The A to Z of Mountains and Malbec

No walking planned for a few weeks, so with a bit of a tail off in blog posts as a result, I thought I would nick an idea from a friend’s blog and do an A to Z of Mountains and Malbec. Though mine is a little less serious than theirs was!

A is for arse crampon. Well it has to be really doesn’t it. Otherwise known as five points of contact which I am well aware is not a recommended scrambling technique. But although he didn’t use the term Wainwright himself commented that a sturdy posterior was an excellent tool for a hill walker indeed only second to a good pair of feet. The downside to use of the arse crampon can be looking stupid but I would far rather look stupid than fall over.

B is for bad back. . As regular readers will know I suffered a spinal injury some years ago (broke a vertebra in my lower back) and my back still plays up from time to time. Often it doesn’t affect my hill walking but sometimes it does and I have to listen to what my body is trying to tell me and plan accordingly. Also B is for beer (a good thing) and bog (not a good thing, unless it’s frozen or by some miracle has dried out). Continue reading

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Wainwright Walks 46: A rather short walk – and a rather long drive

Hills: Great Mell Fell
Classification: Wainwright – no.95
When: Saturday 21st April
Weather: Still lovely.
Time: 1 ½ hours including a long break at the top
Conditions underfoot: Clear path, quite squishy in parts but not too bad
Who: me and the mountaineering minion
Uses of the arse crampon: Still none. Hard to see how it could be needed on this one unless something goes seriously pear shaped.
Post walk drink: Prosecco
Post walk watering hole: The Star and Garter, Bromley (after the long drive home)
Mishaps: Insomnia (again). Otherwise nowt. Unless a 6 hour drive home afterwards can be defined as a mishap.

Deciding whether or not to do a walk on the day you travel home is always a bit of a tough one. It generally depends on a number of factors; weather obviously being one but luggage issues sometimes another. For instance if I am using public transport for a break then this only works if you are staying somewhere that can store the luggage for you – most hotels will but some hostels will and some won’t, and B&Bs again a bit of an it depends. I tend to over pack which doesn’t help and am certainly not one of those people who could just lug all my stuff up the hill.

Length of journey – and when you need to start it – also plays a factor. If driving then the fact that even without traffic issues on the M6/ M25 my journey takes about 6 hours once factoring in rest and petrol stops is a bit of a factor against walking. If using public transport then (assuming luggage storage is not a problem) coordinating bus times and luggage pick up with being able to get to an appropriate train station in time to get back to Euston can be a bit of a logistical nightmare. Generally therefore I don’t tend to end up walking on the day I travel home, and when it has happened in the past it has tended to be in Scotland with the transport home either being the 9.30pm Easyjet out of Glasgow, or the sleeper train, combined with a late hire car drop off. Sleeper not being an option for the Lakes I’ve rarely walked on the last day of a Lakes trip – I think it has happened once, and that was when I was sharing the driving with a friend. Continue reading

Wainwright Walks 45: Dale Head, a bad back, and insomnia (again)

Hills: Dale Head
Classification: Wainwright – no.94
When: Friday 20th April
Weather: Absolutely glorious again! Not as windy either so quite warm.
Time: 3 hours including two lengthy breaks
Conditions underfoot: Clear path, relatively little bog
Who: me and the mountaineering minion
Post walk drink: Wainwright, then a truly appalling Tempranillo, followed by a somewhat better Rioja
Post walk watering hole: The Patterdale Hotel (again) then the White Lion
Mishaps: Insomnia (again) therefore general level of knackeredness was high

After the absolutely cracking walk in glorious weather on the Thursday, the forecast was once again set to be good, and with less wind than had been the case the day before. I hadn’t got a fixed plan for the day, so after a few post walk drinks I headed to bed reasonably early, with a backstop alarm set. I was conscious I was quite tired having done the longest walk, with the most ascent, I had done for some time, also my back was not great – one of the downsides of staying in a youth hostel is the lack of a bath to soak away those post walk aches and pains. What happened on Friday would therefore very much depend on what I was up to but hopefully a good nights sleep would help matters.

Inevitably, of course, this did not happen. I was extremely tired and had a private room so in theory there should have been no barrier to drifting gently off. However I am one of those people who needs a really quiet environment in order to sleep – I don’t stay in dorms because I can only ever snatch a few hours sleep in them due to other people snoring or clattering around or whatever. My room was in between two bigger rooms and not to put too fine a point on it there was a lot of noise from both sides at different times. The room on one side obviously had small children in it who were screaming and running around until very late. It was probably midnight before it subsided and I was able to properly drop off and then I was woken shortly after 5 by loud coughing from the other side. It turned out I was in the middle of a huge family from great-grandparents down to great-grandchildren with the kids being small and excitable and at least one of the older family members obviously not very well. At 6.15 with the sound of throwing up from one of the rooms (I was too tired to work out which) I gave up and got up and sorted myself out, packed my rucksack and tried to decide what to do with the day.

Continue reading

Wainwright Walks 23: Sleepless on Scafell Pike

Hills:Scafell Pike, Lingmell
Wainwrights: 58 and 59
Time: ugh, don’t ask.
Weather: okay, though clag at the summit
Conditions underfoot: dry. Good paths throughout except for the descent off Lingmell. Stony/ bouldery terrain in part.
Who: me and the mountaineering minion
MWIS accuracy: medium. 80% cloud free and dry in the west translated to very light rain and some clag which blew in and out
Post walk watering hole: The Unicorn, Ambleside
Post walk drink: Merlot

What would make the ideal training regime for climbing England’s highest mountain? Probably something involving trips to the gym, shorter walks, etc… the sort of thing a sensible person would do. However, my training regime for this one was pretty much every bit as haphazard as my preparation for climbing the highest mountains in Scotland (Ben Nevis in 2010) and Wales (Snowdon in 2011).

My preparation for Ben Nevis went as follows: have a hectic week at work, trying to cram 5 days work into 4. Drive from London to my parents in Birmingham on the Thursday night. Drive from Birmingham to the Lake District on the Friday morning. Belt up Skiddaw in record time (for me) on the Friday afternoon. Drive to Scotland. Pick up Stuart from delayed plane at 11pm. Drive back to his parents. Get about 4 hours sleep at best getting up at 4am in order to get to the Torlundy car park for 9am for a friend’s compleation. Do Ben Nevis via the CMD arête in dodgy weather and see nothing from the top.. Snowdon was at least slightly better in that I managed about 5 hours sleep rather than 4 after a hellish drive to where my walking club was staying and I ended up plodding up the Pyg track on adrenalin and seeing nothing from the top apart from hordes of people – busiest summit I have ever seen by a mile.

As to Scafell Pike. I had booked a Friday off work at last minute to take advantage of a supposed weather window. I did not particularly want to do Scafell Pike on a weekend due to the crowds that might involve and with June also being the peak month (pun not intentional) for Three Peaks attempts a weekday blast seemed sensible. I had booked myself into a Travelodge on the Thursday night on the motorway just south of Kendal and B&B in a pub in Ambleside on the Friday night. For once there was no transport debacle as I had a pretty clear run up the motorway (although driving through a thunderstorm was not something I can say I particularly enjoyed). So what could possibly go wrong? Continue reading