Category Archives: Walking for fitness

Wriggling around Riggindale

Following on from my recent walking successes – see, you go out not with the Ramblers and start to enjoy walking again, I’d already asked Karl to include me in his next Lake District walk and I didn’t care where we might go. He informed me that our next adventure would involve the fells above Haweswater, I dared to ask if this would include High Street and was delighted when this was duly confirmed. The backstory to this was that in 2015 with the Southport Ramblers group, a walk from Pooley Bridge was meant to take in High Street – it didn’t and culminated at the not very high or impressive Arthur’s Pike. (Excuse me whilst I go and cancel my Ramblers membership!)

We arrived at unknown location next to Haweswater – that doesn’t really narrow things down for anyone who hasn’t been to the area, shall I just say that we parked on a small car park next to the reservoir / lake. For the record, I have to say that my first impression of Haweswater was that it was stunning, the reflection of the fells went a long way towards influencing this opinion, but it is a beautiful stretch of water and very difficult to believe that mankind has hand an active hand in creating it.

A Hawthorne tree - one of many.
A Hawthorne tree – one of many.

For a very pleasant change we actually started the walk by going downhill first, this is unprecedented with Karl and Sue walks that nearly always involve a monumental assault up the face of this fill or that fell, why, this was almost civilised. Not many people know this, but my favourite tree is…the Hawthorne tree, we used to have one which killed cheap footballs in our front garden so it was a case of admiring something that I’ve known all my life. Anyway, there was a lot of Hawthornes on the side of the crag that we were now yomping across, the crag was Riggindale and the area was the wonderfully named Dudderwick. I’m not sure who had planted the Holly tree, even though it was less than six feet in height, on this hillside it stood out more than some Ash trees that dwarfed it. Walking alongside the water was an absolute joy, alas all good things come to an end and within less than ten minutes of gentle ambling, we turned left and began a phase to which I shall refer as ‘the big up!’ The name of this route is ‘Long Stile’.

 

 

Blea Water comes into view.
Blea Water comes into view.
Small Water
Small Water

Karl had warned me that we would be attacking High Street via the ridge which is the Riggindale Crag and what an incline it was. I am toying with an idea of deploying a grading scale for hills that I ascend…this would be around a three to four, if we think of a crown green bowling green as a 10 and Steel Fell (whatever God awful route we took) as being a 1 then this should serve to indicate the incline, for anyone who has had the misfortune of climbing Steel Fell! It was steep, but more of a slog than a major climb…and seemingly relentless. On the plus side, the terrain and indeed the scenery changed frequently. The major mountains adjacent to us of course stayed the same but the environment through which we were walking changed quite dramatically. At times I had to stop myself from looking up as the summit – the point at which our ridge collided with High Street proper, seemed to be getting no closer. On the positive side there was many distractions like the stunning Blea Water and its smaller neighbour the appropriately named Small Water.

We stopped for lunch around three quarters into the climb…I was feeling pretty much exhausted by this time and the views back over to the other side of the valley made the decision very hard to contest. For a nice change, the normally omnipresent wind decided not to blow our socks off and we had a nice fifteen to twenty minutes worth of rest and relaxation. I checked my altimeter which reported that we had still around six hundred feet to climb – in my head that equated to around two thirds of a standard Pendle Hill climb…so nothing to worry about then!

The giants of the lakeland, the Scafells and Gable are noticeable.
The giants of the lakeland, the Scafells and Gable are noticeable.
The eastern fells greet us
The eastern fells greet us

In time we set off once again, the gradient worsened – as indeed it does on most climbs until you are within reach of the final crest of the hill or mountain or fell. I found it very hard to believe that we had just bolted up around six hundred feet in less than half an hour – take that Naismith! As I took the final crest of the slope I kept expecting there to be more…and there wasn’t, I’d made it, to the top of High Street…at last! And the views were spectacular! For once we were treated to a full panorama from Great Mell Fell and Blencathra, across Grizedale Pike, Helvellyn, Great Gable, the Scafells and even the Coniston range. This was our reward for something of a hard push up this giant. Nobody had expected the ascent to be easy, but by the same token no one would have hoped to have such a ‘who’s who’ of Lake Distract fells sprawled out along the horizon. And it wasn’t even windy!

Here are some more pictures:

As far as the I can see.
As far as the I can see.

Great Gable arises
Great Gable arises
The Knott as seen from the descent of High Street.
The Knott as seen from the descent of High Street.
Rampsgill Head is the central fell as viewed from the mighty 'The Knott'
Rampsgill Head is the central fell as viewed from the mighty ‘The Knott’

After taking more photographs probably than what I needed. We discussed our next objective. Sue and Karl were happy to factor in a visit to High Raise, I was not so sure of this as it looked like a lot of descending and ascending. But then Karl reasoned that it was not that far away and compared to what we had already done…it was nothing. So of we set in the direction of a fell that I had heard of from two weeks ago, ‘The Knott’. I think it’s fair to say that unless you were avidly ticking off the ‘Wainwrights’ then you probably wouldn’t visit this fill / lump. Yes it has a commanding position, but that hardly singles it out for special treatment in this environment where this characteristic is widely shared. We spent no more than five minutes here and then climbed back over the wall and onwards up another path to Rampsgill Head, a fell of which I had never heard.

We were not that sure of which part / cairn actually signified the highest point of Rampsgill Head…Karl touched all three, I did two and I think Sue just did the one, I’ll go with Sue as she is generally right about these types of things. With the benefit of hindsight I could have just used my altimeter and referenced the reading with the fell’s Wiki entry! By this time – which was around one thirty, the sun was fairly beating down on us. The walk over to High Raise did not look as bad from this aspect as it had from High Street – it had looked like a right odyssey, and we set off downhill and then up a steady but not at all severe climb. In all honesty I don’t think that it took us twenty minutes to get to the top of our second biggest fell of the day.  High Raise had a quite extensive summit cairn and a wind shelter of sorts – a bit like the ones at Pen-y-Ghent and Whernside but on a day like today it was cloaked in shade and would serve no purpose so we declined to use it and ate the rest of our lunches here in the sun.

Vertigo sufferers look away!
Vertigo sufferers look away!
The view across the valley from Kidsty Pike.
The view across the valley from Kidsty Pike.

The penultimate stage of the route was now upon us, to sort of ‘wriggle’ (hence the name of the walk) back to Kidsty Pike, our last summit. From this aspect, the pike looked like any other mound of earth attached to a hillside soaring into the sky. The point in visiting this peak is not to see it, moreover, it is the the view from the pike itself. It was phenomenal! As it was still a lovely day and Shap chippy doesn’t open until 16:30, we stopped at spent some more time taking in the amazing views down into the valley. Sue spotted some deer down below and try as I might I could not focus on them. This was made even more envy-evoking when Karl managed to get a fix on them. I persisted however and eventually after scouring the valley for a good five minutes I glimpsed something wandering around. And then there they were, I could not tell you how many of these shy creatures were roaming around but I’d guess at around thirty or so. My camera and my photography in general, was not good enough to capture a piccie of them so I’ll put a link to Karl’s website (if he’s edited it) later.

Eventually, we began our descent into Riggindale. The day had been exceptionally good, the weather had proven most of the met’s forecasters wrong and the company had been as splendid as ever, I just wanted to be sure of making it two consecutive walks where I hadn’t fallen over. And on that gradient this was going to be no mean fete. After some distance our path divided into two very distinct routes – stoney or grassy. We opted for grassy guided by the logic of ‘this will be easier on the knees’. I’m sure we were correct in our thinking but the backs of my legs are still hurting now two days later! Our last stop before rejoining the car at Haweswater car park, was to take a few moments basking in the sun aside Riggindale Beck where I refilled my water bottle (with a filter) as what water I had left was running low and quite warm. The beck’s water was a good few degrees cooler which made a nice difference.

We reached the car and were presented with Sue’s GPS statistics 8.6 miles and 3,800 feet of ascension. Of course Sue immediately advised us to ignore the ascension figure as it’s prone to over reporting (damn) and that in all honesty we would probably done more like just three thousand feet. That’s good enough for me. This was a thoroughly enjoyable walk over one mountain that I had been eager to take in for years, one iconic viewing platform and some fells that I’d never heard of!

Distance walked – 8.6 miles

Ascension – 3,000′

Song of the walk: Zayn Malik and Taylor Swift, I Don’t Wanna Live Forever from the woefully awful film: Fifty Shades Darker.

 

The walk of fluctuating temperatures

 

This was the walk on Sunday 9th of April, 2017

It had been simply too long since last winter’s walk of no redeeming qualities, the Steel FELL route with Sue and Karl in December last year. Although I had been to Cumbria this to year to do a woefully boring walk with the Southport Ramblers, a trip to the Lake District itself was in order. Having missed out due to injuries on the Conniston round and through life events (can’t honestly remember which ones) on the Kentmere Horseshoe, it was with great pleasure that I finally managed to meet up with my walking buddies from Bolton (and Darwen) to take on two summits that to be honest, I’d never heard of – Angle Tarn Pikes and Brock Crags.

As usual we left Karl’s place at around 8:00 and before 9:30 we’d arrived at the tiny hamlet of Hartsop – I had only heard of Hartsop with regards to the fell named after it! The weather was beautiful, not exactly photography weather as the sun was hazing everything out. but, it was so good to be back in this lovely area. My inner ‘Wainwright’ came to the fore, no, I didn’t start smoking a pipe! What I mean is that I’d say for the record I share the late great AW’s fondness for the eastern fells over all the others. There’s just something extra nice and quaint about this quadrant of the lake district, for me, anyway!

We meet at last. The lovely April and 'Beefy' along with Sue and Karl.
We meet at last. The lovely April and ‘Beefy’ along with Sue and Karl.

We set off on route and I was beginning to get into the flow of the walk, even after fifteen minutes it was already more difficult and taxing that anything I’ve done this year with the Southport Ramblers. It was at this point that we were spotted by April and Beefy. April and Beefy are of course Walking Forum members who have accompanied Sue and Karl on many walks and essentially can be found in this area most weekends, wild camping and that kind of stuff. We stopped for a short while and got all caught up about where we going and where they had been. It was great most enjoyable and I hope to bump into this pair more often in the future. We bid our separate farewells and carried our way up the slope on which we had begun some fifteen minutes earlier.

