Archive for the 'Annual Wildie' Category

Coniston Fells Wildcamping – Part 2 – Twist and Shout

Posted by on April 30th 2009 in Annual Wildie, Great Escapes, Illness and injury, Wildcamping

The night was mild with just the odd flap of the tent, nothing to worry about. We woke at 05:15 to find the skies almost clear, so I went for a stroll to take a few pics as the sun worked its way from behind the shoulder of The Old Man:

A well-concealed wildcamping tent 🙂

You can't see it from here either, can you?

OK, let's make it a tad easier for you

The view sunwards

Breakfast was a quick and simple affair, and then it was time to strike camp and to filter sufficient tarn-water for the rest of the day, there being precious little available on our chosen route.

Water: gathering, not depositing

We retraced the short drop back to the Road and then continued up the river of stones to the col between Walna Scar and Brown Pike, passing by one of the old stone shelters:

Stone hut below Brown Pike

Turning right at this crossroads, we walked up the zigzags into a stiffening breeze, which was cooling us well in the bright sunshine. A few fellrunners were about, but no other walkers had been seen yet. A few minutes later we were at the top and exposed to the full force of the wind as it ripped up the sunward slopes and over the ridge, so we had a breather in the shelter right next to the summit-cairn:

The shelter atop Brown Pike

From there, we could see the simple short ridge-walk to Buck Pike, the next top on the ridge:

The ridge to Buck Pike

and there was a good view of The Old Man across The Cove:

The Old Man

After a snack we set off along the ridge, passing this striking view down towards Blind Tarn and our vacated pitch:

Looking down on Blind Tarn from the ridge

The further we walked, the stronger the wind became. Each time we passed the top of an open gully we were blown sideways, the funnelled air roaring through the gaps at incredible speeds and playing curious deep tones as it whistled between the crags. At times the wind set up resonances in the rocks, making them hum in an eerie harmony. Rock music indeed!

We made our way over the top of Buck Pike...

Looking back to the top of Buck Pike

and headed for the first Wainwright of the day, Dow Crag:

Dow Crag from Buck Pike

The ridge-path passes the tops of several gullies and the view down each was impressive. It was hard to take pics, though, as the wind was too strong to stand steadily at the edges. I managed just the one pic after crawling to the edge on all fours:

A view of part of Goat's Water, looking down Easy Gully

The summit rocks of Dow Crag were incredibly windy due to their exposed position - this was three-point-contact walking, and it was a dicey affair actually reaching the top-most rocks, which are right on the edge of the cliff, leaving no room for a cairn:

The very top of Dow Crag

The view down to the glistening surface of Goat's Water was breathtaking, or it would have been had the wind not already stolen our breath away and scattered it behind us as we peered over the edge. Taking a pic of the view was impossible - I couldn't hold the camera still enough with just one hand, and I wasn't about to allow my other to let go of terra firma. Instead, we retired to the lee of the summit rocks for some shelter and to confirm our intended route, and had to be content with the view of the ridge back to the Walna Scar Pass and beyond:

Looking back from Dow Crag - a fine ridge

The next part of the plan was to drop down to Goat's Hause and then make for Swirl How and its satellite fells via Brim Fell. We were undecided as to whether to include the summit of the Old Man, but seeing as we'd been there before, we chose to give it a miss.

We donned the packs again and headed for the Hause, with our next three objectives (Grey Friar, Great Carrs and Swirl How) in view before us. I was keeping well away from the edge, out of the worst of the wind, but at a narrow place I was uprooted by a vicious prolonged blast which twisted me around in a most peculiar way. I heard the sound of my lumbar region giving way above the noise of the rushing air, and it hurt like hell. I'm not given to shouting in pain, but this was bad.

I knew I was screwed.

