Wainwright Walks 27: Lording it up (but not Barfing) at Whinlatter

Hills: Lord’s Seat, Broom Fell
Wainwrights: ditto (63 and 64)
When: Wednesday 4 January 2017
Who: me and the mountaineering minion
Conditions underfoot: great paths followed by mostly frozen bog
Bog factor: Broom Fell would be a quagmire outside of winter. Most of the bog was frozen but there were still a fair few glutinous patches.
Post walk watering hole: The Ambleside Tavern
Post walk drink: Merlot

After having got the year off to a good, if cold, start on Raven Crag, the 3rd of January was a bt grey and I settled for a pottering about day. The forecast for the 4th was excellent again however so we made a plan for uncharted territory namely the hills around the Whinlatter Pass. These had the benefit of a high start, some good paths and reputedly great views of the Skiddaw range and seemed ideal for a short winter day.

Of course if the weather does not go wrong something else will and Stuart’s cough was getting no better. We decided that I would drop him in Keswick and I would go and do the hills anyway, or at least a couple of them, and pick him up in the Dog and Gun later on. We had a good run up the A591 and I dropped him at Keswick Museum (which had an exhibition on Wainwright) shortly after 11. The drive to Whinlatter took me a bit longer than I thought it would though but after the usual faffing I was away shortly after 11.30 on a series of excellently constructed way marked paths and tracks. I had remembered to attach the mountaineering minion to the rucksack this time! Continue reading

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Wainwright Walks 26: Raven about the views from Raven Crag!

Hills: Raven Crag
Wainwrights: ditto
Who: Just me
When: Monday 2nd January 2017
Weather: glorious!
Bog factor: zero
Dodgy path factor: medium
Bizarre summit feature factor: high

January through to March is usually my off season for walking. A combination of short daylight hours (given that I am not a morning person) together with a tendency for the weather to be rotten has meant it hasn’t usually been worth taking a punt on a trip. There has been the odd day in February or the end of January where a winter walk has come together, but they have been few and far between, and certainly early January hasn’t traditionally been a good source of days on the hill.

That was about to change! A week off in the New Year had been booked and we were visiting our old haunt of the Salutation Hotel in Ambleside. Given we would be there for a few nights we decided to drive up and break the journey part way. The morning of the 2nd saw us emerging from the Macdonald Tickled Trout hotel near Preston (pretty good) to glorious sunshine. Given our reputation as bad weather magnets this was not something we had necessarily expected, despite the weather forecast (which as everyone knows can be wrong, and indeed, often is).

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Fifty shades of gear shopping

Gear. It’s something you obviously need if you are a keen walker. It’s also something that, if you are me, you seem to end up with far too much of. As part of a general attempt to de-clutter (with partial success) I’ve jettisoned a load of old gear that either doesn’t fit or has reached the end of what accountants refer to as its ‘useful economic life’ – i.e. it is falling to bits to the extent of not being fit for purpose. Unfortunately in my case gear doesn’t always last long – for instance as a result of trousers being ripped at the bum due to the use of ‘five points of contact’ when scrambling, or the rucksack that was in a shed and got eaten by mice as I had forgotten I’d left some muesli bars in it. I still seem to have far too much though – why have I still got the walking boots that give me blisters when I have 2 other pairs of 3 season boots that are perfectly ok? And I still have my first ever pair of walking boots which did me for the first 15 or so Munros but were a Hi-Tec cheapie pair and the tread has now worn pretty thin. The logic for hanging onto these is for long flat walks down here and they are as comfortable as a pair of old slippers.. I guess that makes some sense!

I think people go through stages with gear: Continue reading

Off walking? No, just off season..

It’s been a while since I posted on this blog, not least because it has now been a very long time since I have been anywhere near a hill (our 100th Munro on Beinn Bhreac in October, to be precise). This isn’t an unusual situation for us – whilst we have done some winter walking in the past, we tend to do very little as the equation of cost of getting somewhere with proper mountains, versus the likelihood of getting decent enough weather to actually go out and do something when we get there (given we aren’t fans of walking in bad weather), doesn’t really pan out. In the past, First Scotrail used to offer cheap deals in the winter months for frequent sleeper train users which made it worth taking a punt, but since the takeover by Serco these have vanished, with no indication they will ever reappear.  Continue reading

The joys of ‘boring’ hills

There sometimes seems to be a received wisdom in the hill walking community that some hills are boring. Such hills should (the received wisdom goes) be saved for a poor weather day; the logic being that you are going to have a dull day anyway, so you might as well make it a really dull one, slogging up and down in mist, rain, or whatever. Even some of the guide books recommend this approach! Of course, there is the other viewpoint, that there is no such thing as a boring hill – just boring people – though I wouldn’t go quite that far!

