Posts tagged ‘Sunset’

June 6, 2012

Sleeping high in the Highlands

by backpackingbongos

It’s easy planning a backpack over several mountains from the comfort of your sofa.  You then find reality giving you a big sweaty slap in the face as the second Munro of the day towers above you.  Anyway, despite gasping lungs, wobbly legs, ripped trail shoes and a dinted camera I have just spent a splendid bank holiday weekend roaming the Scottish hills.  The most magical part for me was the opportunity to pitch my Trailstar close to the summits each night, an array of peaks filling the horizon.  What really surprised me was how quiet the hills were considering it was a bank holiday, apart from the tops of a couple of Munros I only had sheep and deer for company.

It will be a week or so before I do a write-up as the Bongo is getting dusted off this weekend for the No Direction Home Festival.  In the meantime here is a photo taken during what was a dull and overcast evening.  Laying in my sleeping bag the Trailstar walls suddenly turned a vivid orange and I got up to witness a magical sunset.

Pitched around the 840 metre contour near the summit of Cam Chreag, with the sun setting behind the Bridge of Orchy hills.

May 13, 2012

The night the sky caught fire

by backpackingbongos

The plan had been to camp on the summit, but a perfectly flat ledge high above the lake persuaded me otherwise.  It is not very often that I get to pitch so high, it felt that the whole of Wales lay at my feet.  Then began a natural spectacle that I never tire of seeing………

August 1, 2011

From heaven to hell in under a minute

by backpackingbongos

Amongst the rough moors a perfect patch of sheep nibbled grass was found to pitch.  We were above 2000ft and the views across the Eden valley stretched into the Lake District and beyond.  The sun was beating down but we were cooled by a pleasant breeze.  Walking across the parched moors we were lucky to come across a tiny spring less than 10 minutes from camp.  From it we filled our water bottles with ice-cold crystal clear water.  Backpacking does not get much better than that.

I left my friend to enjoy camp whilst I bagged the nearby Murton Fell and returned less than an hour later.  The sun just starting its spectacular display as it made its way to the horizon.  Then suddenly and without warning the breeze dropped, the air completely still.  They rose in great clouds, a biting mass covering exposed skin.  An hour and a half of sheer torment followed, I had no refuge as I had brought an open shelter on its inaugural outing.  The sheer numbers were overwhelming and I could not stand still for more than a few seconds.  The dog was frantic, running up and down with his face to the ground like a snow plough.  Unfortunately the fiery spectacle was wasted on me, a photo snatched, my vision impeded by a headnet.

Rewind 24 hours and it was a completely different story.  I climbed the summit of Tailbridge Hill with Reuben, just in time for the sun to put on a glorious show.  I sat and watched the sun slide slowly towards the horizon.  Reuben sat and watched the sheep.  The sheep stood and watched Reuben.

I’ll get a full trip report up in due course.

July 30, 2010

Cruach Choireadail and Corra-bheinn (Isle of Mull)

by backpackingbongos

Ok now that is not the most snappy of post titles but it does do what it says on the tin.  Anyhow I was originally going to call it ‘Cruach Choireadail, Beinn a’ Mheadhain, Corra-bheinn and Cruachan Dearg from Teanga bridge’ but you may have nodded off before you even got started.  I had spent another rather peaceful evening and night in the Bongo even though the main road had moments of very heavy traffic.  There seemed to be a pattern which involved a couple of hours of pretty much nothing then all of a sudden there would be a convoy of about 50 vehicles stuck behind a caravan.  I have a funny feeling that these bottle necks were the result of a ferry docking and then everyone finding to their dismay that a caravan got off the ferry before them.  Anyway I revelled in the fine sunny weather which extends pretty much into the middle of the night.  I even heated up some water out of the river and got myself smelling a bit fresher.  As usual the rather attractive bit of grass I had parked next to was a tick metropolis, but being in the van meant that I did not have to commune with them.  They really do like hanging out together, some areas have none whilst others are infested.  What you can count on is the fact that they usually like that cropped nice tent sized piece of grass that you fancy erecting you tent on.  The one that probably had some tick infested deer having dinner a little while before.  This is one of the main reasons why I have always favoured tents over tarps and sometimes a campervan over a tent.

Anyway this is the last of the Mull days out, I need to get a bit quicker on the write ups.

8.4 miles with 1,180 metres ascent

I have to admit at being a little bit disappointed at finding out that this walk was less than 8.5 miles as it really was a tough day out.  I spent a fair few days feeling a little tender and it goes to show that you should count the contours after cobbling together a mountain route.

