29 October 2012

3 Crags and a Knott

Today's walk would take us back to Grasmere and the wonderful peaks that surround it.  Helm Crag (or the Lion and the Lamb) had been on my to-do list for a while so today it would be the last peak of the day after we'd tackled Tarn Crag, Calf Crag and Gibsons Knott ending up at the beautiful Helm Crag but not before a wander over to Easedale Tarn to take some pics. The intention had been to stop off at Rydel Water on the way through for more "mirror like" lake pictures but it was a bit choppy as we drove past so continued to head up to Grasmere.

Arriving early the morning sun was casting all the surrounding hills in a lovely orange glow.  Autumn is truely upon us and the trees are shedding their leaves and will soon be bare and icy as the cold winter winds arrive.  

On the route up to Easedale Tarn we visited Sour Milk Falls.  A series of tumbling water down the hillside was a very pretty sight indeed.  Veering from the path we followed the falls up the side taking every opportunity to capture the water cascading down at its very best.  It was a lovely climb up through the rocks staying very close to the water as it made its way down and a much more interesting route up instead of the designated path.  As the official photographer's  photographer it was an ideal opportunity to get a good shot :)

Easdale Tarn was next on our agenda as we made our way through bog and grassy areas.  It was a good job that there had been a hard frost the previous night or we'd have perhaps needed full waterproof gear as even with the frost some of the boggy areas were still a bit wet....oops!  On the way up to Easedale Tarn we were on the path then off the path, through bog and we must have crossed the river about 4 times picking our own individual route up the mountainside which was much more fun however that wouldnt be our only "off piste" moment of the day as we approached Easedale Tarn and saw the scrambly rock fissure scarring the side of Tarn Crag we never knew then that this would be our way up. 

The wind was getting up now and we'd been relatively sheltered on our walk up but were now exposed to icy blasts which meant hats and gloves back on and jackets zipped up.  Time for a drink and something to eat so we had a quick lunch stop 1 behind a big rock which seemed to be actually in the river.  The temperature and wind meant that you couldn't sit for long before the chill set in so after a bit of fruit a nibble on some nuts and a drink we were up and moving again to continue round the Tarn to the other side where we'd start the climb up to Tarn Crag. 

The sky was fantastic as clouds were moving in and out all the time, obscuring the blue and causing waves and ripples of white fluffy cloud.   The views of surrounding mountain ranges were coming into view and we could start to pick off areas we'd been previously and areas we'd still to target.  So many hills and so little time.  I could easily spend the rest of my days between here and Scotland......now where did I put that lottery ticket!

The climb up to Tarn Crag was steep, rocky, slippy and sapped every ounce of strength I had.  At the bottom, you look up and think.  This is going to be tough but I can do this.  One foot in front of the other and that's all it takes.  You know that from the bottom what you see isn't exactly what you're going to get.  It will be steeper, it will be harder and the top that you see isn't the real top, its hiding behind after more steep climbing but you do it, you take that first step up the seemingly impossible because you can and because the elated feeling once at the top is like no other feeling in the world.  The sense of accomplishment is indeed a good feeling.  So up we went.  Taking our time, zig zagging on the very steeps bits so not to loose our balance and sometimes using both hands and legs but we got to the top in one piece and with smiles still firmly affixed.  Leg muscles aching but recovering quickly it was an exhilerating part of the day. 

Up a the top of Tarn Crag it was now very windy.  The little pools of water near the summit were still iced over and the grassy areas were frosty.  The temperature must have been minus something and the air bit into our faces.  The summit touched we hunkered down in a sheltered area for a bit of refuelling.  I was glad I'd brought my thermos and enjoyed a quick drink of something warm and refreshing.  After our snack stop it was back on the path to follow the contour lines round the hill over the back to the route that would lead us to Calf Crag and the rest of the day's targets.

