Archive for January 3rd, 2012

January 3, 2012

2011 – A year on the hills

by backpackingbongos

2011 was a superb year in terms of getting out and about in the hills, probably one of my best for the amount of days spent surrounded by stunning scenery.  Thankfully I have an understanding partner who is happy for me to trundle off with a pack on my back, often at short notice.  The decision to work four days a week has turned out to be an excellent decision, money poor but time rich is the way forward I think.  The main thing that has enriched my enjoyment of the hills this year is my new hiking partner Reuben.  A hairy beast with a waggy tail is perfect for sharing time on the moors and mountains, an ever eager, non complaining companion!

I have just gone through my log book for 2011 and it turns out I have spent a grand total of 77 days out and about on the hills, mountains, moors and coast of the UK.  54 of those were spent backpacking (on15 separate trips) with a further 23 on day walks.  Although the amount of days on the hills has increased, the mileage for each day has probably decreased.  I am a committed slackpacker these days, more content to spend quality time in the hills rather than eat up the miles.  There is nothing better than perching on a rock overlooking a valley or sitting outside my tent enjoying a remote wild camp.

Anyway I thought that I would end 2011 (or start 2012) 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 second day of the year saw me heading to the North Pennines for a wild camp on the summit of Cross Fell.  The weather was absolutely freezing and I only made it as far as the slopes of Great Dun Fell before darkness approached.  It was a struggle getting tent pegs into the frozen ground!

The following weekend Rich and myself headed to a snowy Yorkshire Dales for a wild camp.  Thankfully we were pitched next to a rather lovely bothy and spent the evening toasty in front of a roaring fire.

The third weekend of the year saw backpack number three where I met Martin Rye in the Howgills  It was a wet and stormy weekend, a complete contrast to the previous two backpacks.  We were both glad to get through the night with shelters intact, we bailed at first light becoming concerned that our vehicles may have got swept away.  The smallest of streams had turned into raging torrents, we were humbled by the power of the weather.  The photo below was taken the day before the stream burst its banks, a complete change of character.

A walk around Burbage in the Peak District was memorable for one reason, this being Reuben.  After being rescued from a shelter it was his first trip into the hills.  He appeared to relish the sights, sounds and many smells.  The beginning of his hill walking career.

The following weekend I was back out with Reuben on the Peak District hills, this time Win hill and Crookstone Knoll.  Here he began to develop his perching on a rock whilst staring wistfully into the distance pose.


A couple of weeks later and I was back in the Peak District with Reuben again for a good yomp along the northern edges of Kinder Scout.  A walk that every visitor to the Peaks should do at least once.

Dartmoor is an area that has been off my hiking radar for many years now.  This was corrected by a spending a week in a cottage at Postbridge.  To be honest the week was a little bit underwhelming with a thick blanket of cloud sitting on the moor for days on end.  However I did manage a cracking day where I headed for some tors via Tavy Cleave, a lovely wild valley that twists and turns deep into the bleak hills.


There are lots of hidden gems in the Peak District, many of them being the deep cloughs that snake onto the high plateau.  One of these is Abbey Clough which gives one of the best ways up to the rocky Back Tor.

Possibly one of my favourite moments from probably the best trip of the year.  Four days backpacking on the Isle of Rum with the excellent company of Rich and Peter Edwards.  We camped for the night at the lovely Harris bay and for once it did not rain.  A night sitting around a camp fire listening to the waves breaking on the beach.  Sublime. (Pic courtesy of Pete and for those thinking of visiting Rum you may want to get his Cicerone guidebook which will be available soon here).


Just west of the boundary of the Yorkshire Dales National Park there is an area of lovely steep grassy hills and the lonely Barbondale.  A great place for a backpack, I was often reminded of the nearby Howgills.  Summer had arrived early meaning one of those perfect wild camping mornings.

A late April day walk in the Peak District and I was struggling with the heat, summer most definitely peaked too early.  A walk through the wonderful Chee Dale, a landscape of rocky gorges hidden deep within the rolling hills.


For me the biggest backpacking challenge of the year came in the form of the TGO Challenge,  I really do need to emphasise the word Challenge!  From the start the weather was lousy and it remained so for pretty much the whole of the two weeks, ending up with hurricane strength winds on the final Monday.  I met some great people and passed through stunning scenery (viewed through a dripping hood most of the time).  At times it was an ordeal to be honest and by the end I just wanted to finish and go home.  However I plan to do it again in 2013 as surely the weather can’t be as bad?!  The photo below is of a pitch next to the river Dulnain amongst glorious scenery.  For the first time in what felt like ages the rain stopped and the sun came out, I lay in my tent feeling warm and very contented.  Probably my favourite moment of the whole crossing.


