View from Oban Bothy

View from Oban Bothy
Showing posts with label Backpacking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Backpacking. Show all posts

Sunday, 22 January 2017

A Berwyn Bimble, 15 - 18th August 2016

 

A bit out of order….

Lucky, Mike and Dawn invited me along for wander in the Berwyns – my first trip to this area. There can be no excuse for this lack of attention, it’s remarkably close to JJ Towers…and what a wonderful area it turned out to be.

A train whisked me from Timperley to Chester where I met up with my three fellow defendants. Another train journey to Ruabon and a short bus ride took us to Llangollen – and the start of the expedition….although a visit to The Llangollen Pie Shop delayed our departure ever so slightly.

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The River Dee (no, not THAT River Dee)

It was tricky navigating through the back streets of Llangollen, my 1:25k OS map of the Cairngorm Plateau proved to be useless. My rule of thumb ‘if in doubt choose uphill’ proved itself once again – the stiff climb out of the town was so steep that it just HAD to be the right choice. It was. It was also very hot. Seriously very hot. It was so seriously very hot that it took ages to get to where we wanted to be, although I’m not sure where that was.

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  Beer is Good.

Vivod Mountain loomed, a blue squiggle on the map suggested water was available, a potentially good pitch then. It was actually better than that, water was piped into a make-shift settlement tank so we had an abundant supply of clear water. I still filtered it though. 

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Our clear water supply

A nice flat spot was located and our three tents were erected. This was the first outing for my Luxe HexPeak V4, up until now it had only adorned my back garden.

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First night’s pitch on Vivod Mountain, my HexPeak in the foreground

Dawn is very au-fait with the HexPeak. Her advice, and that from Andy, proved invaluable – I’m not saying I would have struggled without their input but life would certainly have been harder without it.

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Vivod dusk

The evening was hot and completely still. There was water close-by and loads of vegetation & trees: midge heaven, and we were on their menu. Dawn had come prepared. No DEET for her,oh no. Something far better: citronella burny stick things. These things burned for a good few hours, stuck in the ground by the tent door they kept the midges at bay. These things are The Way Forward for camping in midge-infested areas.

It was a peaceful and thankfully highly midge-free evening – thanks Dawn!

 

To Llyn Lluncaws

It was a leisurely start the next morning, we were on our jollies, no rushing about thank you very much.

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The order of the day was to be Moel Fferna (630m) > Cerrig Coediog (593m) > an un-named hill (621m) at SJ090369 > a few other un-named lumps en-route to Cadair Bronwen (784m) > Cadair Berwyn (827m). This made for a very nice day’s walking – great views, decent ground underfoot and nothing terribly steep. But it was still hot.

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Lunch, or some other excuse for a sit-down

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A Very Hungry Caterpillar

The three stages of doggy-stile (as opposed to doggy-style) negotiation:

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NOTE: No stiles were harmed in this process.

A bit of not very tricky navigation got us to an interesting memorial:

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We’d just missed Martin here, he’d been up Cadair Bronwen that very same day. Motorcycle trail-bikes were chugging around, the memorial was located on a very pleasant green lane.

Another lunch ensued, we couldn’t risk malnutrition, that would never do. Basking in the sunshine it was tempting to just sit and chill. Lucky had other ideas, we moved on.

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Cadair Bronwen (I think): Lucky with some bloke in a hat

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Late afternoon view from Cadair Berwyn

It was on Cadair Berwyn that we came across one man and his dog. They were sat, facing west, waiting for sunrise. I imagine he was going to face the other way at the appropriate time.

Onwards and downwards.

A very attractive ridge walk presented itself – it would take us gently and prettily down to that night’s intended pitch by Llyn Lluncaws. It looked lovely, Lucky thought so too.

Not so Dare-Devil Dawn. She spotted a rather more direct route…one that involved rather a lot of damned-near vertical steepness. I felt secure in the knowledge that I’d packed a spare pair of undies,

My descent was by derriere – the skidmarks on (the outside of) my shorts bore testament to that. There was no way I could get down otherwise. Mike’s shorts suffered similarly – although not quite as badly as mine. Dawn and Lucky, on the other hand, skipped down. Hrmph.

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Llyn Lluncaws

A nice flat-ish, midge infested spot was located and our overnight camp established. This time we had lots of vegetation, lots of warmth and stillness – and a large body of completely still water. The midges must have thought all their birthdays and Christmases had all come at once when we arrived. Their dinner had arrived – but they hadn’t reckoned with Dawn’s midge counter-measures. Once again we avoided the worst of the biting blighters thanks to the citronella smoke of the smelly, smoky, burny sticks. A restful night followed. Apart from someone who snored. Loudly.

