Saturday, 15 September 2018

High Hartsop Dodd and Little Hart Crag. Adding another “Tick” to the Wainwright’s

High Hartsop Dodd has a wonderful mountain profile when viewed from Sykeside, yet despite its obvious attractions this was the only hill in the Brothers Water area we had yet to climb.  I am not sure why we have left it till last, but assume it was the attractions of loftier and craggier neighbours like Dove Crag that have enticed us away.

High Hartsop Dodd on a sunny day

With regard to Little Hart Crag we have made the short detour to its summit a few times while heading to and from Scandale Pass, simply because it makes a grand viewpoint.  Little Hart Crag incidentally is the highest point of the ridge that continues above High Hartsop Dodd, making today a two Wainwright walk, but only one new tick. 

Waking to rain rattling on the roof of our campervan and with all of the tops clagged in, we did not really feel like doing these two tops as part of a longer walk taking in Dove Crag, so instead decided on a short day which would take us directly up the nose of High Hartsop Dodd and then along the ridge to Little Hart Crag.  The return would be via Scandale Pass and Caiston Glen.  That’s only a distance of 7.5 K, but given the conditions it would keep us entertained until early afternoon.

Accompanied by friends G&S we took the track from the Sykeside campsite up to Hartsop Hall and then headed over the fields. As the climbing started so did a light drizzle, but rather than keeping us cool it left us feeling rather hot and muggy in our waterproofs. 

The lower slopes

It was a bit of a relief when the wind got up as we reached a wall crossing the ridge at right angles. That relief however, was rather short lived as the view disappeared and it began to rain harder.

Gear faff just as the rain came in.

The view towards Brothers Water and Angle Tarn Pikes.

The summit of High Harstop Dodd soon came - and went – as did the summit of Little Hart Crag.  

Summit cairn on High Hartsop Dodd

No views at all from Little Hart Crag

With zero view we sat in the lee of some rocks near the summit and had something to eat and drink.  By the time we had finished the rain was hammering down and streaming off our waterproofs.

With visibility now down to a few feet, we located the metal boundary fence and then followed this south to Scandale Pass.  From here it was a damp splodge down Caiston Glen.  Almost at the bottom the rain stopped, the clouds cleared and the sun shone on the tops we had just visited.  Ahh well you can’t win em all.  At least we were able to grab a pint of Wainwright’s in the pub to console ourselves.

Oh, and I picked up a horrible little hitchhiker on my side, although that did not become apparent until the day after.

Not sure if it was on my kit and then got onto me the next day
or whether it was there overnight. No bulls-eye rash yet so fingers crossed.

89 Wainwrights left to go. 

Sunday, 9 September 2018

High Pike and Binsey.

After last week’s Skiddaw round we only had two Wainwright’s left to do in the Northern section – namely High Pike and Binsey.  The problem was they were at opposite sides of the Uldale and Caldbeck Fells. 

Neither of these hills warranted a full day on their own so we originally planned to bag High Pike and perhaps head over to Carrock Fell again, (we have been onto the latter several times) to make a good days circular walk.  We would then leave Binsey for another day.
A poor weather forecast on the day meant that most of the high tops would be in cloud, so in the end we decided to go for High Pike on its own and if we felt OK once we got back down, we would drive around to Binsey.

Parking near Carrock Beck on the eastern side of High Pike we headed up via Driggeth Mines and the southern slopes of Low Pike.  Occasionally the sun broke through creating some atmospheric conditions, but it didn't last.

Carrock Fell from Driggeth Mines

Atmospheric skies above Carrock Fell with Great Mell Fell just visible through the murk

As expected High Pike was in cloud so we only stayed long enough for a few pics and a bite to eat in the rocky shelter just to the east.  It was still a great walk though, and the first hill of the summer we have not had a view from.

The Summit of High Pike

Returning via Low Pike and West Fell we got back to the car just before noon, leaving us plenty of time for Binsey.

The clouds were just starting to break up and by the time we reached the high road beyond Calbeck,  the Skiddaw range was looking spectacular as cloud spilled over the summit and down its flanks.

Skiddaw from the Uldale Road

The walk up onto Binsey went quickly and we were on the top 40 minutes later.  For a diminutive little hill it is a great viewpoint and one I would happily do again.  

Binsey Summit

We explored the top and had a look at the Tumulus, but all of the time our eyes were drawn across the valley towards Skiddaw.  Raked by shafts of light and with her summit shrouded by swirling cloud Skiddaw looked spectacular.

Skiddaw and Bassenthwaite Lake

So that’s all of the Northern Wainwright’s completed.  It has been great fun revisiting some fells and enjoying others we would probably not have bothered with.  We will certainly be revisiting some of them again.   

That leaves us with 90 Wainwright’s to do.

