Category Archives: Backpacking

Far Eastern Fells Backpack TGOC2015 Training

One of the advantages of living where I do, on the fringes of the Lake District National Park, is the ability to go backpacking from the front door. Last year I did two trips, one camping on Caudale Moor, day one here, and day two here, and the other camping on Thornthwaite Crag which can be found here.

Another advantage is that if your other half, Sian my wife in my case, wants to come for a walk, they can accompany you part way and then return home to a comfortable bed. So that’s how on Tuesday 17th of March Sian and I set off from home.

The route. Click on the image to be taken to the Social Hiking Map
The route. Click on the image to be taken to the Social Hiking Map

A bit of road walking took us down Browfoot Lane, a favorite way for mountain bikes to get to the bridleways of Kentmere Park, then a pleasant off road section brought us to Ulthwaite Bridge just off the Staveley to Kentmere road. A few hundred meters along this road took us to a bridle path to climb up towards the Green Quarter Fells.

View from Ullthwaite Bridge
Sour Hows and Sallows in the distance after the climb up from the Staveley to Kentmere Road.

The three Green Quarter fells are a tight group marking the high point between the Kentmere and Longsleddale valleys. They are a mixture of Wainwright’s Outlying Fells and Birkett’s . Having “bagged” these three it was time for Sian to head home and me to drop down to Sadgill in Longsleddale.

The intrepid explorer.
The intrepid explorer.
Sian's off for a comfy bed
Sian’s off for a comfy bed
Hazy view down into Longsleddale
Hazy view down into Longsleddale

Many of you will know Sadgill as it’s where the road in Longsleddale ends and there are a few unofficial car parking spaces making an ideal start for walking the Wainwrights of Grey Crag and Tarn Crag. I had planned to have a break by the bridge, a spot of lunch and to top up my water supplies from the river. As I got there a lady vacated the bench. It was 12.15 and I was to see no one else, save a distant glimpse of a couple of fell runners, until 9.45am the following day. Who says you can’t get peace and solitude in the Lake District.

The bridge at Sadgill
A fine spot for lunch
A fine spot for lunch

After a bite to eat I set off up Longsleddale. The road becomes a track going  north from Sadgill. I continued for about another 3k, steadily gaining height until I reached the delightfully named Brownhowe Bottom at which point a bridle path heads off in an easterly direction to Mosedale and eventually Wet Sleddale. I took this path and decided it was time for lunch mark 2.

That's the way
That’s the way
IMG_2549
Brownhowe Bottom.

So far all the climbing had been fairly gentle. This was about to change as I started the steep grassy climb to gain Selside Brow and then continued on and up towards Branstree. The plan was to camp somewhere between Branstree and Selside Pike, possibly by the old observation pillar on Pillar. The problem was that there had clearly been a lot of snow up here, some of which remained, but what had melted had turned the area to bog.

I took quite a few detours to possible camp spots on the walk from Branstree to Selside Pike via Pillar but found nowhere I was happy with. On Selside Pike I considered my options. There was a relatively dry flat pitch by the summit but I had not yet picked up any water. I could have melted some snow but as it was only 3.30 I decided to drop down towards the Old Corpse Road which has a beck running beside it. I took my pack in case I could find a better pitch. Once I was below the snow line the ground become very dry. I made good progress down to the beck. I then decided to look for a pitch on the other side of the Corpse Road on Brown Howe. This turned out to be an excellent idea as I soon found a good spot with views over Hawswater down to The Rigg. It was now 4pm, time to set up camp with about two and a half hours daylight left.

Hazy view from the tent
The Duomid set up.
The Duomid set up.
Brew with a view
Brew with a view
On tonight's menu...courtesy of @basecampfood
On tonight’s menu…courtesy of @basecampfood

Now I have to confess I’m not a winter camper. Not so much because of the cold but the long dark nights. Spending long hours in the tent is not my idea of fun. Having said that I’ve now got a kindle paperwhite and combined with music from my phone time soon passes. This was to be the night of the aurora. Despite the fact that most of the sky became clear the northern horizon remained hazy, so no aurora for me.

I got up for a call of nature about 4pm, the sky was clear, except to the north, and the temperature had dropped well below freezing. My trail shoes were frozen!

I got up about 6.30 and the tent was frozen solid with  lumps of condensation ice. The clear skies had now been replaced with haze and the tops of Branstree and Harter Fell were in cloud.

Frozen Duomid, the top of Brown Howe visible in the background.
Frozen Duomid, the top of Brown Howe visible in the background.
A fine view down to Hawswater and The Rigg
A fine view down to Hawswater and The Rigg

By 8.00am I was on my way again.The plan was to retrace my route from yesterday as far as Branstree then to climb Harter Fell and take the ridge down to Kentmere and the a low level route back home.

