Tag Archives: Camping

Fastpacking trip – running Manchester to Sheffield: 40 miles, 2 days, 1650m ascent

Fastpacking is a combination of backpacking and running. It offers an ideal blend of long distance running, freedom to camp, and the logistical challenge of carrying exactly what you need but no more.

It can open up opportunities for adventurous exploration in remote places, but it’s important to know in advance that all the gear and systems work. With my running buddy Bo, we decided on a test run from Stockport in Greater Manchester back to our homes in Sheffield. Continue reading

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Tour du Mont Blanc – solo hiking and camping trip highlights, July 2015

In July I solo hiked the Tour du Mont Blanc, camping along the way. It was physically the hardest thing I’ve done so far, involving 9 days of sustained effort to carry all my camping gear through three countries, over 170km, and up and down 10,000m of accumulated ascent/descent.

It was also one of the most rewarding experiences, with incredible views, physical and mental obstacles overcome, and many lessons learned. Here are a few of the highlights of my trip: Continue reading

Tour du Mont Blanc camping: A guide to campsites on the route of the TMB

I hiked the Tour du Mont Blanc over nine days in July 2015, camping every night, and I wouldn’t have done it any other way. I was able to stay outdoors rather than the shared dorms of the Refuges. As there is no pre booking I had more flexibility about the distance and route I covered each day, the cost was lower, and it was satisfying to feel totally self-supported. Unexpectedly though, finding the campsites at the end of a long day was one of the most stressful elements of the trip for me.

I used the Cicerone guidebook, which is aimed at walkers staying in Refuges on the route, but I found that it didn’t provide adequate information for me. Some campsites were a little off the standard route of the TMB, meaning that I had to walk further at the end of the day on a route not described in the guide. In some cases it was necessary to extend the day described in the book to reach the next place to camp. These are not real problems, but I would recommend a little extra planning to supplement the guide.

Here is the information I wish I’d had for the route I followed (all prices are for one person, one tent, one night): Continue reading

Ultralight backpacking – what are the essentials…?

The first ‘proper’ scramble I did was Pinnacle Ridge on the Scottish Isle of Skye. It’s an 11km hike involving easy rock climbing and an abseil over 6 Pinnacles on the Cuillin Ridge. It reaches a high point on the summit of Scurr Nan Gillean, a Munro with a height of 964m (3162 feet). I’d never done anything like it before. I didn’t know what to expect or how to prepare, and I carried all sorts in my bag including, for some reason, flip flops.

On the summit of Sgurr Nan Gillean with Castle Mountaineering Club and flip flops...

On the summit of Sgurr Nan Gillean with Castle Mountaineering Club and flip flops…

As I gained more experience, I learned to focus on what is fundamentally important, the basics of survival – warmth, water, and food. Anything beyond that becomes a luxury. Continue reading

Sea cliff climbing, Pembroke, Wales, UK

Sea cliff climbing feels like a proper adventure, but you don’t have to commit to hard routes to have an amazing day in beautiful locations. A long weekend gave me the chance to discover a little taste of what Pembroke has to offer…

Pembroke is a good five hour drive from the Peak District, and I was glad to leave the busy motorway for South Wales’ winding country lanes. Our journey finally ended as far west as it is possible to go, in St Davids, Pembrokeshire, a county that is bordered by sea on three sides. On the very edge of the country where the last of the land drops away are the sea cliffs that we were there to climb.

Day 1 – We started at Craig Caerfai, only 600 meters from the car park it has an incredible view across Caerfai Bay. The descent runs down a gully at the corner of the cliff, and we set up an abseil using stakes driven into the cliff top.

As I lowered myself to a platform of rock washed at the edges by the incoming tide I felt aware that I had to be sure I could climb back out, but the limestone was warm and the routes are short and friendly. It’s a perfect introduction, and we ticked as many as we could before the sun began to set.

Craig Caerfai abseil/approach gully

Craig Caerfai abseil/approach gully

Craig Caerfai Main Slab

Craig Caerfai Main Slab

Day 2 – We headed to Porth-y-FFynnon, a tiny purplish sandstone slab a few hundred meters from the campsite. As we set up the abseil it began to rain, and we were forced to admit that the slab was just too wet to climb.