Oooh it was starting to get busier now, people piling onto the path from all directions.   All sorts of people young and old, some that said hello and some that just grunted and some that didn't acknowledge you at all which wasnt nice.....

Plenty of ups and downs on the way over to Calf Crag and then over to Gibson Knott but full of anticipation for what was to be a particularly exciting part of the day...Helm Crag with its lion and lamb rock formations as well as the infamous Howitzer (the true summit) which I am choosing to call the Wurlizer (no reason, it just works for me!).

The sky still filled with fascinating clouds framed the still magnificent views.   As we made our way round to Helm Crag suddenly the path appeared before us and you couldn't help but feel excited as you saw it snake its way up the hill.........on we go.

The Howitzer.  A lovely piece of rock, just waiting to be climbed so that I could say I'd bagged the true summit of Helm Crag but alas, today, it was not meant to be.  There seemed to be a few ways up through the rock and each of them, once attempted, brought me right back to the moment when I slipped off the bad step over at Crinkle Crags and my attempt was aborted.  I never realised until this moment how much that fall had affected me and its funny because the scar on my knee from that earlier fall had been itchy for the past few days.  Its as though it knew that I'd be faced with this dilemma today.  At the end of the day my legs are just too short for some of the climbs and I just can't seem to balance on small 1" wide bits of rock with the confidence I used to.  That bad step has a lot to answer for and goodness gracious me one day I'll tackle it and then be back to tackle the Wurlitzer.......I was angry and annoyed at myself at what seemed to be a simple 1, 2, 3 steps up through the rocks to the top but my mind just wouldn't let me.  I don't think I've ever been in a situation like that before and it took me a few mins to come to terms with the fact that I wasn't going to be doing that part of the climb today. 

So I settled for taking pictures of the still very stunning scenery around (no, I dont want to go up the lion lol!).  This walk today had been excellent.  The early enchantment of the waterfalls, the steep and rocky climb up the south face of Tarn Crag, the boggy bimble around to Calf Crag, the dodging of people and ups and downs over to Gibson Knott and then the drama at the Waltzers....Wurlitzer....Howitzer!

It was at this point the pub was mentioned and looking down to the road I could see it. The earlier disappointment was quickly forgotten and there was a sudden spring in our step.  The zig zag path down off Helm Crag had had some recent conservation work done but it was a good path and before long as we came down through the zig zags we were almost at level ground again.  Over to our right we could see the waterfalls of earlier in the day now cast in a different light and we easily found the road that would lead us back to the car.

Another day of sunshine and summits and memories created.  A day of ups and downs with some surprises and funny moments thrown in along the way.  I do so enjoy the Lakes and please whoever is in charge of the weather can they at least give us 1 dry weekend day throughout the winter for us to play with, thank you very much :-) xx

24 October 2012

A bimble up Ingleborough but Simon Fell short!

At a loose end .last Sunday and having no lakes and no Wales in my weekend it was suggested (and what a cracker of a suggestion it was btw) to take a wander up Ingleborough.  Not my usual route of parking on the road heading towards the Ribblehead Viaduct and going up the steep steps but to go via Clapham and take the route, up the back, over Little Ingleborough and back down via Simon Fell and then over again to Clapham.......well that was the plan!

The day was a scorcher and when I arrived in Clapham there wasn't a cloud in the sky.  My sat nav brought me right to the car park thankfully and it was already filling with other walkers, changing footwear and checking rucksacks.  My immediate thought was how do I get out of the car park.  After paying for my ticket I checked the downloaded route on my phone (now at 80% battery eeek!) and saw that I followed the river up through Clapham and the route would present itself to me..........easy peasy.  Plus there were other walkers heading in a similar direction so I sort of sauntered after them.  (Following people is not advised really as I found out later in the day......)

