Monday, 6 June 2011

Dedicated to my mother - Ben Nevis climb 2011

At the end of April I got a phone call asking if I'd guide a small charity group up Ben Nevis. They wanted to raise funds for the local kids and needed someone to guide them up as despite one being a sergeant in the army he had little experience of mountains. They said it was an all expenses paid 2 days, apart from food. I initially agreed, but when they mentioned the date 28th May 2011 my heart sank. That was my Richmond 5 Dales 100 mile cycle run. So I had to reluctantly back down.

A few days later, Peter called again and said what about the following Saturday? We all agreed on that date of Saturday 4th June took a few moments to realise that that would have been my mother's 86th birthday - co-incidence?!

If we had of went on the 28th May, I think we would have failed to climb Ben Nevis as gale force winds were racing across the UK that weekend. I know for one as I had to cycle 50 miles into a headwind and abandon the long route of the Richmond 5 Dales for the shorter 80 mile 4 Dales. At Hawes, lots of riders decided to do the same and bail out of the long route. So I can only imagine the winds high up at 4000 feet on Nevis.

Pick up came on Mum's birthday at a very early 05:30am and we arrived (eventually after much fuffing, faffing and slow driving) at the Glen Nevis car park, which I was moderately surprised to find had lots of car parking spaces. The weather forecast was looking grim with rain and thunder predicted, but there was still very bright sunshine in the glen and it was extremely warm as we set off.

I had 2 routes planned and at the halfway stop we could change from the tourist trail to the Choire Leis headwall route. But, at the said halfway point, all expressed the desire for the easy route! Many were very hot and despite taking up lots of bottles of water, had drunk most of it!

Just past the halfway it stated to get cooler and that give Peter especially a second wind. There was no difficulties to the top apart from a short 50 feet of snow climbing which seemed to amuse all the walkers. We soon arrived at the top in 3hours 50minutes - very good for complete mountain novices.

The top was the usual cloudy summit. I've never been on it's top in clear weather. I think the statistics are 300 days out of 365 are in cloud despite the fact every other mountain around the area might be in sunshine.

After much fuffing, faffing and picture taking ensued on the summit, the descent went extremely well and no injuries apart from Lee getting a blister from his army boots! Stunning views kept teasing us through the broken clouds of Fort William in bright sunshine. All was amazed at the views and height. The weather forecast had been totally wrong.

The overnight stay was at Glen Coe Youth Hostel and despite my "advice" to eat first and shower later, I was overruled and we had our showers and clean fresh clothes on to go to the Clachaig inn pub, and guess what? Despite the fact I told everyone the food would probably close at 9pm, when we arrived at 9:30pm they were surprised to hear there was no food available! Like the typical bunch of Geordies on tour, they then voted to return to Fort William for a chip shop a 30 mile round trip at 10pm at night.

The following morning was a slow drive back home. Everyone was pleased, most had sore legs and knees, most loved climbing Ben Nevis; some even loved the youth hostel.

Our tally time climbing Ben Nevis was 7 hours 47 minutes. I praised them as I honestly thought it was going to take close or over 10 hours. The praise was short lived however. The manageress of the youth hostel mentioned she did the trip a few days earlier in 3 hours 30 minutes!

I still cannot believe how things turned out. I really think Mum was looking out for us and helped in the planning and weather. Yes, I know it's daft, but I can't explain why everything fell into place perfectly.

Dedicated to what would have been my mum's 86th birthday.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Scotland April 2011

What with the good weather forecast for Scotland I decided a few more Munros needed bagging.

So here's a brief diary in reverse dates (don't ask why!):

02 May 2011 - The 4 Drumocter Munros.

Sgairneach Mhor
Beinn Udlamain

A fairly hilly, but not technical route. A long walk back along the road was boring. Lost my blue sunglasses on the Mhor.

01 May 2011 - Ben Alder group part 2.

Carn Dearg
Beinn Eibhinn
Aonach Beag

Cycled easily in to Culra in 75 minutes. It was cool and breezy at Glen level, but sunny, windy and coldish up top. Carn Dearg was a slog to get up through dried bogs, heather and stoney upper slopes. The rest was an easy hill walk. The descent from Beinn Eibhinn was a grind and would have been almost impassible after bad weather to reach the other sides main path to Culra.

30 April 2011 - Ben Alder group part 1

Ben Alder
Beinn Bheoil

Some of the estate housing on Loch Ericht.

After hearing many horror stories about how hard it is to access this group of 6 Munros on day trips I decided to try. I was suprised it only took 60 minutes to cycle to Culra bothy where I left my bike amongst many other mountain bikes. As it was windy I decided to stay safe and avoiding the scrambling on the north east ridges, which turned out to be a mistake as it would have saved about 1 hour on the route.

