Sunday, 30 June 2013

Finding the B-29 Superfortress in the Peak District

Greetings, Blog Fans.  We had a different type of walk today.  It was more of an adventure or scavenger hunt than our typical jaunts.  The weather has warmed up and a sunny day was predicted so we (I) decided to seek out the crash site of the B-29 Superfortress (wiki link).

According to the wiki link above:  The B-29 Superfortress is a four-engine propeller-driven heavy bomber designed by Boeing that was flown primarily by the United States toward the end of World War II and during the Korean War. It was one of the largest aircraft to see service in World War II and a very advanced bomber for its time, with features such as a pressurized cabin, an electronic fire-control system, and remote-controlled machine-gun turrets.

Evidently, there are quite a lot of wreckage sites across the Peak District given it's relatively high ground and location between bases.   Many training flights over-flew this area or its periphery.  As many were still undergoing training most of the aircrews were relatively inexperienced in flying and the use of navigational equipment which combined with the high ground and regular night flying often in poor weather, made accidents inevitable. Overall just over half of the accidents in the Peak District occurred while crews were on training flights.  (reference: Peakdistrictaircrashes)

The B-29 site is one of the better preserved and perhaps easier to find, so we thought we'd have a go.

Stretching my radius even further for this one.  This is perhaps another 10 miles past the Ladybower Reservoir which was our previous farthest away walk (link).   It took about 70 minutes to get there, again choosing the easier (but boring) motorway route via Sheffield.

Parking along the Snake's Pass on A57.  Shorts (and a little sunscreen too).  Are we in the UK? 

I have to admit that I let my guard down on this trip and did not prepare as well as I usually do.  It was going to be in the low 20s (70s) in Derby and about 20C in Hathersage in the Peak District so we did not bring enough clothes.  It was about 13C and very windy (cold!) when we parked up.  I normally throw everything in the "boot" (trunk) for all options (rain gear, warm weather gear, extra shoes, etc.) but not this time.  My handheld GPS also ran out of juice and my spare batteries were in my other pack.  Argh!

 Hills in the distance.  I assume that's where we are headed but I wasn't so sure.

And we are off.  The initial part of the walk is along the Pennine Way (wiki link):   The Pennine Way is a National Trail in England. The trail runs 268 miles (431 km) from Edale, in the northern Derbyshire Peak District, north through the Yorkshire Dales and the Northumberland National Park and ends at Kirk Yetholm, just inside the Scottish border.

Nicole and I walked a little bit of it when we did Kinder Scout.

After a mile or so, we drew even with the Higher Shelf Stones (not shown in the distance) and it was time to go off-roadin'. 

this no trail business is new to us -- plenty of ups/downs and careful selection to minimize the potential to fall in a bog

the troops carrying on -- we were quite enamored with the cottongrass (?)

best photo of the day -- Nicole flying off the bog; the fastest way down in this instance

Hey, Andrea, should I have popped these two guys in a jar to sell to the chemist/pharmacist?  At best, they are a different type of slug but they look more like leeches to me.  Ewww.   (but what do I know)

after the bog slog and a climb, we see the beginning of a crash site

a stray piece at first

 a few impromptu memorials

a bigger piece

and another

Then, bam, this site opens up -- never seen anything like this.  This crash occurred in 1948.  A few of the bits have grown legs but there is still quite a bit here.  Fascinating, yet somber.

more of the wreckage

and another

bigger pieces here

remnants of 1 of the 4 engines -- Wright R-3350 Duplex-Cyclone I believe (twin row, super-charged, 18 cylinder radial engine (link))

another view

and the memorial

In Memory:  Here Lies the Wreckage of B-29 Superfortress "Overexposed" of the 16th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron USAF which tragicially crashed whilst descending through cloud on 3rd November 1948 killing all 13 crewmembers.  The Aircraft was on a routine flight from RAF Scrampton to American AFB Burtonwood.   It is doubtful the crew ever saw the ground.  Memorial laid by the 367 Course of RAF Finningley on 12 November 1988.

