Wainwright Walks 16: Red faces on Red Screes

Hills: Red Screes, Middle Dodd, Little Hart Crag
Wainwrights: ditto
When: 23 May 2015
Who: self, Stuart and the mountaineering minion
Also present: Glorious sunshine – as a result, sunburn..
Post walk drink: wine flights/ beer flights (see below)
Post walk watering hole: The Salutation Hotel, followed by the Ambleside Inn

Another weekend, another trip to the Lake District… with an unexpectedly good forecast! Unfortunately, the forecast was combined with the threat of industrial action on the railways, which on the day before – and indeed the day of – our trip was causing a certain amount of tension. We were again travelling up on public transport (I don’t have a car in London at the moment), and whilst there would be no issues getting to the Lakes, it looked as though getting back would be a serious problem. Virgin Trains had announced that if the strike went ahead they would not be running any trains on the Monday, and probably wouldn’t run anything until late on Wednesday. Grrr! This was not ideal – to say the least – given that I had a couple of major deadlines coming up. Ultimately we took the decision to book a one way car hire back from the Lakes, which was surprisingly reasonably priced. Of course, they then cancelled the strike.. but at least this way we had a bit of flexibility. The trip up on the train on Thursday night was actually remarkably smooth, and we were at the Salutation Hotel at around 10pm on Thursday night – and found we had been upgraded to a balcony room! A good excuse for a drink on the balcony as we watched it go dark.

Unfortunately, Friday was pretty miserable – the promise of a nice afternoon didn’t materialise in reality and we binned our original idea of some of the lower fells around Grasmere in favour of chilling out in the hot tub at the Salutation and getting some much needed rest. The forecast for Saturday, however, was glorious – although the suggestion from MWIS that it might be 5 degrees c at 750m was slightly concerning. We laid plans to do a circuit of Scandale, starting from Ambleside up Red Screes and then taking it from there, hopefully extending on to the Eastern arm of the Fairfield Horseshoe and picking off Low Pike which I had inexplicably managed to miss when I did the full Fairfield Horseshoe the previous year. There were plenty of other options, though, depending on time, conditions and level of knackeredness.

For no particularly good reason neither of us slept well – no idea why as there was nothing to be nervous about regarding the route. Had breakfast and eventually got going up the minor road leading from Ambleside up to the Kirkstone Pass. I have to say I didn’t enjoy this bit at all – the road is quite busy and not ideal to be walking on, and it was a relief to turn off on the clear path which angles up onto the ridge to Red Screes. The sky was blue, the birds were singing… what could possibly go wrong? Continue reading

Wainwright Walks 15: I’ll Raise you some odd socks on White Side..

Hills: White Side, Raise, Stybarrow Dodd, Watson’s Dodd
Wainwrights: ditto
When: 15 May 2015
Who: just me and the mountaineering minion (again)
Mid walk drink: back to non-alcoholic (capri-sun) on grounds of good sense
Post walk drink: Malbec
Post walk watering hole: The Golden Lion, Keswick

I commented on my last post that often finding the start point of the walk can be the trickiest bit and today was to be a case of same old same old. Given I was starting the walk from Thirlspot, a popular start point for the ascent of Helvellyn, I was expecting the start to be rather more obvious than it was, and having wandered through a farm and confirmed that I was actually looking at something purporting to be an aqueduct which was on my map and was a point of reference, there still seemed to be loads of paths.. one of the issues I find when navigating in the Lake District is that there can sometimes be too many paths and it is ridiculously easy to take the wrong one. Of course I should simply have realised that after the smooth and highly enjoyable short poddle up Latrigg the previous evening it was time for business as usual i.e. for things to be a tad less smooth!

