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JetBoil Flash Review

I’ve a new toy – the JetBoil Flash basically, a portable device for boiling water.

In the past, my rucksack contained a couple of flasks of juice and I would march along my route, hardly breaking stride as I reached round for a swig.
More recently I started to fill a flask. I would make up a coffee before I left home/base and it would be there when I needed it. Trouble was, I often ended up drinking cold coffee, especially in winter and much of the drink would spill or leak.
I progressed on to a meths burner. It wasn’t the easiest thing to use but it was cheap, light and usually/eventually provided enough boiling water for a drink –  just add instant coffee and milk.
I did, however, have problems in winter,  in the wet and when I forgot my lighter – the most likely problem!

Jet Boil BitsStep forward the  JetBoil Flash cooking system. It is self contained (at least it would be if I had the smaller gas canister!) and boils water in around two minutes.
Every thing except the  a screw top gas canister comes straight out the box.

I packed my rucksack and headed to my usual playground – the Clwydian Range.
Initially, I noticed the sack did feel a bit heavier but after a few minutes climb didn’t notice the extra load. Needless to say, not only would the smaller gas fit in the mug, it would also reduce the weight considerably.

I had followed the first part of the walk many times before but today seemed so much more picturesque. Spring was in full force leaving a technicolour vista punctuated by the imposing, snow capped Snowdon in the distance.
Views from Moel Famau to Snowdon

I took the Offa’s Dyke path up Moel Famau and continued to the west passing Moel Dywyll before dropping down towards the road.  I’d often been around this area and wondered where the track to the left hand side of the road went….so I followed it.
The path soon moved away from the road and I found a spot with lovely views to christen my JetBoil.

Jet Boil in the fieldSetting it up was easy.
I took the orange ‘feet’ out from the mug, unfolded them then clamped  on the gas canister.
Next out was the stove itself. Flip out the gas regulator on the site and screw the stove on to the gas canister.
Covering the bottom of the mug is a measuring pot which is handy for keeping dry ingredients  – coffee in my case.  Popping the bottom off reveals the flux ring heat exchanger.  This does the clever stuff which enables the JetBoil to work so well.
Little lugs can be found on the bottom of the mug, line these up with the stove and give it a small turn to lock in place. No chance of accidentally knocking the cup over, something that happened a few times with the slightly top heavy meths burner and mug.

I  removed the top from the mug and poured in enough water to reach the ‘2 cup’ mark.
I put the lid back on, turned the regulator to start the gas flow, clicked the lighter on the opposite side and it started to boil up the water.
Simple!
Boiled changes colourIt sounded vicious but in less than two minutes, the water had boiled.
A handy feature is the marking on the side of the mug which turns orange when the water has boiled. This takes the guess work out of the boiling and stops the urge to pop the lid to see how hot the water is getting.
The neoprene ‘cozy’ covering the mug ensures the mug is safe to lift up. Incidentally,  the side strap of the  ‘cozy’  can be used to store teaspoons.
Once boiled, stop the gas flow, twist the mug to unlock and brew  some coffee……or tea, or cook noodles, make up dried food….there are a whole load of things you can create and JetBoil have posted some recipes on their website

After my cuppa, I continued on my walk.
I could have remained on this path right around the ‘base’ of Moel Famau, however, keen to increase my mileage for the ViewRanger challenge, I turned off on to a road to my right.
At a junction, I took another right towards the small village of Llangynhafal.
A footpath passes to the left of the  Golden Lion Inn and through the campsite behind. The views from this campsite are spectacular, however (at the moment at least) the only ‘facility’ is a tap in the corner of the field.
Airbus Beluga from Hawarden
The path crosses a road before following the base of Moel Famau, at one point I got cracking view of the Airbus Beluga aircraft taking wings from the nearby factory in Hawarden.
Near a farm, the path joins a concrete ‘road’. There is a path which continues South, however, it was impossible to tell what was the route and what was a gate in to their garden even checking against my GPS and paper OS map. I wasn’t brave enough to risk trespassing so continued along the road to a junction in Hirwaen where I took a left.
There are a number of ways back  on to the original route, I took a left at Pen-y-waen, from there I headed East back to the car park.

