Corvus: How to avoid the queues

How to avoid the queues on one of the Lakes’ most popular multipitches? By bivvying, of course! If you’ve read my last few posts you’ll have seen a recent trend of making the most of this fantastic weather we’ve been having recently, whilst get in some quality Alps training. Lorna and me were joined by Mouse, Calum and Sarah for a weekend in Borrowdale.

The weekend started off on the Saturday with a hot and sweaty slog up Sour Milk Gill to gain the summit of Green Gable. The plan for the day: A 20km semi-horseshoe over Green Gable, Brandreth and Grey Knotts, before descending to Buttermere and reascending to return via Robinson, Hindscarth and Dale Head. The toughest part was, as expected, the drag back up from Buttermere to Robinson. We decided to take the steep path skirting east of Goat Crag to gain the summit directly, and it really was quite tortuous in the intense afternoon sun. We had the summits to ourselves (except for a passing Bob Graham round heading the other direction) and it soon became worth all the effort.

Buttermere from Fleetwith Pike

Buttermere from Fleetwith Pike

Back at the car park in Seatoller, we had our tea and packed our bags with climbing gear, before setting off for the 2km walk-in up Combe Gill to the base of Raven Crag. As was expected, the bivvy was particularly midgey, but this time I was armed with a midge net and so had a much more comfortable night than last weekend.

Mouse's midge-proof bivvy setup

Mouse’s midge-proof bivvy setup

We were up early, and were greeted by a fantastic cloud inversion as we made our way up to the base of the climb (Corvus, D***), which we arrived at for 7am. Me and Lorna took alternate leads, whilst Mouse led the other two up behind us. I lead the first pitch, which after a few delicate traversing moves at the top led nicely onto a damp ledge for the belay. Lorna took over for pitch two – a groove that took a little bit of tought – before I combined three and four together. Pitch three was a scrambling traverse left-wards across the crag, whilst pitch four was back in the vertical with an awkward chimney graced with hand-holds aplenty – a bit of a squeeze with a rucksack on! Lorna took over once more for pitch five, which this time was a right-wards scrambling traverse, and that left me with the fantastic and (in)famous Hand Traverse pitch – a 10m traverse on a vertical wall with fantastic hand holds but a bit lacking in the footholds. I teetered my way off the belay ledge and onto the traverse, placing a nut pretty much straight away. The next few moves were a bit bare on gear, before a good ledge-like foothold was reached with a couple of great cam placements above (I was glad I took the advice of the guide I had read that recommended taking cams). The final few moves of the traverse again didn’t have any decent footholds to speak of, and after pulling myself up onto the next belay ledge my arms breathed a sigh of relief. I decided to belay there so I could lean out an take a few photos of Lorna making the traverse – which has equally as severe consequences for the second as it does for the leader. Lorna combined the next few pitches together, and we were soon at the top of the crag, basking in the bright morning sunlight whilst sorting out our gear.

The cloud inversion burning off in the early-morning sun

The cloud inversion burning off in the early-morning sun

The climb (Corvus, D***), which takes a devious route up Raven Crag

The climb (Corvus, D***), which takes a devious route up Raven Crag

The fantastic Hand Traverse pitch (on that good foothold I was talking about)

The fantastic Hand Traverse pitch (on that good foothold I was talking about)

Lorna following me over the Hand Traverse

Lorna following me over the Hand Traverse

The climb deserves every one of its three stars, and the Hand Traverse more than makes up for the broken-up nature of actual climbing pitches. We headed down over Thonrythwaite Fell, descending steeply eastwards off the its northern ridge to collect our bivvy gear. Setting off early was definitely the right choice, as we could see many other groups on the route which we’d had to ourselves.

P.S. Did you know? “Corvus” translates to “Raven”, and the climb is on Raven Crag.

Back to the fell running: Two days in Wasdale

The Hiking Club’s final weekend trip of the year – the so-called “Big Weekend Out”, from 22-23 June – this year took place in Wasdale. We headed up on the Saturday morning and returned Sunday evening. The drive up wasn’t without incident, the funniest moment being when an oncoming car driver decided his small car wasn’t small enough to “squeeze” through the (very large, at least minibus-width) gap that Alexandros’ minibus in front had left. Eventually, after a small queue built up behind us, Alex had had enough and exclaimed “let’s do this Greek style” (he’s Greek, you see, ergo a little more confrontational than us Brits), and marched over to the car and said (shouted) something that must have done the trick; because after some sarcastic hand-waving to beckon the car through on Alex’s behalf, we were soon on our way again.

