Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Our Ullswater Way Weekend - 13 and 14 July 2019

This posting provides a pictorial review of our recent weekend in the Lakes, featuring the Ullswater Way. There's also a nice article on the Ullswater Way by James Forrest in the July 2019 edition of The Great Outdoors magazine, in which you may be lucky enough to find a nice picture of me and Sue.
My earlier postings are here and here.
The pictures are best viewed as a slideshow by clicking on any one of them then moving through the pictures shown as thumbnails at the bottom of the screen.
Above - we posed for Richard outside the Ginney Country Guest House near Penrith.
We then drove to Dalemain House, where most of the 2500 participants had already set off, starting in waves at 20 minute intervals from about 7 am. The bibs with our numbers also had our starting time, and each batch of people entered the pen pictured below, before 'warming up' and receiving a short briefing. Meanwhile, those arriving could register and collect their bibs. We had done that the previous evening on our way to the B&B.
Once inside the starting pen, we were encouraged to do some 'warming up' exercises. Sue and Jenny complied; I didn't - it was a warm morning and I'd soon be getting even warmer - I didn't see any point in wasting energy here!
Jenny wanted to start from the front of our 9.30 am wave, so we got into position.
And then we were off, some of the last of over 2000 to start, but we'd had time to enjoy a good breakfast at Ginney's.
After some fields from Dalemain, which I suspect are not public footpaths and are used by the event to avoid bunching near the start, we reached Ullswater and soon picked up Ullswater Way signage, though our route today would vary a little from the official route and was marked by (we were told 800) red arrows.
We spent the day passing places it would be nice to visit in a more leisurely fashion. Dalemain House and Gardens for one, and soon we passed Waterfoot, another place of interest.

The path to Bennethead offered good panoramic views towards the high summits of the Lake District. (Clicking on the image is recommended.)
After a very well provisioned coffee and croissant etc stop after 4.8 miles at Ullswater Caravan Park, we proceeded along a lovely path through the woodland of Swinburn's Park.
The previous pictures misleadingly indicate not a lot of people around. Wrong. The path was pretty congested. The three of us were walking comparatively quickly, and we started behind over 2000 other participants. Bunching was inevitable at times on narrow paths where early starters were struggling.
Can you spot Jenny and Sue in this picture, and note the human caterpillar ascending Gowbarrow Fell, over 300 metres above the lake.
Descending from Gowbarrow, the far end of Ullswater - our half way point, came into view in the distance.
There's a huge jam of people on this descent from Gowbarrow. I took a hidden path in a line just above Jenny's head, but she and Sue tried to follow me they were herded back into a line by a marshal, leaving me with a five minute wait at the bottom of a hill that some found challenging.
We were soon reunited and striding along to Aira Force, another place worthy of a more leisurely exploration.
Jenkins Field in Glenridding was set up with a massive lunch tent and a plentiful buffet. The organisation and catering for this event were excellent. Richard and Liz (on holiday nearby) joined us here whilst we lazed for some time at our half way point.
Then it was past Mike and Marian's house, where someone - perhaps Al Hinkes - was active, Mike and Marian being in the Alps, before taking the wide path to Side Farm and the eastern side of Ullswater.
Looking back in the direction of Helvellyn, you can make out the caterpillar of people on the Side Farm path.
We enjoyed great views across Ullswater.
Two fat ladies were the cause of a very slow single file section.
Our progress was nevertheless fairly speedy. I would go ahead, dodging around people as best I could, especially on uphill sections where most folk slowed down, and Sue and Jenny would follow, politely asking people to move aside as they needed to catch up with 'the white hat' ahead.
Stiles and gates often meant queues where it would have been rude to push in. It was much worse for the many mountain bikers coming the other way, having completed the High Street traverse. I recall doing this with Alastair, expecting the lakeside path back to Patterdale to be relatively easy. It isn't - it's a very technical ride - virtually impossible with a constant stream of Macmillan walkers coming the other way. I felt really sorry for the mountain bikers.
Eventually we reached Bobbin Mill in Howtown, for more refreshments after 19.1 miles. We'd taken provisions to be on the safe side. They remained untouched.
The support points ('Pit Stops') were all well provided with toilets, food and drinks.
After this, we soon left the Ullswater Way route and found the path over Askham Fell to be gentle in its ascent, and conveniently wide. We continued to pass people - we probably overtook well over 1500 other participants during the course of the day.
Good views across Ullswater opened up behind us.
Here are Sue and Jenny with one of the 800 red arrows that we were assiduously following.
Past a stone circle that I can't see on the map, and over Askham Fell we went, Sue breaking into a run for the descent to Askham, during which our objective, Lowther Castle, came into view.
It was somewhat challenging to walk past the hostelries of Askham. At least Richard wasn't sat outside with a beer!
We descended to the River Lowther, where my companions are seen from the same place as the next picture was taken. They were doing well at keeping up with the white hat!
Richard was at the finish to capture this shot of the Happy Hikers crossing the line after nearly 26 miles and 9.5 hours. It was 7 pm and we were in positions 204, 205 and 206 based on chip times, out of about 2100 finishers. But we definitely weren't 'racing' - I think the 'chip' timing was more for the purpose of keeping track of everyone.
We got medals, and could have got a meal here, but after some statutory photos to record our success we went back to Ginney's for a shower, then to the Boot and Shoe in Greystoke for a nice meal.

