Posts tagged ‘MLD Trailstar’

July 2, 2014

A night at the Grinah Stones

by backpackingbongos

The road along the Derwent reservoirs to its terminus at Kings Tree is shut on Saturdays and Sundays during the summer. This makes this exceptionally popular area much more pleasant, especially for the cyclists doing a circuit of the reservoirs. A regular shuttle bus can however drop walkers off at various points along the way when the road is shut. The current timetable is here, if anyone is thinking of a weekend trip.

I had the good fortune to be off work on a Thursday and Friday which just happened to correspond with a spell of excellent weather. It was late afternoon when we arrived at Kings Tree and there were only a handful of cars left parked on the verge. Soon after setting off towards Slippery Stones we passed the last person we would see until late the following morning. That’s one of the greatest benefits of backpacking, you can have the hills to yourself when everyone else has gone home. You can then go home when everyone else arrives.

The walk to the head of the Derwent is an easy one along a land rover track. The surrounding hillsides and trees were almost a luminous green, the type you only get for a couple of weeks at the beginning of summer. The bracken which was only just starting to unfurl and cloak the hillsides added to the myriad of greenery.

Reuben happily trotted alongside, the warmth at the end of the day preventing him from racing about. In the summer I have to stop frequently and fill his bowl with water as he does not always think to have a drink out of a stream or puddle. Planning ahead for waterless stretches is not his best attribute.

The river was easy to cross and water bottles were filled. Five litres are heavy but I wanted plenty for myself and the dog to last until late the following morning. It would be unlikely there would be any flowing higher up on the moor. Unfortunately it had the colour and consistency of Newcastle Brown Ale, even down to a nice frothy head. I was glad of my water filter.

Climbing towards the Barrow Stones, two huge planes (no idea what as I’m not an aviation or military buff) flew over the ridge in front and down below me into the Derwent valley. It was an impressive sight and over all too quickly. I’m assuming that it was to do with the D Day commemorations that weekend.

The evening light was now as perfect as it can get, blue skies and endless views north across the South Pennines. It was warm with no wind and the midges had yet to wake up. It was only the constant air traffic going to and from Manchester airport that was a reminder of being sandwiched between two major cities.

Years ago I had picked out a potential wild camping spot close to the Grinah Stones. I remembered it as being flat, well-drained and with impressive views. My memory must be failing me as when we got there it was lumpy, sloping and very boggy. The view was good though. I spent at least half an hour walking around searching for somewhere suitable for the Trailstar. Everywhere was either deep heather and bilberry or soaking wet bog. In the end I found somewhere that would just have to do. It was very squelchy underfoot and hard to get the pegs to hold sufficiently to stop the shelter from collapsing. Luckily I had brought a Tyvek groundsheet which was put under the Oooknest to stop the bog seeping through. It was pretty much dark when I had finished with there just being time to watch the sun as it dipped below the main bulk of Bleaklow.

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Soft bogs are comfortable to sleep on, although getting in and out of the Trailstar without getting my trousers wet was difficult. I ended up doing a manoeuvre that resembled a badly performed Cossack dance. This was performed at speed once the sun hit the shelter in the morning as the temperature suddenly shot up from comfortable to boiling. It was during this exit that I realised Reuben’s sleeping pad had been placed at the edge of a red ants nest. Despite his often sad looking face he is a stoical dog.

A nearby rock doubled up as a breakfast bar and I sat watching the distant rush hour traffic move silently across the Snake Pass. Coffee and noodles cooked with dark brown water. Reuben’s meaty pouch was served straight on the grass.

Packed up we headed down steep slopes on a narrow path to the head of Grinah Grain, where I found clear and cold running water. It was good to drink deeply without the metallic taste peaty water brings.

Surprisingly for a National Park the surrounding ground had been trashed by vehicles driving directly over the soft peat. This headed in the direction of a set of newly built grouse butts. It branches off from the well established track that serves the shooting cabins in Lower Small Clough. This is a hellish eyesore as it gouges its way through deep peat on the plateau. Why can’t grouse shooters walk?

An old ditch called Black Dike gave a handrail along the top of the moor which was left at the head of Linch Clough. Here a narrow trod was picked up and followed along the top as the ground dropped steeply away. Before the final descent back to the car a handy outcrop was in a good position for Reuben to do one of his mountain poses. The breeze wafting from the valley below was welcome before I joined the throngs at the snack kiosk at Fairholmes.

