Wainwright Walks 37: windy Whinlatter and the wrong type of mint cake

Hills:Whinlatter
Wainwright: No.79
When: Tuesday 10th October
Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
Weather: Windy and overcast – a bit of light rain at times
Conditions underfoot: Forest track, then boggy paths
Hangover factor: Didn’t have one – again!
Post walk drink: Malbec followed by Kendal Mint Cake liqueur
Post walk watering hole: The Golden Rule, Ambleside
Mishaps: None to speak of. I know. Had to happen sometime!

After my initial walk of our week in Ambleside – a somewhat boggy traverse of Troutbeck Tongue accompanied by a trouser malfunction due to losing weight and my walking trousers therefore being a bit on the big side –the forecast for Monday wasn’t too good and we ended up having various post walk drinks on Sunday night. On surfacing from bed on Monday morning the weather was actually rather nice however I didn’t get up until pretty late and whilst the weather looked walkable I was really tired and a long lie in seemed a good idea. I think after a pretty busy time recently I was running on empty a bit and just needed a bit of a rest so Monday turned into a pottering about day near Hawkshead doing Beatrix Potter stuff. The decision not to walk was vindicated by it starting to rain in the afternoon and Tuesday’s forecast was okay so no harm having a day off followed by a chilled out evening cooking and relaxing in the cottage

Got up at a reasonable hour on the Tuesday with a clear head – the weather however whilst dry was overcast so not exactly playing ball. Having spent a couple of days in Ambleside we decided to head North – I would drop Stuart in Keswick and go and do a short walk somewhere then we would catch up with each other in the afternoon. I’d had a really nice short walk at Whinlatter in January on a glorious winter day when I had done Lord’s Seat and Broom Fell, so I decided to head off there and pick off Whinlatter itself which I reckoned would only take me a couple of hours; the other obvious possibility was Barf but I am keeping that vaguely in mind as my last Wainwright in the event I ever do decide to do the lot, on the grounds of the silly name factor if nothing else! Continue reading

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Wainwright Walks 36: Yet more bog and the wrong trousers (again!)

Hills:Troutbeck Tongue
Wainwright: No.78
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. Continue reading

Wainwright Walks 35: Steel-ing myself in the Central Fells

Hills: Steel Fell
Wainwrights: No.77
Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
When: 23 September
Weather: Low cloud but stayed mostly dry until nearly at the top… then rain and wind. Ugh!
Conditions underfoot: Wet grass and wet rock
Bog Factor: Not that much actual bog, but see above
Uses of the Ar*e Crampon: 2 (due to slippy wet rock)
Post walk watering hole: The Unicorn Inn, Ambleside
Post walk drink: Unicorn Ale (seemed appropriate)
Mishaps: Read on….

18.30, Friday 22nd September and once again we were on the Virgin Train service to Glasgow Central, heading due North. It sometimes feels as though I spend half my life on this train as I usually catch this whenever I am going off to do some walking. Only the getting off point really seems to vary as depending on where my ultimate destination is it will either be Oxenholme (2 ½ hours from Euston) Penrith (3 hours) or Glasgow Central (4 ½). It’s also the first train I can get which doesn’t involve having to leave the office rather earlier than would be ideal. On a Friday night it’s always packed as well, which isn’t necessarily a transport malfunction in itself unless I’ve forgotten to reserve a seat (which has happened before necessitating an Usain Bolt type sprint to the unreserved carriages the minute the train was announced). What the heck, it’s still less tiring than driving, and the public transport in the Lakes means that having the use of a car isn’t strictly necessary… well up to a point which I was about to find out. Continue reading

They have hills in the South East too, sort of.. Part 2

Hills: Leith Hill
Designation: Marilyn, County Top (Surrey)
Who: Just me
When: Sunday 27th August
Time in car to time on hill ratio: about 2:1
Time walking vs faffing ratio: about 1:1
Post walk drink: A rather nice shiraz
Post walk watering hole: My living room (does that count?!)
Why: see below…

They have hills in the South of England too. Well allegedly. My first attempt to see if this was actually true involved the undistinguished Botley Hill (highest point within the M25) on the way home from a trip to one of our offices near Gatwick. That was also a Marilyn and demonstrated pretty well what Marilyn baggers have to put up with and the lows of that pursuit compared with the highs (say Ben Nevis or Scafell Pike) or the OMG (the St Kilda sea stacks). I can’t help wondering if as many potential Marilyn baggers have been deterred by the boredom factor of climbing stuff such as that as much as the technicalities of the stuff at the other end of the British Isles.

