Friday, 17 September 2010

Day 2 - Scafell Pike

Day 2 in the Lakes was a planned walk up Scafell Pike (we couldn't not do The Pike on our first Lakes Trip!) from Seathwaite. I'd read a route article in TRAIL that seemed ideal because it combined the walking with some good looking gully scrambling that went off the beaten track and away from the hordes. So we decided to follow this route as closely as time and conditions would allow.

Reservoir Trekkers
 We set off from Seathwaite Farm - well, some 800m down the road from Seathwaite farm due to the sheer number of vehicles parked) - at 10am, following a cooked brekky in Keswick. Conditions were good once more. Sunny intervals with some high cloud cover. It was all set to be a great day. First though, we had a laugh at the expense of my shorts, which were likened to Glen Hoddle's in his heyday.


The first mile to Stockley Bridge is easy and lets you get warmed up. At the bridge, I started to take the first of my 300 photos for the day (Chopper and Nicholls think I was a Japanese Tourist in a previous existence). We crossed the bridge and took the left hand path alongside the river up towards Grains Gill. The plan was to get up to Sprinkling Tarn, drop down to Styhead Tarn, then continue towards the pike.

We made good ground up the solid but well trodden path until we reached the junction at the foot of Great Ends North face - more fun would be had up there a little later. A quick consultation with the map (although it was very obvious with the looming spectacle of Great Gable to the West) and we were off on a welcome downhill section towards Styhead Tarn. So far, so good. It was a quiet route. Most walkers would no doubt be plodding up the path to the other side of Seathwaite Fell to pick up the Corridor Route. In actual fact, the route in the magazine went straight over Seathwaite Fell from Stockley Bridge, but as we were first timers to the area we decided to get some mileage in early on good paths.

Sprinkling Tarn

After joining the Corridor Route at Styhead Tarn (which was a busier route) we came to our first exciting detour of the day - Skew Gill! Despite our constant checking of the map to make sure we didnt miss it, the mouth of Skew Gill could not have been more obvious in the clear conditions.

Skew Gill Mouth

Off we went. It was steep, with some good grade 1 scrambling. Professor Bryson (of Bryology fame) now started to get excited as there were plenty of mosses and Lichens to get his juices flowing. Chopper and Nicholls disappeared up ahead whilst Dave and I photographed plants and generally ar*ed about at the rear. We heard a shout from above warning us of the rotting sheeps carcass in the stream in the centre of the gill! There was no option but to pass within a metre of it and it stank! The poor thing had probably slipped up above and fallen to his fate in this deep cleft.

Steep Skew Gill

Clambering out of Skew Gill

Soon we reached the top of the Gill and clambered up the fairly easy final section to a small grassy plateau halfway up 'The Band' - a rocky ridge to the North West of Great End. An ideal spot for a food stop. Whilst Nicholls was have a Ray Mears moment with his new pocket knife,

Nicholls' Bear Grylls Moment

...I suddenly felt the urge to use the amenities. (I blame all the lager we consumed in Keswick on the Firday night). All I knew was I had to go. Good job I was prepared with plastic trowel and loo roll. Although this was a very exposed ridge, it was totally deserted apart from us lot. So I scampered behind a waist high rock just a little downslope from the others and dug my latrine. Quick as you like, I was done and back with the guys where I commented on how I was glad this was a practically unused route! Cue four walkers appearing over the crest some 5 metres from where I was just stood,...err, crouched! Cue also, spontaneous laughter from the 4 of us when we realised how that could have been a slightly embarassing (for me), and probably even funnier, situation had I gone 60 secs later.

Now that we were fed (and some of us emptied) we pressed on. Next stop, Custs Gully. It took us a few minutes to locate it, but then it was obvious. A bloody great knife wound in Great End's north face.

Custs Gully (centre)

Professor Bryson

It looked inviting. We picked our way slowly up the steep slope to the entrance and dived straight in. The scrambling was great fun, and we were amazed at how damp it was in the gully, despite dry preceeding weather. In fact, it was saturated. Moss grew in abundance everywhere causing more ridiculous excitement from Professor Bryson.

