Seven Days in Summer – A Three Peaks Adventure – heading South

Part two – Scafell Pike

 <<<back to part one Ben Nevis<<<

It was with great reluctance that we left the Highlands to journey south to the Lakes on the hottest day of the year, but there was some compensation in finding a campsite on the shores of Wastwater. A thunderstorm broke over the mountains early evening but the rain didn’t last too long. I got to make use of my camping box in the back of the Berlingo while Bri got the annex. A good night with beer and a camp fire – what more could you want!

camping at Wasdale

Camp by the shores of Wastwater

The next morning we left camp and drove the short way to Wasdale Head for the ascent of Scafell Pike – it was ascent number two for Bri and about seven for me but I don’t tire of these things! Our chosen route was Sty Head and the Corridor Route – longer than the so called Brown Tongue from the NT campsite but a favourite. We used the latter for descent. Follow the track from the Green at Wasdale Head past St Olaf’s Church (the smallest in England) and Burnthwaite farm, up across the lower slopes of Great Gable in a roughly easterly direction. It’s a rough and stony path (unless you take the valley route which we didn’t today for some reason) that will take you to Sty Head at 1600 feet. Ahead and a little lower is Sty Head Tarn and the path to Borrowdale, but instead bear right and right again after a short distance to head briefly downhill then up to follow the trail across the rough fellside.

scafell pike corridor route

The Corridor Route just after Sty Head on a misty Lakeland morning

scafell pike hike

Great Gable seen from the Corridor Route to Scafell Pike

The Corridor Route as the name suggests follows an easy angled shelf or corridor between steep and craggy ground above and below. There is one short rocky step down that requires the use of hands but otherwise it avoids the crags and for a while you walk above the forbidding depths of Piers Gill – a gully a hundred or so feet deep. Do not attempt to go down that way! There are great views over this rugged terrain to Great Gable opposite and the Sty Head path you ascended earlier.

Before Lingmell Col (the wide ridge ahead that separates Scafell Pike from Lingmell) is reached a prominent path breaks off and climbs more steeply up over stones and sections of gently sloping rock towards the summit of scafell Pike. Here more people were encountered even though it was still early in the day. They had come up the shorter Brown Tongue route which starts by the NT campsite.

path to scafell pike

Looking back along the route to Sty Head – the path is clearly visible

wasdale to scafell pike

As we headed up the last part to the summit, the weather started to roll in

In true Lakeland fashion, the cloud had rolled in by the time we reached the summit of the Pike at 3210ft/978m and the highest mountain in England treated us to a non-view so here’s a picture of Bri with the flag that had accompanied us throughout the trip.

top of scafell pike

Bri flies the flag on Scafell Pike

Descending Scafell Pike

Pete on the way down Scafell Pike – I was already thinking about the Wasdale Head Inn

Now to head down as the weather had deteriorated somewhat though after the sunshine we’d had on Ben Nevis, neither of us could complain at that. We headed back down towards the Corridor but where the path forked, took the left branch (the right would have retraced our ascent from the Corridor) which led us down over Lingmell Col and onto the Brown Tongue Route where most of the people were coming up from. This way is fine for descent with good views of Scafell Crag but it is decidedly hard work to climb on a warm day due to the never ending stone steps. By the way if anyone has ever counted them please let me know how many there are… my guess is about 2000.

As mentioned the path leads to Brackenclose and the NT campsite but half a mile before the campsite, down by the tumbling stream of Lingmell Gill, it too forks again with the left way going to the campsite and the right cutting down across the fellside to cross the wider Lingmell Beck at a footbridge. We took the right hand path as it’s a short cut to the Green where we were parked and also to the pub. The sight of the Wasdale Head Inn from the surrounding hills has spurred on many a tired walker at the end of a long day and we were soon enjoying fish and chips and a pint before contemplating a journey to North Wales…

The hike up England’s highest mountain by this route involves an ascent of about 3000ft/915m, and a walk of about 7 miles/11.5km. Bear in mind that most of this is on rough stony terrain though the paths are clear and there are no technical difficulties.

Part three – Snowdon/Yr Wyddfa

Arriving in Snowdonia we parked up by the roadside just on the Conwy side of the Gwynedd-Conwy the county boundary. Usually it is not worth even trying to park at Pen y Pass and today seemed busier than usual. Besides the walk up to Pen y Pass from just past the Pen y Gwryd Hotel on the path is a worthwhile part of the route with fine views down the Nantgwynant. We had chosen the Pyg Track for the ascent with variation being provided by the Miners’ Track in descent mostly because these are a quick routes and their start/finish point involved less driving from Lancashire. My favourite route up Snowdon is the South Ridge from Rhyd Ddu on the other side of the mountain and maybe we should have gone that way today after all such was the popularity of the Pyg Track.

From Pen y Pass we followed the path climbing the rough mountainside behind the Youth Hostel. It’s impossible to miss the route as it rises steadily towards the imposing peak of crib Goch ahead, sometimes in stone steps and sometimes climbing between boulders. Eventually after a short steep section, a small col was reached and the terrain changed with a wider path leading to the right signed for Snowdon and views of Y Lliwedd across Llyn Llydaw.

A brief rest and onwards on a good path with no route finding issues that climbed steadily across steep ground towards our final objective. Presently the smaller tarn of Glaslyn came into view below with the final pyramid of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon’s main peak) rising into the clouds opposite. The only issue today was the number of people on the path which made the walk dangerous in a few places. We especially noticed this as our ascent of Ben Nevis had been so quiet and Scafell had hardly been busy – certainly for the first part. Presently we were in cloud too and hope of a view was fading. The way led upwards into the mist mostly on stone steps which do facilitate progress – it used to be very loose up here.