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May 2, 2014

Four nights alone in the magnificent Monadhliath pt3

by backpackingbongos

Day 4 – 23 kilometres with 590 metres ascent

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It was probably one of the worst nights that I have ever had for condensation. No wind, next to a stream and temperatures around freezing meant the walls were dripping by morning. That was in a huge drafty shelter with no door, my Scarp would have turned into a chilly sauna. Rather than start moving about and get everything wet with drips I decided to lay in my sleeping bag until the sun hit and dried everything out. Therefore it was once again gone 9.00am by the time I got up, no great hardship. I was spoilt by another alfresco breakfast, stretched out on a groundsheet in the warm sun. I wish that everyday could start like that.

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It was yet another morning where the blue sky looked unreal such was its brilliance.

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I followed the River Eskin for a while until it met a series of streams flowing down from Coire Seilich. Once again I used a series of grassy rides alongside the streams to guide me through the peat and heather on the climb to the north. Along one such stream I came across a large lurid green bog. A prod with my Pacerpole failed to reach solid ground. Not a spot to unwittingly stumble into, especially with no one to pull you out.

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The last couple of kilometres to the summit of Carn na Saobhaidhe was particularly unpleasant, height did little to tame the vegetation. Time was spent lurching and cursing under the hot sun, feeling like the summit was not getting any closer. Height however did increase the views and I could look east and see my route for later in the day.

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As I was approaching the summit I kept spotting a bright yellow object, this would move about and then disappear. It was difficult to work out what it was from a distance. As I eventually reached the summit plateau I could see it was a man in a high-vis tabard taking 360 degree photos on a large camera. For me there could only be one reason he would be there and I asked him if he was taking photos for a wind farm. He confirmed that he was. There then took place a short and polite conversation about wind farms. He said that he liked them for their beauty and they give him employment. I asked him a series of questions and he obliged by answering them.

As I am an Independent Advocate in my professional life I am aware that you need to talk to the right person if you want to influence change. I have my personal feelings about building wind farms in such places but it was not really appropriate to inflict them on this guy. At the end of the day he was a very small cog in a huge machine. I did think of various uses for his tripod though.

I decided to shuffle off and seek some shelter in which to have lunch. A mound of peat with grouse grit on top was the only such shelter on the exposed hill. I could also turn my back on the man in the fluorescent tabard and enjoy the view to the north. Ben Wyvis was clearly seen and I could just make out the Kessock bridge near Inverness. My phone even received a signal when I turned it on giving me the opportunity to call my wife.

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It really was rather pleasant in the sun and I had to resist the temptation to have a bit of a snooze. Back on my feet I once again passed the guy taking his panoramic photos, this time without his bright jacket. I had mentioned to him earlier that he was visible from miles away, perhaps he decided he did not want to draw attention to himself again. As I left the hill I registered my protest by ensuring that I walked into shot.

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I have heard about the track that leads to the summit of Carn na Saobhaidhe from the north. However nothing could have prepared me for just how destructive it was. A deep gash bulldozed through the soft peat, mounds piled up to ten feet high on either side. It really was spectacular in its hideousness. What made me chuckle however was that the chap doing the wind farm panoramas could not get his vehicle up it as it was full of snow. Once away from the monstrosity, the cairn on Carn Mhic Lamhair was a nice place to sit down again.

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Rough ground was crossed before dropping down to Allt Odhar and an easy track to the cottage at Dalbeg. This occupies a prime spot on the upper reaches of the River Findhorn. If the owners are reading this and fancy letting me stay please get in touch!

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This part of the Findhorn is simply lovely, an area where I enjoyed a wild camp during the 2011 TGO Challenge. A good track led me rapidly towards Coignafearn lodge, my pack feeling heavy and feet hot under the cloudless skies.

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I took a track that branched off up the Elrick burn and I was now at the lowest spot since the beginning of the trip, a lowly 450 metres. There was then a long steady climb ahead as I wanted to cross the watershed into the upper Dulnain before the end of the day. The track gave easy progress up the scenic glen, the river a lively companion to my left.

