The Cowal Way 4-day backpack

Pitch at the Brack bealachA 4-day backpack of the Cowal Way (CW) waymarked trail in Argyll, running through the peninsula from Portavadie in the south-west to Tarbet in the north.

I enjoyed this backpack almost entirely in glorious conditions and I was very surprised to find nearly all of it totally deserted. Apart from locals in the towns and villages, the only people I saw on the route were two couples near Sruth Ban waterfalls and a few starting out on the popular Succoth path to The Cobbler.

Full report & photos

Eastern Glyderau circuit 2-day backpack

A 2-day circuit of the eastern arm of the Glyderau, approaching Bwlch Tryfan from Capel Curig via Gallt yr Ogof and Y Foel Goch and returning via Llyn Bochlwyd and the byway of Telford’s old road along the valley.

I walked this approach on my Tryfan East solo backpack in 2014, the main objective of this trip was to make that excellent tent pitch at Llyn Caseg-fraith together on a joint trip. The conditions were even better this time, two days of superbly clear and sunny weather with the last remnants of snow to spice the scenery.

Full report & photos

SW Nantlle hills & cwms 2-day backpack

Llynnau Cwm Silyn corrie lakeA 2-day circuit from Nebo of the mountains and little trodden cwms in the south-western half of the Nantlle ridge, a region of Wales we last visited thirteen years ago.

In our quest for new pockets of territory to explore at a slackpacking pace, we approached Mynydd Graig Goch on its north-western ridge via Llyn Cwm Dulyn, while the focus for the second day was the undoubtedly little frequented area below the crags of Craig Cwm Silyn, including the corrie lake with its companion and some nameless pools on the higher ground between Cwm Silyn and Cwm Afon Craig-las.

This short spell of warm and sunny August weather was the perfect time to experience the vibrant colours of the heather and bog vegetation, particularly on the second day below the crags when picking our way through the mixture of boggy ground, fallen boulders and heather that make this a superb fragment of wild Wales.

Full report & photos

Northern Arans #4 2-day backpack

Pitch at Gwaun LydanAfter a long hiatus we decided on another short visit to the familiar territory of the Northern Arans, a typical short route ascending from the north to Aran Fawddwy and curving around over Drysgol to Gwaun Lydan. The return descends into the Llaethnant valley to reach Creiglyn Dyfi and traverses Foel Hafod-fynydd to Bwlch Sirddyn and the little used pass route through Cwm Ddu.

The warm humid air afforded only hazy views today and, being a sunny Sunday, a fair number of walkers on the usually quiet Aran Fawddwy.

Full report & photos

Cwm Lledr circuit 2-day backpack

Pitch on Ysgafell ridgeAnother 2-day circuit around the hills forming Cwm Lledr, this time exploring the lower cwm on the eastern side and returning via Dolwyddelan Castle.

The Ysgafell Wen ridge is superb for backpackers: great mountain views, rocky knolls, grassy pitches and bejewelled with lakes, yet little trodden and often walked in solitude, due no doubt to the difficulty of devising satisfactory circuits for the typical day walker. We have done several longer backpacks in this area but this route was a short one to take advantage of a fine sunny weekend and we saw nobody until the afternoon of the second day when a group appeared on the mine track from the Crimea Pass.

Full report & photos

Latchford Locks, Bridgewater Way & Dunham Massey

Dunham MasseyA single day walk on the west side of Altrincham. The outward line follows the Trans Pennine Trail (TPT) westwards as far as Latchford Locks on the Manchester Ship Canal. The return line follows the Bridgewater Way (BW) canal path through Lymm to Bollington Mill and the National Trust house and park of Dunham Massey.

The TPT follows a former railway bed in a dead straight line for 3.6m (5.8km) from Oldfield Brow to Oughtrington with just a slight kink before another 2m (3.2km) to the M6 and is highly unphotogenic, hence no worthwhile pictures from this section. As we’ve remarked before, this type of easy level walking, though pleasant enough, is not our usual choice but is fine for distance training and is well used by cyclists and runners too. We also saw a new (to us) phenomenon here: speed roller skating with 2m long poles to aid propulsion.

The BW section is a picturesque walk in the rural Cheshire landscape passing through Lymm, a bustling town today in warm sunshine. As expected Dunham Massey was extremely busy with day trippers enjoying the warm early Autumn conditions, a popular deer park whose various paths form sections of our shorter and more frequent half-day walks from home. The exit gate on the B5160 leads onto the path through Dunham golf course emerging at Highgate Road, a short walk from home.

