27 November 2012

Eagles, Sargeants, Waterfalls and Flapjacks

After an outstanding walk yesterday it was hard to see how today's walk could top it but it did in more ways than one.  Up and out early there was a slight drizzle in the air which made for very damp conditions and the cloud was sitting quite low on the surrounding hills however Eagle Crag and Sargeant Crag was our targets for the day and a little bit of dampness didn't sway us at all so off we went.

The initial walk took us by a river, in a few different directions at first (lol) and then onto the track that would lead us to the base of Eagle Crag.  The river was fast flowing and there were a few canoeists parked up ready to tackle the water.

We could hear it before we saw it.  Looking for a bridge to cross the river to keep us on the path we could hear a roaring sound that meant only 1 thing.  Waterfall.  Not just the one waterfall but a series of many different falls all flowing into the river from 3 different sources.  Cascading over rocks and creating a spectacular visual.  Not one to miss an opportunity we did spend some time down by the water making our way through different levels of the falls taking many many pictures in the hope that one would capture the stunning sight before us.  The sound, the water pounding down the rocks was the only sound around for miles.  No other people, just us and the falls.  Brilliant stuff!

Our attention was then turned behind us to the lovely rockface of Eagle Crag and following the river again on the other side we made our way along to where a wall showed us the way up the steep and sometimes boggy slope that was the initial climb.  It really was quite steep but nothing more than we'd encountered before on previous hills so it was just one foot in front of the other and keep plodding on.

The cloud was starting to lift at it was getting a bit brighter.  We reached the rocky bit and it was a nice bit of scramble through the stones and rocks.  I do like the whole problem solving excercise when faced with a bit of rock like this.  Where do you put your feet?  Is there something to hold on to to pull yourself up?  3 points of contact at all times and before we knew it we were up and through that piece of rock and I wanted to do it all again. Luckily there were more rocky bits to come both up and down so we had that to look forward to.

Just before the summit we were skirting round the edge and there was a nice little banked, shelved like area which seemed perfect for first lunch.  It was a bit damp and as per usual I didnt put anything down to sit on and got a wet backside, ewwwh.  Not only that but we seemed to be sitting in the course of a little stream running down behind us and could feel little drips on our head so hoods up.  The view made up for everything as it was spectactular looking down into the valley.  Good job we had the view because the sandwiches were rubbish lol, dry and horrid bread........

Up and moving quickly again we made our way round and up the last bit of rocky incline before the summit.  It was a strange summit and had a rock which was like the baby version of Bowfell's great slab.  It had a strange green hue to it which must have been caused by the lichen, in fact a lot of the views today had strange colours in them and not easily captured by camera.  The edge of the flat rock summit was a great picture spot with its pinnically edge just perfect for that mountain shot.

Sargeants Crag was clearly visible as our next target and the weather was on the change.  The temperature had dropped and the clouds had lifted so that we could see clearly over far away fells and hills.  The sun was shining somewhere and we could see a hill in the distance all lit up but above us it still remained grey and overcast.

Another great craggy walk up to the top of Sargeants Crag following a path through the rocks and soon we were on the summit where the wind had again gathered some strength.  We only spent a moment actually on the top before deciding which route we'd take down.  Would we go down the path we'd planned that would take us back to the path where the waterfalls were earlier in the day or could we find an alternative route off the back down into another valley that had its own selection of waterfalls further down that we'd not seen yet.

A quick reccy down to see what lay beyond the initial descent and there really wasnt much to see.  Going off piste can sometimes be fun but when you have no idea whats ahead or how the terrain is then sometimes its better to stick to your original plan.  The map told us that it would be steep and didnt indicate any sheer drops but with the weather closing in and time potentially against us it was decided that we clamber back up the hill and reroute ourselves on the original path.

Up and over the side of Sargeant Crags again and down over the other side we kept following the path until we met up with the river.  This river was one of many flowing down the hillside and meeting up with the big river which in turn provided us with some brilliant waterfalls on the way down the hillside.  This has to be my favorite descent of any hill.  A rocky and sometimes steep path with the most beautiful waterfalls right at the side distracting you completely from the descent.  Many many more picture moments and we were only halted by the changing light meaning it was probably going to be dark quite soon.

Leaving the waterfalls behind and spotting a gap in the hills we noticed whiteness on top of a hill that we'd seen earlier in the day and realised that it had snowed whilst we were coming down.  I can't wait till we're walking in the snow and the landscape has been altered completely by frost and deep and beautiful snow.

