Sunday 17 April 2016. Having walked on 9 out of the last 11 days I felt a need for a rest yesterday and, as I often do on a Saturday, I spent the time watching sport on TV. When I went to bed last night, I’d thought that I might do a coastal walk at Arnside today. However, when I got up it was such a beautiful day and I needed to make the most of it with a more challenging walk. Talk about going from one extreme to another; from sea level to 3,113ft above sea level.
Today’s walk was one that I’ve wanted to do for many reasons including ticking off a new Wainwright (Catstye Cam 2.919ft) and a chance to try out my newly acquired ice axe and crampons. So it was a drive across the Kirkstone Pass to Glenridding for a walk up Catstye Cam and Helvellyn (3,113ft). Other than the scramble up Swirral Edge it was a fairly gentle walk up to Red Tarn where the panorama of Striding Edge, Helvellyn and Swirral Edge opened up before me. I spent some time at Red Tarn taking pictures on what was an ideal day for photography. I’d already climbed over 1,800ft to Red Tarn and from here it was another 400ft or so to the summit of Catstye Cam. Other than taking a few photos, I hadn’t stopped on the way up and it was now time for lunch.
After spending some time on Catstye Cam I had to retrace my steps down to the foot of Swirral Edge before starting the scramble to the top of Helvellyn. The lower part of Swirral Edge required some 3-point contact rock climbing and isn’t for those who don’t have a head for height or a dislike of exposure. Not far from the top I encountered a steep 1in3 snow bank which I wouldn’t have wanted to climb without my ice axe and crampons. Although it was a little daunting it was quite exciting to have made it to the top. A few weeks ago a walker fell 600ft off Swirral Edge into Brown Cove. I’m not sure how he managed this as he must have been closer to the edge than me.
I was surprised how few people there were on the summit of Helvellyn which is often very busy. Walkers seemed to be outnumbered by mountain bikers who seemed to take great pleasure in pushing their bikes to the top for a thrilling ride back down. The route down was just as gentle as that on the way up with no nasty steps to negotiate and a nicely graded zig-zag path to follow. The walk took me 6½ hours to complete and was 9½ miles with a total ascent of 3,500ft.
Helvellyn – walk route
I reported on my last walk that I’d met a group of DofE lads, one of whom was is some distress with a damaged groin. He didn’t take the painkillers that I offered but did take my advice to call Mountain Rescue. A report is at this link.
Although I couldn’t have done much more, I feel rather guilty having left him in such pain. They were going in the opposite direction to me, otherwise I would have done more to help. On reflection, I should at least have offered to call out the Mountain Rescue as they might not have had a signal on their phones. They might have been able to walk off for themselves and only the lad with the torn groin knew whether he could make it or not.
I’m pleased to see that there was a good outcome and I’ll certainly give more thought to lending a hand should I ever find myself in such a situation again.
Thursday 14 April 2016. Linda was walking today with an artist acquaintance who lives near Coniston so it was back to solo walking for me today. After yesterday’s marathon it was something of a relief to do a less taxing walk. I parked near Troutbeck church on the Kirkstone Pass road and set off through Limefitt Park. This is now exclusively occupied by static holiday homes but I stayed there many years ago when it accommodated touring caravans/motorhomes. A steady and fairly gentle climb took me up to a high level path from which there were great views across to the Coniston Fells and much of Great Langdale.
Orrest Head is just three quarters of a mile from the town of Windermere and I expected it to be busy when I got there. I was surprised that there were only a handful of people up there including a couple of Japanese sightseers. It had been a slippery last few feet up to the summit and I took care on the way down. Despite my best endeavours, my feet slid from beneath me and I ended up on my backside in the mud. I’d taken a fall on yesterday’s walk muddying the knees on one pair of trousers and the clean pair that I was wearing today were now in need of a wash. I’d planned to do some laundry today and had a little more to do when I got back.
