Archive for October 2010

A couple of days at Buttermere – Part 2 – Rained off

Posted by on October 31st 2010 in Car stuff, Great Escapes, Shiny new kit, YHA

It rained nearly all night and the Saturday morning was looking grim. The only folk determined to go out and hit the fell-tops were members of a group of charity walkers who we'd been talking with the previous evening and who were attempting a one-day ten-peak fund-raising epic from Gatesgarth Farm to Stool End. By the time we were up and about they were long gone. We chatted with one of their support crew who said that they'd left loads of excess supplies in the kitchen for us, so we dipped in and chose a few items and left the rest for those that came after. I've just visited their JustGiving page and it says that they had to abandon their challenge due to bad weather, in a sad way that justifies our decision to keep our kids off the fells that day.


A final look at the hostel


After another fine breakfast we packed the cars and headed up to Newlands Hause just in case anybody had a change of heart and fancied a quick jaunt up High Snockrigg, but there were no takers so we took a few pics and headed into Keswick for a mooch around:


Moss Force




We opted for an hour or so at The Bond Museum - this turned out to be much better than we'd expected. Click the following pic to open more pics in the lightbox:


Gotta get me one of these

After that we did a bit of gift-shopping, had a tea-break and browsed the wares on display at the market, but the draw of the clackysticks on offer at The Outdoor Warehouse in Windermere was too strong. We left Keswick and, after stopping for a picnic lunch at a spot overlooking Thirlmere, we hauled into the shop's car-park and headed in to do the deed. From then on we were homeward bound.

A couple of days at Buttermere – Part 1 – Varied terrain

Posted by on October 29th 2010 in Great Escapes, YHA

This was another trip away with our first-year-apprentice hostelling friends. Since our first outing together in the spring they'd been to Ilam Hall and they wanted to go to the LD with us again, they're either keen, mad or both! Either way, it was a bargain weekend - we used more Tesco Clubcard tokens to pay for the accommodation, at the current 4:1 voucher/token exchange rate it kept costs down considerably.

The Thursday morning journey up the standard A5/M6 route was a pleasant surprise - no hold-ups anywhere! We made the customary stop at Ings to raid the Little Chef, pulled into Windermere for a bit of shopping and then pushed on to Buttermere YHA via Keswick and Borrowdale just to introduce the others to the delights of the drive over Honister Hause.

Having had negative experiences with room-sizes at Windermere during the spring, I'd specifically asked for decent-sized rooms at Buttermere and we weren't disappointed - we had plenty of space for the kids to tip their kit onto the floor in a haphazard fashion, as they do.

After getting sorted we headed off to The Fish for a hearty meal and a few beers before turning in for the night.

Friday dawned grey and damp but the outlook was fairly good even though the predicted snow wasn't going to become a reality:


Looking towards Buttermere


The kids at the hostel


Looking over Buttermere village towards Hen Comb and Mellbreak


We had planned a fairly low and short walk with plenty of bail-out options in case the weather turned and we had to get the kids off the fells in a hurry, so after the usual 3-course hostel breakfast we drove off to Scale Hill, where life must be really boring for 16.666% of the boy-racer squirrel population...


Discrimination against rodents


... and from there we headed to Loweswater and the start of the walk. We found a good parking place beside Church Bridge and got kitted-up for an ascent of Hen Comb:


Prepping at Church Bridge


The north end of Mellbreak


Fallen tree in Park Beck


Park Beck and Church Bridge


The section from Church Bridge to the ford was more interesting than the crossing of the ford itself - nobody fell in, probably because I had my camera ready:




Stone gatepost with O.S. benchmark and other symbols


Loweswater Fell


Looking back after crossing Mosedale Beck


After gaining a bit of height the slope eased and the walking was easy for a while on a grassy track parallel to the ridge. There were things to see both near and far:


The Vale of Lorton


Pointing towards the improbably-famous Mosedale Holly Tree


Colourful mosses, grasses and toadstools


After gaining the ridge proper after the first sheepfold we had a snack-break at the gap in the fence. Next was the short pull up on to Little Dodd...


