Western Arenigs 4-day backpack

Pitch on Moel OernantA 4-day trek through the western Arenigs from Trawsfynydd to Dolgellau, revisiting some hills and lakes from years ago, some we skirted on more recent trips and picking up one new summit. The route explores some new territory and approaches to connect the sections in the northern half.

Another route designed for a summer bank holiday, an Arenigs trek will always fit the bill, mostly deserted especially on some of these tops via these approaches. This was intended as a 3-day route but, not wanting to travel back on a bank holiday Monday, I decided to stay another night and make the last two days a very relaxed slackpacking experience. The northern half involves a great deal of trackless terrain: in many parts of the Arenigs this, along with solitude and a feeling of wild remote Wales, is what you sign up for!.

Unfortunately I had a camera mishap near the start of the first day: somehow I must have unseated the memory card. At the end of the day in the dimmer light, I saw that the camera was showing a warning "NO CARD", but it still went through all the motions and fired the shutter even with nowhere to store the picture. I fixed the problem but all the previous shots from the day were sadly lost.

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Southern Arenigs & Rhinogydd 4-day backpack

Llyn Hywel & Rhinog FachA linear 4-day trek from Rhydymain to Barmouth, revisiting the southern Arenigs region and crossing the Afon Mawddach valley via the Coed y Brenin forest park to Cwm Camlan for an unusual eastern approach to the ridge of the southern Rhinogydd.

Once again the Arenigs were a good escape for the height of the summer season, the high ground was completely deserted until we reached the southern Rhinogydd ridge where the Ultra-X Wales multi-day marathon event was taking place this week. Their route across the headwaters of the Afon Gamlan and southwards along the Rhinogydd ridge coincided with ours, the initial rough and little trodden section to Llyn y Bi being marked at frequent intervals by little multicoloured flags poking out of the heather and tussocks. We reached Cwm Camlan late in the day when they had all long since passed but the stragglers caught up with us next morning.

Like our Arenigs trip last year, and in similar sweltering hot weather with unbroken sunshine, the main focus was on reliable water which often meant a heavier load and more strenuous walking.

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West Bleaklow & Kinder North 2-day backpack

Rock formations on Ashop EdgeA 2-day linear trek taking in the mountain summits of western Bleaklow, the northern edges of Kinder Scout and a traverse of Win Hill above the Hope Valley.

The approach from Glossop is via the Yellow Slacks and Shelf Moss route to Bleaklow Head and Higher Shelf Stones. The Pennine Way (PW) gives an easy traverse to Mill Hill and the Kinder plateau, taking the northern edge line of Ashop Edge, Seal Edge and Blackden Edge to Crookstone Hill. The final section passes Hope Cross and traverses Win Hill for a descent to Bamford.

Compared to the popular southern edges of Kinder, the northern edges are much less trodden, wilder and somewhat more taxing and time consuming. There is a path to follow the whole way, almost always clear, but it involves a lot more weaving through gritstone outcrops and boulders that present excellent rock formations on the plateau edge.

The very dry conditions gave a good opportunity to make the traverse to Bleaklow’s secondary summit Higher Shelf Stones, our last visit being over 20 years ago, and the nearby aircraft wreckage of the RB-29 Superfortess "Over Exposed" that crashed here in 1948.

Regarding this tragedy, we just discovered a firsthand account by a member of the recovery team of the operation carried out here in bleak November moorland conditions by the MRT in conjunction with American military personnel.

The account is teeming with fine detail, albeit grim and gruesome at times, that gives a powerful insight into the practical and personal aspects of the recovery using period equipment. An evocative and rivetting piece, highly recommended.

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Bollin Valley Way & Carrington 2-day backpack

Pitch by the BollinA 2-day solo trek of the Bollin Valley Way (BVW) route that shadows the River Bollin from Macclesfield to Partington at the Manchester Ship Canal. I extended the route start from Macclesfield rail station and walked directly home from Partington via the track network and disused oil railway trackbed of Carrington Moss, though some improvisation was required to access the network due to the appearance of a huge construction site adjacent to the Ship Canal.

A cloudy and uninspiring forecast caused this forgotten route to surface from the bottom drawer of walks, a local low-level leg stretcher easily walked in less than two days. No aerobic hillwalking training here!. Instead there is much fine woodland and some pleasant Cheshire countryside scenery to enjoy as the route follows the Bollin as closely as possible.

The Bollin Valley Partnership has done a good job here with a very easy waymarked route on paths and tracks that satisfies its objectives well and is furnished mainly with black metal kissing gates. I took very few photos, the woodland needing special light to make really good pictures that stand out and it wasn’t forthcoming on this trip. Beyond a couple of minor curiosities I don’t have much commentary to add.

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Sandstone Trail 2-day backpack

Raw HeadA 2-day solo trek of the Sandstone Trail (ST) waymarked route that traverses the sandstone ridges of Cheshire between the western Peak District and the far eastern high ground of the Clwydian hills and Dee hills of Wales.