The rest of the route back to the car was uneventful as I passed through many fields full of ewes and their lambs. Walking through Far Orrest farm one little lamb stuck its head through the fence to suck on my finger. I suspect that it had been bottle fed and was used to human contact. The walk was just over 6 miles with a total ascent of 930ft.
Orrest Head – walk route
Wednesday 13 April 2016. I met Linda close to her Youth Hostel in Ambleside. Car parking nearby was a ridiculous £8 for the day but I knew of a layby on the south of the town where parking was free. This meant that we had to do an extra half mile or so of walking at the beginning and end of our walk but it was worth it to make such a sizeable saving.
Leaving Ambleside, we made our way up a minor road aptly named “The Struggle” due to its steep gradient. This set the tone for the rest of the morning as it was up, up, up until we reached the summit of Red Screes (2,545ft). It had taken us almost 3 hours to get to the top but this did include a coffee stop and a few other stops for photos and to get my breath. Had Linda been on her own, she would have probably done this section of the walk in a little over 2 hours. We had come up over 2,300ft since we left Ambleside and, almost inevitably, we were now in the clouds. We had a brief but chilly lunch break in the shelter at the top of Red Screes.
The next section of the walk took us 700ft down to the head of Scandale Pass. It was at this point that the rain started to effect my Tablet and it started to malfunction; proving that over-reliance on technology isn’t a good thing. I switched to my Smart Phone as a backup navigational aid although it wasn’t really needed as the route was easy to follow. We could have taken an easier path back down the Scandale Valley but no, we (Linda?) opted for the harder route following part of the Fairfield Horseshoe back to Ambleside. This meant another climb of 700ft up to the ridge which we were to follow for most of the way down. It was a rocky and often boggy path and took as long to negotiate as our ascent. We stopped briefly at High Sweden Bridge before pressing on into Ambleside. We had planned on tea and cake but as it was turned 5pm when we got back, all of the cafes had closed.
This was one of the longest and hardest walks that I’ve done for a long long time. We walked for 8 hours and covered 11¼ miles with a total ascent of 3,440ft.
Scandale Horseshoe – walk route
Tuesday 12 April 2016. Linda is up in the Lakes for a few days so we met up today for a walk. The weather forecast wasn’t great so we gave Helvellyn a miss and drove across to the Howgills to do a walk up the side of Cautley Spout and on to The Calf, the highest point of the Howgills at 2,217ft. The walk was 7½ miles but had a total ascent of just under 2,500ft.
Given the poor weather, ours was the only car at the starting point at the Cross Keys; a former pub but now a National Trust Temperance Inn. The cloud base was low but it hadn’t started raining, yet! The walk in to the foot of Cautley Spout was fairly gentle but then the climbing began in earnest. It was 650ft up the side of the waterfall and I, for one, was glad when we got to the top. From here we made a short detour to see an art installation by Andy Goldsworthy in the form of a restored sheep wash/fold. Back at the top of the Spout, the climbing hadn’t finished and we then had another steep climb of 500ft or so along the top of Cautley Crags. It was shame that we were now walking in the mist which was combined with rain as the views down into the valley some 1,500ft below would have been impressive, so we are lead to believe.
A contouring path, becoming ever more waterlogged as the intensity of the rain increased, took us to Calders where we had a brief lunch stop at the cairn. Soon after, on the way to The Calf, we bumped into 4 walkers coming down off the hill. They turned out to be 3 guests and their HF leaders from Thorns Hall in Sedbergh. The trig point at The Calf was something of a turning point as it was all downhill from here. Initially following a well-defined path but then across open fell side until we hit the path at Bowderdale Head. On the way down to the foot of The Spout the clouds cleared briefly to give us a view of the waterfall and crags that we’d climbed earlier in the day. We then retraced our path back to the car having had a good soaking for the last couple of hours.
Spirits were improved by a stop for coffee and cake in Sedbergh before the drive back to our meeting point in Staveley.
Cautley Spout – walk route