Heading on up Little Dodd


... from where the younger members of the party claimed that they could see a huge squirrel. It took us a while to figure it out:


The giant squirrel


The view of Mellbreak was impressive too:


Mellbreak from Little Dodd


Just beyond the final fence and just below the final pull to the top of Hen Comb we pitched the 4-man bothy for the kids and had a proper lunchbreak. Some of the party had done enough ascending and wanted a rest before going back down, so the mums went off to the summit while the others stayed low for a while:


Toadstool and moss




Geoff dons his "I'm in charge" Buff


Inca/Buff/Goth girl


After a while the mums came back and I went up to the top with Geoff and Ella. The views from such a low top were surprisingly good:


Geoff surveying the scene


Whiteside, Hopegill Head, Grasmoor and Whiteless Pike above Mellbreak


The fells around Buttermere




Ella adorning the summit outcrops


After regrouping and breaking camp our navigator opted to lose height sooner rather than later, so we headed down off-piste towards the old mine workings on the eastern flank. There was a lot of bracken to be negotiated, mainly pathless apart from the odd sheep-track, and getting closer to the improbably-famous tree was little compensation. Of course as we got lower the bracken got taller, until the youngest of our group was unable to see either over or though it:


Bracken-clad slopes


Meanders in Mosedale Beck


More pathless bracken


The Pathfinder Corps


Eventually we got down to the beck and while the others had a breather the blokes went off to look for a suitable crossing-place. Finding no easy stepping-stones we decided to make our own, and spent ten minutes rearranging and adding to the riverbed. While performing this feat of civil-engineering, we discovered that the tussock-grass alongside the beck is a favourite place for weasels. Sadly I have no pics of any of this, as I'd stashed the camera in the pack in order to keep it dry in the event of an inadvertent dunking.

After we'd completed the structure we got the party across, the only incident was one dunked foot, nothing of any consequence compared to the next bit...

Our navigator, the one who had decided that off-piste was OK, had assumed that the ground on the far side would be the same as that on the nearside, i.e. firm and dry. Nope, not a bit of it. It was chest-high tussock-grass with knee-deep bog-holes in between. Geoff had to carry his youngest, and a couple of times they jointly face-planted the marshy ground as Geoff persisted in finding the deepest bog-holes. Of course, we all found it hilarious and did little to help him. Eventually we got to the fence alongside the Mosedale track and breathed a sigh of relief - it had taken us 20 minutes to cover less than 200 yards. Geoff added to his tally of woes by breaking a fencepost as he tried to lever his marsh-ridden frame over the metal railing, so we all laughed again!

Back on terra-firma we made good progress down the Mosedale track:


Looking down the Mosedale track


Looking up the Mosedale track


The summit-end of Hen Comb


The walk back to the cars was a leisurely affair and we spotted much that we'd missed on the walk-in:


Fungus 1


Hen Comb ridge


Fungus 2 - so far, this weird one has defied all of my attempts at identification


Whiteside and Grasmoor


We were soon back at the cars and making our way back to the hostel where, after getting cleaned up and changed, we had a fine 3-course evening hostel meal (I can recommend the ribs as a starter).

Afterwards we declined a walk to the pub as the heavens had opened, so we stayed in, chatted over hot drinks in the lounge and then had an early night.

Walk stats:

  • Distance: 4.35 miles
  • Ascent: 1381 ft
  • Wainwrights: 1

To be continued...

e+LITE refurb

Posted by on October 29th 2010 in Shiny new kit, Thanks

A few days ago I emailed Lyon Equipment Ltd. After Sales to find out about getting a replacement rubbery band for the red plastic pod for my Petzl e+LITE - my band is showing its age and has many deep cracks in it, it would probably have broken during the next outing.

Yesterday the postie delivered a packet containing not just a replacement rubbery band but also a new pod and a new headband complete with the revised cord-grip (the one with the integral whistle). All FOC despite my offer to pay.

