Sunday, 3 September 2017

Striding Edge

I organised this club walk and chose an old favourite and a Lakeland classic – Striding Edge is probably the most famous English ridge and scramble, offering a challenge for the novice and straightforward enjoyment for the experienced.

Place Fell from Little Cove

The steep path through Little Cove from Glenridding to Birkhouse Moor got a big chunk of the day’s ascent out of the way early on and after a refreshment stop we followed the path up to the Birkhouse Moor ridge.  I turned left to claim the north top and then followed the group over the highpoint and then over the south top and extreme south top.  Both of those were quite insignificant and I suspect their true summits lay on the south-east side of the wall, but I’m claiming them anyway.

Helvellyn from Birkhouse Moor North Top

Striding Edge from Birkhouse Moor

Helvellyn above Red Tarn


From the Hole-in-the-Wall I followed the ridge directly over Bleaberry Crag and met up with the group at the point where the main path joined the ridge, just below High Spying How.  I tackled the easy scramble to this Nuttall summit and wondered whether my previous logging of this top was valid – anyway, it’s definitely ticked now.

Striding Edge

the Dixon memorial

Striding Edge

We all started along Striding Edge ridge and stuck as closely to the ridge as we could, taking in the ups and downs until we reached the “Bad Step”.  A couple of the more experienced of us I guided a couple of the novices from hold to hold and we congratulated ourselves at the bottom as that marked the end of the difficulties.

looking back along Striding Edge

back to Striding Edge

looking back along all of the Edge

the Gough memorial

The easy scramble and walk to the summit plateau was a pleasant end to the day’s ascent and we gathered at the cross-shaped shelter for a rest before taking summit photos.  We carried on past the trig pillar to the top of Swirral Edge and as we descended it the cloud came in and a few spots of rain teased us with a threat of a bigger downpour.  We strolled alongside Red Tarn Beck and it was just as we neared the Glenridding mine that the rain fully graced us with its presence.

Helvellyn trig point

looking up Swirral Edge

Although the walk ended in the wet, we took solace in the White Lion in Patterdale where we took advantage of the hearty menu – the fish and chips or Cumberland sausage Yorkshire puddings are recommended, as is the Thwaites Wainwright ale.

Arenig Fawr

The start of the day was better than the start of the walk!  We convened at the Rhug Estate for early morning coffee before driving to the quarry car park to the north of Arenig Fawr.  Boots on and eight of us set off into the rain, along the road and then up the track towards Llyn Arenig Fawr.

We stopped at the bothy and got chatting to a chap who had cycled in and stayed for a couple of nights.  It’s not the most welcoming of places and any plans that I had to perhaps stay there at some point in the future quickly dissipated.  An early lunch set us up for the ascent of the Y Castell ridge.

The group took aim for the summit of Arenig Fawr but I stayed right and headed for Moel Llechwedd reaching the cairn and then after following a faint ruined fence to the true highpoint.  The summit of Arenig Fawr was not far away with good ground underfoot leading me to the rest of the group.  The unrelenting mist denied us the views.

Just to prove I was there!

The south top was marked by a small cairn and again I left the group to tick the south ridge top.  Once again, I caught up with the group at the col below Moel Llyfnant which was below the mist and we started to enjoy the views.

Before we started the walk, an “unavoidable bog” had been mentioned and a more apt description can’t be conveyed.  The area of Amnodd-wen was certainly a test of how waterproof footwear was and I don’t think my boots have ever been as wet!

We returned to the café at Rhug where my hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows was somewhat disparagingly described as an “energy drink”!

Friday, 25 August 2017


Since completing the Wainwrights and with my focus turning to the Nuttalls, a visit to Bowfell was needed to tick the mountain’s North Top.  Although that was the day’s target, I had also wanted to walk along the Climber’s Traverse and have a close look at the Great Slab.

The Old Dungeon Ghyll was the meeting point and six of us set off in the rain, taking aim for the cloudbase which we met long before we reached the summit.  The path leading to the traverse was indistinct at first and not obvious as it split from the main route, not far beyond the minor summit of White Stones.  As we ascended the way forward became more obvious and much narrower, occasionally having to use our hands to negotiate a number of small rock steps.  The low cloud had persisted with the cliffs rearing above us to the left and the drops to our right being masked by the gloom.

