An ancient, gentle landscape, untouched by the overpowering forces of glaciation. Since the British Mountains arose in the Tertiary Period, only erosion has shaped the rounded summits and smooth slopes, broad flood plains, and fluvial and bedrock terraces.
Parks describes the Firth in terms of four regions. The first, which we did not visit, is the Aufeis Reach which provides much of the flow in the river in summer. Aufeis is water that trickles up from the ground and freezes in layers. We would see a lot of it further downstream, but we landed in the Mountain Reach where it had all melted.
The terrain throughout the Firth makes for easy hiking, but because the river changes course from year to year, it may not be possible to repeat a hike you did on an earlier trip.
The landscape is perhaps more dramatic in its history than visually. Over the millennia, rain, wind, freeze-thaw, and gravity have weathered the slopes, exposing the bedrock and moving bits of it downhill to form bedrock terraces, just as the river, in cutting through the earth, has left behind fluvial terraces.
Compare a typical scene from the Canadian Rockies.
The Rockies are much older than the British Mountains, but because of recent glaciation, erosion has had little time to wear down the rock. Note also the hanging valleys, some of which still hold glaciers.
Another feature which one does not see in glaciated mountains is tors, which are rocky outcroppings on lower slopes and ridges.
Life on the river can be lazy and comfortable or absolutely miserable, depending on what the weather gods dictate.
Campsites are wherever you want to put in and are generally welcoming and scenic.
Every party camps at Wolf Tors and on each of my trips we have spent two nights there.
Of course, the Firth has moods. On my third trip we were less fortunate.
One day, I may do a post on the travels of my little Hilleberg Jannu tent. It’s been through a lot and has never failed me.
After Wolf Tors, we entered the Canyon Reach and some exciting rapids. That’s for the next post.