All in all, a very enjoyable walk and I can definitely see the JetBoil getting a lot of use!

Download this route as a GPX file

 

Eggs and meths

Yes, I know I spend far too many hours on the Clwydian Range but it’s just too tempting. A day off work,  35 minutes drive from home and so many routes to choose from.

Today, I paid my £2 to park up in the ‘lower Moel Famau’ car park on the Bwlch Pen Barras road. After my usual visit to make use of the facilities, I headed up towards the paths, taking a route to the right heading North East.

There are a few routes off this wide, multi use path. I continued on the main path, following it round  as it turned North.  Crossing the ford
At a definite ‘crossroads’ I turned left, gradually climbing towards a track where  the route crosses a ford  (marked on the route map).  At the ford the track initially heads  North. Shortly after it turns to head North East, take a left to start the  ascent up the side of Ffrith mountain.

Flowers on roadAt the next junction I turned right, taking the suitably Welsh looking daffodil lined road towards a farm house selling eggs (marked on the map).
These eggs cost £1.20 (well cost me £1.50 as I didn’t have any change!) and come from a flock of free range  Black Rock hens.

At the next junction, I took a left towards Crug Farm and on to the road at Pentre. Here I went left along the road  which becames a track, passing two reservoirs.

Reservoir

Shortly after passing the second reservoir I used a narrow wooden plank to cross over a stream. As I was about half way round distance wise (the climbing was still to come!), it seemed a good place to stop for a coffee.

Filling up my water ‘pouch’ from the stream,  I used my Sawyer Water Filter to pour clear water in to my Alpkit Titanium mug and fired up the meths burner.
Now, despite thinking of myself as an ‘outdoorsy’ type of person, I’d never tried boiling water out in the wild.  I had some success sitting in my back garden but this was my first real test and it went surprisingly well.
Perhaps it was the sense of achievement, perhaps it was the view, but this was one of my nicest cups of coffee for a long time!

Alpkit mug on meths burner
Brewing my coffee, the wooden plank ‘bridge’ can be seen in the background

The meths burner itself is simply a small metal bowl, in to which I pour some meths (I take  small travel bottle with enough meths for a few burns) .
Making sure it is sat on something that won’t catch alight, such as I stone, I use my lighter to fire it up. Initially not a lot happens. Place the metal wind guard around it and wait for the flames.  Once alight, stick the mug on and wait for it to boil
It can be a bit hit and miss, especially on cold, wet or windy days but Bare Bones provide a great guide and you get a great sense of achievement after making your first coffee!

Once I’d finished my cuppa, I left my intended route and followed a new path which was not marked on my OS map. The Tir Gofal is a bridleway/cycle route/footpath which heads South towards Pwl y Rhos. It soon became obvious that this was predominantly a cycle route, the trye marks had made the route very muddy.
ViewsDespite not being on the map I had a good idea where I was heading, directly towards the Moel Famau path and as the weather was starting to close in, I was rather pleased that I could see the path I wanted but it soon became clear that path was on the wrong side of a fence!  The route then took a turn, almost back on itself, making  a horse shoe shape. I was walking  back to Moel Dywyll, following along side the path I actually wanted but in the wrong direction – oops!
This path eventually spat me out on to Offa’s Dyke. Not an ideal route  and I could have avoided it by continuing to the West after the coffee break, but it did add a few extra miles on which helped with the ViewRanger 500 mile challenge!

As I past the cairn the rain started to fall. One of those sudden downpours, as if someone had turned a tap on above my head.
Perhaps it was the gloomy skies, perhaps it was because I was already 8 miles in to the walk, but the path to  Jubilee tower at the peak of Moel Famau had never seemed so steep.

The view from the top was non existent so I headed straight down on the Offa’s Dyke path. It was quiet today, there were only a few other people on this route but I decided to leave it and join a quieter path so took the next left through the Clywd forest and back to the car park.

