Mar 12

Another year...more hillwalking

This year, I'm really itching to get back into the hills. My role as a Scout leader has really taken precedent over my hillwalking aims but this year, I'm really going to go for it.

May 10

Hillwalking/Rambling Basics & looking after the countryside

My friend and I were in Litten, Yorkshire over the weekend to do a 16-mile hike across the Yorkshire Dales.  I'll post a full description later as I just want to highlight a couple of things I noticed on this walk just now.  Our walk takes in one of Yorkshire's famous 3 peaks known as Pen-y-ghent and we started our walk from the charming village known as Litten.  This is a very popular walk and we passed a number of walkers who were 'doing Pen-y-ghent'.  I noticed a lot of the walkers were very poorly dressed and ill-prepared for a walk such as this.  A lot of them had chosen to wear trainers on this steep climb and one person at the top of the hill complained about sore ankles and then blamed the amount of sugar he had consumed during the walk for his sore ankles.  He didn't blame the fact that this is quite a steep climb and he was wearing trainers.  Also, the state of the popular path and the top of the hill was a disgrace with crisp packets, empty bottles and banana skins and apple cores all over the place.  There is really no excuse for this.  The countryside is a place of beauty and peace and shouldn't be ruined by lazy or ignorant walkers throwing their rubbish onto the path instead of storing it and disposing of it properly.  Also, despite what some people may say, I cannot over-emphasise the need for proper walking boots when out on the hills.  The boots give your ankles support and help avoid sore and twisted ankles.  Also, a good pair of woollen hiking socks is always a must as this takes the sweat away from your feet and helps avoid blisters.  I always end up packing a little too much in my backpack but I like to be prepared for any eventuality so ensure you have some waterproof gear (jacket/trousers/gaiters), woolly hat and gloves.  A small packed lunch and some water is good.  I always take a small pack of tablet (a sugary Scottish snack) with me.  Avoid fizzy drinks as this can make you feel ill later as your walk becomes more strenuous.  A lot of walkers take walking sticks with them.  These are useful on long steep walks, but for an easy Sunday stroll, I would say they are not required.

Happy walking and keep safe.

Apr 10

Gordale Scar - North Yorkshire

The Gordale Scar was formed at the end of the last ice age when melt water from glaciers carved its way through the landscape resulting in this dramatic limestone ravine. It's in located near Malham in North Yorkshire.

When I first heard about the Gordale Scar, I was a young cub scout in my hometown of Paisley. I had a picture of it a book and I was very much in awe of it. Being so young, the Scar seemed a 1000 miles away from my hometown and 25 years would pass before I even thought about climbing it.

The Gordale Scar is a large limestone formation in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales. Several theories exist on it's formation which range from it being a large cavern that collapsed thousands of years ago to the devastation caused by the receding ice waters from the last ice age carving it's way through the Yorkshire landscape. I personally don't know how it was formed, only that there must have been some major event that caused this dramatic landscape to form.

The walk takes in the awe inspiring Gordale Scar, the peaceful Malham Tarn and the impressive limestone scar at Malham cove.

The small village of Malhalm in the Yorkshire Dales in the starting point for our walk to the Gordale Scar.

We drove from the City of York after our train journey from London Kings Cross. It was a perfect time of year to visit as there was still a bit of a chill in the air and the hills were capped with remnants of snow. Thankfully, I had checked the weather beforehand, so we were promised a good dry day, although the sky did look threatening.

We arrived at Malham, changed into our walking gear and started on our journey towards the Gordale Scar. We walked upstream away from the village next to Gordale Beck, through Webder Wood and eventually reaching Janet's Foss.

We made an odd discovery on our way through the woods. Some previous hikers had pushed coins into the surrounding trees. There were literaly 100's of coins pushed deep into the trees. I don't know the basis for this custom, but I'm sure it can't do the trees any good.

