Wainwright walks 33: Trains, tubes, taxis, buses and Grisedale Pike

Hills: Grisedale Pike, Hopegill Head
Wainwrights: : 72 and 73
Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
When: : Sunday 25 June
Time spent getting to hill: : 6 hours 15 minutes
Time spent actually on hill: : 5 hours 30 minutes
Weather: : Clear but overcast; windy at times
Bog Factor: : Basically non-existent
Uses of the Arse crampon: : 1 (accidental)
Hangover factor: : Surprisingly low given I was at a beer festival the day before
Pre walk drink: : Various real ales (the day before – for the avoidance of doubt!)
Post walk drink: : Keswick Brewery best bitter, Cabernet Sauvignon (no not in the same glass!)
Post walk watering hole: : The Golden Lion, followed by the Dog & Gun

Those of you that read my blog on a regular or even semi regular basis will by now have spotted something of a theme – or even a couple of themes. Firstly that my walking tends to be a bit haphazard and somewhat mishap prone – and that the mishaps seem to be a mix of unfortunate (car breakdowns, delayed trains, cancelled flights and so forth) and self inflicted (see my post on Glenridding Dodd for a classic example).

This walk had all the potential to be mishap prone. However at some point – simply by the law of averages – there had to be a walk where despite all the possibility for mishaps and indeed probability nothing went that wrong. This may actually be that walk!

The potential for mishaps was definitely there. For starters, actually getting a walk in on the day of travel required a feat of logistics. Firstly getting an early enough train from Euston to get to Penrith in time to either get a bus to Keswick, or a taxi pick up, then get to Keswick in time to get a bus somewhere to start walking at a sensible time. Secondly I was attending a beer festival near my house on the Saturday which clearly had the potential to mess up the logistics not least by failing to get up in time to get the early train at which point the whole thing would collapse. Even given the long summer evenings there would be a cut off point at which starting a walk of any length would not be sensible. I decided to at least mitigate the possibility of mishap by packing all my gear the morning beforehand (i.e. well before the beer festival to avoid any post real ale packing mishaps) and laid out my clothes and filled my hydration bladder. This was organisation on the grand scale for me as something almost always gets forgotten.

The beer festival was good fun and finished at 7pm at which point we (me, Stuart and a few friends) headed out for a curry… and I stopped drinking beer and switched to diet coke, not sure anyone could quite believe it. I also had a reasonably early night as I hadn’t slept well for the last few nights for various reasons. Unfortunately although I got to sleep fine I was awake by 4 and ended up tossing and turning. Finally I gave up at 6.30 and got up, stuffed myself into the shower on autopilot, walking boots on, bags grabbed, goodbye to Stuart and out of the door. I was lucky with train and tube connections and actually made it to Euston in time to catch the 8.45 train, the first one out of London on the Sunday morning and an hour earlier than the one I thought I would be on.

I called a local Keswick cab firm for a pickup… and the rest of the logistics worked fairly seamlessly. Taxi pickup at 12.40 from Penrith, at Keswick YHA (where I had a private room booked) at 1, dropped my gear, out the door, 5 minutes jog to the bus station and was on a bus to Braithwaite at 1.20. Off the bus 10 minutes later, a bit of faffing with poles etc and I was on my way. Today’s target hill was Grisedale Pike, with the option to extend over a couple of other hills if I felt up to it (I was a bit tired) and the weather held.

There is a short walk up the road to start with, to a small car park which presumably gets very full as there were a lot of cars squeezed onto the sides of the road. A path then heads off steeply uphill via a few steps, contours the hillside for a bit and then heads up again over the minor ridge of Kinn. The views were terrific even at this stage and there was relatively little wind; the forecast had been for strong winds which would ease off during the hour. The legs had felt a bit heavy to start with but the level bit helped ease them in nicely and I made decent time up the next bit of ascent. The wind definitely picked up as I headed up towards Sleet How, the last level bit before the final ascent, but it wasn’t too bad, certainly not in blow you over territory which was just as well given the steepness of the final ascent, which loomed up slightly intimidatingly in front of me.

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In some photographs of Grisedale Pike, the last steep pull has looked a bit intimidating and in some it has looked fine. The reality was that it was pretty loose and there were a couple of rock steps which, while probably not technically scrambling, did require hands on for balance at some points and a bit of care determining the best line up. Fortunately the wind had dropped and I was pretty glad I was going up this bit and not coming down it – had I been coming down it the arse crampon would definitely have been pressed into service and if it would have been of any use whatsoever going up hill I would definitely have considered it! I popped out at the top of the slope and hit the summit about 2 ¼ hours after getting off the bus which I was pretty pleased with given the lack of sleep and the long journey.

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The views from the top were excellent. However the wind, having abated during the last bit of ascent, picked up again so it was no place to hang about. After a few photos I decided to press on as far as Hopegill Head – the path on this bit was pretty good, not exposed at all and the views were cracking. I rolled over the unnamed minor top (which Mountain Coward calls Grisedale Pikelet) pretty quickly with a stop to take some pictures back. The path up Hopegill Head was fine with great views over the crags though far enough from the edge not to feel too exposed. I was on the summit of Hopegill Head about half an hour after leaving Grisedale Pike and given the wind had dropped I had an extended break to take photos, stuff in my lunch and generally relax and take in the excellent views.

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I probably stayed put for about 20 minutes before getting going again, conscious that time was marching on, and dropped down over Sand Hill towards Coledale Hause. I had had half a notion to carry on to Eel Crag, but on getting to Coledale Hause the momentum I think I’d been running on seemed to desert me and I felt very tired. Getting up and down Eel Crag and back to Braithwaite and still getting back to Keswick in time for food was probably just about doable but I felt I would be running the risk of not leaving anything in the tank for the following day and with a great forecast that just didn’t seem sensible.

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I dropped down from Coledale Hause – the path is a bit loose to start with and I had an unintentional use of the arse crampon i.e. sliding onto my bum at one point but it was mostly fine, and an engineered section of zigzags breaks it up a bit. I am not fast in descent at the best of times and given the tiredness had hit I was slower than usual. By this point the wind had pretty much completely dropped and it was a lovely warm evening as I made my way slowly down towards the Force Crag mine. Once on the track I made good time back towards the car park and got the hammer down in the hope of catching the last bus – which annoyingly I missed by about 10 minutes but was way too tired to try and jog it.

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I got a taxi pickup easily enough and was back in Keswick, quick change and in the Golden Lion for a post walk drink shortly after 8 and then some food in a Thai restaurant (rather good) followed by a quick trip to the Dog and Gun before hitting the pit early in anticipation of another good day the following day. An excellent walk although I am not sure that the travel time to hill ratio was exactly ideal. An occupational hazard of trying to hill walk from London!

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