This year’s hotel meet in Mayrhofen was a great success, with 35 members attending, the most since our centenary in 2009: these included several present and past committee members, with four presidents, three vice presidents and two secretaries. We were lucky with the weather too: although those who arrived early had been subjected to torrential rain, the first day of the meet dawned bright and sunny, and the sunshine stayed with us all week with just an occasional thunderstorm.
Mayrhofen is in a beautiful location at the heart of the Zillertal, with several side valleys branching off, and everyone was out every day exploring the endless variety of walks. A few of us knew the valley from Alasdair’s meet back in 2003, and others had been here even earlier: Dinah had spent several days in the Berliner hut climbing the surrounding 3000m peaks, while Pauline and Dick Murton had stayed here on a skiing holiday as children. However, for many this was a first visit to the Zillertal or even to Austria, and for Dave Matthews, his first visit to the Alps.
The Hotel Kramerwirt in the town centre provided an excellent base, with large comfortable rooms and plentiful meals where we were spoilt for choice. Frau Kröll, the proprietor, had told me that the well-known alpinist Peter Habeler was a family friend, and the highlight of our week was when she arranged for him to come and talk to our group. Peter’s name hit the headlines in 1978 when, together with Reinhold Messner, he made the first ascent of Everest without supplemental oxygen. Until then most had deemed this impossible, and even today fewer than 200 of the 5000 who have summited the mountain have succeeded in this way.
Peter grew up in Mayrhofen and started exploring the local mountains at the age of six. When he was only ten he borrowed his grandfather’s ice-axe and set off to climb the highest peak in the Zillertal, the 3476m Olperer; by the age of twelve he had soloed all the surrounding 3000m summits. His love of the valley was evident in all he said, and he spoke passionately about the importance of the environment and how the creation of a Nature Park has helped preserve this area. Modest and unassuming, he spoke to us as friends and fellow-climbers, and was as interested to hear where we had been during our stay as we were to hear of his much more adventurous exploits. He is still regularly out in the mountains, and looked as lean and fit as when he had climbed Everest 40 years earlier. Only last year he became the oldest to climb the notorious Eiger Nordwand, which he had previously climbed with Messner in 1974 in the record time of only ten hours. At the age of 76, just two weeks younger than myself, he was an inspiration to us all.
The first day saw most of the group taking the Penken lift where a variety of walks awaited us. It was an easy way to gain height, although James and Belinda elected to walk up the 1200m from Mayrhofen and take the lift down. Dick cycled up here more than once, and unwittingly chose for his first ascent the day of the popular Zillertal Bike Challenge. At the top he was overtaken by hordes of ultra-fit mountain bikers before they disappeared on a steep track downhill, leaving him to take a less direct route down. There was a network of paths to explore up here, with such magnificent views of the surrounding mountains that it was easy to forget the number of ski-tows. This year none of our group set off up the 2900m Rastkogel, perhaps put off by my stories of missing the lift back down in 2003, but were satisfied with the lower Wanglspitze. From the summit we found a contouring path back to the lift, past a small alpine lake and the very modern “Granatkapelle” chapel, where an outside altar was decorated with candles for a wedding ceremony. Penken was a good place for shorter rambles too, and for Marian and Barbara to do some sketching, with alpine lakes to explore, a paddling pool to cool off in and the sunny terrace of the café to enjoy a drink or an apfelstrudel. An alternative way down was to take the lift to Finkenberg and return along the Tuxer gorge across the Devil’s bridge, a route taken by different groups on several occasions.
The other lift starting in Mayrhofen was the Ahorn which was taken by most of our group on different days, and by Niels and Guni more than once. Several walks started from here, the shortest being to the viewpoint at Filzenkogel, looking straight down to Mayrhofen far below. Even James and Belinda went up on this lift and accompanied the group to the delightfully positioned Edel hut, which Marian took time to sketch.
A higher objective was Am Glatzer directly below the Ahornspitze, which Heather and Dave reported as their highlight of the week.
A large group of us had climbed the Ahornspitze back in 2003, but this year only five reached the summit, at 2973m the highest point of the meet: Bill and Rosie, Don, Richard and Rick. They had set off on an early cable car, and Richard has described their day. “After the Edelhütte the footpath rises steadily, first across grassy slopes before traversing a boulder field and some snow to the col which we reached in about another hour. From here the views are already magnificent but it was important to keep an eye on the red markers as we walked and scrambled up the final ridge to a preliminary top and then into an exposed gap to reach the main summit. The 360 degree view is spectacular and we shared it with half a dozen or so other climbers.
We weren’t surprised later to discover that the Ahornspitze is Peter Habeler’s favourite mountain in the Zillertal region. A splendid excursion.”
Bill and Rosie on the Ahornspitze
The summit team back at the Kramerwirt, by Alan Norton
The main side valley to the west and south of Mayrhofen is the Tuxertal, leading to the snow-covered Tuxer glacier below the Olperer. Lifts and ski tows led up to slopes busy with summer skiers, but it was easy to get away from these, and from the top of the Sommerbergalm lift we soon reached the Tuxer Joch-Haus.
James and Belinda took a higher lift and joined this by a more circuitous route, and on a later day Bill and Rosie climbed the small Pfannköpfl summit at the side, but most of us were content with a drink at the hut before setting off down the idyllic Weitental on what was one of the loveliest walks of the week. This remote valley is a haven for marmots, and we saw several family groups playing together, very close to the path.
A marmot family at play, by Rick Saynor
Moss campion, by Heather Eddowes
The flowers here were even more spectacular than on other walks, and the slopes were bright with pink alpenrose, several kinds of vivid blue gentians, delicate soldanellas, moss campions and a variety of tiny orchids. Further on a dramatic waterfall thundered down from high above, and it was here that several of us re-grouped for our picnic lunch.