It’s not very often that I manage to persuade my partner to join me for a day in the hills.  Therefore a brief daunder with Corrina and Reuben through the lush green dales surrounding Alstonefield was a special day.

I met up with Martin Rye and Terrybnd high in the Pennines at Sand tarn which nestles below Wild Boar fell.  A stunning wild camp where we spent the evening watching the sun slowly set during some exceptionally still weather conditions.  The next day we headed towards the Howgills to test our thighs on the steep grassy slopes before a much damper wild camp.  A memorable weekend with good company.

The rolling hills of the Cheviots are often overlooked by those seeking their thrills on rocky mountains.  I used the Bongo as a four-wheeled bothy for a few days, parking up in a remote valley for some walking with Reuben.  Mid summer and hardly a person on the hills, just a shame that the military were blowing up the other part of the national park!


I often neglect the Lake District for remoter parts of the country.  However a three day backpack with Rich around Wast Water rekindled my love for this busy national park.  Scoat tarn was a cracking place for a summer wild camp.

A perfect pitch was found high on the edge of the North Pennines on a backpack around High Cup Nick.  A summers outing for the Trailstar seemed such a good idea at home, pitch high and avoid the insects.  How wrong could I have been?  Dusk brought an hour of hellish torment as I endured the onslaught of the dreaded midge.  There was nowhere to hide…………….


An invite from Peter Edwards and his wife saw me heading to Wales for the weekend to stay in a cottage they were looking after.  A lovely spot and we headed out for a day in the Moelwyns followed by a day in the Arenigs.  The photo below showing ‘the three boys’ posing at the trig on Arenig Fawr.  A short while later we were witness to a horrible death on the mountain.

Terrybnd took a few moments out from his alcohol induced monologues to have an afternoon nap during the Monsal Head social meet. He insisted that the ‘bottle bank’ next to his tent (unseen in this photo but it was a remarkable sight) was not all his doing.  A cracking weekend of walking during the day and sociable evenings in the pub.  I look forward to the next one.


The plan was to spend a few days relaxing in the sun near the sea in Pembrokeshire.  We found an amazing campsite but unfortunately the weather was not kind to us.  The coastline of this national park was stunning although I am sure we would have enjoyed it more without all the rain.  The photo below is from the summit of Carn Llidi near St Davids, a proper mini mountain.


Summer made a brief return at the beginning of October and I headed with Reuben to one of my favourite areas in Wales.  Three days backpacking amongst the deserted hills near Pumlumon Fawr were rather poignant as there are plans to industrialise this wonderful area.  Enjoy it whilst you can as it is simply stunning.  A wild camp on the summit of Moel y Llyn.

A whole week backpacking in the far north of Scotland at the end of October could be unpleasant if the weather turned nasty.  Therefore with the company of Peter Edwards and later his wife, three separate shorter backpacks were enjoyed.  We walked in some of the most impressive, remote and beautiful landscapes that Scotland has to offer.  It was scenery on an epic scale.  Sadly parts of the far north are being industrialised at a rather frightening pace and there were often huge spinning machines on the horizon.  Heartbreaking.  However the hospitality we received at the wonderful Crask Inn was second to none.  I hope that it wont be long before I return.


I met Chrissie and Dixie in a damp and misty car park in Langsett.  We walked across the moors in mist, descended to a misty Derwent valley and had a misty drive back to the starting point so I could collect my car.  Reuben posing below with his new girlfriend.

After seeing the weather forecast, common sense should have meant staying at home rather than travelling to the Yorkshire Dales to meet Martin Rye, Alan Sloman and Andy Walker.  A three day backpack taking in Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent turned into a two dayer after Andy’s tent failed to make the first night.  It was windy and then very wet and windy.  Waterproofs were defeated and we scurried off home early.  There were a couple of hours of nice weather though as the photo below shows.


The mild and often wild weather so far this winter was briefly interrupted by an arctic spell.  I spent the night in a remote bothy high in the Yorkshire Dales, putting the coal I had carried to good use.  With a clear sky, bright moon and snow cover it did not really get dark that night.  The snowy sunrise the following morning will be etched in my memory forever.

Another brief dump of snow saw me heading to the Peak District to enjoy a perfect winters day walking along Bamford and Stanage edges.  A familiar landscape was transformed under a white blanket.

The final day of the year saw Reuben and I heading with a couple of mates to a remote wild camp in the Peak District.  It was damp and misty and we ended up spending an hour walking across the moor in the dark.  We were all fast asleep before 2012 came.

A big thank you to everyone who has popped by to read my waffle over the past year, an even bigger thanks to those who take the time to comment.  It is hugely appreciated.  I hope everyone has a fun filled 2012.