Snowdon from pen y pass

The Pyg Track from the small col. Llyn Llydaw and Y Lliwedd (898m/2946ft) in the background

hiking the pyg track to snowdon

Glaslyn with Snowdon/Yr Wyddfa rising to the clouds beyond

path to snowdon

Climbing the stone steps with Glaslyn and Llyn Llydaw beyond

When the path emerges onto a wide ridge it is not far to go. This is the col between Snowdon and Carnedd Ugain at 1065m/3494ft the second highest mountain in Wales and a good place for lunch on a nice day away from the Snowdon crowds. To climb it turn right up the ridge. It was a cold, grey and windy day though in contrast to earlier in the week in Scotland, so we opted to get our final summit done. A short walk – less than half a mile and under 250 ft of ascent – up the path along the ridge beside the railway line brought us, and several hundred others to the summit station of the Snowdon Mountain Railway and a climb of some sixty feet to the summit itself. The highest mountain in Wales at 1085m/3560ft is a fine belvedere but today cloud hid the view and the number of people was a little offputting. We had our sandwiches took the obligatory summit photo and headed down to warmer climes.

on top of snowdon

Pete flies the flag on Snowdon

Remember when descending this way, especially in mist to look out for the large upright stone marking the col between the peaks – it is hard to miss – turn right down the path here for Pen y Pass. Straight on will take you down to Llanberis. Down we headed until an obvious path branched off down the steep slopes to the mountain tarn of Glaslyn away down to the right. This was our way back – the Pyg track is straight on (the way we came up) but we were going back via the Miners’ Track. This route leads along the shores of Glaslyn and then the larger Llyn Llydaw before leisurely making its way back to the car park at Pen y Pass. Apart from the part down to Glaslyn it is easier than the Pyg but longer and makes for a pleasant stroll after the rigours of a Snowdon ascent. I always remember pushing Josh, my eldest son along here in a push chair many years ago – that tells you how easy the trail is! We finished down the trail to the Pen y Gwryd where a celebratory pint was had in the hotel bar.

pen y gwryd hotel

Mission Completed! Pete and Bri in the bar of the Pen y Gwryd after the trip.

This ascent of Snowdon involves a walk of 15.5km or just under 10 miles return and entails a touch over 800m or 2650ft of climbing when done from the Pen y Gwryd Hotel. If you start/finish at Pen y Pass (there is a bus if you sensibly wish to avoid the rigmarole of parking) knock off 4km (return) and just under 100m of ascent but the lower path is well worth doing.

<<<back to part one Ben Nevis<<<


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Seven Days in Summer – A Three Peaks Adventure

Part one – Ben Nevis

During the Summer of 2019, before the coronavirus and lockdowns, myself and my cousin Bri decided to do the so called Three Peaks, that is the national summits
of Scotland, England and Wales; Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon. There was no intention of completing these in 24 hours owing to the inordinate amount of
driving involved – instead we opted to take a week and enjoy the ambience of the Highlands, the Lakes and Snowdonia. As it was the trip nearly didn’t happen at all
due to a general reluctance to leave our Scottish campsite at Caolasnacon by the idyllic shores of Loch Leven.

Loch Leven

Views from the campsite near Kinlochleven

The route we chose to climb our first peak, Ben Nevis, was the Carn Mor Dearg Arete (or CMD Arete) which begins at the North Face car park, using the normal tourist route for the first part of the descent as far as the halfway point at Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe . From here we would leave the tourist route to return to the Allt a Mhuilinn track (more on that later). Here is the route in pictures:

Ben Nevis 1

The wide easy track from the North Face car park leads towards Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis

Ben Nevis 2

The trail leads through pleasant woodlands with views back towards Fort William, Loch Linnhe and Loch Eil

CMD arete from below

Beyond the trees are open views of Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis with the CMD Arete visible between the peaks.

In the above picture the first part of our route can now be seen. We follow this trail –  the Allt a Mhuillin track – to where a fainter path branches off to the left and head up towards the rounded peak on the left (Carn Beag Dearg). The way is a little boggy at first but soon improves and after reaching Carn Beag Dearg we keep following the ridge (good path) along to Carn Mor Dearg (a Munro of 4003ft/1220m). Staying on the main path would lead towards the hut in Coire Leis and will be our descent route. The next picture was taken between Carn Beag Dearg and Carn Mor Dearg.

ben nevis north face from carn mor dearg

Climbing towards Carn Mor Dearg the northern cliffs of Ben Nevis come into view

Ben Nevis 5

The mists gathered as we left the summit of Carn Mor Dearg and headed onto the arete

Coire Leis and Ben Nevis

Thankfully the cloud cleared and allowed us views of the rugged northern side of the Ben

north face of ben nevis

From the arete Ben Nevis assumes a daunting alpine facade

crossing the carn mor dearg arete

Looking along the CMD Arete towards Ben Nevis. The route requires care but is not difficult. Hands out of pockets though!

Carn Mor Dearg from the arete

Looking back along the arete to Carn Mor Dearg

Crossing the CMD Arete is not an unduly difficult undertaking though care is needed in a few places. The route ahead is usually clear and even while we were in mist there were no route finding issues; it’s a case of just keep on the crest or descend a little to the eastern side when the path indicates. It is important not to try and descend to the western (Coire Leis) side unless you know the area well and are equipped for more difficult climbing. If you do need to return for any reason, then going back over Carn Mor Dearg and down the way you have come is the best option. I did this route in reverse with Dad many years back and despite zero visibilty, we experienced no route finding problems.

