Monday, 2 May 2016

Scafell Pike - 30 April

Last night's discussions concluded with the, perhaps reluctant, acceptance that we wouldn't be able to get round the "Old County Tops" route today. In fact, we are far from certain what we will be able to do so the new plan is to set off a couple of hours later than originally intended, make our way to Scafell Pike and then on to Raw Head in Great Langdale by whatever route seem fun and feasible at the time.
The weather looks better than any of us expected from the forecast but you can't see far up the valley from here. There could be blizzards on the Scafell massif and you wouldn't know this far down Borrowdale. We leave Seathwaite about twenty past seven on cold morning under a leaden sky. The forecast suggested we should enjoy sunny intervals but not until after 10 o'clock and there are no signs they will arrive early.
Approaching the Sty Head Tarn a squally shower of hail and ice blows through and all get into waterproofs, Looby is already wearing her coat - not because of the cold but because she doesn't like rain and there could be plenty of that even if it falls as snow. By the time we reach the tarn the shower has gone and some of the waterproofs are returned to rucksacks.

Julian at the Stretcher Box

Phil & Julian crossing Sty Head

I have a slight concern about the 'bad step' on the Corridor Route but Phil is happy we will be able to deal with it. Confident we will find the Corridor Route, deal with its difficulties and reach Scafell Pike summit in a reasonable time we leave Sty Head. As we begin to gain height the snow gets deeper and wetter and the going gets slower and slower. We may or may not have found the Corridor Route but before long we realise we are probably not going to be able to find or follow it.
The ridge is clagged in and even Lingmell disappears into clouds from time to time. We have a bit of a quandary now because the route is completely concealed and we are probably above it already. The ridge we can see on the skyline has another beyond it and we don't know what lies between them but the 'only way is up'. Initially this isn't entirely obvious but the more we look to the west the more we realise we would probably have to down climb to get into the next gully, which isn't Little Narrowcove. This means we would probably have to climb out and then back down into the next one as well. This must be obvious to everyone because the possibility isn't even discussed.
Up it is, steep and unrelenting but exhilarating and very enjoyable. The views down to Wasdale Head are beautiful, the fells around the head of the valley are covered in snow high up and their tops are wreathed in clouds. This is like deep mid-winter, not unpleasant and not too cold probably because the ridge is sheltering us from whatever wind there might be. The conditions confirm the wisdom of last night's decision - we wouldn't have been able to get round the Old County Tops today, not even in 24 hours had we been prepared to struggle on for that long.
Eventually we gain the ridge and Phil correctly realises we are almost on the summit of Great End when we gain the ridge. We can see one of the summit cairns as we put more clothes on and grab a bite to eat.

Wasdale Head

Great Gable

John climbing Great End

The clouds are beginning to lift from Scafell Pike, just as forecast which is very encouraging. Conditions underfoot are not improving - the snow won't take our weight but allows a carelessly place foot to slip deep between the rocks which means that although the snow isn't as deep the going is just as slow or even slower. There are already people on the summit and we pass a couple of well equipped small parties coming down as we make our way to the summit cairn.

Julian Lunching on Scafell Pike

The clouds are lifting and we enjoy lunch in sunshine as well a gentle snow shower or two on the summit.Now there is no question about a wandering route or visiting other summits on the way to Raw Head, the shortest route is going to be slow and anything else isn't even considered. Slow going to is and we now encounter the crowds making their way up, initially they are well equipped and moving pretty well but the closer we get to the valley the less well equipped the groups are and the less well they are moving.

Looking north from Scafell Pike

Esk Hause

Down below the snow line we are in warm sunshine, we have entered another world or at the least another season or two. I am not sure about the others but I don't have the legs to include Helvellyn on the way back to Borrowdale and when alternatives are discussed no one makes the case for including it. To put all this into some sort of perspective - we reach Raw Head at or around the time I thought we probably would have done after having crossed the Great Moss, Mosedale and having been to Coniston Old Man. Our route back will be to cross to Grasmere and walk up Far Easdale to Greenup Edge and then down into Borrowdale.

Great Langdale

Great Langdale is bathed in warm sunshine as we set off for Grasmere. The 'crossing' to Grasmere is as delightful as always, more so because we aren't going on to Helvellyn. It is a pretty long way up the valley to reach the bogs at the top of Wythburn but the evening sunshine is very pleasant and we have a buttie break just below the head of the valley.

Ged, Julian, Phil and Looby descending to Grasmere

Looking towards Buttermere from Greenup Edge

Evening Sun in Borrowdale 1

Evening Sun in Borrowdale 2

Evening Sun in Borrowdale 3

Not the day out we planned but a great one nevertheless even if my first Fell & Rock CC themed Meet had its theme removed. The Old County Tops will be there for next year and we will be back for another attempt.

Kirkstone Pass - 29 April

Traffic reports of road closures because of snow made us wonder just how difficult things might be on Saturday and made us have another look at our plans. Deciding that if conditions are bad then an extra support point at Cockley Beck would probably be worthwhile and just about feasible. Road conditions could be tricky though and the road over Hardknott and Wrynose Passes could be very tricky so alternative routes and journey times calculated. We also decided to have a look at Kirkstone Pass on the way to the Salving House.

The view down "The Struggle"

Kirkstone Inn

The road over Kirkstone Pass was clear and had been gritted but this may have been because the A591 remains closed but nevertheless we arrived in Borrowdale optimistic that conditions weren't too bad.

