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Hill Explorer - UK Hiking Routes

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  • Mark Barrett
  • October 28, 2015 01:04:49 AM
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A Little About Us

Walking, Hiking, and Scrambling route descriptions and reports, mainly focusing on Snowdonia and the Peak District, eg. the Snowdon Horseshoe, Tryfan, the Bochlwyd Horseshoe, and Kinder Scout. GPX files provided for all routes.

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Crowden Clough from Edale

Crowden Clough is always a fun day out for children, especially during a dry spell where they can climb the dried up waterfalls directly. My older two children, Sam and Luke, were visiting for the week and wanted to do something that involved a bit of climbing rather than simply walking. They’d both done Crowden...

Crowden Clough is always a fun day out for children, especially during a dry spell where they can climb the dried up waterfalls directly. My older two children, Sam and Luke, were visiting for the week and wanted to do something that involved a bit of climbing rather than simply walking. They’d both done Crowden Clough before and enjoyed it so I decided on a revisit.

The last time we did the route, we first ascended Grindsbrook before dropping down the western slopes of Grindslow Knoll to Crowden Clough. This time we decided to skip Grindsbrook and head straight to the excitement. We started at Edale and set off along the Pennine Way. It was a gloriously sunny day but there was still a bit of a chill in the air at the time of setting off.

The path follows a stream for a short while before reaching a fork. The right-hand fork heads up to Grindslow Knoll. The left hand is the Pennine Way and crosses pastureland – eventually ascending up to Kinder Scout via Jacob’s Ladder. We weren’t to go that far. At Upper Booth Farm, a bridge is crossed over Crowden Brook. The footpath that leads up Crowden Clough is immediately on the right.

On the Pennine Way from Edale
On the Pennine Way from Edale
The Pennine Way
…and again

The lower part of Crowden Clough is easy walking and, on a sunny day like this, extremely picturesque. It’s only in the higher section that it becomes a little more exciting with rock hopping, stream crossing, and waterfall climbing. For the less nimble, or for those just wishing to take things a little easier, a path on the left gradually climbs away from the clough and towards Crowden Tower just before the difficulties start.

Climbing steps from the Crowden Brook bridge
Climbing steps from the Crowden Brook bridge
Crowden Clough
Easy walking to start with
Waterfall on Crowden Clough
A picturesque waterfall
Crowden Clough
Getting closer to the fun bit

The kids naturally had no intention of taking any easy option and they took their time, leaving no boulder unclimbed on their mission to the top. The climax of the route was a large steep waterfall. In wet weather, there’s usually far too much water coming down to climb directly. Instead, it’s usually ascended via the wall just to the left of the waterfall. This is how I’ve always tackled it before, but on this occasion we were lucky and the brook had dried up enough to allow the waterfall to be scrambled up directly.

Rock hopping in Crowden Clough
The rock hopping starts
Crowden Clough
Navigating a small waterfall
Crowden Clough
Sam about to take a leap
Crowden Clough
More waterfalls
Crowden Clough
Navigating large boulders
Crowden Clough scramble
The highlight of the route

Once up, there are a few smaller easier waterfalls to navigate before the top is reached – the top being the point where the Kinder edge path crosses.

Before continuing, we couldn’t help but notice the interesting large rock formation ahead. I hadn’t investigated this before so we decided to go and have a look. From a distance, it didn’t look particularly climbable for kids but, upon closer inspection, it was a nice little playground that kept the kids busy for another twenty minutes.

Crowden Clough
The top of Crowden Clough
Looking along Kinder Scouts edge path
Looking along Kinder Scouts edge path

After finishing on the rocks, we headed back to the edge path and followed it east to Grindslow Knoll before taking the easy descent path back to Edale. By this time, the chill had totally disappeared from the air and we all felt like we were roasting. Sam had even taken his t-shirt off!

