About this blog

Just having a bit of fun here, posting about walks and other stuff. I need to get out more.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Derwent Watershed Walk (A failed attempt)

A quick post before I go off on my hols this weekend. A week in Skeggy with a hyperactive 4 year old granddaughter will be a test of my fitness levels if nothing else.

A couple of weekends back I thought it would be a good idea to have a crack at the Derwent Watershed walk, taking two days to cover the 40 odd miles around the watershed with a wild camp thrown in somewhere along the way.

The true challenge is to do the route in 24 hours.
Taking two days with a heavy pack was challenging enough for me.

I caught an early train from Swinton station, connected with the Trans Pennine service in Sheffield and alighted this at Bamford at around 08:30.
A steady plod ensued through Bamford village to pick up a path below Bamford Edge and then along an over grown path onto Bamford Moor with great views over to Stanedge Edge, looking a picture across the flowering heather foreground of the moors.

Bamford and the Hope Valley
From Moscar Moor I followed a good track down to Cutthroat Bridge and headed up the the fine vantage point of Whinstone Lee Tor.
This is a popular area for walkers and mountain bikers, rightly so as it offers great views of the Derwent and Ladybower reservoirs and the surrounding hills.

Win Hill from the path up to Derwent Edge
The path rises steadily up onto Derwent Edge and the odd rock formations that abound in this area.
A friendly chap kindly pointed out the spire of Lincoln Cathedral, probably 35 miles away as the crow flies, despite the grey skies the visibility was excellent today.

Wheel Stones?
I plodded on, without much enthusiasm. My mood wasn't great and I started to question the reasons for taking on this walk. It would be easy to bail out now and head back to Bamford for the train home.

Back Tor rock formations
I didn't bail out, obviously or I wouldn't be posting this now. Instead I carried on, losing height to Lost Lad and Abbey Brook.
This was new ground for me and it is a beautiful, quiet area of the Peak District.
Feeling a bit brighter I took a steepish, overgrown path up on to Howden Moors and along the edge to Margery Hill, Cut Gate summit and Outer Edge.

Abbey Brook valley from Howden Moor
From Outer Edge, the route is vague to say the least. I hadn't done much research so was just winging it a bit, in and out of the many groughs that abound in this pathless area over to Featherbed Moss.
This is fabulous country if you enjoy solitude and a feeling of remoteness.
I saw no other walkers from Outer Edge onwards, just mountain hares and larks for company, I was starting to enjoy myself at last.
Mushroom stone in a pool on Featherbed Moss
Eventually, after going wrong a couple of times due to careless navigation, Bleaklow Stones came into view.
What a place!
I pitched the tent on a nice flat area and wandered around taking photos of the strangely shaped stones and soaked up the views all around.
Bleaklow Stones camp

Dinner time

The view North, for miles and miles...

20 miles and over 1100m of ascent in a sometimes suitably bleak mood had been rewarded with probably the best wild camping spot I have ever had.

I got a bit of a shock at 10 pm as I popped my head out of the tent to see a bright light coming towards me at an alarming speed. It turned out to be a runner out for a late night run on Bleaklow! I formed the opinion that he was a lunatic, he probably had the same opinion of me, having seen the weather forecast for tomorrow.

I awoke to a grey scene. The cloud was down on Bleaklow and worse still, the cloud was depositing rain.
Visibility was down to about 50 yards, just what I didn't need given that this is supposedly the most navigationally challenging area of the Peak District.
Map, compass and GPS (mainly GPS) were used to get me over Bleaklow hill through the deep groughs.
If there is a path hereabouts, I didn't find it.
Happily the badly eroded Pennine Way path is a good landmark and I joined this just 50 yards or so below the summit of Bleaklow Head.
It was now just a matter of following the Pennine Way off Bleaklow and over the Snake road to Mill Hill and Kinder Downfall.

Kinder Downfall through the murk
It was somewhere close to Kinder Downfall that I decided I had bitten off more than I could chew. I felt tired after the exertions of yesterday and this morning's protracted navigation over Bleaklow.

The Derwent Watershed walk  had defeated me.

I followed the Pennine Way all the way off Kinder to the Old Nags Head in Edale where I  had a well deserved swift pint of Guinness before catching the 12:30 train back home.

The Vale of Edale from the top of Jacobs Ladder
Not one to take defeat lightly, I vow to tackle this walk again in the not too distant future, maybe next spring as a warm up to the TGO Challenge....maybe.

