Saturday, 23 April 2011
My daughter Kate excelled herself this morning by producing my first grandchild, Jacob, six pounds, at 6.15am. Three and a half weeks early, but the poor lad was clearly feeling too hot and elected for an early bid for freedom.
Congratulations to Kate and Simon, and if Kate reads this (which I don’t think she will) I really don’t think you need to change his name to Gollum – I’m sure his looks will improve!
Friday, 22 April 2011
“Fancy a bike ride tomorrow:
The first pub is the Plough and Flail, a bit of a posh joint. It's good to get there for around 11.45am.
The order of battle is:
Plough & Flail > Stag at Warford > Frozen Mop > Bird in Hand > Bull's Head (popular lunch stop, bring butties) > Church > Chapel House > Railway.”
JJ is an expert at leading people astray. Anyway, I couldn’t resist finding out what this was all about so I popped down to meet him at the Bird in Hand and the Bull’s Head.
It was very hot and summery. “Sometimes it snows” someone observed. Apparently this unstructured event started around thirty years ago. The protagonists are still around, this year (perhaps always) cleverly disguised as chickens. It’s not organised. It just happens. There’s music at the end in the Railway.
Well done, JJ, you do get up to some pranks!
The pictures speak for themselves, mostly. But keen observers may notice a ninth pub, The Roebuck, in the background. Apparently it has been banned from the event due to having perpetrated a misdemeanor regarding lunchtime food.
This t-shirt contest has a clear winner…
Thursday, 21 April 2011
It got hotter. By 8am we were in shorts and t-shirts, on the summit of High Spy.
As indicated last night, I enjoyed a quick trip up Dale Head in the cool of the evening. Even then it was pretty warm. Coming down was Ethan, on his first solo backpack, having spent the day coming to Dalehead Tarn from Esk Hause. Via Pillar! A long day out, and quite a challenge. Well done, Ethan. We chatted later and it seemed clear to me that whatever else life throws into the path of this youngster, he has the great satisfaction of knowing that a lifetime love of hillwalking awaits him. It can be very therapeutic at times, Ethan, and is always enjoyable – albeit sometimes in retrospect.
Continuing on to Maiden Moor, Cat Bells, and our final summit, Skelgill Bank, Derwent Water, looking glassy through the haze, gradually got closer, and we started to meet more and more people.
“It’s his first mountain” said one proud dad as his young son enthusiastically tackled the scrambly bits near the summit of Cat Bells. I wonder how many people can name Cat Bells as the first mountain they climbed? Quite a few, I suspect.
We made good progress in between stopping for chats with random folk, and trying to take photos of the haze that will need to be ruthlessly edited to avoid an excruciatingly boring slide show. The final hour or so was spent strolling pleasantly around the edge of Derwent Water and back to Mary Mount Hotel for a drink and a sandwich before the hot drive home. On the causeway before Mary Mount we bumped into Maggie and Roy, on a stroll around the lake from Maggie’s dad’s house in Keswick. It’s a small world. These two know Don and Liz, to whom we gave tea yesterday, and my children spent New Year in Maggie’s dad’s house when they were very small and Maggie’s parents owned the B&B at the other end of the garden. Happy memories, including some NYD ‘strolls’ up Skiddaw. Maggie has even attended one of these Lakes backpacking trips in the past, when we camped at Sprinkling Tarn, if my memory is correct.
Today’s 11 km stroll took a little over 4 hours, but included less than 400 metres of ascent, in deference to Poor Michael’s failing health. That Spanish Training Camp should sort him out for the TGO Challenge, though!
Seriously, this was a great little outing in the finest scenery and company, not to mention the unexpectedly pleasant weather. We learnt a lot from the experience, and will apply that in relation to kit, food and route, to our approach to the TGO Challenge, to which we are both really looking forward.
Wednesday, 20 April 2011
Waking to a clear blue sky, with the sun on the tents by 7am, made for a most pleasurable start to the day. By the time we set off at 7.40, others who had been camped nearby were seemingly long gone.
A short stroll led to Innominate Tarn, Alfred Wainwright's final resting place, pictured above with Pillar in the background.
Moving on, we savoured fine views from the summit of Hay Stacks before enduring the steep descent to Scarth Gap. Here, my original plan was eschewed in deference to Poor Michael's allergic reaction to excessively steep hills. [He has been booked, at no expense spared, into a Spanish Training Camp, in the high altitudes above Marbella, in an effort to prepare him for the rigours of the TGO Challenge!] So we headed down from Scarth Gap to the sunny shores of Buttermere, chancing upon happy tourists, tufted ducks, and a myriad of near perfect reflections in the still waters along the way.
By now we were in shorts. It was hot. At the tea shop we sought out a table in the shade. At 10.30 on 20 April! "Not a bad day for July" quipped the owner, before launching into a whinge about the National Trust and its perceived lack of sensitivity to the local people and to other landowners.
I can recommend the chocolate cake.
