Wainwright walks 29: 3 days of rain and the wrong trousers

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… Continue reading

Wainwright Walks 28: Dodd-le of a walk, heck of a journey

Hills: Dodd (Skiddaw)
Wainwrights: ditto (no.65)
When: Friday 24 February
who: Me and the mountaineering minion
Time on hill: 2 hours
Time in car that morning: 3 hours
Time in car the previous evening: 7 hours
Time spent queueing to get through Dartford Tunnel: 2 hours
Time spent after hill driving to Scotland: 3 hours
Total time in car to time on hill ratio: 6 to 1 (argh!)
Bog factor: zero
Other cock-ups: one (details below)

Those of you who read what I post will be familiar with the concept that what I post will usually involve one of the following: a transport related cock-up; a booze related cock-up; a miscellaneous cock-up of some description; and a hill walk of some description. Well this walk had more or less the lot although booze was this time not much in evidence.

The scenario: we were heading to Edinburgh for a week to chill out and see friends and family. Stuart also had all important tickets to Murrayfield to see Scotland play Wales. I had a days holiday I needed to use up so a plan was hatched.. I would drive up early, pit stop on the M6 somewhere and do a hill in the Lakes. Stuart scored a cheap flight on the EasyJet and we would rendezvous at his parents at some point after the walk/ flight.

This should have worked. In the absence of Storm Doris it probably would have. However bad weather has a habit of bringing London to its knees. I left work a bit early and was in the car at 5.. high hopes of making it up the motorway a decent way and pit stopping near Lancaster. I’d left the Travelodge booking fluid to see where I ended up.

7pm and I’m just about through the Dartford Tunnel and one of the worst tail backs I can remember. 8.30 and I’m stopping at a service station on the M1 about 20 miles short of the M6 trying to find somewhere to stay the night having abandoned all hope of getting to Lancaster. It doesn’t help that I forget my Days Inn password and therefore can’t make a booking for one of their hotels and all the M6 Travelodges seem to be full. Fortunately I manage to locate a Travelodge about 5 miles off the motorway near Stoke that has a room available and eventually get going again having wasted half an hour. More bloody awful traffic ensues and by the time I leave the M6 I’m knackered and get slightly lost. I eventually get to the hotel at about 11.45, phone Stuart, drink a glass of wine and pass out… Continue reading

Wainwright by Hunter Davies: a sort of book review

This is a bit of a different post for me. The walking – after getting off to a great start in the Lakes in January – has been on a bit of a hiatus – combo of no planned trips and a run of conferences at work. Various journeys did however allow me to catch up on my reading – specifically Hunter Davies’ biography of Wainwright. So this is – sort of – a book review.

It was rather daft I’d not read this before. I’ve read a lot of books about climbing hills or mountains but they’ve tended to be mountaineering epics where someone doesn’t come back with a full complement of digits. I have a feeling my dad suggested I read it when I first started hillwalking but for whatever reason I didn’t and when my parents had a clear out on moving from a large house into a small flat I ended up with their entire Wainwright collection (basically the pictorial stuff from the TV series) but the biography had mysteriously vanished. I finally acquired a copy at the tail end of my New Year trip to Ambleside. Continue reading

Wainwright Walks 27: Lording it up (but not Barfing) at Whinlatter

Hills: Lord’s Seat, Broom Fell
Wainwrights: ditto (63 and 64)
When: Wednesday 4 January 2017
Who: me and the mountaineering minion
Conditions underfoot: great paths followed by mostly frozen bog
Bog factor: Broom Fell would be a quagmire outside of winter. Most of the bog was frozen but there were still a fair few glutinous patches.
Post walk watering hole: The Ambleside Tavern
Post walk drink: Merlot

After having got the year off to a good, if cold, start on Raven Crag, the 3rd of January was a bt grey and I settled for a pottering about day. The forecast for the 4th was excellent again however so we made a plan for uncharted territory namely the hills around the Whinlatter Pass. These had the benefit of a high start, some good paths and reputedly great views of the Skiddaw range and seemed ideal for a short winter day.

Of course if the weather does not go wrong something else will and Stuart’s cough was getting no better. We decided that I would drop him in Keswick and I would go and do the hills anyway, or at least a couple of them, and pick him up in the Dog and Gun later on. We had a good run up the A591 and I dropped him at Keswick Museum (which had an exhibition on Wainwright) shortly after 11. The drive to Whinlatter took me a bit longer than I thought it would though but after the usual faffing I was away shortly after 11.30 on a series of excellently constructed way marked paths and tracks. I had remembered to attach the mountaineering minion to the rucksack this time! Continue reading

Wainwright Walks 26: Raven about the views from Raven Crag!

Hills: Raven Crag
Wainwrights: ditto
Who: Just me
When: Monday 2nd January 2017
Weather: glorious!
Bog factor: zero
Dodgy path factor: medium
Bizarre summit feature factor: high

January through to March is usually my off season for walking. A combination of short daylight hours (given that I am not a morning person) together with a tendency for the weather to be rotten has meant it hasn’t usually been worth taking a punt on a trip. There has been the odd day in February or the end of January where a winter walk has come together, but they have been few and far between, and certainly early January hasn’t traditionally been a good source of days on the hill.

That was about to change! A week off in the New Year had been booked and we were visiting our old haunt of the Salutation Hotel in Ambleside. Given we would be there for a few nights we decided to drive up and break the journey part way. The morning of the 2nd saw us emerging from the Macdonald Tickled Trout hotel near Preston (pretty good) to glorious sunshine. Given our reputation as bad weather magnets this was not something we had necessarily expected, despite the weather forecast (which as everyone knows can be wrong, and indeed, often is).

Continue reading

2016: a retrospective

Writing a 2016 retrospective would be a pretty easy task if it was about stuff other than hill walking. By any accounts it’s been an eventful year what with Brexit, Trump and the sometimes untimely deaths of many celebrities. This blog isn’t really the place to go into any of this but it has seemed at times to be one thing after another, and the future – a world with President Trump and without Princess Leia – seems a more uncertain place than it has been for some time.

However this is (at least in theory) a hill walking blog so that’s what I’m going to try and focus on. Continue reading

A bimble up a windy Ben Vrackie

Hills: Ben Vrackie
Corbetts: same
Who: Just me and the mountaineering minion
When: end of August 2016
Weather: windy but clear with scattered showers
Bog factor: pretty much non-existent
Post walk watering hole: The Moulin Inn, then the Coach House Hotel in Killin
Post walk drink: Coke (as driving) then Shiraz

This was the walk that got forgotten about! The nights are drawing in, winter is coming (as characters on Game of Thrones would say) and I’m squarely in the middle of my usual ‘off season’ from walking; I had hoped that it might be possible to get another walk in this side of Christmas, but it isn’t going to happen. I did however realise that I’d never quite got round to writing up an account of this walk which was done towards the end of our holiday in Scotland.

Ben Vrackie was a hill I’d meant to do for ages but for whatever reason never quite got around to. For starters it isn’t a Munro and my Scottish walking has very much been focused on those. Secondly I never seemed to quite be in the right place at the right time with the right sort of weather. Thirdly it’s a very popular hill and the parking is pretty limited which always makes me nervous as I hate planning a walk and it then being scuppered by not being able to park, as I’m not an early riser – about the earliest start I can remember recently was 8.30 to do Scafell Pike which was itself a side effect of insomnia rather than actually being deliberate! Continue reading