Now having completed the arete, we were face with a steep and bouldery 1000 foot ascent to the summit of the Ben – hard work after the effort already expended but the views kept getting better all the way until all of a sudden the relentless slope comes to an end and there is the top of Scotland – and the British Isles – right ahead. Just when we were beginning to forget what level ground looks like.

aonach beag from ben nevis

Aonach Beag (4049ft/1234m) from just below the summit of the Ben

ben nevis summit view

The summit of Ben Nevis 4406ft/1343m looking roughly North West

Ben Nevis has a reputation of being covered by cloud some 300 days a year so we were privileged indeed for a view like this. The last time I was here there was nothing but – well Scotch mist. If you are going to stand on the edge of the North Face though then do remember that the cliffs are 2400 feet high which is well over twice the height of the Shard. Here are some more views looking out over Loch Linnhe and south over the Mamores towards Glencoe.

A clear day on Ben Nevis

Looking south from Ben Nevis over the Mamores to the Glencoe area

A sunny day on the Ben

Looking down Loch Linnhe from Ben Nevis. The two prominent peaks are Beinn a’ Bheithir above Ballachulish

We lingered a while on the summit, reluctant to leave but we still had a long descent so presently we set off down the busy tourist track and the infamous zig zags. Bri was particularly happy that we hadn’t come up this way – it’s ok for descent but the Arete is the finest walkers’ route to the Ben. On reaching the halfway lochan (Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe) we branched off the tourist path to the right and followed another path to the lochan’s outflow (the stream of Allt Coire an Lochan) where the path ended and we basically took to the heather as they used to say up here.

There is another path that leads to the hut in Coire Leis that may have been a better route though this way is more direct and saves going further up the valley than needed. However after heavy rain or in mist it may be advisable to take the other way (follow the right hand trail instead of walking down to the lake) as the river is easier to cross higher up. We made a steep descent over rough country eventually, and without any real difficulty, reaching the river called the Allt a Mhuillin. Here after some scouting around we found a crossing place and (almost) dry joined a good path on its far side. This we followed left or downstream and watched over by the towering crags of the Ben, we presently passed the point we had left the path and soon re-entered the woods on a warm and pleasant summer evening.

Coire Leis and the north side of Ben Nevis

The North Face of Ben Nevis seen from the path just after we had crossed the river

This route entails around 5000 feet or 1500m of ascent and covers a distance just short of 11 miles or 17km. It is much more strenuous than going up and down the Tourist Track and the terrain is also harder, especially on the arete and on the subsequent climb to the summit. Having said that it is much quieter, the views are spectacular and you get to summit two Munros, Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis the highest mountain in Britain. Highly recommended!

>>>Onwards to part two Scafell Pike and Snowdon>>>

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Walking in the Lake District – Four Wainwrights from Grasmere

There are not many walks in Lakeland that reach the summits of four Wainwrights with so little effort, but this route from Grasmere does just that. It’s a particularly beautiful and varied walk too and the four hills it climbs are ones I had not previously visited; Steel Fell, Calf Crag, Gibson Knott and Helm Crag, so I was on new ground myself today. Incidentally – if you are unfamiliar with the Wainwrights, they are the 214 hills and mountains (known locally as fells) categorised by AW Wainwright in his guides to the English Lake District.

Grasmere and Helm Crag from Steel Fell

Climbing Steel Fell with Helm Crag centre

Setting out from Grasmere and following the lane northwards past Ghyll Foot and Helm Side, a good path leads from the end of the road onto the south ridge of Steel Fell which rises interminably ahead. The way is without difficulty; being up grassy slopes but it is somewhat relentless… The views well compensate though, with the prospect back over Grasmere drawing the eye towards the distant Windermere which lies like a silver ribbon to the South. A much wilder prospect lies northward though, where Helvellyn dominates the scene and to the west stretch the windswept hills of Central Lakeland.

Grey shower clouds made their way out of the North West towards us and coats were donned on a couple of occasions though the bulk of their rain was dumped over the
Langdales to the West and we were spared getting soaked. Part way up the ridge though I was given cause to run up the hill to capture on camera a particularly vivid rainbow that appeared beyond the brow of the hill ahead though my effort was rewarded with a particularly nice photo.

Rainbow Over Helvellyn

The rainbow with a clouded Helvellyn beyond

The summit of Steel Fell is worth any effort involved in getting here with the view opening out along Thirlmere to the north complementing the softer southern prospect – check out the 360 degree panorama video at the end of this post.

The cold wind and the eastward progress of the rain showers that had been sweeping the Western Lakes made sitting around a less attractive prospect though so after a quick lunch we set off for the next Wainwright, Calf Crag.

Thirlmere and the Northern Fells

Thirlmere and the Northern Fells of Lakeland from the summit of Steel Fell

It’s not far to Calf Crag from Steel Fell but there was a certain amount of navigating a route around the boggy areas that make up this empty region. The path is evident for most of the way but one must be creative for the rest! The short rise to the summit pretty much marks the end of the sogginess though and a new prospect opens up of the route onward over the small but interesting peaks of Gibson Knott and Helm Crag backed by the wooded valleys and glinting lakes of southern Lakeland.

Towards Langdale and Coniston

Looking towards Langdale and Coniston

A good path now led over to the cairn atop Gibson Knott and in time to our last Wainwright of the day Helm Crag. Despite a modest altitude, Helm Crag is one of the more celebrated fells of Lakeland, being better known as the Lion and the Lamb; a name which refers to the summit rocks when seen from Grasmere. Indeed I have looked up at this fell countless times though today was my first ascent. The highest rocks are a little way north of the Lion and the Lamb and involve a tricky scramble to reach though the Lion’s head is a much easier undertaking. Even here care is needed as the other side of the rocks drop steeply so it’s not advised for young children.

The Lion and the Lamb Grasmere

The rocks known as the Lion and the Lamb on Helm Crag above Grasmere

Having admired the view from here we set off on the short descent to Grasmere which is made by continuing along the path that soon heads steeply down into woodland and joins the valley track that heads from Easedale (and ultimately over Greenup Edge to Borrowdale in that direction) to Grasmere village through a mix of woods and fields. I summer this section is a popular destination and many head up to Helm Crag without doing the full ridge.

