Wainwright Walks 44: Knott much sleep before hitting the High Street

 Hills: The Knott, High Street, Rampsgill Head, Kidsty Pike, High Raise
Classification: Wainwrights – no.89 to 93
When: Thursday 19 April
Weather: Absolutely glorious! Windy at times.
Time: 6 ½ hours, including breaks
Conditions underfoot: Generally good paths, the odd bit of bog at times but not too bad
Who: me and the mountaineering minion
Post walk drink: Wainwright (again)
Post walk watering hole: The Patterdale Hotel (again)
Uses of the arse crampon: None (yet again. WTF!)
Mishaps: Unless you count insomnia, this walk was basically mishap free (again, WTF?!)

8.15am on Thursday 19th April and I’m just parking up the car at a relatively deserted Hartsop car park. The sky is blue, the birds are singing and the hills are bathed in sunshine. Hang on a minute – 8.15?! Whilst this may be considered a late starting time by many hill walkers, starts this early have not usually featured in Wainwright Walks – the Malbec way!

There were various factors underpinning this uncharacteristically early start. The previous evening’s beer/ Malbec intake had been decidedly restrained as having seen the glorious weather forecast it was obvious a good day’s walking was in prospect. Another factor was worry about the car parking situation as the last thing I wanted was to have a potentially excellent walking day derailed by a failure to park, which has happened before in the past (albeit not as early as 8.15). The major factor however was that I didn’t sleep very well, waking up about 5.30 – after tossing and turning for a bit I gave up in favour of an early shower, getting my gear sorted out and getting going. The plan, such as it was, was to head up to High Street, either via the Knott or via Gray Crag and Thornthwaite Crag. Both routes started from the same point so I could make my mind up at the time. On leaving the car the sky was virtually cloudless, but the wind was quite strong, which was potentially something to factor in to route choice. Continue reading

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Wainwright walks 43: Bogs, crags and mishaps in Patterdale

Hills: Birks, Arnison Crag
Classification: Wainwrights (no. 87 and 88)
When: Wednesday 18 April
Weather: Cloudy with light rain to start with, then cleared up
Time: 4 hours including breaks
Conditions underfoot: Some decent paths, but a lot of bog in parts
Who: me and the mountaineering minion, plus two other walkers for most of it
Post walk drink: Wainwright
Post walk watering hole: The Patterdale Hotel
Uses of the arse crampon: None (again!)
Mishaps: minor navigational (mine); major navigational (someone else’s); car trouble before going (does that count?); traffic; gear (see below)

12.30 on Tuesday 18th April, and I’m just getting into the car in Bromley in order to head in the direction of Patterdale. Yes the car. I do most of my Lakes walking these days by public transport, and don’t generally take the car unless I am going for a whole week, not least because I find the long drive a lot more tiring than getting a train up from Euston. But this time I was going for 4 nights and staying somewhere that the bus connections were not as good as I am used to when based in Ambleside or Keswick, so it seemed sensible to use the car to give me flexibility for my walk options. My car was due for its MOT, so was booked in… what could possibly go wrong? Continue reading

Gone to pot on Stone(d)? Arthur – or when to turn back, v2

Disclaimer: this blog post contains no illegal substances whatsoever. Beer and Malbec are as far as I know still totally legal and long may that continue!

Having had an absolutely excellent walk in Borrowdale the previous day, which had yielded me only one new Wainwright but two really nice repeats, I was looking forward to more of the same the following day. The weather forecast had been a bit better for Friday than Thursday before I’d actually left London, and a lot of the snow was clearing away.. It was probably inevitable that normal service would be resumed and something would not go to plan! The weather forecast had gone to pot and was for heavy rain and strong winds, eventually clearing up too late to be of any use. Continue reading

Wainwright Walks 42: Borrowdale, buses and bogs

Hills: High Seat, Bleaberry Fell, Walla Crag
Classification: Wainwrights (High Seat – no.86; the others were repeats)
When: Thursday 22 March
Weather: Cloudy to start off with but above the summits, later sunny. Very windy at times
Time: 4 ½ hours including breaks
Conditions underfoot: Some bog – sadly not frozen; good paths for a fair bit of it
Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
Post walk drink: Jennings Copper Hop
Post walk watering hole: The Bank Tavern, Keswick
Uses of the arse crampon: None. WTF?!
Mishaps: A sort of transport malfunction thanks to Stagecoach website; phone getting stolen in London earlier in the week (does that count?)
Unnecessary gear carried: Ice axe and crampons

