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.


67 Comments to “2011 – A year on the hills”

  1. A great backpacking year for you then James. Some great trips and I am very jealous of alot of the locations that I have yet (if ever) to visit! Like you I have had a good outdoors year but definitely inverse in terms of the camping and walking. I have been out and about for around 60 days this year but only around 20 actually camping, the rest being day walks. Still I am NOT complaining!

    All the very best for 2012 and hopefully I might bump into you one of these days

    cheers, Dave

    • Have a great 2012 Dave, I hope that you get loads of wild camping done. 60 days in the hills equals two whole months! It would be great to have a single trip that lasted that long! When I next venture to South Wales I will give you a shout.

  2. Crikey, James, you get about don’t you. I hoping that I can do some more this year, now that Mary, my wife is on the mend. Always enjoy your posts.
    Happy New Year to you and Reuben !!

    • I have to admit that I do like to get out and about Mark! Good to hear that Mary is on the mend and you can get to the hills more, maybe our paths will cross again?

      • James, I would like that, if you are ever at a loose end and want to do a trip let me know. Even if it is a day trip, we don’t live too far apart. Failing that, I understand that Terry maybe doing another meet in April.

    • A day trip in the Peaks would be good Mark, easy enough to meet you there. Next time I plan to go I will give you a shout (or vice versa?).

  3. You had a wander up Alport Dale I reckon from that New Years eve photo. The bothy in the snow is a superb photo. email the grid ref for that bothy please.

    What a great year you had. I like many enjoyed reading all about it. it was great to have done some walks with you and wild camp wise we have done some very wild nights weather wise. Maybe we should pay more attention to forecasts?

    All the best for the coming year. Will email my plans and see if you can meet up.

    • You are correct Martin! A very soggy New Year it was too. I have to admit that we have chosen a couple of very stormy weekends to get out in the hills for a wild camp. Look forward to meeting up with you again this year. I’ll get that grid ref to you. Have a great 2012.

  4. I feel quite exhausted just reading that!

    A great year James – well done, Sir! And well done to Reuben too.

    • Have a nice sit down Alan. Reuben says wuff and was sad not to have met you on the Dales weekend (but secretly glad he did not have to endure the wind and rain!).

  5. Brilliant James as usual. I have been getting your posts via email for just over two years now and they are always a great read. Have just opened a WordPress blog myself to record my upcoming walks as I have thousands of photo’s but really can’t remember the days events. Anyway, I look forward to reading your posts in 2012, have a great year, all the best.


    • Good to hear that you have been enjoying the blog Mike. I look forward to your upcoming posts on your new blog, to be added to my google reader. Have a great 2012.

  6. Good work Mr B; a good range of geographically diverse destinations! That’s an impressive number of days on the hills too. All the more impressive given the absolutely shite weather which has been the dominant meterological theme the last year.

    I’m sure you’ve already got an arm-long list of planned backpacks for you and Reuben for the year ahead already. All the best for 2012.

    Mr E

    • Cheers Pete. Yes the weather has been rather rubbish this year with many trips cancelled or changed at the last minute for less exciting destinations. Hopefully some more trips to the hills with you this year.

  7. Happy 2012 James, it looks as though you had a great 2011.

    Have you completely converted to the Trailstar, or will you still be using the Scarp 1 occasionally?

    • To be honest I probably use the Scarp1 more than the trailstar. I may get a bug net for the Trailstar which will make it more versitile.

  8. Happy New Year James. A great account of your impressive number! of trips from the past year. And I thought I got out and about quite a bit. All the best for 2012.
    (That bothy image is still a belter – hope you’ve got it printed and framed on your wall by now) 😀

    • Thanks David. I must get that bothy image printed as I have to say I am rather proud of that one. I remember taking it well as my fingers were freezing! Have a great 2012 yourself.

  9. Well done, James. I’m looking forward to following your exploits in 2012.
    Have a good one.

  10. A great year. Look forward to reading about this year’s trips. All hail the king of the trip reports!

  11. James- Well done sir. Inspiration in the form of the WWW. as usual from the bongoman. I think your photography this year is better than ever. Warren

    • All the best for your epic travels in 2012 Warren, how many thousands of miles have you got planned this year?

      • James – At the moment we are on Rugen, which is an island in the Baltic. Esther’s grandparents live here. We fly down to Portugal and then ride back across Europe to Sweden. Down Finland and across to Estonia and around the Baltic to Poland. Then we will have a think about things. Asia next. Did an interview with Podcast Bob yesterday – I will stick with blogging. Next year we are after another 10,000 miles – never want to end now. All the best pal

      • I can’t wait to read about Asia Warren, as that will tickle me fancy! Envious of your current lifestyle, although I’m sure that it will be a huge shock for you when it ends?

  12. Great reading James – I’m now feeling totally inspired to get out more this year. Interesting that you mentioned Barbondale, as Geoff discovered that area earlier this year on one of his midweek campervan trips with Tilly. He said it was great both for walking and wild-van camping!

    • Barbondale is a lovely place Chrissie, right off the beaten track. I may have to pinch Geoffs wild-van camping spots there.

  13. Some great trips and great photos. Has Reuben started to change a modelling fee yet? Hope you have a good 2012.

  14. you and your mileage – an inspiration to us all! If I get out half as much as you in 2012 as you did in 2011, I’ll be doing well. Have a great year James, l’ll be up for a pied a tois with that edwards fella and your good self once I’m up in scotlandshire

    • Have a cracking 2012 with the John Muir Trust Dave, what an amazing job. I do hope to meet you in Scotlandshire. Watch out for that Edwards fella though………..

