Monday, 30 April 2018

Graystones to Whinlatter Circular.

To the north of Thornthwaite Forest above Whinlatter pass there are five Wainwright's, four of which can be easily linked together to give a grand days outing. 

Our plan was to bag Graystones (456m), Broom Fell (511m), Lords Seat (552m) and Barf (468m).  This would, with only a little backtracking to take in Barf, give us our four Wainwright's. 

Parking just before Darling How Farm we made our way up through Darling How plantation.  This involved a rather circuitous route, but it did at least bring us out of the forest not too far from the summit of Graystones. 

Moira just above the forest and not far from the summit of Graystones

Once out of the forest it was a very steep pull alongside an old wall before the ground flattened out just before the summit area.

The summit area has 2 high points but this one was the better viewpoint.

We took in both tops before dropping down to Widow Hause.  Here we had a quick break before heading up onto the summit of Broom Fell. 

The summit of Broom Fell.  There is also a shelter wall just to the left of the cairn

After another quick break we made our way over easy if rather boggy ground onto Lords Seat. 

Once on top we had good views over to Whinlatter and Brown How (525m) on the opposite side of the valley.  From here we thought we could work out a possible high route across to it via Tarbarrel Moss.  We have numerous single Wainwright's left to do, so grabbing Whinlatter today would save us a single hill outing.  Plus it looked like it would create a great circular route, providing of course we could find a way through the trees.

The view south over towards Whinlatter and Brown How with Grisedale Pike and Ladyside Pike beyond.  We thought we could see a break in the trees running onto the Moss just left of centre.

Convinced we could see a way through, we now turned our backs to our planned route and instead headed in the opposite direction to bag Barf. 

Barf (lower right) and the Skiddaw Range from the summit of Lords Top

Looking back towards Lords Seat from Barf

On the summit of Barf a heavy hail shower caught us unawares by sneakily using Skiddaw for cover.  

Skiddaw and Bassenthwaite Lake from the Summit of Barf

As a result we didn't hang around for long before the hail chased us back over to Lords Seat, where we avoided the worst of it by heading into the trees. 

The going after this became a little confused when we found signs that told us we could not use the Tarbarrel Moss path.  Unsure of where we could go we dropped down into the forest to meet with the main forestry road.  Here signs told us we could go no further.  Fortunately, next to a mountain bikes only track, Moira spotted a vague path heading through the trees.  I was far from convinced, but after a steep uphill section we broke out of the trees onto Tarbarrel Moss itself.  From here we could see a vague path heading across the moss to meet with the main path leading onto Whinlatter. 

In the Lakes the word Moss on a map tends to mean bog, so by the time we reached the main path leading up from the Whinlatter visitor centre I had wet feet. I really must get some new boots.

The view south from Whinlatter Top.  The weather by now was rather dull with frequent rain and hail showers.

Next we continued along the ridge to Brown How.  This is a great viewpoint, but due to its forested lower slopes it was difficult to work out how we could get down.

Brown How Summit.  

After a false start we descended diagonally over some very rough and pathless steep ground towards Willybrag Gill.  Here we followed the forest edge east to reach the boundary wall coming down from Whinlatter Top. This was then followed down more steep ground until we hit the main forest road through Aiken Plantation.  After this it was a straightforward walk back to our start point.

That's 113 Wainwright's completed now.  Hopefully the next trip should take us below the hundred to do mark.

Distance: 15.6K, 1000m ascent

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Buttermere Area - Red Pike (755m), High Stile (806m) and High Crag (744m)

I have walked the ridge between Red Pike and High Stile several times, but we weren't sure if Moira had, so we headed over on what was to be the hottest day of the year so far.

An early start from home saw us wandering along the shore of Buttermere just before 8.00am.  Despite the blue skies it was still cool and the fields around the lake were white with frost. 

By the time we reached the end of the lake and the path leading up to Red Pike the sun had cleared Fleetwith Pike at the head of the valley and the ground gently steamed in the heat. 

It was a steep pull up through the wood and onto the fell proper making it hot work.  

Buttermere with the mountains of Whiteless Pike of Grasmoor beyond

We had a short break to cool off next to Blaeberry Tarn before heading up onto the Dodd (641m) just to the north east of Red Pike.  

Bleaberry Tarn with Red Pike ahead.

While not a Wainwright its situation provided good views along the valley over Crummock Water and out to the coast.  It was also perfect for a quiet break, as everyone else seemed to be heading directly up to Red Pike.

