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Carrauntoohil

So in August 2019, my son and I decided to go to Ireland and climb both the highest peak in Northern Ireland, Slieve Donard in the Mourne Mountains and the highest peak in all of Ireland, Carrauntoohil in the Reeks in County Kerry in the Republic of Ireland (Slieve Donard is covered in another posting on this site).

This posting covers Carauntoohil…

For those of you not already aware Carrauntoohil is the highest peak in the Reeks in all of Ireland at 1039m (or 3,409 feet). The Reeks are in County Kerry in the Republic of Ireland.

So, for my son and I to get there from ‘Old Blighty’ (England), we took a flight to Belfast International Airport and stayed the night in the center of Belfast. Climbed Slieve Donard the next day, all 850m of it, then traveled by train the following day to Dublin and then caught another train to Killarney in County Kerry. This was to be our base for the rest of the trip and the attempt to climb Carrauntoohil.

This is what the route looks like on my TT 1:50K Look n Feel British Isles map (yes it includes all of Ireland too). The grey track is the actual recorded track that we walked on the day…

The route up the mountain in 2D mode – TT 1:50K Look n Feel map of the British Isles, from Cronin’s Yard

The route up the mountain in 3D mode – TT 1:50K Look n Feel map of the British Isles, from Cronin’s Yard

The first full day in Killarney, Friday the 30th, it was doing the usual thing in Ireland, raining, not just a little but lots, so we decided (quite rightly) that it wasn’t the day to attempt to summit Carrauntoohil as it is not a simple climb, even in good weather. Instead we went on a tour of Killarney and the surrounding area; beautiful place it is too. All the while we were keeping our eyes on the weather forecast for the next day; Saturday the 31st, which looked more promising.

Even when the weather is looking good, as the Reeks are close to the Atlantic the weather on them is very changeable, as we found out, but already knew and went prepared for most eventualities.

We woke up early the next day, looked out the window; it had been raining all night, and the ground was still wet, but the sky was fairly clear with scattered clouds and the sun was showing up for duty, hurrah! We had a hearty breakfast and set off to get the shuttle bus to Cronin’s Yard, only to find that this doesn’t run anymore despite a web page saying it does (please take note)!

Plan B was called into action. Get a taxi to Cronin’s yard (costing around 25-30 Euros). OK, we took the bait, in we get and 20 minutes later we arrive at Cronin’s Yard (which is in the middle of nowhere) and climb out of the taxi, 26 Euros lighter, grab our rucksacks, poles, etc. check the GPS, start the Fenix 5x recording the attempt live (for my wife to follow, I also did this on Slieve Donard), and we are off!

We left Cronin’s Yard and followed the trail up to the first bridge across the river Gaddagh. This is the first view from Hag’s Glen, just before it started to rain the first time!


View from Cronin’s Yard (looking towards the Reeks) | Me on the track leading to the first bridge over the river

The view of Carrauntoohil and the Hag’s Tooth from the Hag’s Glen on the track from Cronin’s Yard

So, as usual we went prepared for everything, waterproof walking boots, over-trousers, waterproof coats, walking poles, water, food, emergency bothy, you name it, we had it!

Out with the coats for the first time of many during the day. The ground was already sodden; luckily most of it was gravel, scree and boulders. About 10 minutes later after a drenching, and crossing the stepping stones to head for the Devil’s Ladder, it stopped raining, so off with the coats again!

As we approached the Devil’s Ladder my son started to say “I’m not sure about this, this doesn’t look safe“, to which I replied, “it looks worse than it is, and let’s see how we go“. As we get nearer the start of the Devil’s ladder the ground is either a bog or a stream (or both), and the bottom of the Devil’s ladder is a waterfall and a stream!

Left to Right: Heading up to the foot of the Devil’s Ladder | The foot of the Devil’s Ladder (or as it was that day, the Devil’s Waterfall/Stream!)
Again, my son starts to raise his concerns, I again state, “let’s try and see how it goes“. From the initial look, it is going to be a challenging but not insurmountable climb up the ladder (which is not an actual ladder, it is a boulder and scree filled gully that varies between 35 and 45 degrees in steepness and is over 1,000 feet (330m+) of scramble/clamber.

I used to climb up and down the sides of quarries as a child and teenager, it looks not much worse than that; OK, I’m somewhat older and less agile than I was then, but I believe it is an acceptable risk. There are also quite a few other hikers/climbers on the Ladder today.

