Wainwright walks 22: Insomnia in Coledale

Hills:Barrow, Outerside
Wainwrights: 56 and 57
When: Friday 20 May 2016
Who: just me and the mountaineering minion
Weather: clear summits but windy
Bog factor: zero
Time: 3 hours 10 minutes

It was Thursday 19th May, the day of our planned escape from London for our annual trip to Keswick Mountaineering Festival. Having been dire a few days out the weather forecast was improving and Friday actually promised to be a nice day. What could possibly go wrong?

Those of you that read this blog regularly will know that if something does not go wrong with the weather, something else will probably go wrong instead and this trip would be no different. We had originally hoped to take a half day on Thursday and travel up in a leisurely fashion but as the week progressed and workload got busier and busier it became clear this would not be possible. We did both manage to leave work a bit early and got a train at 5, getting us to Penrith shortly after 8 and to Keswick (courtesy of a pre-booked cab) by 9pm.

We collapsed into bed anticipating what the next day might bring… and slept appallingly. We also woke up to iffy weather and some sharp showers, although I was trusting that the revised forecast would be correct and that the low cloud base would lift. We both felt dire and given this was clearly not down to a hangover decided that caffeine was the best option – so headed to the Java coffee shop (recommended) for a couple of enormous and no doubt highly calorific mochas while waiting for the weather to clear up.


It eventually did around 11 and we had a quick confab as to what to do. I had perked up a bit, though still felt tired, but Stuart still didn’t feel great so I decided to head off for a short walk that would allow me to pick off a couple of lower fells and get back at a reasonable time. Given we hadn’t got the car with us and I had just missed a bus I jumped in a taxi to Braithwaite and shortly before 11.30 was started up the lane that leads to Braithwaite Lodge and then straight up the ridge to Barrow.


Great views started to open out all round and the path was well graded, grassy and generally a joy to walk on. My speed was actually pretty good considering how knackered I felt but I always know I am looking below par when someone tells me I am ‘nearly there’ shortly below the summit. It probably doesn’t help that having (albeit for good reasons, e.g. work) neglected the gym recently the fitness is seriously lacking and I was breathing very heavily as I steadily plodded my way up the ridge. It has a curious defile part way along near the old mine workings where there is a short drop before the gradual pull upwards to the summit of Barrow which I reached at 12.15 feeling like death warmed up. I might have made decent time but I was really feeling the lay off from the hills and general lack of fitness. The views, however, were excellent so a break to snap away photos (and the inevitable summit selfie) was needed. It was a good excuse anyway!


After about 10 minutes I headed off towards Barrow Door and then picked up a path which contours round the next minor bump and then gradually heads for the higher hills of the Coledale round, with Causey Pike (which we always refer to as ‘the Stegosaurus’ very prominent. I picked up a small path (which I would imagine would be a bogfest after rain but that day was bone dry) which eventually joined up with a better path heading up the nose of Outerside. This was steep in parts and quite loose but wasn’t too bad and deposited me on the summit at about 1, again to some good views all round.


It was decision time. I had set myself a turnaround time of 2pm in order to get back to Keswick at a reasonable time and chill out with Stuart at the festival in the evening. Plus although the fresh air had perked me up I still felt tired and knew I didn’t have it in me to push up 300m or possibly slightly more of ascent to get to Sail before 2pm, even though the path looked to be excellent the whole way. I vaguely considered going up Causey Pike, as a good path branched off towards it from near where I dropped down on the other side of Outerside, but again thought I would be pushed for time. The sensible decision was to leave them all for another day, hopefully one where I can do a bigger circuit, though I might break the full Coledale round into two walks as Grisedale Pike looks as though it would be far easier to go up than come down (I hate loose scree in descent, and that hill clearly had it in abundance!).

Decision made I headed back towards Barrow Door and then took the excellent path down to Braithwaite, breaking for a snack part way down. Back in the village at 14.35 and annoyingly missed the bus by about 2 minutes – or thought I had! I ended up getting a drink in the Royal Oak and calling a taxi, only to see the (late) bus that I hadn’t actually missed as it happened, tear past me while I sat in the beer garden. Oh well! The taxi arrived soon enough and I was back in Keswick at about 3.30 for a post walk drink in the Golden Lion. Overall, a very nice short walk and a good option for a late start or a day when you aren’t feeling 100% (whether due to hangover or something else).


The rest of the weekend was mostly spent getting soaked at Keswick Mountain Festival – torrential rainon Friday night and Saturday morning which put paid to doing any plans of a longer walk on Saturday, though we did go up Latrigg (which I had done before but Stuart hadn’t) on Saturday afternoon after the weather cleared up.


The festival itself seemed rather scaled down from previous years, with fewer activities and fewer stalls than before, which seems a shame and I hope is a ‘one off’ – there seemed to be fewer people than last year too. I don’t know whether stalls (and festival goers) are down because of the flooding and attendant problems such as the closure of the main road over Dunmail Raise but it just didn’t seem to have the same ‘oomph’ as before. I guess the weather for some of the weekend probably didn’t help, either.

And the transport debacle? We left early on Sunday as there was rail replacement work on the trains i.e. we needed to get a bus. Which promptly broke down somewhere near Kendal. On eventually getting a train near Lancaster, it got delayed on the way back to London due to someone wandering on the track. Ultimately the journey took at least 2 hours longer than it should have and we were knackered by the time we got home. Roll on the invention of the teleporter!


2 thoughts on “Wainwright walks 22: Insomnia in Coledale

  1. Barrow is a cracking fell and a great round from Braithwaite. Not done Outerside yet or the coledale round for that matter, seeing as I’m staying in Braithwaite in August, that lot will be on the itinerary!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I always struggle up Barrow for some reason – but you missed a nice fell out contouring around Stile End – it’s lovely and nothing to add in! You might have been best picking Causey off too as it’s very easy from there and you can take shortcuts to start the Coledale and miss out any of the hills you want to reach Sail. Grisedale Pike isn’t bad to descend – slightly loose but I never mind it and I hate steep, loose descents too…

    Liked by 1 person

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