Wainwright Walks 55: A great Dodd-le toddle and a wee blether

Hills: Great Dodd, Clough Head
Classification: Wainwrights (112 and 113)
When: Saturday 23 March
Who: Me and the mountaineering minion, Hils and Carol
Distance: About 8 miles
Time: About 4 ½ hours
Weather: Quite windy and cold on the tops – fine lower down
Post walk drink: Cabernet Sauvignon
Post walk watering hole: The Chief Justice of the Common Pleas i.e. the Wetherspoons in Keswick
Uses of the arse crampon: None as such
Mishaps: Mobile phone issues

After getting blown about on Knott Rigg and Ard Crags the previous day, a good blether/ conflab was had in the pub afterwards with much discussion about what we would do. There were 6 of us on the walking meet and a lot of plans being kicked around with Kets in particular being keen to go and have a bit of an epic on the Helvellyn range. 3 of us however had all been thinking about the same set of hills – at the Northern end of the Helvellyn range but with convenient access from a car park near Dockray at a height of around 300m. As I didn’t have a car with me I had initially dismissed it as a possibility but since the others did it seemed like a good plan. We would start by going up Great Dodd and then take a call as to whether to continue to Clough Head or not. I arranged to meet Hilary in Keswick and we would get Carol at the car park at 10.45. Continue reading


Wainwright Walks 54: Ard work on a Knott great day

Hills: Knott Rigg, Ard Crags
Classification: Wainwrights (110 and 111)
When: Friday 22 March
Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
Distance: About 5 miles
Time: 3 hours
Weather: Blowing a gale. But stayed dry until I was off the hill (phew!)
Post walk drink: Well the actual first one was a pint of coke (what?!). The first proper one was a glass of Malbec.
Post walk watering hole: The Golden Lion, Keswick (if the coke counts, the Bridge Hotel, Buttermere)
Uses of the arse crampon: One (semi-intentional)
Mishaps: Weather (if that counts) and work (Stuart’s).

This year, my Wainwright bagging has been rather slow to get off the ground. I didn’t have any particular targets for this year, and still don’t, having got the ton up and the halfway point last year (the first of which was a target but the second was an unexpected bonus). I’d also had to cancel a planned trip at the beginning of March due to a dreadful weather forecast, annoyingly finding out later on that the actual weather on one of the days was a lot better than forecast (inevitably). It was still the right decision though as I had one of those cough/ cold bugs that seem to take ages to go away and the last thing I fancy when feeling ill is getting soaked or blown over.

Needless to say, the weather forecast for the first day of my Keswick break wasn’t great – the main issue being wind. The other mishap was that Stuart ended up having to work rather than coming with me on the Thursday night and the plan of him potentially coming later on was kiboshed by a points failure outside of Euston. Had Stuart been there I probably would have at least considered postponing any walking until Saturday (when the forecast was good) but with a day to myself and the others not turning up till the evening (we were meeting friends from the Scottish Hills website) I thought I might as well get off my backside and go and do something. For once there were no real issues with transport but I had a rubbish night’s sleep so what with that and impending weather doom any sort of epic was not an option. Continue reading

Back on track in the Pentlands

Hills: Black Hill (Pentlands)
Classification: Sub 2000 Scottish Marilyn
When: Tuesday 5 February
Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
Distance: About 7 ½ miles
Time: 3 hours 20 minutes
Weather: Started cold and clear but clouded over
Post walk drink: Tempest pale ale
Post walk watering hole: The Hanging Bat craft beer bar
Mishaps: Transport

Tuesday 5th February 2019: the sky was blue, the birds were singing, and I was sat at Edinburgh bus station at the unearthly (for me) hour of 8am waiting for a bus to Flotterstone. 8am is not an hour that I often see when not at work unless I am planning a walk that for whatever reason requires an early start – or I have insomnia. This one was, I guess, a bit of both.

My regular readers will probably already be wondering where the mishaps are. Well I guess there were 2, although neither of them on the day of the actual walk. We were up in Edinburgh for a week mainly so Stuart could attend the rugby at Murrayfield and had rented a town house very close to the city centre; we had decided not to bring the car as my only real hill walking plans involved the Pentlands and were therefore easily doable by bus. The flipside to this is it required lugging a ridiculous amount of stuff across London on Friday 1st February and onto the train. Oh yes, the train! Mishap 1… Continue reading

2018: a year in review

Total hills climbed: 30
Wainwrights done: 27 (plus one repeat)
Other hills done: 3
Number of ascents of Orrest Head before getting the train home: 3
Best hill names of the year: Brown Willy (Cornwall) Barf (Lake District) Pikeawassa (Lake District)
Beer festivals attended in the Lake District: 2
Beer festivals attended elsewhere: 1
Favourite beer of the year: Lonesome Pine (Ulverston Brewery)

All in all 2018 was a bit of a game of two halves, as a football commentator might say; a year of highs and lows, with some excellent hill walking and other fun stuff done but also some health issues to deal with which curtailed my hill walking significantly in the last half of the year, though I did manage some good walks towards the end of the year, rounding the year off with an ascent of Barf in glorious winter sunshine on Christmas Eve. Numbers wise I added 27 new Wainwrights to my total, plus one repeat, which is my best annual total ever for Wainwrights – not my best hill totals ever though, that was in 2009 when I managed 28 Munros plus a few other hills as well. Continue reading

Wainwright Walks 53: A bit of festive Barfing

Hills: Barf
Wainwright number: 109
When: Monday 24 December
Weather: Glorious!
Time: 2 ½ hours, including breaks
Conditions underfoot: Mostly ok, though terrain in shade was frozen at times. (On the plus side, so was the bog. Result!)
Who: me and the mountaineering minion
Post walk drink:  Prosecco
Post walk watering hole: The Ambleside Tavern
Mishaps: None whatsoever!
Uses of the arse crampon: No need for it.

