Sunday, 6 November 2016

Arenig Fach - The 444th and final English/Welsh Nuttall

Event Introduction
Advanced party striding ahead
over early part of Open Access land near Bryn Du
After 8 years, 1 month and 2 days since walking up Simon Fell, my very first English Nuttall, before I even knew that a Nuttall existed or indeed any other hill category, I finally reached the 444th and final English/Welsh Nuttall.
Joined by my wife, friends and hill bagging buddies. This walk comes after a 12 month period where I finally got round to focussing on completing the Nuttalls with 110 (nearly 25%) of them being visited during the last year.
There were also a couple of last minute additions which could have been embarrassing if I had not visited them before today's event. It would hardly have been a completion if there was a new summit that had not been visited. This was not a new experience for me as Thack Moor was promoted in April 2013, actually whilst I was in the Lake District on my final English Nuttall trip concluding with Catstye Cam.

This time I had a little more notice in as much as Calf Top was finally recognised as the 2000' summit it has always been (subject to global warming). Even-so I had to make a detour to Cumbria on the way to North Wales from Suffolk to visit Calf Top last month before mopping up the final 26 Nuttalls in preparation for today's completion.
As if that was not enough a 445th has now come to light. Formerly known as the ex-Nuttall Duwynt it has been surveyed and measured to have a drop of 16.1m and named Graig Gwaun Taf. Fortunately I had already visited this summit on the way back from Yr Gyrn (The Mungrisdale Common of the Brecon Beacons) after Crybin, Pen y Fan and Corn Du in December 2013. Otherwise there would have to have been another detour to The Brecon Beacons on the way to Bala this weekend.
Entrance to Craig-y-ronw off A4212 during reconnaissance 
Because this was the final summit and being joined by several fellow hill-baggers I decided to make a reconnaissance of the route last month, particularly the access to Open Access land. This was confirmed as OK when I met and checked with the farmer on the way down outside Craig y-ronw farm. The fence I had planned to follow once on Open Access land to the ascent west of Llyn Arenig Fach no longer existed other than a few rotten fence posts making a periodic appearance. Following the wall to the south in error took me too far south, so having found the fence, after crossing particularly rough and boggy ground, below the steep summit ascent I hand railed it north until I found the ladder stile. Although it occurred to me, I was not tempted to go any higher I returned following a vague path from the ladder stile until it became a quad bike track and then a proper farm track to the Open Access land boundary. 
Just as well I can not think of anything more embarrassing than getting lost with some of the UK's most prolific hill-baggers. Based on limited past experience of these events everyone seems to turn up at the start have a chat and somehow by magic end up on the summit for completion ceremonies and rituals. I am sure someone knows what they are doing just wanted to make sure in case it was my responsibility.

Days walk description
The completion group gathers at walks start in the lay by
near Cae-garnedd car park and WC
So the day finally arrived with us all meeting in the lay by near Cae-garnedd car park and WC. Although the sun was trying to break out we had driven from Bala through a heavy hailstorm. The MWIS for Snowdonia had predicted as much with an 80% chance of showers on Snowdon but an 80% chance of clear summits everywhere else. So I for one was optimistic but was not expecting the fine weather I had enjoyed the month before or indeed the clear skies we had enjoyed the day before at Rob Woodall's final 300'er on Drosgol 368m summit as opposed to the 500+m Marilyn summit slightly to the east. Twelve people had honoured me with there presence on what was a very special day for me, primarily because it was to be my final E/W summit but also because my wife Gina was joining us. A very capable hill-walker (Am Bàthach in January 2013 enduring severe winter conditions is testament to that), but however hard I have tried I just cannot persuade her to share in my passion more often. As she keeps telling me she does not mind hill-walking but just cannot see the point in going up all these hills so often. Well I have finally accepted that and have given up trying to explain the benefits. As is often said "If you have to ask the question, you are not likely to understand or even be interested in the answer." 
Still all smiles as ascent intensifies up fence line
above Llyn Arenig Fach
Anyway because some were concerned they would not be as quick as others a small advanced party set off 10 minutes early while the rest of us got our act together. we all met as agreed at the ladder stile over the fence just south of Llwyn Arenig Fach. As I approached I saw some people off to the right thinking there was another group on the hill. Turns out it was some of the advanced party, some with long faces and wet feet. Guess that answered the question if it was boggy all round this area.
From the ladder stile we all set off together where the ascent began in earnest up the SW side of the wire fence. There is a path but sometimes it was easier to wade through the heather just off to the left. Half way up the full impact of the cold NE wind could be felt and slightly higher the first snow of the year was blown in. Very cold indeed and although a couple of the party had not been out in conditions like this coped very well.
Early arrivals at the summit sat together in the shelter or huddled
A group of five baggers waiting in Arenig Fach
summit shelter. Do you know between them all (asof 06/11/2016)
they have managed 18129 GB summits listed in the DoBIH
around the leeward side of the cairn whilst Myrddyn went off surveying high point candidates.
For me I was soaked having not brought waterproofs which were in my main back pack at home. I had brought a different pack to accommodate the celebration cake and although I had brought my bag of tricks (storm shelter, blizzard bag, spare compass, torch, whistle etc) as well as spare gloves, hat and mid layer, I did not have my waterproof trousers. I even used these spare gloves to set off meaning I did not have a spare to replace my sodden ones on the summit. So with the wind, snow and wet clothing I was probably suffering as much as anyone on the summit. Suffce it to say we did not cut the celebration cake or crack open the bottle of malt, but we did manage a couple of lumps of chocoalte biscuit cake which went down very well. Summit photos and a quick wander round all other possible high points and someone suggested the mountain was trying to tell us something and we should get off. Route back was the same as the ascent route and it was really noticable how the conditions improved as we lost height.

