Smaller alternative to the big mountains but with all the charm.
S.M.A.S.H. Pay Tribute to Wainwright’s favourite mountain.
It’s not often I admit that one of the lasting memories of this particular outing was formed in the car on the way. The Lakes are home to some fine passes. Kirkstone, Hardknott. I wasn’t expecting such a scene as we turned into the Butteremere on the Honister Pass. Wedged between Dale Head and Fleetwith Pike we rolled down the steep ribbon of road to Gatesgarth. The enormous fells either side and the view in the valley is a mixture of claustrophobia shared with the immense space that opens out before you. I’d have been satisfied with that view alone.
I’d never been to this valley. I’ve climbed to Dale Head a few years back and only searched back through old photos to see if I’d shot any of Buttermere from there or maybe Hindsgarth. If I’d known just how stunning this valley was I’d have come here well before now.
Today my walking buddies are S.M.A.S.H’s founding father Abs of course, bringing a fine selection of shades under his Aussie hat. A welcome return of John last out on Latrigg in October bringing a suitable wide lens this time. Nicole, obviously impressed from the last walk up Wansfell and Baytones, up for another challenge bringing a dry boot. Then there’s a full Bowen squad. Lesley (my wife), with her pockets full of trepidation and the small people Jack and Emily bringing chaos, entertainment and mountains of energy.
So spring has sprung and the sun shone between massive white clouds. When it dipped behind them you were reminded that it’s still early and a slight chill lingers about you.
We leave Gatesgarth and it’s dairy cows and head straight down the BW to Peggys Bridge and stop to take in the beauty of this valley from the pasture so green and set against the painted blue sky evoking a real feeling of summer. Short sleeves, shades and packing light jackets in case winter decides to make a surprise return, it was good to be up and outside.
There’s an added silence to this valley that was apparent from the other walks. Warnscale beck was even respectful enough too by just keeping the noise down and not rushing to fast as to interupt the peace but just babling along gently.
From Buttermere fell we aim for Scarth Gap easily visable. Getting there though was not so easy. We negotiate the wet boulder garden where the path fades and you just tend to step up onto anything that looks like it won’t roll away. This is where the small people excel. Their low centre of gravity lends well to scampering over this type of terrain and before long they are out of sight. We don’t see them again until we reach the gap.
Most of us adults kind of flop down on the short grass mounds that make up the various view points at Scarth gap where as Emily seems to get charged from any summit. She’s not a valley person, her mood dips in the lowlands, but once she feels the breeze and the openness of a pinnicle she’s all full of energy and constant chat. She knows what it is to celebrate on a summit.
Lesley asked “where now”? It’s fair to say this is all new to Lesley and she’s still scoping out this fell walking malarky, constantly assessing her mood and how she feels about exerting herself on the fells for pleasure. I think we’ve all been at that place where you kind of wonder what there is that’s so enjoyable when the effort required to get to a peak does not outweigh the satisfaction from standing on one. She openly admits to not enjoy the climbing but understands it’s an unavoidable part of what we’re here for, so talks herself to accepting that she must push on but unfortunately upwards. I point over to Big Stack on Haystacks, not playing it down but setting the expectation. I say “it’s right up there, over that crag”. A wall of rock somehow to be walked over. She looks at it thinking ropes must be required at some point. We set off, the small people lead the way and again out of sight dashing towards the rock section onto Haystacks. This is where having the kids lead is somewhat encouraging to Lesley. She can see they are enjoying themselves and making it look easy too. She want’s to see them show her mum which way to go. The stand high up on the side of Haystacks shouting down to the rest of us. “Come on”. We smile, thinking, cheeky little so and so’s. It’s encouraging though and we put or hands on the rock and take more consideration to each step.
On the peak we gather together for the big arms photo.
Next we push on towards the manmade spoils of Dubs Quarry. A much contrasted landscape from the views so far. This quarry was closed in 1932 after it employed over 100 men producing 3000 tones a year in 1891. Just over 100 year later the mines were reopened by Mark Weir in 1997 who developed the quarries into a thriving tourist attraction, and at the same time producing small quantities of roofing slate. Mark Weir was killed in a helicopter crash at the mine on the evening of 8th March 2011.
With spirits lifted once more the end and Gatesgarth was in sight but not before we clambered down Fleetwith Edge. Again Emily was energised on the summit and took off with her brother down through the channels and narrow paths on the edge.
