Archive for April, 2010

April 27, 2010

Being amongst really big hills

by backpackingbongos

I was looking for an unrelated set of photos and I stumbled across these two that I scanned years ago from prints (remember those?!).  In 2001 /2002 my partner Corrina and I were lucky enough to spend two months in Nepal as part of a nine month trip which also included India, Thailand and Malaysia.  For me Nepal was simply heaven, like being a kid in a sweet shop!  After the hustle and bustle of India it was a welcome relief to be surrounded by lush green valleys and the highest mountains on earth.  We entered the country by the backdoor after travelling around the remote Sikkim region of eastern India.  We felt like minor celebrities in the east of Nepal as so few foreigners head out that way.  It was a dangerous time to be in the country as it was at the peak of the Maoist insurgency.  We were witness to many bombed out buildings and burned out buses at the side of the road.  General strikes crippled the country with transport during that time being attacked.  On the positive side for us you could count the amount of tourists almost on one hand, although devastating for the locals.  The usual hot spots were deserted.

We managed two treks whilst there, firstly we did the Helambu trek which was then followed by the Jomson trek.  This was sometimes known as the apple pie trail due to its popularity.  Unfortunately that trek does not fully exist anymore as a road now links Jomson with the outside world.  That year we were nearly always the only trekkers in each village, probably for good reason when we heard gunfire one night.

Anyway I have digressed as usual as I had only really planned to post the photos!  The first was taken descending from Jomson following a spectacular deep river gorge from high altitude desert towards the tropical lowlands.

This photo was taken from the summit of Poon hill just after sunrise.  The mountain dominating the horizon is Dhaulagiri which is the seventh highest mountain in the world at 26,795 ft.  When you are there the scale is simply breathtaking, really hard for your brain to take in.  These are really big hills!

One day I will get round to doing a proper write up.  In the meantime I am very slowly posting our most recent 9 month trip during 2004 / 2005.  I have not got very far but if you want to read my ramblings from then check out the ‘Trips abroad’ tab just under the header from this blog.

I suddenly feel all misty eyed!

April 26, 2010

A backpack of two halves

by backpackingbongos

I returned last night after a superb weekend backpack around the Fforest Fawr area of the Brecon Beacons national park.  Saturday was a scorcher and I got around what would normally be pretty boggy hills without even a hint of mud on my boots.  The day finished with a wild camp high on a hillside just under the 600 metre contour.  That for me is what backpacking is all about.  Sunday was altogether a different proposition.  Persistent rain with low cloud draping the hills meant that almost no views were had.  I decided to cut my losses and shortened my route, finally coming out of the mist which was down to around 400 metres.  I had also forgotten to take my Thyroid meds with me which combined with the weather did not help my mood and energy levels that day!  A return will be in order to complete the circuit.   A write-up after I have finished my Borders ramblings and planned a backpack for this coming bank holiday.  I got to test some great new kit this weekend in the rain too, so some gear based ramblings will also be on its way.  Plenty to keep me busy.  Sometimes the hills get in the way of this blogging lark!

For now a photo of a great wild camp spot.

April 22, 2010

A new look backpackingbongos

by backpackingbongos

For some reason I just threw caution to the wind and completely changed the look of the blog.  I have recently began to feel that the last layout was too restrictive in terms of its width.  I also have to admit that when I started it well over a year ago that I totally plagiarised blogpackinglight in terms of its layout.  I never imagined that anyone would read it or notice!  Sorry Robin!  I have just found a customisable theme on wordpress and am excited that I will hopefully be able to post larger photos.  I am just about to pack for a weekend in Wales so no time to do a post to test it out properly.  I will tidy up and alter the layout over the coming weeks.  Better or worse? let me know!

April 19, 2010

A sunday afternoon bimble – White, Curbar and Froggatt edges

by backpackingbongos

The weekend did not go to plan.  I was meant to set off after work on Friday to join some friends for my birthday in our usual bothy like haunt in the Black Mountains.  A last minute dash to the vets for our cat Jasmine instead meant that the weekend trip was cancelled so we could look after her.  Thankful that the cat was ok I still sat there on the Saturday looking at the blue skies wishing that I was in the wilds of Wales.  Being my birthday weekend and that I was dreaming of the hills, my non hillwalking partner decided that she would join me for an ‘easy’ walk on the Sunday.  I settled on the eastern edges as they are only an hour from our house and you can park high up, taking away the need to put in much effort.

But first there is Hathersage to spend an hour or so in looking around the gear shops, fondling technical fabrics.  All I can say is that my bank account is much smaller but my backpacking sack will now be a little bit lighter.  I may even get to do a couple of gear posts!  It’s a real shame that Outside in Hathersage no longer does any discounts.  It’s a great shop but not the cheapest, no amount of haggling will get you anything off in there now.