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To Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog…and a bit further

Next morning dawned a bit mistily but that soon cleared and a cloudless sky promised another hot day.

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We trotted off upwards – only because there was no downwards alternative. Up on the tops, we had some dramatic views:

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Looking south-ish, down the Afon Iwrch valley

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A brief trespass was called for in order to avoid a few miles of not particularly interesting ground. We thought we’d get away with it but as we crested a small hill we spotted a couple fencing contractors doing what fencing contractors apparently do: drinking tea.

The put us right – although their view was that there was no way we could get to Vivod Mountain that day. Well, they were right – but we could have done if we’d wanted. Honest. Anyroadup, we were ‘given permission’ to cross the farmland by the fencing contractors – and that was good enough for us, so we left them to their tea drinking fencing. and wandered off in a sort of determined way.

Our determination paid off – before too long we found a pub. Two pubs actually, but The Hand was the one we settled on, and what a fine choice it was. The process of rehydration began in earnest. All was well until Mike realised he’d lost a walking pole. A short retrace of steps failed to locate the errant stick, it could have been anywhere. Oh well.

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We wandered off, keeping an eye open for suitable camping spots. Eventually we found one – a patch of thistly, scrubby land with a trickle of water nearby. There was plenty of cover, a casual passer-by wouldn’t spot us.

Mike and Dawn were in quite low profile, small footprint tents. My Luxe HexPeak V4 is a much taller affair and has quite a large footprint, secreting it presented a bit more of a problem – even so, we weren’t spotted. Thinking about it, I’m not sure if anyone walked by anyway.

I didn’t photograph our pitch so I’ve had to nick this one from Mike’s blog:

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To Llangollen

A short and easy day.

We woke to a warm morning, it was humid – the sort of humidity that might suggest the coming of stormy weather. We packed and set off, Llangollen bound, as the humidity abated.

The moorland colours were really quite lovely:

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Our route took us past our first night’s pitch from where we retraced our steps back to Llangollen. Apart from the Pie Shop bit, we didn’t re-visit that. Instead we headed for Llangollen Railway Station where we watched steam locos, ate sausage, egg & chips and drank loads of tea.

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A lovely few days away – my grateful thanks to Dawn, Lucky and Lucky’s dad for inviting me along.

Where we went(ish):

Route

According to Lucky’s dad we covered around 30 miles – in a most relaxing and agreeable manner.

More incriminating photographs are here.

You can find out what really happened by looking here and here.

I’m going to go back to the Berwyns, you should too. It’s a brilliant area.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Laughing our way across Scotland, TGO Challenge

 

Shiel Bridge

No room at the inn – the Kintail Lodge bunkhouse was fully booked so I put my tent up by the sea shore in front of the hotel. The weather was so wonderfully warm, hot even, that I sunbathed for over an hour, reading the newspaper and listened to wonderful Radio 4 on the radio-type wireless. The alternative was to go into the pub and drink dirty beer.

Denis was travelling up on the late bus due in at around 8pm, leaving me plenty of time to eat, grab a fast pint and catch up with other Challengers. It was particularly good to see Russ Mannion, LegEnd and true gentleman. 

 

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An after-hours mess around with the camera & tripod, taken around midnight:

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At 9am prompt, we left Shiel Bridge at around 10am in the good company of Tim from Little Lever near Bolton.

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Looking back to the west. Part of a convoy carrying enormously long rotor-blades for one of Scotland’s many windfarms. It’s only when you see these blades close-up that you realise just big the actually are.

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Denis, Tim & Doctor Oliver

A few minutes after gawping at the ginormous rotor blades and our little party was heading gently eastwards, we came across Doctor Oliver - walking WEST, towards the coast. This would have probably around 10.15am.

Doctor Oliver was on the Challenge and had started from Dornie. Heaven knows how he got from Dornie to Shiel Bridge in that short time – especially considering the 9am start on the first day. Probably best not to ask.

Doctor Oliver was also doing the Cape Wrath Trail. Like I said, probably best not to ask.

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Denis had done very little backpacking over the last couple of years so he wanted an easy route, hence the Shiel Bridge start. The Affric-Kintail trail was the most straightforward way of getting to Dromnadrochit on the western shore of Loch Ness, so that dictated our route.

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Glen Licht House, a locked bothy in Gleann Lichd

Our first couple of miles was on tarmac, then Land Rover Track…then well-defined footpaths. Glen Lichd House (above) was our lunch stop. It has had some serious renovations carried out in recent times: new roof, lots of pointing etc. It was locked although there’s a small lean-to shelter that offers emergency accommodation.