After climbing the first 30m (about 100 feet) over boulders and the waterfall the lower part of the Ladder is on this day, my son slips and twists his ankle and says “that’s it I’m not doing this, it is too dangerous!” I reply “Are you OK? If you really want to stop and go back down, that’s fine” it seems that he didn’t do any damage, and whilst I am talking to other hikers/climbers on the Ladder, I turn around and find he is now further up!

So I catch up with him and  say “I thought you wanted to go back down, and that you didn’t want to do this?“, to which he replied “I don’t want to spoil it for you“. I said “you won’t spoil it for me, but going back down now would be far more dangerous than continuing on, and you will kick yourself if you don’t try after coming all this way“.  He agreed and we slowly but surely made our way up; luckily the rain held off, and as we climbed and scrambled over the boulders and scree the footing got drier and safer.

Left to Right: Heading up the Devil’s Ladder | About a third of the way up | View from the top (looking down) | My son exiting the Ladder (at the top)
I overtook him and got to the top, which was very eroded and narrow, before him. The climb was technical, but not as physically demanding as I had expected. My son clambered off the top of the Ladder about 10 minutes later.

Yes we had successfully climbed the infamous Devil’s Ladder on Carrauntoohil; this was achieved on Saturday the 31st of August, 2019 (it was more like the Devil’s Waterfall or Stream that day, as it had rained extensively for the last week).

Now for the final leg up to the summit! However, the top third (almost from the top of the Devil’s Ladder) was in cloud, and the rest of the climb was over scree and boulders, and was more demanding than the climb up the Ladder. At the start of the climb to the summit, a torrential downpour started (back on with the coats), this lasted about 15 minutes, but as we we now over 2,000 feet up, it was quite a bit cooler than when we had started. 10 minutes later it hailed! The joys of Irish weather and climbing mountains 😉

Views towards the top of the Devil’s Ladder from the start of the final leg up the last third of the mountain (just before heading into cloud)
The final slog to the summit in the cloud with visibility at less than 10ft (3m) was tough, but we finally made it. Thankfully there were no mishaps, no wrong turns, etc. and the GPS with the track on was spot on.

Yes, we successfully summited the mountain which we did with nothing more than getting wet (several downpours, and even hail on the last push to the summit) and cold; it was about 20c at the bottom, but close to 0c at the top, when we were over 1,039m (3,409 feet) up, and a complete white-out, as you can see.

At the top (yes, there really is a cross at the summit!)

As it was a complete white-out  at the summit (well actually the top third of the mountain for most of the day), it can be easy to lose your way as visibility is very limited (a matter of a few meters at best), so veering off the path is easy and can be lethal, as there are cliffs around the summit on most sides of the mountain. I however had two GPS devices (with maps on and the route pre-planned) so that this was not an issue for us. I also had a compass and a paper map (as well as two smartphones with the 1:30,000 Harvey’s map on); so I had multiple backups in case one or more of the technical solutions failed!

We also summited a second mountain in the Reeks range that day (Cnoc na Toinne), as we decided not to risk coming back down the Devil’s Ladder (the risk was high/unacceptable that day, going up was an acceptable risk), we decided to take the lower risk (but not risk free) route down via the second peak via the Zig-Zags.

Views from Cnoc na Toinne on our way to the Zig-Zags – the rightmost picture is of the top of Carrauntoohil
The Zig-Zags is often described as the ‘easy route’ up and down the mountain, however that same week there had been two accidents where the victim underestimated or didn’t respect the path (which although easier is not without challenge and risk). One wrong or missed step can see you falling down the side of the mountain (with nothing to stop you) until you get near to the bottom. This is a potential fall of over 800m (or over 2,500 feet)! To put this in perspective, the Shard in London is 310m (just over 1,000 feet) tall, so it would be the equivalent of falling over 2.5 times the height of the Shard (ouch)!

Most of the experienced hikers/climbers that day also decided against going down the Devil’s Ladder; like us deciding on a safer way down, either using the Zig-Zags or the Heavenly Gates and/or Brother O’Shea’s Gully route instead!

Coming down the Zig-Zags, that’s my son above me, and this picture does not show how steep it is in reality!

