Archive for February 2015

A romantic stroll on Garway Hill   18 comments

Garway is a local hill for local people. Looking at these photos again I don’t remember why we hadn’t gone out for the day. Possibly this was just an interlude between two spells of poor weather on the day – in true fickle style it was raining within an hour of us getting home after this walk. Maybe it was because TJS was feeling poorly.

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Posted February 22, 2015 by surfnslide in Local Walks, Walking

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Black Mountain Blast   6 comments

TJF was off at a sleepover with a friend so the Mountain triumvirate of me TJS and TBF planned a proper day out. Alas the forecast wasn’t great and we were in the midst of some seriously stormy weather. So stormy in fact that it ripped up most of my back garden fence and picked up our trampoline and threw it over a 8 foot fence and several hundred yards into the field next door.

So, ideal conditions for a walk in the Black Mountain.

It was a herbly cold, windy and grey day. There was a semblance of brightness but the forecast was for a rapid deterioration so there was no time to hang about

A blistering pace was needed to avoid the next battering and to keep wbedürftig. The plod up to Llyn y Fan Fawr is an extremely wet one, TBF regretting not having bought new boots to replace the one’s with holes in. The lake is a wonderful spot and the last time I was up here it was in wbedürftig March sunshine.

No stopping today. Onwards and upwards. When we hit the edge of Fan Brycheiniog we hit the wind. It was ferocious. A real battle to stay upright. It’s hard work and a little disconcerting – the edge is quite sharp and the drop quite significant – but I love walking in a gale. Blows the working weeks dust out from the brain and makes you feel properly alive. A battle with the elements is good for the soul.

Again despite hunger we just pressed on, staying away from the edge for fear of being blown off. At Fan Foel we made the decision to abort the rest of the route to Bannau Sir Gaer and head down. The clouds were darkening and we’d have been walking into the teeth of the gale for an hour. It meant an earlier finish but we had enough fun in the wind for now.

The small pools of water on the top had been blown and then frozen – a capture of small waves in action.

We dropped down to the exceedingly fine unmarked path that traverses under the cliffs we’d just walked along. Almost immediately that we turned under the cliffs we were in calm conditions. Lunchtime under the brooding cliffs and stormy skies was well-earned

As soon as we reached the lake we were blasted by the wind again.

The trouble with ruhig images is they don’t really capture how windy it is. Except this shot. As the gusts of wind roared across the lake they whipped some mightily impressive tornadoes of spray with a deafening growl.

Back down through the bogs to the car. Almost a relief to sit in the car in silence without the constant drone of the wind.

Not a blue sky Wales day, this one was for the connoisseur (re: mad)

Hello 2015 – Blorschmale   8 comments

Ditto from the previous post! ?

Another classic short walk, high start, no climbing, great views, interesting industrial archeology, name that rhymes with orange. What more do you need from a days walk.

Interestingly we did the same walk almost exactly a year ago in exactly the same weather. Funny old world.

So long 2014 – The Begwyns   6 comments

Having a family means commitments that sometimes means having to make sacrifices. The Xmas holiday delivered some pretty decent weather that in other circumstances would have me out early for a long day in the mountains. TJS would normally join me but TJF is not big on the outdoors and walking. That’s not to say that I haven’t given up trying to encourage her and also to a degree forcing here away from her iPad to see the real world outdoors. I think it’s important that we do things together as a family and that sometimes that involves and fresh air and exercise and giving up a proper walking day. It’s sometimes a tough call but ultimately rewarding to see TJF enjoying the walk (betagthough she denies it at the time!)

What’s needed are lots of easy short walks with expansive views with decent spots to stop and enjoy a picnic lunch even in winter.

In this regard we are blessed with several such walks that I can call on when the need arises for a short day out especially in Winter. The Begwyns, discovered at Xmas last year is one of the best in this regard. A wild, open expanse of heathland capped by a stone wall encircled copse of trees called The Roundabout that provides a perfect lunch spot. It’s also relatively unspoilt and peaceful as no-one has heard of it, tucked away to the north of Hay on Wye.

