Archive for January 2009

Winter-walking around Ullswater – Part 2

Posted by on January 30th 2009 in Great Escapes, YHA

Saturday night was a warm night in the hostel, I would have been colder sleeping in the car. In the morning we found out that the warden had remembered to turn on the heating. Fantastic.

Sunday’s breakfast was yet another downer - it seems that the standard YHA breakfast still no longer features bacon. It does, however, feature an even sloppier yellow mulch that is still reputed to be scrambled egg. It still wasn’t. It was even worse shite. Fan-bloody-tastic.

We changed, packed and checked out. The singleton hill for the morning was chosen - Great Mell Fell.

We parked up to the south-east of the fell, and I got ready to go forth. It's a one-hour-up-and-down hill, so I went off armed with minimal gear (the camera). Ella was feeling a bit delicate (no doubt due to the lack of bacon), so she stayed in the car and iPodded while I plodded.

The day was such a contrast to the previous one - flat light, much wetness, not so much snow underfoot.

I tackled the wooded lee-slope head-on, in an effort to gain height fast to beat the incoming bad weather. It was a mad thing to do, as the slope was wet/muddy/icy/mossy/covered with wet leaves, and the slope averaged 40 degrees, so there was much slippage and even more swearing. Step-kicking was the only way to conquer the terrain and maintain any semblance of dignity, so it was a good job that I'd elected to wear the Scarpa Freney Pros, which edge well and so are excellent for such stuff.

Some minutes later I emerged from the calm of the trees into a biting head-wind laced with hailstones. I took refuge under the roots of a fallen tree while the worst of the flying ice passed by, then I hooded up and made a break for the top just a few hundred metres away.

As predicted, the views eastwards and northwards were good, with the Pennines visible under fairly blue skies, but in all other directions the land was beneath overbearing cloud or obscured by airborne wetness, as per the following pic:

(click the pic for more bigness and a lightbox-type thingy.)

The top of Great Mell Fell

I left the top just as another hailstorm hit and a party of Sunday Ramblers arrived - I was in no mood to stand chatting while being eroded by the weather. I stopped just twice on the way back to the car - once to get a rushed photo of Little Mell Fell...

Little Mell Fell

and once to get a snapshot of this unfortunate ex-fellwanderer:

There's no "i" in sheep


Back at the car Ella was safe and well, so we set off for home. More feckwits were encountered on the M6 and the A5, but that's a story for another day.

So, another weekend of fun was over. Two more Wainwrights visited, Ella reintroduced to the delights of winter-walking, and a resolution to check the breakfast menu before booking the next stay in a hostel.

Winter-walking around Ullswater – Part 1

Posted by on January 28th 2009 in Great Escapes, YHA

Friday saw us battling the traffic on the A5 & M6 to reach Patterdale Youth Hostel at a reasonable time. After skirmishes with feckwit drivers who have somehow achieved "Highway Code Not Applicable" status, and hold-ups due to temporary road-closures (due to accidents, no doubt caused by more feckwits in the aforementioned category), we managed to miss the evening meal. Fan-bloody-tastic.

Friday night was a cold night in the hostel, I would have been warmer sleeping in the car. In the morning we found out that the warden had forgotten to turn on the heating. Fan-bloody-tastic again.

Saturday's breakfast was a downer - it seems that the standard YHA breakfast no longer features bacon. It does, however, feature a strange yellow mulch that is reputed to be scrambled egg. It wasn't. It was shite. Fan-bloody-tastic yet again.

The weekend was beginning to turn sour. We dressed for action and made our way to the quarry car-park just outside Dockray. A final check of the gear before heading off revealed that Ella had forgotten to fill her water-bottle... Fan-bloody-tastic in spades.

It wasn't going well, but we made peace and set off up the track towards Hart Side...

(click the pic for more bigness and a lightbox-type thingy. Be advised that the panoramas take a while to load.)

