A walk that went swimmingly (and a small hill thrown in)

  • Hills: Irton Pike
  • Classification: Outlying Wainwright (only my 2nd!)
  • Swim spots: Tongue Pot and Kail Pot, River Esk: Wast Water: Gill Force (near Boot)
  • When: Friday 17 and Saturday 18 September
  • Who: Me and the mountaineering minion (at least for the walking bit – he doesn’t swim)
  • Distance: No idea
  • Weather: Bit mixed, but lovely for the 2nd swim.
  • Post walk drink: Pale ale, followed by Merlot (again)
  • Post walk watering hole: The Strands Inn, Wasdale (again)
  • MAMBA factor: Surprisingly high given where I was
  • Uses of the arse crampon: Came in pretty useful for getting in and out of the water.
  • Mishaps: None to speak of, though the straight up the front route up Irton Pike was a bit brutal. Almost a car mishap.

Apologies in advance to my usual readers: this blog post does not contain much in the way of hill walking. It does contain a bit of hill walking, and definitely contains plenty of photos of the Lake District, but the hill walking was a peripheral part of this walk – well walks really as it was spread over 2 days – rather than the prime focus.

My usual readers are probably also wondering where the now inevitable opening rant is! At the time of actually doing the walk / swim, there didn’t really seem to be a lot to rant about – for once on the Friday work managed not to intrude on my supposed day off, and I was able to just enjoy the day without stressing about being pulled into conference calls whilst either on or only just off the hill. That said, at the time of writing I am still reading news posts suggesting impending doom; increasing case rates of the Omicron variant which may yet lead to us all being locked up again in the not too distant future, despite that (at the moment anyway) it seems to be significantly milder than previous variants and not to be translating into increasing numbers of people actually dying. I suppose we can only wait and see but the whole thing seems to be never ending and staring into a Covid- hit 2022 when I haven’t really mentally processed 2020, never mind 2021, yet is frankly just depressing. A scientist friend thinks it might be another five years in a worst case scenario before we are out the other side of this which is even more depressing. We have got to find a way to live alongside this and try and get back to something approaching normality before it is gone for good.

Anyway, back to the walking / swimming! Where this all started dates back to summer 2020 and Stuart giving me a voucher for Swim the Lakes which runs guided wild swims in and around Ambleside. I’d wanted to try wild swimming for ages – I used to swim in the sea in Wales when on holiday as a kid / teenager and always enjoyed it but had never really swum in rivers or lakes. Suffice it to say that I loved the swim in Windermere and have now found a managed open water swimming venue in a lake about 2 miles from my house which I go to regularly. It’s fair to say that I now have even more kit to store as what started off with a swimming costume last Autumn then led to the acquisition of increasing amounts of neoprene in order to enable me to carry on swimming in the winter (lockdowns permitting). Stuart also started coming along and we both now swim at the lake including a rather bracing dip on Christmas Day. In some ways, I’m probably enjoying the swimming more than hill walking at the moment – as I’ve said in a previous blog, as I’ve come closer to finishing the Wainwrights I’ve started to put increasing amounts of pressure on myself which given I am prone to getting stressed anyway is not particularly helpful. That stress doesn’t really exist for the swimming, and it’s actually a brilliant way to de-stress, as well as a fabulous cure for a mild hangover (it isn’t sensible to go cold water swimming with a stinker of a hangover though, as you can lose the ability to regulate your temperature). 

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Wainwright walks 83: Up and down in Wasdale

  • Hills: Middle Fell, Seatallan, Buckbarrow
  • Classification: Wainwrights (155 to 157)
  • When: Thursday 16 September
  • Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
  • Distance: About 7 miles at a guess.
  • Weather: Glorious sunshine for most of it, cloud blowing in and out on Seatallan
  • Post walk drink: Pale ale, followed by Merlot (again)
  • Post walk watering hole: The Strands Inn, Wasdale (again)
  • MAMBA factor: Pretty high. Wasdale can be heaving on a good day but these are some of the lesser frequented hills in the area.
  • Uses of the arse crampon: Still MIA.
  • Mishaps: Does work count? (again..)

I said in my last blog post that one of these days one of my blog posts would not start with a rant. At some point, this might even be true – however once again this is not that post. At least the rant is a bit shorter this time than it was for my last blog post which consisted of more ranting than description of the actual walk! The ratio is at least not quite so skewed as the last time. It is however beginning to occur to me that the rant to walk ratio being skewed seems to be taking the place of either (a) the mishap to walk ratio being skewed or (b) the  time/ distance to get to the hill versus the actual time on the hill being completely skewed as it has been in the past. At least on this walk nothing really went that wrong with no mishaps to speak of on the walk itself, unless the absolute bugger of a steep ascent of Seatallan counts as one!

As regards the rant – once again work managed to get in the way of my supposed time off, although this time the impact was more limited than it had been in the past. This time it consisted of getting a message just as I was getting off the hill asking if there was any way I could be on a conference call over Zoom in an hour’s time. Unfortunately this was something that couldn’t wait till I got back to London so I negotiated an extra 15 minutes to at least allow me time to get back to the hill, get out of hill walking gear and make myself at least vaguely presentable but it was certainly not ideal! Had this not happened I would probably have thought about going for an open water swim, which I did the following day instead. Even going to somewhere with very little mobile signal doesn’t seem to work these days for getting away from work as whilst there is no phone signal in Nether Wasdale there is WiFi in the pub…

After my lovely walk in the Far Eastern Fells the previous day, the forecast was once again excellent and it would have been a good day to do a big walk. However the mix of lockdown related lack of fitness and work induced tiredness meant that an epic was still not an option, plus given parking issues in Wasdale on a previous visit I did not need the stress of worrying about whether I would be able to find a parking space! Going for Middle Fell gave me the option to extend to two other hills if I felt up to it, I knew there was a reasonable amount of parking and the views looked as though they would be great. Decision made in the bar the night before about what walk to do, I had some excellent pub grub at the Inn (portions are huge) and turned in for an early night.  

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