Crummock Water from Dodd.  From here we could clearly see the Solway Firth and the hills of Dumfries and Galloway on the horizon

Eventually we dragged ourselves away and made our way onto Red Pike.  It's quite a steep pull onto the summit, but on the way we met up with a young couple from Germany and Holland and spent so much time chatting we hardly noticed the steepness. 

The view from Red Pike over Crummock Water 

A fairly gentle wander over close cropped turf and then up a rocky path onto High Stile was next.  Below we could see out route of Ascent via Bleaberry Tarn.

Bleaberry Tarn and Buttermere village below.
The view back towards Red Pike from the start of the ascent onto High Stile

Here we had another break and spent a pleasant 15 minutes or so chatting to another couple, this time from Argentina.  The arrival of another group with eastern European accents gave the walk something of an international flavour. 

Great views from near the top of High Stile

By the time we reached High Crag we were really feeling the heat.  Hardly surprising given the fact the temperature was in the 20's C I suppose.  

High Crag Summit

This was the busiest summit of the walk with people sitting on rocks, eating, chatting, photographing and generally enjoying sun.   Wandering around looking for good photo viewpoints I even spotted one couple laid out fast a sleep.  I prefer my summits a lot quieter than this, but as such great weather days are fairly rare, we made the best of it and had another leisurely break ourselves.  In some ways it was a bad idea because we felt really tired and stiff once we set off again.  The sun had also given me a headache.

The thought of an ice cream down at Gatesgarth Farm, however spurred us on. 

The track down and the anticipation of an ice cream from the farm below

So that's 3 more Wainwright's completed, taking out total up to 108.
Distance 13.5 K

Monday, 16 April 2018

The Uldale Fells

In contrast to our last trip to these fells where we did The Knott, Great Sca Fell and Coomb Height in the snow, this walk had a definite spring like quality.  So much so we were warmed by the sun and serenaded by Skylarks most of the way around. 

Today's plan was to climb Great Cockup (526m) first, followed by Meal Fell (550m), Great Scar Fell (651), Brae Fell (585m) and Longlands Fell (482m).

Parking at Longlands we had a pleasant if occasionally boggy walk up to Trusmadoor.  From here it was a steepish climb up onto Great Cockup.  To start with the skies were uniform grey, but once on the summit a few breaks began to show through the murk. 

The summit of Great Cockup with Skiddaw beyond.

Rather than bag the summit and charge off, we also visited the Western top before retracing our steps to Trusmadoor. Here we had a nice chat to an elderly chap who had completed the Wainwright's some time ago and was now revisiting some. 

From here we made a short steep ascent to Meal Fell, which had a stone shelter and multitude of small cairns marking each and every high point.  

Shelter on Meal Fell

Skiddaw from Meal Fell

Longlands Fell from Meal Fell 
Great Sca Fell (main summit and northern top) from Meal Fell

Having visited them all we headed up to Great Sca Fell, but as we had already been on the summit a couple of weeks earlier, we made our way up to the col between the main summit and northern top.

The north top of Great Sca Fell

M checking we were where we thought we were

From here it was easy walking to Brae Fell where we sat in the sun for a well-earned break and the scoffing of egg sarnies.  This is the first warm weather we have felt for months and after our sandwiches and coffee it was tempting to laze away an hour.

Brae Fell and the view North.

That said the ground was a bit too wet for laying around so we made our way back towards Great Sca Fell for a couple of hundred metres before striking off towards Lowthwaite Fell.  While not a Wainwright it is a pleasant route leading to Longlands Fell, our final Wainwright of the day.  

Binsey and Over Water from Longlands Fell

These rounded hills mark the boundary between the lakes and the lowlands stretching off towards Scotland and despite the haze we could still pick out the Solway Firth and the Dumfries and Galloway hills beyond.  
After this it was an easy stroll down to the Cumbria Way and then back along the track to our start point.

That's 105 of Wainwright's of 214 completed.  Three or four trips should take us below the 100 left to do mark if all goes to plan.

Monday, 2 April 2018

The Knott, Great Sca Fell and Coomb Height

To the north of Skiddaw are the Uldale and Caldbeck fells.  With their rounded tops they are perhaps more reminiscent of the Pennines than the Lake District.  Like the Pennines they are also quieter, making them an ideal choice for a last minute Easter Sunday wander with our pals Graham and Sandra.  We didn't really have a plan for ticking off hills other than to head out and enjoy a walk.  If we could pick up a couple of Wainwright tops for Moira and I then that would be a bonus.