Walking down the Weitental, by Heather Eddowes
Dinah at the waterfall, by Heather Eddowes
Lower down the Tuxertal a lift from Lanersbach took us up to Eggalm, from where it was a short but steep climb up the Grüblspitze where we met a young-looking grandmother from Berlin, together with her six-year old grandson, at the summit cross. The flowers were lovely here too, and we even found a tiny snow gentian growing at the side of the path. After several long days our group had made a later start than usual and, on seeing the clouds build up, decided not to attempt the long circuit we had planned. Instead, we headed off on a more straightforward descent route, reaching the top of the cable car just as the first drops of rain fell. We raced for the lift, realising that the storm which was about to break would stop it working, and it did in fact stop three times during John and Dinah’s descent only minutes later. By this time thunder was crashing overhead, with flashes of lightning and torrential rain, which got worse as we drove back down the valley.
Meanwhile, Jay and Caroline had taken an earlier lift and had set off on the long circuit taken by Mike earlier in the week, down and up to the Ramsjoch, and then downhill to the beautiful Torseen lakes, still a long way above the main valley. Mike had had good weather, but nevertheless reported the route as long and challenging, in a remote valley. Jay and Caroline were not so lucky for, after the farm buildings of the Nasser Tuxeralm, on the forest road leading downhill, Caroline wrote: “We felt the first ice-cold drops of rain or hail on the backs of our necks. Within minutes of us donning all our wet-weather gear, the sky had blackened and the rain was pouring down. Huge bolts of lightning lit up the sky while the thunder crashed directly over our heads and we walked rapidly through the forest as the road turned into a river. By the time we reached the Geislerhof farmhouse we were both soaked, and it rained all the way down to the bus stop at Vorderlanersbach.”
Due south of Mayrhofen various side valleys led into the Nature Park, a beautiful area unspoilt by any ski installations. One of the loveliest valleys was the Zemmgrund, and our longest walk took us from the bus stop at Breitlahner up to the Berliner hut, 11kms away and 850m higher. The trail followed a narrow gorge into meadows of alpenrose before climbing up beside cliffs and waterfalls, the final ascent being up a steep, stone-slab path. This was a botanical paradise, and the only place all week where we found the rare edelweiss. There were two other huts en route, the Grawand and the aptly named Alpenrose, both of which provided welcome drinks stops, and at last, after three hours, our objective came into sight.
This large and imposing building was constructed by the Berlin section of the DAV in 1879, and has a beautifully carved wooden staircase in the entrance hall and chandeliers in the dining-room. It is in a spectacular position at the foot of glaciers below the Grosse Möseler and other 3000m peaks, and we later discovered that this is Peter Habeler’s favourite hut.
We sat outside on the sunny terrace gazing at the magnificent view before us as we enjoyed a well-earned drink, and Richard and Katherine ordered a large portion of kaiserschmarrn which they had tasted first on their honeymoon nearly 50 years ago. Most of the group took a longer way down on the gletscherweg, contouring higher up to cross two streams and join the original path near the Alpenrose hut. It was a long but satisfying day.
Later in the week several of us took the bus past Breitlahner up the toll road to the Schlegeis dam and reservoir, from where we walked up the Zamsergrund to the Italian border at Pfitscher Joch-Haus. The Pfitscher Joch has been used as an alpine crossing for over 9,000 years, and traces have been found of Stone Age hunters who came here to hunt ibex and gather quartz rock crystal.
The path rose gradually in a series of steps, through meadows of alpenrose and dwarf pine, past waterfalls and streams, to reach a small farm at Lavitzalm, where a diminutive stripey kitten was being manhandled by an equally diminutive child. It was a day for the young, for we caught up with three young mothers carrying babies of 3, 5 and 9 months, all smiling happily. There was a boundary stone at the pass telling us we were at the international border, and soon we reached the small hut. It was a spectacular viewpoint, surrounded by 3000m peaks, looking straight down the Pfitschertal into Italy. A road on the Italian side led to the Brenner Pass road and Val Gardena, where we had stayed on last year’s meet. This was one of the days which clouded over soon after lunch, and as the rain began and we donned our waterproof gear, we wondered if the babies were getting as wet as we were.
The Nature Park House at Ginzling was lower down the same valley, and several of us visited this with its fascinating multimedia exhibition exploring the world of glaciers. In search of a shorter walk on our last day, Alan and I continued from here into the Floitental and up to the Steinbock hut, its sunny terrace in flower-filled meadows providing an attractive drinks stop. It was a pleasant stroll, and although earlier in the week we might have continued another 800m up to the Greizer hut, for once we were content just to sit. Nearby was the Stilluptal, another lovely valley which Roger and Sheila were the only ones to explore when they drove as far as the waterfall near the reservoir.
Several of the group found walks northeast of Mayrhofen, exploring the paths around Brandberg. Geoff and Janet wandered up here on a rainy day before the meet started, and on what turned out to be an even rainier day later in the meet, James and Belinda set off from the hotel to walk up to Kotahorn-Alm and Karlalm below the Gerlossteinwand, taking the Panoramaweg back to Brandberg and Mayrhofen, an ascent of nearly 1200m and a distance of 18.5km. Others took the easier option of taking the Gerlosstein lift from Hainzenberg, leaving only 500m to climb to the summit of the Gerlossteinwand. With a vertiginous rock face looking down onto the village of Brandberg, this was a dramatic viewpoint. Most took the lift back down, but Caroline decided to walk all the way down to Zell, a total descent of 1600m and a distance of some 22km, perhaps even beating James and Belinda’s record.
Lin and Pauline were the only ones to explore the northwest side of Mayrhofen when they took the bus to Melchboden, above Ramsau. They walked up the Arbiskopf and along the ridge path leading to Kreuzjoch before dropping down to the Rastkogel hut, past slopes of numerous tall yellow gentians. They completed the circuit by walking back through flower filled meadows to Mösl where they picked up the bus again.