A rare shot of the posing goat...at the top of Brock Crags with Fairfield over my right shoulder.
A rare shot of the posing goat…at the top of Brock Crags with Fairfield over my right shoulder.

I had expected this to be one of our quieter walks, my reasoning being that if I had never heard of the two peaks we would be climbing then maybe they were not that well known. After twenty minutes we had probably seen twenty people, my theory was in tatters on the floor with many holes blown in it! Not that I  minded at all the fleeting company of other walkers. The views never really picked up during the day, the haze was in for good, but all the same we did get many glimpses of the local giants: Helvellyn and Catstyecam – which would prove to be an excellent beacon all day long. Fairfield (my favourite) and Raise all stood proudly on our left hand side throughout the day, whilst Grey Crag practically came up and shook our hands once we had reached our first summit at Brock Crags, where I posed for a summit photo.

Before ascending Brock Crags we had our lunch…it was only something like 11:05 but sometimes it’s just nice to stop in a nice environment and enjoy your immediate environment as opposed to freezing your ass off at the trig point / summit cairn. As this was only a short walk – by Karl and Sue standards, we could afford to take in the local and take lots and lots of photos. I think I may need new batteries in my Canon camera, but as I had my Iphone with me as well I was never stuck without the ability to take the odd snap, or seventy!

Okay, Angle Tarn is gorgeous, but Place Fell has worked its magic on me too!
Okay, Angle Tarn is gorgeous, but Place Fell has worked its magic on me too!

We eventually summited Brock Crags, had a look around then set off for Angle Tarn – the highlight of the walk. It has to be said that I’m sold on this body of water. Although not the largest stretch of water in the lake district – it is 1,600′ up the side of a hill – actually more like in a col, it’s stunning and on a slightly warmer day, I could easily spend a good hour or two here. But that wind did not let up! Every time that we found a great viewing spot, the wind howled down at us. Karl and Sue are seasoned Lakes walkers and as such are used to this. I was still out of my comfort zone and still held on to the belief that only Darwen Hill and Rivington Pike ever has such cyclonic wind…who knew that the word naiíve was spelled M-E?

Place Fell...I will return!
Place Fell…I will return!

At this point I have to mention Place Fell. Never has a hill or mountain weaved its magic on me as much as this captivating monolith. We didn’t ascend, there was no way I was going up that with no carbs or coffee upon which I might rely, but it is there, in my ever-increasing ‘to-do’ list. I am more than happy to make this a single-summit walk if only to get my feet on that spell-binding, snaking path to the summit which looks to me like a stairway to heaven! All too soon we began our way back to Hartsop, we saw cloud gather on the neighbouring giants – for a few moments the quasi-ubiquitous (yes, I know that’s a contradiction in terms) Catstyecam very nearly vanished! We were never really close to being rained upon, thankfully.

The slope which would lead us back down to Hartsop was frighteningly steep in parts – and I’ve dropped off Great Gable – so perhaps it wasn’t that steep! That being said, ‘watch where you put your feet’ was the order of the hour and thankfully I only fell over once. The terrain then levelled out for some distance before descending another even steeper but more arid slope which ultimately would lead us back into the centre of Hartsop (if it’s big enough to have a centre!) and from there back to the car park, but not before pausing to wait for a controlled stampede of sheep.

All in all this was a wonderful return to the lakes and in great company and no rain. What could be better? Karl has talked of how this route might easily be extended to a fantastic day out taking in Grey Crag, arcing around Heyeswater, traversing the mighty High Street and taking in the route that we did today…sounds like hard work to me, but we’ll see…

Total distance: – 6.63 miles

Ascended / descended:- 1,968 feet

Time taken: around four hours but I really have no idea

Song of the walk: My good friend Joanna Koziel’s collaboration with Chris Nahorny: Late Night Talk – sorry no, video so I’ll try and upload the song onto a clickable link here.

 

The path to fitness

So, following on from my last post, I am recovering, slowly. It’s certainly not leaps and bounds, so far nobody has been able to tell me what I did to exactly which part of my body. It has been made clear to me that I did not have a dislocated shoulder – this in turn would have been a cloud with a silver lining – relocating it would have been very painful but after this recovery is very quick. Apparently I do not have a frozen shoulder or Tendonitis. Good.

Ultimately, I can’t do anything about what I had/have as it’s all kind of past tense now. I just have to recover and in my book the best way of doing that would be to get fit. I have reasons for wanting to do just that:

  1. Being injured sucks!
  2. I could not take place in this year’s Anglezarke Amble after counting down to it for almost a year..that sucked too!
  3. I want to take on the Three Peaks of Yorkshire in May and to be honest, being able to use my shoulders / biceps and triceps is really going to be a prerequisite of not only getting me up Pen-y-Ghent and Ingleborough, doing this challenge in any way unfit (even having a cold or headache) is a recipe for failure.

So, as of today, starting slowly and in as controlled a manner as I can manage, I am going to try and get myself as fit as possible for not only the Y3P but for life in general. Last year was my best ever walking year, but I can draw a line under the time when it all started to go downhill – when Chris was hospitalised.  Even though I went on to do more walks than ever, the Steel Fell round was agony, hard to believe I was the same person who ran up the last few hundred feet of Grisedale Pike. No point in getting bitter.

Moving on, I’ve already started to prepare for getting fit by walking back from Tesco and adding another two miles on the way, making four and a half in total. Not earth shattering mileage by me by any stretch, but a start is a start. I aim to do a bigger (but still flat) walk tomorrow – unless the rain finally descends in which case I’ll go to the gym, but never to go on the cross trainer. No sir, that beast is never to be ridden by me again!

 

A Wythburn Round

Owing to the festivities of Friday night – a work’s Christmas ‘do’, I felt a little fragile on Saturday and decided to opt out of the planned walk with Karl up to the summit of bull hill. Instead I opted in to Karl and Sue’s walk on Sunday which would feature “walking a round over Steel Fell near Grasmere” … sounds almost innocuous doesn’t it? Read on.

As I drove from Southport to Darwen via Bolton at 06:30 I couldn’t help but notice there was a lot of mist around. This was evident in Croston and then again in Bolton. I had reservations. All the same, it appeared to have lifted by the time I got to Darwen but then two hours later as we set off from Steel End car park, next to Thirlmere (what isn’t next to Thirlmere?), it became all too apparent that the mist was here again. Not that I mind mist-meandering, because  let’s be honest, we do go off course when the grey stuff descends upon us. Why only last year I completed (again with Sue and Karl, and Lynne) the Fairfield Horseshoe in mist (the first five fells were!), so it’s not as if I am unaccustomed to traipsing around in the grey nothingness.

The first quarter of a mile was deceptively easy, too easy. A gentle stroll along a tarmac road…we should have known better and in fact Karl did, the swine! All too soon the terrain transformed into the Devil’s playground as the grass became shorter and thus more slippery and the gradient seemed to be imbued with a wicked grin, an inaudible mocking sneer that one senses on the very periphery of one’s subconscious. This was no longer a walk, it was a trial, a battle against gravity and I was losing, badly!

I gave up many times on that first ridiculous slant! Then, after a brief stop at an abandoned quad-bike, which practically screamed the word “PORTENT” at me,…the terrain went from forty-five degrees to more like thirty, hell had arrived in the lakes and its resident demon was after me. I watched Sue and Karl become engulfed in the fog – after they had shrunk to the size of garden peas! For some time I was on my own, to be honest, that was the best thing for me, I could vent, childishly vent that this walk was {multiple expletives deleted} / quite challenging. Within an eternity, just about, I happened to stumble my way up to my waiting co-walkers.

All smiles and thumbs up Karl mocked “Bit of a steep section that isn’t it!”. I refrained from swearing, much! For a time we then traversed a much nicer gradient, but now came the second wave of walking nastiness – the boot swallowing underfoot water. We were quite definitely within a marsh. Nothing on any of the walks I had done this year could have prepared me for this wave (pun intended) of slosh from practically every footstep. I thought Longworth Moor was bad, pah! Child’s play compared to this lurking green lagoon!

We reached a summit, or did we? The fells of the central lake district have one thing in common, multiple rises, knolls and outcrops. In the absence of a triangulation pillar – although these are seldom really at the highest point, one never can be truly sure of where the apex of the hill really is – unless one has the desire to roam around the apparent top of the fell with a g.p.s. device taking numerous readings…most of us don’t want to do this. A little time passed and we undulated with the terrain, up and down whilst sloshing around…all good clean misery! By way of chance we happened upon yet another summit and decided to take lunch there.

It was nice to sit down and take a breather, but all too soon the demon who was controlling the weather took note of our buoyant disposition and cranked the temperature down a tad…just enough to make (for me at least) shivering the order of the day. I had to stand up and move around or else give in to the cold. Often I heard distant people noises. Having now completed the walk I can imagine that what I heard were the faraway expressions of woe of others who had just lost a knee’s-length to the wretched marsh. This is a horrid terrain! I had the feeling that we were halfway into the walk…I was to learn much later that we were not.

We met two gentlemen who had come up from Grasmere to do a similar ’round’ to ours. After a few moments of chatting they bid their respective farewells but within another few minutes we were upon them again sat atop Calf Crag. This was my second Wainwright of the day and in all honesty what made this summit more worthy for inclusion in his pocket guides; than Ladyside Pike and Sale How; to the late great Alfred Wainwright, eludes me.

Next we picked up the Coast to Coast path…and without realising it, at some point put it back down again as we entered another bog / marsh / wet cauldron from the mouth of Hades! For over an hour we seemed to circumnavigate the fog and mist and wet. Sue and Karl were of the collective thought ‘we might as well do Ullscarf now’. I’d heard of this summit before but had forgotten that it is in fact a mountain and to put it in to perspective – it’s ten feet higher than Ingleborough! Thankfully the climb up to the summit from our aspect was far more forgiving than any approach to the Yorkshire icon and soon we were within eyesight of it.

