Thursday, 27 March 2008


After an interesting week in Wales it was time to assess what gear will be used on the TGOC. First though gear had to be washed. The hex was slathered in mud, inside and out. To be honest I cannot recall a time when I have had a tent so muddy. The rucksack also had collected its fair share of mud, ditto trousers, boots and gaiters. Food wise I am keeping things fairly simple. Discovering that I can actually buy American dried foods for the same price as in the Uk, that includes postage, I have opted for some of the American stuff. Mainly for variety. Where else can you buy freeze dried choc chip ice cream? The company I have ordered from offer things like individual sachets of ginger and honey crystals. They are WWW.WildernessDining.COM. One or two new bits of gear will be used. A very light pair of carbon fibre trekking poles. Their one down side is their length. My intention is to carry them separately when using public transport as I did in Wales. My first impression of them was that they where flimsy but they seem ok; for summer anyway. The rucksack I find most comfortable with is my Osprey Atmos 50 ltre. This provides enough space for everything. Unfortunately my wash kit weighs in at almost 1lb. This is due to medical stuff I have to carry. Also, I hate travelling in my walking footwear, thus I travel in a light pair of flats and light pair of travel trousers. This does allow spare change of footwear. They fit snugly in one of the front pockets of the atmos. Possibly I will use the Hex, although there is a chance I may be using a different beast. For a ground cloth I am using a light polypropolene sheet from Winwood. At three quid it is worth it. At least with hex I know its capabilities. At present I am saying nothing though! Sleeping bag will be my Western Mountaineering with a silk liner. For added protection I use a very light outer cover with weighs around 4 ounces. The thermarest prolite three quarter. Stove wise I am sticking to the Optimus crux and a single titanium pot. A plastic collapsible bowl serves for a plate, eating cerials, or for washing. My 3ltr collapsible nalgene water bottle and 1 litr water bladder for drinking on the move. Clothing wise is mostly sorted. My Berghause paclite waterproof trousers and Rab nuetrino jacket will be my waterproof outer shell. A couple of light smart wool tees, a slighter heavier thermal top and a windproof. A couple of pairs of undies, ditto bras. My Lowe Alpine women's climbing trousers I think. May in Scotland can be variable. Footwear will be my Scarpa midis. They are heavier than I would have liked but new footwear is expensive. My old gaiters will suffice for muddy conditions. They have seen better days but are still serviceable. Hats gloves, first aid kit etc are always carried anyway and my sharp knife just in case I catch a stray haggis? Overall weight will average, including food and fuel, around 28lb, 11/12 kilo.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

