27 July 2013

Blencathra via Sharp Edge

Another early morning start for the trip up to the lakes to visit one of my all time “to-do” hills –Blencathra.  Since seeing a picture of this beauty a while ago it’s been on my tick list and I always knew it would be a special hill.   I was excited about the prospect of Sharp Edge and just how sharp that edge would be so off we went in the hunt for thrills and hopefully not spills.

Car parked just on the main road below the hostel and pub we set off “eventually” on the path upwards.  Why is it that sometimes the most difficult part of the day is actually finding the start of the walk.  Too’ings and fro’ings along the road and then the decision was made to just head up, through the ferns on a semblance of a path that eventually lead us to the right path that guided us round the hillside to the right gently ascending and ascending until we reached a plateau area where we could see the beginnings of that delicious ascent.

More winding round the hillside gaining more height finally brought us to a small tarn where we took stock for a moment and stopped to take a few pics of the ridge that rose practically right in front of us.  Sharp edge looked very tasty indeed.  

 Being early in the morning (as with all our walks) there was no one else around.  A couple of wild campers on the other side of the Tarn but other than that, it was just us, exactly how we like it.

Tarn and reflection pictures taken we set off up the path that would take us ultimately to the summit but before then we had the delight of traversing up and over the rocks that made up the path to the top.  It’s my ultimate fav part of any walk.   Narrow ledges, slight exposure, hands and feet on rocks, the logistical task of working out how and where to go.  I love it all.  

If anything the rocky part of the ascent was over too quickly and before long we were up on a large wide plateau for the last part of the path up to the summit.  Visibility was good and there were now a few other people around who had come from other ways and some people in a shelter who seemed to be manning an event station.  

 Up onto the summit the views were beautiful.  We didn’t stick around long as we had to get back down and over to Mungrisdale Common as it was a wee Wainwright box to be ticked.  So down off Blencathra and over to the left towards the very insignificant summit.  On the way there, across the boggy bit we heard a bleating and in a small pool of water there was a sheep, stuck.  It couldn’t get out onto the bank and seemed quite weak.  It was stuck in the muddy dark pool and left any longer probably wouldn’t have survived.  Chris swung into “action”, leaned over and grabbed its horns and heaved it out of the mud.   It was quite a moment as the rescued sheep trotted away and we were left with a bit of smiley moment as we knew something quite good had happened.  Yay Chris, you saved a sheep!

 Back over the common and towards Blencathra again to descend down the Southern end of the hill we started coming across people who were obviously partaking in the event of the day.  Some sort of 12 peak fell running thing and there were all sorts, young, old, groups, couples, individuals…..all running over the hillside.
Back up on the summit we headed over for the descent which on the face of it looked rockier and trickier than the sharp edge we’d just come up.  Sure it wasn’t as exposed but it was most definitely a hands on descent.  

 About half way down we passed a family who had a very young baby on board in a pappoose sort of thing on dads back.  Keen family but with the weather looking a little bit dodgy they were brave.
It was a tough descent and hard on the knees but as with all walks, if you keep moving forward you’ll reach your destination.  We emerged out on the road a fair bit back from the car so the last trek along the road certainly whetted the appetite for a nice, long cold drink at the pub.

Blencathra was all it claimed to be and for me one of my favourite hills in the Lake District and one I would certainly do again, for sure.

21 July 2013

Snowdon, cream scones and wimbledon

Day 2 of our Welsh weekender and Snowdon was the target for today.  Tent all packed up and away in the car we headed to the Ranger station where we knew  the path started for the Snowdon Ranger route up the impressive hill.

From the minute you set foot on the path you can see the summit and that’s quite rare when climbing a mountain.  Although it takes a while before it actually appears to be closer you can see it all the way up the walk.

The first part of the walk was familiar as it was the same route as we’d come down from yesterday but instead of heading off the path to Llanberis we kept on walking towards the first steep part of the walk up the zig zags on the lower flanks of Snowdon.  There were a few people on the path with us, some passed us, we passed some but all in all it was a fairly quiet walk.  About 2 hrs in we decided to stop for first lunch and settled on a little patch of grass to tuck into crackers and pate yet again, a much needed rest stop and fuel for the walking ahead.

 It was at this point that the cloud started to come in obscuring our view of the summit for the first time.  The cloud got lower and lower and soon surrounded us blocking out views on all sides.  It was a pleasant reprieve walking in the mist and not having the hot sun seering down. On this part of the walk we started to see people descending who had obviously set off early doors.   One man that passed us remarked on how the summit was covered in midges and even worse, people.  Aggghhhh the downside of having a train to the summit of a mountain.   Hoards and hoards of day trippers.   

At the top of the Ranger route the path meets up with the mountain railway and through the mist we could hear the whistle of the train before we could see it.  There it was emerging from the mist packed with people all having their own Snowdon experience.  The better views were to the left where the impressive Crib Coch emerged proudly from the mist.  A blanket of cloud still nestled at the far end gave it the impression that it was volcanic and looked incredibly dramatic.  The cloud above had cleared and showed us the views from all directions and the sun was out again beating down and attracting all those blooming midges, grrrrrr!

Only a few more steps to the summit and after a quick touch of the trig it was down, out of the midge infested air and into the cafĂ© where we had a nice cup of tea and a cream scone.  Such a delight and incredibly refreshing and a funny overheard conversation by a man who had a PHD in making stuff gave us another giggle moment of the day..   Water replenished and packs back on we headed back out where the cloud and mist had descended yet again.   A signal on our phone meant we could tag ourselves at the top and then we headed down onto the Bwlch Main ridge to meet with the Rhyd Ddu path that would take us back towards the direction of the campsite and where the car was parked.