Joe Faulkner, you're a star, thank you!

New on the left, old on the right

I solemnly swear to stay out of gear-shops for the rest of the year

Posted by on October 24th 2010 in New tricks for an old dog, Shiny new kit

Despite being a fairly-well-balanced biped I figured that I'd need some outriggers while pootling about with the new snooshows.

After a discussion of my needs with the guys at The Outdoor Warehouse in Windermere, I spent the next couple of days considering the options.

Two days later I returned, reconsidered the options and bought these slimline clackysticks:

Mountain King Trail Blaze Poles

Yes, I know that they're meant for "fast & light" use rather than "slow & middle-age-spread" crawlers like me, and I'd read PTC*'s report stating that "snowshoeing made them nervous". Nevertheless, seeing as they are going to be used more for balance than for weight-bearing or Nordic strolling, and that I'm no heavyweight and thus I'm unlikely to overload them, we all figured that they might fit the bill as well as any of the others on offer.

The nice lad behind the counter even allowed himself to be talked into chucking in a pair of Leki Snow Baskets for free, and declined my offer to let him keep the original baskets that I'll have no use for as I'll not be using these clackysticks to annoy people while doing general fell-walking.

I'll let you know how the sticks fare after I've had a chance to make them nervous myself. Whether the report will be posted from home after a successful deployment, or from hospital during recovery from broken ankles and/or frostbite, only time will tell.

Back from Buttermere

Posted by on October 24th 2010 in Great Escapes, YHA
Tags: ,

We're back from our short stay at Buttermere YHA.

As you can see, the weather wasn't as good as it was two years ago, but we all had a good time anyway.

The Met Office and MWIS both predicted harsh weather on the tops but it didn't happen where we went.

I suppose I'll have to post a report soon.

Cutty’s Ark

Posted by on October 19th 2010 in A bit of a rant, In the News


Harrier landing on HMS Ark Royal (source)


Where the hell is the sense in scrapping the Ark Royal AND scrapping all of the Harriers? This leaves Britain without a viable platform for dealing with remote conflict where we don't have access to a land-base, and it'll take ten years to get out of that hole (ten years during which anything could happen, not least the possibility that the two replacement carriers will be cancelled by future Governments). True, we have other carriers, but how effective would they be without the Harriers? The choppers that they carry are good but they just aren't suited to the same work.

In major conflicts, air-superiority has long been a necessary precursor to the success of land-based forces. Does nobody appreciate the fact that we'd probably never have set foot back on the Falklands without the Harriers that routed the invader's Air Force? Even Hitler knew that without knocking out the RAF, Operation Sea Lion was a non-starter. Times were hard during WWII, but can you imagine life here now if Churchill had scrapped the Spitfires and the Hurricanes?

OK, times are hard now and cuts have to be made, but let's be sensible. If the Ark Royal really has to go (and it's a moot-point), I'd have thought that it would be more sensible for it be sold rather than scrapped, and the Harriers redeployed or at the worst mothballed but capable of being recommissioned in times of need. Who knows what new conflict will arise in the near future? This Government doesn't, and clearly it doesn't give a 5h1t about the consequences if/when it happens.

On the subject of hard times and the National Debt, the question has to be asked - just how bad is it? As I understand it, most of the ND is because of gilts issued by successive Governments to raise money for whatever. This isn't a new thing though - the country has been running in a similar manner for many a year - the Bank of England has been exchanging banknotes for hard currency since it was set up in July 1694 in order to supply the King and Government with £1.2m to turn Britain, reeling from a defeat inflicted by the French, into a major global power. It's a system that works - folk invest in Britain because it's a sound investment and promises a decent financial return.

Bearing this in mind, surely we'll only really be in the crap when large numbers of those gilts have to be bought back or when it's time for the holders to cash them in and/or claim their coupons. I mean, if I was to lend you a tenner in the pub it's true to say that you'd be in debt to me, but we wouldn't be in financial crisis unless I needed it back and you couldn't stump up. So the next question has to be... is there really a long queue of gilt-holders taking their turns rapping on the door of Number 11 demanding financial reconciliation? If so, maybe the Government should consider keeping those Harriers for its own defence!