It was hot already when I set off up the main road through Glen More, although this main road was single track.  Somewhere between the Allt Ghillecaluim and Uisgeacha Geala I left the security of the road, climbed a steep bank and hopped over a rusty fence.  Already Ben More was dominating the view and would only appear bigger throughout the day.

All that I can say is that this section was steep and very rugged in terms of vegetation.  After reaching the 150 metre contour I can remember thinking to myself I had climbed a considerable height until the illusion was squashed when I checked the altimeter on my watch.  The view opened up to Ben Buie which I had failed to climb on my first day on Mull.

The 300 metre contour brought an easing of the unrelenting steepness and I was on course for the stream at a pleasant little waterfall.  It now felt really hot and I sat at the top of it, filling up my water and wetting my cap in the cold clear water.

With some altitude under my belt the climb to the summit of Cruach Choireadail was not too bad and the vegetation was now composed of short rough grass.  For a ‘small’ mountain the views from the summit cairn were pretty extensive.  Ben More dominated much of it but there was a great view down the entire length of Loch Scridain and the Ross of Mull.

My next aim was for the pass of Mam Choireadail, contouring and bypassing Cruachan Beag.

Not exactly a huge drop but enough of a descent to get the leg muscles working.  The climb to the summit of Beinn a’ Mheadhain was on easy grass and the small cairn gave more big views, pretty much the same as from the last summit but with a slightly different perspective.  I was not even at the magic 2000ft but I definitely felt like I was on the summit of a mountain.  Just below the summit cairn there was nice grassy space against a blocky boulder where I wedged myself in to eat lunch.  I decided that I should move on when my eyelids started to get heavy!

As I was leaving the summit I noticed a figure approaching from the distance, for me this sort of spoiled the feeling of wildness and isolation!  I started the descent towards Mam Bhreapadail and really started to regret not counting the contours whilst planning this walk.  The pass lays at 390 metres and the mountain ahead rises to 704 metres, a pretty big descent and re-ascent!

At the bottom of the pass the slopes of Corra-Bheinn appeared even steeper and I headed for a ‘nose’ like ridge that sticks out of the main slope.  The climb however was worth it and leads to a pleasant ridge where Ben More is framed perfectly between the twin peaks.

The summit of Cruachan Dearg is a perfect cone and the approach from Corra-bheinn makes it appear steeper than it actually is, from here the view across to Ben More is breathtaking and you can appreciate what a beast of a mountain it really is.  It’s just a shame that the weather was not as good when I climbed it a few days previously.

As I dropped height down to Carn Cul Righ Albainn a gusty wind appeared out of nowhere and I had to remove my cap to prevent it being blown off my head.  A herd of red deer were watching me nervously from a distance before suddenly deciding that I was simply too dangerous and legging it off into the distance.  At the col a feint path continued in the same direction heading for the summit of A’Chioch, although I could not work out how it would ascend its steep summit cone.  I instead turned left at the large cairn and started the descent into the valley of Allt Teanga Brideig getting one final glance up at the summit I had just descended off.

I was struck whilst descending just how green the grass was, I am not sure what word describes a green that green and this photo really does not do it justice.  The colour was absolutely stunning, a colour I have never before witnessed whilst out in the British hills.

The path soon brought me out into the wide Glen More with a lovely late afternoon view up the valley.  I could see the Bongo not that far below, I was tired but at the same time wanted to drag out the time I had in the mountains.  Today was my last day on Mull and I would be sad to be heading off onto the mainland and the long drive home.  There was still much more fine walking to be done on the Island and I had only just scratched the surface.

That evening whilst at the campsite at Craignure I was treated by one of the finest sunsets that I have seen outside of India, the horizon was on fire.  What a fine way to remember an outstanding week on Mull.

The following morning whilst queuing for the Calmac ferry back to the mainland a member of staff let me know that the ferry had blown up and all reservations had been cancelled.  The replacement was much much smaller and it would be first come first served.

Bugger.

January 6, 2010

A very snowy New Year in the Black Mountains

by backpackingbongos

These days I find the idea of a ‘traditional’ New Years Eve night out a bit of an ordeal, especially if spent amongst the sights, smells and violence of Nottingham City Centre.  So why not take advantage of some time off work, gather up some good friends and retire to a remote farmhouse deep in the woods of the Black Mountains?

We had been keeping an eye on the weather for a few days leading up to New Years Eve, as a large amount of snow had fallen over Wales.  We decided to brave it and the journey was snow free until in the distance we could see the distinctive profile of the Sugar Loaf coated in snow and looking all pointy and mountain like.  In fact the roads were snow free even into the Grwyne Fawr valley until we got to the forestry gate leading up to the farmhouse, where there was suddenly a few inches of the stuff.  The Bongo got almost to the top of the track before ice and gravity got the better of it and we found ourselves stuck.  Corrina was put to work with a spade in hand whilst I photographed her hard work.  After a while we realised we were going nowhere so started unpacking for the 15 min walk along the bridleway to the farmhouse.

