Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Fairfield in the snow

This was probably the best last minute call we've made all year. The BBC weather horoscope had turned from 100% sunshine to 100% fog which clearly means possible inversion in my mind. With the roads being at best dicey we opted for Ambleside rather than any local roads. As we approached Windermere, we could see a vale of fog below and a bright pink sky above, even I was happy to be out of bed so early. We pulled into the first parking space possible to take some pictures.

With ducks

and without ducks

Same spot but looking at the cold side

My car is bloody useless in the snow and after last years experience I've taken the continental approach by having winter and summer tyres, and thank goodness I did, we only just made it off the icy car park and round to the main car park. I'd arranged to meet local pals Dolly and mini Dolly at 8.30am in the main car park and with half an hour faffing time (my issue) we left promptly at 9am. Great news too,the parking meters were out of order, it was always going to be a great day £7 saved. From here we took the higher path from the church to Sweden Bridge.

and here it is

It was about minus 6C and the cold had got to Mini's fingers, still an 'encouraging' word from mum sorted that and we were soon climbing towards the ridge.

From here the snow quickly deepened and despite mum saying 'oh its ok', events were proving otherwise. I love Jordan's disparaging look in this picture.

We stuck together for another half hour but if you are 5ft nothing it has to be difficult in deep snow. Glyno still soldiered on though ;D . Meanwhile Dolly set a new goal of Dove crag for mum and daughter. The views all the way up there were gorgeous.

and another - with sunspots

and another

That's Coniston Water under a layer of cloud too

And one from Glyn

It was pretty tough going all the way to the 873m peak, but every step was a pleasure. Once at the summit we just wanted to stay and take photo after photo.

Like the new hat? oh yeah that's Helvellyn in a cloud hat too

And Glyn with a cloud speech bubble next to his head (feel free to insert comment) 'I don't do Brucies'

It was busy and colourful up there

Despite a lack of wind it was still pretty cool on the fingers, so we decided to head lower to eat, passing skiers, snowboarders and runners on the way. All afternoon the views and the clarity of light were (and this ones for Dibs) 'awesome'.

nice valley

Ambleside and a clearing Windermere

We eventually made it off the hills at about 3pm just as golden light started hitting the hillside, it must have been a spectacular sunset. An obligatory wrong turn into Rydal Hall rather than the park path and we were back and in the pub bang on 3.43pm. As Glyno said, 'this is why I never moan about bad weather days'.

And for those missing the countryside

Form a queue ladies

Monday, 22 November 2010

Deep (and cold) Dale Horseshoe

Up the left side back down the right

I hadn't been out on the hills for about 4 weeks and therefore this Sunday was going to happen whatever the weather was throwing at us. Thankfully Glyn isn't too fussy about the weather so I was pretty confident we'd be up somewhere high in The Lakes.

By Sunday morning 6 of us headed to Glyns Co-ordinates on The Kirkstone Pass for an 8.40am meet up. Well 3 of us in my car did!, 3 other cars had somehow 'misjudged' Glyn's 'perfect' directions and ended up around the corner...........all of them.

the real start point

Still, at 9am prompt we set off bang on timeto walk over Hartsop Above How, up to Fairfield and then back via St Sunday's Crag. A dusting of snow on the top, fairly clear skies and almost no wind promised a gorgeous if uneventful walk.

Within 200 yards of setting off, Glyn was running back to the car for his camera, another 200yards on and we were suddenly in a farmers field with a free range bull. Catherine did a great job in scooting round the far side with Lexi so as not to attract attention. Another 200 yards later we were off track and bouncing on a thrown away mattress and already off track!

A bit of cross country in the direction of the now obvious ridge and were we back on track all systems go.......except for John who was a bit worse for wear.

John's leg disappears down a rabbit hole

Having decided to walk off his stomach ache we headed over the first summit and looked up to the snowy peaks in the distance. Despite my lay off and theusual partying, body abuse, beers ,cider, kebabs etc. my legs were feeling pretty good and I knew I was up for today's walk.

What's not to like?

It was a bloomin good job too, as we approached the climb to Hart Crag the weather started to close in and there was a noticeable temperature drop.

Jim does he usual flat ground sprint

You do get an extremely good view of The Priest Hole cave from this angle though. And erm I'm sure one of the other chaps has a decent picture!

