About Me

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Way back in time before the onset of adulthood I enjoyed countless days heading into the hills of Yorkshire with nothing more than a squashed sandwich & youthful sense for adventure! Despite long past youthful and work commitments keeping me in the city, the sense of adventure and love for the outdoors never left me. After digging my boots out and returning to the hills I attended a number of courses to improve my hill knowledge and skill base, during one of these courses it was suggested I join the Mountain Leader Training scheme and was delighted go on to gain the MOUNTAIN LEADER Award in April 2012. As well as spending time on the hills and mountains of the UK I have also enjoyed trips to the Nepalese Himalaya, Swiss & French Alps, Mallorca’s Tramuntana, Andorran & French Pyrenees, Morocco’s High Atlas, Tanzania’s Mt Meru & Kilimanjaro, Argentinian & Chilean Patagonia and winter expeditions to Norway’s Hardangervidda. Since gaining the ML I have also gained the SINGLE PITCH AWARD, INTERNATIONAL MOUNTAIN LEADER AWARD and the WINTER MOUNTAIN LEADER AWARD. I am now enjoying working in a freelance role whilst trying to get out climbing as much as possible.

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Snowdonia Scrambles & Showers - April 2013.

 Not being one to let the chance of a trip to the hills pass me by, I jumped at the opportunity to meet up with my mountain expedition roomie Simon 'wild camp Master Chef' Small & my adopted mountain son Brett 'Ey Bert' Savage for a couple of days on the hills of Snowdonia.
Looking back to Tryfan from Bristly Ridge.
 In the days before meeting up in Capel Curig, Snowdonia, we had discussed various routes we would like to cover during the 2 days. Over a curry and a Cobra (or 2!) the long routes over the Glyders & Carneddau we had planned soon went out of the window in favour of a scrambling route up Tryfan 'North Ridge' followed by a second scramble up Glyder Fach's 'Bristly Ridge' and descent via 'Y Gribbin', with day 2 to be decided later.

 Day 1 -After an overnight camp near the Ogwen Cottage we readied ourselves and donned the waterproofs against the constant drizzle. Making our way up Tryfan over the boulder strewn path we reached the foot of the scramble and started in a more vertical direction!
Brett leads the way fresh from success in his SPA assessment.

Simon picks his way up the wet rock.

Brett 'Ey Bert' Savage reaches the end of the scramble!
As we gained height we began to lose the protection of the mountain and became exposed to strong gusts of the South Westerly wind, which, when added to the slippery wet rock surface made the climb more 'interesting'. We soon reached the top of the Grade I*** scramble and made our way to the summit to be greeted by Adam & Eve.
Myself, Simon, Brett with the famous Adam & Eve.
  Adam & Eve are approximately 2metres tall, twin, vertical rocks which stand on Tryfan summit and can be seen from some distance below in the Ogwen valley (on a clear day!). It is traditional to climb the stones and attempt to 'step' the 1.2metre gap from one to the other. Deciding to break from tradition (mainly due to the very high chance of slipping on ones arse and landing painfully on the boulders 2metres below!) we pushed on and descended Tryfan to head to Glyder Fach via Bristly Ridge.
Simon goes through the Bruce Forsyth stretch routine at the foot of Bristly Ridge.
 Both Tryfan 'North Ridge' & Glyder Fach 'Bristly Ridge' are Grade I*** scrambling routes. In my (very humble) opinion 'Bristly Ridge' is a much more interesting scramble with a number of optional steep climbing and exposed sections available.
 Myself and Brett had climbed the route before, including whilst under full winter conditions just 3 weeks earlier, it would be a new 'tick' for Simon.
Simon climbs above the cloud.
Brett avoiding 'exposing' himself on Bristly Ridge!
  Making good time (mainly due to Simon not allowing us a break!) we chose a route which took us over the more 'spicy' exposed upper sections of the scramble rather than the optional lower path. On completing the scramble we headed to the 'Cantilever Stone' for a photo opportunity and a well overdue food & water stop.