Monday, 5 August 2013

TGO Challenge 2013. Day 3: Loch na Caoidhe to "The House of the Hangman"

It had been a cold night down by the waters edge and it was still cold in the morning as I put the stove on for the first coffee of the day.
I unzipped the tent to find Charlie sat on guard outside his masters abode seemingly none the worse for his exertions yesterday.
Charlie is a fine dog and great company in the hills but he does seem to suffer quite badly from short term memory loss. In Charlies eyes, one minute you are his best mate and the next you are an evil stranger with intentions of beheading his master and making off with all of his biscuits.
Charlie had of course, forgotten who I was this morning, after all it had been 12 hours since he last saw me. Once he had remembered who I was, all was well and I was able to approach Richard's tent to discuss the options for today.

Charlie on guard duties.
We had both slept in too late for a realistic chance of beating the bad weather on a mad dash over the Strathfarrar hills, so the discussion was a short one. Today's route was to be an energy saving, low level affair.
The plan was to try to make it as far as Tighachrochadair (which wonderfully translates as The House of the Hangman) before the worst of the predicted bad weather caught up with us.
I am sure I saw Charlie nodding his head in agreement as the plan was declared.

   Heading down Glen Orrin.                                           Photo courtesy Richard Wood
It was a cold, grey morning, but we soon warmed up as we made our way below the crags of Beinn Mheadhoin, where I paused to look back towards the snow clad Strathfarrar Munros.
My timing was good as at that moment there was a majestic Golden Eagle high in the sky above us. 
We watched it circle for quite a while before it headed north and went out of sight. 
Not a bad start to the day at all.

An hour or so later we were making a brew in Luipmaldrig bothy. 
This is a cracking bothy and is probably rarely visited. I believe it was built for the navvies working on the Orrin Reservoir project and it is now owned and well maintained by the Strathconnan Estate.

We had a snoop around, as you do, and found a back bedroom complete with double bed. 
The bothy book revealed that the occupant of the bedroom last night was none other than The Goddess!
I expect she slept well, free from the alleged vibrations of fellow Challengers respiratory structures which had made her stay at Gerry's Hostel such a miserable experience.

Me and Charlie in the posh bothy.                           Photo courtesy Richard Wood    
Through the window I observed the unmistakable figure of Humphrey Weightman approaching the bothy. 
Charlie gave Humphrey a frosty reception as he entered the building but was soon to be charmed by Humph who was then accepted as temporary member of our gang.

Following a brief chat, Humphrey set off towards the wobbly suspension bridge over the river Orrin. 
We packed up and took a more direct, boggy line to the bridge. 
Charlie, fearing that he was to be left behind by Richard, took the direct, damp route across the river in pursuit of Richard who had opted for the more conventional method of crossing the river using the bridge.
Once across, we followed the river to it's outflow into the reservoir and then more or less hugged the south bank of the reservoir all the way to the Allt na Criche, which we easily forded. 
Crossing the river Orrin
Charlie had a great time on this stretch, splashing in and out of the pools and burns feeding the reservoir. He had obviously not learnt anything yesterday about pacing himself.

Orrin river flats
Height was gained fairly quickly as we left the reservoir behind to pick up a sometimes vague path over to the track above Gleann Goibhre.
The weather was closing on us now as predicted, the wind had freshened considerably and we felt the first spots of rain of the day.
View down to Orrin Reservoir.                                     Photo courtesy Richard Wood
The Hydro Bothy was a welcome sight and we were pleased to get out of the wind for half an hour for a brew and a bite to eat. 

Taking a break in the Hydro Bothy                            Photo courtesy Richard Wood
Then it was just a matter of pushing on for a further 5km along the track to our chosen destination of Tighachrochadair.

Squally  rain showers, sweeping through from the west greeted our arrival and with the help of some borrowed nail pegs (cheers Richard), I managed to pitch the tent beside Richard's tight up against the gable end of the hangman's house.

Sheltered camp, Tighachrochadair
Half an hour or so later, we were joined by Peter Molenaar, who had noticed our tents from the track above the house and headed down the heather clad hillside to share our sheltered pitch.

Charlie let Peter know in no uncertain terms that he was not to come too close to Richard's tent and it took liberal handouts of Peter's beef jerky supply before he was to be accepted into the clan.

I was now well ahead of my planned route, leaving just a short walk tomorrow to the fleshpots of Beauly.
The plan to get ahead of the bad weather had proven to be a good one.
It was not pleasant outside the tent tonight,  but at least we had shelter from the worst of the elements which we might not have found in the hills to the west of us.

Excess supplies of food and Jack Daniels were consumed and text messages sent back home before I eventually settled down in the sleeping bag for the night.