At the bottom of the Great Slab we sheltered for lunch and then walked up alongside it before taking a direct line to Bowfell’s summit.  I would have liked to walk over to its edge but the low visibility wasn’t encouraging an exploration of the edge of this impressive rock feature; perhaps I’ll just have to come back again.

The group followed the path towards Ore Gap but I kept on the higher ground over the Centre Top – which is at the top of Bowfell Buttress – and carried on to the North Top.  In clearer conditions this elevated stroll would make a quieter and more worthwhile alternative to the main path.

At Ore Gap the cloud had lifted and looking back we could see the summit of Bowfell.  Ahead of us, the Gables breached the edge of Esk Pike and the view to the north was clear to Skiddaw and Blencathra.  We decided to head for Esk Pike and upon reaching the summit the Scafell massif dominated the landscape to the east.  Identifying numerous summits without referring to the map gave us a challenge and when we satisfied our curiosity, we walked off towards Esk Hause.

Great End and the Gables

Great Gable and Green Gable

The end of the walk was straightforward, walking over Tongue Head to the outflow of Angle Tarn before testing our knees on the descent of Rossett Gill.  Thankfully, the good path along Mickleden took us directly to some welcome beer at the ODG!

towards the Langdale Pikes

the Great Slab from below

Sunday, 26 February 2017

West Highland Way

I must be getting old.  I had plans to walk up Schiehallion but I didn’t feel my legs were up to it after yesterday’s big day out on Ben Lomond.  As well as the lie-in I’d had to recover.  And I wasn’t the only one !

We chose a much easier option and decided to walk up the West Highland Way to Tyndrum.  After scrounging a lift to Crianlarich train station, we set off up the well-marked path into the forest.

I’ve never fancied myself as a long-distance walker – summits have more easily held my appeal – but, if I had to choose one to do I’ve always thought that the Milngavie to Fort William option would be a good introduction.  There are options including wild-camping or using one of the baggage transfer companies which allows walkers to travel with minimum weight.  I think I’d go for that, not to be encumbered by a large sack and taking away the end-of-day hunt for a suitable pitch.  Although it wouldn’t allow you any flexibility about lengthening or shortening the day should the mood take you.

We followed a good graded path and had occasional glimpses through the trees of some of the higher ground, notably Beinn Odhar, before dropping down to cross the A82.  This stretch was much flatter and we were soon nearing Tyndrum and The Real Food Cafe, where we had arranged to meet our lift back to the hut.

Beinn Odhar

I enjoyed the walk more than I thought and maybe, at some point in the future, I’ll try the West Highland Way, but I’ve still got a few hills to do first !

Ben Lomond

I didn’t really care what anybody else’s plans were, I was heading for Ben Lomond.  Others in the club mooted the idea of a direct ascent of Ben More from Crianlarich but it was obvious that the route would be relentless.  The promise of more varied terrain on the Ptarmigan ridge proved more alluring.

Although Rowardennan was an hour and a half’s drive from the hut, that didn’t seem that long compared to yesterday’s six hour journey from home.  Five of us headed for the ridge after starting on the West Highland Way and followed a good pitched path to the snowline, avoiding the iced up steps although microspikes made progress somewhat easier for one of us.  As we ascended, the view over to the Arrochar Alps opened out and we made our way up to the Ptarmigan ridge.  Our meanderings along the ridge took us in and out of the wind and we found a suitable spot for lunch, cold but sheltered.

Beinns Arthur, Narnain & Ime

We had been able to see Ben Lomond’s summit ridge and saw walkers in the distance, some descending the north-west ridge.  It looked as if some turned back as we didn’t see them progress to the base of the ridge but we did come across one crampon-shod couple who said that the ridge was not too bad.  A young couple caught us up and overtook, not surprising as they were inadequately equipped – summer boots and a water bottle for the young woman who looked like she was on the way to the gym; jeans and Timberlands for the young man.  No sign of axes or crampons in the single small rucksack being carried !  The minus 5oC temperatures and 30mph plus winds demanded more suitable clothing !

