Posts Tagged ‘rain’

The end of winter

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

Snowdon HorseshoeThe May Day bank holiday meet returned to Bryn Brethynau near Capel Curig, and hopes were high for some Spring sunshine and warm rock. The weather had other ideas however!

On Saturday, Dave D, Carmen and I did a clockwise circuit of the Snowdon Horseshoe, which was very much in winter condition with fresh snow from about 600m. It was sunny though, with the occasional shower, and cloud bases most above the summits with the exception of Snowdon itself.

QueuesNot that many people on our route considering it was a holiday – but looking down to the Miners Track it was a non-stop line of people throughout the day, there must have been many hundreds of them. The final pull up to the summit was under deep snow, more than a foot of it, but of course most people weren't equipped for it, slipping and sliding all over the place. No reports of accidents though so presumably they all lived to tell the tale.

13092150_1164685633555223_2947748059213386847_nThe weather saved its best for the final traverse of Crib Goch, we even had good views of the summit.

While it was still winter on the tops, things were a bit more like Spring in the valleys. Justine Gav and Pete B climbed a 7 pitch Severe, Canyon Rib, in Aberglaslyn Gorge – so obscure that even I've never heard of it, but by all accounts it's worth doing so now on my list!

For DebraRuss and Mike went to the ever-dependable Tremadog where they did 4 routes including One Step in the Clouds with its new first pitch following a recent rock fall. Apparently it was quite hard!

Meanwhile Donal went mountain biking, and Annie did a nice sunny walk over to the Crafnant Valley, calling in at the oldest church in Wales on the way.

Crafnant ValleyThe next day was wet and windy. Carmen and I went on a run, a variation of Annie's walk from the day before, where as well as the church we found a ridiculously overhanging bolt line, presumably someone's project, and returned via Swallow Falls.

The others went on a variety of walks, both low and high level, the common feature being getting wet.

Monday dawned even worse, with just as much winds and even more run. Most people cut their losses and went straight home.

World's EndCarmen and I waited for the promised improvement for the afternoon, and drove east to World's End , one of the limestone crags near Llangollen. We stuck it lucky, as by the time we got there the sun was out. We managed 4 routes before a sudden heavy shower put an end to proceedings.

Justine and Gav headed for Tremadog, where the weather turned even better, and they stayed for another 2 days to make the most of it.

All in all, a pretty good weekend despite the mixed weather, but next time we'll be due our fair share of warm sun!

Some more photos here


Christmas/New Year Meet

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016

This year we stayed at the Raeburn hut. A great hut which we hadn't stayed in for a few years.

It offered a sheltered location from the driving wind and rain which occurred at times. Whilst no hills are on the door step, there are lots of hills, climbing and mountain biking available within a short drive (and a distillery).

Attendees (for varying length of stays between 2-8 days) Simon C, Carmen, Simon F, Debra, Annie, Peter E, Peri, Mike S, Stuart M, Peter W and Sarah W.P1000539

27th December – gave us the best day of the week. Plenty of fresh snow, blue sky and light winds until later in the day. With the best forecast for the next few days Simon and I chose a long walk to Creag Mhor (a Corbett behind Bynack More) which took 5 hrs to the summit. We would never have made it without snow shoes! Meanwhile Simon F, Debra and Peri went munro bagging with a cycle up Glen Tilt to approach an ascent of Carn A' Chlamain. The evening was rounded off nicely with Peri's poached pears and Welsh cakes (which she had prepared the night before just to keep Simon F happy).

P100056428th December – Annie, Pete E, Simon and I headed up another Corbett – The Fara. Annie cheated and hitched a lift to the start of the walk. It would have been good to do the whole ridge – but not in the very strong winds we battled against on top today. Peri enjoyed an exploratory cycle ride from the hut (especially enjoying the downhill sections). Debra cycled whilst Simon F ran around Loch Laggan (about 14 miles) and took him over his target of 1000 miles run in 2015 – so he was reasonably happy yet again.

29th December – Pete E, Annie, Mike, Simon and myself cycled up Glen Garry. While the others carried on cycling to Kinloch Rannoch and back, Simon and I dumped the bikes for a quick ascent of the Corbett Beinn P1030946Mholach. Simon and Debra went bird watching/walking around Rothiemurchus forest – finding that the birds only seem to reside in the car park.  Peri headed back to York to check the extent of the flooding.

30th December – S & D decided they would head off back to the Dales.  As forecast it was very wet and very windy so the rest of us were content with a trip to the Dalwhinnie distillery (unfortunately no tours available – but we were given a free small dram), food shopping in Aviemore followed by a stop in the Laggan cafe (the old store has now re-opened as a cafe and with a few basic shopping supplies) – a nice cafe with a proper fire and much more relaxed than Aviemore.P1000579

31st – After several failed attempts in the past Peter E and Annie enjoyed an ascent of Meall a'Bhuachaille (a Corbett behind Glen More lodge). Simon and I went up Meall na h-Aisre (a Monadhliath Corbett) from Garva Bridge. We extended the walk as conditions were really good in the morning/early afternoon. New supplies of YAC folk arrived in the evening and we stuffed ourselves with soup, haggis and cheese. Given the good conditions forecast for the 1st we were all in bed soon after midnight and were up fairly early the following day.

