27 January 2013

A Scar, a Rigg, a Pike, Stone Arthur and the navigational properites of a cheese Omlette

Heavy snow, all night long meant that there was a good chance we wouldn't even get near the lakes.  My car was parked up at the top of the road so we didn't have that challenge in the morning and sure enough when we woke the whole place was a white out several inches had fallen and it looked incredibly icy.  We decided to take the motorway the whole way instead of cross country as we knew we would have a better chance of reaching our destination that way but even then we werent sure we'd even reach the Lakes.

The motorway was still snowy in places and icy so it was a slow journey across on the M65 to the M6.  The M6 North surprised us in having very little snow and we made good time as we drove up the clear and dry road.  All that changed as we headed off at the Kirkby Lonsdale exit.  Almost from start of the road towards Windemere it was tricky going and once we'd got past Ings the road heading back to the motorway on the other side had practically dissapeared.  The positive thing was that there was some spectacular scenery with the sky lighting up and the trees frozen in time.

We finally made it to Ambleside having now decided that our original walk for today would have to be abandoned as there was no way we were going to get over Kirkstone Pass to Glenridding so we decided to pay a visit to Rydal water as the light of the morning was so beautiful we might get to get some good pictures on the lake with the reflections.  The challenge here was where to park.  Normally we'd pitch up at the side of the road or choose one of the many car parks that dot the road between Ambleside and Grassmere however today that was proving a little tricky as snow piled high at the sides of the road and the entrances to most of the car parks were up and over banks of snow and then downhill into the car parks.  Yes we may at a push get in but there's no way we'd ever get out.  So we spent a good while driving up and down the road considering our options.  We decided to park in the main town car park at Ambleside as the entrance to that was, yes up a little hill, but pretty flat once in.  So after 2 running attempts my car finally made it up into the car park and at least it would be safe for the day.
We decided on a walk that we could do from Ambleside and soon we were all kitted up and heading along the road towards that path upwards but not before being splashed a few times by vans and cars as they sped along the road.....Idiots!  The trees at the roadside were beautiful with their snowy coats.

The path up the hill was immediately steep and energy sapping and even before we'd gone a 1/3 of the way up the hill I was feeling the effects of not feeling quite right.  Walking in the snow is hard work at the best of time but when you're not fueled correctly and you  have a sore throat and head and generally feeling a bit crap then its magnified and my slow pace was telling that something wasnt right.
However I plodded on upwards and every twinge accentuated.  I was too hot one min and too cold the next and probably not the best company at all but there was nothing for it but to keep moving forward. The views opening up behind us, in front of us and to the side of us more than made up for my miserable disposition.

On the way up we passed quite a few people on the same route today and surmised that it was probably because Ambleside was the only place in the whole of the lake district that there was a suitable place to park.  Tons of people passed up both going up and down and 1 chap even passed us on skis.  The weather was definitely with us and at one point I even had my jacket off but as soon as we got higher the biting wind meant that jackets stayed firmly on and even hoods came up to protect us further from the cold cold air.
The landscape was beautiful and as much as it was hard work walking in the sometimes very deep snow it was a joy to see it carpet the view in front of us and covering the surrounding peaks.

True to form the weather soon came in and we were standing on the top of Great Rigg trying to eat our sandwiches in a white out.  The forecast was for the weather to turn worse in the afternoon but it mean that we would have to turn back as we wouldnt have time to complete the full walk today.  I was feeling a bit better after having a few tablets and some lunch but I was still extremely tired so we headed back down Great Rigg in the hope of finding a path off to the right that would take us down to the little peak of Stone Arthur.  Feeling a bit better it was nice to have the freedom from the lethargy that I felt on the ascent and was a joy to skip through the snow.  It was REALLY deep in some places and it was reassuring to have the ice axe handy just incase the snow swept us away.

So down onto Stone Arthur it was and what a lovely little rocky outcrop it proved to be.  Second lunch consumed our focus was now getting down and back to the road before it got dark.  We realised looking at the landscape below us that we were a long way from Ambleside and the car, infact, we were about 1/4 of a mile away from Grasmere in the wrong direction.  It looked like we'd have to have a long walk back to the car.  I wonder if there is a bus ?

Our findings were right and just as we got down off the hill and onto the road the heavens opened and the rain started to fall.  True it would clear the roads and make our drive home safer but we still had to get to the car and we had about a 5 mile walk back through Grasmere and over to Ambleside before we'd even reach the car.  Oh joy!

Finally after a grueling walk back to the car through the rain and mostly with heads down I was relieved to make it back to the car without having to have been prodded with the ice axe to go faster.  A quick trip to the toilets to change into dry clothes and we were ready to head for home with the car heaters on FULL!

A funny incident on the way home came about after a conversation about omlettes.  Chris was describing how to make the perfect omlette, a detailed description of how the cheese stays melted on the inside and yet crispy on the outside and all the time during this conversation we never realised that we'd actually headed into Kendal town centre, not the road to home at all and a mad moment as we'd been so engrossed in the conversation we'd taken the completely wrong road.  Oh well, we got to see the River Kent and then we headed for home.

Next weekend will take us into the wilds of Scotland ........... Can't wait!

20 January 2013

A wintery wander over a Pike and a Dodd!