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I had planned to cross the burn at a footbridge but this was now in pieces beside the track, only steel girders remaining. I continued to the ford further upstream where boots and socks were removed. The ford was wide but reasonably smooth bottomed meaning it was not too painful on bare feet, the freezing water on the other hand initially made me gasp. With it reaching my knees there was no way to cross dry-shod whilst wearing boots.

The track soon started to zig zag up the hillside to the left, I climbed up this for a while before branching off on an unmarked track that just happened to be going in my direction above the stream. This contrasted hugely with the great scar I had witnessed near Carn na Saobhaidhe, with a little effort hill tracks don’t have to be huge monstrosities.

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When the track petered out it was a simple case of following grassy banks along the infant stream to its watershed, this being hidden under lingering snow banks. It was like a game of Russian roulette as I gingerly crossed them, aware of the sound of running water. Once again it was a glorious evening, the low sun casting warmth and shadow across the heather clad hillsides.

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I was tired when I finally reached the wooden bothy, so decided to spend the night inside rather than pitch the Trailstar. The hard wooden floor was unforgiving but it would enable an easy getaway the following morning.

Day 5 – 11 kilometres with 160 metres

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After spending nights on beds of moss and grassy river banks, a hard floor meant I did not sleep very well. I had a long drive ahead of me later that day so I was off and away before the sun cast away the shadows around the bothy. The track that would lead me directly back to Kingussie was at an easy gradient. I felt a bit sad as I had a final look over my shoulders into the wild heart of the Monadhliath before the trudge back to the car.

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The final stretch of tarmac between Pitmain Lodge and Kingussie was a bit of a bore, especially with a rumbling belly. I had eaten the last of my food for breakfast, supplies being rationed the previous day. The Coop was raided for carbohydrate and sugar based foods to set me on my way for the 400 mile drive south.

April 28, 2014

Four nights alone in the magnificent Monadhliath pt2

by backpackingbongos

Day 3 – 18.5 kilometres with 340 metres ascent

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I don’t think that it is very often that you have to drag yourself out of a shelter in the morning because it is too hot, especially whilst located at 830 metres in April.  After another sub-zero night that is exactly what I had to do.  OK so I had lazed around in my sleeping bag until gone 9.00am and the sun was getting high in the sky.  You have to relax and take things easy when exploring wild areas on your own.  So I dragged out a groundsheet to sit on whilst I drank coffee and ate noodles.  The air was particularly cool and fresh without the Trailstar to keep it at bay. I have to say that I felt rather smug and pleased with myself as I made another coffee and had a lie-down on a blanket of soft springy moss.

It did not take long to pack and I was soon on my way up the Northern flanks of Geal Charn.  This gave a great view of the way I had walked the day before, across big empty hills.

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With a high starting point I was at the summit cairn in no time at all.  Even with a late start I had it all to myself.  On such a clear day the views were superb.  When conditions are like this you realise just how small Scotland is.  I got the impression that I could see a fair chunk of it.  The western hills on the other side of the Great Glen looked large, clear and snowy.  The bulk of Ben Nevis looked close enough to touch, whilst the Cairngorms loomed close by.  However my eye kept on being drawn to the high brown plateau nearest to me.  This was the hidden heart of the Monadhliath, which after a snack I set off to explore.

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A line of fence posts led across easy ground towards Loch na Lairige, snow patches still firm after a frosty night.

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The area around the Loch itself was a maze of peat hags, groughs and hidden gurgling streams under the turf.  It took a while to navigate but still much tamer than my local stomping ground of Kinder Scout and Bleaklow.  I was still cautious not to disappear up to my waist in a bog however as help was a long way away.

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The going got easier once I reached the outflow of the loch and followed it downstream.  One of the secrets of the Monadhliath are its watercourses.  These are usually (but not always) pleasant grassy linear routes through the heather and bog.  A way to make easy progress and find good places to camp.  This one was no different with easy banks to follow.  Large patches of snow were still covering the stream at some points, fragile snow bridges waiting to catch the unwary.

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The feeling of wildness was lost when I reached the Chalybeate Spring, the start of a vehicle track.  It was not visible down by the stream so I sat for a while and had lunch in the warm sunshine.  The track is part of the Hydro scheme, a new addition to the landscape.  I followed it south before taking a branch that contoured high along the hillside visiting several concrete weirs.  To be fair to the developers they have at least made an effort with regards to landscaping, I have seen much worse in the hills. Vegetation is already claiming the surrounding scars.  I would still prefer it not to be there though and there may be much worse to come for this wild and lonely area.  The tall narrow spires of the wind monitoring masts stood like watchful invaders ready to claim their prize.

