Tuesday, 25 June 2013

A Bagger’s Paradise

With only one Wainwright and one Outlying Fell left to tick, this trip to the Lake District was to mop up some of my remaining Nuttalls, Fellrangers and FRCC 244 summits.  The broad ridge from Bessyboot to Allen Crags contains a multitude of tops to be ticked.

Bessyboot was the day’s first summit and more obvious on the ground than it is on the map.  It is regarded by Wainwright as the summit of Rosthwaite Fell but a higher summit beyond Tarn at Leaves, Rosthwaite Cam, is another obvious summit.  This rocky prominence can provide some easy scrambling if you choose an appropriate route and offers a good view of the ground ahead which is largely untracked and as Wainwright remarked, “a path would improve matters”, adding “this is dangerous country in mist”.

Rosthwaite Cam

The next summit – actually twin summits – is Dovenest Top and is regarded as the summit of Rosthwaite Fell by the FRCC.  Both summits are of very similar height and I stood on the top of both to ensure the tick.  The next summits to be traversed are considered tops of Glaramara with the way ahead looking a lot steeper than it actually is.

Dovenest Top, Combe Door, Combe Head

Combe Door’s summit is obvious but the next top of Combe Head has two possible highpoints, both of which I reached.  They overlook the Combe Gill valley which contains Raven Crag with its classic route of “Corvus”.  Although the views were hazy, some fells were easily identified; Fleetwith Pike, Pike o’Stickle and Great Gable were obvious.

Fleetwith Pike

Pike o'Stickle

the Gables

The top of Glaramara has 3 obvious summits which was a surprise to me as I was only expecting two !  Not far beyond the 20-foot rock step is the Wainwright summit.  A little further away is the Nuttall summit which is higher and slightly beyond that is another top which looks almost as high – I ticked all three !

As Glaramara is almost the highpoint of the ridge, the route ahead looked quite obvious.  Looking Steads, a nuttall, was reached quickly with its boulder summit.  A significant dip in the ridge led to the next Nuttall – Red Beck Top which had four points with not much discernible difference in height between them.  I went to all four and thought about the Wainwright baggers who walk on the path between two of the outcrops, missing the Nuttall summit, and then at some point in the future realising that they had missed an easy tick and arranging to go back to collect it.  Well today, I am that bagger !

Wainwright's "perfect mountain tarn"

Just before High House Tarn Top is the “perfect mountain tarn”, at least in the eyes of Wainwright.  I stopped to take photos and ticked my last previously unvisited summit of the day.


I carried on with good views of Bowfell, Esk Pike and Great End to complete the ridge on Allen Crags before descending to Esk Hause and turning towards Angle Tarn with the pitched path proving unforgiving on the knees.  A few raindrops started to fall so I packed my electronic gadgets away and made my waterproof easily available before walking the length of Langstrath back to the car.  Although the valley is one of the most picturesque in the district, it wasn’t natural beauty that spurred on my weary legs to finish; it was the consumption of my emergency packet of jelly babies !

Monday, 17 June 2013

TRAIL criticism

Part 1

In an earlier blog I alluded to TRAIL magazine not paying enough attention to detail when publishing a list of Britain’s 1000 metre mountains.  I’m not the only one to criticise TRAIL but if you look at some internet forums, the criticism can be a little more vehement.

TRAIL’s “laddish” prose, repeated routes and articles (the High Stile ridge appears regularly) and sloppy factual mistakes all attract disgruntlement and negative reviews.  The publication of incorrect bearings from the summit of Ben Nevis a number of years ago was a significant mistake that has not been – and probably never will be – forgotten by the critics.

Despite its weaknesses, I have to admit to really liking TRAIL magazine and have bought every issue since its launch.  I enjoy reading about the unusual challenges – wild camping on Pillar summit has been added to my “to do” list – and its variety of routes over the years is impressive.

If only TRAIL had a decent proofreader !

Part 2

I had originally written part 1 as a standalone BLOG entry, but I’ve just bought the July 2013 issue of TRAIL and I’ve spotted a significant error  Here we go…

Part 3

In the June 2013 issue TRAIL published the first of a 6-part “Master Navigation” cut-out-and-keep series of articles which are being sponsored by the Ordnance Survey.  July’s part 2 has a page called “Understanding your OS map” which has a 1:50000 Landranger extract of the Scafell Pike area.  It’s a varied landscape and has a number of features labelled and explained.

