18 June 2013

Bens, beasties and breath-taking views….08.06.13

Here in Gods country when the sun shines you make the most of it and making the most of it we did.  Up early after a good nights sleep we were soon parked by the shores of Loch Earn and could see Ben Vorlich behind us.  It did look impressive and the walk in was lovely by the burn and then a fairly good path up the lower flanks of the mountain.
The weather was perfect.  Warm sun and not a breeze to be felt and it wasn’t long before layers were coming off.  Views opening up, as usual behind us took our eye further and further as the higher we got the more peaks that became visible.  Little silly moment as I remarked that the clouds seemed to be in 3D, d'oh!

As with all walks where you are consuming water in great amounts you do get caught short and on an exposed hillside it isn’t really the best environment to have a quick pit stop.  The only thing I’ll say about this incident is that having bits of dried grass where it doesn’t belong isn’t very comfortable  at all but after the initial shock it provided a good giggle which lasted well into the day.

We met 2 other walkers on the hillside that day from Fife who were, like us, taking advantage of the brilliant weather and getting out and about.   Like us their plan was to get to the top of Ben Vorlich then tackle the beastie that is Stuc a Chroin.

The path was reasonable, rocks winding in a zig zag fashion up the side of the Ben and with several false summits to tempt us.  Nothing prepared me for the final path up to the summit.   It was long, steep and looked incredibly inviting (actually it doesn't look that steep on the picture, but it was lol).  At the top was the trig point but there was still 30 mins + of hard work before that was reached.  Heads down and onwards and upwards.  This was turning out to be one of the most enjoyable days ever.

The summit was a surprise in many ways.  Firstly the views were tremendous, breath-taking.  Secondly we could see our next target for the day Stuc a Chroin and it looked amazing and thirdly there were millions of midges, swarms of the little blighters all over the place.  I’m sure as we stopped for first lunch a few were consumed with my sandwiches.  Horrid little bity things invading our space…….welcome to Scotland! 

Lunch had, including a wee bit of tablet bought in Callendar this morning we headed off down Ben Vorlich in the direction of Stuc a Chroin.  The closer we got to this impressive piece of rock the more exciting the prospect became.  I really do enjoy being amongst the rocks and having a bit of a scramble in my day.  I would scramble all day long if it was available but with this bad boy there was the challenge of potentially choosing our own route up.  This reminded me of the day on Tryfan in Wales where there wasn’t really a recognised path but boulder after boulder to pick your way through.  This seemed similar and that was indeed an exciting prospect.
We followed the path round the base and even contemplated leaving our bags at the bottom to collect on the way up but we’d gone past the point where that would have been an option.  Skirting our way around the hill we continued to follow a path, eyes focussed upwards to see if we could see somewhere that would lead us up the hill.  It looked both daunting and thrilling at the same time and one of the reasons why I love this pastime so very much.  Your mind is saying no you cant do that and then in the next second its silently giggling with glee knowing you can and you have before and you will again.
The path continued round the boulders and took us round to the south face of the mountain.  Here we could see a gully carved out of the side of the hill which was steep but filled with lovely lovely rocks and that seemed to be the way upwards.  There were others on the path and a crag rat who’d passed us not 10 mins ago we could see was more than half way up.  Oh to have the fitness of youth!
Making our way through the boulders I was in my element, enjoying every moment and not giving a hoot about steepness or the way ahead.  Just picking our way through the rocks and moving upwards.  Behind us was Ben Vorlich looking very impressive indeed and it was funny to think that only an hour ago we were up there.  Amazing!
It was a great walk up through the gully in between the boulders and through the rocks and it seemed like no time at all we were up on the ridge.   Over to the left was the summit and it was a nice walk across the rocky plateau to the summit cairn.  No flies on this summit, probably because it was less grassy and there was a nice wee breeze forming.   One of my most memorable moments on the side of a hill was here, as we stopped for second lunch, on the side of Stuc a Chroin with Ben Vorlich towering in front of us.  2 Bens, 2 beautiful Bens and as I lay there on the grass, eating the rest of our sandwiches, grapes and tablet I felt incredibly content.   What an amazing day.

All good things must come to an end the saying goes and we had to get up and start our descent off the mountain.  It was mid afternoon by this point and the sky was clouding over and the strong sun of the day was weakening.  A cool breeze was refreshing and we made our way down the path that skirted round the base of Ben Vorlich that would lead us back to the initial path of the morning.  The first part of the path was fine and then suddenly we were on a horrid shaley descent.  Ankle turning stuff and I got the poles out to steady myself on the slippy scree.  Not a nice descent at all and I just took my time and made my way down the zig zaggy path.  Thankfully it didn’t last for long and we were down on the valley floor with only a slight incline back up and round to meet the path from this morning.
This path was filled with people coming down off the hill and it seemed to have been a day out for many, young, old, some with dogs, some walking in groups and some walking alone.  The wander down the hill was lovely until a slip caused me to fall forwards and bang my knee on the rocks.  I thought my camera was damaged, I thought I was damaged and for a moment I went into “woe is me mode”……that didn’t last long as Chris, concerned that I was hurt, snapped me right back into reality.   He’s good at that J.
The path continued downwards and my legs were starting to feel it.  A slight distraction was the black clouds looming to the left and we wondered, if after such a glorious day, we were in for a spot of rain.   True enough, as we entered the last few 100mtrs of the walk the heavens opened.  Running back to the car with legs that felt like lead we didn’t get too wet and had a moment to sit back and reflect on what was another truly amazing day.