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The hard surface of the track was not kind on my feet in the heat as I followed it to its terminus at the Allt Cam Ban.  I crossed a well hidden footbridge below the weir and took to boggy ground as I followed the stream upwards.  My intention had been to continue along the north bank but I changed my mind and climbed to the 801 metre summit which is unnamed on the 1:50k map.  Here I sat by the cairn and removed my boots and socks to let my feet steam.  I was totally lost in my thoughts when there was suddenly a smiling figure coming towards me.  It totally startled me to be honest as it was the last place I expected to see anyone.  The thought was mutual as the chap who came and joined me really did not expect to see anyone on a unremarkable hill in such a remote area.  A pleasant half hour was spent chatting with a fellow backpacker and lover of lonely places.  He was spending a few days in the Monadhliath ticking off all the SIMS.  I can’t remember the criteria but there are about 15 million such hills in Scotland.  He had done most of them.

As we parted ways he headed towards Burrach Mor at a cracking pace whilst I descended into a high level bowl where the Allt Cam Ban meets the Allt Cam nan Croc.  My earlier companion had already pitched for the night next to the river, I could just about make out his tent below.  A splendidly wild and remote spot.

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I dropped down close to where he was pitched and followed the stream for a bit.  A green strip led easily though rough ground over the shoulder of Burrach Mor into the rocky headwaters of Coire an t-Sreatha.  The going then became tough and unpleasant for a while, the late hour and a spot of fatigue not helping matters.

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I was relieved to see the roof of the Eskin bothy below me, hopeful that the place would be fit for habitation.  Upon closer inspection is was a ruin, fit only for the desperate to spend a night inside.  At best it is a handy brew spot for when the weather is bad.  The bothy sat at the top of one of the largest cornices that I have ever seen, a huge crevasse showing that gravity would soon release it.  I took a circuitous route down to the valley floor, marvelling at a twenty-foot high snow bank dripping away like a dying glacier.

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From up above the ground looked like it would be perfect for pitching.  However on closer inspection the close-cropped grass was wet and spongy, the snow only recently melted.  It took a while to find a relatively dry spot.  I quickly got the Trailstar up as I was extremely hungry and felt the need for a long lie-down.  Although I was pitched on a valley bottom I was still located at 650 metres, my lowest altitude for many miles.

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April 25, 2014

Four nights alone in the magnificent Monadhliath pt1

by backpackingbongos

The Monadhliath Mountains occupy a huge tract of the Scottish Highlands.  This is not an area of soaring ridges and fearsome pinnacles.  It is a much more understated landscape, one of vast open moorland and hidden river valleys.  A place where you can walk for days and not see a soul, where eagles sour in big sky country.  Apart from the Munros close to Newtonmore it does not hold much appeal to the casual day walker. Instead it is a place which needs to be explored over several consecutive days, nights spent sleeping out far from civilisation.  A chance to move slowly through a landscape that makes you feel small and insignificant.  A place where the journey is more important that any particular destination.

The large area and the fact that there is no one single location that demands a visit made planning a backpack rather difficult.  Places on the map do no instantly leap out at you.  I left home with three rough routes in mind, I would make a last-minute decision as I left the car.  As it turned out I did none of them.  With fantastic weather I ended up making up a route as I went along, exploring places on a whim. My slackpacking tendencies were forgotten.  I had no idea how far I had walked each day or what I would be doing the next.  Arriving home it turned out that I walked eighty glorious kilometres that Easter weekend.  I had a smile on my face for every single one of them.

Day 1 – 10 kilometres with 350 metres ascent

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I was knackered before I even put on my rucksack, the long drive being rather tiring.  During planning I had the inspired idea of parking at Kingussie and getting a taxi to Laggan (there is no public transport between the two).  However when I got to Kingussie there was no answer from the taxi company, I suppose I should have booked in advance.  Instead I shouldered my pack and headed towards Loch Gynack under threatening skies.

The walk along the tarmac parallel to the golf course was a bit of a plod.  A climb through woods and I was on the southern shores of Loch Gynack. This is on the route of the well signed East Highland Way meaning that I could disengage my brain for a while and enjoy the surroundings.

