29 December 2014

Tales from the Tarmachan Ridge

Up and out of the hotel before breakfast and before any light was shed upon the day we headed for the Ben Lawers car park where the path to the Tarmachan Ridge started.

The light was just beginning to creep in from the surrounding hilliside as we got out of the car and changed into our boots.  For the first time this year I had my winter mountain boots on as the woman in the outdoor shop in Killin said that part of the route we'd need our crampons and ice axe so out came the good old faithful Mammut monolith GTX's.  After missing breakfast we had an empire biscuit to initially sustain us and then it was on with gloves and hats and we were ready for the off.

It wasnt long before the sun was streaming over the hills and the sky was bluer than blue.  This was turning out to be a spectacular day and if the weather held we were in for a superb walk.  Ben Lawers behind us was basking in the morning sunlight and looking spectacular.

The conditions were excellent.  Some tretcherous icey patches but mostly nice deepish snow that was hard going but a pleasure to walk in.  The path was straightforward and took us gently upwards.  We saw 2 other groups of people all heading in the same direction and enjoying this fine walking day.

At the first plateau the path took us up and over a false summit and there before us was a clear path almost vertical up through the snow gully.  Ice axes would definately be required (just incase of a slip) and we could see the other 2 groups of people ahead of us making their way up the steep gully, they looked like little ants.

It was a great route up, energy sapping but the bright sunshine and clear day made up for it.  We took our time and before long we had reached the summit where a group of lads were sitting having their lunch.  After being sheltered from the wind going up through the gully it suddenly hit us full force (not enough to blow us off our feet but enough to make your face tingle) at the summit cairn so hats and gloves were back on for the obligatory pics.

 We didnt stick around long on the summit as we had the rest of the ridge to walk and conditions whilst fine in the air on the ground were a bit slippy and always harder work in the snow so as we are always concious of the time, off we went along the path that would take us to the next summit, the one with the pointy bit and the ridge...oooooh!

On our way there the 360 degree views were immense.  We could see right over to Ben Nevis and the CMD route was clearly visible.  In another direction Ben More was prominent and everywhere you looked was mounds and mounds of white peaks.

The next peak, whilst not anything tickable, was a wee pointy affair with the delight of a short ridge walk on the other side.  I love a good ridge walk, being up on an airy arrete is incredibly exciting however I was  hoping that today's ridge wasnt going to be too icy.  I wasnt dissapointed.  It was snowy and the path was wide enough to divert any dodgy icy bits.  All in all the ridgy bit was too short and over before you knew it.

The trickiest bit of the ridge was the downward scramble at the end which luckily we didnt have to attempt as there was a downward bypass route to the right.  Looking back up at the scrambly bit it was just downward sheets of rock and ice and not something that I would like to have attempted either upwards or downwards.....perhaps in the summer though!

So on to the next and last peak of the day.  Again it wasnt anything tickable but still an integral part of the ridge so off we went.  The snow was quite deep here in some parts and the upward climb onto the summit area was a complete delight.  Ice axes  still in hand aided us through the deep white stuff and as our heads peeked above the rock onto the summit area the wind just took your breath away.  Wonderful day!

Now early afternoon we knew the light would start to leave us at 3pm so we decided to make our way down so a sharp left hand turn at the plateau area took us down through a gully (which was normally a little stream but iced up today)  to the area where the quarry is.  From there we would make our way to the road that would take us back round to where the car was.   The route down was straight forward and fun walking in the snow and dodging the ice.
 The day was one of the best days out we've had in a long time.  Another munro ticked off my list and near perfect conditions.  The last of the light was just leaving us as we reached the car park, cheeks rosy from the earlier sun, legs burning from the trudging in the snow and hearts happy at another wonderful days in the mountains.

26 December 2014

Boxing Day Ben - Ledi

Boxing Day was bright and clear and to counteract the excesses of Christmas day prosecco we headed for Callender just before first light to get Chris his first Corbett.  Ben Ledi, from what I can remember, is a lovely little Corbett with spectacular views (if you are lucky)

We hoped we'd be lucky today but as the mist and fog lay settled on Loch Lubnig obscuring our view of any hill we were doubtful.  Nevertheless we parked the car at the foot of the path and set off.  The first thing that was different now to the first time I wandered up Ledi was the trees.  The start of the walk was through a thick forested area then out onto an open path but all these initial trees were gone, sadly.  The path was open from the start and almost immmediately as we started to climb up the path the views started to open giving us a glimpse of the hill ahead.
It was an eerie atmosphere with mist swirling in and out both ahead and behind.
 The path however was good and it was a lovely cold crisp winters morning.  The frost was thick on the ground and where there should have been watery boggy bits there was hard ground so that was a plus.

