Hills: Raven Crag
Who: Just me
When: Monday 2nd January 2017
Bog factor: zero
Dodgy path factor: medium
Bizarre summit feature factor: high
January through to March is usually my off season for walking. A combination of short daylight hours (given that I am not a morning person) together with a tendency for the weather to be rotten has meant it hasn’t usually been worth taking a punt on a trip. There has been the odd day in February or the end of January where a winter walk has come together, but they have been few and far between, and certainly early January hasn’t traditionally been a good source of days on the hill.
That was about to change! A week off in the New Year had been booked and we were visiting our old haunt of the Salutation Hotel in Ambleside. Given we would be there for a few nights we decided to drive up and break the journey part way. The morning of the 2nd saw us emerging from the Macdonald Tickled Trout hotel near Preston (pretty good) to glorious sunshine. Given our reputation as bad weather magnets this was not something we had necessarily expected, despite the weather forecast (which as everyone knows can be wrong, and indeed, often is).
Unfortunately, Stuart had been suffering with a bad cold and cough so after a confab we decided that I would drop him in Ambleside, meet him later and go off and do a short walk by myself. One thing the Lake District does very well is small hills with good views and there are still quite a few which are still on the to do list. We unloaded the car at the hotel and I was parked up near the Thirlmere Dam and ready to walk at 11.45.
Those of you that read this blog on a quasi regular basis will know that if something does not go wrong with the weather then something else will go wrong instead. Ok a bad cold is strike one for something going wrong but other mishaps have included mechanical breakdowns, failures to park, driving into a ditch, missing trains/ buses and various other issues. I turned up at the car park at the Thirlmere Dam to find it closed for forestry operations (also with no forestry operation in sight). Fortunately my car, being a Mini, is easy to squeeze into a small space and I was able to park on the verge without getting in anyone’s way. I walked about 100 yards from the car park to the start of the path to find another notice warning me to stick to the path… Grrr! I had planned on using a track to ease the angle of ascent but this had a ruddy great fence across it so was clearly not an option.
The path up through the woods is pretty steep. The lower part was slippy and wet – after crossing the track for the first time it improved a bit. It then crossed the track again at which point things got tricky – the area had clearly been felled recently and the path was a bit of a mess in parts. Plus at various points covered in ice! Although I only needed them for 5 minutes I was very relieved to have brought my microspikes with me although it required slithering onto a grassy knoll, then trying not to slither off it while manouvering them on, just before a bit where the path was quite eroded. I did feel a bit silly as there was no snow about but one of the things microspikes are really good for is icy paths and better to be safe than sorry.
Once at the top of this bit the scrappy eroded path morphed into a brand new constructed path complete with steps and sections of boardwalk. This bit was a doddle but it was bizarre, to say the least, to pop out at the summit to a viewing platform! Never mind, the views over Thirlmere to the Helvellyn range were stunning and I stayed there for quite a while taking them in. I also bumped in to another couple who confirmed the track I had intended to take in descent was actually open as after the track closure on the way up I hadn’t been sure.
Once I had taken plenty of photos, it was time to descend. There is a track which drops off the back of the hill into Shoulthwaite Gill, then bends around before joining back up with the minor road to the dam. This was a doddle of a descent, and would have been an easy although longer way up, but I did find it a bit dull – there wasn’t a lot to see as you are in forestry basically the whole way, although right at the bottom there were some nice views of the frost still lingering in the meadow.
I was back at the car at 2 to realise I had forgotten to take my mountain minion (hillwalking mascot) with me! In the faff to get ready I had forgotten to clip him to my rucksack. I hastily rectified this but if anyone wants to know what an annoyed cuddly toy minion looks like, well here you go! I was back in Ambleside at 2.30 and a quick change saw me meeting Stuart in the Golden Rule where the inevitable post walk drinks were waiting.
A great little walk to start the year and the earliest I’ve been on a hill in the year for a long time. Let’s see what else 2017 brings!