Friday, 15 May 2015

105 - Garth Hill - Cardiff - 15th April 2015

The fog below
Approaching the highpoint
Garth Hill is the highest point of Cardiff and lies just to the north west of Cardiff near the town of Taff's Well. Every so often I venture into South Wales to attend a Balloon modelling event (I am a balloon twister if you are wondering). This time I decided to extend the visit and climb a high point with an overnight stay at a friends house to make things easier.

I set off for the village of Taff's Well fairly early (as my friends had to go to work), it was only a 25 minute drive so not too far away, The fog was very thick on the way to the hill but I eventually found a nice place to park on the slopes of Garth hill got myself ready for my short walk. the fog was still thick when I left the car but I left it below me half way up the slopes of the hill, it was not too far to walk to the top, I tried to make the walk a little longer by taking a long route but even then I was reaching the top after about 25 minutes. At the top I couldn't see too much as the fog was still thick below me but above me there were amazing blue skies and it was very warm, the first really warm day of the year so far which was lovely.

The highest point of Garth hill was actually an ancient burial mound, there was a trig point on top which I sat next to and had some breakfast and a drink. While sitting on the top of Garth hill I was passed by 2 joggers, a walked and many cows, it was quite busy on top of the hill. After my short break I took a different route down the slopes of the hill back to my car ready for my long drive back home.

It was a short hill walk but a really nice one to do, it is a lovely hill to visit if you are in the area and I can imagine the views would be amazing if it was not foggy.

Garth Hill - highpoint number 105 - 307 metres

Thursday, 14 May 2015

104 - Burley Moor - Leeds - 24th March 2015

The view east

Looking south east towards Leeds
For the past couple of years in March I travel up to Leeds to attend a balloon modelling event, Last year I managed to visit several high points on my way home, This time I wanted to visit a high point the day before the event, I was going to visit the highest point in Leeds itself. I took the long drive up to Leeds on the Monday night and stayed at my Travelodge in Keighley. The next morning I had breakfast and then I headed off to find my hill, hill, it was not too far to drive and not far from the small town on Ilkley.

Near the Highest point
I parked the car at a small parking area near the town of Ilkley and I headed off to find my hill, The path started off very easy and I had my route planned however it was not long before the path disappeared and I was left wondering which route to take, what made matters worse was the fact that there were nesting birds in the area and I was not allowed to stray from the path. I decided to use my maps to stick as close to the path as possible and hope that I was not going to disturb any birds. it was just a short walk through the heather until I picked up the path again and headed on my way towards the high point. I soon arrived at the highest point of Leed which was located near a small mound on Burley moor. This highpoint is one of those which is NOT actually the highest point in the area as the border of Leeds runs across the side of the hill so rather than stop here I decided to head off and explore some of the surrounding moorland, at least I got to tick another high point off my list.

The Stone Circle
I followed a major track for some time passing a few people, then I headed off onto a smaller track where I soon came across an old bronze age stone circle. This Stone circle is called the Twelve Apostles and is one of those monuments that no one actually knows its purpose. I decided to stop off here for some lunch which seemed to be the perfect place. it was dry and sunny so it was a great time to stop and take in the view.

After a spot of lunch I continued along the small track, this soon became a stone path and I followed this for some time until I came to a small seating area, In one of the walls of this area there was a letterbox type gadget, this was all part of a poetry trail that had been installed, The letter box gadget had 2 slots, 1 for Poems to be put into and the second for poems to be distributed (with the turn of a handle). . What an incredible idea this was, I turned the handle and out popped a hand written poem, after reading this I popped it back into the upper slot, turned the handle and out popped a second poem, I spent some time here reading poems and putting them back into the box for future readers,

After my time at the poetry corner I headed back down the slopes towards the car park but not before passing a massive rock structure called the Cow and Calf, this was covered with climbers and there were lots of little trails up to the top of the rocks. I had a nice climb around the Cow and Calf and then headed back to my car for the short drive back to my hotel.

