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....

1 comment:

  1. Glad to hear that there is some short term job security at least! You've made me want to return to the Lakes to walk. I'll always remember that night we spent at Black Sale (Sail?) Pass... over 30 years ago!