As we started to climb, the solid ground turned to scree and Boothy came out (mid scree slope) with the classic, 'mind out that ones a bit loose'....you don't say. The light dusting of snow soon turned icy and deeper, and by the time we reached the ridge the strengthening wind was biting and the temperature well below freezing. John had also taken a turn for the worse and was really struggling to keep up. Just to assist the cloud came down and seriously reduced visibility. I'd negotiated the narrow part to Fairfield with my GPS previously in a white out, so I was quite confident this time.

To be 100% sure Glyn took a grid reference off me to match to his map......there was an eyebrow raised but nothing said. 4 miles into a 10 mile route and about 400 yards from the summit of Fairfield, John suddenly drained of all colour and energy. It was a very tough call whether to go on or to turn back, as we were already on the plateau we decided to go forwards and head off Fairfield on the planned route. We could always head down to Grisedale Tarn quickly this way. As we reached the summit the weather eased slightly and it looked like we would have plain sailing on the path back.

We hadn't counted on the frozen nature of the steep decent towards Cofa Pike though. In truth crampons and ice axes would have been really useful and if not essential then certainly recommended. In our defence the weather was much worse than forecast and we must have met another 15 people on route, none of whom had winter gear. The team did a great job of kicking steps down the iced snow slope and once down, we crossed the narrow ridge without too much of a problem.

Over the Pike and a very careful climb down the icy rocks brought us safely to the broader ascent of St Sundays Crag.

It's the pointy one and looked lovely earlier

If anyone knows this ascent, it has at least 4 false summits (I remember at least one friend cursing all the way to the top - Robbo), which isn't ideal if you're a bit drained as John was. A quick lunch break in a sheltered spot and without much incident we made the top. Surprisingly there was only me up for a snowball fight.

What could possibly go wrong now?

A complete white out is what.....that was a bit unexpected! Glyn took bearings and I went Satmap.

Now confession time, I may not have a clue how to use this machine properly.

I'm brilliant with the pictures and the Hansel and Gretel trail, but how was I to know you had to move the locating circle to the point where you were...... before giving grid refs to your pals? For 3 years now I've been giving out the wrong 'where are we' grid references. Woops. Thanks for not slugging me Glyn.

Fortunately I remembered that the path swung left from the summit and we followed the pictures perfectly on the Satmap

Once below the cloud line we headed over Birks and Arnison Crag with it's great viewpoint of Ullswater. Here's one from earlier.

Mid right hand side

If anyone knows the real route off here to get back to Deepdale Bridge then please post in the comments. We went 'off map' regular pals may spot a trend here and headed across- down , down- across, across a bit more and down a bit more, thanks for keeping us going there Jim. We could see the cars, but could we heck get to them without jumping walls. Eventually we were saved by a saint of a farmer who let us cut through her yard just as rain and darkness started to fall.

A 500 yard trudge back to the cars and then off to the pub. It turned out to be an eventful back onto the hills walk, but then again they are always the best ones. 10.5 miles in 7 hours, and everyone back safe and happy.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Kentmere with the Hindsight Police

I've no idea why this walk popped into my head a few months ago, but the idea of doing Kentmere Horseshoe from Mardale Head just felt right. I'm planning on doing some winter stuff in Scotland in the new year so 16 miles and 6000ft of ascent would be ideal for lifting my fitness levels.

In hindsight, taking the old water board road (short cut) Sebastien Loeb fashion, may not have been the best idea I've ever had. This road is nearly always empty and the lines of sight are fantastic, however some of the pot holes are so deep they have Chilean miners living in them. I managed to hit a particularly deep one smack in the middle, and after a quick game of field, valley , road , field, valley, road I came to a standstill. One tyre down and 15 minutes later I was back on the road. 50 miles at 50 mph temporary spare tyres are good for, I kept to the ratios on the way home later as I live 80 miles away .

A sorry looking spare

I parked up at Mardale Head and after a good old faff I headed of 40 minutes late to climb up to Harter Fell. The weather was glorious but there was a definite chill in the wind as I gained height, I could hear the hindsight police in my head saying 'you should have brought your buff'. I quite like cold foreheads and runny noses though. I headed over Kentmere Pike and onto Shipman Knotts which gave a great views back down the valley.

I quite like it when I can see my destination and 'there it was' quite clearly in the distance, the poorly rendered church in Kentmere. The great thing about seeing your destination is you don't need a map .