So Burley Moor was my 104th hill, the highest point of Leeds at 342 metres high.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

103 - Helvellyn - Westmorland - 10th March 2015

It was Christmas 2014 and as a Christmas gift I had purchased for Nathan a hotel break to the Lake District, 2 nights in a lovely guest house in the beautiful town of Windermere. Now at the time It was not my intention to use this as an opportunity to climb a mountain however Nat asked if that is what I wanted to do, I said no however if he wanted to we could go and climb a mountain, I showed him some photos of the local high point to climb and he instantly said it was something we had to do. 

Helvellyn lies a few miles north of Windermere, Nat and I arrived at a small car park at the southern end of Thirlmere (a reservoir), we parked next to a small church, I knew there was something special about this church but couldn't remember at the time, when I returned home I remembered it is the last remaining building of the village of Wythburn, back in the 1890s the valley was flooded to create Thirlmere.

After parking the car and collecting up our backpacks we headed off straight up the mountain, the climb upwards started off almost straight away with a straight path through the woods, there was a lot of forestry work taking place in the surrounding woodland meaning many of the paths were closed off to us but the main path up Helvellyn was fine. after a short distance we passed through a gate and out of the woodland into open land,  the path zig zagged slightly here and soon we had our first views of Thirlmere and the surrounding mountains, also ahead of us high up on the mountain we could see lots of snow. 

The path we had chosen seemed to climb upwards all the time, there was never a point where it flattened out so it was pretty hard work however we carried on up the path and eventually between some rocks where we saw our first snow, it was only a little bit around 12 inches long but it was pretty exciting as we rarely get snow in the south where I live and this would be my first high point to actually have snow. 

Further up the path we encountered some much larger patches of snow and we couldn't resist a quick run around in it, way below us we could see a few planes flying over the lake, one of them was a military jet and even from up on the mountain it was very loud. 

Eventually our path joined a larger path and we were not too far from the top, the path had flattened out a bit, on our left to the west were some magnificent views over the lake and onwards to the mountains, to our right we could now see plenty of snow clinging onto the steep slopes of the mountain and the well known Striding edge leading up to the top of Helvellyn. 

It was not long before we had reached the top of Helvellyn, at 950 metres it was the highest point of the historic county of Westmorland and the third highest mountain in England, At the top it was the first time we really noticed how cold it was, the wind was stronger at the top and we were really starting to notice the bite so we didn't stick around too long. From the top we were pretty amazed to see some skiers on the snowy slopes below us and after a quick explore and a few photos we headed back down the mountain as fast as we could go, the wind was now blowing right in our faces so we really felt the cold however it didn't take us too long to escape from the wind and head back down the path.
We retraced our steps for the whole walk back, because of the forestry work taking place in the woods below us it meant we could not do a circular walk but this didn't matter as the views were pretty amazing, they were worth seeing again. Halfway down Helvellyn we stopped off for a quick spot of lunch and a drink, then we were on our way again back to our car waiting for us in the car park. 

Helvellyn was an awesome mountain to climb, I loved climbing it and the snow added an extra bit of fun. I would highly recommend a walk on Helvellyn, its not too difficult to climb and the views are incredible. 

Friday, 23 January 2015

101-102 - Cambridgeshire and Essex - 7th Jan 2015

Highest point of Cambridgeshire
It had been over 5 months since I had climbed Ben Nevis and since then I had decided to take a short break from the hill bagging, this was due to many reasons, mainly because I was too busy however with a new year having just started it was time to get back into visiting those hills. I was due to head up to Bishops Stortford again to attend a balloon modelling event so while I was there I decided to cross a few hills off my list.

On the morning after the balloon event I headed north from Bishops Stortford up the M11 a few junctions and then cross country to a car park in the village of Great Chishill, I parked my van and headed off to my first highpoint which was situated roughly 10 paces away from my van however because of a fence and a hedge I had to walk down the road a little bit to see it. This was the highest point of Cambridgeshire at the dizzying height of 146m, It was a rather unimpressive high point and was dominated by a covered reservoir which was surrounded by hedges, I didn't stay here too long and headed off on a South Easterly direction towards my next high point.