Overall this was a good day out with great and varying views throughout the walk made better by the fact that it was my first visit to these hills. I especially liked the contrast between pastoral Grasmere and Steel Fell’s wild uplands with the views to Thirlmere – oh and don’t forget looking down from the Lion and the Lamb after so many times looking up at it!

This walk visits 4 Wainwrights; Steel Fell,Calf Crag, Gibson Knott and Helm Crag. The total distance is 12.5km or about 8 miles on good paths almost all of the way though the area between Steel Fell and Calf Crag is decidedly boggy in places. Views are varied and beautiful throughout and well compensate for any wetness!

And here’s a panoramic 360 degree film of the view from Steel Fell, the highest point of the walk – impressive for a peak of such modest height…

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A Welsh Weekend Adventure…

The path from Rhyd-Ddu up the South Ridge of Snowdon was the objective for the first day of my latest Welsh Weekend Adventure, as it is probably my favourite route to the top of the the highest mountain in Wales. The way is varied and interesting and finishes with the exciting but problem-free ridge of Bwlch Main leading on towards the summit. Also, the crowds of tourists who don’t take the train usually climb Snowdon from Llanberis or Pen y Pass and avoid this much quieter and wilder side of the mountain. My descent was by the route called the Rhyd Ddu path which lies a little to the west of the ascent route.

wild side of snowdon 4

Looking back down the South Ridge of Snowdon

Having left my camp at Capel Curig I arrived at Rhyd-Ddu not far from the village of Beddgelert. Leaving the car park (£5 per day) I set out crossing the Welsh Highland Railway and in five minutes turning right through a gate to the open mountainside. A wide and easy path soon led to a fork in the trail where the Rhyd-Ddu path leaded left – this would be my descent route – and I headed straight on directly towards the obvious col or saddle between Snowdon and the lower peak of Yr Aran.

Lliwedd on the snowdon horsshoe

The peak of Lliwedd from the ridge

Just before the col, the path is overlooked by ruined stone buildings that resemble something out of a Tolkien novel, but they are actually remnants of the quarrying and mining industry from this region’s past. Also evident are several deep chasms that show evidence of quarrying but beware – some of these are around a hundred feet deep so don’t fall down one! The path itself is safe though and soon leads to the col where I had some food and water behind the wall and out of the chilly breeze, before continuing the journey. From the col the main path is seen coming up from Bethania and if you start from there, returning by the Watkin Path would be another good circular hike. For reference, the col between Snowdon and Yr Aran is at about 510 m or 1700 feet.

wild side of snowdon 7

On the Bwlch Main ridge

The ascent of Yr Aran (747 m) to the south is also well worth the effort but my route headed up the South Ridge on a good path with stone steps up the early steep parts of the slope. It was only once up here, that I saw the first other hikers of the day, milling around on the col where I’d just rested. This really is the wild side of Snowdon and following the easy path as it climbs the ridge one can really appreciate one’s surroundings in peace and quiet which would be less easy on the more popular trails.

wild side of snowdon 9.jpg

The wild Cwm Clogwyn on the western side of Snowdon

About half way up, a rocky step in the ridge is reached that is surmounted by an easy scramble over the rocks on its left (western) side. The way is obvious and adds some excitement to the route though it’s not difficult. Above the ridge continues in easy fashion with ever expanding views far to the south and closer up of the rugged heart of Snowdon and its surrounding peaks. My own views were increasingly obscured by lowering cloud and some light rain showers at this point, though the weather cleared slightly as I reached the end of the Bwlch Main ridge at about 3050 feet.

wild side of snowdon 10

The Day of the Doctor…

Here the character of the walk changed again and a narrow crest led on towards the summit of Snowdon which was still obscured by cloud somewhere ahead. This is the
best part of the walk and while on first sight it might look daunting from some aspects, there is a good path and even on the crest the way is without difficulty, though after winter snow this would not be the case.

The Rhyd-Ddu path climbed up the slope to the left to join my route at the start of this section and the two routes converged to cross the Bwlch Main. At the far end a stone pillar marks the descent by the Watkin Path and the Snowdon Horseshoe route where it continues via Y Lliwedd to Pen y Pass. A rough but steady climb now brought me up the last couple of hundred feet to where the summit station of the Snowdon Mountain Railway appeared out of the swirling mists. Just beyond the station and its attendant crowds of tourists rose Y Wyddfa, the highest point of Wales at 1085 m or 3560 feet above sea level, which is attained by rocky steps behind the station. I might have had the trail to myself but not so the summit – I now shared this lofty belvedère with both fellow walkers and train passengers who had arrived here by the power of steam.

wild side of snowdon 11

Back below the mists… looking southwards

The view had vanished but the winds of Snowdon were producing a strange effect; a tunnel through the cloud had appeared on the eastern side of the peak that brought to mind the time vortex in Doctor Who – if you watch the video you will see what I mean. It was likely caused by the wind channeling over and around the peak and when neither the tardis, the Doctor nor Clara Oswald turned up, I decided to make my way back down.

My descent route today lay back over the Bwlch Main ridge and down to the right at its far end on the Rhyd-Ddu path where it joined my ascent route. This path – as its name would suggest – leads back to Rhyd-Ddu this time down the ridge known as Llechog which is a broad and stony shoulder of the mountain that overlooks the wild Cwm Clogwyn to the north. This path can also be used in ascent though I prefer doing the circuit this way around as the South Ridge is the more interesting way of the two. In total the walk is about 12 km with just over 900 m of ascent and descent. Check out the video of the route below…

And so on to the second day…

Between the rugged defile of Pen y Pass and the wild spaces of the Ogwen Valley rises the ridge of peaks known as the Glyderau or Glyders. The area is as rocky and precipitous on the Ogwen side as it is rough and uncompromising on the other and includes such exciting routes as the Cribyn Ridge, Bristly Ridge and Tryfan; some of the finest routes in Snowdonia. This route – which should not be underestimated for all its short distance – ventures though the rough terrain north of Pen y Pass to reach Glyder Fawr, which at 3279 ft or 999 m marks the high point of the ridge.