 more engines

 my crew by the memorial

the wind was really whipping up here (30-40 mph??) -- I tried to take a shot of the valley just past the wreckage site.  It's not the best photo (new camera, cold hands, wind, etc.) but the town in the middle is Glossop.  Just under the clouds on the right (barely noticeable) is Manchester.

back to look at another memorial

and a final shot from a different perspective as we leave

we (broadly) re-traced our steps to find our way back to the trail  -- came across some sheep hiding in the tall grass (not too many up here)

look blue skies!  the scenery on this walk was a touch bland compared to some of the others, but we enjoyed seeking out the crash site and also the varied terrain underfoot (bog and dry creek bed)

instead of turning back to the car, we went for the stretch goal in the opposite direction -- we carried on to the Bleaklow Head (it's marked as a peak, but the slope is so gradual it didn't really afford many views)

I got a glimpse of another apparent wreckage site from Bleaklow.  I headed out while the family took a break.  I did the easy bit but as it was farther than I thought, I did not cross the boggy part and pulled up short.  Not sure if it was a wreck or not.

Retracing our steps now.  The "trail" between Bleaklow and our turnoff for the B-29 site was damp and rocky.  It made for a fun walk though.

more walking along the little stream

the "root beer" pond that comes with water in the Dark Peak

Heading home (or at least the car).  Happy and tired.

I'm quite disappointed that my GPS died and I flubbed up the transfer so I lost the track (breadcrumbs) and the geeky stats that go with it (it lasted to our furthest point so would have been useful).  I think we walked about 8 miles based on the 5 or so miles I had on the odometer at Bleaklow.  It took about 4.5 hrs.  We doubled the length by going out to Bleaklow for those that want to just go out to the site.

The gang all did well and commented that they liked the uniqueness of this particular walk (crash site plus terrain differences).

For those interested in another perspective, here's a write-up on this and some other "close by" sites by a more experience walker (link).

It was pretty amazing to see an aircraft wreckage, particularly from 1948.  It's is a touch remote but not incredibly so.  Important to remember than 13 men actually lost their lives here.

Photos were taken from my new camera that Kuk got for me for Father's Day.  It's a newer, fancier and slightly bigger Nikon Coolpix (point-n-shoot).  I'm still figuring it out and I need to learn how to turn some features off and open up others.  It was a good trial run though.  I needed to put it through some paces before our next big trip.

Kids have one more week of school and then they "break up".  That's 2 weeks before the State (public) schools so we will be heading out to beat the masses (and the bridge the gap of unavailable holiday care).

Take care everyone and have a good week.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Nothing to See Here . . .

Hello, Blog Fans.  Not every weekend is postcard ready.  This was one of those.  Here's a mini-update for those that are addicted . . .


We had a very enjoyable evening in saying farewell to the Seppanens who came over for one last "curry" (take away, mind you).  They are excited to be heading home.  We are excited for them but also sad to see them go.  Our time will come.  We aren't ready mentally or physically/logistically just yet.  I'm sure it will be with mixed emotions when the time comes.

Won't be the same without you guys.  Best of luck on your repatriation.


The forecast for the weekend wasn't the best for either day.  Saturday was notionally better but not by much.  At any rate, it wasn't enough to juggle things around as some chores can only be done on Saturday.

How's this for excitement:

dentist X 4
haircut X 2
grocery shopping
Costco run

Yippee.  All that and the weather turned out to be half-way decent.  Grrr.

I did make some good progress on planning our upcoming Switzerland trip at least.  Ready to go now . . . 

The family dentist trip was a last-minute reschedule.  We hadn't rebooked since our last one was cancelled when the dentist was "sick".  They were fortunately able to take us straightaway. I say "sick" because it just so happened to be on one of the nicest days of the year.  Case of the blue skies if you ask me . . .

Our dentist is a nice enough guy and he has some newer equipment than our one back in Indy.  However, he did all four of us in 40 minutes (one by one) which is how long 1 adult takes back in Indy.  Probably not getting the same level of care.  Oh well -- it's not as bad as the stereotypes.