We all realised how tired our legs were, now trembling as we resisted the gravity of the drop. Fairly soon Jack and Emily were nowhere to be seen. Occasionally appearing where the ground leveled clear of any technical features. John and Nicole dropped back. There must have been over a quarter of a mile between Jack and John.
Then I saw Abs running down a section of single track. Wondering if this was a burst of energy he’d acquired, was he inspired by the small people? Or was this an example of involuntary running because it was just easier to run than hold back any longer by walking. Lesley and I found it was just easier to let the forces of gravity take over as we giggled all the way down to Gategarth.
Jack and Em had sniffed out the Ice Cream van. Needless to say they got what we deserved
Finally! A Walk with a View for the S.M.A.S.H Crew.
It was all change for S.M.A.S.H this weekend. We’ve changed our outings from Saturday to Sunday and today for the first time we head to the Far Eastern Fells. We also introduce Nichol, who fancied a look out too. We call met up at 08:00am at Doxford when just as we were about to leave, Paul AKA Heppers, AKA Cherry Cheeks pulls up completely unannounced, last seen out with us when we SMASHed Latrigg in October so a welcome return.
So our walking companions today are SMASH veteran, Abs, Paul, Nichol, Anth back in the fold, myself (Dean) and the small people Jack and Emily aged 9 and 7 respectively.
We arrived in the main car park in Ambleside at 10:15 after a long drive from Sunderland via the A66 turning south past Ullswater. The temperature now was a balmy 10° with very promising clear blue sky. The last time we were blessed with good weather was way back in October. Paul (Heppers) was with us then so he could turn out to be our sunshine mascot.
Everyone seemed to be making the most of the sunshine. Parents wrapping up the kids and taking them into the woods and some of them using a dog as an excuse to go fell walking. There was a sense that we should make the most of it because summer was still months away. Tripping over a few roots, slipping on steps and getting slightly wayward we backed up to find the exit through the penitentiary style gate.
All criminals were clear of the woods after 30mins, gaining height we could clearly see Wansfell Pike and the path leading the way. This is very popular walk from Ambleside and over the years the path had suffered terrible erosion. As responsible walkers we swapped our rugged hiking boots for some soft carpet slippers (not really). In the 1990’s the path was restored with massive stone blocks and now it takes on the look of a giant staircase. Today it was a frozen water feature, thick in solid ice which made the going a bit tricky. Abs dared me to try some grArse sliding but I thought it best to pass it up this time.
Already the view from part way up was spectacular. Ambleside and Loughrigg dominating the foreground with the Langdales and Coniston fells behind wearing snow caps it looked almost alpine in the clean cool air.
Such was the effort required on this steep path meant we had to peel off a layer or two. Hats and gloves were promptly stuffed packed away, with heads down we pushed up towards the summit.
Emily was setting a good pace, a little too enthusiastic though, we knew she’d burnout later. This walk was a change to a grade 6 for the extra height and distance over previous grade 4’s. The struggle to the summit was well worth it. For the first time we could see over the fell straight along Windemere, Blackpool and to the Irish sea. Anth and Abs agreed the view was breath taking. The prominence of Wansfell Pike is excellent and little wonder it’s such a popular walk. It was said that Wansfell Pike is to Ambleside what St. Paul’s is to London.
We sat down on the craggy top and searched out lunch from our packs while Jack and Emily continued smashing ice with stones and generally amusing themselves. It was easy to imagine being here on a summers day this would be a great spot to sit and read, maybe write a book or just ponder a little. But with only a slight breeze added a chill that invoked a far from relaxed mode. We jostled about taking photos of each other, ate lunch then set off along the ridge to Baystones.
The ridge from Wansfell Pike to Baystones follows a dry stone wall over crags and gingerly across icy bogs. Nichol took a booty call, she measured the depth of the bog and found it to be exactly knee deep and pretty cold too. Fully equipped though she took out a towel to dry off a soggy foot and pressed on.
From the ridge you can look towards the Kirkstone Pass and the struggle down to Ambleside. Baystones is higher than Wansfell Pike, technically it is the true summit of Wansfell, but due to the pike’s prominence and fine views most people consider the lower Pike to be the summit.
We head towards the wall at Baystones and then drop steeply on a fairly faint track. It was faint enough to completely miss, I used another wall to track us toward Nanny Lane
Nanny lane is a wide footpath that leads you to Troutbeck. In my opinion I would like to see it reclassified as a bridleway but then I know nothing of the reasons why it isn’t. I do know that it would be a lot of fun to ride a mountain bike down. Emily remarked her boots were giving her some grief so I carried Emily on my shoulders and we took off running while she giggled comparing the ride to that of her favourite horse Bramble. “Bumpy to say the least” she said! This trail is loose and very stony with jagged rock as Anth found out when he took a slide on the ice and cut his hand. Nothing too serious though, more of take home memorial of the terrain than a proper injury. I continued to survey the trail for a mountain bike line the whole way down.