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At the edge of a forest plantation the long distance path was left as it took a dogleg to Newtonmore.  I continued on a cross-country yomp to connect to the track leading up Allt na Beinne.  Here I was hit by a series of vicious squalls; hail, rain and snow blown down the glen in great sheets.  When they came through I had to turn my back and wait a few minutes until they had passed.  A face full of weather is never much fun.

The security of a track was once again left to follow a side stream across rough ground until the Allt a’ Chaorainn was reached.  Here the full force of the wind buffeted me as I set a course above the lively river.

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I dropped down to a grassy patch next to the river hoping that I would get shelter from the wind.  It was not much better to be honest but it was forecast to drop during the night to give a calm and frosty dawn.  I find the Trailstar a bit of a faff to erect in the wind but I had soon wrestled it into shape.

It was the evening of my birthday and I was billy no mates.  For some reason my wife did not find the thought of spending the Easter Weekend exploring remote moorland very appealing.  With five days off work I felt the need to put them to good use.  The glorious weather that followed meant that I was glad that I had.

Although a short day mileage wise I was knackered.  I did not even need to switch on my torch as I was asleep by 9.00pm.

Day 2 – 18 kilometres with 660 metres ascent

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(You can click on the map to make it bigger)

The wind did indeed drop during the night and so did the temperature.  I woke sometime before dawn and glanced at my watch by my head, it registered -2 C in the inner tent.  My platypus was fill of ice when I took a sip from it.  I shivered and burrowed further into my sleeping bag.  Although fully awake I decided that I would not move until the warmth of the sun had hit the Trailstar.  Being next to a high bank that did not happen until 9.00am by which time I was fast asleep again.  One of the pleasures of backpacking alone is that you can set your own schedule.  With the days getting longer I felt no urge to get up and begin walking at the crack of dawn.

I enjoyed bumbling around camp, both the location and weather were spectacular.  I did not think that it was possible for the sky to be so blue.  It was tempting to stay there for hours and laze about but I was determined to make the most of the weather.  It was gone 11am by the time I had packed and found a point to cross the river.

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As I ascended the Munro of A’ Chailleach I could make out tiny figures on the main path above.  I took a pathless route alongside a small side stream, the heather becoming shorter and crisper with height.  I stopped often to take in the views.  As well as the skies being free from clouds the visibility was near perfect, the horizon being filled with snowy peaks.  There were so many that it was hard to get my bearings and identify them.

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The main path was picked up on the final rise to the summit, which was marked with a large cairn.  The Cairngorms across the Spey Valley looked spectacular, however my attention was drawn to the north and west.  The wilds of the Monadhliath was what I had come for, endless waves of high hills rolling towards the horizon.

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I could make out several groups of people either on or heading towards the summit of Carn Sgulain across the deep trench of Allt Cuil na Caillich.  I had visited the summit many years ago and did not feel a need to do so again.  Therefore a feint path was followed to the north-west, a circuitous route being taken to avoid steep snow banks on either side of the stream.  Instead of making a beeline direct to the summit ridge ahead I contoured around a shallow coire, reaching the line of fence posts just west of Meall a’ Bhothain.

I regretted leaving my sunglasses in the car, especially when crossing the extensive snow patches.  Even with a cap that sheltered my face, the snow was dazzling under the strong sun.  Leaving a snow patch my vision would be like what you get when you walk into a dark room on a bright summers day.

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Carn Dearg had some fine cornices along its eastern facing cliffs.  However it is another Monadhliath Munro that I had previously climbed so decided not to bother with the detour.

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I was tempted to contour around the northern slopes of Carn Ban but that area was still covered in extensive snow, including the fringes of Lochan Uisage.  Without sunglasses my eyes would be fried walking that way and the snow was becoming soft and arduous in the warm afternoon sun.

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It is not often that you get to stride out at such a height in the British hills and I relished every moment of the day.  Often the going was easy across a mossy and stone covered tundra.  This would be interspersed by bare areas of peat and networks of peat hags.  I decided not to climb Carn Odhar na Criche, instead dropping into the headwaters of Allt Odhar.  Here the peat was still wet and the snow deep, often giving way, hard work on tiring legs.

