The day I forgot everything

Ten minutes after setting off to catch the minibus I realised I’d left my camera sitting on my desk. A bad start to the day, but one that at least pretty much guarantees good weather. The destination today was Buttermere and the walk was pretty much identical to Nuttall’s 3.5 (obviously, in the England volume). It follows a diverse ridge from High Crag to Red Pike, consisting of a mixture of rough, craggy sections interspersed with gentle grassy slopes. This is one of those iconic ridge walks boasting good views for the majority of the walk – weather prevailing of course!

Start point: Buttermere, NY 174 170
Summits: High Crag, High Stile, Red Pike, Dodd
Distance: 7.5 miles / 3100 foot

From Buttermere it was a short walk along the lake before the ascent up Scarth Gap. The original path was badly damaged in the floods of winter 2009 and a large portion of it has literally been swept away. A temporary fence has been put in place around the damaged area however, and it can be easily bypassed.

At the top of Scarth Gap we stopped for lunch, where I realised the second item of the day that I’d forgotten. Yes, my lunch! Fortunately I was kindly donated a cereal bar and along with my flask of coffee I managed to keep going until the end. I would normally carry a considerable amount of Kendal Mint Cake in my bag but this all got used up when we got snowed in, in Eskdale, at the end of last year.

From Scarth Gap it is as simple as following the ridge along until you reach Red Pike. The wind was particularly bitter and I think everybody was feeling the cold. I was very glad for my Rab down gillet I got for Christmas. From Red Pike was descended the steep scree slope to Dodd and then Bleaberry Tarn. A small patch of completely frozen snow posed a few problems on the way down but steps had been cut so it wasn’t too bad. Bleaberry Tarn itself was coated in a good layer of ice, though not enough to walk upon.

The path down from Bleaberry Tarn is particularly knee-bashing and passes through Burtness Wood before reaching Buttermere. The Fish Hotel was closed and so we ended up in the Bridge Hotel and I wasn’t driving this week so I could indulge in a very nice pint of Black Sheep bitter and a well-needed bag of crisps.

Panoramic lakes in the Lakes

Back up at university now and the first walk back of the term saw us in Borrowdale for what MWIS and the Met Office promised would be a rain-free day with cloudless summits. They kept their promise and despite the large amount of dull cloud cover its base was well above the summits and we got some beautiful panoramic views.

The walk itself was a particularly picturesque one, starting off up to Styhead Tarn from Seathwaite, up Great and Green Gable and then back to Borrowdale via Brandreth and Grey Knotts, two hills that were completely new to me. I took my assessment to become a “leader provisional” (LP) for the Hiking Club and am pleased to say I passed so I can now plan my own routes. I don’t have entirely free range however until I gain “leader extraordinaire” (LE) for which I’ll have to show my skills up in Scotland and in more “tricky” conditions.

Start point: Seathwaite, Borrowdale, NY 235 122
Summits: Green Gable, Great Gable, Brandreth, Grey Knotts
Distance: 6.3 miles / 10.1 kilometres
Ascent: 2900 feet

Starting from right at the end of Borrowdale it’s a simple tourist trod right up to the very picturesque Styhead Tarn. I camped here with my Dad when I was much younger when it was blowing a gale, but today it was deathly still – not even a ripple on the water and the surrounding mountains were perfectly reflected.

Crossing over Stockley Bridge

Crossing over Stockley Bridge

View back down into Borrowdale

View back down into Borrowdale from Stockley Bridge

Path to Styhead

The rest of the group heading up the path to Styhead Tarn

Styhead Gill

Styhead Gill

I’m not sure why I didn’t take any photos of Styhead Tarn itself, I regret it now! Lunch was had by the shelter box before we headed straight up Great Gable and then onto to Green Gable. We popped off-course momentarily to take a few snaps of Wastwater – England’s deepest lake at 79 metres, which allegedly boasts a gnome garden. Three divers died here in the late 1990s whilst they were apparently searching for the gnome garden, which was subsequently removed because of the incident. However, rumour has it that gnomes have started reappearing at a greater depth, beyond the 50 metre depth limit that police divers are allowed to go down to.

