Monday, 6 July 2009


I seem to be able to get to the Lakes a lot recently and had been looking forward to this little trip since the relative disappointment of a rather misty outing on Pillar a fortnight ago. Having dropped off my inferior, but strong and potentially truculent, other half at honourable number one stepson's house in Prescott I pressed on to the Lake District for a bit of light gambolling on the foothills and a sound snooze wild camping....or so I thought. After a late start it was almost 2pm when I got to Langdale. Wasting half an hour hunting around for somewhere to park I was almost giving up when I discovered the B road from Elterwater to Grasmere on which I found a perfect parking spot and start point for a my walk. Being rather late, and in a bad mood, suffering residual tourist-swarming-hoards-rage (after all I had driven past the the queue to turn off to Windermere and Bowness an hour earlier...grrrr) I decided to forget wild camping, and take a light pack and have a few hours before a nice pub meal somewhere in the evening. As you can see here - Langdale overrun with tourist ants...
I set off for Silver How and Blea Rigg thinking these would be an ideal short jaunt, and unlikely to attract a dedicated visit in the future. The walking is fairly easy up to Silver How from High Close, but paths are indistinct and the terrain variously boggy and rocky within a few steps. the first small hill, Dow Crag I think it was on the map gave me a nice shot of a little tuft of Stonecrop - a lovely plant - often wish I'd got some in my garden.Silver How isn't the most impressive or inspiring fell in the lake district but it affords some nice views and must be lovely on a fine day. I saw Helm Crag from an angle I hadn't seen before and thought I'd press on as the weather was looking threatening.

The weather did indeed turn and I trudged on to Blea Rigg in full waterproofs cursing the rain. On the summit of Blea Rigg two blokes sat immovable on the summit cairn (well, dog's grave would be more like it) and with rain belting down, I though "Stuff the camera" and fled the scene. I was hasty. By the time I got down to the rock shelter below (see Wainright guide for details) the rain was easing and five minutes later it stopped and brightened up markedly. I decided I would plod on towards Sergeant Man and get a better view of Pavey Ark and Loft Crag. I misread my map thinking Sergeant Man to be High Raise, and thought this protuberance must be High Raise... I must say, it struck me that the vague crag in the middle ground didn't seem to merit a chapter in Wainright's book if that was all Sergeant man had to offer. Nonetheless I figured I could bag two more tops for a little effort and decided to tread on. About halfway up I stopped to take a couple of photos and consulted the guide at which I realised the whole of what I could see was Sergeant Man, so I figured I may as well finish it now. You know how the Lake District is - it pulls you in somehow. As you can see from this photo on the shoulder of Sargeant Man, the weather God's were looking to swap rain for fog. Oh Good. But before long I was at the summit.

I suppose High Raise is not that high really but for the sake of half a mile it is silly to overlook it I thought, so I sat to have my butty and ponder the scene - which is where it all started to go Pete Tong. A madness took me - I decided I was Aragorn or Gandalf or summat and seeing as I was this far, why not do Thurnacarr Knott and the Pikes too. After all, how much longer could that take? Well, too bloody long as it turned out, but I'm getting ahead of myself. The path from Sergeant Man to High Raise is not exactly exciting, but is more Peak Districty than Lakey - all bog and peat, but easy enough and I was on High Raise fairly soon..

I also got to see Honister Crag (steep "V" in the middle distance) and the Dale Head Group from a new angle.

Thurnacarr Knott is described by Wainright...well, its not,; more scorned by him actually, but not alone in that, so I expected little from it. Its not so bad really. Rocky, a bit deceptive as it suffers a long sweeping depression in the lead up which is worse than it looks at distance.
Harrison Stickle and Loft Crag look fierce together from Thurnacarr Knott. Nonetheless, the view of Pike O Stickle is impressive and I headed off thataway next...Pike O Stickle looks worse the closer you get to it and it has a good side and a slightly more dodgoire side like many fells. I decided to clamber up the dicey bit, proper putting the wind up myself. Still I made it and taking this photo from the top began to realise my timing might be a bit faulty - it was getting dusky, especially as the low cloud was making it dark. I'm trying to decide what this moody shot is, but I can't quite put my finger in it - its that thing about some fells looking awfully different from unfamiliar angles. If anyone can tell me, please do. It looks more like Blencathra than anything else to me, but I can't quite decide if it is or not. (Update - I've now decided. Its Skiddaw).Some sheep seem to get in the most inhospitable places too...

