About this blog

Just having a bit of fun here, posting about walks and other stuff. I need to get out more.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Shap to Ravenglass - Across the Lakes in Autumn

Last month I walked from Shap to Ravenglass with a couple of mates....it was a grand walk.
Here are some photographs and a few words with which I hope to do the trip justice.

Out of bed at stupid o'clock to collect John in Sheffield at 05:30 and then over the Snake pass to pick up the motorway links up Cumbria. We arrived in Shap just before 08:00 and met up with Richard in the car park. Richard's drive had been a much longer one, he had travelled down from Beauly the day before to spend the night sleeping in the back of his car in a lay by just outside Shap.
The cars were secured and left in the car park and we were on our way.

Day 1.

Shap to Gray Crag.

Following a visit to the co-op to stock up on supplies we probably didn't need, we walked through the village and then out on lanes to Keld on what was turning out to be a beautiful morning.
The line we were walking was that of the Old Copse Road which once linked Mardale with Shap Abbey.
Tarmac was left behind close to some farm buildings and a soggy path was joined to take us over to the isolated hamlet of Swindale Head.

From Swindale Head, the Old Copse Road rises steeply through woodland on to the ridge of Swindale Common where we left the Copse Road to take the gradual ascent to Selside Pike, our first Wainwright of the trip.

Rough Crag and High Street from Selside End
The top of Selside Pike is unremarkable but the views all around are stunning, we paused here for quite some time until the cold started to penetrate expensive layers and we reluctantly continued along the broad ridge and past some impressive cairns to Branstree.
A short descent to the Gatesgarth Path was followed immediately with a steady climb to Harter Fell, interrupted only to pause for impressive views and photographs down the length of Haweswater. 

Onwards and upwards, with a bit of downwards thrown in for good measure, to Harter Fell, Mardale Ill Bell and across to the High Street summit trig point. The weather had been great all day and we made a group decision to make our way over to Thornthwaite Crag and then out along the ridge to Gray Crag to try and find a suitable place to pitch the tents for the night.

Gray Crag camp site
The tents were pitched before 5 pm and the usual routines were followed, food was consumed, whisky was shared and the conversation went on until the sun eventually set over the hills of tomorrow.

Henry Shires Scarps and the setting Sun 

As night fell, and the temperature dropped sharply, stags could be heard roaring in the valleys around us as the rutting season was at it's peak. Stars appeared one by one until eventually the Milky Way was clearly visible in the night sky. Just before I finally zipped up the tent, I caught sight of a shooting star to cap off a wonderful day's walking in the Far Eastern Fells.

Day 2 

Gray Crag to Easedale Tarn

It had been a cold night in the tent, sleep had been a fitful affair, interrupted several times as I sought out the warmth deep inside the sleeping bag. 
As day broke, the stags were at it again...roaring their heads off. A hind appeared briefly on the ridge just behind our tents but scampered off when alerted to our presence.
A great advantage of a high camp is the down hill start to the day and it was a steep descent down the spur of Gray Crag to Hartsop and out along the road to pick up the path to the Hartsop above How ridge. 

Gray Crag 

The path from Bridgend initially winds its way through woodland, which looked a picture this morning  in the Autumn sunshine. An early rest stop was taken here before we started the long pull up the ridge to Hart Crag. 
Energy levels were running low this morning, a result of the strenuous first day, the lack of a proper nights sleep and in my case, a general lack of fitness. John decided to push on ahead rather than stop for a break on the highest point of the Hartsop above How ridge. The sky had clouded over by the time we approached the final slog up the steep scree which led to the top of Hart Crag. The hard work was over for the day, or so we thought, as we followed the well worn path up to Fairfield and around the horseshoe to Great Rigg where we branched off to Stone Arthur. We decided to cut short our route today and camp at Easdale Tarn instead of the planned Angle Tarn camp. The lure of an extended break in Grasmere was a temptation we could not resist.
Grasmere from Stone Arthur.
It is a steep descent from Stone Arthur down to the A591, our group three walkers became three solo walkers, conversation petered out as we made our way off the hill. We were all feeling leg weary and ready for the flesh pots of Grasmere. 
Eventually we traipsed into the village and made initially for the co-op for much needed refreshment. Pork pies, chocolate bars and other such luxuries were snaffled up and stuffed in the packs for future treats. Next port of call was the Red Lion, where we settled down for an hour to enjoy a couple of pints of Cumberland Ale, before crossing the road to a bakers shop to buy delicious hot pasties. 
Suitably nourished and refreshed we left Grasmere at 4.30 pm for the pleasant walk along Easdale and up past Sour Milk Gill and to Easdale Tarn, 

