Wainwright walks 79: Boiled on Beda!

  • Hills: Beda Fell
  • Classification: Wainwright (150! Yay!!)
  • When: Monday 31 May
  • Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
  • Distance: About 4 miles
  • Time: 2 1/2 hours
  • Weather: Scorchio. Actually too hot for serious walking really.
  • Post walk drink: Pinot Grigio (far too hot for Malbec!)
  • Post walk watering hole: The Kings Head, Carlisle
  • Uses of the arse crampon: Thought I might need it on this one but turned out I didn’t
  • Mishaps: Insomnia, sunburn, general level of knackeredness

For some reason, it’s taken a long time for this post to crawl out of my subconscious and make it to my blog. I’m not really sure why that is, but suspect it is a combination of factors; firstly an ongoing period of being stupidly busy at work, secondly life in general just seeming to take over and finally a bit of stress creeping in too.

To explain that last point first. I never started out climbing Wainwrights with any intention of doing the lot. When I did my first few I was still actively bagging Munros and doing the odd Wainwright was a nice diversion from that – with the added benefit that it is easier to pick a Wainwright for a marginal day than a Munro because the vast majority of them are so much smaller and I’m not a fan of going out in bad weather (the phrase ‘there is no such thing as bad weather, just inadequate clothing’ being one that drives me up the wall, there being no clothing known to man that will stop you getting blown off the hill in strong winds, lead lined boots maybe aside). However over the last few years, particularly since I stopped spending so much time in Scotland, the numbers have started to creep up and I’ve started to wonder if I ‘should’ make a serious attempt to do the lot, particularly as the 150 has approached.

I’m really not sure about this to be honest. I’m not good at failing at things and my default reaction at not being good at something tends to be to run a mile in the opposite direction. I am also a high stress person anyway and given hill walking is one of my escapes from stress the last thing I want is to end up getting stressed about it. Realistically I know what I need to do is take the pressure off myself, just enjoy it and see what happens, not least given that there are some of the bigger hills in the West that may give me some trouble. It also hasn’t helped that lockdown hasn’t been kind to me physically – there being nothing in the way of a hill anywhere near my fitness is definitely lacking and the only thing that really keeps you fit for doing big hills is doing big hills. Anyway, for a combination of reasons, I was pretty stressed about getting my 150th under the belt.

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Wainwright Walks 78: Dodging the weather on Loadpot and Wether

  • Hills: Loadpot Hill, Wether Hill
  • Wainwrights: 148 and 149
  • When: 1 May 2021
  • Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
  • Weather: Sunny but cold
  • Bog factor: Mostly dried out
  • Distance: About 7 ½ miles
  • Time: 4 ½ hours including breaks
  • Post walk drink: Malbec
  • Post walk watering hole: The Sun Hotel, Lancaster
  • Mishaps: None to speak of
  • Uses of the arse crampon: I think it’s in hibernation

It’s taken a couple of weeks since the date of this walk for this blog post to crawl out of my subconscious and onto the internet – and it’s been a very long time since I’ve done a blog post at all. The reasons for this are obvious; lockdown 3.0 having extended for a considerable amount of time, there has simply been no hill walking to write about, with anything even remotely resembling a hill being out of bounds for exercise on grounds of being too far away. I suppose I could have written a blog or two about the politics of hill walking – there’s certainly been a lot of that about on Facebook with arguments about how far it is or isn’t acceptable to travel in order to do a walk (at the various stages of lockdown easing), whether it was really morally acceptable to stay overnight even once doing that in self catering accommodation was legally allowed, whether we should in fact all be confined to the house for the foreseeable future and so forth – but to be quite frank I couldn’t be bothered. 