With a late start leaving Nottingham, some gear shopping and a deli lunch meant that it was 2.00pm by the time we left the car park.

6.9 miles with 250 metres ascent

The National Trust car park on the Longshaw estate is a good springboard for White edge.  We soon passed White edge lodge and were on the edge itself.  Not the most spectacular of the eastern edges it does give good all round views and a sense of space which is needed after spending the week cooped up in a City.  Time for a sit down to take in the view!

We followed the edge south to the trig point and I was rather dismayed at seeing it swarming with one of those giant groups that hike in the Peaks.  I stood my distance, scowling and glaring as I can’t pass a trig point without saying hello and patting it on its head.  They soon headed off in a 100 metre long column, single file and being led by a man in the biggest baggy shorts imaginable.  Middle age has not even arrived and I am getting grumpy!

A short moorland crossing on a vague path led us to Curbar edge which although much lower than where we had previously been is much more dramatic.  Even though it is just over 300 metres above sea level it seems much much higher and the views down into the Derwent valley are great, even on a dull misty day.

Time for a sit down to take in roughly the same view but from a different perspective!

It’s a great promenade along Curbar edge which descends and turns into the silver birch lined Froggatt edge.  Where one edge and the other finishes I don’t know.

Before the dash back to the van we visited a spot that I have had an eye on the map for a while now.  There is a tightening of contours and a cliff symbol just north west of the Grouse inn called Tumbling Hill.  This really has to be one of the best viewpoints I have visited in the Peaks.  A lofty perch giving views along the upper Derwent valley with the high moors in the distance.  A place to sit and take it all in.

And yes as you may have noticed in the photos, you can buy a Paramo jacket in bright pink, as modelled by Corrina!

April 17, 2010

East Mount Lowther from Wanlockhead

by backpackingbongos

The weather forecast was for snow to come in during the afternoon, with this in mind I thought that I should leave the van at home and do a walk from the front door of the cottage in Wanlockhead.  It would be a bit daft to drive elsewhere and risk not being able to get back to the cottage.

8.5 miles with 670 metres ascent

One of the best things about starting from the front door at 1500ft above sea level is that it is pretty quick and easy to get up into the hills, not suprising really when you are surrounded by them on all sides.  It had been raining the previous night and there must have been just enough of a chill in the air to give a light dusting of snow on the highest summits.  The Southern Upland way runs pretty much past the cottage I was staying in and I was soon crossing stake hill with a view of Lowther hill straight ahead.  The giant ‘golf’ ball was drifting in and out of the clouds and I spotted a car driving up the private road that leads to a couple of the summits and a motley collection of masts and buildings.  Pretty unsightly but what a place to drive up to work in the morning!

A bit higher and the Southern Upland way joins the tarmac for a short distance before I left it to join a faint path that contours round the hillside to the Ettrick pass.  The views below me were really beginning to open up and I could get a sense of the height that I was at, even though I had not done a great deal of ascent.

I followed an unsightly line of electricity pylons to the top of the Etterkin pass, a narrow neck of land between East Mount Lowther and Lowther hill.  The views down the Etterkin valley were stunning and I was left pondering who decided that those pylons should run the length of this otherwise secret valley.  The powers that be leave me feeling confused sometimes.

It is a short easy climb to the summit of East Mount Lowther which has a view point indicator.  It was a shame that it was so cloudy as the views from the top should extend to the Galloway hills and beyond.  Instead I began to wonder why this hill was so named considering that it is the most westerly hill in the group.  At least I could see the hills that I had climbed the day before, which I noticed now had a light dusting of snow.

An easy descent leads to another narrow pass called Deils barn door before I crossed Threehope height and descended to a path marked on the map as Dempsters road.  This must not receive much foot traffic as the line of the path is not much more than a sheep trod.  It does however give stunning views down into the Mennock Pass and the road that runs along it.  If you ever visit Wanlockhead make sure that you approach it via this road as it gives a dramatic entrance to the village.

The path descends on a contouring line across the hillside before disappearing in a boggy mess near the river.  This was easily forded and I began the easy ascent of the hillside on the other side of the road.  Grassy slopes gave way to burnt heather and I soon located the landrover track that leads pretty much back to Wanlockhead.  However I had my bagging head on and decided to head for the Marilyn of Green hill where I had the usual optical illusion of all the surrounding ground appearing higher.  I dashed across to the summit of stood hill that looked to be the higher summit but once there the hill I was just on appeared higher!  All the time I was doing this I noticed the sky darkening and the clouds lowering over the Lowther summits.  A cold sleety rain started to fall, specked with larger flakes of snow.

Feeling an urge to sit in front of a cosy fire I descended to Black hill which gives a good view of Wanlockhead nestling in its fold in the hills at the head of Wanlockhead water.  From here I could appreciate just high the village stands, something that would be re-enforced over the next few days when the snow really started to fall.