2010 – A year on the hills

by backpackingbongos

All in all I have had a pretty good year out and about on the hills.  I often feel that I don’t get out as much as I would like, but going through my log book for this year I added up a total of 52 hill days.  All in all not too bad for a city dweller with hypothyroidism, I just have to sit down a lot or fiddle with my camera to placate my complaining body!  Anyway I thought that I would end 2010 with a brief diary of the years trips.  I have basically taken one photo from each mountain jolly and put them in monthly order.  Not always the best photos but the ones for me that give a flavour of that outing.


The first sunset of the first day of 2010, taken just below the summit of Pen y Gadair Fawr in the Black Mountains.  Basically I misjudged the time it would take to complete this walk in the deep snow.  I was only half way round when the sun set and I got back to our remote cottage to find my friends had set off to find a phone to call mountain rescue.  On the positive side the colours were mind blowing and a full moon rose as the sun set.

I was the only camper this weekend at the Pistyll Rhaeader campsite in the Berwyn mountains.  The high valley Afon Disgynfa above the falls has a real wild quality to it and I sat in this sheepfold to take it all in.  I got snowed in two days later and the owner had to tow the bongo out by tractor!


Kinder Scout is probably my most climbed hill, a wild place of rock and deep black groughs that entice the unwary hillwalker into their boggy depths.  Grindslow Knoll is a grand viewpoint.

A three day backpack around the Ettrick Valley on a bothy and wild camping backpack.  High on the hills on the first evening the setting sun put on a fine display.  It was so cold that frost started to form on my rucksack and I beat a hasty retreat to the bothy to get a cosy fire lit.


I woke up in the night and it was minus 5 celsius in my Akto and the inner tent was glistening with ice.  A glorious morning in the winter sun in the heart of the Moelwyns.

I landed a new job and had a week to fill between the end of the old and the start of the new.  My partner could not get the time off so I headed off to a tiny miners cottage in the Scottish town of Wanlockhead.  It snowed and it snowed and it snowed.  Typical Lowther scenery, big bare rounded hills and steep grassy slopes.


A weekend backpacking the Fforest Fawr hills from the waterfall village of Ystradfellte.  Dull weather made the hills appear rather gloomy and they were lost in mist on the second day.  Among the bleakness was a small oasis of limestone.

It is not often that I can persuade Corrina out on the hills but we managed to get out for a bimble on the eastern edges of the Peaks.  Here sitting at the splendid but not well know viewpoint of Tumbling hill.


An all time classic Welsh mountain backpack, the Rhinogs south to north.  Three very tough days traversing some of the roughest terrain available in the UK.  Despite their small stature these are not hills for the novice, possibly the only place you can get horizontally crag bound.  However look closely and there is a feint path to follow through the northern badlands, just don’t lose that path…………………

The Rhinns of Kells sound like they should be in a Tolkien book and they are as magical as their name.  A long high and once on the summits easy ridge walk through glorious Galloway scenery.  A small bit of the highlands that snuck south of Glasgow.


A week, a bongo and the whole of Mull to explore.  Mostly the weather was typical of the west coast of Scotland but a round of the hills above Glen More was done under blue skies, light winds and warm sunshine.  I was knackered at the end but a magical day crossing empty rugged hills.


Some parts of our national parks are neglected by a majority of hillwalkers and the southern Arenigs are one such place.  Wild open spaces with plenty of bogs to cross but a real feeling of solitude bang in the middle of the summer holiday period.  Our camp high on the south ridge of Arenig Fawr was abandoned at dawn due to a nasty storm and even the best technical fabrics failed in the Welsh downpour.


Tents were pitched for a wild camp and we set off to climb Fan Gyhirych, reaching the edge of the plateau minutes before a storm hit us.  We stood and watched in sunshine while a wall of black approached blotting out each hill in turn.

The second and final outing of the year with Corrina through a Peak District landscape at its summers peak.  Lush green hills, heather in bloom and the berries on the trees getting ready for Autumn.


A sad farewell to my mountain retreat which was finally sold at the end of this year.  Fond memories of tramping the Black Mountains and then coming back to a huge open fire in a farmhouse still lit by gas lanterns.  I hope that the new owners retain its unique character.

Saddleworth moor is where the wild west of the Peak District meets Manchester’s urban sprawl.  Deeply incised valleys plunge down to the reservoirs that feed the towns and cities below and if you squint just right you may be able to see Wales on the horizon.  I was surprised by the lack of paths in the deep cloughs.