One of two Cheshire ridge trails, the other being the Gritstone Trail that I did last year, this popular walk was a perfect candidate for a short spell of excellent weather with chilly nights and warm days before Easter and the inevitable influx of walkers, also a better chance of retiring to a fairly early stealthy tent pitch. Bearing in mind the nature and popularity of path sections on the high ground of this trail, I considered my usual Big Agnes Copper Spur tent a potential risk due to its colour and instead dug out my 15-year old forest-green TN Laser Competition (never has an item of gear engendered such simultaneous feelings of love and hate!).

The two principal sections of sandstone edge walking were most enjoyable and offered good views and plenty of lovely woodland. There are also two long sections of typical Cheshire field rambling between farms that were pleasant enough in these warm and dry optimum conditions, but after significant rain these would often be extremely muddy. The trail is plentifully signed with the ST logo, but there are often other paths in the vicinity and you still need to keep your wits about you at times.

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Greenfield to Hebden 3-day backpack

Blakely CloughA 3-day trek from Greenfield to Hebden Bridge utilising a large section of the Pennine Way (PW) that includes a few fragments we have not walked before. It includes a section from our previous trip that we walked in thick blasting mist, giving a chance for some brighter photos. The route approaches via Alphin Pike and takes the high level path across Wimberry Moss and Chew Hurdles, an excellent line that we abandoned on the previous trip.

This was the first sunny spell for ages, but the strong wind on the open moors made walking arduous on the second day and the third morning suffered from early low mist before finally clearing to sunshine.

The powerful wind also made life interesting with regard to a pitch: for hills of this modest elevation, Rishworth Moor is as bleak as they come. The rolling moorland has virtually no natural shelter and the persistence of the wind downslope on the leeward side left few options.

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Wessenden, Black Hill & Chew 2-day backpack

Pitch at Red RatcherA 2-day linear trek in the north-western corner of the Dark Peak.

The route from Marsden passes the Butterley and Wessenden group of reservoirs, joining the Pennine Way (PW) to ascend to Black Hill, one of our old haunts going back to the days when it maintained its reputation as a peat megabog resembling the aftermath of trench warfare, but is now tamed and sanitized by paving across much of its traverse, but not all – the very wet January conditions made progress slow on the boggy bits.

Near Laddow Rocks our line departs the PW to ascend to Black Chew Head, then follows the path across Laddow Moss to Chew reservoir.

This time our faith in the various weather forecasts for clear tops and some sunshine was misplaced: the thick windblown mist persisted on the high ground for the entire two days, a dank and dismal trek leaving only the wild atmosphere of the bleak moorland to savour. At Chew reservoir we improvised a lower level route than planned to reach Mossley using the Oldham Way and Tame Valley Way.

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New Year 2022

Last sunset of 2021New Year greetings for 2022.

After a dismal few weeks, the final daylight minutes of 2021 yielded a pleasant sunset from our terrace, giving a colourful timely photo to brighten up this post. It’s annoying that we missed the recent brief weather window when some excellent inversions were reported from the mountains.

Last year finally opened up the pandemic barriers and we enjoyed some excellent backpacks and tent pitches. Unfortunately this year is off to an inauspicious start with infections clocking up record numbers and the trains running to special reduced timetables, requiring careful planning. We shall probably focus on the nearby Peak District or South Pennines for a while where transport is more frequent.

So all the best to everyone and good walking.

South-West Bleaklow & Kinder 2-day backpack

Pitch near Kinder DownfallA 2-day linear trek in the south-western regions of Bleaklow and the Kinder Scout plateau. The ascent to Bleaklow is via Doctor’s Gate and crossing Glead Hill to the Kinder massif via the Pennine Way to Mill Hill. The south-western edges are followed past Kinder Downfall and Kinder Low to descend via Golden Clough and Ringing Roger.

After a long and generally dismal autumn, we were quickly back to the short days of winter. A two-day promising weather window called for a simple nearby route easily accessible via public transport where we could utilize all the available daylight. The first day of this linear station-to-station trek was clear and sunny once we reached the high ground of Bleaklow, quite warm too, but the second featured thick windblown mist until midday.

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Gritstone Trail 2-day backpack

Trig and topograph on The CloudThe Gritstone Trail (GT) is a waymarked route that traverses the gritstone ridges on the western edge of the Peak District overlooking the Cheshire plain.

A September forecast for two days of late sunny weather after the end of the holiday season suggested a perfect opportunity to tackle this trail whose best features include the extensive views over the Cheshire plain. It turned out to be almost a repeat of the sweltering conditions earlier this year with temperatures in the high twenties and the views were hazy in the distance, though still good.

The GT contains a good mix of walking and interest, with many sections of fine woodland mixed with the characteristic gritstone paths reminiscent of those of the eastern White Peak. There are also sections on metalled surfaces that need good footwear cushioning. The trail is well waymarked with accurately oriented direction arrows, but needs a careful eye open for the marks and posts particularly where other trails and footpaths pass through the same area.

I found this backpack hard, partly no doubt due to the heat, but there is quite a lot of ascent involved, though not nearly as much as mapping software suggests. On the first day I had to walk at a relentless pace on the last few miles to make my intended pitch on the upper flank of Tegg’s Nose by nightfall – that turned out to be an interesting experience. It was also one of those very rare occasions where I pitched using just the tent inner with no flysheet and watched the stars through the mesh.

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