Pewsey Downs – Sept ’18

Attendees: Andy M (organiser), Sue, Ade, Iain, Dan, Maisie, Simon

A nice 10 mile stroll along the chalk ridge that is the Pewsey Downs. From the car park near the White Horse, we headed east to Martinsell Hill bagging a couple of Trig points before dropping back down through the village of Oare before heading back up onto the ridge near Gopher wood. A very enjoyable meander indeed…

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Peak District – Beginners Climbing Weekend – Aug ’18

Attendees: Andy M, Mark F, Sue W, Adrian D, Trudi, Martin, Pavel

When: August 17-19 2018

Where: Hope Valley, Peak District

Although we are a mountaineering club there are many in the club with little or no climbing experience so there was a high level of interest in learning climbing skills. For this course we enlisted the help of Danny and Anita from ukmountainleader.co.uk who were fabulous instructors for the weekend.

We stayed in Hope Valley (a mix of Pub or camping) and on Saturday morning made our way over to Stange Edge which is a mecca for climbers in the area. It wasn’t quite as busy as expected possibly due to the holiday season so Danny raced up the crags to setup the ropes and soon we were under way. We started learning the harnesses and how to tie in safely followed by the basics of belaying. Then we started climbing up the crags and putting our theory into practise. The sun was shining and everyone was having a great time and we were all starting to climb higher up and over more difficult routes.

After lunch we practised some abseiling by belaying ourselves down with Anita looking after an additional safety rope just in case. Trudy ended upside down at one point as she leaned back a bit too far but she soon righted herself and continued abseiling down the wall. Then Danny setup some more difficult routes with some overhanging rocks to test us. Martin did a great job of getting up over them but he was the only one. Danny then showed us how it should be done and made it look easy.

After a full-on day we retired to the pub for an evening meal all suitably achy but happy after a great day.

Sunday morning started a bit rainy so we had a slower start to the day. We drove over Burbage just a few miles on from Stanage where Danny knew a great rock wall about 15m in height sheltered from the breeze. The day was a bit cooler but the rocks soon dried out by late morning and so we were all set to go again. Anita then talked us through some of the other equipment that we use such as Karabinas, Hexes, Wallnuts, Peenuts, Quickdraws etc and how they are all used and secured.

Once we had warmed up we carried on practising our climbing skills. Andy and Martin did a good job of using the rocks and hand holds learning to hanging off the rocks to position themselves at different angles to reach new footholds. Also using cracks to put your arm in to use as an anchor was a good experience. Sue did well pushing herself up to the top of the wall and well outside of her comfort zone.

As the day drew to a close tiredness set in and there was just one last chance for Andy to climb the hardest route of the weekend which he just managed to do at the final attempt before running out of puff.

This was a fabulous weekend and one that everyone thoroughly enjoyed…

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Brecon Beacons Navigation – Aug ’18

Navigation Trip

Date: 3rd – 5th August

Accommodation: Pencilli Castle Camp Site, near Brecon.

Attendees: Dorian (instructor), Maggie (organiser), Nicola, Val, Simon H, Dave, Andy.

The advantage of going to the Brecons is that it should be a short journey, but no, we had the usual Friday traffic queues, plus detours, so it took us 3.45 hours rather than 2.30 hours! We finally set up camp, cooked but then had to decamp quickly into the back of Maggie’s car as the rain started to fall, and then went up to the comfort and shelter of Andy’s luxurious camper van.

On Saturday morning Andy set off on his bike for a big day out in the hills (74 miles, 6000ft ascent) while the rest of us went to Dorian’s house for an introduction to our Navigation course. We looked at planning, weather, maps, compasses etc. The coffee/teas were most appreciated plus Maria’s delicious carrot cake and brownies! We then headed to Ystradfellte for a practical session; practising pacing, setting the map and using our compasses to take magnetic bearings trying to avoid sink holes and trail bikes.  Then it was back to the campsite for a well-earned BBQ and some liquid refreshment!

On Sunday Andy did an offroad MTB loop arounf Pen-y-Fan whilst the rest met Dorian by the A470 and headed across a permitted path to the Taff Trail. Avoiding the hoards of people walking up to Pen Y Fan from the Storey Arms, we made our way up to Fan Fawr (734m), then navigated our way to sheepfolds, streams, cairns, piles of stones and even footpaths! The weather was glorious, the views were great and we only saw a couple of people all day.

