Category Archives: Photography

Hiking Around Harpers Ferry With The UK Family

December 2021

My brother — ordinarily based on the other side of the world in Australia — made a surprise visit to see us here in Harpers Ferry, in December 2021.

With the pandemic, it’s been over 2 years since we last caught up in person. Last time we had an amazing hike around the Glyders in North Wales. What would we do this time?

Here’s a breakdown of our hikes from the week:

  • Thursday 12/9: Bolivar Heights loop: 3.57 miles, 442 ft ascent, 1 hr 15 mins
  • Friday 12/10: Armory Trail loop: 4.53 miles, 408 ft ascent, 1 hr 43 mins
  • Saturday 12/11: Loudoun Heights: 8.02 miles, 1,752 ft ascent, 3 hrs 36 minutes
  • Saturday 12/11: Hike to lower town with Pete, Lexi and the boys: 3.73 miles, 338 ft ascent, 2 hrs 52 minutes
  • Sunday: 12/12: Chicken Power event with Pete, Lexi and the boys: 1.46 miles, 300 ft ascent, 45 minutes
  • Monday 12/13: Three Peaks with Pete (Weverton Cliffs, Maryland Heights/Stone Fort, and Loudoun Heights): 24.27 miles, 4,304 ft ascent, 11 hrs 36 minutes
  • Wednesday 12/15: To the Power Lines and back with Pete and Lexi: 10.65 miles, 1,778 ft ascent, 5 hrs 5 minutes

My mum and her partner Dave then arrived (I knew about this trip!) a week later too, so I had a lot of my UK family together for the first time in over 2 years.

My mum didn’t know about Pete’s arrival, so he surprised her with a wonderful prank 😉

  • Thursday 12/16: Walk around the neighborhood with Pete, Lexi, Mum, and Dave: ~2.5 miles (forgot to do Strava)
  • Friday 12/17: Maryland Heights lookout with Pete, Mum, and Dave: 6.12 miles, 1,379 ft ascent, 4 hrs 38 minutes
  • Saturday 12/18: Walk to Hilltop hotel lookout with Pete, Lexi, Mum, Dave, and the boys: 2.61 miles, 148 ft ascent, 1 hr
  • Sunday 12/19: Home to Raven Rocks with Pete: 20.96 miles, 3,864 ft ascent, 9 hrs 12 minutes
  • Monday 12/20: Bolivar Heights and mushroom trail: 2.72 miles, 257 ft ascent, 58 minutes

Pete flew home to Australia on the Monday afternoon.

  • Thursday 12/23: Loudoun Heights with mum and Dave: 8.05 miles, 1,789 ft ascent, 3 hrs 30 minutes
  • Sunday 12/26: Weverton Cliffs from home with mum, Dave (second half), Lexi and the boys (for the climb): 11.64 miles, 1,182 ft ascent, 6 hrs 22 minutes
  • Monday 12/27: Bolivar Heights with Lexi and Dave: 2.22 miles, 215 ft ascent, 45 minutes
  • Tuesday 12/28: Stone Fort loop with Lexi: 10.01 miles, 1,548 ft ascent, 3 hrs 31 minutes
  • Thursday 12/30: To the Hilltop Hotel lookout with mum: 2.14 miles, 230 ft ascent, 40 minutes

Loudoun Heights, Saturday 12/11

I’ve written about the two longer hikes (3 peaks and Raven Rocks) separately but here are a few photos from our hike up Loudoun Heights. As this is my go-to mountain trail, I was excited to show it to Pete.

Showing Pete the local trails (on the way up Loudoun Heights)
Pete close to Split Rock lookout on Loudoun Heights
Harpers Ferry from Split Rock lookout on Loudoun Heights
Brothers at the lookout on Loudoun Heights, 11 December 2021

Cloud Inversion From Maryland Heights

Just a quick post to show some photos of the incredible cloud inversion I saw on a recent hike up Maryland Heights.

My original plan was to hike the Stone Fort loop, but as I crossed the river through the cloud and then climbed higher on the trail, I knew there was a good chance of seeing a cloud inversion. So I skipped the Stone Fort loop and headed for the lookout. It was spectacular and there was no one else around!

Harpers Ferry rose out of cloud like an island, with thick fog clinging to the river valleys of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers.

It was a stunning morning!

Cloud inversion from Maryland Heights showing Harpers Ferry
Panorama from Maryland Heights overlook
View of Harpers Ferry from Maryland Heights overlook
View looking upriver of the Potomac River, with the cloud creeping up the side of Maryland Heights
I was a tad excited with the views on this occasion!
As the sun rose, the cloud thinned and Harpers Ferry lower town emerged fully, bathed in sunshine.

More photos here on Instagram.

Route details on Strava: 7.79 miles / 1,553 ft ascent / 3 hours

Old Rag Mountain and Robertson Mountain Double Header

13th July 2021

13 miles / 4,000 ft ascent / ~10 hours

Panorama from the summit of Robertson Mountain (click to enlarge)

Lexi’s parents came to stay with us for a few days after the family vacation, which meant we could get away for a few days just the two of us. It was our first adventure together in nearly 18 months, because of the pandemic. We were excited!

