Archive for April 2011

Not going the extra mile

Posted by on April 30th 2011 in Great Escapes, Maps, Rambling on...

One of the minor hassles of being a "bagger" of Wainwrights is that there are times when I'm up on the fells and I get to thinking "I'm happy, I've done enough, I don't really fancy going up that next bit just for the sake of another tick on a list". At the time it seems the right thing to do, there's no point in over-stretching, it takes the fun out of it. After all, we've probably all heard, and possibly even used, phrases like "the hills will still be there tomorrow". Fell-walking is supposed to be about pleasure, not pressure.

Trouble is, it plays with my mind, especially straight after the choice becomes irrevocable, usually on the walk-out. Those nagging thoughts that it would have been easy, that I've let myself down, that I'll have to walk large bits again for less gain. It needles me, it makes me regretful, and eventually it starts to rob me of the pleasure that I thought I'd had.

The problems become even more apparent later when an OCD ticker such as myself, 200 miles away from the fells, looks at the map and at the "to do" list and thinks...

  • twice I've been up Skiddaw and twice I've not continued northwards that extra mile to visit Bakestall...
  • if I'd detoured the extra mile to Lonscale Fell the first time I went up Skiddaw, I wouldn't have had to go up there again last week...
  • if I'd just walked that extra mile further during the 2008 wildcamp with Chris, I would have got to Shipman Knotts...
  • if my mind hadn't been preoccupied with other things, I wouldn't have turned back half a mile short of Green Crag way back in 2006...
  • if I'd been a bit more strict with myself, I wouldn't have declined the half-mile detour to Rest Dodd during the 2007 wildcamp with Chris...
  • the further mile or so from there to The Nab would have been doable too...
  • and as for the first two circuits of Seat Sandal, before the third attempt when I actually did reach the top, the less said, the better.

So now, apart from a couple of decent-length walks during each of which I can pull in a handful of currently-unascended tops, I'm left with several singletons or pairs of unvisited short-walk fells, linked only to places that I've trodden before. "Fragmented" is the word that springs to mind.

I suppose that a weekend dedicated solely to nabbing these scattered things would be effective, but there'd be as much time spent driving as would be spent walking - where's the fun in that?


Rest Dodd


Maybe I should simply stop being a bagger, bin the list and just walk for the hell of it.

Mind you, I'm only 20 shy of the finish - that's the stats-equivalent of the last mile...

Maybe a beer would help?

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...

A few days at Borrowdale – Part 2 – Short and steep

Posted by on April 25th 2011 in Great Escapes, YHA

Some of us were up bright and early next morning, outside taking pics well before breakfast...


Looking over the hostel grounds


The River Derwent from Longthwaite Bridge


High Spy and Castle Crag




Eventually the others surfaced and after we had breakfasted we headed off towards our objective - Bessyboot on Rosthwaite Fell. Even though it was still early a heat-haze was beginning to develop:


Heading for the crossroads


The first time I've ever seen this sign dry!


From the crossroads we headed for Stonethwaite, there were plenty of opportunities for the kids to lag behind looking at the newborn lambs:




Beyond Stonethwaite we took the lane above the fields to the crossing of Big Stanger Gill, from where a steep but well-tended and delightful path winds up through Bull Crag Woods towards the notch between Hanging Haystack and Alisongrass Crag. The steepness and increasing heat meant plenty of stops for the kids and hence some photo-opportunities:


First pit-stop


Alisongrass Crag and the fells above Watendlath


The path twists and turns between the trees


Looking down on Stonethwaite and the Borrowdale valley


After another pit-stop at the "very awkward stile" and another after the wall-crossing, we reached the open fell and made our way along the track to find a suitable place for lunch. By then the sun was beating down with some ferocity and the SPF50 had to be wielded:


Chris poses for scale


In search of a place for lunch


Curiously-weathered mineral veins


A peek at Eagle Crag


After lunch we crossed the marsh that is the standing source of Big Stanger Gill and made our way around to the perched boulder which marks the start of the easy short pull up to Bessyboot, the summit of Rosthwaite Fell. As you can see, Millie was quite chuffed to have reached her first ever Wainwright summit, so chuffed that I had to take two pics:


Millie and Anna atop Bessyboot




Although Bessyboot is a low summit, it has great views of  the surrounding fells:


The two Gables, Base Brown, Brandreth, Grey Knotts and Fleetwith Pike


Tarn at Leaves, Rosthwaite Cam and Glaramara


The Skiddaw group in the distant haze


We left the top and went down to the waterside to catch some rays or to dip toes in the cool clear water. Wainwright says "Tarn at Leaves has a lovely name but no other appeal". I beg to differ - it's a fine place, a wildcamper's delight:




Reeds and weeds


Muggins spoiling the view of the crags around Rosthwaite Cam
Anna took this pic


Anna and Millie after the toe-dipping


Offers to nip up to the Cam for a look-see were declined, so we shouldered the packs again and made off for the track down to Combe Gill.