Dick went off on his bike, covering 30 – 40 miles each day, and one day Lin hired an e-bike to accompany him. They took the Zillertal cycleway down the valley to Strass near Jenbach which, to their surprise, proved rather too boring - at least on that sort of terrain. On the last day Dick took the cable car from Zell to the top of the Rosenalmbahn and followed one of the race routes down to the valley bottom. However, he seems to have been somewhat distracted at the top on finding, in his words: “a wonderful wooden castle with water engineering features, slides and various climbing frames - just needed to clear the kids off it to be able to have some proper fun!!”
Not many took a day off, and those who did went down to the lovely old town of Innsbruck, where a few of the group had stayed before the meet started. Geoff and Janet had stayed extra days in Mayrhofen beforehand, and Jay and Caroline had spent three rainy days exploring above Gerlos. After the meet Bill and Rosie headed off to Salzberg and Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest in the Bavarian Alps, Mike and Marian drove their campervan into the Stubaital, while James and Belinda spent a few days at the AAC’s 70th anniversary meet further east at Zell-am-See.
It was good to have with us again the long-standing members of the club who had not been on the summer meet for several years, and to see how much everyone enjoyed their week’s stay in this beautiful valley.
Participants: Pamela Harris & Alan Norton, James & Belinda Baldwin, Geoff & Janet Bone, Derek Buckley & Ann Alari, Geoff & Pauline Causey, John Dempster & Dinah Nichols, Niels & Guni Doble, Heather Eddowes & Dave Matthews, Pauline Hammond, Don Hardy, Richard & Katherine Heery, Dick Murton & Lin Warriss, Roger Newson & Sheila Coates, Mike & Marian Parsons, Rick & Carol Saynor, Jim & Margaret Strachan, Barbara Swindin, Caroline Thonger, Jay Turner, Bill & Rosie Westermeyer.
Report by Pamela Harris
This year’s Scotland meet was excellent, with mainly good weather and plenty of munros and other summits climbed, as well as some scrambles. Unfortunately, several people who had expressed interest could not attend for various reasons, leaving just two of us to enjoy it. Max had already spent a few days on Skye then went on to the comfortable Forest Way bunkhouse near Braemore Junction, a few miles south of Ullapool, and I joined him on the Sunday, having flown to Inverness and driven from there.
The forecast for Sunday, the first day, was for low cloud and possible rain so we had considered a low walk. However, as the morning looked bright, we headed towards Stac Pollaidh, which was out of the cloud at 613m. We were early enough to have it to ourselves until late morning, so we took the path to the eastern end, did an unnecessary but fun scramble on the two end sections then traversed most of the ridge. Luckily it was dry and fairly warm so the rock was pleasant. The final scramble to the summit could be done either via a small chimney or on the face of a rock pillar – so it had to be done twice, just to make sure all routes were explored, before we returned to the descent via the full ridge. The traverse path around the base was also worthwhile as the views were wonderful. Since there was still plenty of time to spare, we did a short walk to the coast on the way back, where we saw stone chats and heard plenty of cuckoos.
The next day saw classic Scottish cloud down to almost sea level and steady rain all day, so there was no hurry to get out. I wanted to visit a longstanding friend of my brother who lives near Dundonnell and luckily this was the only day she was free. Before going to visit her, we walked along the north side of Little Loch Broom to the village of Scoraig. The village is very interesting as it has no road access at all, though it houses some 70 people and includes a school, an information point in a lighthouse and a jetty. All of the 25 houses have wind generators and some people run businesses such as violin making from there, as well as crofting. Later we visited my brother’s friend on the other side of the loch, who also keeps sheep, spins and dyes the wool and has had a house built with timber from her own patch of forest.
The following day was dry, but with cloud on the higher tops, so we chose Cul Mor, the lowest of our intended summits (849m). Getting there and ascending to the main summit was very straightforward, but the cloud came down just before we reached the top. So some messing about with compass in the mist was required to find a secondary summit along the ridge (which gave the opportunity for minor scrambling on some slabby sandstone shelves) and the descent. We descended a different way, across to another peak (An Laogh) and saw a mountain hare on the way, as well as a group of about eight deer. No other people were around all day. We finished in good time, so visited the gear shop in Ullapool and later the Dundonnell hotel, which had lovely views of hills bathed in sunshine. The late evening sun is one of the joys of being this far north at this time of year.
After this the weather improved markedly, with clear tops and much sunshine. Our next objective was a group of munros in the Fannich range, just south of the bunkhouse. Max had done the Western ridge previously, so we headed for those on the East side of the same valley (Sgurr nan Each 923m., Sgurr nan Clach Geala 1093m. and Meall a Chrasgaidh 934m.) which comprise about half of the long day described in the Cicerone guide. We added another one, Sgurr Mor (1110m.), making a total of four munros that day. The hardest part was the long walk up the valley to start the ascent. We were supposed to follow a track and then a stalkers’ path but missed a river crossing (which was not very obvious), so had to stumble through rough ground and peat groughs to reach the saddle. Once onto the ridge it became much easier, and we were able to do the first couple of munros by lunchtime and take in the other two without any difficulty. There were large patches of snow remaining on the north side but we only needed to walk across some small sections (though one of us chose to find extra snow to wade in just for fun!). The views were extensive in all directions, including the distinctive shapes of An Teallach and Suilven. The descent off the final hillside was acceptable, through grass and heather, then we found the river crossing we had missed earlier. This was not without interest, and it was hard to imaging crossing there in wetter conditions when the river was higher. That evening we went to a waterfront pub in Ullapool which had live music and a good atmosphere, as well as a view of the harbour and hills.