Once I left Great Chishill I crossed a field and then walked along the edge of a small woodland and across another field, I then turned left onto a road and eventually found a path which led directly to the next destination. While walking along this pathway I was pleased to see a large herd of deer which contained 1 white deer, it was a rather impressive sight seeing them in the middle of a field.

Highest point of Essex
I eventually got closer to my next highpoint and after a short walk through a woodland I arrived at the highest point of Essex, this one was at the dizzying height of 147m above sea level, that is a whole metre higher than Cambridgeshire. I stayed here for a short while and took some photos but then it was time to head back to the car park in Great Chishill.

I decided to take a slightly different route back to the carpark to turned off onto a different path and then along a country lane which took me past a few houses, crissing back over some more fields I made it back to Great Chishill and my car.

Both the high points I visited today were fairly plain but I still have a lovely walk in the countryside and it was great to get back into visiting my high places again.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Highest Points Update

Hello all

The Summit of Ben Nevis
It has been a fair few months since my last highpoint, I thought I would update everyone with what is going on and to let everyone know that I have not stopped.

Back in July I climbed Ben Nevis, this was my 100th High point since starting. I knew I had a very busy summer ahead, plus I was going away in September/October and had a lot going on with work the rest of the time, so after Ben Nevis I thought it was time to stop for a winter break, the 100th high point seemed like the perfect place for a break and I will start again early in 2015.

Aran Fawddwy
2014 has been a great year for climbing high points, I managed to cross off 22 this year with the highlight being Ben Nevis, there have however been a few other Mountains which are worth a mention, Aran Fawddwy is a hidden treasure and well worth a climb, Moel Sych and its 2 sister high points are also worth a visit with some incredible views.

So what does 2015 have in store for me? to be honest right now I have no idea where I am heading and what I am going to be climbing, I have purposely not started planning yet, if I do then I will want to get out climbing but I really have to hold off until the new year and then I will start planning again, As I have now done 100 high points I now have 137 to go, I guess my next target is half way which I guess would be 119 (actually 118.5 but I cant do half high points), so that is my target for 2015, 19 high points before the year is out.

Moel Sych
The quest has started to become a bit of a problem for me, I have done many of the local high points so this means I now have to start travelling a lot more to get to them, I still have 6 more to do in south Wales which it fairly accessible for me, also 7 in the Swindon/Reading/Slough area which will also be very easy to do one day. But apart from some major clumps around Manchester/Liverpool and another clump up in Newcastle the rest seem to be fairly spread out so I am going to have to plan carefully and try and hit several high points at a time.

The Wrekin
I am also hoping to have some company on my climbs in the coming year, I know Bournemouth Chris will be joining me on one or 2 high points and Nathan will probably join me on some, Also I am going to drag Darren along on high point mission sometime in 2015 as well, Darren did all of the London high points with me so taking him to a real mountain will be a different experience for him.

Anyway, that's it for 2014, Its been a good year for getting out in the great outdoors, to finish off, here are some statistics you may or may not find interesting -

High points climbed - 100
High points not yet climbed - 137
Percentage completed - 42.37%
Combined height in miles of the hills I have visited - 16.53 miles
Time it has taken since I started (21-8-12) - 821 days (2 years and 3 months)

Thanks for reading, watch out for updates in the new year


Tuesday, 5 August 2014

100 - Ben Nevis - Highlands, Scotland and the UK - 29th July 2014

First slopes of Ben Nevis
I have now been doing my Highest points challenge for nearly 2 years and have so far managed to complete an amazing 99 out of 236 on my list of highest points in the UK, it was now time for number 100 and it was going to be a very special one. When I first decided to officially started this challenge back in August 2014 I had just climbed Scafell Pike with Chris and Amy, 2 years before that in 2010 I had climbed Snowdon, this time with Chris and Amy and Nat too and so now 2 years on from Scafell Pike it was Chris and Amy's idea to climb the highest mountain in the whole of the UK and that would mean taking the long drive up through England and half way across Scotland to the town of Fort William and Ben Nevis.