Kuk left for Bristol for a major review on Monday.  She worked all day yesterday from home as well.  The weather was pretty poor and it rained most of the morning.  Combined with the fact that I hadn't actually planned a new walk, we decided to have a low key family day (sans Kuk).

First up, we went to see Despicable Me 2.  Now I'm sure I had my expectations properly set, but we all thought it was a hoot.  Very enjoyable.

In the afternoon, we played Alex's Brain Box London game (a birthday gift).  It has different "cards" of London that you get to stare at for 10 seconds and then try to answer a question about it.  Harder than it looks!

Continuing the theme of using gifts, we made ice cream in Alex's ice cream soccer ball.  It looks like this.  You get the ice, rock salt and ice cream ingredients and then the kids pass the ball around until it is ready.   Sounds fun.  The downside is the cleanup and the cost (2x more than Ben & Jerry's).  Our chocolate chip ice cream turned out pretty well but we certainly weren't perfect.  Maybe next time!

Finally, we continued the "togetherness" by cooking dinner together (or at least Nicole and I did).  Nicole gave me some coupons at Christmas so I cashed one in to have her cook dinner.  I chose a slightly more complicated meal than what she has done in the past so I helped her some.  The lamb & pasta stew turned out well.  Good job Nicole!

I thought I should give her a little more time/practice in the kitchen with me and a lazy Sunday afternoon was the perfect time.

The kids have 2 more weeks of school (which is early over here).  They both have "Activity Week" at school this week and ironically they will be going to London separately but at the same time.  Alex will be spending the night and Nicole will come back very late one night.  Both will see musicals (Nicole will see 2) and take in other sites.  Alex has a Peak District walk as well while Nicole be going to Alton Towers and the Tamworth Snow Dome.  (Tough week, eh kids?).

With Switzerland essentially planned, I should have no excuses for finding a new walk for next weekend.  Maybe I'll even have some pictures!

Sunday, 16 June 2013


A few months back, I proclaimed that I wanted to climb Snowdon, the highest peak in Wales, for Father's Day.  I continued to scheme and came up with a plan to stay Friday night in Caernarfon, hike on Saturday, have a nice meal and then head home.  [We all do better if we have a full weekend day to get ready for the week ahead.  So, staying one night was our choice.]

Caernarfon is about 3 hours away.  However, the downside of traveling Friday night rather than in the wee hours of Saturday morning is the awful Friday evening traffic.  It doesn't matter where you go, it will be bad.  The M6 is notorious as well but country routes aren't much better.  We left around 5:15 pm and hit traffic as expected, particularly on the M6.  A well-timed fast food break let the majority of the traffic pass and we arrived around 9 pm.

We visited Caernarfon on our first trip to Wales when we stayed in Criccieth.   In fact, it was on the Royal Wedding date and we had the place to ourselves at first.  As a result, we didn't take in any sites -- this was all about Snowdon.

Needless to say, Snowdon is a bit more of a climb than our usual walk.  I suggested/decided that perhaps Kuk and Alex would be better off taking the Snowdon Mountain Railway to the top and we could all walk down together.  Sounds noble, but it was probably a touch selfish as I knew our pace would be slower with them (and the whinging potentially would be higher).

So, I drove to the back side of the mountain (C, above) and Kuk drove herself and Alex to Llanberis (D) to catch the train.  We returned to Conwy for a nice dinner (previous trip here) before heading home.

Snowdon is a worthy challenge and more strenuous than our typical Peak District affair.  That said, some 250,000 climb it annually so it's not like tackling Everest.  The peak is at 1085m (3560 ft) and there are numerous routes up (see above).   We actually had a go at it back in 2011 on the Miner's Track (#2).  However, we got a late start and weren't planning to reach the summit (and we didn't).

I was intrigued by the lesser used Ranger's Track (#6) and given that Kuk could move the car, we opted for that on the way up and the Llanberis path (#1) on the way down.  I thought the Llanberis path would be the easier descent and it was convenient since the car was there!  (There are public transportation options as well).