Another good Challenge day.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

TGO Challenge 2013. Day 2: Gerry's Hostel to Loch na Caoidhe

 The "Goddess" had suffered a less than heavenly sleep.
Apparently there had been much snoring during the night emanating from various bunks.
I was accused of being one of the culprits. I never heard anything myself, maybe she had been dreaming...

There was no rush for me this morning thankfully, as it was not pleasant outside.
Richard and Charlie were not due to arrive at the station in Achnashellach until 10:40 and then they had an hour's walk along the road to meet up with me at the hostel.
After the other Challengers had stepped out into the rain, I spent a lazy morning mainly drinking coffee and eating.
Gerry made a brief, scary appearance wearing dressing gown and slippers and asked me to "spread the word", he didn't say what the word was though and I still haven't figured it out.

The weather began to brighten up as I packed and I observed the Kyle of Lochalsh train passing by, sure enough an hour later I met Richard and Charlie beside the road at Gerry's.
Charlie and yours truly                              photo courtesy of Richard.Wood
Pleasantries were exchanged, much fussing of Charlie ensued, and then we were off, on our way off up the track towards Pollan Buidhe.

Richard brought news of impending bad weather, moving in from the west around midday tomorrow. Plans of a high walk on the Moruisg ridge were abandoned and we decided to push on as far as we could today to try to get ahead of the forthcoming crappy weather.

Richard and Charlie
I first met Richard on the Challenge in 2007. We had both started out in Mallaig that year and our routes had crossed several times. We ended up finishing as part of a good sized group on St Cyrus beach and have stayed in touch ever since.
Last year Richard completed his Munro round and I was pleased to be with him, his partner Becky and his friends when he achieved this.
Richard and Becky had kindly offered to put me up for the night in Beauly and he had joined me as part of his training for a forthcoming Pennine Way walk. I was happy to have both Richard and Charlie along to join me for a few days.

Heading out into the wilds
 The miles always tend to pass by quickly when in company, and soon enough we arrived at Glenuaig Lodge where we stopped off for a brew and a bite to eat in what could be loosely described as a "bothy". We figured that this shed, including bunk bed and electricity! had been built to prevent emergency break-ins to the lodge. Good idea.

Glenuaig Lodge shed              photo courtesy of Richard.Wood       
We then headed out along boggy country for a few miles before crossing the River Meig about 1km west of the lovely path up the Coire Mhoraigeinn.
Rough walking
The route up the high pass was wonderful, full of sparkling waterfalls and views back to the hills of the far north west. The sun made an appearance as we neared the top of the pass, but energy levels were low now and our thoughts turned to finding a good pitch for the night.

Nearing the top of the pass
Once over the top of the high pass, views opened up of the Strathfarrar Munros to the south, maybe these hills were achievable tomorrow, before the weather closed in?

The Strathfarrar Munros
 It was a fine descent to Loch na Caoidhe. Easy going along a good path with a choice of great camping spots ahead.
Heading down to Loch na Caoidhe

Idyllic camp at Loch na Caoidhe
It had all been too much for poor old Charlie though, and he collapsed into a deep sleep before the tents were pitched...soon to be revived by the smell of food cooking on our stoves.
Dog tired.                                          photo courtesy of Richard.Wood        
Another brilliant day...Is there any wonder I am addicted to the Challenge?

TGO Challenge 2013. Day 1: Torridon to Gerry's Hostel

Torridon is a special place.
It had been 20 year's since my last visit on the second of two wonderful walking holidays in the Torridon area so imagine my delight to find myself back in the Torridon Inn, this time with a group of happy Challengers on the eve of The Great Outdoors Challenge 2013.

A few pints and a good meal were consumed and I left the pub in good company for the walk around the head of the loch back to the camping ground as the sun set over Ben Allligin.
Torridon Sunset
Following an unsettled night in the tent, due to an altercation with a bumble bee deep inside my sleeping bag in the early hours, I emerged from the tent to a glorious Torridon morning.
*Tip. Always check the inside of your sleeping bag for bees after airing out on the washing line.

I signed out at the Youth Hostel at 09:30 and made my way slowly back around the head of Loch Torridon to join the wonderful path from Annat to Achnashellach. The views over the Loch and down Glen Torridon are simply breathtaking. I was already having a good feeling about this crossing and the route I had planned.

Leaving Torridon on a glorious morning.

Liatach and Beinn Eighe

Before too long, I caught up with a few other Challenge walkers as height was gained towards Loch an Eion and the massive bulk of Moel Chean Dearg dominated the view ahead.