Heading towards Grindslow Knoll
Heading towards Grindslow Knoll
On top of Grindslow Knoll
On top of Grindslow Knoll
Grindslow Knoll
Warm for some but not others!
Fantastic view of Edale from the Grindslow path
Fantastic view of Edale


Outdoor Adventures with Children: Lake District

‘Outdoor Adventures with Children – Lake District‘ is a new guidebook from Cicerone Press detailing 40 family days with under 12’s exploring, biking, scrambling, and much more. The book is written by Carl McKeating and Rachel Crolla who, between them, have written a number of other books for Cicerone including the new revision of ‘Scrambles...

Outdoor Adventures with Children – Lake District‘ is a new guidebook from Cicerone Press detailing 40 family days with under 12’s exploring, biking, scrambling, and much more. The book is written by Carl McKeating and Rachel Crolla who, between them, have written a number of other books for Cicerone including the new revision of ‘Scrambles in Snowdonia‘ and ‘Cycling the Way of the Roses‘. My kids and I joined Carl and Rachel to test out a couple of the routes, and I can vouch that they had a fantastic time. I managed to get back in touch with the pair of them for a brief question and answer session about the new book…

Q1: What inspired you to write Outdoor Adventures with Children?

Carl: Obviously having two kids ourselves was a key factor. To be honest, we were really surprised that there was not an equivalent to this book. It was a bit like when we wrote Europe’s High Points: Reaching the summit of Every Country in Europe, we wanted to buy a guide book that did not yet exist so we thought we better write it! Rachel has been particularly driven by the societal value of this book, you know, her desire to change the world for the better – this one is definitely her brainchild.

Rachel: Well I kept hearing news reports about ‘nature deficit disorder‘ and how kids these days are glued to screens and supposedly getting fatter and lazier; getting outside less and having more mental health problems. I’m also a primary school teacher and I’ve worked in both inner city and rural schools. So I believe it has given me some perspective. I’m a big fan of getting children outside and having adventures, getting fit and playing in the great outdoors because I’ve seen first-hand how much children and parents get out of it. This book hopefully will inspire parents and children, but importantly it really facilitates family adventures by giving parents all the information they need to go out and do something inspirational with their kids. I am proud of this book because parents will know that these routes are clear, reliable and have been tried and tested by real families. Above all they have been given the thumbs up by the harshest of critics – the under twelves! Getting outdoors is not always an easy sell is it?

Scafell Pike summit
Approaching the summit of the highest peak in England
© Carl McKeating & Rachel Crolla
Full of beans on the way up Loughrigg
Full of beans on the way up Loughrigg
© Carl McKeating & Rachel Crolla

Q2: What would you say to any parents out there who want to get their kids into the outdoors, but can’t get them off their iPads?

Rachel: There are ways. My instinct is to say – and I’m going to sound like an unfashionably strict teacher here – take the Ipads off them and remind them that you’re in charge; don’t give them a choice about whether they want to go out or not and they’ll quickly discover you were right all along and the outdoors is a whole lot more fun than Minecraft! Obviously, sometimes that is easier said than done. To be honest though, technology does not have to be the enemy; it can also be your road to success. I know some parents who were keen to get their children to go on hikes and so on, but were finding it an uphill struggle until they discovered geocaching. Geocaching is essentially treasure hunting for kids. You use a free smartphone app that functions on a GPS system and usually has clues. With phone in hand you go on a hike tracking down hidden treasure (well, Tupperware boxes filled with tiny ‘swapsy’ trinkets!). It sounds ridiculous, but it really works to get techy kids enjoying the outdoors. For younger kids, rebranding a ‘boring’ walk as an ‘adventure’ or ‘going exploring’ works really well. Failing that, there’s just good old fashioned bribery!

Carl: Yeah, I used to be a secondary school teacher. I lost count of the amount of times kids thanked you afterwards for getting them to do something they thought they didn’t want to do. Sure, it can be hard for them to try something unfamiliar, but then are we as adults any different? If children climb a mountain or complete a bike ride, you can be certain that even if they found it difficult at the time they’ll be really proud of it afterwards and will want to tell their friends all about it.

Great traffic free cycling in Great Langdale
Great traffic free cycling in Great Langdale
© Carl McKeating & Rachel Crolla

Q3: What adventures do you remember having in your own childhood?