Wastwater

Wastwater from half way up Great Gable

The group

Part-way up Great Gable, having a quick break

There was a chill breeze on top of Great Gable and we didn’t hang around for long. There were still a great deal of poppies around the memorial plaque from the Remembrance Sunday service at the end up last year. The plaque commemorates members of the Fell & Rock Climbing Club of the English Lake District who died in World War I.

Great Gable is renowned for its vast panoramic views from the summit, which certainly didn’t fail to impress.

View from Great Gable

View from Great Gable

It was then on to Green Gable, Great Gable’s smaller and slightly, well, greener neighbour, via Windy Gap which for once wasn’t that windy. There was a large patch of snow to contend with but it was quite powdery so don’t pose any problems. I personally prefer Green Gable, perhaps because of it’s less harsh summit or perhaps because of the stunning views down Ennerdale and to the north.

Great Gable

Great Gable from the summit of Green Gable

Summit of Green Gable

View from the summit of Green Gable

Me on Green Gable

A photograph of myself on the summit of Green Gable

The final part of the walk was over two summits that were new to me – Brandreth and Grey Knotts. Both offer expansive panoramic views over Buttermere, Ennerdale Water and you can even catch the odd glimpse of Windemere. Although the day wasn’t perishingly cold and despite a considerable thaw occurring recently, we still found a small tarn completely frozen over with a thick layer of ice – my ice axe hardly made a scratch on the surface – perfect ice skating conditions!

Ice skating

Testing the ice on Giillercomb Head

Summit of Grey Knotts

View from the summit of Grey Knotts

From Grey Knotts we skirted down around the contours to descend back into Borrowdale via Seathwaite Slabs and after a short minibus journey found ourselves in the Scafell Hotel for a welcome pint, or in my case coffee as I was driving the minibus back. Whilst being on the upper end of the price range when it comes to pubs in the Lakes, the Scafell Hotel has a lovely bar with a big log fire and I highly recommend it – perhaps because last time I was in there I knocked an entire pint over and the barman replaced it free of charge! They also have a rather addictive game of trying to balance a 10p coin on a lemon in a glass of water without it falling off, for a free pint. Of course it’s nigh-on impossible to do and most people end up loosing their 10p (all proceeds go to Borrowdale School I believe), but I’m told that it can be done.

Anyway, I shall leave it there. Off to Buttermere next weekend and then Steall Hut in Glen Nevis the week after that. Should be a busy month!

A sunny Sunday stroll over Striding Edge

This was a walk I did with the Hiking Club at uni on 12 December 2010, but I enjoyed it so much (and got quite a few half-decent photos) that I thought I’d post a bit about it here. Helvellyn is famed as the second highest mountain in England, and that fame certainly makes it a popular choice. I’ve been warned that during summer Striding Edge becomes the Lake District’s equivalent to the hiker’s motorway that is Snowdonia’s Crib Goch. Understandably so though, as it is a beautiful and rewarding ridge with an equally rewarding summit at the end.

Start point: Glenridding, NY 385 169
Summits: Birkhouse Moor, Striding Edge, Helvellyn, Raise
Distance: 8.9 miles / 14.3 kilometres
Ascent: 3300 feet

Believe it or not, this was my first ever time along Striding Edge and on top of Helvellyn. It’s one of those hills that I’ve had in my sights for years but have never got around to. As such I was very-much looking forward to this walk and I’m glad to say it didn’t disappoint. The area had been in full winter conditions the week before and I was initially annoyed that the majority of the snow had thawed when we got there, but in hindsight it was probably for the best that my first time over Striding Edge wasn’t laden with ice axe and crampons.

Although there were clouds in the sky, the sun still shone through and we got a fantastic view out over Ullswater whilst making the ascent to Birkhouse Moor. Unfortunately this was marred somewhat by a dirt-biker that was up there churning up the countryside.

Ullswater

Ullswater and Glenridding from the ascent to Birkhouse Moor

Striding Edge looked absolutely stunning bathed in the sunshine, a sight that no photograph can do justice to. It was a real pleasure and I felt almost a privilege that my first time across the ridge was in such glorious weather. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it, despite patches of verglass making it a little tricky. We thought that crampons might be needed for the final slog up to the summit but as it turned out convenient steps had been cut in the snowy areas.