On our way up to the top of Ullscarf we were treated to views of nearing fells which seemed to emerge from the murk, announce their presence and then promptly bugger off back into the mist once more! Sue and Karl suddenly became engrossed in the pursuit of Broken Spectres – I thought this was a James Bond villain! Apparently (pun also intended!) this is a phenomena whereby “the magnified shadow of an observer, cast upon the upper surfaces of clouds opposite the sun causes a halo of light to be cast around the shadow of the subject”. I maintain that they both hadn’t been drinking enough water and had the auras associated with migraines, possibly owing to dehydration. I lied and insisted that I too could see what weirdness they were hallucinating…my colourblind eyes do not afford me such luminary luxury, unless I have a migraine! We played a short game of guess the fell…amazingly when one’s feet are wringing wet through this isn’t half as much fun as one might think!

I was a bit freaked to notice that the afternoon was getting on. The light that we did have (not so bloody much) would soon be fading and a dreaded the prospect of being stuck out on this sodden moor at dusk or even darker. I must admit to giving in to my doubts and worries at this point. I thought we were lost, we had a g.p.s. with us but it seemed to be saying left, right, left like some insane Regimental Sargent Major. Helvellyn and her cronies across the valley were joyfully laughing at us. But if that range across the void was not Helvellyn then who was it? I seriously did not care which mountain range was gaping at us! I wanted off the moor, now! We ascended and descended, I fell over, then fell over some more! I lost a leg, then I lost the other one. I was black and blue and wet and miserable. I do find it difficult to believe that some people find this enjoyable.

Ultimately, thanks to Sue’s magnificent navigating and Karl’s almost infectious sense of optimism, we arrived back in a sloping field from where we could clearly perceive Thirlmere on our left and Steel Fell on our right. We’d almost made it back. We descended a third of the way down the field, then Sue theorized that there might not be an easy exit to the road. So, we ascended to the head of the field once more only to be reassured by Sue that there was a right of way after all – this would later manifest itself as a blooming big gate! Before we reached it I had time to fall over twice more and to turn the sky blue with a barrage of expletives!

Finally, a little after four o’clock we reached Sue’s awaiting car, we were safe…if not altogether dry!

Summary.

I hate wet field walking!

I may well be in the minority from the perspective of ‘seasoned walkers’ but in regard of humans in general I have numbers on my side when I question, “What’s wrong with real paths? Y’know the type that Fix the Fells and the National Trust spend pounds sterling on repairing every year.” Why do we have to get so dogmatic in our belief that grass is best when it comes to trudging up and sliding down the Lake District paths? In summer this walk…would have been just as bad. That water comes from rain and as everybody knows the Lake District is the rainiest part of England. Thus it would take a really dry summer before I came back to this particular environment. In future I vow to stick to real ‘on the ground’ paths. One’s that have evolved or been constructed and don’t just vanish from before our very eyes. Pendle has them in spates! Ultimately I have to say that I was glad of the exercise, it’s all been a bit easy whilst Chris has been recuperating. In addition it is always great to be out and about with Karl and Sue. One thing is for sure, next February, when next I traverse the God awful Longworth Moor whilst walking the Anglezarke Amble, I won’t feel quite so bad about a mile-wide stretch of marshland now that I’ve walked this route!

Walk distance: 8.5 miles

Ascent: 2,000′

Time: six and a bit hours

Song(s) of the walk: Chandelier by both Sia and Mollie Bylett (Cover) 

 

2016 My Walking Year in review

I knew it was going to be a good year, I was wrong. It was a fantastic year!

Lots of folks out on the hill today, we must all be mad.
Lots of folks out on the hill today, we must all be mad.

I was off the mark very early in the year in 2016 as I rekindled my relationship with my beloved Pendle Hill on New Year’s Day. It was good that there were so many people out and about in spite of the liberal coating of snow/frost that she had been granted. Before the week was out I joined the Ramblers on a walk in the Lune Valley / Reservoir as we slogged along a flood plain for ten and a half miles and I watched as my core temperature plummeted! Later in the month was a trip to the future, at Burton as I observed the effects of silting on the River Dee estuary. The same environmental metamorphosis is set to happen to our beloved and receding coast line at Southport. A sobering yet captivating scene. the last trip out of the month was with the Ramblers to Skipton where, whilst being rained upon for most of the day, I conquered the minor peak of Sharp Haw.

The Jubilee Tower on Darwen hill
The Jubilee Tower on Darwen hill

February brought with it a bonus week off for my birthday during which Chris and I returned to the spectacular Ingleton falls. In winter this was far nicer than the last time that we visited at the height of summer. Then came the big one, the walk that I had been building up to for over a year: The Anglezarke Amble with Mark Carson. To say that I had become obsessed with this twenty-four mile dash over numerous hills and mud galore is no exaggeration. Nearing the end of this epic day I had sworn ‘never again’ yet within an hour of finishing, on the way home, I was planning my next participation. I’m hooked and hope that I will always be so. At the end of the month came another trip out with the Ramblers as we went to Staveley , taking in numerous fields and more parts of hills. Although the walk was enjoyable it would be so nice to put a name to the places that one has been!

March opened up with a wonderful snowy walk with Chris as we passed most of Rivington’s vast reservoirs. We loved this route so much that it has now replaced Rivington Pike as our ‘go-to’ route. Winter Hill draped in snow is becoming an increasingly irregular sight, so i considered myself fortunate to be within sight of this natural beauty on this visit. The next walk was another where I re-united with an old acquaintance in the shape of the Keswick giant Skiddaw. Sue, Karl and I spent five glorious hours traversing the Ullock Pike ridge to Skiddaw whilst avoiding suicidal mountain bikers at 2,700′! Six days later Chris and I returned to Pen-y-Ghent, where snow was on one of its flanks and spent a very enjoyable afternoon walking around my favourite of the Yorkshire Three Peaks: Pen-y-Ghent. On Good Friday came what could well be the prestigious (in my head at least) ‘walk of the year’ – the Half Amble’. Although on my own, this walk featured a celebration of my completion of the Anglezarke Amble and at just shy of fifteen miles, was a good workout in fine temperatures and even featured a sighting of a red deer on Anglezarke Moor.

Cheetham Close's summit comes into view.
Cheetham Close’s summit comes into view.

April saw Chris and I back at Pendle on a gloriously rainy day. No new sights, no new routes we slowly splashed our way up the steps in the rain. the photos were a washout, the route down to the slope was precarious! The rest of the month saw me return to Darwen Hill and then two excursions up to a new favourite in the form of Cheetham Close, its neighbouring summit Turton Heights practically defined disappointing but I may still take this route on next year’s ‘Amble’ as the route across the slope of the hill is just awful!

A re-take of a photo that I used to have on my desktop in 1999
A re-take of a photo that I used to have on my desktop in 1999

In May we took a mini break in Salou (again) but still managed to get in a breezy coastal walk along the Camino de Ronda. A couple of weeks later I was lucky enough to tackle multiple summits over the Dodds in the north east corner of the Lake District. I won’t lie, Clough Head was very testing and to this we added the summits of Watson’s Dodd, Great Dodd, Starling Dodd and a couple of Birketts. This visit left me wanting more and Chris and I returned a week later to the Lakes in order to take in Loughrigg – we finally managed to get to the trig point. The next day we had a three peak walk over Rivington Pike, Crooked Edge Hill and Winter Hill.

The first walk of June was somewhat frustrating. Southport ramblers took us off to Ambleside where I had the option of ascending Great Rigg and Fairfield or Silver Howe and Blea Rigg. As I had climbed  Great Rigg and Fairfield as part of the Fairfield Horseshoe last summer I thought that I would tick off the two lesser summits. And there in lay the problem. Oh sure, we achieved the steep little pull up to Silver Howe with relative ease, for the next few hours however, Blea Rigg proved elusive. We could not find it! I think we stood on four minor peaks with me checking my phone’s altimeter to no avail! The following Saturday Chris and I walked up to the summit of our biggest mountain so far. We nailed Snowdon from Llanberris. I was delighted to be atop this majestic giant, even if a thick mist had descended half-way up.

Walking was to then take a back seat. Mine and Darren’s Yorkshire Three Peaks had to be put off, as did the week after’s White Bear Way as Chris succumbed to a gall bladder illness which would trouble her for a further three weeks and involve an ECRP (Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangio-Pancreatography) procedure which bottomed-out her blood pressure – thank you Fazakerley Hospital!!!

Barrow, Outerside and Crag Hill on the left with Grisedale Pike facing on the right.
Ard Crags begins to fill my mind as well as my camera lens.
Ard Crags begins to fill my mind as well as my camera lens.

It wasn’t until the end of July that I was back amongst the north western fells on a walk with Sue, Lynne and Karl which took in the magnificent Grisedale Pike and another three summits from this area of relative giants.

Another month would go by before Chris and I returned to Pendle for a jolly old walk up the slope and down the steps. She didn’t appreciate this diversion to an established route – I did, the slope route is my favourite way up and down.  August saw no further walking action from either one of us.

And so into September and once again a lean walking month. Sue, Karl and I had a strenuous hike up to the two lesser Wainwrights of Ard Craggs and Knott Rigg. This is hailed as a ‘classic walk’ according to the internet…I remained somewhat unimpressed.

A distant view of the masts from Belmont Road.
A distant view of the masts from Belmont Road.

Again over a month went by with no walking and then it happened! I proposed a route to Karl that we simply could not resist – the Anglezarke Amble (shorter version). I don’t want to betray its bigger brother…but the shorter version is simply the nicer walk. Not only is it eight miles shorter, it omits the eastern half of Longworth Moor, declines the opportunity to ascend Darwen Hill and gives one some wonderful yomping across Catherine Edge…it’s all good. Moreover, in preparation of next year’s Amble, I now know the route from White Coppice back to Rivington. One week later saw me return to the same environment to tackle the classic Edge’s to Great Hill walk returning to Rivington via the same White Coppice traversal – Brilliant and the fact that it clocked in at just shy of twelve miles meant that Chris and I had just set our new distance bar!

We had no walking in November as Chris had to have the misbehaving gallbladder extracted. Never again will the cursed thing impede my Three Peaks and White Bear Way…bloody thing!

Looking far more sinister than normal, Pigeon Tower.
Looking far more sinister than normal, Pigeon Tower.

