Welsh 1000m Peaks race… kind of

The event I’ve been sporadically training for in the past few months turned out to be a bit of a washout. Rain, rain and more rain was the order of the day, and said rain meant that only two of the five 1000m peaks were actually visited on the day. The race took place on 9 June.

The evening before, all the competitors received an email stating that the summit of Glyder Fawr would be missed out, and instead of the route over the Gribin ridge, the Miner’s track would be taken up Cwm Tryfan and over and down to Pen-y-Pass.

When we arrived on the morning, however, little route cards were being given out which indicated a completely changed route, with a low-level route completely bypassing the Carnedds and heading along the North Wales Coastal Path to Bethesda, before taking the old road up to Ogwen Cottage. Many were not happy and out of the 180 entries, less than 100 started.

Despite the route change, I still enjoyed the first 10 miles of road and trial running and arrived at Ogwen Cottage in just over 1 hour, feeling fresh and still full of energy. I helped myself to some flapjack that was being given out, and headed up to Bwlch Tryfan and onto the Miner’s Track. The rain was pretty ridiculous, and the outflow to Llyn Bochlwyd was more a case of wading across a thigh-high stream, rather than the hopping across stepping stones that it normally is.

The Miner’s Track had became a not-so-small stream and the descent to the Pen-y-Gwryd was quite tricky, both because of the wet rock and boggy grass. My legs still felt okay on the run up the road to Pen-y-Pass and I hit the checkpoint at around the 3 hours mark.

It was then just a matter of weaving in and out of the tourists heading up the Pyg Track (easier said than done!), before branching off to the summit of Carnedd Ugain, where the marhsalls looked to be having a cosy time huddled in a tent, and then along to the finish on top of Snowdon. I finished in 4 hours 24 minutes, about 55 minutes behind the winner and in 30th position.

Pyg Track

Me heading up the Pyg Track

The summit cafe was packed full, which a good number of shivering fell runners and mountaineers. I met my parents there who thankfully had dry clothes and an insulated jacket for me to change into before the long walk down into Llanberis, for a well-earned coffee in Pete’s Eats.

Should the route have been changed? In my opinion, definitely not, but with the death in the 2007 race and the recent death in the Buttermere-Sailbeck fell race, I can understand the organiser’s decision – a decision that must be an extremely tough one to make.

More sun on the Isle of Skye

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was last on Skye, but the Hiking Club was running a Jubilee bank holiday weekend trip to Skye for four nights, and as a driver I got the trip for £20, so I couldn’t really miss out on the opportunity! This trip took place from 1-6 June.

Elgol

Boats in Elgol Harbour

It was rather dull when we left Lancaster on Friday afternoon, but the further north we headed, the better the weather got. Rannoch Moor and its surrounding mountains looked fantastic as we drove over it in the evening light. After a few stops at Lesmahagow (for chips!), Hamilton (for tents), Luss (to swap drivers) and Fort William (for money for the campsite), we finally arrived at the campsite in Sligachan at just before midnight. It was still surprisingly light and I managed to pitch my tent without a head torch.

Saturday

The next day, we decided to ease ourselves in with a walk up the fantastic mountain Bla Bheinn (Blaven). It’s the only Munro on the island not on the main Cuillin Ridge, but arguably offers better views. When there sun is out and there are no clouds, the panoramas from the summits are simply stunning. The traverse of Bla Bheinn and its neighbour Clach Glas is a mountaineering classic, offering extremely exposed climbing at Diff level. Unfortunately I only read about the traverse after I’d got home and so it was too late! As it was, our ascent up the eastern ridge gave plenty of fun scrambling opportunities.

Bla Bheinn

Bla Bheinn south west top from the main summit

Blaven

On the south west summit of Bla Bheinn

After the walk, we drove further down the road to the little harbour of Elgol, and spent a while exploring its rocky beach and interesting sea cliffs. Boats from Elgol will take you to the beautiful secluded Loch Coruisk.

