When: Sunday 8th October
Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
Weather: Generally pretty good
Conditions underfoot: Good track then megabog
Hangover factor: Didn’t have one
Post walk drink: Shandy, then Loweswater Gold
Post walk watering hole: The Lily Bar, Ambleside
Mishaps: Read on…
I struggled with the title for this one. Given the name of the hill a number of alternatives came to mind but all of them were slightly rude and although this blog – given it sometimes seems to focus as much on alcohol as walking – is not exactly PG rated there are limits. Yes honestly there are!
I am sure I have said before that the faffing with transportation that can often accompany my walking trips is a mishap in itself. Or certainly brings with it the potential for mishaps and this one was to be no different. The occasion was a week staying in a lovely 16th century cottage in Ambleside which we have stayed in before and whilst I normally use the train for shorter visits it seemed silly not to take the car with us this time which gives a bit more flexibility in terms of walk options – not to mention in terms of what gear gets taken. The flipside to this is that getting away at a sensible time on a Friday night involves getting up shortly after 5am to drive the car round to north London, dump it in Stanmore tube station car park, get the tube into the office and then drive up from there after work, hoping to leave at a sensible time. The first part of this should have worked fairly well having got up at what I always think of as ‘silly o’clock’ but I hit heavy traffic on the M25 and was slightly late into work, with early departure already starting to seem unlikely. I am never great after not enough sleep either and although I probably got about 5 hours this is not really enough for me any more.
I eventually managed to leave work about 5pm and got to Stanmore shortly before 6. Stuart, unfortunately, had got stuck at work due to something unavoidable needing to be dealt with and did not make it to Stanmore until 7. We had booked a hotel near Preston to spend the night and I was hopeful we would make it by about 10.30… until we hit an M6 closure somewhere near Crewe. A horrendous tail back to get off the motorway followed by an equally horrendous diversion ensued which added at least an hour and a half to the journey to travel about 10 miles. I was completely running on empty and by the time we finally got to the hotel it was 1am. I was too wired from the journey (and the caffeine needed to keep me going for it) to crash out so we went to the bar for a couple of drinks eventually hitting the pit at 2.30am and although we did not need to make an early start it still meant another night of not really getting enough sleep.
The plan had been to do Troutbeck Tongue on the Saturday en route to Ambleside as we couldn’t get into the cottage until 4pm. In theory this should have worked. However we woke up to low cloud and drizzle and although I was not hungover at all – having only had 2 glasses of Malbec – I was utterly exhausted. As we pulled off the motorway conditions were no better. I still felt completely knackered and the prospect of sticking on the boots and walking in rain – even for only a few hours – did not appeal. We decided to leave it and spend the time productively i.e. stocking up on beer for the week at the Hawkshead Brewery and then getting in our food for the week. We met friends in Ambleside for a few drinks in the evening but for once I was reasonably restrained and managed to get to bed at a sensible hour (honest!).
Sunday morning dawned bright and clear. However the forecast was somewhat marginal with MWIS predicting low cloud. It made sense to go for something small given the forecast and I was conscious I was still knackered from the journey and probably not up to too much. Stuart fancied a lie in so elected to stay put while I headed off and tried to make the best of the weather – I was also conscious of Troutbeck not exactly having a lot of parking. Even though I got to the parking space near the church at 9.30 I got the last space and had nearly had a mishap en route as I had gone the wrong way and had to execute a million point turn on a narrow road, scraping a mudguard slightly in the process, but no damage done. For some reason – probably tiredness – I took longer to gear up than usual and it was about 9.45 before I eventually set off.
The walk is quite a long one for one fairly small hill and starts with a tedious yomp along the busy main road until a footpath can be picked up. The footpath – with a handy advert for the Mortal Man Inn – drops down and picks up a tarmacked private road, Ing Lane, which runs along the valley. I am not a massive fan of walking along metalled roads but it does make for fast progress and I made very good time along the road to the foot of the hill. I then had to cut across a somewhat boggy field which has a pretty pointless stile in it as there is no fence for the stile to actually go over.
Once up through the field, the route joins a track which bends up and round to the east of Troutbeck Tongue. This is only followed for a fairly short distance and after a gate a path hangs a left and heads fairly vertically up the hillside. I must admit my heart sank a bit on seeing the state of the path – vertical bog/ mud being my least favourite walking surface. Although the path was clear, it was very wet, very muddy, steep in parts and very slippery indeed. In that sort of situation there is nothing much for it but to grit teeth and get on with it but I had already decided I would take the alternative, longer, route off the back of the hill for the return.
The path rounds a few outcrops and a couple of (inevitable) false summits and it did get better towards the top. The compensation for the conditions underfoot were the expanding views back towards Windermere and over to the High Street range (which I still have a few to do of and would have been a contender for the day had I been feeling less knackered). I eventually popped out on the summit shortly after 11am to some excellent views – it was quite clear that MWIS had got it spectacularly wrong as far from there being low cloud pretty much everywhere was clear. I took a quick break at the summit, as well as the usual pictures and terrible summit selfie, but didn’t hang about as time was marching on and I wanted to get back to the cottage at a decent time. Plus I had underestimated the time of the walk and told Stuart I’d be back for 1 and it was becoming clear that was pushing it.
The alternative route down drops off the back of the hill and picks up the track further along the valley. I guess I could have gone back down the steep route but it was so slippery I really didn’t fancy it. The longer route was – albeit boggy – very gentle and I was able to pick up a good pace. Another track heads off the ridge about ¾ of the way down which helped and once back on the main track I should have – in theory – been able to yomp it.
Of course there was another mishap in prospect! I have recently lost a bit of weight and as I picked up the pace it became clear my walking trousers were now a bit big for me. I seemed to spend half the return part of the walk hitching them up in order not to have a wardrobe malfunction and having had the ascent entirely to myself there were now a few more people about. There was really not a lot – in the absence of a belt or anything that could sub for one e.g. bungee cord – I could do apart from press on and keep hitching up! Although this did slow me up a bit I still made decent time back to the car getting back there about 12.50. Given I’d parked a bit further away from the hill than ideal and therefore walked about 7 miles I didn’t think this was too bad! I was back at the cottage not long after 1 and met Stuart in the Lily Bar for a couple of post walk drinks before having an amazing sushi meal at Wabi Sabi (recommended) later that evening.
All in all not a classic by any means but a nice little half day option with some lovely views. It would probably be a good winter option if done by the long route up the back as I think the steep route up the front could be pretty treacherous if iced up. As for the next step… a trip to Gaynor Sports for some new trousers!