I’ve found the last lockdown harder than the other two. The first one had a sort of novelty factor and at the start of it, felt very temporary (at least until it started to drag on). The second one was time limited which made it easier. But the last one felt interminable – even had the weather not been foul and most of the country near me turned into a sea of mud I was quite frankly bored to tears with our local walks. A period of sustained pressure at work was not helping either – this included being too busy to take the day after my first vaccination off sick even though I felt pretty grim. I was getting to the point of being desperate to get out of London though at least when the open water swimming venue near me finally reopened at the end of March that helped a bit. But at the date of writing talk of variants and whether lockdown easing will have to be canned (as a result of less than 2000 cases of a particular variant) is frankly just depressing. There has to come a point where we have to just get on with things before what passes for normal just totally ceases to exist.

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2020: a year in review

  • Total hills climbed: 17 (I think) one of which was a repeat
  • Wainwrights: 13
  • Wainwrights now done: 147
  • Wainwrights left to do: 67
  • Marilyns (outside the Lakes): 4 (including one repeat)
  • Number of ascents of Orrest Head: 2
  • Beer festivals attended in the Lake District: None
  • Beer festivals attended elsewhere: None
  • Trips cancelled due to COVID-19: Don’t ask.

Well where do I start with this one?!

Let’s start with the positives I guess. Despite a global pandemic, this wasn’t actually my worst year of hill bagging – it also wasn’t even my worst year for Wainwright bagging since I started making more of an effort to do them; that was back in 2016 where I did 13 hills in total, 11 of which were Wainwrights. Included in the 13 Wainwrights I managed to do this year were a couple of really good days on the hill, although for the most part I was picking off hills as singles or pairs. I’m getting to the point where I’ve already done a lot of the walks where you can pick off four or five in one go, and those that I have left to do are in the more obscure/ inaccessible parts of the Lakes, mostly in the far West. This is a direct consequence of me having tried to do a lot of my Lakes walking via public transport with the far West being pretty much impossible to do that way – the far East still has its areas where public transport is a pain but is generally more accessible thanks to things like bus links around Glenridding, Pooley Bridge and Penrith.

It would be impossible for me to carry on with this post without getting diverted into a rant and I’m not even going to try. As of the date of writing, and in spite of the fact the vaccine roll out seems – rather surprisingly – to be going pretty well, there is no suggestion of the easing off of lockdown measures any time soon. Schools in March, non-essential shops in April and pubs/ restaurants/ accommodation in May seems to be what everyone is saying despite there being no real evidence pubs are a vector for transmission in any real way. Whilst COVID is clearly a very nasty bug indeed, the repeated lockdowns, and particularly this one, are starting to get to people and this one in particular is hard; during the first one I spent some time discovering things closer to home, such as that we had a bluebell wood near us and some rather nice artificial lakes, all of which helped. But now everywhere is under a sea of mud, a lot of the paths are impassable and it’s too cold to sit drinking wine in the garden in the evening and feel like you have been somewhere. The days all blend into one; get up, have breakfast, do some work, have lunch, do some work, have dinner, drink some Malbec/ Shiraz/ Merlot/ Pinot Grigio/ gin and tonic (strike out drink which does not apply) go to sleep, and repeat… I’ve no idea when I’ll be able to get back into the hills and even the South Downs (which is actually quite nice) is probably too far to really be justifiable for a walk during the current restrictions. Let’s just hope that the end of all this is in sight.

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Pen y Ghent: a perfect winter day

  • Hills: Pen Y Ghent
  • Classification: Hewitt, Ydiott
  • When: Monday 7 December
  • Who: me and the mountaineering minion
  • Distance: about 6 miles
  • Time: 4 ½ hours
  • Weather: Glorious (again!)
  • Conditions underfoot: Snow and ice – very glad of the microspikes.
  • Post walk drink: Malbec
  • Post walk watering hole: The Dalesman, Sedbergh
  • Uses of the arse crampon: MIA again despite conditions

For those that are wondering, a Hewitt is an official designation for a Hill in England and Wales In excess of Two Thousand (feet). An Ydiott is a most definitely unofficial term for a Yorkshire Dales ‘Ill Over Two Thousand!

