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Thursday, 5 April 2018

Easter in The NW Lakes - Honister to Great Borne

For my Annual Easter Trip I originally planned a 3 day backpack from Grasmere to tick of a handful of remaining Wainrights to the South of Fairfield. A last minute check of the weather showed that instead of a lovely spring camp that I had envisioned the weather had other ideas... Winter was not yet ready to release It's tight grip on the fells. The forecast for the Easter weekend was bleak to say the least- snow sleet showers, strong winds with a wind-chill well into the teens. It also showed that the North western side would fair better, so a rough route was hastily re-planned , maps grabbed, rucksack packed, before an early night so I could be away early the next morning.
I chose to walk a route I last did around 4 yrs ago, but extend it to bag some wainrights in the Loweswater fells with a Wild Camp on Melbreak- a lovely looking spot that I had been eyeing up for some time.
Around 8am on Good Friday I pulled into the small lay-by just before the Honnister slate mine,
The weather was overcast with light winds and no rain - I was hoping it would stay that way!
 Kit readied I got Max out of the van, and we set off towards the slate mine, then taking the quarry track towards Fleetwith Pike.


Lower Flanks of Dale head from Honister  Path




Hut on Honister Slate Mine ... I liked the contrast of the rusty building against the  slate.

The last time I climbed Fleetwith Pike I arrived at the summit in thick clag, so planned on revisiting the summit if it was clear this time... it wasn't- the high tops were in the clouds, so I continued on following the track down to Dubs Hut, smoke coming from the chimney signalling it was occupied. A few pics were taken before I continued on my way.


Dubs Hut.



Crossing Warnscale Beck I continued on to Green Crag, reaching Blackbeck Tarn soon after.


Blackbeck Tarn.






Looking back to Green Crag, with Fleetwith Pike beyond.


Not long after I arrived at what is probably the most famous Tarn in the Lakedistrict - famous for being on Alfred Wainwrights favourite Fell- Innominate Tarn. It is also the area where His ashes were reputedly scattered as per his wishes. Despite being modest in height it is a fell of great character , you could easily spend a half day - in descent weather exploring the many crags here. In His pictorial guide to the Lakeland Fells Wainwright describes it perfectly " Haystacks stands unabashed and unashamed in the midst of a circle of much loftier fells , like a shaggy terrier in the company of foxhounds."



Innominate Tarn



Not long after I reached the summit but for some explicable reason, I only took photo's of the views and not the summit itself ! I did get some video though- you can see this at the end of this blogpost.









Buttermere & Crummock water.



Ahead lay High Crag, looking very moody and imposing with its head in the clouds, from this vantage point it also looked very steep! between myself and the summit lay the minor top of Seat - still steep though and I knuckled down for the climb. The summit of high crag is hidden from view on the ascent to Seat, giving a false sense of security- as when you think you've reached the top, you top out at seat and High crag is still a steep climb from here.


High Crag from Haystacks.




Haystacks, Fleetwith Pike beyond.



Robinson, Hindscarth, Dale Head & Fleetwith Pike.




Great Gable from Seat.






Soon I reached High Crag, ahead lay one of my favourite ridge walks in the lakes- High Crag to Great Borne. I've walked  this ridge a few times and the views are always spectacular ! On my last visit to this area - a 3day trip taking in Kirk Fell , Looking Stead ( I spent the night here ) before climbing Pillar then descending to Ennerdale Forest before climbing to Red Pike ( where I spent the 2nd night ). On the third day I walked this ridge in reverse, over Haystacks then back to Honnister pass. The last time I walked the full ridge was around 4 - 5yrs ago - I descended to camp at Floutern Tarn on that occasion... this time I wanted to camp on Great Borne.


High Crag summit cairn.




View to High Stile.
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
Little Dodd, Starling Dodd beyond.
 
 
 
Mellbreak.
 