It was these thoughts that stayed with us as the daylight frittered away and before we knew it we were back at the car.  The last light of the day fading fast and we headed for Keswick where I was assured there was a brilliant fish and chip shop.  Not having had fish for about 34 years or perhaps longer, mainly because I was sure there were bones in the fish, I was really keen to have it tonight, it just seemed right.  So assured that there would be no bones I jumped right in and it was cod and chips x 2 ........... oh lordy how scrumptious it was and Keswick does indeed have a great little fish and chip shop.  A perfect way to end a stunning walk.  Once again the lakes didnt disappoint.  2 Wainwrights today bringing my total up to 33.  A long way to go and I'm looking forward to every second.

26 November 2012

6 Wainwrights and a Howling End

Another epic walk in the Lakes was planned and this one differed from the others due to the fact that we weren't driving home afterwards but staying up in the Lakes to complete a full weekend of Wainwright walking.

At 85 Wainwrights, Chris's target was to complete his 100 this year and 8 were planned over the weekend which would make him closer to his target.  My tally so far was 25 which isnt bad considering I only stepped on my first Wainwright back at the end of August.  There was cold conditions forecast for Saturday and we hoped we'd see some snow or at least a good hard frost signifying winter was on its way.

So Day 1 the walk started from the village of Braithwaite and once parked we headed towards the start of the walk but not before stopping off at the village store for a bacon buttie and a trip to the loo and what a scrumptious bacon butty it was and just the right start for the day as we felt the cold air on faces walking up and out the village.

Even now, without any height, the views were spectacular.  We could see back towards Skiddaw and Blencathra and ahead the Lakeland views spread out before us with cloud nestled in every crevice.  Soft fluffy marshmallow like clouds with the sun's brighness filtered by the haze of the day made that initial climb quite exiting indeed.

Over to the right of us we could see the dominating peaks that would be part of our walk for the day and each of them had a smattering of frost on the top making them look like they'd been sprinked with icing sugar.

Barrow was our first summit and it was a pleasant walk up a well defined path.  A little steep in places but nothing too taxing and a couple of false summits to tempt you into thinking you were there well before you'd reached it.  The weather was absolutely gorgeous with clear skies and hardly any wind with only a little chill nipping at your face.

After Barrow it was down and then up to the middle hill of Outerside before heading up the impressive Sail and onto Eel Crag.  It was a lovely winding path up and down the contours of the valley with Sail sitting right in front of us just waiting patiently for us to arrive.  The path up to Sail had been carved out of the hillside in a snake like fashion and although not everyone's cup of tea it served its purpose in taking your gently up the exposed hillside.  We didnt have the protection of the valley any more and the higher we got the stronger the wind was although it was still fairly mild just accented by the exposed side of the hill.

Once there, the top was frozen solid and the little cairn in the middle of a teansy weansy tarn was just not impressive enough for such a lovely hill but it was a fine picture opportunity with views stretching over to the Scafells white on top but not free of cloud and in the other direction the Helvellyn Range looking impressive with their white caps.

Onwards and upwards we step onto the path that takes us to the next high point,  Eel Crag.  Its about now that we're met with other walkers all heading in the same direction.  Groups of people all following the same path to the top.  I stopped a few times to let some past as the path was quite narrow but it wasnt a long climb up and soon we were standing in front of the trig point, hungry for lunch but a vast plateau with no shelter so it was off back down towards Sail to hopefully nestle in the valley between the 2 hills for a stop.

Off we went and instead of heading back up Sail we skirted round the side, avoiding the snake path and made our way down a more gentle path through frozen heather.  We found a spot against the bank within the valley between Sail and Scar Crags and tucked into our sandwiches and flapjacks.  Today would have been a good day for a flask of soup (something to remember for frosty adventures going forward) and we didnt hang around long as the temperature was still quite low.

Up onto Scar Crags and it was another nice little rocky hill for us to get a grip of.  Still frosty on top the most visible sight on the horizon was not only Causey Pike ahead but the Helvellyn range in front looking even more magnificent in the snow.  The route down to Causey Pike had a nice little bit of exposed ridge to it and I do love an exposed ridge so was looking forward to getting down there.  Oodles of picture opportunities but as we approached Causey Pike there were 2 figures on top which gave a sense of scale and although I have no idea who they are they now feature in this blog.

Up and onto Causey Pike we were met with a couple of women who seemed to appear from nowhere and had 2 dogs.  One was a little skittish sausage dog type thing who took a liking to me (jeez!!!) however when I asked its owner to put it on a leash before heading down the scrambly bit she obliged which I thought was nice.

Down the scrambly descent of Causey Pike gave us an option.  We could head off left down the path to the bottom and ultimately the end of the walk or we could continue ahead to Howling End................listen??? To go down that way to the road that would take us back to the path homewards.  No contest really as Howling End sounded too good to pass up.

A few more bits of scramble, a bit of boggyness but not too much and before we knew it we were back on the road and a short walk up behind the trees towards Braithwaite again where we'd started the walk.  Full circle and a day of beautiful views, excellent hills and a well rewarded drink at the Royal Oak which was indeed a lovely little pub and one we could have sat quite happily all night in.  There were other walkers in there who we'd met on the paths today and it had a lovely warm and cosy atmosphere which was as near perfect as you could get.  We'll be back there for sure one day.

