Archive for November 2009

We need a go, no-go for launch

Posted by on November 30th 2009 in Fundraising Folk, Great Escapes, In the News, Weather

There's snow on them there Cumbrian Fells and the winter gear's prepped and ready for the off when the opportunity arises.

But there's a dilemma. Something twisting in my mind that I've got to get straightened out before I can commit to another visit...

During the current post-flooding clean-up and repair operation, would my going be a drain on the resources of the area or would it help to contribute to the local economy?

Just getting there could be a strain on the transport infrastructure, what with the trashed roads and unsafe bridges that are the focus of repair gangs and the Army. I'd planned to stay at one of the YHA hostels and maybe eat and drink out, but I can't see that much of the spend would benefit those who are in most need. Besides, I'm sure that the LDSAMRA would have better things to do than to chug up a hill to stretcher me down if the need arose. They're all volunteers from the local community, they've been involved as rescuers during the recent disaster and no doubt they all know somebody who's suffered because of the deluge. I don't want to be a potential distraction while they deal with the aftermath of the floods.

Maybe the best thing for me to do is to stay away for a while and let them concentrate on getting the basics sorted out. In the meantime, a contribution to the Cumbria Flood Recovery Fund via The Cumbria Community Foundation website or to the Cumbria Flood Appeal 2009 via The Wainwright Society's website would seem to be the best way to ensure that help gets to the folk that need it. John Hee recommends supporting MREW's Basecamp, more details here.

The people and places of Cumbria have given me much joy over the many years that I've been going there.

It's time to give something back.

Going back to Mars

Posted by on November 29th 2009 in Astrostuff

I had a spare half-hour which I used to process that Mars composite a bit more. There's a bit more detail in there and the colour and contrast seem a bit better to me, but the terminator's suffered a bit. Swings and roundabouts, eh? To see the originals, just run your mouse over the pic:



Gotta get me some of this stuff

Posted by on November 25th 2009 in Video (YouTube, Vimeo etc.), Weather

I suspect that they'll have sold out already up in the Lake District...



These boots aren’t made for walkin’…

Posted by on November 25th 2009 in TKMaxx

These Karrimor Snow Fur boots are so roasty-toasty that my feet would probably parboil if I wore them for a decent walk. As footwear for being out in the cold doing more sedentary stuff, however, they're excellent. I wore them all night long a few nights ago while out using the scope, and didn't feel the cold at all despite getting the outsides of them thoroughly wet due to the dew on the long grass of the lawn. They're a fine pairing with the Astrobreeks so long as nobody's looking!

Here's a cut&paste of the text from the 2009 Karrimor Footwear Catalogue:

  • Uppers utilising top quality waterproof, stain-resistant leathers; using Karrimor’s exclusive weathertite® waterproof and breathable laminate bootie lining and Thinsulate™ insulated fabrics for comfort in cold, wet conditions.
  • Added fit benefits of asymmetrical lateral tongue post, and internal pockets and pads for added comfort, fit and support.
  • Moulded Shell design for better traction in soft snow

If you feel the urge to get some for yourself, they're being sold off super-cheap at TKMaxx.


They seem suitable for use in a boat while trout and salmon fishing, where there's no room for walking about to warm the feet. I'll have to wait until next spring to test that theory.


Observing Report 21st-22nd November 2009 (Mars at short notice)

Posted by on November 24th 2009 in Astrostuff, Observing Reports
Tags: , ,

Saturday evening was forecast to be cloudy and wet, and I was resigned to an evening of avoiding Strictly, Casualty and the rest of the Beeb's prime-time twaddle, but the forecasters got it wrong - just for a change there was more gap than cloud. I grabbed my chance and cranked-up the obsy.

At such short notice I'd not had much time to think ahead, so, as the Newt's cooling-fan purred away, I sat back and looked up for inspiration. Rising in the East was Mars, and just for once it looked fairly bright. Target acquired!

After the scope had been cooled and the collimation checked I slewed it around to Mars and set about trying to get a decent focus - not easy, as the scope was dancing around in the wind, sending the image dancing all over the webcam chip. After a quarter of an hour of this malarkey I was happy with the focus and set about grabbing some .avi data. While this was going on I was on the lookout for Alpha-Monocerotid meteors - a minor shower that peaked on the 21st. I managed to spot a couple of them and a few sporadics as well, but didn't have the dSLR set up so there are no pics. 

Most of the webcam runs had some blurring and fading due to clouds and hence got consigned to the Recycle Bin, but some were OK. By about 03:00 a full cover of cloud had rolled in and spoiled the show so I closed the roof, had a cuppa and started processing the data. I figured that the night had finished so I parked the scope and packed away.

Leaving the obsy at 04:00 I looked up again and all was clear, so I did a smart about-face and went back in. Half an hour later I was set up again and looking at Saturn for the first time in ages. I grabbed a few .avis before the clouds spoiled things again, and this time there was some drizzle so the session was definitely finished.