We dashed to south Pembroke to chase drier weather, choosing an area that would not be affected by the afternoon high tide. Stennis Head was the only crag of the weekend that involved a short scramble rather than an abseil in. Starting from a sloping ledge well above the sea, we had time to enjoy a couple of routes including a short but interesting traverse under a mini roof.

View from the top of Stennis Head

View from the top of Stennis Head

Day 3 – We made our way Stuntsmans Buttress where I was keen to lead a route called Myola. I was excited to commit to a route I hadn’t even seen and enjoyed the abseil to an otherwise inaccessible niche in the rock. The route follows a long diagonal groove from sea level right to the top of the cliff. As I waited in the niche I had time to absorb the unique position, surrounded by nothing but rock and sky, waves breaking beneath me as the tide rushed in over bleached white boulders.

As I started to lead the position felt a little intimidating, but the climbing itself was never too hard and the whole experience was incredible. The next route involved tricky route finding, sparse gear and tiny limestone edges – great climbing and perfect for me to second.

Rusty belay Stake at the top of Stuntsman's Buttress

Rusty belay Stake at the top of Stuntsman’s Buttress

Relaxing in the sun with the gear after Myola and Myopia, Stuntsmans Buttress

Relaxing in the sun with the gear after Myola and Myopia, Stuntsmans Buttress

Feeling the need for a little relaxation we walked over to investigate nearby Saddle Head which has a selection of lower grade routes and a totally different feel. There were crowds of people, but it was a good choice for a quick and easy route to end the day.

Day 4 – Our final day was spent at St Govan’s Head, the most popular area to climb in Pembroke and it’s easy to see why. There are so many routes we were spoilt for choice, but as time was limited we decided on the top 50 classic route Army Dreamers. It starts with steep juggy climbing, followed by a short thin traverse to a pumpy technical section up a thin crack. It was the best route of the weekend, and as well as offering fantastic climbing, there are some beautiful ammonite fossils on the route.

Anna waiting to second by the rock pools at St Govans

Anna waiting to second by the rock pools at St Govans

The variety of climbing combined with camping in lush green fields with a sea view makes Pembroke a perfect location. The trip was a great introduction to the area, and I can’t wait for the chance to get to know it better.

Crib Goch scramble and run, Snowdonia, North Wales – low on time, high on adventure

This weekend I planned to go away for a couple of nights to test my new ultra light tent and get some hill training in with Bo. The weather forecast was horrendous – wet and windy everywhere, so we decided a one night trip would be wiser. Short on time, our target was Snowdon, Wales’ highest mountain at 1085m.  We planned to camp in the Llanberis Pass and run to the summit via the Crib Goch ridge.

Camping in Nant Peris, looking up to the Llanberis Pass

Camping in Nant Peris, looking up to Crib Goch obscured by cloud

Arriving at lunch time we quickly put up our tents, the only ones camping in the extended garden of a farm in Nant Peris, a small village located at the bottom of the Llanberis Pass.  From there we had a view up the pass to the ridge we would soon be on. Although it wasn’t raining in the valley and there was little wind, the top of the ridge was hidden by cloud.

The steep sides of the Pass host some of the UK’s most famous rock climbing routes, and from the bus window we took the opportunity to admire the scale of the landscape. Looking up to the familiar shape of the Cromlech, there were no climbers to be seen on the open-book Cenotaph Corner, just darker grey smears of wet rock.

Jumping off the bus we began running from the Pen-y-Pass car park. The well trodden trail trends steadily upwards over a mixture of polished rocks and sandy gravel, good running although not the easiest warm up. It wasn’t long until we reached the point that our route separated from the trail, the ground quickly got steeper and soon the only option was to scramble and climb.

Leaving the tourist trail to start the scramble to Crib Goch

A clear sign that it is time to leave the tourist trail and start the scramble to Crib Goch

The Rhyolite rock is almost crystalline in appearance, formed from a series of small angular blocks that create large handholds and decent footholds. Scrambling higher we entered the clouds and I felt very aware that I was clinging to a steep surface with no ropes. My view obscured in all directions I could see nothing but rock dropping steeply away below, while more rock rose to an unknown and invisible point above. With Bo leading, the only way was up.