Rachel: My parents were quite outdoorsy. When my mum was eight months pregnant with me she had to help my dad down Scafell because he’d twisted his ankle. So it’s in the blood really. I went to the Lake District a lot as a child and remember doing some of the adventures in this book myself. I particularly enjoyed taking a blow-up rubber dinghy out on some of the lakes. Thankfully there are still a lot of the lakes which allow public access for swimming and boating – it’s all in the book!

Carl: It’s funny, I had traditional working class parents from inner city backgrounds and I used to think I had grown up without really accessing the world of outdoor pursuits. Looking back now I realise the opposite was true. We used to go out and play on the local gritstone outcrops in Yorkshire – Almscliff, Ilkley Moor, places like that. And while I thought we were just mucking about playing hide and seek or soldiers or whatever, it was all scrambling and even rock climbing without ropes – we just didn’t know it. Even today I laugh at my parents’ attitude to risk: some of the stuff we used to blithely clamber up I now know are graded rock climbs – in retrospect, it was total madness! I was in cubs and scouts; at that time they did crazy outdoors stuff that would turn a health and safety inspector ghost-white. Most of all I remember a week-long school trip to the Lake District where ours was the only class that had army instructors. Those nutters let me do forward abseiling: it was fun, terrifying fun – but that was total madness too!

Navigating to Wild Cat Island on Coniston Water
Navigating to Wild Cat Island on Coniston Water
© Carl McKeating & Rachel Crolla

Q4: Who is the book aimed at?

Rachel: Primarily the book is aimed at outdoorsy parents who want the best ideas about routes that will work to keep the whole family entertained. It’s for people who want to do a range of outdoors activities like camping, scrambling, going to caves, kayaking and biking. That said, this book will also work for parents who might not be sure they are outdoorsy – it’s for the converted and the yet to be converted!

Treasure hunter finding a geocache
Treasure hunter finding a geocache
© Carl McKeating & Rachel Crolla

Q5: How did you decide which routes to put in?

Rachel: Not too tricky, we know the Lakes really well. We also did a lot of consulting other parents and asking about their experiences and what things they’re kids had enjoyed in particular. We were keen to ensure a wide range of activities and to make sure the majority of routes had options for families with younger and older children. In the end we have a mix of classics and off-the-beaten-track places. We kept the routes within the grasp of under-12s. At the harder end you’ve got routes that we tested with your sons, like the Corridor Route on Scafell Pike. We also tested out Jack’s Rake on Pavey Ark with them because we knew they were strong scramblers with good mountain instincts. While Jack’s Rake was a potential route for older kids, it was deemed in the end just that bit too hairy to recommend in this book, even for older fairly experienced kids.

Descending to the tremendous falls at Aira Force
Descending to the tremendous falls at Aira Force
© Carl McKeating & Rachel Crolla
Jack's Rake was deemed to be too extreme for inclusion in the book
Jack’s Rake was deemed to be too extreme for inclusion in the book
© Carl McKeating & Rachel Crolla

Q6: How does the grading system work?

Rachel: We went with a ‘ski run’ system. Green routes are for everyone, blues for those wanting a bit more challenge. The idea is that you build experience on the greens and blues before tackling the red and black routes. Most of the harder routes have easier options too. That said, a green or blue route is not just for beginners, it will be enjoyed at any age.

Q7: Will there be similar books following for other areas?

Carl: We’re hoping so. As we live on the border of the Yorkshire Dales National Park that’s the next logical area. Then the Hillexplorer site is a mine of useful information about the Peak District and of course, we’re always keen to get back to Wales, where we worked on Scrambles in Snowdonia… they’re in the pipeline!

‘Outdoor Adventures with Children – Lake District’ was published on the 11th April 2019, and will be available directly from Cicerone Press themselves, or alternatively from any number of other book retailers.


Pike of Blisco to Crinkle Crags

The day before this walk, I completed the Fairfield Horseshoe in glorious weather. That night, as darkness fell and I sat in my car preparing to snooze, the thick fog rolled in. It was no surprise, the weather forecast that I’d been regularly checking had predicted as much, and the fog was here to stay...

