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Snowdon – Crib Goch & Pyg Path

Snowdon – Crib Goch & Pyg Path

Crib Goch – Mount Snowdon

Area: Snowdonia – Mount Snowdon
Starting point: Pen Y Pass
Date of walk: 25th March 2017
Walkers: Me
Distance: 8.36m
Difficulty: Hard
Terrain: Rocky
Weather: Sun, blue skies, clear

Crib Goch, A walk? (or ‘scramble’ should I say) the only part of this walk is on the Pyg path on the way down! has been one to certainly write home about. It’s been a hazy week, some niggling thoughts of worldly nature have taken a firm grip, so what best to go for a long walk and shrug it all off. As Hippocrates stated ‘Walking is mans best medicine’, I agree with the Greek Physician.

Bets Y Coed

The long drive is taken on the day prior to stop of in Bets Y Coed for the night with the intention to head off early. Upon arrival I realise I am short of a few supplies so pop into Cotswolds to grab at least a good ol’ OS map. After a brief discussion with the store assistant, I’m urged to buy crampons & an icepick as apparently a walk up Crib Goch at this time of year without them should be ‘interesting & dangerous’. I ignore his ploy to try and sell me stuff, nether the less the seeds of doubt have been planted…

Oriental and American tourists are in abundance in this village, I imagine in the summer months this place is heaving with visitors all across the world hoping to spot themselves a dragon. Bets Y Coed in general, is a forested region, perhaps next time I will venture into the surrounding woodlands for a forested walk. A campsite is found right next to the Swallow Falls and I drift asleep to the gentle gush of the waterfall.

A bitter spring morning
A bitter spring morning

Pen Y Pass

Alarm bells ring and off I go to Pen Y Pass (starting point). The peaks are seen from afar, and I try and look up as much as I can to see if the ice and snow will prove a serious problem. The car park is unsurprisingly full, so I head further down to park on the side of the road. Dozen and dozens of groups congregate ready to climb this Welch beast. Pen Y pass is the starting point to 3 routes, Pyg path, Miners path & Crib Goch. I make steady pace up the Pyg path, even at the beginning stages this way up is simply beautiful.

Pyg Path
Start of the Pyg Path with the ascent to Crib Goch seen in distance

A feeling of respect is felt, respect for the mountain itself and the knowing of how treacherous it can be is never forgotten. The elements can change rapidly on any mountain & as with anything in this life, preparation is key. I’m wondering after about 15 minutes, when will I encounter this Crib Goch. The Red ridge in English. Red = danger, red = blood. Basically, proceed with caution.

A mile or 2 later I reach the path up to Crib Goch. This path up itself is a climb. I’m trying to get my head around how this is a level 1 Scramble… I mean parts are near vertical and even on this path, a slip up could leave anyone injured or stuck. On the way up I bumped into 2 unprepared Americans struggling up wearing skateboarding trainers. After a brief chat, they than proceed to tell me this is their first mountain they are going up. I slow my pace and adjust my rhythm to take up the rest of this ascent with the nervous looking pair. I worry for them as mountain rescue usually come out for those who are not well prepared. If you thinking of taking up this walk, this is where you turn back if you don’t wish to proceed. As once your up on the ridge it will prove very tricky backtracking.

Climb upto Crib Goch
Climb upto Crib Goch
the scramble up
the scramble up
looking back from the scramble up

The Red Ridge

After 50 minute or so the top of the ridge is reached. Wow, what a view. I’m pretty sure Ireland, Isle of Man & Holyhead are seen from here. However, now is not the time to take it all in. There is a queue behind me, and loads in front doing the ridge so I better get on it with. Exposure levels are high, and it is actually the exposure that makes this scramble seem a lot more dramatic and harder than it actually is. At places the ‘path’ is no bigger than half a metre and it becomes clear why there have been so many fatalities up here. A helicopter circles around the peaks, which is the mountain rescue as this is probably the busiest day on Snowdon this year. Still with the Americans at this point, however there pace is taking me off my stride so I stay focused and plod on. Some hairy moments do follow, and hands are needed aswel as my legs for pretty much the whole ridge. After the first stretch there is some relatively flat land and a perfect opportunity to tuck into my sandwich and a couple of oranges. I’ve run out of gas on my burner so a much needed cup of tea won’t be possible right now. Oh well.