Moel Chean Dearg
An early lunch was taken overlooking Loch an Eion with Peter Mollenar, Pete Varley and Mark Williams as the temperature dropped sharply and clouds quickly replaced the early morning blue sky.
Then it was off again, over Bealach na Lice and Bealach Ban to the magnificent natural amphitheater of Coire Granda. 
Rain started falling steadily and so waterproofs were donned before the climb to the col between Sgorr Ruadh and Beinn Liath Mhor. 

Heading to Coire Granda
I had planned to do the full ridge of Beinn Liath Mhor but due to the worsening weather conditions I wasn't sure that was a good idea. I decided to compromise, and dropped the pack at a lochan at around 700m and in a wanton act of Munro bagging, I climbed the craggy path to the boulder strewn Munro on the northernmost edge of the ridge.                                                                                          

Beinn Liath Mhor

Beinn Liath Mhor ridgeline
On the way back down to the pack I passed Ali Ogden and Sue Oxley who were heading up with full packs to tackle the ridge.These two ladies are obviously made of sterner stuff than me.

Eventually, I rejoined the path and continued along Coire Lair, pausing regularly to soak up the stunning views all around.

Coire Lair
I had planned to camp here but couldn't find an attractive enough pitch in the rain, so I continued through the forestry to Achnashellach and pushed on along the road for 5km to Gerry's Hostel.

The last time I stayed here, back in the 90's Gerry had been away, so I had not had the dubious pleasure of meeting him until now. I had heard a few stories about his eccentricity and was not to be disappointed.
Gerry greeted me at the door and assured me there was room in the Hostel as I walked in to find Pete Varley, Peter Mollenar and a lady challenger who I know only as "Goddess" already making themselves at home beside a roaring fire in Gerry's front room.
I think Gerry took a shine to me when I mentioned I had stayed there previously, and as I was cooking dinner, he whispered that he had a limited amount of alcohol for sale...cans of Caffreys at £2 a can and I was not to tell the other guests about this.
I promptly bought a tenners worth and when Gerry had retired upstairs for the night, I shared my secret supply of alcohol with the others.
The hostel had not changed one bit in the 20 or so year's since my last visit, including the freezing cold bunk room, dodgy showers, ridiculous decor and ornaments. It's a quirky place and Gerry is an eccentric but the place does provide a service to hill walkers and backpackers in an area that is not well served for budget accommodation.
Everyone passing this way really should stay there at least once before it is no more, I fear when Gerry finally decides he cannot keep going that this place will not function as a hostel and that would be a shame.

Gerry's Hostel
All in all, a wonderful first day's walking to kick off my 2013 Challenge adventure. 
Tomorrow I was to be joined by a friend and former Challenger, Richard Wood and his dog Charlie, who were to walk with me to for the next few day's to Richard's home in Beauly. 
Despite the cold bunk room, I fell to sleep contented with the journey so far and looking forward to the journey ahead.

Berghaus Freeflow 20 Rucksack review

Here goes with my first  (and probably last) attempt of a gear review.

Quite some time ago I had been contacted and sent a Berghaus day-sack to review. It seems I am not the only one and there appears to have been a concerted marketing drive recently to use blogs as a way of advertising Berghaus products. If you Google "Berghaus Freeflow 20 Rucksack review" the results will bring up several reviews of this product. Most, or all of which will probably be better written and more informative than this effort.
It has took me a long time to go to the trouble of writing up a review, mainly because I have rarely used the bag, other than on a couple of day trips in the Peak District and also because I have not posted on here for ages and don't seem to find the spare time to do so lately.

The quality of Berghaus rucksack's has always been very good, the first one I owned was a 35 litre Dart, which is still as good as new although I never use it now, preferring my more modern Vaude Gallery Air 30+5.
There's no doubt that the Freeflow 20 is packed with features for such a small bag including the Freeflow back system and hydration pack compatibility, it looks OK (apart from the garish green one I have been sent) and carries well. There should be a shower proof rain cover included, although this is not present on the bag I have been sent.

I suppose the key question is, would I spend up to £60 on a day-pack when I already own a very similar one?
The answer would have to be no.
There is nothing essentially wrong with the bag, but I tend to do most of my walking outside of the summer months and for that reason alone, I am more than happy with the larger Vaude bag, which has all the features that the Freeflow 20 possesses and more besides.
I prefer the larger capacity Vaude and find the Berghaus bag to be too small for my needs. I would probably use it for other activities such as bird watching as it is large enough to carry binoculars and a few necessities, but for long day walks in cool conditions where waterproofs, spare clothing as well as food and drink and other essentials are to be carried, then I would leave it at home and take the Vaude.

Freeflow back system

Hydration system compatible

Small side pockets.

Front pocket, just about large enough for a map.
And there you have it. My one and only gear review.