Don't worry, photos are coming but I have to get my geeky stats out first.  The Ranger's path is the dark blue one and the Llanberis is cyan / light blue.  I had also considered the Miner's and Pyg path and they are shown on the right.
Pretty healthy climb -- just over 3000'.  It wasn't as difficult as I thought though.  Don't get me wrong, it's a workout but Nicole and I both did well.  In fact, we did it in much better time than I thought -- 2:40 (with 2:01 of that moving).  The walk up was 4.1 miles with a gradient was 14% -- again pretty healthy.

For reference, our walk in Scotland two weeks ago had a pretty decent climb (and was hotter).  It was 14% but only over 1.6 miles.

Slightly more consistent and gentle slope on the way down.  Still -12.7% over 4.6 miles though.  It took the same time going down (2:38 with 2:13 moving).   As is often the case, going down was harder than going up, especially on the knees!  There were quite a few folks, myself included, who walked some of the last bit backwards (on pavement) to help the knees and scrunched toes.

Side by side for a comparison.  The slightly level bit on the way up was helpful to "rest".

Note:  the views and crowds were much better on the way up.  I wouldn't recommend the Llanberis path necessarily.

Okay, enough of the pre-amble -- on to the walk!

Happy and dry at the starting point.  We were over-prepared at this point.  The predicted rains never came but the strong winds (and cold) did.

I have managed to accumulate some "kit" since being here.  I had the walking "boots" and Camelbak before hand from our Southwest US trip.  My acquired kit includes a microfiber fleece, waterproof jacket, waterproof over-trousers and a fleece hat and gloves (all black, Berghaus since I'm not one for imagination or creativity).  You can also see that I have a pair of walking poles as well (from Kuk).  This was their maiden voyage and were a big help to distribute the load on the climb.  And as you can tell from the geeky plots above, I've got my trusty handheld GPS as well. (Not needed for navigation at all on this trip).

[Lake] Llyn Cwellyn and Mynydd Mawr along with some sheep just after the start on the Ranger's Trail.  [Remember we are in Wales, where you always want to buy a vowel to help you read the Welsh language.]

a cute sheep at the start -- different varieties than we normally see

slowly climbing -- this is still looking back

more sheep -- longer wool (and different type as mentioned) -- quite a few were half shorn which made them look like lion's manes (not shown here though)

3 peaks in the distance

photo op and quick breather -- not sure if it was the heat or just getting our mojo going but we found the first bit the most grueling

a little higher -- nice view

the wind is picking up a bit -- it was really great to do the hike with Nicole.  Good father/daughter time and we are in similar shape as well.

cloud covered Snowdon in the distance  -- I wish I had taken a screen shot of the weather forecast from the morning.  The BBC forecast for Llanberis was reasonable but the Snowdon Met office forecast was terrifying:  70-90% of heavy showers phasing to only rain later.  Gale force winds.   Basically 75% chance of death more or less.  Given the Llanberis forecast we decided to carry on.  So glad we did.  We stayed dry but the winds did pick up.

Looking back across the flatter section with the peaks in the distance (looking away from Snowdon)

our next ascent and Snowdon still in clouds

still nice views looking back though

 closer to the next ascent and the clouds--the wind really started picking up here.  Hats/gloves are now out.

 the peak still clipped by the clouds

 looking back again

 we could look over the ridge to our left (north) and see Llanberis

this guy follows us on all our walks!

looking back from a higher vantage point -- love the contrast of the clouds and sky, light/dark, peaks/valleys, etc.

similar photo -- you can just make out the sea in the background (Caernarfon, etc.)

nearly touching the clouds now

another look back from higher up (and lower cloud cover)

 a gust of fog/cloud crossing our path

close to joining up with the Llanberis path -- here's the steam train chugging up.  I knew Kuk and Alex weren't on this one since they opted to take the cheaper (but still expensive) diesel train.  Would they be waiting for us?