Since my last blog post crawled out of the ether on the last day of 2020, once again actually putting virtual pen to equally virtual paper seems to have taken a while. I had hoped that after the Christmas break a couple of things would happen, firstly that we would be starting a more positive year and secondly that work might be a little less manic. The second has shown no signs of happening, and in spite of the positive news about the vaccine, neither has the first. With not only virologists but politicians talking about the possibility of lockdowns extending into the summer, it is difficult to find very much to feel positive about. The whole situation is also a health time bomb for a whole host of reasons, not only the obvious one of the virus itself but also how many other serious health conditions might be getting missed as a result, from heart attacks to cancers and a whole lot of things in between. The effect on mental health isn’t great and the longer all of this goes on for the more difficult people, even people who have had no issues with their mental health previously, will find it – personally I am finding this one, in winter and with no end in sight, harder than before. Attitudes like that of one person who told me that worrying about mental health at the moment was ‘a luxury’ don’t help either. I am starting to wonder if pubs were all a dream… Anyway, at some point one of my blog posts won’t start with a rant!

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A windy Winder wander

  • Hills: Winder
  • Classification: One of the Howgill Fells, and a Tump
  • When: Sunday 6 December
  • Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
  • Distance: 4 miles
  • Time: 2 ½ hours. Too cold for any breaks
  • Weather: Overcast and windy; cloud base at about 600m
  • Bog factor: Relatively little
  • Snow factor: Where did it go? Nothing much below the cloud line.
  • Post walk drink:  Malbec (of course)
  • Post walk watering hole: The Dalesman, Sedbergh
  • Uses of the arse crampon: One, on an unexpected tricky bit
  • Mishaps: Mild insomnia, path erosion, slippery conditions underfoot

After my last blog post, it’s fair to say that things going from bad to worse in the wider world has had a negative effect on me getting off my metaphorical (and literal) arse and writing something. London having been bunged first into tier 3, about a week after I got back from my trip North, then a few days later into tier 4, had rather killed off any inspiration for writing blog posts. Whilst I understand the point of these restrictions, I can’t deny I am getting utterly fed up of them, and combined with an incredibly busy period at work in the run up to Christmas the whole thing has done nothing whatsoever for my stress levels. As I’ve said before the problem with lockdowns is that all they do is kick the can down the road and it seems that in the case of the latest ‘surging mutant virus’ as the papers have put it, it hasn’t even achieved that. At least at the time of writing there is some positive news about vaccines but that will still take time and the prospects of continuing to be unable to do so many things for another few months or so frankly isn’t great. I’d normally be using this time of year to plan adventures for the next 12 months but until we have some idea of when things will be easier there is just no point – for whatever reason it is more depressing to plan something then have to cancel it than not to plan it in the first place. Comments on certain internet forums along the lines of ‘get your virus ridden arse back to London’ don’t exactly help and nor do comments about sticking to my local hills as I don’t have any!

Anyway end rant and on with the walk! After my snowy, and somewhat slow, wander up Bonscale Pike on the Saturday, the weather forecast was not great – though promised a much better day on the Monday. I also felt pretty knackered. This was due in part probably to my long layoff from the hills and partly to a less than brilliant night’s sleep. I was also feeling slightly hung over which seemed a bit unfair as whilst I had indulged in a few glasses of Malbec the night before I had been pretty restrained – honest!  I also didn’t really feel like a long drive – so the obvious thing to do seemed to be to walk up one or two of the hills behind the town. I’ve never done any walking in the Howgills before and it seemed daft to visit a range of hills I’d not been to before and not do any walking in them!