So that brings me up to December and already we’ve returned to Rivington two more times. The first time we took in Wilkinson Bullough, Simms and the Hempshaws Pastures – it’s becoming a classic for us. On our next return we simply took in the Pike and back – more ‘Amble’ practice, I am now sure of the easiest way to get me and Darren up to the top of the Pike. Only two more possible walks remain. Karl and I have promised ourselves another return to Ramsbottom in order to take in Bull Hill and Holcolmbe Hill. Hopefully the final walk of the year should see me at good old Pendle to do my doc-u-walk and visit both Stang Top Moor and Spence Moor in the same epic walk, watch this space, on New Year’s Eve!

So there you have it. If all goes to plan then I will have completed thirty two walks this year. It’s getting serious now. There have been some new peaks: Grisedale Pike and the others of the north western Lakes and not forgetting the little cracker that is Cheetham Close. by way of contrast, aside from Pendle, Winter Hill and Rivington Pike who would have thought that I would hit Snowdon once again and that I would slip and slide my way over the Ullock Pike route to the mighty Skiddaw?

For next year, I long to be back atop England’s highest, Scafell Pike to me is somehow not fully ticked off. Darren and I often put plans down to return to Snowdon in order to complete the epic ‘Watkins Path’…here’s hoping. There will be more challenge walks next year, obviously the Amble, a moth later the Peelers Hike with Mark and two weeks later the one that has me most nervous – The Two Crosses (25 miles in nine hours). I’ll give the White Bear Way another shot, I may even make it to the start this time! So many walks to do…

But returning to this year and the not at all prestigious walk of the year. Once again there were three candidates:

  1. The Anglezarke Amble – full version with Mark.
  2. The Half Amble – me on my lonesome
  3. The Anglezarke Amble – short version with Karl

And the winner is…(no, seriously did you need to ask, I’ve been banging on about it all year?) The Anglezarke Amble (long version). But the other two were tied for second place!

Until next year…

 

 

 

 

Demisting Rivington

Chris and I had been promising ourselves another walk…it had felt like an eternity since our last one, the ascension of Snowdon in June. We’d planned on doing Pendle but I fancied putting into use the knowledge of the last section of the Amble which I had gleaned from last week’s walk with Karl.

Noon Hill should be here - it was last seen fifteen minutes ago.
Noon Hill should be here – it was last seen fifteen minutes ago.
Looking far more sinister than normal, Pigeon Tower.
Looking far more sinister than normal, Pigeon Tower.
I drove us to Rivington and decided to park as close as I could to Rivington Hall barn. By 10:38 we were on route, following once again, a section of the Anglezarke Amble route to take us past the cottages around the back of the barn. It was here that Chris caught sight of three Roe Deer (I saw just two but don’t dispute the number). This was the start of the climb and any cheery thought would be caressed tenderly! Over the next half a mile we steadily gained height but made very swift process and before long we were passing the old toilet blocks on Belmont Road (effectively the continuation of Georges Lane). I would have liked to have taken a photograph of the Pike but the mist was completely obscuring the tower at its summit. Fortunately we were going passed the Pigeon Tower (Dovecote) and it would have taken some mist indeed to block that out. The descending mist was significantly adding to the ‘feel’ of this walk. After passing the tower we turned right towards Catter Nab.

A procession of orienteering people make their way down Will Narr.
A procession of orienteering people make their way down Will Narr.
Here should be the stunning view across to Anglezarke Moor.
Here should be the stunning view across to Anglezarke Moor.
It was here that the full extent of the mist was realised. Normally the mouthwatering vista across to Anglezarke Moor dominates the view, today, we had pea-soup! Occasional bits of scenery popped up as we neared it, Noon Hill and the very immediate surroundings, random bright fields in the distance sharing a moment’s illumination, all very seasonal. Surprisingly, we were not cold, moreover, Chris took off her coat. The path which transports us from Belmont Road to …Belmont Road-at Hordern Stoops is a generally well-worn and stream-like, we were not being ferried away on the cusp of a mighty river in spate, but let’s just say that our socks were getting wetter by the mile. I was relieved when we reached the end of the track and were back on Terra-ash-felt for a short time at least. Across the road, which is often a racetrack, we could see a small assembly of people playing around with a Drone – one of those remote controlled helicopter-like things, not R2D2! They appeared to keep losing it in the distance, I kept losing track of it up close…rubbish eyes.

On nearing Will Narr we were almost overwhelmed by orienteering people – there were probably about twenty at this stage, which meant that for the second week in succession I was observing people out on the moors with maps. I like this. Chris wasn’t that impressed and we began the now much nicer ascent of Will Narr – owing to its new stone path which was a joy to walk on compared to how treacherous it used to be. Progress was quick, it was not many minutes before we were dropping then climbing back up Spitlers Edge. It was at this point where we again noticed that our feet were taking on water. And there would be no reprieve as for the next mile and a half as we dropped down Spitlers and then up and over Redmonds Edges, the water kept on coming over the millstone slabs which had always saved walkers from the worst bits that this moor can throw at a person. At Catter Nab I had (stupidly) guesstimated that we would be at the summit of Great Hill in an hour. I hadn’t even checked my watch, Chris’s line of inquiry/interrogation led me to believe that it was at the forefront of her mind. I have to admit that my spirits stayed high, I had never ascended Great Hill in the mist until now. The fact that we were going up the undisputed easiest way was just a bonus. I told her that within five minutes we would be at the top – then sped off uphill as quickly as my soggy feet would carry me and tried to deduce which aspect of the summits ‘cross’ shelter would afford the warmest spot at which we would have our lunch. In was indefinable, we tried all four and none felt any worse or better.

I was happy to tell Chris that it was all downhill now for at least a mile and a half. Given the wetness of the locale, this was not met with a warn reception. We finished our lunch then set off towards White Coppice which was hiding somewhere in the mist. This was my fourth and easiest ascent of Great Hill this year. I think I’ve gone up it at least once per year since 2010, it is becoming something of a favourite. The way we were descending was the same route that I have ascended a few times before…it is a right pig at the start. that being said, the middle section has its moments too, once the landmark of Drinkwaters Farm (or at least its ruin) is passed then the end of the walking on a nice flat path has been reached. The path then quickly degenerates into a sometimes muddy, sometimes grassy and other times rocky affair that has one looking only at ones feet! We only met one couple on route and they were ascending – I didn’t feel any envy for them. Chris thought that we had been dropping down Great Hill forever, to me it seemed to fly by and before long we were ambling (did you see what I did there?) along passing by the cricket ground on one side and Stronstrey Bank on the other – plus the odd overly curious Yew!

The beautiful expanse of water which is Anglezarke Reservoir.
The beautiful expanse of water which is Anglezarke Reservoir.
Once at the gate where we would stride across Moor Road, the time of testing my memory was upon me. Could I navigate us passed three reservoirs, one common a couple of flights of steps and not get lost? To be fair Chris appeared to have complete confidence in me. To be even more fair, that might have been because I hadn’t told her that I could quite easily get us lost here! fear ye not! From the time the lovely High Bullough Reservoir came into view, de-ja-vous took over. I was on auto-pilot. Given that this was my third time traversing this section of the Amble then it’s debatable as to if I should have been concerned at all. But I wanted to be absolutely sure that I was not going to get Darren and I lost when we do this for real in February next year. We took the steps, we dropped down the tarmac lanes, we crossed the streams and slid around a bit on the wooden bridges, but we did it. When I finally managed to struggle through the kissing gate at the end of the field and onto Horrobin Lane, I was over the moon. I couldn’t stop myself from pointing out to Chris “That’s the official start to the Anglezarke Amble”.

“Oh are we at the end of the walk then?”
“No, that’s about ten minutes walk away!”
“Grrrrr (under muted breath)”

I didn’t care. I’d done it, we’d done it and arrived back at the car by 15:25.

The start and finish sections of the printed version of the route for the Anglezarke Amble are some of the single most confusing pieces of walking literature that I’ve had the opportunity to read. If you can understand them, good, well done, not all of us can. But in successive weeks now I have done both…and survived. Now if there was just a way of doing the Amble without going over that bloody Longworth Moor!!!

Distance: 12 miles (not the EIGHT I told Chris at the start of the walk!)
Ascension: Around 1,800 feet.
Terrain: Water – everywhere even though it didn’t rain much!

Song of the walk: Clean Bandit featuring Louisa Johnson – Tears

A Great walk up to and around Grisedale Pike.

This was the walk on Sunday, July 31st, 2016 with Sue, Helen and Karl.

Having not climbed a hill since the successful ascent of Snowdon, what felt like an epoch ago, I was chomping at the bit to get back up to the Lake District and had pleaded with Karl “Anywhere will do!”. By Thursday of that week he had got back to me saying that his next outing would be on Sunday and did I fancy coming along to do Grisedale Pike? Did I ever! This had been one visible hill on most occasions that I’d visited the lakes for the last year or so. Sunday morning came around and I set off to Darwen amidst all manner of suicidal animals. I was lucky to not run over two cats, a rabbit and countless birds – this always happens when driving around near Southport in-between the hours of 06:00 – 08:00. I did manage a wry smile at what I thought was a tall horse in the field on my right- yes that’s right it was essentially two horses, having sex. Sunday mornings!

Without more coital observations I arrived at Karl’s in time to be half an hour early – It’s not just the case that I am bad at judging the timing of journeys, I’m just well aware that I’ll get a cuppa made for me if I am more than 15 minutes early.

Within the hour we were off in Sue’s car up to Braithwaite. The views on the M6 revealed that this would be a fine walking day for us. I didn’t have the slightest idea as to how to get to our start-off point and to add more confusion into the mix we picked up Helen just outside…I want to say Braithwaite but I really don’t know. It was nice seeing Helen again as the last time that we met it was in 2012 when the same four of us were treated to all the mist that good old Pendle Hill could throw at us.

By ten o’clock we had parked and set off – straight uphill towards the path that would take us up the eastern face of Grisedale Pike. And what a face it was! From relatively early in the route the last push to the summit was clearly visible. However, the views which encapsulated magnificently the other fells from the vicinity served to take one’s mind off the steep slog to come. Most noted was the spectacular vista of the area known as Coaldale Hause (54.579008, -3.256508). In conjunction with this were the lofty summits of Causey Pike and Crag Hill and the lesser peaks of Barrow and Outerside. Further afield a great number of the eastern fells were plainly visible, even i picked out Catstye Cam and Helvellyn, but also on show was Clough Head and Great Dodd from my last trip up to the area. It was mildly amusing that even though my eyesight is nowhere near as keen as it used to be: I could still make out the Weather Radome atop Great Dun Fell with its smaller sibling to the left of this and mighty Cross Fell slightly more left. Even Mickle Fell was plain to see.