The last full day was warm and sunny throughout, so we both needed to take extra water. The initial plan was to do Ben More Assynt (998m) and Conival (987m), but Max added the suggestion of a scramble on the south ridge of Conival to make a more interesting approach. We made an early start and parked at Inchnadamp, taking a track then a good path up the valley. The main path heads up to a col on the left, but we crossed the river Traligill towards the col between Conival and Breabag. This took longer than expected, as the valley narrowed into a rocky cleft, through which we had to find a route, crossing the stream at intervals.
On the way we saw a couple of ptarmigan quite close by and a lone deer. At the col, nothing resembled the guidebook description so we carried on for a while, looking at the ridge above, and stopped for a snack at a viewpoint. On approaching the ridge from there, we suddenly found the pools and shelf described in the book and were able to start up the scramble. Just as described, there were sections of nice warm rock, with good holds and friction and a few ‘delicate’ moves. Later it led over three towers, one with an interesting slab and the others with ways over the crest. The ridge finished just at the top of the mountain, a very suitable place for lunch with views over the far north-western area of Scotland.
The top of Conival was a different world, as there were several groups of people, who had come up by the main path, making it quite busy by northern Scotland standards. We found a good viewpoint for a lunch stop, then continued along the ridge to the two summits of Ben More Assynt. These tops are covered in broken white quartzite rocks, which were quite dazzling in the strong sunlight. We took pictures of the views all around before returning to the top of Conival and following the main descent path. We managed to miss part of the ridge path when it went over a small outcrop so had a more difficult descent to the valley path than intended. We finally reached the car after 8½ hours, feeling suitably tired, but very satisfied.
In the morning I just had time to take a short walk along the river near the bunkhouse, as we had been advised to look at a few bridges that had been designed and built by the engineer who built the Forth rail bridge, who used these as design models. This made an interesting diversion before setting off for the airport.
We were lucky to have such good weather this year, as northern Scotland was warm and dry for weeks on end. Those who could not come missed out on a great experience. We are already discussing the possibilities for next year, so hope that more people will attend.
Present: Max Peacock, Judy Renshaw.
Report by Judy Renshaw
Fourteen attendees at the Bunkbarn and adjacent pub this year, plus two in a good B&B billet near Buxton, and two on a caravan site the other side of the hill. The usual eclectic mix of regulars and first timers, plus three day visitors.
The attendees were James and Belinda Baldwin, Margaret and Mike O'Dwyer, Dick Murton and Lyn Warriss, Judy Renshaw, Don Hodge, Margaret Moore, Mike Goodyer, Heather Eddowes, Dave Matthews, Paul Stock, Ed Bramley, Myles O’Reilly, Andy Hayes, Andy Burton, and a potential new full member Chris Lund.
Friday afternoon saw the O'Dwyers and I arrive at the Royal Oak mid afternoon, and set off to organise Margaret a bike from Parsley Hay cycle hire. There followed a short 12 mile cycle ride along the Tissington Trail to Hartington signal box and beyond, before returning to Parsley Hay for handlebar and seat adjustment, and then ontp the pub to await the arrival of the others.
Between 6pm and 7pm members began to gather at the Royal Oak in time for a beer, and the dash to the ever welcoming fish and chip shop at Longnor.
The view of the upper Dove valley as you negotiate the first hairpin bend down towards Crowdecote is still one of the finest unspoilt road views of this part of Derbyshire and neighbouring Staffordshire. A pint in the Packhorse Arms at Crowdecote on our way back allowed me to speak to Mick the licensee, and provisionally book us in for dinner on Sunday night.
Saturday saw Ed and Chris join us early doors at the Bunkbarn, and for the various parties to decide what they were doing over ablutions and breakfast. Mike and Ed (on his new bike) set off on a 60 miler, James, Belinda and Lyn set off for a walk along the Roaches, Paul, Myles and Chris did a 20k walk from the pub over towards Monyash.(See separate reports at the end, Editor) Marcus and Michele climbed at Birchens Edge, and the rest of us set off on a 20 mile bike ride from the pub onto the Monsal Trail, taking a cross country route down to Ashford in the Water, where we sat and had lunch on the riverbank, and back over the hill by Sheldon village to Parsley Hay for Margaret 'O' to return her bike, and MJG to have a broken spoke replaced. The young man doing the repair described Mike's bike wheel as a bit of a pringle which he managed to retrue for a fiver.
Back to the Royal Oak for tea and cake and to hear what others had been up to. The usual suspects assisted me in putting up my old eight berth Vango family tent flysheet on the campsite, and everyone gathered there for a drink in the evening sun before adjoining to the Oak Room for our dinner and a couple of beers to finish. (For those who have helped me put up this tent over the years, friends and family included, you will all be pleased to know that it has gone to my charity NPAC for some lucky refugee far far away to toil over. Lucky them someone said?)
Sunday morning saw Steve Caulton and Michele and Marcus arrive and tuck into a Royal Oak big breakfast, and Andy Hayes joined us at short notice too. Michele and Marcus went climbing at Harboro Rocks, whilst the rest of us drove over to just below Mam Tor and walked half of the Edale Horseshoe. Turning left up onto Rushup Edge meant we weren't walking with the crowds. What ensued in my opinion was a classic Edale skyline walk in nigh on perfect weather in the company of friends who I have tromped these hills with many times in our formative years.
The boggy path as you turn towards the Jacobs ladder area has been stone-slabbed out as have some of the more worn parts heading up onto the edge of the Kinder Scout plateau,and after a short lunchstop sat on the heather in full sun we joined many more walkers enjoying the rock outcrops dotted all along this part of Kinder, all with individual names like the Pagoda and the aptly named Woolpacks.
Negotiating our way past Crowden Tower and the brook of the same name we made our way down the Grindsbrook which I have never seen so empty of water in its upper reaches, and on into Edale village past the Nags Head (traditional start of the Pennine Way), Paul had a look in but it was rammed, so an ice cream and a cold drink sufficed for most. Heather and Dave set the gold standard by fitting in afternoon tea and cake in Coopers Barn cafe.