Brett crossing some of the exposed pinnacles of the scramble.
Simon & Brett on the easily found Cantilever Stone on Glyder Fach.
  Having given us just enough time to take a photo, the weather began to close in with the mist of low cloud wrapping itself around us, perfect opportunity for Brett to practise his navigation and guide us off the summit.
Descending through the mist.
  On descending back safely to the Ogwen Valley we headed for our overnight 'wild camp' site (to be covered in a future blog!).

Day 2 - After a night spent 'wild camping' we headed straight to the Pinnacle Cafe for a breakfast and to discus the plan for the day.
 Brett would not be accompanying us on our second route as he would be travelling home, and in fact only realised he may miss his ferry whilst taking a break from his calorie overload fry up. Missing his ferry by just minutes Brett still escaped the soaking myself and Simon received!

 After considering the heavy rain showers and 50mph winds forecast for the day (Mountain Weather Information Service/ Met Office Mountain Weather) myself and Simon decided against crossing Crib Goch and instead opted for a walk to the summit of 'Carnedd Moel Siabod'. Standing at a height of 872m 'Moel Siabod ' would normally be overlooked in favour of its higher and more popular neighbours, but with the Snowdonia spring weather being a little short of dismal it was good choice for a new 'tick'.
Leaving the shelter of the woodland at the start of the route.
Yep, that'll be the low cloud and rain the forecast mentioned!
   The views during the muddy slog upwards were only of the front of our boots or the inside of the cloud as we walked head down into the winds and rain and it was a very brief pause at the summit before retracing our steps back down to the shelter of the car we had left at the 'Plas y Brenin' outdoor training centre.
Moist and not in a good way.
Move on, there's nothing to see here!
   Although a short route it was enough in the conditions and well worth the effort!

Monday, 29 April 2013

Yorkshire 3 Peaks - A Tale Of Nine Virgins!

 Saturday April 20th saw me join a team of 11 other Mountain Leaders to help guide a total of 115 people around the route of the Yorkshire 3 Peaks.

 As anyone reading my blog reports of previous Yorkshire 3 Peaks outings may of guessed it is my favorite long distance UK day route and I have the greatest respect for anybody undertaking the 38km & 1500m of ascent (23.5miles & 4950ft in old money!) that is required to make the complete circuit.
Heading off Pen-y-Ghent for the long walk to Whernside.

 Meeting at 06:30am on a chilly but bright Yorkshire spring morning I introduced myself to Grace, Hugh, Jonothan, Kirsty, Neal, Paul D, Paul K, Rachel & Robert, the lucky people who had been assigned to me and would make up group 6 for the day. We had a brief chat about safety, kit, any illness or injury I should be aware of and level of previous hill walking experience, which was limited with none of the group having attempted the route before - Yorkshire 3 Peaks virgins!

 Setting off from the 'Old Hill Inn' at Chapel-le-Dale we made our way to Ingleborough, which would be our first of the 3 peaks, as I chatted to members of the group about the day ahead and their individual reasons for wishing to complete the route. I made it clear that my priority was to help everyone complete the route safely rather than in a race against the clock, and as we reached the foot of the 'Devils Staircase' it was obvious from the look on some of the teams faces my reasoning for setting a 'steady' pace had become clearer!
Approaching the 'Devils Stair Case'.

 Negotiating patches of compressed snow which hung onto the upper section of the ascent we made our way onto the stony plateau and over to the summit point. A quick photo and a rare opportunity to be able to look out to Morecambe Bay on the horizon before we set off down the seemingly never ending path to 'Horton-in-Ribblesdale'.
Ingleborough - 1 down, 2 to go!
Crossing the famous Yorkshire Dales limestone.
 Pausing for a quick water & toilet stop in 'Horton in Ribblesdale' the support team informed us we were making good time and currently at sub 9.5hr pace. Whilst pleased to be making good time I was cautious that if we maintained that pace then there was a chance of running out of steam over the latter stages of the route, plus it wouldn't make a very good impression if I couldn't keep up!