We reached the Janet's Foss which is in an enchanting setting. In the spring and summer, this place will be bursting in colour. One can almost imagine this place immersed in deep mythology and I can imagine that people in our past have created some long forgotten myths and legends based on this place. We relax here for sometime as we prepare ourselves for leaving the wood and Janet's Foss behind us and we enter into a landscape which is drastically different from any previous location.

We emerge from the woods into the dramatic entrance to the Gordale Scar. I feel some trepidation and awe when I look upon this limestone formation. The feeling felt by walking through the quaint and enchanting woods with it's many lush greens and suddenly exiting and looking upon this limestone wonder is hard to describe. As we walked across the

Gordale Bridge, the landscape became less and less colourful and a feeling of foreboding comes over me. The Gordale Scar is a huge gorge with near vertical sides and over 100 metres high (330ft). Gordale Beck flows through a cave at the top and plummets down a chasm. Further on you eventually find your way blocked by a large waterfall over which plunges the Gordale Beck. The best way to climb up the waterfall is to navigate your way up centre-left. There are plenty of hand-holds for you to pull yourself up, but be careful as the water does make this cimb quite slippery. There is also a route up the right hand side of the waterfall, however, there are less handholds and seemed quite dangerous to me. When I reached the top, I looked down and was quite shocked when I looked down and realised how high this waterfall actually was. At the top, we met another walker who was heading the same route as us, so we had good company as we continued our walk towards Malhalm Tarn.

Once you pass this obstacle, scree and boulders lead up left around a corner, passing a little waterfall coming out of a hole in a rock curtain above you to your right. You then break out through a drystone wall heading out along a smooth grassy track towards Malham Tarn. We continued on the road until we reached to a small clump of trees and head ed left just before we passed the trees. We then reached Malham Tarn. This was a good refreshments/lunch break and we sat, chatted with our new friend and ate our lunch. If you have went through the gate on your way to Malhalm Tarn, you will have noticed the sign heading the opposite direction to Malhalm Cove. We returned through the gate and followed the sign across grassland. The further we walked, the more I noticed that the grass was becoming less and less and more patches of limestone started to appear. The path soon went into the narrow grass valley. We passed an interesting cave on the left hand side which will be worth a look next time we visit the Gordale Scar in the spring/summer, but as the light was fading, we decided against the short scramble to the cave.

We continued onwards and soon we passed through a tiny gate atop a stile. We now found ourselves atop the famous limestone pavements above Malhalm Cove. There is some good exploring to be done here and some vertigo-inducing views to look down. It was almost totally dark now and our torches were beginning to fail, so we had to be careful as one slip could have resulted in a twisted ankle, or even broken bones. We descended into the valley below via a path after the limestone pavements. Once you're in the lower valley, you can turn around and explore the bottom of Malhalm Cove which is popular for rock climbers. We'll probably do this later in the year when the nights are lighter.

This is an ideal walk for youth groups and is recommended for older scouts and explorer scouts as it can encompass a lot of various subjects such as map reading, compass reading, rock climbing and it is a very good walk for young people and scouts to practice their hillwalking skills.

We then enjoyed a peaceful walk back to Malham and enjoyed a couple of pints of real ale and the local pub with our new walking companion.

Please view the gallery from thiis walk on Mobile Me by clicking here.

Jan 10

Hillwalking - Ben Vorlich

Originally posted on Wednesday, 02 December 2009 at 13:03

Ben Vorlich, on the shores of Loch Earn, outlined dimly before us in the morning light, lay, rugged and dark. As we watched, the sparse covering of cloud cleared revealing more and more of the mountain we had travelled 500 miles to ascend. In a team of 2, we started our ascent.

We had left London by NXEC (National Express East Coast) from Kings Cross on Friday night (6th November) and arrived in Glasgow about 11pm in the evening. We enjoyed a very nice 3 course meal on the train accompanied by wine and followed by some beers. As usual, we stayed in the Holiday Inn which is convientently located so that it is a short drive to the West Highlands.