Continuing on I passed over red pike before descending to Little Dodd then onto Starling Dodd. By now it was late afternoon and my thoughts turned to tonight's camp. A short descent to Red Gill provided excellent water for camp, with my usual 4 ltrs added to my pack I set off towards Great Borne to find a pitch for the night.
Once at the summit, I began looking for a pitch. The summit area is quite rocky but I located a couple of likely spots near the summit cairn, both were fairly exposed though, and with winds forecast to strengthen over night I knew the Trailstar would need secure anchoring. I checked the ground but getting good anchor points was difficult so I continued my search - shame as it had terrific views, and was fairly flat. Not long after I found a lovely spot which ticked all the boxes - flat soft grass, dry with fantastic views and good solid pegging ground . Soon my shelter for the night was pitched and I relaxed in the late afternoon sun with a brew. There was a decent sunset, and after taking a few pics I settled down for the night.










Mountain Laurel Designs Trailstar on Great Borne.







Pitch on Great Borne looking towards Grasmoor



Starling Dodd, Red pike & High Stile.






Floutern Tarn.



Sunset from Great Borne pitch.
 

The next day I was planning on ticking of a handful of Wainwrights' in the Loweswater Fells. So with a nice single malt for company I looked over the map to plan next days route. My evening meal was a summit to eat Beef stew with potatoes- first time trying these, and I must say it was one of the tastiest freeze dried meals I've tried so far ! will defiantly be buying more of these.

Tasty Camp Grub.
 


The rest of the evening was spent gazing out watching distant lights come on , then later I watched Meru - a film documentary following 3 elite climbers as they took on the Sharks fin on mount Meru in India, said to be one of the worlds most difficult peaks- well worth watching if you've not seen it already. Around 6am I was awoken by strong winds and sleet showers, I made myself a coffee then thoughts turned to the day ahead, for some reason I was very reluctant to move on - very little motivation, down to the weather I thought. I decided I would leave the Loweswater Fells for a better day, and return the way I'd come and see if I could find a sheltered spot around Seat or Haystacks before walking out the next day. Once packed away I headed back towards Red Pike... it was very hard going walking straight into 30 - 40mph winds, so I decided to descend to the valley and follow the path towards Black Sail Hut. Once at valley level it was a much more comfortable walk, I planned to ascend to seat via Scarth Gap Pass, but as I neared the turn off point I began to feel unwell. considering my options I descided to head back- this turned out to be a good decision, as shortly before I reached my van I began to shiver, which combined with a headache made me a little nauseous. By the time I reached the van I was shaking uncontrollably and with heater on full I tried to warm up , I was well layered and its the first time I have felt like this - I knew then I'd made the right decision to return home - to stay would have been foolish. Once home, the effects lasted around 48 hrs, I felt drained and ached all over, can only assume I caught some kind of bug as I'm fine now.

Thanks for taking the time to read , and above all else- stay safe out there.

Till next time,
Happy Wildcamping.
Daron



   










Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Coniston Fells 17th-19th february 2018

A few mths have passed since I was last in the lake district, and I fancied another trip there to tick off a few Wainrights - currently my tally stands at 144 but some of these I have climbed multiple times. I messaged Peter to say I would be back in the lakes and did he want to meet up. I initially planned to camp Friday and Saturday night and walk out Sunday, Peter said he was definitely up for a camp and walk Saturday and Sunday and depending on the weather he could take Friday off, but only if the forecast was good. We agreed on the Coniston fells, this would only be my 2nd visit to these,Peter knows them well and estimates he has visited them over 300 times! On my 1st time I went over Coniston Old Man  with zero views then followed the ridge before dropping to Wrynose pass then heading to the Langdales - returning back to Coniston on day 3.

We agreed to monitor the weather over the week , the final decision being made Thursday evening.
Thursday came and the Forecast was for very strong gale force winds, so we decided on a Saturday start . Peter would camp Saturday night and walk part way with me Sunday, before I headed off for a camp Sunday night.

I set off at around 5.30 am and arrived in Coniston at around 8.30 ( I would have been there earlier, but my in car usb charger decided to play up) - I use a tom tom app on my phone, and upon nearing Kendal it suddenly swithched off - it hadn't been charging ! In the confusion I missed my turn off point and continued on the M6 towards Penrith. Once I was able to leave the motorway I pulled into a layby and unpacked my rucksack to get my power bank. with charge restored I continued on my way.

There was a little confusion regarding the parking point, Peter had sent me a screen shot but I couldn't find him, after a brief phone call it turned out he was just around the corner and walked down to meet me.