Crib Goch
Crib Goch
Looking back on Crib Goch - you can see the 2 Americans nearest to camera hanging for dear life
Looking back on Crib Goch – you can see the 2 Americans nearest to camera hanging for dear life
stopping off for lunch at the end of the 1st ridge
stopping off for lunch at the end of the 1st ridge

Crib-y-Ddysgl

Crib Goch itself is only around 200 metres. However up on this exposed airy ridge, it seems alot longer. After Crib Goch, a descend it make until you reach the foot of the ridge to come, Crib-y-Ddysgl. Now they say this one is alot easier, but I beg to differ on this day. It seems a steeper climb, and a harder walk as there is ice & stone laying on the rocks. This is a full body workout. From this ridge looking back on Crib Goch and seeing the walkers walk along like is much like playing the game lemmings.

lemmings on crib goch
Sun falling back behind Snowdon summit

The end is near, and I feel like I’m not just getting warmed up. As I reach the trig point at the top a sense of achievement is felt and I sit down to enjoy the oranges I have left in my bag. There are hundreds off people up Snowdon today, and Snowdon is certainly a mountain I have avoided in the past due the amount of people on it. It can be a solitary walkers a nightmare, but today it isn’t. I sit in peace amongst the herds of people & the chitta chatta. The chaos of the world below seem insignificant, and my worldly worries which I have held throughout the week have been lifted and surrendered. Right now, at this moment on top of this mountain, there is nothing, but now. Here and now.

The Descent

After some time off soaking in the subtle energies of this mountain, I begin my descent down the Pyg Path. My intention was to actually take the miners path back, but that didn’t happen. I’m practically jogging back down past the mass’s of people moving in both directions. I’m moved when I observe a couple sitting in silence also soaking in the mountains energies. As I continue, I reflect on today’s walking, and am once again reminded how spending time in natural environments, alone has a purifying effect on the spirit. An effect that can often be forgotten in daily life. I also contemplate the difference’s in ‘belief’ & ‘realization’. For today I have once again realized, freedom and peace are not far away, infact they are right here within me. Even in the midst of madness. Belief on the other hand can often lead to the opposite of self realization. When 1 of certain in ways of thinking it can lead to a stump on spiritual growth. Heck, conflict of belief is how wars are started!

Couple soaking it all in
Couple soaking it all in

6 hours later, today’s walk is now completed. What a cracker this one is. But please be careful & prepared. I drive back home, and stop off in Chester on the way for a Turkish kebab. Perfect way to end a perfect weekend.

Lathkill Dales from Monyash

Lathkill Dales from Monyash

Area: Derbyshire – Peak District (White peak)
Starting point: Monyash
Date of walk: 2nd August 2016
Walkers: Me & Merlin
Distance: 11.20 miles
Difficulty: Easy – Moderate
Terrain: Woodland, Wateralls, Streams, Moorland
Weather: Sun, blue skies, cloudy

I can’t take credit for this walk as I borrowed it from the walking English man website, however slightly varied. A day walking through the white peak, with the sun out has never been anything less than pleasant. This walk in particular is varied, walking through the 2 picturesque villages of Youlgreave and Monyash. And in between, open fields, rivers, wooded areas and dales. What more could you really ask for? There isn’t much in terms of climbs , hill walking or mountains, however this walk will certainly be going on the ‘connoisseurs list’ for walks. A thoroughly rewarding enjoyable walk.

I arrive in Monyash late morning with the doggy. Park the car up and walk towards to village centre where a small tea room is found called the old Smithy. cute little place, so I treat myself to a bakewell flapjack & a cup of tea. The route takes the limestone way, which I’ve never really explored much. However within moments coming out on Monyash, the views on Fern Dale are far reaching, and are absolutely stunning.

Cales Dale
Fern Dale

A mile or 2 on, the first landmark is One Ash Grange Farm. We continue past the farm following the Limestone Way (which by the way is well marked). After the farm, there is a drop into Cales Dale. Down into this dale and back up sn the most strenuous part of the walk, so watch your footing. As you rise back up heading towards calling low, fine views are had once again and easy walking is had for the remainder of walk. It’s well worth taking your time with this one, simply because this is low effort walk with great reward.

Past Calling low, Low Moor plantation is reached, again followed by open pasture land filled with cows who seem rather entrigued by Merlins high energy levels. On the East side of the Moor a B road is reached where we continue across the path by a car park. Youlgreave is seen in the distance and upon a grassy knoll I sit myself. Me and Merlin take in the view & out comes my Moleskin to jot down some anagrams..