It was great weekend, a lot was learnt all thanks to the excellent training we had from Dorian. To be recommended!

Maggie

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Snowdonia Epic July ’18

The weekend saw us (Dan, Masie, Dorian, Maria, Nicola, Dave, Andy, and Pavel) escape the Football World Cup and congregate at Dolgam campsite just outside Capel Curig. The site has excellent facilities (probably the best in North Wales) and also gives good access to the Snowdonia National Park with the added advantage of Moel Siabod within walking distance. Some took advantage of the good weather we were experiencing to arrive in Snowdonia early and head out to the Mountains on Friday whilst others did the usual fight with Friday evening traffic.

On Saturday Dan and Masie walked from the campsite over Moel Siabod, Carnedd y Cribau  and ending up at the famous Pen Y Gwryd hotel, where members of the 1953 Everest Expedition stayed during their training for that historic adventure.

Dorian, Maria and Nicola parked up at Idwal Cottage to head up the Devils Kitchen before heading across to Y Garn, Foel Goch, Mynydd Perfedd and  Carnedd y Filiast before picking a route down and back to Idwal Cottage.

Dave and Andy headed up the north ridge of Tryfan and Bristly Ridge onto the Glyders before heading back down.

Finally Pavel as he arrived late on Saturday made his way up Moel Siabod.

On Sunday we all headed out again to do a short walk before heading back to Newbury, Dan and Masie explored the Crimpiau and Maria, Dave and Dorian explored Moel Siabod.

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Lake District – May 18

Attendees: Andy, Nicola, Alan, Claire, Maggie

Fabulous weekend in the Lake District. After an almighty 9 hour drive on Friday afternoon, we reached the campsite at dusk with enough time to set up camp.

Day 1 – a nice stroll up towards Walna Scar and Brown Pike and around Dow Crag and up onto the Old Man of Coniston (803m) for lunch. We were hampered by non-stop 40mph winds which blew my map out my pocket and off into the distance – good job I can remember most of the route. Then back alone the ridge towards Swirl How (802m) and across to Grey Friar. We were working off map now but found some lovely paths down to Seathwaite tarn and back through the valley to the campsite.

Day 2 – With the winds even stronger and no letup in sight, we re-arranged our walk and kept slightly lower heading west out the forest and up onto Harter Fell (653m). An interesting walk back along the river on a path that didn’t really exist and got worse resulting in me standing in the river helping the ladies get across the stepping stones so they didn’t get wet!

Day 3 – yay no wind!!! a drive out along hardknock pass parking nr Brotherilkeld and a lovely walk up the valley following the river Esk and passing the waterfalls. We then headed over to Great Moss 🙂 followed by light scramble up the gulley towards Broad Stand. I braved the hordes of tourists to go to Scafell Pike (978m) and back down again to join the others who scrambled straight onto Scafell (964m). Along to Slight Side (762m) and then back down the valley to head home…

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Scotland (Galloway) – Easter 2018

None of us had been to this region before, and it did not disappoint in terms of scenery, though the weather left a lot to be desired. Claire, Alan, Keyna, James, Maggie, Jill, and Andy spent a week in a very quirky house called The Buchan, located spectacularly at the road head in Glen Trool, just below The Merrick, the regions highest hill (at 843m). The house is not connected to the outside world, with electricity generated from the local burn and hot water/heating from the wood burner. Therefore power and heat was a bit random, not being able to operate too many appliances at the same time (who switched the kettle on plunging us all into darkness?!!!). After a few days perseverance we did manage to get the hot tub up to temperature (such are our priorities!), though the Everhot oven was Neverhot. The best walk in the area is without doubt the Merrick, particularly the off path route back past all the lochans. We had a great weather day for this, but for the other mostly wet days we stuck to low level woodland/loch walks, and a trip out to the Mull of Galloway for some spectacular coastal scenery (in the wind and rain). And we did stick to our promise of having a BBQ and fire on the final night using James’ mega fire pit birthday present. A much lower key Easter trip compared to previous years (largely down to the weather) but very enjoyable all the same, and great to explore a “new” area.