 The village is pretty and with the morning sun the trees glistened like gold, wandering past the church I was soon met with the "Trail and Caves" route.  A quick check of my phone (now at 72% battery) and the 65p toll paid I headed on up the path.  Glorious woodland with trees of every colour, golds, reds, burgandy, oranges all lit up the path and it wasnt long before I came upon the cave entrance.  This wasnt my destination today as I had much further to go and passed pleasantries with all sorts of folks that passed.  My pace was quick and and when an elderly man passed he said, slow down, you've got all day and I just replied but I've go so much to do and see and kept to the quick pace to get me out of the forest area and into the rocks.

A small scramble later and further along the path the sight of Little Ingleborough met me and I could clearly see the path ahead snaking its way up the hill.  Trundling my way through the rocks the path ahead was firmly in my sights and I was debating whether to have a quick rest stop at the bottom before tackling the first steep part of the day.  It was at this moment I realised that I'd forgotten my water bottles and only having my thermos of green tea with me that would have to do but it would have to wait as I wasnt really ready for a proper stop.   So onwards I went towards the path upwards.  There were 2 people in front of me a good distance ahead that I recognised from the car park earlier and behind me was a woman who wasnt gaining any ground and then I could hear the chatter from a group of young people so I plodded on as I didnt want company on the climb, just my own company would be fine as I put one foot in front of the other and continued up the path.

About half way up I really was thirsty so decided to stop on a flattish bit of rock to the side and have some tea and some fruit.  It was only when I looked back I realised that at the bottom of the hill was Gaping Gill, the big hole that I should have visited but good god I'd missed it completely in my keeness to get onto the steep path.  Oh well, nothing I could do about it now but hopefully I'd pass it on my return leg and checked my phone to see if my homeward path took me that way.  (phone battery now 54%...oh dear!)

Tangerine eaten I headed on up the path as the group of youngsters were getting closer and I wanted to make it to the top before they passed me.  Up on the top of Little Ingleborough there is a lovely little flattish path over to the main event and I was blown away by the views on offer.  Ingleborough in the past has always been a dark and foreboding place with hail, rain, mist, fog and all sorts of dreary weather thrown in for good measure.  Today I was seeing it in all its glory.  Pen y Ghent behind and Whernside up ahead.  It was beautiful and I could see as far as the Lakes and behind Pendle Hill stood proudly in the distance.

The final path up on to the summit of Ingleborough wasnt too steep and to my left I could clearly see the shelter, the big cairn and the tip of the trig so off in that direction I headed.  I was hungry now and looking forward to lunch.  A quick trip over to the trig for the obligatory picture and then I found a section of the shelter all to myself out of the wind and with views over to the Lakes.  Perfect.

It was perfect until the group of youths decided to invade my corner of the shelter and these weren't just any youths they were privelaged youths.  Talks of Vinyards in Switzerland and Skiing in Aspen and Vale were the topics of conversation so I had little to add and packed up quickly ready to find the route OFF.  I had a fairly good idea of where I was heading and knew that I had to find the path off the mountain to take me over to Simon Fell and thats the way I headed.  Quick check of the phone route (Battery now 32% oh crickey!) and I was heading in the right direction.  I decided to switch the phone off completely to save what battery I had left and as I took the path off the mountain I could see a couple ahead of me that I knew were parked in the car park at Clapham so that confirmed to me that I was on the right path......or was I?

Downwards I went, Simons Fell on my left and before long I realised that I was going down too quickly and Simons Fell was looming up to the side of me.  Had I missed the path, surely not?????  So I thought to myself I'll carry on down this path (heading to Horton in Ribblesdale) and perhaps there will be another path up to Simons Fell at the end.  Further down the path Pen y Ghent looming ahead I was very concious that I was heading away from Clapham and still could see no path to the left up Simons Fell nor to the right to take me back over to Clapham.  The weather was outstanding so there was no immediate danger so I kept heading along the path in the hope that one would appear either right or left.  Simons Fell was not to be.  I'd gone so far along the path now that it was behind me and there seemed no visible way up it.  It didnt look that steep and if I'd not been alone then probably would have attempted it but then again if I'd not been alone I'd have been on the right path in the first place oops!

