Wainwright walks 31: Steaming up (but not on) Hallin Fell

Hills: Hallin Fell
Wainwright number: 70
When: Sunday 30 April
Who: me, Stuart and the mountaineering minion
Weather: Clear, but cold and seriously windy
Bog factor: Nonexistent
Hangover factor: Surprisingly low
Post walk watering hole: The Howtown Hotel
Post walk drink: A local ale (can’t remember what, but quite nice) later Malbec
One that got away: Steel Knotts
Mishaps: None really on the day, but read on..

After my walk the day before – the somewhat hangover-fuelled blast up Glenridding Dodd which saw me claiming discretion over valour and not going on to do Sheffield Pike, therefore almost but not quite being the fastest walk ever (that was either Binsey or Little Mell Fell, both done in well under an hour and both in rotten weather) – it is fair to say that the afternoon and evening were rather restrained. After I had conked out in the hotel room and then had a swim and some Kendal Mint Cake liqueur, we had a nice leisurely meal in the hotel restaurant and had, of all things, an early night in anticipation of a walk the following day. The forecast was for clear conditions but for it to be pretty windy, so staying low seemed a good idea.

For once the forecast was right. We were out of bed early and at breakfast early too, then at the Ullswater Steamers pier well before the first ferry over to Howtown. A notice informed us that the Aira Force pier was inaccessible due to high winds but the Howtown ferry was running. The plan was to get the boat over and walk up Hallin Fell, which we had ages ago dubbed ‘Boat Hill’ and decided to do via the steamer rather than just park at the Hause – not least because I hate hairpin bends on roads but also because doing it this way makes a short walk into a bit more of an adventure. We’ve been meaning to do this for ages but not got round to it on our various trips to the Lakes so given we were actually staying in Glenridding this time there seemed to be no excuse. Continue reading

Wainwright walks 30: Glenridding and the hangover from Hell(vellyn)

Hills: Glenridding Dodd
When: Saturday 29 April
Who:Me and the mountaineering minion
Weather: Clear but windy
Bog factor: Zero
Hangover factor: High
Post walk watering hole:Travellers Rest, then the Glenridding Hotel bar later
Post walk drink: Helvellyn Gold ale, then Kendal Mint Cake liqueur
One that got away: Sheffield Pike

Those of you that read my blog on a regular, or even semi regular basis will know that there are usually a few themes that recur with alarming frequency. Obviously there is usually a hill walk of sorts in there somewhere, after all this is a hill walking blog, albeit with added wine. There is often a drink-related foul up of some description and there is equally often a transport related foul up too. This walk had pretty much the lot!

Usually at least some planning goes into a walk. At least in theory although plans often get binned in favour of a plan B, C or D depending on what the weather decides to do and other factors such as general state of knackeredness. I usually book trains well in advance in particular but having booked our accommodation – the Glenridding Hotel – some time ago I hadn’t bothered booking the train as no particular discounts were available. I finally sorted it a few days beforehand then on collecting my tickets realised I didn’t have a seat reservation. A trip to Euston during my lunch break was pretty fruitless: the train was full and we would need to fight for seats in the 2 unreserved carriages that Virgin Trains fortunately puts on every service. Continue reading

Wainwright Walks 28: Dodd-le of a walk, heck of a journey

Hills: Dodd (Skiddaw)
Wainwrights: ditto (no.65)
When: Friday 24 February
who: Me and the mountaineering minion
Time on hill: 2 hours
Time in car that morning: 3 hours
Time in car the previous evening: 7 hours
Time spent queueing to get through Dartford Tunnel: 2 hours
Time spent after hill driving to Scotland: 3 hours
Total time in car to time on hill ratio: 6 to 1 (argh!)
Bog factor: zero
Other cock-ups: one (details below)

Those of you who read what I post will be familiar with the concept that what I post will usually involve one of the following: a transport related cock-up; a booze related cock-up; a miscellaneous cock-up of some description; and a hill walk of some description. Well this walk had more or less the lot although booze was this time not much in evidence.

The scenario: we were heading to Edinburgh for a week to chill out and see friends and family. Stuart also had all important tickets to Murrayfield to see Scotland play Wales. I had a days holiday I needed to use up so a plan was hatched.. I would drive up early, pit stop on the M6 somewhere and do a hill in the Lakes. Stuart scored a cheap flight on the EasyJet and we would rendezvous at his parents at some point after the walk/ flight.

This should have worked. In the absence of Storm Doris it probably would have. However bad weather has a habit of bringing London to its knees. I left work a bit early and was in the car at 5.. high hopes of making it up the motorway a decent way and pit stopping near Lancaster. I’d left the Travelodge booking fluid to see where I ended up.