going light, a downside

Tuesday 18th March. Camped OS map LR 124. GR 625322.approx.
Travelled up this morning to arrive in Harlech by early afternoon. My intention had been to get a meal in Harlech before heading out. However, everything was still closed for the winter season. Not even a fish and chip shop open. Finally found a cafe open, the only hot food available was an egg bap. Basically I was told, 'sorry, we do not serve meals this early in the year'! Heading out of Harlich involves a stiffish haul up the hill. Made my way by footpath up and across to Methyr farm and then around to where I am now camped. Am on a fairly flattish bit of ground just below a rocky outcrop which is providing shelter from any wind. Have a lovely view across to Llyn cym. There is a heavy dew this evening.
Wednesday. OS map Lr124. camped gr 624206.
As I thought it would be, a long day out. The heavy dew of last night froze as the temperature dropped during the night. Thus this morning the tent was sheathed in ice and the water bottle was partially frozen. This in turn means a later start. However, it was a beautiful morning. Dropped down by Cwm Mawr and picked up the path towards Cwm Bychan. The Rhinogs where so close, so tempting but time and the weather was against me. From what i had picked up on the long term forecast bad weather was due on Thursday. Also, I had arranged to meet folk at a camp site. Took the path up and around to Gloyw Llyn. A lovely setting with the water nestling in an amphitheatre of rock. An interesting section of path that climbs up from the llyn, twisting in and out of rocky outcrops. Followed the path, more or less, it is obscure when it get over the hill and drops down toward Nantcol. Dithered a bit coming around by Cilcychwyn. My original intention had been to pick up the path that led over to Pont Scethin. In hindsight I should have stuck to that. For speed though and because I was getting a tad tired I swung around by a lovely tiny, gated road that had some wonderful newly built dry stone walls. it is good to see the old dry stone walling skills are still being used. Picked up another path leading over towards Tal y ffynonau. In theory there ought to have been a continuing path leading over and leading straight on. it was not to be found though. A farmer was working his sheep further up the hill. So, rather than climb over walls and head across fields I swung around by the track. A long dog leg to work my way across to Pont Fadog. Followed the track up to where I am now camped. Stopped late and am tired. A very vivid sunset tonight and lovely moonrise. A full moon too, awooohhh!
Thursday. Bunkhouse at Corris.
As I suspected, a very full day. Woke this morning to thick cloud shrouding the hills and a rising wind. Came up by Bwlch y Rhiwgyr in swirling mist. Around by Bwlch y Llan and down to Barmouth. Found a cafe open that was still doing breakfast and nipped in for a full breakfast. A good, substantial breakfast. From the look of things it would be needed. Came across the toll bridge. Wow, was it windy or what. Headed up the hill opposite. Bad weather was coming in off the sea and I was pushing hard to get on as far as possible before it hit. It began raining as I followed the track up toward Cyfannedd. Crossed over in to thick forestry. The path headed directly up hill. It was badly churned and muddy. People had been riding trial bikes up and down it. So annoying, why can people not stick to the the forestry tracks and avoid footpaths? The whole path was awful. Hemmed in by close ranks of trees, in places it was a total quagmire and I slithered and struggled through the morass, cross, bothered and slathered in mud. Thick cloud swirled around me as I came out in to the open to pick up the path that came around by Trawsfynnydd. The rain was icy up there. A quick check of the compass to quell a few niggling doubts as I plodded on, head down in heavy, driving rain. There was sigh of relief as I dropped down towards Bodilan Fach. Noticed a flock of sheep watching me as crossed over a stile just above the farm. Spoke nicely to them as I do and carried on. Glancing back I saw to my horror that the whole flock had tucked in behind me and where intent on staying with me. Well, I knew I was wet and bedraggled but this was ridiculous. The farmer appeared as I approached the farmhouse. He laughed when I apologised, explaining that they where looking to me to feed them. Time now was running late and I still had a good few miles to cover before getting to the campsite just beyond Minfford. The quickest way was to stick to the road, yuch. However, I got to the campsite at last light. All I wanted was to get out of wet gear and in to a warm sleeping bag and have some hot food and drink. To my horror the whole campsite was was a wet, churned up muddy mess. Sheep had been in there recently. Walking the whole field it was obvious there was no place for a tent. By now the weather was awful, high winds and rain. Reverting to plan z, I retreated to the ladies. The intention to at least get the stove out and get something hot down me. Water flowing over the floor squashed that idea. Now that I had stopped the cold was really starting to hit me. Slipped my thermal gilet on under the waterproofs and waited in the dark for two hours until folk started turning up. Retreating to the pub we waited until everyone had arrived and then agreed to head for this hostel. A hard day.
Friday. Back at the hostel.
We headed back to the campsite this afternoon after an easy morning wandering around Dolgellau and having breakfast in a cafe. People decided the site was not too bad even though it was obvious the place was a wind trap. Heavy showers of icy rain and hail made putting up tents a wee bit interesting. The hex was standing up to the weather ok. What was obvious though was that without a floor The mud was going to cover everything. Even going to the loo meant muddy boots and gaiters slathered in the thick, cloying stuff. It is one of those factors, wild camping out on the hill one can usually find a sheltered spot and ground that is fairly firm, even if wet. Normally the half ground cloth I use is absolutely fine. It is something I have found before. In a few campsites I have used previously, wet and mud have been prominent in bad weather conditions. it is the one time going light fails. A heavier tent with a strong ground sheet is really required.
Took a walk up to Waun Oer. high wind chill factor on the top. Some sleet and snow.
Sunday. Just pottered and am heading out in the morning.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Doctor's suggestion.