Decathlon gear-raid

Posted by on October 16th 2010 in Bargains, New tricks for an old dog, Shiny new kit

Just got back from a raid on the Nottingham branch of Decathlon. As usual they have a range of bargains and we took advantage in order to kit-out the kids for the winter. I'd been keeping my hands in my pockets pretty well - up until the final minutes all I'd put in the basket was a pair of fleece gloves for a quid, a couple of dehydrated packet-meals at £4.99 a shot and a pair of socks for about the same.

But then I found these:

TSL 225 Rando snooshows

Yep, that's £69.00 reduced to £44.99



FWIW, they had one pair left when we departed.

------ ooooo OOOOO ooooo -----

Additional pics:

Couldn’t have timed it better

Posted by on October 15th 2010 in Great Escapes, Weather

We're off to Buttermere sometime next week for a couple of days of walking.

The Met Office is predicting snow.

The MWIS prediction is similar.


Crunchy crystals

Posted by on October 12th 2010 in New tricks for an old dog

On Sunday I rediscovered something in the kitchen - a couple of tins of Carnation condensed milk that I'd stashed after turning them into caramel two months ago (using the regular boil-in-the-can for two hours method). As expected, the taste is as glorious as ever, but the inadvertent ageing has allowed the formation of large sugar crystals throughout the gloop which lends a curious crunchy texture to the stuff.

I had intended to use the caramel as a cake-filling, but there's no way that this can will last that long - I'm off to find a bigger spoon!

They Do It With (hyperbolic) Mirrors

Posted by on October 11th 2010 in Astrostuff, Shiny new kit, Thanks

I wouldn't have bought this if it hadn't been on offer and if I hadn't managed to get a further significant discount.
It takes up less room on the mount than the big black 8-incher does and it doesn't catch the breeze so much, so it's a lot more stable.
Add to that the facts that it's lighter, more portable and gives a much bigger flat-field for imaging, and it was a no-brainer.



For those with an interest in such things, it's a GSO GSRC6M 6" f/9 Ritchey-Chrétien Astrograph as supplied by Teleskop Service (as opposed to the Astro-Tech version marketed by Astronomics). The Ritchey-Chrétien design is favoured by many professional observatories (including the Hubble Space Telescope) and by some high-end amateurs for many reasons (the absence of any refractive elements, the fixed primary mirror, the coma-free image capability etc.) but until recently they had been expensive beasts compared to other Cassegrain designs. I've wanted one for many years and when the chance to get one came along I grabbed it with both hands.

FWIW, here are some of the specs:

  • Design: True RC (Ritchey-Chrétien) with a hyperbolic primary and a hyperbolic secondary mirror. No glass corrector plates or lenses in the optical train
  • Aperture: 6" (152mm), Focal Length 1370mm, Focal Ratio f/9
  • Primary Mirror: BK7- surface quality 1/12 Lambda or better, 99% dielectric high-reflectivity coating
  • Secondary Mirror: BK7, 99% dielectric high-reflectivity coating. Robust collimatable cell. Complete obstruction = 77mm
  • Construction: Steel tube with alloy primary and secondary mirror cells. Total weight 5.4kg
  • Focuser: Axially-rotatable 1:10 dual-speed Crayford focuser for extremely smooth focusing with no image-shift, accepts 2" and 1.25" accessories

Just in case you were wondering, it is currently on offer discounted from 898 Eur to 499 Eur including tax... suffice to say that a polite request to TS resulted in a favourable deal at a much-reduced total cost and including a GSRCV50 50mm spacer placed between the focuser and the telescope. At this point I must thank Wolfi Ransburg of TS for the great deal - thanks, Wolfi!

Typically, we've had cloudy nights here ever since the thing arrived 🙁

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