We then all pressed on up underneath Mam Tor to the road gap and down to the cars. The drivers got us back in good time to get cleaned up and ready for dinner at the Packhorse where we all sat in the back garden looking across the Dove valley towards Longnor enjoying some of Mick's fine selection of ales until we were called for dinner.
Bank Holiday Monday morning saw Mike O'Dwyer celebrate his 65th Birthday, and your Committee locked in the Oak Room in earnest deliberation for a little over an hour before everyone went their separate ways. Dave and Heather went off cycling again, James and Belinda walked on Parkhouse and Chrome Hill, and Ed, Mike, Paul, Myles and I walked from the pub north along the High Peak trail to where an enterprising young farmer from Pomeroy had set himself up with a modern ice-cream van in the neighbouring field selling his farms homemade ice-creams to passersby. Onto High Wheeldon top for its 360 degree views of the area, down to the BMC owned limestone crag, Aldery Cliff, and into Earl Sterndale for a pint sat outside the Quiet Woman pub, before walking back across the fields to Hurdlow Grange and back onto the trail to the pub. A quick decamp, tea and cake to finish the weekend and home we all went.
Report by Andy Burton
Additional thoughts from attendees:
Mike O'Dwyer writes:
On the Saturday Ed Bramley and I set off on a 65 mile circular route, with 10,000 feet gain in high over the ride. The weather was very pleasant, warm, with a light breeze, the breeze became a headwind irrespective of the direction of travel. The route was fantastic showing Derbyshire off, with rolling hills, beautiful valleys and of course some steep, in fact very steep climbs.
The route took in: Chelmorton, Taddington, Millers Dale, Wheston, Peak Forrest, Perry Foot, Castleton, Bradwell, Wardlow, Little Longstone, Ashford, Youlgreave, Brassington, Bradbourne, Parwich and Hartington.
The ride took about 6.5 hours and the Royal Oak showers were very much appreciated.From James Baldwin:
The meet was initially all but cancelled. Roger and Phillip rightly deciding not to attempt the road north from Manchester via Shap Fell and the M74 both of which were seriously advised against by police and motoring organisations.
John on the other hand flying up from London could bypass this initial obstacle and our intention was to collect John at Edinburgh Airport in the late afternoon and set off up north for Killin. The weather forecast indicated heavy snow that evening with low temperatures giving rise to poor driving conditions. As the prospect of driving in the dark with heavy snow on possibly untreated roads did not appeal, we decided to abort and spend the night at home in East Lothian. Although the Edinburgh bypass had been clear on the way over to the airport to collect John it was covered in about one or two inches of snow on the way back and reduced to a single track each way with swirling heavy snow in the dark making driving difficult.
After our unscheduled hold up, we set off next morning with reasonable driving conditions up the A9, to keep to the east of the worst weather, however conditions steadily deteriorated after passing through Aberfeldy heading west. The road along the north side of Loch Tay had barely been tracked, single track most of the way. Passing any vehicles from the opposite direction was done at low speed, running into the thick cover at the sides of the road. After a pleasant light lunch in Killin we walked round to the bridge on the Falls of Dochart then on round the opposite bank of the river returning to Killin via the old railway viaduct and hence on to the hotel. (Bridge of Lochay Hotel).The day was terminated with an excellent dinner followed by nightcaps in a comfortable small lounge by a roaring fire.
Next morning with a temperature of around -5 degrees, necessitating a bit of scraping of windscreen we headed off for the hills. All the side roads were blocked by thick snow and ice making it difficult to access the hills so we returned to the hotel, left the car and headed off up Glen Lochay on foot. We took a side road which rose up through the trees and eventually enabled us to get on to the hills. We made reasonable progress after leaving the track up to one of the lower ridges giving us fair views over the surrounding Glen and the tops on the West end of the Tarmachan ridge. The sky was broken with blue and the odd snow flurry, but no wind. We observed several herds of Red Deer on the hill, easy to spot against the snow. Returning we took the alternative west road back down the Glen arriving back at the hotel as the light almost faded. We did see a further two large stags helping themselves to fodder put out for the sheep. We had been out for more than five hours.
On Friday morning we awoke to an overnight dump of snow and again low temperatures. We had intended returning home via the Glen Ogle pass to Lochearnhead and then south. Doing a walk on route. However we learned that a lorry had jack-knifed closing the road. We therefore decided to head east along Loch Tay to Pitlochry, and head for Ben Vrackie. The going was slow at first but the roads improved further east. We walked up the track from which we had good views to the west and of the summit against a blue sky. On reaching the lochan the summit now looked less than inviting with mist enveloping it. As we were running out of time to ensure John could catch his flight south we retraced our steps to the car and headed for Edinburgh.
An enjoyable few days with good weather in the main and some exciting driving.
Present: John Dempster, Jim & Margaret Strachan
Report by Jim Strachan
We had a convivial gathering of members and friends in the days between Christmas and New Year. As usual, people arrived and left on different days but for a time there were some 9 or 10 people in the hut, with Mike and Marian also popping in occasionally. It rained a fair amount while we were there, but on some other days it was clearer and enabled people to get onto the higher fells.
Howard and Richard did a local walk towards Brotherswater one day before the rest of us arrived, then Andy and friends from Nottinghamshire were there for a couple of days, as were Don and I.
On the Saturday Richard, Don and I went over some lower hills in St John’s in the Vale, which is a good option for a wet and windy day as it is low but has interesting views and makes a good circuit.
We parked at the north end of Low Rigg, went over both this top and also High Rigg, including numerous intermediate summits, and returned by a path on the East side. In this area the wind was not overly strong, and the rain only intermittent. At times we saw several groups of local people walking and Landrovers parked on the road, then later saw a pack of hounds out on the fell.