A welcome breeze accompanied us for the ascent of Robinson, during which a long pause on the interestingly named minor summit of High Snockrigg afforded fine views towards Buttermere village and Crummock Water and Loweswater in the haze beyond.
No need for a fleece though, despite the breeze. Lunch was taken along with a smattering of families, backpackers and others on the broad summit of Robinson.
Setting off with some D of E gold students (the two boys were enjoying it, the two girls weren't), we left them at the saddle to traverse easily up Hindscarth, with excellent views to the Newlands valley and Keswick. Paragliders were again out in abundance. This must be their ideal weather.
It's a fine walk from Hindscarth round to the distinctive stone cairn that adorns the summit of Dale Head. Here, our four D of E students had been reunited with a chatty minder who was trying to coax them down to the tea shop at Honister. They were tired; they'd come from Buttermere.
Our own walk was now nearly over for the day, the 20 minute descent to Dalehead Tarn revealing some enticing green swards for the tents. But with the bedrock only an inch or so beneath the grass, we chose some pitches on the nearby rougher - but softer - grassland of the fell. Very comfy it is too.
It was only 3.50pm; we had walked about 13km, with 1100 metres of ascent, in just over 8 hours. Mr Sloman should be impressed, and with yesterday's performance of 17km in 11 hours, as I think this just about qualifies as 'Daunder Pace' - ie less than 1mph! Would you credit it?!!
The late afternoon passed very merrily as various passers by chatted at length, and one unexpected pair of reprobates called in at our hastily constructed (seating arrangements were still being debated) tea shop. It was great to see you - the tea certainly seemed to make you speed off up High Spy!
It's another beautiful evening up here at 500 metres, and our short day has given us plenty of chance to enjoy it.
PS Back up to Dale Head for a signal. Brilliant here at 8.30pm. Thanks for all your comments, I'll make appropriate responses tomorrow. I'm glad Alan seems to have resolved the boarder issue, I was wondering how to deal with that!
Poor Michael would say hello, but he's currently indisposed (ie sleeping off today's hills).
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Tuesday 19 April 2011 - A Lake District Backpack - Day 3 - High House Tarn to Blackbeck Tarn, by Haystacks
A perfectly clear morning greeted us today, so we can't really complain about the slight haziness.
The early morning reflections in the tarns were wonderful. I thought I had a picture here, but it must have been taken with the camera, so you'll have to wait.
Today's picture is, instead, of our camp at Blackbeck Tarn, taken at sunset, when I discovered that the planned image didn't exist.
We started the day with a quick trip up Glaramara, before idling our way back over Allen Crags to the main path between Sprinkling Tarn and Angle Tarn. Here, a National Trust operative was dutifully collecting bits of wood from the hillside and burning them one by one to avoid setting the peat alight. "Our lunch hut was destroyed by a whirlwind" he offered.
Esk Hause revealed our first (of many) walkers of the day. There were a couple of folk on Great End when we arrived there, but Ill Crag was deserted for the duration of a leisurely brew stop in the sunshine.
T-shirts were the order of the day for us, but up on Scafell Pike many of the elated tourists were bare-chested. It was very busy in a congenial sort of way. Whilst waiting for Mike, who slowed on the final steep climb, I acted as resident photographer on the summit mound. Two neighbours spotted each other - "Well, if we'd known you were coming here we could all have come in one car!"
Mike and I had dutifully climbed Broad Crag on our way to Scafell Pike. It was deserted. As we got back to the main path a child asked his parents if he could scramble up the Crag. Despite the lad's reasoned plea - "Why do we come to these places if we can't do a bit of scrambling?" his request was dismissed out of hand. A 'debate' followed after I sided with the child - "You take him up then" concluded the parents. I should have done. A missed opportunity.
By the time we had nipped sackless up Lingmell, strolled down the Corridor Route via a pleasant lunch spot, and arrived at the Stretcher Box at Sty Head, it was after 3.30 and everyone else was going down. So the path up Great Gable was empty. At the summit I brewed up then waited for Mike whilst chatting to a couple of backpackers about GR20 on Corsica, and other trekking destinations. The girl's parents were in training for GR20, camping and unsupported, for her Dad's 60th birthday. Brilliant!
Mike eventually arrived, and with our final destination glowing far below in the late sun we bumbled on over Green Gable and Brandreth. Clouds had been building, but now they evaporated, though the thick haze remained. Very atmospheric.
After a pathless 2km, spent watching paragliders over Buttermere, we arrived at the main path between Haystacks and Honister Pass, and strolled finally onto a fine piece of turf by Blackbeck Tarn.
It's perfectly still here. There were even a few midges. After more good nosh, mine washed down with hot chocolate, I enjoyed a good wash with hot water before settling down to write this entry, which will be posted tomorrow as there's no signal here and I'm not inclined to go and look for one tonight.
Meanwhile, the peace of the camp site has been shattered by noisy geese and ducks, etc, but apart from the noise of the birds, I've also discovered why Anne doesn't mind Mike coming on these trips - it gives her a quiet night!