1st – Stuart, Peter and Sarah W, Simon C and myself went to do the classic horseshoe of Creag Meaghaidh. We remained mainly P1000631out of the cloud (with just one session of walking around in circles in the clag) with only a strong wind to contend with. Stuart and Simon entertained themselves sledging down a snow slope (repeatedly) and Sarah fell through a cornice (not over the edge thankfully). With Annie suffering from blisters and a lack of enthusiasm for cycling, Peter and Annie went up a Munro by the A9. Back at the hut Simon proved himself to be the undisputed board game champion (well Connect 4 and Scrabble).

2nd – After a slow start deciding what to do in the wind and rain – Simon and I went for a cycle around Rothiemurchus forest, with Pete and Annie opting for walking around the forest. Stuart met some people in a bothy and they joined him in his walk near the ski centre.  Peter and Sara W went Munro-bagging with ascents of Stob Coire Sgriodain and Chno Dearg in the cloud.

Overall a good trip and we did quite well considering the weather. Surprisingly  we failed to make much of a dent on Annie' s drink cabinet (apart from the gin).

Some more photos here

Another 24 hours

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

Lowther HillsThe Marmot24 is a 24-hour mountain marathon, though with a 12-hour option available. Open to pairs, solo runners, or teams of 4, this year both courses started together at noon on Saturday, with the 12-hour finishing at midnight and the 24-hour at noon Sunday. It's a score course, so you can visit as many controls as we wanted, each one scoring the same, 10 points. Finishing late incurred minor penalties at first, ratcheting up to a loss of all points if half an hour late!

It was possible to return to the event centre for a sleep, food, dry clothes, etc, and the position of the event centre made it quite easy to plan a route to do this. Some people carried tents with a view to camping out on the hill; others bivvied to save weight. There were even tales of people stopping for a pub meal in the evening. But the truly certifiable stayed out and on the move for the whole 24 hours.

Before the rainAfter last year's inaugural event, my blog entry concluded "I'm really glad we did it, but next time I think the 12 hour course may be a better choice, I wouldn't do the 24-hour again." And so, 12 months on, we drove up to Durisdeer in the Southern Uplands to compete in the 24 hour class. Inevitable really. We'd been to the Lowther Hills for the 2007 OMM, but couldn't remember it at all, so it was to all intents a new area for us.

After a leisurely start (we had our big tent, so plenty of room to cook a bacon, egg and bean breakfast) we picked the map up at 9am, giving just under 3 hours to plan.

OrchidThe southern half of the map contained what appeared to be relatively gentle hills, though with a lot of the controls looking potentially difficult to find (re-entrants, isolated crags, etc), and a few long gaps between them. The northern half was a lot steeper, with controls closer together and on more obvious features (stream functions and summits). We guessed that this meant that the running was easier in the south, rougher in the north.

Like last year, we decided to go for the harder navigation first, while we were fresh, and so worked out a route looping south to start, with various options for a smaller loop back north at the end. We intended staying out all night (last year's return to the event centre for a rest didn't work out very well).

It was slightly disconcerting at the mass midday start to see the clear majority of people heading off north! But we had a plan we were confident in. Last year we played cat and mouse with another team for the first few hours, but this year we found ourselves on our own after only 5 minutes. Despite occasionally seeing a few people in the distance, and crossing paths a few times with some, we pretty much stayed on our own for the whole event.

Evening sunThe first half dozen controls went smoothly though mostly without paths, until after a couple of ours the rain started. No problem we thought, the forecast was for dry conditions with occasional scattered showers. It didn't stop raining for about 6 hours! Apparently the northern part of the course stayed dry. So it goes.

What looked like a good track up the valley in the south east corner turned out to be a bog, slower going than it should have been and getting quite chilly in the rain. We stopped briefly at Burleywhag Bothy to escape the rain, dry off a bit, and have some food – if we'd known about the bothy in advance we might have planned a nap!

Last year I felt sick after about 10 hours and had trouble eating for the rest of the event; I put this down to not having eaten or drunk properly earlier on. So this year we'd supplied ourselves with plenty of food, including lots of home-made coconut ice, a packet of jaffa cakes, some bombay mix, 2 pasties, and a pizza! No, really.

RainbowsA couple of hours and 3 controls later it finally stopped raining, the sun came out, and gave us a series of rainbows. Missing an outlying control as it looked to be over the other side of a tussocky hill, we found ourselves with a bit of spare time before dark, so added in a spur-of-the-moment dogleg for 20 points. Unfortunately one of these involved a there-and-back knee-deep stream crossing, which didn't start the night off well.

By now dark, we headed for the Southern Upland Way, which we'd planned to follow through the night on the assumption that it would be easy to follow and it took us to some simple-looking controls on obvious features. It quickly became obvious that this was no Pennine Way – a narrow boggy path kept disappearing and reappearing, and gave us some of the hardest going of the event! At least it followed a fence line all the way up making navigation easy.

Sunset over Green LowtherNearing the top of Lowther Hill, the SUW path took an unexpected detour away from the fence. Not sure exactly where it went (it's not marked on any map) but it seemed to involve rather too much height loss that we then had to regain. Perhaps it actually stuck to the fence, and I was hallucinating.

