Sunday 14 April 2013

Mountains and Stuff Part IV

After my epic day on Tuesday, I decided a rest day was in order so mooched around Ambleside, got in some retail therapy by buying some of those nifty Microspikes at the Climbers Shop

Kahtoola Microspikes

After a coffee I took a drive down Langdale via the byway and then stopped for lunch at the Stickle Barn, which I discovered is now owned and operated by the National Trust. Following lunch I went for drive, over to Little Langdale and back via a couple more byways near to Hodge Close Quarry, returning to Ambleside in the late afternoon.

The next day I decided to go for a really big walk, it had long been an ambition to walk the central ridge from High Raise north towards Keswick in a single trip. This would normally be a wet bog-fest as the ridge is not a narrow knife edge but rather a mile wide meandering boggy upland but in its current frozen state, I decided it was likely to be the perfect conditions.

As a point to point walk rather than a circuit, I was faced with the problem of how to get between the start and finish points. The ascent to High Raise can be done from Grasmere but the trip from here to Keswick is problematic, as although there is a bus service, the times didn't really suit.

So instead I decided to tackle it from the other side of the ridge. The last two peaks to the north, Bleaberry Fell and Walla Crag, I had already climbed so the last top of the day would be High Seat, a path leads from here straight down to Ashness Bridge, an iconic Lakeland location and a favourite of the postcard photographers. By parking here, I could walk ten minutes down to the Borrowdale Road, beside Derwentwater and catch the bus to Longthwaite where it was only a fifteen minute flat walk to the alternative start point at the village of Stonethwaite.

The only downside was that the first bus was not until 09.30, a bit later than I would have liked but the alternative would have been to drive to the start. That would mean having a bus journey at the end of a long day and a longer drive back over the same road and the real risk of missing the last bus (which would result in a six mile walk on the road up Borrowdale).

After parking at Ashness Bridge, I descended back to the main road, taking a sneaky short cut through the grounds of Derwentwater Hostel. Formerly a YHA property that I first stayed out in the 1970s, this is now an independent hostel. Soon after arriving at the bus stop, conveniently located at the end of the Hostel's driveway, the bus arrived and I set off down Borrowdale to the stop at the Longthwaite crossroads.
Eagle Crag from Stonethwaite

The walk started on the road to Stonethwaite, through the village and then on the broad bridleway that heads up over Greenup Edge to Far Easdale and Grasmere. After a short distance, I crossed the stream over a footbridge and started the very steep ascent of Eagle Crag (1650'). Now in Wainwright it puts the ascent as 1300 feet in two miles but what has to figured into that is that the first mile and three quarters is virtually flat, so those 1300 feet all come in the space of a quarter of a mile, which is pretty much straight up!

As you approach the crag, it looks as if there is no route through the cliffs to the summit but it is possible to wend your way on a series of terraces and short gullies through to the top. Well you can on most days but today the gullies were still snow bound or comprised of rocks with a thick coating of flow ice. At times I had to resort to climbing the rocks to the sides of the gullies to make upward progress. To say it was precarious at times was an understatement! I eventually arrived on the rock slab that comprises the summit of Eagle Crag; Wainwright number one hundred and forty one!
Summit of Eagle Crag.
The walk to the next peak, Sergeant's Crag (1873') was an easy walk along the broad ridge and a short climb to reach Wainwright number one hundred and forty two.
Summit of Sergeant's Crag
Beyond Sergeant's Crag lies the massive bulk of High Raise (2500') and a long trudge over snow to the top, a mile and a half distant.
High Raise from Sergeant's Crag

I eventually made the top and decided an early lunch was in order, the views from High Raise in it's central position are pretty spectacular and conditions were bright and sunny although the wind was cold.
In 1976 I very nearly climbed High Raise as on a school trip to the Lakes we walked from Grasmere to Longthwaite Youth Hostel in Borrowdale. The trip followed the bridleway over Greenup Edge, which is the pass between High Raise and Ullscarf to the north. We decided to climb High Raise and stop on the summit for lunch but as we climbed from the pass, the cloud descended. Navigation wasn't an issue as there was a line of old fence posts along the ridge and we followed these to what appeared to be the summit, where we stopped for lunch and I took a photograph. After lunch we descended to the bridleway again and continued into Borrowdale.

It was only in later years that on examining the photo it was clear this couldn't be the summit as there was no trig point evident and we had almost certainly stopped on the subsidiary summit to the north, known as "Low White Stones". Well this time there was no doubt and I sheltered from the wind behind the trig point on Wainwright number one hundred and forty three as the nearby stone shelter was filled with snow.
High Raise

The descent from High Raise was rather treacherous with large areas or hard, icy snow so I used my micro spikes for the first time and they proved excellent. The old fence line that used to be such a useful guide on this route is now so depleted that spotting one post from the next can be quite tricky especially as the no doubt obvious path was obscured by snow.

