Wainwright Walks 84: Snow going in Kentmere

  • Hills: Shipman Knotts, Kentmere Pike
  • Classification: Wainwrights (157 to 159)
  • When: Friday 25 February
  • Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
  • Distance: Would guess about 6 miles
  • Weather: Glorious sunshine – quite windy at height
  • Conditions underfoot: Snow (mostly quite soft) – megabog on the descent
  • Post walk drink: Malbec
  • Post walk watering hole: The Golden Rule, Ambleside
  • MAMBA factor: High. Saw about 3 other people.
  • Uses of the arse crampon: One minor use on a slippy bit of the descent.
  • Mishaps: More like near misses – almost a parking mishap, almost a gear mishap, and a minor navigational issue

I did wonder whether I should try and turn over a new leaf in 2022. No not some sort of whizzy fitness programme / Dry January / going vegan or anything else, but not starting every single blog post I do with a rant. Then I wondered how on earth I would start the post! I guess I could start it with the mishap list, or with some sort of transport tale of woe, but the transport this time went pretty smoothly after the storm induced fiasco of our last trip to the Lakes at the end of last year.

I guess the days of Covid related rants may be coming to an end as the thing becomes endemic, though there are still things that frustrate me about it, including, as per my previous post, friends who are still so scared of it that they hardly ever leave the house except to get basic essentials such as food and drink, and a certain section of society who seem to think that stuff like mask wearing should be in place more or less in perpetuity to protect vulnerable people. Life is for living and there has to come a point where people need to balance the risks from what now seems to be a pretty mild virus unless you are not vaccinated or are very unlucky, against risks to mental health and indeed to sheer quality of life. Not least given we now have a war in Europe and who knows what will come out of that so we may as well try and live our lives as best as we can. All of that said, I can’t say that some aspects of the return to ‘normality’ such as packed trains and tubes, huge queues in Pret or nearly being flattened by cyclists when crossing the road to the office are necessarily that welcome!

Anyway, enough of the mini-rant and on with the walk. It is fair to say that after the last, mishap ridden trip where I failed to do a new hill (albeit for very good reasons) that I had lost my confidence a bit and as a result was pretty nervous about the trip. The weather forecast was a bit mixed too, with snow forecast on the tops and possibly to lower levels, and the possibility of some strong winds too. Inevitably this means packing extra gear, not only warm layers but also the winter kit, which always seems to weigh more, and take up far more space, than it really should. I also dithered about whether to take the swimming gear and in the end decided to chuck it in the case, the logic being that if I failed to get a hill in but managed to get a swim, I wouldn’t feel as though I had had a wasted trip. Of course, this meant that I was lugging around the case of doom, as well as a rather well stuffed rucksack, and also my laptop as I was going to need to work on the train, as well as possibly log in at some point over the trip (again).

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Arctic on Latrigg!

  • Hills: Latrigg
  • Classification: Wainwright (a repeat)
  • When: Monday 29 November
  • Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
  • Distance: About 4 miles
  • Weather: Absolutely freezing.
  • Post walk drink: Merlot (again)
  • Post walk watering hole: The Board and Elbow, Penrith
  • Uses of the ar*e crampon: Not required, though this had more to do with the choice of hill than the conditions. Microspikes however were definitely required.
  • Mishaps: It might be easier to say what mishaps didn’t happen. Transport, weather, weather induced transport, hire car, insomnia…about the only one missing was an alcohol related mishap.

Well where to start with this one? For once, it will not start with a Covid related rant, though this is not for any particular reason of having nothing Covid related to rant about and more because of the sheer catalogue of completely non Covid related disasters that ensued! Someone once commented on one of my posts that at some point, given the relative lack of mishaps over the last couple of years (Covid aside) there would probably be one colossal string of mishaps all in one go. Well this is that report!

