Wednesday 26 December 2012

Boxing Day Morning at Dunham Massey

Wednesday 26th December

Here's a quick photo from my Boxing Day morning stroll at Dunham Massey with my daughter.  As it was a rare sunny morning on a bank holiday it was unsurprisingly very busy today; however we were soon away from the crowds and had a pleasant wander around for an hour or so.

The Moat at Dunham Massey
N.B. 13/02/13 - Post date updated to actual date of walk, i.e. 26/12/12 (from 27/12/12) 

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Shutlingsloe by Torch Light

Tuesday 18th December 

An evening wander up to the misty summit of Shutlingsloe above Macclesfield Forest

Distance: 5.5km; Ascent: 230m; Dry but misty on the summit; with Martin, Sue and many others

This morning as I was getting ready for work Lynsey asked if I was still planning on joining Martin for his evening walk up Shutlingsloe today.  I was glad she asked as somehow I had managed to forget all about it!  Therefore at 7:30pm I met Martin, Sue and many others at the Trentabank carpark in Macclesfield Forest.

We set off on good tracks up through the forest by torchlight, with a mainly clear starry sky above us, to reach the edge of the woods.  Much of the path over the open hillside has been slabbed and some of the slabs were a little slippy due to tonight's low temperatures.  Around here we entered the mist and soon reached the trig point on the summit of Shutlingsloe (HuMP, Dewey), where I tried to take a few photos but the mist and an almost flat camera battery conspired against me!  However I did manage the following shots:

It was a bit misty on the summit of Shutlingsloe!
Trig point on Shutlingsloe
Shutlingsloe trig point in the mist
Boxes of flapjack and chocolate brownies were offered round as we gathered around the trig point.  After 20 minutes or so we descended, returning the same way back to the car before adjourning to the nearby Leathers Smithy for a well earned pint of real ale :-)  It had been a good evening out walking - many thanks to Martin for the invite!

Martin's somewhat more detailed account of the walk can be found here, complete with lots of photos of the gathering on the summit.  Also see my account of pretty much exactly the same walk, but in daylight, from July last year.

N.B. 13/02/13 - Post date updated to actual date of walk, i.e. 18/12/12 (from 28/12/12) 

Saturday 8 December 2012

A Trip to Ilam Park

Saturday 8th December

Here's a quick photo from a pleasant afternoon wandering around Ilam Park on the southern edge of the Peak District.  We met up with some old friends from university there due to its location, roughly mid-way between Coventry, Lichfield, Stockport and Liverpool.  There was a Christmas fair going on that day, and after lunch we went on a wander around the grounds at a leisurely pace as we had three under 3's walking with us!  All in all it was a pleasant afternoon catching up with friends :-)

Thorpe Cloud from Ilam Park
N.B. 13/02/13 - Post date updated to actual date of walk, i.e. 08/12/12 (from 09/12/12) 

Wednesday 5 December 2012

A Long November Weekend in the Western Highlands - Index

Back in November I had four excellent days walking in the Western Highlands, although things didn't quite go according to plan!

Colin and I headed north with plans to finally have a crack at backpacking the Mullardoch Round, which would take in 12 Munros over 4 days.  However deep fresh snow on the hills made for slow progress and so our 4-day backpack became a somewhat shorter 2-day backpack, followed by a couple of day walks: one in Kintail and one near Bridge of Orchy.  Even though we had to cut the backpack short, we still had a very successful trip and climbed six new hills (2 Munros, 1 Munro Top and 3 Corbetts).

Besides the deep snow, the weather conditions on the hills were generally good and we got fantastic views every day (although not necessarily for the entirety of every day!).  Waking up less than 200m from the summit of Munro was quite magical as we watched the sun rise over the snowy mountains, although it was quite cold overnight!  And then there were lovely late afternoon clouds over Glen Shiel the following afternoon and then the long shadows of the winter sun on our final day.

