Hills: Sergeant Man, High Raise, Thunacar Knott, Pavey Ark, Harrison Stickle, Pike of Stickle, Loft Crag
Wainwrights (hills listed in AW’s Lakeland Fells guides):Ditto
Hewitts (hills in England and Wales over 2000ft): High Raise, Harrison Stickle, Pike of Stickle. BOGOF ticking – great!
Date: Friday 27 May 2011
Weather: Overcast, but cloud above the tops
Who: self, Stuart, & 2 mates
This walk was undertaken after a marathon couple of weekends up in Scotland when we had done 10 munros and 1 Sub 2k in the space of the two bank holiday weekends. My feet had just about recovered from some serious new boot induced blisters, though that had taken some time! The subsequent few weekends had been spent doing necessary stuff in the garden and generally just trying to catch up with ourselves a bit. Probably fair to say that after 3 weekends at home it was time to get back out into the hills not least because I had done no exercise in those 3 weeks apart from one very half hearted swim. My back had been playing up, which it does from time to time to remind me that I do actually have metal plating in it and really ought not to overdo things too much, not that I take any notice given the pace I live life at (and find it impossible to sit around not doing very much as I have a ridiculously low boredom threshold)
It was time for another visit to the Lake District for another instalment of Wainwright Walks the Malbec Way . Present were our usual companions for our Lakes jaunts, our two mates, as well as rather more rioja than the TV version, a heck of a lot of Stella Artois and a yurt . For those that don’t know a yurt is a mongolian tent – basically a permanent roundhouse tent which has been erected on the National Trust campsite in Great Langdale. Thought this would be a laugh and a bit of a change from youth hostels. Absent, as ever, were the embroidered combat trousers, and for once absent were any particular hiccups in terms of transport (though my car’s puncture warning light came on, inexplicably given that I obviously hadn’t got a puncture. Obviously it just wanted to put the wind up me. Grrrr! Present, however, was a thoroughly unappealing weather forecast with Friday looking like the only decent day, Saturday looking dubious but maybe OK and Sunday looking truly horrible.
Fortunately we had decided to max up our walking time by staying in a Travelodge on Thursday night just short of the Lakes which allowed for an early start on the hill on Friday morning. After some discussion we decided that rather than go for Striding Edge (which had been a possibility) we would hit the Langdale Pikes which gave us the chance to string together 7 (!) Wainwrights in one go. Hoorah for hill lists with no drop and reascent criteria! Also gave us 3 extra ticks for no extra effort as 3 of them were classified as Hewitts. Hoorah for BOGOFs as well! 🙂 All this meant that even if we got no more walking in over the rest of the weekend we would have achieved a good haul. Plus, this is a walk that has been on the to do list for a fair while as I had got up to Stickle Tarn about 8 years ago (in my no map no compass following obvious path days) collapsed in a heap, and thought ‘somewhere to come back to at some point’.
Having left the Travelodge at 8.30 (and following the most disgusting service station full English breakfast it has ever been my misfortune to eat – definitely NOT recommended) we were parked up at the car park at the New Dungeon Ghyll at 9.30 approximately and after the usual faffing about were on the way at 9.45. £6.50 for car parking seems a tad steep though (to say the least! 😯 ) Surprisingly few people in the car park given the weather was decent enough but I guess this is the advantage of walking on a weekday. I’d remembered from my walk here years ago that there were good waterfalls up Stickle Ghyll and so was the case. Indeed they were good enough that after the heavens opened over the next couple of days I walked back up the path some of the way to take more photos as the volume of water on Sunday afternoon was quite something.
What I hadn’t remembered (obviously the brain cells storing the information had long since expired) was a couple of (straightforward) rock steps and a less straightforward stream crossing which would probably be a piece of cake in dry conditions but which I managed to make a bit of a horlicks of and needed to be coaxed across. Lord knows what it would have been like two days later – probably a case of wading it. Was still a bit nervous of stream crossings after falling in a plunge pool in Kintail after completely cocking up a flying leap on stepping stones.. unless they are obviously straightforward or I think stuff it and just get my feet wet. After the stream crossing it was a short sharp pull up to Stickle Tarn and to the impressive crags of Pavey Ark towering overhead.