Another long trudge along the ridge eventually brought be to the frankly uninspiring summit of Ullscarf (2382'), number one hundred and forty four.
I didn't hang around and continued onwards for the three mile walk to Armboth Fell, that lies off the ridge line about half a mile to the east. At first staying with the ridge, a modern fence was reached and the path followed this relentlessly. As predicted the ground was clearly boggy but hard and frozen underfoot. At Standing Crag, route finding proved a little difficult as what is almost certainly an easy descent on a grassy ramp in normal conditions was now an extremely dangerous snow chute (to the left on the photo below). Again the micro spikes proved their worth and the descent was easily dealt with.
The descent over Standing Crag
I eventually got to Shivery Knott where I should turn right off the ridge to head for the top of Armboth Fell. The problem being is that the summit is not at all obvious, all there was to the right was an expanse of undulating and very boggy ground heading towards the slopes that eventually lead down to Thirlmere. As the ground had now been in the sun all day it was starting the thaw in places and after finding a couple of knee deep bogs, I decided that I would give Armboth Fell a miss especially as time was getting on and I still had two more peaks to do along the ridge.

A long boggy ascent now lay before me up to High Tove (1690'). Whilst heading onwards I met a couple coming the other way who thought I would have plenty of light to climb it and High Seat beyond, although I considered my escape option of taking the footpath that leads from the top of High Tove down to the hamlet of Watendlath, where I could descend back to the car on the road. I continued on with the ground getting softer but eventually reached High Tove, Wainwright number one hundred and forty six.
High Tove
There was still reasonable light, so I decided to carry on and comenced the steepening ridge to High Seat (1995'). I arrived on the top just after six in the evening, with still a reasonable amount of light and Wainwright number one hundred and forty seven ticked off. A quick photo was taken and I started the descent to Ashness Bridge.
High Seat
The path soon became excellent as it had clearly been resurfaced recently with crushed stone as as the light failed I was able to make good progress. Unfortunately the fading light was to be my undoing and somewhere I must have missed a turn to the right and realised I was starting to climb Dodd, a small subsidiary summit to the south west of the route of the path. retracing my steps, now by the light of my head torch as it was completely dark, I discovered a path leading down and although not the main path seemed to go the way I needed to go.

Unfortunately it turned out that it descended on very steep ground through a gulley in the crags and over some rocky steps that were covered in flow ice, far too dangerous to descend but frustratingly only about ten foot above a grassy slope that clearly led down to Ashness Beck. Within reach of my torch beam was another easier looking descent route to my left but again not actually within reach due to near vertical rock inbetween that made getting out of the gulley impossible.

I again retraced my steps up onto the ridge and found the top of this other path, so was able to retreat off the steep ground. On reaching a wall, I was able to establish my position through a combination of the Map, which at 1:25,000 scale showed the wall and my GPS which although giving me my exact position uses 1:50,000 mapping, which don't show walls. I worked out that although I wanted to go left, I actually had to go right along the wall. This soon brought me to a corner and the wall dropped down the slope a short distance to a gate on the main path I had lost earlier. I turned left through the gate and walked the last half mile back to Ashness Bridge alongside the beck.

I soon arrived back at the car, threw my gear in the back and headed straight back to Keswick where I enjoyed a well deserved dinner of fish and chips in the Town Square. I then drove back to Ambleside for an early night!
The days total was 14 miles walked and 3,500 feet of ascent!


Friday again dawned bright and sunny, which is more than could be said for me! Aching after my marathon effort, I headed into town for my customary coffee with thoughts to try and plan an easy day. A trawl through the Wainwrights, confirmed my fears that all of the easily "baggable" peaks in the immediate area had already been done, so I needed to head further afield.

So in the late morning I drove up past Keswick and over the Whinlatter Pass to the village of Low Lorton, where i took the unsurfaced "Whin Fell Road" that runs over the northern slopes of Fellbarrow, my first target for the day. Again continuing my theme of "motor assisted hill climbing" this saved me about 420' of ascent.
Whin Fell Road

A nice easy climb over grassy slopes took me over Fellbarrow for Wainwright number One hundred and forty eight, then a pleasant but fairly long walk along the undulating ridge took me to Low Fell, my one hundred and forty ninth Wainwright...... only Sixty Five to go!!!
The view of Crummock Water from the summit of Low Fell

I returned the way I had come but was able to avoid reclimbing Fellbarrow by contouring round it to the east on narrow sheep tracks across the steep, grassy slopes. One advantage of the "right to roam" legislation is that on Access Land like this, you can legitimately take short cuts like this!

A drive over the Whinfell Road and then the adjacent unsurfaced lane that took me down to Loweswater and then back to High Lorton and back over Whinlatter Pass and back to Ambleside to sort my gear out for the long drive back the next day.