Unfortunately the cunning food plan had made no difference and my stomach was suffering, but I battled on, groaning bravely throughout.

We eventually reached the summit, with its incongruous golf ball, tarmac road, and street lights, all part of the national air traffic control system. We followed the road to a control on the trig point of Green Lowther, unable to run even the downhills. The last 4km, that looked easy on the map, took us an hour and three quarters, and it was getting cold. I'm sure there was some frost among the dew.

DawnAfter a couple more controls, it was at last light, and the head torches went away. It didn't take long until the sun came out, the best weather of the event, though a chilly breeze meant the waterproofs stayed on. At last we could start thinking about the route to take back to the finish.

A brief scare when Carmen thought it was 8.00am was quickly resolved when it turned out to be 6.00 after all – we're not used to being up this early! So we had plenty of time to pick off a group of 5 controls close to the event centre. In fact we had so much time left that we were forced to add in two more as well, adding a steep 200m climb just at the point we didn't want it. All that remained was to sprint quickly/stagger slowly (delete as applicable) back to the finish.

6.20 amWe'd scored 300 points in 23 hours, 36 minutes, and 35 seconds. First mixed team, and 5th overall (on the same score as 4th place, but 10 minutes slower). The winner scored 360 so we were at least in touch.

Yet another really great event, and one that I'd urge anyone else to try (if you like mountain marathons of course!). Don't be put off by the epicness of the 24 hour event, most people take the sensible option of either the 12 hour course, or stopping for a break somewhere on the 24 hour version. They need numbers to increase if it's to remain viable in the future, so don't puit it off too long or you'll miss the chance!

Finally, thanks again to Shane (organiser), Gary (course planner), and everyone else involved.

More photos here

Race website here

Results here

Sleep is overrated

Sunday, August 10th, 2014

The start
It's a week after the event, and I'm just about rested enough to string a few vaguely intelligible sentences together, so here goes.

Marmot24, the UK's first 24 hour mountain marathon, was launched a few months ago. The principle is simple – you've got 24 hours to score as many points as you can by visiting controls spread out across an alarmingly large area. You can return to the event centre to eat and/or sleep, or you can keep going for the whole time. As well as the 24 hour option, there are 12 and 6 hour classes, each timed to finish at the same time.

Adopting my usual plan of "try anything once and regret it later" I was keen to give it a go. Carmen didn't take much persuasion, and so last Saturday morning found us in a wet field near Threlkeld with over 80 other like-minded people. Maps were issued at registration, giving us 3 hours or so in which to plan our day. The competition area was huge, about 300 square km, and the route choices limitless. Each control was worth the same, 10 points, but with a few small clusters of relatively close controls.

There were 2 main areas. To the north were Skiddaw, Blencathra, and the hills Back o' Skidda'. To the south were the Dodds and the northern slopes of Helvellyn, with a scattering across St Johns in the Vale, and even some west of Thirlmere; and east to Gowbarrow and Great/Little Mell Fells.

After a lot of staring at the map, we came up with a vague plan. The area to the south had more controls, with a few nice clusters, but many of them looked like they'd involve some tricky technical navigation with lots of knolls, spurs, re-entrants and the like. So we decided to head this way first, while we were still fresh and it was light.

Controls on the two Mell Fell summits were followed by straight paths/roads back to the event centre, and we hoped this would give us an easier night time section. From the  centre, another line of easy-looking options headed back north. By the time we were on to complex terrain again, we hoped we'd be back in daylight. Depending on fitness levels, there were a few options available taking in some or all of the controls at the top of the map.

So much for theory.

Clough Head in the rainSlightly after midday and in heavy rain, we were off, in a mass start. But it wasn't long at all before we were almost alone, with just one other pair choosing the same first control as us; we had no idea if this was a good sign or a bad one! After 3 controls on Clough Head, we dropped back down to the valley, slightly surprised to find the other pair do the same, as it wasn't an obvious route choice! Four controls on Low and High Rigg proved just as tricky as they looked, but we were pleased to get them all right. A few other teams arrived from various directions, and soon disappeared in some more different directions.

A quick up-and-down through the woods of Great How was followed by a long ascent just west of Castle Rock (nobody was climbing today!) then a rising traverse to the upper slopes of Stybarrow Dodd, by which time the rain had stopped and the sun was out. Here the other team who we'd been leap frogging all afternoon, headed south for a control near Brown Cove and we were alone. We crossed to the east side of the Dodds followed by a not-as-hard-as-it-looked ascent back to the ridge NE of Great Dodd.

Control on Middle TongueHere we decided to miss out one of our planned controls in order to get to easy ground by dark, and so a descent to the east was followed by a short road section through Dockray (the pub was extremely hard to resist). The rain returned briefly, but soon disappeared, and we climbed up Gowbarrow Fell in fantastic evening sunshine – we even had the luxury of a good path through the bracken, at least until we left it and fought through undergrowth, tussocks, and bogs to find a couple more technical controls. The first summit tick of the day was Gowbarrow Fell, with a brilliant sunset over Blencathra, after which we followed some good unmarked tracks to reach the road below Little Mell Fell.