Elgol

The Black Cuillin from the beach at Elgol

The In Pinn

Mouse taking shelter under the In Pinn

Richard, Mouse and myself had planned an Alpine start on the Cuillin ridge for the following day, and so that evening we drove the minibus down the Glen Brittle and bivvyed outside. The Alpine start was for a number of reasons: To avoid crowds on the In Pinn; to avoid the heat of the midday sun, which I never thought would be a problem on Skye; simply to give us more time to get more of the ridge done and; it’s good practice for the Alps! After a rather uncomfortable night’s sleep with a large rocky digging into my back, we were up at 4am and walking for twenty-past.

Sunday

Our route was up Coire na Banachdich, firstly to the summit of Sgurr Dearg and the In Pinn. The walk in started without a cloud in the sky, but by the time we had got to the summit, the clouds has rolled in and were whipping up over the summit with impressive speed. The sight of the In Pinn silhouetted against these fast-moving clouds made it look rather daunting. The wind was cold and even with an insulated jacket on I struggled to keep warm at the belay points and on the climb. It was Richard’s first outdoor climb, and what better what to start than with an exposed ridge followed by an even more exposed abseil, all in bitterly cold winds!

After the climb, we took shelter on the other side of the summit and had a bite to eat – I say a bite, neither of us had eaten since breakfast at 4am and I consumed three bagels in quick succession and Mouse demolished a whole Jamaican ginger cake.

For Sgurr Dearg, we followed the ridge towards Sgurr na Banachdich and onwards over Sgurr a Ghredaidh and Sgurr a Mhadaidh. The section after Sgurr na Banachdich is absolutely fantastic – it’s not technically too difficult, but has some fantastically exposed scrambling with breathtaking views. There were a few parties on this section roped up, but we didn’t feel it necessary at all.

Loch Coruisk

Loch Coruisk from the between Sgurr na Banachdich and Sgurr a Greadaidh

Sgurr a Mhadaidh

Me on Sgurr a Mhadaidh

From Sgurr a Mhadaidh, we headed down towards the col before Sgurr Thuilm. This was the descent route described by the book “The Munros” by Cameron McNeish, however we soon found ourselves presented with a knife-edge crest with a number of roped parties climbing towards us. Whilst descent would have been possible, the down climbing wouldn’t necessarily have been easy and we have just got in everyone else’s way who were ascending. We instead cut off the ridge and headed directly down scree interlaced with rocky steps and boulders into Coire a’ Ghreadaidh. In retrospect, the best option would have been to retrace our steps to An Dorus (The Door) and descend the large path from there. In the coire, we stopped by a stream for a good half an hour and took in the afternoon sun. We were back at the minibus for 3pm.

That evening, after Sarah set fire to a trangia by putting petrol into it instead of meths (possibly my fault for storing my petrol by the meths…), we headed to the pub to sample some of the Isle of Skye Brewery’s finest ales – I particularly recommend Pinnacle Ale! We chatted about the day and our adventures – the other group had been up the Corbet Glamaig via some very steep scree slopes.

Monday

I think we must have still been tired from the previous day, because Mouse, Richard and myself all opted for some coastal bagging as opposed to another day on the ridge. We drove north, firstly to the Old Man of Storr. The Old Man is one of many rock stacks protruding from the mountain The Storr, each one as impressive as the next.

Needle Rock

Needle Rock next to The Storr, taken from the base of The Old Man of Storr

Staffin Bay

A bit of promotion for the Hiking Club at Staffin Bay!

For lunch, we headed further up the coast to Staffin Bay, where some brave souls decided to take a dip in the sea – it was a bit cold for me! After a spot of lunch, we drove back to the campsite so everyone else could grab their swimming gear, and then down Glen Brittle to the Fairy Pools. This time, nearly everyone entered the water, but not for long as it was rather cold! The highlight had to be swimming under an underwater arch in one of the many plunge pools.

That evening, we practised a bit of crevasse rescue on the campsite, before heading to the pub once more.

I think we all wished we could have stayed for longer, but the minibus was due back on Wednesday and so unfortunately Tuesday was home time! To break the day up, we set off early in the morning and stopped off a few times along the way. The first stop was at the iconic Eilean Donan castle, near Glen Shiel – we contemplated going in, but it was £6 each and so decided against it. We stopped once more at The Clachaig for lunch, and of course in Lesmes for chips a few hours later!

The combination of good weather and the fact that we were on the island for longer than our usual weekend trips means this trip will stick in my mind for a long time. It was a brilliant weekend!