Andy and company went up to Angle Tarn in rain and wind and descended via Hayeswater. We heard later that 12 year old Ruby was one of the strongest walkers in the group!
The next day Don and I investigated part of the newly marked ‘Ullswater Way’ along the West side of the lake. In the main, this links together existing paths with regular waymark posts. The southern section includes a long established path close to the lake and continues with a newly created section beyond Glenridding to Aira Force. It then goes over Gowbarrow, following at some distance away from the lake, to below Little Mell Fell.
We began just south of this point, taking another footpath to join the main route, as we had already explored the earlier sections on various occasions. Once we had found our way through the campsite (with some difficulty) and through a wet field, we were on the waymarked path through Bennethead and Wray to Waterfoot Farm. After this there was a new section of path to Pooley Bridge. Although direction finding was easy, due to the markers, most of the path was extremely muddy, with some sections going up and down very slippery fields. The few people that we met along the way also commented on the mud and one person was covered in it, having slid down a particularly muddy field. Since it was still raining when we reached Pooley Bridge, we took advantage of the very good bus shelter in the centre to have our sandwiches and watch the activities of the town. As often happens, the ferries were cancelled due to high winds. We returned on a path closer to the lake, below several hotels and activity centres, which was less muddy but not continuous as you have to walk along short stretches of road. It made an interesting day out without going too far or too high.
Most of the others did indoor activities that day, except Howard who went up to Red tarn and back via Glenridding and Patterdale. John Kentish of AC and his friend Diana arrived before we left, and went out with Marian and Mike the next day.
Overall, the meet was relaxed, friendly and everyone enjoyed themselves, making a good opportunity for a break from the Christmas and New Year festivities.
Present: Richard Hampshire, Howard Telford, Andy Burton, Claire, Ruby, Jane, Jos, Don Hodge, Judy Renshaw. (Also John Kentish (AC) and Diana, Mike and Marian)
Report by Judy Renshaw
Eight participants gathered on the Friday evening at the Highland Hotel in Strathpeffer. Saturday morning dawned with the appearance of promising weather so we were all anxious to “head for the hills” soon after breakfast.
On the Saturday, Margaret and Jim drove west to Glen Carron and climbed Moruisg (928m) in fair weather, until reaching the summit ridge where they encountered very strong winds making walking difficult. Rain on the descent ensured they arrived back at the car in a rather damp state. They had a good day nonetheless.
Marj, John, Jay and Peter climbed a Graham, Carn na Coinnic (673m), by a good estate road
from Bridgend in Strathconon that was followed up to around 600m then a traverse up boggy
ground to the summit. Descent was by the same route. The weather was warm and windy,
but manageable except near summit where the wind was cold and strong but the group
found shelter just below the summit for lunch.
They then drove to the end of the public road and walked along the glen westwards and back for a mile or so.
Roger and I climbed a Corbett, An Sidhean (814m), from the Monar dam in upper Glen Strathfarrar. This hill is situated in very remote country north of Loch Monar and the summit area does have that feeling of remoteness. Our route was along Loch Monar’s north shore past Monar Lodge. Very wet underfoot and windy on the summit.
This area is the location for Iain Thomson’s book, “Isolation Shepherd”. He moved to Strathmore on Loch Monar in the 1950s with his young family and the book is a moving and interesting account of the shepherd’s life. Well worth reading. Alas, his home was submerged under the waters of Loch Monar when it was later dammed for a hydro scheme.
On the Sunday Margaret, Jim, Jay and Peter had a pleasant drive up Strathconon to just
short of Inverchoran Farm, where they left the car. The party climbed another Graham,
Beinn Mheadhoin (663m), by a stalker’s path and very old cairns all the way to the summit,
again in fair weather and with extensive views from the summit. A strong buffeting wind soon
brought in heavy rain clouds and a hurried descent. Again, they had a very wet interlude
necessitating the donning of over-trousers after they were already wet, this was a more
prolonged episode of wind and rain. Wet and soggy, they drove back down the glen taking a
detour over the dam on a small side road to Contin.
Then a walk around upper Strathpeffer to admire the architecture of the Victorian villas, before supper.
Marj and John opted for a “low level” excursion on the Sunday, they took a lovely, windy walk on Dornoch beach.
Roger and I climbed another Corbett, Little Wyvis (764m), on the Sunday. The weather would best be described as “gloomy” with the top shrouded in cloud and a very strong, cold wind which hastened our descent from the summit cairn. Very wet underfoot.
An excellent weekend where the walking, the accommodation and the company was most agreeable despite the mixed weather.
Present: Peter Farrington, Marj and John Foster, Roger James, Margaret and Jim Strachan, Jay Turner, Philip Hands
Report by Philip Hands
I can’t believe that it’s a year already since our last visit to the Brecon Beacons, but there we were to enjoy them again. The meet was held once again at the New Inn at Bwlch which is a Bunkhouse with ensuite pub!
As if by magic the Friday afternoon walk participants all arrived at the Bunkhouse within five minutes of one another. Amazing considering they were coming from Devon, Hampshire, Wiltshire and Nottinghamshire. Once we had deposited our bags in the rooms we set off on what is fast becoming a Friday afternoon fixture walk. This walk leaves Bwlch via a path past the old church, now someone’s home, to reach the ridge which passes to the east of Llangors Lake. The weather was kind with sun and clouds allowing us to view the north edge of the Brecon Beacons winding its way to the west and the Black Mountains to the east. The ridge is approximately 5km in length from Bwlch to the pass at the far end. We stopped for lunch at the small pond just off the summit of Mynydd Llangorse.
There are splendid views across to southern Herefordshire countryside. At the pass at the far end of the ridge we took the rather muddy bridleway south along the bottom of eastern slope of the ridge until we could regain the ridge via a steep path. We retraced our steps back to the Bunkhouse for the evening meal and some refreshments with the remaining weekend participants.