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Snowdonia (AKA Knoydart) March 2018

We had waited with bated breath all week waiting to see if the Beast from the East was going to actually happen and ruin our highly anticipated trip to Knoydart, which we were all so excited about. By lunchtime on the Thursday it was snowing quite a lot for Newbury, although the trains to London were now running again after morning cancellations. But by early afternoon, the call came – the overnight sleeper to Fort William that night was cancelled – game over. Despite some bravado talk about finding alternative travel means (the weather in Knoydart was calm and sunny), we met up for a curry that evening in a deserted Newbury as most folks hid from the blizzard, and decided that rather than waste our days off, we would head to Snowdonia instead on Saturday, when the worst of the weather should be over. Finding some last minute (and very cheap) accommodation in Llanberis, a lovely cosy cottage called Snowdon View, Claire and Keyna travelled in the truck, and Mark, Tricia, Alan and Gary in the Volvo, equipped with ropes, shovels, flasks etc. But a steady 60 on empty roads saw us arrive in North Wales in good time, though we were a tad disappointed about the lack of heavy snow in the region.

We headed up Snowdon the following morning, and this did not disappoint, with snow and ice all the way from Pen y Pass, a great winter day out, including being in a white out on the way down making navigation down the Llanberis route very tricky and scary (with both the footpath and railway buried in snow and no use as a navigational aid). The following day we tackled Y Garn in slightly better conditions, For our third day we explored the environs of Llanberis, including the waterfall and mines (and resident wild goats), before heading back home through a landscape now devoid of any white stuff, as if the Beast had never happened.

Our train fare to Scotland was refunded, and the owners of the Knoydart cottage transferred our booking to next year, so with the sleeper now rebooked, it is Knoydart or bust for April 2019!

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RidgeWay 40 (2018)

7:45. Overton Hill. Dry. Overcast. Barbury Castle. Heifers. A346. Drink. Steep bit. Horses. Liddington Castle. Shepherd’s Rest. Uffington Castle. Peanut Butter Sandwiches. Cold Rice Pudding. Didcot Power Station.  Boring Bit. Segsbury Castle. A338. B4494. Cake. Scutchamer Knob. A34. Rain. Soaked.  Streatley. Thames. Goring. Train. End…

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A’ Mhaighdean (Or Bust)

Attendees: Dan Unwin, Maisie Hamilton Unwin, Clair Seymour, Kate Lo

Only four NMCers were daft enough, foolhardy enough, brave enough ( delete as appropriate ) to sign up for this trip, which had as its sole aim an ascent of what is often regarded as the remotest mountain in Mainland Britain. Lying as it does in the heart of the ‘Great Wilderness’ of the Fisherfield Forest,  A’ Mhaighdean ( pronounced A’vagin & meaning ‘the Maiden )  is peak with a fair amount of romance & one which should not be underestimated. The remotest point in Britain ( as confirmed by the OS ) lies at Grid reference NH02020 77000, is within the area.

We set off at 4pm on Thursday for the long drive North. The trip was uneventful, traffic good. The only niggle was a lack of McDonald’s on the M6. We settled for a pie each at Tebay. Kate  drove to Carlisle & I then took over – Clair only having arrived back from China the day before we all thought jet lag & long distance driving a bad combination. After a slight detour on the wrong A832 to Gairloch we arrived at Corrie Hallie car park. It was 4:30am & raining. So we all caught a little more sleep in the car until after 6:30 when the rain had stopped & we were ready for the 4.5 mile hike to Shenevall, our base for the next three nights. The start of the walk in is on a good track which climbs steadily alongside the   Allt Gleann Chaorachain through birch & alder. The imposing cliffs of An Teallach coming into view on our R. There was a little rain, but nothing to dampen our spirits. Over a foot bridge & we began to climb the southern flank of Càrn A Canaich, a 471m Tump & a fine viewpoint with An Tellach filling the western sky. It had stopped raining, so we dropped rucksacks & took a short detour to the top.

We had left the track & were now following a good path to the bothy. They bothy only appears into view in the last few hundred metres of the approach.  The rain made a second half hearted attempt to set in, but gave up. Shenevall lies in a superb location in a vast landscape which is almost devoid of human interference, only the stalkers cottage at Larachantivore to spoil the view. The lack of trees, walls, in fact anything to give scale, makes judging distance here hard. Slioch is visible on the horizon, a mountain over 8 miles away, but seemingly so close.

The bothy was empty of people, but there were four sleeping mats & bags so we knew we’d  not be alone that evening.   After lunch we dozed in the sun, but as the afternoon wore on  we decided to reconnoitre the river crossing which can & has thwarted many people’s ambition to climb  A’ Mhaighdean. We walked up & down the Abhainn Strath na Sealga which was deep in places. Finding a likely crossing Kate waded in, with the freezing water over her knees. She made it to the gravel bar in the middle of the river, with just a smaller & shallower bit left to cross. Maisie & I got half way, but with the water beginning to reach half way up Maisie’s thighs we headed back – the cold shock of the water only kicks in after 10 or so seconds, but it is acute & numbs the brain as well as the legs.