The weather was not set to be perfect which didn’t deter us at all as we were well equipped with all our winter gear should it get particularly nasty so when the 6am alarm went off we found ourselves excitedly heading north and instantly surprised at the lack of snow on the route and even less when we arrived in Glenridding for the start of our walk today.
It was dry, cold and a bit icy with a smattering of snow but dry none the less and the gale force winds that were forecast didn’t seem present at all.  So off up the path we went in the direction of Sheffield Pike.  1 noticeable difference today was that I was the one carrying the route on the phone and was in charge of keeping us on the blue line.  Now granted, even with a weekends navigation course under my belt, I didn’t have the best of track records at keeping us on the right track and have had a few “off piste” moments in my repertoire but today I was going to pay attention and try my best not to get us lost.

Thankfully the paths were pretty clear and the cloud cover wasn’t down enough that we couldn’t see our direction so that helped immensely and soon enough we were at quite a height with Sheffield Pike looming on our right after a snakey, icy path up to its summit. (just between you and I there were a few moments when I thought I'd gone wrong but phew! it was ok lol)

Sadly at the summit cairn the upright stone showing a date and other information had been blown over and even though the wind had gotten up and it was bitterly cold we managed to secure it with a bit of dry stone dyke type positioning and wedging it firmly in place.  Firmly might be a bit optimistic but it was still standing upright when we left.

Down off Sheffield Pike and over to Heron something or other the visibility was poor but with a few checks now and then we were still following the blue line that would lead us down onto Glenridding Dodd.

The views all around were spectacular and the cloud was hanging low over the surrounding hills.  It was quite a steep ridge descent down onto Glenridding Dodd and on the way we saw probably the most picturesque lonely tree that we’d ever found on our travels.  I said it resembled a reindeers antlers and called it my reindeer tree which was met with great amusement.   Well it does, doesn’t it???
Up and over onto Glenridding Dodd and it was a nice piece of rock and another Wainwright ticked.  My 45th and again we were totally in awe of the views around us.  Looking over towards High Street and the surrounding hills was a view that held our gaze for ages and ages at every stage down off the hill.  The light changing every moment throwing shadows and silhouettes with dark clouds settling just above the summits waiting to descend.  In the other direction we could see Red Tarn with the Helvellyn range behind it, the main peak and edges obscured by cloud but still my favourite picture of the day.

A shorter walk today than we normally were used to but even at 3pm the light was starting to fade and although it hadn’t snowed there was still little frosty flakes in the air.  Not hard enough to be hail but not soft enough to be snow and light enough not to cause us any problems.
The pub soon came into view as we took our last steps off the mountain path and thoughts quickly turned to pie and lasagna, beer and wine and a cosy fire that we knew the pub had as we’d been there previously after our Helvellyn wander.

Another great walking day and 2 wainwrights ticked off my list.  I wasn’t able to try out my new crampons but I’m sure they’ll be put to much use when we venture onto the Scottish hills.

Pendle Hill Kicking off 2013

First walk of the new year and we decided to stay local mainly because of the adverse weather forecast and the risk of being stuck in some remote Lakeland area wasn’t an option as it was Sunday and normal life resumed tomorrow....sadly.
So Pendle Hill was the destination, if nothing else, it would be a mild leg work out and serve as a little bit of preparation for our epic Scotland adventure early next month (fingers crossed for lots of snow in the beautiful Glencoe).
So we ventured out, the few miles to Barley and as we’d made a late start the car park was already full and even the road was lined with parked cars.  Good god there was even a coach in the car park which meant only 1 thing.  Crowds of other people venturing on our route today.....grrrrrrrr! 
My preference would have been to go up on the road through Barley and past Ings Farm and up the steps, left over towards the trig then back down to Ogden Reservoir but I was promised that going up alongside the reservoir and following the river up to come back down the steps would be a better way.  So we'll see.....

Making our way up the road that lead us to the reservoir the weather was reasonably good.  Cold, dry with a risk of snow/rain in the afternoon.  Very light wind and all round nice conditions to be walking in.  Sadly the light wasn’t brilliant for reflections on the lake but I managed one or two pictures. 
At the end of the reservoir we veered right and followed the path up through the rocky banks of the river that flowed down the side of the hill.  This wasn’t a way I’d come before and was instantly pleased that this was our route today.  Off the conventional path and making our own way up the banks of the river was much more pleasing than following the now steady stream of people following the main route.  The rocks were slippy in some places and the higher we got the icier it became with some impressive groups of icicles dangling down.

It wasn’t long before we met the path at the top and could see the trig point in the distance through the now hazy scene before us.  The sun which had tried to come out was now just about giving up as the cloud became thicker and the landscape was white with frost and a little bit of snow.  It was like Grand Central station at the trig point and my picture with the hazy sun never materialised as there were just too many people about.  People, dogs, bikes, children, all sorts of day trippers out for a wander.

Needless to say we didn’t stick around long.  Making our way over to the top of the steps I was reminded of my last visit here almost a year ago and it was a similar snowy landscape.  I was reminded of the spot where I stopped to eat my sandwiches and my wander over the wall towards Downham Moor.  What a difference a year makes!!! 

The steps were busy with people going up and down.  Some of them were slippy and I took my time.  “You’re not doing well on getting down here, are you” I heard being muttered lol.  “I think you’ll find I’m doing well enough, thank you very much” was the reply.  Cheeky J.  However, it didn’t take us long to get down what with all the hello’s to passers by and thank you’s to folk letting us pass and apart from a little slippy slidey incident it was plain sailing all the way.  
A little flurry of snow met us on our final walk through Barley to the car park.  It was hardly a flutter really but just some white specs dotting the air in front of us.  It was forecast to snow much harder later but for now we just had this little teasy weansy flurry.

And there we were, back at the car park and it felt like we'd only left it moments ago.  It was very much overcast now and it was good to be back into the warmth of the car.  All that was missing was a cuppa.