As we were descending via this route, ironically a very experienced hill/fell/mountain walker just ahead of me tripped and almost fell over the edge, so this shows that things can still go wrong, even to the most experienced. Luckily that day, if he had fallen over the edge there were members of the Irish Mountain Rescue on the mountain (just below him, in fact), so help was at hand, had it been required, luckily he was fine, with just a few bruises to his body and his pride!

A final look at the path to and the actual Devil’s Ladder from the bottom of the Zig-Zags,
again this does not show just how steep and challenging the terrain is in reality, farewell Carrauntoohil!

As we were heading back to Cronin’s yard there were more people heading towards the mountains, most of them were wearing trainers or deck shoes and denim jeans. Many didn’t have a coat, water, rucksack, or anything that they really should have had. Unfortunately these ill-prepared people are the ones that often end up being rescued by the Mountain Rescue teams who do a fantastic job as unpaid volunteers.

Please don’t put their and your lives at risk by not having the right clothing, equipment and experience. Climbing any mountain is not a walk in the park, as the temperature at the top can be 10 or more degrees Celsius cooler than at the bottom, the weather can change very quickly and the terrain can be very unforgiving! There have been over 40 fatalities on and around Carrauntoohil so far, and many more falls and injuries that require expert help.

If you have conquered Snowdon (via one of the more challenging or interesting paths) and Ben Nevis and want a more technical challenge, then Carrauntoohil is for you, it is described as suitable for: “Pretty hardcore hikers who want to tackle Ireland’s highest peaks, or intermediate hill walkers ready to step up”.

Even with the very changeable weather I enjoyed this mountain, I would have enjoyed it more if it hadn’t been a whiteout at the summit, as I’d hoped to tackle Beenkeragh (the second highest peak in the Reeks) too and come back down via Brother O’Shea’s Gully. Maybe next time?

However, who knew that this would be the last mountain that we would climb for over a year as Covid-19 arrived later in 2019! Hopefully we will get to do more in the future?

All photographs used in this article are Copyright, 2019 by Talkytoaster or Ben Overton, All Rights Reserved.

Slieve Donard

So in August 2019, my son and I decided to go to Ireland and climb both the highest peak in Northern Ireland; Slieve Donard in the Mourne Mountains and the highest peak in all of Ireland; Carrauntoohil in the Reeks in County Kerry in the Republic of Ireland (this is covered in another posting on this site).

This posting covers Slieve Donard…

For those of you not already aware Slieve Donard is the highest peak in the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland at 850m (or 2,790 feet). The Mourne Mountains are in County Down.

So, for my son and I to get there from ‘Old Blighty’ (England), we took a flight to Belfast International Airport and stayed the night in the center of Belfast. We got up early, and as we were in Ireland, it was raining (it doesn’t always rain, honest!)… Had a nice big breakfast and then headed off (in the rain) to the Bus Station to catch a bus down to Newcastle (the nearest town to Slieve Donard). My son was not happy as he thought that this trip (and climb) was going to be either wet and uncomfortable, or a complete wash-out. I said, “let’s see what it is like when we get to Newcastle”.

We boarded the bus to Newcastle and found that we could get a Rambler ticket that was not only cheaper than the return ticket, but also allowed us to use any other bus service that day! We left Belfast and as we were going along the rain was slowly easing, and as we got nearer to Newcastle it had stopped and the roads were dry; the sun was even making an appearance. Things were looking up; indeed we could see the Mourne mountains as we got closer to Newcastle and when we got to Newcastle bus station we could see the mountains (including Slieve Donard) looming above the town, and the sun was still shining, and it was still dry.

Houston, we are a go!

The route up the mountain in 2D mode – TT 1:50K Look n Feel map of the British Isles

The route up the mountain in 3D mode – TT 1:50K Look n Feel map of the British Isles

Left to Right: Slieve Donard seen from the High St. | Slieve Donard seen from near Donard Park
We wandered down through the town center to Donard Park (lovely little town), all the while watching as the mountains grew larger and nearer. We originally though that this was going to be a “stroll in the park” compared to the other peaks we have climbed. But, as I often say, “always respect the mountain!”

We found the start of the trail in Donard Park, this trail runs alongside and over (at several points) the Glen River (the trail is around 3 miles from the start to the summit). The path is a mixture of scree, eroded tree roots, bare rock and all of them at once, so you need to be nimble and sure-footed, as it is easy to slip on the rocks or catch your foot on an exposed tree root (as we both found out). The first part of the path is through woodland and you don’t get any views until you break out of the trees and get to the main path (near the final bridge), but when you do see the view it is fantastic!

