Hello!

Welcome to my website 🙂  I’ve started this blog to chronicle my somewhat erratic and mishap prone hill walking.. Not to mention the inevitable post walk drinks! Some nice views and hopefully amusing anecdotes will be thrown in for good measure..

A walk that went swimmingly (and a small hill thrown in)

  • Hills: Irton Pike
  • Classification: Outlying Wainwright (only my 2nd!)
  • Swim spots: Tongue Pot and Kail Pot, River Esk: Wast Water: Gill Force (near Boot)
  • When: Friday 17 and Saturday 18 September
  • Who: Me and the mountaineering minion (at least for the walking bit – he doesn’t swim)
  • Distance: No idea
  • Weather: Bit mixed, but lovely for the 2nd swim.
  • Post walk drink: Pale ale, followed by Merlot (again)
  • Post walk watering hole: The Strands Inn, Wasdale (again)
  • MAMBA factor: Surprisingly high given where I was
  • Uses of the arse crampon: Came in pretty useful for getting in and out of the water.
  • Mishaps: None to speak of, though the straight up the front route up Irton Pike was a bit brutal. Almost a car mishap.

Apologies in advance to my usual readers: this blog post does not contain much in the way of hill walking. It does contain a bit of hill walking, and definitely contains plenty of photos of the Lake District, but the hill walking was a peripheral part of this walk – well walks really as it was spread over 2 days – rather than the prime focus.

My usual readers are probably also wondering where the now inevitable opening rant is! At the time of actually doing the walk / swim, there didn’t really seem to be a lot to rant about – for once on the Friday work managed not to intrude on my supposed day off, and I was able to just enjoy the day without stressing about being pulled into conference calls whilst either on or only just off the hill. That said, at the time of writing I am still reading news posts suggesting impending doom; increasing case rates of the Omicron variant which may yet lead to us all being locked up again in the not too distant future, despite that (at the moment anyway) it seems to be significantly milder than previous variants and not to be translating into increasing numbers of people actually dying. I suppose we can only wait and see but the whole thing seems to be never ending and staring into a Covid- hit 2022 when I haven’t really mentally processed 2020, never mind 2021, yet is frankly just depressing. A scientist friend thinks it might be another five years in a worst case scenario before we are out the other side of this which is even more depressing. We have got to find a way to live alongside this and try and get back to something approaching normality before it is gone for good.

Anyway, back to the walking / swimming! Where this all started dates back to summer 2020 and Stuart giving me a voucher for Swim the Lakes which runs guided wild swims in and around Ambleside. I’d wanted to try wild swimming for ages – I used to swim in the sea in Wales when on holiday as a kid / teenager and always enjoyed it but had never really swum in rivers or lakes. Suffice it to say that I loved the swim in Windermere and have now found a managed open water swimming venue in a lake about 2 miles from my house which I go to regularly. It’s fair to say that I now have even more kit to store as what started off with a swimming costume last Autumn then led to the acquisition of increasing amounts of neoprene in order to enable me to carry on swimming in the winter (lockdowns permitting). Stuart also started coming along and we both now swim at the lake including a rather bracing dip on Christmas Day. In some ways, I’m probably enjoying the swimming more than hill walking at the moment – as I’ve said in a previous blog, as I’ve come closer to finishing the Wainwrights I’ve started to put increasing amounts of pressure on myself which given I am prone to getting stressed anyway is not particularly helpful. That stress doesn’t really exist for the swimming, and it’s actually a brilliant way to de-stress, as well as a fabulous cure for a mild hangover (it isn’t sensible to go cold water swimming with a stinker of a hangover though, as you can lose the ability to regulate your temperature). 