One entry is –

            Broken lines made up of short pink or green dashes are public footpaths, which the public
            have a legally protected right to travel on by foot.

Well, not quite.  Pink or green dashes indicate rights-of way (which have the legal protection) but do not always correspond to paths on the ground.  But I regard this as minor error.

There is a much bigger error with this entry –

            Broken black lines represent boundary markers – such as national, county and civil parish –
            and shouldn’t be confused with footpaths.

Exactly right – but the feature on the map extract is a footpath that traverses the Glaramara ridge !  The nearest such boundary line is a couple of kilometres away at Esk Hause.

It is admirable that TRAIL has taken the effort to educate newcomers to navigation but to make mistakes on the topic is careless which could lead to confusion and possibly danger for those learning the art of map-reading.

It’s also a bit disappointing that the Ordnance Survey has lent its name to this series as it is an organisation that produces excellent maps and should be held in the highest regard.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Wainwrights and other lists

I’ve been bagging Wainwrights for almost 30 years and for most of that time I’ve been aware of the existence of “book 8” – the Outlying Fells.  Most Wainwright baggers are satisfied to complete all of the 214 fells listed in the classic seven books, but I’ve always felt that by including the Outlying Fells, the round is “more” complete.

So for the last few years I’ve been working my way through book 8 and am now at a point where I only have one “regular” Wainwright and one Outlying Fell to tick.  I’ll be completing both lists on the same day later in the year; the Outlying Fells in the morning and the Wainwrights in the afternoon.

There are also a couple of lesser known lists that have a lot of summits in common with the Wainwrights.

The FRCC 244 are the fells contained in the Fell & Rock Climbing Club’s “The Lakeland Fells”, published in 1996.  It’s not a surprise that there are 244 of them !

Another list is the “Fellrangers”.  I’ve attributed this name to the fells listed in Mark Richards’ 8 volumes of Lakeland Fellranger guidebooks published by Cicerone.  There are 227 of these, 228 if The Nab is included as a separate fell.

Because of the overlap across the lists, anybody who is close to the end of their Wainwright round will be close to the end of the FRCC 244 and the Fellrangers – particularly if the Outlying Fells have been getting ticked along the way.  My final Wainwright is also a FRCC 244 and a Fellranger, so, with a bit of judicious planning I can complete three lists on one fell.  Which is exactly what I will do.

There are a couple of non-Wainwright summits that I need to tick this summer to enable this and I’m looking forward to walking over some new terrain and some areas I haven’t been to in a long time.

Focussed bagging doesn’t really allow for time to revisit old favourites !  I’m looking forward to completing so that I can try some new routes on some old favourites like the Scafell, Great Gable and the Dodds.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

TRAIL 1000 metre peaks

The June 2013 issue of TRAIL magazine sees the publication of a new tick list;


It’s a challenging list, containing the very highest summits of the British Isles.  What TRAIL hasn’t done is publish a specific definition of the criteria for inclusion.  So I did a bit of digging.

Using the Database of British and Irish Hills for reference, I compared the TRAIL list to the 1000 metre summits on DoBIH.  The list contains, broadly speaking, the Munros and Furths that are at least 1000 metres high.

But there are a few possible omissions.

The most obvious are two Furth summits in Ireland, Beenkeragh and Caher, which makes me wonder whether the inclusion of Carrauntoohill was an afterthought, perhaps to allow the inclusion of summits from Wales and Ireland.

Also published in the June 2013 issue is an article about a winter traverse of the Scottish 1000 metre peaks by Mike Cawthorne.  Mike quotes 135 peaks which points to the reason TRAIL has included only 135 out of the 137 Munros that are at least 1000 metres high.  The two peaks “missing” from the TRAIL list are the lower Munros of An Teallach (Sgurr Fiona) and Liathach (Mullach an Rathain).

As TRAIL published just a list and not specific criteria, in practice, there are no omissions.  The publication of the list will have baggers checking their ascents against it and no doubt some will aim to complete it.  I just think that it’s a shame that TRAIL doesn’t appear to have been paying attention to detail, presumably choosing to align itself with an individual’s interpretation of 1000 metre peaks rather than a specifically defined selection from the SMC’s Munro’s Tables.