Left to Right: Just after the final bridge (Me). | Just after the final bridge (My Son) | Looking up the track towards Slieve Donard | The Ice House
Once you get out of the woods, the path becomes a more standard mountain path (at least until you get to the col (plateau between two peaks)) it is the usual mix of gravel, scree, bare rock, boulders, grass, etc. The going is pretty easy at this stage, until you cross the river the final time via stepping stones, and you start the ascent to the col/saddle. The path gets significantly steeper after crossing the river; it is quite similar to parts of Ben Nevis (main route), Scafell Pike (Wassdale Head route) and Snowdon (Rhyd Ddhu route); like a large but uneven staircase that seems to go on and on…
Left to Right: Looking down towards Newcastle | Looking down just after the stepping stones | Looking down from the col/saddle towards Newcastle
Once you have got to the col/saddle you can see the Great Mourne Wall that stretches over 19 miles and over 15 mountain peaks, quite a sight to see! However, once you get to the wall and see the next section, the final one to the summit, you may think “ah, this will be easy”, but you will quickly change your mind as you start up it, as the path is very uneven, eroded and quite dangerous in places. It is also far steeper and longer than it looks (you have been warned).

When you finally make it to the top, hopefully without any twisted ankles, slips, and out of breath, the view (on a clear day) is amazing! Luckily for us the rain did hold off, and it was pretty much perfect weather for climbing.

The Mourne wall at the top of the col/saddle looking towards the peak | The wall snaking off over other peaks
Above: The Mourne wall as seen from the summit
Above: The Mourne wall at the summit (with me and my son)The route up the mountain is described as “Moderate to Strenuous” and “Not too Technical or Difficult”, although when wet I can see that the final push to the summit from the saddle/col to the summit could be very muddy, slippery and far more challenging.

I found the climb to be harder that I had expected, and I should have known better! I would say that the final part is by far the hardest and at least at tiring as parts of Ben Nevis and Snowdon. It isn’t technical, you just need to be nimble (sure footed), and take regular rests to get your breath back. In fact coming down from the summit to the saddle/col was more dangerous than going up. It would be easy to slip, trip or fall, so take it slowly and carefully. A walking pole (or poles) help immensely in these situations.

The rest of the descent is fairly straightforward, and very pleasant when you get back to the stepping stones, walking back down to Donard Park. My knees were starting to complain as we neared the end of the return journey, and I did mention that the bare rock was rather slippery in places, and I slipped and fell; luckily I inly bruised my hands, knees and my pride 😉

Thoroughly recommended, and I’d love to visit the Mourne Mountains again and do many of the other trails and peaks.

That is peak 4 of the 5 highest peaks in the British Isles (by geography), just one left to tackle, but that’s another story!

Have you climbed Slieve Donard? Feel free to share your experience of your adventure, via the comments box or via the contact form/ticketing option.

All photos and other material used in this posting is Copyright, 2019 by Talkytoaster or Ben Overton, All Rights Reserved.

Significant TT1:50K Look n Feel Style Changes!

I have now completed the latest tweaking of the TT 1:50K Look n Feel map style to futher increase the detail useful for outdoors use (hiking, mountaineering, mountain biking, etc),

I have now added scree, bare rock, stones/rock, caves, sinkholes, geysers, shingle, outcrops, hot-spings, as well as marking up moors, heaths, aretes, ridges, bays, straits, etc. I have also added in single trees and tree rows, and a huge number of other tweaks. These will be shown where the data exists in OSM.

Here’s a screen shot of the map of the area around Wassdale Head (Scafell Pike) showing the new scree, bare rocks and shingle as well as other tweaks):

First in 3D (from Basecamp):

And a different area near the Derwent, in 3D:

Then in 2D (again from Basecamp):

And a different area near the Derwent, in 2D:

This new style will become the standard for all new compiled versions of the maps from the 24th of July, 2019 (not only the British Isles map, but ALL the TT 1:50K Look n Feel maps I offer for almost any country/region across the world). The TT 1:50K Look n Feel British Isles maps are now in this updated style and all other TT 1:50K Look n Feel maps will use this before the end of July, 2019.

If you haven’t updated your map for some time, I would suggest doing so, as I update the British Isles map every week (yes, every week) and they are constantly improving and increasing in size as the data is added to or tweaked.

