Recent trip reports

There were some great weekend trips in the first three months of 2020, followed by a long coronavirus dictated pause, until we were at long last able to have another weekend away in July.

1. North Wessex Downs AONB (July 2020)

Seven Ibexers assembled at the Newbury Tot Travelodge for the first weekend event to be held since lockdown. This was the first time that a Travelodge had been a weekend base.

On Saturday morning we set out on a 16 mile invigorating anticlockwise circular route of the North Wessex Downs AONB, which had been carefully crafted by David W. The route skirted Old Burghclere, Watership Down, Kingsclere and Echinswell. It took us along disused railway lines, downs, and training gallops and included ascending to a trig high point of some 230 metres before a judiciously timed lunch-stop on the descent. There had been the occasional shower in the morning and it became progressively wetter throughout the course of the afternoon. At that point, it was decided to support local business by taking shelter in the Star Inn in Kingsclere.

The next day dawned brighter; there were sunny intervals with only the occasional drizzle. Those familiar with the TV serial Downton Abbey would have recognised Highclere Castle which was included in the bracing eight mile Sunday walk. There were some fantastic views of the castle and the parkland offered some great vistas with an in-flight hawk being observed. After exiting the park, the Group struck out into the North Wessex Downs once again, reaching Old Burghclere. The trail took us through green, rain-freshened valleys, woods and fields.

It had been great to be out walking in the verdant countryside once again after lockdown.

walk pictureAuthor: Stephen J

2. Strong winds in Snowdonia (March 2020)

Over a glorious Friday afternoon we made our way West to Glan Dena, the wonderfully equipped MAM bunkhouse in the Ogwen valley. It was still sunny when I arrived in the late afternoon although a stiffening wind blew cats paws along Llyn Ogwen and promised worse to come; the forecast for the weekend was wild.

Two walks were planned for Saturday: John J-M to lead a party up Cwm Tryfan to take in Gylder Fach and then retreat to Capel Curig along the ridge and return home at low level along a the Nany Y Benglog track; David W set his route up Pen Y Ole Wen and on to Carnedd Dafydd before dropping down to a Bethesda pub and then back to base.

n the Glyderau party we made quick progress up a reasonably sheltered Cwm Tryfan but needed to kick steps to climb out of the cwm, after which we experienced the full might of the gale. I was very glad we decided to save Glyder Fach for another day as it was tough enough tackling the broad ridge down with the wind and rain at our backs. In challenging conditions for navigation, John steered us round and our mood lifted as we dropped out of the cloud with a view over Capel Curig as we ate lunch.

The Carnedd Daffydd walk was up onto Pen Yr Ole Wen, with a short easy scramble en route, then in mist and strong, gusty winds on to Carnedd Daffydd, where we sheltered for a brief snack, then down in mist, wind and rain towards Bethesda via the Mynydd Du ridge. Fine navigation work by David W got us to Bethesda where we split, one party going to a pub, whilst four of us battled strong winds along Nant Francon to Ogwen Cottage then back to Glan Dena. The others followed a little after, but were caught by late rain.

A much depleted group made it out for a walk on the Sunday up our second Foel Goch of the weekend (this one in The Arenigs), it was good to stretch out the legs after the previous day's activity prior to the long journey home.

walk pictureAuthor: Ben N

3. Three Corbett attempts - Lochearnhead (February 2020)

The plan for the long weekend was for us (David, Susan, Karen, Nina, Tony) to fly up on Thursday evening staying at Holiday Inn Glasgow Airport, then Friday to Sunday climb a Corbett a day staying at Clachan Lodge, Lochearnhead before returning back to Glasgow airport for flights home Sunday night.

On Friday morning we drove to Beinn Stacach. We set off with rain, crossed some boggy ground and a river before starting the ascent. As we got higher the rain became snow and underfoot soon it was very deep snow. Slow going, with daylight fading we were still about 100m short of the summit yet it have could been an hour or more walking so we had to turn back, really poor visibility by then almost white out so we relied on the GPS to safely get back down. It was dark by the time we got back to the cars.

On Saturday morning we were joined by two friends of David and Susan. The seven of us set off walking from the hotel, heading for two adjacent Corbetts, Creag Mac Ranaich and Meall an t-Seallaid. Once again as we got higher the snow thickened. For the first of the two summits you need to ascend some steep gullies between crags. We gave it a good try but as we got higher it was too steep and we couldn't find a decent route up without any protection. Getting late in the day we turned back battered by some strong winds.

The Sunday forecast was for high winds in the afternoon, so we had a change of plan and opted for Ben Ledi, which David knew had a good path to the summit. We set off in rain, with quite a lot of snow underfoot as we ascended. Still short of the ridge the wind strengthened dramatically, almost knocking people over. At final rest stop before an ascent onto the ridge we chatted to many groups who had been forced back. Unfortunately there wasn't any chance of us summiting that day.

walk pictureAuthor: Tony S

4. Night Navigation in the Black Mountains (January 2020)

First we practised a bit of pacing up and down the road outside, to the bemusement of a passing motorist, before launching ourselves into the vast darkness beyond the street lights.

We started with a steep ascent through woods, each of us peering in the torchlight at, first the map, and then the ground, to make sure we really were on the path and going the right way.

Things got hairier when we emerged onto the hillside. Our objective, a trig point about 2 km further on and off the track, seemed like an invisible needle in an impenetrably black haystack. Miraculously, we pitched up pretty close to the trig point, which we could then dimly make out on the skyline. How? By counting paces to measure the distance covered and, when we hit rough ground, using each other to 'leapfrog' (ie one of us walked 50 metres ahead on a compass bearing with the rest checking and then catching up).

The lights of Crickhowell, just about the only thing visible below the skyline, looked a long way below and the wind was biting so we moved quickly on to the next target, the corner of a wood. To make sure we didn't miss this in the dark we 'aimed off' - heading for the body of the wood and, when the trees loomed up eerily in the torchlight, following the fence along to the corner. There we snatched a hot drink and bite to eat, but by this time it was snowing, so we didn't hang about and after a bit of stumbling steeply down through rough bracken (tricky when you can't see what you're walking on) we hit the path that took us down to a road. Plain sailing from there.

We walked into the cottage to the sound of popping corks - celebration time! Not because we'd survived (though that too), it just happened to be my birthday.

walk pictureAuthor: Judith B

5. Ribblehead in the rain (January 2020)

A welcome return however to Gauber bunkhouse that Heather described in the visitor's book as "the best bunkhouse in the world" (they provide flapjacks, a wood burner and duvets).

Two walks on Saturday firstly led by Dave who took his Merry bunch on his 11 mile "Lollipop" route. Meanwhile, Heather took the rest of us on the Harry Potter express to Dent.

As the day progressed, we were assailed by 50mph gales and got utterly drenched. Waterproof trousers inflated in the wind, threatening to take us off like Mary Poppins. Every little gap then seemed to let in water with hands swimming in a pool of water at the bottom of gloves.

The Drying Room worked overtime that night and all agreed it was the wettest day ever (well, since the last wettest day ever).

Sunday dawned much more peacefully, and I led the group up Whernside.

Nine members of the group stayed over Sunday night as the trains weren't running and all agreed we should do this more often.walk pictureAuthor: Cathy C