Thursday, 19 May 2016

TGO Challenge 2016 - Day 3: Glencoe to Above Coire Bhalach

Sunday 15th May 2016

I woke to another morning of blue skies and sunshine, which was a surprise as the forecast had suggested that it would be overcast today. However I didn't complain! The campsite warden kindly let me charge my backup battery pack in reception whilst I enjoyed a breakfast of crunchy nut cornflakes and started to get myself ready.

I set off walking just after 10am this morning and followed the B863 road east along the south shore of Loch Leven. I passed another challenger who was resting in the shade at the bottom of the track over the shoulder from Glencoe. I realised that since arriving back on the mainland on Friday afternoon I had yet to dip my feet in the sea! Therefore I took the opportunity to nip down to the seaweedy shore of Loch Leven to get my boots wet before leaving the west coast.

It was turning into another warm day so i stopped at a picnic area for a break, from where there was a lovely view west down Loch Leven, as shown in the first photo below:

After a bit more road walking I reached Kinlochleven, where I popped into the Coop to resupply with food, before heading into the Ice Factor cafe for a late lunch of burger and chips (again!). Here I met David from Devon who was on his 3rd crossing, but the first for several years. He'd started from Acharacle and was the first challenger I'd met on my crossing who hadn't started at Oban!

After much chatting I thought I'd better actually make some more progress eastwards, so I set off up the West Highland Way sometime after 2:30pm. This section of path was very, very busy and I reckoned I must have passed at least 50 other walkers descending to Kinlochleven whilst I headed the other way. Eventually I left the West Highland Way and continued on the vehicle track towards the Blackwater Reservoir; I saw no one else for the rest of the day!

It was a pleasant walk up through the woods with lovely views northwards across to the Mamores, as shown in my photo below:

At around 6pm I reached the end of the track at the Blackwater Reservoir dam. I considered trying to camp somewhere alongside the reservoir and then picking up a new track 3km east of the dam in the morning, which I had noticed on satellite images shortly before the challenge. However as the weather was nice, I decided to continue with my planned high camp as I might not have another opportunity this challenge if the weather deteriorates.

Therefore I headed up into Coire Garbh, visiting several of the burns before deciding to follow the largest one upstream. After a while I stopped to collect water from the burn whilst there was still sufficient flow. My bag was now much heavier as I picked up water for tomorrow to so I could avoid descending in the morning.

I reached the bealach at around 8pm, to be greeted by the view in the photo below. It had definitely been worth climbing up here as the views across Rannoch Moor to the Bridge of Orchy hills was excellent :-)

I soon found somewhere mostly free of heather to pitch my tent and set about cooking whilst enjoying the view from my tent. It had been another good day of walking!

See my current progress on Social Hiking

Route map and more photos will be added once I get home

posted from Bloggeroid

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

TGO Challenge 2016 - Day 2: High Camp S of Fraochaidh to Glencoe

Saturday 14th May 2016

After a cold frosty night, I woke to warm sunshine on the tent. I was in no great hurry to start walking this morning after yesterday's late finish, and I also believed that today would be shorter too! Therefore I spent a leisurely time in the sunshine warming up after the cold night, but finally setting off walking at around quarter to eleven!

It was a tough, steep climb up the southern slopes of Fraochaidh in the warm sunshine. However eventually I reached the summit, and I was rewarded with fantastic panoramic views of the many peaks of Lochaber and across over to Loch Linnhe to Ardgour and Mull, plus I could just about make out the Paps of Jura in the distance to the SSW. The first photo below is a panorama of Beinn a' Bheithir and the Glen Coe hills from the summit of Fraochaidh. The second is the summit cairn with Loch Linnhe, Mull, Lismore and Ardgour beyond.

After spending a fair while taking in the views, I started my descent down the east ridge over several subsidiary tops to reach the Mam Uchdaidh, where the right of way from Glen Creran crosses the hills on its way to Ballachulish. I toyed with the idea of descending this way myself, but decided to stick with my plans to climb two more hills this afternoon.

The ascent up to Sgorr a' Choise was very heathery to start with, but there seemed to be some faint paths to follow that made the going slightly easier. Higher up the ground became rockier and I eventually managed to lug my heavy pack up to the summit of this hill. Again the views were stunning :-).

Continuing onwards in the hot afternoon sunshine I slowly climbed up my final hill of the day: Meall Mor. Despite the south ridge not looking horrendously steep, I found it hard going and wondered whether I should have descended after Fraochaidh. However by now the easiest route to Glencoe lay over the top of Meall Mor so I continued with my ascent.

I reached the summit of Meall Mor just before 6pm, with yet more great views! Just east of the summit there was a great vantage point for looking up the length of Glen Coe surrounded by the Aonach Eagach and Bidean nam Bian hills, as shown in the third photo.