After squeezing ourselves onto the already-packed Wasdale Head campsite, walks were announced and after much faff, three groups set off in opposite directions. Jenni lead a walk over Ill Gill Head and Whin Rigg, Jack went for an adventure down Lord’s Rake, and Jim et al. had Pillar plus surrounding hills. I decided that my first “proper” fell run back after injury would be today, and I chose a route comprising Kirk Fell, Great Gable, the Corridor Route and Scafell Pike. I’m not sure why I went for such a long run for my first one back, and it’s probably why I’m still sporting a dodgy knee a few weeks later…

A rather packed Wasdale Head campsite

A rather packed Wasdale Head campsite

The weather wasn’t amazing: Plenty of cloud, a good amount of rain and bitterly cold winds made up most of the run. I was glad to be moving at speed. I had Kirk Fell and Great Gable to myself, only encountering a couple of other runners heading in the opposite direction. This welcome solitude wasn’t long lived, and as soon as I hit Styhead Tarn I found myself battling through crowds of ill-equipped and miserable-looking walkers, with the exception of a small few that looked like they were having as much fun as I was. The situation got worse on the litter-strewn summit of Scafell Pike, as group after group of 3 Peakers appeared out of the mist from all directions. Whilst many groups comprised of respectful walkers fittingly enjoying their achievement, there were just as many raucous parties demonstrating little respect for their environment or their fellow walkers – littering and shouting at the tops of their voices being the main crimes, with some seemingly incapable of having a quiet conversation with their mates standing right next to them without raising their voices to 70dB. Maybe I’m being too intolerant, and I’ll admit that I am biased in the sense that I am set against the contrived 3 Peaks Challenge that bring so much devastation and disturbance to the local communities (especially Wasdale).

Grumbles aside, I enjoyed the fast descent down to Wasdale via the tourist track. I pushed myself not only with a quick pace, but also by keeping my speed up down the more technical rocky sections, and I was very pleased that I don’t seem to have lost any of my descending abilities. I arrived back at the campsite, sorted my gear out and showered just in time for the heavy rain that stuck with us most of the rest of the evening to arrive. That evening, to avoid said rain, we retired to the Wasdale Head Inn and stayed there until kicking out time. The place is apparently under new management, and it definitely seemed an improvement from last time me and Lorna were in there.

The tricky move on Yewbarrow's northern ridge scramble

The tricky move on Yewbarrow’s northern ridge scramble

The weather was somewhat similar on the Sunday, and breakfast was had out of the rain still snuggled in my sleeping bag. I got up and packed away, ready to go for 9am, which is the time we’d agreed for announcing walks. Unfortunately, as is often the case with Hiking Club trips, other people’s conception of “9am” was a little more fluid than mine, and after standing around in the rain for a few hours the last couple decided to eventually get out their tent at 11am. A few of us had decided the evening before that Yewbarrow would be a good option, which proved to be a popular option when we announced the walk. We walked over the ridge-shaped summit from north to south, taking in the lovely but all-too-short scramble from the col between Yewbarrow and Red Pike. It is barely a scramble, but there is one trickier grade-I move that I spotted whilst offering foot- and hand-hold suggestions. Fortunately, the rain stayed off, and we even enjoyed some fantastic views over Waswater.

After getting worried that Jack wasn’t back yet (who went out on his own in the morning and was 3 hours overdue), and subsequently finding him taking a snooze around the back of the pub, we headed back to Lancaster.

Great views back down to Waswater from the descent off Yewbarrow

Great views back down to Waswater from the descent off Yewbarrow

Sharp Edge with Sir Chris Bonington

As chancellor to Lancaster University, and honorary president to our hiking club, we like to invite Sir Chris Bonington along on one of our walks during the summer term. He’s always very happy to oblige, and this year chose Mungrisdale as the destination. It goes without saying that this trip is more popular than usual, and twenty-six of us set off en mass from the Mill Inn. Chris had suggested the route, which was up the relatively unfrequented eastern ridge onto the summit of Bannerdale Crags, and then across and up the much more frequented Sharp Edge onto Blencathra, before returning via the grassy ridge-line of Souther Fell.