Llanberis from the clouds

back to the direction where we started (sorry if these seem repetitive but I find it interesting how the views and the clouds kept changing).

I really liked the relative solitude of the Ranger's Path.  We probably saw a half dozen groups behind us (none overtook us!) and another half dozen that passed us going the opposite direction.  Compared to the masses on the Llanberis and Miner's path, it was great.

Given that there are so many trails in the UK, many of the locals get used to that solitude.  I don't mind seeing folks out and about but even I thought the trail down was a little crowded.

Not much to see here!

crossing over the train tracks -- rack/pinion or cog driven to help the train up/down the steep slope.   "Taking visitors to the top since 1896"

This is looking down the other side of the ridqe along the Pyg and Miner's tracks.  It's tough to see but the final ascent is pretty steep on this one.  We made it to the beginning of that ascent (past the lakes, etc.) in 2011 and called it a day.

Slight haze and generally lower cloud cover.  It was considerably worse later in the day during our descent.

you would occasionally get a gust that would clear a viewing port to snap a photo

Nicole's at the (crowded) top.  It was cold and windy.  In fact, taking the few steps up and down to the marker was a little scary with the gusts.

cloudy view from the top (Miner's track side)

my turn -- hard to find a little space

the "cozy cafe" was absolutely packed -- not exactly a remote mountain top.  This was at its worst when we left.  Nicole and I got there about 12.  No Kuk or Alex.  We checked our phones and found texts that they didn't get the earlier train but got the 12:30 (arriving at 1:30).  Hmm.  We lucked into a couple of seats and had some snacks plus purchased sausage rolls and hot drink and waited for them.

Ideally we could have communicated to them to eat before coming up because of this.  We didn't and so Kuk was bummed that we didn't have a nice relaxing lunch like we do on most of our outings.  In fact, the queue was so long we didn't even bother so they just had snacks.  Oh well.  This part of the plan didn't go as well I guess.  

[I would have pre-purchased the earlier train for them but the weather forecast was so miserable I wanted to wait until the day of.]

back out in the cold with the mob for a photo of both of us (though not at the tippy top).  My expression is less than ecstatic because the wind is howling and the photographer is not working as fast as I wanted her to! 

on the way down -- more fog and more people

 down in the valley

different formations, to a degree, on this side -- it looks similar to the [White] Peak District (only bigger)

almost halfway down -- proof that we were reunited


(different) hills in the distance

Kuk was fascinated with this guy.  (He was on the move so I had to take a quick photo).  Shaggy coat, black underbelly and big horns.

So in summary -- a great day!  Though thousands make this walk I still felt it was a significant accomplishment.  (I'd bet many in my office at work haven't done this.)  So glad we made the effort (overnight, etc.) and that the weather cooperated for the most part.  In hindsight, I'm sure Alex could have made it as well though we would have needed to work on the mental preparation a bit.

The walk down was a little crowded for my taste.  My recommendation would be to take the Rhydd Ddu Track (#5 way up top) up and the Ranger's Path down for the most solitude.

For dinner, we had to go back to Watson's Bistro in Conwy.  We love this place (we ate there twice on our last visit).  It's not cheap, but it's a great meal.

Fittingly, I had the 1085 (meters elevation, if you recall).  After a long, exerting day it was definitely going to be a lager over a British Ale.  (In fact, I'm to the point that every day is a lager over a warm, flat, bitter British Ale).  I was presently surprised the 1085 had some unique characteristics/tastes to it.  So many of the lagers here are too similar.

Food collage, clockwise from top left:  Kuk's breaded scallop "cocktail" starter, my goat cheese tart starter, my lamb trio main (shank, loin, mint burger -- all good.  I'm not usually a shank fan but this was the best I've had), and the kids' shared sirloin steak.

Alex asked if that was moss on top and the waitress had a chuckle (pesto breadcrumbs, actually).

Great day all around.

Miss you, Dad.  This day always brings a touch of sadness for me.  You all may think you have/had the best Dad out there -- but you're wrong.  I did.  :-)