The trip was over, I wasn't going to be able to do any more upping and now it was a matter of getting home without causing further damage. We took our time finding somewhere sheltered to sit and while I tried to recover we rehydrated ourselves and planned our retreat. Common-sense dictated that we should regain the car via the path alongside Goat's Water, through The Cove and back to the WSR at the previous day's decision-point. As we sat there, we were approached by a member of the one of the MRTs who was searching for a man who had been reported as having had a heart-attack near Blind Tarn. We gave as much info as possible about the folk that we had met since leaving there, then he carried on up to the top at a cracking pace. A few minutes later the SAR helicopter was hovering above the ridge somewhere near Brown Pike:

The SAR helicopter heading past Dow Crag towards Brown Pike


We got some great views from the Hause before dropping down the path to the Water:

Grey Friar, Great Carrs and Swirl How from Goat's Hause

Dow Crag towering above Goat's Water

Goat's Water and the path to The Cove

Each step down the path was designed to make me wince, and each one did. Eventually we dropped out of the worst of the wind and had lunch behind some large rocks just before the waterside section of the path began. As we ate, the sunlight disappeared and was replaced by dark cloud - rain was heading our way. We made our way out of The Cove as the heavens opened and the thunder started to boom around the fells. Most of the activity was over Dow Crag and The Old Man, and I'm sure that those summits had a few lightning-strikes during that hour - I was glad that we weren't still up there. The rain stopped as we passed Boo Tarn, and by the time we reached the car-park the clouds had cleared to allow the sun to start roasting us again.

We sat in the car, dejected, trying to salvage something from the wreckage of the weekend. In circumstances like these, there's only one thing to do...

To be continued.

Coniston Fells Wildcamping – Part 1 – On familiar ground

Posted by on April 28th 2009 in Annual Wildie, Great Escapes, Wildcamping

Yet again we had a fairly hassle-free drive up the A5 and the M6, this time to Junction 36. After a quick stop-off in Ambleside for Chris to pick up some odds and ends, we set off for Coniston.

We parked up at the old quarry car-park near Timley Knott on the Walna Scar Road and got ready for action. Packs were hoisted and we were off along the Road, heading for The Cove. This is familiar ground for me - I spent two weeks mapping this area as a Brum Uni geology undergrad way back in '82, and I took Chris there in '98 for a day-walk. Even so, there is still much of interest, geological and otherwise, despite the distraction of the trail of loose-dumped rock that is supposed to be a repaired path:


Looking back down the "path" towards Coniston

As you can see, the hazy cloud meant that the light was flat, so the pics aren't up to much.

Our first objective was to pitch where we would be able to walk the Dow Crag ridge the next day, and the decision-point for choosing which way to tackle the job was the junction where the path splits below Little Arrow Moor - straight on for Blind Tarn, right for Goat's Water. We weighed up the options... Goat's Water was the easy option, lower and more accessible, but we'd been there before and it was only on our options-list in case we were running out of time and/or light. As we were doing fine for both, we stayed on the Road and soon we reached Cove Bridge, where we stopped for a few pics:


Looking up the "path" towards the ridge


Cove Bridge and Torver Beck


Chris approaching Cove Bridge


Chris on Cove Bridge


Brown Pike beyond the poser on the bridge

After that we continued along the Road, heading for Blind Tarn, a place recommended by a certain Mr. Hee.

The loose-dumped surface started to get steeper as we reached Goatfoot Crags on the lower slopes of Brown Pike, and after much boot-scuffing we found the man-made grassy rake that leads to the high quarries above the natural bowl that holds Blind Tarn. After a few minutes we were at the waterside, and we had the place to ourselves, which is just as well, as there are only a couple of places there which would take our tent with any degree of comfort.

Due to our well-practised routine (we pitch the inner together, then I deal with the outside stuff while Chris sorts the gear inside), we were soon pitched and ready to enjoy the rest of the evening, which was warm and hazy with a light breeze. As the darkness set in the haze cleared and we could see the lights of the coastal towns all the way down to the coast of North Wales - impressive stuff!

To be continued.