So my focus was now on getting a path to the right to take me back towards Clapham.  I had a quick check of the phone (battery now at 20%) and saw quite clearly where I'd gone wrong and that I seemingly could still catch the path up ahead.  So onwards I went.  Mr and Mrs Car Park were still up ahead so I felt fairly certain that at any moment they'd turn off right and I could relax and after another 20 mins or so I saw that they'd come to a Y in the road.  They seemed to deliberate for a moment or two then headed off in the left hand direction which didnt seem right to me and sure enough when I got the Y the left hand direction was clearly signposted Horton in Ribblesdale.  This was not where I was headed so I took the right hand Y.  Not quite a path but enough of an indentation in the ground that convinced me this was the route.  I had Ingleborough on my right, Pen y Ghent to my left and slightly behind so I knew that I was headed in the right direction, path or no path this was the way I was going. 

I was all on my own, not a soul for miles and thoughts did cross my mind that I could be murdered out here and no one would be any the wiser.  I counteracted these thoughts by singing and continued along the path.  Little Ingleborough was up ahead on the right and I knew I had to get to the base of that to meet the path I'd come up on earlier in the day but it never seemed to get any closer at all.  It was at this point I thought second lunch sounded like a good idea.  So up on an embankment I popped with the gorgeous view of Pendle Hill in the distance and I treated myself to the rest of my lunch.  It was a welcome break and much needed in my relentless trudging towards the base of Little Ingleborough.  I dared check the phone one last time (critical less than 10% battery power) and before it died I could see that if I followed the wall I'd soon be back on the path that would take me to Gaping Gill which I couldnt miss this time!

Sure enough following the wall up and over banks I soon saw the fenced area that contained the hole and knew that I wasnt lost anymore and that there was a path, a path that would take me back to the car.  It still was a fair distance back to the car park but I did spend some time down at the hole's edge watching the water cascading down in the late afternoon sunlight.  There was another woman there and she seemed a bit lost and I did wonder for a moment if I'd interrupted her in some meditation moment, oh well never mind.

My mind now turned to the beautiful wooded area that I'd come through earlier and what the afternoon sun was doing to the trees.  So I quickened my step and hurried as fast as I could through the rocks, over paths, down through the scrambly bit to the wooded area by the lake and  it was like standing in a cathedral.  Light spilling through the trees adorning every surface....bark, ground, fences, water....beautiful sight.

Before long I was back in Clapham, the sun now very low in the sky and I'd had an amazing walk.  It had a bit of everything today.  Forest, rocks, a little scrambly bit, a detour (unplanned) and a great leg workout even if I did miss one of the inclines.  Clapham looked every bit as pretty in the evening sunlight as it had in the morning and I'll look forward to having a go at this route again at some point in the future and this time making sure that Simon does fall short! 

15 October 2012

Lakes, Fells, Light and the Hallucinogenic properties of Kendal Mint Cake

Autumn is here and the object of todays walk was to:

1.  Get some stunning shots of the early morning light which would display the autumn colours at their best.

2.  To bag a couple of Wainwrights while we were there. 

So as is usual we set off in what seems like the middle of the night and arrive at the car park before the day dawns.  This morning it was a 7am arrival and it was just starting to get light but there was a carpet of mist everywhere with only glimpses of hills, trees, rivers and lakes through the murky dark and eerie mist.  With any luck it wouldn't be long before the sun made an appearance and burned any lingering mist off to give us the views we'd hoped for today.

So off we went, in the direction of Rydal Water to set up and wait for what we hoped would be a glorious morning.   