Evening light over UllswaterOur plan had been to get here by about 10 – we arrived at 5 past 🙂 Little Mell Fell went smoothly, but Great Mell Fell was hideous, the path for most of the way up obscured by head-high bracken and the path down the far side seeming vertical to my tired knees. But the road from here back to the event centre was at least easy, with fantastic starry skies to look at, though I didn't have enough strength to run much of it. Passing a few worryingly energetic runners going in the opposite direction – hopefully doing the 12 hour course which had started half an hour before! – we arrived back at the event centre after 13 hours, with 190 points in the bag.

We couldn't keep this up of course.

Excellent track up GowbarrowA cup of tea and a quick chat with Shane (though I doubt he understood most of the gibberish coming out of my mouth) were followed by some food. I was feeling ill and could hardly eat anything, just a couple of mouthfuls of vegetable tikka and a banana. And despite changing into dry clothing (3 layers and a new waterproof), I was cold. But forced myself to get going again, just as the rain returned. Carmen of course was doing much better.

The next control was a sheep fold well away from any paths, and head torches wandering randomly around the hillside confirmed it was going to be tricky. So we stuck to the path until the altimeter showed the right height and traversed to it – I was pleased (and surprised) that we hit it almost spot on! Back down to the valley between Blencathra and Skiddaw, here it should have been runnable but I was having trouble even walking. Another control, then past Skiddaw House to a hideous 2km there-and back tussock-and-heather-bash.

SunsetDawn had by now been and gone, obscured by incessant rain with cloud bases down to 300m at times. Our planned route further north was long abandoned, it was just a question of which route to take us back to base. The cloud base rose for a while, making an potentially difficult re-entrant easy, after which some indecision and a change of tack led to a sheepfold.

Still raining, we traversed Mungrisdale Common to the col below Bannerdale Crags, down the valley and up to a final control just south of Souther Fell. At least it was supposed to be the final control. But we had 2 hours left and the centre was half an hour away, so although neither of us wanted to we headed back up into the clouds and increasing wind on Scale Fell before descending into the corrie east of Doddick Fell. This is somewhere I've wanted to explore for years – I don't know why, and having now been there I still don't!

All that remained now was the final sprint (ha ha) back across the fields to the finish. After 190 points in the first 13 hours, the last 9 or more gave us just 70, for a grand total of 260. Some way short of my hoped-for 300, but pretty good considering how I felt for most of Sunday.  47.5 miles and 14,000 feet ascent. Much to our surprise, we found we'd finished in 6th place (out of 42 starters), and picked up the mixed team prize!

With hindsight, we made the mistake of devising two 1-day routes, but without the benefits of a good night's sleep between them, so the second part was always going to be unrealistic. And it would probably have been better to stay out all night, without the long control-free section to get back to and from the event centre – the first two teams did this and were a long way ahead of everyone else.

Another brilliant event from Shane and team, with another fantastic course from Charlie Sproson.

I'm really glad we did it, but next time I think the 12 hour course may be a better choice, I wouldn't do the 24-hour again. Definitely not. Almost certainly not. Probably not.

When do entries open for 2015?

Results here

Our route here

Even web site here

Wales November Meet Trip Report 2012

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Slate Quarries

Slate Quarries

The signs were not looking good leading up the to Wales meet. The hut booking had fallen through, Llanberis high street was a raging river and the A55 was touch and go. But the weather didn’t put anyone off, and YAC ended up in the South Wales MC hut in Deineloin.

After packing for a soggy weekend, we were instead greeted with a mild and dryish one, with the rain holding off until near dusk both days. This means biking, climbing and walking got done and a good time was had by all.

Donal persuaded Peter and Ann to go biking in Betwsy Coed forest – mainly so that he could purchase a new cycle helmet first, having left his at home and not impressed with the loan of Ann's ca 1970's bright yellow Joe Brown climbing lid. After haggling hard at a bike hire shop, Donal became the proud owner of a used, but considerably more modern form of head protection. Suitably equipped, the trio headed off to cycle the Marin Trail – fitting, as both Donal and Ann have Marin bikes.

Ignoring the substantial barricades and huge 'trail closed' signs, they found the route to be surprisingly good, if somewhat slippery in places. "If it was dry, we'd nail this" was a frequent comment as bikes went sideways down the trail. (Dry? Wales? I think not!). They were really enjoying themselves, but when Peter and Donal stopped at the end of a long fast section, they realised Ann wasn't with them.

Moments later, the forest echoed with a very loud 'bang' and being alone in a dark Welsh forest, thoughts of 'Deliverance' sprang to mind as they both assumed Ann must have been shot. Donal bravely retraced the route to find Ann, looking like some sort of rural skip rat, dragging her bike along. The back wheel had literally exploded, signalling the sudden and long overdue death of her less than well maintained bike. Ann (with her armful of scrap metal) and Peter (with a map) were left to find their way back down into Betwsy whilst Donal completed the route (with a few short cuts) in order to retrieve the car.



Sharon and Mike pootled around the quarries whilst the climbers headed en masse to Anglesey to Holyhead mountain (not a mountain) for some cragging. It was a quiet and grey day, and mild out of the wind. Rob guided Justine and John up various routes including Stairs (S*) and Pigeon Hole Crack (S 4a) then taught them how to abseil, and set them back down again.

