The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Friday, 9 March 2012

Gentle Gradients Are For Girls (Day 3)

Saturday 4 March

Distance: 10 miles (3300’ of ascent)

Weather: Snow, low cloud, high cloud, sunshine and hail

Sunday’s outing was a walk I’d planned for our trip in December, but the weather didn’t oblige on that occasion. The last forecast I’d seen (on Thursday afternoon) suggested that Sunday was going to be dry and increasingly fine, so whereas Friday and Saturday had been planned at the last minute, on Sunday we knew exactly where we were going.

What I didn’t expect, when Mick drew up a blind and peeped outside, was to hear an exclamation of ‘Oooh, snow!’.

The snow continued to fall as we set off for our first target of the day: Hartsop Dodd. There are a few possible routes up Hartsop Dodd from Sykeside. Perhaps you might guess, from the titles of this set of posts, that we opted to attack it head-on. My goodness, it was steep!


Even with a bit of slip-sliding around, the effort didn’t feel anywhere near as arduous as the previous two days, which was a good thing, considering the day ahead of us!


Whilst Mick informed the world of our location, I swore and stropped as I tried to free a stuck zip on my trouser pocket; it wouldn’t have been so bad if the pocket hadn’t been open when it jammed!

The walk up to Stony Cove Pike was unremarkable, particularly as we ascended up into the cloud, but from there to our next objective was more memorable for the snowy-scrambly descent down to Threshtwaite Mouth (which we hit just at peak time of day for big groups to emerge there from the north).


Our descent down to Threshthwaite Mouth. It doesn’t look that snowy on the photo, does it?

Thornthwaite Crag is topped by Thornthwaite Beacon, which aside from being a notable landmark, also serves as a good windbreak for a lunch break, provided that someone hasn’t beaten you to the conveniently placed rocks on the lee-side. Unfortunately for a good handful of other people, we had beaten them to it. We were smug; they all skulked off to find alternative windbreaks.



I have no recollection of taking this photo!

It seems that our next top was not on the popular route. In fact, footprints in the snow would suggest that only three other people had been that way earlier in the day, but for the length of detour involved we didn’t hesitate in popping over to Mardale Ill Bell.

High Street was a rather more popular top; not quite teeming with people, but a good handful within view both ahead and behind. I was particularly pleased to be there as I had included it on a planned trip which didn’t come to fruition a few years ago, so I felt I was overdue a visit.


Then we had but one top left: The Knott. It hailed on us on the way up there, before the hail gave way to snow showers, but it seems that we were right on the edge of the weather as to the east it looked like this:


Whereas to the west it looked like this:


From there it was down, down, down to Hayeswater, where the view was a bit different two 48 hours earlier:


Stopping for second lunch just by the dam of Hayeswater I was happy indeed to find that I wasn’t tired! In fact, if someone had told me that I had to go over another hill to finish the day off, then I wouldn’t have been horrified at the notion. Quite why I’d been so exhausted the previous (unarguably easier) day and yet felt fine after this outing, I have no idea. Certainly nothing that I can put my finger on.

It was then just a hop and a skip down the valley to Hartsop and another hop and a skip down past Brothers Water back to the comfort of Colin. By the time we got there the sun was blazing down and the snow was making a hasty retreat:

IMG_2048That’s Hartsop Dodd, our first hill of the morning, but now without the snow.

Here’s the route we took, as recorded on the Garmin Gadget:


And that was that. Our Gradual Gradients Are For Girls outing was over (and my very-aching body was going to be given the chance to recover – I really am very unfit just now!). The 10 Wainwrights we’d added to our tally means that we’re now a quarter of our way through the Wainwrights. Not that we’re counting, or bagging, or anything…

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Gradual Gradients Are For Girls (Day 2)

Saturday 3 March

Distance: 8.5 miles (2700’ of ascent)

Weather: Sunshine and showers, probably more dry than wet

A large school group was standing around in the rain as we sat in the comfort of Colin on Saturday morning trying to decide what to do with our day. We kept looking out to see what they were doing, and for over half an hour they just stood there. I think I’d have been pretty grumpy to have started my day by standing in the pouring rain for that long wearing a big backpack!

Half an hour after they set out, we followed in their footsteps, heading towards Caiston Beck. Having ruled out the hills that I want to do in good weather, we’d settled on High Pike and Low Pike as our objectives for the day. Brothers Water isn’t the most obvious start point to do those two hills, but with the last forecast we’d seen having suggested low cloud, many hours of rain and some strong winds, two hills of 656m and 508m looked like a sensible choice (and we’ll gloss over the fact that we climbed up to over 750m before descending to High Pike…).

Someone must have slipped some bricks into our bags and lead into our shoes, as by the time we were on the final approaches to Dove Crag (which wasn’t on our agenda; having been up there a couple of months ago we turned off just before the summit) we were both flagging. Finally dragging our weary legs over to the ridge wall, down we plonked ourselves for an early lunch in the hope that it would perk us up.

“Looks like the sun’s about to come out” said one of the chaps who had stopped a few feet away for a butty-break of their own.

“I’d just been saying that myself” I responded, as we all looked doubtfully at the thick cloud that had been enveloping us since early in our outing.

Not five minutes later, without prior warning, a hole appeared in the cloud and out came the sun! There was more rain, a few hail showers and the wind did continue, but for a chunk of the early afternoon the sky was a gorgeous blue. In fact, contrary to the forecast I would say that the day was as dry as it was wet.


