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

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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

Wainwright walks 33: Trains, tubes, taxis, buses and Grisedale Pike

Hills: Grisedale Pike, Hopegill Head
Wainwrights: : 72 and 73
Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
When: : Sunday 25 June
Time spent getting to hill: : 6 hours 15 minutes
Time spent actually on hill: : 5 hours 30 minutes
Weather: : Clear but overcast; windy at times
Bog Factor: : Basically non-existent
Uses of the Arse crampon: : 1 (accidental)
Hangover factor: : Surprisingly low given I was at a beer festival the day before
Pre walk drink: : Various real ales (the day before – for the avoidance of doubt!)
Post walk drink: : Keswick Brewery best bitter, Cabernet Sauvignon (no not in the same glass!)
Post walk watering hole: : The Golden Lion, followed by the Dog & Gun

Those of you that read my blog on a regular or even semi regular basis will by now have spotted something of a theme – or even a couple of themes. Firstly that my walking tends to be a bit haphazard and somewhat mishap prone – and that the mishaps seem to be a mix of unfortunate (car breakdowns, delayed trains, cancelled flights and so forth) and self inflicted (see my post on Glenridding Dodd for a classic example).

This walk had all the potential to be mishap prone. However at some point – simply by the law of averages – there had to be a walk where despite all the possibility for mishaps and indeed probability nothing went that wrong. This may actually be that walk!

The potential for mishaps was definitely there. For starters, actually getting a walk in on the day of travel required a feat of logistics. Firstly getting an early enough train from Euston to get to Penrith in time to either get a bus to Keswick, or a taxi pick up, then get to Keswick in time to get a bus somewhere to start walking at a sensible time. Secondly I was attending a beer festival near my house on the Saturday which clearly had the potential to mess up the logistics not least by failing to get up in time to get the early train at which point the whole thing would collapse. Even given the long summer evenings there would be a cut off point at which starting a walk of any length would not be sensible. I decided to at least mitigate the possibility of mishap by packing all my gear the morning beforehand (i.e. well before the beer festival to avoid any post real ale packing mishaps) and laid out my clothes and filled my hydration bladder. This was organisation on the grand scale for me as something almost always gets forgotten. Continue reading

Fiarach and the bog of doom!

Hills: Fiarach
Grahams: one
When: Sunday 28 May
Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
Weather: Strong sunshine with a bit of a breeze
Hangover factor: Surprisingly low
Bog factor: Zero on the approach track but pathless vertical bogfest on the hill itself.
Uses of the ar*e crampon: None, though certainly considered it on the really steep bits on the descent
Pre walk drink: Jarl Scottish ale (though not much of it)
Post walk drink: Same, followed by Pinot Grigio (too warm for Malbec)
Post walk watering hole: The Coach House, Killin (pre walk one as well)

Those of you that read my blog on a regular basis will know that I hate bog. In fact I hate it with a passion. The only decent sort of bog is when it has either dried out or frozen – in which cases it can make for a reasonably congenial walking surface. Although inevitably with the frozen sort I manage to find the bit that isn’t frozen with the result being one foot goes into freezing murky gunk.

The worst sort of bog is what I refer to as vertical bog. It is obviously not actually vertical but when trying to slog up a steep, soggy, squishy slope it certainly feels like it. Going uphill it seems to sap your strength massively; going downhill care has to be taken not to slip and end up with a wet and muddy rear end, although going downhill through bog doesn’t sap your energy in quite the same way as going up. There are certain hills which after doing them I refer to as ‘Bogatory’ which is that particular kind of hill walking purgatory where you think the bog is never going to end and wonder if you are ever going to reach the top, or (in descent) ever get out of it and end up being sucked down into some tar pit of doom, to be discovered millennia later by some archaeologist who will wonder what Scarpas are and why all hill walking gear for women seems to be pink. I also think that given I now do most of my walking in the Lake District rather than Scotland I have got a bit spoilt and forgotten what a proper Scottish bog is like. Well I certainly got a reminder on this walk! Continue reading

Wainwright walks 32: High Rigg, lots of beer and a llama

Hills: High Rigg
Wainwright no: 71
Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
When: Saturday 3rd June
Weather: Glorious sunshine
Hangover factor Moderate
Bog factor: Virtually all dried out. Result!
Uses of the arse crampon: Zero
Pre walk drink One Rioja too many
Post walk drink: Various real ales
Post walk watering hole: Keswick Beer Festival (does a beer festival count as a watering hole?)
Special guest star: A llama. Yes seriously.
Mishaps: Read on…

One of these days I will write a walk report that doesn’t fit the usual theme. The theme being that there is usually some walking done at some point; there is usually a transport malfunction of some sort; and there is frequently a drink-related malfunction of some sort as well. The transport malfunction usually has the tendency of leading to the drink malfunction i.e. trying to get a late train after a busy week, train then being packed – oh well let’s have a glass (or several) of wine… Suffice it to say that this report sticks to the tried and tested formula! But since part of the point of this weekend was to attend Keswick Beer Festival, it was unlikely this report would deviate much from the norm. It was also my birthday on the 4thJune so celebrating (or given my advancing age, commiserating) was also on the agenda. Continue reading