 Skies were clear and it was beginning to warm up, "It's always like this in the Yorkshire Dales" I informed team 6. I did get the impression some were not totally convinced however.
Bright skies over Pen y Ghent.
The steep climb to the summit of Pen y Ghent can't beat team 6!
 Another very brief pause at the summit and we were off again heading for Whernside, which summit to summit was 18.5km (11.5miles) away, and though clearly visible seemed to take an age to appear any closer! Making use of the new rerouted 3 Peaks path which crosses Horton Moor and so avoids the deep bog which has claimed many a persons footwear, we continued on to the tea & cake refreshment stop at 'Old Ing'.
 Still together as a full group I was pleased to see everyone in good spirits and encouraging each other as we set out on the just less than second half of the route.

 Members of 2 fellow '3 Peaker' groups joined us as we reached the B6479 and began walking on the edge of the foot blister inducing tarmac road towards the arches of 'Ribblehead Viaduct'. We must of resembled an overgrown school outing snaking along in single file to the oncoming traffic.
Group meeting at Ribblehead Viaduct.
2 down 1 to go says Hugh, or its a one man peace protest?
 Encouraging the team to take on food and water before the long ascent to Whernside, I took the opportunity to pass on some facts about the local environment which I could see the group found extremely interesting.......

 The rigours of the challenge started to make an appearance on the long ascent of Whernside (it's not everyday most people embark on a 12hr, 23mile hill walk!) with blisters, sore joints and fatigued muscles causing problems for people from various groups within the event. One of our group was now battling bravely on despite a knee problem and I had stopped to do running repairs to the badly blistered feet of a member of another group (who we had 'swept up' along the route!).
 Most of group 6 were continuing strongly so after ensuring they would be accompanied by another group leader I sent the group on ahead to have a good chance of completing the route within the 12hr point.
On & on & on & on & on ascending Whernside.
The final stretch from Whernside summit, Ingleborough in the distance.
 Over Whernside and onto the steep final descent I pointed out the views to the Southern Lakeland Fells and the wind farms of Morecambe Bay. Although outstanding views by any body's standards, it was obvious they did nothing to distract from the pain and discomfort felt making every step by my small band of walking wounded.
 The relief was obvious as the going flattened  out on reaching Broadrake and the final 1.5km to the finish line. Gently encouraging my (now more than slightly broken!) team that they still could make the finish line within the 12hr point we broke into an uncomfortable jog over the last 300metres through Philpin Farm. Although resulting in burst blisters, a strong contender for the dodgiest walk prize and more than a few loud expletives I was delighted that they battled on to cross the finish line with just seconds to spare!

 With the other members of group 6 having completed the route approximately 30 minutes earlier we had an impressive 120% completion rate (having collected an additional 2 members), and all within the 12hr challenge time. 
Group 6 well earned refreshments on completing the Yorkshire 3 Peaks!
Summary - I would have to say I felt quite fortunate to have been allocated a group of randomly selected people who came together for the day and were motivated, got on well, encouraged each other throughout the event, listened to advice and safety information, tried to control their laughter when I slipped in mud and pretended to be interested during my local environment talks!
 Well done to Grace, Hugh, Jonothan, Kirsty, Neal, Paul D, Paul K, Rachel & Robert of Group 6!

Friday, 12 April 2013

Doing the Legwork in Lochnagar!

 The 2nd week in April saw me make the long journey to Scotland and the Lochnagar Mountains where I would meet up with Helen, Adam & Andy who I had the good fortune to meet on the Winter Mountain Leader course at Glenmore Lodge in March.
Glen Callater

 The Lochnagar area can be found in the South-Eastern Grampians known as The Mounth and much resembles the nearby Cairngorm massif with a central plateau and Glens eroded from grey & pink granites drawing water from glaciated bowls into streams, lochan's, loch's before feeding into rivers such as the Dee, Isla & Tay.

 Meeting at the Ranger Station at Glen Doll the 4 of us readied ourselves and checked our kit for the 2 day winter route and overnight stay at the Stables Mountain Bothy at Callater.
 Our route took us up the flank of Corrie Kilbo on the well banked up footpath. On reaching the top of the Corrie we took a bite to eat and a drink before ditching our kit to walk to the summit of our first Munro of Driesh (947m), we then retraced our steps back to our kit before heading for our second Munroe of Mayar (928m).
The Alpine looking path to Corrie Kilbo.
Helen steps 'up' onto the trig point!