The second day of this short adventure in Snowdonia began with a chilly morning the campsite at Capel Curig; the previous night’s rain and wind had given way to clear skies and temperatures of minus 2 to 3 degrees Celsius around dawn, leaving my micro camper coated in a layer of ice. After shivering through breakfast, I made the short journey to Pen y Gwryd and the cold began to give way to a day of glorious autumnal sunshine as I set out for Pen y Pass. Why didn’t I drive up and park there? Because it’s £10 a day if you can get a space as opposed to £4 near Pen y Gwryd and free a quarter mile down the road.

glyders 1 - Copy

View of Nant Gwynant from the start at Pen y Gwryd

For that same reason a few Snowdon-bound hikers were walking up the road but far preferable to that is the footpath from just opposite the bus turning area just past the hotel. It’s an easy well made path that brings you out at the car park but also gives a false sense of security about what’s to come…

After crossing the road, a path leads up on the opposite side; steeply at first before easing into grassy terrain and becoming less distinct as the lonely tarn of Llyn Cwmffynon is seen on the right. It’s hard to believe here that the road is so close behind as we seem to have entered the wilderness here but most of the walkers from Pen y Pass are heading up Snowdon on the other side of the valley.

A boggy area was met after a slight descent and the path faded in and led me me generally straight on (in a north westerly direction) with the tarn on my right, until it faded out of existence altogether and my way led through rough country, gradually climbing towards the ridge line ahead. Vestiges of a path here and there are probably little more than sheep tracks and it’s more a case of finding the driest route, which eventually led me to bear left, (more to the west) up the rough slopes towards the higher ground.

The tussock grass, bogs and low rocky outcrops make for hard going and if you plan to do this route, when you reach the boggy depression near the tarn, bear more to the left where a more distinct path does appear. It’s no drier in the lower sections but is much easier to follow and was to be my descent route.

Glyders 4 - Copy

The Snowdon Range from mid way up the route

When it seemed as though the struggle uphill would go on forever, there was a sudden change in the terrain; the steeply sloping rough country through which I had been travelling, opened out and a path led northwards over a gently sloping plateau towards the summit of Glyder Fawr which didn’t now look so far away. A short rest followed by an easy walk, led me in warm autumn sunshine to the stony crown of the Glyders where the landscape changed yet again into one of shattered boulders and grey tors that stood up high above their surroundings. One of these indeed made the highest point of the peak at 999 metres or 3279 feet and was reached by an easy scramble up.

Glyders 8 - Copy

Approaching the summit of Glyder Fawr

This is a wonderful viewpoint on a day like this and the short video below has an all round summit panorama, which includes Glyder Fach and Tryfan eastwards along
the ridge, Y Garn in the opposite direction and the Snowdon group rising to the South. My descent route retraced my steps off the summit to where I had reached the plateau but I continued more to the West to follow the top of this broad ridge down. Eventually a more consistent path was reached that I followed down over steep ground at first and then once again over the wet terrain to my start point.

Glyders 5 - Copy

Looking over Y Garn towards the Irish Sea from Glyder Fawr

This is a short route from Pen y Pass being a return journey of just 7 km which increases to 11 km (7 miles) if started from Pen y Gwryd. The additional distance from there just adds a pleasant walk to the harder going of the off path sections as well as saving at least £6 off parking which can be converted into beer at the pub – but not if driving! The total ascent is about 725 m from Pen y Gwryd and 650 m from Pen y Pass. There’s also an option to follow the ridge to Glyder Fach and descend by a good path via Llyn Caseg-fraith to Pen y Gwryd, which is a walk of just over 11 km though the section between the two Glyder peaks is very rough going with boulders and a short scramble to negotiate. In these hills, modest distances can be deceptive.

Glyders 7 - Copy

On the summit of Glyder Fawr looking towards Llanberis

On balance the best way up Glyder Fawr is by the Cribyn Ridge from Llyn Ogwen on the northern side, descending by the Devil’s Kitchen path. I’ll post that on here when I do it again though there is a description of the walk from the last time. Looking at the date on there I’d say it was about time I did it again as it was good. In the meantime check out the video of the route below – includes a great summit panorama…

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A Short Adventure in Scotland – part 2 – The Glen Ogle Cycle Track…

The following morning I had planned a return to the hills above Killin and Loch Tay, to climb Meall nan Tarmachan and follow the Tarmachan Ridge route back to the non existent visitor centre but I awoke to the rain beating on the roof of my Berlingo Camper and such plans gradually evaporated as the weather failed to clear. The Tarmachan Ridge is apparently not difficult but is exciting with some scrambles and is more of an undertaking than simply following a wide path as I had done to Ben Lawers. I figured that being able to at least see the route ahead would be an advantage here! A plan to head up Ben Lui was likewise put on hold til the next time. Besides, boots and socks had not dried out from yesterday’s venture and while I had spare clothes I didn’t have a spare pair of boots.

Loch Earnhead from the Glen Ogle Path

Loch Earn from the Glen Ogle track above the steep section

Instead, during a lull in the weather, I got on my bike and headed to the old railway track that heads through Glen Ogle in the direction of Killin. It’s a track I’ve done before and is one of my favourite rides anywhere. Here’s a full account of the Glen Ogle Cycle Path with photos from my last visit but I have added a video of the ride below.