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Wainwright walks 83: Up and down in Wasdale

  • Hills: Middle Fell, Seatallan, Buckbarrow
  • Classification: Wainwrights (155 to 157)
  • When: Thursday 16 September
  • Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
  • Distance: About 7 miles at a guess.
  • Weather: Glorious sunshine for most of it, cloud blowing in and out on Seatallan
  • Post walk drink: Pale ale, followed by Merlot (again)
  • Post walk watering hole: The Strands Inn, Wasdale (again)
  • MAMBA factor: Pretty high. Wasdale can be heaving on a good day but these are some of the lesser frequented hills in the area.
  • Uses of the arse crampon: Still MIA.
  • Mishaps: Does work count? (again..)

I said in my last blog post that one of these days one of my blog posts would not start with a rant. At some point, this might even be true – however once again this is not that post. At least the rant is a bit shorter this time than it was for my last blog post which consisted of more ranting than description of the actual walk! The ratio is at least not quite so skewed as the last time. It is however beginning to occur to me that the rant to walk ratio being skewed seems to be taking the place of either (a) the mishap to walk ratio being skewed or (b) the  time/ distance to get to the hill versus the actual time on the hill being completely skewed as it has been in the past. At least on this walk nothing really went that wrong with no mishaps to speak of on the walk itself, unless the absolute bugger of a steep ascent of Seatallan counts as one!

As regards the rant – once again work managed to get in the way of my supposed time off, although this time the impact was more limited than it had been in the past. This time it consisted of getting a message just as I was getting off the hill asking if there was any way I could be on a conference call over Zoom in an hour’s time. Unfortunately this was something that couldn’t wait till I got back to London so I negotiated an extra 15 minutes to at least allow me time to get back to the hill, get out of hill walking gear and make myself at least vaguely presentable but it was certainly not ideal! Had this not happened I would probably have thought about going for an open water swim, which I did the following day instead. Even going to somewhere with very little mobile signal doesn’t seem to work these days for getting away from work as whilst there is no phone signal in Nether Wasdale there is WiFi in the pub…

After my lovely walk in the Far Eastern Fells the previous day, the forecast was once again excellent and it would have been a good day to do a big walk. However the mix of lockdown related lack of fitness and work induced tiredness meant that an epic was still not an option, plus given parking issues in Wasdale on a previous visit I did not need the stress of worrying about whether I would be able to find a parking space! Going for Middle Fell gave me the option to extend to two other hills if I felt up to it, I knew there was a reasonable amount of parking and the views looked as though they would be great. Decision made in the bar the night before about what walk to do, I had some excellent pub grub at the Inn (portions are huge) and turned in for an early night.  

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Wainwright Walks 82: Two hills in the East, then a long journey west

  • Hills: Selside Pike, Branstree
  • Classification: Wainwrights (153 and 154)
  • When: Wednesday 15 September
  • Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
  • Distance: Not sure, would guess about 6 miles
  • Weather: Glorious sunshine
  • Post walk watering hole: The Strands Inn, Wasdale
  • MAMBA factor: High to start off with. Didn’t see anyone else till I was on Branstree. 
  • Uses of the arse crampon: Still MIA.
  • Mishaps: Nearly a car hire issue. Also nearly a parking issue. No issues with the hill itself.

Once again, it has taken a long time for this blog to crawl its way out of my subconscious and onto the web. If anything, it’s taken even longer than usual and it will come as no shock to my regular readers that the usual factors have been present. One of these days I will not start my blog with a rant but until the world gets back to something approaching the ‘old’ normal – if it ever does – this will probably not happen. I still want to punch something when I hear the phrase ‘new normal’ and can’t see that changing any time soon either!

Since my last walk in the Lakes back in June – a holiday which was punctuated with far too much work – there hasn’t been a lot of walking. There had been a bit, courtesy of a trip to the Gower Peninsula in August where I did climb a small hill (Rhossili Down, which had glorious views of Worms Head) and we did some coastal walking as well as swimming in the sea a couple of times. Whilst this was a nice break, yet again it was interrupted by work on more than one occasion. Whilst technology has its advantages, i.e. being able to work anywhere, being able to work anywhere clearly has its downsides and the pandemic seems to have accelerated the lines between being at work and not being at work becoming increasingly blurred. If a client knows you can answer their email from Gower, Cumbria, or for that matter anywhere else just as easily as from a desk in the City of London then inevitably the expectation not only that you can do so but that you will do so starts to creep in. Consequently it becomes increasingly difficult to actually get a proper break and at the time of writing this, with the exception of a couple of days in Lancashire earlier this year, I have not had a single holiday this year which has not been interrupted by work to at least some extent. I’m quite frankly utterly knackered and really need a proper break but have no idea when I will get one.

