Archive for the 'YHA' Category

Easter Around Eskdale – Part 2

Posted by on May 4th 2012 in Great Escapes, YHA

Tuesday was forecast to be a terrible day for family hill-walking - there would be county-wide driven rain and snow, icy strong winds and poor visibility even at valley-levels. Folk were being warned off the fells regardless of their ability and levels of equipment. Eskdale had decided to exempt itself from all that as the weather locally was dry, fairly warm and at times quite sunny. Nevertheless we knew that we'd be staying low and doing relatively easy stuff - Natasha still wasn't 100% and my rear-end was sore and raw after the exertions of the previous day.

After breakfast we decided to head for the coast on "La'al Ratty" with a view to walking some or all of the way back. The first objective was Dalegarth Station:


The "Lady Wakefield" waiting to take us away.


Compact, bijou and full of weirdos.


Anna looking smug after commandeering my Montane Lite-Speed H2O jacket and my gloves for the second day running.

The journey seawards was predictably bumpy and rattly but we still managed to nab some photos as we pootled along. Here's one that Anna took, I think the fact that it was shot through a rain-spattered window adds some sort of charm to it:

Nice work, Anna!

At Ravenglass Station I managed a few pics of the engines:


The "River Mite".


before being dragged off to sample the heady delights of the bustling village...


OK, so I lied.


We went into the sea-front tearooms to get out of the icy sea-breeze. And to use the loos. And to eat cake.

Suitably rehydrated and primed with tannins we headed off, wind-propelled, through the village and towards Muncaster Fell:



Testing the windproofs.


I took this one for Ian P, occasionally of this parish.


As we gained height the view seawards opened out and the weather improved:




The verges and adjacent woodlands had definitely decided that it was Spring - there were Ramsons, Violets, Cowslips, Bluebells and all sorts of other such things in bloom or nearly so:





Further up, on Fell Lane, the view seawards was even better - the Isle of Man was clearly visible and there were glimpses of the Irish coast. Sadly I've caught neither in the following pic 🙁

... driven rain and snow, icy strong winds and poor visibility...

At Muncaster Tarn we stopped for lunch and an arse-rest. It's a pleasant place with woodlands and Rhododendron thickets which proved quite handy when Nature called:


Logs #1.


Logs #2.



Logs #3.




Muncaster Tarn.


After lunch we headed down the slopes of Chapel Hill through some impressive Tolkienesque wooded areas:


Woods #1.


 Woods #2.


Can you see a Red Squirrel in there?

This pic doesn't convey the steepness of the path down between the huge trees.

We passed by this monument, the map doesn't give a name for it but it reminds me of the Tower of Cirith Ungol:


Monumental stuff!


Wood Sorrel.


Down at valley-level the views opened out as we headed further inland. Some parts of the place were beginning to look a tad Scottish:

Clouds over the Scafells.

We passed this aged sign indicating the presence of some Roman Tile Kilns. An expert may well have been able to tell us more and maybe even point out those elements of "national importance" but all we could discern was some mossy rubble and some fallen branches, so un-unusual that I didn't trouble the camera further. A field-trip specifically to see this alleged wonder of the ancient world would have been an utter disappointment:


Ministry Sign.


A short distance further on we turned northwards through the farmyard at Muncaster Head and were treated to a fine view of Harter Fell and Green Crag sitting under some brooding clouds:


Harter Fell and Green Crag.


We'd done enough walking so we headed to Irton Road Station to await the next train back to Dalegarth and to use the toilets!:



Platform peeps.


Sarah models the latest in outdoors attire, an over-the-head hard-shell garment designed to "shed" water 🙂


 Sarah models her invisibility cloak.




Those sheep really ought to cut down on the Woodbines.

Back at Dalegarth the view was immense - we could see TWO pubs!


The Boot and Brook House.