The track itself is part of the National Cycle Network Route 7 aka the northern half of the Lochs and Glens Route from Glasgow to Inverness. The section north from Lochearnhead through Glen Ogle over the old railway viaducts is one of the highlights of that route and from Strathyre to Lochearnhead isn’t

Lochan Lairig Cheile Glen Ogle Trail

Lochan Lairig Cheile near the highest point of the trail

bad either all being off road with some nice forest trails around Balquhidder. Incidentally, the ride south from Strathyre is also highly recommended; the first night here I rode down along the shore of Loch Lubnaig as far as the Falls of Leny (close to Callander) but failed to take a camera so you’ll have to take my word for it. In all the whole way from Callander to Killin is on traffic free paths and would make a fine day out – well it would in better weather.

On this trip I stayed at the Immervoulin campsite at Strathyre which I can highly recommend – facilities are excellent and it’s a big open field with plenty of room to camp – I’ll be back soon. Finally here are the videos from the trip – I’ve overcome the difficulties of filming from a moving bike without falling off but we’re still working on getting the sound better for all weather filming – probably need to invest in a decent mic for starters… In case you missed it, here’s part 1 of this trip…

  >>>heading up Ben Lawers through the nature reserve>>>

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A Short Adventure in Scotland – part 1 – Ben Lawers from the Nature Reserve

Once upon a time on a family holiday to the Highlands I hiked up Ben Lawers with Dad – we went up the normal route from the National Trust for Scotland car park – a route which has the unfortunate reputation for being crowded in the summer months – to stand on the highest point in Tayside and the highest peak in the country south of Ben Nevis. As I recall there were a fair few tourists heading up the hill but despite that it was still a good day out.

One of the reasons this route is popular is the fact that the start point is almost 500 metres above sea level and leaves an ascent completely free of difficulty to the summit which at 1214m or 3984ft would be a much longer undertaking – if still an easy one – from the shores of Loch Tay.

So it was that after a drive in the rain stopping off to see the Falls of Dochart in Killin; there are some things that are better in this weather – I arrived at the infamous visitor centre which turned out not to be there. Apparently the building was demolished a few years back and the site returned to the wild. There is still a car park – on the other side of the road – and information about the area but if you’re after a coffee it’s back into Killin! Personally I think it’s better now as I remember the old place being very busy. Anyway – it’s is on the mountain road between Loch Tay and the Bridge of Balgie over the hill in isolated Glen Lyon. With the weather as it was there was no sign of any crowds today, and the rain had stopped so I prepared to set off. Two footpaths are signposted from here; one to Ben Lawers and another to Meall nan Tarmachan – the start of the

Ben Lawers Nature Reserve
The early part of the route on the Edramucky Trail

Tarmachan Ridge route which I’ll do next time if we get some good weather up here.

The route I followed is initially through the nature reserve on a path known as the Edramucky Trail where can be seen a wide range of arctic alpine type flora and fauna which thrives in this area protected from deer and grazing sheep. The trees too are returning and I was amazed to see trees at around 2000 feet above sea level this far north – a height level with the highest parts of Dartmoor or the Peak District.

The route from the nature reserve – far from being crowded – was extremely enjoyable and is clearly marked all the way to the summit. In fact I had planned a more varied route involving Beinn Ghlas and Meall Corranaich but as the weather made a return in the form of heavy showers and hill fog, I opted to remain on the main path. Beyond the wooded area, the path climbs past some old shepherds’ huts known as shielings and turns sharply to the left up the grassy valley of Coire Odhar. At this point the path via Beinn Ghlas carries straight on but I followed the broad trail to the bealach or col at the head of Coire Odhar which is at about 850 metres.

Meall nan Tarmachan

Meall nan Tarmachan while you could still see it

The col is in a fine position with the path heading through towards the Glen Lyon side and the summit route continuing its steady climb to the right without losing much height. I had wanted to head up the nearby Munro, Meall Corranaich which rises on the other (western) side of the col on my return to this point though this was not to happen due to the deteriorating weather. The far side was sheltered from the wind for a while but the rain now came down again and mist obscured the summit ahead. This section of path though is remarkably easy following the contours of the hill in a gentle ascent to about 1000 metres re crossing the main ridge of the Ben Lawers group this time overlooking Loch Tay – or would have done if you could see it.

Route up Ben Lawers

The col at the head of Coire Odhar

Here one rejoins the route coming over Beinn Ghlas which is the one we followed that first time in these hills and begins the final climb up to Ben Lawers. Again the route is nowhere difficult but this is the first part that seems like hard work as the path climbs steeply up the final slopes which today were battered by Westerly gales bringing rain and increasing cold as height was gained. The Met Office website had informed me to expect temperatures of 3 or 4 Celsius at this altitude with windchill down to -4 which is just twenty five for those of you on the other scale. Bearing in mind that it was late July, it just goes to show the value of being prepared in the Highlands! I have seen it snow in August at this height in the Cairngorms and but it felt much colder today on Ben Lawers.

A short rest on the summit with lunch behind the cairn and sheltered from the wind was a welcome relief from the wind and rain but it was not a place to linger today so I was soon heading back down the way I had come to the warmer climes below. The short film below gives some idea of the conditions encountered on this walk – perhaps the day was better suited to looking at the region’s waterfalls. And here’s part 2 of the trip…

>>> by bike along the Glen Ogle Trail with video of the route>>>

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Seven Short Adventures…

I’ve not posted here for a while but things seem to keep getting in the way of writing new material, while the weather and other commitments have meant there haven’t been any recent days or weeks out worthy of talking about. All this is soon set to change though with a number of biking (that’s without an engine) adventures planned along with more trips to the hills.

I have however finally finished Yuri Medev’s second outing entitled The Kirov Conspiracy, which will be released very soon (I’m just sorting out a book cover) and have published a collection of stories called Seven Short Adventures. As the title would suggest, it recounts past travels with the title headings listed below; if you like the sound of it then you can get it from the link at the end. So here are the adventures…

Travels in Norway

There was something eerie and primeval about the sound, which was instantly recognisable even to someone who hadn’t heard it before. More of a wail than a howl, it rose and fell in the twilight of the northern night and was answered by another – a little closer but still some distance away – hidden somewhere amongst the trees...

