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Friday, 27 February 2015

Last day (best weather day) Glenridding Dodd, Sheffield Pike & Raise

Our final day in the lakes dawned, and the sky was blue, sun was shining and the hills were white.. We'd only planned a short walk as we were on our way back to Bristol which is a 5 hr drive including stops.

We parked up in Glenridding and followed the track towards the YHA. I liked the sound of the Wainwright Glenridding Dodd, on the map it looked impenetrably craggy and Wainwright's description also made the route up sound tricky. Not long past the houses a path heads up onto the hill, we headed up then followed it to curve round the hill with views down to Ullswater below. We then picked our way up on a faint path through the scree which was steep (much to Emma's disgust) but thankfully it deposits you onto the top of the hill once the climbing is finished with. It's a lovely top with rocky knolls and a great place to stop in the sunshine. Looking at the routes others have taken there are easier alternatives but I enjoyed picking our way over over the scree!

We descended the easy way down towards our next hill - Sheffield Pike. Rather than heading straight up we followed a good path in the shadow of the hill, annoyingly the path continued to contour off in the wrong direction so we decided to head straight up. It was steep and awkward as the snow was thawing and slippery. Emma's legs were tired from the day before and by the time we got to the top she was in a foul mood! 

Some sweets cheered Emma up somewhat, and seeing the snowy slopes of Raise we were tempted to extend our walk. Although we had microspikes and poles we hadn't brought full on winter kit (ie axes and crampons). We decided we would see what the conditions were like and descend if things got too difficult. The slopes of Raise on our route up were gentle, and not over any drops. We dropped down to the spoil heaps, and headed up to pick up the old 'chimney' which goes up Raise. We chose this way up rather than the path to Sticks Pass as it's much gentler at the top. Emma enjoyed some sledging on the snow as we made our way up.

My camera battery was virtually dead by this point, and even frequent warming of the battery wasn't working so there's not many snaps from here onwards. After crossing a few snow slopes we were soon at the ski tow much to Emma's delight - the first time she's ever seen ski-ing on snow rather than just on the TV (another activity she now wants to try!)! It was only a short climb to the top from the ski tow. The views of the Hellvellyn range were fantastic, looking very wintry in their snowy jackets. We didn't stop for long as the wind was biting and we headed back to a small slope by the ski tow to do some sledging and practice ice axe arrests. Emma picked it up faster than me! 

We headed back the way we had come to follow the chimney back down to the eroded path at Stang End, it would have been nice to have taken an alternative route, but it was already mid afternoon and we had the long drive to think about. We were glad of our poles on the crumbling path, and even happier when we reached the lane back to the car. We were so lucky to have such a sunny last day in the hills and to be able to enjoy a snowy walk with Emma. The Lakes in all it's shining glory! Emma voted it the best walk ever despite the earlier bad mood!

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Sleddale Fells from Swindale

We knew it would be a bit of a drive round from where we were staying but the forecast was still showing quite cold/windy weather, and we felt like staying lower down. We opted to park at Swindale & chose to follow the 13 mile route in the Nuttals guide book we had with us. We had a bit of a panic when we got there as we thought we could drive further down the lane that we could - clear no parking beyond this point signs show where you need to park before following the lane to Swindale Head. We weren't sure if the route in the guide book was from the end of the lane or where we had parked, so all day we weren't quite sure how long the route would be (it being split over 2 OS maps which we were following the route from which didn't help with the estimation process!) Turned out after that the route did include the walk in from the parking point.

The lane made for an easy walk in to the beautiful Swindale Head which for the Lake District feels like a very remote valley.

After passing various farm buildings we began our route uphill which initially heads up Old Corpse Road (known as this as coffins used to be carried this way for burial) We soon left the path to follow the ridge of Sellside Pike to the summit. Although it had started off sunny the snow showers promised in the forecast started to blow in as groupel (soft hail/snow pellets) & out came the goggles!

The ground conditions were easy going and we were soon at the summit shelter. It's great to have a ready made shelter in the winter to kick back and eat some food without getting too cold. It also saves getting out the mountain shelter..

Onwards we went following the fence whilst getting pelted with groupel, the goggles and balaclavas certainly helped, although you can't help but feel like you are in a bit of a surreal bubble after a while!

Our next summit was Branstree North East top, nothing to write home about, but was easy going to get there. I was amazed how well Emma was coping with the conditions, we were all enjoying how easy these hills were underfoot esp as most the wetter sections were frozen.

Our next hill top was Branstree which the guidebook describes as having a bird bath like marker on the very top. Due to the weather I think we probably missed the highest point as we didn't pass anything of this description - think we probably got distracted by the surveying pillar which we were all speculating as to what it was there for. (they were put in place by the Manchester corporation during the construction of the Longsleddale aqueduct) 

Next up was Tarn Crag which had a nice rocky top to it and reminded my of a mini Glyders, we were treated to some views whilst the snow held off for a short while. The wind was pretty cold so we didn't stop for long.

We followed the wall down to our next top and we had fun walking/sliding down on the compacted snow. We bumped into another walker towards the dip between the two hills who took advantage of our waterproof map in the sleet to check her way on. The wall was another bonus in shelter of which we took advantage of before the climb back onto the hillside. A great place to eat sandwiches and drink hot squash!