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Wainwright Walks 77: Snow going in the Far Eastern Fells

  • Hills: Bonscale Pike
  • Classification: Wainwright (147)
  • When: Saturday 5 December
  • Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
  • Distance: About 7 ½ miles (felt longer though)
  • Time: About 5 hours including breaks. So way longer than it should.
  • Weather: Glorious!
  • Bog factor: Medium. Some was frozen but a lot wasn’t.
  • Snow factor: Loads of deep soft snow.
  • Post walk drink:  Malbec
  • Post walk watering hole: The Black Bull, Sedbergh
  • Uses of the arse crampon: Still missing in action…
  • Mishaps: Snow, traffic, boots (not in that order)

In my last blog post, when I had a few days off at the end of September, I thought that my walk on Whin Rigg and Illgill Head was likely to be my last Wainwright bagging expedition of the year. World events looked to get in the way of anything further, with England being slammed into lockdown at the start of November – a planned holiday in the middle of November being canned as a result, though fortunately this time we hadn’t actually booked anything. This left me with several days holiday to use up before the year end and no real idea of what to do with them: I hate taking time off and not going anywhere as I inevitably end up working which is not really what taking time off is supposed to be about!

I’m going to try and resist the temptation to go on too much of a virus related rant. But I think that the current situation is a shambles. At the date of writing London has just been put into tier 3 and given there is nothing even remotely resembling a hill around here even my plans for early next year are up a certain creek without a paddle. None of the restrictions make any sense to me – schools are a hotbed of transmission whereas pubs aren’t yet what gets shut down? Pubs. Quite why it is fine to go shopping on Oxford Street amongst loads of other people, travel into work on a packed Tube or train, or go to the gym but you are not allowed to go for a drink escapes me; even in tier 2, I cannot for the life of me understand why the virus seems to know whether I have ordered a pizza or a Scotch egg alongside my glass of red wine. Anyway #end rant!

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Wainwright Walks 76: A sunny Wasdale wander

  • Hills: Whin Rigg, Illgill Head
  • Classification: Wainwrights (145 and 146)
  • When: Saturday 19 September
  • Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
  • Distance: About 9 miles
  • Time: About 4 ½ hours including some lengthy breaks
  • Weather: Glorious – again!
  • Bog factor: Mostly ok
  • Post walk drink:  Prosecco, then Malbec (again)
  • Post walk watering hole: The Boot Inn, Eskdale
  • Uses of the arse crampon: Unless sitting down to have my lunch counts, still AWOL.
  • Mishaps: I think the parking situation in Wasdale later on counts as a mishap.

It’s taken me a while to get around to writing this blog. For some reason, some blogs seem to just write themselves whereas others swim around in the subconscious for ages before finally making it to the page. In the case of this one, I think the delay on getting it written is largely due to the fact that it looks highly likely to be my last Wainwright walk of the year. With another lockdown looming and a miserable winter in prospect I think I just hadn’t wanted to admit to myself that it would be 2020’s last hurrah on the hills; I’d toyed with the idea of revisiting the Lakes in October, but the weekend I had earmarked ended up falling just after London went into ‘Tier 2’ so I reluctantly decided not to travel (the decision being helped somewhat by the fact the weather forecast was rubbish). With the situation escalating, getting anything else booked in just threatened it being cancelled – for whatever reason, having to cancel something that was already booked in is more depressing than just not booking it in the first place.

I can’t say that the imminent reality of another lockdown is helping my mood – or anyone’s I suspect. I am not looking forward to the prospect of two of my major ways of de-stressing being taken away (by which I mean hill walking and swimming) and even wild swims are looking doubtful. Plus with the change in seasons getting out for a local walk is going to be more difficult – blundering around my local woods with a head torch in the dark not really being top of my list. I am of the view that all lockdowns do is kick the can down the road and having had a serious health issue as a direct result of the first – my DVT – I can’t help but worry how many other people are going to suffer serious issues as a result of the next one. Yes, clearly COVID-19 is a very nasty bug indeed but there will come a point, in the absence of a vaccine, where we have to find a way to live alongside it in order for our society as we know it to survive. Human beings are designed to be social animals and enforced separation from family and friends has a cost.

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Wainwright walks 75: send in the Calva-ry!