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There was not much shelter on the plateau but the weather forecast for the night was good.  I picked a spot that was covered in a luxurious carpet of moss on which to pitch.  At 830 metres the temperatures quickly started to drop as the sun slipped towards the horizon. Unfortunately I had pitched in a such a spot that the setting sun was not visible.  Feeling cold and tired I crawled straight into the Trailstar to get a hot drink and make dinner.  It was below freezing long before I fell asleep.

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August 26, 2013

Summer slackpacking in the Moelwyns

by backpackingbongos

As I sat in the car it was rocked by the wind that was rushing unimpeded through the valley.  Soggy curtains of rain drifted down from the mountains which were hidden under a steely grey blanket of cloud.  I could see cascades on the hillside appearing from the cloud base.  It was not the sort of weather that I wanted from an August weekend.

I had parked at the end of the single track road at Blaenau Dolwyddelan, room for a couple of cars on the verge.  The surrounding fields were flooded and I sat there considering the wisdom of putting my waterproofs in the boot.  Reuben had woken from his slumber on the back seat and was keen to get moving.  The weather forecast predicted that the rain would stop at 6.00pm and for once they were spot on.  After half an hour of staring through the windscreen the rain subsided to a fine drizzle.  I grabbed the opportunity to pull on waterproofs, saddle the dog and head out into the murk.

Total distance 18.5 kilometres with 870 metres ascent

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Day one

We set off the dogs barking as we passed the farm buildings at Coed Mawr, taking the track that leads into Cwm Edno.  Climbing across the hillside we soon entered the low cloud base and although not raining the air was damp.  Thankfully we were sheltered from the wind as the clearly defined track led us into the hills and towards the Afon Cwm Edno.  The river was a turbulent mass of brown foamy angry water and I was thankful for the bridge.  It would have been impossible to cross without it.

The ground surrounding the river was waterlogged rough moorland, there was nowhere that would provide a half decent pitch for the Trailstar.  I had noticed on Geograph a small plantation a few hundred metres up the hill that appeared to have flat cropped grass nearby.  As I approached I got a bit excited when I spotted an area of short grass that was indeed nice and flat.  I was disappointed to find most of it an inch under water, despair settled in as I realised that there was not much daylight left.

I ditched the pack and wandered around the vicinity for a while looking for somewhere that was at least dry.  I settled on a patch where I could just about fit my shelter, even if there was a foot high bank to one side.  The joy of the Trailstar is how it adapts to lumpy sloping ground and luckily there was a flat bit inside on which I could sleep.  The evening was spent cooking and reading whilst low cloud brushed the top of Silnylon.

Day two

I was relieved to be woken in the morning by sunshine rather than the pitter patter of rain on the Trailstar.  Reuben was standing over me when I opened my eyes, eager to start the day (or needing the loo).  When in an open shelter I always tie him to something as I worry that I will wake to find he has gone off exploring.  On this occasion his anchor was my rucksack.

Cwm Edno was totally transformed in the sunshine, Carnedd Moel-siabod towering in front with Yr’ Arddu wrapping round the rugged upper reaches of the Cwm.  I lazed inside the Trailstar for a while but the warmth of the sun soon drove me on to pack up.  I had a long day planned that would take me all the way to the Manod hills on the other side of Blaenau Ffestiniog.

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The bridleway to Bwlch y Rhediad is marked by frequent posts, a little unnecessary as the path was clear and easy to follow.  The views to the west opened out, the Glyders and Snowdon hidden under cloud.

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It’s many years since I walked this section of what I think of as the northern Moelwyns.  It’s wild country, unfrequented and very very boggy!  Some of the ground on the way to Moel Meirch would swallow you up whole if you were not careful.  On a couple of sections the way forward is impossible, ladder stiles taking you across the fence to drier ground.  Ladder stiles are never easy with a reluctant hound.  The boggy stretches are more than made up for with a path that winds its way round rocky outcrops and heather in full bloom.

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The summit of Moel Meirch packs a punch well above its height, which is just below the magic two thousand foot.  It’s rough and rugged, the top being crowned with crags and boulders.  Here I met the only other hikers of the day, both quick to comment on how boggy the ground was.  The views are spectacular and filled with the famous giants of Snowdonia.

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The wind was cold so we descended a little way to the east, sheltering behind a wall of rock.  I had my lunch whilst Reuben looked at me with sad eyes, insistent that he would at least get a cheesy biscuit.  He did.

