Hills: Binsey, Little Mell Fell, Blea Rigg (Wainwrights 66-68)
Who: Me and the mountaineering minion for the first two; plus Hils, Beverly and Kets for the final one
When: 16th through 18th March 2017
Weather: Rain; more rain; yet more rain; wind (except Blea Rigg. Wetter but less windy.)
Conditions underfoot: Bog; path turning into river; you get the picture!
iPhones nearly wrecked: 2 (mine and Kets: both thankfully now dried out and working)
Waterproof trousers that weren’t: mine (Trespass)
Waterproof trousers that lived up to the conditions: Berghaus Deluge (as worn by Kets and Hils and probably now on the must buy list).
Mishap factor: Unless you count the weather, fairly low
Post walk drink: Merlot
Those of you that read my blog posts on a regular basis will know that something usually goes wrong. Either it is the weather; a transport mishap of some description; or a miscellaneous mishap which may or may not be anything to do with Malbec/ Merlot/ single malt whisky (strike out drink which does not apply). This time, relatively little went wrong… except the weather. The forecast bore a distinct resemblance to an impending apocalypse and/ or Noah’s Flood mark two. The occasion was a meet up in the Lake District (Grasmere) however (and fortunately) the Lakes has a good range of little hills which even on a poor day enable getting out and doing something. Plans A through to about H were formulated with plan I being to stay in the pub and/or use the swimming pool at the hotel…
Initially everything went remarkably to plan. I managed to leave work on time on the Wednesday afternoon and get my train to Glasgow in plenty of time.. for various reasons too complicated to go into my car had been left at my in laws after a week’s trip to Edinburgh, so I had arranged to stay one night at my in laws then drive down to the Lakes on the Thursday. I rang my in laws from Glasgow Central to find they had forgotten I was coming. Thankfully they were still able to put me up so a couple of companionable drinks were had together with a relatively early night. Given the forecast I was in no great rush to get up early and MWIS had said that the weather would probably be better in the afternoon.
The drive down to the Lakes was for the most part in reasonable weather but the closer I got to the district the more ominous the weather got. It became clear a quick up and down was what was called for so I came off the M6 at Carlisle and drove down through northern Cumbria in the general direction of Cockermouth and Keswick. Getting a bit closer I could see that Binsey looked to be clear and nowhere else was, so decision made I pulled off the A road down a decidedly mucky single track road pulling up at the start point shortly before 1.30. I wasn’t the only one to have the same idea as a couple pulled up about 30 seconds later and were geared up and off in impressive time. I am a faff merchant so was a bit later setting off up the hill but at the time the hill was clear and it wasn’t raining!
There isn’t much to say about the ascent of Binsey; it is a quick up and down with a clear path the whole way. The wind was pretty strong though and the clag came in when I was about half way up, plus it started raining. It was a case of head down and get the job done and at the summit itself the wind was strong enough that staggering to the trig and then the summit shelter was actually quite difficult. I understand the views from here are great… allegedly. I was back at the car about 45 minutes after starting out as the rain became horizontal on the descent.. of course when there is poor weather the default reaction for us is to find a distillery so a visit to the Lakes Distillery was in order where some gin was purchased (I don’t drink whisky that isn’t single malt – apologies for whisky snobbery).
On the Friday the forecast was, if anything, worse – the only chink of hope looked to be in the east with an early start so with that in mind I had an early breakfast and headed off Eastwards. 8.45 saw me parked up at The Hause at the bottom of the standard ascent route up Little Mell Fell. I opened the car door which instantly got blown back on my leg so spent the next 15 minutes dithering about whether to bother getting out of the car. Ultimately I thought since I was there I may just as well get on with it and ploughed off up the hill – a bit of a steep slog really but it had the benefit of being short, which was just as well as I was getting a free dermabrasion skin treatment from the wind and rain (which wasn’t that heavy but was pretty much horizontal due to the wind). On the top about 20 minutes after leaving the car but at least this time I had views from the top! The views won’t win any prizes but at least there were some! It was pretty much Baltic at the trig though so I didn’t hang about. The descent needed a little bit of care on the steepest bit as the ground was pretty wet but again I was back at the car about 45 minutes after leaving it. I debated going for Great Mell Fell as well but ultimately decided – being completely honest – that I could not be bothered and decided to visit Aira Force instead, which it had to be said was pretty impressive (although £5 for 2 hours parking seems to me to be a bit steep). The others arrived in the evening and we shared a companionable post/ pre walk drinks.
Saturday: I woke up about 8 and it was not raining! What was more the Met Office forecast was suggesting a dry morning.. though MWIS was more pessimistic. With a start time of 10.30, we had decided to walk up Blea Rigg via Easdale Tarn on the grounds the waterfalls in Sour Milk Ghyll would be impressive… and they definitely were. The path however resembled a stream in parts, and by the time we had been walking for about 20 minutes the rain had come on in earnest. I loathe wearing my waterproof trousers as they are a cheapo Trespass pair with zero breathability and I have a tendency to boil when wearing them but it was obvious this was not a day to worry about that over much! Two of the others were wearing Berghaus Deluge waterproofs and apparently stayed dry throughout… not me.
The path is brilliant all the way up to Easdale Tarn and it had to be said the scenery was brilliant too. However my iPhone started malfunctioning at the tarn so I had to put it away for the rest of the day, wrapped in some tissues (thanks Beverly, this probably meant the phone survived and I did not end up with a £700 bill for a new phone from Virgin Mobile so was much appreciated. However it did mean the brilliant views did not get recorded for posterity. We broke off from the path round the tarn and squelched up a rather steep path (which in places was more of a stream) up to the col between Great Castle How and Blea Rigg. This was not a day for hanging about and we ploughed on to the top of Blea Rigg reaching it around 1. Kets’ phone then died too so no summit pics which was a shame as the views were really good despite the rain – definitely one to come back to on a better day. We stuffed in a quick lunch and headed back down the way we had come, all thoughts of extending the walk long abandoned.
I must admit I’d not been thrilled at the idea of going down the way we came up as it had been quite steep and slippy in parts which is not my favourite territory. However I took my time and it was basically fine although seriously wet in places – as was the main path once we got back to it! Fortunately there hadn’t been too much of an increase in the volume of water from the morning so the stream crossings were fine and where there was more water about I basically decided to give up and plough straight through it. We were back in Grasmere at 3 which given conditions I didn’t feel was too bad.. plenty of time to dry out, have a swim (not sure if I was wetter on the walk or in the pool) and then meet for some more drinks and some seriously good food (the sticky toffee pudding in the Inn at Grasmere was amazing). A good walk and a good day out, despite the conditions.
The following morning the others had arranged to meet to do Helm Crag. On surfacing to heavy rain I decided 4 days of getting wet was a bit much; I’d done it before and didn’t really fancy a long drive down the M6 in soaking wet gear so I bid the others farewell, it had been great to catch up and we’d had an excellent time despite the weather. If I am to walk in wet conditions though I’m going to have to invest in better waterproof trousers as mine were clearly not up to the job! The Berghaus Deluge trousers summed up the conditions rather well…