It wasnt long before the mist started to clear and light started to pour onto sections of the lake.  Revealing, ever so slowly, the mountains in front and behind and as the strength in the light increased so did the vivid colours on the trees around us.  Reds, oranges, greens, gold, bronze, copper.....every shimmering colour you could imagine and just stunning in the early morning.  Its moments like this that I wish I had better equipment to work with as these scenes deserved more than my little bridge camera can offer.  So I resigned myself to being photographers assistant and of course official photographer's photographer lol and if I get any that turn out then so be it.  Perhaps Santa will bring me something bigger to play with !

We spent a couple of hours in several spots up and down the lake chasing the morning sun as it burst through the clouds in order to make the most of what light there was and after we'd exhausted every scene in front of us we headed towards the path that would take us to the first incline of the day accompanied by a very loud and angry sheep.  On route we spotted a Heron nestling in the bank and looking poised and ready to catch a fish.  Keeping ever so still we took the best images we could without disturbing the bird and moving ever closer in stealth mode we weren't entirely convinced it was real.  It never moved, not a ruffle of feathers nor move of its head.  The only indication was that it was real was it blinked a couple of times but as we moved closer it seems oblivious to our approach.  Quietly tiptoeing towards it it soon became a challenge to see just how close we could get and that in fact proved to be just a few feet as finally when I was almost within touching distance it took of and flew majestically over the lake. 

Back to the path we were on 1 of 3 possible paths that were heading in the direction we needed to go, however only 1 of these paths would take us upwards towards Loughrigg Fell.  Compasses out, maps out and finally we knew that very soon we'd have to turn left.   On finding the left hand path we were met with red and white tape across it.  There were no other obvious routes upwards so we ducked under the tape and hoped that we werent going to be met with some unfortunate situation.  The path climbed steadily and it was good to be heading upwards.  The ferns around us were dark red in colour and all around signs of autumn were still with us.  Looking back down we could clearly see the mass of trees in all their spendour and the sun was now gaining strength and warming the day nicely. 

What do you do when you come to a Y in the path.  Well you check the map, you check the compass and you choose the one that is going to take you to your destination using features on the landscape that match what is on your map.  Take a compass bearing and head in the right direction.  Or alternatively you can forget all your navigational skills training and choose a path that you think may be right without any concrete evidence that it is infact the right path........oops!  So yes, thanks to my total disregard of any navigational training, I put us on the wrong path which meant we would be coming at Loughrigg from a completely different direction than we'd planned.  Yes this meant wading through bog and unplanned routes to get us back to a path, not THE path, just A path that would lead us up the fell.  

It was a pleasant route up once the bogs had been left behind and Windemere behind us offering beautiful and stunning views.  Once we reached the top I spotted a cairn which I stupidly thought was the summit, forgetting that the summit had a trig.........so that'll be the summit over there then, the one with the trig on the top!!!.........good lord you'd think I'd never been up a hill before!!!   The summit, onced reached was like Grand Central Station.  People arriving from all directions and chattering about goodness knows what.  I must say, I do like the mountain to ourselves but its the Lakes and I guess you have to share sometimes huh?

Lunch stop 1 done and dusted and it was time to venture down.  A steep and stoney path which when wet was like ice.  Slimey rocks meant every footstep was precarious and we both slipped a few times but nothing too disastrous, no broken bones or cameras, phew!  It wasnt long before we could see the lakeside paths in front of us and we started to contemplate the next part of our walk.

First we walked along the south side of Grasmere water to the weir and then back along into the wooded area to meet with the road that would take us to the foot of Silver How, our next fell of the day.  Loads of people. Some just out for a bimble, some just out for a stroll, families, older people, groups of young people, all enjoying their day, feeding the ducks, climbing fells or just having a Sunday stroll.  We heard one of these people mention a cafe and suddenly the thought of a nice cup of tea and more importantly a toilet seemed like a good plan of action.  So off we set along the road (10 mins the lady said) to find the cafe which turned out to be a shed on the lakeside serving their own blend of tea in lovely little china cups and in a tea pot that reminded me of the one my gran used to have.   It was indeed a lovely moment, sitting at the waters edge, tea, chocolate cake, backpacks off and sun on our faces before tackling the next climb upwards. 