Starting off on Sharp Edge

Starting off on Sharp Edge

The ridge up Bannerdale Crags made for a refreshing change from the usual route via Bowscale Tarn, and offered great views back down Bannerdale itself. The group split at the col before Blencathra, with some heading straight up the broad north-eastern ridge and the rest of us opting for Sharp Edge. A cliché it may be, but it felt a bit of an honour to be scrambling alongside such a legendary mountaineer with such impressive routes to his name. The grade I ridge was, as always, great fun.

Compulsory photo! On Sharp Edge.

Compulsory photo! On Sharp Edge.

Chris had his fair share of “are you who I think you are?” en route to the summit, and the day was in danger of turning into more of a photo shoot  than a walk when we actually reached the summit. Our route back over Souther Fell was much more quiet, and a perfect end to a brilliant day out which everyone thoroughly enjoyed. Chris was ever-grateful and made the point of making sure we knew so, adding that he was looking forward to next year’s outing – so am I!

Walking back over Souther Fell

Walking back over Souther Fell

Scrambling with bivvy gear – Alps training!

It seemed like a fantastic idea to do a grade 3 scramble fully laden with bivvy gear as perfect Alps training – we weren’t so sure of that half-way up Pinnacle Ridge, being thrown off balance by the huge bags on our back on every move we made! The idea came about when deciding what kind of “Alps training” to get done this weekend – climbing, fitness, getting used to lugging big bags around – when it dawned on us we could roll them all into one in a somewhat epic route from Patterdale back to Burneside, via the brilliant Lakeland classic grade 3 scramble of Pinnacle Ridge.

Despite the heavy load, I was thoroughly enjoying heaving myself over rocky steps and teetering over pinnacled crests. The ridge is in a fantastic position, the exposure is quite considerate and on a dry day (which it was) it is one of the most satisfying climbs in the Lakes. The technical difficulties are low for the most part, except for one pitch, the “Crux wall”, which amounts to a 10m wall of around Diff standard. The pinnacles themselves – which come after said wall and form the iconic picture of the ridge given in any guide book you see – are a lot easier than they look, but nonetheless are seriously exposed and a slip at the point could prove fatal. Despite its exposure, the ridge is surprisingly sheltered, and even on days when you’re being blown about all over the place on the summit, only a few breaths are felt on the ridge.

Imogen on the

Imogen on the “crux wall” of Pinnacle Ridge

Lorna, Imogen and me on the final pinnacles of the ridge

Lorna, Imogen and me on the final pinnacles of the ridge

I always forget how draining scrambling and climbing can be, and after the ridge I was already quite tired – I wasn’t looking forward to the walk over Fairfield and Red Screes and then up the other side of the Kirkstone Pass yet to come! We soon settled into a good pace and the sunny weather and plethora of typically-Lakeland views took my mind off my weary legs and aching shoulders. The lure of the Kirkstone Inn was too great when we reached the pass and we decided it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to rehydrate here before finding a bivvy spot somewhere towards Thornthwaite Crag: The choice of beer on my part as the rehydrating fluid probably wasn’t the best one!

By the time we had settled into our comfortable spot  just below the summit of Caudale Moor, the sun was already setting and the lighting changing to a lovely golden red. It’s always a special feeling, being up in the mountains late in the evening when everyone else is making there way home, and this occasion wasn’t any different. Some of my favourite moments in the mountains have been lying in my bivvy bag, gazing up at the stars, enjoying the cold evening breeze brushing across my face.

