Orkney: seas, skies and a sunrise

Hills: Wideford Hill
Classification: Marilyn
When: Thursday 4 January
Weather: Very cold, quite windy and at times wet
Low points: all the stuff on the summit
High points: the sunrise
Why: the sunrise
Mishaps: Transport

After my desperate attempt to make sure I did a hill every month by doing a local Kent Marilyn as December’s hill, I didn’t get any more walking done in December. I had thought about a last minute dash to the Lakes a couple of times but the weather forecast was never quite good enough to make it worth it and also work got unexpectedly busy in the run up to Christmas with me being more or less flat out until breaking for the festive period. I was back in work between Christmas and New Year but on the 29th we started a long journey due North. We were off to Orkney, via a night in Edinburgh either side. This was not, predominantly, a walking trip and therefore I deliberately didn’t pack much in the way of gear, but figured a coastal walk of some sort might be in order. We also wanted to see the archaeological highlights, a lot of which we had seen before on a previous visit but were definitely worth repeating.

Of course those of you that read my blog on a regular or even sporadic basis will know that something usually goes wrong. This time it was the plane. It was delayed for about an hour then about 5 minutes after taking off from Edinburgh airport something fell off the inside of the aircraft cabin, nearly hitting someone on the head on the way down, and (unsurprisingly) the captain announced we were returning to Edinburgh to see if they could fix the plane. We were decanted from the plane while they did the necessary and got back on about half an hour later. I can’t say I was that enthused about getting back on the same plane in case something more serious fell off this time but with no real alternative we got back on and ended up landing in Kirkwall about 2 hours later than planned.  Continue reading

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Wainwright walks 39: A Borrowdale Bogfest!

Hills: Grange Fell, Great Crag
Wainwrights: 81 and 82
When: Saturday 11 November
Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
Weather: Fabulous. Cold though!
Bog factor: Megabog! Absolute quagmire at times
Hangover factor: didn’t have one (for the 4th walk running. I must be getting sensible in my old age)
Uses of the ar*e crampon: Several (both deliberate and accidental)
Post walk drink: Strands Brewery Gold Wing
Post walk watering hole: Riverside Bar, Scafell Hotel
Mishaps: Transport, trousers.. read on!

Friday 10 November 2017 17.20… I’m standing at Euston station. Stuart’s about to be en route to Scotland to watch rugby at Murrayfield; I’m booked on the 18.30 train to Windermere, changing at Oxenholme and trying to decide whether to make a run for the 17.30 train. I’d hoped to make this easily, a meeting at work having finished unexpectedly early, but had been collared to discuss something on my way out of the door leaving me pretty tight for the earlier train. I decide in a split second not to push for it as the last thing I want to do is end up having to stand all the way to Oxenholme having missed all the seats in the unreserved carriages. Instead I decide it is a good idea to go and get myself a glass of wine and relax, then get my booked train which after all will still get me in to Windermere at 21.30.

Bad move! I have my glass of wine and head for the concourse. The 18.30 train is delayed and, it becomes gradually obvious, badly so. By the time the train is finally called it is nearly 7pm and it will obviously take 10 minutes at least to stuff everyone on to it and for it to actually leave Euston. It’s already clear to me that my visions of getting to my hotel in Grasmere before last orders are not going to be fulfilled and I seriously consider whether to give the whole weekend up as a bad idea and head home. I decide this is daft given the weather forecast and a quick couple of phone calls to the hotel and to the taxi company that’s picking me up in Windermere are made to reschedule things. The train loses even more time as it goes North and I only make the last train to Windermere by less than 10 minutes. I finally get to Grasmere just after 11 and have no energy to do anything other than collapse in to bed. The only saving grace is that I didn’t have too many glasses of wine on the train. Continue reading

A weekend in the Lakes without the car: a Mountains and Malbec guide

As regular readers of my blog will know, I do a lot of my walking in the Lake District via public transport. This makes weekend jaunts possible without the need for a long and tiring drive – though some areas of the Lakes are a lot more difficult to get to without a car than others (Wasdale in particular springs to mind). However, doing things this way does require a fair bit of planning – with the inevitable possibility of things going hideously wrong! Which of course has happened on more than one occasion.  Continue reading

Wainwright Walks 36: Yet more bog and the wrong trousers (again!)

Hills:Troutbeck Tongue
Wainwright: No.78
When: Sunday 8th October
Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
Weather: Generally pretty good
Conditions underfoot: Good track then megabog
Hangover factor: Didn’t have one
Post walk drink: Shandy, then Loweswater Gold
Post walk watering hole: The Lily Bar, Ambleside
Mishaps: Read on…

I struggled with the title for this one. Given the name of the hill a number of alternatives came to mind but all of them were slightly rude and although this blog – given it sometimes seems to focus as much on alcohol as walking – is not exactly PG rated there are limits. Yes honestly there are!

I am sure I have said before that the faffing with transportation that can often accompany my walking trips is a mishap in itself. Or certainly brings with it the potential for mishaps and this one was to be no different. The occasion was a week staying in a lovely 16th century cottage in Ambleside which we have stayed in before and whilst I normally use the train for shorter visits it seemed silly not to take the car with us this time which gives a bit more flexibility in terms of walk options – not to mention in terms of what gear gets taken. The flipside to this is that getting away at a sensible time on a Friday night involves getting up shortly after 5am to drive the car round to north London, dump it in Stanmore tube station car park, get the tube into the office and then drive up from there after work, hoping to leave at a sensible time. The first part of this should have worked fairly well having got up at what I always think of as ‘silly o’clock’ but I hit heavy traffic on the M25 and was slightly late into work, with early departure already starting to seem unlikely. I am never great after not enough sleep either and although I probably got about 5 hours this is not really enough for me any more. Continue reading

Wainwright Walks 35: Steel-ing myself in the Central Fells

Hills: Steel Fell
Wainwrights: No.77
Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
When: 23 September
Weather: Low cloud but stayed mostly dry until nearly at the top… then rain and wind. Ugh!
Conditions underfoot: Wet grass and wet rock
Bog Factor: Not that much actual bog, but see above
Uses of the Ar*e Crampon: 2 (due to slippy wet rock)
Post walk watering hole: The Unicorn Inn, Ambleside
Post walk drink: Unicorn Ale (seemed appropriate)
Mishaps: Read on….

18.30, Friday 22nd September and once again we were on the Virgin Train service to Glasgow Central, heading due North. It sometimes feels as though I spend half my life on this train as I usually catch this whenever I am going off to do some walking. Only the getting off point really seems to vary as depending on where my ultimate destination is it will either be Oxenholme (2 ½ hours from Euston) Penrith (3 hours) or Glasgow Central (4 ½). It’s also the first train I can get which doesn’t involve having to leave the office rather earlier than would be ideal. On a Friday night it’s always packed as well, which isn’t necessarily a transport malfunction in itself unless I’ve forgotten to reserve a seat (which has happened before necessitating an Usain Bolt type sprint to the unreserved carriages the minute the train was announced). What the heck, it’s still less tiring than driving, and the public transport in the Lakes means that having the use of a car isn’t strictly necessary… well up to a point which I was about to find out. Continue reading

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
Wainwright:69
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