Rosthwaite Cam and Glaramara again


We had intended to intercept the OS's green-dashed path but it turned out to be a map-maker's flight of fancy. Before long we were going down a worryingly steep grassy and craggy slope on the north side of Dry Gill. Some of the party found this section unpleasant, but our pathfinders were enjoying themselves:




Anna found and photographed some interesting pink rocks in Dry Gill. Not sure what they are but they're different to the other rocks outcropping thereabouts. I suppose I'll have to dig out the BGS map of the area to find out what they are:


Pink rocks in Dry Gill


One more view of Rosthwaite Cam and Glaramara


Eventually we crossed Dry Gill to easier ground and found a fair track that's not marked on the map:


Descending on the south side of Dry Gill, with a great view before us


Chris nearing Combe Gill


After crossing Combe Gill we had a breather. The kids amused themselves by throwing stones from our pathside perch to the gill below, with no other folk about we thought it was a bit of harmless fun until Anna accidentally let one go vertically instead of across and down. With no idea where it would land, we just hunkered down and hoped for the best. After what seemed ages, there was a loud thud and a shower of gravel in the small area around which we were sitting. Lucky, eh? The ensuing rollocking echoed around the fellside but soon we all saw the funny side of it and a course of proper stone-throwing was instigated.

From there it was a simple but delightful walk back to the hostel via Mountain View, over Folly Bridge and along the short via ferrata riverside chain-walk section just as we entered the hostel grounds.

After we'd got ourselves showered and changed we booked in for a superb meal at the hostel and chilled for the rest of the evening before turning in early again to get some rest in preparation for the expected rigours of the next day.

To be continued...

A few days at Borrowdale – Part 1 – Tuesday drive-in

Posted by on April 23rd 2011 in Great Escapes, YHA

This was our third trip away with our hostelling friends. Another bargain break, courtesy of Tesco Clubcard tokens and YHA Borrowdale.

The Tuesday journey up the standard A5/M6 route was again trouble-free, apart from a minor diversion near the start-point. Breaking with tradition, we bypassed the Little Chef at Ings and pulled in at Windermere for an excellent late-afternoon meal at The Elleray.  After a couple of hours there we pushed on to Borrowdale, stopping for a while at Derwentwater's Cat Gill car-park to give the kids a chance to play at the waterside. Apologies for the speckly pics - this time it's not down to sensor-dust or grubby lenses, it's a midge thing...


Cat Bells and Kids


Towards Skiddaw


A few minutes of driving later and we were at the hostel. After decanting from car to room we spent part of the evening chilling out in the hostel grounds bird- and bat-spotting beside the river, then we retired to the lounge for chats, brews and route-planning before turning in for an early night.

To be continued...


Posted by on April 23rd 2011 in Celebrations, Great Escapes, YHA

We're back from a few magnificent days based in Borrowdale. Three almost totally cloudless days, two great walks and one fellwalking newbie thrown in at the deep tall end. Top stuff!

Needless to say, there'll be words and pics to follow in good time.

Hope you're enjoying St. George's Day - we are, and so are my blog-stats, which are showing the annual huge visitor-spike due to that flag post.


Posted by on April 18th 2011 in Great Escapes, YHA

Walking opportunities have been limited so far this year - indeed, I haven't had a day of proper fellwalking since December last year.

No matter, that's all about to change... we're off to stay in Borrowdale for a few nights. Nothing too strenuous, though, as four of our party of eight are kids, and one of them is a complete newbie to this sort of thing.

It looks like we'll be lucky with the weather - the MWIS Planning Outlook this morning says "High pressure will dominate the weather, bringing extensive fine warm weather on the run up to and over Easter..."

So, in theory, there'll be no more of this:



For the others, packing for this outing continues apace. My stuff is ready to go, all I have to do now is sell a kidney so as to be able to afford petrol for the journey.

See you later!

Observing Report 8th-9th April 2011 Part 2 (Saturn and globs)

Posted by on April 15th 2011 in Astrostuff, Observing Reports, Pics

Well, we waited a while for darkness to fall and for Saturn to become visible. I trained the scope on it only to find it hiding behind the topmost leaves of a bush. We waited a while longer and then found that it had gone behind a tree. More waiting ensued before it cleared all of the obstructions, and then the guests all got a view of it through the eyepiece. After they were all suitably impressed by the planet and by the few Saturnian moons that were visible, I swapped the eyepiece for the camera and we all watched it on the laptop for a while. As an added bonus those not glued to the screen got to see the ISS pass overhead.