Everyone else hopped up and down the crag and climbed routes including Candlestick (HS 4b) and the ominously-named Vegetable Garden (VDiff). The weather started to threaten a bit more insistently so we buggered off back to the cars, almost timing it perfectly and only getting rained on for about 15 mins. Ah well.

Saturday evening saw a lovely dinner cooked by Sharon, Mike and Rob, sat around the huge table in the slightly soggy kitchen. As the hut didn’t have an oven, Annie went on the scrounge across the field to the Lincolnshire club hut returning with warm bread rolls and a warmer complexion. No questions were asked, comments made or michael taken. At all.

On Sunday, Donal was fighting off a cold and did very little, whilst Peter and Ann went for a little walk. Sharon and Mike rode the Marin trail Sunday. Unlike the Saturday group, they finished it.
P1060925 kinder surprise 4+
The climbers nipped up the road to the atmospheric state quaries at Denorwic for some sport climbing. A new venue for several YAC-ers, the slate lived up to its quick-drying reputation, literally drying off before your eyes.

A good sociable day was had with everyone leading and top-roping the delicate routes under the surprisingly blue sky and taking lots of pictures. We wern’t the only Yorkshire group in attendance, York uni and Leeds uni were there, and Rob got blanked by one of his students.
P1000959 tea berak

Late afternoon drizzle sent us back down the hill the scenic way via tunnels, back to the hut and home. A good weekend snatched from the jaws of the weather gods and a good lesson in the rewards to be had from braving dodgy weather forecasts and just getting out anyway!

Muir Cottage – Braemar

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Eight members made it the August Bank Holiday meet in Braemar. The forecast improved as time went on and the weather was not as bad as expected – apart from Monday.

Saturday morning saw some of the bikers up early tinkering with their bikes (Andrew) for what seemed like hours. Then Andrew and Peter drove for what seemed like (because it was) hours to dump a vehicle at Blair Atholl. Meanwhile Annie and Karen headed to the cafe – for a quick coffee and bite to eat. They needn't have rushed as the drivers/bikers did not return until 1pm. Then it was time for lunch of course. So after an early start at 2pm! they set off on their ride down Glen Tilt – again.

Meanwhile the walkers Richard and Dave D went off to bag Carn Bhac – in the rain. Dave D had been keen to tag on another Munro but fortunately for Richard the clag removed interest in this option.

Having done all the local Munros and with a big day planned for Sunday and dinner to finish cooking, Simon and I settled for a nearby Corbett (Sgor Mor) which could be done from the hut. We waited until it stopped raining before setting off – looking out for the bikers throughout our walk-in – little did we know they were still hours behind. It was a pretty walk with all the heather in bloom – we never normally see Scotland at this time of year due to a certain small insect. The cloud was down on the surrounding hills, but we remained cloud-free throughout. The descent off the hill was slow progress as we trudged through heather, down past the bee hives and back to the forest and river. As soon as we stopped to remove waterproofs we were surrounded by midges which encouraged a quick retreat back to the hut arriving shortly before 4pm! Arriving just behind us was Karen who had been out for a local cycle.

Around 8:30pm the bikers finally returned, slightly subdued, the ride having been harder work and less cyclable than they had remembered from last time. However, they soon perked up with curry and beer, followed by rhubarb crumble.

Sunday had the best forecast and Simon and I had big plans – so we left the hut before anyone else was up. We cycled in to Glen Slugain – me moaning somewhat as the track was worse than I had imagined (didn't help that it was first time on a bike since last year). We then went on a long walk over Ben Avon and Beinn a'Bhuird, made somewhat longer by taking in all the tops (Simon is slowly turning into Charles). It was a good day for it though with cloud-free tops and mainly blue skies. Cold wind throughout – which would have made standing around climbing unpleasant, so a good decision to go for the walking option.

The rest of the club headed for Derry lodge where they split– Andrew, Karen and Richard R went up Derry Cairngorm. Meanwhile, Annie, Pete and Dave D went up Beinn Mheadhoin, followed by Derry Cairngorm. Both groups had a mix of people on foot and bikes and so there was a bit of a wait at the cars afterwards.

Unsurprisingly Simon and I were back to the hut last – but at a reasonable time 8pm. 11hrs 15 mins for our cycle/walk. Midges were only an issue when we collected the bikes. It is amazing how it can go from no midges to being absolutely covered in midges in the space of 2 seconds! Thanks go to Dave D for shopping for the communal meal which Karen cooked whilst Dave D opted for a longer walk – so many thanks to Karen as well. Annie had remembered it was my birthday – so dessert was replaced with a large chocolate cake – many thanks to all.

Monday – rain, rain, rain. A good day for most to be heading home. A blistered toe and wet weather saw Dave D and Richard heading straight home, as did Pete. Andrew & Karen were heading up north to stay in a lighthouse. Forecast was for it to get wetter with gale force winds – so Annie, myself and Simon headed Ballater way. We went for a short walk to 'The Vat', a product of glacial erosion, and followed the river through woodland for a couple of miles before heading back through woods and moorland. The trees were festooned with lichen which was all very pretty. We stopped at a very nice cafe in Ballater for coffee and cake before heading back to the hut for tea and cake.