The Old Corpse Road
The Old Corpse Road
The pillar on Pillar complete with a frozen tarn
The pillar on Pillar complete with a frozen tarn
Branstree
Branstree

From Branstree I dropped down to Gatesgarth Pass, picked up some water, and had a break. Just as I was packing up a noise startled me as another walker came up the path. The first person I’d seen in over 21 hours. I climbed up Harter Fell, with a short detour to take in Adams Seat. There were some quite significant snow banks still here. The sun was threatening to burn off the clouds giving a strange light. It finally succeeded between Harter Fell and Kentmere Pike.

Adams Seat
Adams Seat
Snow bank on Harter Fell
Snow bank on Harter Fell
Harter Fell cairn complete with smiley face
Harter Fell cairn complete with smiley face
Ill Bell and Froswick through the haze
Ill Bell and Froswick through the haze
Kentmere Pike and the sun is finally out
Kentmere Pike and the sun is finally out

Now if you are doing the Kentmere Round most people head straight from Kentmere Pike to Shipman Knotts missing out the small detour to Goat Scar a “Birkett”. Its worth taking the detour then just by Goat Scar is a stile, cross this and head to an obvious cairn less than 50m away. This is a fabulous viewpoint for Longsleddale.

The view point by Goat Scar...better on a clear day
The view point by Goat Scar…better on a clear day
View from the same spot back up to Branstree
View from the same spot back up to Branstree

From here it was over Shipman Knotts, through the delightful village of Kentmere, back along the Kentmere Valley to Browfoot and home.

Kentmere looking up the Ill Bell ridge
Kentmere looking up the Ill Bell ridge
A tricky stile in Kentmere, with backpack and tied legs!
A tricky stile in Kentmere, with backpack and tied legs!
The River Kent above Kentmere
The River Kent above Kentmere

Day 1 was 14.4 miles with 3600ft of ascent and 2500ft of descent.

Day 2 was 13.5 miles with 2500ft of ascent and 3600ft of decent.

Total 27.9 miles with 6100ft of climbing. A good bit of training for the TGO challenge which I start on May 8th. All the kit I took worked fine and I was particularly pleased with my trail shoes this being my first backpack wearing them.

Advertisements

Lochnagar Backpack including my 100th Munro Day 2

I woke up about 5.30 having slept pretty well. Actually very well for me. I’m not a great sleeper in a tent. The sun was shining but there was a bit of ice on the scarp. Sian was still asleep so went for a wander and was rewarded with a sighting of some deer.

Deer with Carn an Tuirc in the distance
Deer with Carn an Tuirc in the distance
Loch Callater
Loch Callater

We had a leisurely camp breakfast, muesli with powdered milk and green tea, whilst the heat of the sun melted the ice on the tent before we broke camp. By now it was wall to wall blue sky, a perfect day to be up high and not too bad to mark my 100th munro.

All of todays route can be found on this map which will open in a new window

In such perfect conditions it would be a shame to rush so we took the scenic route via the munro top of Fafernie at exactly 1000m high. Walking over the plateau to the top  there are fine views towards Carn an Tuirc, Tom Buidhe and beyond. From Fafernie its a kilometer of easy walking to my 100th munro Cairn Bannoch (1012m)

Me on Cairn Bannoch my 100th munro
Me on Cairn Bannoch my 100th munro
untitled-36
Looking back to Carn an t-Sagairt Mor from Cairn Bannoch. Our campsite was between the snow fields

So after a celebratory “9 bar” and some photos we set off for our next munro, Broad Cairn, via the circuitous route of tops Cairn of Gowal and Creag an Dubh-loch both 983m. The walking was very easy until a final clamber up to the bouldery top of Broad Cairn (998m), munro 101 for me and 93 for Sian.

untitled-40
Broad Cairn on the right with Loch Muick centre in the distance
Mountain Hare
Mountain Hare
untitled-42
Looking back from Broad Cairn, Cairn Bannoch and Carn an t-Sagairt Mor in view

Broad Cairn was our final muro of the trip but there was still some fine walking ahead. We slowly picked our way down the bouldery shoulder of the mountain eventually picking up a good path. At this point we met our first person of the day, pushing a mountain bike up! We exchanged a few words although he was too short of breath to say much. Mad!

From the col above Corrie Ghash we left the path and struck out for the top of Sandy Hillock (768m). The cairn there made a suitable seat for the classic backpackers lunch of Primula cheese spread and oat cakes washed down with sawyer mini filtered water and the sun was still shining 🙂 🙂 🙂

Suitably refreshed we made our way back to the main path and continued our route high above Loch Muick enjoying some fine views.

Lock Muick
Lock Muick
untitled-46
Looking back as Allt an Dubh-loch flows down to Loch Muick. Broad Cairn and Cairn Bannoch on the left and last nights campsite by the snowfields in the middle just below Carn an t-Sagairt Mor in the distance.

After about a further three kilometers of gradual descent we were back down at loch level and  amongst the crowds. We were then soon back at the car park at Spittal of Glenmuick relieved to see that our extended stay had gone unnoticed.

Day 2
Day two’s map and statistics. Click on the map to be taken to the social hiking page

Over the two days we walked 27.7 miles and climbed 5,100ft and “bagged” five munros. It was our first Cairngorm backpack, it certainly won’t be our last.