Helvellyn, Red Tarn and Swirral Edge as seen from the base of Striding Edge

A few of our group headed off up one of the gullies on the face of Helvellyn – not for the faint hearted!

Striding Edge

Striding Edge in the sunshine

Striding Edge

Looking back on Striding Edge

Helvellyn

The final drag up onto Helvellyn

The summit of Helvellyn offered some lovely views back over Striding Edge and Red Tarn. It was, as predicted, rather busy up there.

Striding Edge and Red Tarn

The view of Striding Edge and Red Tarn from the summit

Summit of Helvellyn

View from summit of Helvellyn

Summit of Helvellyn

Cornice on the summit of Helvellyn

Apparently a girl from the University of London fell through a cornice on the summit of Helvellyn a few weeks before we were there. She was okay, but unfortunately in subsequent weeks two men fell to their deaths on Swirral Edge, unrelated incidents whilst the ridge was in full winter conditions. These tragedies highlight the danger mountains can present, as well as the care that needs to be taken.

Shelter on the summit of Helvellyn

Shelter on the summit of Helvellyn. Those snow patches were as icy as they look!

It wasn’t long before the clouds came in however, and by the time we’d finished our lunch we were completely immersed. From Helvellyn we went on to Raise. The clouds did clear but it was dark by the time they did, so no opportunities for photographs. It was a rather bright night and despite the darkness we managed to finish the walk without needing to reach for the head torches!

We finished in the Traveller’s Rest pub, which – to my dismay – boasted beers from one of my favourite breweries, Hesket Newmarket. The dismay was due to the fact that I was driving the minibus back and couldn’t drink, hence ending up with a cup of instant coffee, which along with the log fire, was still very welcome after a long cold day in the hills.

Convoluted scrambling up Siabod

Moel Siabod is often overlooked, falling short of the 3000 foot mark but only just, standing at 2861 feet. It is no less of a mountain than its taller counterparts however, and boasts a number of interesting and varied ascents with arguably some of Snowdonia’s most rugged and interesting scenery. The best of this scenery can be seen via the ascent of the mountain’s east ridge, Daear Ddu (Black Earth). The ridge offers a variety of different paths, mostly scrambling of lower-end grade 1 difficulty, but this can nearly all be bypassed. It is a great introduction for those less experienced.

I received both Nuttall’s books for Christmas and as Siabod was one of the first mountains I ever climbed (at the age of 5) I decided it would be the first walk from the books I completed. I was certain I had never done this exact route before, but I’m now having second thoughts as I recognised a good deal of it. I did the walk  today on my own – I saw a brief spell of good weather on the forecast and decided to go for it. I was hoping for a bit of snow but unfortunately it had all thawed.

Start point: Pont Cyfyng, SH 735 571
Summit: Moel Siabod
Distance: 6 miles / 9.7 kilometres
Ascent: 2400 feet

The weather forecast wasn’t entirely accurate as the first mile of my walk was in pouring rain. It did clear up slightly but there was still a considerable amount of cloud about, hence the lack of photos.

From Pont Cyfyng, a tarmac track crosses the river by the Cyfyng Falls. A signposted footpath branches off this and winds its way up to the disused Rhos Quarry first of all, and then the natural lake Llyn y Foel. The path is very well defined and well used right up to the start of the Daear Ddu ridge itself. From here it’s theoretically as easy as following the ridge right up to the summit, picking the difficulty of route you wish. However I made the mistake of branching off too far to the west on a path that seemed to be skirting right around the southern aspect of the mountain. I decided to leave this path and as a result ended up heading directly north onto the summit (instead of north-west along the ridge), a route that involved some pretty tricky scrambling. So, a word of warning, it is by far best to stick as close to the ridge as possible!

The summit itself was very icy, but with only the odd patch of left-over snow. I stopped for lunch in the small shelter and managed the below photo in a momentary break of cloud.

Summit of Moel Siabod

A rather icy summit of Moel Siabod

A compass bearing led me off the summit and down to Coed Bryn Engan, a small forest with a network of different sized tracks that eventually led me back to the A5, albeit about half a mile further down the road than I intended.