Back on dry land we headed off down the road to read some menus. I didn't fancy Brook House because in years past I've been declined entry while in fellwalking attire. After reading their menu I dragged the others along the lane to the much-preferred Boot only to find that due to a staff-shortage they'd stopped doing evening meals. We went back to Brook House, booked a table for the evening and then carried on along the road back to the hostel. The sun was beginning to defeat the clouds again and we were treated to some fine scenes:

Harter Fell dominates the skyline.


Birker Force.


Back at the hostel we followed the usual plan - wash, change, play with the fire, rest the arse. The evening meal at Brook House was a tad expensive but the food was brilliant and the service superb, I'd now recommend it to anybody. After that we played with the hostel fire some more before retiring for the night.

Did I mention that it didn't rain on us? Three minutes of minor drizzle was all we got. While we'd been strolling in the sunshine the Scafells had been covered by a big dump of snow and Eskdale had been subjected to downpours and hailstorms. Jammy, eh?


To be continued...

Easter Around Eskdale – Part 1

Posted by on May 3rd 2012 in Great Escapes, YHA

It was a dull and damp Easter Sunday afternoon when we arrived at YHA Eskdale and met up with the Maynes...


YHA Eskdale.


The optimistic BBQ area.


The weather forecasts for the next few days were grim - storms, high winds and snow - but we were determined to make the best of it so we got settled in and started planning what to do. The plan started with us assuming command of the log-fire and the associated furniture. Maps and guidebooks were consulted, a fine hostel meal was consumed and the rest of the evening was spent shooting the breeze in front of the fireplace.

Monday morning started with a fine drizzle but nothing worse so after breakfast we set out for the old peat-tracks that lead up towards Green Crag. The further we went, the wetter it became and a short halt was called after the zig-zags at the derelict Low Birker peat-hut. Natasha was feeling a bit off-colour so a bit of rest was taken:


Natasha feeling a bit poorly.


Chris and Anna at the peat-hut.

We pressed on for a short distance but at the turn where the track heads off over the marshy plateau it was too windy for the young ones and Natasha decided that she'd had enough. We agreed a safe spilt in the party - I was pleasantly surprised when Anna declared that she wanted to carry on with me and Geoff while the others retired to the hostel. Goodbyes were said and then we were off across the soggy ground heading for Green Crag a mile or so away:

Heading for Green Crag.

Of course, as soon as we'd started off the weather got progressively worse, so much so that the camera wasn't brought out again for the rest of the walk. After passing Tarn Crag we gave Anna the choice as to whether we should proceed or turn back, amazingly she not only wanted to carry on but she took the lead, picking out an interesting (and damned steep) off-piste route that took us through the col just west of Great Whinscale Crag before we got better views of Green Crag through swirling clouds. We had a short breather in the lee of a small outcrop before pushing on up to a point within sight of the boundary stone where we dumped the packs and went up the final slopes unhindered.

The summit was an airy place, sometimes wreathed in cloud but with intermittent clear views of distant places, we did get a glimpse of the coast where the weather looked quite pleasant. This would be a fine place to be on a warm summer's evening but this day was somewhat different so we legged it back to the packs (after a minor detour which meant that actually finding the packs took longer than expected). After a quick snack we decided against nipping over to the clagged-in Harter Fell, instead we took the obvious path back to Foxbield Moss and from there retraced our steps back to the peat-hut and then to the hostel. It hadn't been a long walk but battling the wind and rain while not being hill-fit made it seem like a full day out.

We got washed, dried and changed and then hit the lounge where the others had set up camp. Natasha had had a rest and was feeling a bit better, especially after we'd got the fire roaring again 🙂


Fireside #1.


Fireside #2.


A proper fire 🙂


"Scawfell from Kirk Fell", a fine over-mantel painting.


The rain abated so we took a short stroll to The Woolpack for an evening meal and some liquid refreshment. The place had changed a lot since I last nipped in for a beer, I wasn't particularly impressed by the "improvements" but the food was good value and there was a fine range of beers and ciders on offer. After that we headed back to the hostel, chucked more logs on the fire and lazed the evening away.