After a couple of hours of kip I finished processing the Mars data, ending up with some rubbish and a few decent images. From these I've made a composite image just to see if there are any noticeable differences due to processing or planetary rotation. For an explanation of what's what, see the text below the pic:


Upper images from a 7200-frame avi taken at 02:08 - left: best 10% of frames stacked, right: best 90% of frames stacked.
Lower images from
a 7200-frame avi taken at 02:20 - left: best 10% of frames stacked, right: best 90% of frames stacked.

Damned if I can tell any difference between them!

I'm quite pleased with this - it's by far the best Mars image-set that I've done to date, not bad for a cheapo webcam. I'm inspired to get some better data later this month when Mars is a lot higher in the sky.

As for the Saturn data, I've not yet found time to process it properly. First impressions are that the data's not worth the effort, but I might be tempted to have a whack at it. If I get anything worthwhile, I'll let you know.


And now for the rest of the astronews...

Followers of this blog will know that I'm a keen meteor observer, and they may be wondering why there are no observing reports here about the recent showers. Well, the weather's the main culprit...

The Orionid shower  peaked on the 21st of October. I managed a short visual session during the preceding evening when all was clear for an hour or so, and managed to spot four Orionids, but the main night was clouded out. Typically it was much clearer the night after too, but I was too busy to get out. It was a similar story with the Leonid shower on the 17th of November - clear the night before when I spotted about ten Leonids, and then cloudy and rainy for the main night and for the rest of the week.

Let's hope for a break in the weather around the 14th of December for the Geminid shower, which is always a good display.

Blue Suede Shoes II

Posted by on November 20th 2009 in TKMaxx
Tags: ,

Here you go - a much better piccy of the Mantas, primarily because this pair have been liberated from TKMaxx and are now taking refuge in our house.


Well, it would have been stupid to have ignored such a bargain.


Doing a one-eighty-one?

Posted by on November 20th 2009 in Great Escapes, Illness and injury, YHA

I'd had an early night so I was awake well before breakfast. I got up and looked out of the window - good, it wasn't raining. Grabbing the map, I mulled over the options for a three-hour walk... Rosthwaite Fell was just over the road, I've never been up there so it seemed ideal. The hostel warden had said it was OK to leave the motor in their car-park after checking out as long as it wasn't an overnight thing, so there was no need to drive-and-hike.

After washing and dressing I got the pack ready and headed for the stairs down to the kitchen, being in need of a cuppa before breakfast, but there was a problem. I'd been walking about just fine on the flat, but the knee that I twisted the day before while descending the Lining Crag cascade just didn't want to go down any steps - it was most peculiar and most painful, although there was no visible damage. After I'd hobbled down, it was fine on the flat again, and after another good three-course hostel breakfast I went back upstairs to the dorm and all seemed OK, so I collected my gear to take it out to the car. Yes, you guessed it - the stairs beat it again.

So that was the day scuppered. Going up and along would be OK, but descending would be a nightmare and I didn't want to risk making things worse.  Ibuprofen would kill the pain but it wouldn't make the knee work, so I packed the car, said my goodbyes and started headed home, just as the heavens opened again. I was annoyed to the point of distraction, and didn't even yield to the temptations of the Ambleside gear-shops.

Suffice to say that it's all fixed now - just a couple of days of rest and the knee seems to be fighting-fit again. Even so, I'll give it a couple of weeks before I take it to the fells, just to be sure that all's well.

One-eighty-one can wait for a bit longer. How much longer depends on my injury/Wainwright ratio, which has been pretty dire this year.

Hopefully the season will end with some decent winter-walking - I can't remember ever falling or slipping in frozen conditions.

Blue Suede Shoes?

Posted by on November 19th 2009 in TKMaxx
Tags: ,

So, who's in need of some quality B2-rated winter boots? If you've got small feet, this may interest you...

TKMaxx are flogging Scarpa Manta M4s at rock-bottom prices. The Atherstone branch had UK Size 5 @ £58 and UK Size 4 @ £39.

I've had a good look at them and can't find any faults. Sorry the pics are naff, but I only had the phone's camera and the lens is screwed.

The thick of it

Posted by on November 18th 2009 in LMAO!

I found this in the Irish section of Leicester Asda's ethnic foods:


Do I need to explain why it made me laugh?


Doing a one-eighty

Posted by on November 18th 2009 in Great Escapes, YHA

The usual battle on the M6 didn't happen - the drive up was a sedate and rainless affair, mainly due to those excellent "average speed" cameras set up along the many miles of carriageway-widening scheme works which aims to provide us with four lanes each way by first cutting us down to two. Borrowdale YHA was reached at a reasonable time, and I got the pick of the bunks in the dorm - needless to say, I nabbed the one by the radiator. While I was sorting the gear the rain started and became so strong that I decided to stay in the hostel for the evening meal instead of paddling to the nearest bar. This turned out to be a shrewd move, as the three-course hostel fare was excellent, the lamb hot-pot being the best I've had for a long time.

After an evening of chilling and route-planning, I'd decided that the objective for Saturday would be Ullscarf via Greenup Edge, with the option of doing a one-eighty and extending the route to include High Raise if time and conditions were favourable. I packed the kit accordingly and hit the sack early.