The way on started becoming a bit boggier, and we made our way back uphill to our next hill top (I'd spoken too soon at the wall at to how easy going the walk had been conditions wise!) We had some debate as to which was the highest top but we visited them all to be sure!

Our final hill of the day was Harrop Pike and it didn't disappoint, another nice shelter cairn and beautiful views.

We headed straight down to pick up the boggy river bank along Little Mosdale Beck.The route in the guidebook goes via the bothy which would have been a lovely distraction, but we were concerned it might be a bit too much of a detour for Emma. Just as the bog hopping was getting a bit tiring we started to see shapes on the horizon and started to debate what they were. It turned out it was a huge heard of deer much to Emma's delight, one by one they started jumping over a small fence which was even more impressive. The valley could be mistaken for somewhere in the Scottish Highlands.

We picked up the footbridge over the beck then followed a footpath/track which took us back to our initial lane. We passed the waterfalls at Swindale Head which looked particularly impressive with the water raging down them. Our walking poles came in handy on the final descent as the sheep mown/sodden path was like an ice rink of slipperyness!

We all had tired feet walking back to the car, and felt quite envious of the farmers quad bike and trailor as they sped past us on our walk out. These hills are brilliant winter hills, and I would have no hesitation returning again.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Causey Pike, Scar Crags & Sail

Thursday dawned with me waking up feeling ill, good thing it was tipping down and grim outside. We lazed around at the cottage until the weather started to clear, the promise of clear skies later made me get my act together & get outdoors. I couldn't resist missing some nice evening sun on the hills..

Emma wanted to revisit Force Crag Mine which vetoed the Wainwrights Outerside & Barrow from the walk due to our late start. We parked in Braithwaite and headed up into the fells, the sun was on the Kewick fells & it felt like things might improve weather wise.

There are better start points for our first hill Causey Pike, we were stuck with ours due to the mine visit at the end. Once we had passed along the bottom of Causey Pike we dipped into the valley to cross the stream, then followed a faint 'path' straight up the steep side of Causey Pike. This won the prize of the worst mountain climb of the week, feeling rough and a steep hill side do not combine!

Once of the ridge itself we visited the various tops of the Pike, presuming the last one was the true top. Emma stayed just below for the last one whilst Steve and I took it in turns to touch the top. I was a bit worried about the ridge to Scar Crags, but it was broad and had some nice views to the valley below.

At the Col we could easily see the scar of the man made path up Sail of which there's been much debate over. It went on endlessly in the mist and we had a stop mid way up to build a mini snow man! The top of Sail is a bit of a let down which is a shame as the ridge beyond is quite pretty & exciting. None of that for us though as it was back down to the col to pick up the path leading beneath the crags & down to the mine below.

Steve spent quite a bit of time photographing the upper waterfall (Low Force?), I was content to sit and wait with Emma to avoid the dicey river crossing! We headed down to admire the other waterfall which I believe is called High Force & had a bit of an explore of the mines. We were the only people in the valley and it felt incredibly peaceful. Alas there was no sunset..

From the mines it's a straightforward track & footpath back to Braithwaite which is a nice easy end to a winter walk with a late start. We ended the day in a packed ot Weatherspoons in Keswick which makes for an interesting eating venue and it's in the old court house. Well worth a visit if your after some budget food, fast after a tiring walk!

'Rest day'

After quite a few days of hard walking we decided an easier day was in order, especially with Gale Force/Storm Force winds predicted for the hills.

We started our day with a fry up, then a windy stroll to Spout Force in Whinlatter Forest, refreshingly the parking is free and it's possible to do a short circular walk taking in the falls. Once at the falls the path onwards is a little hard to spot, but it is doable and takes you above the falls to loop back round.

The windy was yet again quite strong and we didn't linger under the trees. Once at the falls I couldn't resist taking off my boots to get a closer look at the falls. Emma and Steve declined to join me. It was hard going in the cold water/slipperly rocks and I didn't get close enough to get the shot I wanted. The one I did get has poor exposure and was shakey due to trying to balance on the rocks. This would be a fantastic dipping spot in the summer.

There is an option to extend the route, but we abandoned it due to the levels of fallen trees (from previous strong winds) and the bending of the existing trees.

Our next stop was the play area in Whinlatter which is free & good for kids of all ages. We all tried the climbing wall, but wet walking boots made it really hard and only Emma managed to stay on it for the full route!

We were going to eat at the cafe, but it was so expensive we opted to drive into Keswick and eat at the excellent Cafe West in Keswick. We parked for free in the side streets and headed through the excellent Fitz Park to the cafe. The food at the cafe is locally bought, cooked fresh and selection of cakes ridiculously tempting!

Next stop was trawling the shops for some new kids walking gear (less said about the poor selection the better) Mountain Warehouse delivered on this occasion.

We visited Puzzling Place which cost us around a tenner for the 3 of us. Although initially it seemed a bit basic the exhibits kept us entertained for quite sometime & the gift shop was much more reasonable than Whinlatter.

En route back to the car we found the last tiny bit of energy we had to play in Fitz park which has a kids play area and also an exercise area for adults. It's so well laid out I wished we had something as good in Bristol. I also learnt that waterproof trousers/rain/slide makes for a very fast descent & bump down!