On Saturday we decided to try a different approach to ascending the major Beacons peaks. We drove to the car park at the northern end of the Celn Cwm Llwch ridge, just south of Brecon.
After a dodgy start (my fault) we made our way onto the ridge and followed it to the top of Pen y Fan. Once again the weather had been reasonably kind with an overcast day but still giving cloud free summits. The view from the top of this very popular mountain is amazing in all directions. However, you have to share it with around 50 or so like minded individuals.
We followed the normal Brecon Beacons horseshoe path to the summit of Cribyn. At the summit the team split with the majority following the horseshoe path to Fan y Big and three intrepid adventurers (gluttons for punishment) who went down the Bryn Teg ridge for a while before cutting down to the old roman road to follow it back to the pass between Cribyn and Fan y Big. The group rejoined on the summit of Fan y Big and then descended the Cefn Cyff ridge to its northern end.
Unfortunately the group split by accident taking two routes back to the car park. One via the roads with occasional footpaths and the others via a longer path which followed the tips of the northern ridges. The later route involved a very dodgy “ford” crossing. Once reunited at the car park we returned to the Bunkhouse for some much needed sustenance.
On Sunday we left the Bunkhouse to travel to Gospel Pass for a walk involving Offas Dyke. Amazingly we managed to get all our cars parked in the small upper car park and set off towards Hay Bluff.
At the summit we headed south east along the Offas Dyke path. After approximately 4.5km we reached the pile of stones and headed west on the path to the bottom of the valley containing Llanthony Priory.
Lunch was taken in the valley and then we followed the path up to the western ridge at Blacksmiths Stones. The well trodden path north east passes Twyn Talycefn and allows views of the Grwyne Fawr reservoir. Once we reached the northern edge of the Black Mountains we made our way to the summit of Twmpa (Lord Herefords Knob). On arrival at the summit we were met by the most spectacular view of the suns rays shining through the clouds which had drawn quite a crowd.
We made our way back to the car park at Gospel Pass for our fond farewells after an extremely busy weekend which had culminated in quite a late finish. I would like to thank all of the meet participants and thank them for their enjoyable company. I’m already looking forward to our next Brecon Beacons meet but how do I manage to top those walks?
Present: Paul Stock, Andy Burton, Steve Caulton, Mike Goodyer, Belinda and James Baldwin, Heather Eddowes, Mary Eddowes, Myles O'Reilly, Jonny Dixon, Daniel Albert, Rachel Howlett, Dave Matthews, Nanette Archer
Report by Paul Stock
It was decided that we would not do too much travelling to reach the starts of the two walks. On Saturday we took the picturesque bus ride from Beer to Sidmouth. This is no ordinary bus ride as it goes via Branscombe, which involves narrow lanes with about 6 inches space between the bus and hedges. This problem is compounded by bends and steep hills so not much fun for approaching vehicles but entertaining to us passengers admiring the driver’s negotiating skills.
We took the coastal path back to Beer a distance of 9 miles so not far but described in the guide as severe then strenuous as there are high cliffs intersected by deep narrow valleys. In all we climbed 925 metres so quite like a mountain day. Unlike a mountain day we enjoyed our sandwiches on the beach.
On Sunday we drove westwards to Bowd north of Sidmouth for a shorter walk up to Harpford Common enabling those with time to make the journey on. There were many fine views of coast and countryside. Hedges and pasture were still in their summer glory so we were surrounded by splendid greenness as well as blackberries to keep our energy up.
We had clearness on both days. On Saturday we did have to don waterproofs for a little while but the rain was nothing like that forecasted. It had been yet another good ABM Meet.
Present: Antonia Barlen, John Dempster, Heather Eddowes, David, Margaret Moore, Max and Vivien Peacock, Dinah Nichols, James and Belinda Baldwin
Report by Belinda Baldwin
I had previously visited the Pirin mountains with a friend who has an apartment in Bansko, the main town, and had met Liz Alderson who has recently set up a new company for trekking and other activities, Pirin Adventures. It seemed like an ideal opportunity for ABMSAC members to experience these mountains with people who know them, who could provide support, logistics and accommodation.
Marian and Mike spent a couple of days in Sofia, the capital, to recover from the early morning flight and look around, before most of us went out to Bulgaria. Liz met us at Sofia airport, picked up Marian and Mike then took us to Bansko where we stayed in comfortable rooms in apartments adjacent to hers. Some people had a look around town that afternoon (and managed to find a suitable bar) while the rest of us settled in, had tea and cake and went over the itinerary for the week. We were provided with excellent dinners every night, a more than adequate breakfast and food to pack up for lunch every day, as well as tea and cake in the afternoons.
Every day but one was sunny and warm, so most people wore shorts much of the time. The first day turned out to be the longest, as we went quite slowly with many stops and it all took longer than anticipated. We started at the Vihren hut at the top of a long mountain road. There were many people and cars, as it was a Sunday, but they gradually dispersed as we went further away from the road. A good path took us up into a valley with several beautiful lakes, then up to a col. Liz and her dog, Charlie, came with us part of the way before turning back but the two people working with her, Niki and Hristo, came with us all the way.
The next day was an easier walk so we managed to be better organised, with an informal split into a faster and a slower group, with Niki and Hristo taking turns to join each group. We started lower down near the west side of Bansko at Predel, where Liz dropped us off, then she took one car round and walked across with Charlie to collect the other one later. We went up through forest for a few hours, had several rest stops in sunny places and found masses of raspberries near a river. Ed managed to get a photo of an eagle in flight, which had been circling above. We came to a col with views and descended to a valley then over a saddle to the Yavarov hut, where we all tried the local Bulgarian tea. Liz had driven up a long track and took most people down in the car. Ed, Niki, Hristo and I did a rapid descent on a forest path for 45 minutes to collect the second car and managed to arrive back at base just before the others.