Full report & photos

Yr Arddu Lakes 2-day backpack

Pitch at Llyn yr ArdduThis was our first backpack since my discharge from hospital a few weeks ago, a modest circuit with significant ascent to a choice deserted location in Wales.

Moel y Dyniewyd is little frequented, but is graced by a thin path on its western side if only because it appears on the Marilyn list of hills and is climbed by at least some hillbaggers from Beddgelert or Nantmor, though very few continue beyond its summit.
The main objective for this trip was to potter around one of our favourite areas of all time, the deserted, rough but beautiful terrain of Yr Arddu and its splendid lakes.

Full report & photos

Bridgewater Way: Altrincham-Manchester Oxford Road day walk

Canal BasinAn easy day walk to aid recovery following a stay in hospital: a few weeks ago my lower left leg swelled up and I suffered stabbing pains on the left of the upper chest when trying to breathe in deeply. My doctor quickly recognized the symptoms, made a few phone calls, wrote a letter for the medics at A&E and told me to go there at once. His suspicions were correct: after some hours and several tests and a cat scan at A&E, they confirmed it was a DVT clot in the leg, part of which had migrated upwards and caused a pulmonary embolism in my left lung. The chief consultant organized a bed immediately, in the transplant unit no less, where I stayed for four days under close observation during treatment with clexane in case part of the clot reached the right lung. On discharge I was prescribed at least six months on Warfarin to help clear the lung damage, hence no mountain backpacks for so long.

This was the second time we have done this walk since discharge and the first time the entire BW towpath has been open all the way to Manchester with no path closures or diversions. Sections of the way have recently been upgraded to high quality grit surfaces. The southern semi-rural section contrasts with the industrial heritage in the urban northern part and there is much of interest to see.

Full report & photos

Kielder: Deadwater Hills 2-day backpack

Pitch on Peel FellA 2-day circuit of the Deadwater hills of the Kielder Forest region, largely following the route of the old ‘Kielder Stane’ Trail, now called the Deadwater Trail (DWT) on some marker posts.

We had pondered the Kielder Forest area for some time on the maps, a region encompassing a number of new hills including Peel Fell, a Dewey summit and our one remaining unclimbed 600m hill in England – the ‘SiMS’ list. This route traverses Peel Fell and includes Deadwater Fell, another new summit from the Dewey 500m hills, a circuit that seemed right for the predicted conditions.

The route is one of sharp contrast: the ascent of Deadwater Fell, and the descent through Deadwater Forest and return along the North Tyne valley, are very easy walking on good paths and tracks, but the traverse of Mid Fell and Peel Fell is typical north Pennine peat bog of heathery hags, tussocks and sphagnum. Despite being a named trail and furnished with a few waymark posts, the latter section is not sanitized in any way and after a wet spell is potentially very boggy in a few places. The line is almost always discernible on the ground though with even a few brief fragments of good path.

We saw several sketchy accounts of these hills online, and this being a sunny Sunday morning we expected to see at least a few walkers on the ascent from the Kielder Visitor Centre, but we saw nobody at all and the area was deserted for the whole trip.

The old Outdoor Leisure map shows this route but the newer Explorer map does not. Typically each revision of a 1:25,000 map shows various new named walks springing up here and there, but this is the first case I recall of a trail being removed.

Full report & photos

NW Carneddau: Cwm Caseg circuit 2-day backpack

Ffynnon Caseg & mountain cirque at the cwm headA 2-day mountain circuit centred on Cwm Caseg in the NW Carneddau. The outward route follows the north side of the Afon Caseg valley and ascends into the heart of the cwm to Ffynnon Caseg, then climbs Yr Elen and Carnedd Llewelyn. The return route is via Foel Grach and the mountains along the Carnedd Gwenllian / Gyrn Wigau chain.

The first objective of this backpack was to explore the superb mountain scenery in the tightly enclosed twisting Cwm Caseg, including the often seen but seldom visited Ffynnon Caseg.

The second was to climb Yr Elen via its well defined and fairly sharp east ridge, an ascent line we have often pondered from afar but never seen described in any walk reports.

The dominant high pressure chart predicted an almost windless spell – accurate, but giving little hint of the conditions. The very humid air produced a sharp contrast between morning and afternoon: clear skies and dew drenched landscapes at first but giving way to dense haze and high cloud with very limited views by afternoon.

I also had some new kit to test: a 53l backpack, solo tent and sleeping mat.

Full report & photos