Despite the difficulties caused by coronavirus, we were able to run some great trips in 2020.
This was my first experience of a socially distanced budget hotel Ibex weekend. We were staying at the Premier Inn in Little Witcombe.
The weather on Saturday was glorious and we divided up into three groups for the walk leaving at 10-minute intervals. The steep climb up to Crickley Hill at the beginning reminded me that this is the land of cheese rolling. The landscape is clearly designed for chasing cheeses down steep hills. The conditions underfoot were remarkably muddy and slippery. We walked on along the Cotswold Way enjoying spectacular views of Cheltenham and the surrounding hills. As we came down off the ridge we crossed the A436 and spotted one of the sources of the Thames just off the road in a depression. From Coberley, we walked through beautiful Coldwell Bottom (despite its name) and then back up to the ridge to make our way back to Little Witcombe. We arrived back at the Premier Inn just as the light was beginning to fade. Perfect timing - time for a hot bath - ah what luxury! - and dinner at the Beefeater.
Sunday promised heavy rain and indeed it delivered. David, Judith, Zahidah, Jim and Viv ventured forth for a walk in the drizzle and cold breeze to discover that the conditions underfoot were worse that what they were experiencing from above. It was exceedingly muddy and, apart from slithering around, they encountered route finding difficulties due to fallen trees across their path. Despite the convivial company, a decision was made to shorten the walk with an added bonus of finding a church lych gate in which to have a coffee.
Janette and I decided to explore the cultural delights of Gloucester. The Cathedral is indeed spectacular and the Welsh cakes for sale on the docks are delicious.
Despite the restrictions the weekend was, as ever, thoroughly enjoyable and I am looking forward to more.Author: Heather M
Ben, Judith and I [Tor] met up with the Crianlarich group (David & Susan, Nina, Patrick, and Matt) on Sunday evening at Ben More Lodge ready to start waking the next day.
From Monday to Wednesday the visibility was mainly good with some rain and mist. The wind was strong at the start but moderating and becoming colder. Snow on tops from Tuesday. The Corbetts demanded a long slog up often through boggy ground. However, the views from the tops were magnificent.
On Monday, the whole group went up Ben Nan Imirean (419310 on OS Landranger 51) after driving a short distance and parking the cars at 425268 - then about 1.5 km along road to start of track - northwards about 2.5 km - from 441298, 3000 to summit - down same way ~ 7.5 km & 600m ascent took about 4h.
On Tuesday, most of the group went up Meall Nan Subh (461398 on OS Landranger 51) after a drive to a car park 476368 - then about 1 km to track 466364 - 3 km along track then 0700 for 1.5 km to summit - down same way ~ 11 km & 600m took about 5 and a half hours.
On Wednesday, most of the group did Sron a' Choire Chnapanaich 456454 and Meall Buidhe 428451 (OS Landranger 51) after driving to parking spot at 463420 - track to hairpin - northwards to summit 1 - down to col 434442 - northwards up ridge - contoured round to summit 2 - down southwards to meeting of streams 425429 - west side of stream to Loch Lyon - along path by Loch to cars ~ 15 km & 800m took about 6h.
Thursday saw most of the group driving along Loch Tay, up the road beside Ben Lawers. and stopping in a layby a couple of miles short of Glen Lyon. We arrived just in time as a landranger subsequently came up the road and we were questioned by a head game-stalker on where we were going; he said our route up Beinn nan Oighreag wasn't the normal route (he obviously hadn't read the Cicerone Corbett guidebook) but was happy to take his clients further up the valley.
Unlike the preceding days, we had a well-defined track all the way up to the summit. There were excellent views all day, especially of the Ben Lawers range. After returning the same way there was time for tea and scones at the Killin Hotel.
The weather was improving through the week and Friday and Saturday were no exceptions. Blue skies were appearing and the mornings were blessed with cloud inversions. And a bonus on Thursday, on the lower slopes of Beinn a' Bhuiridh beside Loch Awe, I [David] spotted a brocken spectre (a circular rainbow with your shadow in the middle). Beinn a' Bhuiridh turned out to be a long pathless slog up a broad ridge, but the great views across Loch Awe and towards Ben Cruachan made it worthwhile.
By Sunday morning the weather had turned, but it didn't matter as we were all heading home. Although the week had started wet and windy, it turned out to be a very productive Corbett-bagging week!Author: Tor A, David W
On Thursday 30th Oct, after an interesting journey including high winds standing water and a near miss with a deer in the Pass of Glencoe, I [Matt] was the first to arrive at the Clachaig Inn, while the others were travelling by plane & car to Glasgow then onward.
The weather forecast for Friday was OK, to be followed by a series of Atlantic storms, so I decided to tackle Stob Dubh with Stob Coire Raineach if time permitted.
