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

Cartmel Trail – March 17th 2012

At 10:33 the war drums started pounding. The deafening noise was absorbed by thousands of legs as they started their involuntary motion.  Soon the first wave of 500 runners started moving in time to the voodoo rhythm towards the huge inflatable Start gate.

Thus began the 2012 Lakeland Trails series; 8 events spread through the National Park over the course of the year. They are supremely well organised and great fun.
This particular event has as its venue the excellent facilities at Cartmel Racecourse – a great location.
Ok, the routes are not long – 10k or 18k – but they are hilly, muddy in places and very scenic. Definitely worth the effort of travel despite their short duration. The distances also attract a great many entrants – 1300 in this case!
There are plenty of ancillary attractions :- Pete Blands mobile shop, healthy good stalls as well as burger bars. At this point the little mobile expresso van hasn’t arrived, but I wait in hope …
It should also pointed out that all finishers on all events get a Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding as well as technical tee.
Kate and Dave are here …
Kate & Dave

Kate & Dave (click photos to enlarge)

… and the latter and the Whelk are off at 11am on the 10k route.
The terrific drummers, all motion and synchronised movement, led the first wave out on the track and soon they were off – a long stream of striving stress hurtling along the race track itself.
Kate and I returned to our vehicles and relaxed until Dave was expected back.
Samba Batala Lanacaster Drummers

Samba Batala Lanacaster Drummers

It started raining during this first race, but it was only light and soon stopped. Whilst Dave and the Whelk were out on the course I found Bob’s mobile expresso van and had an excellent latte.
All too quickly they were back – Dave coming in slightly ahead of last years’ time and the Whelk coming in slightly behind last years time. Both had red glowing faces which bore beaming smiles. I think they enjoyed it.
Helen readies for the off!

Helen readies for the off!

Then the Lancaster Samba Batala band led Kate and I – and almost 400 others – out onto the course to be lined up behind the Start gate. The drums were intense and pounding – the ground shaking – and then we were off, charging down the racecourse, through a gate and out into the estate.
Coniston Hills ahead

Coniston Hills ahead

Soon the first climbs kicked-in and the pace, frustratingly, slowed and the heartrate climbed. A few level sections followed, but always interspersed with stiff pulls upwards of 100 ft or so. The view north to the Coniston fells, and behind us to Morecambe Bay, opened out and the running across the fell tops was airy and wonderful.
Almost half way

Almost half way

The km markers seem to arrive slowly and I was already feeling the effect of constant pushing when the first water station arrived at 9km – half way. Kendal Mint Cake, Nuun, Water and even Guinness!
Water, Nuun or Guiness !

Water, Nuun or Guiness !

The muddy sections follow but they’re not as bad as previous years; a camera-man tried to get us to run through the centre of particularly juicy stretch but I spotted some dry footprints and used them instead.
Mud, glorious mud!

Mud, glorious mud!

Muddy sections not up to Beast standards!

Muddy sections not up to Beast standards!

Some lovely farms, with flowers and lambs in abundance, mark the start of the end and the route soon enters the woods with a short steep climb. Then I heard them … the drums. Echoing through the hills, almost drowning the hysterical voices of the announcers as they called out the names of each finisher. Down through a small gate and onto the racetrack we ran – the drummers line the track as you finish and it makes for a thrilling finale. Kate had been hoping to pip 2hrs but frustratingly came in at 2:00:11 – just 11 seconds out! I was two minutes slower than last year, but I’m happy with that.
Curd Cheesecake & Coffee - Lovely!

Curd Cheesecake & Coffee - Lovely!

I collected my teeshirt and pudding and we set off to get a coffee in Grange-over-Sands, and then back to Cartmel for dinner at the Cavendish Arms in the evening.
We stayed locally (Grange Fell B&B – excellent!) and the next morning visited Cartmel again and toured the excellent shops and cafes – the cheese shop, the sticky toffee pudding shop, a great toy shop and the Cartmel Coffee Shop set us up for an afternoon visit to the Buddhist Priory at Ulverston, and some lovely homemade food – sitting in the wonderful afternoon sun.
The Whelk, Cartmel

The Whelk, Cartmel

Kadampa Temple, Conishead Priory, Ulverston

Kadampa Temple, Conishead Priory, Ulverston

Kadampa Temple, Conishead Priory, Ulverston

Kadampa Temple, Conishead Priory, Ulverston

Kadampa Temple, Conishead Priory, Ulverston

Kadampa Temple, Conishead Priory, Ulverston

Conishead Priory, Ulverston

Conishead Priory, Ulverston

What a great weekend.