The plateau of Lochnagar.
  From Mayer we were to head to Tom Buidhe (957m) and our navigation skills were put to the test in the swirling white out conditions, as well as our resolve as the summit appeared to be moving away from us when we did get a glimpse!
 White Out conditions where it is next to impossible to see the difference between the ground and sky make navigation a challenge and faith has to be put into the use of the compass to show the direction of travel and map reading skills to be able to relate to lines of contour as most land features are covered beneath the snow!
Andy climbs the summit cairn(!) of Tolmount.
  Eventually catching up with the summit of Tom Buidhe we decided to bag a fourth Munroe of the day and took a route to Tolmount (958m) before heading for 'Jocks Road', the path which would take us down into Glen Callater and onto The Stables Mountain Bothy where we aimed to spend the night.
Glen Callater
At last the overnight bothy!
  The Stables bothy at Callater is operated and maintained by the Mountain Bothy Association and is open 365 days a year for anyone to use free of charge. Offering some where to shelter the bothies are ideal when planning a few days out in the mountains.
The Stables Mountain Bothy, indoor camping!

 After food (including cake for Helen's birthday!) and a good nights sleep we awoke around 7am and prepared for our 2nd day and long walk back to the cars!
 Deciding we wanted to make the 2days a circuit so as not to retrace our steps and to also bag a further 3 Munroe's we made our way from the bothy up the flanks of the Glen above Loch Callater and up to the summit of Carn an t-Sagairt Mor (1047) and the highest point of our route.
 The weather was much clearer than the previous day and we could enjoy views out across the area, we also saw large numbers of Mountain Hare and a couple of herds of Red Deer numbering 50-100 individuals.
Clearer skies en route to Broad Cairn.
 After the steep climb of the day to the summit of Carn an t-Sagairt Mor we chose a route that would see us remain on the high ground as much as possible and allow us to bag 2 more Munroe's of Cairn Bannoch (1012m) and Broad Cairn (998m).
 From our final Munroe of Broad Cairn we were treated to views into Loch Muick and out over the plateau.
Summit of Broad Cairn (998m).   
 Leaving Broad Cairn we headed down to the bridge at Bachnagairn, where we could cross the South Esk River, after a brief food stop at a sheep fold and snow filled shelter.
 From the bridge we had a 5km walk along the river back to the Ranger Station at Glen Doll.
Food stop at the snow filled shelter.
River South Esk.
The final few metre's with the snow covered hills behind.
In total the 2 day route was 39km in distance and we ascended just short of 1800m in height. We walked for approx 17hrs in total, and climbed 7 Munroe's.
We saw Red Deer, Mountain Hare, Ptarmigan, Black Grouse & Raven.

Quality 2 day route (though long!) with quality people!


British Summer Time - Winter Routes!

 As the clocks changed to signal the official end of British Winter Time it seems nobody remembered to tell the Jet Stream!
 With the Jet Stream having a 'kink' in it which meant it was racing across the skies above Southern Spain, cold air from Northern Europe and strong Easterly winds were the major influence on the weather over the British Isles - bad news for most, but not if your wanting to get out on the mountains for some bonus winter routes!
April in the Lake District from Blencathra.
April Fools Day in the Lake District. - Deciding I could not miss the opportunity to get out on the hills whilst still under winter conditions, I set off at 05:30am for an early journey to the Lake District.
 Arriving in the Lake District in cold, bright but breezy conditions I aimed to ascend to the summit of Blencathra via Hallsfell Top Ridge, which would give me a Grade I winter climb, and descend by the iconic Sharp Edge which would give me a Grade II climb for my Winter Mountain Leader log book. I would also have the option of descending via alternative routes should Sharp Edge look a bit 'dodgy'!
Hallsfell Top and Blencathra in above the snow line.
  Carrying all the winter extra's - ice axe, crampons, rope, slings, carabiner's and spare clothing I made my way up Hallsfell and into the snowline on Hallsfell Top ridge where I was exposed to the biting Easterly winds for the first time on the route.
 On along the ridge I took out my ice axe and put on my crampons before the path became too exposed and a slip would of been fairly terminal. Rime ice and small cornice's were evidence of the strong winds and freezing temperatures of the previous week or so.
Looking back down Hallsfell Top.