As always, changes are made when possible, and also based on customer feedback (where it is useful to most customers or the intended use for these maps).

Hope you like the changes?

 

May 2019: New Garmin Devices Released…

A number of new Garmin devices have been released, these are:

  • Garmin MARQ (Driver, Athlete, Expedition, Captain and Aviator) prices range from £1,399 up to £2,249
  • Garmin Forerunner 945 price starts at £519
  • Edge 830 price starts at £349
  • Edge 530 price starts at £259

All of these new models support mapping and will work with my FREE and TT 1:50K Look n Feel maps (if you have a MicroSD card or sufficient available internal storage).

All of these new models have new functionality over there predecessors.

The new MARQ watches all have 32GB of internal storage (double that of the Fenix 5x and Plus models). They also have some new features and use the Sony GPS chip (as found in devices from Polar, Suunto, etc.) rather than the one found in the Fenix models. This means that the battery life should be better.

The Forerunner 945 has 16GB of internal storage (same as the Fenix 5x or Plus models) and appears to be a hybrid of the MARQ and Fenix 5 Plus models, in a plastic/resin case with a Gorrila glass face. It also uses Sony GPS chip (as found in devices from Polar, Suunto, etc.) rather than the one found in the older models. This means that the battery life should be better.

The Edge 830 has 16GB of internal storage (same as the Edge 820).

The Edge 530 has 16GB of internal storage, as does the Edge 520 Plus (with about 9GB free for a UK/European model).

You can find more details on each of these via the Garmin site via the links in the text above.

2018 Statistics Infographic

Yes, it is that time of year again, when I look back at the previous year and crunch numbers to produce an Infographic that shows the top 5 of the most requested maps for the USA, Canada and the Rest of the World, as well as the Top 10 most popular GPS devices that those requesting maps, own.

I recently crunched the data from orders received during 2018. This shows what maps were most requested, individual countries as well as individual US states and Canadian provinces.

The most interesting data from 2018 for me was that showing the most popular Garmin devices that my customers used, with the Fenix 5x (and the Fenix 5 Plus, 5s Plus, 5x Plus, Descent Mk1, D2 Charlie and Tactix Charlie) leading the pack with a whopping 46 percent of those placing orders for maps, owning one. To put this in to perspective, in 2017 the Fenix 5x was also number one, but with only 22 percent of the pie!

You can see the info-graphic full-size by simply clicking on the graphic to the left of this text.

This is an amazing statistic as it shows that smart watches with GPS and map support is not only viable and usable, but also how many people are now using these devices (rather than hand-held devices); from the average person, through those that track their fitness and health (sleep, calories, heart-rate, stress, steps, stairs, other activity, etc.) to those that compete professionally or regularly in ultra events (races, rides, etc.)

You can see the top data in the info-graphic on the left of this text. For those that would like to see the full data-set and results, you can find them by clicking on the link below.

For those of you that are interested in statistics, I have pulled together the data so that you can see which of my maps (both countries/regions, US states and Canadian provinces) were the most requested during 2018, the full data can be found here.

So, what will 2019 bring? Will we see more of a shift towards smart GPS watches (even further than we saw in 2018), or will we see the increased use of smartphones using OruxMaps (on Android) that works fine with my maps?

Your feedback and comments are most welcome!

TT 1:50K Look n Feel Style Changes

I have now completed tweaking the TT 1:50K Look n Feel map style to adjust it for some display improvements, these include field boundary, cliff, and contour styling/colouring tweaks. See the screen shots below of how they are now, and how they will start to look as of the 30th of December 2018:

Old style, with black contour lines, etc.

Updated: 30th December 2018

New Style, with grey contour lines, and darker cliff and distinct hedge and wall markup:

I have also added Ski Lifts and related items (Aerialways) and Pistes as specific styles now. These will be shown where the data exists in OSM. Lots of other minor tweaks.

Here’s a screen shot of the map of the Alps Region showing the new Piste (purple dashed line) and Aerialways (ski-lifs, etc.):

This new style will become the standard for all new compiled versions of the maps from the 30th of December, 2018. The TT 1:50K Look n Feel British Isles maps are now in the style and all other TT 1:50K Look n Feel maps will use this before the end of January, 2019.

Updated: 20th January 2019
Some tweaking of the contour colours as on some devices the intermediate contours were very light; they are now a darker gray (but still lighter than the old style that had black contour lines).