The walk up to Ben Vorlich northern ridge is quite a grueling one with quite a few steep climbs. We follow the path next to Glen Vorlich with its deep wooded sides and the small burn running through it.

The mountain looks very daunting from this angle and the clouds that frequently obscure the summit give one a feeling of foreboding. People who would walk passed us on their way back down talk of snow higher up the mountain and of freezing temperatures, but at our current altitude, the ground is dry and the air is fine with a slight chill to keep one awake and alert. The path is of good condition as the mountain is well trodden by 1000’s of hillwalkers every year and the path is well maintained. I notice a little erosion here and there caused by walkers taking short cuts and vearing from the defined path. The grass is covered in heather and various plants and flowers are scattered amongst the grass. As we get higher, the noise from the stream becomes quieter and is replaced by a slight howling from the wind as it blows through the mountains and the glens. The air becomes slightly chillier so we both decide to don our wooly hats to keep ourselves warm. The path here becomes slightly less defined and is replaced by rockly slopes which demand some scrambling skills. Eventually, we ascend into the clouds where visibility drops to around 10 meters. This gives one a feeling that they are the only person in the world. The feeling of loneliness one feels at this moment is calming after a week in London. Here and there, we start to notice patches of snow. To the left, the mountain descends very steeply into the glen below. I notice my hands are starting to get very numb so I put my gloves on and stop for some tea. After our tea, we ascend to even steeper parts of the mountain. The snow patches are getting a lot more frequent and the temperature has dropped to below freezing levels. With a final push, we ascend to the summit. As usual, we rest for some minutes, enjoying the 360 degree views. I have a feeling that this is the highest mountain we have climbed so far, but this honour belongs to Ben Lawers which is almost 4000 feet.

We continued on the path to ascend Stuc A’Croin, but, as the day was turning into evening, the sun started to descend as the light dimmed. We decided at this moment to descend the mountain before it became too dark. By the time we reached the snow line, the sun had completely set and the evening turned into night. The air was clear and the night sky was a myriad of unknown stars sparkling in the jet-black velvet of the sky, and shooting

Jan 10

Hillwalking - Ben Lawers

Originally posted on Monday, 02 November 2009 at 11:38

My partner and I decided to climb Ben Lawers this weekend. Ben Lawers (Beinn Labhair) is on the highest mountains in the Southern Scottish Highlands. It lies close to Loch Tay just ahead of the village of Killin. We started off at the Ben Lawers car park which also has the Ben Lawers visitors centre which is, unfortunately, now closed apart from a small room which we used as a changing room. The weather on this day was very changeable and thick clowds covered the summit of Ben Lawers, but that was never going to dampen our spirits, so, dressed in full waterproof gear and our backpacks filled with all essentials (water, food, tea, torch etc), we headed off across the boardwalk to attempt Ben Lawers (3984 ft).

The route goes across a boardwalk and through a small nature reserve. If you keep an eye open here, you can spot various species of birds and other wildlife. The path follows a burn on the right hand side which eventually leads you onto a crossing which usually allows you to cross the burn without getting wet, but on this occasion, the burn was very deep and rapid and we did have some trouble crossing. I found 2 rocks which I used to jump across, but my partner decided to wade through the water which was upto his knees. Luckily he was wearing waterproof gear, or he would have been soaked which would have made him miserable later as the wet clothes lowers his body temperature. Here and there, you notice various piles of rubble. These are actually the rubble from cottages that used to be here. They are known as shielings and were used a long time ago as get away dwellings for families (mainly woman and children) when their husbands were away.

Later, we ascended into the clowds. This is one of the things I love about hillwalking. Once you ascend into the clowds, visibility is reduced to about 30 metres. I do enjoy this, as it increases the feelings of loneliness which I feel is needed after spending several weeks in the hustle and bustle of London. The winds were really picking up here and had the icy tinge which characterises the beginning of the winter season. The views near the top are incredible and very hard to describe, but I’ll try. Photo’s will never do the views justice. A lot is lost in a photo and the true view can only be appreciated by experiencing it first hand.