The day before this walk, I completed the Fairfield Horseshoe in glorious weather. That night, as darkness fell and I sat in my car preparing to snooze, the thick fog rolled in. It was no surprise, the weather forecast that I’d been regularly checking had predicted as much, and the fog was here to stay all day. One thing was for sure – there would be no outstanding views on this walk.

Pike of Blisco

The walk started at the Old Dungeon Ghyll car park, a normally popular starting point for walks around the Langdale Pikes. It clearly wasn’t so popular on this morning as the car park was empty bar 2 cars, and I certainly wasn’t complaining about that as I love a quiet walk. From the car park, I headed south along an unnamed country lane that eventually led uphill towards Blea Tarn. After a short spell of walking, the lane briefly followed the line of Redacre Gill which signalled to me that my turning point was coming up soon. A footpath veered off on the right, following the line of Redacre Gill upwards towards its source. The footpath initially starts to the left of the gill before eventually crossing over to its right. I’ll be honest, this part of the walk was a real slog and it seemed to take a lifetime of walking and wheezing before the top was reached. To make matters worse, there’s at least 2 false summits on the way that do the usual job of dashing your hopes. And of course, there’s always at least one show-off fellrunner that overtakes you whilst you huff and puff, doing their best to make you look physically unfit to be on the hills.

Looking back during the initial ascent to Pike of Blisco
The initial slog
Scrambling ahead on the Pike of Blisco
Scrambling ahead on the Pike of Blisco

Visibility wasn’t too bad at the moment. It wasn’t good enough to see any surrounding mountains but good enough to see a decent distance in front and behind. And more importantly, it was dry. Eventually, the final slope to the summit of the Pike of Blisco was in sight. This section added a bit of interest to the route as the path became a series of easy mini-scrambles. The top was reached quickly and I soaked up the amazing views all around me of grey mist.

Somewhere on top of Pike of Blisco
Somewhere on top of Pike of Blisco
The summit of Pike of Blisco
The summit

Cold Pike

The route now headed initially south downhill before eventually turning to more of a westerly direction. The next stop was Cold Pike and it was just about visible through the mist as I made my way down the slope towards Red Tarn. The valley floor made a good place to stop for a breather before the next ascent.

Cold Pike from Pike of Blisco
Cold Pike from Pike of Blisco
Pike of Blisco from Cold Pike
Pike of Blisco from Cold Pike

The path continues on the opposite side of the valley but doesn’t ascend directly to Cold Pike. It instead passes it on its northern side. A detour needed to be made in order to bag the summit of Cold Pike but I unfortunately became a little disorientated in the mist and missed my turning off spot by some distance. This section unfortunately added a lot more time to my journey than I was intending. The map at the bottom shows my intended route. I was actually almost at Crinkle Crags before realising my error and backtracking. Eventually the summit of Cold Pike was reached, and again I was treated to occasional glimpses of nearby mountain tops through the mist. I imagine that the view from here would have been amazing on a clear day.

Cold Pike summit
Cold Pike summit
Tops of mountains poking through the mist
Tops of mountains poking through the mist

Crinkle Crags

I apologise for all these photos looking a bit bland and similar. There really wasn’t much to capture apart from rock with a backdrop of mist. From Cold Pike, I headed back to Crinkle Crags and made my way up to the top of the first crinkle – named South Top. All of a sudden, the mist parted and I had a lovely clear view of the second crinkle ahead of me. I thought for a second that the mist was going to continue to disperse leaving the rest of the route clear. I was wrong. The view lasted for about 30 seconds before the mist came back in, thicker than ever. Visibility was now very poor and to make matters worse, the drizzle started. I made my way down from South Top to the supposed highlight of the route – the bad step! This is a small simple scramble that can be avoided by skirting around and following the path to the left. The bad step itself is navigated easily by climbing the wall on the right. Once up then it’s a brief walk to summit the second crinkle – Long Top.