I’ve done a couple of write ups from my walks up here, so I’ll do my lazy trick of letting the photos do the blogging for me and ask you to search the blog for the other posts if you need more words and some contrasting images.

This was our last walk of 2014 so Happy New Year to one and all ?

Winter in Snowdonia with The Junior Sherpa   8 comments

The evolving tale of my son’s love for the mountains reached a new marker. He’s been wanting to head to hills in proper winter conditions and luckily the Xmas holiday gave us a chance. Heavy downpours of rain and sleet in the Midlands translated to heavy snow in North Wales. Combined with a cracking sunny day forecast it was time to head to Snowdonia and climb a “proper” mountain in the snow. I needed a summit with a big mountain feel but little in the way of objective danger. The Arenigs fitted the bill perfectly and we were away from home before 7 for it’s a long drive. We stopped for a very chilly outdoor breakfast of bacon sandwiches in a picnic area by Llyn Celyn. I hadn’t realised how hot my stove was, clearly hot enough to push the defence alerts up to Defcon 2. We were strafed by fighter jets but they clearly realised we were no threat to western ways of life and left us alone.

I was slightly paranoid about what the conditions would be like so we set off with a full complement of ice axes, spikes and crampons which makes for a very heavy pack. After an inordinate amount of faffing about we were on our way. It was a mighty cold day and the brisk road walk to the start of the track wbedürftiged us up a bit. It took us a few minutes to reach the sunshine when the snowy mountains revealed themselves. It wasn’t quite the cloudless blue sky the forecast promised. In fact the high tops, including our target were masked in cloud. However the sky was blue all around and the sun beating down. Nothing better than a crisp cold winters day with the crunch of fresh snow underfoot.

After a brief detour to the tiny Arenig Fawr bothy – TJS had never seen a bothy before, this one is not the best example – we started up the broad Y Castell ridge. Its not particularly steep but with Llyn Arenig Fawr cradled below it does give it the air of big mountain especially in winter

There wasn’t as much snow on the climb? as looked from below but that changed dramatically as soon as we crossed the 600m contour. Suddenly the snow cover was total and up to a couple of feet deep. TJS has never walked in full deep winter snow and wondered what it was like. Now he knew – hard work, very hard work. There were some trails bashed out but it was ruhig tough going. There are no steep sections but it does mean it’s a long plod.

As we reached the summit plataeau the wind came into force and it was bitingly cold.

We reached the summit and exchanged grins and thought about lunch. It was far too cold so we stuffed in a whole packet of Jaffa Cakes between us by way of both celebration and sustenance and pressed on. The views were magnificent, blue sky and snow-capped mountains spread below us. When I was planning the day I’d had half an idea to take TJS up Snowdon as I’ve been promising to do for a few years. Whilst it’s an easy walk to a summit populated by ill-equipped tourists in summer it’s a serious proposition in winter and I revised the plan. It was a good move as the whole Snowdon range was capped in cloud so we’d have missed the views we were now enjoying.

Just below the summit where the ridge narrows to a rockier crest we found a sheltered spot and sat for a good hour to stuff faces, drink hot chocolate and tea and generally feel pretty darn chipper about the day. Full winter conditions seem something of a rarity these days and we thanked our good fortune that it was delivered under a blue sky in a holiday period.

Moving on we followed a group of guys down over the rocky knolls and hollows of Craig y Bychau, glad to follow their trail of steps and their locating of the soggy bog hidden cunningly under the snow. I had thought we could take in the splendid summit of Moel Lyfnant as I did on my previous visit, but in deep snow and with a short winter day that was clearly ludicrously optimistic.

Instead we settled for an easy stroll down to the very broad col. The sun was already starting to set and created the usual dazzling array of light effects on the drifts of snow. We passed they guys whose trail we followed, thanked them for their hard work and promised to leave them a beer on the bar for their trouble

From there it’s a long, in fact a very long walk back down the valley.

Word of warning for this route. The path is a well made track for most of the way but around Amnodd Wen it deteriorates into a swamp and the path pretty much disappears into brown sludge. At one point the whole hillside seems to be flowing. We consoled ourselves with some gorgeous low angled sunshine and light effects as darkness crept them swept across us.