Eilean Donan castle

Eilean Donan castle

A run around Langdale

Time for more Welsh 1000m Peaks training! I did this run on 29 May 2012.

I thought I’d better try and squeeze another long fell run in before the Welsh 1000m Peaks race, and being car-less meant I was limited to where public transport could get me. Fortunately, the Lakes has a good (but expensive) public transport network and it’s relatively easy to get from Lancaster to Ambleside, albeit with a rather early start. I caught the 7am train to Windermere and then the bus to Ambleside and finally the Old Dungeon Ghyll. I dropped my bags off at the National Trust (who were more than happy to look after them for the day) and set off on my run.

From the Stickle Barn car park, I headed up to Stickle Tarn and then east onto Martcrag Moor. I took a direct (pathless) route across the moor to the Stake Pass and then the runner’s trod up Rosset Pike, finally joining the main path just before Angle Tarn. From here, I went on to Esk Hause and then up Scafell Pike via Great End and Broad Crag.

The run started in heavy cloud cover, but by the time I got off Scafell Pike it had started to clear. There was a surprising amount of people up on the hills for a midweek day, and a worrying number with very little gear or no gear with them.

Scafell Pike

A cloudy summit of Scafell Pike

I next went over Esk Pike and Bow Fell. My plan had been to top up my water bottle from the stream in Ore Gap (between Esk Pike and Bow Fell), but with all the dry weather recently, it had completely dried up. After Bow Fell I was forced to drop down a few hundred metres before I found a small trickle in Buscoe Sike – not ideal but I didn’t have much choice! I tried to pick out the racing line under the scrambly ridge of Crinkle Crags, in practice for the Langdale Horseshoe in October, and I managed to stick to it pretty much perfectly. It fortunately took me over Rest Gill, which was flowing quite fast, and so I replaced the dodgy water I’d acquired previously. The final hill was Pike o’ Blisco and it was the first one that I had to myself. I spent a good 15 minutes sitting around on the summit, taking in the glorious views and sun.

Pike of Blisco

Summit of the Pike of Blisco – lovely and sunny!

Back down in Langdale, I had about an hour to wait until my bus and so had a pint of shandy in the Stickle Barn whilst drying out and watching the world go by – lovely!

Langdale

Back down in Langdale

Howgills with Sir Chris Bonington

Bivvy spot

Bivvy spot first thing in the morning, with Andy Goldsworthy’s work of art behind us.

Report of a trip with LUHC to the Howgill Fells that took place on 27 May 2012.

As chancellor to Lancaster University, legendary mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington occasionally joins us for a walk. We got in touch with him last term and he suggested a trip to the Howgills, as the only other time he’d been up there (apart from a winter ascent of Cautley Spout) was two years ago with the Hiking Club again, and the weather was awful!

It couldn’t have been more different this time around, and the forecast was so good that Lorna, Imogen, Darren and myself decided to bivvy at the top of Cautley Spout the night before. We picked a spot alongside Force Gill Beck, in a sheepfold that it turned out included a work of art by acclaimed artist Andy Gouldworthy, who from 1996-2003 took about in restoring 46 sheepfolds around Cumbria and further afield. It was a bit windy, but once wrapped up warm in my bivvy bag I had a fantastic night looking out at the stars overhead. It stayed surprisingly light all night long.

The morning after, we walked back down to The Cross Keys to meet the minibus and Chris. By then it was already shorts and t-shirts weather. We headed up the side of Cautley Spout and along Force Gill Beck to The Calf. From there, we took the large footpath down to Bowderdale and then back down to the minibus by the Cross Keys. The Cross Keys is one of the only temperance inns left in the UK, and the building dates back over 400 years. It has only been a temperance inn since 1902 however, after the then-landlord drowned trying to rescue a drunken customer who held fallen by the river banking. I was quite surprised to find the Ginger Beer had an alcoholic content of 0.5%!

Cautley Spout

Walking down beside Cautley Spout in the morning.

It was great chatting to Chris about all of his adventures and expeditions and I think he really enjoyed chatting to us about everything from politics to climbing. He has written about the day on his own blog, as well as a bit about how day with the Mountaineering Club the day before.

The Calf

Everyone on the summit of The Calf.