In Troutbeck we tried to sniff out a Tea shop. I knew there was one here. We turned left along the road to quickly find the village end and the Mortal Man pub,is amusing pub sign that reads “O mortal man. That lives by bread. What is it maks thy nose so red thou silly fool. That lookst so pale. ‘Tis drinking Sally Birkett’s ale.” Realising the village was right at the road. We turned up at the post office housing the tea pots to find it closed in true English Sunday tradition . I guess this was one downsides of walking on Sunday, so we would have to stifle our thirst until Ambleside.
Emily spotted a Robin as we entered Robin Lane, I’m not kidding! But as we began climbing, the distance we had walked was now evident in our faces, this is the farthest we had walked. But the sun shone and we took in the continued panoramic view across Windemere.
What was on everyones mind now was, “how far had we walked and how far was it to Ambleside?” and further more,”what walk was next?” Given that we knew the diary held walks higher in altitude, there was a sense of trepidation about future exploits. Haystacks and Fleetwith Pike in Buttermere were next and a few testing big peaks like Green and Great Gable in June would be a bench mark for anyone looking to SMASH Scafell Pike in July.
We headed into Skelghyll Wood and took one last rest for a group shot before the comfort of a nice cosy tea shop in Ambleside. Earl Grey anyone?
|Walk Route Summary:– Ambleside, Stockghyll Force, Wansfell Pike, Baystones (Wansfell), The Hundreds, Nanny Lane, Troutbeck, Robin Lane, High Skelghyll Farm, Skelghyll Wood, Jenkin Crag, Ambleside.|
S.M.A.S.H. Get Pasted again on Keswick Classic
January heralds the first walk of 2012 for the S.M.A.S.H. team and this time we go back to Keswick to bag that little Wainwright overlooking the town. Walla Crag is another of those much loved walks that proves you don’t have to get to the dizzy heights of the big summits of Skiddaw or Blencathra and the Helvellyn’s to really appreciate the beauty that surrounds. I was here in the summer of 2011 when Jack and I picked up Walla Crag on the way to Bleaberry Fell and High Seat for our first wild camp. The scene this time would like very different in the bleakness of January.
S.M.A.S.H. were very pleased to welcome on board Umar. Abs’s younger and equally charming brother sporting the same dark locks and shiny beard it promised to be a good day if only for the company. So what weather would January 2012 serve up. Well one thing was certain, changeable and lots of water all around and the previous days rain would race down off the mountain gullies into Derwent Water.
The three of us eventually found each other in the darkness of the EDF car park desperate to get the journey started as early as possible. The rain was well set in and the outlook was a dreak looking kind of day however the forecast for Keswick was suggesting a mix of showers and sunshine but very high winds from the North West. We arrived at the Headlands Car park in Keswick around 09:20 and layered up for a walk that was one of two halves. Starting out along the shore of Derwent heading south to find Ashness Bridge and then climb North East towards Walla Crag.
We all figured we may as well put on the water proof trousers now rather than battle with them in the wind. The last two walks we attempted to put trousers on you’d think we were trying to fly them rather than wear them. We picked up the clear footpath from the Borrowdale Road which lead down toward the lake shore into the edge of Great Wood on a rooty single track that squeezed us against the road and then against the shore line.The rock being wet forced one or two pre steps before really set your foot down just in case of a slip and an early bath. I remarked I was already the number one suspect to take a fall as I didn’t even make my own stairs on Friday without braying my knee so hard it made me dance about on the landing for a while. I’ll start wearing my boots at home more often I think. The view across to Catbells was very murky, dull and grey you could breath the moisture in the air. Derwent Water looked choppy, a lone pleasure boat was out obviously pleasure can still be found if just to see the mountains from the lake in complete solitude. I can appreciate that.
Still, we made it back onto the Borrowdale Road again after hopping over the small stone wall at Barrow Bay and crossed over to join the lane climbing steady we began to warm up we took off our hats. White water falling from the Falcon Crag, (popular with climbers) and Brown Knotts one must always remark on the sound. We all agreed that it’s the best sound for anyone looking to de-stress and for me nothing captures natures sound better. In no time at all we arrived at picturesque Ashness Bridge. Turn back and you see one of finest views in Lakeland. One that has graced postcards and calenders for years.