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Wainwright Walks 81: a Hartsop Doddle

  • Hills: Hartsop Dodd (also a repeat of Caudale Moor)
  • Classification: Wainwright (152)
  • When: Sunday 20 June
  • Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
  • Distance: About 6 miles (I think)
  • Weather: Sunny 
  • Post walk drink: Hawkshead Pale Ale (too warm for Malbec)
  • Post walk watering hole: The Queens, Windermere
  • MAMBA factor: Medium. Had the hills more or less to myself to start off with but that didn’t last!
  • Uses of the arse crampon: Still MIA. 
  • Mishaps: Unless the fitness level counts, nothing really. Work was a mishap later in the week.

One of these days I will write a blog which does not start with either an apology for not having written it before, or a COVID related rant… yet again, this is not that blog! Once again this post has taken a long time to crawl out of my brain and actually make it on to the internet and yet again the usual reasons are in place. 

I’m still fed up with how the last two years have panned out. I’m still completely unfit and it seems to be getting worse rather than better. I’ve still got too much on at work and specifically in respect of this blog work totally got in the way. To cut a very long potential rant short I ended up having to work on several days of my supposed holiday which meant that this was the only hill walk I managed during what was supposed to be a week away. I did do a wonderful swim/ hike later in the week but far too much of the ‘holiday’ was taken up working which is emphatically not what a holiday is meant to be about. 

As regards the pandemic, whilst things seem to be returning vaguely to something which bears at least a passing resemblance to normality in some areas, in others they are still a long way apart. I still have friends who are hardly ever leaving the house. I got caught by the ‘pingdemic’ despite being double jabbed (though I do know people who have had COVID despite having been double jabbed). I still hate wearing face masks as I feel as though I can’t breathe, though I do when I need to. I’m actually starting to wonder if ‘normal’ will ever actually return or what it will look like (and hearing the phrase ‘new normal’ still makes me want to punch something). This disease isn’t going to go away – we have to get on with our lives eventually. 

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Wainwright Walks 80: 52 on number 151!

  • Hills: Lank Rigg
  • Classification: Wainwright (151)
  • When: Friday 4 June
  • Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
  • Distance: About 6 miles
  • Weather: Sunny with a bit of a breeze
  • Post walk drink: Pinot Grigio. Still too hot for Malbec!
  • Post walk watering hole: The Crafty Baa, Keswick
  • MAMBA factor: High
  • Uses of the arse crampon: Still MIA. Hard to see how it would be needed on this one.
  • Mishaps: A bit of a hangover, a minor navigational lapse. Also still knackered.

For whatever reason, this blog post has again taken a long time to crawl out of my subconscious and actually make it to the page. It’s difficult to know what the reason for this is: some of the usual reasons are definitely present, for instance having too much on at work (and outside of work) but also a bit of inspiration was rather lacking (or should that be lank-ing?) Probably not a word but definitely should be! It is probably a case to a large extent of simple tiredness: due to work, to trying to fit too much in and also due to a general sense of being completely fed up with how the last two years have panned out. 

