I know it was only last weekend we took the camper for its first run of the year to north Wales, but we couldn't wait to use it again, so I took an extra day off over Easter and on Thursday we headed north to the Lake District just below the Scottish border.
I've embedded some links in the report in case anyone is interested in learning more about some of the things shown - the links go to various websites (not mine).
We waited until after rush-hour and Sally drove the first half, including through the busy bits around Birmingham.
We were in Lancashire by lunchtime and rather than stop at a dull motorway service station, I could see hills not far from the motorway and took a detour to find somewhere quiet to have our sandwiches - how about this for weather (April in northern England):
In the distance you can just make out the hills of the Lake District:
Sally had booked a campsite right at the far north end of the national park - we could just continue up the motorway to get there quickly, but instead we opted to enter the park at the south end and drive up through it to enjoy the scenery.
This did mean going over one of the high passes, and as we approached this sign didn't look promising:
We continued up anyway:
No - the Kirkstone Pass was open after all, they just hadn't changed the sign:
The campsite had good facilities, but was fairly busy being Easter - it wasn't noisy though - In the distance is Blencathra:
The UK doesn't really have what many would consider mountains - i.e. no 12,000 ft plus peaks, but it does have a number of lovely peaks (called fells in that part of England) around 3000 ft (still technically mountains) - their relatively low height means they are ideal for a day's walking.
The 'fells' of the lake district have the advantage of having been very thoroughly documented by the late Alfred Wainright (AW to those who knew him). He dedicated his spare time to documenting almost every fell, including beautiful ink maps and drawings, in a series of pocket-guides. We have a box set of 7 of them. This was the one we would be using on Friday covering Blencathra and the other fells of the area:
Here is his introduction page to Blencathra - he provided 36 pages covering that fell alone:
Including details of the various ascents, his views on which were most interesting, what you would see from the top and any other information he thought would be of interest to the walker, here are a couple of ascents (not actually the one we took):
I've gone into some detail here simply because the Wainright books are such fantastic things to have, even if you don't get any closer to the Lake District than reading them from your back porch. If you love maps and illustrations they are a must have (would fit in nicely in your 'map room' downstairs Silversand, if you don't already posses a set ).
We set-off walking from the camp site at 07:15. Of course the blue skies from yesterday couldn't last (though I've enjoyed the best possible weather in Dubai, Singapore, Sydney, Bangkok, Glasgow, Germany, Montreal and Wales this winter, so I can hardly complain when that weather finally breaks):
Once you climb up the first slope you enter a sheltered valley which you follow for about a mile:
Before turning left and climbing a good path up the side of a stream:
At the top is a small glacial lake (tarn) called Scales Tarn, and above it the infamous "Sharp Edge" - it is this we would be ascending:
We stopped for tea and chocolate by the tarn. We were there a while and could hear voices above for quite a long time. We assumed to be up there in one place for so long they must have been climbing off to one side or doing some other activity - we would learn later why it took the voices ages to disappear.
From the 'tarn' there is a good path up to the start of Sharp Edge - Here is where it changes from a walk to a climb:
Up ahead was this:
The proper method of crossing this is to clamber over the sharper bits, then walk balancing on the "sharp edge" of its title. On a nice dry day this would mainly be a matter of nerves and balance, but in this weather all the rock surfaces were very slippery, and those you were supposed to balance on had been rubbed smooth by decades of walkers; many of these faces were inclined at 30 degrees. Normally my walking shoes will happily grip a 45 degree surface, but these glassy smooth wet rocks were as slippery as ice - the wind didn't help either. The only solution was to move very slowly around treating it more like a rock climb (without any protection) than a walk, testing each hand and foot hold very carefully. Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures of the difficult bits, I was too busy trying not to fall off .
A local man came up behind us and we let him past - he had been up this route many times and knew where to put his feet - despite this he then slipped on one of the surfaces, but managed to catch hold of something before disappearing off the edge.