© David Forster

Monday, 3 September 2018

Skiddaw Round and a Hill Too Far – Dodd, Carl Side, Skiddaw, Little Man, Longside Edge and Bakestall.

We only have 6 Wainwright’s to do in order to complete all of the Wainwright’s in the Northern Fells.  Namely, High Pike, Binsey, Bakestall, Low Man, Lonscale Fell, and Dodd.  Of these High Pike, Binsey and Bakstall would probably have to be done as single hills, but on the map it looked like the others could linked together, albeit with a longish road walk.

Parking at the top of the Gale road in the Lattrigg car park we decided to get the road walking out of the way and go for Dodd first.  Fortunately the road below the Skiddaw range is nice and quiet with some great views south over Derwent Water and Braithwaite. 
The view towards the Coledale valley with Force Crag in the centre.

Passing through the quiet villages of Applethwaite and Millbeck, we took the Allerdale Ramble path up through deep bracken until we reached the edge of Thornthwaite Forest.

Not keen on these deep bracken paths. Ticks love these places.

After a short distance we entered an area that was being clear felled.  Here the ground was churned up so much we found it difficult to work out where the right of way went.  In the end we opted for a rather circuitous route following the forest roads instead. Once on the summit of Dodd we had a break and passed the time naming the hills while we drank our coffee.  It was quite satisfying to note we had stood on a fair few of them already.

The summit of Dodd with Little Man behind

Moving on our next goal was Carl Side, which was climbed via White Stones. Here we fell in behind a large group about to tackle the loose path up onto Skiddaw.  

Carlside with the path up on to Skiddaw ahead.
Frequent stops by us meant the group soon disappeared ahead and we were left to enjoy the views.

Carl Side Ahead

Longside Edge (Longside and Ullock Pike)

Being a Bank Holiday the summit of Skiddaw was busy so we did not hang around.  

Bassenthwaite Lake from the Summit of Skiddaw

At this point we should have headed off towards Little Man, but after getting a good look at the ground to the north of Skiddaw I suggested we could perhaps bag Bakestall.  Yes it would mean losing and regaining a lot of height, but it would at least mean we got an extra hill out of the day.   We also noticed that on the return, rather than re-ascend back over the summit of Skiddaw, we could instead traverse below it along a fence line which would bring us out in the col between Little Man and Skiddaw itself.  Moira was keen too and with plan hatched we dropped down to Bakestall.    

Bakestall itself is a pleasant summit with great views and with hindsight it is a hill we should really have left for another day.  It seemed a shame just to bag the hill for the sake of it, particularly so as the route up via Whitewater Dash falls offers a fine walk.  It’s a hill we fully intend to revisit and do justice to in the future.

The North top of Bakestall from the summit

Binsey and the view across the Solway Firth to the Scottish hills of Dumfries and Galloway from the North top.

The return felt a bit of a slog but eventually we reached the fence and began to follow it.  After a few hundred meters we had to lose some height where the upper reaches of the River Caldew cuts into the flank of Skiddaw.  The ground sloped quite steeply here placing all of the pressure on the downward foot. It made for some awkward walking, so by the time we had climbed up to the col and the path below Little Man, our aching knees suggested the short cut was not such a good idea after all.

The summit of Little Man was a great viewpoint, but it was fair to say we were starting to feel the miles a bit.  From here we could at least see that the route onto Lonscale Fell was straightforward.

Clough Head and the Dodds from Little Man

It was just as well, by the time we had crossed over Lesser Man and reached Lonscale Fell we knew we had done one hill too many.

Cairn on Lesser Man with the view towards Lonscale Fell (middle left of the cairn)

Cairn on Lonscale fell

The descent down to the main path involved a bit more traversing, but at least with the last hill of the day bagged we were in no hurry.  After this it was just a case of following the well-worn Skiddaw path past the Hawell Monument back to the car. 

Shepherds Cross with the descent path beyond (Hawell Monument). 

Judging by how much we ached and how stiff we were after the drive home it is safe to say that in hindsight we should definitely have left Bakestall for another day.

Anyway with the 4 new Wainwright’s of Dodd, Bakestall, Little Man, and Lonscale Fell bagged that leaves us 92 to go.  A couple more trips should take us into the 80’s. 

© David Forster

Friday, 17 August 2018

Theme Park or National Park?

In among all the anger and doom and gloom surrounding the steady but relentless limiting of access to the hills for the less well off, and of course the drive to turn our National Parks into cash generating theme parks, I learnt a new word today after sharing these images on Twitter and highlighting how wonderful the woods where I live smelled in the rain. The person commenting said “Petrichor is a wonderful thing”.  Petrichor incidentally is the pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long spell of dry weather.  