It was fair to say that the week I did this walk did not start off well. To be fair nor had the previous week. I had been flat out at work for several weeks with various things going on and was probably busier than I had been in ages; this was combined with feeling generally run down, tired and below par. Annoyingly it did not seem to matter how much sleep I actually got, I was tired anyway and my get up and go seemed to have got up and gone. I had to get into work on the 19th March stupidly early for work and was walking from the tube station to my office in the City. I was checking something on my phone when I felt a jolt; I then realised that a moped rider had snatched the phone out of my hand and ridden off with it. Cue several phone calls to the police, mobile phone company and insurance company to report the theft and try and sort out a new phone – which was easier said than done as the phone company refused to deliver it to my office and I had back to back meetings till close of play Tuesday, making working at home impossible. Fortunately Stuart was able to arrange to so I was able to get a new phone fairly quickly. Nonetheless it was a rotten start to the week, I felt quite shaken up and not exactly chuffed with some of the unfortunate realities of living and working in London.

Fortunately, I had a pre booked break to the Lakes arranged; I was due to travel up on Wednesday 21st and Stuart was to join me on the 23rd for a beer festival at Hawkshead Brewery. I was flat out again at work until about lunchtime on the 21st when my work load miraculously eased. I left work shortly before 4 and was lucky enough to just about catch the 4.30 train to Windermere; with a taxi pickup sorted I was at my hotel in Ambleside by 8 and able to have a relaxing evening with some good food and a fairly early night. The forecast for the day after was not brilliant but at least promised to be dry which was good enough for me as I was definitely in need of clearing out my brain. I hadn’t slept well since the incident either which had not helped anything.

I was up pretty early the following day and 8.15 saw me at the bus stop waiting for the bus to Keswick. The plan was to change in Keswick to the Borrowdale bus and do High Seat, with the option after that being either to go along to High Tove and then drop to Watendlath or return to Keswick over Bleaberry Fell and Walla Crag (which I had done before). I decided to take the winter kit just in case, though I thought it unlikely I would need it I did not want to find out the hard way! With the bus shortly to arrive I thought I should check there were no issues with the Borrowdale bus… and saw that Stagecoach said it was being diverted via Portinscale for some unspecified reason. Continue reading

Wainwright Walks 41: A Crag in the west and the Beast from the East

Hills: Castle Crag
Classification: Wainwright (no.85)
When: Sunday 4 March
Weather: Cold and cloudy; occasional snow flurries; rain towards the end
Conditions underfoot: Quite icy in parts
Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
Post walk drink: Wainwright ale (later Malbec)
Post walk watering hole: The Royal Oak, Keswick
Uses of the arse crampon: Two (one intentional, one not)
Mishaps: Does the Beast from the East / Storm Emma count as a mishap? If so, then weather, and transport…

The week commencing 26 February was one of those odd weeks. Having been in the Lake District that weekend I was travelling home on the Sunday before heading back up again on the Thursday evening with Stuart for a long weekend in Keswick, cramming in 4 days of work in between. Sounded a simple plan but as usual with me things did not entirely go to plan. However, this time it was not due to any reason of disorganisation, forgetting things or overdoing the Malbec but due to a bout of freak weather that caused rather a lot of chaos across the country. Namely the Beast from the East followed on by Storm Emma…