Custs Gully Moss!!

As in Skew Gill, Nicholls led the way and found a tricky step up about threequarters of the way in. He managed to clamber up, but then Chopper (who is 4'6") got stuck. For five minutes Dave and I stood behind him, coaxing him, encouraging him, and taking the p*ss out of him, until his leg started to shake in Elvis Presley fashion! He finally got up followed by Dave then I, and even though I'm 2 foot taller than Chopper and much bendier (should that read supple :/) it was a tricky manouevre.

Me in Custs Gully
 We all finally made it to the top and were rewarded with great views in all directions. We exchanged the favour of summit shots with another group of walkers then set off across the summitt plateau towards Ill Crag, Broad Crag and Scafell Pike itself. this bit was a bit mundane, but easy enough on the lungs.

Great End Summit

Ill Crag
We finally got to the top of a crowded Scafell Pike at around 2pm.

The Summit of the Pike

Scafell Pike Summit
A few photos, a snack and we were off down to pick up the corridor route for the return journey. Earlier in the day at Sprinkling Tarn, we had toyed with the idea of taking a detour up to Great Gable at the end of the walk, but it was obvious now that we weren't really going to have time to do so.

Great Gable and Styhead Tarn

We pushed on down the Corridor Route and I was outvoted by three to one against going via Piers Gill on the descent. As we got lower down and looked back up Piers Gill, I could see that the other three were right as there looked to be a number of difficult climbing sections that we would have to negotiate on the way down.

Piers Gill

We eventually got back to the car at about 5pm - a 7 hour round trip - and I loved every single minute. Teh scrambling was superb, the views excellent and the sheer scale of the Scafell Pike Massif was so, so impressive! One of the best walks I've done.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Lakes Weekend - Day One

I'd never been to the Lakes before but I had high expectations for our weekend trip on 3rd to 5th september. It was actually much better than I had expected! Everything worked out just right. Keswick, our choice as a base (with its numerous watering holes), the weather, our choice of routes and the simply awesomely awesome scenery. Yes, I was rather impressed. I'll break the trip report into 3 days.

First up on Friday, following the delightful 5 hour drive from South Wales with Chopper and Nicholls, was a short afternoon walk up Blencathra (or Saddleback as it is also known). We met Dave (who had travelled from London in his trusty Toyota picnic!) at the campsite in Keswick and quickly put the tents up before the short drive to Scales on the A66 where the walk started. The weather was dry and sunny, but hazy, so this lent itself to a traverse of Sharp Edge, one of the famous knifeedge ridges in the Lakes. The initial path is quite steep and a bit bland until you gain altitude and Blencathra's summit pops into view.

The route was obvious in the clear conditions and a map was hardly needed. After dropping down to Scales Tarn, we paused for a few minutes then got straight on with the best bit of the day.

The exposure was nowhere near as bad as I expected and the ridge is fairly short, but it is fun and makes for good photo opportunies.



Dave and I
The rock was quite polished and you could see why it would be much trickier in wet or wintry conditions. But the four of us flew across without any problems. The best bit for me is the steep scramble up at the end.

We scrambled up and found a near deserted plateau and then stopped for a lunch break on the summit. The views were very hazy due to the conditions which was a shame. We decided upon Doddick Fell as adescent route and not Halls Fell Ridge. We regretted this later when we read the route options in Trail Magazine...they reckoned upon Halls Fell Ridge as being a great choice for a descent. Anyway, the walk was very enjoyable indeed and made for an excellent first route in the Lakes for all of us.
Sharp Edge
Day 2 and 3 to follow.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Machen Mountain 10k

A week ago I took part in the Machen Mountain 10k! What a hard race that was, compounded by the hot sunshine of a bank holiday afternoon! Nevertheless, at the end I really enjoyed it and vowed to take part in more trail races in future. I finished in 52:35. Have to add that it was a very well organised and marshalled event with a very picturesque (if painful) route. Even the downhill bits were killers on the old legs.