The mist parts on Crinkle Crags
The mist parts on Crinkle Crags
Navigating the 'bad step'
Navigating the ‘bad step’

I’d love to describe the rest of Crinkle Crags but unfortunately I could barely see a thing from this point on in the mist and drizzle. I lost my way a little bit on Long Top and ended up wandering west instead of north before realising my mistake. The plan from here on was to simply climb anything that looked high and hope that they included all the official summits on the crags. I’m confident I did that so I’m claiming them. I continued following the route north, gradually downhill over rocky terrain, until I arrived at the area on the map labelled ‘Three Tarns’. The original plan was to continue on to Bowfell and then Rossett Pike but daylight hours were running out fast. I decided to cut the walk short.

Somewhere on Crinkle Crags
Somewhere on Crinkle Crags
Somewhere else on Crinkle Crags
Somewhere else on Crinkle Crags

I headed east from the three tarns down a steady track known as The Band. The track follows the ridge all the way back down to Langdale. As I descended, the mist started to thin out and I was rewarded with a view down into Oxendale to my left. It wasn’t much of a view due to the mist, but it was much better than what I’d gotten used to up on the top of Crinkle Crags. Eventually I arrived back at the car, just in time for darkness to fall. And after a tough day up mountains in the mist and drizzle, you just can’t beat following it with a quality 4 hour car journey back home again! OK, maybe not…

The path back to Langdale
The path back to Langdale
Oxendale below
Oxendale below


Ringing Roger and Golden Clough

Ringing Roger I devised this as a walk to take my 4 year old son, Harry, on. He doesn’t quite have the legs yet for a long hike but likes to feel that he’s climbed a mountain. The route to Ringing Roger is the shortest and most direct option available from Edale. After parking in...

Looking towards Grindsbrook

Ringing Roger

I devised this as a walk to take my 4 year old son, Harry, on. He doesn’t quite have the legs yet for a long hike but likes to feel that he’s climbed a mountain. The route to Ringing Roger is the shortest and most direct option available from Edale. After parking in the main car park at Edale (where we literally took the last available space), we headed off up the road before taking the Grindsbrook path on the right. After crossing Grinds Brook, we emerged onto open pasture land. The path to Grindsbrook Clough continues north, following the line of the brook, and the path that forks off on the right uphill is the path that ascends The Nab up to Ringing Roger. Naturally we took this path and headed on up. It was slow going as his little legs worked hard to power him up the hillside but eventually we arrived at the foot of the gritstone outcrop known as Ringing Roger. It’s possible to bypass this and continue along the path but, to a small child, clambering on rocks is the highlight of any walk. I carefully guided him up a few of the trickier sections and tried to give him a real sense of climbing up a mountain. After reaching the top, we took a short break and he fuelled up on Fruit Shoot and jam sandwiches.

Starting the steep section of The Nab
Starting the steep section
Ascending The Nab
Ascending ‘The Nab’
Enjoying a minor scramble on Ringing Roger
Enjoying a minor scramble
Admiring the view to Grindsbrook
Admiring the view to Grindsbrook
Gritstone formation at Ringing Roger
A not so comfy seat

Golden Clough

The original plan was to attempt to walk around the edges and return down at Grindslow Knoll, however we’d spent so long playing on the gritstone that I was worried it would be dark before we finished. Instead, I decided to return back down via the under-used path in Golden Clough. It’s a lovely tranquil path and I don’t think I’ve ever encountered another person on it. Even on a sunny Sunday like today, there was nobody in sight. The track higher up is rather loose with some larger steps down. No problem for my legs but I had to keep a hold of Harry’s hand the whole way down as he frequently slipped and stumbled on the path. He enjoyed the many little waterfall features near the bottom though. Eventually, we arrived at the bottom of the clough which meets up with Grinds Brook. From there, we walked back along the well-used path and back to Edale.

Heading down Golden Clough
Heading down Golden Clough
Golden Clough
Enjoying the tranquility
A waterfall on Golden Clough
Admiring a small waterfall
Golden Clough
Another sit down!
Golden Clough
Even the grass is fascinating


The Greater Fairfield Horseshoe

This walk was a bit of a last minute decision. The weather forecast told me that Wednesday would be the last day of the freakish February mini summer we were having, and I really hadn’t made the most of it in terms of getting outside. I booked a couple of days off work and decided...