Yet again, a different route in a very familiar area…..and the eggs were delicious!

Alternate, solo Valentine’s

It’s Valentine’s Day. The cards, presents and flowers are nowhere to be seen so, rather than a candle lit dinner, I decided upon a slice of malt loaf up a hill.

Parking up in the upper Moel Famau/Bwlch Penbarra car park, I eventually tracked down the one working pay and display machine and headed up Foel Fenlli. I glanced over to Moel Famau behind me, watching the hordes of people strolling up to the Jubilee Tower like ill equipped sheep.  I concluded I’d made the right decision with this route….albeit not a well planned route. I had planned nothing other than head up and over Fenlli and just go where ever I fancied. Somewhere different would be preferable but, given the crisp sunny day it was just nice to be out, and away from the masses.

It’s quite a steep climb to the top of Fenlli (511 meters) but once at the peak there are some lovely views and  the remains of the Iron Age hill fort can clearly be seen.

View from Foel Fenlli
Foel Fenlli peak

From the peak,  I continued South down a steep scree path to join the Offa’s Dyke path to Bwlch Crug-glas and on to the junction of paths to the East.
It was at this junction I drew up a rough route plan. I had never ventured over to the East of the A494 so quickly devised a route towards Mount Pleasant.

The first step on this hastily arranged plan was a left, heading North East, passing through plenty of mud and a farm gate.
Where the path splits, I could take either, both led to the same location. For no particular reason I continued on the ‘top path’ before taking a right and dropping down to Plymog and crossing a A494.

River near LlanferresThe next path was almost directly over the road. Crossing over a river, I continued to where a spring joined the river and plonked myself down on a large piece of concrete jutting in to the water.
An ideal place for lunch.
Here, there was nobody about at all and I was far enough away from the main road for a peaceful break.

Crossing stream

I eventually made my way on to the path in to the woods, using stepping stones and a small wooden bridge to make my way over the water.
The trees became fewer as I walked towards what was presumably an old quarry at Bryn-yr-ardd.

As the path became more of a track, I took a left almost going back on myself, into the woods. As I passed old, derelict buildings, I crossed a stile to my right, deeper in to the woods towards the buidlings at Mount Pleasant where I took another right heading initially East and then turning to the North.
The original ‘plan’ was to take the next path to the West towards Llanferres, however, I spotted a cave marked on the map so continued North through the woods of Big Covert. Unfortunately, as this was a very haphazardly planned route,  I didn’t have the exact co-ordinates of the cave. After a short wander in the general vicinity proved unfruitful, I decided to return another day (with my head torch!) and rejoined the path.to the small village of Maeshafn.

Woods near MaeshafnTaking a left when I reached the road, I took the next footpath on the right, walking South West to the track. At the crossroads, I took a right towards the houses and continued West to the A494, crossing the road and taking the narrow road almost opposite through Llanferres.
At the end of Rectory Lane I took the path through the field heading North West, passing to the left of the farm at Fron Hen.

When reaching the road, I took a left and another left at the t-junction heading to the lower Moel Famau car park. From there I followed the path parallel to the road back to the top car park.

The gpx file for this 7 mile walk can be downloaded from the ViewRanger website

Out with Desmond

I had just opened the 8th door of my advent calendar and realised I’ve not been out since the end of October (well, apart from a 4 mile stroll around Thurstaston shore)
I decided that no matter what the weather wanted to throw at me, I was heading out to the hills. This thought came while the news channels were still covering the devastating effects of storm Desmond so perhaps wasn’t my brightest idea!

I had good intentions of planning routes all round the local area, however, as with all good intentions, other things got in the way and I ended up at old faithful, the Moel Famau car park.

Just as I pulled up, the skies turned from a nice blue to black, then the rain came. Huge clumps of the stuff.
Not to worry, the waterproof jacket and over trousers are more than a match and off I headed through the woods following the pinky/purpley coloured arrows before joining the Offa’s Dyke path.
Views on Moel Famau walk
All was good as I headed up towards Jubilee Tower, the route was easy to follow, the sun was starting to make an appearance and it was unseasonably warm (around 10 degrees Celsius).