Now we had our crossing point. Kate & Clair walked down the 1.5km to the shores of Loch Na Sealga, where Kate bravely went for a swim – all 5 seconds of a swim she told us later. They collected fire wood from the beach.  Maisie & I messed about on the boulders near the bothy. A few more people had arrived, mainly people walking the Cape Wrath trail. I spoke to two burly looking chaps who had spent a miserable day trying to cross the river, the height of which had been impossible to cross earlier that day. They’d given up & wandered around the loch instead.

The sun was still shining brightly, so we decided to celebrate the glorious early evening. “Would either of you ladies fancy a GnT?” was a question met with a certain amount of scepticism, until three cans were produced from my rucksack.   Clair got the fire going, we had our rudimentary instant meals & we sat back & watched all the other residents burn Clair & Kate’s fire wood. Only Christoph, a German lad walking the CWT, asking if Clair would actually like to sit next to the fire she’d taken ages to get going. A sweaty looking chap walked in, water bottle in hand & asked “where’s the tap?” “ the river” replied Clair. Bed was at 10 for everyone, after we’d all watched a superb sunset over Loch na Sealga.

The next morning was clear & almost without a cloud in the sky. We had breakfast and set off. There are no real paths for much of the route, which I had marked in pencil on the map after consulting several guide books & online resources. Our first obstacle was the river, which due to the good weather had dropped a few more inches making the crossing easy – if still mind numbingly cold. After some vicious gorse bushes there was a kilometre of bog to cross. It had been described to us the night before as the ‘bog from hell’ and whilst not quite that bad, it did mean endless zig sagging & criss-crossing to avoid the deepest waterlogged sphagnum pools.  Once passed the bog we had our second river crossing just above  Larachantivore – not as deep but just as cold & wide. Once over we were able to make use of a stalker’s path for a while, before  striking out into the Gleann na Mucie Beag. Higher in the valley a path began to form & this took us to the edge of the Loch Beinn Bearg where we stopped for a bite to eat. To the North were the steep screes of the Corbett Beinn Dearg Mor, whilst to the south were the cliffs of the little frequented Creag Mhor a’ Bhinnein. A wild & majestic place for a camp. But not this time – we carried on, following a stalker’s path which eventually leads to the bothy at Carnmor. However after awhile it was time to strike out south to the flanks of the first hill of the day, Ruadh Stac Mor. This is the area in which lies GR reference NH02020 77000, and we passed within metres of the exact spot.

Looking at the pathless N face of Ruadh Stac Mor, we decided to attack it from the western end, climbing up to the R of Lochan a Bhraghad. Once above rock terraces & we were able to get to the start of the scree & snow banks. The Western Isles began to appear on the horizon. A direct line up the scree led to the summit. At 3014ft only just a Munro. We met the sweaty chap from the night before & his mate, the only people we’d seen all day. They gave a poor report on the way onwards & we wished each other well.

The views are fine & for the first time we could now actually see A’ Mhaighdean, lying to the SW with the deep cleft of Poll Eadar dha Stac separating   A’ Mhaighdean from Ruadh Stac Mor. After a few pictures & a selfie next to the trig point we began the steep descent. An occasional cairn gave a clue as to the right way to go. This was important as trending to far south leads to cliffs. The descent got steeper, but eventually we were at the col. Looking back it seemed impossible that we’d descended what looked like so steep a hillside. A rudimentary stone shelter, sits under one of the boulders here.

The climb up to the summit of A’ Mhaighdean was easier than expected, the view from Ruadh Stac Mor having been fore shortened. We crossed the small summit plateau & ascended the rocks of the summit tower. It was almost four. Along with its title of remotest Munro, A’ Mhaighdean is also considered to be one of the finest viewpoints in Britain. The view to the west over Poolewe & Lochs Ewe & Garirloch is unsurpassed. The inky waters of Dubh Loch lie 2600ft directly at the base of A’ Mhaighdean’s western cliffs, whilst Harris & the Hebrides lie in the distance. We probably stayed too long on the summit, but the weather was good & the views unforgettable.