It’s not just the pandemic, or the restrictions; it’s all the tension the whole thing has created between people with differing opinions and I’ve been shocked to find out how many people seem to think that it would be perfectly okay to be in a state of lockdown for years, or that a zero COVID strategy is a good idea (or even achievable). Or who don’t understand why I found not being able to go out and do outdoor stuff, or other pleasures like going to the theatre, so hard (example quote ‘Why would you even want to leave the house when there is a nasty bug around? I thought you had Netflix?). Friends who have been resistant to meeting in pubs even since it has been allowed. People who have become so afraid of what – although clearly a very nasty bug indeed – is now likely to become endemic that they haven’t left the house in weeks. What was the vaccination programme for if it wasn’t to try and get us back to something at least vaguely approaching normality? But that still seems a long way off.

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Wainwright walks 79: Boiled on Beda!

  • Hills: Beda Fell
  • Classification: Wainwright (150! Yay!!)
  • When: Monday 31 May
  • Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
  • Distance: About 4 miles
  • Time: 2 1/2 hours
  • Weather: Scorchio. Actually too hot for serious walking really.
  • Post walk drink: Pinot Grigio (far too hot for Malbec!)
  • Post walk watering hole: The Kings Head, Carlisle
  • Uses of the arse crampon: Thought I might need it on this one but turned out I didn’t
  • Mishaps: Insomnia, sunburn, general level of knackeredness

For some reason, it’s taken a long time for this post to crawl out of my subconscious and make it to my blog. I’m not really sure why that is, but suspect it is a combination of factors; firstly an ongoing period of being stupidly busy at work, secondly life in general just seeming to take over and finally a bit of stress creeping in too.

To explain that last point first. I never started out climbing Wainwrights with any intention of doing the lot. When I did my first few I was still actively bagging Munros and doing the odd Wainwright was a nice diversion from that – with the added benefit that it is easier to pick a Wainwright for a marginal day than a Munro because the vast majority of them are so much smaller and I’m not a fan of going out in bad weather (the phrase ‘there is no such thing as bad weather, just inadequate clothing’ being one that drives me up the wall, there being no clothing known to man that will stop you getting blown off the hill in strong winds, lead lined boots maybe aside). However over the last few years, particularly since I stopped spending so much time in Scotland, the numbers have started to creep up and I’ve started to wonder if I ‘should’ make a serious attempt to do the lot, particularly as the 150 has approached.

I’m really not sure about this to be honest. I’m not good at failing at things and my default reaction at not being good at something tends to be to run a mile in the opposite direction. I am also a high stress person anyway and given hill walking is one of my escapes from stress the last thing I want is to end up getting stressed about it. Realistically I know what I need to do is take the pressure off myself, just enjoy it and see what happens, not least given that there are some of the bigger hills in the West that may give me some trouble. It also hasn’t helped that lockdown hasn’t been kind to me physically – there being nothing in the way of a hill anywhere near my fitness is definitely lacking and the only thing that really keeps you fit for doing big hills is doing big hills. Anyway, for a combination of reasons, I was pretty stressed about getting my 150th under the belt.

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Wainwright Walks 78: Dodging the weather on Loadpot and Wether

  • Hills: Loadpot Hill, Wether Hill
  • Wainwrights: 148 and 149
  • When: 1 May 2021
  • Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
  • Weather: Sunny but cold
  • Bog factor: Mostly dried out
  • Distance: About 7 ½ miles
  • Time: 4 ½ hours including breaks
  • Post walk drink: Malbec
  • Post walk watering hole: The Sun Hotel, Lancaster
  • Mishaps: None to speak of
  • Uses of the arse crampon: I think it’s in hibernation

It’s taken a couple of weeks since the date of this walk for this blog post to crawl out of my subconscious and onto the internet – and it’s been a very long time since I’ve done a blog post at all. The reasons for this are obvious; lockdown 3.0 having extended for a considerable amount of time, there has simply been no hill walking to write about, with anything even remotely resembling a hill being out of bounds for exercise on grounds of being too far away. I suppose I could have written a blog or two about the politics of hill walking – there’s certainly been a lot of that about on Facebook with arguments about how far it is or isn’t acceptable to travel in order to do a walk (at the various stages of lockdown easing), whether it was really morally acceptable to stay overnight even once doing that in self catering accommodation was legally allowed, whether we should in fact all be confined to the house for the foreseeable future and so forth – but to be quite frank I couldn’t be bothered. 