Easedale Tarn camp.
Day 3

Easdale Tarn to Wasdale Head

Another cold night in the tent. The cloud was down on the surrounding fells as we broke camp and set off for what would be another memorable walk. I'll let the pictures tell the story of our route through some of the best mountain scenery to be found anywhere in the UK.

On Blea Crag
Pavey Ark and Angle Tarn through the clouds

High Raise

Richard looking towards the Scafell range.

Group photo on High Raise


Langdale from Rossett Pike

Great Gable from Allen Crags

Yewbarrow and Wasdale Head 

Ours were the only tents on the camp site at Wasdale Head, which is now run by the hotel and boasts a shower, washing up area and a smart toilet block situated behind Ritsons Bar. 

The MWIS forecast pinned up in the shop warned of impending stormy weather, heavy rain and high winds were set to move in overnight and continue into tomorrow.

Cleaned up, we retired to the pub for a few beers and some food. The food was decent but not as good as it was on my last visit here a couple of years ago. The beer was excellent though, as was the Talisker night cap. Richard and myself decided we had had enough at about 8pm, leaving John to burn the midnight oil in the Hotel bar, a special invite from coming from a couple of Jeeves and Wooster lookalikes.

Day 4

Wasdale Head to Ravenglass

The bad weather arrived as predicted and we awoke to the sound of heavy rain on the tents. Lazy breakfasts were taken washed down with several cups of coffee in the forlorn hope that the rain would stop. Eventually, as the field was on the verge of being transformed into a village pond, we packed up and headed for the shelter of the wash room to consider our options for the walk out to Ravenglass. It was a no-brainer really, 70 mph winds were forecast for the high fells.  Illgill Head, Whinn Rigg and Muncaster Fell would be saved for another day and our final day would be a road walk all the way to Ravenglass.

Looking back to Yewbarrow

John And Richard with Wast Water backdrop
As road walks go, this wasn't so bad. Luckily the rain had stopped and the miles passed by quickly with lively conversation and discussing options for another trip next year. 
The hamlet of Santon Bridge provided a convenient half way refreshment stop. John opting for hair of the dog in the pub and Richard and myself opting for the excellent Woodlands tea rooms. 
We were reunited again as the sun came out, on the long straight road at Gubbergill and we walked together to Saltcoates and over the railway footbridge crossing the River Esk estuary to Ravenglass. 

Ravenglass from Saltcoates
A couple of celebratory pints of Guinness were swallowed down in the Ratty Arms before heading for the camp site to pitch tents for the last time on this trip. We made use of the showers before returning to the Ratty Arms for more beer and good food. 

A great walk across the Lakes. The Autumn colours, the  unique Lakeland scenery and the great company will ensure that this trip lingers long in the memory.

Ravenglass sunset

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Eastern Fells Overnighter.

Managed to take advantage of a rare decent weather forecast last weekend and nipped up to the Lakes to combine a Wainwright bagging outing with a first overnight stay in my brand new Scarp1 tent.
I returned to the Eastern Fells with a plan to take in a circuit including the Dodds from Dockray, with a high camp somewhere on the route.
I had actually attempted this as a day walk a couple of weeks ago, walking clockwise over the Birketts of Common Fell, Swineside Knott and the Brown Hills up onto Hart Side. The weather beat me on that occasion and I made it only as far as Swineside Knott before returning to the car defeated, dishevelled and demoralised.
The weather did improve later in the day allowing a nice walk on Gowbarrow Fell but this was scant consolation for the high route I had planned.