I was now quite tired and had concluded that I would miss out my first hill tomorrow, Garbh Bheinn, and instead head via Kinlochleven. This therefore meant that I could resupply there instead of Ballachulish as planned. Therefore I headed towards Am Meall as planned, but instead of continuing up this small hill from the bealach I instead picked up a newish forest road heading down into Glen Coe. This seemed to go on forever as it looped endlessly down the hillside. I was keen to get down as I'd finished the last of my water and was feeling thirsty again! Eventually I reached the bottom of the glen where I picked up a pleasant woodland path running parallel with the A82 towards Glencoe village.

Shortly after 8pm I reached the Glencoe Gathering pub and headed inside for water, real ale, burger, chips and ice cream! I then headed to the Invercoe campsite where I pitched my tent at sunset after a cracking day in the hills, although I perhaps wished I'd set off earlier this morning!

See my current progress on Social Hiking

Route map and more photos will be added once I get home
posted from Bloggeroid

Saturday, 14 May 2016

TGO Challenge 2016 - Day 1: Oban to High Camp S of Fraochaidh

I left the SYHA on a sunny morning, after signing out at around 8:30am and nipped down the steps opposite to dip my feet in the sea. A quick walk around the harbour brought me to the Lismore ferry, with 7 other challengers already on board.

After a breezy crossing of the Lynn of Lorn, we arrived on Lismore shortly before 10am. I walked up the track to Balure with Janet, with four other challengers a few hundred metres ahead of us. The first photo below is on the coastal section of the track.

I'd heard that the second half of this track could be tricky to follow, but we had no trouble today (although it wasn't always where it was shown on the map!). A road walk then led us to the very windy, and overcast, NE tip of Lismore, we the eight of us gathered in the ferry waiting room out of the wind.

A short ferry journey then took us back to the mainland at Port Appin, where two of us opted for pub lunch. The fish and chips were very tasty :-).

Soon I was on my own following the road to the Jubilee Bridge and then ESE along the cycle path for a few kilometres. It was nice to be off the road, but the path was still tarmac so I was glad when I left it to head up Gleann na h-Iola! It was good to finally get up into the hills, with excellent views back over the seascape to the SW. The track made for easy walking, except where I had to divert to avoid a large heard of very inquisitive cows!

A long climb out of the head of the glen then followed, with the sun starting to break back through the clouds. My ascent was steeper than planned due to an unexpected deer fence around newly planted woodland, but eventually I was able to contour up to the ~500m bealach as planned. The views were stunning with a now near cloudless sky! Continuing on to Beinn Mhic na Ceisich the views just got even better, with a great view of the Glen Coe hills from the summit (see photo below).

Due to the dry weather there had been little water in the burns so I opted to continue for a couple of kilometres towards Fraochaidh, where I eventually found some running water at around 8pm. Pitching in the sunshine, I enjoyed dinner of soup and pork stew before watching the sun set behind the hills of Ardgour :-)

It had been an excellent start to the challenge, although quite long at 29.5km! However tomorrow would be shorter, but with more hills.

posted from Bloggeroid

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

My Planned Route for the 2016 TGO Challenge

Oban to Stonehaven

Screenshot of planned route (scroll down for zoomable map)
Having previously started at Shiel Bridge, Strathcarron, Mallaig and Glenelg, I decided I fancied a more southerly route this year, so I've opted to start in Oban.  However I also wanted to visit Ballater and finish in Stonehaven, which are both more northerly than any of my previous routes!  Therefore my resultant route is reasonably southerly, before heading NE from Pitlochry to Ballater.

It splits nicely into five chucks:
  • 2 days from Oban to Glencoe, via Lismore
  • 2 days from Glencoe to Bridge of Gaur
  • 3 days from Bridge of Gaur to Pitlochry, via Ben Lawers
  • 3 days from Pitlochry to Ballater, via the cocktail party in Gleann Mòr
  • 3 days from Ballater to Stonehaven, via Mount Battock
And here is a nice zoom-able and pan-able map showing my planed route:

It's a similar length to my previous TGO Challenge routes, at 325km, and there's around 14,000m of ascent.  Assuming that the weather is fine I'm planning on climbing 7 Munros, 7 Corbetts and 3 Grahams, plus a few other hills on the way across.  However I anticipate that bad weather might put pay to some of these plans!  Although you never know, it might be another year like 2008 when it was dry and sunny for most of the fortnight!

This is by my fifth TGO Challenge and I'm already counting down the days until I set off!  Only 100 days to go...

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Across Kinder Scout from Edale to Glossop

Sunday 4th October 2015

A walk across the centre of the Kinder plateau, before picking up the Pennine Way and Doctor's Gate

Distance: 23km; Ascent: 550m; Cloudy morning, turning warm and sunny later; Solo

I'd been thinking about crossing the Kinder plateau again for some time, as most of my more recent walks in the area had been around the edges.  I was also intrigued by the words "Kinder Gates" marked on my map, and I wondered what was there.  As I had a opportunity to get out for a walk today, and it had been mainly dry for the last couple of weeks, I decided to head to Edale and wander up Grindsbrook Clough.

In Grindsbrook Clough
I set off walking from Edale station at around ten past ten this morning, and was soon following the path up along the Grinds Brook.  It was grey, overcast but dry this morning, although occasional bits of blue sky looked promising for the rest of the day.  There were a few other walkers around, but it definitely didn't feel particularly busy, and I spent much of the time higher up in the clough without seeing or hearing anyone else.

