martynj.com - things I have learnt

entries tagged 'outdoors'

Peak District Walks Accessible by Bus & Train

A friend recently asked me about walking routes in the Peak District that can be reached by public transport. There's some great walks easily accessible by bus or train in the Peaks. You'll need a 1:25000 OS map of the Dark Peak area (OL1 Explorer Map) to follow these rough suggestions. Bing Maps do Ordnance Survey views of certain areas too -- just search for eg. Hathersage and click the Ordnance Survey Map link in the top-left corner. Train from Sheffield or Manchester into the Peak District Train to Edale - Walk north-west up Grindsbrook Clough to the Kinder ...

Full entry: http://www.martynj.com/peaks-walks-public-transport

Via Ferrata near Chamonix - Curalla at Passy

An activity holiday to Chamonix in June saw me try self-guided via ferrata for the first time. The recently built Via Ferrata Curalla at Passy, about 30 mins drive from Chamonix towards Geneva, is graded AD+ (Assez Difficile; technically easy but exposed enough to be a bit scary). Well sign-posted from the car park on Chemin de Curalla in Passy (map) the climb covers about 400m with nearly 200m height gain and takes 2-3 hours including the walk back from the top. We found hiring via ferrata equipment (standard climbing harness, shock-absorbing Y-shaped sling with twist-gate carabiners AKA "via ferrata ...

Full entry: http://www.martynj.com/via-ferrata-curalla-passy-near-chamonix

First Big Trad Route - Giant's Crawl, Dow Crag, Lake District

'Twas a showery August weekend in the Lake District this year that we completed our first big (more than 2 pitch) trad route. Giant's Crawl on Dow Crag near Coniston is highlighted in the guide book as being the best Diff in the country; what more could we want of a technically easy introduction to the art of multi-pitch trad climbing! Climbing as two pairs, it took us about 2 hours to do the 5-7 pitches (some can be stuck together), 120m, from the start at bottom left of B Buttress above Goats Water to the top at the ...

Full entry: http://www.martynj.com/climbing-trad-route-giants-crawl-dow-crag-lake-district

Camping near the Roaches in the Peak District

Taking advantage of the fine weather last weekend, we had an impromptu camping trip to the Roaches in the Peak District near Leek, Staffordshire. The Roaches are a grit stone ridge on the high ground south of Buxton and are great for single pitch trad climbing and bouldering. There's a few multi-pitch routes on nearby Hen Cloud too. Our trad climbing skills are a bit rusty and the bouldering mat wouldn't fit in the car with all the camping gear and passengers, so we entertained ourselves with a walk along the Roaches down to natural chasm Lud's ...

Full entry: http://www.martynj.com/camping-roaches-peak-district-climbing

Stonethwaite Camping and Gorge Scrambling in Borrowdale

Our latest Lake District trip was a fun weekend in Borrowdale with camping at Stonethwaite and ghyll scrambling up Seathwaite's Grains Gill. Borrowdale is one of my favourite Lake District valleys, seeming more lush and dramatic than many of the heavily grazed fells elsewhere in the Lakes. Accessible trad climbing, bouldering (The Bowderstone) and watersports on Derwent Water add to its appeal. The basic facilities at Stonethwaite campsite (toilets, taps, nothing else) were ample and its location next to Stonethwaite Beck stunning with views up the Borrowdale valley. High on my list of good campsite factors is a westerly ...

Full entry: http://www.martynj.com/lake-district-borrowdale-camping-gorge-walk-scramble

Iceland road trip Day 1: Keflavik to Selfoss via the Golden Circle

Our round-Iceland adventure had its inauspicious start in Keflavik, the town neighbouring KEF airport. It’s pleasant enough, but served really just as somewhere to sleep after a flight arriving at midnight. Having made the 40 minute walk back into the airport from Keflavik in the morning (the hotel shuttle bus didn’t seem to exist), we picked up the hire car, a white Nissan Micra (ideal for those gravel roads!), and set off towards Reykjavik. The plan for day 1 was to see the popular Golden Circle sights that so many tourists do as a daytrip from Reykjavik. They ...