Now in hindsight checking a map might have been a good idea and following the quad bike tracks probably wasn't the whizzer choice it should have been. As the tracks ran out I followed a few sheep tracks and as they ran out I looked for signs of life. After a slight meander to avoid walls, dogs, keep out notices and barbed wire I found myself on the road to Kentmere. Its got a really lovely valley too

The farmer had opened his field so in hindsight parking wouldn't have been a problem and a traditional Kentmere would have worked well....especially as it has a really good flat road leading to it!.........I went through the village and climbed Garburn Pass where I stopped for a swift lunch. It was at this point I suddenly realised I had all the really hard work ahead of me to get to the top of High Street. You have to wonder why the Romans built a road up here, I'd have gone 10 miles east where the M6 is..pillocks.

It was a gorgeous afternoon and sheltered from the breeze I played hill spotting..........feel free to reproduce for dull moments at work. A packet of fruit pastilles to whoever can name the most.

The ground by the wall was quite boggy and the climbing was pretty tough, I did remember to look back though. That's Windermere

I was also taking some rests now and using the patented 'oh I just need another photo' trick. .

I think this one is looking across to Mardale Bell

And this ones looking back down Kentmere.

Now the slog up to High Street started, with the wind in my face and my legs starting to burn I took drastic action and went for the midget gems. Now in hindsight it's really obvious that this route would have been much easier the other way around. ie don't finish by climbing to the top of this particular range and then head off down a steep ridge . The thing is when you have to get back to your car there is no option. Teeth gritted I made it to the top. And then headed off down this little beauty, Riggindale Crag

I was aiming for the trees on the lake in the mid left of the picture, my legs however were heading nowhere fast. Having stormed around the rest of the horseshoe in just over 5 hours, it took me just under 2 hours to descend safely with plenty of rests. I really wouldn't recommend going off this way in the wet as there are some unavoidable smooth slabs and rocks. The good news was that I had fantastic views of the lake all the way down in late afternoon sunshine

I don't often walk by myself these days and it was interesting to try it again, but I think I prefer the company and the laughs, rather than the nonsense that goes through my head. If the hindsight police had been in charge I probably wouldn't have done this route today but I absolutely loved every minute.

For the record 16.4 miles and 5815 ft ascent, now where did I put that ralgex?

Thursday, 21 January 2010

You're not the law

I'll get on to 'him' later, but in the meantime a few other rules, regulations and bloody obvious truisms could do with further investigation.

If the average speed cameras on the M6 are working then I'm probably in for a hefty fine a best, if the highways agency processing department are running a few months behind then my best hope is to head for the border (at 49.5 mph). Despite a slightly late start we were in the car park in Kirkstone Pass bang on the allotted hour with only a slight wheel spin into the car park to beat the clock. A magnificent seven turn out with some faces I hadn't seen for a while, it already had potential to turn silly. Today's plan was a kind of horseshoe walk but with a pub right in the middle. (now that would be a good law for all walks).

There had already been some debate about clockwise or anti clockwise as the optimum route. We opted for anti clockwise on the basis the first climb was less steep.

We set off and as we passed Brother's Water, looking at High Hartsop Dodd I was beginning to think 'it didn't look that steep last time I was here'. Mind you, I wasn't climbing it last time I was here.

We should really find a solicitor to walk with us who knows his stuff (I know it could be tricky but they must stop writing letters eventually and they can't all be making it up). I reckon I'm qualified enough at the Bar to be pretty certain that building a cesspit in the middle of a public footpath is a bit out of order. To then encourage your cows to swim in it and fence all the walls around it is just evil. Mikes southern nostrils really weren't up to the challenge. I'm still not sure it's a good enough excuse for the prissy pose though! It's worth double clicking the picture to see his facial expression as he turned back.

Robbo's dalliance prior to the cesspit meant we could record him trying to avoid landing in the stuff.

After the e=mc2 stuff, Newtons Laws of Gravity are probably the best known of all the natural scientific laws. Other than 8 pints + = kebab NOW.... obviously.

Then why is it that I'm always surprised at just how knackered I get going uphill, moreover looking back at the photo's it seems that we reached the top (of what is surely one of the most strenuous climbs in the lakes) in perfect height to weight ratios. Skinny Mike and Ray at the front, party Robbo and Jim at the rear. I was somewhere tucked in the middle ....about 5 yards in front of Robbo. I think we were all relieved when we reached the top, I was also pretty pleased I hadn't persuaded any beginners to join in, I might have succumbed to the punch in the gob law.