"Self Portrait" on the N ridge of Beinn Bhreac-liath
This post is an index of my blog posts on the trip, which include lots of photos and also maps of my routes, and there's also a link to my original plans and my Social Hiking map from the trip.
  • Original plans for the Mullardoch Round
  • Day 1 - Loch Mullardoch Dam to Carn nan Gobhar
  • Day 2 - Carn nan Gobhar to Loch Mullardoch Dam
  • Day 3 - Day walk up Ciste Dhubh
  • Day 4 - Day walk up Beinn Udlaidh and Beinn Bhreac-liath
  • Social Hiking combi map for the four days, with occasional tweets and photos
N.B. 13/02/13 - Post date updated to 05/12/12 (from 14/01/13), to keep post in-sync with rest of this trip's posts

Monday 26 November 2012

Beinn Udlaidh and Beinn Bhreac-liath

Monday 26th November

A round of two snow covered Corbetts from Glen Orchy

Distance: 14km; Ascent: 960m; Mostly overcast, but sunny later; with Colin

We had toyed with the idea of bagging Gairich above Loch Quoich today, but decided that would leave us with too long a drive home afterwards.  Therefore instead we opted for a pair of pleasant sounding Corbetts above Glen Orchy.  By the time we had packed up and driven down from Roybridge, it was 9am by the time we set off walking from near Invergaunan in Glen Orchy.

Looking down the Allt Ghamhnain valley towards Ben Inverveigh
A rough vehicle track headed through the forest close to the Allt Ghamhnain, which made for relatively easy going through the forest plantations.  Our plan had been to strike uphill once out of the forest so as to gain the north ridge of Beinn Udlaidh.  However when we reached this point, the route of ascent didn't seem too appealing and there was also the added problem of a newish deer fence with no certainty of a crossing point further uphill.  Therefore we instead continued along the rough track through a large area of recently planted trees, with the aim of heading uphill once we left the deer fence enclosed area.  It was pleasing to see that the newly planted trees were a mixture of different species and not just regimental rows of pines!

New tree planting
Southerly edge of the new deer fence in Coire Ghamhnain
It transpired that the newly enclosed area extended somewhat over a kilometre further up the coire from the edge of the established woodland, so that by the time we had got to its southerly end the most obvious route up onto the hills was simply to head up the slopes of the coire headwall to gain the bealach, so this is what we did.

View from the bealach
Loch Tulla from the E ridge of Beinn Udlaidh
By the time we had reached the bealach we were well above the snow line, and also now exposed to a bitter wind, but there were some excellent views to the south east from here.  We headed up the east ridge of Beinn Udlaidh, carefully picking our way through a couple of steeper rockier sections, to reach the summit plateau, which was in the cloud.  We reached the large cairn at around 12:30pm, which was surrounded by a few random abandoned bits of old machinery.  We stopped here in the shelter of the cairn for a bite to eat before heading a hundred metres or south southwards to visit the true summit of Beinn Udlaidh (Corbett, Marilyn).

Abandoned machinery near the summit of Beinn Udlaidh
By the large cairn on Beinn Udlaidh
True summit of Beinn Udlaidh
Due to the wind, we didn't linger at the true summit for long and soon we were descending back down to the sunny bealach, with excellent views once we dropped below the cloud.

Semi-frozen lochan in the bealach
Beinn Udlaidh from the ascent of Beinn Bhreac-liath
We began the ascent of Beinn Bhreac-liath and were soon back in the cloud trying to find the summit of another plateau.  We found two small cairns around a hundred metres apart and visited both of them to ensure that we had visited the summit of Beinn Bhreac-liath (Corbett, Marilyn).

On the summit of Beinn Bhreac-liath
The NNW ridge looked to be a pleasant route of descent on the map, so that is the route we took.  The first couple of kilometres were very level and so we remained in the cloud, but once we started to descend there were excellent views across to the Black Mount.

The Black Mount from the N ridge of Beinn Bhreac-liath
At around 3pm the sun finally managed to appear between the clouds, but it was not for long as around 30 minutes later it set behind the north shoulder of Beinn Udlaidh; however there were some good views.

"Self Portrait" on the N ridge of Beinn Bhreac-liath
Sunset from the N ridge of Beinn Bhreac-liath
Soon we were below the snowline and descended in the dusk to Invergaunan and beyond to the road.  We returned to the car at around 4pm and drove south happy after a fantastic four days hillwalking in the Highlands.  I shall have to plan another trip back there in the New Year!