To be continued... 

R & R @ Ambleside

Posted by on February 20th 2012 in Great Escapes, Illness and injury, Shiny new kit, Testing for review, YHA

After Thursday's drag up the M6 there was an unpleasant surprise waiting for us at Ings - the Little Chef was boarded-up! It's a sad loss - they used to serve fine food there and the service was always excellent. Fortunately we already had our evening meal planned at the hostel. We pushed on to Ambleside, nipped into Gaynor's to buy Anna a new pair of boots and then eventually booked in and settled at Ambleside YHA.

We'd taken up the YHA's "Winter Family Magic" offer - a family-room for four including an evening "family feast" for just £29.95 per night... it sounded good but the YHA website was a bit vague about the terms of the offer so I had enquired as to how they would cope with one of our party being a veggie, they said it was no problem. Since I made the booking the website details have been changed - turns out that they expected all four of us to have the same meal from the "family feast" menu... no good when we all eat different foods. Chris was sent in to negotiate the terms of their surrender and eventually we all got a meal of sorts. Chris ended up with a full 12" pizza, the kids and I got mashed spuds and non-Cumberland sausage covered with onion gravy. None of us got any vegetables despite the website saying that there would be peas or seasonal veg. It was disappointing, only the attitudes of the staff saved the day. The upside was that the dorm was fine with a view out over the upper reaches of Windermere.

Sometime during the evening the clouds cleared and the skies were ablaze with stars and meteors. I went out to grab some pics but for some reason the camera's focus started playing up and all the images were rubbish. Never mind, just seeing such a glorious night sky was enough.

We slept well that night.

Us adults were up bright and early on Friday. Predictably, the kids weren't so bright or so early. Outside it was a calm daybreak so I nipped out with the camera for a while:


Towards Coniston.


Reflections in Windermere.


Towards Langdale.

Back inside the kids were still in bed but they soon got a shift on when I told them that breakfast was being served. Breakfast was good, it made up for the disappointment of the previous meal. After that, we hit the road and headed for Longsleddale. I figured that a couple of easy Wainwrights would be a reasonable test for my new arse.

We parked up at Sadgill and made ready for the steep pull up the side of Grey Crag:


The steep approach to Grey Crag. Mouseover for an indication of the route.

Towards the head of Longsleddale.

Much steepness.

We had a short break at the top of the gully - Ella needed some heel-blister treatment:


Ella and Chris get to the top of the gully.

Another view up Longsleddale.

From there we traversed to the right around the crags in search of the survey pillar. The temperature was dropping and it started to drizzle so we found a sheltered spot for a snack-break. I'd imagine that on a fine day the views from there would be quite good:

Taking a break.

A few minutes of walking brought us to the survey pillar. A quick look through the slot confirmed that the next pillar, on Tarn Crag, was in plain sight:

The survey pillar, with Grey Crag in the background.

Lined up on the distant Tarn Crag survey pillar.

From there it was a gentle stroll across easy ground to the intake fence. The weather closed in and this was our last view of the valley:

Looking back towards the survey pillar and Longsleddale.

After crossing the intake fence we had a short breather - Anna was feeling a tad sick, possibly due to the sight of the multi-coloured Ella wearing my Montane Lite-Speed H2O jacket:

Rainbow Girl.

A few minutes later we made the top of Grey Crag. All was clag and rain so I didn't take any pics. We left the top ASAP and made off on a bearing for Tarn Crag - this was the first time the girls had walked in clag, I think that it may have taught them the value of being competent with the old-fashioned compass/map combo when there are no visible references.

Crossing the marshy depression to Tarn Crag was fun - much bog, some huge peat-hags and a fair old tarn had to be negotiated before we reached the relative dryness of the snowy up-slope. The final slopes were confusing and finding the summit cairn took a while as visibility was quite poor:

Anna and Ella atop Tarn Crag

The survey pillar on Tarn Crag.