Barrow, Outerside and Crag Hill on the left with Grisedale Pike facing on the right.
Barrow, Outerside and Crag Hill on the left with Grisedale Pike facing on the right.

Running parallel to our path – Sleet How, was one which begins at Whinlatter, or more accurately Hospital Plantation which looked like one of those dead straight, relentless paths, I’m usually drawn to paths such as these like an iron filling to a magnet! The path was very kind to us and levelled out a number of times which afforded us countless opportunities to take in the fantastic views of our neighbouring fells and mountains. It was something of a novelty to be walking amongst so much bracken which would eventually give way to seemingly endless bands of heather. Causey Pike tends to dominate the horizon when heading up Catbells or walking around Keswick in general and such was the case – every so often, today with its distinctive knuckles bordering on omnipresent.

 

Competitor!
She let me win really!

As usual, Karl made it to the summit of Grisedale Pike first, I was inspired…but the heat was slowing me down, it was a case of off-again, on-again for my coat. When I was parallel to him I did spy a much younger woman dressed in blue (I think) who might just have made it to the summit before me. This was unacceptable and I quickened my pace to a sprint whilst shouting to Karl “I’ll be dammed if someone’s going to overtake me fifty yards from the summit!” at which he scoffed! Those were the longest fifty yards of my life! Thankfully the girl magnanimously yielded this one-player-race and let me get to the summit before her, I maintain that if she had wanted to be first, she would have been without breaking sweat. All the same, on my way back to Karl I took her photograph.

The next sections emerge
The next sections emerge

I rejoined Karl at the fringe of the summit and waited for Sue and Helen to catch up with us, it wasn’t a long wait. We engaged a mountain biker in conversation, he was waiting for his less-fit friends to make it to the summit and from there they were to film themselves flying down the paths of descent. I remembered the joy of having a mountain biker coming hurtling towards me from March’s Skiddaw ascent. Whilst the others busied their selves with lunch, I decided to keep mine for later and attempted to satisfy myself with one on my pineapple caffeine gels. The gel must have gone passed its use by date as it tasted horrible but did give me some energy – around eight calories worth.

 

From atop Grisedale Pike, Grasmoor dominates.
From atop Grisedale Pike, Grasmoor dominates.

As could be expected, the views were all encompassing, Grasmoor was by now dominant but a great deal of the Lake District could be seen from this loft position at just under two thousand six hundred feet. With regards to altitude, we were now at the apex of the route, there would be more ups and downs granted, but we were not going to get higher than this. However, that being said we then set off downhill for quite some way, which of course meant that on route to our next summit Hobcarton Crag – we had to ascend once more. After the slog up Grisedale Pike, this was child’s play! What seemed like a long way was accomplished in just a few minutes and it was interesting to note just how many other walkers seemed to magically appear. Hobcarton Crag appears essentially to constitute Hopegill Head ( I did reference the point that I never saw Hope Gill, only its head, several times during the day) and within moments we were looking at the next destination Whiteside from the summit of Hopegill Head.

RidgeWalkWe said a temporary adios to Helen here whom we would rejoin later in the valley. Here the ridge-walk started in earnest as this picture blatantly plagiarised from Karl’s fantastic photo set demonstrates. A nearby fell caught my eye – Ladyside Pike, apparently Mister Wainwright could not fit it into his North Western Fells book, I’ll reserve opinion until I’ve climbed it but Sue was a fan and voiced her observation that from some angles it really does look like a lady on her side. Ah well, not everyone can see the dolphins on ‘Magic Eye’ autostereograms (I can), so I won’t mock or judge! The last time that I walked a real ‘ridge’ was over Longside Edge in March…and then up Skiddaw the scary way (yes, I will concede that route was scary), so it was nice to be on another of these ‘airy’ little pathways in the clouds. I have to admit that I spent a great deal of the time following the aforementioned Mister Wainwright’s advice…watching the ground beneath my feet. Thus ever time that I wanted to take in the scenery I simply stopped. This proved to be a splendid strategy and I never fell once, although I came close to so-doing on a number of occasions!

Yours truly, with Grasmoor lurking!
Yours truly, with Grasmoor lurking!

Once at the summit of Whiteside (and I’m guessing that there are large Quartz deposits on its side which gives the mountain its name), we took some more mandatory summit shots of ourselves and the immediate scenery and had a few moments breather. I’ve walked tougher routes than this, Sca Fell was a pig, the Pike had a good old go at crippling me and Helvellyn tried its best to freeze me to death, but I was feeling quite spent by the time we were face to face with Grasmoor.

From here the mountain which I would most like to climb (from the North Western fells) looked huge, not unassailable but certainly not something that I would consider attempting this afternoon and was relieved that I didn’t have to think about climbing it. It’s always impressive to see the route that you have achieved – whilst still on it and looking back at the ridge we had just traversed did fill me with wonderment, not least because we now had to go back over it to Hopegill Head once more!

Some huffing and puffing once more (yes, emanating from me) and we were back at Hopegill Head – none of us feeling the need to go all the way up to its unmarked and largely un-celebrated summit again. On the slopes of the mountain I finally ate my Marks & Spencer’s Jerk Chicken Wrap – it was rather nice, as we contemplated the walk so far and I learned what else was in store for us – namely Sand Hill. So after our leisurely, but much needed stop, we set off on route to Sand Hill, which meant aiming directly at Crag Hill…for a while as that was the direction in which our path ran.

Crag Hill does appear to be a mightily impressive land mass, it’s understandable that people chose to include this in their Coledale Horseshoes routes. We dropped down Sand Hill and passed by a number of waterfalls and becks – Low Force was quite impressive and audible from a great distance away. Finally we carried on down the valley via the path which runs alongside Coledale Beck, overtaking a large group whom seemed content to sit and dangle their feet in the beck. We caught up to Helen and later spied the disused coal mine – Force Crag Mine which had a distinctive “Good, bad and ugly, spaghetti western” feel to it.

A couple of miles later and we were all back at Sue’s car at the end of a brilliant day’s worth of walking. Sue’s GPS revealed to us that we had walked roughly three thousand, six hundred feet in altitude over nine point one miles. I hope to come back to this area soon to do the summits at which we gazed today: Causey Pike and its ‘knuckles’, Barrow, Outerside, Crag Hill and not least Grasmoor – I still have three more Wainwright number one’s to do – that is the highest mountain in each of his guides: Grasmoor, High Raise and High Street so it was agonising to be so close to one of them and not tick it off the list…there’ll be another time.

Song of the walk this time does not actually have a video on YouTube, but the delightful “I Need to Forget” by my former classmate and friend Joanna Koziel was in my head for the majority of the day.

Oh, My, Dodd!

The walk of Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

I had texted Karl in the week to ask if he was doing a lake District walk at the weekend as it had been a while since we last visited the district together. He rang me up with details of the walk, apparently we would be doing Clough Head, Great Dodd, Watson’s Dodd, Stybarrow Dodd then Birkett Fell, Hart Crag and Common Fell. He even proffered a name for the post walk blog – “Doddering about!”.

Sunday came and unfortunately Karl was unable to join us which left just the three of us, Sue – the walk leader, Lynn – the driver and me…I didn’t have a role!

We arrived at the Lake District equivalent of four lane ends at ten to ten, so good progress really from Darwen to here. The weather was lovely, well it was when the sun was directly above us, I have, so far this year, had problems keeping warm. This walk would highlight this situation. The first mile was a gentle amble in a general westerly direction with the mighty hulk of Blencathra filling out the horizon. This was too easy, something was going to change, I knew it!

Some distance away, Clough Head beckons.
Some distance away, Clough Head beckons.

And thus after the landmark (which I forgot to photograph) of an old, abandoned railway carriage, we traversed a  stile and set off on the relentless slog up to Clough Head. What a hard slog this was. I’ve done steeper inclines, but not for so long…the terrain was not rough or uncomfortable, but it just kept on keeping on! After many moments we hit our first false summit which brought us more or less parallel with White Pike – 1,370 feet above sea level. At the time I was not aware of its lack of inches! this would be one of the few walks where the count of the number of people I saw was less than thirty. Yet when we finally reached the summit cairn at the top of Clough Head, there was already a couple there who looked like they were going to stop, thus we did not stay long at the top and after having climbed up for ages…dropped back down a couple of hundred feet on route to our next mountain…Great Dodd.

Great Dodd, living up to its name.
Great Dodd, living up to its name.

On the day Sue was equipped (as always) with map and compass and lessons on how to use them. I can honestly say now that I’ve cracked it as at regular intervals myself and Lynne would take turns at getting a bearing. At first I was a little reluctant – some of the easiest procedures in life are a mystery to me, by the end of the day I had picked up the habit of taking bearings…I just need to start using this before I forget it again. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the haul up Great Dodd was almost as tough as the preceding one up Clough Head. Given that the former is over five hundred feet higher…it was only to be expected. Fortunately this meant that at the top we were as lofty as we were going to be for the day. However, that didn’t mean that we had finished our ascending for the day as next  (having had a break for something to eat at the excellent shelter atop Great Dodd) we dropped over three hundred feet to Watson’s Dodd.

Helvellyn, Catstye Cam and Watson's Dodd.
Helvellyn, Catstye Cam and Watson’s Dodd.

Sometimes I am tempted to imagine personalities of fells. Yes, that does sound a tad insane but hear me out. Of this locale Hevellyn is the almighty, undisputed star attraction. One can see it from everywhere and (at times) from atop the summit – it should be possible to see the whole of the Lake District. This glory, this limelight would then disseminate on a lessoning scale throughout the rest of the neighbouring fells, with the smaller ones sharing in the limelight in a diminishing scale. Thus, Watson’s Dodd would command less attention than a lot of the fells in its immediate environment. At just about two and a half thousand feet, in the company of others closer to three thousand feet, why would one even bother to wander over to its summit?

Because the views from Watson’s Dodd, overlooking the beautiful Thirlmere, offer a much more enhanced sense of depth and scale than the views from the much loftier surrounding mountains. Watson’s Dodd maybe one of the smaller of Helvellyn’s clan, but its views make it an undisputed star – in this author’s opinion anyway!