Once you are on the Ben Lawers ridge, there are quite steep cliffs each side of the path. My legs felt a very slight tendency to lock up here as the views are quiet vertigo inducing. At this moment, we could say the valley 1000’s of feet below with a small river running through it with the summit of Meall Corranaich just ahead of us. Suddenly a bank of clowd obscured our view of the valley and left just the summit of the opposite moutain visible. It’s very special when this happens as you feel like you’re floating in the air and you can see the tops of the clowds which is an amazing feeling. I highly recommend it.

The descent was no less impressive. Once you reach the summit of Ben Lawers, you turn back and take the path descended into the valley on the right. You’ll pass more shielings on the way down. This is also like a big wind catch. The winds here were very high, but not dangerously so, just enough to let you know, I’m here and I can blow you off anytime. Every so often, the clowds would come in again and offer us amazing and dramatic views. Near the end of our walk, the moon had come out in it’s full glory and illumated the entire hill in moonlight. A perfect end to a perfect day. We continued down to the car park and head off for our dinner in the local pub.

This is a mountain I highly recommend to novice hillwalkers. It is a very high mountain (3984 ft) but it is relatively easy going and not too strenuous on the old legs. When I first climbed this mountain, I was a young 14 year old boy scout (J.N.I 7th Paisley Scout Troop) and we climbed this hill in March when the entire area was blanketed in deep snow and the sky was blue with the sun blazing down on us. I remember descending as the sunset and the entire hill was ablaze like it was on fire. It is a very different experience, but no less rewarding. I hope to recreate this winter walk in March 2010.

Coming up…Ben Vorlich…Loch Earn…

Jan 10

Hillwaking - Beinn Chabhair

Originally posted on Tuesday, 18 August 2009 at 15:57

My partner and I took a hillwalking trip to Scotland on the 15th August 2009. The plan was to climb Beinn Chabhair which at 933 metres (3061 feet) makes this mountain one of the Munros which is any mountain in Scotland over 3000ft. The mountain name is taken from the Gaelic meaning Hill of the Hawk and it is a very craggy hill with some very steep and boggy paths leading to it’s summit. So with our hiking boots, waterproof gear and backpacks, we set off. The rocky path starts behind Beinn Glas farm where we stayed. There is a very steep and slippy path which leads up to the to of Beinn Glas falls. We had to be very careful on this path as the heavy rains over the past few days had made this path treacherous and very slippy. It’s lead up through thick bracken patches and eventually reaches the Beinn Glas falls. I looked over the falls and could not stop a feeling of vertigo overcome me. I could see the water descend and was in awe. You really feel very small when you look at something like this.

Continuing up past the falls and cross over the style, you lead onto the Beinn Glas burn which twists and meanders through hilly and boggy moorland with the peaks of Beinn Chabhair in the distance. At some points, the path is well defined, on other points that path disappears and it can take sometime to locate it again. We followed the Beinn Glas burn up to the Lochan Beinn Chabhair which you then ascend onto Meall nan Tarmachan. You turn back to admire the views and…ahh…didn’t see much…it was raining heavily you see…and with the gale-force winds threatening to blow us away…we decided to call an end to the walk. I thought this was a shame, but I really felt the weather was not going to improve and ascending any higher would prove a dangerous feat. So, we turned back the way we came.

Something funny happened on the way down. Walking on this kind of weather, you really have to watch where you put your feet. I consider myself an experience hillwalker and after a time, you get a feel for what is safe ground and what is not safe ground to walk on. As I was looking at a boggy patch for another way around, my partner who had gained some confidence in hillwalking, decided to go ahead, and SPLAT, fell waist deep into the muddy bog I was currently planning a way around.

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