Only maps compiled between the 30th of December and the 19th of January were affected (and the only devices that may have experience the issue are, the Fenix 5x, the Plus models of the Fenix 5, 5s and 5x, Tactix Charlie, Descent Mk1 and D2 Charlie. These models were not always displaying the intermediate contours). They still did display/render the major contour lines.

No handheld Garmin devices experienced this issue.

Please contact me if you believe you were affected and have one of these devices. I will need your order number to confirm and to supply an updated version of the map at no cost.

Snowdon

In the summer of 2017 my son and I went to Snowdonia to camp, hike, and climb Snowdon. This is our story.

Below is the track/trail for our ascent of Snowdon from our campsite, through the forest, on to the Rhyd Ddu path to the summit, back down the same path to Rhyd Ddu and then back to the campsite. The route was over 18 miles!

Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales,  standing at 1,085m (3,560ft).

This trip was the first time I had ever been to Wales and Snowdonia, and the first time I’d been camping for over 35 years!

As usual we caught the train to London, then got a train to Bangor and from there we got a taxi to out campsite near Beddgelert, and of course when we got to Bangor it was raining, and it kept raining off and on (including some very heavy rain on two days) during our visit, well until the last full day…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

So, anyway we arrive at the campsite and find a spot down by the stream, and it starts to rain again, so we quickly get the tents up and take shelter. Several hours later the rain eased off and we decided to take an evening walk through the forest down to Beddgelert itself. It goes without saying that some geocaching was done on the way there and back.

One of the few times it wasn’t raining, until the last full day…

Beddgelert was effectively shut so  we couldn’t get any food there; lovely village, very picturesque.

So we headed back to the campsite, bought some supplies and made our own tea/dinner that evening. Then had an early night…. listening to the rain lashing against the tent most of the night!

Surprise, surprise, when we got up and got breakfast (hard-boiled eggs) it was raining, and the rest of the day was wet, wet, wet. As it wasn’t a good day for our planned ascent, we got on the historic steam railway and went up the line to Caernarfon, did some caching there in the picturesque seaside town with a castle, had lunch. coffee, got some supplies and then caught the train back to the campsite (the campsite has it’s own station). Yes, it was still raining…

Caernarfon across the harbour looking towards the town and castle:

On the train going back to the campsite after leaving Caernarfon:

The final full day and the weather gods are finally on our side!

We get up and have a quick breakfast, pack what we will need (almost everything but the tent, sleeping bags, etc.) and start off through the forest heading in the direction of Rhyd Ddu. However, luck was definitely on our side that day as we managed to find a permissive path before we got to Rhyd Dhu; this permissive path will take us part way up the Rhyd Ddu path itself, which we will then follow to the summit, result! It saved us about 2 miles of extra walking.

Lots of sheep (well we are in Wales!), soft white clouds in the sky, sunshine and not too hot, almost perfect walking weather. However, because it has been raining so much the going is very soggy and in places the paths are streams. Thankfully we both have good strong boots (mine are also Goretex lined), so not a problem.

We get to the Rhyd Ddu path and it quickly starts to climb, winding up the side, lots of rock paving at this point; it is a joy to be out today on the mountain! Already the views are stunning and we have hardly started the ascent.

 

The terrain was very varied as we continued up, I can see why this path is considered one of the best to climb Snowdon as not only are the views breath taking, the path varies from rock/stone steps, cliff climbs, scree sections, grass sections, and then when you get closer to the top (where the South Ridge path joins the Rhyd Ddu path) you get the Arrete (thin rocky ledges, climbing through them, and some hellish drops if you make a mistake)

…and finally just after where the Watkin Path joins, you have the final steep scree scramble to the summit itself; finally!

Here’s the view from the summit looking back down the Rhyd Ddu path, you can see where the South Ridge path and Watkin path join the Rhyd Ddu for the final section to the summit itself.

Well, we finally made it to the summit, here’s the view on that sunny day, looking towards the Llanberis path (the one that follows the train track), the one that is usually referred to as the tourist track:

Where I was sitting to take the photo is where one of the physical geocaches is hidden; of course I bagged it.

Here’s the Trig Point at the summit:

We stopped at the top to get our breath, take advantage of the visitor centre (drinks, etc.) and then after about 45 minutes we started back down.

