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

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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

Wainwright Walks 42: Borrowdale, buses and bogs

Hills: High Seat, Bleaberry Fell, Walla Crag
Classification: Wainwrights (High Seat – no.86; the others were repeats)
When: Thursday 22 March
Weather: Cloudy to start off with but above the summits, later sunny. Very windy at times
Time: 4 ½ hours including breaks
Conditions underfoot: Some bog – sadly not frozen; good paths for a fair bit of it
Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
Post walk drink: Jennings Copper Hop
Post walk watering hole: The Bank Tavern, Keswick
Uses of the arse crampon: None. WTF?!
Mishaps: A sort of transport malfunction thanks to Stagecoach website; phone getting stolen in London earlier in the week (does that count?)
Unnecessary gear carried: Ice axe and crampons

It was fair to say that the week I did this walk did not start off well. To be fair nor had the previous week. I had been flat out at work for several weeks with various things going on and was probably busier than I had been in ages; this was combined with feeling generally run down, tired and below par. Annoyingly it did not seem to matter how much sleep I actually got, I was tired anyway and my get up and go seemed to have got up and gone. I had to get into work on the 19th March stupidly early for work and was walking from the tube station to my office in the City. I was checking something on my phone when I felt a jolt; I then realised that a moped rider had snatched the phone out of my hand and ridden off with it. Cue several phone calls to the police, mobile phone company and insurance company to report the theft and try and sort out a new phone – which was easier said than done as the phone company refused to deliver it to my office and I had back to back meetings till close of play Tuesday, making working at home impossible. Fortunately Stuart was able to arrange to so I was able to get a new phone fairly quickly. Nonetheless it was a rotten start to the week, I felt quite shaken up and not exactly chuffed with some of the unfortunate realities of living and working in London.

Fortunately, I had a pre booked break to the Lakes arranged; I was due to travel up on Wednesday 21st and Stuart was to join me on the 23rd for a beer festival at Hawkshead Brewery. I was flat out again at work until about lunchtime on the 21st when my work load miraculously eased. I left work shortly before 4 and was lucky enough to just about catch the 4.30 train to Windermere; with a taxi pickup sorted I was at my hotel in Ambleside by 8 and able to have a relaxing evening with some good food and a fairly early night. The forecast for the day after was not brilliant but at least promised to be dry which was good enough for me as I was definitely in need of clearing out my brain. I hadn’t slept well since the incident either which had not helped anything.

I was up pretty early the following day and 8.15 saw me at the bus stop waiting for the bus to Keswick. The plan was to change in Keswick to the Borrowdale bus and do High Seat, with the option after that being either to go along to High Tove and then drop to Watendlath or return to Keswick over Bleaberry Fell and Walla Crag (which I had done before). I decided to take the winter kit just in case, though I thought it unlikely I would need it I did not want to find out the hard way! With the bus shortly to arrive I thought I should check there were no issues with the Borrowdale bus… and saw that Stagecoach said it was being diverted via Portinscale for some unspecified reason. Continue reading

Wainwright Walks 41: A Crag in the west and the Beast from the East

Hills: Castle Crag
Classification: Wainwright (no.85)
When: Sunday 4 March
Weather: Cold and cloudy; occasional snow flurries; rain towards the end
Conditions underfoot: Quite icy in parts
Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
Post walk drink: Wainwright ale (later Malbec)
Post walk watering hole: The Royal Oak, Keswick
Uses of the arse crampon: Two (one intentional, one not)
Mishaps: Does the Beast from the East / Storm Emma count as a mishap? If so, then weather, and transport…

The week commencing 26 February was one of those odd weeks. Having been in the Lake District that weekend I was travelling home on the Sunday before heading back up again on the Thursday evening with Stuart for a long weekend in Keswick, cramming in 4 days of work in between. Sounded a simple plan but as usual with me things did not entirely go to plan. However, this time it was not due to any reason of disorganisation, forgetting things or overdoing the Malbec but due to a bout of freak weather that caused rather a lot of chaos across the country. Namely the Beast from the East followed on by Storm Emma…

It started snowing in London on Monday evening.. then stopped. It started again properly over the next couple of days and the park near my house was suddenly covered in icy snow. Getting to the train station in London required walking boots which has not happened for rather a long time. Further North, things were looking a heck of a lot worse and the planned hill walking meet in Keswick looked to be in serious doubt not least given that anyone east of the M6 seemed to be under a huge pile of snow. The train service north of Carlisle was suspended (due to being under a big pile of snow) although it was still running south of there. As people dropped out Stuart and I had a decision to take about whether to travel… given that we would not get a refund for our accommodation and the trains were still running we decided we may as well go for it, but that leaving Euston early on the Thursday afternoon would be helpful. We both managed to leave the office shortly after 4 and just missed the 4.30 train North, but the 5pm train was running through to Carlisle. Or was it? It was cancelled with ten minutes to go… but the 5.30 was running. We piled on to it but decided to take a call at that point to book a cheap hotel in Penrith, as the A66 was being closed for road works overnight between 10pm and 6am and given the amount of snow around it looked as though getting to Penrith in time to get a taxi that could get through the roadworks might be a bit of a stretch. I phoned the cottage company (we were renting an apartment in Keswick this time) to tell them we would be a day late… Continue reading