It was at this point that Rob, Na and two year old Danny appeared, slowly plodding up the track weighed under a ton of gear.  Their car could not make it off the public road.  Having a two year old in tow meant that their car was still piled high with kit so I was persuaded to reverse the Bongo the three quarters of a mile back down to the road (not easy in snow and ice) to load up.  This time a bit more speed up the track gave me enough momentum to reach the top before becoming stuck again.  Something that I would try not to think about for a couple of days!

Our accommodation for the next few days was like stepping into a time warp, no road access, electricity or mod cons.  Just bags of atmosphere, gas lights and a huge roaring fire.  For us it was bliss!

At about 9pm we noticed that a huge moon had risen over the snowy landscape casting an amazing combination of light and shadow.  A good hour or so was spent trying to capture the scene on camera, not easy but here are a couple of my efforts.

Somehow we managed to miss the magic moment and at 12.40am we realised that another year had dawned, so outside for fun with sparklers.

Happy New Year!

10 Miles with 630 metres ascent

For a map of this route click here.

For the first day of the year I really wanted to ascend one of the finest Black Mountain summits, Pen Y Gadair Fawr, a pretty quick and easy stomp from where we were (well it is without snow on the ground).  I failed miserably in persuading anyone else to go with me, so at a rather late 11.00am I set off up the path.  The narrow path through the trees was even narrower than usual as the sheer weight of the snow on the trees meant that the branches were touching the ground.  The combination of snow, trees and the bluest of skies was magical.

The 500 metre contour brought me to a forestry track which can be followed north for a few miles, contouring high on the hillside.  Up here anything not covered in snow was decorated in thick clear ice, such as this tree which looked like it was made of crystal.

It was slow progress as I plodded on through deep powdery snow, my footprints disappearing behind me.

As I got higher the snow got deeper with drifts making progress more difficult and slower.  However the views got better, especially to the south with the valley leading the eye to the Skirrid in the distance.

I lost track of time and as I reached the end of the track I suddenly realised that it was nearly 3.00pm, how could it have taken 4 hours to walk only 4 miles?  It dawned on me that I would be doing fair bit of walking in the dark!

Leaving the comfort of the track I found myself in an arctic wilderness, everything covered in a rhime of ice.  Grassy fronds sticking out of the snow tinkled like wind chimes in the freezing cold wind.  An icy fence led the way towards Pen Y Gadair Fawr.

I was now finding myself taking a couple of easy steps on solid ice followed by sinking into hidden dips up to my waist.  It was hard going until the final steep slopes up to the summit where the security of an ice axe would have given a bit of comfort on the compacted snow.  From the frozen summit cairn the temperature was minus 3 c and I had a panorama of snow and ice as far as the eye could see.

Time was moving fast and the sun beginning to set so I reluctantly headed south again, until the light caught my eye.

The sun then started its fiery descent and I fired off scores of photographs, the next three are a bit indulgent but I have not seen a sunset like it for years.

I finally put my camera away and continued my struggle thought the snow, becoming increasingly tired and frustrated by my slow progress.  The icy crust was beginning to bruise my shins and when I disappeared up to my waist I struggled to get out again, crawling on my knees.  Darkness was approaching fast so I decided to abandon the tops and headed back down to the track and the security of my footprints.  It was much easier going and I could follow the trail I had previously broken through the snow.  At about 5.00pm I was treated to a red moon rising above the hills.

I began to worry that my friends were expecting me back before dark and that the text message I sent earlier warning I would be late was useless, with there being no reception back at the farmhouse.  Therefore when I staggered in rather tired at 7.00pm a worried looking Na told me that Rob and Corrina had set off ten minutes previously to go and raise the alarm.  I legged it shouting out to them, thankfully catching them up before they reached the road.  An embarrassing false alarm was diverted at the last minute.  It had taken me 8 hours to walk what is usually an easy 10 miles, I will definitely factor in the difficulty of snow on my next walk!  My apologies for making everyone worry.

I had planned to stay the Saturday night there on my own to do some more walking whilst everyone else went home.  However my aching body and the fact that the Bongo needed digging out again meant that I reluctantly returned home early on the Saturday.  A good choice as by the time we had cleaned up, done several trips to load up the van and dug it out most of the day had gone.

A great couple of days in good company in a special location.

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