I thoroughly enjoyed the decent and after about 1.5 hours we arrived at the pub in Rhyd Ddu for a well deserved cold drink, hot food and a sit down. Here we met up with a Dutch family that had also climbed Snowdon and who had come down the Ranger path. They kept us company and a few drinks and lots of chat later, we headed back to the campsite for our final night under canvas feeling tired but elated at our achievement…

This photo is of the section around 100 meters from the summit (Rhyd Ddu path)…

Here’s a photo from around just over half way down, you can see the peak (and the visitor center), again this is from the Rhyd Ddu path:

Oh, and most of the ascent was videoed; I might post some snippets of our climb, at a later date, stay tuned!

I would love to climb Snowdon again by several of the other paths, especially the Watkin path and the Ranger Path, but would also like to do the Pyg and Miners paths too…. Not sure about Crib Goch though!

Next stop, Scafell Pike! But, that’s another story…

Scafell Pike

As a Father’s Day present, my wife and son arranged a camping and walking holiday for me in the Lake District, with the primary goal being to climb Scafell Pike (after we did Snowdon last year), you can read the story of that in another blog posting.

Here is the route we walked overlaid on my TT 1:50K Look n Feel map of the British Isles complete with 10m contours and DEM. This is a screen shot from BaseCamp in 3D mode.

Scafell Pike is the highest mountain in England standing at 978m (3,209ft).

We travelled by train to London, then to Lancaster and finally got off at Drigg station (just south of Seascale), loaded up with our rucksacks, tents and other camping equipment, we jumped in to the taxi we had arranged to meet us and that would take us to the campsite at Wasdale (the National Trust one).

On the way there we watched the clouds roll in and descend and of course, it started to rain…

When we arrived at the campsite we managed to get the tents up quickly and the rain eased off for a while (long enough for a short walk along the Lake and up Coffin Road). Well, after that, for the next three days it rained almost solidly, that was early June! Ironically the staff at the campsite said that this was the first rain they had seen for over a month….Typical!

So for three whole days we walked in the rain, sat in the pub and slept listening to rain, rain and more rain. The good news is that the tents were great and didn’t leak.

 

However, on the last full day, we did manage to find a window with no rain, to actually climb Scafell Pike… Here’s a picture of me just after we started the climb, still sunny and warm at this point.

Shortly after that picture we had to cross the stream, and there is no bridge, so we forded it using the rocks; I slipped and got a Goretex boot full of water, still it didn’t stop me or cause me any issues. That was a taste of just how wet we were going to get…

The next photo is looking back down where we have already ascended from the lake and we are less than a third of the way up at this point!

Here’s a photo looking up towards the summit, as you can see we are heading into low cloud shortly.

And here we are in the cloud about two thirds of the way to the summit, this is the boulder/scree field, the path was impossible to see at this point, thankfully I had my Oregon 700 with my map on and the route, so that I could find my way safely and my son could just about see me to follow my lead:

We got to the summit in just over 2 hours, and it was a white out and about 5c up there. Here is the trig point, next to the cairn/memorial at the top. There was absolutely no view at that time! Yes, I got the caches up here!

On the way down via Lingmell (using the Corridor route) and skirting Great Gable. As we started to descend, the cloud broke for a while.

This is at the start of the Corridor route/trail, below the summit of Scafell Pike. You can see Styhead Tarn in the distance:

Here I am on the Corridor route, just before it started to close in and rain again:

We got to what is known as the Big Step (a near vertical piece of rock/cliff that you need to ascend near Lambsfoot Dubb), however we decided to go round it, which was a near sheer drop down the side of the mountain and a very narrow path!

We later found out that this side route (on the Big Step) is responsible for multiple deaths and serious injuries each year! After the Big Step adventure, the rain returned with a vengeance! Luckily we had gone prepared and finally got back safely to the Pub after three hours of very slippery rocks and scree, and most paths resembling streams…

Even with waterproof trousers, a Goretex coat and boots, etc. we both got very wet as the water was wicking up the inside of the sleeves of the coat (it was raining and blowing that much). In fact I had to remove my glasses to have a chance to see where to step (they kept alternating between needing windscreen wipers to keep the rain off and then fogging up!)

Never has a warm fire, a hot meal and a cold drink been more welcome!

On the last morning, we packed up, luckily it was dry, and we had a visitor to wish us well on our travels back home:

Next target is to hopefully do Ben Nevis in October this year (2018)!

