Friday, 12 December 2014

Running cold

I had toyed with the idea of taking the bike, it's been a while, but perhaps finally I have learnt my lesson when it comes to matching activities to the conditions. It would have been a cold and desperate affair on this afternoon. And so for the third time in less than a week - a notable statistic in itself for me - I ran. 
Running has always been more of a winter thing for me, something that works when there is little fun to had either afloat or in the saddle. If there is a little snow, then so much the better though this jaunt over Pen-y-ghent, covered in the first real snows of the winter, was more akin to mountaineering in shorts. Mini-mountaineering perhaps but still, it was a tough 10k requiring the kind of trail breaking more typical of the higher fells or Scottish summits. In places the ground was well scoured and progress fast. In others, I laboured through waist deep drifts, quickly running cold, the temperature dropping as I gained height. And approaching the upper rock-band - normally a simple step that barely requires hands to be taken from pockets - soon found myself kicking steps as brutal gusts of wind whipped across the steep rocky flanks.
The summit - and a moment of shelter before plunging down into the mist, my trail even through the deeper snow, already covered.
A brief flurry of snow created white-out conditions temporarily on the plateau, though it cleared rapidly as I negotiated the steeper ground once again in descent.
Passing quickly through the lower band of rocks, it was a fast drop back to the shoulder where the path turns for Helwith Bridge, steps muffled in the soft snow as a weak sun finally slipped unseen beneath the horizon.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

The promise of snow

Cold winds carried the promise of snow with just a hint of white showing on the higher tops of The Dales as I worked steadily up the broad slopes of Ingleborough. It is one of my favoured local hills to run, with long views - as far as Snowdonia on a good day. Which this was, but more for the running than the view.
The merest hint of snow on Pen-y-ghent.
Starting from Clapham, it is a varied route, passing through Trow Gill, home to many bolted climbs of some quality and the cause of much frustration and a few falls in years past.
Open moor gives way to a steep and stepped climb to the shoulder - Little Ingleborough - before an enjoyable ridge leads to another short pull onto the summit plateau, notable for the remains of an ancient Celtic hill fort which would once have dominated the view north from the summit itself, now marked by a toposcope.
A brief flurry of snow was followed by hail and then sleet...
...and a rapid descent to gain more sheltered slopes...
...the squall passing abruptly as the sun broke through thinning cloud to the west.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Winter inspiration

It is that time of year I always find difficult, dark damp days with little to shift the lethargy of Autumn. But after several months working to support the launch of a new brand's winter climbing gear, inspiration has taken hold and once again I find myself studying the weather systems, searching for signs of the snow that must now come soon...
...for there is little that compares with days like these - Slioch, seen from beyond Loch Maree...
...and along the length of its northern ridge, an easy but exhilarating route to the summit...
...with vast views into a wild landscape of sinuous lochs, deep corries and massive glaciation.

Winter's coming...

...and with it, courtesy of Jottnar, the chance to win tickets for the Fort William Mountain Festival, B&B and a day's climbing with Abacus Mountain Guides, founded by Mike Pescod.
Enter the competition here on UKClimbing.com

Monday, 3 November 2014

A familiar feeling at Aberffraw

Arriving on Anglesey in the teeth of a gale, the rain falling in sheets, was, worryingly perhaps, not an unfamiliar experience. The promise of a pint or three once the tent was pitched hastened proceedings and the evening passed in a pleasant blur putting the world to rights before all too little sleep saw us drifting downstream...
...heading for Traeth Mawr - the beach beyond which the diminutive Afan Ffraw meets the sea. And the surf.
With all the usual beaches crowded by kite surfers and boarders, here we had the sands and the sea to ourselves. Above, Brian lends a hand as John prepares to head out...
...before leaving the sands himself in something a little shorter.
John quickly into the thick of things...
...and myself, enjoying the familiar feel of the Alaw.
Breaking out was hard work with a good deal of time spent either vertical or airborne...
...but worth the effort every time.
There really is nothing quite like it - pure fun.
Our energy spent, the shallow stream proved more difficult to paddle up than down, but with just sufficient water to float empty hulls, it was an easy walk back to Aberffraw.