Full entry: http://www.martynj.com/iceland-keflavik-selfoss-golden-circle

Iceland trip Day 2: Selfoss to Kirkjubæjarklaustur: Eyjafjallajökull, Skógafoss & Vik

Leaving Selfoss with a hitchhiker squeezed into the back of the Micra for the first few miles, we headed east towards Vik. Highway 1 features many marked picnic spots that normally have a point of interest and information signs associated with them. The first of these that we stopped at was Seljalandsfoss waterfall, with a path to walk behind it for some added interest. The ferry to Heimaey, the largest of the Westman Islands and a good place to see puffins, leaves from Landeyjarhöfn‎, about 10km south of the ring road on gravel roads. We had unfortunately failed to check ...

Full entry: http://www.martynj.com/iceland-selfoss-eyjafjallajokull-skogafoss-vik

Iceland trip Day 3: Kirkjubæjarklaustur to Vagnsstaðir: Skaftafell, Svartifoss and Jökulsárlón

Leaving the Dalshöfði farm guest house on the ring road east of Kirkjubæjarklaustur, we entered a large expanse of alluvial flood plains created by eruptions beneath the Vatnajökull icecap sending torrents of glacier meltwater south towards the sea. Remains of old bridges serve as a reminder of how powerful the flooding can be. First stop was the Skaftafell National Park, a great base for hiking up onto the icecap, or shorter walks to Svartifoss and viewpoints over the glaciers. Svartifoss waterfall sits among hexagonal basalt lava columns and is quite an impressive site. A gentle climb further, great views can ...

Full entry: http://www.martynj.com/iceland-skaftafell-svartifoss-jokulsarlon

Iceland road trip Day 4: Vagnsstaðir to Faskrudsfjordur: Hofn and the Eastern Fjords

Leaving the oft-visited Skaftafell and Jökulsárlón behind, the ring road continues to Hofn, the last town before the isolated Eastern Fjords. We took the opportunity to stock up on food in the Hofn supermarket, then followed the coast along the south-eastern corner of Iceland. Steep mountainsides descend directly into the sea, with the ring road picking its way above the cliffs and past gravel beaches. Having previously skipped the puffin watching destination of Heimaey, we spotted a poster at the Vagnsstaðir hostel for boat trips to the small, puffin-inhabited, island of Papey from Djupivogur harbour (details here), so planned to ...

Full entry: http://www.martynj.com/iceland-hofn-papey-eastern-fjords

Iceland trip Day 5: Eastern Fjords to Lake Mývatn: Seyðisfjörður, Borgafjordur-Eystri & Dettifoss

Today was the only time during our 9-day loop around Iceland that the weather really impacted our plans. Not bad for an island at 65° N in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Leaving Fáskrúðsfjörður, we took the new tunnel northeast to avoid the apparently sketchy coast road, and continued on to the town of Egilsstaðir. The rain was intermittent and the cloud low, but we had plenty of time to take a couple of detours before heading east to our destination for the day of Lake Mývatn. Climbing to 600m over the pass to Seyðisfjörður, we found ourselves surrounded ...

Full entry: http://www.martynj.com/fjords-borgafjordur-seydisfjordur-myvatn-dettifoss

Iceland road trip Day 6: Lake Myvatn to Akureyri: Hverfjall, Grjotagja, Dimmuborgir

Lake Myvatn is a hotbed of geothermal activity (pun intended) with a wealth of sights for the geologically-minded visitor. We had planned just a short drive along the ring road today so that we had plenty of time at Myvatn. We started with Hverfjall, a large tephra (volcanic gravel and ash) crater, now extinct. The short walk to the crater rim gives good views across Lake Myvatn and the middle of the crater itself. Nearby, the Grjotagja caves contain hot pools in which people used to bathe. This is now not advised, since, while the surface temperature might be moderate ...

Full entry: http://www.martynj.com/iceland-myvatn-hverfjall-grjotagja-akureryi

Iceland trip Day 7: Akureryi to Hrútafjörður via Dalvik Whale Watching

Akureyri may be Iceland's second city, but it seems better as a base to see other places, than having many tourist attractions in itself. That said, it does have a beautiful setting on the fjord, and we happily wandered around for an hour or two before moving on. Our main activity for today was to be whale watching at Dalvik. We had spotted a leaflet in the hostel for a whale watching and fishing trip with Arctic Sea Tours of Dalvík, and booked on for the afternoon. They were considerably cheaper than trips from the more well known Husavik ...

