Gillham’s way with Y Garn

Craig y Bera, Mynydd Mawr - click to enlarge

Craig y Bera, Mynydd Mawr - click to enlarge

Our Welsh Peaks Project took its first steps of the year today with a rounding-off of the Hebogs group, (geographically Y Eifionydd), picking up Y Garn and Mynydd Mawr and visiting a few old friends.
High in cwm Afon Tal-y-mignedd

High in cwm Afon Tal-y-mignedd

Whereas “Nuttall’s list” and its web-based supplements and amendments continue to define the tops for inclusion we have usually preferred to group the tops ourselves. This has led to some over-optimistic outings! More recently a new set of books has appeared which adds spice and interest to the established guides, and these have been written by John Gillham. So far 4 have been published and the first half of our walk today was inspired by Eifionydd route E7 in book 2 – a tough but rewarding route up Y Garn, or Carn Drws-y-coed as he prefers to call it. (I’ll stay with the former since it corresponds with the OS maps!)
The North-east ridge of Y Garn

The North-east ridge of Y Garn

E7 starts from the lay-by on the B4418, a quarter-of-a-mile west of Drws-y-coed. If followed carefully Gillham’s description takes you steeply into the cwm between Y Garn, Mynydd Drws-y-coed and Trum y Ddysgl and then joins the NW ridge wall of Y Garn for an interesting finale. We then followed the fabulous ridge walk over the two previously mentioned tops and on to the obelisk on Mynydd Tal-y-mignedd, picking up a couple of geocaches along the way.
The Nantlle Ridge, from Y Garn

The Nantlle Ridge, from Y Garn

The weather was fabulously warm and sunny – a real surprise for March. Everyone was in t-shirts and light tops, and there were plenty of folk on the main Nantlle Ridge promenade soaking up the sun and looking at the extensive, if slightly hazy, views.
From Queen Victoria’s Jubilee commemorative tower we descended NW back to the valley, picking up a track at 525533 and then through Tal-y-mignedd-isaf farm back to the B4418.
Descending NW from Mynydd Tal-y-mignedd

Descending NW from Mynydd Tal-y-mignedd

After a quick break we then took the standard route up Mynydd Mawr, heading from Drws-y-coed NE to Beddgelert Forest before doubling-back over the impressive Craig y Bera to the equally impressive summit.
Clogwynygarreg, from the climb to Mynydd Mawr

Clogwynygarreg, from the climb to Mynydd Mawr

What a wonderful top this is, with extensive views over to the Snowdon group in the East, and the sea to the West. To the South lie the rest of the Hebogs group; the heather-clad slopes of Moel Lefn reminding us of our awkward descent from there when last in this area.
The Nantlle Ridge from Craig y Bera

The Nantlle Ridge from Craig y Bera

Gully on Craig y Bera

Gully on Craig y Bera

Obviously these walks could be done separately but they work well as a pair and serve as a wonderful survey of this quiet, yet beautiful, valley.
Mynydd Mawr summit

Mynydd Mawr summit

(12 miles, 4800 ft ascent)

Summit Caching

The parallel blog to this is “Gillham’s way with Y Garn“, a wonderful walk in the Eifionydd region of Wales.

Whilst preparing the maps for walks I also factor-in any convenient caches there may be in the region and, after the Fellsman Recce and the Great Orme visits, I realise there are a great many “summit caches” around. Not surprisingly, therefore, I found several along our intended route, and a couple more in the valley from which we were starting.
Mountain tops actually make very good spots for hiding caches: they are generally rocky and most muggles concentrate on the very summit cairn or trig – or maybe the crag edges. An innocuous-looking slab of rock close to, but not at, the summit makes a very convenient GZ.
The cache I found recently on The Great Orme, Llandudno, was placed by a member of Summits On The Air. http://www.sota.org.uk/
This is an organisation of radio amateurs who link-up from the summits of mountains at pre-arranged times. These people store caches at many of these summits http://www.summitcaching.org.uk/SummitTables.php and there is now a league table of people who have visited the most.http://www.summitcaching.org.uk/LeagueTables.php
Neither of the summit caches we found on Mynydd drws-y-coed or Mynydd Tal-y-mignedd were placed by these people, but they do indicate their growing number.
GZ, Mynydd Drws-y-coed - click to enlarge