Ashness Bridge is a quaint little pack horse bridge wide enough for just one car. It wouldn’t look out of place on the Shire as Umar rightly observed. Barrow Beck run underneath, over masses of smoothed stone creating dramatic falls and of course that wonderful sound. We stood and admired the view down to Derwent and to Skiddaw and took up suitable posing positions for the family album. Then Umar took up the lens duty and began snapping franticly as Abs and I did our best to ‘work the camera’ as Umar was clearly get a kick from directing us for best effect.
Now it was time to get a bit of altitude. A walk without it just would be right in the S.M.A.S.H. diary so we turned back to pick up the footpath and traverse the fells below Brown Knotts through the gate with the high tech rock on a chain closing device. Since we were not so far from the Bob Graham memorial it would only right we should come by a fell runner. They never fail to make you feel comparatively lame as we stood to take a breath, pretending we were just admiring the view as he jogged by in running shorts and waist bag. “He’ll catch his death.”
As we gained height the wind began to bite and gain strength. Now with nothing in it way, the crags we walked above were acting as a wind accelerator as the wind rams into the steep fell-side it has to go over the op and comes at you with huge force. Umar already looking like a ninja in his face buff tightened his hood and Abs battened down everything, refusing to look towards the wind incase his windows blew in. Umar started jumping up with his arms out hoping to be blown to some far flung destination. Then went chasing his headgear across the rough heather. The wind was immense. The view was ever changing, the clouds racing from the Newlands Valley across the lake in seconds. I lead us on towards Lady’s Rake shouldering the gale.
The falls near Cat Gill were a sign of how windy it was as the water was lifted up and back on itself spraying us as we made up to the last press up onto Walla Crag.
Walla Crag is not so much of a summit but view point made of a great baldy stone plateaux with plenty of room to run around. In the sunnier months this place would be filled with family’s on day trips from Keswick. Everyone and his frog would be up here. Today we had the place to ourselves.
I made straight for the outward view over Derwent across to Cat Bells and behind the snow capped summit of Grisedale Pike.
I then retreated as my cheeks were being hooked over my ears by the continued gusts. Umar and Abs holding onto their hats searched out a shelter round the back looking over Keswick. Calm at last and place to break out the Earl Grey and sarnies. A toast to those friends that couldn’t make it we S.M.A.S.H.ed Walla Crag and took in the view of toy town Keswick and Skiddaw wearing a grey hat. The clouds above were wrecked and chewed by the prevailing winds and broke up occasionally by clear blue sky. Then it would change again.
A pool of light gathered just behind Keswick and a lonely beam of sunshine made its way from Bassenthwaite across the feet of Skiddaw, so sharp and bright one could easily imagine some kind of UFO was searching for a landing place. I’d never seen anything like it. We took more photos of us messing about on the crag and then packed up for the descent to Keswick. We took in a few precarious steps towards the edge of the crag looking down in the wood below. A shear drop leaning into the wind. If Abs had control of the wind he would have switched it off to see of I went over.
We went through the wall and onto the grassy slopes toward Castle Rigg. The grass looked like it might be quite suitable for a round of GrArse sliding. Umar was up for it so I gave him a quick demonstration. A good first attempt from the new boy wonder with a rolley polley finish. It was good for a 6 each from Abs and I for comic value, but the stone wall faced Swedish judge was having none of it and marked him down for a poor line and distance. A couple more attempts were a mix of slides and trips. On one run I veered off the grass into the rocky trail and decided to call it a day in case I wouldn’t make it to the finals in the summer. Umar showed good technical ability. He’ll return again I’m sure with kevlar pants.Click here:
We sauntered down to the bridge over Brockle Beck knattering about growing up, bikes and games we played as kids inspired by our newest favourite game of sliding on your arse down a mountain side aiming for Keswick. We turned into Keswick onto the high street and market place. We made a visit to the Pitlochry for a quick feel for a Harris Tweed jacket that Abs and Umar have had their eye on for while and then we shortcut to the car now realising how clam it was compared to the pasting we took on Walla Crag. Again we paid our dues to the weather man, banking on some payback in the summer.
|Great views of Keswick and Derwent WaterWalk Route Summary:– Keswick, Friar’s Crag, Calfclose Bay, Barrow Bay, Ashness Bridge, Walla Crag, Rakefoot, Castlerigg, Brockle Beck, Spring Farm, Keswick.Vital Statistics for this Walk|
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.