Onwards and upwards the views just continued to pour out from each side.  Behind, to the left and to the right.  The cloud was still sitting thick and fast on the Loch but as the sun tried to peek out we could see over to where Ben Vorlich and Stuc a Chroin was and the light was just starting to touch them.

The sun was trying so hard to come out and when it finally did poke its head through the clouds it gave a golden hue to everything.  Shadows created and light danced upon the snowy ground.  I didnt have my sunglasses with me but for the first time today I needed them.
The conditions were great and after the notorious 3 false summits we could finally see the memorial cross that indicated the top was in sight.  It had been a great walk up and we met a few nice folks along the way.

After stopping at the top for only a few mins as the cloud had come in again and offered us nothing in the way of views I was reminded of a sunny day a few years back where, in t shirts, the summit offered views as far as the eye could see.  Not today though, the cloud was firmly settled over us and visibility was to the edge of the top and no more.

We ventured off northwards and followed the path that would take us round towards Benvane but not that far.  We'd make a right turn and follow a path downwards.  I'd never been this way before so it was a nice change from going back the way we'd come up.  The path itself was fairly straightforward and guided us round the flanks of Ben Ledi downwards through the valley behind.
Cloud was still settled in every nook and crannie and the ground still firm and icy.  The sun that tried to break through earlier in the day didn't quite make it and as the afternoon wore on there was no chance of any more sunshine.

The path down was uneventful and took us through the forest and quickly back to the road from the holiday cottages that ran parallel to the main road.   The whole walk took just over 5 hrs and it was lovely to see the Ben with its sprinkling of snow but soon we were back at the car and on our way back to mum and dads after a grand Boxing Day on a hill.

30 November 2014

Striding on an edge !

9.5 miles of walking, 4 peaks and reduced daylight meant only 1 thing, a very early start.  So, at 5am the alarm went off and by 5.30 we were out the door and heading north in the darkness.

We arrived at Glenridding at approx 7am and it was still a wee bit too dark to set off so I had another 10 mins snooze and before long the light was starting to appear over the hills.  Boots on, bags packed we headed out in the dim light towards the path that would take us up to Helvellyn.  I swear on the first part of the path up I was still half asleep and it took me a few mins to come-to!

It was a path we'd followed before and as we ventured up it got lighter and over to the left and it wouldnt be long before the sun popped behind the high street range and sure enough very soon we were witness to a glorious sight as the sun illuminated the surrounding hills and cast a deep orange glow all around.  On the last day of November having such a mild day with full sun was just brilliant.

Our first peak of the day was Birkhouse Moor which was a top we'd missed on previous visits.  Funnily enough the summit was only about 50yds from the path but as we'd never been up there on a clear day like this we'd missed it previously, not today though.  We happily skipped over the moor to touch its cairn.
 The views over to Helvellyn and Catseyecam were amazing with both ridges Striding and Swirral looking jaggidy and precarious in the morning sun.  Today we'd be going up over Striding Edge but couldnt help looking over towards Swirral edge and remembering our wintery day, full white out, ice, snow and a tricky ascent and decent over the spiky rock.  All good fun !
Biscuits consumed - choc chip maple for me and ginger and rhubarb for Chris (both acquired from a recent hotel visit) we headed towards Striding Edge.  The conditions today were perfect.  Hardly any wind and bright.  The only issue seemed to be that some of the rocks were a bit slippy from the morning dew which meant we had to be careful.

Striding Edge is glorious, a thin path of spiky rock with a steep rocky climb at the end to the summit.  Words cant really describe it so here's a couple of pics which help get a sense of the task in hand.  Brill stuff!

Looking back towards Catseyecam was a treat for the eyes too as the sun just bore down on its flank before the mist and cloud grew over the summit of Helvellyn and rolled towards on us.
 I've never been on the summit of Helvellyn when its been truly clear and today was no exception.  On reaching the trig point at the summit the cloud was down all around us.  Never mind, this wasn't a target for us today and we followed the path to the left which would take us up and over Whiteside and then onto Raise which was the hill we were missing.

The walk was lovely and cloud swirled in and out.  There weren't that many people around but today there seemed to be more mountain bikers than anything else.  I just cant see the point of carrying a bike to the summit of a hill only to ride it down again.  I enjoy being out on my bike but this seemed a lot of effort for a few moments of wheeeeeeeeeeeeee.

So there it was the last top in front of us and the cloud had moved away leaving us again with a clear bright day.