So what characterises a boring hill? Certain sections of the hill walking community seem to think that anything which isn’t too gnarly and challenging is dull. This puts rounded Cairngorm lumps such as Mount Keen, or the East Drumochter two (Carn na Caim and A’Bhuidheanach Beag) into that category. Along with easy plods like Fionn Bheinn at Achnasheen, or most of the hills at Glenshee. And we’ve had wonderful days out on all of these. Sometimes, a ‘boring’ hill makes for an extremely good day – for a variety of reasons.
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Beinn an Dothaidh – an afternoon blast!

Hills: Beinn an Dothaidh
Munros: Ditto
Who: Self & Stuart
When: Saturday 25 April 2015
Unfortunately present: Bog: snow shower: bad case of path erosion: swear words (as a result) bruises (ditto)
Unexpectedly present: Glorious sunshine!
Post walk watering hole: Bridge of Orchy Hotel
Post walk drink: To start with, coke and Bridge of Orchy ale, followed by Malbec
Mishaps: read on…

Yes, I know what the first reaction will be on reading the list of hills done on this walk. What happened to Beinn Dorain? It usually takes about an hour and a half or so to walk between these hills, after all… But not in this case. In this case it took us slightly less than six years. This is not because our walking pace has finally reduced to glacial speed.. but rather because we had done Beinn Dorain way back in May 2009, on a marginal day, and had also been trying to do it by public transport. We were running tight for time to add on Dothaidh as well, and decided that discretion was probably the better part of valour given that the implications for us of missing the train (missing work, not to mention cost of replacement tickets) are quite high!

We’d meant to go back for Dothaidh rather earlier than this but for various reasons it hadn’t happened. It was kind of being kept for a day when we needed a shortish walk which could be done in a morning – or more likely given that we aren’t the earliest risers, an afternoon. It also had the advantage of being something of a known quantity which given the long lay off from being on the Munros – the last ones being the end of August – would be rather welcome.

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The perfect winter’s day?

Hills: Stob a’Choire Odhair
Date: 30 January 2010
Weather: Glorious sunshine, cold and windy on the top.
Who: Me, Stuart and two mates
Honourable mention: Monsieur Grivel and his marvellous inventions

I think this really was the perfect winter hill day. And it was my first attempt at a winter walk. One of those days that you remember for a long, long time.

Firstly, I’d like to apologise for the amount of photos, and ask people not to adjust their computer screen – the sky really was that colour. I don’t think we’ve ever had a day on the hills that produced quite this many good shots – or this much blue sky! This is probably because (a) we’d never been on the hills before when there had been significant snowfall, and (b) we often aren’t that blessed with the weather, to say the least.

I think it’s fair to say that our preparation for this walk was probably not the best. I hadn’t done any serious walking since the previous September, except for a couple of flat walks, and hadn’t done anywhere near enough in the gym and boy did I feel it!

Until the day before the walk, we also hadn’t got crampons, although we did have winter boots that we had both bought in the sales. The crampon problem was rectified by a mad dash to Cotswold Outdoor on Friday lunchtime to pick up two pairs of Grivels; the lack of fitness problem was then exacerbated by a delayed flight, which meant that we didn’t get to Stuart’s parents in Irvine till after midnight, and by the time we had sorted our kit, adjusted the new crampons to actually fit our boots (as I didn’t really want to have to do that on the hill) and so forth it was 2am. Eek! We left Irvine at about 7.15 on Saturday morning and made it to Victoria Bridge car park about two hours later to meet our mates (who had been in Glencoe the previous night), and by the time we had all faffed with kit, filled up hydration bladders, found the sandwiches, checked we all had all our gear actually with us, and worked out how to strap an ice axe to a rucksack without hitting yourself over the head with it in the process (hint: it’s best not to be wearing the rucksack at the time), it was almost 10am by the time we set off.

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