Ella on the stepless stile

Looking up towards Common Fell and beyond

Looking back towards Great Mell Fell

Just beyond Round How we found a source of unfrozen water. While Ella repacked her filled bottle, the clouds over Glenridding started to break, allowing the sun to reach the ripples on Ullswater:

The head of Ullswater

Ullswater panorama

We pushed on through the deepening snow at a good pace until we reached the section between Swineside Knott and the wall, where the the snow was waist-deep in places. Care was needed to avoid breaking through the slab into the soft stuff beneath:

Slow progress below Swineside Knott

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At the corner of the wall we made snow-seats and took a snack-break. The view over the wall merited a few more pics:

Place Fell

The head of Ullswater again

We trudged up to the small top of Brown Hills where we deployed the Bothy4 and sat in the snow to make a brew and cook lunch. While we were there, the clouds cleared and the sun lit up the landscape:

Sheffield Pike

The approach to Hart Side

Glenridding Fells panorama

After lunch we made our way over to the summit of Hart Side. Ella managed to find most of the snow-covered pits:

Ninja Lemming

A helping hand

Lengthening shadows from Hart Side summit

We stopped at the top to play in the snow and to chat to a family who had arrived a while before us, but before long it was time to leave:

Far Eastern Fells panorama

Leaving the top of Hart Side

Our return route took us over the tops of the hills that we had skirted on the way up. On the way, we found some impressive areas of wind-sculpted snow:

After that, the clouds returned and the view back towards Helvellyn was a tad gloomy :

Looking back towards Helvellyn

but there was still some clear sky about on the way to Common Fell:

Ella on the route to Common Fell

and the sunlight on Blencathra was a stunning sight:


That was the last time I used the camera that day, but the fun didn't stop there. After crossing Common Fell we decided to leave the ridge-path and take a more direct route back to the car. We found many steep iced-over drifts which were perfect for practicing self-arrest, glissading or just rolling down the slopes. Some of the cornices were fun - quite low and safe, so we just jumped through them and slid down to the bottom. When we reached the car we were frosted-up, but we were happy.

Back at base we found that the heating was on, so I didn't have to "sort out" the warden. We dried our kit, made ourselves presentable, and booked an evening meal at the hostel. A tad expensive, but it was good food. Ella was too knackered to go to the pub, so we dossed in the common-room, warmed by the open log-fire and by hot chocolate, before having an early night in preparation for Sunday's walk...

High Plains Drifter

Posted by on January 25th 2009 in Great Escapes

Just back from a great weekend in the Lake District snow. It'll take me a while to write up the report and sort all the pics, but here's a taster of what the weather had to offer:


Sheffield Pike

Looks good, Flight

Posted by on January 22nd 2009 in Great Escapes, Weather
Tags: ,

A section of The Gospel according to St. MWIS of the Lakes:

The usual rules will be applied with rigour (the first one to fall over buys the beers).

Ringing the changes

Posted by on January 20th 2009 in Astrostuff

It's almost that time of year when Saturn climbs to an observable height above the south-eastern skyline. In preparation for the ensuing observing and imaging sessions, I've been getting in some image-processing practice, using more-involved techniques on some of the .avi data acquired last year. I've taken the same data used to make the image posted on 4th April 2008 and pushed/pulled it through a different set of processing routines, ending up with this, which I reckon is a significant improvement:



In theory I should be able to capture higher-quality data this year, due to improvements to almost all of the various bits of kit used in the data-acquisition stage, so I expect to be able to produce even better pics... weather permitting.

The game is afoot

Posted by on January 15th 2009 in Bloggers' Meet, Great Escapes

After the mania of the Christmas and New Year period, and the family crises that have been brought under a semblance of control, things have calmed down to the point where we can begin to function normally again.

I've even managed to book a weekend away in Patterdale, so that I can introduce Ella to a few more Wainwrights. For what they're worth, advance forecasts are for a return to wintry conditions, so let's hope that the forecasters have got their predictions correct.

Furthermore, I've arranged to go for a crafty beer (or two) with a fellow blogger a few days afterwards.

My titanium cup runneth over  😀

Reports will follow in due course.