This walk was a bit of a last minute decision. The weather forecast told me that Wednesday would be the last day of the freakish February mini summer we were having, and I really hadn’t made the most of it in terms of getting outside. I booked a couple of days off work and decided to head up to the Lake District for a bit of Wainwright bagging. As I’ve said in my previous Lake District posts, the walks I’m following are from the excellent ‘Walking the Wainwrights’ book by Stuart Marshall. He has devised just 36 walks that cover the whole of the 214 Wainwrights without any having to be repeated.

I parked in the Pelter Bridge car park, normally £7 a day, and my luck was in. The ticket machine was broken! I took it as a sign that today was going to be a very good day. The sky was already a gorgeous shade of blue when I began walking. I headed north up the lane past the beautiful St Marys Church, and past Rydal Hall and Rydal Lodge. The first footpath that you come to on the left is called the coffin route as it was historically the route used to take the dead of Rydal to the church in Grasmere for burial. The footpath that I needed was the next one on the left after this, which headed up into the hills towards the first Wainwright of the day.

St Mary's Church, Rydal
St Mary’s Church
The path to Nab Scar, the beginning of the Fairfield Horseshoe
The path to Nab Scar

I always find the first ascent of the day the hardest and this was no exception. It was one of those routes that are made up of never-ending rocky steps and is a common theme here in the Lake District. I wheezed my way upwards and onwards towards the first Wainwright of Nab Scar and the beginning of the Fairfield Horseshoe proper. The views looking back over Rydal and towards Grasmere were fantastic but unfortunately, I was having problems taking photographs in that direction due to the low winter sun.

The view from Nab Scar towards Rydal and Grasmere
The view from Nab Scar
Nab Scar summit
Probably the Nab Scar summit

From Nab Scar, I continued north along the horseshoe, ascending not too steeply past Lord Crag, and it wasn’t long before I’d reached the second summit of the day in Heron Pike, standing at a fairly modest 612 metres. The next target needed a bit of a diversion. Stone Arthur sat north-west of my position on Heron Pike, and the valley of Greenhead Gill separated us. Rather than walking all the way around the valley then retracing my steps (I don’t like retracing steps), I descended gradually diagonally down the slope towards Greenhead Gill, eventually meeting it at a perfect height so that I could easily contour around on the other side towards Stone Arthur. Though Stone Arthur is a Wainwright, it doesn’t really feel like a hill – more of a viewpoint. It’s actually the lowest part of a craggy ridge before it steeply descends towards Grasmere.

Heading towards Heron Pike
Heading towards Heron Pike
Heading north along the Fairfield Horseshoe
Heading north along the ridge
Making my way down to Greenhead Gill
Making my way down to Greenhead Gill
Stone Arthur
Stone Arthur

It was this ridge that I headed along next, slowly ascending towards Great Rigg, the fourth Wainwright of the day standing at 766 metres. To the left, across the valley that houses Tongue Gill, lies the great lump of Seat Sandal. Ahead is the highlight of the walk – Fairfield. I was starting to struggle a little with the relentless sunshine. It was amazing to think it was just February. I’d been wearing just a base layer for the walk so far, and I still felt too hot.

Looking across at Seat Sandal
Looking across at Seat Sandal
Fairfield ahead
Fairfield ahead

The summit of Fairfield, which stands at 873 metres, was rather less craggy than the other Wainwrights on this walk. It had a large flat plateau similar to being up on the top of Helvellyn. In his book, ‘Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells’, Alfred Wainwright wrote about Fairfield “From the south it appears as a great horseshoe of grassy slopes below a consistently high skyline…but lacking those dramatic qualities that appeal most to the lover of hills. But on the north side the Fairfield range is magnificent: here are dark precipices, long fans of scree…desolate combes and deep valleys”. Before continuing around the horseshoe, I made a short journey to the north of the summit plateau so I could enjoy the great views across to Dollywagon Pike and the Helvellyn range. It was clear that, up until now, I’d been shielded from the harsher elements. Once I hit the summit of Fairfield, I was greeted by a cold bitter wind and it felt like I’d just stepped from summer into winter. It was actually quite refreshing because I had been feeling far too warm and so, rather than layer up, I continued in my base layer, relishing the chill.