Visit over and goodbyes said, I went back to pack away. Trouble was, the sky was incredibly clear and the seeing was much better than usual. It was too good an opportunity to miss...

Before long I'd got the 1000D set up on the 6" R-C and the DMK was back on the guide-scope. A fair few globular clusters were visible unaided so I took a few runs of images and did some visual observing over the next few hours. Intermittent high wispy clouds spoiled a lot of the data but I ended up with a few reasonable frames for stacking. At the end of the session I was fair knackered as I'd spent nearly 12 hours either behind the scope or in front of the lappy, but it was worth it.

M3 (aka NGC 5272), a globular cluster in the constellation Canes Venatici.
Subs: 11 light @ 300s, darks and bias frames, ISO400.
1000D on the 6" R-C with 2x PowerMate, guided with PHD.

M5 (aka NGC 5904), a globular cluster in the constellation Serpens.
Subs: 14 light @ 300s, darks and bias frames, ISO800.
1000D on the 6" R-C with 2x PowerMate, guided with PHD.

M92 (aka NGC 6341), a globular cluster in the constellation Hercules.
Subs: 11 light @ 300s, darks and bias frames, ISO400.
1000D on the 6" R-C with 2x PowerMate, guided with PHD.

Observing Report 8th-9th April 2011 Part 1 (Afternoon Moon)

Posted by on April 14th 2011 in Astrostuff, Observing Reports, Pics

As I've said before, observing the early phases of the Moon from my obsy is a bit of a lottery - due to the restricted western view the only way to get the scope pointing at the thin waxing crescent is when the Moon's high in the western sky. This time around it was late in the afternoon... sunny... hot... not the best conditions for this sort of thing.

I'd invited some friends around to have a go with the scope so I'd got set up with an hour to spare. While waiting for them to arrive I grabbed some video data for another lunar mosaic. Processing was difficult but eventually a passable result was achieved:

 The Moon.
11-pane mosaic created with PSCS3.
Each pane 100/2000 frames stacked with K3CCDTools3.
DMK mono CCD camera on the
6" R-C, unguided.


When the guests arrived we did some visual observing and also did some lunar exploring using the DMK for looking and the laptop for display. A few interesting bits were recorded, here are the results:

(mouseover the pics for the annotated versions):

Rheita (42 miles dia.), Stiborius A (19 miles dia.), Metius (53 miles dia.),
Watt (40 miles dia.), Steinheil (41 miles dia.), Fabricius (47 miles dia.),
Vallis Rheita (303 x 18 miles)

 Romer (24 miles dia.), Chacornac (31 miles dia.), Newcomb (24 miles dia.),
Macrobius (39 miles dia.), Dorsa Aldovandi (73 miles long)

Isidorus (25 miles dia.), Capella (30 miles dia.), Gutenberg (45 miles dia.),
Gutenberg D (12 miles dia.), Goclenius (33 miles dia.), Magelhaens (25 miles dia.),
Magelhaens A (19 miles dia.), Bellot (10 miles dia.), Colombo (46 miles dia.),
Colombo A (25 miles dia.)

Endymion (76 miles dia.), Keldysh (20 miles dia.), Hercules (42 miles dia.),
Atlas (53 miles dia.), Atlas A (13 miles dia.), Burg (24 miles dia.),
De La Rue (82 miles dia.)

Piccolomini (53 miles dia.), Neander (30 miles dia.), Stiborius (27 miles dia.),
Rupes Altai (short section) (291 miles long)

Eventually the Moon dropped out of our field of view so we went in for a brew and waited a few hours for darkness to reveal some other targets.

Hang on a minute – I thought we were skint!

Posted by on April 6th 2011 in A bit of a rant, In the News

Rumour has it that the coffers of the nation are empty, and that severe cuts are being made in order to keep the bailiff's dogs from the door.

Our glorious leader has ditched The Ark Royal...

and got rid of the Harriers...

and caused the closure of all but one of Manchester's public toilets...

He's allowed Uni fees to become huge...

his petrol price concession was negated by a pump-price increase...

and yet he has "found" 650 million quid...

of our money...

and he's not giving it back...

he's giving it away!

Moreover, he's giving it away overseas!

What the fuck???

Is this man totally mad?


Edit: Somebody at The Daily Mail could do with having some of this dosh to put towards maths lessons - how many NQTs start on £2,600?

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