Our bivi spot in the evening

Our bivvy spot in the evening

The next morning, weather still in check, we summitted Caudale Moor, followed shortly by Thornthwaite Crag, Harter Fell and Kentmere Pike. By lunch time, we had made good progress and were just starting the ascent to Sleddale Forest and Potter Fell. Unfortunately, this meant leaving the well-formed paths of the Lakes’ more popular fells behind, and despite the dry spell of late, the going got considerably tougher! There were vague paths here-and-there, but for the most part we found ourselves bog trotting and marsh hopping over strangely spongy ground that we couldn’t help thinking we might disappear into at any moment. We were rewarded for all this hard work by the most amazing forest of bluebells just east of Staveley – photos nor words do justice to the breathtaking blue sea of delicate flowers that carpeted the entire forest floor. A perfect end to a lovely few days in the fells.

Ascending Potter Fell - you can see most of day two's route, from just past Red Screes onwards

Ascending Potter Fell – you can see most of day two’s route, from just past Red Screes onwards

Photos don't do it justice!

Photos don’t do it justice!

First time around the Kentmere Horseshoe

I decided that due to the brilliant weather forecast last Tuesday, I’d take a day off the PhD and head up to the Lakes with Lorna, Imogen and their Dad. I’ve been itching to do the Kentmere Horseshoe for quite a while, and seeing it bathed in the sunshine the week before whilst we drove straight past cemented the idea in my mind.

We struggled to find a parking place in Kentmere, but fortunately just as we were driving out of the village, one of the locals offered us use of his drive! The weather was just as good as we expected it to be, and we got some stunning view heading up the Garburn Pass out of Kentmere. A lot of the Lakes had a clear inversion layer just below the summits, and whilst the Kentmere hills didn’t, it was beautiful to see.

From the summit of Froswick. Great inversion layer going on in the distance!

From the summit of Froswick. Great inversion layer going on in the distance!

We headed north from the Garburn Pass, over Yoke, Ill Bell and Froswick, ending up on Thornthwaite Crags. There was quite a bit of snow and it was very consolidated, which made descending some of the steeper slopes a bit tricky without crampons. The summit of Thornthwaite Crags was crowded with people and their dogs – presumably most had come up from the north as the Kentmere hills themselves were relatively quiet.

Summit of Froswick again.

From here, it was on to Mardale Ill Bell and then down the Nan Bield Pass to Kentmere Reservoir and back to Kentmere. I took note of some of the gullies onto the Yoke – Thornthwaite ridge, and there looked to be a multitude of easy gullies and interested mixed lines that I haven’t seen described in any book. I was a bit annoyed I couldn’t take another day off and come back armed with climbing gear.

A rather busy Thornthwaite Crags.

We’ve been really lucky with the weather recently and I felt very grateful to be out in the Lakes in such good conditions.

Cloud bagging on Skiddaw

The forecast was rather good, and so me and Lorna decided to make the most of it and head up to Keswick to do Skiddaw. We both hadn’t been up there in quite a while and it was short enough to be a good test for how my hip is doing.

All the way up the M6, the sun was out, and the Howgills in particular looked quite stunning in the early morning light. I was optimistic we were going to have a lovely sunny day out on the fells, however upon turning off onto the A66 my optimism slowly faded, as there bathed in pretty much the only clouds in the sky was Keswick and it’s surrounding mountains. As we’d driven so far our only choice was to go for it and hope it cleared up!

The summit of Skiddaw

The summit of Skiddaw

We parked at the Latrigg car park and headed up the “tourist” route, a route I haven’t been up for over ten years now. We were into the cloud pretty much straight away, and that cloud stayed with us all the way over Little Man and onto the summit itself. There was a small break when we were traversing across to Sale How, and this gave lovely views of Blencathra. By the summit of Lonscale Fell, however, we were back in the cloud again.

Blencathra from Skiddaw

Blencathra from Skiddaw

It was still great to be out in the fells again though, and we both had a fun day practising a bit of nav and bagging a few new Nuttalls (Sale How and Lonscale Fell) for me.

Fairfield horseshoe fell race and leader training at Haweswater

Quite a busy weekend! On Saturday was the Fairfield Horseshoe fell race and Sunday I ran a bit of a “leader training” day for the Hiking Club at Haweswater.

Fairfield Horseshoe fell race

The Fairfield Horseshoe race is one of the classic Lakes races and has been running (no pun intended!) since 1966 when it was first organised by the Lake District Mountain Trial Association. With a distance of 10 miles and an ascent of 3000 ft (16 km / 910 m), it is surprisingly runnable. Apart from the initial drag up onto Nab Scar, the ascents are all gradual and there are few rocky sections, meaning a blistering pace was set by the leaders – we were left trailing in their wake after a few miles of frantically trying to keep up!