High Pike on the left, Scandale Pass on the right – and finally the cloud is lifting so that we can see them

What of the ‘Gradual Gradients Are For Girls’ though? If you look at the map of our route, you’ll see that our ascent route was nice and gentle. For today we had saved the ridiculous gradient for our descent. Standing atop Low Pike we shunned the sensible (but longer) route, and instead looked down at the slightly-craggy slope below and decided that it looked doable. I’m sure that anyone watching us (and there was no short supply of people around) would have classed us as either clueless or stupid, but we’ve certainly made more severe descents and not only did we make our way successfully through the crags to our earmarked hole in the wall, but we also got across the beck dry-shod (something that hadn’t looked a certainty from up high).

As I mentioned, Brothers Water isn’t the obvious starting point for these two hills (Ambleside would probably the popular choice), so our descent from Low Pike didn’t end our day as we still had to get back over into the Patterdale valley. The Scandale Pass served our purpose to get us there and the woefully unwilling legs that carried me up there were nicely counter-balanced by the sheer joy of the turn in the weather.


Heading up to Scandale Pass – what a contrast to an hour or so earlier!

It wasn’t encouraging, being so weary after such a modest outing, and without a big pack, but otherwise it had been a good and enjoyable day.


Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Gentle Gradients Are For Girls (Day 1)

Friday 2 March

Distance: 6.5 miles (2100’ of ascent)

Weather: Nice and warm, with some glorious sunshine and stunning patches of blue sky at times.


Exhibiting our usual level of preparedness for a weekend in the Lakes, we arrived in Patterdale just before noon on Friday and then set about looking at some maps to decide where to spend the remaining hours of daylight. One day we’re going to do that preparation bit before we go, thus allowing ourselves more hours of daylight to do the walking!

With the first couple of choices rejected for being too far to walk in the hours available, we settled on a modest route over a couple of hills and off we wandered for our first objective of Brock Crags.

There are two obvious ways to get up Brock Crags from the direction from which we came: 1) follow the path as it traverses the hillside then switches back to maintain a reasonable gentle gradient; or 2) go straight up the side of the hill. We chose option 2.

The direct route up Little Hartsopp Dodd (where we went in December) looks ridiculously steep when you’re standing in front of it, but in reality isn’t too bad. In contrast, the side of Brock Crags doesn’t look too steep when you’re looking at it head-on, whereas in reality I came to think that maybe my lungs would burst and my thighs explode before we reached the top*.

Fortunately both lungs and legs held out (if you can call jelly-legs ‘holding out’), and to the top we got where we were amply rewarded for our effort by some lovely lumpy views:


It looked like we’d made the right choice of where to walk, as on the other side of the valley the tops were in cloud.


Not the best ever snap to demonstrate a point,  but the best I’ve got

Rest Dodd was our next objective, and having popped over Satura Crag we had two options: 1) we could follow the gentle path that curved around to the left and approached Rest Dodd from the side; or 2) we could yomp straight on up. Guess which we did? At least this time the lung-and-thigh-abuse was broken by a pause for a cup of tea. A snack might have been nice too, if either of us had thought to pick up any snackables before we set out…

Reading Wainwright’s opinion of Rest Dodd later in the evening it seems that he didn’t rate it as a hill of much merit. My standards must be much lower, as I was quite taken by the view of the surroundings, which we admired for a while before heading down towards Hayeswater.


I took another photo from this vantage point on Sunday. It looked rather different then!

We hit the descent route at a busy time – four other people were met on our way back down to Hartsopp; the only people we met all afternoon.

A good walk, but not a great confidence booster for my level of fitness!

Monday, 5 March 2012


A while ago I stated our plans for April this year, which mainly features the length of Wales to finish our ‘lengths and breadths’ series of walks. We’re going to have a tiny bit of a break after we get to the north coast of Wales, then it’s off to Scotland for our third TGO Challenge.

Mick was more involved than normal in the route-planning this year, and a few possibilities were roughly sketched out from various starting points. Having weighed up the options the final decision was based largely on wanting to pass through the Monadhliath again before it gets covered in wind farms and the accompanying motorway-esque tracks. So, we’re setting out from Shiel Bridge this year and our route looks roughly like this:



If I’d made that line red it would have showed up a lot better, wouldn’t it?

We’re taking something of a non-standard route to get from home up to Shiel Bridge. Considering that we live in the Midlands, the obvious way to get to Scotland would be to head north. However, when we saw that we could get Sleeper tickets up to Inverness for £19 each, and tickets from home to London for £6 each, we decided that the ridiculousness of a via-London route was far outweighed by the comfort and value of the Sleeper.

We’ve not done too badly coming back either at under £35 door-to-door. The bad news is that we will be missing the post-Challenge dinner this year, as we need to travel home on the Thursday morning. More about that, though, when I publish our plans for June…


I think the less said about February the better! I’ve already walked further in March than I did in the whole of February.

This is the sorry-looking comparison to previous years:


Not quite as bad as 2006, but something of a contrast to last year.

My excuses? Well, I worked full time hours and was poorly on two weekends and decidedly under-the-weather on a third – and there’s not many more weekends than that in February!

The other notable thing that happened in February is that this blog hit its fifth anniversary, during which time I’ve wittered on for tens of thousands of words across 1007 posts. I might have mentioned that fact on the appropriate day, except I got my dates mixed up and missed the anniversary itself. I know that it’s been awfully quiet on here lately (1 post in the whole of February!), but this year’s post tally will start picking up in a month’s time, for it is now just a month and a day until we head out onto the Pennine Way Smile