Hills: Yoke, Ill Bell: Wainwrights 51 and 52
When: 19 March 2016
Who: self, Hilary & Willie
Distance & ascent: 9 ½ miles & 700m approx.
Time: Just over 5 hours, including breaks
Sadly absent: Stuart
Thankfully absent: Bog
Sadly present: Bad knees, bad back, a gear mishap
Finally! After various posts about hill walking politics, gear, and so on I have finally managed to get out on the hills. The occasion was a meet up for the scottishhills.com website, most of the meets for which unsurprisingly take place in Scotland but for the last couple of years one has been organised in the Lake District. It would be a pretty select group, limited to myself & Stuart, Hilary and Willie, a shame that there wasn’t more interest (and the Lake District needs people to go and visit it after all the floods) but that wouldn’t stop us having a good time and getting a good walk in.
We met up in the Ambleside Tavern on the Friday night after our respective journeys and discussed options for the following day, ultimately deciding on the Ill Bell ridge starting from Troutbeck and seeing where we ended up. An odd name for a hill this one, not least because as written it looks as though it should actually say ‘3 Bell’ with the 3 being in roman numerals. Given it later transpired there are 3 sizeable beacon cairns on the top of the thing I can’t help wondering if – given the roman road on High Street nearby – Ill is actually a typo for ‘3’. According to Wainwright it means ‘Bell shaped hill’ and according to the Cicerone guide book it means ‘Malevolent bell-shaped hill’ so who knows.
We decided on a reasonably civilised start of 10.15 so nobody had to get up too early and also to get a taxi to the start point as I had read parking was a bit limited in Troutbeck and none of us wanted to turn up at the start point and not be able to park. However, we were a man down before even starting as Stuart was not feeling very well and decided to bail out and potter about in Ambleside and maybe do a shorter walk later; I did however have my ‘Stuart’ minion toy with me so that was clipped to the rucksack and the 3 of us grabbed a taxi which dropped us off at the church in Troutbeck about 10.40. The inevitable faffing with gear ensued at which point a gear mishap became evident… my collapsible 3 part poles were playing up and not staying in the lock position. Given my dodgy back I am pretty reliant on my poles, and at the start point I had thought I had managed to sort them out but about 15 minutes in to the walk one of them collapsed for good. Fortunately, Willie had brought poles even though he doesn’t always use them so I was able to borrow a pole from him and stash the broken one on my rucksack. In case anyone was wondering, the offending item is ‘Robens’ folding poles from Cotswold Outdoor and this was only the 3rd time I had used them so I was not impressed to say the least.
Anyway, disaster seemingly averted we pressed on with the walk, which after an initial steep pull joins the Garburn pass track which rises at a pretty gentle angle up the side of the ridge past Sallows and Sour Howes.
Gentle today was going to be a good thing, as Hilary was having trouble with her knees and my back hasn’t been great recently, so our pace was likely to be steady. Not that that mattered, it was shaping up to be a lovely day, and we plodded steadily up the track with the views opening out all round. The path was quite stony though which can be quite hard on the feet. We made decent enough time anyway, though I was feeling the lay off, it having been 5 months since I had last been up a hill and 3 since I had done a decent walk of any description (Sandwood Bay on Boxing Day)
At the top of the pass, the track starts to drop down towards Kentmere and an obviously repaired path heads off in the direction of Yoke, rising mostly at a gentle angle with only one steepish pitched bit to negotiate. We were on the summit, which is a small cairn on top of a rocky outcrop, shortly after 12 and decided to pit stop for lunch and to launch into a flurry of puns about eggs as on being told by me of the hill’s name (which does sound like Yolk) Hilary asked where was the white, and observe that the hill didn’t involve any scrambling, and since it wasn’t too warm we weren’t being boiled or fried.. aptly enough my sandwiches were egg mayo!
We had about a 15 minute break then pressed on towards Ill Bell, which looked a much steeper climb with the three cairns very prominent on the top. It wasn’t too bad a climb as it turned out, and there were some cracking views down towards Kentmere reservoir as we pressed along the ridge.
The true summit of Ill Bell is the most northerly cairn, though it isn’t immediately apparent so we visited both the higher ones (the third cairn is obviously not the top). We took another extended break to take photos (including the inevitable summit selfie) and have some more food and generally potter about.
Decision time: did we press on along the ridge or backtrack? Given grumbling knees and back, and in my case the long layoff, plus the fact that there wasn’t an obvious bail out until much further along the ridge meant we decided to call it a day and head back the way we had come, I was more than happy with what we had done and the views were great. We dropped back down off Ill Bell and then picked up a bypass which contoured round Yoke, then dropping down the pass (about half way down which my other pole decided to give up the ghost) back to the church where we rang for a taxi. Back at the church shortly before 4, then a cab 10 minutes later to meet up with Stuart back in Ambleside, where the inevitable post walk drinks were waiting.
Overall an excellent walk, and some cracking views for the first hills of the year. Let’s see what the rest of 2016 brings.. though Sunday brought a trip to Gaynors for replacement poles!