Tuesday morning – sunshine and showers and even more squirrels. Simon had been feeding the birds/squirrels over the weekend. We had only ever spotted 2 red squirrels at the same time but today there were three – chasing each other from the feeder, plus a woodpecker which went on the nuts whilst the squirrels out of the way. Not a bad breakfast view.

After tidying the hut – Simon and I headed south to Craig a Barns near Dunkeld. We didn't hold out much hope of climbing given the recent rain and strong cold winds. However, we arrived at the crag in the sunshine and sheltered from most of the wind. We were overdressed to start with! However, it gradually clouded over and winds increased – but we managed to get 2 single pitch routes and a two-pitch route in before the rains arrived. Simon retreated off his last route of the day as the heavens opened. Good little crag for a stop off on the drive back south as just off the A9 and with a 5 min walk in. Some of the routes suffer with drainage more than others – but not bad considering the persistent rain on Monday. Annie was last seen heading south possibly via a friend’s house in Edinburgh.

All in all in a good trip to a lovely hut. Certainly wouldn't have wanted to be camping!

Red squirrel movies – can be seen on following links

Photos from Carmen and Simon and David

Three seasons in a weekend

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

The theme for the weather in the days before the February "winter" meet was one of warmth, wetness, and rapid snow melt. Then as the weekend grew close, the Met Office issued a weather warning for heavy snow and storm force winds. So a typical trip to Scotland then.

Carmen wanted to get some Munros bagged, but has done everything within striking distance of Laggan (the Raeburn Hut), so we drove up a day early to Arrochar. Here we made an Alpine start for a walk up Beinn Narnain and Ben Ime, in normal Autumn conditions – mild and cloudy but with a cold wind on the summits and a thin covering of snow over the highest tops. The forecast was for heavy rain later in the day (hence the early start), and it wasn't wrong, luckily it waited until we were in the car.

We met up with the others at the hut that evening, and made some half-hearted plans for the next day, safe in the knowledge that they'd be scuppered by the weather. But Saturday morning brought blue sky and sunshine, so we had to go out and do something after all. Peri, Antony, Jamie and Paul headed for the trip of Munros south of Loch Laggan. I was dying of man flu, so Carmen and I opted for a low-level walk from the hut to look at the Dirc Mhor (a ravine caused by a landslip on The Fara). Will and Rob decided on the east ridge of Beinn a' Chaorainn (grade II), as if the blizzards did show up it should be a bit sheltered from the westerly winds.

Of course the weather didn't disappoint, and Carmen and I were soon battling into strong winds and horizontal snow along the glen. Being quite low down though, we did get the benefit of a few breaks, with some fine views and even sunshine. It was a bit of a soul-destroying slog thgrough heather and tussocks for the last 3 miles, but we eventually reached Dirc Mhor, and had a brief look at the ravine before it disappeared into another snowstorm. We walked up the Dirc Beag (a companion landslip) and then back over the summit of Meall nan Eagan (just 658m but hard to stand upright in the wind).

The Munro-bagging posse meanwhile had persevered to the summit of Creag Pitridh before seeing sense and saving the other two summits for another less exciting day. Quite impressive they managed to get as far as they did!

Will and Rob completed their route, despite serious doubts at the foot of the ridge as to whether they should continue. "A very wild day with gusts of about 70-80mph and tons of spindrift. The ridge itself is very nice," said Will. "Wild, crawling along some sections, we played making it hard at start and then got a shift on, no cornice where ridge meets top. bearings off top in gusty conditions," said Rob. Will's brave decision to wear brand new plastic boots then led to a slow descent and a return to the hut a few hours after dark.

Sunday was due to be the best day of the trip, and so it turned out with bright sunshine and clear blue skies. Will was still crippled, but equipped with Rob's spare boots and several pairs of socks managed to join him to bag a couple of Munros near Roy Bridge – Stob Coire Sgriodain and Chno Dearg.

Carmen and I meanwhile headed for the route they'd done yesterday, the east ridge of Beinn a' Chaorainn – my man flu had subsided but I still didn't fancy anywhere with a long walk in. Conditions were brilliant, sunshine and gentle winds, a quick walk through the forest being eventually slowed by deep powder on the approach to the ridge. The route itself was great, several tricky options available (most of which we took), with easier alternatives (though still quite serious with some big drops). As expected, the rope we'd brought "just in case" stayed in the sack all day.

The sunshine eventually succumbed to approaching cloud, and the summit was in the clag, but the day was so good (and the hour so early) that we decided to add a few miles to the day by completing the horseshoe to the east and going to the summit of Creag Meagaidh. This was my 3rd visit, but the 1st where the summit was actually visible! A long descent down the south ridge took us back to the car. Despite the fine weather, we had the hills to ourselves, apart from 2 skiers we saw in the distance.

Monday was due to be warm and wet again, but Rob had arranged a guide, so he and Will were up by 5am to try to get to the Northern Corries before the turbo-thaw hit, which they managed with a quick ascent of Droidless (VI 6). "Full winter condition at start of first pitch, after which a spectacularly fast thaw stripped the rime completely by the start of the second pitch. The cracks were still icy on the third pitch so it still felt in winter condition overall. Very cold hands from the running water!".