So what was I doing on Leith Hill, a Marilyn and the highest point of Surrey (and therefore a county top tick and a BOGOF)? Well, for the first time ever I had actually climbed a classified hill of some sort in every month of this year so far, starting with 3 new Wainwrights in glorious winter conditions in the first week of January. I had then somehow managed to get a hill of some sort in every subsequent month with my best being 6 Wainwrights in June. This had involved a number of mad dashes of various sorts and unfeasible amounts of time on either public transport or in the car/ stuck on the M25, M6, etc as well as having to be slightly creative in July when an Outlying Wainwright, Orrest Head, was squashed in on the day of a beer festival in a fairly ropey weather weekend. Continue reading

Orrest-ing views from the original Wainwright

Hills: Orrest Head
Outlying Wainwright: 1
Who: Just me
When: Saturday 22 July
Bog factor: None whatsoever
Pre walk drink: various real ales
Post walk drink: Prosecco
Pre walk watering hole: Hawkshead Brewery
Post walk watering hole: The Lamplighter, Windermere

Warning: I have always said that this is not a how to hill walk guide, for various reasons. My somewhat anarchic style of walking, combined with post walk drinks and so forth is certainly not text book and cannot in any way be taken as guidance. This walk more than most as the walk vs alcoholic beverage factor was higher than most. Certainly the percentage of time spent in pub to time spent on hill was possibly the highest ever although there are a couple of hills e.g. Little Mell Fell or Glenridding Dodd that have run it a close second. Despite this the mishap factor was at an all time low.

We had booked ourselves a weekend in Ambleside in order primarily to attend the Hawkshead beer festival. The Hawkshead Brewery is one of Stuart’s favourites although to be honest not one of mine. With that aim in mind we had booked ourselves into budget accommodation in Ambleside as nothing was actually available in Staveley itself (where the brewery is) by the time we booked. There is a regular bus service running between the two villages which we would be able to make use of. We arrived fairly late into Ambleside on the Friday night, had a couple of glasses of wine and went to bed – the loose plan was to do some sort of short walk in the morning then head for the beer festival in the afternoon, a plan which had worked pretty well when attending Keswick beer festival the previous month. Continue reading

Brokeback mountains: hill walking with a spinal injury

 
This month I appeared in Trail magazine in an article about hill walking as a life changer or following a life changing event. It was a brief snippet with one of my usual terrible summit selfies to accompany it (on the summit of Barrow, with insomnia but thankfully not hungover).

As those of you that have read some of my older posts, or the ‘about me’ page on this blog, I took up hill walking in 2008, climbing my first Munro with Stuart 4 years to the day after an operation to insert 4 titanium screws and 2 plates in my lower back to stabilise my spine following a riding accident. I was extremely lucky that things hadn’t been worse – the doctors said I had been ‘a thumbnail away from a wheelchair’. As it was I needed 3 months in a back brace, physiotherapy and 6 months off work to convalesce.

Spinal injury or not, anyone who has ever had back problems – whatever the cause – will know that bad backs are tricky things. Personally I never really know how my back is going to behave on any given day. There are days when I can go for a long hill walk with plenty of ascent and cope absolutely fine – and be up for more of the same the day after. There are days when I go for a long hill walk and know coming off the hill there is no chance of same the day after. And there are days when I struggle with the walk to the bus stop and find myself moving at the pace of an arthritic tortoise. It doesn’t – thankfully – affect my day to day life but there are days when pain killers (by which I mean Paracetamol, not Malbec!) are very much required. Continue reading

Wainwright walks 34: Sail-ing in Coledale with insomnia (again)

Hills: Causey Pike, Scar Crags, Sail
Wainwrights: 74-76
Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
When: Monday 26 June
Time spent getting to hill: About 15 minutes (bliss!)
Time spent actually on hill: About 6 hours, including breaks
Weather: Quite warm; sunshine and clouds; not much wind
Bog Factor: None to speak of
One that got away: Crag Hill/ Eel Crag
Uses of the Arse crampon: 2
Hangover factor: Didn’t have one. Behaved myself for once!
Post walk drink: Tirril Golden Ale, Jennings Copper Hop, then Malbec
Post walk watering holes: Coledale Inn (Braithwaite) Royal Oak (Braithwaite) Royal Oak (Keswick).

After my somewhat insane day on the 25th June, where I had left the house in Bromley just after 7am in order to get the first train up to Penrith, and eventually ended up doing Grisedale Pike and Hopegill Head with a 1.45 start, it is fair to say my evening was relatively restrained. To be honest I was a bit knackered so a few drinks were had in a couple of Keswick watering holes along with a rather good Thai green curry in the Thai restaurant on the High Street. The forecast was excellent, so the pre walk drink consumption was pretty restrained in anticipation of another decent walk.

The only issue sometimes with a really good forecast is what to go for! As I was using public transport, I was also a bit restricted by what buses were available. There are loads of buses up Borrowdale during the summer and also the Honister Rambler which goes round a loop towards Buttermere. A few days out the forecast had been for a good morning then rain in the afternoon so the plan had that come to pass had been to get the first bus to Honister and do Dale Head, then drop back down over High Spy and pick up the bus back at Borrowdale. However with a better forecast it seemed a good idea to plump for something that would allow for the possibility of adding a few more to the tally. My tentative decision before hitting the pit was to head back to Braithwaite and tackle some of the hills I hadn’t done on the Western arm of the horseshoe. Continue reading