On a grassy knoll we sit
On a grassy knoll we sit

Down off the knoll, we head into Youlgreave, a pleaasent little village with a pub and some cafes. I had my lunch on the knoll so need to really stop off in the village. Heading out of the village towards to final section of the walk. Lathkill dale. Before reaching there is another drop in the valley, and the walk along the banks of the river are mesmerizing. This section is sheltered, the quiet titter tattering of the slow moving river is head and it feels extremely safe & secure unlike how the Moors can be at times, relentless.

along the valley before reaching youlgreave
along the valley before reaching youlgreave
Merlin testing the waters
Merlin testing the waters

Unfortunatly my camera ran out of battery in the deep valleys of Lathkill Dale, which probaly is the highlight of this walk. It’s quite dramatic coming out of the wooded riverlands to exposed limestone outcrops. Further down the valley, the start of Monyash is reaching, and winding up the hill, we are back at the car

 

Day 34 – Wick to John O Groats

Day 34 – Wick to John O Groats

The final day, it sounds weird saying that after being on the road for a month. When an adventure ends, a new one begins & I’m sure there will be plenty more adventures of varying kinds coming my way for the remainder of the year. I sit here at home while I write this appreciating the homely comforts which aren’t available’on the road. But I also sit here, quite simply with less desire to actually do anything. The amount of options and choices available within an arms reach aren’t as fascinating as they once were… Back to the days of stirring my tea with a spoon instead of my finger, Back to the days of using a proper toilet, you know like the ones made of ceramic with a wooden seat. It’s been emotional, no actually, it IS emotional.

The last 11 days of this walk have been the hardest physically. There weren’t really any hills or mountains, but the last 11 days was pretty much walking on road, which is the hardest terrain to walk on in my opinion. Gimmie 3 mountains in a day over 20 miles of road.. As you come to the end, all sorts of thoughts & emotion are conjured up. The realization that I’ve walked such a distance still hasn’t really sunk in.

Me and Adam briefly talked about the difficulties we have encountered during this trip & although there were challenges, I can confidently say we approached the challenges with ultimate vigor, like a bull heading for a red rag. Perhaps it was the humorous daily racist splur that came out of our mouths which helps us maintain a bit of sanity. Some of which shall never ever be repeated..

But you know, 1 of the most difficult aspects of this journey wasn’t at all the walking, it wasn’t the distance, it wasn’t the physical extertion, it wasn’t the foot problems. It was actually doing it with someone else. Pretty much 24/7 we are in each others presence. Me & Adam go back a few years, we’ve been through a lot and understand each other fairly well, 1 thing is for sure. We both love food & are both as stubborn as Iron girders. A combination which may have ended badly if it wasn’t for our experiences together as friends. After a long days walking it can be easy to lose oneself & be completely irrational. The ‘london cut’ shines through at times, even to the point where the Scottish can’t help but laugh at us. The amount of times stood for 20 – 30 minutes in the supermarket or in a cafe, arguing about what we are cooking tonight or ‘no, its your turn to get the cake, i got the last one’. A scots man put it in to perspective for us at Loch Lomond ‘your walking 650 miles together and you’re argueing over a pound’ LOL. When it’s put like that……

not far now...
not far now…

Netherless, a great test of characther for both of us & and certainly a major learning curve. What is seen in others is often what we hold in ourselves, deeper levels of acceptance have to found in order for us both to function together as friends.

The road to the end...
The road to the end…

Today, the walk itself takes us further up the busy A9 before turning off to the A99. Drivers beep encouraging us with these last steps. Up & over some ‘hills’ & John O groats is seen in the distance. I don’t know why but I was expecting John O Groats to look like the cliffs of Dover. I was wrong ofcourse. it’s a tiny little village, with some craft & tourist shops. A nice pub which does a cracking meal & a load of bikers crowding round the John O Groats marker getting there picture taken. When we reach the marker, we both kinda want to do something , but we dont know what. I turn to Adam and say ‘ so what now? are we supposed to get naked and jump in the sea or something? ‘ We opted for sitting down and letting it all soak in. What a journey..

