Friday 22 March 2013

Mountains and Stuff Part III

Day three (Tuesday) dawned and it looked nice and bright and even a bit sunny, so once again I headed off over the Kirkstone Pass and parked up at the village of Hartsop.

When planning my attempt to finish off the Wainwrights, I looked at all the remaining peaks and grouped them into achievable one day walks. One of these was to walk from Hartsop up onto the High Street range and bag three peaks, Rampsgill Head, Kidsty Pike and High Raise.

Another was also to start at Hartsop and pick off Brock Crags and The Nab, which can only be approached from the saddle to the south between it and Rest Dodd as unusually it is private land and sits inside a Red Deer Sanctuary, so the only permissive access is via the saddle Rest Dodd is a peak I had first climbed in 1997.

In fact I had climbed it on the very walk with Steve and Neil that I made my decision to bag all the Wainwrights. We had again started from Hartsop and climbed The Knott (2423'), Rest Dodd (2278') and then traversed over Satura Crag to Angletarn Pike (1857'). None of us actually had a copy of the relevant Wainwright Guide (Far Eastern Fells) that day, as we were using Steve and Neil's knowledge of the Lakes to navigate and had the OS Map if we got lost. On the way to Angletarn Pikes, I had asked if Brock Crag, a few minutes diversion off the main ridge from Satura Crag was a Wainwright and they both agreed it wasn't, so we carried on.

Of course on checking the guide book, It is included, so I had missed a very easy peak that would have only needed a ten minute detour to bag! Hence my need to climb it again, I had reckoned that it would only be a half day trip even if combined with The Nab.

When planning on the Monday night, I came up with the idea of combining both walks into one long day as once I was up on the ridge, I might as well take advantage of the height I had gained.

So bright and early I set of from Hartsop along the well surfaced bridleway that leads up onto High Street, so well surfaced in fact the first half mile to an intake house is actually tarmac!

Leaving Hartsop with Gray Crag ahead

The climb from Hartsop is long and hard in the final stages, despite the good path, being 2 miles and with 1850' of ascent. Also the first objective of the day, The Knott (2423') can't even been seen until the last stretch before up to the dam at the Hayeswater Reservoir.

The Knott from the approach to Hayeswater

Just before reaching the reservoir, the path crosses the stream and zig zags it's way very steeply up the slope to the ridge below The Knott. This afforded great views of the frozen reservoir:


This stretch was hard work as it's very steep and the snow was very soft in places making the going difficult. On reaching the ridge, the views westwards towards the Helvellyn range were spectacular and I made use of a feature on Anne's new camera that she had leant to me to capture it, a neat panorama feature. You just hit the button and rotate around until the indicator tells you to stop, the camera stiches it all together and stabilises the image:

Looking westward from the ridge below The Knott

Climbing the ridge towards The Knott the previously cold but bright weather started to change as the wind increased and the cloud started to lower. By the time I had reached the wall corner where you can either turn right to climb to the summit, carry straight on towards High Street or turn left towards the top of Rampsgill Head the cloud was completely covering me.

As there was no path to the left and the ground was covered in snow, I decided to carry on the well defined path towards High Street, knowing that just before the Straights of Riggindale, the narrow saddle leading to High Street a major path led off to the left and went over Rampsgill Head passing close to the summit. This is the course of the old Roman Road that traversed High Street and is a bridleway these days, so should be easy to follow.

And indeed it was, so I turned back to head north and for a few minutes the cloud lifted enough to see the distinctive top of Kidsty Pike:

Kidsty Pike
Shortly afterwards I turned left off the path for a couple of hundred yards to reach the top of Rampsgill Head (2581') a fairly uninspiring place, now back in the cloud but it was at least my 136th Wainwright and my first of the day.

Rampsgill Head

From there I quickly regained the main path only a few hundred yards away and then headed off to the right and walked the short distance to the top of Kidsty Pike (2560'), to get number 137. I then retraced my steps back to the main path and continued northwards along the ridge to the Summit of High Raise to bag my 138th Wainwright.

High Raise

The weather by now was pretty unpleasant, so I didn't stay long and traced my steps back the way I had just come. At a junction I had the choice of following the main path again or cutting the corner by going straight over the top of Rampsgill Head again, so I turned right and walked over the summit for the second time that morning. I then headed straight towards the wall corner near the top of the Knott. On arriving I decided to climb The Knott as it semed silly to go within two minutes of the summit and not do it. The cloud was now lifting again and I was there and back in under five minutes.

I then headed off the main path following the wall that leads straight to Rest Dodd, this proved quite tricky as the slope is steep with large stretches of ice. I stopped near the bottom in the shelter of a large convenient boulder out of the wind for lunch.

I then climbed the steep slope up to Rest Dodd, in hindsight this was unneccessary as looking at the map later I realised I could have remained on the main path on the broad ridge, that heads from The Knott towards Satura Crags as it is possible to reach The Nab (my next objective) from there, bypassing Rest Dodd altogether. Indeed the original Wainwright shows the route to The Nab as only being via this route but these days there is a path straight off the top of Rest Dodd.