Full entry: http://www.martynj.com/iceland-akureryi-dalvik-whale-watching

Iceland trip Day 8: Hrútafjörður to Reykjavik via Víðgelmir Lava Tube

With limited time to complete our loop around Iceland, we had to head south from Hrútafjörður and continue along the ring road towards Reykjavik, rather than exploring the Western Fjords or Snaefellnes Peninsula. These would have to wait for a return trip. The guide book mentioned some interesting caves in the Hallmundarhraun lava field, about 30km east of the ring road from Varmaland. Information was a little thin on the ground, but we set off along the gravel road 523 following a signpost to Víðgelmir. As we neared the point where road 518 turns around at the top of the ...

Full entry: http://www.martynj.com/iceland-hrutafjordur-reykjavik-vidgelmir-lava

Iceland trip Day 9: Reykjavik and Keflavik: Coffee and Puffins

Having read about Reykjavik's excellent coffee culture, we set off with a list of recommended coffee shops in hand. The quirkiest of these, Kaffismiðja Íslands, was closed (Sunday), so coffee and pastries at the plesant Glaetan Cafe & Bookshop sufficed instead. Te and Kaffe, an Icelandic chain, featured later in the day, and likewise had good coffee in a relaxed atmosphere. Suitably caffeinated, we walked up to Hallgrímskirkja, the striking church visible from all of central Reykjavik. The architecture may not be to our taste, with imposing concrete columns mimicking the basalt structures that occur naturally around Iceland, but the ...

Full entry: http://www.martynj.com/iceland-reykjavik-coffee-puffins

9-Days Around Iceland, Driving Ring Road 1

Taking advantage of rescheduled public holidays this year, we spent the first 9 days of June driving the Iceland ring road and seeing the many sights en route. A full loop around Route 1 is ~1340 km (830 miles), though with detours we added another 1000 km. While the isolated Icelandic interior is generally accessible only by specialist 4x4 vehicles, Route 1 is OK to drive in a 2-wheel drive car. Our Nissan Micra rental car managed fine, even coping with detours onto bumpy gravel tracks. The state of the roads varies, with many being closed due to snow and ...

Full entry: http://www.martynj.com/driving-around-iceland-ring-road-1

36 Recommended Things To Do in the Peak District

Having spent a lot of time in the Peak District over the last 10 years, and being asked for recommendations from time to time, I've made this list of suggested Peak District activities. I haven't tried to be exhaustive, but instead focus on things I have enjoyed or that are on my own to-do list. More activities are listed for the northern half of the Peak District, "Dark Peak", so named for its dark gritstone and moorland landscape, as opposed to the more southerly limestone and green hills of White Peak. This is simply because I've spent ...

Full entry: http://www.martynj.com/recommended-peak-district-things-to-do

Japan cycle touring on rental bikes - Izumi, Kumamoto & Amakusa

We'd read in many places that Japan is a cycle touring heaven (japancycling.com, etc), so decided to spend 8 days biking and exploring rural Japan. Where exactly was a detail to figure out later. Since we were traveling to multiple countries, we wouldn't have our own bikes with us, so finding a decent bike rental place was the first challenge. This was more difficult than expected. It seems that multi-day bike rentals aren't at all common in Japan, cycle touring presumably not being all that popular domestically. We narrowed down our bike rental options to countryside-chiba ...

Full entry: http://www.martynj.com/japan-cycling-rent-touring-bikes

Jura fell race 2014: A first-timer's thoughts

The Isle of Jura fell race is recognised as one of the most spectacular and demanding events in the fell racing calendar. At 17 miles over steep technical terrain and 2370m (~7800ft) ascent, a time of sub-4hrs is the barely attainable target for all but the fastest. Starting outside the Jura Distillery in Craighouse, the race climbs steadily over boggy ground to the first of its 7 summits after 3 miles. Peaks 1 to 3 are a fun warm-up, with tussocky grass and exposed rock for interest. Views over neighbouring island Islay and the Paps of Jura are stunning. The ...

Full entry: http://www.martynj.com/jura-fell-race-route-tips