From the parking we made our way up Grainsgill beck to reach the snowline, which started somewhere around the 400m contour.  The ground however wasn't frozen underneath the snow, making it a rather boggy walk up to the wind scoured cairn marking the summit of Knott (710m). 

The summit of Knott - a rather windy cold place to be on an Easter Sunday in early spring, but the views were wonderful 

Rime ice feathers on the summit cairn

From Knott we made our way across to Great Sca Fell.  At 651m this meant losing a few contours in the process and re-climbing them on the way back.  Once at the summit cairn we debated about continuing on to Brae Fell, but in the end decided to leave it for another day and head back up and over Knott to descend via Coomb Height.  

Coomb Height (627m) incidentally is not one of Wainwrights tops and is really only a continuation of the broad ridge leading east from Knott.  It does make a nice descent route with some great views south across to Blencathra and then west over Great Calva to Skiddaw.

A small cairn marks the top of Coomb Height.  The northern slopes of Blencathra beyond
Great Calva with Skiddaw beyond

That's 101 Wainwrights completed.  The next target is to get below the halfway mark, so that's another 7 to do in the next few weeks.    

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Steel Knotts (Pikeawassa) and Hallin Fell

In need of a leg stretch, but only having a few hours spare on Sunday, we decided to head over to the Lakes and bag a couple of the lower Wainwright's that sit on the eastern side of Ullswater.

One of the reasons we decided to make a concerted effort to complete the Wainwright's was the idea that a bit of peak bagging would take us onto hills we would probably not have bothered with.  Hallin Fell and Steel Knotts (Pikeawassa) are a case in point in that they are pretty small hills at only (338m) and (432m) respectively.  Given our limited time window, we would probably not have given them a second thought and stayed local instead.  Fortunately taken together they not only made for a pleasant morning's outing, they were both cracking viewpoints as well.

Parking below Hallin Fell near the church we headed along past Lanty's Tarn on the eastern side of Steel Knotts, where just as the sun came out, we had some grand views of the Nab, and the valleys of Bannerdale and Ramps Gill either side.

 Ramps Gill (L) The Nab (centre) and Bannerdale (R)

At Nettlehowe crag we struck directly up the hillside for a short distance and soon found ourselves on the broad ridge linking Steel Knotts and Gowk Hill. From here it was a short steep pull onto the little rocky summit marked Pikeawassa on the map. 

Here we had a laze around and a bite to eat in the warm spring sunshine before heading north towards the Birkie Knott path. 

Some grand views on the way along the broad ridge of Steel Knotts

On the way we met up with mountain dog Bingley, who along with his human companions Roma and Philip were also doing a bit of Wainwright peak bagging.

Dropping down from Birkie Knott we were surprised to see around 60 people ascending and descending Hallin Fell, with perhaps the same number on the path leading to it.

Reaching the foot of the fell, we found out this was some kind of challenge event.

To be honest with those numbers of people around we normally wouldn't have bothered heading up, but as we were only 20 minutes from the top and keen to tick it, we dumped most of our kit in the car and joined the throng.  While it was not a race people were either running, or speed walking up the hill, so we joined in the fun and soon found ourselves on the top.

Busy, but the views down Ullswater were wonderful.

That's 99 Wainwright's completed. 

Monday, 12 March 2018

Arnison Crag Patterdale

After a week of great weather in the Lakes, friends Graham and Sandra plus Moira and I, decided to head over there in the vans for the weekend.  We parked up on the campsite at Sykeside and almost immediately it started to rain, and it did so for most of the next 24 hours.

It seemed pointless to head for the higher hills, so we chose to grab a Wainwright just above the village of Patterdale.  At only 1,421ft (433m) Arnison Crag is a diminutive little hill, but it provides some wonderful views over the head of Ullswater, or at least it should if it's not raining.  It also had the advantage of a pub at the bottom and another back at our campsite.  If done from Patterdale it only takes 50 mins, but we planned to make a day of it and walk from our campsite at Sykeside.

Setting off in the rain is never fun, but as we reached Brotherswater we could at least console ourselves with some rather atmospheric views. 
 I have now got my walking companions trained to spot potential photos.  Sandra spotted this zig-zag pattern reflected in the lake .

Moving on I grabbed a few more shots of the mist and clouds

It was hoods up most of the way, until we reached Patterdale where a brief lull in the rain tricked us into removing our waterproofs.  Five minutes later they were back on and stayed on for the rest of the walk.