Suitably refreshed we found the path that would take us up to Silver How.  A rocky, muddy path which is what we expected to encounter after all the rain we'd had.  Zig Zagging our way up the mountain side it was a pleasant climb with views of Grasmere behind us and the sun still beating down.  Time for another layer to come off as between the effort needed to climb and the sun it was warm indeed.  Onwards and upwards as my mother used to say in most situations and we just kept trudging on up the zig zag path until we were met with a cairn on our left hand side which meant we'd reached the summit. 

Oh the views...........Northwards to the Crinkles and my beautiful Bowfell to the West was our previous walk route of The Old Man, Brim Fell, Wetherlam with Swirl Howe and Great Carrs nestling behind.  All our beautiful mountains dappled in the afternoon sun.  Happy Happy Happy me........

Time for lunchstop 2 and we had the summit to ourselves.   Bliss, no incessant chatter, just the sounds of nothingness all around.  (not 3 miles of nothingness but a good nothingness this time lol).  It was a bit breezy on top so another layer added and then it was time to head back down but not before having a bit of Kendal Mint Cake.  Why have I never tried this before?  Its a bit like tablet but minty and white.  I must make some tablet before our next walk as its an excellent energy booster even if it is all sugar.  Everything in moderation!

Ready to tackle the route down it became quite apparent quite quickly that the map was sending us down on the same route we came up on however this is a circular walk with no detours (or should I say no unplanned detours!) and it was not possible that we would be descending on the route we came up on.  According to the map we should have come onto the summit via the south path but we didnt we came on the North path which according to the GPS and map was no where near where we had walked up.  I even doubted myself for a moment but was 100% sure this was the path we'd come up on.   Did Kendal Mint Cake have hallucinogenic properties that I wasn't aware of??  Regardless of having been on it before or not this was the path down and it was only after a few mins or so and studying the map we realised that infact there was another path up and we'd missed the turning which would have brought us onto the summit on the South path and we'd skirted the summit and taken another path...........mystery solved, phew !

On the descent the sky was clearing of cloud and the late afternoon sun was pouring light down everywhere.  Would we make it down before it disappeared.  It was now a race against the sun whilst always taking care where we stepped through the rocky path to get back to the lake and hopefully some more spectacular scenes. 

Back down into Grasmere and shops ! (LOL) with views of Helm Crag to the left and the lake to the right.  Everywhere you looked from trees to wiggly walls the sun just hit them right to make them pop in the afternoon light.  Once into Grasmere we followed the road round to the lake, dodging the blue rinse brigade wandering about the town.  "The Scarborough of the Lakes". 

Final lake pictures taken looking back to the hills climbed today and a little boat out on the water.  We spotted a bird diving down into the water only to resurface some min's later quite far from where it ducked down.   It was mesmerizing as it ducked down again but we never saw it resurface so either its still down there or it came back up out of sight.......who knows!

At the end of the lake we turned back into the forest onto the path that would lead us back to the car park.  The light was incredible, through the golden trees it lit up the path and the red beech leaves carpeted the ground. 

Once back at the car we offloaded back packs and took a quick walk back to Rydal Water where we hoped to get the last light of the day.  Would the islands be illuminated as they were this morning.  Sadly not as we got closer to them they were quite dull as the sun was just too low in the sky.  It was worth a try and there were a couple of opportunities to get the last shot of the day and it was only a short walk back to the car.  The the light is now fading fast it was the end of the day and the end of another fabulous walk.

Autumn is now very much with us and here's hoping we can have more dry bright days to come throughout Autumn and into winter when we'll welcome the snow and ice with much anticipated excitement.  Every walk brings new adventures, memories to keep and very funny moments and all of them captured in pictures to be enjoyed for a long long time.