Anna was still feeling poorly so we hastened northwards to find the fence and followed it down the peat-hagged slope to the col and turned left at the gate, heading for Brownhowe Bottom. There was a fair bit of waterlogged ground to be crossed and it proved to be the undoing of the kids... over the years I've developed a "trying to run over the water like a Basilisk" technique which generally keeps my feet dry, the kids think it's hilarious and call it "Geckoing"... they try to emulate it but always fail - Anna managed to get her boots and socks fully-dunked and waterlogged in a mad dash across a deeper-than-expected puddle, and Ella managed to kick the back of her own leg while trying to run across water. There was much moaning. And a little sympathy.

Eventually we reached the firm ground of the Gatescarth Pass track. The clag meant that it wasn't very scenic but we did manage to get a fine view of the falls below Wrengill Quarry:

The falls below Wrengill Quarry.


From there it was a simple if long trudge past Buckbarrow Crag before heading off into the clag once again:

Buckbarrow Crag - the notice says that it's off-limits due to nesting ravens.

The car's down there... somewhere.

Needless to say, it rained constantly for the rest of the day. After reaching the car we dumped the soggy stuff in the boot and drove to Ambleside via Kendal, not wishing to risk the back-roads as we had on the way in.

Back at the hostel we jumped through the fiery hoop of the evening meal arrangement again... this time Chris had a veggie-option pre-arranged, we had the chicken and bacon hot-pot (which wasn't a hot-pot at all, it was a bowl of roast-spuds with three roasted chicken drumsticks and some bits of micro-bacon, all covered with the same onion-gravy that had bedecked the previous-night's sausages) and still we didn't get any vegetables!

Eventually we summoned enough courage to decant the car's contents into the drying-room. The rest of the evening was spent playing cards and comparing our physical conditions... in addition to the injuries and ailments of the kids, Chris was feeling a tad asthmatic. Surprisingly, I'd had a good day - no bad pain or other difficulties, just a bit of soreness and thrush in the antipodes.

Friday night was stormy but Saturday morning didn't live up to the forecast - it was supposed to start down at zero and drop to minus 6C throughout the day, with a heavy hit of snow. In reality the morning was quite warm and bright - here's the view from our window:

Room with a view.

A bit closer.

Daughters on the stage.

Over breakfast we'd decided that we'd have a bit of retail therapy in Ambleside before spending a few hours at The Lakes Aquarium at Lakeside near Newby Bridge. As the day went on the weather got better, not worse:

Windermere at Lakeside.

There's plenty of interest thereabouts...

The end of the line.




More carp.




Otters again.


Aventacludea fuctifino (a relative of the Piranha).


Big Cat.




It was as if I was looking in a mirror.


Yet another otter pic.


The most dangerous creature in the building...
holding a snake



Friday Summary:

Distance: 5.4 miles
Total ascent/descent: 1722 ft
Wainwright tops reached: Grey Crag (2093 ft), Tarn Crag (2176 ft). These were first-ascents for all of us.
Number of Wainwrights still to do: 7

Regarding gear taken for test-and-review... I took one item supplied by Adam Smith representing Go Outdoors - the Montane Lite-Speed H2O jacket. It was worn by Ella and, after her initial reluctance to don it because of the colour, she quite liked it. It kept her warm and dry without any condensation problems. She says that she'll prepare a review as soon as she's cleared her school-work.

R & R

Posted by on February 15th 2012 in Great Escapes, Illness and injury, YHA

I'm fed up of looking at these four walls, I need a change of scenery and some gentle walking.

Ambleside's as good a place as any - good for the body and soul (probably bad for the wallet though).

Might even bag me a few more Wainwrights if my butt holds together.

Off tomorrow, back at the weekend.


Soloing from Patterdale

Posted by on December 15th 2011 in Great Escapes, Testing for review, YHA

After Friday's nightmare seven-hour drag up the M6 I was glad to be back on the familiar A591. The further I drove the deeper the surrounding snow was, and I was unsure as to whether the Kirkstone Pass would be navigable. In the end, after discussing the conditions with a few local folk, I decided to go for it and found that although the road-snow at the top hadn't iced over it was beginning to do so on the leeward side and that made the descent into Patterdale quite interesting.