The 'dark' fell in the middle is Stybarrow Dodd (or at least it should be!).
The ‘dark’ fell in the middle is Stybarrow Dodd (or at least it should be!).
Raise with Helvellyn and Catstye Cam.
Raise with Helvellyn and Catstye Cam.

We only stayed at Watson’s Dodd for a few minutes, long enough to take some photographs, then headed off in a South East direction towards Stybarrow Dodd. In all honesty, although I was in no way sick of mountains, I can’t really remember much about Stybarrow Dodd and its summit.It has to be said that the tops of the summits all were now sharing a common theme, rounded and a little rocky, thus in the memory it’s hard to remember which one was which.We took to the map once more and set a course for our final Wainwright of the day…Hart Crag on Hart Side.

 

It never impressed Wainwright, Birkett Fell.
It never impressed Wainwright, Birkett Fell.

Next we headed off piste as we took in another summit over two thousand feet but one that the late, great Alfred Wainwright had decided not to include in his Eastern Fells pocket guide – Birkett Fell. At 2,379 feet this was no baby fell though, the summit cairn was large and impressive and the views to the Hight Street ridge and the Kentmere Horseshoe upper reaches were captivating. I have to admit that by this time with all of the ups and downs, my knees were getting a bit jelly-like.

We then had something of a get together on which route to take back to the car – via the Royal Hotel at Dockray, we could either do a really steep drop down to the valley below which would then result in an onerous ascent back up to the car, or we could cross the ridge and take in the lesser summit of Common Fell, another hill with an mightily impressive cairn and drop in to Dockray via Watermillock Common. Either way would result in a climb back to the car, but one the one featuring Common Fell we knew for definite would offer us a guaranteed route back into the village, the same could not be said for the lower level route. We opted for the ridge walk.

The summit of Common Fell, our last fell of the day.
The summit of Common Fell, our last fell of the day.

Common Fell is a fine hill in its own right, Wainwright never took to it and I’m not sure if it’s a ‘Birkett’. As can be expected from any top in this area, the views are all encompassing, with the neighbouring tops of Round How and Bracken How adding a certain ‘cute’ picturesque quality which only little hills can administer. And so, at around five thirty, we left the fells and dropped into Dockray where we called in at the Royal hotel for a much needed drink stop. After half an hour we headed up the hill back to the car after what had been a thoroughly enjoyable walk in the eastern fells.

The eastern fells, to me, all look very similar, For Great Dodd see Stybarrow Dodd in turn add a few rocks and you have Raise, the summit of Fairfield is similar to that of Clough Head…only Helvellyn and Catstye Cam stand unique in their appearance…to those who don’t profess to being a concessioner of the Lake District.  What does attract the visitor is the views from these majestic fells, all around is notoriety from the loftiness of the neighbouring Kentmere Horseshoe to the adrenalin of both Swirral and Striding Edge. I do hope to visit the Eastern fells again, but then there are some major summits to tick off my list including the four which remain from my top ten of England:

  1. Great End
  2. Bow Fell
  3. Pillar
  4. Nethermost Pike

I’ve always wondered what it would be like to do the complete linear walk over the Helvellyn massif – from Dollywaggon Pike to Clough Head (or the reverse way), now I have an insight – bloomin’ hard going!

Thanks to Sue and Lynne for making it such a great day, especially to Sue for the map and compass lessons.

Song of the walk: Coldplay – Hymn For The Weekend (Official video) – YouTube

Video of the walk:

Great Friday!

This was the walk of Good Friday (March 25th), 2016.

The Half Amble

I’m a bit sentimental, a bit reflective. There that’s got that over and done with, in short I wanted to go back to the site of my last walking triumph…Rivington. Well, to be honest, most walks these days are triumphs in their own ways.

  1. I’m definitely getting fitter
  2. Chris is showing much more interest in walking with me
  3. I have more confidence in finding my way around these days

So, in the spirit of wanting to: A Go for a long(ish) walk and B Go somewhere where I could be guaranteed to meet lots of people (I still don’t like being on my own for long amounts of time), Rivington fitted the bill just right.

Having dropped Chris off at work for around ten to nine I headed off to Burscough, called in at Tesco, got something to eat for later and some cash – in case of sudden hunger – I had an inkling that there would be ‘burger vans’ at Rivington. It was a little before ten before I got to the drive at Rivington Barn and a little after before I managed to get parked – it was busier than I had imagined and I had expected it to be quite busy. As luck would have it, where I ended up parking probably took about five minutes off my overall time as I was so near to the barn itself. Ordinarily I despise the slight upwards walk along the drive to the side of the barn. Why? I really can’t answer that!

A gaggle of pathwreckers – cyclists!

So up the cobbled slope at the left hand side of the barn (from my p.o.v.), I went. As could be expected, there was a lot of pedestrians to overtake. I say pedestrians as this was evidenced by the countless number of people in shoes and trainers and other obvious signs that the owner of the footwear was not a regular walker. I’m not being snobby here, I too used to adorn inappropriate footwear when I used to make my annual pilgrimage to ‘The Pike’ on a bank holiday Monday. I reckoned that I had overtaken fifty people within the first few hundred yards. At the summit of the cobbled path (which does become less cobbled with progress) I headed left and then right then straight on to take me down a winding path that is essentially directly around the rear of the barn (it’s nowhere near as complicated as my description). Within a few yards I made my way through a kissing gate (eventually) and was by now beginning to get into the rhythm of the walk…when I wasn’t being somewhat curtailed by ‘tourists’. From a distance I could see the pike quite clearly and with this came the realisation that (already) there was a lot of people at the tower. This was going to be one of my less lonesome visits!

Once I had passed a large amount of people and dogs I noticed that I was making good progress and decided to take a more circuitous route to the tower which meant staying on my horizontal path all the way to the section of the area known as Higher Knoll. Next I took a left hand swing to bring me in the general direction of the disused toilet block (oh doesn’t this sound a glamorous walk?) and from there a simple right turn through the large gates and onto the part-cobbled / part-stepped path to the pike. Regular readers of my blog will recall that I have this on-going challenge to never stop walking in between the gates and the summit until I reach the top of the steps. I doubted that I would be able to adhere to this today owing to the large volume of people on route (who were quite accomplished plodders). Nevertheless, I go to the top, admittedly at one time I was practically walking in place…but I did it.

A headless dog, a man with 'moobs' and shed loads of others atop the Pike.
A headless dog, a man with ‘moobs’ and shed loads of others atop the Pike.

The summit views were as clear as I could have hoped but at the same time there were so many people around that I could hardly gaze off into the distance for fear of someone growling “Hey stop eyeing up me bird!”. Thus, I took about three or four photographs and began the next stage of my walk, the mini trudge over Brown Hill. I don’t mind the descent to the south from the pike. However, once the real drop is over and done with I once again found myself on a cobbled road (Belmont) that was at best a bit bumpy and hard on the feet. With the ‘burger vans’ and a handful of stalls on route there was more to look at than on a normal visit, there were more people even on this side of the hill. It’s rare to meet anyone on route to Crooked Edge Hill coming from the Wilderswood area – today there were scores of them!

 

Rivington Pike adorned with 'tourists'
Rivington Pike adorned with ‘tourists’
Nostalgia rules! This sign marks the point where the Amble path splits from the Rotary Way.
Nostalgia rules! This sign marks the point where the Amble path splits from the Rotary Way.

Since doing the Amble last month (February) I have stopped hating Crooked Edge Hill, it was an irrational hatred I concede that. Today, after the pike and its myriad of pilgrims it was nice to have an area of land to myself. I resolved to not try any record breaking and to simply enjoy the walk up to Two Lads. Yes, I did feel all nostalgic when I neared the sign where the Amble path splits off from the Rotary Way / path to the summit and duly took a photograph of it – this won’t mean anything to anyone else but for me it was a nice memory. I did make quite swift progress to the cairn atop the hill and was relieved to see a couple were there having a respite. I say relieved because I had been on my own for a good five minutes now!

The male member of the couple greeted me and we started bragging about which hills we had climbed lately, his Sharp Edge transit over Blencathra trumped my Skiddaw – even if mine was physically more demanding (I’ll never do Sharp Edge so this is largely theoretical from my point of view), but then my recounting of completing the Amble trumped pretty much anything he had to offer, I won (if only in my mind). Five minutes of chatting later saw me check my watch and whilst I was relieved to see it was not yet twelve o’clock, I had a pressing need to continue walking for fear of stopping altogether and consoling myself with the knowledge that I had done the pike in thirty two minutes if nothing else. I pressed on, Winter Hill was next.

The antenna array.
The antenna array.
Counting Hill lurking on the distant left and my route of descent in the left hand foreground.
Counting Hill lurking on the distant left and my route of descent in the left hand foreground.

Some days the tarmac road up to Winter Hill feels endless…today was one of those. However, it was very nice to bump into other ‘genuine’ walkers – the type with real walking boots on that actually look like they have seen dizzier heights than those little bridges present in each Go outdoors store. I considered stopping for an early lunch, the coolness of the air gently persuaded me otherwise. I’ll concede to speeding up my walk here as essentially once one has seem the mighty antenna array at this locale…there’s never the extensive views that the web in general promises. I did hope to try and grab a picture of the much understated ‘Counting Hill’…I failed. Now after over an hour of walking uphill I would drop down the side of Winter Hill (and Counting Hill) for over a mile, glorious!

The glade at the bottom of the path.
The glade at the bottom of the path.
Belmont Village as seen from my descent path.
Belmont Village as seen from my descent path.
Somewhere in the foreground is the continuation of my route...
Somewhere in the foreground is the continuation of my route…

I was now headed for the A675 – Belmont Road and had a slight reservation as to whether I’d be able to cross this often busy road safely. I need not have worried, it was, for all intents and purposes dead and I lazily strolled over the road towards the turning for Greenhill Farm. The turning was reached within a matter of fifty feet or so and I was soon on the nice, flat tarmac path…for another fifty feet or so and then it was into slightly foreign territory. Although I had walked along this section of my route the month before – I was following someone then, I was on my own now and I have an irritating habit of going off-piste without meaning to do so. With this in mind I simply made sure that I stuck to what I could remember and took note of the terrain watching out for flattened grass / reeds (it’s a very wet area) and for stiles at the opposite side from where I was.