Ben Alder is behind me as I sit at the small loch.

29 April 2011

Beinn Dearg

Guide says it's a 10 hour route if done by foot. However I cycled most of the way and did the whole route in 5hrs 6 minutes. Almost an easy day! Very windy on top of mountain.

Resting in the small Bothy.

28 April 2011

Carn a'Chlamain

Cycled Glen Tilt. A beautiful ride from the Old Bridge of Tilt to Forest lodge. Parked bike at Forest Lodge and easily found the main zig zag footpath behind the wood. The Munro wasn't anything special but the cycling was glorious.

26 and 27 April 2011 Rest days

Bad blisters and aching ankle bone meant I decided on 2 days rest. Very bored.

25 April 2011

A'Bhuidheanach Bheag
Carn na Caim

A hard bulldozed track leads up to a rolling hill side. No problems as a track reach almost reaches both Munros. 

24 April 2011

Geal Charn

Strangely harder then many guide books suggest. If my foot problems hadn't been so hurtful I would have bagged another nearby hill.

23 April 2011

Carn Dearg
Carn Sgulain

From a single track road starting just outside Newtonmore, this is a big route. Today's weather started misty and drizzle, but later, on the last Munro bright sunshine came out. The vast majority of the route you just follow rusty fence posts, so you can't go wrong. Very stoney route hurt my ankle bone. 

The descent back to the car was long and hard.

22 April 2011

Carn Liath
Creag Meagaidh
Stob Poite Coire Ardair

A special place of natural beauty. There was lots of people on this route. A small gully was blocked by a snow field meaning I had to clamber around the slopes to avoid it. A long hard route, my ankle bone was hurting badly.

21 April 2011 - Beinn a'Ghlo

Braigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgain
Beinn a'Ghlo - Carn nan Gabhar
Carn Liath

A well known big round. Trust me to pick a harder then expected route on my first day in Scotland! Blisters soon developed and my ankle bone was hurting again after 7 hours. Long walk back. Horrible drive on single tracked road to Loch Moriag had long drops down side of Glen - gulp.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Back in the Hills again!

I've been emailing a few friends recently, hoping for a bit of company in them hills. One mail popped up from Martin R, an old master baggerteer. He's now got a nice mobile home and is spending more weekends away. So, we arranged a weekend walking in the Lake District bagging the few remaining "obscure" hills he hasn't already bagged.

This also co-incided with visiting my sister in her new house in Carlisle after she moved from Cockermouth without telling anyone! So the plan was to meet Martin on Saturday morning, climb some hills, he to sleep in his mobile home somewhere and I was to drive to Carlisle on Saturday night and drive back down to the Northern fells on Sunday for more bagging.

Saturday 19th March 2011:

I got up an extra hour early to bag a lonely Dewey on the way, Brownley Hill just south of Allendale. This was a very easy bag and only took 20 minutes in total!

Dewey hill definition: A Dewey is "a mountain or hill in England, Wales or the Isle of Man, that exceeds 500 metres in height, but is below 610 metres (2000ft) in altitude; it must be separated from adjacent tops by a height difference of at least 30 metres on all sides".

I was to meet Martin at 09:00am in Croglin, a small village between the Pennines and the Northern Lake District. Once parked we set off on what was going to be a hard and slightly complicated route. WRONG!  It turned out a piece of cake. There was new grouse shooters roads leading all the way to the half way point, thereby missing out on the very large section of peat bog at the end of the valley. Even the final sections that looked complicated on the map because of walls and farm land, turned out to be easy. Mind you we did have to trespass through a farm!

Sunday 20th March 2011:

After spending a night at my sister's house, who was horrified I was getting up at 07:30am for an early start. As way has it, I didn't get out until 08:45am and tried to take a short cut through farm lanes, to meet Martin at Skiddaw at 09:30am as arranged. I arrived bang on and he had the tea kettle boiling.

This plan was to bag 5 Birketts (don't ask what a Birkett is as they're crap anyhow) and 1 Nuttall. The weather was drizzle and wind. The route included: Hare Crag, frozen Fell, Burn Tod, White Hause and Orthwaite Bank. It became increasingly apparent that the Nuttall, Sale How, was out of our reach, so that was abandoned that early on (thank goodness).

No photos were taken as the cloud came in, and relying only on GPS waypoints for most of the route, we struggled on for almost 6 hours in cold, wind and wet conditions.

Another cup of tea in Martin's camper soon warmed us up. Looks like he wants to bag some Cheviots hills, so we've arranged to do them soon.