The start

The start of the race at Rydal Hall, photo courtesy of Lorna

The route avoids the tourist path up Nab Scar and instead heads up the valley for about half a mile before swinging up along the intake wall. This part of the race is flagged, but from Nab Scar onwards we were free to pick our own way between checkpoints. I was in a group who seemed to know where they were going and picked all of the best racing lines along the ridge.

After 47 minutes I arrived at the summit of Fairfield and began the rather long descent over Dove Crag and High and Low Pikes. The wheels came off on this section and I really struggled most of the way down, loosing quite a few places and probably a good five minutes – if not more! From Low Sweden Bridge the race heads back to Rydal Hall along the stone track, which was probably the most painful part of the race. I finished in 1:47:41 in around 100th position out of 300.

After the race, me and Lorna went for a stroll down to Loughrigg Tarn to make the most of the sun.

Loughrigg Tarn

Lorna walking down to Loughrigg Tarn

Haweswater

The club had decided to run a leader training course on our Sunday trip to Haweswater and it fell to me to run it. We had six people interested and I decided the best option would be to take them on a bit of a walk and introduce the basic concepts of navigation and group management to them so they felt confident enough to get out into the hills and practice.

Haweswater

A rather windy Haweswater reservoir

We headed up Kidsty Howes and onto Kidsty Pike. The wind was pretty strong (40-50mph) and it made progress slow in places. We took a few bearings on the way up and I introduced the concepts of back bearings, transits and resections. I demonstrated the use of transits by taking a back bearing from the summit of High Style to pinpoint exactly where we were along the ridge.

The descent was from Low Raise straight down to Randale Beck, giving the opportunity to walk on a compass bearing. I set the aim of getting to a set of waterfalls on the map and fair enough, we got there exactly! After the walk we went to the Bampton Arms in Bampton for a quick drink and to meet up with Richard’s group who had walked there along Haweswater, before heading to Penrith for chips.

I had great fun teaching people to navigate and I think they all got something out of the day as well. I will definitely look into running more days like it in the future.

Low Raise

Heading to Low Raise from High Raise

A day of white

The destination for this week’s walk was Grasmere, leaving open a whole host of opportunities and initially I had planned to do the Fairfield Horseshoe. However, looking at the snow, a few of us decided that Helvellyn was a better option for that little bit of extra height.

Start point: Lay-by opposite Swirls car park on the A591, just north of Grasmere, NY 316 169
Summits: Helvellyn (inc. Lower Man), Nethermost Pike, Dollywaggon Pike, Fairfield, Great Rigg
Distance: 9.3 miles / 14.9 kilometres
Ascent: 4110 feet / 1250 metres

Having the luxury of two cars (well, one car and one minibus) meant we could do a straight line walk starting from the shores of Thirlmere reservoir. We were going to park in the Swirls car park but after seeing the price of £5 and realising that we didn’t have enough spare change, we decided to head across the road to the free lay-by. A well formed path leads up beside Helvellyn Gill to Helvellyn Lower Man and eventually Helvellyn. We were in cloud within half an hour, which combined with the snow created some impressive complete white-out moments.

We bumped into a group of guys on our way up who asked for advice on directions (they wanted to head down over Whiteside Bank and Raise but instead were heading down the way we came up). After a quick consultation of the map we told them their best bet was to head back up to Helvellyn Lower Man and branch off from there. They had a map but I’m pretty certain they didn’t have a compass with them, or if they did they were reluctant to use it. Despite our advice they decided to carry on back down the way we came up – personally I think it serves them right if they ended up by Thirlmere and had to catch a cab back to where they started from.

On a related note, I couldn’t help but notice the amount of people on the summit without ice axes, and presumably without crampons as well. Although Helvellyn offers some gentle ascents and the snow wasn’t frozen enough to warrant ice axe or crampons, they are surely still an essential piece of kit with conditions like they were? It could have easily been a lot icier up there.