However after reaching the summit this path turned out to be very steep and covered in extensive sheets of ice. So I took the safer option of dropping down to the saddle between Rest Dodd and Satura Crag and then round to the northern side where the broad saddle leads across to the Summit of The Nab.

This too involves a very steep descent from the saddle over snow rather than ice, so although very tricky it was possible, even though it took a long time.

The saddle to The Nab is notorious as a dull trudge over very boggy peat hags but today it was a breeze, being frozen solid. As a result I was soon standing on the summit at 1887', Wainwright number 139:

Top of The Nab, the prominent summit just right of centre is Rest Dodd,
showing the steep descent from the saddle to the right.
To the left of centre is The Knott and the crags leading away
to the left are Rampsgill Head,
High Raise is just out of shot to the left along the ridge.
Of course by now it was in brilliant sunshine!

Heading back across the saddle, I tackled the steep ascent back to the ridge, at one point I had to get my ice axe out and cut steps up the steep snow slope, very "old school" but necessary as I was unable to bring my crampons after discovering they don't fit my boots. There were two women I met coming from The Nab as I climbed it and I saw them stop at the base of the slope for a while then climb the slope increadibly quickly so I assumed they had stopped to don crampons. I eventually got back onto the ridge:

Gray Crag from the saddle between Rest Dodd and Satura Crag

Back on the main path I soon caught up with the two women and discovered what they had actually used were "Micro Spikes" a very neat walking crampon system that uses a rubber band round your boot linked underneath with chains that have a number of short spikes, very quick to put on and take off and much lighter than crampons. And clearly very effective given the speed with which they had climbed the slope.

I soon left their company and turned left off the ridge to Brock Crags (1842'), it took a little longer than the five minutes I was expecting as there are numerous tops and I climbed two "false summits" before finding the real one, Wainwright number 140. Unfortunately this is where the photos stop as the camera battery needed recharging.

Acording to Wainwright, the easy way off Brock Crags is to just follow the old wall straight down to Hartsop, so I did. What he didn't say is how perilously steep it is! luckily having been in the sun, there was no snow but the still frozen ground under the grass was tricky enough and it was so steep I ended up with bruised toes and eventually lost one big toe nail as a result!

At the bottom of the slope there was a short detour to pick up the tarmac track to the inlet house in the valley and then back to the car.

A very rewarding day, 11 miles, 3400' of ascent, seven summits and five new Wainwrights bagged!

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Mountains and stuff Part II

After my first day in the Lakes, I was aching a bit so decided to take things a bit easier on day two.

After a morning wandering round the outdoor shops in Ambleside, having a coffee and then lunch in town, I decided I really ought to do some walking and so I drove over Kirkstone Pass and past Ullswater to tick off two smaller hills to the north, Little Mell Fell and Great Mell Fell. The weather today was far superior to the snow flurries and low cloud of Sunday.

Very different in character to many Lakeland fells, these are two isolated hills, that sit in the broad valley between the Helvellyn range and the Caldbeck Fells to the north although neither are that small at 1657' and 1760' respectively, they are quite easy to climb.

First on the list was Little Mell Fell, this has the advantage of a road running over the hause between it and Gowborrow Fell to the south, in fact called "The Hause" that makes it an easy half hour trip. So once again I engaged in a bit of "motor assisted hill walking".

Yes that's the summit in the background!

Soon "bagged" this one, number 134!

The mountain in the background is Blencathra but the small mound in the foreground is my next objective Great Mell Fell, only a mile and a half away.

Although the two fells are fairly close, combining them in a single walk is not that easy as the ascents up and down Little Mell Fell are on the "wrong" side and the countryside between the two is not open fell but a valley of agricultural land with many fences and no obvious paths.

So after a slightly different descent towards Ullswater and then contouring back round to The Hause, I jumped in the Land Rover and headed off. Instead of the obvious direct route, I first took the unsurfaced road the runs along the Eastern side of Little Mell Fell, just because I could!

As you can see from the Map, the route up Great Mell Fell is a bit longer but still only took me about 45 minutes to reach the top

Blencathra from Great Mell Fell

On the Summit, Great Mell Fell, No. 135

It obviously gets a bit windy up here.

So after the photos, I headed back down to the car, then drove back beside Ullswater, stopping for a photo session on the way.

Looking South along Ullswater

So with 135 Wainwrights under my belt, it was back over the Kirkstone Pass again and down The Struggle to Ambleside where I was soon back at the apartment to start planning the next day, this was going to be a bit more ambitious.....

Sunday 17 March 2013

Mountains and stuff

Yes it’s been awfully quiet on here for a while so it’s about time I caught up with what’s been going on.

The job is still a bit uncertain as although I have secured a position in one of the new NHS organisations, it’s only on a fixed term contract, so uncertainty about the future has not gone away.

One of the issues about the NHS reorganisation is that we cannot carry forward any leave to the new organisations and as I've been avoiding taking leave due to potential job interviews, I had a fair bit saved up. So having sorted myself out job-wise in the short term, I thought I'd better take some time off and enjoy myself.