Far Eastern Fells Wildcamping – the pics are up

Posted by on June 13th 2008 in Annual Wildie, Great Escapes, Pics, Wildcamping

At long last I've managed to get around to sorting out and uploading the best of the pics from our most recent wildcamping weekend. Here's a taster:


Far Eastern Fells Wildcamping – Day 3 – A fine finish

Posted by on June 4th 2008 in Annual Wildie, Great Escapes, Wildcamping

We were awake at 07:00 and packed up by 08:00, ready for the last leg of the walk. The weather was still in our favour - overcast but warm with a slight breeze.

We strolled up onto the nearest high ground (a low mound just to the side of the dry tarn) and made a beeline from there to Selside Pike. The walk was uneventful and quiet except for the racket made by a flock of seagulls that we had to walk past as we crossed Captain Whelter Bog. We made it to the summit shelter by 08:50, took a few pics and chose a route down to lower ground.


Selside Pike shelter


Our chosen route took us down over High Blake Dodd and Selside End, allowing us to get a great view of Swindale.




We joined the Old Corpse Road at the highest point and headed off towards Haweswater. Unlike a lot of walk-offs where the best of the scenery is usually behind you, this path leads back into the heart of Mardale Head, with an end-on view of the Long Stile ridge, so the view in front gets better with every step. There's great satisfaction in looking at the circuit of high peaks surrounding the head of the valley and thinking "we've just been up all of those". The view really opens up at High Loup, where we took some pics and a short rest. The abandoned buildings here, high on the fellside, would make a good bivvy spot.


Mardale Head panorama from High Loup


Long Stile, Rough Crag and The Rigg from High Loup


We then descended the path which goes down in steep zig-zags, passing some fine waterfalls in wooded ravines, before reaching the road right opposite The Rigg, which is the wooded terminus of the Long Stile/Rough Crag ridge.


Waterfalls in Hopgill Beck


On reaching the road there was a choice of routes back to the car-park: along the road, or along the lakeside path. We chose to take the road, having done enough steep descending for one morning. Little did we know that we would have to pass perilously close to the lair of the local hoodlums...




After that, the route was without danger and we made it back to the car unscathed. We had a quick change of clothes, a snack and a chat with some anglers and walkers in the car-park, then we were off to find somewhere for lunch just as the first rain of the weekend started. Excellent timing, eh?

The journey back down the M6 was as bad as the journey up had been good. There were hold-ups at almost every major junction, and two lanes were blocked by an accident near J13, snarling up the traffic right back to J15 and beyond, so we bailed at J16 instead of the usual J12 and took a cross-country route. In the end it took a shade over 7 hours to do the 195 miles back home.

Expect a post-trip analysis soon...

Far Eastern Fells Wildcamping – Day 2 – Ups and downs

Posted by on June 3rd 2008 in Annual Wildie, Great Escapes, Wildcamping

We woke at 04:30 but it wasn't fully light so we decided to have a lie-in. Well, why not? It was the weekend!

At 05:30 the sun was about to rise above the bank of low cloud far away in the North-East, so we went walkabout among the crags, peering down gullies and taking more pics. The views into and across Riggindale were immense, with the bonus of this being one of the best points of vantage for seeing the shy hanging valley of Sale Pot just beyond Short Stile. Riggindale Beck's twists and meanders glistened in the early light, being visible all the way from the source to the mouth at Haweswater. I could have spent another hour or so at this place, but we needed to be away.


Riggindale from Caspel Gate


Breakfast was a lengthy and leisurely affair - the day promised to be hot and sunny, so we wanted to take in a lot of fluids to cut down on the amount we would need to carry up, knowing that the flat top of High Street would be dry. We managed to cut the carry-up water to 1l each.

We struck camp and finished packing by 09:00 then started up Long Stile towards High Street, pausing now and again to take more pics. We made the summit at 09:40 just as the sun started to make itself felt.