  15. Wow, what a fabulous way to spend a year…hiking! I love to hike but usually have to travel to do it. Thanks for sharing your fabulous hiking trips.

  16. Damn you James, I was just about to write a post the mirror image of that. Same title and everything. 😦

    You’ve notched up an impressive repertoire of trips this past year, and it’s a been a true pleasure to read about them. Keep up the good work as ever Mr Boulter, and maybe I’ll bump into you in the Peak, or elsewhere, some time soon.

  17. Quite a year, you’ve certainly had some great trips. That 4 day week is working for you and no mistake! Great photo’s to. I’m looking forward to reading about this years adventures.

  18. A great overview, if I may say so.

    You have got around a bit in the last year, that’s for sure! Some memorable trips and experiences, there, but a word if I might? Stop telling people about Barbondale! It’s too good a place to let everyone in on the secret.

    Anyway, all the best and enjoy your adventures in 2012.

    • Cheers Jules. Sorry I will not mention Barbondale again as I don’t want the secret to get out, its a great spot far from the crowds of the Dales. Have some great adventures yourself this year.

  19. 2011 brought me NO WILD CAMPS whatsoever! and you get 54 nights out!!! Something is not right with the world.

    Seriously – its ALMOST as good to read about wild camps and as for the pics – lovely. Thanks for taking the time to post this. It’s a very satisfying read.

    All the best for 2012.

    • Have you plans to get out wild camping this year Carl? I hope that you manage to get out, you can’t beat a night out on the hills. Thanks for your comment.

      • Plenty. After a year of drought as far as backpacking goes I’m now back on it. My lovely wife gave me a pass to apply for TGO Challenge 2012 and as a first-timer I am currently sitting nervously at number 15 on the standby list. I have moved up 2 spots since November 18th. Slow but sure progress!

        I am up in the Peak District on the Edges this month for couple of nights and have a night or two planned in the Cheviots for early Feb. That same lovely wife has also cleared me for a trip in March and April too. So that will be at least 6 nights under silnylon before the challenge. There will doubtless be many day walks to get my legs back in the mood for longer walks too.

        Lets hope my tiring (slightly overweight) body will respond as it should!


  20. Wow, what a fantastic collection of trips, images and memories. You certainly manage to get around more of the country than most! I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog over the past year and look forward to hearing about many more trips in the months to come. All the very best for 2012!

    • Thanks Nick. I do wish that I lived closer to the Scottish Highland as you do, what a great launching pad you have for some quality hills. I enjoy your trip reports.

  21. I found your Blog earlier this year when looking for some info about walking in Wales. I have visited it regularly since and have really enjoyed seeing your photos and reading about the exploits of you and Reuben in the hills. I am certainly looking forward to more in the coming year. All the best for 2012

    • Thats a huge compliment David, considering the amazing quality of your photos, something for me to aspire to I think. Many thanks and have a great 2012.

  22. Fab summary buddy. Have enjoyed your blogs. Now have my sprocker Dave doing the “Ruben trig”posses…….
    I too will enter for TGO 2013 and pray for better weather.!!!!!!!!!

    All the best
    Stuart.(TGO2011. @Cougie)

    • Hey Stuart, how are you doing? Good to hear that you too are planning on entering the TGO Challenge in 2013, the year of no wind and rain.

      Dave is a brilliant name for a dog, hope he is enjoying the trig point poses. I nearly called Reuben Graham.

  23. Slackpacking, Four day weeks, Seventy Seven day in the outdoors and the cutest dog ever as a walking buddy. Ain’t life great! Nice one matey! 🙂

  24. A great read James,most enjoyable. Picking up a couple of details, totally agree about Abbey Brooks, a superb little valley, the upper path, with the path hugging the hill is my favourite ascent up the Edges. Barbondale is lovely too, enjoyed a day walk there rounding up all the significant tops.

    All the best for 2012!

    • Thanks Yuri. Abbey brook is one of those hidden delights and you are right about that upper Path. I think that Barbondale will soon be part of the YDNP. Have a great 2012.

  25. A great round up to the year with some superb photos and inspiring reports. Since coming across your site, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading about your exploits and look forward to each new report as they appear. Let’s hope 2012 is kinder in the weather department.
    Best wishes for the new year.

    • Many thanks Jim, great to hear that you have been enjoying the blog as it makes it worthwile writing. A long hot summer this year would be appreciated. Have a good one.

  26. Loving that Bothy pic, great colours

    well written James and as always big thumbs up to Reuben

  27. What a fantastic recap of your trips of 2011. Enjoyed that!

  28. Happy New Year James. I’ve really enjoyed reading all your reports over the past year since I got into this blogging lark. I’m truly amazed at your dedication in getting out regardless of the weather and you’ve given me more ideas for trips than I can ever possibly fulfill – not sure if that’s good or bad.

    Keep those reports flowing

    Cheers, Andy

    • Happy New Year Andy, goog to hear that you have enjoyed he blog. The whole idea being to get people to explore the lesser know parts of our countryside. Too many trip ideas cannot be a bad idea!

  29. Really enjoy reading your blog – some of the best moments of life are being out in the hills. Hope you keep writing!

  30. Hi. I was wondering if you can remember (I know it’s been a while!) where exactly the second photo under “October” was taken? I would like to find that spot 🙂

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