Also up an an ungodly hour were Paul and Antony, as they needed a lift to the Cairngorms from Will. They made a brave attempt at Cairngorm via Coire an Lochain, but made a tactical retreat after being blown over a couple of times in fast-melting snow. The day was saved with some excellent cake at the cafe!

The sensible among us had a lie-in, followed by a token ascent of Geal-charn Mor, a Corbett near Aviemore, in the drizzle. Almost all the snow from the weekend had gone – winter was over again.

Lots of photos here.

The best OMM for years

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

This year's OMM was held in the Breadalbane area of Perthshire – little visited by walkers other than those slogging up Ben Chonzie, one of the contenders for the most boring Munro. The area had never before used for mountain marathons – too often there is a very good reason for this! But it turned out to be one of the best events for a while.

As the weekend approached the forecast was for persistent heavy rain, gale force winds, and low cloud all weekend. In other words, perfect conditions for those of us who can navigate reasonably well but aren't fit enough to do much running. The event centre was at Cultybraggan Camp, an old WW2 POW camp – very different from the traditional marquee-in-a-field! We didn't get to see much of it though, as we arrived well after dark on Friday evening, and had an alarmingly early start the next morning, catching a bus at 7.15.

The first surprise as we crossed the start line and collected our map is that other than a final compulsory 10-pointer, all controls on the long score course were worth the same, 20 points, so there was no obvious incentive to go for the outlying checkpoints. This had the effect of spreading teams out rather more than usual, there is often an obvious line of high scoring controls to take, but this time there were several equally likely-looking options.

We set off with a rough route in mind, but were going well after a couple of ours, well ahead of schedule, so added on an extra loop. This almost worked well, but after wasting 15 minutes looking for a control in the clag we were forced to miss out our final intended control. Still running short of time we made a very long sprint for the finish, covering the final 5 miles in just under an hour to finish with 30 seconds to spare out of our allotted 7 hours!

It had rained pretty much all day, but just after we'd got the tent up it got much heavier, and we ended up staying put for most of the night, glad that we'd opted for our slightly heavier but much more comfortable tent. All our clothes were either wet or damp, as was my sleeping bag (the waterproof bag wasn't). We were 45th out of 144 starters and 137 finishers (24 other teams entered but for some reason never turned up), and were one of 12 teams all on 210 points. The first 5 mixed teams were all taking part in the chasing start, luckily we were 6th so escaped the added pressure (and super-early start).

Sunday's weather was better than Saturday – still low cloud and windy, but only occasional showers and even some sunshine. The controls reverted to tradition with different scores for each, and we chose to start by a long climb up a hill behind the camp for a 30-pointer followed by a descent back almost to where we'd started. After this, all went more-or-less according to plan, until we were ambushed by a camera crew filming for a forthcoming documentary of some sort. Despite my streaming nose they decided to point the camera at me, so after muttering a few inane sentences I duly led us off in the wrong direction, and we ended up at the wrong control, a mile or so from where we'd been meaning to go. At least they didn't capture that bit on camera!

This detour meant that we didn't have time to get tempted by a final extra 10-pointer (well I was tempted anyway but luckily Carmen's caution won out). We eventually finished with 13 minutes to spare and a score of 180 – 41st on the day, and 40th over all.

We really enjoyed this event, the terrain was interesting with some difficult navigation, and the route choice extensive. Although we never got to the top on our course (some courses had a control on the summit), Ben Chonzie failed to live down to its reputation – most of those who call it 'boring' probably choose the normal ascent via a long landrover track that goes almost to the summit, missing out entirely on its cliffs and corries.

Full results here.
No more photos – although I carried a camera round all weekend, other than a handful of shots on Sunday morning I never turned it on!

RAB Mountain Marathon 2011

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

It's unusual to find a mountain marathon in North Wales, as apparently it can be hard to gain the necessary permissions. So we were rather looking forward to this year's RAB, starting and finishing in Bethesda and heading into the heart of the Carneddau. Even the ominous weather forecast didn't put us off too much.

The format of the event is time limited, with 6 hours on Saturday, 5 on Sunday (an extra hour per day for the Elite class), to pick up as many points as possible. Controls scored anything between 5 and 50 points, with most of the big ones being a long way away; points are deducted for being late. The master maps displayed in the event centre contained rather too many out-of-bounds areas for my liking, too often this leads to limited route choice.

The strong Friday night winds in the campsite (school football pitch) didn't bode well, and the next morning it was raining for good measure and views of the hills were non-existent. We were raring to go!

A quick glance at the map as we crossed the start line and marked up the control list gave a number of options, but the one that stood out headed up onto the high tops for some high scoring controls, with various options available near the mid camp depending on how well we were going.