We chatted to a nice couple at the top of Raise who were, yes you guessed it, on their mountain bikes and just as we were leaving the summit we turned round and caught a glimpse of a Brocken Spectre an absolutely glorious sight and not one I've ever seen before.  I tried my best to catch it but I think it was fading a bit when we saw it so just got the tail end of it.  Awe inspiring none the less.
So feeling quite giddy from our encounter with the Brocken Spectre we headed off down the hillside to catch the path that would take us home.  Ahead of us was Stybarrow that we'd done a few weeks before and at the crossroads we turned right and headed down the path.

One of the perils of walking at this time of the year, especially when its so mild is that the conditions underfoot, in some areas, can be damp so when we came across a particularly boggy bit and I was looking for a place to cross Chris, in his wisdom (and believe me he's usually right!) said, just run across.  So I did and was promptly halted when my foot and leg sunk deep into the bog, propelling me forward and leaving me very wet and dirty indeed.  Drat!  this was not good, I wasn't hurt but I was wet, muddy and uncomfortable.  It took me a few mins to recover my composure and actually see the funny side of it.  You never see Julia Bradbury covered head to toe in mud, do you?

Drama over we continued downward and as the sun started to slip behind the hills we remarked on what a good walk that had been.  It was only 3pm but already we were losing some light.  We'd not seen any wildlife to speak of today, apart from a distant buzzard in the morning and a little mushroom that I accidentally stamped on but the juniper bushes on the path towards Glenridding were a wee bit picturesque, so here's my contribution to flora and fauna today.
Another great day x

16 November 2014

High Rigg with a few fungi (s) !

Our second day in the lakes started with a nice breakfast in the hotel and then the prospect of a small but long walk taking in High Rigg.  The sun was shining and we were both in good spirits.  Checking out of the hotel the start of the walk was again quite close by and before long we were on the path closely followed by a large group of men obviously making the most of the day too. High Rigg here we come.
The light was amazing and as the sun shone down making shadows that were just to delicious not to photograph we looked forward to better views than we'd had the day before.
 The path was clear and followed a zig zag route up the side of the hill.  It wasnt that steep but still a fair work out as it carved its way up the hillside.
The trees were amazing and although most are not indigenous the light and shapes were good for taking pictures.  We made our way through several tree lined areas before reaching a plateau area near the top.

Once through the trees we could see the hills on the other side of the road which were the Dodd's we'd climbed the day before.  Also apparent was the path we took downwards yesterday the zig zag and direct diagonal line through the ferns.
Beautiful day and beautiful scenery.  What more could we ask for.  The weather was so mild we were walking in T shirts and there was no breeze which made it brilliant walking weather.  The only thing missing was my sunglasses as I didn't expect the sun to be so bright but how lucky were we to get this glorious weather.

As we walked along the plateau that would take us up and down to the final summit we happened to spot a little fungi in the grassy area at the side of the path.  It was beautiful, red and yellow and quite a special sight.  It was quite close to the path and I'm so glad it had been left intact and that no one had trodden on it or some animal had nibbled away at it.  Not sure of its name but if anyone knows then please let me know. (more lovely mushrooms later on in the walk too but these ones are on trees, strange!)
 So finally we reach the summit and take the obligatory pictures.
The weather is holding and the downward journey is steep at first then once we hit the road its a lovely wander past an old church then down towards the river.  The path meanders below the route we'd taken in the morning and soon we were back at the start but not before spotting a few more fungi.

Great day, great walk, great company and a lot of laughs.  Time for our lakes weekend to come to an end and 4 more Wainwrights ticked off.  Hopefully, if the weather holds, we'll be back up very very soon.

15 November 2014

A day of Dodds and Milestones !

We headed off early doors to the Thirlmere area of the lakes and to the start of our walk for the day which conveniently was right next to the hotel we'd booked for the night.  The Lodge in the Vale.  The nice reception staff said it would be no bother to leave the car there for the day before we checked in so quickly we changed footwear and got our jackets and rucksacks on.

The initial climb up to Stybarrow Dodd was pretty steep and followed a meandering rocky path winding up the hill.  The weather wasnt that great with mist swirling all around.  Little patches of sunlight came and went over towards Blencathra but for us it was all a bit bleak.

Onwards and upwards we went and it was a fair old slog.  This peak, Stybarrow was to be Chris's 150th Wainwright and quite an achievement indeed. I'm some way behind at 110 which for me is fantastic.

So hurrah Chris and your 150th Wainwright - Congrats xx 
 Stybarrow Dodd was not much more than a collection of stones and with the mist there was no view to speak off so we didnt stick around long and made our way off to the path that would take us over to Watson's Dodd, my namesake.

The conditions were not ideal for picture taking but Watsons's Dodd was a nice hill to climb, a rolling and undulating path to the summit stretched the legs and although the mist was still swirling around every now and again we caught a glimpse of faraway peaks with the sun peeking through the clouds giving them a dappled effect.

