Tuesday, January 12, 2016

North Wales Wanderings

My Salewa adjustable crampons, which had seen service since 1976, were finally replaced today as I purchased a lovely pair of yellow crampons from the Cotswold Store in Betws Y Coed.  It was clear that there was snow on the mountains but the weather forecast was just abysmal.  It was one of those days when an afternoon with a good book by the fire was preferable to struggling up a wind blasted Welsh mountain side.
Amazingly though the torrential rain, which had been a pouring down for the last couple of hours, stopped as I walked out of the shop and so the reasons for not going on the hill were rapidly disappearing.
I decided to follow the path into Cwm Tryfan, hoping that I would get some shelter from the wind and if at any time the conditions deteriorated too much it would be relatively easy to retrace my steps.  As it turned out I had an interesting few hours and didn't see anybody else all the time I was walking. 
Sadly though I didn't get to use the new crampons.
 Leaving the A5, conditions were really wet under foot but it was clear that there was snow higher up.
 The east face of Tryfan, disappearing into the cloud.
 Looking up towards Glyder Fach
 I headed up this slope to Bwlch Tryfan.  On the way up I has considered crossing the col and heading back to the car by Cwm Bochlwyd but the gusts of wind were so strong I preferred the shelter of my ascent route.

Just starting the descent, back into the relative quiet of Cwm Tryfan, trying to seek some shelter from the strongest gusts of wind.
It almost appeared as if there was some sunshine in the Ogwen Valley but it had certainly disappeared by the time I got there.  Replaced by heavy rain and a howling wind.  It was just past this point that I was blown off my feet by a particularly strong gust.  Time for coffee and cake in Capel Curig.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

First Paddle of the Year

Today was one of those days when it would have been so easy to stay in bed or to go to the gym, but it was well worth making the effort to head out in to the rain.  With strong winds from the south blowing the north coast was the only really viable option.  Bouley Bay to Rozel and back.  A good run out for my first paddle of the year.
 Kate inside Rozel Harbour.   Just about to head back.
 Kate trying to get a bit of help from the following wind.
 The north side of the harbour wall provided some shelter from the strong offshore wind.
 Relaxing paddle back, not rushing as the thought of getting changed in the rain wasn't too appealing

 At times the rain was so heavy that it obscured the finer details of Bouley Bay.
 Water was running down the road with some considerable force and then amazingly after we had tied the kayaks on the cars the rain stopped and we were able to get changed in the dry!

 Water pouring down the steps and onto the beach had discoloured the sea.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Last paddle of the year

After a Christmas break away from the Island it was good to get a quick paddle in today.  The south easterly force 6-7, which was forecast, plus the rather large westerly swell reduced the options but Bouley Bay on the north coast seemed ideal for a couple of hours out on the water.
For the last paddle of the year it proved to be a pretty reasonable choice.
 The small pier was constructed in 1828, although there had been earlier plans to construct a much larger harbour in the area.  This project was dropped due to the lack of available flat land to build on.
 The heavy rain of recent weeks has resulted in a few seasonal waterfalls appearing along this section of coast.
 Alex approach Tour de Rozel, the wind was pushing us along quite nicely.
 Tour de Rozel is one of the iconic landmarks of the north coast of the Island.  On the flood a delightful tide race develops which has provided hundreds of hours of entertainment to local kayakers.  Here are a few pictures taken 5 years ago.
 Fort Leicester dominated the western side of the bay, rebuilt in 1835 it is now available for hire from Jersey Heritage, as a rather unique place to stay.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

India Walk About - Day 4

After another cold night it was an early start as we aimed to reach our highest camp of the trip before crossing a col tomorrow and starting our descent into another valley.  We knew that the crossing of the col would be the most challenging part of the whole trek so we needed to be in a good position if the weather was in our favour.
In the bright sunshine we walked through an increasingly rugged landscape.   One section of the walk was particularly exposed but we did manage to get a phone signal at one of the bends in the path.  The information wasn't good, poor weather was heading our way and above a certain level the precipitation would be falling as snow.
We spent the night in some huts but were concerned about the incoming poor weather so we decided to get up before dawn ensuring that we were ready to head towards lower pastures at first light.
Just above where we camped the previous 2 nights and preparing for the first section of uphill of the day.  The peak behind is the one we had climbed the day before.
Some distant views of the Indian Himalaya's as we walked along some broad ridges.  The temperature had been modified by the altitude, resulting in perfect walking conditions.
One of the few steeper sections.  Just before starting this ascent there was plenty of evidence of bears in the area although unfortunately we didn't see any.
Traversing towards are high camp.  Small patches of snow indicated the weather conditions of a few days previously.  Just before this position we had manged to get a mobile phone signal so were able to check the weather forecast.  It was not good.
There was a feeling that we were at the heart of some significant mountains.
Just below our high point of 3907 metres.  We knew that this would be our last night at this altitude.  We were due to go over a col tomorrow, which required further ascent but in light of the weather forecast we were heading downhill in the morning.
Looking down on the huts where we were going to spend the night.
Celebrating Maureen's birthday before going to bed early.  We were due to get up at 5.45 the following morning, with the potential for it to be quite a hard day.