  • Hills: Great Calva
  • Classification: Wainwright (144)
  • When: Friday 18 September
  • Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
  • Distance: About 7 miles
  • Time: 3 ½ hours including breaks
  • Weather: Glorious
  • Bog factor: Moderately high
  • Post walk drink:  Prosecco, then Malbec
  • Post walk watering hole: The Boot Inn, Eskdale
  • Uses of the arse crampon: Still missing in action!
  • Mishaps: None to speak of – ???!

After my insomnia fuelled amble up Grike and Crag Fell on the 16th September, I awoke on the 17th to a glorious morning. Well technically I awoke to a glorious middle of the night as once again I didn’t sleep too well and although I actually managed to get back to sleep for a while it still wasn’t brilliant. Once the sun was up it was clear it was going to be a fantastic day – but this time I wasn’t hill walking as I was booked in for an open water swim in Windermere as a birthday present from Stuart. Although I’ve recently done a couple of open water swims near where I live I was a bit nervous about this one not least because of the prospect of having to stuff myself into a wetsuit given that I am not a small girl! As it turned out I did just about manage to get in to the wetsuit and the swim, which ended up being about a mile in total, was absolutely great. I was done by lunchtime and in theory could have done a walk in the afternoon but given possible issues with parking, plus having already done a decent chunk of exercise, I decided against doing any sort of significant walk in favour of a potter up Orrest Head (again) followed by chilling out and pottering around in the afternoon.

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Wainwright walks 74: Lank-ing in energy on Grike and Crag Fell

  • Hills: Grike, Crag Fell
  • Classification: Wainwrights (142 and 143)
  • When: Wednesday 16 September
  • Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
  • Distance: About 6 miles
  • Time: 3 ½ hours
  • Weather: Overcast to start but brightened up. Quite windy
  • One that got away: Lank Rigg
  • Post walk drink:  Cumbria Way golden ale
  • Post walk watering hole: The Golden Rule, Ambleside
  • Uses of the arse crampon: I’ve no idea where it’s got to.
  • Mishaps: Insomnia, a slight navigational foul up, or a disappearing forest track – not sure which

Tuesday 15th September: it’s the afternoon and I’m sitting on a train from Euston to Oxenholme, after a visit to my office for the first time in six months, it having reopened the previous day. I’d been a bit apprehensive about using the train – my two previous Lakes trips since the end of lockdown have both been trips of a week or more and the sensible thing to do has been to drive. However, this time I was firstly going by myself and secondly pretty knackered – I don’t generally drive up from London if I am going for less than a week, and whilst this time I was going for five nights in total I thought it would be a lot less tiring to get the train and then get a hire car when I got there. The current travel situation had also increased the potential for mishaps with late changes to timetables and so forth in prospect.

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Wainwright walks 73: Armboth Fell and the bog of doom!

Hills: Armpit Bog, sorry Armboth Fell

Classification: Wainwright (141)

When: Wednesday 19 August

Who: Me and the mountaineering minion

Distance: About 4 1/2 miles but felt like twice that

Time: Just under 3 hours

Weather: Dry and sunny, a bit windy

Post walk drink: Malbec

Post walk watering hole: The Crafty Baa, Keswick

Uses of the arse crampon: Still none. Need to send out a search party.

Mishaps: Megabog; a minor navigational mishap

After my short afternoon blast up Gavel Fell, the following day was our wedding anniversary. Normally our wedding anniversary consists of being rained on (unless we are in Egypt) and this time was no different! The enthusiasm to do a walk was somewhat lacking and we settled for a pottering about day including mini-golf and visiting a few hostelries (inevitably). Having completely failed to find anywhere to get booked in for dinner we gave up and our anniversary meal consisted of scallops with chorizo to start off with followed by rib eye steak with various trimmings. Nice but not quite what I’d had in mind and as per my previous post the sheer volume of organisation required to do anything much these days is really starting to grate – and given recent announcements likely to get worse rather than better over the next few months.

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