The end
The end
Day 33 – Dunbeath to Wick

Day 33 – Dunbeath to Wick

Synchronicity, signs & symbols always present themselves. I awake from a night full of dreams, dreams of tigers. We are kindly invited to sit for breakfast by the campsite owners where we are served a hearty breakfast. To the left of me where we are seated are 2 paintings of tigers which automatically brings me back into my dream state, not hard in these early hours of the morning. Breakfast is finished and we are once again back on the road..

on the road again
on the road again

There isn’t much to todays walk, the same routine, fairly flat, long winded road walked. Our feet are starting to feel slightly deformed for these long days without any days of rest since fort William. The sea is is still seen & we are still pretty much walking along Scotlands East coast. A few miles from Wick, the town looks rather big & it is I suppose a hub in its own right, with an airport, a Lidl & a big Tesco. As we walk in, myself & Adam are discussing eating options. We are both still undecided. As we arrive at the campsite the gentlemen serving us has a large tiger tattoo on his right arm. Again this tiger keeps reappearing itself to me today. We walk into town & decide to grab a curry. Upon Adam ordering a beer, he asked for cobra & the waiter replies ‘ We don’t have cobra, but we have tiger’ ha ha. Adam orders a passanda and I laugh at him, especially after recommending 2 great options, he receives the blanded curry on the menu & as expected quite dis appointed with the lack of taste and obviously unfresh meat. Either way, an ice cream from a local newsagent makes all well & we depart back to the site to rest and prepare for our final day on this challenge.

Sunset over River Wick
Sunset over River Wick
Day 32 – Brora to Dunbeath (Berriedale)

Day 32 – Brora to Dunbeath (Berriedale)

Day 32 – Smellydale Berriedale

We awaken by the sound of a train passing us by, 30 cows around our tents and the busy trunk road heard. Not quite the scenic Wild camping Scotland we’d encountered along the way. However, there isn’t much choice on these last few days & in hindsight looking back, next time I’ll probably try heading up to Cape Wrath which goes through Scotlands Western Flank through the last wilderness with very little civilization for many days.

As we continue along the coast off the road and off the path, its very pleasant. Seals are seen and heard in the north sea which is an amazing experience for the 2 of us. We figure, if we just follow the coast, the walk would be nicer in so many ways. We take this plan, until we hit a river which isn’t really cross able.  Adam’s witty thinking leads us to throw big boulders for 20 minutes into the river making it crossable. Quite literally ‘Building bridges’ & whatever tensions has naturally arised between us during the trip diminished at this point as we rebuild not just physically but emotionally. I must say, no matter how puny the bridge was, it is the first time I have build a bridge. To be fair, it would make for a great team building exercise. We soon change our minds and decide the road is probably going to be the better option from now. The ghost town of Helmsdale is reached, pots of tea are had with a light lunch.

We make pace walking through the high winding roads which vaguely reminds me of a visit to the Pakistani Himalayas as a young boy. On a bus cutting through the cliff faces with view of the K2 mountain in the distant. It has me thinking I must visit that part of the world again at some point. What comes next is what all the locals have been talking about. Berriedale, which is a series of small, extremely steep hairpin bends. As we reach the bottom , into the very small hamlet of BerrieDale, we stop for tea & biscuits, air out our feet & rest. Berriedale Smellydale. It’s quite a steep climb back up but nothing compared to what we have experienced over the past month.

As we arrive in Dunbeath, we hope for a shop, but the spar is shut. So we check in at a campsite & proceed with cooking an extremely bland meal with a pack of pasta, a can of chopped tomatoes & some mince. Food for fuel I suppose. Not quite the lobster & champagne we had hoped for…. nethertheless, the high pressured, hot showers at the campsite made up for it all….

Day 31 – Skelbo Wood to Brora

Day 31 – Skelbo Wood to Brora

What a day, at times today for some moments It seemed like I was in Barbados. This North East flank of Scotland is beautiful & full of pleasant suprises.

Road walking continues, and it is never easy, however today we walk the road for some 6 miles to the town or village called Golpsie. It is here, the usual pot of tea is enjoyed outside a cafe in the smeltering sun, than we sit for lunch by the ‘award winning’ stoney beach, the town is quite nice actually & well presented….

dav

dav

Golpsie beach
Golpsie beach

Not a soul on this beach, and the space in front which is the north sea, is so clear. We decide to walk the longer route along the coast, as we do the coast line just gets better & better, sands whiter & whiter. Before arrive at Brora, we pass a mighty castle. Dunrobin castle, an impressive build, but the stories behind arn’t so impressive. About the families once living in the castle, clearing out the poor villages. When arriving Brora we buy some dinner supplies & find a place to camp a few miles north from town by the coast. Brora is much like Golpsie, but a bit more run down with a ghost town feel to it.. We head north a few mi

Brora beach
Brora beach
Day 30 – Alness to Skelbo Wood

Day 30 – Alness to Skelbo Wood

there’s alot to be said for wild camping, but ill start by saying if you’re not near water, and the day isnt relatively warm, having a wash can be difficult. However, streams & rivers are often crossed, and when you haven’t washed in days, the cool water is such a gift.