 Reaching the summit of Blencathra the wind became much stronger with buffeting gusts of approx up to 50mph which started to cast doubt in my mind of crossing Sharp Edge. Walking across to the top of the ridge I was forced to put on my ski goggles as my eyes were streaming in the bitingly cold winds so I could assess the conditions as again a slip could be fairly terminal, not least because of the freezing temperatures meaning an immobilising injury could lead quickly into hypothermia!
 After taking a look at the route across Sharp Edge I felt it was do-able with some care, the main problem would be the winds though these were blowing along the ridge rather than at an angle across the ridge.
Sharp Edge dropping from left to right.

 Making my way down on to the ridge I escaped the worst of the winds and began across the sharp rock formation of the arete which gives the ridge its name. I noticed that 2 groups had set off from the opposite side of the ridge and had decided to turn back which was a little unnerving for a moment but I was committed to the route and continued to cross carefully.
the 'sharp' bit of Sharp Edge.
Sharp Edge in all its winter glory!

 As I reached the 3/4 point of the ridge I found the winds extremely strong and had to choose my moments to move on, this is probably what caused the other groups to turn back.
 I thoroughly enjoyed both ridges and the conditions made them all the more enjoyable by making them more challenging!

Snowdonia in the Snow- Following the my solo trip to the Lake District I made my way to Snowdonia to meet up with Brett Savage (Savage Adventures coming shortly!) to join him on a couple of winter routes in the Glyders.
 Wednesday we decided to head up Glyder Fach by following Bristly Ridge to the summit (Grade II Winter) and descending by Y Gribbin (Grade I Winter). Making our way from Lyn Ogwen we were straight into the snow which steadily got deeper as we made our way up to Lyn Bochlwyd.
Snow sculpture en route to Bristly Ridge.

 We made our way up the steeply rising broken boulders which form Bristly Ridge steadily as the climb was covered in soft snow and patches of ice and quickly gained height.
Brett gets the 'man leg' out!
 As the ridge rises there are sections which are very exposed with some sections of step overs which need care especially when under winter conditions.
More 'man leg' from the Savage, with Tryfan in the background.
"Yes Brett, the sweet shop is down there!"

 After reaching the top of Bristly Ridge we made our way to the summit of Glyder Fach and had lunch at the Cantilever Stone (photo's unavailable as Brett hasn't released them!!). We then made our way over to Y Gribbin which we descended back to the car park.

 It is worth mentioning that whilst leaving the summit we came across a group making their way up with a guide(?), non of the group had crampons or ice axes and one mentioned that they wished they did! I don't think its just personal preference, the mountains in winter are a serious undertaking and it always tends to be more difficult to get down than up when gravity is trying to speed up your descent!!

Thursday we headed back into the Ogwen Valley and past Lyn Idwal on our way to Cwn Cneifion where we had seen a climb in the North Wales Winter Climbing guide book by Simon Panton and Mark 'Baggy' Richards. A more strenuous walk in than we had origionally thought(!) we steadily made our way to Clogwyn Du where we planned to ascend Glder Fawr by climbing up Hidden Gully (Winter Grade II).
The walk in!
Brett leads the way on Hidden Gully.
  After the walk in the climb was all too short but still exciting in places in the conditions. Exposed to the strong cold winds on leaving the climb we walked to the summit point of Glyder Fawr (no cheating from us boys!) before making our way to the descent.

Looking down the Ogwen Valley.
 Back climbing down the descent I was regretting not putting on my as goggles as the wind whipped up the back of the Cwm blowing loose snow into our faces. It was then mainly a bum slide and some ice axe arrest practice all the way down to Lyn Idwal.

All in all 3 Winter Routes including 5 graded winter climbs for myself so time well spent!!

N.B No photo's were available from Brett (lazy boy) Savage for this blog!!!