GZ, Mynydd Drws-y-coed - click to enlarge

The first of the two was tricky to find, as the description fitted a number of locations – but the weather was glorious and we had plenty of time.
Cache contents, Mynydd Drws-y-coed

Cache contents, Mynydd Drws-y-coed

The second was easy – under the aforementioned slab, but poorly protected from the elements and so, despite the container, the contents were wet-through.
GZ, Mynydd Tal-y-mignedd

GZ, Mynydd Tal-y-mignedd

Wet logbook, Mynydd Tal-y-mignedd

Wet logbook, Mynydd Tal-y-mignedd

The two in the valley – at the ruins of the old chapel of Drws-y-coed, and by the lakeside at Llyn y Dywarchen, were quick finds and full of interesting trackables. Of these the last was particularly memorable, coming at the end of a very long day, as the last light played on the lake and boathouse. Very peaceful and a fitting end to a wonderful day.
Llyn y Dywarchen

Llyn y Dywarchen

Cache-22

29th February 2012

We all need targets, and 22 seemed like a nice number to aim for.
I’d decided this before I stumbled across the 29th February event in London – a day I happened to be visiting the Capital.
Attending such an event is classed as a “Find”, so I just needed a couple more before I reached the Packenham Arms, off Gray’s Inn Road.
But, first let me look back on this first tranche of caches…
Although I had downloaded the Geocaching App over a year previously, and registered on the site even before then, it was only when on holiday in Tenerife in 2011 that I first decided to play with the App. It immediately informed me of quite a number in my vicinity, and so I set off in search of the first one – which I found under a huge boulder. Quite an exciting moment and although I searched briefly for a few others, we were flying home within the next few days and that solitary cache was all I came way with – but the interest was kindled.
Due to taking on a new role at the University I shelved the activity until on holiday over New Year 2012, when I picked off another and then kept the pace up with finds in Hull, Newport (S. Wales), Loggerheads, Llandudno and London as well as my home town of Chester. I’ve managed to work the hobby into my running, shopping and even my work as I travel to different towns.
Obviously, as you uncover more and more about this sport/hobby (which is it?) you realise that there’s so much more to it. I’m intrigued by the puzzle caches, and the series of linked ones, and the Earth caches which direct you interesting geographical sites of interest. And then there are trackables – the objects left by cachers, many of them registered online, and which are moved on from site to site.
The Witch has compared these to Letterboxing, of which she is a past-master, and reading up about it I can see it is a venerable tradition of which geocaching is but a new arm. We humans love puzzling, discovering and collecting – and this sport/hobby covers all those bases.
And so to London, and February 29th 2012; a leap day of course and the geocaching fraternity treat this as a special day. I came upon the following event whilst looking for a suitable next target…http://www.geocaching.com/seek/cache_details.aspx?guid=a435b3b8-6bb5-4bd7-8b7c-0dfc07c74321
I happened to be in town and so went along and met some nice characters; friendly, helpful and (of course) full of enthusiasm. The event was organised by goldpot and it was relaxed and welcoming. Trackables were passed around but I had to leave just as Eeore (the Donkey) arrived – apparently infamous in this locale.
The two caches I’d found that day took my total to 22, and yet on I go and it’s now at 31 as I write this just 11 days later. Out walking with the Whelk and the Witch yesterday in the Yorkshire Dales we discovered 2 set by the National Parks Authority and one delightful one by geoartcache. Wonderful stuff.
I am now going to learn about the art of Trackables and the other offshoots of this great sport … or is it hobby? Watch this space …
[pictures shortly]

Cache-ing in on time-off

The Whelk and I had booked onto the Anglezarke Amble and right about now, 3pm, we would be setting off for home after we’d each done our respective 16 and 24 mile circuits.
Now, the AA is one of the highlights of the running year but the conditions promised much ice and snow and a 5:15am rising is never that welcome in February. So we wimped out.

I had a really welcome lie-in and watched the Man Utd – Liverpool match, whilst getting ready for a local run. I set off at 3pm, crossed the River Dee and headed out around the large loop of the Meadows, heading down towards Ecclestone.

Waiting for the ferry ...

Waiting for the ferry ...