Our optimism didn't last long because a couple of others had been out on the fells, relatively low fells, and reported encountering fresh, deep snow which would make for very slow going. Now the Cockley Beck support point began to look like a liability not least because if we were delayed on Scafell Pike we would probably not be able to let Pauline and Helen know. Equally if Pauline and Helen are delayed then we would have a problem and so the support point at Cockley Beck was abandoned.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Our Final "Outlying Fell" - 23 April

On the 23rd May 1998 we, more or less inadvertently, bagged the first of Wainwright's "Outlying Fells", Lord's Seat on Whitbarrow. Over the following 18 years we visited other Outlying Fells without ever really trying to complete the list. Usually we bagged Outlyers when the weather was too bad for the high fells or we were passing by on our way home from somewhere else, neither of which is entirely fair to the list because it contains some wonderful little hills.

Last week I realised we had bagged all Wainwright's Outlyers apart from four which were all in a cluster around Newby Bridge. Almost exactly 18 years after our Outlyer we went out to bag our final four which were Ravens Barrow, Staveley Fell . (While there we visited Birch Fell and came back over Gummers How.), Finsthwaite and Newton Fell.

I would like to be able to claim that careful planning ensured we ended up with a cluster that could be done in a day and that, even better, our first summit could be seen from our final summit but I can't. Lord's Seat was bagged long before we had heard of Wainwright's Outlying Fells and we were too busy with other things to realise the end of the list was approaching. Some of the "other things" we were too busy with are other lists and we are hoping to celebrate other completions before the end of the year. In the meantime, we will enjoy this one.

Looking North from Gummer's How

River Leven Weirs - below Finsthwaite

Haverthwaite Railway

Towards the Coniston Fells from Newton Fell (North)

Fiddler Hall (below Newton Fell north summit)

Morecambe Bay from Newton Fell (South)

Monday, 18 April 2016

Stile End & Barrow - 17 April

Easy stroll up from the road at Stoneycroft to Stile End, a Birkett lurking between Outerside and Barrow, then on to Barrow to bag another Third Round Wainwright. Barrow, in particular enjoys good views of the Northern Fells, Derwent Water and much beyond.

Northern Fells

Derwent Water and much beyond

Dale Head - 16 April

A great day out marshalling at Dale Head with Geoff Briggs. By the time most runners on both the Anniversary Waltz and the Teenager With Altitude reach Dale Head they are spread out and they arrive in small groups. This makes recording numbers easier, in good weather, but it doesn't allow all errors or omissions to be avoided and the old adage "you can take numbers or you can take photos" remains true. Numbers were more important so no race photos.

Newlands Valley from Dale Head

Leaving Dale Head

Dale Head

High Spy Ridge and much more beyond

Looking south from Dale Head

Snow flurry sweeping down Borrowdale

Walking down from Catbells into Newlands Valley

Around Thirlmere - 15 April

The northern end of Thirlmere has a collection of Birketts, a Wainwright we want to bag for our Third Round and a packhorse bridge at Smaithwaite. Our afternoon consisted of two 'rounds' - the first to Raven Crag, Castle Crag and Sippling Crag and the second to the bridge Smaithwaite followed by Great How.

The packhorse bridge has been modified somewhat and it is believed the beck was widened as part of the reservoir works in 1894 necessitating the two wooden extensions.

Raven Crag is benefiting from a new, almost complete wooden staircase to the summit which we shared with the 3 guys building the stairs. Castle Crag is signposted and has a well-walked path while Sippling Crag remains, almost, a secret. There is a trod leading away from the forest road but it remains uncairned and we weren't going to change that.

The A591 remains closed and the road around the back of the lake is reserved for the shuttle bus, taxis and cyclists. The back road has a guard to allow buses through and turn away mere mortals but she assured me that walking from the Church to Wyth Burn wouldn't be a problem as long as we avoid the machinery. This didn't matter today but at the end of the month we will be walking the Old County Tops and this is a key part of the route. On previous occasions I have been able to arrange road support here but that won't be possible this year.

Smaithwaite Packhorse Bridge

Thirlmere from the dam

Thirlmere from Raven Crag

The Northern Fells from Great How

Monday, 11 April 2016

Packhorse Bridges & Birketts - 10 April

A messy sort of Bagging day but a worthwhile one. For a variety of reasons we had a few hills around Shap left to bag, not enough for a full day but with a few packhorse bridges in the vicinity we had enough to keep ourselves amused for the day.

Classic Packhorse Bridge at Rosgill

Classic Packhorse Bridge at Rosgill again

Burnbanks Packhorse Bridge

The stables below Knipescar Common
 Have bagged the two bridges around Bampton we headed a little north to visit Knipescar Common and conclude the morning's activities.

We spent the afternoon wandering about Wet Sleddale to visit three fells on the south side of the valley. These we failed to reach one very cold day some years ago. In theory we were keeping them for better weather with drier ground and today we enjoyed the better weather and concluded the drier ground would only be found elsewhere.

Abandoned Axle

Looking back to Wet Sleddale Hall

The Packhorse Bridge in Wet Sleddale was moved to avoid it being submerged when the dam was built. When it was rebuilt in its present location the parapets were added and so while it may be a genuine packhorse bridge it has been relocated and significantly altered.

Wet Sleddale Packhorse Bridge

Late Afternoon Sunburst

Wet Sleddale Reservoir
All bridges visited and peaks bagged on a long slow afternoon trudging over wet rough ground. Away from the car park we only saw two other walkers, a couple seemingly reversing our route. The going is slow but it allows time to savour these hills and there is plenty to enjoy here

Monday, 4 April 2016

Stott Park Bobbin Mill - 02 April

We stumbled across Stott Park Bobbin Mill on our way home from Claife Heights and thoroughly enjoyed the guided tour. It is the last of very many bobbin mills that once supplied the cotton mills of Lancashire, and further afield, making a very good living for their owners. This is a wonderful piece of Lancastrian industrial history - this was part of Lancashire for all of its working life - brought to life.