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

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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 50: Boiled on Blencathra!

Hills: Blencathra, Mungrisdale Common
Classification: Wainwrights – no.102 and 103
When: Tuesday 26 June
Weather: Scorchio!
Time: Just over 5 hours, including a couple of fairly lengthy breaks
Conditions underfoot: Good paths on Blencathra – dry bog thereafter…
Who: me and the mountaineering minion
Post walk drink: Keswick Brewery Thirst Quencher, later Prosecco
Post walk watering hole: Horse and Farrier, Threlkeld then the Ambleside Tavern later
Mishaps: Transport. Although this is becoming such a frequent occurrence I am not sure it counts as a mishap any more, just the normal state of play….

After my last walk, and the subsequent beer extravaganza that ensued at Keswick Beer Festival, I had no walking planned for some time – in fact nothing actually in the diary for several months that involved being anywhere near a hilly part of the country. I had already hit my target for the year in terms of hills by making it to the ton on Steel Knotts – what was next? With no obvious hill walking goal next it was surely time to potter around the house/ garden and do some of the tasks that had been sorely neglected.

This lasted a couple of weeks. We did actually manage to get the garden sorted out although tidying the house and/ or any of the other tasks that could really do with being sorted didn’t happen. We did attend another beer festival, this one being near our house, and work got completely mental for a couple of weeks before what looked like a reasonably quiet week presented itself. This quiet week coincided with a week that Stuart was going to be away on business for most of it so inevitably, a plan was hatched… I had missed out on doing Blencathra when staying in Keswick due to reasons of knackeredness and later the weather starting to turn. Aha! I would book a couple of days off and – assuming decent weather – try and get it done as I have wanted to for ages. Continue reading

Wainwright Walks 47: Nab-ing 4 for 99 not out!

Hills: Rest Dodd, The Nab, Brock Crags, Angletarn Pikes
Classification: Wainwrights – no.96 to 99
When: Sunday 27 May
Weather: Windy to start off with – then scorchio!
Time: 7 hours, including breaks
Conditions underfoot: Generally pretty good – the bog was dry!
Who: me and the mountaineering minion
Post walk drink: Lakes Distillery gin, and a much needed pint of coke
Post walk watering hole: Beckside Bar, the Glenridding Hotel
Mishaps: Transport (assuming the journey North counts)

In advance of a week in the Lake District, I had a cunning plan. Stuart and I were spending a few nights in Glenridding in a hotel, then moving on to Keswick where we were sponsoring a barrel at Keswick Beer Festival. The forecast for the week was great… what could possibly go wrong?

Those of you that read my blog will know that if something does not go wrong with the weather something else will go wrong instead and this trip was no exception. The first thing that was not ideal in preparing for the trip was that I had a manic week at work trying to get various things done. To add to this I went down with a cold and was too busy to take any time off sick. There was nothing for it but to drag myself in anyway and get on with things. By Friday I was feeling a lot better but still not anywhere near 100% and was still coughing up phlegm (lovely). My knees and back were also grumpy, not helped by me having tripped over a paving stone when getting my shopping in to the house and bashing my left knee quite badly a week beforehand, though it was clearly on the mend. 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 43: Bogs, crags and mishaps in Patterdale

Hills: Birks, Arnison Crag
Classification: Wainwrights (no. 87 and 88)
When: Wednesday 18 April
Weather: Cloudy with light rain to start with, then cleared up
Time: 4 hours including breaks
Conditions underfoot: Some decent paths, but a lot of bog in parts
Who: me and the mountaineering minion, plus two other walkers for most of it
Post walk drink: Wainwright
Post walk watering hole: The Patterdale Hotel
Uses of the arse crampon: None (again!)
Mishaps: minor navigational (mine); major navigational (someone else’s); car trouble before going (does that count?); traffic; gear (see below)

12.30 on Tuesday 18th April, and I’m just getting into the car in Bromley in order to head in the direction of Patterdale. Yes the car. I do most of my Lakes walking these days by public transport, and don’t generally take the car unless I am going for a whole week, not least because I find the long drive a lot more tiring than getting a train up from Euston. But this time I was going for 4 nights and staying somewhere that the bus connections were not as good as I am used to when based in Ambleside or Keswick, so it seemed sensible to use the car to give me flexibility for my walk options. My car was due for its MOT, so was booked in… what could possibly go wrong? Continue reading

Gone to pot on Stone(d)? Arthur – or when to turn back, v2

Disclaimer: this blog post contains no illegal substances whatsoever. Beer and Malbec are as far as I know still totally legal and long may that continue!

Having had an absolutely excellent walk in Borrowdale the previous day, which had yielded me only one new Wainwright but two really nice repeats, I was looking forward to more of the same the following day. The weather forecast had been a bit better for Friday than Thursday before I’d actually left London, and a lot of the snow was clearing away.. It was probably inevitable that normal service would be resumed and something would not go to plan! The weather forecast had gone to pot and was for heavy rain and strong winds, eventually clearing up too late to be of any use. Continue reading