20 November 2012

Nine Standards Rigg, Giraffe bread and a muddy end!

Its Sunday, the weather forecast is good, boots are cleaned, route is downloaded, sandwiches packed, a quick cuppa and we're off, in the dark, heading North to Kirkby Stephen. 

The drive up was beautiful as the more north we got the frostier it became.  Hedgerows white with a thick frost and as the sun came up behind us it burst with a fiery glow into the sky.  The skies ahead were tinged with pink and there werent many clouds which suggested we were indeed in for a fine day.

After a quick stop at Ingleborough for fuel and Sedburgh for the loo we parked in Kirkby Stephen and set off on the first part of our walk which would take us up past the quarries at Hartly and on towards Nine Standards Rigg.  It was cold, the fresh air biting our faces and definately hats and gloves weather but the sun was out, the sky was blue providing excellent walking conditions.
The first part of the walk was on a road, not the surface we're used to walking on however it was a pleasant wander up past the old railway viaduct and onwards through the valley.  The views were beginning to open up behind us and the road took us on a steady climb.

Finally the road ended and we were on a muddy path.  Thankfully the temperature meant that the ground still had some firmness to it and wasnt as muddy as it could have been.  Puddles were icy and there wasnt much slipping and sliding going on.

There were few fellow travellers on this route.  A man with 2 small children who seemed to be defiant at walking any further as children sometimes are and 2 men and a dog which came bounding up behind us all muddy and smelly.  Thankfully their pace was much quicker than ours and they were soon far ahead.

The Nine Standards were now coming into view after being on the horizon for so long finally they looked like they were getting closer and the last path to the top could clearly be seen winding its way up the hillside.  The towering pillars of rock stood triumphanty on the top of the hill and legend has it that they were built to trick any invading armies from the North that there was a strong army on the hilltop ready to attack.  Other legends have the stones dating back over 800 years.  Whichever the story they were an impressive sight and I'm glad we came here today.

We spent quite a while darting in and out of the stone pillars taking many many pictures and trying to catch the light at every angle.  They were all different shapes and sizes and so perfect in form after the 2003 rebuild and a pleasure to photograph.  The light wasnt too bad and throwing some nice shadows on the ground and the sky was perfect with wispy cloud throwing all sorts of shapes over the sky.  The wind was fierce and cut through you like a knife so after all our pictures were taken we headed off towards the trig point and the rest of our walk.  Just before the trig point their was a pillar with a dial on top which showed what we could see in each direction.  I'm sure there is a name for this but it was a great source of information for getting our bearings.  Old Man of Coniston - that way.  Blencathra - over there and the rest.

It was about the trig point we first encountered the mud plateau, slightly reminiscant of Kinder but not as vast.  It still tested us in making us look for suitable routes round to avoid most of the deep sticky stuff.  With the wind still blowing a fierce gale it was still quite chilly on the top and I was relieved when we turned right to take us back in the direction of Kirkby Stephen and onwards to somewhere we could stop for lunch.

First lunch was a bit late this week and it was a relief when we found shelter behind a rock formation, who's name escapes me but it had something to do with Haggs.  Sandwiches made from Giraffe bread and ham, flapjacks and some little chocolate rum things from Ikea which didnt go down well at all lol.  No, they wont give you a hangover but they were a bit rummy!

After lunch the descent starts and as we made our way down the path we could see some handgliders in the distance landing then dissapearing then landing again down what could only have been a cliff on the other side.  Handrailing the wall again we were on the path back to Kirkby Stephen and according to the GPS we had about 3 miles to go.  The weather was changing and the sun was now gone with dark ominus clouds coming over the sky.

The rain started just as we approached what can only be described as a mud bath.  Through a field of sheep, following the footpath signs the recognisable footpath ended and a sea of mud lay before us.  This was a published footpath and the farmer had obviously let cattle or some other big hooved animals wander through here regularly which made it choppy, muddy and almost unpassable.  There was nothing more for it but to keep moving forward through it in the hope that it would end.  It wasnt enjoyable slipping and sliding in the mud, boots caked, ankles caked and one false slip would mean everything was caked.  It was part of the day and looking back quite a funny part of the walk and soon we were through and had a dip in the river to see if we could get at least some of the mud off our boots.
We followed the river back to Frank's Bridge where we started the walk and soon enough we were wandering through Kirkby Stephen and back at the car.  A quick change of trousers and footwear and soon enough we were clean again for the drive home.
A good walk, another box ticked, for the best part it was sunny and worth the trek up to the Rigg but oh how I long for a scramble and a bit of height, rocks and beautiful ridges, I do believe I hear the mountains are calling........