Monday, 20 February 2012

Island Hopping

Sunday 19th - weather good and winds forecast for around a F3 - a trip out to Steepholm island in the Bristol Channel with Taran was on.......

Leaving Sully we paddled out across the channel, estimating our aim points to counter the flood tide. It was strange to be paddling straight past Flatholm for a change!

Steepholm approaching in the distance. As we approached mid-channel the sea-state started to pick up. Closer to the island things became distinctly more entertaining!

Around the south side of the Island and Taran was enjoying some rock hopping fun. I have to admit I was a little happier a little further out....
On landing and with no-one at home we took some time out to explore this fascinating place....
WWII Anti-aircraft gun still in position, with older pre 1900s gun positions either side.
 Admiring the view from one of the old bunkers.
Exploring some of the old observation bunkers / gun positions involved some airy steps!
England tantalizingly close! Not far to Brean Down but getting back would have been fun.
Time to paddle on... next destination Flatholm. Taran seal launching down the beach.
 All good fun!
The tide was still quite tasty for the crossing but Taran put his experience in these waters to good use and we made a pretty good ferry glide across. A bit of scoff and some coffee on the beach at Flatholm before......

 ...another beach launch into the sea!
 Stylish finish by Taran!
And onward to our final destination - the Monkstone - with a lowering sun reminding us that only an hour or so of daylight remains.

Tide is still on the flood and we make quick progress to the Monkstone. Taran stops to have a quick explore, before we turn for the paddle home...

 ..into the setting sun. The paddle back to Sully was just superb.

 The setting sun moving between the clouds giving surreal paddling conditions.... the sun gradually set...... leave us paddling the last few km in the twilight. What an excellent paddle. Cheers Taran.

Stats: 28km in about 4 hours of moving time.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Slush, Snow and Ice

The last week saw a number of hill runs in the Brecon Beacons, all grabbed here and there. With the snow and Ice of the last couple of weeks, coupled with the pace the UK weather changes, made for three very different runs...

Monday, and heading up to the South Wales Caving Club to meet a guy to discuss some filming. A production company are doing a series called 'Connies Wales' in which singer/actress Connie Fisher meets various people around Wales, and they want to do a piece on the cave rescue team. (Underneath South Wales Caving Club can be found the Ogof Ffynnon Ddu cave system - currently over 70km of surveyed cave passage. You can go for a virtual tour at .)
The SMWCRT Landy

With some time to kill I go for a run from the caving club cottages. These border the Ogof Ffynnon Ddu National Nature Reserve that backs onto the Pant Mawr Moor - a pretty wild and expansive place. Snow is still on the ground but temperatures have warmed. The run is only about 6 miles but it takes over an hour in the slush. To add to the fun its grey and drizzly....

Wednesday is the day of the filming. I head up to the caving club early stopping on the way to run up to Llyn y Fan Fawr and the Fan Brychieniog ridge. This is a magical place, even more so as its a perfect running day as clear, cold and I have the mountain to myself. Conditions are crisp and frozen, and the snow that is still on the ground crisp to run on. Just brilliant.
Fan Hir and Fan Brycheiniog - Mynydd Ddu fabulousness!

Ice shapes on the Nant y llyn

Llyn y Fan Fawr

looking back to Fan Brycheiniogs along the ridge

The afternoon onwards is then spent filming with the production company. We spend the evening filming a cave rescue practice in the cave. The walk up and back from the cave is bitterly cold, but our return is rewarded by the moon in a clear night sky.

Saturday arrives and with some family free time available, and a dog desperate to get out of the house, its a dash up to the Beacons. It looks good from a distance with a hard frosty covering and a beautiful wind free day. Knowing the Central beacons will be busy I select one of the quite 'backvalley' routes up to the main ridge. Its soon obvious the recent 'snow' was more a freezing rain. Conditions on the tops are hard. The patchy snow frozen with a solid unpredictable crust that frequently catches the ankles when it fails to take the body weight.
Frozen Juncus reeds

Along the edge of Cefn Crew looking towards Corn Du
Arrival on Duwynt and a scene of carnage appears. The main paths are a harsh mix of solid frozen snow and verglas. People are slipping and sliding everywhere - its going to be a busy day for the local mountain rescue teams! Me and the dog opt to avoid the main summits and slither south on the ridge for a while, before back tracking back the way we came. Over 2 hours to barely cover some 6 - 7 miles demonstrates the slow going.
A very busy Corn Du

Hard frozen ridge paths make for a good slither,,,,,

On the return back to the car - just me and the dog again.

The return to Cardiff sees a swift trip to upandunder to purchase some Kahtoola microspikes! It was definitely very iffy on the tops today and I was pushing my luck a bit trying to hurtle around in fellshoes!
Microspikes would have been a good idea!

Sadly things have warmed up again and the snow and ice gone, but I optimistically watch for signs of fresh frozen fun......