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.

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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

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

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

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

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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

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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

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The bridge at Penmaenpool where we started the Mawddach Trail

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

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The trail passes through patches of woodland as it heads west

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

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Distant views of the Barmouth Bridge

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Spurred on by the thought of the Bridge over the Sea

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A rest stop not far from the Barmouth Bridge

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

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View of Cadair Idris from the Barmouth Bridge crossing

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Looking up the estuary towards Dolgellau from the bridge

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

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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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A Short Adventure in Snowdonia – part 1

The first day of our short adventure in Snowdonia dawned clear, sunny and warm as we left the campsite at Dolgam to head through the small hamlet of Capel Curig and into the Ogwen Valley which is Wales’ answer to Glencoe, such is the vista that opens up suddenly as you leave the woods of Gwydyr Forest behind and head into the wilds. Josh was with me on this trip and for a Father and Son adventure it seemed fitting to show him one of my favourite routes in Snowdonia – there are a few but this circuit of Foel Goch and Y Garn starting along a little used path is one of them!

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Setting out from Llyn Ogwen with Foel Goch ahead

A short while later we were heading up the path from Ogwen Cottage to the mountain tarn of Llyn Idwal in its spectacular rocky cirque and crossed the outflow to head right to join the constructed path to Y Garn. A little way after crossing a stone wall, a faint path led off to the right traversing steep hillsides to reach open ground with a view ahead to Foel Goch. (you can turn right and follow the wall but this way avoids some marshy ground and a short rock step)

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The Nant Ffrancon from where we left the main path

Soon we were back on a clear path which led across a short scree slope and up into a remote feeling valley high above the Nant Ffrancon and below the crags of Y Garn with the way seen clearly ahead and a sublime panorama behind to Llyn Ogwen and Tryfan. Soon the path dipped to cross a stream where we refilled water bottles for a warm day ahead and began the steep ascent to Foel Goch. This path zig zags up at first before becoming fainter on the heathery slopes above. As long as you keep going up you will reach the ridge which falls away in spectacular fashion on its eastern side with views north down past Bethesda to the coast.

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As the ridge is reached the craggy nature of Foel Goch is revealed

Following the interesting ridge upwards brought us to more level ground where we took the path as far as the fence. Here a right brought us to the summit though a more direct route may have been shorter. Either way the summit of Foel Goch feels like the end of things with the ground dropping away to the valley over 2000 feet down. Indeed from the road, this rugged wall looks impregnable and one would little imagine this field-like area even existed. We had our lunch on the edge overlooking the Nant Ffrancon as I did the last time I was here and like then we had the place to ourselves.

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Josh on the ridge with our next objective Y Garn beyond

The ascent of Y Garn involved retracing our steps back down along the fence and simply following the path up the long wide ridge beyond. There were more hikers on this peak – mainly descending from the other side and we soon reached the cairn marking the summit which is one of the Welsh 3000 foot peaks. The views from here are equally spectacular with the Glyders and Tryfan taking centre stage; the central part of the range which is accessible by continuing down along the ridge to Llyn y Cwn where a descent via the Devils Kitchen path is also possible to Llyn Idwal.

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The view from the lunch table – the Ogwen Valley, Tryfan and Glyder Fach

Today though we had opted for the steep descent of the East Ridge which was reached by retracing our steps a little way from the summit. On the first part some care is needed as it’s a bit loose so running is not recommended! Lower down though after some views of our whole route, a contructed path wass reached that led back to Llyn Idwal. By carrying straight on at the wall (the one we crossed earlier in the other direction) we followed a more direct route to Ogwen Cottage via an interesting rocky gully that emerged near the visitor centre.

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The summit of Y Garn with the route down clearly visible and the Irish Sea beyond

This isn’t a particularly long outing being around 9km or 6 miles but it is a varied and enjoyable one that heads through some of the best scenery in North Wales and as a Lad and Dad adventure it made for a great day out. The greatest joy was in showing my son one of my favourite areas and it was especially pleasing that he wanted to do more in the mountains around here. The route itself can be extended by continuing to Elidir Fawr or even as far as Carnedd y Filiast where I once sat on a winter’s day seemingly the only person for a hundred miles though when encouraging someone to love the mountains it’s probably best not to overdo things! Here’s part 2 of our short adventure.

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Sublime scenery of Cwm Idwal and the Glyders seen from the route down

 

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View of Tryfan and the Ogwen Valley from the route down

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The last part of the path down goes through this fascinating gully – Pen yr Ole Wen beyond

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