I found a cabin on AirBnb near the base of Old Rag mountain. We’ve climbed it before, in 2019, and had such a good experience that we decided to go back. It’s also near Sperryville, a cute town in Virginia with a wonderful coffee shop (another reason to return).

Old Rag is one of the most popular mountain climbs on the East coast (All Trails route), probably on account of the fantastic rock scramble along the summit ridge. We set off early to avoid the crowds and the heat; it was forecast to get to 95 F (35 C). Yikes!

The first part of the walk, from the car park to the ridge line, is a pleasant walk through the forest.

After a couple of hours of walking, and about 3 miles into the hike, we reached the shoulder of Old Rag. We stopped at the lookout here, refueled and readied ourselves for the ridge scramble that follows.

For a flavor of what the ridge scrambling was like, here’s some footage from the scramble up Old Rag:

The scramble is a ton of fun! Never hard but entertaining from start to finish, it’s a real joy. It’s physical: you have to pull yourself up and over blocks and down and through canyons, which is great fun and distracts you from the heat and one’s weariness.

The scramble along the ridge line takes you all the way to the summit. Even with our early start (we were walking by 6.30am) there were already other groups up here.

The views are spectacular from the summit. Shenandoah to the West, Robertson Mountain to the North and the Virginia plains to the East.

Robertson Mountain is the conical, wooded mountain to the right, below the ridge line in the distance. It’s slightly higher than Old Rag.

As we looked across to Robertson Mountain, I asked Lexi “hey we could climb that today if you’re interested?”. Nevermind that it was hot as hell, we had plenty of water. Game on!

We descended off the back of Old Rag, passing Byrd shelter and Old Rag shelter. At the fire road junction where returning hikers turn right to head back to the car park, we continued straight on.

The hike up the fire road, in the heat and blazing sun, felt interminable. Eventually we reached the turn off for the trail up Robertson Mountain.

We’ve climbed this mountain before, on day 3 of this trip.

The summit is tiny and overgrown with trees and brush. A few big boulders and breaks still give tremendous views, including back towards Old Rag where we’d come from that morning.

The descent off Robertson Mountain was the crux of our route. It was a steep, loose trail for 1.6 miles back to the fire road. Easy to follow but hard on one’s knees. We were happy to reach the relative comfort of the fire road!

From there it was a couple of easy miles back to the car, with a quick dip in the river en route to cool off our weary feet.

All in all, it was an amazing day out!

City Hike #3: Copenhagen, Denmark

Part 3 of a series of “hikes in big cities”. For Parts 1 and 2, walks around San Francisco and New York, click here (NYC) and here (SF).

December 10, 2019

I had a few hours free in Copenhagen, Denmark, after leading a Google Sheets training workshop for a client.

It was a chance to fit in an exploratory nighttime ramble through the heart of this pretty city.

This was my approximate route, starting from hotel Skt Petri where I was staying, and taking in the Lego shop (of course!), the Skaal craft brew house (for dinner and beer) and Starbucks (for a cup of tea).

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European cities are beautiful at this time of year.

They’re pedestrian- and bike-friendly of course, which I love, and full of wonderful architecture and old buildings.

But they really shine (pun intended) at this time of year.

They deck the streets with lights, people walk around hand-in-hand past Christmas markets, and everyone has a glow, a warmth, about them. At this time of year, London is like this too.

Here are a few photos from my short foot journey:

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Lights along the Fiolstræde street near the hotel

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A gorgeous courtyard, tucked away down a side passage

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Christmas tree in the square near to Skaal brew house where I had dinner

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Reindeer at the Kultorvet (“The Coal Market”)

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Quintessential European culture — a cafe with seating on the sidewalk. People sit out, even at this time of year, to watch the world go by.

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The imposter Lego shop! It had a great selection but the official Lego shop was further down the street (I visited of course, but didn’t get a photo there).

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Saying hello to Santa.

One day I’ll have to return for a longer walk and include some of the parks and lakes.

Glyders Traverse, Snowdonia National Park, Wales

15 October 2019

My brother and I headed out for a day of hiking in Snowdonia National Park, during our overlapping family trips to the UK.

That morning, a full moon presided over the mountains of Snowdonia, which bathed in a soft dawn light. The valley slept under a blanket of cloud.

It was a most auspicious start to our day.

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View across the River Conwy valley to the high peaks of Snowdonia.

As we blasted along the A5 towards Capel Curig and beyond to Llyn Ogwen, the landscape felt absolutely familiar and shockingly distant. It’s an area that I’ve spent a lot of time in, but that was all more than 10 years ago.

Tryfan looked every bit as magnificent as I remember it.

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Tryfan!

Here we were again. My brother and I preparing for a walk from that layby half-way along Llyn Ogwen.