We had intended to do a challenging route the next day along the Concheto ridge from Yavarov, but the weather prevented us from achieving this. The forecast was for very strong wind and low cloud but it kept changing so we headed up to the Vihren hut to attempt it from the other end. The cloud was very low, obscuring the ridge and all the main peaks and the wind strong. This was the only day we needed warm clothes and waterproofs. Ed and I set off with Niki and Charlie the dog (but Charlie was determined to go back from the start so Niki had to go down to return him to Liz). As it turned out, he had made the right decision, since we only managed to get as far as the saddle, where the wind was blowing us over and gusting even more strongly, with horizontal rain in our faces making it hard to see. We went up the first part then turned back, meeting the others somewhere below the saddle. The only other group we had met attempting to go up had also turned back. Lower down it was pleasant enough to stop for lunch in a sheltered place, before meeting up with Marian who had done some sketching from a viewpoint nearby. Back in Bansko it was still warm and sunny so a relaxing afternoon was had by all, reading, sketching and drying clothes in the sun.
The following day was intended to be a rest day but, since we had rested a fair amount already and had failed to do Vihren, the highest peak (2914m), four of us felt like having a go at it. Liz very kindly lent us her second car and Ed volunteered to drive it up the mountain road, so we set off at our usual early time. Since it was a weekday there were no crowds at the hut this time. We went up the path that was already familiar, now with sunshine and views, and made good time to the summit, 15 minutes less than the guide time, including several rests. We descended part way and found a good sheltered spot for lunch near the saddle. We then explored the next minor peak, Hvoynati (2635m), and its ridge before returning down the main path. Marian and Mike had taken the cable car and walked from there to a hut at Bandaritsa for lunch. That evening we ate at a very nice restaurant in town, where we had some typical Bulgarian dishes, plenty of salads and side dishes, wine and beer for an absurdly cheap price.
For the last two days we did an excursion to a more remote area of the Pirin and stayed overnight in the Tevno Esero Hut. We set off once again from the Vihren hut, with Liz and Charlie accompanying us as far as the main ridge above the lakes. The weather was great, sunshine and a little cloud. We took a path past the ‘frog lake’ and a long lake, and stopped for an early lunch before ascending a couple of boulder fields to the ridge.
The hut is in a spectacular position among the high mountains, on the edge of a small lake. What it lacks in facilities it makes up for in the setting, so people took plenty of photos, including some of the stars at night. There were a couple of other groups at the hut but it was not full. Dinner in the hut was adequate but unexciting.
The morning temperature was not far above freezing so a cold wash was somewhat bracing. After a fairly early start and breakfast of sort-of fried dough breads with honey, a Bulgarian hut speciality (I opted to eat supplies I had brought with me instead), we set off up to a ridge on the other side. There were some boulder fields to cross but shorter than yesterday’s. We passed more lakes and through valleys, below the peak of Bezbog to the lake and hut of the same name, in time for lunch.
After a rest, it was a leisurely walk down through forest to a lower hut, where Liz and Charlie were waiting for us. That evening we had a very jovial dinner, with excellent food as usual, and said our goodbyes to Hristo, Niki and Liz, who had organised such a great week for us.
We gave them some bottles of vodka as a thank you and hope we may meet again some time.
Present: Mike Parsons, Marian Parsons, Ed Bramley, David Seddon, Myles O’Reilly, Judy Renshaw
Support provided by Liz Alderson and Pirin Adventures, with assistance from Niki and Hristo. Hristo also provides accommodation in the Rhodope mountains (see website for ‘visitRhodopes’).
Five of us made it to the hut for this week. Max arrived on the Monday and stayed most of the week, Heather, Dave and I were there from Wednesday to Friday and Howard joined us on the Thursday and stayed a few days. We had a very enjoyable time in excellent company and managed some very good days out in the hills. The weather was a mix of very good and partly wet days, better than might have been expected on the basis of this month so far, and almost always better than the forecast.
We woke on Thursday to bright sunshine and clear hills so Helvellyn had to be visited (Dave’s first time there!). We took the ridge route by Birkhouse Moor, which has some of my favourite views over Ullswater, up to Swirral Edge and were on top for an early lunch in the shelter. The crowds were amassing on Striding Edge, so we were glad not to be among them or queueing for the ‘bad step’.
The next morning was not nearly as good, with steady rain for some hours in the morning, so many changes of plan were made. After much discussion, Heather and Dave took the steamer to Howtown and walked back along the lake, Max took the bus to Pooley Bridge to walk back along the new lakeside path on the West side and Howard went to do one of more obscure Wainwright tops near Bassenthwaite. I put off the decision for a while by visiting the local art exhibition in Glenridding in which many of Marian’s paintings were on display; it was well worth a visit. Then I went over most of the various tops on Place Fell having gone up via the Hare Shaw path. The weather improved from about midday onwards, making it an enjoyable walk with pretty good views.
The evenings were almost busy as the days, with some work in the hut, including making decisions about the pictures on the walls. After a pub meal on Wednesday we played a new card game of Heather’s (a kind of complicated version of Snap) which was challenging and fun. The next evening saw us all sorting through all of the reading material on the bookshelves, sifting and deciding what to keep.
Present: Heather Eddowes, Dave Matthews, Max Peacock, Howard Templeton, Judy Renshaw
Report by Judy Renshaw
This year’s hotel meet based in Selva Gardena was attended by 34 members, the most on any hotel summer meet since the club’s centenary in 2009. Fortunately the sunshine stayed with us the whole week, and this, combined with the beautiful setting, variety of walks, and excellent hotel, made the meet a great success. Despite the attraction of Ötzi the Iceman being in the museum at nearby Bolzano, very few of us managed a visit, although some did go there in the days before or after the meet.