Foel Eryr, Pembrokeshire

Summit views, Foel Eryr

Last weekend I had the chance to visit Pembrokeshire Coast National Park – one of the less well known National Parks to me – and enjoyed a quick romp over farm- and moorland to Foel Eryr. It is not particularly high at 468m, but is in beautiful surroundings and seemed in a quiet corner of Wales.

I enjoyed simply striding out over the grass and moor, although it was very wet underfoot. I also seem to be developing more of an affinity with the 1:50,000 OS map, which can be folded and fitted neatly into an A6 map case. It is good practice for the WML too, as winter condition necessitate the larger scale and navigation by the broader features of the land.

Views on descent

Fan Brycheiniog, Brecon Beacons

It was good to stretch the legs at the weekend for the first time after returning from Scotland. We tackled Fan Brycheiniog (802m) in the western part of the Brecon Beacons – my last time to Pen y Fan on the East killed off excess enthusiasm for that area, which is extremely accessible from Cardiff and Swansea, and so generally very busy.

From the East the route follows the  pleasant ridge of Fan Hir after which great views unfold of Llyn y Fan Fawr, if the weather is clear. We had some mist and hail early on, but later the views were fantastic. At the top, the wind chill was significant, so we did not hang about – rather like in Scotland – and I felt I made a good call to descend to Llyn y Fan Fawr into the lee of the wind, rather than follow the gentle slopes to the South.

We were treated to magnificent views as we headed back, the well vegetated cliffs of Fan Hir on our right, and were able to enjoy the weak sunshine sheltered from the wind.

Soon I plan to hand in my updated ML logbook with the required extra days in light of being deferred last March. Although it has taken almost a year, I have enjoyed doing it at a more relaxed pace and fitting in other activities. When I receive the coveted sticker, I will focus on rock climbing for the next few months, but will happily lead more groups, fit in winter walking days, keep sharp on the navigation with some orienteering and potentially record some  days, as all of these elements contribute to further personal development and the WML, IML and MIA.

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Photos from Scotland

Low-Key End to the Week

After the drama of yesterday and pitting our wits against the weather for a week we opted for a low, local walk. We could have potentially reached A’ Chailleach (930m), but our choice of Creag an Loin (547m) was vindicated. As predicted, the weather turned wet and mild while we were out and the wind started to build in force, so we were happy not to be postponed on the hill.

Time to get off the hill to a hot fire and cup of tea!

Rescue

Just returned from picking up the minibus from the upper Coire Cas carpark. Snow is coming down hard now at glen level, but no sign of the high winds yet. Hope to be able to get out on a local walk later, if possible to a Munro, but that will probably unrealistic.

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Blizzard Conditions

What a morning!

Today started off very nicely with blue skies, a fresh covering of snow and lighter winds. However, by early afternoon all hell broke loose over the Northern Cairngorms.

Drifting at glen level

In light of the weather and avalanche forecasts we chose a route accordingly, incorporating some more navigation teaching at low level. The aim of the day was to make it to the 1028m spot height on the Sron a’ Cha-no and potentially Cairn Gorm itself. However, we made the call early on to abort this attempt and instead continued navigation practice in the vicinity of Stac na h’lolaire.

Before the weather broke

However, having made it back to the lower Coire Cas car park in the teeth of a gale, it then took over an hour to battle up the road to the upper one. As we walked ice formed on zip toggles and all over our kit, and at times it was almost impossible to stay upright. The conditions were so wild that we had to abandon our minibus shortly after leaving the ski area, as the wind kept whipping round the back part of the van on the icy surface.

Craig Dhu from Newtonmore

Thankfully, Glenmore Lodge came to the rescue, offering us places in their minibuses, but the experience of blizzard conditions was certainly sobering. I have never walked up a road before for a kilometre and wondered whether we would be forced back. However, it contributed to a week that has been full of mountain and leadership experience, if not the best of conditions.

Dreich Winter

On top of Sgor Gaoith

‘Dreich’ was the best way to describe today. Whilst warm and moist clag can be tolerated to an extent in summer, wet and cold with a gale following closely behind is a serious proposition in winter.

A cold and wet lunch break

We managed to salvage a mountain day in the north west Cairngorms, approaching out of Glen Feshie. Our initial target was Carn Ban Mor, and after a quick re-evaluation, we then continued along the ridge to Sgor Gaoith before beating a quick retreat to the glen.

Despite the awful weather, it was a good day for learning. I had the chance to lead a small group, teaching them navigational skills, and the difficult weather conditions tested all of our clothing systems. To teach skills is to reinforce one’s own understanding of a topic, and it was hugely satisfying to pass on skills and reflect on how best to do so.

Beautiful pine woods on the return to Glen Feshie

Thursday and Friday look better in terms of the freezing level, but there will be a large amount of wind blown snow on many aspects and, of course, the high winds, which have been a feature of the week. Our route choice will have to demonstrate a good deal of ingenuity and flexibility.

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