Heading south east towards the lower slopes of Carnedd Llywelyn we were soon faced with our first big decision, whether or not to take on a 350m climb to the north ridge of Carnedd Dafydd for an extra 40 points before losing all that height again, or just to contour up the valley to the next control. What the hell, might as well go for it. It turned out less hideous than it looked, and only added around 50 minutes, so probably a good move. From here we lost all the height we had worked so hard for, with the next control down in the valley bottom. A group of people were looking too hight and by the wrong stream, but we went straight there by following the right stream throughout. As we left, one of them spotted us and made for the checkpoint – one person then stood by it and whistled loudly and waved to her partner on the other side of the valley, so giving the location away to everyone within a mile or two!

We now followed the main ridge northwards, with detours off each side to collect controls, and as we had plenty of time spare managed to add in an extra dog-leg for 20 more points near the end. Finished in 5 hours 50 minutes, timing it well (despite both forgetting to note exactly what time we started!) with 10 minutes to spare, not enough to have added any extra controls, so we were pleased. 255 points, 39th out of 300 overnight, though that fell to 44th after they'd adjusted other teams' points due to two missing controls.

The weather had gradually improved all day, with rain turning to showers before stopping, and cloud gradually lifting to give a fine sunny evening. The overnight camp was excellent, in fields at the edge of the open fells above Abergwyngregyn – lots of space, so easy to find a pitch, and plenty of soft vegetation to make for a relatively comfortable sleep.

The next day we were greeted by continuing sun, and were soon off. Again, one route suggested itself immediately – unfortunately this was pretty similar to Saturday's route, visiting many of the same controls and following the same ridge. As it turned out, probably due to the improved weather, it all seemed very different.

A steep slog up the hill at least had the benefit of getting us onto the tops as soon as possible. After revisiting two of the last controls from the day before, we dropped over a col to another of Saturday's sites, but from here we contoured round the side of the ridge rather than going over the top. This leg was potentially confusing in mist, luckily it was clear, and as we approached we saw the usual group of people clustered round the control, showing everyone else where it was (for once I was pleased!). Another short climb back to the ridge was followed by some more contouring for a 40-pointer. We were wondering whether to go straight on or right after this, but everyone else headed left, so I checked the map and found an extra easy control hidden over the fold – so we duly followed them leftwards.

We were now thinking of options for the finish. An extra 15-pointer involved 150m ascent so we ruled that out, but there were 3 5-point controls near the end, I reckoned we'd probably get them all with 10 minutes to spare. Carmen didn't believe me, and was right, we got one of them and sprinted in with just 7 minutes left.

210 points, 42nd on the day, so pretty consistent, and pulling us up to 41st overall out of 300. Very pleasing, given that we've done very little preparation this year and I had a knee op in January.

Alan K was the other club representative, running solo. After a disappointing Saturday he pulled the stops out on Sunday (scoring the same points as the day before) to finish 134th.

An excellent weekend, in an interesting and unusual area. Next, an appointment with the OMM…




Route Day 1

Route Day 2

March winds and April showers

Monday, August 8th, 2011

After a few days of sitting in the office watching the sun out the window, the weekend forecast promised flooding on a Biblical scale. This duly arrived on Saturday, but Sunday sounded slightly less bad, with the chance of some dry weather before the rain returned in the afternoon. So we decided to risk it.

Despite lots of rain down the M1, and some more on the roads as we approached the crag, Agden Rocher was dry when we arrived, and mostly sheltered from the strong winds. As always, we were the only people there (the crag has a reputation for looseness which is only partly deserved).

We started with The Whittler (VS 4c *), which has a hard but well-protected start, giving much opportunity for faffing (which was duly taken). As Carmen passed the initial overhang, it started raining, but she persevered anyway, with some bold climbing up no-more-than-adequately-protected wet rock to a small cave where the rain got heavier so she stopped to belay. By the time I joined her it was dry again so she led the 2nd pitch as well (I've previously led the route). A really good climb, surely worth a couple of stars.

The sky was black again so I went for an easier route, Harlequinade (VDiff). Nobody ever climbs this, and you can see why. It climbs a crack behind a tree, and the crux is getting to the start of the crack, up loose vegetated choss. The crack itself is quite easy and involves battling with another tree. Two other climbers passed by as I was setting off, strange to see anyone else here, let alone in these conditions – shortly afterwards they wandered back again, presumably headed home as the rain started. By the time I reached the top it was raining hard, and there was no cosy cave to belay in, so I got more than a little wet. Just like mountaineering, only with added trees.

We decided to call it a day, but kept the harnesses on just in case we could find a dry route under the trees. We could, and even better it stopped raining and the sun came out, and the wind meant that the crag dried really quickly. So I led Hagg (HS), up a fine corner with some worrying rock but solid enough if you avoid the perched blocks of doom near the top. It finishes with an exciting step right across the void. I later discovered the new guide describes the route as "dangerous", but it's not really (though don't come crying to me if you try it and it falls down on top of you).

Next Carmen led the fine arete of Bianco (VS 4b *), a minor classic that would have queues if on a more popular crag.

To finish, I went for Derision (S). We climbed this on our first visit to the crag some 8 years ago and thought it a good route. The new guidebook reckons it's poor so I thought I'd better have another look to make sure. The first third is indeed fairly poor, with lots of turf and some crumbly rock, but it gets much better after that and the last section is excellent. It was graded VDiff first time round, but I wouldn't argue with HS 4b.

A nice late-Spring day, can't wait until Summer arrives…