After getting installed at the hostel the evening was spent planning routes, chatting with a Mary and Paul (a nice couple staying at the hostel) and going out into the frosty night to take some pics of the amazingly clear sky.

Saturday was cold and windy but dry with the odd bit of sunshine - perfect weather for taking in a few easy fells. I decided to nab Red Screes and Middle Dodd via Caiston Glen and the Scandale Pass. Not too far a journey, but walking into the wind and spindrift on the way up towards the Pass and then with a strong ice-laden side-wind on the pull up to Red Screes made it seem twice as far. I'll let the pics do the talking for a while...


The Red Screes and Middle Dodd route - about 4 miles and 2000ft of up and down.

Middle Dodd and High Hartsop Dodd from the Kirkstone Road.

A better view of Middle Dodd.

Looking back towards Hartsop.

Caiston Glen.

Little Hart Crag and High Hartsop Dodd from Broad Crag.

The wall above Broad Crag.

A wider view of Broad Crag and beyond.

Light over Morecambe Bay.

The Red Screes trig-point.

The Red Screes summit-cairn and shelter.

Looking down Smallthwaite Band towards Middle Dodd and Brotherswater.


Looking northwards from the upper cairn on Middle Dodd.

Red Screes from the upper cairn on Middle Dodd.

Westwards towards the Little Hart Crag and the Fairfield fells.

Eastwards - a glimpse of the Ill Bell ridge.

A better view of the lower cairn on Middle Dodd.


Steep ground on the descent.


As the descent got steeper, the views got better.

Moraines and fields.

A bit of blue sky above Little Hart Crag.

Sunlight on Angletarn Pikes.

The evening was spent much as before but without the photo-opportunities - rain had set in and cloud-cover was almost total. After a fine hostel meal and hours of chin-wagging with Mary and Paul I turned in for the night.

Sunday morning was different again - full of incessant driving rain and low clouds. Looking out from the hostel during breakfast I had half a mind to bail to the shops of Ambleside and Windermere, but managed to summon enough gumption for a quick slog up to Shipman Knotts. Another minor walk, but the clag, the wind and the abundant run-off made it quite an ordeal. There was still plenty of deep snow up there but sorry, there are hardly any pics from this walk - for most of the time the conditions were just too wet to risk soaking the camera. Here's what you get:

The Shipman Knotts route - about 4.5 miles and 1250ft of up and down.


Plenty of water in Stile End Beck.

A clagged-in Shipman Knotts from near Stile End Farm.

In spate - the Kent in Staveley.

And that's about it. I negotiated the A591/M6/A5 and was home in time for tea and a long session of sorting/washing/drying the gear. Job done.


Wainwright tops reached: Red Screes (2541 ft), Middle Dodd (2106 ft), Shipman Knotts (1926 ft). All first-ascents for me.
Number of Wainwrights still to do: 9

On Saturday I was expecting that the overnight freeze would mean that the tops would be more icy than snowy, so I carried crampons. My expectations were wrong, though, and I didn't need them. I really should have taken the snooshows and the clackysticks instead - they would have saved a lot of post-holing in the seriously-deep drifts. The axe saved me several times on the steepest bits of the descent of Middle Dodd. On Sunday I took no such metalwork, I'd have been better-off taking a diving-suit and flippers!

Regarding gear taken for test-and-review... I took one item supplied by Adam Smith representing Go Outdoors. Yes, I actually got around to properly using that Montane Lite-Speed H2O jacket that I've had for months! Conditions on Sunday's walk were so wet and windy that I decided to use it as a shell over my Rab VR Climb jacket as an extra layer of defence. It kept out most of the driven rain and the hood worked well underneath my L.A. Mountain Cap. My only gripe with it is that because there are no pockets in the Lite-Speed I had to resort to gloves, and the cuffs of the jacket aren't glove-friendly. On the plus side, it kept me warm and dry and I didn't have to walk around with pockets full of water!