After Watson's Dodd it was onto Great Dodd and again it was a good walk but nothing spectacular to write home about.  Dodds are all a bit boring really.  Big mounds of hill with very little character at all.  No rocky outcrops, no tricky terrain to conquer, just big grassy lumps.

Our timing was going well at it was just about 2pm when we started to make our way down from Great Dodd.  The mist was still swirling but as we decended it got a good bit clearer.
 We had the luxury of a nice waterfall on the way down and a steep bit clear zig zaggy path off the mountain then through some autumnal fern.  There isn't much in the way of autumn colours left but I did spot this tree which looked particularly beautiful against the hills.
 Down on flat land again it was a short walk along by the roadside to the hotel and a well deserved coffee.  Finishing the walk earlier than planned and not having the 2 hr drive home there was only 1 thing for it.  Keswick, pub and a large glass of red wine.  Perfect end to a great day !

26 October 2014

5 Wainwrights fuelled by Tunnochs Tea Cakes

It's almost the end of October and I cant believe the last post to my blog was in August.  Inbetween then there's been adventures in Italy including The Italian Grand Prix, wanders round Riva del Garda where we did some Via Ferrate and then time on the Italian Rivera visiting the Cinque Terre.  I'll get round to posting about our Via Ferrate soon but for now here's an account of our day yesterday.  Come rain or shine we were getting out !

The day started somewhat early and we were on the M6 heading north about 7.30am out the car with boots and waterproofs on about 9.30/10am ish.  Not as early as normal but the walk today whilst not short wasn't as challenging as some of our adventures. 
 We headed up the path and could see the fells ahead that we'd be tackling and identified the route down almost immediately to our left.  Upwards to the right was the first order of the day and having missed the path (surprise, surprise) we found ourselves heading straight up a boggy, heathery, pine needly, slippy woody steep slope.  Its not surprising that we ended up off piste but I wasn't ready for it so early in the day.   

The rain was on/off and showery to say the least but what met us at the top of the slope was a fierce driving wind.  The kind that has you hunkered down and moving forward as if in battle.  The path off to the right was noticeable however the wind kept blowing me off it and onto the slippery bog again.  By this time I was soaked but warm enough and soon enough we arrived at the top of Whinlatter where there was, much to our relief, a small shelter.   Sitting down and gathering ourselves together we had a Tunnochs Teacake and caught our breaths.

 Onwards now to Lords Seat and the wind was ever with us.  We could see some people coming the other way but other than them the hills were empty.  Our route took us down though the forest and followed the mountain bike route for a bit before opening out again where the path up to Lords Seat was clearly ahead.

Lords Seat was nice as the sky had begun to break up and we could see some blue sky and although we didnt know it then we'd seen the last of the cold rain for the day.

A quick detour over to Barf and here we met some other walkers heading the other way. Lovely views over Bassenthwaite Lake one way and the Skiddaw range the other way.  Here we found somewhere to have a sandwich (cheese and piccalilli), a pear and another Tunnochs Tea Cake.  Not quite sheltered from the wind but enough to give us a few mins rest to eat lunch.

Back down off Barf and over again to Lords Seat.  I wondered if there was a way round Lords Seat instead of going back up to the summit and down again to get over to Broom Fell and there seemed to be a path that skirted the contours round the side.  Big Mistake!  Whilst is was a sort of path it was at an unatural angle and was not the easiest to walk on.  For the first time today I felt my knee twinge and the angle I was walking at just seemed to aggravate it with every step.

Broom Fell was lovely.  A nice big solid cairn at the top and a wind that would cut right through you. We didnt hang around long  and headed down towards the forest again.  The last hill of the day was right in front of us and it seemed such a long way away.  Battling the wind we ventured down and then began the trek back up to our final hill Graystones.   Chris motoring on ahead leant into the wind at the top and almost took off.  Wicked conditions but fun all the same.

So off downwards we went it was steep and slippy and we nearly took a tumble a few times.  Half way down the path we veered off to the left into the forest again towards a waterfall hidden in the trees, spout force I think.  Anyway we decided to give that a miss as there didn't seem to be much water in there anyway.  Instead of the waterfall here's a nice picture of some broom.
 A few miles along the path and we were back at the car, sprinkled with pine needles falling from the canopy of trees in the forest we headed for the pub.  1 large glass of red had my name on it. 

Great day in the lakes.  This is what we do.  Its good for the soul, the mind and the health.   But shhhhhhhh don't tell everyone or they'll all be up there and the secret of putting one foot in front of the other and climbing a hill is one I'd like to keep to myself.