Can't quite stand on what is currently the high point
on Arenig Fach because of Myrddyn's trimble
Back at the layby after a quick change out of wet clothes for some of us, the celebration cake was cut and small amounts of malt whiskey consumed. In spite of the weather it was a cracking day. Out of the 13 people there was of course one additional Nuttall completer, one GB Marilyn completer and more than one English Marilyn completer not to mention several Munro and Corbett completers. So quite a lot of experience on the hill this day. Of particular note however were three Nuttall virgins, or at least they were until after Arenig Fach.
I did say it several times on the day, but one last time thanks to everyone who shared the day with me it was really very much appreciated.

Nuttall highlights Oct 2008 - November 2016
I have been asked; "What were the highlights and favourite walks" and to be honest they are a bit like children. You do not have a favourite. Towards the end it seemed every one was a highlight; The Cnichts (The Welsh Matterhorn), Moel Hebog (because of the scrambling options from Beddgelert approach), Rhinog Fawr from Cwm-bychan Farm (discovering Roman Steps) and so it goes on. Though thinking about the highlights, lowlights occurred to me and in all honesty there were not any. Mickle Fell was probably a low point at the time though afterwards I do look back on it as a highlight, because I survived! I have therefore listed it as a precarious day and whilst I am in no hurry to repeat it I do look back on it almost as a highlight because it taught me a lot through bitter experience which I have carried forwards helping with decision making processes and to look back on to remind me of what you should not do. The only lowlights I guess were when my health kept me out of the hills, but this has only strengthened my resolve making me appreciate times on the fell more and to push my limits but not exceed them either too often or too much.
I learnt this lesson only too well on the Berwyn Horseshoe my longest day and probably too much early on in the trip and after a strenuous winter mountaineering trip to Torridon. Amazing really, it has taken me nearly 60 years to learn that lesson.
In essence when I can no longer get out I want to look back and think what I managed rather than look back on what I wish I had done.

First English Nuttall - 02 October 2008, 13.47 miles, Simon Fell
Most precarious day - 07 February 2010, 12.62 miles, Mickle Fell (aborted)
Most Nuttalls in single walk - 11, 17 April 2015, 13.14 miles, The Berwyn Horseshoe

Longest Nuttall route - 18 May 2010, 14.98 miles, Bullman Hills, Long Man Hill & Cross Fell
Nuttall route with most ascent - 24 May 2010, 9.19 miles, 1615m, The Scafells
Favourite route - 23 May 2016, 7.74 miles, Snowdon Horseshoe

First Welsh Nuttall - 29 July 2013, 14.96 miles, Chwarel y Fan
Last English Nuttall - 20 April 2013, 9.19 miles, Catstye Cam (NPR), 
22 June 2016, 7.74 miles, Pillar Rock, then 07 October 2016, 6.50 miles, Calf Top
Miles walked from 02 October 2008 to 06 November 2016 (includes Scotland) - 3738.52 miles
Ascent climbed from 02 October 2008 to 06 November 2016 (includes Scotland) - 242,890.64m

Walk Statistics
Walk Date - 06 November 2016
Walkers - Simon Bendall, Josie Bacon, Alex Cameron, Adrian Dust, Jon Glew, Myrddyn Philips, Adrian Rayner & partner, Gina Smith, Steve Smith, Tony Jenkins, Tony Whitehead, Rob Woodall

Accommodation - Bala Backpackers
Start Point - Lay by near Cae-garnedd car park and WC (SH 84538 40396)
Start Time - 09:30
Finish Point Lay by near Cae-garnedd car park and WC (SH 84538 40396)
Finish Time- 12:15
Total Duration - 2hrs 45mins 
Overall Average pace - 1.49mph
Total Distance Walked - 4.09 miles
Total Height Ascended - 379.05metres

Peaks visited
Nuttalls (189W - 444E&W)
Arenig Fach (189W - 444E&W)

Hewitts (138W - 317E&W)
Arenig Fach (138W - 317E&W)

Marilyns (158W - 1556E,W&S)
Arenig Fach (106W - 274E,W&S)

Deweys (241W - 421E&W)
HuMPs (366W - 2975EW&S)

Arenig Fach (127W - 362E,W&S)
Historic County Tops (413E - 93E,W&S)

W: Wales. 
E,W: England & Wales. 
E,W&S:England,Wales & Scotland

GPX can be downloaded from
More Photographs
The complete summit group (less photographer) with cake and whiskey on Arenig Fach summit cairn & shelter
Click on photograph to view slide-show