Winter on the Clwyds

This is a walk I did with my Dad on 21 December 2010. The initial plan was to head to Snowdonia for a walk over the Glyders but snow was forecast for the afternoon and we were worried that our car would get snowed it. As it turned out our route back, the A470 through Llanwrst, was described as barely passable and so it was probably wise we decided to stick closer to home.

Start point: Cilcain, SJ 177 652
Summits: Moel Famau, Moel Dywyll, Moel Arthur
Distance: 14.9 miles / 24.0 kilometres
Ascent: 3390 feet

Whilst I’ve been up Moel Famau and along the ridge to Moel Arthur countless times, I’ve never carried on over Moel Arthur before, so this was a first for me. Starting in Cilcain we headed straight up Moel Famau past the water station and the smallest of the reservoirs. This brings you out at cross-paths at the edge of a forest.

Signpost on the way up Moel Famau

A signpost at the cross-paths on the way up Moel Famau

From here it’s just a short walk up by the side of the forest to the summit.

The summit of Moel Famau

My Dad on the summit of Moel Famau

As you can see the snow conditions weren’t bad at all – just soft and powdery stuff that was easy to walk on. From the summit we carried on along the ridge (on the Offa’s Dyke path) via Moel Dywyll and then dropping down to the road before Moel Arthur before carrying on over. Surprisingly considering we live so close, this was my first time on the top of Moel Arthur. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t very good and hence I didn’t take any photographs.

The Offa’s Dyke path carries on past Moel Arthur. We took this route, which after a short decent to another road rose up alongside a forest that I’m informed is a good place for mountain biking. It then opens out and eventually leads down to a small track. It is here that we leave the Offa’s Dyke path and head south west, skirting around the ridge until eventually bringing us back to the road to the south of Moel Arthur. The trek along this track was hard going, which I’m putting down to the ever-so-slightly uphill gradient and fast pace we were going at.

From Moel Arthur it was back down a forest track leading right off the road, taking us past two “viewpoint” car parks and eventually back into Cilcain for a well-deserved pint at the White Horse Inn. I thoroughly enjoyed the walk, probably one of the most rewarding I’ve been on over the Clwyds. The weather stayed good in the end, and although it was very cold we even got a slight hint of sun in the afternoon. I plan to run this route before I head back up to university.

Me on the summit of Moel Famau

Me on the summit of Moel Famau

First words

I have made many attempts over the years to keep some kind of journal of my adventures, be them mountain-related or not. I also have a large collection of photographs documenting these adventures, all gathering metaphorical dust on my computer’s hard drive. Any serious attempt at combining these has, in the past, always fallen by the wayside for numerous different reasons. With stoic determination, however, I have decided to make a last-ditch attempt to create something meaningful out of the array of blurred memories stored deep within my mind, as well as adding new entries as new events unfold.

Of course, as the title suggests, the contents of this blog will be mainly mountain-related, with a focus on combining descriptions of walks I’ve been on with the photographs I’ve taken on them. My motivation for eventually starting this blog is two-fold. Recently I’ve become more actively involved in hill walking and have even started venturing out on the snow-covered fells in the winter months. I am determined to become more confident on the technical aspects of being in the fells, such as scrambling and maybe one day rock or even ice climbing. My second reason is closely related. As I start to become more adventurous in my pursuits, I’ve found blogs similar to this not only interesting but also useful. I would love to think that one day something that I write becomes interesting or useful to someone else.

As well as enjoying hill walking, I am very enthusiastic about fell running and hence will use this blog as a method for documenting notable runs I have been on and races I have competed or intend to compete in. No doubt I’ll end up writing about other parts of my life and I’m sure that I will – probably with regret in hindsight – use it to vent my political feelings once or twice.

When I get the chance I will start adding photographs and descriptions of previous walks I’ve been on, most likely starting with a very cold walk over the Clwyds with my Dad from just before Christmas. I’m planing to go out to Snowdonia on my own next week, possibly up Moel Siabod, so no doubt if weather prevails photographs will appear here soon.

I shall conclude here, so for now, au reviour!

A sign on the wall of the Refuge de Goriz in the Spanish Pyrenees

Refuge de Goriz in the Spanish Pyrenees - taken whilst staying their during the summer of 2009