N.B. 13/02/13 - Post date updated to actual date of walk, i.e. 26/11/12 (from 31/12/12) 

Sunday 25 November 2012

Ciste Dhubh and Am Bathach

Sunday 25th November

A day walk up a snowy Munro and Corbett from Glen Shiel

Distance: 14km; Ascent: 1360m; Overcast but mainly dry; with Colin

After curtailing our planned backpack yesterday due to deep snow, we decided to base ourselves in Roybridge for a couple of nights.  It turned out that Ciste Dhubh was one of the closest Munros to there that neither Colin or I had previously climbed and so that is where we headed today; it also had the option of bagging a bonus Corbett should there be enough time and daylight available after the Munro.

Heading along the Allt a' Chaorainn Bhig
Therefore shortly after nine o'clock this morning we left the car by the A87 and picked our way through an unpleasant area of felled forest to reach a faint path heading alongside the Allt a' Chaorain.  We ascended gently up the glen to reach the snow line some distance below the Bealach a' Choinich.

Looking down An Caorann Beag
We took a brief rest in the broad bealach before beginning our ascent up steep soft snow so as to become established on the south ridge of Ciste Dhubh.  There were good views back towards Am Bathach, but they were soon gone as we ascended into the clouds.

Am Bathach from the southern slopes of Ciste Dhubh
The south top of Ciste Dhubh
We skirted the impressive looking south top to reach the summit of Ciste Dhubh (Munro, Marilyn) shortly after 1pm.  By now the cloud had started to thin out, so we were afforded with intermittent views across to the surrounding hills.  We found a bit of shelter just below the cairn so we stopped here for lunch.

On the summit of Ciste Dhubh
However we didn't linger long on the summit due to the chilly wind, and we were soon descending back down the south ridge.  And the improving visibility meant that there were some good views of the imposing crags too.

Descending the south ridge of Ciste Dhubh
The crags of Ciste Dhubh
Soon we were back at the top of the steep snow slope, which we began to pick our way down.  Lower down, once the angle had eased slightly, we glissaded down the rest of the slope back down to the bealach.  Then we ascended up the snowy NW ridge of Am Bathach with excellent views across to Sgurr an Fhuarail and the South Glen Shiel ridge.

Sgurr an Fhuarail from Am Bathach
Clouds above Glen Shiel
At around 2:45pm we reached the summit cairn of Am Bathach (Corbett, Marilyn), where we rested a while to take in the impressive views now that the cloud had lifted.  

On the summit of Am Bathach
We continued along the long SSE ridge of Am Bathach, with excellent views on down the ridge towards Loch Cluanie.

Loch Cluanie from the SSE ridge of Am Bathach
Late afternoon clouds above the South Glen Shiel ridge
By now it was late afternoon and there were some wonderful colours in the clouds above the South Glen Shiel ridge.  We descended down the ridge to the SE and at around 4pm we dropped below the snow line, before following an intermittently boggy path back down to the car in the gathering gloom.  Just before 4:30pm we reach the car after another excellent snowy day out hillwalking in the Highlands :)

N.B. 13/02/13 - Post date updated to actual date of walk, i.e. 25/11/12 (from 31/12/12) 

Saturday 24 November 2012

A Somewhat Shorter Mullardoch Backpack - Day 2

Saturday 24th November

An unplanned retreat from the high hills, but with excellent views of snowy peaks!

Distance: 8.5km; Ascent: 170m; Sunny; with Colin

Well, last night will probably go down as one of my worst night's sleep in a tent since sitting out a storm on the first night of the 2009 TGO Challenge near Loch Calavie (a mere 13km away to the WNW from my current location).  This was almost certainly due to the frequent gusts of wind shaking the tent and depositing spindrift on the end of the tent where our heads were, which then in turn gradually melted and dripped onto us!  Also after I had a slightly cold night, I made a mental note to make sure I brought a thicker sleeping mat next time I camped on snow! 