Viewing the Helvellyn range
Viewing the Helvellyn range
The flat plateau of Fairfield
The flat plateau of Fairfield

I carried on along the route to the east, enjoying a brief section of easy walking before a steep drop down to Link Hause followed by the immediate ascent up onto the next Wainwright of the day, Hart Crag – standing at 822 metres. The walking from here is straight forward. During the descent of Hart Crag, a wall is met. This wall is followed along the whole rest of the ridge, all the way back to the bottom. After Hart Crag, there’s Dove Crag (unspectacular from this approach), High Pike, and Low Pike before the day’s collection of Wainwright’s is complete. That makes 9 in total. Not bad for a single outing. This may sound like a more tedious section of the walk but the terrain is actually quite varied as the wall manages to find a way through a variety of craggy features. Eventually, an easy path branches away from the wall on its eastern side around the area of High Brock Crags. I personally recommend not taking this path and instead continue following the line of the wall for a more interesting walk. There is a touch of scrambling required though just past this point as a craggy section needs to be down-climbed, so be careful.

Approaching Hart Crag
Approaching Hart Crag
On Dove Crag
On Dove Crag
Walking towards High Pike
Walking towards High Pike
Looking back at Low Pike
Looking back at Low Pike

At the bottom of the slope, just before I arrived at Low Sweden Bridge that crosses Scandale Beck, I took a footpath on the right across pastureland, following the line of the beck. This eventually brought me out onto the Rydal Park path, which I followed north (turn right). It’s a nice easy finish to the walk on a pleasant path which passes Rydal Hall. If you have enough energy left in your legs, you could take this opportunity to visit the ‘Quiet Gardens’ in the grounds of the hall. The route also passes a beautiful waterfall and ‘The Grot’, which claims to be Britains earliest known purpose-built viewing station. Eventually, you emerge on the road back where you started near St Mary’s church.

Path through Rydal Park
Path through Rydal Park
The Grot
The Grot

I enjoyed a nice plate of gammon and veg at the wonderful Badger Bar in Rydal before returning to the car (aka my bed for the night). I’d had a great day and the weather had been unbelievably good. I had another walk planned for the next day but I knew I wasn’t going to be quite so lucky this time with the weather. The Met Office app on my phone informed me I was to spend the day walking in drizzle and fog. Oh well… variety is the spice of life!


The Carneddau’s Southern Ridge Circuit

The walk starts by Llyn Ogwen, at any free parking space that you can find. There are quite a few parking areas on the stretch of road between Ogwen Cottage and Tryfan. Head west to the end of Llyn Ogwen. As soon as the bridge is crossed at Pont Pen y Benglog, cross the style...

The walk starts by Llyn Ogwen, at any free parking space that you can find. There are quite a few parking areas on the stretch of road between Ogwen Cottage and Tryfan. Head west to the end of Llyn Ogwen. As soon as the bridge is crossed at Pont Pen y Benglog, cross the style on the right and begin following the track up the south-west ridge of Pen yr Ole Wen.

Tryfan from the car park
Tryfan from the car park
An early view of Llyn Idwal
An early view of Llyn Idwal

This is what you call a proper mountain track. No defined paths, arduous, small sections of scrambling, and small sections of steep scree. It’s a completely different kettle of fish from something like the Llanberis path. It’s also a path that you don’t want to be descending at the end of a long walk — not if you value your knees. Eventually, after much slogging uphill, the summit plateau is reached. Looking back across Ogwen Valley at any point during the ascent rewards you with some astounding views of the mountains opposite, from Tryfan on the left, across the Glyders and Y Garn, and ending with Mynydd Perfedd and Carnedd y Filiast on the right.