Climbing up through clouds to find the ridge

Srambling up through clouds to reach the ridge

Finally there was no more up, we had reached the ridge and there could be no worries about route finding. We scrambled happily along, keeping our hands high on the pointing tip of the ridge and our feet low on the blocky sides. I took a moment to enjoy the incredible position. Cloud cover was coming and going at this point, the steep drop on either side intermittently revealed, the lakes below scraps of tin foil reflecting the silver grey sky.

Beautiful texture of the rhyolite rock on the pointed ridge of Crib Goch

Beautiful texture of the rhyolite rock on the pointed ridge of Crib Goch

Bo captured mid-scramble, the knife edge ridge disappearing into cloud

Bo captured mid-scramble, the knife edge ridge disappearing into cloud

Reaching the end of the ridge we laughed as we realised that we had clocked some of the slowest kilometres ever. Pleased to run again we joined the trail that passed the marker at Crib y Ddysgl, the second highest summit, then followed the train tracks leading the way to the busy Snowdon summit and cafe.

After a quick dash to the actual summit of Snowdon we began a swift descent down the Pyg track which involved hurdling a few tourists. The terrain is perfect, stepped and rocky, not too steep, and a lovely long run down hill back to the Pen Y Pass car park.

Lovely long downhill of the Pyg track

Lovely long downhill on the Pyg track

If you are short on time but want maximum adventure, Crib Goch is one of the best days out you can have. You can find more information about the route on UK Hillwalking http://www.ukhillwalking.com/logbook/hill.php?id=2032.

Because #thisgirlcan ! A national campaign by Sport England, January 2015

This week Sport England launched a campaign “to celebrate active women who are doing their thing no matter how well they do it, or how they look” www.thisgirlcan.co.uk.  It features women participating in activities like cycling, zumba, and climbing. It’s so liberating to see these real women, and I have personally been reflecting on how important it is to have female role models to encourage and inspire me.

Although I train and climb with equal numbers of men and women, I particularly value the time I spend with female friends. We are more evenly matched in terms of strength and performance, which means that we participate on an equal footing and are more likely to share common goals to work towards.

I find it empowering to take decisions and plan together, and feel especially proud of what I have achieved through team work with my female friends, whether climbing a hard route or navigating a race in the hills. Beyond training and performance, being active together creates real quality time, shared experiences, and lays the foundations for strong and supportive friendships.

In the media and coverage of the outdoors world I generally find strong women’s voices are less common. I don’t know if that is because there are proportionally fewer women participating, whether fewer women seek to publicise and share their adventures, or whether they struggle to have their voices heard in stereotypically more masculine environments. Or maybe I just haven’t been looking in the right places.

I don’t need my role models to be exceptional in terms of performance. It’s great to celebrate women that are at the top of their game and pushing the boundaries, but regardless of your level of performance I love to see the places that you are being active, and the things that you are doing, because if you can do it, so can I.

How women are presented in the media and online is important, and This Girl Can feels so right because it has a message that all women can relate to. We need to see realistic images of healthy women. We can celebrate using our female bodies without sexualising them. We do not need make up or air brushing to make us look healthy and vibrant.

Packing light and having access to minimal facilities has challenged my assumptions about the ‘essentials’ of life, including realising that in certain circumstances make up has no practical use. Pushing my physical and mental limits has taken me to a place where there is no room to think about how I look. Being active gives me a sense of wellbeing and achievement that feels so good that it pushes out the insecurities about how I might look while I’m doing it.

It can be a vulnerable feeling to share your thoughts and experiences, but I believe that we are all role models and mentors, encouraging and inspiring each other. I would like to see active women increasing our representation, and this means building confidence in our skills and abilities, finding our voices and being comfortable sharing to a wider audience. It means recognising that our opinions and experiences have value.

My small part of it is to keep sharing the joy of being active outdoors in all seasons in the best way that I can, and to keep reading and being inspired by you…