Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Some Winter Sunshine: Walking on La Palma

Well I'm not sure if AW would have approved, but to make up for 2012's cancelled Summer holidays, my wife Claire and I had a fantastic break at the start of February. The challenge was to find somewhere with sun, sea and walking to be done. We considered, and discounted loads of places, as we wanted to find a place where sunshine was more or less guaranteed and we found the perfect place on this Holiday La Palma website. So some research, when we saw La Palma referred to as "the world's steepest island" then that was it! Armed with Paddy Dillon's Cicerone guide to La Palma and a map we were set to go.

We stayed in the resort village of Puerto Naos and it was fairly quiet - the beach wasn't too busy and the restaurants and cafes were open for business but not rammed. There were lots of cyclists based in Puerto Naos, but we didn't see too many other walker types.

La Palma is an amazing place and an interesting one to drive on - the roads all basically consist of hairpin bends with short straight passages in between. In particular when you are in the national parks it gets pretty hairy. The scenery is fantastic and very varied at that - you can be in lush forest one minute and on an arid volcano the next, whilst being a short drive away from a nice volcanic sandy beach. Walkers on La Palma cannot fail to be impressed by the fantastic footpath network, waymarking and great condition of the paths.
We managed a number of walks so I'll be sharing these with you over the next few weeks as well as some other resources.

For the first walk we did a part of the "volcano route" which is goes from the heart of the island, heading southwards towards Los Canarios.
Setting off from the Refugio del Pilar, we headed upwards through lush forest, gradually climbing the slopes of Pico Birigoyo.

We were accompanied by a steady drizzle, as we were well in the cloud. Occasionally we came to viewing points which should have offered expansive views, but we had a sheet of white instead. From time to time the sun looked like it was going to penetrate the cloud, but no such luck.

Higher up we left most of the vegetation behind and it was our first exposure to the eerie upper volcanic slopes. As I previously mentioned, the footpaths and signposting was absolutely spot on.

Unfortunately the weather did not let up and so we didn't get any of the big views we were hoping for, at least the landscape itself was very spectacular though. After a while we left the GR131 path, and headed down towards Montana Marcos. This part of the walk was a bit tougher and we felt extremely remote - this is definitely not the place to stray from the paths! Here we met a couple from Wales who were headed back in the same direction as us so we had a good chat with them on the way back.

We were absolutely drenched and frozen when we reached the car, and so it was quite surreal when we headed back down, out of the cloud, and over to the coast where a blazing sun and bright blue sky meant we replaced the planned cup of tea and a hot bath with a lie on the beach and a dip in the ocean!

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Misty Baldersdale

It's been a long tough Winter up until now as far as walking and me are concerned. Every spare morning or day on a weekend has been taken up by work and studies and so I haven't been able to get out and about anywhere near as much as I would like to have. I did manage a quick escape on a long Sunday afternoon, jumping into the car and heading up into Teesdale.

I have explored the area around Baldersdale a couple of times already, walking up Goldsborough and nearby Hury reservoir. A couple of miles to the south near Bowes you have the spectacular God's Bridge which can be visited on the Bowes loop on the Pennine Way.

AW didn't have good things to say about the reservoirs here. I think over the years nature has reimposed itself on the area and for me the man made lakes can be seen as a thing of beauty. This is a remote part of Teesdale and away from the star attractions such as High Force and as such, it is a perfect place to get away from it all.

I only had a couple of hours of daylight left, so my intention was to park up near Blackton reservoir and have a quick walk up Shacklesborough. This is a limestone outcrop, similar to its twin Goldsborough, poking it's head up from the moors with a flat summit that reminds me of a miniature Ingleborough.

However the weather had other plans, and once I had made some headway along the Pennine Way and up past Balderhead reservoir, the mist closed in and the visibility was reduced dramatically. Although my GPS told me that Shacklesborough was just a short distance ahead, it was nowhere in sight! Furthermore the light was fading fast, so I decided the best thing to do would be to head back to the car, making a small detour to walk along the water. This was a bit of a mistake, as although the shoreline looked fairly straight and easy to follow there were in fact some sudden steep ravines, which meant I had to make long detours.

I bumped into one other person on the walk only and we had a chat about where we had been that day. Tim Laurie had a fascinating story to tell, as a member of the Swaledale and Arkengarthdale Archaeology Group he had been up one of the ravines nearby to monitor the state of the juniper. You can follow his activities here:

I made it back to the car with very little daylight left and although I hadn't reached my intended target, this was a fun little walk and it was fantastic to be out and about in Teesdale again.