Ben Lomond summit from the Ptarmigan ridge

At the base of the summit ridge we put on our crampons and made our way up.  The spikes made a difference and I was happy to acknowledge that we had made the right decision at the right time.  A couple of us used ice axes but I felt comfortable using my poles – at only one point would I have preferred an axe but the position wasn’t desperate.  And my goggles proved invaluable in the wind.

As we moved up, a group of eight young Poles followed us.  They were as ill-equipped as the previous couple – no winter boots, crampons or ice axes and although they had reasonable jackets their legwear couldn’t have given them much protection from the wind.  After five hours of walking we took our summit photos at the trig point and the Polish group waited for us to start making our way off in the mist; I’m pretty sure that their main method of navigation was to follow footsteps !

We followed the voie normale down to below the cloudbase and after a while dispensed with the crampons.  It’s a pretty uninspiring path and it made me glad that I’d chosen the Ptarmigan ridge as the way up.  Towards the bottom it was muddy and its condition betrayed the huge number of feet that must use it, both up and down.  It’s probably one of the most used ways up any Munro.

Beinn Narnain

And as daylight waned at the end of the walk, the hills took on the fiery tones cast by the sunset with the alpenglow giving the upper reaches of Ben Lomond a spectacular colour.

The Ptarmigan ridge and Ben Lomond

Friday, 17 February 2017

2017 Targets

Lists to tick

My target ticklist is a combination of unclimbed Nuttalls, TRAIL 100s, WASHIS, Simpsons, Bridges and Buxton & Lewis summits.  At the start of 2017 there are 334 individual summits on my ticklist and my goal of completing them in 2023 leaves 7 years to reach the target.

Still to be ticked at the start of this year are 206 of the 446 Nuttalls and 38 of the TRAIL 100 summits.

This coming year

In simple numbers, 14% of my remaining summits based on my remaining 7-year target is an achievable target for 2016, as long as I have some significant multi-summit days out.

Which means I’m aiming for 48 summits, amongst which should be 30 Nuttalls and 6 TRAIL 100s.

Amongst my specific targets (again !) are the 6 Cheviot Nuttalls and Pillar Rock.  I’m also aiming for Snaefell on the Isle of Man but that will depend on ferry times and fares.

Let’s see what happens this year…

A 2016 Summary

At the start of 2016 I had 349 summits on my combined ticklist of TRAIL 100 summits, Nuttalls, WASHIS, Simpsons, Bridges and Buxton & Lewis summits.  2016 was the third year of my 10-year completion target and I had aimed to tick 44 summits on my combined list which would include 27 Nuttalls and 5 TRAIL 100s.

For the third successive year in a row I fell short, and by quite an amount !

Overall I :
            went on             11                                 walks
            walked              77.2                              miles
            ascended          26,309                          feet
            walked for         59 hrs 2 mins               (including rest stops !)
            reached            15                                 individual summits that I hadn’t been to before
            reached            10                                 individual summits that I had been to before
            reached            15                                 summits on my combined ticklist
            reached            2                                  previously unclimbed TRAIL 100 summits
            reached            15                                 previously unclimbed Nuttall summits
            drove                2080                             miles on trips to and from walks

2016 was a year that saw a few changes to the list of Nuttalls.  Calf Top was added following the Ordnance Survey adopting a new geoid model; Craig Gwaun Taf was added after a resurvey but I had previously bagged it as it is also a Bridge and Buxton & Lewis summit; Bram Rigg Top was demoted following a resurvey but I had bagged it not long before its demotion; both Long Fell and Tinside Rigg were added after resurveys, both of which were already on my ticklist because of their Buxton & Lewis status.

Another bonus tick was Glaramara North Top which I worked out that I had bagged following some close study of maps, summit descriptions and my walking log – ticks don’t get a lot easier than that !

So after my walks, promotions, a demotion and some careful research, my ongoing ticklist stands at 334 summits.  That’s a fair amount of walking still left to do !

Of the specific summits that I stated were 2016 I only managed Garbh Bheinn in Ardgour and all bar one of the Howgill Nuttalls.  Yet again, I didn’t get to the 6 Cheviot Nuttalls or Pillar Rock.

2016 was a poor year from a numerical point of view but I still had a couple of good days out.  A winter ascent of Garbh Bheinn was the highlight and a return to the Coniston fells made for a good spring outing.

Hopefully 2017 will prove a little more fruitful.