I was also trying out some base-layer stuff, but more about that later.

Back from Patterdale

Posted by on December 12th 2011 in Astrostuff, Great Escapes, YHA

The weekend stay at Patterdale was great fun. To tide you over until I've finished the report, here are a few pics from Friday night:


 The Plough above Place Fell

 Jupiter over Kirkstone

Orion rising over Angletarn Pikes

Sorry about the poor quality pics. Doing hand-held long-exposures in sub-zero conditions wasn't easy....

and neither was the photography.


Sherwood Forest YHA – 11th September 2011

Posted by on October 12th 2011 in Great Escapes, Testing for review, YHA

Sunday morning was a little overcast with the threat of rain. We were soon breakfasted and the cars were loaded up with our luggage. The venue for the day was to be Rufford Abbey Country Park, just a few miles to the south-east. We'd heard that it was a peaceful place with well-kept grounds, a fine lakeside walk and some indoors stuff for when the weather turned bad.

We paid our three-quid car-parking fee, parked up and made our way towards the Abbey. We noted a few odd vehicles being driven around. Folk were wearing khaki, bowlers, hairnets and seamed-stockings (but not all at the same time, obviously!) - it was as if we'd driven through a rift in time and had emerged in the 40s. We'd turned up during their "On the Home Front" Living History weekend. There were period cars, mock-battles, field-gun firings, tank-engines blasting away, 40s dancing and live singing, Winston Churchill lookalikes and much more besides. And then there were the grounds and the lakeside to explore. More photo opportunities!


Leyland Titan Water Tender


Morris Quad 4x4 tractor


Not-so-lightweight camping


A fine tree in the grounds


1936 Rolls-Royce 25/30hp Saloon with a Park Ward swept-back body


As previous




Rolls-Royce Meteor tank engine (developed from the Spitfire's Merlin III) at full throttle




Rufford Lake







Rufford Lake dam and overflow


The Watermill, Rufford Lake




You'll have noticed that the weather got better, not worse. Instead of having to dress for howling winds, we were in T-shirts for the whole day. I tell you, the act of carrying that windproof jacket is enough to deter inclement weather.

After leaving Rufford we called in for some minor retail therapy at Decathlon before getting home. Oddly for me, I didn't buy any more outdoors gear (but I did have to tear myself away from the Forclaz 400 fleece hoodies).

Sherwood Forest YHA – 10th September 2011

Posted by on October 11th 2011 in Great Escapes, Testing for review, YHA

As we were travelling to Sherwood Forest YHA on the Friday afternoon we were expecting the weekend to be grim - 80mph winds were forecast for the next few days, courtesy of the tail-end of Hurricane Katia. Not the best of conditions for woodland walking, but ideal for finding the limits of the Montane Lite-Speed H2O windproof jacket that was supplied by Adam Smith. Well... nothing ventured, nothing gained, as they say.


Sherwood Forest YHA


After getting sorted at the hostel we went out into the calm warm late afternoon and walked into Edwinstowe in search of bar-meals. Enquiries at pubs drew blanks, but we were directed to Dukeries Lodge on the High Street. Their restaurant room was booked for a celebration but they made up a table for us near the bar and gave us great service. The food was excellent, a cut above our usual standard of fare, the servings were huge but the prices low. Result!

We strolled back to the hostel wondering where the bad weather was.

Next morning we were up bright and early for the mandatory YHA breakfast, and after that we kitted up for a walk around the local woodlands and headed off for the Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre.


On the way to the Visitor Centre


On arrival a guide-map was purchased for a nominal fee. On the back was a 10% discount voucher for meals at Dukeries Lodge, so that was the evening vittles sorted. Serendipity or what?