A weekend on the magical Isle of Eigg with 300 other festival goers, half of which were members of the bands that were playing.  A tiny boat tossed about in the rough seas followed by three days of music, drinking and a spot of hillwalking.  The organisers should get an award for pulling off such a unique event and there was no corporate bullsh*te in sight.  I want to live on Eigg!


Mist, drizzle, bogs, tussocks and angry farmer boys.  What more can you want from a three day backpack in the badlands of Mid-Wales?

The Great ridge between Castleton and Edale is not that great but makes a rather pleasant stroll though iconic Peak District landscapes.  I got off the train at Hope and walked through the hills to Chinley.  It was good not to have to walk in a circle that day.

A wild camping trip to my favourite spot in the whole of the Peak District.  Blue skies in the morning more than made up for the mist and drizzle of the evening before where we tried to locate this dry patch amongst the bogs by torchlight.


A weekend of Bongo ‘wild camping’ where I got the opportunity to climb Skiddaw under clear skies and actually got a view from its summit.  It was also strangely devoid of other hillwalkers that Friday afternoon.


Top billing for my worst outing of 2010, a grey day of mist and drizzle when previously the world had been white and gleaming.  Hillwalking is not always fun even if you do get the Peak District to yourself.

Exactly a week later the Peak District was white and shiny again.  A great day on the Eastern edges was finished off with a heavenly light show.

Have a great 2011 everyone!

17 Comments to “2010 – A year on the hills”

  1. Well you’ve put me to shame for one! 52 days is more than I managed from one of the UK’s most convenient hill-accessing launch pads.

    Backpackingbongos has been a real source of joy and inspiration throughout 2010, James; keep up the good work in 2011 and you’ll be doing me and a whole crowd of other folk a mighty fine service.


  2. It’s been a great year James. I particularly like March’s Akto pic, largely because I love the Moelwyns but also because I’m excited about trying out the Akto in a weeks time. For sheer emotive imager January (of course) and the final December picture steal the show like Burlesque dancers at a school disco. It’s been great conversing with some of the bloggers out there & you particularly.

  3. A nice reminder of all the things I like about your blog – really detailed writeups, always seeking the path less traveled, and some great photos – backpackingbongos is one of my favourite web places to visit and no mistake. my fav is the kinder scout one – has that great ‘flat light’ quality.

    keep it up James, all the best for 2011

  4. Nice photographic roundup.

    Best wishes for the New Year!

  5. Great round up. Hope you have a great 2011

  6. That’s a good idea, James, and some nice pictures. I may entertain myself doing the same tomorrow, as the weather doesn’t look great for more than a quick trip up Shutlingsloe. On the other hand, there’s a TGO Challenge route to plan.
    Have a great 2011!

  7. Thanks for that Pete. Now that you have got a new four legged hill buddy there will be no excuses to get out there. Lets get that backpack planned for this year?

    Maz I wish that I went to your school if you had burlesque dancers! I hope that you enjoy your new Akto next week, they are cracking tents even though it is unfashionable to say so these days. I will look forward to the trip you put together wilth the outdoor bloggers.

    Thanks for the comment Dave, I will continue to seek out the remoter parts of the UK! Have a good New Year.

    Cheers Graham, have a good’n yourself.

    Thanks Ben, you have a great 2011.

    I look forward to the Timperley round up Martin. You never know, Shuttingsloe may be sticking its head above the clouds? Have a good one.

  8. I was tempted to do a similar thing myself, and then realised your 52 days on the hills puts my 18 to shame. Keep it up through 2011 James, this is cracking blog to read. Now I just need to get in the habit of actually updating mine.

  9. That’s the resolution sorted out then. One day a week up a hill for a year. This post has been inspirational. Thank you.

  10. Thanks northernfall and Blogger Zed. I had not realised that the 52 days walking equates to one day every week on the hills!

  11. Brilliant round-up of a grand year. More like those in 2011 we hope.

  12. Thanks Geoff, are you out backpacking soon now that the roads are clearer?

  13. Not this week I don’t think – have you seen the forecast for Friday?.

  14. Inspirational stuff. You had a great year and I want to thank you for blogging about this.

  15. I have seen that forecast Geoff and it will mean my backpack this weekend could be interesting weatherwise!

    Thanks Paul, have a good New Year.

  16. Your photos are extraordinary. I would go to an exhibition to see this kind of work/love.

    Very interesting to me how despite the limitations of one’s body (hyperthyroidism, in your case), it is through living more deeply in that body– inviting, as we must, the inevitable discomfort of effort– that a longing in the soul can be begin to be answered.

    • Thank you very much Rachel, I am flattered. I hate it when my body lets me down but I love being in the hills so much I have to push through the tiredness.

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