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Crossing the waterfall at Allt Grannda

Denis is was streaking ahead, his snazzy trainers / trail shoes were doing the trick.

 

Alltbeithe

Alltbeithe SYHA seemed a sensible destination for the day, not for accommodation but for a nice place to pitch our tents for our first Challenge wild camp. We’d also be fairly sure of meeting more Challengers at the hostel.

We were made very welcome by the hostel’s warden, Hanna. Hanna plied us with tea and wonderful lentil soup served with her own gorgeous bread rolls. So gorgeous were these bread rolls that I asked Hanna for the recipe. Danes are famous for their breads, I’m sure the recipe will work for me.

A jovial evening in the hostel followed, lots of telling of tales & jokes, pleasant conversation and remembering old friends – some of who are sadly no longer with us.

The night was very cold – our tents were ice-covered by 10.30pm. I was glad of my warm clothing.

Next morning, after a decent breakfast of porridge with dried fruit, we bade our farewells to the gathered Challengers and to Hanna, our host.

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Challengers preparing to leave Alltbeithe SYHA. Hanna, the warden, is 2nd L.

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Denis & Tim

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Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhoin

Denis promised a good pitch for the next night, a grassy glade around Affric Lodge. Well it was a grassy glade a few years ago, now it was a lumpy and unwelcoming patch of ground, quite unsuitable for camping. A couple of miles further on, on the north side of Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhoin at NN215241, the site below presented itself:

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It was a brilliant pitch, dry, (fairly!) flat, and with a supply of clean water – nothing not to like. Tim’s mate (Andy?) had been ticking off some tops, he joined us around 8pm – quite knackered.

Tim was using a small pack, 38 litres maybe. Amongst other things, he was carrying half a dozen eggs and a bag of onions. Oh, and around 500ml of whisky….which he and Denis proceeded to demolish during the evening. Both Tim and Denis slept quite well that night.

Next morning we set off for Cannich, an easy walk on minor roads. We trundled along merrily, passing the spectacular Dog Falls. I’d seen Dog Falls on the map but had always missed it, simply because of it’s location. I’d been missing a treat, the spectacle of all that water crashing down was breath-taking. I tried to post a video here without success…so here’s a photograph instead:

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Cannich

The pitch for the night was Cannich Campsite, one we’d used on previous Challenges. It offers everything a Challenger needs: a sheltered location, decent showers, laundry facilities, an on-site cafe, and the Slaters Arms around the corner.

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L > R: Alan S, Denis, Phil, Croydon, Gerry (hidden behind Croydon) and Rob, after dinner and lots of  lovely Cairngorm Trade Winds

Next morning, after a breakfast in the tent followed by a breakfast in the camp-site cafe (a chap needs a couple of breakfasts somethimes) we once again resumed our eastward course.

I’ve twice tried to pick up the Land Rover Track that runs between Cannich and Drumnadrochit, I failed miserably on both occassions. This was because I tried to find the track by going to Bearnock first – a BIG mistake. This time Denis and I just followed the Affric – Kintail Trail footpath signs. We found the track, it was just so easy.

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Entering Drum

An ice-cream stop was called – given the hot weather this was a good call. We’d just received a text message from Gordon the Boat. Although we’d been booked onto the 5pm crossing of Loch Ness, Gordon wanted us to cross at 4pm. This entailed arriving at Temple Pier at 3.45pm. This was going to be a real rush, especially as we needed to buy supplies in Drum. We’d also promised ourselves a quick pint – but clearly that wasn’t going to happen now.

We raced into town, bought what supplies we could, and legged it to the pier, arriving just after 3.45pm. We were a bit miffed to find that we had to wait until 4.55pm for our crossing. Gordon the Boat had asked everyone to go early, instead of a 4pm sailing he went at 3.30pm. Oh well.

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Crossing Loch Ness

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Urquhart Castle from Gordon’s boat.

Gordon’s boat is fitted with all manner of electrickery – GPS, echo-sounder / sonar, all to seek out the illusive Nessie. This, I think, conclusively proves that there’s something strange going on in Loch Ness:

 

Ault na’ Goire

Camping at Ault na’ Goire has become something of a tradition. Alex & Janet Sutherland have been looking after Challengers for a good few years now, allowing them to camp in there rather extensive ‘back garden’ and even feeding them. What stars!

A very pleasant evening followed – lots of good conversation, laughs, and enormous helpings of Janet’s dinner. And pudding. And there may have been a few beers damaged in the course of the proceedings.