A straightforward hike up the hill with sunshine & cloud bringing the hills into relief with a slight worry that the other walkers were all heading downhill, despite the sunshine. By the time I got to the col on the main ridge at 1200, broken cloud base was down to less than 1000m, with some heavy looking showers in view, although Rannoch Moor was still in sun. Up onto the ridge for an exhilarating mile in a strong breeze & some stinging sleet. The rewards were spectacular, with dramatic cloud and sun lighting the view down Glen Etive from the end of the ridge. Back along the ridge and had to decide to leave Stob Coire Raineach for another day.
The first batch of us [Susan, David, Nina & myself (Patrick)] congregated at the Holiday Inn at GLA for a quiet alcohol-free dinner before setting off towards Glencoe and our first Corbett target after breakfast on Friday morning. Sadly, a stream was in in spate and it wasn't practical to wade across; instead we made do with a decent forest walk in the pleasant late autumnal weather.
Off then to the Clachaig - not the usual fun filled and buzzy Clachaig we are used to but the food was good and the welcome friendly, we enjoyed a permitted drink outdoors followed by a very socially distanced dinner washed down with the finest Highland Spring water.
On Saturday, as the weather was best described as challenging, we decided to forego what would have been a futile attempt at a Corbett and settled for a leg stretching local walk and coffee shop stop in the village. Glencoe revealed a few hidden gems that I'd not seen before and we even encountered a hardy newly-wed couple in full wedding gear having their photos taken in the gale by the loch.
Sunday was more promising weather wise though just about, we decided to approach the same Corbett attempted on Friday but from an approach that avoided the stream, we made progress but as we became more exposed to the elements it was decided that it was one for another day given the gale force winds. We settled then for a short coffee stop at the seaside town of Oban where I had my first sighting of the imposing late 19th century McCaigh's Tower whose architecture is influenced by the Colosseum in Rome.
Off then to the welcoming Ben More Lodge hotel in Crianlarich where we met the final joiners [Ben W, Judith, Tor] for the week ahead.Author: Matt M, Patrick T
Catriona and I arrived early and, finding the hostel owner still in the throes of Covid-deep cleaning, spent a couple of hours walking to and back from Abney, a picturesque hamlet we could see on the other side of the valley from the hostel. A lovely walk, though it involved blundering around in the deep and thickly wooded Bretton Clough, before we found the path out.
Dinner that night was at the old oak-beamed Barrel Inn, just five minutes walk away. That was probably the closest we got to each other as, with only five of us in a hostel that sleeps 18, we were well and truly socially distanced in our eating and sleeping arrangements. The hostel is one of the best: perched 1200ft up on a ridge with great views, comfortable accommodation, nice decor and a roaring log fire in the main room.The next day Heather led us on a beautifully varied 14-mile walk, starting from Ashford. We threaded through steep-sided wooded dales glowing with autumnal colours, climbed up onto the open pastures, made our way through a tunnel on the dismantled Monsal Dale railway line, braved a rather exposed clifftop path (which was probably 'closed' though that wasn't made clear) and took in a swimming spot (strictly Heather and Karen only) at the foot of the magnificent Monsal Head viaduct, before heading back over the tops via Bakewell. We rounded off the day with a delicious meal including, of course, Bakewell Tart.
Catriona's walk on Sunday, equally varied, started with a descent into Bretton Clough, quickly dubbed the Bretton Triangle as we found the same trouble finding a way out as on Friday. We finally hit the right path up onto Eyam moor, where we stopped to enjoy the great all-round views. From there we dropped into Eyam and fought our way out through a thicket of Coronavirus warning notices - but it's perhaps not surprising Eyam is a bit touchy about plagues!
A path across the fields took us to Foolow and then, finding the right of way up to Bretton blocked, we climbed over the locked gate, only to find when we got to the top that it was officially closed due to 'ground' problems, a hangover from the local lead mining perhaps.
The walking, the food and the company were all excellent, and even the weather was kind, holding off any real rain except for the last twenty minutes of Saturday's walk.Author: Judith B
On the Friday evening, Sue, David, June, Viv, George and myself convened at Brimble Cottage, an attractively converted spacious granite stone barn near Widecombe-in-the-Moor for what was to be a very enjoyable weekend "Touring the Tors" of Dartmoor.
On Saturday, our hike first followed the Two Moors way to Hameldown Tor via some bronze age barrows. Other than one or two other groups of six and a few dog walkers there were few people out on this part of the moor. Mid-morning, the sun came up and there were fantastic undisturbed views for miles over the tors. There are 160 tors on Dartmoor and it was exceptionally rare that we were not in sight of at least one during the two days hiking.