Our route was to cut up the side of Pavey Ark and pick off our first hill of the round of 7, Sergeant Man. The path was a bit patchy but the navigation was simple and the views were excellent as we climbed. Hit the top about 2 hours after leaving the car to good views and rather a lot of wind on the top!
Didn’t hang about but headed off towards the outlier High Raise, the highest summit on this round. Virtually no drop and re-ascent to this one and a straightforward cut across slightly boggy ground. Excellent views from the top, and a handy summit shelter in which to have lunch and get some Compeed on (yes, my feet were kicking up. God I hate blisters!)
After lunch it was a pleasant toddle back in the direction of the Pikes proper, rolling over the summit of Thunacar Knott which Wainwright is a bit rude about saying there is little of interest. In which case why did he bother writing a chapter about it? To be fair the views were good particularly looking over to Bowfell and Crinkle Crags and onwards to the Pikes proper. Didn’t bother taking a break until we got to the top of Pavey Ark – no drop and re-ascent at all really to this one and it did feel a bit of a cheat but didn’t really care frankly as the views were excellent.
A bit of a break there, then pushed on for Harrison Stickle – this was a good climb, looks like an impressive rocky hill but no difficulties other than the odd rock step and some cracking views from the top, although there are about 4 cairns on the top which always drives me nuts as I have to go and stand by all of them to convince myself I have actually reached the top…
Pike of Stickle looked as though there was a bit of drop and re-ascent to reach it, and this did prove to be the case particularly as by this stage I was starting to get a bit tired. Pike of Stickle is described by Wainwright as a scramble so ditched the poles and scrabbled our way up. Nothing difficult going up (though hands are required) but we took a slightly different line off which did have me getting a bit stuck at one point (lesson to self – take a smaller rucksack as it got in the way on one bit I was trying to get down on my bum). Nice views from the top which Wainwright describes as a ‘pleasant green sward’ whatever one of those is (by the look of it, some grass with a few boulders and a cairn on it…
Once down from Pike of Stickle it was a simple short walk on to Loft Crag, the last hill of the day with again relatively little drop and re-ascent, but pleasant views. A nice feeling to be on the 7th classified hill of the day even if a couple of them do feel a bit of a cheat. If it’s good enough for A. Wainwright to count them as separate hills who am I to argue? 🙂
The descent seemed to take forever – it was quite steep to start off with and by this point my knees and back started complaining 😦 – the back had been grumpy all week and I’d also been very busy at work and not resting enough, so in hindsight a 7 hill round may not have been all that sensible an idea (the back has continued to grumble at me all weekend). Shortly after 5pm though we were settled at the New Dungeon Ghyll enjoying a nice post walk pint before the short drive to the Langdale campsite where our yurt, a huge pot of chilli and several bottles of rioja were well and truly on the agenda 8) . Despite the physical niggles an excellent day on the hills.
As for the rest of the weekend? Well, the weather gods were definitely grumpy! Weather was rotten on Saturday which ended up consisting of gear shopping and chilling out (probably no bad thing as I was knackered). Sunday’s forecast was for torrential rain and gale force wind which turned out to be accurate in the morning … only for it to clear up in the afternoon too late to start up anything. The campsite was turning into a scene of mud and rather battered tents 😯 and we were definitely glad of being in a yurt with a wood burning stove, cooking facilities and proper beds (well futons) rather than being in a tent, though going to the loo/ shower still involved legging it across the campsite while trying not to get too damp! The Lakes remains a good choice for us as we can reach it in the car over a weekend (just about) and although it’s not Scotland it still offers good views and quality post walk drinks – though I’ll need to save up next time for the car parks! 😯