Glen Nevis

My climbing companions
I was being joined by Nat, Chris and Amy for this trip and we had all spent a good few months planning our trip to Scotland, we were camping and my tent was no where near big enough for 2 so on a trip to Go Outdoors Nat purchased a nice new 5 man tent ready for the trip. We also purchased a new gas cooker and a few other bits for the trip. Due to the long drive up to Scotland we decided to break up the drive with a night in a hotel on the way up and on the way back so hotels were booked and routes were planned, then on Sunday 27th July I picked Nat up and headed off to Chris and Amy's for a lovely pre-trip lunch.
We Left after lunch in a convoy of 2 cars and took our time as we were not in any rush to get to our first hotel, we had booked the Travelodge at the Lancaster services on the M6, on arrival we had a quick cup of tea and headed off to Morcambe for a short walk and then dinner, then it was back to the Travelodge for a sleep. The next day we had breakfast and headed north on the M6 towards the mountains of Scotland. Driving through Scotland was amazing, we passed Glasgow and then across the Erskin bridge and then along the length of Loch Lommond for what seemed like hours. 

A short stop for food
Chris having a munch

After Loch Lommond we continued further north and along some amazing roads surrounded by mountains, There came a moment where I got the urge to listen to some of the soundtrack from the James Bond movie Skyfall, it just seemed appropriate as it looked just like some of the locations used in the film, we later found out that this was the exact location they used in the film so it was quite a coincidence. After the Skyfall mountains and valleys we continued further north eventually arriving at Fort William and then the Glen Nevis campsite at the foot of Ben Nevis. After setting up camp Amy cooked us a lovely dinner and then we headed off to bed ready for our climb the next day.

Glen Nevis getting smaller
Amy admiring the view
Red Burn Waterfall

We started the day off with a lovely cooked breakfast which Chris cooked and then we got our bags ready, we left the campsite and walked the short distance to the Ben Nevis visitors centre where the path to the top started. the car park was bustling with climbers getting ready so we didn't hang about too long and crossed the bridge over the river Nevis to the start of the path up the mountain. The first part of the path was along a very short part of the river bank but it soon headed away from the river and up the first of the slopes. The path started to rise gradually and it was not too hard walking, it was quite a long path and it zig zagged a couple of times and then started to bend around to the left very slowly.

The Shelter on the summit

The walking was pretty slow going do to the very uneven path, it was a mixture of gravel, stones, rocks and steps with the odd occasional bridge crossing a few streams. After a while the path had slowly curved into a valley called the Red Burn, below us a small river was running with waterfalls dropping into it from the mountain slopes. For some time along this part of the path it was quite difficult climbing, the rocks were very uneven and there were some big steps, it was also along this part that the rain started to fall so we had to get the rain gear out.

Nat and Chris enjoying the cable car

Here I am with Amy

Fort William and Loch Eil
The path zig zagged once more and then flattened out onto a large flat area between the mountain slopes, up here there was a large lake with a few wild campers next to it. We had now reached about 570 meters about sea level so we were well on our way to the halfway point. The path now reached a junction and we forked back on ourselves and the path started to climb again and heading towards the small river again. The path crossed the river at a point where there were waterfalls above and below us, this was right at the top of the Red Burn valley and was the half way point. Carrying on from here we climbed further and further finally reaching the first of many large zig zags, the terrain was now much more rugged. Each of the zigs and zags seemed to take us aged to walk along, there were 7 or 8 zigs and zags in the path and each one took us between 10 and 20 minutes to walk along. My knees up until now had been fine but they now started to give a twinge of pain here and there.

The View from the top station.

The view from the seal sanctuary
The walking seemed to be very slow going along here and there were lots of people walking the same paths and some were even running, in fact we had been passed my many runners on the path. It was along this part of the path that we reached the cloud too and visibility was soon very low, we occasionally got glimpses of the valleys below through the clouds but the higher we got the less we saw. After what seemed like ages the path seemed to flatten out into a more gradual climb and it straightened out, there were now man made piles of stones and I guess these are here to help walkers stay on the path when its been snowing. Talking of snow it was along this part of the route we reached a large field of snow, it was huge and we had to cross it to stay on our path, once we were in the middle of the snow field it was quite weird, with the cloud cover and the snow around everything was white, you could easily see how people get lost on the mountains but we were lucky and easily found our way across the snow.