Sally, despite last weekend's rock climbing training, was not best pleased. I had well worn-in flexible lightweight walking shoes, ideal for this; Sally had brand new heavy duty walking boots which were stiff and not ideally suited to rock climbing. At times I had to talk Sally through some holds I had used - I can see how people can get 'cragfast', where the panic rises within them and they end up clinging to the rock unable to go up or down. After we got back we checked and the website of the Keswick Moutain Rescue Team who cover the area, we found they have a whole page here covering the rescues they have performed there - the descriptions aren't encouraging - there are a lot of phrases like "slipped and fell 150', receiving fatal injuries". Many of the accidents were in much better weather than we had and to younger people - if we had seen this before hand we wouldn't have attempted the edge in this weather.
I sent a picture to my mother via my Blackberry - she looked the mountain up on the Internet and said "what fantastic views you get from there" - these were the views that greeted us after the hard work:
We predictably didn't spend long on the top. We also saw others who from their dress (and the lack of dirt attached to it) clearly hadn't taken our route - so it didn't take long to find this route down, which we could have easily driven up in the Samurai:
Needless to say we took the above route - I am not suicidal enough to attempt going DOWN Sharp Edge in the wind and rain, and I don't rate the effects upon my marriage of even suggesting it to Sally.
We treated ourselves to a hot desert and a beer in the pub below afterwards
Saturday we decided to climb Skiddaw. This was too far to walk from the camp site, but it doesn't take long to unplug and drive away.
Skiddaw from below:
No problem parking at 08:00 (on our return it was chaos and we were lucky that someone who parked directly opposite the truck left just as we were or we would have been pretty stuck, or they would have had a slightly scratched car).
A nice gentle climb to start with - Sally looking towards Keswick:
The path was very good going up - a real contrast to yesterday. Soon the first peak - Skiddaw Little Man:
Ha - Graffiti:
A view (briefly) - Derwent Water through the clouds:
Sally on the summit of Skiddaw:
Sally is happy if she has her tea and chocolate:
Here is the plaque on the top showing the relative locations of other peaks:
We stayed a few minutes in the hope the cloud would clear, but it didn't, so we ascended to the north (we hate having to retrace our steps - circular routes are much nicer). After we had descended below the cloud line we could see clearly to the north. The line of water in the distance is the Solway Firth, and on its far bank Scotland:
We descended to the Cumbria Trail that runs east of Skiddaw, and stopped for some lunch:
This is a nice easy track:
You can see the peat along the side of the track:
We headed for this gap:
As you return to the sloping sides of the crags the soil gets thinner and is more easily eroded:
Before returning to the truck we could see the line of hills starting with Clough Head to the left and heading down to Helvellyn - providing a nice high-level walk, and decided we might try that on Sunday:
Sunday came but so did the rain. We went for a walk at around 08:00 heading towards Clough Head, but could see it was already mostly covered in clouds, and it is the lowest of the peaks along the ridge I mentioned above:
Sally crossing a stile into a field - stiles are normally timber and set into wire fencing, but with the stone walls here they have built stiles into the actual stonework - designed to allow walkers through where there are rights of way, but prevent sheep escaping:
Another dry stone wall, this time with a gap left in it for a stream to run through:
The weather was getting worse as we got closer to the hills. This view should have Clough Head and other peaks in it:
We were already wet and getting cold so we decided to call it a day.
The sun appeared briefly to provide us with a rainbow, but that was all - so we decided to pack up a day early and head home:
During this trip I found the new ability to use low ratio in 4x2 invaluable - there was a lot of manoeuvring the truck on hard surfaces around very tight car parks and roads, and the ability to do it at tickover in low ratio 1st instead of having to slip the clutch was a real improvement.
Overall a very good weekend despite the weather.
'07 Ford Ranger XLT Supercab diesel + '91 Shadow Cruiser - Sky Cruiser 1
'92 Suzuki Samurai 4x4 1.6
'09 Fiat Panda 1.2
'10 Citroen DS3 1.6 turbo
Nice reports and beautiful landscapes, despite the clouds, or maybe it was the UK fog
it's interesting to see that here we have the same "dry stone walls" (in French : mur en pierres sèches) to delimit the properties and maintain the cattle in fields, but also I suppose to cut the winds.
Thanks for sharing Steve
FORD F250 LARIAT 4X4 DIESEL 2008
Lance 815 2007
Yet again------supurb pictures and descriptions
We just can't wait to see what you do with Morocco !!!
BTW Steve we have just travelled from North Portugal through the mountains is Spain and accross the Pyrenees into France--------We know you would LOVE this run.
Nigel & Pamala------Southern France