First job before setting off was to re pack my rucksack, then we set off on a lovely valley walk towards the Walna scar road which we followed before branching off  North East towards Brown Pike . By now we were up in the clag and this was to be a repeat of my first visit. The forecast had predicted it would clear later so we continued on in the hope it would.

Buck Pike and Dow Crag we climbed before we descended towards Goats Hawse from where we ascended to Coniston Old Man - still in clag. After a brief chat with a few folk we met at the summit ,we continued on North towards Swirl How before dropping towards Great Carrs- visiting the Halifax crash sight, Peter told me that 1 of the Engines were recovered and displayed at the Ruskin Museum in Coniston and I made a mental note to visit it before returning home.



Halifax crash wreckage.



From here Peter took a compass bearing to get us to the col. below Grey Friars from where we descended a little north to try and locate water - made difficult today with all signs of the stream being covered in ice and snow. It was a matter of listening for running water before digging through the snow. Eventually we located good water and with around 4 kilos ( 4 ltrs ) added to already heavy full winter packs we continued up towards the summit.

Once the summit cairn was reached we began to look for a pitch for the night , Peter knew of a few good spots on the southern side, but these wouldn't provide any shelter from the S-SW winds so we headed north to the leeward side to try and locate a sheltered pitch . A few possibilities were found , I found a good level spot on hard firm snow , but with temps. predicted to rise during the night we continued on, as neither of us fancied waking up in a pool finding out our snow anchors had come out at the same time :-) .

After a bit of searching we found a good spot before dropping our packs and clearing a pitch for the Trailstars. A bank of firm snow behind enabled us to cut snow bricks to seal the edges and soon we were in our individual shelters relaxing with a brew.

There was some nice late light , and we were hopefull it would clear... but it didn't - it lasted less than a minute before the clag reappeared - just enough time to grab a few pics.


Camp on Grey Frair.





Mountain Laurel Designs Trailstars pitched on Grey Friar.



Late afternoon light on Grey Friar.



My hotel for the night on Grey Friar.




Peters trademark. A yellow Mountain Laurel Designs Trailstar.


We retired back to our individual shelters and I  got into my down bag , I love this aspect of wildcamping - lying there after the sun has gone down and watching day turn to night, knowing you are the only one (ones) on the mountain the day walkers having returned to the valley floor. You feel as if you've the whole mountain to yourself . I usually cook tea whilst enjoying a fine malt whisky, watching the first of the nights stars appearing- weather permitting of course! later the distant glow of lights in towns far below my lofty perch, people going about their lives, unaware  that I'm camped high above them.

I was awoken by the sound of rain on the flysheet later that night, the predicted raising of temperature during the night had turned turned the snow showers to rain. With a large bank of snow behind us I was praying that it wouldn't melt, luckily it didn't and I woke up the next morning without finding myself camped in the middle of a pool!

I couldn't hear any sign of Peter being awake so I was reluctant to fire up my msr windpro ii stove. It is a very quick stove , but it also sounds like a rocket. A few minutes later Peter shouted "morning " and I knew he was awake, so I lit the stove for a morning brew. The clag was still down and I was in no hurry to get up.

A second brew and breakfast were had before peter shouted to me that I might like to get up - a bit of colour was showing through.

I quickly put on my boots, grabbed my camera and got out. The mist cleared slightly giving tantalising views of the valley floor and surrounding fells, there was actually a weak inversion but the clag at our level never allowed it to fully form . A few pics were taken before we got ready to move on.


Weak inversion from Grey Friar pitch.


After packing up we headed back towards towards Great Carrs then Swirl How where Peter and I went our separate ways. Peter to descend via the Prison Band, then onto Wetherlam before heading back to Coniston. I continued to Coniston Old Man from where I intended to go back  over Dow Crag and Buck Pike in the hope of getting some views before dropping back to Walna Scar then heading over towards White Maiden, White Pike for a mooch around.

Reaching Coniston Old Man I could see that the higher fells had little chance of clearing so I dropped down to pay Goats Water a visit.


Clagged in on  Coniston Old Man.



Goats Water.



Even at this modest level clag shrouded the views and I continued on to the Walna Scar Road where I finally got to see more than 20 -30mtrs !


View from the Walna Scar Road.



From Here I headed west following our inward  route towards Brown Pike but this time heading South west towards White Maiden.