I’d already decided to extend the run down to the Iron Bridge at Aldford, but had researched a couple of geocaches to act as short breaks along the way. The first, close to the A55, was quickly found and was a real delight – full of superb trackables.

Well-stocked cache near the A55

Well-stocked cache near the A55

There be cache here ...

There be cache here ...

I continued down to the Iron Bridge, the path muddier and with some interesting potholes! The bridge is one of my favourite spots – a lovely view over to the church at Aldford, a slow and majestic stretch of river and fabulous trees and bushes. There’s a cache somewhere here but no phone signal so couldn’t lock-in on it. Must pre-download next time.

Iron Bridge, Aldford

Iron Bridge, Aldford

I set off back along towards Ecclestone, and very soon was on the path that bypasses the Crook of Dee. Here I met a lady who had lost one of her dogs and looked worried when I said I hadn’t seen a dog since leaving the bridge. She explained that the dog was elderly, had a weak heart and was last seen heading into the large field that comprises the Crook. This is private land and the old access path has been heavily barred with copious barbed wire. I said I’d run round the loop, back to the lodge if I could find a way into the field. I did easily by crossing a stream and circumnavigated the whole field, swamps and all (which cleaned off he mud!) but no dog was seen. Arriving back at the lodge I couldn’t see the missing dog’s owner so I headed back towards Chester.

Path beside the Dee

Path beside the Dee

First snowdrops of the year

First snowdrops of the year

Feeling a bit cheated re the cache, I recalled there being another cache between here and Ecclestone and, having a good signal now, closed-in on it. I had to clamber up beside a large tree away from the path but starting to read the main description I really began to wonder what I was getting into. I read the description, and decided to leave it until I’d studied it more.

By now I was cold and my muscles were a bit fed-up of hanging around. I pushed on to Ecclestone, through the village and down the road towards Chester before picking up the track through the woods towards the Grosvenor Bridge. I never regained the warmth in my leg muscles and it was heavy going on this return leg. A quick dive in to a shop for some chocolate and I was home.

Queen's Bridge, Chester

Queen's Bridge, Chester

The next afternoon I took a walk around the walls and picked up caches as the bus station and the Eastgate Clock. I took Lumie with me, a Windows phone, to introduce her to the art of Geocaching. I set the SportsTracker app running to record the route of my walk.

I’d previously downloaded the Geocaching app and used this to navigate to the various locations. Compared to the iPhone app I found the GPS mapping on the Lumia 800 to be jerky – you often had to wait 15-20 seconds for the dot representing yourself to follow your physical movement.
Finally, as a thorough test of the multi-tasking abilities of the phone, I took numerous photos.

Unfortunately, as soon as I switched to the Geocaching app, SportsTracker just closed down and didn’t continue running in the background. Disappointing.

I like the panorama movement of the pages in Windows Phone 7.5 and most of the Geocaching app worked well – just the mapping function felt awkwardly integrated.

Eastgate Clock - Looking a thumb-nail, magnetic cache ...

Eastgate Clock - Looking a thumb-nail, magnetic cache ...

Of the two caches, the one at the clock was a thrill to find – a nano, thumb-nail in size, magnetic and painted black. The whole of the clock superstructure and adjoining railings are of black metal. Hmmmm. Nice one.

Geocaching 101

This is developing into a hobby which sits nicely alongside my other activities, such as running, walking and even visiting other locations whilst on business or vacation.
Basically, Geocaching is Hide and Seek for the 21st Century. People hide things and you have to find them.
There is also a touch of the cloak-and-dagger, dead-letter boxes and of waiting until the coast is clear.
The 21st Century element comes from the integral use of the internet, GPS technology and – generally – mobile devices.

Bench with a view

Bench with a view - but where's the cache?

  • Scene: 1pm, a busy shopping street. A statue of a local poet faces me as I sit on a sturdy iron bench. Yes, this looks like the spot. With my right hand I reach under the bench and retrieve a small film canister, held in place with a magnet. Inside is a roll of paper listing the previous finders. I add my details and return everything. All that remains is to log the find on my iPhone App and the job is done.

The leading organisation for this hobby is Geocaching.com. The easy site soon draws you in and apps are are available for most devices. I’ve tried both the iPhone and Windows phone versions: the former is superb, whilst the latter needs work.