 This route took us over some nice scrambly bits and down to the valley between Snowdon and Yr Aran.  We turned right here down through the old slate mine and realized that we’d missed the Rhyd Ddu path (most likely in the mist) and we’d gone a fair bit further left than we’d intended to.  It meant further to walk back to the car but we were down and we’d had fun coming down so that was a good thing, right?

Time for 2nd lunch and the last of the pate.  We were passed by an unusual family who I’m now convinced were Pennsylvanian Dutch / Amish. The woman spoke with a sort of American accent but the rest of the family were accented.  They were very conservatively dressed (socks with sandals eeek!)  apart from the daughter who was dressed like a teenager.  So who knows!

The path was quite clear from here and we saw where the Rhyd Ddu path met up with ours and could clearly see the route we’d intended to be on but we’d have missed out on all the lovely scrambling so I’m not complaining.  Over the train track for the last time and it was a pint of soda water and lime at the pub……and a chance to see Andy Murray win Wimbledon whilst we were there.

Its late in the day by this point and time to head for home but what a great weekend in Wales.  Snowdon you never fail to please me x

20 July 2013

Moels, Foels & Aliens.....is anybody out there?

Early morning start saw us on the A55 heading towards Snowdonia.  Our initial thoughts of getting the "big walk" in on the Saturday was quickly thwarted when it seemed like hundreds of people were heading out on the main routes towards Snowdon, at silly o clock in the morning.  I love my mountains but walking up them in a line of other walkers is not my (our) idea of fun.  So plans quickly changed, we decided to set up camp and then head out later in the morning on a less popular walk which took in Moel Eilio via Foel Goch, Foel Gron and Moel Cynghorion.

After pitching the tent and having a quick snack we set up off on the path, practically from the campsite, to take us up to Moel Cynghorion.  I have no idea how you pronounce this but I can tell you one thing, the name is definitely more impressive than the hill.  The best thing about this hill is the views it offers over Snowdon and beyond.  On the way up we heard the distinct toot toot of the steam train that services the valleys in Snowdonia and watched for a moment as it snaked its way below us.  The climb up was a fairly easy one with nothing too taxing but the poor little pile of stones at the (presumed) summit is a poor wee sad sight indeed.  From here you can see the rest of the route quite clearly, over both Foels and onto Moel Eilio.

So down we went and then back up the side of the first Foel, Foel Goch.  A steady and steeper climb it really got the legs working and having not walked for a few weeks I was starting to feel it but then that's normal for me until my legs remember what they're actually supposed to be doing and mountain legs kick in.  Luckily we had some Kendal Mint Cake with us to give a quick sugar rush but oh my goodness it just seemed to evapourate in this heat as soon the packet was empty, hmmmmm!  Up and onto Foel Goch's only to find that its summit was as unimpressive as the previous one with not a marker to be found.  Just a wide open plain, and plain it was.

Onwards over to Foel Gron which as much as a nice walk had an even less impressive summit.  No indication at all that we were even on a summit.  A raised bit of ground behind a barbed wire fence suggested that may be the summit but you'd have risked life and limb to get to it so we carried on towards Moel Eilio.

As much as the walking was pretty boring, all grass, little rock and well defined paths the views were outstanding.  Snowdon looked enticing but so did the mountains to the left of us and of course the Glyders, Tryfan and Elider Fawr over to the right.  In the afternoon sun they all looked spectacular.

After a couple of false summits we were up on the top of Moel Eilio and pleased to see the first summit feature of the day, a beautifully constructed shelter that was very impressive.  Hunkered down in there out of the wind we stopped for lunch and had a good giggle at a man about a 100 ft away with a rather large ariel.  Could he hear what we were saying?  Was he listening for alien life?  What on earth was he doing?  I was dying to find out but didn't dare go and ask him.  The shelter itself was a suntrap and it was nice just to sit back and enjoy the hot sun whilst picnicking on our lunch today which was pate and crackers........oh yes our packed lunch today was a luxurious treat apart from the peanut brittle which for some reason was backed in chocolate, weird.com lol.

Leaving the alien hunter to his work we headed off down the hill and here's where the adventure really started.  As with all descents if there is a quicker way down then you take it.  The route back was back along the route we'd come which by this time we knew was grassy and a bit boring so true to form the question was asked "should we just nip down here" and true to form off we went straight down the side of the hill which we hoped would bring us down to a more southern path to take us off the mountain.

After a while of walking very steeply sideyways and straight down my energy was sapped.  If I'd known the true properties of the chocolate covered peanut brittle then I'd have taken some but I could feel my energy waining by the second and with that came a lot of whinging......poor Chris!   But we plodded on, traversing and heading downwards and I only could go at the pace I could go and that wasn't fast.  Seeing the zig zag path was a treat and we headed in that direction, again straight down, so that we could meet up with it at one of its points.  There was a lot of shouting and quite a few people already on the path who were, most likely, making their way back from Snowdon.  This path lead down to the rangers station and then it would be a short walk, back along the road to the campsite.

One of the best ideas of the day was when Chris suggested that instead of eating locally we headed for the coast for a supper of fish and chips and once down and back at the campsite we quickly changed out of our boots and headed to Carnarvon (Carnforth lol) and tucked into some lovely fish (not so lovely chips) by the sea.  Perfect end to a wonderful day x