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Archive for August 2009

Three Peaks

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scafellpike01View from the summit of Scafell Pike

As mentioned a few months ago, a recent trip to Scotland saw myself and a friend climb Ben Nevis, our first mountain climb. Well, mine anyway. It was exhilarating and I/we definitely got the hill walking bug. So, a few weeks ago myself and four friends headed for the hills with a new found ‘mountain bagging’ confidence. As we had Ben Nevis under our belts, we hatched a plan to complete the ‘Three Peaks’, albeit in three months, unlike some nutters who attempt them in 24 hours. First on the hit list was Snowdon, Wales’ highest mountain at 1,085 metres (3,560 ft). One of Snowdons attributes is the many routes to it’s summit. After a bit of research, we planned to ascend via the South Ridge route from Rhyd Ddu and choose the descent route at the top.

snowdon01At the summit of a cloudy Snowdon

snowdon03Andy behind Snowdon’s visitor centre

snowdon02We found an old mill at the end of the Ranger trail, near the end of our Snowdon walk

Early Sunday (9th Aug) we set off from our lovely B&B in Betws-y-Coed for our start point. After parking up in Rhyd Ddu train station, we headed off towards the cloud covered hills. The South Ridge path shares the same first section with the Rhyd Ddu path but we missed the fork point and ended up on the Rhyd Ddu path, which didn’t really matter the low clinging clouds offered poor visibility. One reward was Bwlch Main, an exposed knife edge ridge. As we trudged up it there were no views, but a spooky soup of cloud either side of the ridge below us.

The summit seemingly appeared out of nowhere through the mist and cloud. It was a strange alien place, grey, cold, wet but strangely endearing. With the new visitor centre designed to blend from the emerging rock, it looked like a scene from a nuclear winter. We climbed the stone steps up a small crag to the actual summit where a brass plate set in a summit stone listed the various views that abound on a clear day. Wet and getting a little cold, we took shelter in the visitors centre, grabbed a warming coffee and tucked in to our packed lunches. A small souvenir shop proved useful, as amongst the tat were some t-shirts, mine was sodden through.

After a well deserved lunch, we consulted the various routes and headed North along Llanberis, the ‘tourist’ path. Our intention was to fork off west onto the lesser used Snowdon Ranger path, but we missed it by half a mile or so. The Llanberis path looked so dull, we climbed back up in search of the fork. It was a pain in the arse, but well worth it in the end, the Ranger descent was great. The cloud lifted and there were only a handful of other people doing the Ranger route. Eventually we got back to civilisation on the main road, only to discover we’d missed the last Sherpa bus, but a very kind family gave us a ride in their Defender to our car. That evening we stuffed our faces with steak and the next morning headed off to the Lake District, with Scafell Pike, England’s highest peak next on the menu.

After a couple of quiet rambling days we headed for Scafell. Our starting point, Seathwaite proved to be quite elusive. Unknown to us, there are two Seathwaites. We got the wrong one after 3 hours of driving the windy exposed roads from Bowness. Apparently it’s fairly common, sat-navs (& Google maps) take many souls to the wrong place. For reference, make sure you’re heading to the Seathwaite near Seatoller. With the morning wasted, we headed to Coniston and climbed the ‘Old Man’ in mixed weather, which I found very difficult, maybe Snowdon had taken it’s toll.

oldmanconiston01Old Man of Coniston

The next day (Thur 13th) we wearily headed for Scafell again. This time we decided on starting from Wasdale, a shorter route as we felt that the Old Man of Coniston took it out of us. One big bonus was the weather, it was glorious. Wastwater and it’s surrounding area was bathed in sunlight and was jaw-droppingly beautiful. You could spend weeks just exploring the area.

mickledore01Looking back at Mickledore

After suncreaming up, we got going, but immediately my legs weren’t having any of it. I found it difficult to keep up with the others, in the end I gave up trying to keep pace and went at my own speed. Guy hung back with me, so I wasn’t walking solo. We ascended via ‘Brown Tongue’ but we (Guy & myself) took the advice in Wainwrights book and split off right to climb Mickledore. Wainwright wrote something like ‘Mickledore is as magnificent as the other route dull’, he was right, and we were very glad we took this route up. Scrambling up the narrow ridge was great fun, and the instant you reach the top you are rewarded with a stunning view to the west. From here, we walked the narrow ridge of Mickledore towards the flatter boulder strewn top of  the summit. We met up with the others, who had got there ahead of us by some time. The summit was just covered in a thin hazy cloud, with amazing vistas coming and going. It wasn’t an issue as views were plentiful just a few hundred feet below the 978 metres (3209 ft) summit. We all headed down the ‘tourist’ route which was a nice gentle descent back down to our start point. We dumped some gear in the car & headed for the nearby Inn for a well deserved ‘3 peaker celebration’ pint. Brilliant.

scafellpike02Guy & Mike at the trig point on Scafell Pike

I’d like to say a big THANK YOU to whoever handed in my camera to the Coniston Information centre. I left it on a tree stump at the bottom of the Old Man of Coniston walk. I was so glad I got it back, as it held the only photo of all of us at the summit of Snowdon. (Andy – get your arse in gear & send me the pic of us at the top of Scafell Pike :0)).

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Written by rufdog

August 31, 2009 at 2:27 pm