The ornamental reservoir near Greenhill farm.
The ornamental reservoir near Greenhill farm.

It filled me with a certain nostalgia to be carefully watching my feet and re-living the Amble walk in this bumpy and wet terrain. I do wonder how long it takes this little neck of land to recover from having a couple of hundred pairs of feet stomp all over it in the dead of Winter. I dropped down to the stream, making use of the sturdy footbridge and then headed up to Egerton Road. A left turn and then a right and I was heading up a sheep-filled pasture towards the road which leads down to Belmont reservoir. The sheep were curious but kept their distance. I had naively believed that at the reservoir began the path known as Catherine Edge, this is not correct. Catherine Edge actually begins a good few hundred yards north east of here closer to where the second Amble checkpoint is at Charley’s Pole (there is no pole), so what my path was called I have no idea.

I don't know the name of the hill in the centre of the photo...if you do then please let me know.
I don’t know the name of the hill in the centre of the photo…if you do then please let me know.
Here's one I did earlier...Winter Hill looking a very long way away.
Here’s one I did earlier…Winter Hill looking a very long way away.

All the same I was fairly sure of where I was going…I carried on in a straight line until ultimately I found that dead end into which I always wander on each walk. a helpful farmer (no comment) put me back on track and within a few hundred feet I was once more in an environment that I vaguely recognised. I hadn’t seen many people on route since dropping off Winter Hill but all of a sudden, in ones and twos they began to appear.

 

 

Catherine Edge(?) meets Crookfield Road
Catherine Edge(?) meets Crookfield Road

I was in very good spirits by now as Map My Hike continued to inform me of my progress, the twenty-six minute miles were now behind me and I was onto the eighteen-minute ones on this rural express-way. I was loving it. The weather had taken a turn for the sunny as well and for once I unzipped my coat. Finally, it became very obvious that my path merged with the infamous Catherine Edge as both paths came to and end at just outside Tockholes. I took a turn off down a shady lane hoping it would lead me to Hollinshead Hall, yes, success. This was the end of the second section of the route – I do like to split things up into sections.I was aware of a foreboding presence, lurking on the horizon, out of sight but filling my mind. Great Hill was now just around the corner. I stopped for lunch and some coffee. Once again, people appeared seemingly from nowhere, a couple shared my locale whilst they had their lunch, he had a cigarette which smelled divine! I put Map My Hike on pause. It was lovely to sit and relax, except for a part of me knew what lay around the corner. Having ascended Great Hill as part of the Amble I knew it was easier than it looked…but still it was somehow taunting me, as if calling out to me that all hope of truly relaxing was going to be denied to me until I had conquered the beast. I finished my wraps and set off with a renewed zeal.

Great Hill makes an appearance.
Great Hill makes an appearance.

Great Hill is not a difficult hill…it just thinks it is! Any former Ambler will agree with this. After all it’s just 1,250 feet tall…a dwarf of a hill compared to some of the giants I’ve nailed in the last few years. All the same, once I’d crossed the A675 again and made my way through the opening mud-pool…I remembered how energy sapping a wet field can be and a wet hill is even worse. At times the path went out of vision on the ground and I resorted to ‘which bit looks most distressed’ as this would indicate that a few hundred fellow travellers had bounded over here a month earlier. At one point I did pass over the world’s most pointless stile and then into my line of sight came the top. Alas, I had erased from my memory the fact that there is a rather spiteful little false summit something like seventy-five percent of the way up, it had caught me out again. Oh well, no point getting angry…onwards. I passed a couple and joked that I didn’t know why I was walking up this hill for the second time in two months, they seemed to find this amusing…or at least within earshot they laughed!

And so within thirty five minutes of standing on its toes, I was atop the mighty lump that is Great Hill, and for a moment was quite shattered. Once more people seemed to be gathering. Within the next ten minutes, whilst I sipped the remainder of my coffee, I must have seen another ten people. I was very glad to have reached the top before three o’clock as this confirmed to me that I should be able to do the route that I had set out to complete within my time-frame. All that was left now was to bolt over Redmonds Edge, Spitlers Edge down Will Narr and then into Rivington via Limestone Quarry / Valley / I really don’t know its name and Bing Maps is not helping me here! Sounds easy does it not?

Winter Hill and most of the expansive Anglezarke Moor spread out before me.
Winter Hill and most of the expansive Anglezarke Moor spread out before me.
The slabbed path heading south across Anglezarke Moor.
The slabbed path heading south across Anglezarke Moor.

And for the most part it was. It’s hard to restrain oneself from going full speed when coming off Great Hill heading overall southerly. Not that this is a particularly steep drop, indeed, that’s the point, because it’s so easy a gradient – we fly down it! Within five minutes I had torn across the wonderful slabbed path and was at the lowest part of this moor. Every few minutes a new pair or group of walkers would emerge from the horizon, in most cases we’d greet each other warmly – this can be a lonely old place and it’s always nice to be nice to others.
Redmonds Edge was reached very swiftly, easily, Spitlers Edge followed quickly thereafter. A lot of the route has now been made much easier by the addition of these slabs but, herein lies its own problem: when the slabs run out, we’re kind of lost! For less than a hundred yards I was watching my feet as I stumbled my way through the wet peaty upper reaches of the moor. I fell victim to the sucking, clawing, grasp at me from the evil tendrils of the ground beneath my feet, just as a power walking couple were about to overtake me. I groaned then laughed, they laughed and then continued to laugh. Unbeknown to the couple they had just become the trailblazers, the ones to follow. Both myself and the couple in front now hopped from one dry patch to another until, quite by surprise a deer came fleet of foot, but not full canter (do deer canter?) across the moor in front of us. We were all captivated, this was spring in action. None of us could retrieve our camera quickly enough to capture this delightful sight and to be honest it would have probably just been a bit of a blur anyway.

Other walkers atop Great Hill.
Other walkers atop Great Hill.

I had forgotten all about the separating wall which pointlessly divides the fields at this point as I walk towards them I got talking to an elderly couple (well, they were older than me ha!) about our days walks contrasting and comparing. I forget now where they said they had been that day but I do remember the man being impressed with my route (I am a bit vain!) and they were still deciding on which route to take next. He referred to the way that I was now going as Lead Mines Clough – I accepted this as I really didn’t have information to the contrary. There was just one stile to use in order to get to the next field, alas the woman was taking an eternity to traverse the thing as she was slipping whilst trying to haul herself over it. I decided to look around for an alternative route and found a large enough hole in the fence for me to just about get through. I bid the couple farewell and continued on my own. It was now getting closer to my three o’clock deadline…I had to be back at the car for four o’clock and if I didn’t think this was possible by three o’clock I should book a taxi for Chris.

After some more hopping around from dry patch to dry patch I finally arrived at Will Narr and looked around for the plaque donated by the ‘Friends of the Yarrow’ which indicates the start of the mighty river Yarrow…I couldn’t see it anywhere, damn! There appears to be some sort of ground work in progress at Will Narr, there is a large hole dug out of the side of the rise very near to the top of the slope (sorry my words don’t do it justice). I decided not to take a picture of it…it’s just not pretty and knowing me, I’d have fallen in.

Believe me, there are easier ways to get up Winter Hill than this!
Believe me, there are easier ways to get up Winter Hill than this!

I made my way to Rivington Road, took a photo of the ridiculously hard-going path up Winter Hill via Hordern Stoops which the power walkers had taken (ha, they’d regret that!) and began the long drop down towards Rivington via Moses Cocker (Bing really is crap at naming roads, even on ‘Road’ view). I had meant to use the path to Catter Nab which I had seen on a previous walk with Chris, but decided against this as to do so would just make my route harder and longer. By this time I had already walked almost thirteen miles. I bid a cheerful farewell to the moors behind me, for now I would be roadside walking all the way back down this long and winding road, not exactly safe – but definitely drier than my last hour and a half’s walking.

 

 

Noon Hill rises like a tiny pyramid.
Noon Hill rises like a tiny pyramid.
Starting in the centre and heading up, meet the 'Super path' which does look an absolute pig to ascend.
Starting in the centre and heading up, meet the ‘Super path’ which does look an absolute pig to ascend.

From this aspect, the minor lump which is Noon Hill gained a profile all of its own. I have walked over it twice but to be honest I don’t get the whole ‘It’s neolithic’ hype. to me it’s very much in Winter Hill’s shadow. As I passed by the turn off for the ‘super path’ I did consider revising my decision, but, no: the path could wait for another day. The views across Anglezarke and as far afield as the Peak District where so good that I cursed my inability to name what I could see. That should not detract from the quality of this walk though. I knew that although not a busy road per se, this was a road that can (and does) bring out a driver’s need for speed. I had to cross the road a number of times, estimating where potential death might occur from some lunatic flying around the corner at sixty. As you’re reading this, you can assume that my estimations served me well. It seemed hardly any time at all before I was turning left off Rivington Road and onto Belmont Road (seriously, why can they not give more than one name to different streets in this locale?) at 53.631227, -2.552341.

No puddles and an Ice Cream van!
No puddles and an Ice Cream van!

The last time that Chris and I were here there was a bit of snow and a vast puddle which cars were struggling to get through, fortunately the puddle had receded, the sun was by now blazing away and it was only three-twelve, I should make it back to the car in no more than fifteen minutes. There was even time for me to buy an ice cream from the van parked up at the meeting of the paths…but as I had just burned off around two thousand calories I thought this might appear, well…stupid, so I just headed back to the car instead.

I eased my way through the paddock at ‘The Meeting of the Paths’ after struggling to open the gate. This area is normally rife with sheep but I think the superabundant human presence was having some affect on that and I don’t remember seeing any. A five minute walk down the same cobbled path that I had walked up five and a quarter hours earlier and I was back in front of the Barn. There were a lot more bikers around now and the enchanting smell of hot coals and beefburgers was getting in my head. I restrained from eating and simply absorbed what I had done – Map My Hike said that I’d hiked 14.85 miles. Actually I forgot to switch it from ‘pause mode’ when I had my lunch and only remembered half way up Great Hill!

