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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NMC Awards Evening

2017 NMC Awards

Reach for the Stars-Altitude Award:

1st– Dorian and Maria reached 5,416m at the Throng La Pass whilst on the Annapurna Circuit.

2ndSimon ascended up an unnamed pass between Ghuma Thanti and Bharche Khola, Mustang (south east of Lo Manthang) in Nepal, 5230m

 

Gordon Ramsay Award

Marion: for cooking a great lamb meal on the Brecons trip in January

Maria: for her chilli in the Kings Hostel in Wales.

Mark Conway: for culinary excellence using up all the left overs on the last night in Scotland on the Easter trip.

Winner -Gary: for cooking so many great things last year including cakes, apple crumble, vegetable curry, amongst other things. And he hasn’t stopped in 2018!

 

Golden Underpants.

There are only two official nominations but one other incident deserves a mention!

Maria. It’s not official because it didn’t occur on a NMC trip. However it’s not every year that someone is helicoptered of the mountain after tripping and breaking her ankle on a fairly easy path.

  1. Dorian: On Saturday 15 of us set off to walk up Cadair Idris confidently following our ML. Dorian. However after about 10min into the walk we found ourselves in a field with no evidence that this was the correct route except to a farm. So we back tracked and with the help of a few others we found the route and went ahead as planned. Yes we all make mistakes even ML’s!
  2. The other little incident occurred when Gary was driving his car and was trying to park at Hawse End YH in the Lakes trip last December. He parked in one place but as we were one of the first to arrive a voice in the back seat said that it would be better to move the car up so there was more space left for others. So Gary obediently did as he was asked but he reserved the car with the person in the back saying it was OK, to go back a bit more. Until there was a bang he’d reversed into the back of a canoe trailer causing a dent in the car. The voice in the back was Maggie

Winner-Maggie

 

Boy Scout/Girl Guide Award

Although not on a NMC trip Dorian deserves a mention for administering 1st Aid on the mountain, deploying shelter and calling Mountain Rescue when Maria broke her ankle and was rescued by a helicopter.

Winner-Dorian

 

No Fixed Abode-or person who has been on the most trips.

There were a total of 11 trips last year.

1st place: Alan -9 trips

2nd place: Maggie & Claire – 8 trips

3rd place: Andy M & Dave went on 5 trips

 

Best Trip

Scotland Easter trip to the Cairngorms organised by Claire/Alan. 12 of us stayed in two quirky cottages near Nethybridge. There were good walks, food and of course plus a great outdoor hot tub which was appreciated after a day in the mountains.

 

Cadair Idris: organised by Dorian in September when 17 of us stayed at the Kings Youth Hostel. On Saturday we walked up to Cader Idris summit and were rewarded with great views. We then enjoyed a great meal cooked by Maria.

Dolomites in September. This trip was organised for us by Colletts and coordinated by Claire. It was a great trip with stunning scenery, snow and fabulous walks.

Gower: organised by Marion. A great trip with 16 people attending. There were long walks across the sands, an early rise for some who walked across to Worms Head before full tide. Plus great food.

Yorkshire 3 Peaks: organised by Dave. All completed the route

Lake District: organised by Maggie in December, staying at Hawes End YHA.

Winners: Claire & Alan –Easter trip to Cairngorms in Scotland

 

Mountain Club Achievement:

Andy M: for personal progress with his navigating in the Cairngorm trip.

Dorian & Maria: for completing the Annapurna circuit, luckily before Maria broke her leg

Alan & Claire: Walking across Scotland for the second time on the Great Outdoor Walk. In total 200 miles which is planned individually by the people doing the walk.

Alan & Claire: Completing the Fjall Raven classic (100miles) in Sweden.

Winners: Alan and Claire

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Snowdonia – Feb 2018

“An excellent weekend was had by all in North Wales and we succeeded in finding the snow.

Saturday the team started all together from the bunk house and split after an hour of walking. With two members deciding to try and run to Llanberis over the Glider Fawr and Y Garn, the rest of use were happy to walk from Capel Curig to the summit of Glider Fawr via Gallt yr Ogof and then down to the Ogwen cottage. It was a fabulous, if cold day, the summits had a good covering off snow and the devil kitchen was full of drift snow. We got to the Ogwen cottage just in time to grab a cuppa before it closed. A full and rewarding day on the mountains and our reward was a full Saturday night meal in the Bryn Tyrch Hotel.

Sunday we climbed Moel Siabod before returning to the Moel Siabod Caf and heading off back home.”

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Brecons – Jan 2018

Date: 26th-28th January 2018

Attendees: Maggie Russell (organiser), Alan Tinkler, Claire White, Andy Moss, Keyna Garner, Mark Foster, Marion Foster, Sue Woods, Tom Woods, Ade Dunn, Keyna Garner, Simon Horner, Gary Phillips, Annie Wallace.

After a 4 year break we returned to Glebe Barn, Llanbedr, near Crickhowell and it was great to arrive within 2 hours of leaving Newbury. However, sadly the sauna had now turned into a cupboard!

On Saturday, we headed out to do part of the Waun Fach Horseshoe. The views from Table Mountain were fine, but unfortunately we were then immersed in cloud as we walked to Pen Cerrig-Calch (701m), continuing on to Pen Allt Mawr at 719m. At the head of the valley we headed back by traversing the hill down to a stream, where Maggie missed the footpath and took the group down a horrendous muddy farm track. It was a case of hanging on to the fence/bushes or getting soaking wet muddy feet! Andy and Gary fortunately missed this as they went a slightly longer route back but got back at the same time.