A few layers were shed, which was to prove a bad move.

Just before the peak I took the left hand path with the intention on pressing on to Moel Dywyll and perhaps  Moel Arthur however, the wind really whipped up in this more exposed area.  Forecasts for Cilcain suggested 25mph winds, gusting 37mph…… then the hail kicked in.

Trying to put my waterproof back on proved to be rather awkward, think of an octopus trying to change a duvet cover and you’ll get the idea.
My Arc’teryx waterproof was on the verge of becoming an Arc’teryx kite.
After that hassle, I decided against a further battle with the waterproof pants, the wind would soon dry my legs off.

Normally my philosophy is to carry on regardless, never wimp out, however, with ice battering my face and the wind trying it’s very best to push me over, the little voices in my head told me the that high, exposed ground was, perhaps, not the best option.
Reluctantly I gave in to the sensible side and turned back towards the last junction I passed, taking  a left,  crossing a style and heading North.

River or pathNow for a different problem.
The ground from here on in was muddy, extremely muddy and slippery.
Somehow I managed to stay on my feet and my bum remained mud free by pulling off moves and agility that Beth Tweddle would have been proud of.
My path came to a ‘crossroads’, I could have continued straight on, shortening my walk, however, given my earlier route failure, I took a left, heading North following the Clwydian Way towards the reservoir and Cae Newydd.

MudAt the next junction I headed right, this path went South initially on tracks and through the odd stream before becoming a narrow wooden walk way.
At the base of Ffrith mountain I went West before taking the mixed use route to my left. This soon becomes a big wide track, big enough in fact for a large digger which was busy doing some work in the area.

By the time I reached the car park, I’d completed about 9.5 miles. Not bad, but I had hoped for more.
An excuse to book another day off work and go on another walk I guess!

 

The cloud base is low on the Clwydian hills

It’s the middle of August, I’ve got a day off work, what could possibly go wrong!

Well, for starters,  I thought it was summer, a time for warm, sunny days, unfortunately, the weather had other ideas!

I parked up in the main Moel Famau car park. Parking here costs £2 for the day.
Access to the car park is through a barrier in to which you put your money.
There is a public toilet here and, at busier times, a van selling drinks and snacks.

There are a number of routes up from the car park. I took the main path,  heading roughly North West,  through the woodland.
At one point the path splits, one way is the more direct route up to the peak and the Jubilee tower, the other path, to the left, is slightly further put more pleasant.

The top of Moel Famau can get very busy with lots of people milling around the tower. Many visitors head straight up, take a look at the views then go straight back down again. So, to avoid the crowds (not that there was anyone out today!) take the left hand fork just before the peak, on to the Clwydian Way/Offa’s Dyke path.

Cloudy view from Moel Famau
Usually there would be great views over to Wirral, Merseyside and Snowdonia, however, not today!
At least, up to this point it was’t raining, it was  humid but not raining. This soon changed as I continued on to Moel Dywyll.

Staying on the Clwydian Way I continued to the steps leading down to the road opposite which stands the distinctively shaped Moel Arthur.  This hill is home to a small hill fort and, possibly, a Bronze Age burial mound.
This route, however, passes the hill rather than climbs it and I took the path which runs parallel to the road in a North Easterly direction. The path climbs a bit before leading through fields to a quiet road not far from the village of Cilcain.

The path continues through fields and woodland before climbing back up Moel Famau. Yes, a climb near the end of an 11 mile walk isn’t ideal but, on the bright side, you don’t need to go all the way back to the peak!

Rainy walk Moel FamauBy now the rain was torrential so I took the  fire roads back down to the car park to make for an easier, faster route.
Was very glad of a decent waterproof by this point!
There are several, more pleasant routes back down to the car park, however, this particular route can be downloaded from my ViewRanger pages.

There is also a short video on the new Black Pudding Gaiters YouTube channel

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