The story doesn't end there...........!

The most basic of beginners error!

After leaving Martin, the drive home passed near a simple Birkett called, Green How, just outside of Uldale village. This was going to be an easy bag I thought. When I arrived it was thick cloud, but the top was only 400 metres from the road. I decided to put on trainers and jog to the top with just my GPS as company. It probably took about 5 minutes or more to get find the top.

Now the problem started on the return. I decided on a shortcut back. For some reason, I got lost. And I hadn't carried a compass! The gps breadcrumb trail didn't tally with my sense of direction. In reality, I was totally disorientated in the thick, lost with no sense of direction.  

I cursed myself and set the gps to the road. Then I began to worry if 2 days of use would drain the batteries at that minute, so I started to jog fast through the heather until I finally intersected the road and then back at the car. Phew. Lesson learnt - take a compass and don't rely on GPS.

Looking at the gpx file, it looked like I was about to go in an anti-clockwise circle, really strange as I felt I was going fairly straight towards the road.

I need more practice.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Margaret Traill 1925-2011

My mother and best friend, Margaret (also known as "Peggy" by her friends) died peacefully in hospital at 04:45 am this morning of 16th February 2011. She had suffered a short illness.

I'm adding this blog hoping that somewhere in the future this information may be useful to a relative who would like to know more about her.

Possibly in 1933, Stothard Street, Jarrow, with her sisters and brothers.

August 2008, just before the onset of a more advanced form of Dementia.

If all people were like my mother, they'd be no wars and no hunger. 

RIP Mam. I will always think about you and love you.

Margaret Traill (nee Charlton) 


Monday, 3 January 2011

East Howgills for 2011

OK, so it was the start of a new year, abate 1 day late, this being the 2nd of January 2011. The weather forecast said it was going to be sunny. So I had 4 choices of routes. A Scotland trip to bag 3 Marilyns, a 3 cycled Marilyn bagging trip, Lake District to bag a few Nuttalls or a quad of Deweys in the Howgills. As I didn't fancy long drives in the dark nights, only the eastern Howgills ticked all the right boxes. 

The roads were quiet at 07:30am as I drove to Cross keys, just north of Sedbergh town in the Howgills. Once parked and booted up I immediately changed my mind in the direction of the route. Instead of anti-clockwise, I went clock-wise. Why can't I stick to a plan?

I therefore started the hard slog up Yarlside, which I've previously climbed in 2005. Halfway up, a significant path skirted Yarlside to it's saddle with Kensgriff my premier objective. It was here that I realised the anti-clockwise direction would have been far easier and faster. You could almost see the whole route from this standpoint. Why can't I stick to a plan? (whoops I've already said that!)

I missed out Yarlside as the extra climbing and "significant" descending would have added close to 45 minutes to route time. At the saddle I heard motorbikes revving and immediately saw 2 motocross riders zoom straight up the 33% slope in less then a minute. Oh, how I wished I could have had a backer as I slogged up to Kensgriff.

Over the top, I then needed to skirt around Randygill (another previously bagged Nuttall) to a long ridged Dewey called Hooksey. Then another skirting around to Green Bell, a Dewey with a trig point, a rarity for these parts. 

So far nothing special about these hills, just frozen grass and snowpatches. The next objective was Harter Fell and to get there I followed a small rough unpathed stream called Gais Gill. These small streams often have very few visitors and this was evident by no paths. I often think they are sometimes better to walk along side then bagging the boring mountains and hills that tower over them.

Harter Fell was an easy bag, with a dozen wild Howgill ponies all watching me about from 50 metres away. That completed the Deweys.

However, a HumP (hundred metre prominent) hill called Wansdale Hill was still to be bagged. This looked easier on the map then in reality. Google earth showed the eastern side was the best side as there was large gaps in the walls. But viewing the hillside from Harter Fell showed it was steep and unrelenting. I therefore decided to bag it from the shallower north. The ground was rough but easy in gradient. The descent was also easy by taking a baring towards the Mountain View house in the valley and then following the bridleway to Narthwaite farm.

Like most paths that go through farm yards I just don't like it, and this was one of those nightmares for me. This path went right next to the farm cottage, and the dog's kennels. The signage was a yellow dotted arrow. But I knew it was the wrong way as the one I followed was the farmers road. So I had to return back to the farm yard and guess the correct route back to Cross keys. I jumped over a cattle gate, then another before just seeing the correct pathway...Phew!

I finished much earlier then expected (due to missing out Yarlside) and started to kick myself for not bringing 2 maps of easy Dewey hills on the way back.