obvious way I could see to get to it was via Pen yr Ole Wen and Carnedd Dafydd.

Arriving in the nearest free parking area to the west end of Llyn Ogwen, and after pausing for tea, breakfast and more tea, we finally got ourselves out of the door and walked along to the foot of the lake under glorious blue skies:


It’s a steep haul straight up the side of Pen yr Ole Wen (even more so if you should temporarily lose the easiest line and find yourself scrambling for a while…), but there is something pleasing about gaining height so quickly. That was even more the case today as we knew that on reaching our first summit the majority of the climbing was behind us. From there, a ridge-walk awaited us.


The brisk wind was cool once we gained height. Windshirts went on and didn’t come back off until part way down our descent.

The ridge was as pleasing as it looked on the map and after going over the easy grassy summit of Pen yr Ole Wen, and the rocky summit of Carnedd Dafydd, onwards we went to our main objective. By the time we reached its sizeable summit plateau we had passed three other people. There were another couple on the summit. That surprised me; I expected it to be much busier up there on such a nice day in August. It really was a superb day for it, with excellent clear views:


Reaching the pass between Carnedd Llewelyn and Pen yr Helgi Du, I dithered. Then I dithered some more. Mick was heading down from there and I was torn as to whether to join him, or whether to continue over Pen yr Helgi Du to Pen Llithrig y Wrach – the next Marilyn on the ridge.

Decision made, we started the descent, only for me to get about 20 metres and dither some more. I so nearly went back up, but Mick was quite right when he pointed out that I didn’t have enough food or water with me, so down we went, past Ffynon Llugwy Reservoir, from where we had a good view back to where we’d just been:


The downside of this circuit was the trudge required along the A5 to get back to Colin, but it passed quickly and proved not to be as bad as it looked on paper (the ‘pavement’ is loose surfaced most of the way, so it wasn’t even a trudge on tarmac, and the road seemed to be having a relatively quiet spell). We reached Colin having walked 9.7 miles with somewhere around 3200’ of ascent.


Good registration number!

Later I perused the map again, making plans for Wednesday, whereupon I kicked myself for not having continued along over the next top to the next Marilyn. Moreover, when it struck me that as Mick was descending anyway, I could have asked him to move Colin up the road, such that I could have done the extra summits with just 250m of extra ascent, no extra distance and have avoided the road walk in its entirety too.

Tuesday 16 August 2016

Manod Mawr and Moel Siabod

Monday 15 August

Manod Mawr (SH724447; 661m)
Leaving Mick in the large car park half way along the minor dead-end road which lies just south of west of my objective, off I set to start with a tour through some fields. Fortunately, the path was evident, so there was no game of 'spot the stile' (although in this case it would have been 'spot the gate') as I made my way up to the open land above.

Whilst I lost faith, somewhat, in the Cicerone guide to the Welsh hills yesterday, I had read what the author had to say about this one and was heartened to see that he said that a 'straight up the side' route was feasible (although he did describe it as a rough scramble and say that the line of quartz to follow was not so obvious close to; I disagree with both pieces of information). As I have a tendency to take direct lines up hills, particularly those where no paths are trodden into the landscape, I did exactly as he suggested - which was the very line which jumped out as being obvious as I waded through the bog to the south of Llyn y Manod.

I didn't just make do with a visit to the high point in this one...

... I also walked over to the far side of the summit area to look at the quarry the other side. Gosh, there is one heck of a lot of slag in the Blaenau area!

After a moment's thought had been given to going down the gentle (much longer) route, I turned and retraced my steps. A cup of coffee awaited my return to the car park and after a quick second breakfast we were off to our next objective.
(3.5 miles, 420m ascent)

Moel Siabod (SH705546; 872m)

Dolwyddelan was our (yep, Mick joined me!) start point for this one, mainly because it minimised the driving*.

The walk up the forest track wasn't noteworthy, but was fast-going, and beyond it we were into the land of bracken, bilberries and heather, the latter of which, being in full bloom just now, is making the hills smell lovely. There was a point at which we should have crossed the stream and continued on a path the other side. Apparently lots of people have overshot though, as we followed a well-trodden line for quite a while before I looked at the map and realised the path we were following wasn't where I'd intended us to be. It wasn't a problem, and added no distance, we simply came out at the southerly point (rather than the easterly point) of Llyn y Foel instead.