I’ve found the last lockdown harder than the other two. The first one had a sort of novelty factor and at the start of it, felt very temporary (at least until it started to drag on). The second one was time limited which made it easier. But the last one felt interminable – even had the weather not been foul and most of the country near me turned into a sea of mud I was quite frankly bored to tears with our local walks. A period of sustained pressure at work was not helping either – this included being too busy to take the day after my first vaccination off sick even though I felt pretty grim. I was getting to the point of being desperate to get out of London though at least when the open water swimming venue near me finally reopened at the end of March that helped a bit. But at the date of writing talk of variants and whether lockdown easing will have to be canned (as a result of less than 2000 cases of a particular variant) is frankly just depressing. There has to come a point where we have to just get on with things before what passes for normal just totally ceases to exist.

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2020: a year in review

  • Total hills climbed: 17 (I think) one of which was a repeat
  • Wainwrights: 13
  • Wainwrights now done: 147
  • Wainwrights left to do: 67
  • Marilyns (outside the Lakes): 4 (including one repeat)
  • Number of ascents of Orrest Head: 2
  • Beer festivals attended in the Lake District: None
  • Beer festivals attended elsewhere: None
  • Trips cancelled due to COVID-19: Don’t ask.

Well where do I start with this one?!

Let’s start with the positives I guess. Despite a global pandemic, this wasn’t actually my worst year of hill bagging – it also wasn’t even my worst year for Wainwright bagging since I started making more of an effort to do them; that was back in 2016 where I did 13 hills in total, 11 of which were Wainwrights. Included in the 13 Wainwrights I managed to do this year were a couple of really good days on the hill, although for the most part I was picking off hills as singles or pairs. I’m getting to the point where I’ve already done a lot of the walks where you can pick off four or five in one go, and those that I have left to do are in the more obscure/ inaccessible parts of the Lakes, mostly in the far West. This is a direct consequence of me having tried to do a lot of my Lakes walking via public transport with the far West being pretty much impossible to do that way – the far East still has its areas where public transport is a pain but is generally more accessible thanks to things like bus links around Glenridding, Pooley Bridge and Penrith.

It would be impossible for me to carry on with this post without getting diverted into a rant and I’m not even going to try. As of the date of writing, and in spite of the fact the vaccine roll out seems – rather surprisingly – to be going pretty well, there is no suggestion of the easing off of lockdown measures any time soon. Schools in March, non-essential shops in April and pubs/ restaurants/ accommodation in May seems to be what everyone is saying despite there being no real evidence pubs are a vector for transmission in any real way. Whilst COVID is clearly a very nasty bug indeed, the repeated lockdowns, and particularly this one, are starting to get to people and this one in particular is hard; during the first one I spent some time discovering things closer to home, such as that we had a bluebell wood near us and some rather nice artificial lakes, all of which helped. But now everywhere is under a sea of mud, a lot of the paths are impassable and it’s too cold to sit drinking wine in the garden in the evening and feel like you have been somewhere. The days all blend into one; get up, have breakfast, do some work, have lunch, do some work, have dinner, drink some Malbec/ Shiraz/ Merlot/ Pinot Grigio/ gin and tonic (strike out drink which does not apply) go to sleep, and repeat… I’ve no idea when I’ll be able to get back into the hills and even the South Downs (which is actually quite nice) is probably too far to really be justifiable for a walk during the current restrictions. Let’s just hope that the end of all this is in sight.

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Pen y Ghent: a perfect winter day

  • Hills: Pen Y Ghent
  • Classification: Hewitt, Ydiott
  • When: Monday 7 December
  • Who: me and the mountaineering minion
  • Distance: about 6 miles
  • Time: 4 ½ hours
  • Weather: Glorious (again!)
  • Conditions underfoot: Snow and ice – very glad of the microspikes.
  • Post walk drink: Malbec
  • Post walk watering hole: The Dalesman, Sedbergh
  • Uses of the arse crampon: MIA again despite conditions

For those that are wondering, a Hewitt is an official designation for a Hill in England and Wales In excess of Two Thousand (feet). An Ydiott is a most definitely unofficial term for a Yorkshire Dales ‘Ill Over Two Thousand!