Looking back down Long Stile


Muggins on the High Street plateau


After a few minutes at the top, we headed off towards Mardale Ill Bell, a gentle stroll that took all of 35 minutes, during which time we met a few folk walking up to the High Street plateau. We found a tadpole-infested small pond about 20 yards from the summit of the Bell, it was full of peat-stained water but we trusted our filter-bottles and processed enough for a quick brew. The Jetboil was eyed jealously by the few folk that passed the summit outcrop, comments like "I see you've got the kettle on" were met with offers of a free cuppa but there were no takers. Oh, well, it was their loss, it tasted good!


The Ill Bell Ridge from Mardale Ill Bell summit

Next on the list of objectives was Harter Fell. We were unsure of water availability at the Nan Bield Pass, so we made our stock back up to 2l and made our way down to the shelter in the pass. After a short breather, we carried on up the slope to Harter Fell, partly in shade but mostly in sunshine. Predictably, the small ponds at the top were dry, thus justifying the carrying up of those 2 litres.


The top of Harter Fell


At this point we had to make a decision. We had planned for the option of nipping down to Kentmere Pike and Shipman Knotts before carrying on around the head of Mardale. The sun was now really strong, so we elected to play safe and just go down to the Pike for lunch, and make another decision about the Knotts later, depending on water availability. The walk down to Kentmere Pike was soon done, and the Jetboil was soon steaming away boiling up for food and another brew. I wandered off packless to get a view of the Knotts but decided to leave them for another day.


Kentmere Pike trigpoint


We spent some time sitting in the sun but it was soon time to move on. We trudged back up to Harter Fell, pausing there only for a photo-opportunity, and strode around the Mardale edge of the wide curving ridge to Little Harter Fell before descending to the top of the Gatescarth Pass.

At the pass we were down to 0.5l each, so we had to scout around to find more before going on. With water we would carry on to Branstree, without it we would retire back to the valley. Eventually I found the spring that is the source of Gatescarth Beck, it was a cold and crystal-clear pond, no more than 3ft x 2ft and home to at least one splendid newt. We refilled and started up the dull, steep, straight grassy track next to the boundary fence, knowing that it led directly to the top of the fell. This was the third significant ascent of the day and our legs were really feeling the strain, but we made the top in good time - indeed, we stayed only for some pics, then carried on to the magnificent cairns on Artle Crag, situated in a strange area of naturally-standing rocks.


Cairns on Artle Crag


From there we could see our next pitch - the two tarns (one full, the other dry) just beyond the Manchester Corporation Water Works survey post, which we reached at about 17:00. I toyed with the idea of nipping off packless to nab Tarn Crag and Grey Crag but decided that the more-or-less pathless 6km there and back would be too much, so we pitched early so that Chris could get some rest. We spent a leisurely evening waiting for the sun to set the skies alight, but it turned out to be a bit of a let-down - nice, but nothing spectacular.


M.C.W.W. Survey Post






After a hearty meal and a well-deserved wash, it was time for some shuteye. It had been a tiring day, but well worth the effort.

To be continued...

Far Eastern Fells Wildcamping – Day 1 – Hold-ups and detours

Posted by on June 2nd 2008 in Annual Wildie, Great Escapes, Wildcamping

We had a hassle-free drive up the A5 and the M6 to Junction 39, there were none of the usual roadworks to hold us up, so we made good time to Shap. Then it was time to crank up the satnav and head off for the pre-programmed lat/long for Mardale Head. After a few miles we ended up at the end of the road into Swindale, with CoPilot telling us to "take the local road" directly to the head of Haweswater. Well, the only "local road" that goes the right way is the "Old Corpse Road", and that's hardly fit for MTBs, let alone cars, so we ditched the satnav and rerouted using the OS map. The nav error wasn't a complete waste of time, though, as Swindale is a nice place (we'll come back for a proper visit another time) and we saw some wildlife on the way out, including one of the biggest hares I've ever seen. Sadly, it was off before I could get the camera out, so I've no pics of the beast.