A few people could be seen on the Daear Ddu ridge, and soon we joined them up this easy scramble of a route. With barely a jot of exposure (and even where there was either a hint of exposure or a bit of a tricky move for a stumpy-legged person, there was always a much easier alternative just to the left) it was a fun route. And a good workout for the thighs too, even though you might think that my thighs are quite accustomed to ascent.

Surprisingly few people were on the top, which was a magnificent viewpoint both for the surrounding hills and for the craggy ridges of the very hill on which we were standing.

The descent was easier on the knees than I expected it to be, and before we knew it we were back at the llyn, then retracing our steps through the forest.

Ice creams from the shop in Dolwyddelan rounded off our outing nicely (8 miles, 750m ascent).

(*in the interests of charging electronics, particularly in view of all the Olympics-related TV watching that's going on at the moment, more driving time would have been beneficial; Colin’s leisure battery must be taking a hammering this week)

Monday 15 August 2016

Allt Fawr and Moelwyn Mawr

Sunday 14 August

Allt Fawr (SH682475, 698m) and Moelwyn Mawr (SH658449, 770m)

With the exception of the start, the middle and the end, I made some good route choices today…

I very nearly made a much better choice for the start, but just as I was setting out my mind was changed to follow the route suggested by the Cicerone ‘Hillwalking in Wales’ book which, until Friday morning, had sat completely forgotten on our bookshelf for a decade. So, instead of setting out from the car park on the Crimea Pass and heading straight up onto the high ground, I headed up through pathless bog to Llyn Iwerddon, from where it was another pathless pull to the top of my first objective. Part way there I got a view over the route I’d nearly taken, where I saw a clear trodden line.

The next bit of my route was good, and it was as I made my way along the edge that I looked down and recognised what I saw below. In 2012 we’d kipped down there during our Length of Wales walk. It hadn't occurred to me that we'd been through (although not up) these hills before.

A few moments later I passed a couple of resting backpackers, who I’d assumed were heading in the opposite direction. It turned out they were heading the same way as me – something I came to appreciate when I looked back and saw them watching my progress along the next poor-route-choice section. I have no book to blame for this bit, and having looked back later I could see that the much better option would have been to ascend rather than to contour, although undoubtedly my route was the more exciting and challenging choice. Hoping that: a) the backpacking duo wouldn’t follow me; and b) I wouldn’t make a complete tit of myself whilst they were watching; I made my way to the impressive mining remains and then up through more remains towards my second objective of the day.

I did take a slightly circuitous route, but it was another good section, and I did, in time, join the clear path up to the top of my hill, where I was surprised to have it to myself. I’d seen other people on the top and making their way up when I’d stopped for a banana break amongst some of the old mine buildings, so it fixed itself (incorrectly, apparently) in my mind as a busy summit.

My downwards route was also taken from the guidebook. It involved wading through bog (that was actually one of the best, and fastest, bits of it) and making my way steeply down through crags. The less said about it the better, really. Annoyingly, I got glimpses of the route I’d originally sketched on the map, and it looked perfectly good (and fast!), even if it was significantly less direct.

With my faith in the guidebook eroded, I eventually located Mick in a car park by the Tanygrisiau Reservoir (which is exactly where I knew he would be, I just had a few navigational issues on the nearby roads; probably the less said about that the better too!). Except for the last bit of the descent, it was actually an enjoyable outing in spite of the dubious route choices, but either it was quite tiring or I’m just being a bit lazy at the moment, as I couldn’t quite stir myself to go and do my final hill of the day. With there being perfectly good TV reception around here, we will stay in the area overnight and thus today’s third hill has been bumped to tomorrow morning.

Sunday 14 August 2016

Mynydd Rhyd Ddu, Foel Goch and Mwdwl-eithin

Saturday 13 August

After a last minute plan was hatched to intercept Louise, David & Co on their journey back north from a successful week of shooting competition at Bisley, an even more last minute plan was hatched to spend a few days visiting some hills. My thinking was that if we were going to drive over to the M6 then we may as well take advantage of the mileage by driving a bit further, into Wales*. Alas, the last-minute nature severely curtailed my planning time, so as we set out, this was looking very much like a ‘make it up as you go along’ sort of a trip (with me hyperventilating slightly at the very thought!).

Mynydd Rhyd Ddu (SJ054477; 389m)

With this hill requiring a bit of trespassing, I got an early start. So early that Mick was still recumbent and in his PJs when I (up, dressed and breakfasted) jumped into the driving seat. A minute later, Mick was up and dressed too and we were off.