The walk out to White Maiden was an enjoyable one, which I've no doubt would give superb views on a good day and soon I reached the summit cairn. I located a  good pitch very near the summit shielded from the wind by rocks/ stone wall, making a mental note I continued  on to White Pike where I explored the area before deciding to return to White Maiden. As I neared the summit again it started to rain, so although a  little early ( around 3 pm  ) I decided to call it a day and make a pitch. I was fairly confident no one would come this way in such conditions, no one did and once again I had the hill to myself. A deep snow drift next to the wall provided water for camp, so armed with my snow shovel and a Asda 'bag for life' I collected enough snow to keep me going till morning.

I was awoken the next morning by light rain/mist landing on my face, the wind had turned 180 during the night. My modified Oookwarks door and superlight bivy had done an excellent job and if I were out for a further night I would have changed the door position. I was returning home today however, so I fully zipped up the bivy and went back to sleep for around an hour.

When I next awoke I was in no rush to move on so a few morning brews were had whilst I marvelled at how well a few very thin sheets of fabric had kept me warm, safe and dry during the night before my thoughts turned to returning home and back to the rat race. 3 days walking and sleeping wild had given me the chance to recharge the batteries so as to speak, its the only time I can truly relax.

The return journey was a case of retracing the inward route, as I went the fells began to clear, some lovely light showing through, the fells finally revealing themselves just as I was leaving. I will return however and who knows, maybe it will be third time lucky. Its what makes Backpacking mountainous areas addictive for me.... Forever chasing the perfect view. Once back in Coniston I made a point to visit the Ruskin museum to see the recovered engine from the Halifax crash. Thanks Peter for pointing me in its direction.

Thanks for reading, and I'll leave you with some pics I took on my route back to Coniston and a video of the trip.

Till next time, Happy wildcamping.

Daron


 



Light on Coniston Old Man.




Herdwick in the Coniston Fells.











Big Hill with the Coniston fells beyond.



Big hill.
 






Recovered Engine at the Ruskin Museum Coniston 




Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Obscured by clouds -2 day's in the Glyderau.

I received a message from Chris @Chrisw00dcock to ask if I was out for the weekend as he had a window for an overnighter on Saturday night. I already had a 2 day trip planned in the Glyderau , so after a few more messages we arranged to meet in Capel Curig. I pulled into the car park by joe browns at around 8 AM ( we had arranged to meet at around 8.30 ) The journey from my house takes around 2 hrs 20 mins but I like to allow 1/2 hr or so incase of traffic. Chris pulled in around 10 mins later and after an introduction we got our kit ready and set of along Nant y Benglog. We left this soon after to take the path leading to Creigiau r Gelli.

 Climbing upwards I could see the higher summits holding snow..It was raining at our level, I knew this would turn to snow as we gained height and we continued on.

The forecast had predicted  snow flurries before clearing in the afternoon. The next weather front was due to move in through the night, bringing winds to 50mph, heavy snow that would turn to rain as the temperature rose during the night. Passing over Cefn y Capel the rain turned to snow and the ground became firmer under foot, Bwlch Goleuni was crossed and then came the steep climb to Gally yr Ogof.

The path descends from here, passing a pool - which today was frozen over- a covering of snow hiding it from view requiring careful navigation to avoid walking through it.

Another steep ascent and we gained the summit of Y Foel Goch where we entered a world dominated by white snow , heavy mist and moderate snow fall - a whiteout, much different to conditions in the valley, this is a dangerous place for the ill prepared and Chris commented it was like something out of  'Scott of the Antarctic' and I agreed with him ! The next section leading down to Llyn Caseg fraith passes several pools surrounded by some very boggy ground, I made good use of view ranger to steer us safely through them- visibility down to less than 10 mtrs at some points.

We would  need water for a high camp in the Glyderau, so next point of call was to locate Llyn Caseg Fraith to collect water. This also Turned out to be froze over and hidden from view- I managed to locate the shore line on the far side, but also located a boggy area next to it! and as I turned my right leg went crashing in through some thin ice up to my thigh , I signalled to Chris to head for rocky ground further away, then made my way gingerly towards it. A few minute later and Chris suffered the same fate !

I had originally planned to camp near Castell y Gwynt on a spot I spied on my last trip- some flat grass amongst a rocky area which would provide shelter , or head to Glyder Fawr to a site I had camped at on the same trip.