Can’t wait to get back to Scotland ……..lets make it soon x

Good times in Glenridding!

Glenridding weekend Part 1 - Hallin Fell 
Friday night took us up to Glenridding and to the Side Farm Campsite which by all accounts lived up to its reputation of being a bit slopey!!!!  Nevertheless we found a suitable pitch that wasn’t too bad and oh goodness me the views made up for it 100 times over.  So after a night of pitching, bbq’ing and generally relaxing watching  the sun disappear before the beautiful Sheffield Pike and Glenridding Dodd that was the sight before us, we were suitably refreshed early in the morning ready to head out and get a Wainwright under our belts.

 Packs loaded and sandwiches made we wandered out of the campsite and down round Ullswater towards the village of Glenridding where we’d find the terminal for the Ullswater Steamers.  The plan was to take the boat up to the other end of the lake and then walk back taking in Hallin Fell as our bonus prize of the day.

The trip on the Steamer was lovely.  Blue skies all around and fells and peaks looming over.  We could see over to Catseyecam and into the Helvellyn range with Swirrel and Striding Edge both looking spectacularly brilliant.  Thoughts turned back to the day we went both up and down Swirrel Edge in full winter conditions, crampons, ice axes and our chocolate Santa that we’d carried throughout the whole walk fell out of my hood and slipped down the ice sheet.  We wondered if anyone ever found him after the thaw and had a good giggle at the antics of that day.

The boat docked at Howtown and we headed inland.  The path took us up and away from the lake edge and over to the foothills of Hallin Fell.  This was a pleasant walk up and round the path, views of the lake and our target for tomorrow, Place Fell, were in abundance.   The higher we got the more peaks opened up and before long we could see over to St Sunday’s Crag, straight through to Helvellyn and even over to Blencathra and Skiddaw.  The weather was magnificent.  Beautiful billowy clouds, blue sky and a cool breeze to stop you from overheating.  Perfect walking weather.

Down off Hallin Fell we found the path that would lead us round the contour of the lakeside mountains which ultimately lead back to the campsite.  This was a busy route with all sorts of people on the path both going and coming.  One of the strangest sights we saw was a man carrying a rucksack designed for babies, but he had no baby, oh no, no baby at all.  What he did have though was a cocker spaniel….surely not, was the baby carrier for the dog when it got a bit tired.  Sadly we never saw what its main use was for.  It was on this path we stopped for lunch.  Cheese and piccalilli sandwiches and a pear, probably the most juiciest and delicious pear I have ever had, it was gorgeous.  Sitting there in the shade watching the boats go by was just so peaceful.

It wasn’t long before we were back at the campsite but decided to visit the tearoom first instead.  The afternoon sun by this time was beating down and the urge to just sit down and not move was too great.  Coffee and ice cream consumed we headed back to the tent to enjoy the afternoon sun.  The views over the lake were stunning and everything was so quiet and peaceful.

A beautiful end to a perfect day.  Good weather, a good walk and great company……….I’m a very lucky girl!
Part 2 -Plaice Fell

Sunday dawned and the sky wasn’t as clear but still full of enough blue bits to make us look forward to another days walking.  Place fell was the target and it had looked down on us from behind the campsite for 2 days now it was time to get up it.

After not a great nights sleep for me I wasn’t feeling my best but off we went anyways.  The path upwards was practically right on the doorstep of the campsite and it took us steadily up the side of the hill.  Quite quickly we had gathered quite a bit of height.  This was not a fell where you had a long walk it, it smacked you in the face with its steepness quite quickly but we steadily plodded on having the scenery around us as a distraction.   
Although the sun was out there was a cool breeze today and it wasn’t t-shirt weather as we were being buffeted by the chilly wind.  At one point on the side of the mountain dark clouds loomed and it looked like it could be rain any min.  This wasn’t good mainly because I hadn’t packed any wet weather gear………..major fail, rule 1 of any walking trip is pack for all weathers!!!!!
Luckily the looming dark clouds dissipated after a short while and we were blessed with blue skies and sunshine again.  The final path up to the trig point of Place Fell was an absolute treat.  What a beautiful fell, it comes quite close to one of my favourites, not my ultimate favourite but it’s certainly up there.  It’s got a character all of its own and I liked it.  Obligatory pictures taken and we were off down the path in search of the route that would take us over to Beda Fell.
Almost at the start of the descent I knew that my legs were struggling.  I felt twinges in my knees and sapped of energy.  My lack of a proper nights sleep was taking its toll and I really didn’t think I had another fell in me today.  We waited until we got to the bottom before I made my decision but the descent off Place Fell was right down to the road and the ascent to Beda Fell started there, no ridge walk, no linking route, just straight down and then up again and my heart sank as I knew, today, and the way I felt, I really wasn’t up for this.  Disappointing, yes but it’ll be there another day for us.

We decided, rather than take the path of yesterday back to the campsite, to get on the boat and take the Lake route back.  Wandering through the lower valley back to Howtown we could see the boat coming into port and reckoned we had about 15 mins to catch it.  We quickened our pace and made enough ground so that we were on the Pier before it docked and took the boat, back round the lake to Glenridding.
The afternoon was beautiful, sunny and bright and we took our time packing the tent away which signalled the end of our weekend.  Another brilliant escapade in the Lakes and a few more boxes ticked.