So I duly booked myself a week in the Lake District, getting a last minute (and thankfully cheap) deal on a very nice apartment in Ambleside, with the intention of doing a bit of hill walking.

The apartment in Ambleside

Now I will be honest and admit that I am an unashamed peak bagger, in the case of the Lakes the usual routine is to bag all the peaks in the seven volumes of Wainwright's Illustrated Guides to the Lake District, all 214 of them.

Although I first went to the Lakes when I was 15 and fell in love with the place, as well as being introduced to the Wainwright guides, I didn't really entertain thoughts of climbing them all until much later. Back in 1997 I was walking with my brother-in-law Steve and his brother Neil when they mentioned they had bagged all the "Wainwrights" by the time they were 17. OK they had an advantage in that they grew up in Lancashire so often had weekend trips to the Lakes, whereas for me it's always been a 500 mile round trip!

At that point I had climbed 85 of the peaks, some of them many times, like Scafell Pike, the tallest mountain in England that I have been to the top of six times! (once twice in the same day). So my thoughts turned to completing the other 129 in the books and I've been steadily ticking them off over the intervening years.

So heading off for my week, I was at 132 peaks, not having visited the Lakes since March 2011.

Now having ticked off that many, it's fairly obvious that now I'm getting to some of the outlying and often ignored peaks. Or ones that could have formed part of a longer ridge walk I'd done in the past but for whatever reason hadn't visited that particular top.

First up was Selside Pike, off to the far east of the Lakes and often climbed from the nearby Branstree. I had climbed Branstree way back in 1997, in fact on the same trip to the Lakes when I had met up with Steve and Neil, when walking from Sadgill in the Longsleddale valley, the walk had taken me up to the top of the Gatesgarth Pass, up to Brandreth and then south to Tarn Crag and Grey Crag, before descending back into Longsleddale at Sadgill.

I had originally planned to climb Selside Pike from the North East, a fairly short walk from Swindale Head. However the drive from Ambleside to Swindale was a considerable distance, so an alternative plan was hatched.

The Gatesgarth Pass is an ancient road but in recent years has been subject to severe restrictions. It is only open to vehicles on certain days of the year and groups must obtain a permit in advance to drive or ride it. There are stipulations on group size (no solo vehicles allowed) and only 4x4s with a wheelbase under 100" are allowed .

However what many people do not realise is that the restrictions only apply from a point on the southern side, very close to the top of the pass. The well surfaced (with stone) unclassified county road, that runs two miles from where the tarmac ends at Sadgill to just beyond where the route becomes a Byway at 423m (1400') above sea level, is not subject to restriction and is open 365 days a year as a cul de sac route.

So I duly drove up the pass to the point I could go no further and parked up for the day....

The relatively straightforward drive (albeit over snow covered rocks) to the gate, saved me two miles of walking and 234m (750') of ascent.

The start of the restricted section

 From my parking spot, I headed North East to the saddle that leads into Mosedale, then turned left for a long slog up Selside Brow to the top of Branstree:

It's a lot steeper than it looks!

On my eventual arrival at the summit, I did not linger long as the cloud had descended and visibility was very poor. Luckily there is a fence that links the summit with that of Selside Pike, so navigation was not an issue. In the event as I descended, I dropped out of the cloud, so was able to follow the normal path, as sticking to the fence was hard going with banks of soft snow having blown up against it on both sides.

After a fairly straightforward walk I arrived on top of Selside Pike, peak number 133! I only lingered long enough to grab a quick photo before heading off.

The fence that runs to within a few feet of the summit, does a 90 degree turn and heads off to the East over Nabs Moor and down into Mosedale for a relatively easy walk up the valley and back over the saddle to Gatesgarth Pass. So following the fence, I descended off the top, this turned out to be quite tricky as the ground was very steep and very icy. The fence came in useful as a handrail at times!

Looking back at Selside Pike from Nabs Moor

Arriving in Mosedale, the "easy" walk was anything but. The route had only been used by a couple of walkers since the last snow and route finding was very tricky. Although I could see where I was going, spotting the actual path was very difficult and at times I found myself in soft snow up to my knees!

Eventually I spotted a welcome site, that of Mosedale Cottage, a bothy maintained by the Mountain Bothies Association. The MBA has a number of these properties, mostly in Scotland where travellers are free to spend the night. They offer very basic accomodation, with sleeping on the floor or wooden sleeping platforms, and very little in the way of creature comforts although many do have open fires or wood burning stoves (but you have to bring your own fuel). In many ways they can be likened to "stone tents".

Mosedale Cottage

The interior was as I expected apart from the presence of six large leather arm chairs in the main room. Goodness knows how they got there as the cottage is many miles from the nearest road, being reached only via bridleway. They did make my stop there for lunch a little bit more luxurious, although I have to say the interior was freezing cold but at least I was out of the wind.

Inside Mosedale Cottage

Once I had got moving again, the walk, although a hard slog through the snow was not too long and soon the Land Rover was back in sight...

My walk was about six miles in total, with about 1200' of ascent. And I had now "bagged" 133 Wainwrights, it seem a lot of effort for one new peak!

To be continued....