Turning eastwards, we had lunch at the Jay's Grave, supposedly the last resting place of a suicide victim who is thought to have died in the late 18th century and has become a well-known landmark where flowers are often left.
After lunch,we turned southwards to Hound Tor, which inspired the Hound of the Baskerville's writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The bleak volcanic rock-strewn landscape reminded me of Iceland. We opted for the abridged version of the route at this point and headed towards the Old Inn in Widecombe. After refreshing beverages, we made our way back to Brimble cottage up a rather steep and memorable hill.
Our next day's planned route started crossing stepping stones at Dartmeet but due to recent rainfall, these were slippery and wet so we decided instead to circle from Dartmeet to South of Laughter Tor and then onto Laughter Hole Farm. Onto Bellever Forest, we skirted and then crossed the East Dart River. One of Dartmoor's features are clapper bridges, which is an ancient form of stone bridge and we saw a fine example of one at these at this river crossing.
Crossing Cator Common by road we came onto some thatched buildings at Sherwell. As we rounded the hill, we then had a fantastic autumnal view of the Dart valley before we descended through wreaths of golden bracken and green gorse to the car park at Badger's Holt. After coffee and ice cream we sped home after what had been an eight-mile hike.Author: Stephen J
The 'rule of six' had forced our numbers down from eight, but it felt like a minor miracle for the six of us (David & Susan, Nigel & Susan and Phinella and Nina) to be able to spend a week in Assynt. Reiff seems about as far from the troubles of the world as it is possible to go currently. To get there you drive for about 45 minutes down single-track roads, where the sheep only move out your way slowly and reluctantly. We were staying at the house at the very end of the road with sea on one side and loch on the other. Nigel and Susan saw seals (or maybe otters) playing in the loch the first morning - it was that kind of a place.
On Sunday the weather was fine, though not especially warm. We met up with Saaj and Tom (his lodger) in the Stac Pollaich car park to climb Cul Beag. Apart from a traverse along a steepish slope, it was very straightforward with fantastic views of Stac Pollaich and Suilven and lochs and islands galore.
On Monday, Nigel & Susan walked from the cottage and the rest of us went up Cul Mor, following a clear path which became rather unclear once we entered a boulderfield. It was windier and wetter so we didn't stop as much and were down in time for cake in the cafe in Elphin, followed by a drink in the pub at Achiltibuie.
Tuesday the weather was absolutely gorgeous - a perfect day for the magnificent Quinag. Quinag unusually has three Corbetts. We all went up the first Corbett (Spidean Coinich) and David & Susan, Phinella and Nina did the three. There were some lovely ridges and huge views with mountains, lochs and sea (shades of blue and silver).
As forecast, Wednesday dawned blustery and rainy and was by agreement a rest day. It began with a leisurely cooked breakfast courtesy of David and Susan and was followed by walks along the sea-shore near the cottage. Sandstone cliffs were interspersed with small sandy bays which would have been very inviting on a sunny day. In the afternoon Susan drove Nina and me to Achiltibuie where nothing much was happening and then to Lochinver by a scenic single- track road through woods. Lochinver is in a majestic bay and has a renowned pie shop but most shops were shut and the rain was falling steadily.
On Thursday we all set off to climb another Corbett, Canisp. The weather was much better although still overcast and chilly. The hill proved to be a straightforward ascent up stony slopes at an easy gradient. The murky conditions prevented us getting the views of Suilven which are a feature of the route.
Friday proved to be the best weather day of the week with wall to wall sunshine and little wind. David and Susan went to climb two nearby Grahams, Ben Mor Coigach and Sgurr an Fhidhleir, with a narrow ridge, tor-like rock formations and magnificent views of Stac Pollaidh. Nigel and Susan went for a 10-kilometre coastal walk and Nina and I decided to climb another Assynt Corbett, Glas Bheinn. This proved to be quite a short but challenging ascent up steep grass to a col and then up a precipitous boulder-strewn slope onto a ridge. From there it was an easy stroll to the summit plateau and cairn. We had stunning views of the massive bulk of Quinag, our destination on Tuesday, and out to sea beyond. We found an easier though still steep descent route from the ridge and had to abandon the plan for a second Corbett due to lack of time.
That evening we all celebrated a successful week with a meal at the Am Fuaran Bar in Altandhu near our cottage. The dark brown decor was straight out of the Seventies but the food was good with excellent seafood in particular. As we left a Friday night party was getting under way with a very urban sound system blasting out. Back at the cottage we toasted a very successful and enjoyable week with Prosecco.Author: Nina C. Phinella H
And so began our first socially-distanced bunkhouse weekend. Nine of us convened at Anglesey Outdoors on Holy Island - an island off an island (the isle of Anglesey).