The Top of Scotland

The rain shower moved steadily across the choppy waters of Loch Stack driven before a fresh north-westerly wind. Beyond the loch, a heathery wilderness stretched away to the dark ridges of bare hills while Ben Stack rose steeply above, its imposing presence belying its modest altitude…

Travels in Colorado

There is something rather surreal about sitting at breakfast, watching people dressed in breathing masks and carrying cylinders of oxygen as they butter their slices of toast, and pour their coffee as if about to set out for Everest. My hotel by Colorado’s Lake Dillon though is at 9100 feet above sea level, which is twice the height of Ben Nevis or about level with Eigerwand Station on the Jungfrau and a fair height to arrive at by car without the benefit of any exercise on the way up. After these men in masks there were the raiders – those who had already had breakfast but had returned with doggie bags to fill with more food for the day ahead. If it’s free why not I thought – and picked up a banana and a couple of apples for later…

A Long Weekend in Grindelwald

Once the chalet developments were left behind, a leisurely gondola ride over a peaceful scene of pine forest and alpine meadow then brought me up out of the valley with constant views of the Eiger, and the surrounding Oberland summits as a backdrop. On arrival at First, the air is filled with the sound of cowbells, and I wonder if the sound annoys the creatures though I suppose they get used to it…

A Journey to Saas Fee

The valley of the Rhone between Brig and Visp is a place of odd contrasts. On its parched floor, ancient hay barns vie for space with high tech business parks, while above, vast mountain slopes drop from fields of permanent snow to sun-warmed vineyards – from Arctic to Mediterranean in two vertical miles. Our bus rumbled on through the dusty late summer heat, passing here a cornfield sandwiched between a furniture warehouse and a Scania Trucks depot…

One Summer at Glencoe Mountain

The Plateau Cafe despite being closed served as a kind of advance base camp today; its walls giving some shelter from the rain-bearing westerly winds that swept in across the Scottish Highlands from the North Atlantic. I had walked up a trail that doubles as one of the downhill mountain bike tracks from the Glencoe Mountain Resort aka Glencoe Ski Centre in somewhat better conditions but I was now debating whether or not to carry on…

World’s End and the Coast of Death

Heading up the hill from the pleasant fishing town of Ribeira and following the signs towards Corrubedo, we crossed the low spine of what was now our home peninsula. It was October in the region of Galicia in North West Spain and the journey today would take us along the Coast of Death to World’s End. The evocative names refer not to a tale of marauding pirates but to the Costa de la Muerte – so named for the number of shipwrecks that have occurred here – and Finisterre or Fisterra, which means World’s End. That name comes from the Romans in whose time it was the limit of the known world and the farthest west one could travel by land…

So – there are the trips in the new book which you can get hold of from my own Lone Island Books page – enjoy!

adventure travel book cover



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Helvellyn from Wythburn Church

The path from Wythburn Church to the summit of Helvellyn is an old and well trodden route though it is perhaps now not as popular as the wide path via Grisedale Tarn or the more exciting but over publicised Striding Edge. In terms of variety and the beauty of the views though, this route to England’s third highest mountain is hard to beat especially if an old and little used shepherds’ track is followed. It is detailed in the Wainwright Guide The Eastern Fells though few people used it then and probably even fewer do today.

Beginning at Wythburn Church the path leads steeply up between tall pine trees with the river on the left; to cross a forestry road before leaving the sheltering trees for the open fellside above. The way ahead is never in doubt and soon enters a steep sided valley where the gradient of the path eases before climbing steeply up the right slope below crags. Soon the easy grassy slopes above are reached and the path again turns back around to the left with spectacular views northward along Thirlmere to where the prominent peak of Skiddaw stands in apparent isolation.

Soon after the steep drop offs to the left are passed a faint path leaves the main one in this direction and soon crosses a stream descending the western slopes of the mountain. The walker following this soon has the mountains to his or her self and is led roughly northward across easy slopes of tussock grass. The path fades in and out and it is apparent that it is rarely used, soon passing a large rock that makes a comfortable rest stop with views towards the hills around Wasdale and Buttermere away to the west. This is a tranquil place on a warm day and it is worth lingering before rejoining the rest of humanity on the summit.

The way up is found by continuing around the slope below small crags and once past them heading up the slope to the right over steep but not difficult terrain. As the path is faint and practically non existent in the latter stages, this route can not be recommended in poor weather but on a day of good visibility it is a joy to follow. Presently the main path is reached and followed left up to the summit at 3116ft or 950m above sea level – the third highest point in the Lake District.

After enjoying the views I returned by the normal path – remember to branch down to the right at the fork before Nethermost Pike or you will end up at Grisedale Tarn and wonder why you never passed it on the way up. In total it’s a climb of 2550ft or just under 800m and a distance of just over 5miles/8km in total.

wythburn church to helvellyn

Wythburn Church at the start of the route

thirlmere view from the helvellyn path

Emerging above the forest with views of Thirlmere

skiddaw and thirlmere from the helvellyn path

Thirlmere reservoir and distant Skiddaw in the North from just before where we leave the main path

coniston from helvellyn

Looking back towards Coniston from the early part of the old shepherds’ path

views of western lakeland from helvellyn

Looking towards the western Lakes with Great Gable Pillar and the Buttermere Fells prominent from the old shepherds’ path

striding edge on helvellyn

The first views over to the eastern side of the range with Striding Edge on the right

helvellyn summit view to ullswater

The eastern side of Helvellyn from the summit with Catstycam and Red Tarn close by. Ullswater is the more distant lake

helvellyn summit view northward

Beautiful views north along the ridge towards Skiddaw and Blencathra from just past the summit

walkers on helvellyn

The steep eastern face of Helvellyn with walkers by the trig point

the south lakes from helvellyn

Not a bad spot for lunch before heading down – looking south along the ridge with Coniston in the far distance