Camped OS Map LR23. GR 405659. Roughly. Thursday 6th March

Had to go to the doctors a few days back. It was not my usual doctor that I saw but someone different. A few questions asked, a couple of quick checks and a few pills prescribed. Then, to my surprise, the Doctor suggested I may need a tad more exercise! Now than was an interesting recommendation that just had to be tried. So, without further preamble I went for a walk and am now on the Isle of Skye. Well, it seemed a good idea at the time.
Maybe it is just me, or because I rely on public transport; there is almost a ritual to catching trains and buses. The initial dash across town to the train station, pick up train tickets. On this journey it involves an eight hour run north. So, buy a bottle of water and a baguette and then hover on the concourse, eyes fixed on the notice board, poised. Finally the platform number is announced. now comes the quick dash down the platform, I do not have a reserved seat so have to move sharpish to get one. It may be me but I hate travelling backwards so nobble a forward facing seat; if I can, in the quiet zone. My bag with my boots in is dropped on the seat; a quick wriggle to get the rucksack off and then stow it close by so that I can keep an eye on it and then sink into my seat with a sigh as the carriage rapidly begins to fill.
Once more it involved a stopover in Inverness. From there a bus down to Portree, change buses and continue on to Uig. Nip into the ferry terminal loos for a quick change into my hill stuff and then away. It had been my original intention to head up on to the hill and follow the ridge line up towards the Quiraing, however, drizzly rain was blowing in off the sea and the cloud base was well down. So it was that I had an easy afternoon,s walk up to where I am now camped. Much bog all around, the bit of ground I am on is not too bad, wet, but not actual bog. With a rising wind and being a little exposed the tent pegs have been weighted down with heavy rocks. Broke a fingernail in the process, grrrh, I hate having raggity nails. The wind is becoming quite strong this evening and the local forecast is for gale force winds with speeds of 70 mph plus with gusts of over 90mph on the tops, yikes!
Friday 7th. Camped OS Map LR 23 GR 462709.
A quite quiet day after a storm tossed night. Woke up a few times during the night as the wind pummeled the tent, rain and hail beating a rhythm on the taut material. This morning the wind had moderated. Headed up to the bealach and turned off on to the path that leads through the Quiraing. What a lovely, delightful path. Twisting, winding, following the contours of the hill. it leads under dark, brooding cliffs, their beetling brows dripping with moisture. Through strange, shattered rock formations. Pillars of crumbling stone, weird and fantastic. Some have names such as the prison, the needle, the quiraing etc. Spent some time exploring, scrambling over scree, winding in out of massive boulders. It would have been nice to do more. It was tempting to stay up there, as I had originally planned. The day had been one of showers, mainly hail with a drop of thick sleet mixed in for good measure. The wind had picked up again and I had been pushed around with some quite violent gusts. So prudence prevailed. Coming down by loch Hasco a particularly nasty squall howled off the hill. It was impressive watching the swirling sleet and hail spinning across the loch in tormented eddies. One more the tent is anchored down with large boulders and the forecast is for more gales. It is quite something to hear the rumble of the wind as it gathers speed coming down off the hill. First there is a low rumble, cats paws of ripples ruffle the loch. Suddenly all changes, the water appears to smoke as the wind slams across it, there is a bang and the tent shudders as the wind comes howling past. Wow, scary, maybe I am being fatalistic but there is nothing else I can do. Then tent is as well anchored as I can manage; it is out of my hands.
Saturday. Portree.
Well, gales through the night, once more easing a wee bit this morning. Bailed out in a temporary lull. There is something surreal, maybe even a tad insane, in deliberately setting out in such weather. having said that, this is nature in the raw, it goes with the territory; it is part and parcel of what I do. Once again plans had to be changed. The original plan had been to follow the ridges down through to The Storr. With severe weather warnings for the area that plan was rapidly revised. Went straight across the road and down to the coast and picked my way around to Staffin Bay. Tricky going, the foreshore was stone and boulder. Boggy fields, interlaced with a myriad of fences that came right down to the shore added to the difficulty. Had one eye open for any possible stopping places but with nothing around, continued on down the road. had a few places on the map that looked possible for a camp. The one that was most suitable was right on the seashore and open to every bit of weather. The wind continued to rise as I shambled down the road. Bruised, blue, black clouds hung ominously low over the distant ridges. Prolonged hail showers beat a voracious tattoo on the hood of my jacket. The rising wind caused me to crab sideways, at one point I found myself actually being propelled backwards down the road. When a car skidded to a stop a couple of miles outside of Portree and offered me a lift, the temptation was too much. The though of a hot shower and dry clothes was something that became very appealing. Being unsure of how a landlady would react to someone trying to book in looking like a loch on the hoof, I opted for a backpackers hostel. Mind, the guy who booked me in looked pretty startled as a pool of water rapidly formed around my feet. There where curious glances from the rich and varied medley of back packing students that inhabit such places. Probably it is not every day that a half drowned granny comes tumbling through the door? Well, tomorrow I will probably do the tourist thing and just potter around. Possibly head over to Kyle or maybe even eventually push on to Inverness. Despite the weather, or maybe because of the extremity of it, it has not been too bad a trip. Just a bit short.