Hillwalk Heaven


Hi folks.

Haven’t posted for a few days as you may or may not have noticed. Life gets in the way as you all know at times.

After my run the other day I talked about an injury to my shin that I was suffering with and whilst this has thankfully 80% gone thanks to no running, the day after I had serious back trouble which is nothing I’m not used to, as I’ve suffered on and off with lumbar pain for around seven years, caused, I think by falling hard on my harness whilst I was climbing at an indoor climbing wall. I hyper-extended my back which I think caused trauma, which manifested itself a few days later with an excruciating back spasm that knocked me out for about 6 weeks; couldn’t work and could barely walk for the first week or so.

So this is the main reason I haven’t posted, as any length of time sitting down in my PC chair would have been extremely uncomfortable, and standing up from sitting just very painful. This too, thankfully, has calmed down.

I took myself out for a spin on the road bike t’other day to see how my back behaved. I was only supposed to go for a short ride, but, me being me I felt okay so ended up doing nearly 50 miles. Oops. Well, my back was okay until I needed to apply more power through the pedals, then it would twinge. Unfortunately, each twinge was creating small spasms, that eventually led me to being in a bit of a bent state by the time I got back home. I apologise for you having to see my naked upper-body:

So I've now been given my options for sorting my horrendous glass back out, as you can see, it's pretty shafted. Impossible to straighten when it's in a very painful spasm like this. Only laying down with a hot water bottle under it and diazepam helps. Had this issue since the end of 2008, on and off. Can be excruciating and disabling. Pretty down as I can't run, cycle or get in the mountains properly, especially as it's a gorgeous day today. Pretty certain something is pinching a nerve, causing these spasms. Potentially degenerative disc/s. So I can go to a private spinal orthopaedic specialist starting from £200 or go on the waiting list. Opted for the latter, again as no harm in it as an appointment may open up sooner. If I get the cash, then I have the private option at least. I've got to get this sorted and I desperately want answers, as the work season is slowly picking up. #backpain #backspasm #backspasms #injury #injuries #backinjury #backinjuriessuck

A post shared by Elton (@eryri_runner) on

I was in quite a lot of pain and this only confirmed that my back was not ready for hours of stiff-backed road cycling. Roadies reading this will understand…on the plus side, here’s a couple of Instapics from the ride that took me through the Ogwen Valley, Betws y Coed and Conwy, heading home along the coast:

 

Back to square one, it seemed.

I booked in for a visit to my osteopath after the pain had subsided where he bent, twisted and cracked my spine to release any other tight tissues. He’s also a friend of mine so it was good to catch up with him and see his new practice premises.

A couple of days after this I starting to feel that my spine was no longer trying to kill me and thought that I would try a nice gentle fell walk directly from my house. The weather forecast was okay for the most part. Good thing is, I can leave the house without using the car for this walk as it takes me about 15 minutes to walk up the road through the village of Gerlan (more like a parish of Bethesda, really) then I’m off road and on the hill.
My loop today would eventually take me to the modest summit of Bera Bach, at 807 metres.
I love the northern Carneddau, as they feel very remote and rugged and even during a weekend, you will hardly meet other people, but I walked it on a Wednesday and saw one old boy out on the summit of Drosgl, 758 metres.

It started out quite sunny, but I knew that there was ‘weather’ due in from the north west, and as I gained height and views, I could see the showers heading across the Irish Sea, straight for me. It was cold enough to fall as snow thankfully, and the winds were light so I didn’t get all that battered but visibility fell to around 30 metres. The snow shower only lasted about 40 minutes, but I love being out in that kind of weather, as do these hardy souls:

 

We lost quite a few foals a few winters back as the weather was very severe up here, along with hundreds of sheep and cattle. This hit the farmers very hard as you can imagine.

I took my time as I was just enjoying being out on my own, which is generally how I like it in the mountains. It was also nice to wear my Spring/Summer boots that I hadn’t worn since September last year, instead of trudging along in rigid, stiff soled Scarpa Manta. I’ve also taken to using my walking pole a lot more, as this can really help up hills and takes some stress off your legs and knees upon descent. It can also prevent falls, trust me! But you do need to know how to use them properly.

 

I traipsed up the very steep hill that takes me to the interesting summit of Gyrn Wigau at 643 metres. The hills and mountains of the Carneddau never seem that high, as there is often not a great deal of prominence between them (how much height loss there is between each peak), but when you look out to sea, you feel the height more. This is a lovely little peak and I’ve enjoyed many bum slides on wet fell runs when running down the steep hill I’d just walked up to get here:

 

I didn’t stop and just carried on towards Drosgl as the weather started to clear as it blew through. There is a Bronze Age burial cairn on this summit, that half the time walkers probably don’t even realise; it just looks like an unassuming cairn (pile of stones), with the summit shelter to the north of this. Incidentally, a ‘summit shelter’ isn’t  a roofed shelter for those that are not familiar with the term; it is usually a circular pile of stones with one entrance, rangeing from shin height (yes!) to head height and are places to hide from the wind more than any inclement weather. This is what Drosgl’s looks like:

Dropping down off Drosgl, and the weather all but cleared to show my target for the day, Bera Bach:

 

From the west, as you can see, it’s not all that inspiring and is only an additional forty nine metres in height over Drosgl but does take some work to get to the summit, which is the left peak. I took great care today due to the fresh snow that adorned the rocks; many of Snowdonia’s summits are of this nature: rocky, slippery, lots of holes to either catch an ankle in or even an entire person (Glyder Fach is ‘good’ for this one). This is part of their appeal for me; their ruggedness and raw feel. From the coast road you cannot see this mountain, although you can see its sister, Bera Mawr (‘Large Stack’); you get a very brief peek as you drive past Abergwyngregyn looking south-east up the Aber Valley, but because of its steep, northern slopes, it looks a lot bigger and looks like a rocky guardian over the upper valley.

This mountain is actually smaller than Bera Bach (‘Small Stack’) by thirteen metres. Now, strangely with Welsh etymology of mountains, you can see that the heights do a role-reversal. The mountain that has the smaller name attached to it, is higher than the one with the larger meaning. This rarely happens and I think it is more to do with the mountain’s stature more than its height. Don’t ever say that I don’t give you people interesting facts of the area 😉

I scrambled up to the rocky summit, and found a lovely sitting position for me to have my lunch and a lovely cup of tea. This was my ‘heaven’. Absolute peace and quiet. Stillness, with only the distant cawing of a crow. This is why I come into the mountains; they make me feel alive, happy and content yet humbling. They’ve been here for many thousands and millions of years, with our visits mere fleeting dust specks in their existence. They’ll be here forever more. I am always sad to leave them.

So, I like to do a short video on summits of me talking to myself. I’m perfectly sane I can assure you. What? You’ve never talked to yourself? 😉   I also said I was on Bera Mawr, but Bera Bach in fact and I love the shifty face that YouTube has frozen for me at the start 😀

Here’s a still of me though, being all smiley on the summit:

CRW_6722-Edit
A very happy chappy in my elephant (think about it) 😉 🙂

Here’s a couple more snaps:

 

After enjoying my peace and quiet for half and hour, I decided to make my way off the top, heading in a south-easterly direction, utilizing my pole (stop giggling at the back) to prevent falls on the way down. I wanted to drop down into lower Cwm Caseg and then contour around the hillside until I arrived at a sheep fold I knew of. I often use this in low visibility as what’s know as a ‘tick feature’, so that I know where I am and can consult the map in case I need to take a compass bearing to the next point. But from here there’s an old track anyway.

A quick snap looking west to the false top of Bera Bach and Drosgl, rear:

There hadn’t been much in the way of light play for this landscape photographer, so when it finally showed itself, I shot this lovely image towards Yr Elen:

I also shot a short Instagram-sized video for my followers there as I descended:

 

The weather was gradually improving as the cloud was pushed over the mountains, and I was feeling incredibly content. I was in a beautiful environment, feeling so lucky to be alive to see this and to have it right on my doorstep. So at the sheep fold, I wanted to set up one of those somewhat contrived shots of man-gazing-at-mountains kind of picture. It took a couple of goes, as it was very difficult to get the composure I wanted when trying to balance my phone on stone of the sheep fold walls. I also couldn’t see what I was shooting. I like to think I’m very skilled with a camera so knew how to get the shot I wanted, although it took two attempts. Very pleased with it though:

 

 

I was still very conscious of my back, so made sure I wasn’t stomping down the hill, but taking measured steps and tensing up my core a little so that it did some work, taking the strain off my back. I purposely took a light pack today anyway, with minimal gear as I knew the weather forecast was okay.

Eventually, I reached the end of the track and turned around to get one more shot looking up to Cwm Caseg and Yr Elen, who now decided to show herself:

 

Instead of walking down the road I came up on, decided to contour around the hillside further, nipping over another ladder stile to find another road down to the village; there’s so many of them and Bethesda can be a bit of a rabbit warren, as roads criss-cross all over the place due to the house layouts and topography. I took one last shot of what I personally refer to the ‘Three Sisters’, of Moel Faban, Llefn and Gyrn:

 

Still about a kilometre and a half to get home from here. I’d had a wonderful few hours and to top it off, my back played nicely although was expectedly sore after I’d got home and rested for a bit.

I was to have a further adventure this week, which I’ll write about later, as I’m running the fells tomorrow. It involves darkness, lots of darkness. And massive, dark holes in the ground 😉

Thanks for popping by, and please feel free to share to anybody you think may be interested in what I write.

All the best, guys 🙂

Elton

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Hillwalk Heaven

  1. Used to love wandering round the Carneddau in my more youthful than nowness, seems all the old appeal is still there. Lovely evocative descriptions. Couldn’t get the pics as my internet link is imitating a snail right now, a very slow one too, but I’ll try again later.

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