Leaving Mick in a layby on the A494, off I headed, past a farm and into some woodland. That woodland is the home to an off-road motorsports course, which wasn’t a problem in terms of traffic at 7am on this Saturday morning, but I did find it to be a maze of paths and tracks, requiring constant navigational attention.

Reaching the top of the course, I had two options: 1) stick to the plan and walk the public right of way for as far as possible, before picking up the windfarm track; or 2) veer completely off plan and follow my nose up through a gate I could see, in the hope that I would also find gates through other field boundaries I would encounter. I very often find with Marilyns that the route that looked good on paper isn’t the one I follow when on the ground, and today was another such example.

With only a small amount of detouring, I hit gates for every one of the four field boundaries I needed to cross and soon after the last, I was admiring the views from the trig point.

Arriving back at Colin (with 2.8 miles walked) I wrang out my socks. It turns out that those cheap shoes I bought in France to see me through to the end of the Pyrenees trip aren’t actually waterproof at all, in spite of their sweat-inducing membrane. They’ve got the really awful qualities of both boiling the feet, and letting water in but not letting it back out again. They’ll definitely be relegated to dry-weather local walks.

Foel Goch (SH953423, 611m)

A quick change of location had us parked up outside of the boarded-up church in the village of Llangwm and Mick joined me for the first half a mile of this one, before the draw of his book became too great (he really missed reading during the French trip and declared that this week will be spent mainly catching up on what he missed). Onwards I continued on my lonesome, up to the end of a lane and then onto the remains of a grassy track (which didn’t quite follow the line shown on the map), where I hurried because I thought I was trespassing. For some reason the right of way isn’t shown on the 1:25k map I was using (I now see that it is marked on the 1:50k from which I originally planned my route).

Reaching the start of the access land, I abandoned the track, as it was no longer going in a useful direction, but happily found the very faintest suggestion of another one, heading in my direction, just 20 metres or so up the hill. It got better and more obvious the closer to the top I got and thus my passage was far easier than I expected, and only slowed by the presence of so many fat juicy billberries which demanded that I picked and ate some of them.

It was rather a nice summit, I thought, marred only slightly by the overcast sky and hint of moisture in the air.

Having retraced my steps, the outing came in at 3.75 miles.

Mwdwl-eithin (SH917540; 532m)

My intended start point for this one had been the car park at the dam of Alwen Reservoir, which would have given a far longer walk (with higher ascent) than was necessary, but it looked like an easy option in terms of both vehicle and walking access. The plan had also been to spend the night there, but that was scuppered when we found that we had no TV signal. It’s not something that usually features on our list of requirements for a kipping-spot, but it’s been elevated to nearly top priority this week, by virtue of the Olympics.

“Well, if we’re not staying the night here” I said “I can do this as a linear walk and you can pick me up the other side.” Aside from saving me the repetition of my outward route, it would also save a couple of miles.

“Why don’t you just walk out and back from the other side and halve the distance?” asked Mick, and in view of not knowing where I might find Mick on the other side (I assumed there would be somewhere to park, but didn't know where) and the lack of phone signal, it seemed like a sensible option.

Shod now in my Terrocs (the very pair that were retired in the Pyrenees due to being quite ‘tired’), the water that soaked my feet on this bogfest of a walk at least had a route back out of my shoes and thus in comfort I toiled my way up this hill. I’d had a late night last night (the Men’s team pursuit at the Velodrome in Rio didn’t finish till about 11), and an early start this morning, and it was starting to tell.

Nevertheless, I made it up to the top of another pleasing hill, saw that the big Snowdonia tops were covered in cloud, and made my way back down again. I lost the path temporarily through one of the bogs on the way back, in a different place to where I’d temporarily lost it on the way out.

This one came in at 4.4 miles and I was happy to call it a day with my tally standing at 3 hills.

It took us another couple of attempts to find somewhere with a BBC TV signal to spend the night. Betws-y-Coed was the answer. Who knows where we’ll find ourselves tomorrow…

(*it’s not the first time I’ve used that basis for a trip lately; my second hill-bagging trip of June came about because I needed to be at my gran’s house in Wolverhampton for an appointment at 8.30 on a Monday morning and I figured if I was driving 35 miles to Wolverhampton I may as well drive 35 more to the Welsh border and make a week of it).