Having had a great trip to Wasdale in September, I still had some holiday to use up before the end of the year – but a very limited window in terms of when I could actually use it due to lots of commitments at work (mainly presenting training courses). The only realistic time I could take it was right at the end of November. Having had a great time in December 2020 on my trip to Sedbergh, when I did one Wainwright, one of the Howgills and a fantastic snowy repeat ascent of Pen-y-Ghent, I decided to take a punt and booked an AirB&B in Penrith. Stuart decided to come with me this time (he had to make a work trip to Manchester which is easy enough to get to from Penrith). The slight fly in the ointment was that we were attending a business dinner for my work on the Friday evening but I booked a hotel close to Euston for that night the idea being to crash over there and then get a train the following morning.

Unfortunately, as the trip got closer the weather forecast got worse and worse, and it became clear that our trip was going to coincide with the first named storm of 2021. However, on the Friday the trains were still running and still expecting to run the following day. I should probably have taken it as a bad omen that our pre booked taxi took forever to get in to London – we were carting around an inordinate amount of gear given we needed to not only carry walking gear (including the full winter kit) but also black tie gear for the business dinner including Stuart’s full kilt get up. As a result the suitcase we had was big enough to be ridiculously unwieldy. We were running horribly late for the dinner by the time we got to the hotel and had to stuff ourselves into our glad rags and then get a tube as we totally failed to get a taxi. We did manage to get one back after the dinner finished and collapsed into the hotel having already decided it would make sense to get an earlier train on the Saturday than the one we had booked seats on  if at all possible.

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Pen y Ghent: a perfect winter day

  • Hills: Pen Y Ghent
  • Classification: Hewitt, Ydiott
  • When: Monday 7 December
  • Who: me and the mountaineering minion
  • Distance: about 6 miles
  • Time: 4 ½ hours
  • Weather: Glorious (again!)
  • Conditions underfoot: Snow and ice – very glad of the microspikes.
  • Post walk drink: Malbec
  • Post walk watering hole: The Dalesman, Sedbergh
  • Uses of the arse crampon: MIA again despite conditions

For those that are wondering, a Hewitt is an official designation for a Hill in England and Wales In excess of Two Thousand (feet). An Ydiott is a most definitely unofficial term for a Yorkshire Dales ‘Ill Over Two Thousand!

Since my last blog post crawled out of the ether on the last day of 2020, once again actually putting virtual pen to equally virtual paper seems to have taken a while. I had hoped that after the Christmas break a couple of things would happen, firstly that we would be starting a more positive year and secondly that work might be a little less manic. The second has shown no signs of happening, and in spite of the positive news about the vaccine, neither has the first. With not only virologists but politicians talking about the possibility of lockdowns extending into the summer, it is difficult to find very much to feel positive about. The whole situation is also a health time bomb for a whole host of reasons, not only the obvious one of the virus itself but also how many other serious health conditions might be getting missed as a result, from heart attacks to cancers and a whole lot of things in between. The effect on mental health isn’t great and the longer all of this goes on for the more difficult people, even people who have had no issues with their mental health previously, will find it – personally I am finding this one, in winter and with no end in sight, harder than before. Attitudes like that of one person who told me that worrying about mental health at the moment was ‘a luxury’ don’t help either. I am starting to wonder if pubs were all a dream… Anyway, at some point one of my blog posts won’t start with a rant!

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Wainwright Walks 53: A bit of festive Barfing

Hills: Barf
Wainwright number: 109
When: Monday 24 December
Weather: Glorious!
Time: 2 ½ hours, including breaks
Conditions underfoot: Mostly ok, though terrain in shade was frozen at times. (On the plus side, so was the bog. Result!)
Who: me and the mountaineering minion
Post walk drink:  Prosecco
Post walk watering hole: The Ambleside Tavern
Mishaps: None whatsoever!
Uses of the arse crampon: No need for it.

Christmas Eve. The sky was blue, the birds were singing, and on surfacing from bed in our holiday cottage, the conditions on the day would have been ideal for a long walk. However, a few libations the night before, and not setting an alarm, had meant that by the time I was actually awake, showered, gear sorted and ready to throw said gear into the car and get underway – as well as needing to engage in some serious de-icing of the car – it was already gone 11am and the time to do any sort of walk other than a short one was fast disappearing. I was also knackered despite having not done very much the day before, following on from the high Tove bogfest on Saturday, and a pretty frantic period of work in the run up to going on holiday. However it was far too nice a day not to do something. Continue reading

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

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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