This time around the weather was more kind and I managed to fit in a couple of bonus hills, Little Mell Fell and Great Mell Fell on the way to Dockray.
Happy to be back on the Fell, any Fell would do.

Blencathra from Great Mell Fell
Both Little and Great Mell Fells are much maligned and I have to admit that the former is a bit of a non-event. Up and down and back at the car within half an hour before driving along the minor roads to begin the walk onto Great Mell Fell.
I enjoyed this one, a nice, fairly dry path leads up through pleasant woodland to the small cairn where great views open up of Blencathra and the Vale of Keswick.
It's just a short drive into the lovely village of Dockray and the Royal Hotel public bar. I had a bit of time to spare and spent an hour over a couple of extortionately priced pints of Guinness.
I used my dubious charms to sweet talk the barmaid into letting me leave my car on the hotel car park overnight before eventually setting off again at 4pm.
I had studied the map in the bar and decided to reverse my aborted route of a couple of weeks ago. On that walk, I had identified some potential great camp sites on Swineside Knott overlooking Ullswater and the surrounding fells. I wasn't sure if I could complete the round before darkness fell, but I was fairly certain I would find somewhere on Hart Side if push came to shove.
The lane walk up beside Aira Beck was a pleasant affair, views down to Dowthwaite Head opened up and soon enough the stile which signifies the start of the Old Coach Road was scaled.
Great Mell Fell from the Old Coach Road
The weather was holding out as forecast and the walk along the Old Coach Road was a fine one.
Setting out late in the afternoon had ensured I had the track to myself. Blencathra came into view and my eyes were drawn like magnets towards the elegant ridge lines of this beautiful hill as I made my way along the track below Wolf Crags to eventually head off upwards on a steep pathless ascent to White Pike and Clough Head.

Skiddaw and Blencathra from Clough Head
It was great to be up here alone and I was in my element as I strode out on a surprisingly dry path to the Birkett of Calfhow Pike and its rocky summit with fine views down to Thirlmere.
I spent a while here picking out the fells I have walked and the one's I have yet have the pleasure of doing so in my quest to complete the Wainwrights.
Great Dodd was next on the agenda, the highest point of the afternoon at 856m.
The Helvellyn massif from Great Dodd
The hard work was done for the day now and with very little effort I walked out to Watson's Dodd to take a moody photograph of the darkening sky out to the west. It looked like the weather was closing in quickly from that direction and I wondered how much further I could walk before the dark clouds enveloped these hills.
Spotlight on Keswick
I put a spurt on over Stybarrow Dodd and out along the broad ridge to Hart Side, missing out the Birkett of Green Side with all thoughts now focussed on finding a nice sheltered spot to pitch the tent.
The cloud had now dropped and it had started raining, the wind freshened considerably as I reached the top of Hart Side.
I estimated I had about half an hour of daylight left in which to get the tent up, so pushed on to Birkett Fell and descended beside a wall onto Brown Hills where I found a suitable flat spot overlooking Ullswater and set about putting up the tent.

Pitching a new tent in the back garden on a fine day with the instructions to hand is one thing, pitching one in the fading light, in the pissing rain and with a strong wind to contend with is a different proposition. Fortunately, there were no observers of my comical performance over the following 10 minutes or so.
I eventually managed to get the Scarp looking something like a tent and crawled inside to start emptying the pack. The rain was hammering it down outside and drips of water were coming through and forming a small puddle on the floor of the inner. First thoughts were that my DIY seam sealing efforts had been a failure but on closer inspection I realised that the tent wasn't tensioned correctly and the water ingress was due to contact between the outer and inner skins of the tent. Out I went again to apply further tension to the corners and readjust the positions of the pegs. Much faffing ensued before I finally settled down for the night.
It had turned into a pretty rough night, the wind and rain were providing a stern test for the Scarp, my old Laser would have been complaining loudly in these conditions but the Scarp stood up manfully to all that the elements could muster.