This morning the sun is shining and we awake to start a small fire. Why you may ask… midgies, smoke seems to keep them at bay. So the usual pot of porridge is eaten & of we go towards a town called Tain. On route, some incredible views of Moray Firth & beyond are seen on this clear start to the day.

dav

This Northern part of Scotland differs very much from the West coast which I am used to, but has equal beauty. We arrive in Tain for lunch and ofcourse the infamous couple pots of tea. Upon leaving Tain we cross the long bridge across Dornoch Firth. Back on the A9 once again and we are greeted by another sign. John O Groats , 83 miles, nearly there. Its a little tiresome road walking, on the mind, but more so on the feet.

sdr

Dornoch Firth
Dornoch Firth

As we continue on this busy trunk road, we read a woodland, which doesnt seem to have anywhere suitable to pitch up, which slighty fustrates us, so we continue a couple more miles to Skelbo wood arriving at 9 pm. Beef and rice is cooked & spirits are once again raised. While we are here and there is a stream, we also take the time to have a dip, wash ourselves & our clothes. Refreshing & cold but so worth it, squeaky clean once again..

bsh

mde

Day 29 – Inverness to Alness

Day 29 – Inverness to Alness

Today we enter into the last leg of the walk. The last 100 miles or so & it is supposed to be the least scenic part with the majority on roads. For those reasons I anticipate this last leg the most difficult. However, today was lengthy, rainy but not so bad at all. As you can imagine, the walk out of Inverness on this Saturday morning was busy, especially on the A9. We first cross Beuly firth coming out of the city & for 10 miles we cross another Firth. Infact, as we proceed we cross quite a few firth’s along the way. Cromarty firth is a big one and feels like we are on the bridge for a good hour. Incase you didn’t know A firth are coastal waters, and opening into the wide ocean.

A very different feel from what we have been walking this past month, walking the roads takes a while to adjust to. The weather is wet today, but we carry on, walk and smile, walk and smile. By the afternoon, the weather takes a turn for the better as we arrive in Alness 22 miles later from Inverness. We are both hungry, but while loitering on this high street, the usual ‘debates’ are had as to what food is better to eat. We can’t be bothered to cook tonight after a lengthy walk, we walk past a busy curry house, and decide that is the best option. And yes it is. Sag Palak (Chicken and spinach) with a couple of roti does the trick. As there is no camp sites around here, we decide to walk on a bit a find a suitable woodland to camp in. 4 Miles on, its getting late, and 26 miles is a lot for a day. We settle up but the midges are rife. Adam hates midges, lol, and I’ve never seen someone start a fire so quick. He picks up a bundle of twigs quickly, lights em up, and there you go, fire and smoke, midges gone. Laying down to rest with the crackle of the wood, the fire and smell of burning wood. Heaven is indeed here on earth..

 

Day 27 – Inver Coille to Drumnadrochit

Day 27 – Inver Coille to Drumnadrochit

Today, I really begin to get acquainted with the Great Glen way & much prefer it to the West Highland way for many reasons. As I write this evening on a hill, slowly watching the sun depart for the day I feel gratitude for where I am right now & for all the experiences which have let me to this sweet place.

Distance wise, today is short, but the peak of the trail is reached with views over over the whole loch ness & Mr Ben Nevis lurks in the distance.

On the way up.. 9am
On the way up.. 9am
Further up.. 11:30am
Further up.. 11:30am

As you can see the sun shines today, more so as the day goes on. Continuing my walk up through a forested area I than stumble across a small wooden ‘troll’ bridge which crosses a stream. A bunch of people congregate here, so I stop to admire my surroundings. All of a sudden the people all line up & a couple are stood in the middle. I am than invited my the couple to witness them renewing their wedding vows.. so here I was, on a flimsy bridge, witnessing a priest speaking, watching wedding bands being exchanged. Just before hyms are being sung I depart with a smile for they have the precious gift of love. God bless them.

A renewal of vows after 27 years..
A renewal of vows after 27 years..

At the top of the hill, stunning views of the loch are had & me and Adam are reacquainted for a strong pot of tea.

Adam gazing over Loch Ness from top
Adam gazing over Loch Ness from top

From here on it is pretty much up and down, but mainly down on the approach to Drumnadrochit. We roll onto down feeling lively, but we must look weary as a milk man and his family from Newcastle who we met along the trail kindly gives us some money for our dinner & a drink. I chow down scampi & chips before departing to set up my tent. And indeed it is a room with a view…

My neighbour for the night
My neighbour for the night

sdr