The morning hadn’t got off to the greatest of starts. Having had a nice relaxed evening in Keswick I slept appallingly. Whilst I often don’t sleep well when my husband isn’t there this was worse than usual and I probably got about 4 hours sleep if I was lucky. I woke up to glorious sunshine at 5am but without a car there was no chance to capitalise on this and get an early start. At about 6.30 I gave up trying to get back to sleep and instead sorted out my gear before going for a shower. I came out of the shower to find my hydration bladder had emptied itself all over my socks! Now there is nothing worse than starting a walk with wet feet and I was delighted I had another pair in the case… which of course turned out to be two purple socks, but from two different pairs of purple socks one of which was slightly thicker than the other. I did not want to wait until the shops in Keswick opened as I had planned to get the 9.26 bus that heads to Grasmere, so decided reluctantly to wear the odd socks as a better option than the wet socks or the slightly whiffy (if dry) ones from the day before. Nevertheless I was starting to feel a certain amount of foreboding about the walk. Continue reading

Wainwright Walks 14: Late start and liquid refreshment on Latrigg

Hills: Latrigg
Wainwrights: ditto
When: 14 May 2015
Who: just me (plus the mountaineering minion)
Why: glorious evening
Mid walk drink: Shiraz
Post walk drink: Malbec (yay!)

Well, it had to happen sooner or later! A walk where relatively little went wrong… and a lot went right. Mind you, how much could really go wrong with a walk as short and straightforward as Latrigg?

The premise for this one was a little different from the usual. I was travelling up to attend the Keswick Mountain Festival and was planning a reasonably long walk on the Friday taking in some of the Helvellyn range and/or the Dodds (report to follow). However, rather unexpectedly, the forecast for the Thursday was lovely. I was getting a train in the afternoon, and hatched a plan to pop up a small hill in the evening if the weather held. After a surprisingly smooth journey via Virgin Trains and a taxi from Penrith, I was in my hotel by 5.30, and in my walking gear and out of the door by 6pm – certainly the latest time I’ve ever started a walk! I had a relatively minimal amount of water with me, plus, given the absence of my husband (who wasn’t able to come up until Friday night due to work) my little minion toy clipped to my rucksack. I also had a small plastic bottle of Shiraz as I’d hatched a plan to actually have a glass of wine at the top of the hill rather than wait until I got back down. Note ‘a’ glass – this is certainly not a recommendation of alcohol as ideal hill walking refreshment! Continue reading

Buachaille Etive Mor: the ultimate day on the hill?

Hills: Buachaille Etive Mor: Stob Dearg, Stob na Broige
Date: 25 July 2009
Weather: Glorious!
Who: self, Stuart, Liam, stunning views, slabs, scree.. and a late special guest appearance from bog
Distance: 8 ½ miles (I think)
Time: 8 ½ hours including breaks – but worth taking time over

What makes the ultimate hill walk? I think it’s a case of different strokes for different folks. For us, glorious views are definitely a must. Maybe some challenge, too, but not enough to trigger a flight or fight response. Brown pants moments aren’t my bag, one of the reasons I will probably never finish the Munros. But the sort of day that makes you remember why you took up this hobby? This day was damn near perfect, and even now, 6 years on, it is my favourite day on the hills.

For me, Buachaille Etive Mor was probably the iconic Scottish mountain. Stuart and I first went to Scotland in 2006 and decided to stay in Glencoe. On driving across Rannoch Moor and seeing the huge triangular outline of the Buachaille, Stuart declared ‘That’s a Munro, that is. I’d like to climb one of those some day’. Being two years past my back operation my response was something along the lines of don’t be daft. I didn’t realise of course, that there was an easy (ish) way up and you didn’t have to go straight up the front!! Continue reading

Small but perfectly formed – Marilyns and Malbec!

Hills: various Marilyns
When: all over the place
Why: usually a plan B. Also, why not?

Anyone who participates in Scottish hill walking will know that it is always a good idea to have a plan B. Indeed, we have often had a range of plans ranging from plan A all the way through to plan Z… though plan Z usually involves finding a pub with a nice fire in it and a good selection of beer/ wine/ single malts (strike out drink which does not apply) rather than going anywhere near a hill. I’m not a fan of walking in poor weather, and although I do it from time to time, I don’t really enjoy it.

However, if the weather is not right for the higher hills, or one (or both) of us is feeling ropey, then sometimes there is a lower hill that will provide a day out and a decent leg stretch, or alternatively a quick blast. Stuart and I were staying in Edinburgh for the week in the run up to Easter, and had a programme of museums, bars and restaurants we wanted to bag. Needless to say though a walk of some sort would be squeezed in and for a ‘quick blast’ the Marilyns are often a good bet.

Continue reading