Sleep was interrupted at 03:50 for a call of nature and I emerged to a pre-dawn vista of incredible beauty.
The Sun was just about to rise and the horizon was lit up with a marvellous orange band of light for as far as the eye could see. The crescent Moon, Jupiter and Venus were in close proximity just above the horizon. There was not a breath of wind now and this moment gave me a surreal experience that will live long in the memory. It''s just a pity the camera wasn't capable of capturing the intensity and beauty of the moment.
View east at 03:50. The Moon, Venus and Jupiter above the emerging Sunrise
I drifted back off to sleep for a few hours and emerged from the tent at 07:30 to enjoy the wonderful views of Ullswater and the surrounding fells.
A nice place to wake up
The walk back down to the car was a short but sweet amble over Swineside Fell and Common Fell offering lovely views all around

Dowthwaite Head from Common Fell
This was an all too brief outing. 7 Wainwrights were ticked off though and I enjoyed a fine first night out in the new tent.
I still have a further 80 Wainwrights to bag and I feel that backpacking is the best way to link up the remaining unconquered fells. The Scarp passed this first test with flying colours and apart from a few niggles I am delighted with my new acquisition. Here's to many more such outings. 

Monday, 7 May 2012

A Long Walk on the Isle of Skye (Part 5)

Day 6

Loch Sligachan to Portree

I was up and off early this morning, and immediately missed the path to the road end at Peinchorran. Instead, I ended up scaling a few fences on the way over moorland to pick up the coast road before taking the "low" road beside the sea.

It was a grey morning and my thoughts turned to home as I made my way past Balmeanach Bay. I had pre-booked train tickets for the journey home on Tuesday, today was Friday.
This meant the last couple of days from Portree to Rubba Hunnish would need to be rushed and hard going, totally out of context with the walk so far.
I wanted to finish the walk to the northern point on Skye in the same way I had enjoyed the walk so far.

It was at this point that I decided that this walk would end at Portree and that I would return at a later date to continue to the far north or the island in the same leisurely manner that I had enjoyed over the past week.

The landscape of Skye is far too good to rush.

Glamaig from moorland above Loch Sligachan

The Narrows of Raasay

As far as road walks go, this was a little beauty, great views over to Raasay and up the coastline to Ben Tianavaig.
Ben Tianavaig from the Braes

The Braes from memorial cairn
The cairn commemorates a brave battle for land tenure by the former crofters from these parts during the clearance programme in 1882. A bit of research has revealed that this was a very important battle in Scottish clearances history which led to new legislation being written protecting the rights of crofters.

The route from here involved more road walking, breakfast was taken at the Aros centre before I plodded through town to the harbour.

Portree Harbour, Journeys end......for now.

During the planning for this walk I had discovered that a favourite Scottish band of mine, Frightened Rabbit, were playing at the Community Centre in town tonight. I had purchased a ticket for the show and this would bring the curtain down nicely on what had been a great week on Skye.
I dropped on Frightened Rabbit recording songs on the beach at Portree in the afternoon before catching the show later on.
Needless to say, I woke up the following morning with a hangover, I groggily packed up my gear for the last time on this trip and caught the bus to Inverness to begin the long journey home.   

Frightened Rabbit on Portree beach
The Isle of Skye is a remarkable place. Granted, I had been blessed with exceptional weather for almost all of the trip but I have a feeling I would have loved this place in any weather.

Until the next time.....

Swim Until You Can't See Land

A Long Walk on the Isle of Skye (Part 4)

Day 5

Loch Coruisk to Loch Sligachan

The Loch Coruisk wild camp had been something I had wanted to do ever since I had first seen photos of this wild place. I had made the most of it, and stayed awake until late watching the stars appear and drinking on the last of the whisky.
As a result, I enjoyed the best sleep of the trip and woke at about 8 am. I loitered around for a while, marvelling at this spectacular location before finally packing up and setting off walking back along the path beside the Loch.
A soggy path ascends below Sgurr na Srti up the the bealach below Sgurr Hain.