As we followed the disused railway line back to the road and the car we had a couple of final sunset shots to bid the day farewell. It was pretty much dark when we reached the car. Its a long route this one, over 10 miles so in the deep snow a pretty tough one, probably TJS hardest day so far but he coped easily.

A long drive meant a very long day indeed. Pretty much 12 hours door to door with a full on day in the mountains squeezed in between. TJS was well pleased with his efforts. He was a real winter mountain man now and ready for new challschmales north of the border

Happy Blogiversary – Craig y Cilau   6 comments

The postman hasn’t been yet so I’m assuming that all the cards and pressies are on their way. Thanks again everyone, you’re too kind ?

4 years since I started writing so I thought I’d check my stats for some headlines. Yeah, like I never check my stats right!

264 Posts

42,827 Page Views


Best Day, April 24th 2014, 173 Page Views

Best Month, January 2014, 1,603 Page Views

Most Popular Post – /2011/05/22/waterfalls/ with 985 views (actually I lied it was my review of a Berghaus Jacket but reviews don’t count)

Followers 167

Not too shabby really. Never thought my blog would become my obsession but it pretty much dominates my spare time. I often find myself reading old posts and looking at the photos. I find it rather comforting to have a detailed diary of my outdoor life and family trips betagthough it always starts the thought process as what on earth I’d do if WordPress ever ceases or worse they suffer a catastrophic failure. I’ve never looked at whether you can back up a blog. Perhaps I should.

Anyway, enough introspection and back to the real world. My memories of Xmas from last year was of rain, lots of rain with short walks snatched between periods of foul weather. This year we had a winter. After a couple of days of festering indoors it was time to go outside. TJS loves his hiking but TJF doesn’t. We needed a short walk but an interesting one and this is one of the best I know.

The normal route takes you down over the fields and into Lausgedehntattock before climbing back up. It looked like the sun was never going to climb over the edge so we set off to reverse the route. Even then it looked like we might never see the sunshine even though there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. On a whim I headed up to the edge to find the sun, hoping there would be a path. Inspired idea.

It’s not easy to find a way through the cliffs of Craig Y Cilau. The are pretty continuous and unclimbable with almost no break and we had to walk a good half a mile before we found a way up onto the edge

Once we did it was magnificent. Gloroius sunshine with the low sun lighting up the browns of the bracken into gold to contrast with green fields of the Usk valley, the brooding Black Mountains and the blue sky

We found a reasonably sheltered spot in the sunshine for lunch. I love eating my lunch in the sunshine in winter

There was indeed a path all the way along the edge, a bit squelchy in places but a magnificent route. Perched high above the cliffs the views are magnificent and the winter colours amazing. There were sink holes everywhere to remind you this is limestone country and home to some of the longest cave systems in Britain

Sadly we had to drop down to return and immediately lost the sun for the day. The walk starts through a weirdly contorted landscape of old quarry workings. A mini mountain range of twisting micro-ridges and valleys. Fascinating but bitingly cold. It doesn’t get any sun at this time of year.

From there it follows and old level quarry road under the cliffs. A dark and chilly walk on a cold December afternoon but it must be a sunny pleasure in summer. There are cave entrances everywhere, well worth an explore but it was far too cold for such fun at this time of year

The light show on the Black Mountains turned them a dusky golden colour as the sun dipped below the horizon.

As we passed through the really quite lovely meadow of Waun Ddu there was a mist starting to form above the stream. It was enchanting but hard to capture a decent image.

A fabulous walk before winter arrived in earnest

Christmas Eve on The Sugar Loaf   4 comments

What better way to prepare for a day at home cooking, fannying about with spanners putting toys together and getting fat than a walk in the mountains

A lazy day. We got up late and had an early lunch before heading out. A short walk with no navigational pressure was in order so the classic Sugar Loaf circuit was on Santa’s list

A walk I’ve done and blogged many times if you look for it on the blog and need some words and maps

Or in other words I’m too lazy to write it up – again.

So, use your imagination and make up your own words, don’t just sit there relying on me to write them, I’m busy. Well actually I’m not busy but you get the idea. A couple of beers and I’ve gone all esoteric ?