Since I originally wrote this, it seems that a more normal British summer has been re-instated!

All photographs used in this article are Copyright, 2018 by Talkytoaster or Ben Overton, All Rights Reserved.

Ben Nevis

As mentioned in the Scafell Pike blog entry, the plan was to go and tackle Ben Nevis in October 2018…

So, did I do it? Read on to find out…

Well, in October as planned my son and I flew from Gatwick to Inverness, and guess what? Yes, it was raining when we arrived. Caught a bus in to the city center, then got the coach to Fort William (wow that was a wild roller-coaster of a ride!

When we finally arrived in Fort William, some 2 hours and 45 minutes after boarding the coach in Inverness, it was still raining hard. I thought, here we go again, just like when we went to Snowdonia and the Lake District! I have come to the conclusion that my son is a rain magnet…

So, after 4 days of almost solid rain and feeling unwell, we finally woke up to a sunny morning with almost no chance of rain; we ate a big breakfast and then headed out. It was about 1.5 miles to the start of the path up Ben Nevis.

This is what Ben Nevis looks like with my DEM map in BaseCamp in 3D mode (yes it really is that steep in the real world!)

Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in Scotland and the UK as a whole,  standing at 1,345m (4,413ft).

The photo below is after about 20 minutes of starting up the main track of Ben Nevis.

Still feeling unwell, I ploughed on with expectations of not even getting to the plateau and the lochen at the end of the first part of the track (before it splits to the North path, and main path to the summit). Having climbed both Snowdon and Scafell Pike I knew that this was not going to be a stroll in the park…

After a very steep final part we came on to the plateau and the lochen. Weather still fine, cool and a little blustery now, so I knew it would be cold at the top, if we actually got there!

Here’s a picture of the lochen, from the main path to the summit and the going got tough…

The terrain went from mainly rock steps and loose scree to more and more boulder strewn and loose large scree as we headed on up, and up…

Here’s a picture of about of a third of the way up the summit path (after the Lochen)…. and the path was still mainly rock steps at this point…


After this the footing got worse and the path steeper and harder.

By now I was feeling better, but finding it a hard slog, even my son said “that last part nearly did me in” and he has 30 years of extra youth on his side!

On and up we went, stopping more and more frequently to catch my breath and let my burning legs subside. However, we were still overtaking many people, as we had been, all the way up. We weren’t going mad, but we were not taking it as a slow as most on the mountain that day….

Finally after just over 3 hours after we started at the foot of the trail, we crested the final rise (see photo above) and headed to the trig point and the old weather station…


It was very windy and not surprisingly cold at the top. Apparently just a few days before there was quite a bit of snow up here, but not today.

So, we did manage to summit Ben Nevis, and now we have managed to successfully summit all of the highest peaks in England, Wales and Scotland (and the UK as a whole).

Here’s a view from the top looking towards the North trail down in the valley…


Whilst at the top I bagged the geocache; the highest cache in the whole of the UK. After about 20 minutes, it was time to start the descent.

Normally I prefer the descent and look forward to it, but going down Ben Nevis ended up being almost as hard work as coming up…

Here’s a picture of the path from the plateau and Lochen on the way down…


Finally after 3 hours since starting back down, we finally got back to the start of the trail; a number of slips and quite a bit of swearing was involved coming down. To say we were both very knackered was an understatement… after that it was a quick cache at the foot of the trail, and then back to the hotel for a well deserved rest, drink and food!

Oh, and when we got to the bottom at around 16:00, there were people just starting to go up!

Bear in mind that it gets dark before 17:00 in Scotland in October; this means they wouldn’t get to the top in daylight and would also have to come back down in the pitch black of night (most we saw didn’t have a backpack, the right footwear or clothing, no water, no torch or head torch, etc!)

So, which of the peaks would I climb again?

I loved Snowdon, and would love to climb it via the 6 other main routes (apart from the tourist track that follows the train up); I loved the Rhyd Ddu path!

I quite like Scafell Pike, although the weather was atrocious on the way down and it was a white-out at the top.

Of the three, Ben Nevis was the hardest, both up and down, and the least varied; not sure I would wan to climb it again, it certainly would be the last on my list to do again, unless I do it via the CMD Arete route instead.

All photographs used in this article are Copyright, 2018 by Talkytoaster or Ben Overton, All Rights Reserved.