Since my last blog post crawled out of the ether on the last day of 2020, once again actually putting virtual pen to equally virtual paper seems to have taken a while. I had hoped that after the Christmas break a couple of things would happen, firstly that we would be starting a more positive year and secondly that work might be a little less manic. The second has shown no signs of happening, and in spite of the positive news about the vaccine, neither has the first. With not only virologists but politicians talking about the possibility of lockdowns extending into the summer, it is difficult to find very much to feel positive about. The whole situation is also a health time bomb for a whole host of reasons, not only the obvious one of the virus itself but also how many other serious health conditions might be getting missed as a result, from heart attacks to cancers and a whole lot of things in between. The effect on mental health isn’t great and the longer all of this goes on for the more difficult people, even people who have had no issues with their mental health previously, will find it – personally I am finding this one, in winter and with no end in sight, harder than before. Attitudes like that of one person who told me that worrying about mental health at the moment was ‘a luxury’ don’t help either. I am starting to wonder if pubs were all a dream… Anyway, at some point one of my blog posts won’t start with a rant!

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A windy Winder wander

  • Hills: Winder
  • Classification: One of the Howgill Fells, and a Tump
  • When: Sunday 6 December
  • Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
  • Distance: 4 miles
  • Time: 2 ½ hours. Too cold for any breaks
  • Weather: Overcast and windy; cloud base at about 600m
  • Bog factor: Relatively little
  • Snow factor: Where did it go? Nothing much below the cloud line.
  • Post walk drink:  Malbec (of course)
  • Post walk watering hole: The Dalesman, Sedbergh
  • Uses of the arse crampon: One, on an unexpected tricky bit
  • Mishaps: Mild insomnia, path erosion, slippery conditions underfoot

After my last blog post, it’s fair to say that things going from bad to worse in the wider world has had a negative effect on me getting off my metaphorical (and literal) arse and writing something. London having been bunged first into tier 3, about a week after I got back from my trip North, then a few days later into tier 4, had rather killed off any inspiration for writing blog posts. Whilst I understand the point of these restrictions, I can’t deny I am getting utterly fed up of them, and combined with an incredibly busy period at work in the run up to Christmas the whole thing has done nothing whatsoever for my stress levels. As I’ve said before the problem with lockdowns is that all they do is kick the can down the road and it seems that in the case of the latest ‘surging mutant virus’ as the papers have put it, it hasn’t even achieved that. At least at the time of writing there is some positive news about vaccines but that will still take time and the prospects of continuing to be unable to do so many things for another few months or so frankly isn’t great. I’d normally be using this time of year to plan adventures for the next 12 months but until we have some idea of when things will be easier there is just no point – for whatever reason it is more depressing to plan something then have to cancel it than not to plan it in the first place. Comments on certain internet forums along the lines of ‘get your virus ridden arse back to London’ don’t exactly help and nor do comments about sticking to my local hills as I don’t have any!

Anyway end rant and on with the walk! After my snowy, and somewhat slow, wander up Bonscale Pike on the Saturday, the weather forecast was not great – though promised a much better day on the Monday. I also felt pretty knackered. This was due in part probably to my long layoff from the hills and partly to a less than brilliant night’s sleep. I was also feeling slightly hung over which seemed a bit unfair as whilst I had indulged in a few glasses of Malbec the night before I had been pretty restrained – honest!  I also didn’t really feel like a long drive – so the obvious thing to do seemed to be to walk up one or two of the hills behind the town. I’ve never done any walking in the Howgills before and it seemed daft to visit a range of hills I’d not been to before and not do any walking in them!

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