The Cateran Trail 3-day backpack

Approach to An LairigA 3-day solo backpack of the Cateran Trail waymarked circular route through Perthshire and the Angus glens in south-eastern Scotland, a varied low-to-mid level route following old tracks and drove roads used by the notorious Cateran cattle raiders in bygone times.

The original 64-mile (103km) route repeats the initial 7-mile (11km) section from Blairgowrie to Bridge of Cally on the return leg. On this backpack I took the documented alternative route variant from Alyth to Blairgowrie via Den of Alyth and Glendams, sometimes called the Drimmie Woods alternative route and signed as such in Alyth, that returns on a direct line and eliminates that lengthy repetition.

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The Dyfi Ridge 2-day backpack

Cribin Fawr pitchA backpack of the Dyfi group of hills, a little walked ridge traverse from Dinas Mawddwy in the east to the A487 summit pass in the west, returning to Dolgellau over the low hill country north-east of Gau Graig via the old restricted byway.

This route was a good choice for a predicted warm and sunny Easter weekend with hordes of walkers on more popular hills and some disruption on public transport in other areas. A noon start meant that we saw a mere handful of walkers on Maesglase and nobody else at all thereafter.

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Hadrian’s Wall 4-day backpack

Walton CragsA 3½-day solo training backpack of the popular Hadrian’s Wall national trail, or Hadrian’s Way as it is signed at the eastern end near Wallsend Metro station.

A weather forecast for several days of dry conditions with a persistent fresh easterly air stream gave a rare opportunity to hike it east-to-west with the wind at my back the whole way. The first day was grey and murky, no great loss since the easternmost section is largely urban, but the rest were much better than expected and mainly sunny throughout, perfect for this route that has lurked on a back burner for years.

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Northern Mawddach Way 2-day backpack

Dawn sky at tent pitchA continuation trip to our Southern Mawddach Way (MW) backpack of September 2018 to complete the trail.

The weather was far superior to the cautious forecast, clear skies and unbroken sunshine throughout, surpassing even the very warm and highly unusual conditions on our Langdale Fells backpack of February 2008. On this trip it was decidely hot in the middle of the day and we were occasionally praying for a breeze to kick in. Our previous record of 29th. February 2004 for the earliest butterfly was also broken, we saw several peacocks and other unidentified specimens.

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Around Glencoyne 2-day backpack

Pitch on Green SideA 2-day route around the hills bordering Glencoyne, starting at the popular and well maintained Aira Force woodland path. The line ascends along the slopes of Watermillock Common to Hart Side and Green Side reaching the highest point at Stybarrow Dodd, then returns via Sticks Pass to ascend Sheffield Pike and finish along the Greenside Mine track to Glenridding.

On this our first midwinter backpack for years, the weather fell far short of our expectation from the forecast and yielded only brief sunshine in the middle of the first day, the remainder was thickly overcast with a dull, flat light that drained the landscape of colour and struggled to produce good views and images. The oddest aspect though was the total absence of snow on even the highest summits in early January.

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North Berwyn Way 2-day backpack

Dawn at tent pitchA 2-day autumn backpack of the North Berwyn Way (NBW) waymarked trail, a route traversing the heather moorland to the south of the Dee from Corwen to Llangollen.

We have walked sections of the NBW on previous backpacks and this was an opportunity to walk the complete trail, in particular the industrial heritage section covering the quarry site below Moel Fferna that we have never visited. The trail is signed with the NBW logo pictured above and is generally very easy walking on clear lines, just a few scrappy and squelchy bits on the quarry circuit.

The vibrant autumnal hues of the trees and bracken made this a colourful and rewarding backpack and we saw no other walkers at all until the outskirts of Llangollen at the end.

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Southern Mawddach Way 2-day backpack

Pitch near Llynnau Cregennen & Tyrrau MawrA 2-day route following the southern arm of the Mawddach Way (MW) low-to-mid level trail from Dolgellau to Barmouth, with one small modification to follow the high level track from Gellilwyd Fawr to Kings hostel rather than the more southerly variant via Llyn Gwernan.

Our first public transport backpack in Wales on a weather forecast of low confidence for the west coast, this trip was a trial of the rail and bus routes and an exploration of the MW, starting at Dolgellau on the southern arm of the trail and adapting the schedule according to the conditions. After a good first day the weather deteriorated greatly and we terminated the trip at Barmouth, leaving the northern arm for another time.

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Pooley Bridge to Windermere 2-day backpack

Pitch on High StreetA linear 2-day north-south hike of the far eastern fells of the Lake District, joining the line of the Roman road at Moor Divock near Pooley Bridge as far as High Street and traversing the Ill Bell ridge to the Garburn Pass and Dubbs Reservoir.

We have walked various circuits of all these fells before, but our new public transport regime allowed an obvious natural traverse from Pooley Bridge to Windermere station.

The first day was overcast and grey for the very long and gradual approach to Loadpot Hill and the northernmost summits, but the tops were clear with interest in the dramatic cloud patterns. The second day was in glorious sunshine for the more mountainous scenery of the Ill Bell ridge, surprisingly cold for late August at dawn but becoming very warm by afternoon.

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Whinlatter & Coledale 2-day backpack

Dawn sky from pitch on Ladyside PikeA quickly devised 2-day circuit of the northern hills of the Whinlatter Forest and the southern fells around Coledale.

The outward section, designed to include my one remaining unclimbed Dewey 500m top in the Lake District (Ullister Hill), follows the arc of hills from Lord's Seat to Graystones and descends to the pass at Spout Force and Scawgill Bridge.

The return section ascends to the Coledale fells via the north ridge of Ladyside Pike and Hopegill Head to reach the highest point of Eel Crag, then traverses its east ridge to Causey Pike. The route crosses the valley to Skelgill and follows the Cumbria Way to Keswick.

The main purpose of this trip was to test our research into the use of public transport for long journeys since our decision to go carless. This was my first backpack using entirely public transport, an opportunity to test the Advance Ticket rail booking and seat reservation system and the use of local bus services. It all proceeded extremely well and at very low cost.

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Craig y Llyn & the Tawe Hills 3-day backpack

Pitch on Fan GyhirychA 3-day route around the hills of Cwm Tawe combined with a short one-off excursion to claim Craig y Llyn, one of our two remaining hills on the 600m Sims list. Yr Allt, the other Sim hill, is traversed on the main circuit.

The apparently popular approach to hill bagging where you drive a car as close as possible to the summit, claim the top and drive off again, is one that normally we thoroughly dislike. However there are a few cases where the technique fits quite well and Craig y Llyn, the historic county top of Glamorgan, is a case in point. It lies on the Coed Morgannwg Way trail (CMW) but this route did not appeal as a backpack. The hill is blighted by extensive forestry operations and a wind farm is under construction near the top, leaving the views from the northern edge as its only merit.

A return to the Brecon Beacons was long overdue and we designed the Tawe route to include our first lakeside exploration of Llyn y Fan Fawr, approaching from the east and taking in Moel Feity, another new Dewey 500m top.

With a forecast of hot sunny weather following an already dry spell, and given the limestone geology of this area where streams can disappear underground, we predicted problems maintaining water levels and took our Platypus water container to supplement our usual bottles – how right we were.

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