You can tell from these pictures its getting murky now, so Loft Crag and Harrison Stickle became a bit of a race. Getting up and of Loft Crag was OK,but by the time I was up on Harrison, it was deep into flash photography territory. Here's the summit of Loft Crag with Pike O Stickle in the background..
And this gloomy outlook is my final top of the day Harrison. Inviting eh?

I'd love to report on the view from Harrison Stickle, but I couldn't see bugger all! The sun sets the last few degress like a lid slamming shut on a schoolroom desk so I decided to give Pavey Ark a miss, as I would get nothing much from the experience and started back to the lower shoulder of Sergeant man on Stickle Tarn side. Big mistake. A rocky, steep, treacherous hillside in the gloom meant it was totally dark by the time I found the Blea Rigg path. Took me about an hour to get no ore than a mile. Thankfully I could remember enough features of the path to know I had found it again, and took a compass bearing every now and then to get as far as the rock shelter where I rested, and even dropped off to sleep for a while - it wasn't actually that cold. In the end it took a good couple of hours to slowly and carefully navigate my way back to the car, using Knipe's Law and my decent map skills, upon which I found someone had pitched a tent exactly where I'd planned to put mine, so I ended up brewing up, making some instant risotto and flopping out in the car. I was woken just as it was getting light by the most torrential rain I can remember, so to whoever it was nicked my tent spot - I thank you! All in all, a ludicrously unplanned walk and one I would love to do a gain in good weather and with an early start. Its easy to consume hours going no-where and doing nothing on the fells and that requires better planning if the weather posed a threat - not too much of a problem in July, though I still carry my heat sheets and survival bag etc. Actually having mentioned Knipe's Law ("Use a head torch in the dark, idiot!") I just remembered that mine started flashing every 20 mins or so to warn me it planned to run out of battery before long. In the end it was still going strong back at the car, but I was kicking myself or not transferring spare batteries from by big pack to my day sack.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Don't put off till tomorrow....

She who must be obeyed has issued demands to take her to Liverpool this weekend so she can visit honourable number one stepson, who is a PhD student studying Nuclear Physics (I'm not kidding, clever little sod - took me by surprise when he casually announced he was going to become a genius), and works off and on at Sellafield. Of course this means I can drop her off early Saturday and pick her up Sunday tea time, affording me the opportunity to have a mucky weekend with her sister. Sadly, previous attempts to abscond with siblings-in-law have come to tears (generally of disbelieving laughter) so I guess I'll plan another walking weekend in t'Lakes.

I have this theory that Wainright baggers get about 75% through the list of 214, to suddenly realise the last 25% will take twice as long as all the time they've put in so far. This is because you have to go back to places you've already been and complete what I call the "Oughts". The little uninteresting ones that you "ought" to have gone that extra mile for. On my last walk I skipped Kirk Fell, and I suppose I could have done Haycock. Haycock is OK to miss on a Mosedale round because it can be part of a Western Wasdale set separately. But Kirk Fell is now a thorn in my flesh because I've done everything round it, including Gable, so the only way its going to get done is a special trip to do just that top alone. I've been knocking off four or five at a time each trip, and I know that sometime next year when I get to 75%, I'm suddenly going to think "Bugger, I've got to go back to Hellvelyn to do Catsycam", (this is sadly true).

I'm now thinking of publishing a list of "Oughts" as an appendix to Wainright's pictorial guides, although, I have to confess, there's one of the volumes that I think is nearly all "oughts" and seems to be a contractual obligation volume almost. Perhaps that's not fair now I've said it. Some ridge warriors might argue that Castle Crag is a tiddler hardly worth doing, but actually its a lovely rock with a beautiful feel and view - one of my favourites. I took one of my favourite pics on my last walk to Castle Crag, in the valley below. Well, wherever I end up, I guess it'll appear on here sometime.