The way ahead up Pen yr Ole Wen
The way ahead
Looking back down Pen yr Ole Wen
Looking back down
Ascending Pen yr Ole Wen
Working my way up the south ridge
Looking towards Porcupine Ridge
Some decent scrambling over there!
A view back towards Foel Goch
A view back towards Foel Goch

Once on the summit, head north across Bwlch yr Ole Wen, then follow the edge around to the north-west past the large cairn at Carnedd Fach, and eventually to the second summit of the day at Carnedd Dafydd. Approaching from this side, it barely even looks like a mountain. More like a slightly elevated part of the ridge. The impressive features of this mountain aren’t visible until later when, looking back, its impressive north face comes into view. The area down to the right is Cwm Lloer and houses the lake of Ffynnon Lloer.

Pen yr Ole Wen summit wind shelter
Poor visibility on the summit
Heading along Bwlch yr Ole Wen
Heading along Bwlch yr Ole Wen
Looking down at Ffynnon Lloer
Looking down at Ffynnon Lloer
Looking back at Pen yr Ole Wen
Looking back at Pen yr Ole Wen

The route continues east along the top of the Ysgolion Duon (Black Ladders) cliffs and offers great views looking north-west into Cwm Llafar. On this section, I made my first sighting of the Carneddau wild ponies down on the slope to my right. I kept my distance as I have an irrational fear of anything that’s bigger than me! The route eventually curves around to the north-east as it passes Bwlch Cyfryw-drum, and the drops to the left become less dramatic. A zig-zagging ascent path to Carnedd Llewelyn is clear to see and this is the one that should be taken all the way to the summit.

Approaching Ysgolion Duon (Black Ladders) from Carnedd Dafydd
Approaching Ysgolion Duon from Carnedd Dafydd
The atmospheric Ysgolion Duon (Black Ladders)
The atmospheric Ysgolion Duon
Cwm Llafar from Ysgolion Duon (Black Ladders)
Cwm Llafar from Ysgolion Duon
Approaching Carnedd Llewelyn
Approaching Carnedd Llewelyn

From the summit, head east then south-east as the route descends Penywaun-wen and towards Pen yr Helgi Du. As the ridge narrows, the impressive Craig Yr Ysfa Amphitheatre can be seen down below on the left. Down on the right is the Ffynnon Llugwy reservoir, and ahead is the narrow ridge of Bwlch Eryl Farchog that leads across to the final summit of Pen yr Helgi Du. It’s a fantastic viewpoint and a great place to stop for a brief rest and properly absorb the atmosphere.

Carnedd Llewelyn summit plateau
Carnedd Llewelyn summit plateau
Heading down Penywaun-wen
Heading down Penywaun-wen
Looking towards Pen yr Helgi Du
Looking towards Pen yr Helgi Du
Passing above the Craig Yr Ysfa Amphitheatre
Passing above the Craig Yr Ysfa Amphitheatre
Bwlch Eryl Farchog and Ffynnon Llugwy
Bwlch Eryl Farchog and Ffynnon Llugwy

To get down onto the ridge involves a short scramble and downclimb. In good weather, it’s a fairly simple affair — but in icy conditions, it can be treacherous and has been the scene of a few accidents in the winter months. After navigating the scramble, the ridge is crossed south-east and Pen yr Helgi Du is ascended directly and steeply. Legs and knees are probably feeling a little weary at this point, but luckily the descent route from the summit of Pen yr Helgi Du is possibly the easiest and gentlest descent route in Snowdonia. It’s a very easily angled, grassy slope that heads south all the way back to the A5 where a bit of road walking is in order to get back to the car.

The short scramble pitch
The short scramble pitch
Looking back at the scrambling section
Looking back at the scrambling section
Looking across the ridge to Pen yr Helgi Du
Looking across the ridge to Pen yr Helgi Du
The steep climb to Pen yr Helgi Du
The steep climb to Pen yr Helgi Du
The sun shining over Ogwen valley
The sun shining over Ogwen valley
The simple descent path down from Pen yr Helgi Du
The simple descent path
A young Carneddau wild pony
A young Carneddau wild pony
Farm road back to the A5
Farm road back to the A5


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