Saturday morning Judith led the group on a circuit north of the bunkhouse circling the Holyhead Mountain (all of 220m) over to Holyhead and back. We had a mixture of sunshine and cloud but it was very windy keeping temperatures down to an unseasonal 14C. On the way, we met Hebridean Black Sheep, tourists come to look at the South Stack lighthouse and climbers abseiling down the North Stack. Visibility was clear and we reckoned we could see the Isle of Man to the North, the Lleyn Peninsular to the South and just about make out the coast of Ireland to the West. We reached Holyhead mid-afternoon - a town full of decay and bored teenagers. Although we did decamp to a cafe for cupcakes and scones when rain threatened.
Sunday morning Cathy led us on a circuit south of the bunkhouse through the little seaside town of Trearddur where we just missed the local lifeboat being launched on a callout. We then hacked inland south-west across the island getting lost through caravan parks and bog. Catriona had bought along her little book of wildflowers and we spotted vetch, yarrow, red campion, broom, sloes, honeysuckle berries, the inevitable blackberries and sea tomatoes.
Once we reached the coast again we were rewarded with the most magnificent views of Snowdonia. We then followed the coast path back to Trearddur and our bunkhouse. We passed beaches with paddle boarders and kayakers with Mags and Kylie disappearing for a paddle (although only up to their knees). Susan was on a mission to have ice-cream which we eventually found in Trearddur.
Judith, Catriona and Cathy were staying on for another night and Nina joined them for a walk before her train back to London. We headed north to the main island of Anglesey starting at Church Bay and following a stretch of coastal path owned by the National Trust north to Carmel Head. The day was shimmering and glorious, full of snorting ravens, basking seals, little fluffy clouds and lapping waves.
I think I speak for us all when I say how happy we were to be back in a bunkhouse again and out in the wilds!Author: Cathy C
Catriona and Judith arrived a day early and Storm Ellen lived up to its billing with spectacular thunderstorms and violent winds.
On Friday evening, we all enjoyed excellent food, drink and conversation at the Royal Oak at Winsford.
On Saturday, we did a circular walk from Halse Farm Campsite, up Winsford Hill, to Tarr Steps and then up the river to WIthypool for an excellent cream tea at around 3pm. We walked up to a high point for a beautiful view and then split into two groups. The early group had a lovely walk over the moors and then up to some higher ground with lovely views and then down to the campsite. The other group finished with a steep climb round the dramatic Punch Bowl onto Winsford Hill. We had another excellent evening at the Royal Oak and then returned to the campsite for a night of rain. At least it did stop when we were packing up.
On Sunday, we started at Luxborough Kingsbridge. We walked up to Withycombe Common, through woods and back to the car with beautiful views of the coast at the Minehead and Watchet area and further towards Weston Super Mare. It was a perfect way to end a wonderful weekend.Author: Viv P
At last we were heading for the hills! Proper, Northern, hills with heather-clad slopes, stone barns and rivers with rocks in them. What better reintroduction than the Yorkshire Dales.
Staying at the Premier Inn gave unaccustomed luxury, with real beds and a bath, and an adjoining restaurant only a step away for breakfast and dinner. Nice cool weather to boot (don't often say that!) and the rain held off - just - for the whole weekend.
On Saturday Damaris and Margaret had a relaxing mid-morning start for a walk from Appletreewick, but the rest of us were out bright and early, striking north up the Pennine Way, which took us over airy upland with superb views of the distant fells around Malham. We then branched off to loop back to Gargrave over rolling green hills and along river banks, where we had the company of a heron for a while. There was a pub on the agenda - a pub with a difference, as it had been transformed into a Michelin restaurant. Despite our rugged appearance, they couldn't have been more welcoming.
Next day, Damaris and Margaret walked above Kilnsey, hoping for a view of the famous crag. Lured by the previous day's view of the Malham fells, Judith headed further that way and, after lunch at lonely Malham tarn, set off to return via Gordale Scar only to be forced back by the amount of water on the scramble down, with the result she ended up doing 20 miles.
Julie and Karen set off along the canal path to Skipton and enjoyed a lovely walk, with friendly people on bikes and families on boats, operating locks and bridges, to entertain them on the way.
David W led the remaining six south along the Pennine way and the Leeds and Liverpool canal, over an ancient Roman road and slightly newer disused railway to a cosy pub in Carleton in Craven, before a path over rarely trodden fields took them back to Gargrave.
On Monday morning, Cathy and Judith walked more of the same area, while some started early for the long journey home (Jim, Viv and June via Derbyshire) and others sampled the fleshpots of Skipton first.Author: Judith B
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.Author: Stephen J
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.Author: Ben N
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.Author: Tony S
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.Author: Judith B
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.Author: Cathy C