And so from here we headed along and slightly up to Little Hart Crag. All going quite well. Two laws were about to synchronise in perfect harmony to put a different slant on the whole day.

1) If you leave your gaiters at home and walk in deep snow you'll be sorry AND 2) never make the same mistake twice.

Rule 1 - For the first time ever I was gaiter free, honestly I wear them with shorts some days, even when I'm just nipping out for a paper, it was inconceivable that I would forget them, especially on a day when I was wearing my 'wide top Brashers'.

Rule 2 - And last week we'd taken a shortcut through the snow only to end up waste deep in it and absolutely shattered after dragging ourselves through it. The trouble is, that it's very tempting to avoid gaining too much height when you can cut cross country and avoid the ups and downs. We couldn't even claim ignorance as an excuse as we ploughed into the first snowdrift and bog mix, still we were 7 blokes and not one of us was ever going to say lets turn around and do the sensible thing. Note for future walks, always bring at least one female along.

With almost perfect timing the snow that had melted through my socks and into my boot also started to squelch and it was getting colder. In another 15 minutes we were starting to split into groups each trying desperately to find a snow free track to Middle Dodd. Well there wasn't one! Mike demonstrated his ridiculous levels of fitness by performing his walking on air trick and arriving at Middle Dodd 10 minutes ahead of everyone. Ray would have been right behind him but for the foot in the hole incident, in all seriousness if he was solo walking he may have been in real trouble. Either he really did jam his boot under a rock buried deep in the snow or he was faking it to stop the lardy brigade overtaking him.

As we left Middle Dodd to make the ascent to Red Screes I was having my own Heather Mills moment, ie I was particularly miserable and couldn't feel anything under my right ankle. My soaking boot had frozen as we'd gained altitude and the temperature had dropped, I normally a cheery sort, but I was having a major sense of humour failure. 15 minutes of gritted teeth lone walking and I reached the highpoint of the day. Still with gritted teeth!

I'm sure Red Screes is a major climb at anytime of the year, but by the route we'd chosen and in the conditions we'd found, it was a heck of a challenge.

Suddenly the pub was in site and the party was about to begin.

For those who don't know, Red Screes is a tad steep on the north side and in the remnants of last weeks snow it was a bit bloomin dangerous stepping down up to your knees. Twisted limbs were only one hidden rock away. New rule, if in doubt, take to your arse! .......whatever you do, don't drink before applying that rule and be very careful what the circumstances are. These were perfect conditions though, steep slopes just enough snow and stacks of straight runs for sledging.

We laughed

we raced

we crashed,

we snowballed and we had an absolute hoot all the way to the bottom. Definitely my favourite downhill from a mountain so far. And that, should have been that really, the snow had slowed us down so much we wouldn't have time to make the second part of the walk so the escape route via the pub and down the road back to the cars was calling. That was without the intervention of Judge Dread. What a bloke was doing with a pair of binoculars outside a closed (Yes for the second time in 3 weeks CLOSED pub) looking at a mountain covered in mist for hours on end just befuddles me. This is pretty much how the conversation went

'alright lads'........... 'erm, alright mate, hello nice afternoon'

is it? 'I'VE BEEN WATCHING YOU'............'oh'

'Yes, and you were a menace to the mountains, and your sledging was causing a huge avalanche risk' .....I already had him down as a nutter at this point but on he went

'and wearing shiny trousers makes it worse' (this must be one of the great unknown laws of avalanches), I'll certainly remember not to wear my spangly dancing pants when I'm walking in snow in future, you can't be too careful.

The two highlights though were 'I'm a spotter for mountain rescue' NO such JOB

and Rays' 'it wasn't me', that was brilliant! you must have an older/bigger brother Ray who landed you in it all the time when you were a kid.

In the end we just got bored with the lawman and drifted off into the sunset in search of a different saloon.

Luckily halfway down the pass the second one was open and we managed to grab some hooch. The medicine worked well and my foot recovered, I have a new law now; a pint of cider a day keeps the frostbite away, and I'm off to test the theory in my front room. Next time we'll do the route clockwise, sneak up on old grumpy draws and pelt him with snowballs. Unless that's a bit immature?