7pm and I’m just about through the Dartford Tunnel and one of the worst tail backs I can remember. 8.30 and I’m stopping at a service station on the M1 about 20 miles short of the M6 trying to find somewhere to stay the night having abandoned all hope of getting to Lancaster. It doesn’t help that I forget my Days Inn password and therefore can’t make a booking for one of their hotels and all the M6 Travelodges seem to be full. Fortunately I manage to locate a Travelodge about 5 miles off the motorway near Stoke that has a room available and eventually get going again having wasted half an hour. More bloody awful traffic ensues and by the time I leave the M6 I’m knackered and get slightly lost. I eventually get to the hotel at about 11.45, phone Stuart, drink a glass of wine and pass out… Continue reading

Wainwright walks 22: Insomnia in Coledale

Hills:Barrow, Outerside
Wainwrights: 56 and 57
When: Friday 20 May 2016
Who: just me and the mountaineering minion
Weather: clear summits but windy
Bog factor: zero
Time: 3 hours 10 minutes

It was Thursday 19th May, the day of our planned escape from London for our annual trip to Keswick Mountaineering Festival. Having been dire a few days out the weather forecast was improving and Friday actually promised to be a nice day. What could possibly go wrong?

Those of you that read this blog regularly will know that if something does not go wrong with the weather, something else will probably go wrong instead and this trip would be no different. We had originally hoped to take a half day on Thursday and travel up in a leisurely fashion but as the week progressed and workload got busier and busier it became clear this would not be possible. We did both manage to leave work a bit early and got a train at 5, getting us to Penrith shortly after 8 and to Keswick (courtesy of a pre-booked cab) by 9pm. Continue reading

Wainwright Walks 20: III amigos on III Bell

Hills: Yoke, Ill Bell: Wainwrights 51 and 52
When: 19 March 2016
Who: self, Hilary & Willie
Weather: Lovely!
Distance & ascent: 9 ½ miles & 700m approx.
Time: Just over 5 hours, including breaks
Sadly absent: Stuart
Thankfully absent: Bog
Sadly present: Bad knees, bad back, a gear mishap

Finally! After various posts about hill walking politics, gear, and so on I have finally managed to get out on the hills. The occasion was a meet up for the scottishhills.com website, most of the meets for which unsurprisingly take place in Scotland but for the last couple of years one has been organised in the Lake District. It would be a pretty select group, limited to myself & Stuart, Hilary and Willie, a shame that there wasn’t more interest (and the Lake District needs people to go and visit it after all the floods) but that wouldn’t stop us having a good time and getting a good walk in.

We met up in the Ambleside Tavern on the Friday night after our respective journeys and discussed options for the following day, ultimately deciding on the Ill Bell ridge starting from Troutbeck and seeing where we ended up. An odd name for a hill this one, not least because as written it looks as though it should actually say ‘3 Bell’ with the 3 being in roman numerals. Given it later transpired there are 3 sizeable beacon cairns on the top of the thing I can’t help wondering if – given the roman road on High Street nearby – Ill is actually a typo for ‘3’. According to Wainwright it means ‘Bell shaped hill’ and according to the Cicerone guide book it means ‘Malevolent bell-shaped hill’ so who knows. Continue reading

The joy of socks – and other packing conundrums

Packing. Something that everyone who walks has to do, whether they are packing a day sack for a short walk near where they are based or packing for a week away somewhere. It’s also something which seems – at least for me – to be difficult to get the right balance, and also where I’m prone to mishaps. Packing for a camping trip – particularly a wild camp – seems to involve a whole new level of balance finding (or not) because you are carrying everything and therefore that extra weight matters quite a lot more. Winter is the same because ice axes and crampons weigh a lot but the last thing you want to do is find yourself somewhere you need them – but haven’t got them.

Continue reading

Wainwright Walks 18: Helm Crag to Calf Crag – weird rocks, waterfalls and too many false summits

Hills: Helm Crag, Gibson Knott, Calf Crag
When: 22 September 2015
Who: self and the mountaineering minion
Weather: Sun!
Distance: 8 miles approx
Bog factor: fine until Calf Crag, then pretty awful
Path factor: Great path on Helm Crag, okay on Gibson Knott; boggy after that until the descent through the valley (steep in parts)
Post walk drink: Shiraz
Post walk watering hole: The Lamb Inn, Grasmere

After an uninspiring weather forecast on Monday 21st – which was borne out by the actual weather and therefore we decided to go see the Everest movie at the cinema in Ambleside rather than attempt a walk (this has killed any residual desire I might have ever had to try anything at higher altitude than Scotland!) the forecast for Tuesday was unexpectedly good. However, we both felt rather tired (not due to any excess intake of wine, just generally not a brilliant night’s sleep) so decided a relatively short and lower level walk was in order. The loop over Helm Crag from Grasmere seemed a good bet, with decent paths at least some of the way and also the option of taking the bus which would enable us (a) to avoid the extortionate parking charges in Grasmere and (b) sample one of the local hostelries after the walk. We were off the bus in Grasmere shortly before 11, and ambled past the Sam Read bookshop towards the Easdale road which would lead us to the path up Helm Crag, the summit rocks of which we could already see from the village. The sky was blue, the birds were singing and the route was clear – what could possibly go wrong? Continue reading