@ Martin

Posted by on January 5th 2009 in Rambling on...
Tags: ,

Martin Banfield asked the following questions in response to my opening post of the year:

"... Which Wainwrights, When, What Gear, and exactly how do you plan to ‘Push the Envelope’?"

Here's my attempt to satisfy his yearning for knowledge.

Which Wainwrights, When?

Well, my progress towards the slowest ever “compleation” of the 214 Wainwright Fells is going well - there are 41 still to be done: Eastern Fells (7), Far Eastern Fells (14), Central Fells (1), Southern Fells (6), Northern Fells (11), North Western Fells (1) and Western Fells (1). The Outlying Fells get picked-off whenever the opportunities arise, I've not got around to recording and mapping them online yet - that could be another project for this year.

When I take SWMBO on our annual spring wildie, we'll probably head for the Northern Fells and work our way from High Pike to Souther Fell, so that'll be another six or so to mark off on the map. Before that, I hope take Ella to Patterdale or Glenridding to nab a few short-walk fells while/if they're snowbound - Hart Side, maybe, or the Middle Dodd/Red Screes pairing. Summer in the LD is generally a no-no for me, as it's too busy to really appreciate the place, so I probably won't go again until the autumn, which is my favoured time of year for solo-wildcamping. I've got a hankering to spend a full weekend doing all of the Coniston Fells. Of course, any other opportunities that happen along will be considered and taken accordingly - hostelling with the family, outdoorbloggers meets, OM meets and stuff like that.

What Gear?

There are a few bits of kit that I'm hoping to acquire for testing, the main one is the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir mat. Others include a stove (identity to be disclosed later if the goods are forthcoming) and some footwear. I'll also be experimenting with using the kit that I have in different ways, to see which combinations work well and which fall short of expectations.

... and exactly how do you plan to "Push the Envelope"?

That'd be telling. If I let you know now, I'd have to shoot you.

2009 – Watch the Skies


The International Year of Astronomy 2009 is under way and there's comprehensive web-coverage. The main site is at and there's a UK National Node at Both sites are worth a few hours of browsing if, like me, you've an interest in such things. There are plenty of resources for all levels of us night-creatures, regardless of age or experience.

So, what's it all about? Well, the following statements from the main site sum it up nicely:

"The International Year of Astronomy 2009 is a global effort initiated by the International Astronomical Union and UNESCO to help the citizens of the world rediscover their place in the Universe through the day- and night-time sky, and thereby engage a personal sense of wonder and discovery."

"Everyone should realise the impact of astronomy and other fundamental sciences on our daily lives, and understand how scientific knowledge can contribute to a more equitable and peaceful society. IYA2009 activities will take place locally, nationally, regionally and internationally. National Nodes have been formed in each country to prepare activities for 2009. These nodes will establish collaborations between professional and amateur astronomers, science centres and science communicators to prepare activities for 2009. Already now, 135 countries are involved and well over 140 are expected to participate eventually."

Of course, if the science gets a bit too much for you, you could just look at the pictures 😎

Here's the YouTube version of the (downloadable) trailer:

Looks like I'll have to make more of an effort this year, eh?

2009… more or less

Posted by on January 4th 2009 in Rambling on...

So here it is. The first post of the new year. An opportunity to consider a few objectives for the next 12 months. Compared to 2008, which turned out to be an average sort of year, this lot should be doable:

1a. More actually getting out and doing "stuff"
1b. Less talking about getting out and doing "stuff"

2a. More "pushing the envelope"
2b. Less "comfort zone" dossing

3a. More meaningful blogging
3b. Less blogging of drivel

4a. More gear-testing
4b. Less gear-envy

5a. More improvement in use of the camera
5b. Less "missing the moment" while faffing with settings

6a. More time out with the scope
6b. Less time-wasting while faffing with settings

7a. More progress with astrophotography
7b. Less set-up time

8a. More Wainwrights
8b. Less use of traditional routes

9a. More local walking
9b. Less hiding behind the laptop

10a. And, thanks to George, more data-storage, and hence
10b. less dross on the internal HDD

That's it for now. More or less.

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