We took the path on the left just before the White Lion Inn and after contouring through a little wood struck off up the hill following a drystone wall.  I wasn't sure where the summit was and the 1:50,000 map simply had Arnison Crag written large over an area several kilometres square, so we just plodded up hoping to spot likely tops in the vicinity.  As the clag became thicker this proved impossible and we initially missed the path where it branched off to the top.  Instead we found ourselves on a little craggy hummock surrounded by lots of other little craggy hummocks about 200m away from the main top.  After getting out a 1:25,000 map to check properly we wandered back the way we had come and easily found the top.  Unfortunately there were no views to be had at all.  With the patter of rain on our hoods we only stopped long enough for a coffee and a bite to eat, before deciding the pub would be a much nicer place to be.  

Near Oxford crags a brief window in the clouds gave us a rather atmospheric view over Patterdale towards the head of Ullswater.

The head of Ullswater from Oxford Crag
A pint of Wainwright's (what else) provided the enthusiasm for the walk back to the campsite.

Quite an enjoyable wee hill really, and one we probably would not have bothered with had it not been on Wainwrights list. In fact I might even head back on a nicer day given the potential for some decent shots when the light is better.

Distance 13.8km 

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Wainwright's - Loadpot Hill, Wether Hill, Bonscale Pike and Arthur's Pike.

I knew I had been to the summits of two of these, Loadpot Hill and Arthur's Pike, but Moira hadn't so we devised a bit of a round that involved an out and back from Loadpot Hill to Wether Hill, before picking up Bonscale Pike and Arthur's Pike on the way back. 

From the parking at Roe Head we made our way along the rather boggy High Street route onto Barton Fell.  On the way we visited The Cockpit stone circle and then headed across the moor to get back onto main path again.  In between I somehow ended up thigh deep in a boggy hole.  This meant a wet foot and leg almost from the start.  However some wonderful blue skies and far reaching views meant we both still had a spring in our step and we soon found ourselves above the snowline.

Stone marker cairn at the side of the High Street path

The weather at this point was pretty atmospheric with bands of crespucular rays raking the ground between us and the distant pennines.  Occasionally bands of snow also passed by, but fortunately they were well to the east.

Bypassing Arthur's Pike to pick up on the way back we plodded up to our first summit of the day, Loadpot Hill.

The sky looked a bit threatening as we reached the summit of Loadpot Hill

Helvellyn range from the summit

Making our way over to Wether Hill was warm work in the sun and on arriving at the tiny summit cairn, we experienced a bit of a peak baggers nightmare in that the ground a couple of hundred metres away looked a bit higher.  Not wishing to miss the true summit we headed off to make sure.  From here the place we had come from looked about the same, but the GPS suggested it was higher.  Now I remember why I never really got into peak bagging, it's a bloody nightmare.  Cairns aren't always just on the true summit and even the fairly reliable trig point is sometimes on a subsidiary top rather than the true summit, (Burnhope Seat in the Pennines springs to mind as an example of that confusion).

Fed up with wandering around high spots, we returned to the original cairn and declared Wether Hill summit achieved**.

Some spectacular views from Wether Hill across the valley towards the Helvellyn range

It was a bit of a slog back onto Loadpot Hill, so we stopped off at a little walled shelter just below the summit for a break.  By the time we got going again a cold breeze had got up, which stung our ears as it chased us back across the top and down to the path leading to Bonscale Pike.  The lower elevation meant it was less windy here and walking along the edge was really pleasant.  Here the ground dropped away down to Ullswater, giving us some great views of the Helvellyn range and Blencathra to the northwest .  Set above the vivid green fields surrounding the lake the whole range looked more alpine than Lakeland.

Ullswater with Blencathra beyond from Bonscale Pike

Time was getting on so we only stopped long enough at the cairn to grab a few pics, before descending to the ruined building at Swarth Beck.  By now we were feeling the miles and the final pull out of the beck and up onto Arthur's Pike was rather taxing on the legs.  Especially so as my right foot, which had been encased in a soaking wet sock all day had now developed a blister under the big toe. On the top, and determined not to just bag peaks and charge off, we had a break and grabbed a few photos. 

Still smiling on the last top -  Arthur's Seat.

The descent down to the car was straightforward, if a bit of a hobble at times, and by the time we arrived back we rather lacked the spring in our step we had when we set off.  Hardly surprising I suppose after an 18.5km snowy walk - it was great fun though.

** Wainwright's 214 tops are subjective and are simply tops he chose to include in his books, and as such they are not each and every mountain summit, or top in the Lake District.  There are other lists for bagging a few of those Birkett's Hewitt's, Nuttall's and Marilyn's for example.