In Grindsbrook Clough
Around an hour after setting off from the station I reached the plateau at the top of Grindsbrook Clough, with hazy views back down into the valley.  Heading west for a kilometre or so, I soon reached the top of Crowden Clough and headed north alongside the headwaters of Crowden Brook.

Looking back down Grindsbrook Clough
A surprisingly grassy section of the Kinder plateau
As I wandered across the plateau, I was pleasantly surprised as to how grassy it was now in lots of places.  Although the long grass did make it tricky at times to follow the faint boot-worn path towards the River Kinder!  Soon I stumbled across the inevitable peat hags, which I have to admit I am quite fond of!  They add features to what would otherwise be a completely flat plateau.  Although that's easy to say when the ground is so dry underfoot!

In amongst the peat hags
By now the morning cloud had pretty much burnt off and it was warm and sunny :-).  I followed what looked to be the biggest looking grough as it twisted and turned through the peat hags to eventually reach the River Kinder at a prominent cairn.

The River Kinder above Kinder Gates
I followed a reasonable small path downstream alongside the River Kinder, bumping into the first other walkers since leaving the southern edge of the plateau.  Soon I reached Kinder Gates, which consists of some impressive gritstone crags that appear to guard the onward route - presumably that's how they got their name!

The River Kinder at Kinder Gates
After another half a kilometre or so, I reached the western edge of the plateau above Kinder Downfall.  There were hazy views westwards towards Kinder Reservoir from here, and I wandered along the edge for a bit to get a look at the downfall, which had hardly any water flowing over it today.

A hazy view down to Kinder Reservoir from Kinder Downfall
This edge of the plateau was teeming with other walkers out enjoying the lovely October weather today!  Therefore I headed slightly off path to find a pleasant gritstone outcrop on which to sit and enjoy a spot of lunch.  It was now about half-past midday and I decided that I probably wouldn't have enough time to head over Bleaklow and down to Hadfield to catch the train home as originally planned.  Instead I hatched a new plan to head along the Pennine Way and then down Doctor's Gate into Glossop to catch the train from there instead.

Mill Hill from Kinder
Junction with the Snake Path
Therefore I headed NW along the busy Pennine Way path to reach the summit of Mill Hill (Dewey), which is probably the hill I've climbed the most after Mam Tor!  Continuing along the Pennine Way I had another hill in my sights, but this time it was one I hadn't actually climbed before: Featherbed Top.

Slabbed path NE of Mill Hill
After much walking along the slabbed path I reached the featureless summit of Featherbed Top (Dewey) at around 2pm.  I wandered around for a while in an attempt to ensure that I'd visited the highest point of this somewhat flat-topped hill, before descending northwards towards the A57 Snake Pass road.

Summit of Featherbed Top
The A57 was very busy today, and I had to wait a while to be able to cross the road safely!  Continuing northwards along the Pennine Way, I soon turned off onto the Doctor's Gate path.  There were good views down into the Shelf Brook valley and at one point I came across a sign saying that the path for closed for a few metres at one point, with no diversion.  However given that the surrounding land was open access land, this seemed a little bit bizarre!

Looking down Doctor's Gate
A passing group of walkers soon informed me that the closure was due to a missing bridge over the Shelf Brook, but that the river was easy to cross today.  Therefore I continued down along Doctor's Gate towards the river crossing.  After a little over a kilometre I reached the site of the missing bridge and easily crossed the river, although it has been dry for the last couple of weeks.

The missing bridge on the Doctor's Gate path
I continued on a good path on the northern bank of the Shelf Brook, before picking up a vehicle track near to Mossey Lea Farm and following it through fields to the edge of Glossop.  A kilometre or so of road walking then brought me to the station, where I arrived in plenty of time to catch the 16:08 train back into Manchester and then home again.  All in all it had been an excellent walk in the Dark Peak :-)

Looking back up Doctor's Gate
Old Glossop Church

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Penrhyn Castle

Sunday 23rd August 2015

On our first day in North Wales we headed to Penrhyn Castle, near Bangor, with the kids. Here are a few photos from a pleasant wander around the grounds and garden this morning before the heavy rain set in! There were good views eastwards towards the Great Orme from the castle ramparts.

posted from Bloggeroid

Thursday, 6 August 2015

A Sunset Walk from Upton to Bude

Thursday 30th July 2015 

A pleasant evening circuit from Bude combining the canal towpath and the coast path 

Distance: 6.5km; Ascent: 150m; Dry, but cool for the time of year; Solo

At around half-past eight I set off walking along the canal towpath heading out of Bude, before cutting up to the coast by way of the road to Upton from Rodd's Bridge.  I arrived at the coast just as the sun was setting, and enjoyed a most pleasant walk north along the coast path at dusk.

The trig point on Efford Beacon beckoned, followed by the tower on Compass Point, before I dropped back down to the canal at the sea locks by the light of a full moon.

A lovely evening coastal walk :-)