Commencing the climb to Glyder Fach the full on winter conditions combined with wet clothing was taking its toll on Chris and I decided on plan b - a sheltered spot just under  200 ft from the summit which I had also previously used would provide a good pitch for the night.

Once there we prepared a site for the shelters, the Soulo was quickly pitched so I could get max in, then I helped Chris put up his Trailstar  before he got in and into his down bag for a brew and to warm up.

With Chris safely in his shelter I set to melting snow for Camp, I'd taken my winter stove/pot and sufficient gas - and was very glad I had  with all water sources being froze over.

After filling Chris's water bottle I could relax and get myself settled in my tent with a hot brew, the snow had stopped by now and the wind had dropped to a gentle breeze. I spent a relaxing few hours with the doors of the inner wide open, and also the outer tent door, warm in my down bag with a brew before I had my customary whisky to 'toast' my day in the mountains. The low cloud still obscured the view, but nonetheless it was still very enjoyable to just lie and appreciate 'just being' there.

As darkness fell the skies began to clear and the first stars appeared , lying there warm and content I gazed up through the outer door, totally mesmerised by a spectacle few people seldom see.

I hadn't been able to get any footage or pics during the day, my sony rx100, unlike the Fuji is not weather sealed and I didn't fancy getting it wet, so once dark enough I got out to take some night shots.


Camp on Glyder Fach
   


Stars over Glyder Fach.



Stars over Glyder Fach.


Later that evening the wind began to pick up and the snow returned signalling the next frontal system making its way in, reluctantly I closed the outer door and enjoyed the rest of the evening relaxing listening to sound of winds and snow on the flysheet, enjoying a meal and a few more whisky's before  I called it a night.

I awoke a couple of times in the night, the wind was changing direction  blowing spindrift in through the top vent so I closed it, then closed the inner tent before opening the mesh panel fully to try and vent it.

When I awoke the next morning the winds were very strong and it was still snowing heavily , I went to check on Chris who informed me he'd had the best nights sleep ever - around 14 hrs ! a little spindrift had made its way in covering his gear, but the Trailstar hadn't moved an inch. Chris was pleased with how it had handled the weather, no surprise to me - I've used one for the past 3-4 yrs and know it can cope. Chris located his cup and I went back to my shelter to melt more snow taking him a morning brew soon after.

The winds were very strong by now I'd say around 50 mph, but was unable to confirm this due to loosing my skywatch on a previous camp! The snow had now turned to sleet, causing the outside of my flysheet to be covered in a thin veneer of clear ice - 1st time ive experienced this phenomenon.

After breakfast I went over to Chris and told him to put his clothes into his bag to warm before packing everything away under cover. Returning to my tent I packed up before dropping the soulo, then went over to help Chris drop the Trailstar.

The return path was via the miners path towards Cwm Tryfan, but 1st I had to locate the start- fresh snow had covered the paths. Viewranger once again came in very handy, locating  the descent line that traverses around the top of some crags, before dropping steeply down into the Cwm, Chris especially enjoyed this part, partly due to the fact that he finally got some views.



Tryfan appears through the mist, on descent along the miners path.


The path leads down to the Valley floor where the path along Nant y Benglog, provides an easy return to Capel Curig.

This was Chris's 1st wildcamp in full on winter conditions, and he coped very well. He must have enjoyed it , as he's since informed me he will defiantly go back - hopefully to some views.

As I said at the beginning, I was unable to get any pics due to the conditions and the fact that the views were 'obscured by clouds', so here are some pics from a previous trip to show that the views, on a good day, really are spectacular. 


Pool, Glyder Fach and Tryfan.



Looking back to Y Foel Goch, from ascent to Glyder Fach.



Tryfan with Pen yr Ole Wen beyond.




Llyn  Caseg fraith and Tryfan.



View along the Y garn ridge from Glyder Fach.



Panorama looking West from Glyder Fach. 




Camp on Glyder Fach , the top of  Tryfan just visible.

Once back at the cars Chris produced a couple of gifts as a thank you for taking him on a trip- totally unexpected, but very welcome nonetheless.


Whisky for me and treats for max...


Till next time.
Happy WildCamping.
Daron :-)