That morning while standing in the pouring rain, the sights, sounds, and smells of those woods were indeed a wonderful thing. I don’t have a single word to describe those feelings, but they are with me now as I look at the images. They remind me how lucky I am to be able to enjoy the outdoors without needing to be enticed out there.

Do you feel anything?

Perhaps a bit deep for some, but enjoying the outdoors is so much more than just looking at the view. If you don’t immerse yourself in the landscape and feel it with all your senses, you are merely an observer.  If you don’t have any spiritual connection to the landscape and it’s not a part of your very soul, then you may never understand how much it means to enjoy the outdoors regardless of how well off you are.  Perhaps it is that lack of empathy that explains in part why some folk only see the monetary value in such places and have no problem with theme park developments, or  the notion of paying for access.

Sadly for some people the choice is now becoming head to the hills, or spend money in local businesses.  Certainly for my own well-being the choice must be the hills…. at least it will be until I am priced out too.  I would prefer it otherwise but there you go.

Talking of the olfactory senses, after all those years of hard won protections and freedoms to enjoy our landscapes, over in the Lake District we now have the repulsive stench of corporate greed to contend with. Its pervasive odour, often disguised as promoting and even conserving the landscape has now found its way onto the boards of our National Parks.  Perhaps it has always been there and people like me have been naive in thinking otherwise.  In the Lake District the battle lines have been drawn yet again and after the fight to save the area around Thirlmere, we now face another to fight, this time the cable car plans which threaten to overwhelm the quaint village of Braithwaite. 

Theme Park, or National Park, that’s the choice now, so if you are sitting on the fence it really is time to wake up and decide which you prefer.  

The hills above Braithwaite.  Is it just a view to you, or does it run deeper?

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

More Wainwright Bagging – Bowscale Fell, Bannerdale Crags and Souther Fell.

Due to an enforced layoff from mountains due to re-occurring problems with plantar fasciitis, Moira and I were keen to get back to the Lakes again and enjoy a few more Wainwright’s.

We needed something that wasn’t too taxing and the area to the west of Mungrisdale looked like it would fit the bill as there were a couple of hills there, namely Bowscale Fell (702m) and Souther Fell (522m) we had not climbed. Set between these two hills was Bannerdale Crags (683m), a hill we had previously climbed back in 1999.  It would certainly be no hardship to do this again and after a look at the map we soon came up with a pleasant route that would take them all in. 

An 8.00am start saw us making our way out of the village of Mungrisdale to take the track beside the river Glendermackin up to a flood damaged area by a bridge. Here the path splits with one bearing left to follow the river and the other continuing along the southerly flank of the Tongue.    Taking the right hand path we had good views of the east ridge of Bannerdale Crags.  

Bannerdale Crags and its east ridge.

At this point we had a bit of a "wish we had chosen the east ridge moment", as the rocky nature of the upper section looked like it would make a nice scramble towards the top.  Unfortunately it would mean a long down and up from here, so we mentally added it to our ever increasing list of routes to do and plodded on.

It’s a bit of a long pull up to the col between Bowscale Fell and Bannerdale Crags, but in the cool of the morning it was no hardship, especially so given the great views back down the valley.  Once at the broad grassy col we headed north to the summit of Bowscale Fell. 

A welcome cup of coffee in the summit shelter

We couldn't leave without a quick detour to the north top of Bowscale Fell

Backtracking to the coll we then headed up to Bannerdale Crags.  Staying close to the craggy escarpment gave us good views down into Bannerdale and beyond to the North Pennines where Cross Fell and the Dun Fells could be seen despite some haze.

Bannerdale and the view out towards the Pennines

The summit Cairn of Bannerdale Crags

From the summit we headed northwest to the col between Blencathra and Bannerdale Crags itself.  This led us along the upper reaches of the River Glendermackin on an easy path that gave cracking views of Blencathra - particularly Sharp Edge.  It looked busy over there and even from down here we could see lots of little stick like figures making their way along the ridge.

Sharp Edge from the north

Looking back to sharp edge from the south
At the point where the river swung in a loop around the southerly nose of Bannerdale Crags, marked White Horse Bent on the map, we crossed over the river via a footbridge and then made our way up onto Souther Fell.  

Souther Fell (left)

Easy walking took us to the cairn Wainwright sketched for his books.  

Bannerdale Crags with Blencathra behind from Souther Fell

This is not the summit however, and after a quick photo we wandered over several high points until we reached the true summit at the northern end.  

With no sign of the ghostly “Spectral Army of Souter Fell” that is said to walk this ridge on certain days.  Click here for an account of the tale we made a steady decent down course grassy slopes to a point where the path skirts rightwards. Here the path led us through chest deep bracken to bring us out on the road above the in-bye land.  A short walk down the road brought us to our start point.  A nice pint in the Mill Inn rounded off a great days walking.

Distance 14k

96 to go.