Christmas Eve. The sky was blue, the birds were singing, and on surfacing from bed in our holiday cottage, the conditions on the day would have been ideal for a long walk. However, a few libations the night before, and not setting an alarm, had meant that by the time I was actually awake, showered, gear sorted and ready to throw said gear into the car and get underway – as well as needing to engage in some serious de-icing of the car – it was already gone 11am and the time to do any sort of walk other than a short one was fast disappearing. I was also knackered despite having not done very much the day before, following on from the high Tove bogfest on Saturday, and a pretty frantic period of work in the run up to going on holiday. However it was far too nice a day not to do something. Continue reading

Wainwright Walks 52: High-ly boggy in the Central Fells!

Hills: High Tove
Wainwright number: 108
When: Saturday 22 December
Weather: Rather wetter than it was supposed to be!
Time: 2 ½ hours. No breaks – too miserable a day
Conditions underfoot: Slippy stone pitching, followed by a bit of half decent path, followed by semi-quagmire!
Who: me and the mountaineering minion
Post walk drink: Loweswater Gold – later red wine
Post walk watering hole: The Lily Bar, Ambleside
Mishaps: Does the weather count as a mishap?
Uses of the arse crampon: None (surprisingly given how slippy things were underfoot at times).

By my standards, the last few walks have been pretty much free of any serious sort of mishaps – either transport related, gear related (picking the wrong trousers for the occasion, etc) or weather related. Notably, my last walk was done in glorious sunshine when I brought up the halfway point on Lonscale Fell following a glorious ridge walk up Longside Edge then a repeat of Skiddaw, which I had been meaning to re-do for ages as I saw absolutely nothing when I first climbed it way back in 2010. Inevitably something had to change!

When I came off the hill that day my back and knees were hurting and over the next week or so it became obvious I had tweaked one of my knees worse than I had thought. Unhelpfully the lift in my office was also broken and given I work on the 4th floor this was not conducive to it healing up quickly either. By the time Christmas – and our planned festive visit to a cottage in Ambleside – came round it was much better but I had done no exercise to speak of since my previous visit to the Lakes so my fitness was decidedly not at its best. Combined with very short days and a high level of knackeredness, long walks with lots of ascent were not going to be an option. Continue reading

Wainwright walks 51: a stunner on Skiddaw

Hills: Ullock Pike, Long Side, Carl Side, Skiddaw, Lonscale Fell
Wainwrights: 104-107 (Skiddaw was a repeat)
Furth Munros: Skiddaw
When: Saturday 17 November
Weather: Glorious autumn sunshine, windy at times
Time: 6 hours including breaks
Conditions underfoot: Paths generally good – a few rocky bits on the ridge, scree on the ascent of Skiddaw
Who: me and the mountaineering minion
Post walk drink: Wainwright (aptly enough); later a nice Merlot
Post walk watering hole: The Wainwright Inn, Keswick; later the Inn at Grasmere
Mishaps: None to speak of. Yes really.
Uses of the arse crampon: None. Though if it would have been any use on one of the rocky bits on Ullock Pike, or the scree slope on Skiddaw I would definitely have considered it.

I should point out for the record that the stunner in question was the weather. Being pushing 50 I am making no claims about myself!! 😄

On the evening of 16 November, I was sat in the residents lounge at the Inn at Grasmere studying my maps and trying to work out a plan of attack for the following day. The weather forecast for the Saturday was – for November – unexpectedly good; for once I had had no issues at all with the trains, having managed to leave work early and do some work on the train, then make a tight connection at Windermere. A taxi pickup from Windermere got me to Grasmere at an unexpectedly civilised time, and instead of worrying about missing the last train, stressing about getting a taxi and then turning up at 11pm totally knackered I was able to have a civilised evening, a nice meal and a glass of wine as well as spend plenty of time thinking about walk options.

Of course, if something does not go wrong with the weather something else will usually go wrong instead. In order to try and prevent this I probably checked my kit about 3 times and the bus timetables just as many times if not more. I changed my mind about which trousers to wear about 3 times too – I never know at this time of year whether to go for the winter lined ones (and risk boiling if too warm) or not (and freeze if temperatures are lower than expected). I also had various different options for the walk, from not ambitious to rather more ambitious. I was, however conscious that it was a long time since I had been on a hill of any real size and since my Cornwall walk I had done basically no exercise at all due to being very busy at work. Continue reading