Lochnagar Backpack including my 100th Munro Day 1

This trip took place on 29th and 30th of May 2014 but as it was our first Cairngorms backpack and included my 100th Munro Ive decided it’s not too late to write up a report. We were staying for a week in Ballater but took our camping stuff to escape for a couple of days. The weather was forecast  for a cloudy start but then to improve during the first day ending in sunshine and a fine second day.

When we got to the car park at Spittal of Glenmuick we found that it was not possible to pay to park for more than 24 hours. A quick look at the couple of cars already parked there showed that other people were parking for longer than this so we decided to risk it. We started off in a steady drizzle.

Sian ready for the off
Sian ready for the off
Action Man?
Action Man?

All of today’s route can be found on this map which will open in a new window

After a quick look at the visitor centre we set off up the LRT (Land Rover Track)  towards Alt-na-giubhsaish where we turned left and soon picked up another LRT now heading east and gradually climbing. We could see the tops were still in cloud and the steady drizzle continued on and off. After about 2k the LRT turns north and after about another 500m we took a clear path heading east towards the Lochnagar mountains. The gradient was still fairly gentle just before the climbing began in earnest we took a small diversion to find Fox Cairn Well. We had a “frusli” break and took the opportunity to top our water bottles up with the fresh water from the spring.

The clouds appeared to be getting higher so we decided to pop up Meikle Pap (980m) classified as a Munro Top.

Lochnagar from Meikle Pap
Lochnagar from Meikle Pap

From the col below Meikle Pap there is a steep section of ascent before the gradual climb around the Corrie of Lochnagar. As the clouds had again descended we opted for the main path away from the edge. Soon we reached the distinctive large cairn of Cac Carn Mor (1150m) The clouds had now lifted above the summits and the drizzle had stopped. Time for a spot of lunch.

A 550m walk then brought us to the summit of Cac Carn Beag otherwise known as Lochnagar (1156m) our first munro of the day, my 97th and Sian’s 89th.

Sian by the trig point on Lochnagar
Sian by the trig point on Lochnagar
Looking back to Meikle Pap from Lochnagar
Looking back to Meikle Pap from Lochnagar
Looking west into Coire Lochan nan Eun
Looking west into Coire Lochan nan Eun

Next we retraced our steps back towards Cac Carn Mor before picking up a path skirting the top on the west side that then descends towards the headwall of Coire Lochan nan Eun. However before reaching there we took a quick out and back detour to the muro top of Creag a’Ghlas-uillt (1068m) across flat, pathless tussocky terrain.

On returning to the main path we had about a kilometer of a steadily rising good path to reach The Stuic a fabulous viewpoint looking out over Coire Lochan nan Eun and back towards Lochnagar.

Looking back to Lochnagar from The Stuic
Looking back to Lochnagar from The Stuic
The headwall of
The headwall of Coire Lochan nan Eun
Lochan nan Eun
Lochan nan Eun

Having had a break  to enjoy the view, taken some photos and  had some food and drink we set off for the 500m walk gently uphill, crossing a small snow field, to the summit of Carn a’Choire Bhoidheach (1110m) our second munro of the day, my 98th and Sian’s 90th.

Me on Carn a'Choire Bhoidheach
Me on Carn a’Choire Bhoidheach

It was quite breezy on the top and as its very flat the views aren’t spectacular so we set off for our third and final munro of the day, Carn an t-Sagairt Mor (1047m) via Carn an t-Sagairt Beag. Approaching the summit of  Carn an t-Sagairt Mor we passed the wreckage of a RAF English Electric Canberra B.2 / WJ615 that crashed here on 22 Nov 1956 killing both crew members. More information can be found here.

Plane wreckage on Carn an t-Sagairt Mor
Plane wreckage on Carn an t-Sagairt Mor
untitled-15
Sian at the summit of Carn an t-Sagairt Mor

So our 3rd munro of the day and my 99th, but number 100 would have to wait until tomorrow as it was time to find somewhere to camp for the night. Our planned site was around the col between Carn an t-Sagairt Mor and Cairn Bannoch. On twitter Nick Bramhall @nickbramll had confirmed that this was a good choice with water usually available from the higher reaches of the Allt an Dubh-loch. The col itself was a bit boggy but a couple of hundred meters further on there was a nice area of flat soft grass. Perfect. I set the Scarp 2 up whilst Sian got water from a couple of hundred yards away where a snowfield was melting into the Allt an Dubh-loch.

We had the place to ourselves. We had not seen anyone for a few hours and would not until mid morning tomorrow. The sun was now out as promised. A brew, a meal, a wander around taking photos, another brew and a chocolate bar and a fine day came to an end. Off into the Scarp for a sleep. Wild Camping is good, life is good.

Scarp 2 pitched
Scarp 2 pitched
Nice camp site...no neighbours!
Nice camp site…no neighbours!
Evening light
Evening light
untitled-19
Last light on Loch Callater
Lochnagr Day 1
Day 1 map and statistics from Social Hiking. Click on map to go to the Social Hiking map to view more detail.

Day 2 coming soon.