Friday, December 18, 2015

India Walk About - Day 3

After a bitterly cold night, I can't remember the last time I slept in my down jacket inside my sleeping bag, we woke to a beautiful blue sky.  We were camped at 3390 metres, with some of the group starting to feel the impact of the altitude.  Today had been planned as part of the acclimatization process, walk up a nearby peak, which was just over 3700 metres before dropping back to the camp site.  For some relaxtion before moving higher the following day.
As we were pretty much above the tree line, the walk had a totally different feel to the previous couple of days.  Open mountain sides and distant views, it was almost like walking in the British mountains apart from the occasional glimpse of glaciers.
The climb up the peak took much less time than we anticipated so the afternoon was spent catching up on sleep, reading and just generally relaxing.  Tomorrow we head higher.
It took quite a while for the frost to melt, particularly in the shady areas.
The toilet tents had a superb view.  Our route for the day was along the ridge to the right of the tents.
It was always good to start the day with some group stretching or, as on this day, with some laughing yoga.
This could almost be the Welsh mountains, if it wasn't for the altitude.
This was our high point for the day at 3740 metres.  It had been quite warm as we climbed the ridge and lunch on the summit started off as a very pleasant affair with great views and some reasonably warm sunshine.
Within minutes though the temperature plummeted as the clouds swept in, obscuring distant views and forcing a speedy search for warmer clothing.  This wasn't a day for hanging around for too long.
Clothing for the descent was somewhat different to what we had been wearing about an hour earlier as we came up the ridge.  People were generally looking forward to a couple of hours relaxing in the tent or reading during the afternoon.
Back at the camp site at 3390 metres.  There were some pretty large clouds building on the surrounding peaks, fortunately where we were camped remained clear but the weather indications for the next few days were not looking good.
 
The views across the mountain ranges were always quite special.  What surprised me at night though was just how many lights appeared on the hillsides.  During the day you could pretend that you were the only people in the area but at night the lights indicated just how many people called this area home.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

India Walk About - Day 2

After a good nights sleep we woke to another beautiful day, which wasn't all good news as we would be exposed to the sun at times as we gained nearly 1,000 metres in height.  As the height increased there was a corresponding expansion of the view.  Snow capped peaks started to appear in several directions.
The young people were quite amazing, despite how strenuous the day was I didn't hear a single complaint or negative comment as we climbed through the forest.  It was interesting to note that in several places trees showed clear evidence of being struck by lightening.  Thankfully the weather was looking settled with not a cumulo-nimbus in sight.
As we broke through the tree line we emerged onto a col where we were going to spend the next two nights, part of the acclimatization process, as we climbed higher into the mountains.
 We did attract the attention of some of the local wildlife.
 This gives an idea of the gradient of the path.  Overall we probably spent 5 hours walking uphill at this angle.  The trees offered some welcome shade from the noon day sun.
 Above the tree line we reached a col, with a particularly steep drop into the next valley.  Although some of the summits were covered in cloud it was clear that there had been a fresh snowfall higher up, which wasn't particularly encouraging.
 Tents were pitched on the col and it was immediately time to find the down jackets, the temperature was dropping like a stone.  By 6.00 pm all of the tents were covered in a layer of ice and the thermometer kept going downhill for the next 10 to 12 hours.  It turned out to be one of the coldest nights I have ever spent in a tent.
 The tents did catch the last of the suns rays.
 The food tent was pitched on the flat roof of one of the huts.  During the warmer summer months the local shephards bring the animals up to the higher pastures but in the autumn we were pretty certain that we would have the area to ourselves.
As the sun sets over Pakistan we retired to the food tent to warm up, knowing that this would also be our camp site the following evening.  Tomorrow was meant to be an easier day after two long up hill treks.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Indian Walk About - Day 1

After the heat and madness of Delhi it was a pleasure to arrive in the Chamba Valley, in Himachal Pradesh, in north west India.  We were here to trek for 8 days through the mountains of this Indian State.  On the drive from Pathenkot, a town we had traveled to by overnight train from Delhi, there had been some distant views of snow capped peaks, but now they seemed within touching distance.  Initially we stayed at the beautiful Orchard Huts, which is a superb place to stay if you happen to find yourself in this corner of the Indian sub-continent.
Our convoy of jeeps traveled to the road head, from where we started our climb.  We caused quite a stir, with local school children coming out of the classroom to watch us pass by.  Camp that evening was at 2,450 metres, we had climbed nearly 1,000 metres from where we started in the morning.
 The first part of the trek involved some sections of downhill as we followed the course of the river, prior to heading up the ridge towards higher land.  Fortunately a lot of the route was through trees, providing welcome shade from the Indian sun.
 This water mill was busy grinding local flour.  It reminded me of the old tidal mills in northern Brittany, some of which have been lovingly restored.
 This was the last village we passed through as we climbed out of the valley.  Little did we realize that we would be camping in this village a week later.
 Looking back to the village.  It was clearly a rich agricultural region.  It never failed to amaze, the steepness of the slopes that villages clung to.
First night's camp.  The horses were free to wander after their efforts of carrying some of our equipment.
Before it went dark some of the distant snow fields were lit by the final rays of the sun.  Hopefully promising another good day tomorrow.