Summary

Without doubt, this is the best, most enjoyable solo walk that I’ve done. Yes the weather helped greatly. A growing familiarity with the environment also helped. But, more so a new born confidence in me has helped immensely – I’m no longer terrified of being on my own. And for that I’m eternally grateful.

Stats:
I walked roughly fifteen miles over around 1,883 feet and it took me just short of five hours actual walking – though there was the pause mode mess-up to take into account.

Song of the walk – well, there wasn’t one. I know it sounds a bit soppy but I was thinking about my lovely partner Christine (who was at work), my friends, colleagues and I was also busy reminiscing about the Amble and how much I’m looking forward to doing it all again next year! However, here is a musical montage of the photos I took:

Downloading the route:
Sadly, WordPress is far more Draconian than it ever was! It takes over your server. Thus if you want to download the .gpx file for this route then you would need to do the following:

  1. Right click on the “Download the GPX file Text box
  2. If you’re using Chrome or Firefox select Save Link As…
  3. Save the file somewhere memorable on your PC or device
  4. If Internet Explorer is your choice of browser, then:
    1. select Save target as…
    2. In the file requester pick a destination for the file and save it there.
    3. For some reason, IE tries to rename the file as a .xml or .txt instead of .gpx. If this happens then just rename it back once the download has finished.

[easy_media_download url=”http://www.fatgoatwalks.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/gpx/TheHalfAmble.gpx” text=”Download the GPX file” force_dl=”1″ width=”250″]

The route according to Map My Hike:
Half Amble Route
[sgpx gpx=”/wp-content/uploads/gpx/TheHalfAmble.gpx”]

Catching up with an old friend

The walk up to and over Pen Y Ghent on Saturday March 19th, 2016.

I had felt a certain un-right, for some time. I should explain, when Colin, Darren and I attempted our Yorkshire Three Peaks in Reverse late last summer, we missed out our old friend Pen y Ghent owing to bad navigation. This was something that I had regretted since then. So, when Christine (my partner) handed me my “Walks in Ribblesdale” book back with the suggestion of us doing ‘Walk number six’ – I was delighted, this was the walk from Horton to Pen y Ghent and back via Plover Hill.

We left home at 08:04, our first stop was the Lancaster Service Station near junction 34 for breakfast. Back on the road and our Tom Tom sat nav then proceeded to guide us through most of the back roads of the Craven area. Suffice to say, we didn’t arrive at Horton in Ribblesdale until something like ten to eleven…the train wouldn’t have been much slower! All the same, as the masses have thus far forgotten about the Yorkshire Dales – until the first “Three Peaks” sponsored walk, around about mid-April, thus parking was easy at the long stay car park and the overflow one wasn’t even in use. It’s not cheap to park here any more, as for over two hours now costs £4.50, on a par with Keswick Prices.

Pen y Ghent is now appearing to look much bigger as we get closer.
Pen y Ghent is now appearing to look much bigger as we get closer.
What we'd done so far. the path back to Bracken Bottom.
What we’d done so far. the path back to Bracken Bottom.

By 11:04 we were all booted and readied and on route to the hill. Bracken Bottom was the first named area that we traversed, with fond memories I flashed back to the last time that I was here and displaying a ‘tally-ho’ attitude towards the steep trek up this field akin to the farm. On my Y3P day I held nothing in reserve, today I was more than happy to take in the scenery and chat with Chris. We did see a number of people on route but the only ones whom passed us, we then passed at later stages in the walk. We both enjoyed the little scramble stages as we headed east towards the first major wall stile. The route then gets a bit more gentle as more limestone to be surmounted; juts out of the ground. I especially like this way of tackling the mountain as it is such a varied route. Yes, although the overall trajectory is unmistakeably up, there are both flat and downhill sections.

In your face. The nose of Pen y Ghent is now within touching distance.
In your face. The nose of Pen y Ghent is now within touching distance.
A hazy view over to Ingelborough and the two walkers behind us.
A hazy view over to Ingleborough and the two walkers behind us.

The last downhill section before the joining of paths soon came and went and as we neared the Pennine Way path I did wonder what had happened to the two gigantic ladder stiles which used to reside at this wall. This section seemed to serve as a natural stopping point, the couple and their dog, with whom we had been swapping places for the last half mile, decided to take a respite here and we took the opportunity to carry on up the fearsome southern face of Pen Y Ghent. Here the path gets a lot steeper (and this is coming from someone who did Ullock-Skiddaw on his previous walk!). I knew that it was less than half a mile to the summit, but even previous experience of having walked this route does not prepare one for the sight of the steep rocky staircase that we now had to ascend. We now had a lot of knee work to do…and both enjoyed it!

The steps that had accelerated our progress so far.
The steps that had accelerated our progress so far.
Fountains Fell or Darnbrook Fell (or both).
Fountains Fell or Darnbrook Fell (or both).

Between scrambling sections there are opportunities to take photos of the two adjacent fells: Fountains and Darnbrook, but on the day I was at a loss as to which was which! It was a joy to see other walkers on route – this was still not ‘crowd-pulling’ weather so it was nice to not be harassed up the stony track, which can happen when the mountain is festooned with people attempting to walk the Yorkshire Three Peaks. It was around six and a half years since I last did this mountain purely for pleasure instead of a training walk, thus I took the chance to have a look around and fall back in love with the Dales’ scenery. On average I only tend to frequent these parts once per year and that has to change.

Out of Edale! The Pennine Way snakes its way over from the south.
Out of Edale! The Pennine Way snakes its way over from the south.
The ordnance survery column atop Pen y Ghent.
The ordnance survey column atop Pen y Ghent.

Ultimately, the summit path beckoned. It was a pleasant surprise that the mill-stone slabbed paths are now in such superabundance. After the final scramble you are immediately greeted by a new slab-path which facilitates progress all the way to the ordnance survey column pillar at the highest point of the mountain. We’d brought our lunch with us to eat at the small wind shelter near the o/s column. Thankfully, this was occupied by three smoking ‘chavs’ a lovely looking Golden Labrador and a ‘barks-at-anything’ bull terrier sort of dog. They were not for moving nor did they speak to anyone, both of which made me arrive at the earlier noun of ‘chavs’. All the same, I was glad to not have to eat my food here amongst the remnants of dried up bananas and the cold temperatures. And the evidence of the cold? Well that was the snow on the dip in-between Pen y Ghent and Plover Hill.

Talking of Plover Hill, on Jack Keighley’s excellent walk, which we were following, the next section should have featured a down and up trek over to Plover Hill and then down to Hull Pot. On a warm summer day I’d happily do this minor detour…Chris and I agreed, that would be one for another day! We began the drop down the north-western face of the mountain.

Apparently a Yodel delivery for Whernside?
Apparently a Yodel delivery for Whernside?

As if by magic, once over the tall stile, more walkers appeared seemingly out of the ether. A couple, the man of which had congratulated his lady on completing the trek up, began to drop down on the same stony path as us. Pen y Ghent’s north-west descent/ascent is fiercely steep, I may have played this down in previous reports, but at some points I’m sure the gradient must border on forty-five degrees. I had to watch my feet. We passed by some blocks on pallets which appeared to have been randomly left. I did wonder what future purpose they would serve. After roughly a quarter of a mile, the old nemesis from last Sunday showed its face once more…snow. A patch of roughly fifty feet, on one of the afore-mentioned forty-five degree sections seemed intent on slowing us all down – our group of two (Chris and me) had morphed into a group of about eight as we each struggled to come to grips with this white demon. I decided that as last week, I would lead with my heels. Alas, this proved to be ineffective for apparently Yorkshire snow and Cumbrian snow are simply two different creatures and I went up to my knees on a couple of occasions. Chris fared better by simply shouting and me “I can’t stop” and then of course coming to a natural and calm stop!

Plover Hill, not the most alluring of all summits, but all the same...
Plover Hill, not the most alluring of all summits, but all the same…

We passed by Plover Hill and I did feel some remorse over our decision to not take this summit in today. That being said, it was more snow-covered than our mountain which would have added substantially to our route’s time to get across. At times we stopped and looked back at the snow patch in order to laugh at the spectacle of other walkers struggling to get over it. It was hilarious when happening to other people. The drop down from the top is a seriously long one, I must measure this one day, for some time Whitber Hill appeared to be on our route and although we could have made it over this 420 metre lump, neither one of us actually wanted to do so. Fortunately, Horton Scar Lane eventually came into view and we duly turned left here to head back to Horton in Ribblesdale once more.

 

A last longing view back at the lovely Pen y Ghent.
A last longing view back at the lovely Pen y Ghent. Will I feel the same in May when I have to do it at speed once more?

We were passed by a number of younger walkers, early to mid-twenty year-olds at best but they never really shrank into the foreground. I think these had been the ones making most noise when confronted with the snow patch and they seemed in good spirits.

Horton Scar Lane can be described as the longest ever walk back, if nobody else agrees with me then I still hold fast to that belief. I don’t know for how many miles we ambled along its length, but it seemed like three! But finally we arrived at the B6479 (bing maps does not give it a real name!) and we made our way to the car in order to change out of our boots and for me to get rid of the backpack which had been giving my shoulders a real ache. the Penyghent Café now beckoned and having bypassed lunchtime (thanks to the chavs and their dogs) I had suggested to Chris that we have a sausage butty! It was absolutely lovely, especially when I added English mustard. The two mugs of coffee that I consumed were also lovely and it was nice to sit in the café during one of its more obviously quiet phases. We listened to other excited walkers regale tales of their walks, nobody mentioned the snow, I wondered how many had fallen at that particular hurdle. Chris was in her element to have completed the walk, her fitness is coming along in leaps and bounds…Helvellyn next? We’ll see!

In all the walk took just a little over four hours, which given that neither one of us was in any particular rush and the snow patch certainly had an impact, I thought was brilliant. Our various apps report a distance of seven miles and an altitude of two thousand and three hundred feet, fantastic. I can hardly wait to get over to this neck of the woods again, in May, in order to successfully lead Darren over the Yorkshire Three Peaks. However, it did cross my mind, has anyone ever thought of making an alternative route: Pen y Ghent, Fountains Fell and Plover Hill?

There was no song of the walk…apologies, we were too busy gabbing on!

Farewell for now, you beautiful mountain, you ‘hill of the winds!’