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Cycling in Wales – The Mawddach Trail in Pictures…

The trail following the line of the old railway track along the southern shore of the Mawddach Estuary from Dolgellau to Barmouth, known as the Mawddach Trail, surely ranks among the best bike rides in Wales and is all the more appealing on account of its ease. If you ride all the way from Dolgellau it’s 9.5 miles or 15km each way but as our party included an eight year old and a five year old who had not long learned to ride; I figured that the 13 mile return trip from Penmaenpool on the A493 was plenty and both handled this easily. The main appeal of this route is the variety of views throughout which take in woodland, mountain and sea shore and finish with a spectacular crossing of the estuary on the wooden boards of the Barmouth Bridge… originally published at Travel Stories and Short Adventures


The bridge at Penmaenpool where we started the Mawddach Trail


The trail is suitable for all ages and the smallest one led most of the way


The trail passes through patches of woodland as it heads west


Across the estuary are the southern slopes of the Rhinog mountain range


Distant views of the Barmouth Bridge


Spurred on by the thought of the Bridge over the Sea


A rest stop not far from the Barmouth Bridge


The Barmouth Bridge in sight –  the surface is wooden boards – easy to ride on


View of Cadair Idris from the Barmouth Bridge crossing


Looking up the estuary towards Dolgellau from the bridge


Boats in Barmouth Harbour and views to Cardigan Bay with Fairbourne ahead


Coming into Barmouth on the far side of the bridge

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A Short Adventure in Snowdonia – part 2 – in the Eastern Glyders

The following morning after a night in the valley undisturbed by any kind of adverse weather, we set off once again in warm summer conditions, from the car park just behind the shops in Capel Curig. Away from the main A5 the Ogwen has probably changed little in the last hundred or so years and we had only a few lethargic looking cows for company as we trudged up the track that – before that highway was built – was the main route to Bangor and the coast. We were not though heading that way which would have taken us past yesterday’s start point and instead left the track after a cottage and a gate, to head left or westwards up into the rough tangle of country that makes up the eastern end of the Glyders or Glyderau range.

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The early part of the trail above Capel Curig

A path – faint in places – led us up through damp grassy gullies between grey outcrops of rock to finally emerge on the somewhat boggy plateau above where the view opened up of our objective Foel Goch ahead with the rocky peaks of Snowdon to the left and the high expanse of the Carneddau across the Ogwen to the right. The last time I was here it was winter and crossing this area had been a route finding exercise to avoid the wettest ground but in summer after a dry warm period it was much easier with much of the route being over springy turf and short heather. A number of faint paths or sheep tracks lead across here but the left or southern edge is the driest. We almost stayed dry but just before reaching the safety of the rising ground beyond the bog claimed a victory when I misjudged a long jump over a dank looking pool and went in knee deep.

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Our objective Foel Goch (left) and Gallt yr Ogof from the plateau

Shortly after this point we crossed a stile and the going became easier even though it was now uphill. Grassy slopes gave way to rougher ground as the wall was followed steeply upwards towards the rocky outcrops of Gallt yr Ogof above; the easternmost major summit of the Glyders that I climbed last time in rather different conditions. Back then by the time I had passed the top of the steep section I was walking in snow and the peaks ahead were hidden in grey cloud. Not so today and the sun beat down and served to remind us that there is little in the way of fresh water on this route which is unusual for Snowdonia. Today
too the views were extensive as we gained height with the deep green lowlands of Gwydyr Forest and the distant hills of the Denbighshire hinterland behind contrasting with the paler grey green of the high mountain country into which we headed.

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Snowdon seen from the edge of the plateau

The path bears gradually to the left over stony slopes climbing more gradually before turning right up a final steep section of stones that last time was a shallow snow gully – to reach the crest of the ridge where we stopped for a break with a spectacular view along the Glyder ridge ahead to Glyder Fach and Tryfan and much nearer; our objective Foel Goch.

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From the rest stop – Foel Goch, Glyder Fach, Y Garn and Tryfan

Now if you read the last part of this post you will recall that we climbed Foel Goch yesterday – partly true but that was another Foel Goch (the name means Red Hill) nearer the western end of the ridge and from here obscured behind Tryfan. I suppose that if Scotland can have any number of Ben Mores and Geal Charns then why not? These two are on the same ridge though!

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Finally the summit of Foel Goch looking onwards along the ridge

After a short break we headed on and just when we thought we were done with bogs, the sogginess was back with a vengeance. Wellies and perhaps a small boat would be a help in the direct crossing to Foel Goch and i became glad I didn’t attempt it in the bad weather the last time. The best route is to follow a faint path to the far side of the ridge overlooking the Ogwen Valley where a better path is picked up going to the left. This avoids most of the wetness around a small tarn. Climbing up to Foel Goch the ground became dry and stony once more and we were soon enjoying our lunch on the rocky summit which despite the glorious weather we had entirely to ourselves along with the beautiful views of this wild and little visited corner of Snowdonia.

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Heading back there is a beautiful view over Gwydyr Forest

We opted to head back the same way today though a nice variant would be to head on a little further to Llyn Caseg Fraith which affords a particularly photogenic view of Tryfan across its waters; and follow the heathery path down to the Ogwen below the East Face of that peak. From there the valley track on which we began can be followed back to Capel Curig and if you’re feeling energetic then head up to Glyder Fach before making the descent.

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Almost back – the rooftops of Capel Curig as we headed down from the plateau

If you missed part 1 it’s right here

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