Today's 17km route, albeit with 1400 metres ascent, took us 11 hours. The pace was 'gentle'. That's rather longer than estimated, so as tomorrow's plan was a tougher day we have decided to miss out the Buttermere Fells, and head instead over Haystacks and down Scarth Gap to pick up our planned route at the Fish Inn.
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Tuesday, 19 April 2011
Monday 18 April 2011 - A Lake District Backpack - Day 2 - Below Great Crag to High House Tarn (NY 240 093 - 674 metres)
Yesterday concluded with an unforgettable visit to Great Crag in the light of the newly risen full moon and the red afterglow of sunset. It took some time for the posting to transmit, but on this lovely warm evening it was a pleasure to dally, trying to identify the wide array of Lakeland peaks that are visible from this splendid viewpoint. It's not the first time that an evening saunter in a quest for a phone signal has paid unexpected dividends. I tried to attract Mike's attention and go up again, but he was deep in slumber or i-pod.
Also reverting to yesterday, thanks in abundance must go to Nightbird and her esteemed worse half (whose normal nickname is inappropriate on this occasion) for the really excellent weekend that culminated in a lovely lunch that resulted in a minor food mountain for me almost immediately, as I felt no need for more food for the rest of the day.
Today dawned warm but cloudy, and that cloud dominated the day, with just a few sunny periods.
Good walking weather. Just as well! We managed 1500 metres ascent over our 20 km route. I'd planned to do it in 10 hours, but we 'overshot' by 45 minutes. Never mind, we arrived at this lovely sheltered spot with a view to Great Gable at 6.30, giving us plenty of R+R time. We need that - just reiterating the peaks we visited today is exhausting...
We started with Great Crag, my third visit in consecutive days - fine views. Then past Dock Tarn and a bit of a plod in t-shirts up to Low Saddle, High Saddle and Ullscarf.
The next summit, the distinctive feature of Lining Crag, was more a sort of ... well, crag than a summit. Here we brewed up and watched our first people of the day, pouring up the valley from Stonethwaite, many of them perhaps on the Coast to Coast route.
After the short ascent to Greenup Edge, our summiteering continued, monitored closely by wheatears, with Low White Stones and High Raise, the highest summit in the Langdale area. This heralded an array of 'Langdale' peaks - Codale Head, Sergeant Man, Thunacar Knott, Pavey Ark and Harrison Stickle, below which we enjoyed lunch and rather hazy views of the Langdale valley, with Windermere beyond, seemingly floating in the mist.
After a good break, we set off in search of Thorn Crag, which I'd missed on my last visit with Rick and Stuart & Co. This time I found it, but not without a struggle, eventually winding up at Bill Birkett's map reference via every other possible contending point for the name of Thorn Crag. It was ... a crag!
Loft Crag, however, is a nice summit. We visited that as well, before moving on to Pike O' Stickle, where we wisely dropped our sacks for the short, scary for Mike who hasn't visited the Langdales before, ascent to the airy summit.
A romp down to Stake Pass was then followed by the weary ascent of the ridge leading to Rossett Pike via Black Crag and Buck Pike, from where today's picture of the Langdale Valley was taken.
We managed then to avoid the temptation of the numerous camping spots near Angle Tarn, preferring to continue on up to Allen Crags and High House before plonking our tents in the gathering gloom in this sheltered spot near High House Tarn, where there's no running water. So we're filtering tarn water.
That's 20 Birketts and 11 Wainwrights for the day, by my reckoning.
After the usual sumptuous camp meals an early night was in order - by way of preparation for an easier day tomorrow!
It's spotting with rain and very overcast.
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Sunday, 17 April 2011
Have you ever found yourself driving home from the Lakes on a lovely Sunday evening, wishing that you could stay in the hills rather than prepare for all that Monday morning entails? I have, many times. But today that wish has come true. Mike and I are camped just below Great Crag at NY 270 150, on a wonderful evening.
Today's images show us setting off from Mary Mount on our 6 km stroll to camp (also shown) where we relaxed in luxuriant sunshine before losing it at around 8 pm.
My day started with a short stroll up Castle Crag with Sue, before returning to Mary Mount for the principal business of the weekend, Nightbird's birthday party. Thirty or so of her many friends attended this auspicious occasion, some of them visiting the Lake District for the first time. Yesterday's high cloud had dissolved into bright sunshine by lunch time, and was followed by a perfect summery afternoon. A red squirrel even visited the hotel's bird feeder.
'Poor Michael' duly arrived, and after a major boot faff on my part (I decided to use the trusty old Scarpa Infinities rather than the brand new HI-TEC Rainers that still need a bit of breaking in) we set off soon after 4 pm.
From Derwent House my navigation let me down (I blame Nightbird's wine) and we found ourselves amongst climbers and quite some way from our first target, King's How.
It was entertainingly thrutchy, especially after the huge lunch and with a 16 kilo load. So we missed our first planned summit - a good start?... But Brund Fell, a fine Birkett with extensive views made up for that, and soon afterwards, despite mislaying the path again, we arrived at this excellent spot, where I feel a very long sleep coming on.
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