Next morning I was up bright and early. The rain had stopped and things were looking good. After a hearty three-course YHA breakfast I donned the pack and ventured outside, just as the rain started again.

The walk through Stonethwaite, across the bridge and up Stonethwaite Beck, was sodden underfoot but for that first half-hour I was comfy using the Rab VR Climb as defence against upper-body wetness. It all changed as I passed Galleny Force, however, as the gods put the weather-machine into overdrive. The rain suddenly got much heavier and an evil wind started chucking it down the valley. As predicted, the Rab Corrie jacket had to be wielded in anger for the first time. I've never seen so much water running down the fellsides...

The run-off had submerged the path in many places, which meant that crossings were dodgy affairs, not so much because of the depths but more because of the force of the water. I waded the worst of the crossings as I slogged up the Greenup Gill path as far as the confluence of Greenhow and Mere Gills but there I found the water impassable without both danger and loss of dignity. After heading upslope alongside one of the two Mere Gill tributaries and finding no better options for crossing, I decided that my best option would be to change the plan and attack the fell directly, rather than via the Edge. It didn't look too steep on the map - just a few bits of 45 degree stuff, easy to zig-zag. So up I went.

Well, it was a knackering experience, all the better for the ground being slippery enough to ensure that the adrenaline never stopped flowing. I found just one small level place, near the top of the steep stuff, where I dared to stop and take some pics. I'm glad that I went up that way though, as it's a great place from where to view the glacial features of the hanging valley and the proper proportions of Lining Crag without it all being distorted by perspective:

The view down to Eagle Crag and Borrowdale wasn't too bad either:


From there on it was a marshy trudge to find the ridge's line of wireless fenceposts, which crosses the summit and hence was a good guide in what was now the base of the clouds. After 20 minutes of alternating clarity and wind-whipped clag I found the summit-cairn and stopped to take pics:

Then I did a one-eighty and headed back towards Greenup Edge, into the wind-driven stinging rain and weighing-up in my mind the option of extending to High Raise. Occasionally I could make out the path up there from the Edge, but it was mostly clagged up and didn't look appealing. As I neared the decision-point deep in the flooded marshes atop the Edge it started hailing big-time, which made the decision obvious - a dignified retreat to Lining Crag and a descent from there seemed much the more sensible thing to do. After slopping and wading to the big cairn overlooking the way down to Greenup Gill I found the path and set off to Lining Crag.

The views from the Crag were impressive during occasional breaks in the cloudbase, and I took some pics, but soon it was time to continue the descent. And that's where it all started to go bad...

There's a made-path down the side, where the crag meets the fellside. It's near-enough a straight-line down at a severe angle and due to the incessant rain it had become a cascade (it's the stream that you can see in the first pic of Lining Crag above). The rocks used for the path have been set at a slight angle downslope so that they don't retain water, but that just makes a slip more likely in descent. And that's what happened, several times, straight into the cascade. One particular slip ended in a twisted knee which I thought was going to be a day-wrecker, but it held together quite well and didn't cause any major hassle. By the time I got to the base of the crag, I was utterly soaked and the pack was full of water. Luckily all of the important kit was in roll-top liner-bags.

At the base is a small grassy flat where two couples were having a breather before their attempt to go up the path. They didn't have much of an option as they were practising their "Coast-to-Coast" route, bound for Grasmere via Greenup and Far Easedale, but I'm sure that they thought twice about this section having watched my antics. We chatted for a few minutes, during which I told them about the conditions on the path and up on the Edge. After a few more minutes I left them to it and started off towards the valley just as the rain started to ease.

The descent was uneventful until I got to the stream that had blocked me on the way up. The level had dropped by a couple of feet and I judged it safe to cross,  but I underestimated the force of the water and was swept off the submerged stepping-stones and ended up standing in three feet of white water. It was a very effective way to clean the mud off me boots. Walking further, I grabbed a few more pics in the improving conditions:

I was beginning to think that I would make it back to the hostel with no further hassle, as the wind had dropped and the rain had stopped, so I paused for a breather at the bridge just above the confluence with Langstrath Beck, where there is a magnificent view of Eagle Crag. My poor camera skills don't do it any justice whatsoever:

I started back down the easy last few miles just as the weather kicked in for the last time. The wind had done a one-eighty and was now full in the face, and the rain started stinging again.

And did I care?

Not one bit.

I was wet, yes, but I was warm and happy. There was no point in avoiding the streams and flooded paths, so I just waded and splashed through them, just like a big kid. Great fun! Even the livestock seemed to be enjoying the weather:

Right at the end of the walk I dragged the camera out again for a few more pics before the light failed. The views from the hostel grounds are quite good - much better than shown in these shots :

Back at the hostel my gear took up a good chunk of the drying-room. I even had to get the warden to put my camera and lenses in a safe place to dry, as they were wet through. Later, while sat in front of the open fire, I put a tick against Ullscarf on my Wainwrights list and then double-checked the total number visited so far.

The number?

One-eighty, of course.

To be continued...


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