October 29th 2011 – High Rigg

Low Clouds greet S.M.A.S.H. on High Rigg

For anyone who ventures into the great outdoors has to love the month of October. How can it be that this month can deal the 3rd hottest day of the year on our last walk onto Latrigg where it topped 28° then 28 days later blown over in 11° on High Rigg just a few miles away. October will be known forevermore as the box of chocolates month. Today the SMASH crew were down on their numbers as well as their luck for fine weather. The dreaded man flu was attacking the female variety too, Of course all who made it out last time were going to be missed on this outing, another lone peak squashed between the fell of Clough and the town of Keswick. As we approach Legburthwaite our starting location we are dwarfed by the range of the Dodds leading eventually to the Helvellyn massive, a mighty wall of scree and bare rock spotted with some very hardy looking sheep. We geared up for a not too wet day, the shelter of the car park low down is a poor indication of what lie ahead. The small people (Jack and Emily) joined Angela, Abs and Dean to ascend 357meters at High Rigg or given it’s alternative Birkett name Naddle Fell via Wren Crag. The climb starts steep within 5 minutes and already we feel a cold breeze on our backs. Emily starts out leading an obvious narrow path through the mature oaks and Scott’s Pine trees upwards to Wren Crag. Turning back we can see Thirlmere Lake and the A591 running through the valley. Thirlmere was once two lakes, Leathes Water and Wythburn Water before they were flooded and dammed to meet the increasing demand for water in Manchester. The path peaked and troughed and snaked along the ridge forcing a few ‘hands on the rock’ moments and the occasional bog jumping or stepping stone antics. You choose carefully or risk a booty. Abs and I broke out the wet trouser-ware. We knew they’d come in and glad we brought them. Jack traded the lead with Emily while Angela just stomped on with a tight hood and kindly lent Emily her woolly hat. That fine rain was actually just low cloud blown by a stiff wind to make it feel like rain. At least it was behind us. The extremities were beginning to feel the pinch of the wind chill, I wish I brought gloves. High Rigg soon loomed, displaying a boulder garden before it. A quick bound up to meet a stumpy cairn surrounded by puddles and an even spikier wind that made it almost painful to take in a full 360° view from the top. Angela wrapped tight couldn’t hear my gesture of “well done.” We made good time helped along by a south westerly that blew Abs off the summit to a quieter spot were he accidentally located the Geocache Jack and Emily we were searching for under a stone slab. SMASH took their name in the soggy log book.

“Don’t ask me why I enjoy walking.”

We set off for the return leg steeply down aiming for the youth centre. A sudden slip from Jack on wet grass spawned a new sport we proudly call Grarse Sliding. Amateurs now, but think of the future possibilities when one can steer their well trained buttocks to descend all Wainwrights. Is High Rigg No.210 the first of many? Almost certainly. We picked up the bridleway skirting around the base of High Rigg and happened upon the Tea Shop which was not unlike a house with Tea in. We helped ourselves to coffee and hot chocolate, dropped some change into the honesty box and left the lean-to conservatory to head back to the car for dry clothes and a warm, quiet journey home after an honest and spirited walk.

October 1st 2011 – Latrigg

S.M.A.S.H take Latrigg on the Warmest October Day on Record  

Latrigg Summit with Derwent Water , Catbells, Maiden Moor Backdrop. Angela; Paul; Katy; Annie; Anthony; Abs; Dean; John; Small people Emily; Jack and Lesley on Lens

After September’s drowning on Castle Crag anyone would be forgiven for thinking October was going to see more of the same. The SMASH crew prepped with wet weather gear set on sealing themselves from the slightest signs of moisture. The sun spat a solar flare at England on Tuesday just in time for SMASH to return to the Lake District. This time they aim for a little more altitude and distance. Keswick’s favourite and most accessible Wainwright Latrigg is one of the lowest fells in the district and has long been a popular people’s peak due to its beautiful views down the valley of Borrowdale from the summit. It’s the least mountainous of the Skiddaw fells and is almost devoid of rock. SMASH set off from the old railway station and in no time were on the trail headed skyward into the woods flanking Latrigg. It was fairly arduous along Spooney Green Lane which served up some nice views early on towards Bassenthwaite Lake. SMASH pressed on up, snapping camera shots of the massive Skiddaw range which was now beginning to glow from the morning sunshine and along with it the growing SMASH team which had some small people to show them the way. One walker commented as he passed “you’ve brought half of Keswick with you.” No just some reprobates from the dream factory and a couple of ankle bitters incase we get peckish. We swung around the back heading north via Mallen Dodd with the sense of summit. Latrigg has an unremarkable summit prompting a premature peak smashing celebration at the memorial bench. Just a little further east saw us all safely sprawled out in sheep pasture that is Latrigg at 368m, 1203ft overlooking Keswick.

Number 206 on Wainwright’s list he was moved to describe the view from Latrigg  “a panorama of crowded detail, all of it of great beauty: indeed this scene is one of the gems of the district…The far horizon is a jumbled upheaval of peaks, with many dear old friends standing up proudly.”  We all sat for a while soaking in the fine view and picking out the peaks while scoffing sarnies and throwing sheep droppings at the small people. We huddled for the group photo (see above) all looking quite chuffed we had bagged another peak in the name of just getting out with some good company in beautiful surroundings.

“They’re lost....it’s that way!”