It was another beautiful morning and I was blessed with wonderful views all day.
Loch a' Choire Riabhaich

Coullin backdrop from the bealach below Sgurr Hain

Marsco and Ruadh Stac

Sgurr nan Gillean from River Sligachen
The walk out to the Sligachan Hotel was a pleasure, I passed the only walkers that I had seen on the entire trip, three solo walkers heading in the opposite direction.

The peace and quiet was interrupted at one point by a couple of low flying Tornado's out on exercise.

Lunch was taken in the hotel. Fish and Chips washed down with a few pints of Guinness sat by the log fire in the lounge bar.  
There was no need to hurry today, in fact the entire walk had been a leisurely affair and extended lunch stops and early camps had been a feature of the walk. 

Eventually, I shouldered the pack and pushed on along a lovely path on the north shore of Loch Sligachan to a perfect pitch a mile or so short of the road.

Burn on An Leitir

Loch Sligachan camp.
Glamaig across Loch Sligachan
Another memorable day's walking on the Winged Isle.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

A Long Walk on the Isle of Skye (Part 3)

Day 4 Broadford to Loch Coruisk.

My logistical problems had been solved by paying a visit to the bus stop to read the timetables on the way back to the hostel from the pub. It turns out that on school days there is an early morning bus service from Broadford to Portree via Torrin and other surrounding settlements.
And so at 07:20 I returned to the bus stop on a glorious frosty morning for the short journey along a narrow road to pick up my planned route at Torrin. I was the only passenger to board the bus at Broadford and chatted to the driver who explained that the bus service operated to transport pupils to the only secondary school on the island in Portree some 20 miles or so away.
Despite my disappointment of having to cut out part of the route due to the bad weather the previous day, I had enjoyed the break in Broadford. It is a friendly town with all the amenities I needed and I could see this being a good base for a future visit to Skye.
As it was, I alighted the bus by the shore of Loch Salpin and stood looking in awe at the magnificent mountain that is Bla-Bheinn soaring above the far side of the Loch.
The weather was outstandingly good once again as I set off along the road around the head of the Loch.

Snow capped Bla-Bheinn and the ridge line to Belig

Loch Salpin

I followed the B road soaking up the views in all directions as far as Kirkibost where I turned off on a minor road, alongside the river to the beach at Kilmarie. An early lunch, which was becoming a feature of this walk, was taken looking out over Loch Salpin towards the west coast of Sleat that I had walked two days ago. 
I called in at an atmospheric old graveyard before continuing the walk along tracks and paths just above the coastline to Glasnakillie to pick up the minor road to Elgol.

This is the road to Elgol
I called in at the shop on the way into the village which also doubles up as a  tea room and stocked up on half price, out of date  Mars bars and enjoyed mugs of tea and coffee cake sat outside in the mid-day sunshine. 
While in the pub last night, I had researched the Elgol-Loch Coruisk boat trips on my smart phone and I had phoned Stuart at Misty Isle Boat Trips who explained that the boat ran trips all day and that a ticket could be purchased for a one way trip only. This had not been on my original route plan but I quite fancied the idea of travelling in to Loch Coruisk by boat. 
I made my way from the tea room to the jetty to await the next Misty Isle boat.

The Coullin Hills from Elgol beach

My idea of heaven
I had an hour or so to wait for the Misty Isle to return to Elgol and spent the time chatting to Anne in the kiosk and lazing about on and around the beach taking photos of the Isles of Rum and Soay and the stunning Coullin Hills. 
Eventually the beautiful Misty Isle returned to the jetty and I boarded the boat along with a few other passengers for the short journey across Loch Scavaig to Loch Coruisk.

Stewart  entertains whilst dad Seumas skippers the Misty Isle

Emerald lochans on the approach to the landing point 

Loch Coruisk and some joker

Unspoilt view of Loch Coruisk

Looking back, from the path by the Loch

Wild camp at the head of the Loch
Looking towards Sgurr na Stri from the best camp site in the World (probably). 

Waiting for the stars 

Cuillin skyline

All in all....not a bad day at all.