Anyway, we were soon belting down the road to Mardale Head but after a mile or so we were halted by a resurfacing crew who told us that we couldn't go further as they had the road blocked between the Haweswater Hotel and the road-end car-park. "Typical", I thought, "we've picked the only week for years when the head of the valley is off-limits", but a friendly chat with their gaffer revealed that they had just run out of tar and so would be going home soon. About 20 minutes later all their plant came back, followed by a string of cars full of disgruntled families.

We soon hauled up in the car-park and, after changing into our walking gear, donned our packs and made for Blea Water, which was our second-choice of pitch for the first night.


Blea Water panorama, Mardale Ill Bell (l) and High Street (r)


It was an easy walk up and we made it to the dam much sooner than we had anticipated, so after a snack-break we decided to head off up the easy grass slope on the right to our first-choice site, Caspel Gate Tarn on the ridge of Long Stile. This turned out to be an excellent place to overnight, there being plenty of level pitches and exhilarating views down each side of the ridge into the adjoining valleys. We would have had plenty of time to get up onto High Street to the third-choice site before dark, but that would have involved carrying up 5 litres of water for a night on the dry top, and neither of us was enthralled at that idea. Besides, I wanted to be at Caspel Gate at dawn to get some photos of the crags in the morning light. High Street could wait until the next day, we were in no rush.


High Street and Long Stile from the Caspel Gate pitch


As we pitched, the broken clouds, which had been just grazing the tops, lifted and thickened a little, which ensured that we would have a mild night. We had the place to ourselves, having seen nobody else at all since leaving the car-park. There was no running water, so we filtered from the tarn, brewed up, had some food then settled in for the night after taking a few photos.


Rough Crag from the Caspel Gate pitch


To be continued...

How wrong can the weather forecasters be?

Posted by on May 15th 2007 in Annual Wildie, Great Escapes, Wildcamping

The forecast for our wildcamping weekend was a point for concern. All of the sources were telling us to expect shed-loads of rain, low temperatures and lightning. I'm happy to report that the forecasts were well wide of the mark. Friday afternoon was warm and sunny, the night was a bit rainy, Saturday started misty but soon cleared to a sunny day with a light breeze. A little overnight rain was soon dried out by glorious sunshine on Sunday morning. Because the forecasts had deterred a lot of walkers, for the main part we had the hills to ourselves. Excellent!

Details of our route are as follows:

    • Friday: Parked up outside the Police Station at the Glenridding Tourist Information Centre and bought a 48-hour ticket
    • Took the steamer "Raven" to Howtown
    • Bonscale Pike 1718ft
    • Overnight camp next to the Swarth Beck sheepfold
    • Saturday: Arthur's Pike 1747 ft
    • Loadpot Hill 2201ft
    • Wether Hill 2210ft
    • High Raise 2634ft
    • Rampsgill Head 2581ft
    • Kidsty Pike 2560ft
    • The Knott 2423ft
    • Satura Crag
    • Overnight camp on the shore of Angle Tarn
    • Sunday: Patterdale via Boardale Hause
    • Glenridding via lakeshore and roadside paths


We had intended to go up High Street, Rest Dodd and The Nab, but Chris was struggling with her breathing and we didn't want to risk her having problems with her asthma, so we dropped down and took things easy.

Suffice to say that we had a great time, apart from the tick menace (they were mostly small black beasties about 2mm across, but we saw a few evil-looking brown and red ones that were over 5mm across). We tested out some of our new kit, got sunburn, took far too many photos (over 240), saw lots of wildlife and had fantastic views in all directions.

My tally of "Wainwrights" is now 159 (not counting repeats), which leaves 55 still to do. This keeps me on course for breaking the record for the slowest ever "casual compleation" of the famous 214

I've whittled down the photo-stash to a paltry 82(!) which I'll stick in an online album somewhere. Here are a few to whet the appetite:


The head of Ullswater


Swarthbeck sheepfold - the pitch for the first night


Looking back down the High Street path


Thornthwaite Crag


Reeds and rocks at Angle Tarn


Angle Tarn in the morning light

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