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I located a narrow trod that twisted its way through the heather and descended towards Llyn Edno.

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On the map Llyn Edno looks like an idyllic place to camp. The reality on the ground is bog and heather around the shoreline.  It and its environs however are rather splendid, a tamed down version of the Rhinogs.

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Ysgafell Wen is a long knobbly ridge of a hill, with a trio of lakes called Llynnau’r Cwn, a place I have always fancied camping.  The wind was far too strong so instead I continued on before having another rest with Reuben in the heather.

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I got a good view towards my final destination for the day, the distant hill of Moel Penamnen which sits on the other side of the Crimea pass.  I started having doubts that I would get there.

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These doubts were soon reinforced by the decoration on one of the fence posts!  Like a warning in a cheap slasher movie.

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From the summit cairn I could make out the backside of Cnicht.  Llyn yr Adar in the foreground is apparently a popular place to wild camp.  This in itself is a good reason to avoid, although it is situated in a very scenic spot.

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The route towards Moel Druman is easy to follow with a fence to lead the way through the small outcrops and numerous pools of water.

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I soon became aware that the weather was beginning to change.  A sheet of cloud was racing in from the west and the wind was picking up once again.  Suddenly I felt tired and my resolve to continue across the Crimea pass and onto another range of hills started to diminish.  I decided that if I found a good sheltered spot to camp I would stop and have a lazy afternoon.

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Things were not promising as I followed the right of way south of the summit of Moel Druman and started the descent towards Llyn Conglog.  The wind was strengthening and the cloud just beginning to obscure the surrounding peaks.  I fancied pitching next to the extensive sheet of water but that would mean an extended battering for the Trailstar.

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My luck was in however after descending along the path for a bit, the hill itself proving ample shelter from the wind.  A flat shelf of tussock free ground provided a perfect opportunity that I was not going to pass by.

Barely before I had removed my rucksack Reuben had curled up in the grass and started snoring, I think he was happy with the chosen spot.

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After pitching the Trailstar I wandered over to Llyn Conglog to fill my water bottles.  A low fence was in the way which I held down so that Reuben could hop over.  It turned out that the damn thing was electric!

Now that I carry a water filter with me when backpacking I can fill from pretty much any source, including lakes and tarns.  This gives much more flexibility in choosing a pitch as a stream does not need to be located nearby.

Once back at the Trailstar the cloud lowered even further and a fine drizzle started to fall.  I decided that I had made a good decision to stop, even though it was only 4.30pm.  Later in the evening the peace was shattered by a trio on trailbikes who filled the air with the sound of revving engines and the smell of exhaust.  It was quite alarming as they roared past only a few feet from my shelter.  That explained the numerous ruts along these usually quiet hills.

The only other excitement that evening was when an internal baffle in my Exped Synmat UL popped, leaving a curious lump for me to sleep on.

Day 3

I was woken by warm sun but continued to doze after deciding to have a short lazy day.  The Manod hills on the other side of the Crimea pass could wait for another trip.  The heat soon drove me out of my sleeping bag and I spent a while wandering round camp with Reuben.  The place was transformed in the sunshine.

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I have to admit that it was probably my laziest wild camping morning yet, with it being gone midday by the time I had packed up.

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Rather than climb Allt-fawr I decided that I would contour its northern slopes and pick up the ridge that leads to Moel Dyrnogydd.  This gave a mile or so of maximum views with minimum effort, not a bad way to start a Monday morning.

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The landscape around Blaenau Ffestiniog has taken a battering over the years by slate quarrying.  It’s actually rather impressive in its scale and general grimness.  I perched with Reuben for a while and looked over the town, listening to the various beeps and one big bang that came from a working quarry.

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Reuben however was more concerned in keeping an eye out for those four-legged wooly creatures that roam these parts.

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We picked up a track to the east of Moel Dyrnogydd, one final stile being a test for Reuben’s agility.  He will never be famous for his climbing prowess.

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The track unfortunately leaves the right of way which disappears into a mass of bog and tussocky grass.  We continued down the track to the edge of access land and I spent a while with map in hand trying to decide what to do.  In the end I followed the track through fields and then into a farm-yard with no right of way.  Of course the farm dogs started barking their heads off but no one came out of the open front door.  Aware that I was trespassing I strided purposefully along the driveway which quickly deposited me to the road end and my car.

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