We couldn’t help but smile at the adventure that lay ahead.

I was a little run down with a head cold, so we decided to attempt Tryfan and see how we felt before committing to anything else. If we (or rather I) felt terrible we’d call it a day. If not, we’d carry on.

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In high spirits as we set off from the layby about half way along Llyn Ogwen on the A5.

It was a good long pull up to the summit of Tryfan. It was immensely satisfying to be walking over familiar terrain once again, chatting away with one of the most awesome people on planet Earth.

We both felt pretty good on the ascent and reached the summit without too much trouble.

Once there, we shared a cuppa and a digestive biscuit. We’d talked about this moment for months and here we were, living it. Or rather, eating it.

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My happy place. Tea and a digestive biscuit (the king of all biscuits) on a mountain summit (Tryfan).

The swirling cloud made for some good pictures. Mountains, ridges and lakes drifted in and out of the cloud. Pete hopped on over to the shoulder of Tryfan for this great shot (his idea).

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Pete on the flanks of Tryfan with Bristly Ridge in the background. Epic scenery!

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Looking West along the spine of the Glyders.

Back at the saddle between Tryfan and the rest of the Glyders, we rested briefly. We drank more tea and decided to continue traversing the range.

We were both happy as pigs in sh*t. There was no way we were turning back now.

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Taking a break at the Bwlch Tryfan, looking back at the summit of Tryfan where we’d just descended from.

As we ascended Glyder Fach, the clouds lifted away from Tryfan to leave a stunning image of the summit pyramid against a deep blue sky.

No doubt about it, Tryfan is a mighty mountain.

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The iconic Tryfan.

The walk over the top of Glyder Fach was in and out of cloud the whole way. We were given enough glimpses of our surroundings that we didn’t need to use the compass for navigation.

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Looking NW down the valley towards Bangor. Glyders on the left. Carneddau on the right.

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Pete at the same spot.

Mother Nature treated us to a nice surprise on the top of Glyder Fach: a brocken spectre!

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The best brocken spectre I’ve ever seen (bottom right of photo) where your shadow is cast onto clouds and makes this rainbow halo. Taken very close to the summit of Glyder Fach.

It was amazing, by far the best I’ve ever seen (out of maybe two others, haha), and I think it was the first one that Pete has ever seen. What a treat!

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The Brocken spectre up close. Amazing!

The cloud thickened as we skirted Castell Y Gwynt and continued over Glyder Fawr. The path was easily followed so navigation didn’t present any real issues.

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Striding into the mist past Castell Y Gwynt.

It was pretty cold though.

We’d visited the Costwolds shop the day before to buy these beanie hats as we’d both neglected to bring anything warm with us to the UK.

Good job too. We wore them for almost the whole day.

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Selfie somewhere along the ridge between Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr.

The mountains mellowed in the late afternoon light as we descended out of the mist of Glyder Fawr and made our way up Y Garn, our final mountain for the day.

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Looking out towards Foel Goch, which we didn’t climb on this trip.

Y Garn is a more mellow mountain than Tryfan and the two Glyders.

Where they are all rocky and imposing, Y Garn is round, grassy and welcoming. We enjoyed beautiful views from the summit.

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View back to Llyn Ogwen, where we began the day, from the summit of Y Garn.

As we descended off the summit of Y Garn, we passed a slow moving family — a dad, mum and two teenage kids.

The mum was having a torrid time, basically clinging on all fours and scared about the steep ridge.

As we passed, the dad turned to to Pete and me and said something like “One of us is not having a good time, and I’ll let you guess who that is” with a smirk on his face. What an asshole we thought. Very weird.

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Descending the ridge off Y Garn, looking towards the Carneddau.

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Pete on the same descent route, a little further down. Llyn Ogwen in the background.

The route is stunning and spectacular every step of the way. This waterfall photo was taken a few hundred metres from the road.

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The river tumbling out of the Glyders, near to the head of Llyn Ogwen.

My knees ached on this final descent, indicating that we’d bitten off just the right amount. Anymore and I’d have been in a bit of pain.

They’re still recovering from the over exuberance of my trail running earlier this summer.

We finished with a cup of tea and a delicious brownie from the Ogwen Snack Shop before a quick yomp along the A5 back to the car.

All in all, an absolutely magnificent day out.

One of the finest days of hillwalking I’ve enjoyed in Snowdonia.

The Route

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The numbers on the map and elevation profile correspond to the following summits:

  1. Tryfan
  2. Glyder Fach
  3. Glyder Fawr
  4. Y Garn

The dotted line shows the segment I missed on Strava because I forgot to start my watch when we left the car.

Although the distance was short, around 8 miles or so, it’s a lot of up and down over rough terrain, so it was a tiring day.

It’s an absolute corker of a route and we had just about perfect weather for it.

I love this part of the world so much. I spent many happy childhood days walking, climbing, camping and drinking tea in Snowdonia National Park. It will always hold a special place in my heart.

Until next time!