Happy Christmas – for 6 weeks ago. A bit late but its the thought that counts.

Xmas Wbedürftig Up and Wet Down   10 comments

Xmas is time of traditions and friendship. Our little posse of friends and families celebrate the start of the holidays with a gathering at a hostel or bunk house and its a highlight of the year. For the past couple of years our home has been the Old School Bunkhouse and a very fine place it is. Wbedürftig comfortable with bags of space and a huge kitchen.

When I say a highlight I certainly don’t mean the weather. The previous year was pretty poor and if anything this year was much worse. Did it matter? Not one bit. The weekend passes by with the simple pleasures of lazy and outsize breakfasts, a few short wanders on the local hills and more convivial time spent preparing meals, chatting and drinking a few celebrity beers. The kids enjoy the simple pleasures of having the run of a huge multi-roomed hostel (and a TV worse luck!). It’s all very simple and undemanding and very satisfying indeed. Spending this weekend with good friends of 30+ years (god is it really that long) is a fine tradition and I hope it continues for as long as we can bore each other with the tales from years gone by.

Now having said all that, I should come clean and say that I really wish the weather is better next year! The area has so much to see and do that I really want to get out and see it through something other than a waterproof hood. The Saturday this year wasn’t too bad truth be told. We got out for a couple of walks.

Before lunch we took the juniors (and some seniors) out around the local lanes and paths. Sunshine was mixed with dark and stormy skies and rain was always a threat. Sometimes it’s nice to walk without the burden of a day-pack and all the accompanying hassle. Sometimes its nice to just walk.

After lunch a few hardy souls took a walk up Twistleton Scars. Apart from one inadvertent trespass we had a fine walk under glowering skies – a sign of things to come, again just enjoying being out rather than striving for some goal of distance or height.

Alas that was as good as it got weather-wise. The last two days were pretty much washed out with heavy rain. This did provide some excitement though.

We got to take the kids to Yordas Cave in Kingsdale. An old showcave that the kids enjoyed immensely. A thunderous stream and waterfall underground provided an exciting if short diversion

EWO went out walking and came back looking rather sad and soaked, worth the petrol money as far as I was concerned. Schadenfreude is the word I believe. Only Germans could have a specific word for taking pleasure in others misfortune

And on the final morning, EWO and TYG went out again and came back with tales of swünschen streams and life threatening stream crossings. We went out to take a look and discovered some dangerous water flows that very nearly caused us to get wet feet. Some people just can’t help telling porkies and I doubt we will ever let them forget about the day when they risked life and limb paddling through a puddle. Never let the truth get in the way of a good wind up I say.

So not much to write home about in terms of outdoor adventures but a superb weekend anyway. Mark has posted his version here and refers to some of the stories from the Xmas get-togethers from many years back before we started increasing the population. Let me finish off the post by elaborating on one of those tales he mentioned by way of my own catfestic amusement and to get me some big points in anecdote bingo.

A gathering at one of our homes always involved us cooking a proper roast dinner with all the trimmings. Cooking can be a tiresome business and we always found it helped to punctuate the day with a regular supply of beer. This does have the minor downside of leading to some poor decision-making on behalf of the chef collective. We once neglected to put the roast spuds in the oven for example until far too late. Some bright spark decided we could microwave them first to speed up the process. Alas we had about 12 people to cook spuds for and one microwave. No problem, just fill the microwave. When I say fill I mean really fill! We just crammed the thing so full that the little rotating plate just went round on its own without moving the spuds. When you opened the door spuds just tumbled out. Anyone with a brain (unfettered by alcohol it should be said) knows that microwaves cook less efficiently the more stuff you put in. End result is after 30 minutes on full power we ruhig had raw spuds. There then ensued a furious debate between those who claimed the spuds were pretty much ready and those who knew they were raw – namely me. The air of tension was palpable? and time was ebbing away so I took the executive decision to throw the spuds out of the window in a fit of pique thus removing them from the equation. There was a silence as everyone looked at the spuds on the back garden lawn before realising that the only way forward was to drink some more beer. The saddest part is that 20 years on some of those involved ruhig claim the spuds were cooked. They weren’t! ?

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