We set off down the ridge toward Brundholme Wood which looked a lot like Mario land, there were all manner of different mushrooms everywhere. We followed the river and the old railway stopping occasionally to bunch up or cool down at the waters edge. The scene was one of a balmy autumn day, hard to believe it was October. By the time we arrived back in Keswick we had all walked over 6 miles. We needed a well earned cuppa and a slice of cake so we dumped our gear in the cars, changed clothes and headed into Keswick to search out the Temporary Measure with it’s disturbing blend of haberdashery, photographic canvases and stories, commissions, cards, accessories and a lovely cup of tea… SMASHing!

September 2011 – Castle Crag

Smiles Prevail in Driving Rain as S.M.A.S.H do Castle Crag

Annie(not of moons past) Cummings, Dean(long lens)Bowen, Anthony(wet whistle) Murray take two for the camera held by Abs(wet beard) Jabbar with a murky Castle Crag backdrop.

So is summer over?Of course not! Walking in rain has to be expected in the England’s Lake District. As the newly initiated members of S.M.A.S.H will tell you,’ there’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.’ And they should know because the first outing into the Borrowdale Fells in low clouds and ‘that fine rain that soaks ya through’ was bound to expose us as newbies to this walking mallarky. Undeterred by the moistness we geared for the worst and head straight along the bridleway through the woods towards Castle Crag which could clearly be seen but only just. Stream jumping quickly became a test of skill but in fairness, if one judged wrong and got wet then you were no wetter. Ant provided a much needed service to us all by trying to soak up all the water in the Lake District into his shoes and jeans while Annie stepped fairy like upon the stones to avoid the ‘rising damp effect’. Castle Crag’s summit was reached by crossing the wall by a stile and following a steep zig zag path through the slate workings to the summit.

Dean, Annie, Abs and Anth on a Wet lap around Castle Crag Summit

The summit is a relatively flat grassy area above the trees and the odd rocky outcrop; one has a metal war memorial attached to it. Castle Crag provides impressive views, though not on this day. Not to say that what we could see was still satisfying, to hold such a lofty position overlooking the jaws of Borrowdale, still breath taking. The only sound was that of gushing becks that fell fast down the sides of Honister pass. Windy on top, we experienced the ‘refrigeration affect’ so we quickly hoovered our lunch in preparation for the descent. Annie spotted something on the ground. We still don’t know what but must have been interesting. We ventured further past the caves and had a squire at the Bowderstone. A large 2000 tonne single fragment of stone. Then returned to the Grange for cream teas, dry off and warm our cockles. Reflecting over the day, talk turned towards the plans for the next S.M.A.S.H walk and who else would like to join us. It was a perfect end to a perfect ‘wet’ day.

November 26th 2011 – Pen-y-ghent

Only the Brave S.M.A.S.H. Pen-y-ghent

As winter tightens it’s grip on the outdoors, those looking to head to the hills must frequent the forecast websites before hand. On Friday night the outlook for the Lake District alerted to fog at 200m. It was enough to shelve the trip to Ambleside or quickly consider an alternative walk.  The weather looked more promising according to the Met Office the Yorkshire Dales were clear of fog and visibility was good. Good was good enough. The 3 peaks of Whernside, Inglebrough and Pen-y-ghent form part of the Pennine range and now this weekend in an effort to avoid the worst of weather we agreed to SMASH one; Pen-y-ghent. The 3 peaks have a collective height of 1,600 meters so little wonder that some people see it as a challenge so much so that it is a well recognized race, most aiming to complete all three in under 12 hours, though as Alfred Wainwright says in his book Wainwright in the Yorkshire Dales “Some people have chosen to regard the walk as a race, and this is to be greatly regretted, walking is a pleasure to be enjoyed in comfort”.

Abs, Dean and Anth snacking at the trig point on Pen-y-ghent summit

We set away from the small town of Horton-in-Ribblesdale and aimed for the obvious nose of Pen-y-ghent wearing a cloud cap which didn’t look too concerning. We had company today despite the grey and wind. It’s a popular walk. This peak takes it’s curious name from the cumbrian language. ‘Pen’ presumably meant hill or head, but ‘ghent’ is more obscure. It could be taken to be edge or border. The name “Pen-y-ghent” could therefore mean Hill on the border. Alternatively, it could be mean ‘wind’ or ‘winds’ – from the closest Welsh language translation as ‘gwynt’. Thus it might mean simply ‘Head of the Winds’. By the time Abs , Anth and I reached the wall signalling the beginning of a steep climb of massive stone steps to the summit there’s was no arguing over it’s translation. The winds were reaching speeds over 80mph, the wall gave us much needed protection as we  muscled our way toward thickening cloud. The waterproof trousers got another outing. After a tricky and precarious climb over wet stone we unexpectedly stepped onto a clear broad trail and gently walked to the trig on the summit. With absolutely no view we admired only our commitment to be out in such crazy weather. After a quick snack and hot drink we  wrapped up tight and faced the strengthening wind . The rain felt like needles on our faces or some type of masochistic spa treatment. Somewhere would be a tea shop,  beckoning us to come quickly. Wet through we began running down, the Pennine Way; but not racing. After 3.5 hours, wind battered and soaked, we knew we had faced worse than the weather we had set out to avoid. Though in true SMASH spirit it’s all part of the fun and nothing a hot pot of tea couldn’t fix.