So began the return to Shenevall. We intended to descend the  easy eastern slopes to Pollan na Mucie & then see what options were available to us. As we descended the first spots of rain were blown in, from downpours over the north shores of  Lochan Fada, the rain falling some four miles away. Some careful map work & navigation saw us by pass the cliff of Stac a’Chaorruinn & skirt around the bogs of the Allt Pollan na Muice catchment on the eastern side. It had gone five thirty, the rain was no longer being blown onto us but was falling from directly over us & it was 5.5 miles, and 2 river crossings back to Shenevall.

We quickly lost height & stayed on the western side of the Abhainn Gleann na Muice river. Eventually, after a few miles a path began to develop. The rain, which had never been more than a shower, despite the greyness of the clouds, & began to stop. We had a quick break, crossed a small tributary of the river & were, sooner than could have been hoped, back at the site of the Larachantivore crossing. Maisie’s boots were soaked so she just rolled up her leggings & waded over. The rest of us took ours off.  It had now gone nine & was dark, and Shenevall was still a mile away & we had the ‘bog from hell’ to contend with. The light of a head torch being waved in the gloom by someone at Shenevall guided us over the bog. By the time we reached the fourth & final deep crossing of the day it was hard to tell exactly the right spot on the bank. Luckily, for the first time that day a GPS proved useful, guiding us to the exact sport we’d used that morning.

We entered the bothy at 10, after thirteen hours of superb mountaineering over some of the wildest terrain in Britain. Luckily there were only two people in the bothy & they had a good fire going. Tansy & Lauren, were a little shocked to see us at first, ( I still had my trainers on from the river crossing & a cry of ‘Oh there’s a bairn’ had greeted Maisie’s entrance ), but after the initial commotion & the women’s urge to mother us all having passed, they offered us coffee & a place by the fire. We declined the drink favour of a Cosmopolitan from my rucksack.  We ate, & sat smuggly glowing from a day well done in the hills. We had a glass of Pinot Noir. Or Two.

 

Again the weather was perfect on Sunday. We had a slight lie in, but the sky was too blue to waste. Tansy & Lauren had gone off to bag Beinn Dearg Mor, so we had the bothy to ourselves. A close inspection of An Teallach seemed like a plan, the southern flank of which rises in a 3000ft wall directly behind Shenevall. Before we left the ladies returned, the river crossing having resulted in a twisted ankle for one of them.

We followed the path which leads to Corrie Halle for a while before directly attacking the SE spur of Sail Liath. This rises at a consistent angle for what seems an interminable distance, at first over grass then scree, before giving way to easier, rockier slopes. Passing a cairn we headed NE to the final slope of the Munro top Sail Liath. The summit gives a ringside seat to the impressive cliffs & pinnacles of An Teallach, all of which seem unclimbable. The summit here also gives a fine view of A’ Mhaighdean. Again we lingered a little too long on the top, taking lots of photos. The way back was the same as the way up, so we retraced our steps, the scree far harder in descent. The rain stated again, but only half heartedly. When we got back to the bothy we found a new resident – Enrico ( from Germany ) how had kindly bought all our drying clothes in from the rain. The rucksack bar was empty so we had cup-a-soups & coffee. Clair got the fire going again & as soon as the sun had finished another superb display we went to bed.

As we had to drive back on our fourth & final day we were up early. We ate & then packed glad that we’d eaten enough to reduce the weight of our packs by a good margin. We said goodbye to Shenevall, had our picture taken by Enrico & headed back on the 4.5 miles to the car. There was not a cloud in the sky. We reached the car at 11, and after we’d all had a complete change of clothing ( nothing beats being totally nude in a lay by in Scotland ), we set off on the 12hr drive back. Four very happy campers. The odometer in Kate’s car reading a round trip of 1280 miles 12hrs later that day.

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Faccombe Day Walk

Attendees: Andy M, Dave W, Simon P, Simon H, Andreea I, Nicola M, Gordon M.

A lovely walk around Faccombe starting at the newly refusbished Jack Russell Inn. We were bathed in glorious sun for the walk which took us up to Wayfarers Walk and to Combe Gibbet (whilst bagging the trig point on Walbury Hill, the highest point in the south of England) and then back down along the Test way to Linkenholt and Netherton and with only the last section back up the hill on road.

A wonderful walk enjoyed by everyone and finished with some lovely food and drink in the pub. It was great to welcome new members Nicola and Gordon to the club as well…

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