It started snowing in London on Monday evening.. then stopped. It started again properly over the next couple of days and the park near my house was suddenly covered in icy snow. Getting to the train station in London required walking boots which has not happened for rather a long time. Further North, things were looking a heck of a lot worse and the planned hill walking meet in Keswick looked to be in serious doubt not least given that anyone east of the M6 seemed to be under a huge pile of snow. The train service north of Carlisle was suspended (due to being under a big pile of snow) although it was still running south of there. As people dropped out Stuart and I had a decision to take about whether to travel… given that we would not get a refund for our accommodation and the trains were still running we decided we may as well go for it, but that leaving Euston early on the Thursday afternoon would be helpful. We both managed to leave the office shortly after 4 and just missed the 4.30 train North, but the 5pm train was running through to Carlisle. Or was it? It was cancelled with ten minutes to go… but the 5.30 was running. We piled on to it but decided to take a call at that point to book a cheap hotel in Penrith, as the A66 was being closed for road works overnight between 10pm and 6am and given the amount of snow around it looked as though getting to Penrith in time to get a taxi that could get through the roadworks might be a bit of a stretch. I phoned the cottage company (we were renting an apartment in Keswick this time) to tell them we would be a day late… Continue reading

Wainwright walks 40: a windy Wythop wander

Hills: Ling Fell, Sale Fell
Classification: Wainwrights – no.83 and 84
When: Saturday 24 February
Weather: Cold, occasionally windy but glorious sunshine
Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
Post walk drink: Loweswater Gold
Post walk watering hole: The Pheasant, Dubwath
Mishaps: Transport (sort of) Rugby (depending on who you support)

It was 24 February 2018 when I finally embarked on my first Wainwright bagging attempt of the year. Stuart had tickets to the Calcutta Cup in Edinburgh, so I decided to take advantage of a spare weekend and book myself into a pub with rooms in Ambleside. I was booked on the 17.30 train from London Euston to Windermere but had hopes of being able to escape work a bit early and get to Ambleside and at a vaguely sensible time. Plus, the weather forecast was for glorious sunshine – but also for strong winds and for it to be just a tad on the cold side. What could possibly go wrong?

Of course, the answer would be a transport malfunction. Some sort of hill walking sixth sense had me checking my trains mid afternoon only to find out that the last few Windermere trains had been cancelled. I wasn’t massively busy at work that afternoon so managed to leave fairly early and was on the 16.30 train absolutely fine… and got to Oxenholme to find out that the train I was hoping to catch had been cancelled in the last 10 minutes due to wildcat industrial action. There was going to be a rail replacement bus service but not for ages, so rather luckily I was able to jump in a taxi with several Japanese tourists and split the fare. I got to Ambleside in time to catch last food orders and have a couple of glasses of wine before retiring to bed, did my preparation of gear in advance so as to maximise time for lie ins… and of course slept appallingly. Even a full breakfast couldn’t disguise the fact that I was low on energy and clearly any sort of really long walk was not going to be an option. Nonetheless I wanted something that would get me a couple of new hills and a decent amount of ascent. Continue reading

Orkney: seas, skies and a sunrise

Hills: Wideford Hill
Classification: Marilyn
When: Thursday 4 January
Weather: Very cold, quite windy and at times wet
Low points: all the stuff on the summit
High points: the sunrise
Why: the sunrise
Mishaps: Transport

After my desperate attempt to make sure I did a hill every month by doing a local Kent Marilyn as December’s hill, I didn’t get any more walking done in December. I had thought about a last minute dash to the Lakes a couple of times but the weather forecast was never quite good enough to make it worth it and also work got unexpectedly busy in the run up to Christmas with me being more or less flat out until breaking for the festive period. I was back in work between Christmas and New Year but on the 29th we started a long journey due North. We were off to Orkney, via a night in Edinburgh either side. This was not, predominantly, a walking trip and therefore I deliberately didn’t pack much in the way of gear, but figured a coastal walk of some sort might be in order. We also wanted to see the archaeological highlights, a lot of which we had seen before on a previous visit but were definitely worth repeating.

Of course those of you that read my blog on a regular or even sporadic basis will know that something usually goes wrong. This time it was the plane. It was delayed for about an hour then about 5 minutes after taking off from Edinburgh airport something fell off the inside of the aircraft cabin, nearly hitting someone on the head on the way down, and (unsurprisingly) the captain announced we were returning to Edinburgh to see if they could fix the plane. We were decanted from the plane while they did the necessary and got back on about half an hour later. I can’t say I was that enthused about getting back on the same plane in case something more serious fell off this time but with no real alternative we got back on and ended up landing in Kirkwall about 2 hours later than planned.  Continue reading