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At (one of) the Sutherland’s dinner tables: L > R: Rob, Croydon, Chris, Mick (why’s he always smiling?) and, er,….I’ve forgotten his name. Whoops.

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….and at the other dinner table

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One of Alex’s garden sheds 

An enormous breakfast provided by Janet slowed our departure even more than usual. It was good that we had a generally easy day ahead.

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Denis & Janet….she’s the one on the Right

Bidding a fond farewell to Janet (Alex had already left to cut peat with his mate Gordon, not that Gordon, a different Gordon) we hit the unforgiving tarmac that would take us to Dunmagass Mains where Gayle & Colin were waiting to provide us with yet more refreshment.

We were still enjoying dry and sunny weather, something of a record for me in Scotland. The record broke as we approached Colin. I had moments to drop my pack and wrap it in it’s waterproof cover befor the heavens opened. Luckily they only opened a bit. By the time Colin & Gayle had lavished tea and cake on us the rain had eased considerably.

 

Glen Mazeran

Donning waterproofs was unavoidable now. We were about to climb up into the Mighty Monadliath and search out Glen Mazeran and our camp spot for the night – the weather could do anything, it was certainly much colder now.

A second lunch was called for at the rebuilt shooting hut at the end of the LRT that follows Allt Mor. We probably stayed for about an hour, enough time to make hot drinks and warming soup. And in my case, a cheese butty too.

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The rebuilt shooting hut

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Referring back the the video clip earlier in this post, I spotted this skeleton, no doubt preserved for centuries in the peat that’s so common in the area.

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Surely this is yet more conclusive evidence of the existence of Nessie, for here were the remains of what is surely a baby Nessie that roamed the high ground above Loch Ness before it had the chance to get to the water. Sad innit?

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The top of Glen Mazeran

We’d considered camping fairly high but suitable spots were few and far between. We ended up descending a fair way before we came upon a lovely flat grassy spot adjacent to the LRT. A stream flowed close by, we needed nothing more.

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Our pitch in Glen Mazeran, Denis rehydrating with Irn Bru.

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The view from my tent

A warm night followed and we both slept well, Denis because of his Irn Bru, me because of a mug of hot chocolate. I know how to live.

Red Bothy and beyond

A slightly earlier start today. We were up and away by around 9.30am, but not before we had a long chat with the lady shepherd who was patrolling the area in her Land Rover. We’d left no trace of course, consequently we felt quite good that we were demonstrating responsible wild camping to this guardian of the glen.

Off we jolly well went, down to Glen Mazeran Lodge. Challengers are asked to avoid passing in front of the Lodge itself so as not to intrude on the privacy of it’s residents. Not unreasonable of course…..but we made a complete and utter cods of avoiding the building, succeeding in marching right past its grand front. Fortunately there was nobody at home. Actually, whenever I’ve passed the Lodge (previously passing by the rear) there never been anyone at home.

By taking the track we did, the wrong track, we ended up at a locked gate. Good eh? We managed to scale the gate before anyone spotted us – not that were are many folk around to spot us. Following the River Findhorn for a couple of km we then turned south to climb yet again, this time to the top of Carn Dubh, but not before another tea stop and a bite to eat were called for at the Wendy House on the way to the top.

 

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Outside the Wendy Hut

Denis was convinced of the ease of which we’d find our way to Red Bothy. I wasn’t. I was right. The climb to the top was straightforward enough, the difficult bit was to navigate our way to the LRT that would lead us to the bothy. Thick mist made the job more difficult. We aimed for a watercourse which would (should?) take us in the right direction. Eventually we located the watercourse which Denis followed whilst I tried to locate the LRT.

We got separated. Oh dear. The mist got thicker. Oh dear, dear. I was happy in that I’d told Denis to stick to the watercouse – it would deliver him to the bothy. I found the track…..but couldn’t find Denis.

Oh dear, dear, dear.

Anyroadup, there’s another Wendy House on the LRT. When I got there I dropped my kit and set off down the river that I KNEW Denis would be following…..except that he wasn’t. As it happened he’d located the track and was following it. Alls well….etc.

We arrived at Red Bothy at just before 7pm. The were a few folk in the bothy and a few tents pitched in the area – all Challengers I assumed.

Denis was going to camp by the bothy whilst I headed up the Burma Road to Aviemore, arriving at 10pm, a bit tired, hungry and thirsty. A fast (and very good) chicken tikka in Aviemore’s Royal Indian Restaurant sorted the hunger thing. A pint of Deuchars in the Bridge Inn sorted the thirst thing out. A  bed in the Bridge Inn bunkhouse sorted the tiredness thing out. Sorted.

A good night’s sleep followed.

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And then I went home.