Our tent at dawn
At around 7:30am, as dawn broke, we ventured out of the tent to find that the sky was clear and the wind had dropped a bit.  I had been unable to find the gloves that I wore for much of yesterday and came to the conclusion that they must be near the false summit cairn (as that's where I had changed into my thick gloves yesterday).  Therefore I toddled off for what should have been a quick walk over to the cairn, but the soft snow was over knee deep so my progress was very slow!  However I was rewarded with excellent views of the dawn light :-)

False summit of Carn nan Gobhar at dawn
Sgurr na Lapaich at dawn
Initially there was no sign of my gloves by the cairn, but I soon found them after poking around in the snow with my poles - they were frozen solid!  Gloves retrieved successfully, I now returned to the tent by a slightly longer route to try to avoid the deeper areas of snow.

Our scenic overnight halt
Sunrise from our overnight camp high on Carn na Gobhar
We concluded that due to the deep covering of snow present on all our planned hills, our progress would be significantly slower than planned.  And this, combined with the short daylight hours, meant we were extremely unlikely to complete our planned round by Monday lunchtime.  Therefore we made the hard decision to bail out of our planned backpack, rather than heading further into the remote hills.  Instead we would head east to Creag Dubh and then down into Coire an t-Sith, before following the Allt Mullardoch back down to Loch Mullardoch.

Colin headed up to the summit of the Munro to admire the views, whilst I headed back inside the tent to pack up my stuff.  Soon Colin returned and at around 9:15am I set off for the summit, grateful for Colin's steps in the deep snow.  Soon I reached the summit cairn of Carn nan Gobhar (Munro, Marilyn) and was admiring the absolutely fantastic views of snowy mountains in every direction!  Sgurr na Lapaich looked particularly impressive out to the west and there were also good views down to the east end of Loch Monar and the Strathfarrar Munros.

Summit of Carn nan Gobhar
Sgurr na Lapaich from Carn nan Gobhar
Looking north towards Loch Monar and the hills beyond from Carn nan Gobhar
I returned to Colin, and after finishing packing the tent away, we headed ENE along the broad ridge toward Creag Dubh.  There were fantastic views in all directions, although dark clouds were beginning to gather on the western horizon indicating the change in weather forecast for this afternoon.  At around 10:30am we reached the summit of Creag Dubh (Munro Top).

Cairn on Creag Dubh
We found a nice sheltered spot to stop for a rest in the lee of a snow bank, from where we admired the amazing views.  Owing to the hour of the day, the views to the north and west were the best, especially towards Loch Monar, Glen Strathfarrar and the hills beyond.

Looking down Glen Strathfarrar from Creag Dubh
Looking back towards Sgurr na Lapaich from Creag Dubh
The Munros at the head of Loch Monar
Loch Monar dam and the Strathfarrar Munros
Eventually we decided that it was time to say goodbye to the high hills, so we headed east for a short way before descending down into Coire an t-Sith.

Creag Dubh from Coire an t-Sith
As we descended the snow turned to slush mixed with peat bog, but amazingly neither of us slid over on the slippery terrain!

Descending by the Allt Mullardoch
In the corrie floor we picked up a bit of a rough track, with newish looking bridges over some of the burns, which we followed downstream past some waterfalls to reach Loch Mullardoch.

Waterfall on the Allt Mullardoch
Loch Mullardoch
By this point Colin, who seemed to have loads more energy than me today, had zoomed off ahead in a bid to collect the car to save me walking round to the far side of the dam, which was nice!  Although I secretly just think he was in a hurry to get to Fort William for some tea and cake ;-)

Clan Chisholm monument
On the way back to the dam, I came across a large cairn and decided to take a look.  It was a monument to Clan Chisholm, which marked the location of where, according to tradition, the chief held counsels with his Glen Cannich clansmen.

Loch Mullardoch dam
Soon I was back at the south end of the dam, with no sign of Colin so I continued along the minor road and I got almost as far as the road junction before he met me.  After changing into drier clothes, we set off for Fort William to buy a new compass and adjourn to a cafe for an hour or so.  As Colin was a member of the Climbers' Club we had already decided where we were going to stay for the night: their hut in Roybridge.  The hut turned out to a most pleasant bunkhouse, where we made plans for some shortish day walks for the next couple of days.

N.B. 13/02/13 - Post date updated to actual date of walk, i.e. 24/11/12 (from 11/12/12)