Here's the route - 42 km (26 miles) with about 1100 metres ascent.
Sunday offered the opportunity to walk the section of the Ullswater Way we missed on Saturday - Howtown to Pooley Bridge. Just a short walk, so we could enjoy a leisurely breakfast and departure from Linda and Philip's Guest House (Ginney's).
Here's the view over Ullswater from Pooley Bridge whilst we waited for Raven, the old steamer (now diesel) that takes passengers to various points on the lake.
A little later, we were on the boat, with a view across to the glamping pods and tepees of Waterside campsite.
It's not a long journey to Howtown.
After coffees in the tea room, we set off in search of the signposted Ullswater Way route, passing Foxgloves and Silverweed.
This old bridge should have led to the correct path. But it just went to a dead end.
Once you find the signs you can't really miss them - the Ullswater Way is a newish route with excellent signposting.
If lost, you could always make an emergency call!

The camp shop at Waterside saw to our needs, which in Sue and my case were minimal as we still had yesterday's lunch to eat, and we enjoyed a leisurely lunch on a good picnic bench.
Then it was a simple matter of strolling into Pooley Bridge, and a journey home switching between cricket and tennis on the radio.
Here's our route - 7.5 km with not much more than 100 metres ascent, taking 2 hours plus breaks.
Whilst composing this entry I've had the pleasure of the whistling company of swifts preparing for their long journey to Africa. Whilst those that nest in our eaves didn't make it this year, some of the local population do seem to have maintained their routine, and the youngsters are in serious training for their long journeys.

Monday, 15 July 2019

Pyrenees HRP - 2004 - Day 5

Sue and Martin's Big Adventure
Day 5 - Friday 30 July 2004 -  Stage 4

Postcard Summary 
Deserted gîte to wild camp at Col d’Ispeguy
Superb ridge walk, cloudless afternoon, camp at 685 metres. Good views – 7.25 hours, 14 km, 1300m ascent
Last night nobody else arrived at the gîte, which looked as if it normally housed masses of school kids.  We had a lovely meal at the local restaurant.  Tonight will be our first night cooking in the tent (or near it, it’s very sunny here).  The tent is at a ‘wild camp’ just above the Col d’Ispeguy.  We can use facilities at the col.  We have good views into both France and Spain.
Today’s route was great.  We climbed up to a summit at 1044m, where it was still enough to brew up.  The ridge narrowed and the views widened as we dropped below the cloud.  Had a favourite lunch today – tins of fish!  The ridge continued all afternoon and the sun came out, making it all quite steamy.  There are pigs here, snouting through the bracken, and horses who obviously like to be fed.  We should see sunset from the tent.

Col d'Ispeguy postcard - our tent was in the grass mid left
Diary Entry (by Martin)

After a night alone in quite a large gîte, we had the place to ourselves for breakfast - yoghurt and banana - and the now customary 8.15 departure.  

The cloud was down over our route. Sore feet meant we were both in trainers (mine stayed on all day due to a sore ankle from the new boots).
It was humid and we soon got up a sweat on the long ascent to a col at 460 metres (we started at about 130 metres), where we paused briefly for water at 9.20 am.
Traffic noise on the main road below was slowly diminishing, and no one else was on GR10, which we followed for most of today. A very pleasant 20°C here, but cloud hovering ominously despite this sun trying to shine through. Go through a rocky area before reaching a grassy plateau at about 740 metres at 10 am.  
Lots of circling vultures, ravens and smaller birds of prey, possibly kestrels. Shepherds are moving the huge flocks of sheep around. Perhaps they are up here overnight.  
There's a cool breeze, but the sun looks as if it may be winning. We reach our first 1000 metre peak of the trip at 11.05, 10 minutes ahead of Georges Véron's 3 hour estimate.
Two French day walkers pass, and two backpackers who Sue thinks are American. It is Pic d'Iparla (1044 metres).

We have a leisurely half hour brew in the lee of the breeze, hoping for the cloud to lift. We just get occasional glimpses of hazy vistas. But from now on the cloud did lift, we got extensive, if hazy views, and by mid afternoon the sky was cloudless and we were sweltering in 27°C at 1000 metres. 
We stopped for another half hour - 12.35 to 1.05 -  at Col d'Harrieta, 808 metres, after meeting more people. Another brew, only an hour after the last one, in this pleasant glade. Tins of muscles (me) and sardines (Sue) made for an excellent lunch, supplemented in Sue's case by Mountain Mix from Unicorn, which is still going strong.  
Sun tan cream applied, and with Sue now in boots, we move on along the fine but easy ridge, to gain our second summit of the day  - Pic de Bustencelhay - 1028 metres (that's excluding a number of minor summit which probably wouldn't make 'Munro' status).
15 minutes here admiring the views, and with our destination in sight. We would be able to see the Atlantic, perhaps for the last time, if it wasn't so hazy.  
And so, down to a col where we leave GR10 and continue along the ridge to  Col d'Ispeguy, at 670 metres our highest sojourn by far. Sue quickly gets cokes and affirmation that we can camp anywhere. We enjoy more cokes before taking our possessions 50 metres up the slope behind Venta Ispeguy and spending the rest of the afternoon in the sun.  
We arrived here at 3.30 pm. and can see a diminishing number of car tourists admiring views into France and Spain. We get these views from our perch, and there are pigs snouting and Pottocks looking for food from tourists. We hope we won't be disturbed overnight. The tent is on a bit of a slope.  
Cyclists have a wonderful freewheel down into France. Considering we are 100 metres from a road, it's idyllic. Both of us discover more bites - there must have been mosquitoes in the gîte, where it was too hot for sleeping bags.  
And so - a leisurely evening in the sun with panoramic views, leek and potato soup, couscous with lomo meat and chasseur sauce, followed by a beer for Martin, angel delight ("bonkers butterscotch") and Highlights hot chocolate. Superb.

On the ridge towards Pic de Bustencelhay

Following the red and white paint flashes

 The view from near Pic de Bustencelhay

Camping at Col d'Ispeguy
Stats and route (Viewranger):14 km, 1300 metres ascent, 7.25 hours