Fellsman Hike – Fleet Moss Recce, 2012

To anyone who has completed the Fellsman Hike, or at least got as far as the Cray checkpoint, the hours spent crossing Fleet Moss, Oughtershaw Tarn and Middle Fell (Yockenthwaite Moor) stand out in the memory. For all the wrong reasons. This 8-mile stretch of the 61-mile route is mostly covered in groughs, hags, perilous bogs and deep, saturated mosses. And to top all that, it’s usually undertaken during the hours of darkness by us mortals who are not superhuman fell-runners!

I last did this in 2009 and vowed “Never Again”. So here I am, fully signed-up (along with the Witch) and ready to celebrate the 50th running of the event. We never learn.
I decided to go out and recce this stretch to see if I could find some better lines of approach. Moreover, due to Landowner-related issues, the Middle Fell checkpoint had had to be moved last year 800m to the South. It has just been announced that the same location is to be used this year, and so the Witch and I, accompanied by the Whelk, drove up early one Saturday to get to grips with this region.
—-
Sitting in the car, at the point where the Fleet Moss checkpoint tent will be, and looking out over said moss is a dispiriting experience; a sea of peat groughs and bogs stretching for a mile. It looked very wet and uninviting – and it had just started to rain.
On the day of the event there is usually a stile placed over the fence to guide walkers safely into the gloop (remember it’s usually pitch black, with just your head-torch to light the way). However, most years I’ve used the drier route of following the southern wall round the moss to Jeffrey Pot (accompanied by my Groupees, of course – the people I ended up being “grouped” with)
It’s always difficult starting off, finding the right spot to leave the road. We left a touch too soon, around the 560 contour, and next time I’ll go closer to the 540 line.
The southern wall route is easy underfoot with easy navigation. Seeing Jeffrey Pot in daylight was fascinating – one usually just senses the huge void to your left.
The route then descends steeply to the plateau holding Oughtershaw Tarn, and at the top of the descent all you see is water and bog for around 800m. At first the going is not too bad, following the fence line and jumping the ooze-filled gaps. Then we found we were in a kind of grassy groove, with a faint path that very gradually moved away from the fence, northwards.
After a while I felt worried about leaving the fence and so headed back, but it was false comfort as the bog hindered easy movement until the steep climb away from the plateau was reached.
Following the wall around to Deepdale Haw, and looking back over the tarn area we could see that maybe that groove should have been adhered to, for we could see a junction of faint paths, one of which now reached up to us at the Haw, radiating from the end of the groove. Another thing to be checked on our next visit.
By now we could see across to Yockenthwaite Moor to our East and the suspected location of the new checkpoint. It struck us immediately that by following the edge of the groughs we could miss the worst of the terrain and be roughly in line with the target. We crossed the wall at 901817 and headed roughly SE to cross the upper reaches of Deepdale Gill. We then came across a faint track which we’d just spotted a couple of runners using. This crossed the Gill and then headed SSE; infact it was waymarked as an official path but it is not on any map I’ve seen. The path forked; we kept left. It seemed to be heading directly for the checkpoint when, close to a flattened cairn, it head more sharply left. We took a bearing on the checkpoint and crossed easy tufts of grass to reach an area of rocks and bare earth where the GPS told us the checkpoint would be.
We then took a bearing on the wall junction at 924808 and without any undue problems with terrain, arrived at Gilbert Lane 200m South of Grey Horse. A much better experience than in the past, and one that filled me with more confidence for the upcoming event.
After a quick drink at the White Lion Inn, Cray, we headed back along Langstrothdale, via the picturesque settlements of Hubberholme, Yockenthwaite and Deepdale to arrive back at Trebor just as darkness fell.
A short while later the black sky was filled with myriad stars, and the bright moon lit up the moors in ghostly fashion. We looked out through the misty windscreen over Fleet Moss – “We’ll be back”.
[photos soon]

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]