© David Forster

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Parking Charges at Arrochar – The Outdoor Access Tax

There has quite rightly been outrage at the 800% rise in parking fees at Arrochar announced by Argyll and Bute council.  Such charges are nothing new if you live in the Lake District of course.  Here high charges are the norm and you won’t get much change from a tenner in the popular places.  Such charges in reality are nothing more than an access tax.

A few places in the Lakes still exist where parking is free but it only a matter of time before these too succumb to high parking charges. 

Paying such high fees to access the hills if you arrive by car is bad enough, but what has shocked me just as much is the gullibility of some outdoor users, either in accepting, or indeed supporting such charges. 

A common thread seems to be, it’s only fair we pay to access the hills to cover such things as the car parks themselves, path repairs, or make up the funding shortfall for councils and the national parks etc.  A few even seem happy with the notion of high prices reducing the number of people heading to the hills!

Reality Check
But hang on let’s just take a step back here.  Why on earth do some people think it is acceptable to pay a tax to park when we are already paying taxes?  Ahh I hear you say, what about funding cuts by the Government, the shortfall should be made up by outdoor users, it’s only fair surely?  After all there is no magic money tree, at least not according to the likes of Theresa May.

Well in short it seems to be down to priorities and the outdoors and the environment are sitting somewhere near the bottom of the list when it comes to government providing money.  At the other end of the spectrum of course, such places are top of the list when it comes to money making opportunities. 

Loads a Money.
Don’t be conned into thinking there isn’t enough money because this really does come down to priorities.  After all there was more than enough money to pay the DUP £1.5 billion to side with the Tories after the last election.  There is more than enough money to pay large subsidies to farmers and the renewables industry for example.  And, we certainly seem to be able to find plenty of money to fund wars and drop bombs on people.  When it comes to politicians themselves, many of which are among the richest people in our country, they have no problem in asking tax payers to fork out some £3.7 million for food and drink subsidies within the House of Commons.  These examples are just a tiny proportion compared to the Billions given to big businesses in the form of tax breaks of course.

Pulling the Conservation Trump Card
When it comes to arguments about why people should pay to park, the trump card seems to be the environment. Interestingly people conveniently forget about industries such as grouse shooting and renewables that really do cause some serious damage to our upland areas.  In fact it could be argued that grouse shooting and the renewables industry between them have a much greater impact than our boots will ever have.  Add in the fact that there are several groups using donations to repair footpaths all over the country and the argument for taxes to cover these costs seems much less compelling as well.

So let’s be blunt here, what governments really mean when they make cuts to national parks and local councils - is the environment is not a priority, what is a priority however is making money from the people who value it.

Given how important the outdoors is to the health and well-being of millions of people, surely instead of rolling over and paying, we should, along with the organisation that represent us, be lobbying governments harder to give more money to the National Parks and councils who provide parking.  One thing for certain we should not be picking up the shortfall willingly. 

© David Forster

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Far Eastern Fells - Hartsop Area - Brock Crags (561m)

A Plan B Day

It was incredibly windy this morning and after a disturbed night it was a right grumpy camper who looked out over the sea of billowing tents and rocking campervans.  Only a couple of pitches away a heavy framed gazebo had damaged two vehicles when it blew away during the night, so I was surprised to see a bloke gamely set up his table outside.  Seconds later it blew away straight into the side of the vehicle in front of us.
Now I accept I am well into grumpy old bloke territory, but I couldn't help ranting at the stupidity of some people.  The final straw however, was watching the bloke opposite me allow his dog to wander over and take a piss on my pitch and then observe as it wandered over to the next pitch to pee all over their electric cable.

This was at least tempered with the satisfaction of some instant karma when the dog owner's back was turned and the dog pissed up his tent and all over his unlit BBQ.

Ranting aside, this wind was way stronger than yesterday and our planned route over Dove Crag to bag High Hartsop Dodd did not really appeal.  Perhaps a more sensible choice was to come up with a plan involving lower hills.

Brock Crags at 561m fitted the bill, so a little later than planned we found ourselves wandering alongside Brothers Water and then up through Hartsop again.  

Brothers Water with our plan A route beyond.

Just before the parking area we headed leftwards out of the village to pick up a path leading from Calf Close.  This led along the southern slopes of Brock Crags and gave good views of yesterdays route over Gray Crag and Hartsop Dodd. 

Hartsop Dodd

The going was easy and despite some strong gusts we soon bagged the Wainwright top, along with all of the surrounding high points just for the hell of it.  

Brock Crags Cairn and the view towards Angle Tarn

Brothers Water

Summit and tops achieved we had a gentle wander over to Angle Tarn and then on to Boredale Hause.  From here we headed down and back along the valley to the Sykeside.

An easy day leaving us 98 Wainwright's to go.