Anyway, there was plenty of "Robin Hood stuff" going on all around. He was in the tress, on posters, inside key-rings, in a movie and even in the toilets. He's going a bit grey in his old age, though:


Robin Hood


There was a good choice of well-graded paths through the woods so we concocted a DIY circuit that would tax the kids a bit and eventually bring us to the Major Oak. As you'd expect, there was plenty of interesting stuff to point the camera at:


Confused bracket fungus on a fallen trunk


One of many old oak trees


A mushroomy thing


Fallen wood #1


Fallen wood #2




The stragglers sent up front


To the adults it was a Chestnut, to the kids it was a baby hedgehog. It had to be cared for, mainly by feeding it biscuits:


The Woodlanders


Red Admiral


Some of the enclosures were set aside for grazing. In one there were many of these beasts, I got fairly close but legged it when the leader started to scrape the ground and got set for a charge:


Close enough


Too close!!!


Back on the path all was sweetness and light...




until I was brutally attacked by a stick. I was walking a pace or two behind Chris when she stepped on the end of a fallen branch. The other end was levered into the air just in time and at just the right height for me to walk straight into it, thus spearing my knackers with some force. There was much swearing while I crouched doubled-over at the side of the path. Anna laughed but the younger kids were curious as to what I was doing, luckily they were satisfied with the honest explanation that I was "checking for nuts". As far as I know, there are no photos of this event or of the aftermath.


Storm damage


A spot of easy tree-climbing


The Face Tree


The Knobbly Tree


At last we arrived at the Major Oak and sat at the picnic-tables while scoffing our packed lunch. The kids had a go at archery, the adults declined (I was in no fit state to be toting a 50lb-pull bow):


The Major Oak


Anna on the pull


The trunk of the Major Oak


Note the wide stance and the pained expression


Back at the Visitor Centre I got my revenge on Anna:


Gotta get me one of these for home!


After that we spent a while at the kids' playground and then made our way back to the hostel. Despite the forecast it had been a dry, warm and calm day.

Washed and changed, we went off to Dukeries Lodge again for another fine meal. While we were there the heavens opened and a storm hit, the roads were more like streams and the drains didn't cope. I was hoping that it would last until I could get the Montane jacket wet but by the time we'd finished desserts the storm had passed on and all was warm and calm again. The jacket would have to wait another day - the forecast for Sunday was for some badass weather.

Back at the hostel we stayed up to watch yet another Last Night of The Proms bereft of Henry Wood's Fantasia on British Sea Songs. Barstewards!


To be continued...

A few days at Borrowdale – Part 4 – Return and round-up

Posted by on April 28th 2011 in Great Escapes, YHA

It was our last morning at Borrowdale, the forecast was for more hot weather and we didn't fancy another walk in such conditions. After packing the cars we went into Keswick for some retail therapy. Gifts were bought for friends and family and we got caught up in a procession of folk carrying a wooden cross through the town centre to the Moot Hall. Amazingly we still managed to get away from the shops without buying more kit, but not until after we'd managed to refuel ourselves first at Java and Chocolate and then at the Lakeland Pedlar Whole Food Cafe.

Narrowly avoiding a round of "obstacle golf" (I suppose this is the PC version of what we used to call "crazy golf") we returned to the car and raced off to the A66 for the long haul back home.

I suppose that a few walking stats wouldn't go amiss...


  • Distance: 4.2 miles
  • Total ascent: 1652 ft
  • Wainwrights: 1 - Bessyboot 1807 ft (first ascent for all of us, first Wainwright for Millie)


  • Distance: 6.9 miles (including detour to Lonscale Fell)
  • Total ascent: 2361 ft (including detour to Lonscale Fell)
  • Wainwrights: 2 - Skiddaw 3053 ft (first ascent for the others, second ascent for me), Lonscale Fell 2344 ft (first ascent for me and for Geoff)

Illnesses and injuries:

  • Prickly heat (Chris and Anna)
  • Heel blister (me)
  • Rock/face impact (Jacob, who forgot to let go of the projectile that he had intended to whang into the stream)

So, two more Wainwrights knocked off the to-do list, only 20 still to do.  The Wainwrights and Routes map has been updated accordingly.