The summit was very busy as usual, even despite the less-than-perfect weather forecast. Quite a few people had seized the opportunity to make the most of the winter conditions over Striding and Swirral edges, and in fact we nearly decided to descend Striding and come back up Swirral to make the most of it ourselves, however time was pressing and having done Striding Edge just before Christmas we decided Fairfield was a better alternative (though in hindsight we probably did have the time to do both).

Summit of Helvellyn

Setting up the camera's automatic timer on the trig point - quick, before it blows off!

Summit of Helvellyn

Everyone in our group on the summit of Helvellyn - kindly taken by a passer-by

Helvellyn is famous for its flat and expansive summit – in fact the first mountain-top landing of a plane in Britain occurred here in 1926 – and in conditions like we had today it’s easy to see how people get lost. Many a compass bearing was taken and many steps paced out to our next few peaks, before heading down the clear zig-zag path to Grisedale Tarn.

From the tarn we could see the other group from the Hiking Club descending the ridge to the west of Fairfield, however we decided to take the more interesting route up north east onto Deepdale House and then along the ridge running from St Sunday Crag to Fairfield. This is a fantastic route up that I’ve never done before – a small rocky and grassy path is etched into the fell side, as it ascends giving expansive views over Grisedale (we were even out of the clouds for a bit!). The ridge itself was also good fun, offering a tiny bit of very easy scrambling if you pick the most direct lines (the actual path, or at least the footprints in the snow, bypass all of this).

Fairfield itself and indeed the whole horseshoe is a walk that I have fond memories of, being one of the first walks I vividly remember doing on a beautifully sunny day many years ago. I remember thinking then that it was one of the best walks I had been on and that memory has stuck with me ever since. Although the summit today was a white blur, it still felt great to be back up there.

We didn’t hang around for very long as the wind was bitterly cold. Our descent was via Great Rigg and Stone Arthur, bringing us out just up the road from Grasmere, where we joined the rest of our party in the (rather busy) Red Lion – where a glass of coke costs £2.80 but a pint of beer only £2.75 (I know which I’d prefer!).

Mud, wind and rain

What a weekend!

Saturday – Parbold Hill Race

I decided on a spur midweek to sign up for Parbold Hill Race on the Saturday, with a group of guys from the Running Club at uni. I’m very glad I did as it was a fantastic race. A great course, on a mix of road, track and muddy fields, with the odd stream thrown in there. The organisers have done a brilliant job of picking an exciting and fun route which made sure – especially with the recent rainfall – that we all returned caked in mud. I was very pleased with my result, 47th out of around 450 and in a time of 50 minutes. Next month I’m in the Edale Skyline Fell Race so this acted as a bit of a warm up (albeit a very small warm up) to that.

Sunday – Haweswater

On the Sunday I went up to Haweswater with the Hiking Club, an area I really haven’t been to much. The reservoir sits in the valley of Mardale and its controversial construction saw the flooding of the two farming villages of Measand and Mardale Green. In times of drought when the water levels in the reservoir are at a low, the remains of the village can still be seen.

The original plan was to walk the whole ridge from Harter Fell up to Wether Hill but no one else wanted to come on my walk so I tagged along with a group with the intention of Harter Fell and High Street. We headed up the Gatescarth Pass before branching off over Harter Fell and down to the Nan Bield Pass. However we had a rather slow member in the group and the progress was so slow and the weather so terrible that no one apart from myself and the two other leaders on the walk wanted to carry on, so we decided to head back down.

The clouds started to clear a bit on the way down and I managed to get a few photographs of the very swollen Mardale Beck.

Haweswater in the distance

Haweswater in the distance

Mardale Beck

Mardale Beck

Walking down the Nan Bield Pass

Walking down the Nan Bield Pass

It really was very foul weather, even my GoreTex jacket didn’t withstand the downpour and in fact my boots are still drying out, nearly a week later (and that’s after being stuffed with newspaper). I think a good Nikwax-ing session is in order.

We stopped off at Bampton in the lovely but quite eccentric Mardale Inn – you’ll understand the “quite eccentric” part if you ever frequent the gent’s toilets in there! Next week (or, as I write this, tomorrow) we’re off to Grasmere and at the moment I’m rather tempted by the snow sitting on the top of Helvellyn, but we’ll see.

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.