We were now reaching the final part of the walk to the top and we passed a few sudden drops not too far from the path, they didn't look too scary in the cloud but I can imagine the drops were huge. This part of the path was now on the very top of Ben Nevis and we followed the path to the very highest point and the summit of Ben Nevis, the highest point in the Highlands, the highest point in Scotland and the highest point in the UK at 1344 meters or 4409 feet above sea level, It had taken 5 hours to walk to the top. It was hard to see too much with the cloud cover but there were several features to look at, firstly there was the summit marker with the Ordnance survey marker on top and then there was a memorial to those who fought in WWII and then a small shelter for emergency's, finally there were the ruined walls of an old weather observatory. 

Chris and his 'normal' face

More 'normal' faces
After a few photos we decided it was far to cold and windy to stick around and we headed straight back down the path towards the snow field. walking down was obviously much faster and we were soon back at the snow where we stopped for lots of photos. Pushing onwards we were back to the zig zags working our way down these one at a time across the rough terrain. Slowly my knees started to get more painful and I always find walking downhill much more difficult. on the steep slopes I was a little slow but then on the flatter parts I could speed up a fair bit. Once we were below the cloud again Chris and Amy decided to zoom ahead and Nat stayed with me to work our way down the slopes. We crossed the top of Red Burn again and then forked back down the Red Burn valley, this part of the walk seemed to go on for ages, the rocks were very uneven and it was really tough going on our knees, we had to take a few breaks to give our knees a rest and then we pushed on further down the slopes. We eventually reached a point on the path where a short cut became available to us, it was a bi steeper but was more direct and it was worth it as it cut off a fair bit of walking. We finally reached the river Nevis where we crossed the bridge and walked along the last part of the road to the camp site.

Castle Urquhart
That evening we had a very easy dinner of burgers and some pasta and then we were off to bed before 9pm for a very good sleep, it had taken us 3 hours to walk back down from the summit of Ben Nevis.

The next day we decided to have a bit of a more relaxing day as all of our legs were worn out from the climbing, Breakfast was delicious as we headed to a local cafe and then we headed off up another mountain, we cheated as we took the cable car this time which was much easier, this was the Nevis range mountain resort and it was a lovely trip to the restaurant (and cake) and amazing views at the top. After the cable car we headed to the Scottish sea life sanctuary for the afternoon which was a lovely little place with several seals and some cute otters, it also had a pretty good aquarium to look around.

A couple of monsters on Loch Ness
Glenfinnan Viaduct

On our last full day in Scotland we travelled north to Drumnadrochit and the Lock Ness monster exhibition, this was a really nice little exhibition with a nice little shopping area too, after this we headed to the world famous Urquhart castle where we had a good look for Nessie and her family. in the afternoon Chris drove us to Glenfinnan to see the Glenfinnan viaduct, this wiaduct was the same one that had been used in several of the Harry Potter films so we were all pretty excited to see it. We finished off the day by heading to the Glen Nevis restaurant for a lovely meal with Nat, Chris and Amy (I had Haggis for starters, then Scottish salmon followed by Cranachan for dessert).

Amazing views at the Skyfall valley
On our final day in Scotland we packed up our camp and had a quick breakfast and then headed off to Fort William for an explore, then we headed back south, stopping off at the Skyfall valley for a few photographs. Then it was time for the long drive back home with a night at a Travelodge on the outskirts of Preston to break up our journey.

To mark my 100th high point I have decided to start to score the high points on various aspects, these are 

difficulty to climb (D), 
how much of an adventure the walk was (A), 
the views seen during the walk (V), 
the height achieved during the climb (H) 
and finally 
a Rob rating to say how much I enjoyed the whole experience (R)

Here are my scores for Ben Nevis

D - 7/10
A - 9/10
V - 9/10
H - 10/10
R - 10/10

Total - 45/50