Back at the barn we all enjoyed Gary’s amazing ginger cake! This was later followed by Marion’s lasagne and homemade apple pies from Sue, all were all greatly appreciated.

We woke to a sunny day on Sunday and Claire, Alan, Keyna and Maggie headed to The Black Mountains and walked up to Y-Mynyddoedd Duon and down to the Grwyne Fawr Reservoir. It was extremely windy in exposed areas but luckily we were able to shelter in a lovely little bothy by the river. The rest of the group went to the slate mines before heading home. All having had another great weekend in the Brecons!

Maggie (trip organiser)

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Christmas Walk – Dec 2017

Attendees: Andy & Debs & Family, Dan & Beckie & Family, Maggie Russell, Kate & Andrew & Family, Simon P, Marion, Mark F, Richard S, Steve & Joanne, Sue Woods, Eddie Riff , Andy & Paula & Family, Keyna Garner, Alan T, Claire W, Bruce & Sarah & Family

A great Christmas walk on a beautiful crisp winters morning. Setting off a lunchtime we covered off slightly less that the planned route as the darkness started to come in and with a few kids in tow. We left Newbury heading north along the byways parallel to Hermitage Road, before cutting up to Grimsbury Castle (or whats left of it) before cutting through the woods back to the pub for a lovely group Christmas meal. Parents and children all had a great time…

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Lake District, Hawse End – Dec 2017

Lakes Trip

Date: 1st-3rd December 2017

Accommodation: Hawse End Cottage YHA, Portinscale, Keswick

Attendees: Maggie (organiser), Alan, Claire, Keyna, Marion, Jill, Martin, Bruce, Gary, Mark C, Pete, Andrea, Iona, Clair.

Some of us headed north on Thursday evening to avoid the Friday traffic and so we could do a walk on Friday. We awoke to a lovely clear and sunny day and Maggie, Alan, Claire, Jill and Gary headed up from Latrigg to do Skiddaw (931m). The ground was frozen and we were soon walking in snow, when we finally reached the top it was bitterly cold but the views were wonderful! Mark set off with us but not for long, as he ran, and completed both Skiddaw and Blencathra (23km plus 1480m ascent)!

After settling in at the YHA Maggie cooked a meal for those who had arrived early and waited for everyone else to arrive enjoying cheese and port kindly provided by Mark.

On Saturday we set off from the hostel and headed up to Cat Bells with good views of Derwent Water, and carried on to High Sky and Dale Head (753m). Unfortunately the clouds didn’t clear so visibility was not too good. After lunch Clair headed back down into the valley. Marion and Maggie decided to head down from Hindscarth and ended up doing a lot of sliding down damp rocks. Martin, Andrea and Iona bagged Hindscarth (727m) and then went back to pick up the trail to do Robinson (737m) which Alan, Claire, Jill, Gary and Keyna did. Mark and Pete went trail running and did an amazing 37km, although it did include a bacon butty stop at the Honister Pass café, tea/buns at the Black Sail hut and cake in Buttermere! We all arrived back in the dark and mulled wine and minced pies were thoroughly enjoyed by all. This was followed by two great curry dishes cooked by Marion and Gary. We also celebrated National Romania day with Andrea and Iona with some interesting liquor!

On Sunday the weather looked good so Alan, Claire, Maggie, and Marion did Blencathra,  while Mark went off running again but only 22km and 980m ascent! Some of the group went on a ‘Lakeside’ walk from the YHA led by Bruce while others headed back home.

It was a great weekend and it was good to welcome to Clair and Iona on their first NMC trip. Do look at Marks brilliant video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSPxcix4NV4&  Thank you  Mark!

Maggie

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The Gower, South Wales – October 2017

Friday 13st – Sunday 15th October 2017

Attendees: Maggie, Alan, Claire, Sue, Joanne, Steve,  Mark, Keyna, Ade, Andreea, Marion and welcome to new member Judith.

This year’s coastal trip was at Rhossili on the Gower. The village hall at Rhossili has a practical, comfortable bunkhouse where we stayed.

We had looked at the tides to walk to Worms head which can only be accessed in a window two hours either side of Low tide. So Saturday most of us were up and out walking at 7.30am. We were rewarded with a lovely sunrise. The walk involved a few scrambles across the rocks, some great views and seals in the sea.

Later we met up with the rest of the group and we continued on our walk on the ridge above Rhossili beach reaching the heady heights of 185m at the trig point! We managed to find a beer festival at Llangennith where we restricted our intake to a swift half. Broughton bay was our next destination and then the lovely long walk along Rhossili beach.

A great day walking with some lovely views.

The pleasant evening back at the bunkhouse with a home cooked evening, plenty of laughs and a quiz.

Sunday, none of us were in a rush home and we had a fabulous walk further east along the coast from Oxwich to Three Cliffs bay and back.

Another great sociable fun weekend with Newbury Mountain club.

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Dolomites – Sept 2017

Dolomites Hut to Hut Trek – September 2017

As a change to the more recent summer treks in the Alps and Pyrenees, a few of us ventured to the spectacular Dolomites for this year’s hut to hut. Winter appeared to arrive the same day as us (after, apparently, three glorious months of sunshine), but after seeing through the first few days of inclement weather, we were rewarded with excellent trekking and memorable views in snowy conditions. Our route took in part of the Alta Via 1, including Seekofel, LaVarella, Lagazuoi, Cingue Torri, and Croda da Lago (the refuge with a whole menu dedicated just for grappa). The refuges were top class, with menus to match (weight was gained on this trek) and some of the path constructions an amazing feat of engineering, taking us through rock faces which just didn’t seem possible without a rope. We’ll certainly be returning for more trekking in this amazing area.

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