A few days at Borrowdale – Part 3 – Long and gentle

Posted by on April 27th 2011 in Great Escapes, YHA

Thursday morning and yet again some of us were up bright and early. Some of the others were reluctant to part company with their duvets, until they were informed of the possibility that they might miss breakfast.

Fed and packed, we loaded the cars and drove indirectly (I made a few wrong turns) to the free-for-all that is otherwise known as the Gale Road car-park. After spending some time finding a less-boggy and less-pot-holed bit of verge for the car, we started to make our way up the zig-zag path towards Jenkin Hill for our ascent of Skiddaw:


Looking back to Latrigg and the Gale Road car-park from the Skiddaw zig-zags


Again, the youngest members of the party needed a fair few pit-stops on the steeper sections, as the sun was beating down again and the temperatures were higher than the previous day. Truth be told, the older members were glad of the rest too.

After the last steep section the path almost levels out across Jenkin Hill and we made good progress to the gate and stile below Little Man where we stopped for elevenses.


The gate and stile below Little Man


The un-barbed fence that runs towards Lonscale Fell


There was much discussion as to whether to go up Little Man before heading for Skiddaw proper. I'd been up these fells already and didn't mind either way, and eventually the decision was made to head for the main top and then decide about Little Man on the way back down, based on how the kids were faring. Looking back from the upper slopes of Skiddaw, it did seem a shame to be bypassing the lesser Wainwright. No matter, onward and upward!


Outflanking Little Man


After pausing for the application of a little blister-prevention strapping, Anna made good speed up the final slope:


Home-made all-terrain personnel


The worst bits over, it was just a short stroll from the South Top across the top to the trig point


From the South Top the view westwards opens up, bringing back memories of a great walk along Longside Edge a few years ago, back when the route was a delightful thin trod winding through the heather. Looking down at it now, it looks like somebody's bulldozed a road along the crest:


Long Side, Longside Edge and Ullock Pike


A few minutes later and we were at the summit, restocking with carbs and rehydrating. The views would have been outstanding were it not for the haze:


At the top


Geoff makes it to the North Top as Natasha returns to the trig point


After a suitable amount of loitering we started to head back down, declining the option to take the Little Man path. As we passed by we noticed many of these critters defending their territories:


One of the many Wheatears that lay claim to the upper slopes


Back at the gate and stile me and Geoff veered off to make a beeline for Lonscale Fell while the others continued down the original route of ascent. After a leisurely 30-minute stroll we were sat at the small cairn trying to identify distant fells through the haze:


Blencathra from the top of Lonscale Fell


Panorama - Blencathra to Skiddaw


Panorama in a scrolly-thing


From there we took an indistinct track that led through grass and then heather in the rough direction of Gale Road. After a bit of meandering down steepening ground we found a distinct marker post (part of the "gateway" in Wainwright's Pictorial Guide, the fence being long-gone) at the head of a dry stream. We followed the straight line of that stream until it reached a new fence that prevented us from negotiating the ravine of Whit Beck, so we had to follow the fence across very steep and slippery ground until it reached the broad Cumbria Way trail that leads to Skiddaw House. After crossing Whit Beck at the ford and having a good bellyful of the cool clear water there we strolled the short distance up the ravine-side track to the junction with the path that we'd started on only a few hours before.

Five minutes later the rest of the group got down to us and after a short break we all headed back to the cars. Back at the hostel it was the same routine as before - showers, another great YHA meal, deal with the sunburn and a chill-out before bedtime.

All in all it had been another great day, most of the others hadn't walked as high as Skiddaw before and there's something special about someone's first 3000-footer, all the better because of the distinct lack of the customary rain. The only downer was the persistent haze - I'd been telling them all about the magnificent views to be had from the top, only to be banjaxxed by ironically good weather. Never mind, it's an excuse to go up there again sometime.

To be continued...

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