I haven’t read Mike Cawthorne’s book (“Hell of a Journey”) about his traverse but I intend to get a copy soon to see if he gives any reason for excluding two summits and whether they are the two that I think they are.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

A Greendale Variation and Eskdale Fell

When ticking a hill list, it’s probable that as you near completion, the remaining summits are likely to be clustered in less accessible areas.  As I’ve been getting ever nearer to completing the Wainwrights and Outlying Fells, the summits that I’ve been ticking have been predominantly in the west of the Lake District.  Today was no different.

Greendale is an ideal starting point for Wainwrights of west Wasdale with paths leading uphill alongside Greendale Gill.  Middle Fell was the day’s first summit and is an excellent viewpoint for the Scafell massif which dominates the view.

Scafell Massif

I walked north to the Seatallan col, just above Greendale Tarn, with the summit of what is to be my final Wainwright looming tantalisingly close.  But that one is for another day.  An easy traverse in the sun led to the elegant cairn built by Wasdale's fellrunning legend - Joss Naylor.  It’s not an obvious viewpoint, although the views are quite good, but the slender cairn is deceptively solid.  Buckbarrow’s summit was only a short stroll away.

The recognised summit of Buckbarrow is set back from the cliffs that drop down towards Greendale.  But a walk to the top of Bull Crag reveals a superb view of the Wastwater screes that tumble into the lake from Illgill Head and Whin Rigg.  Also in stark view is the gully that descends between Bull Crag and Pike Crag.

Wastwater Screes

For a bit of adventure I decided to descend the gully.  It is steep and loose and I certainly wouldn’t recommend it as a way up.

Buckbarrow descent gully

A quick drive into neighbouring Eskdale led me to the Dalegarth railway station car park.  I couldn’t remember how long it had been since I last walked in this valley (possibly 25 years !) but the sunshine accentuated its grandeur and it deserves some future visits.

I walked past the Boot Inn and up the track towards Gill Bank, passing an impressively solitary scots pine.  There was no clearly defined path on to Whinscales or even further towards Great How.  The flank of Scafell and the white summit of Slight Side dominated the walk ahead and the vista towards Harter Fell, over Stony Tarn and Eel Tarn, lent an air of wilderness.  For isolation that is easily accessed, there aren’t many better places in the district.

I descended to and crossed Lambford Bridge over Whillan Beck leading to my final summit of the day, Boat How.  The walk from the bridge was easy with the top being an unusual viewpoint for Kirk Fell and Great Gable to the north.

Kirk Fell and Great Gable

The early evening walk back to Boot was as pleasant as any I’ve done in the last few years.  Probably enhanced by the knowledge that this day had brought me to within one easy day of completing the Wainwrights and the Outlying Fells with only one of each left

Roll on August Bank Holiday Monday !

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Ticklist planning

For 25 years my hillwalking ambition has been to complete the Wainwrights and Outlying Fells and as I near the end of two ticklists my thoughts are turning towards the next collections of mountains.  The Nuttalls will become the priority, but there will be an occasional foray in to the realm of the TRAIL 100.

But as the Wainwrights come to a close and the final planning has slotted into place, taking any chance to include Nuttalls in a Wainwright bagging walk has been too good to ignore.

A general guideline for me is to avoid going over old ground when bagging summits.  It’s only a guideline as there are too many factors that come into play to make it an absolute rule – bad weather and fatigue cutting planned routes short are the most obvious.  So if I have a chance to include a Nuttall that is not a Wainwright, it gets included.

This type of planning is indicative of what may be seen by some as an all-consuming obsession.  Some see this as the dark side of hillwalking.  Rest assured that when I’m in the hills I don’t aim to bag as many summits in a day as I possibly can – I’m not as fit as I was 20 years ago and I’m more than prepared to cut a route short if the weather makes chasing the next summit an unenjoyable slog.

The planning, and solving the problems it presents, is about keeping the mind active.  The hillwalking keeps the body active.

A balance between the two can be struck – I just hope that I’m somewhere near it.

Monday, 3 June 2013

A Kentmere View

The most south-easterly fells in the Lake District are little over an hour’s drive from home, so a period of good weather combined with longer daylight hours tempted me to make an after work dash to Kentmere to tick a couple of Outlying Fells.

Green Quarter sits a little above Kentmere and has easy access to Hollow Moor.  The track leads to open fellside which had a number of recently dug channels, presumably to drain some of the boggy ground.  Wainwright’s unnamed lower summit of Green Quarter Fell is reached easily, if you have long enough legs to negotiate the barbed wire fence !

It is from the felltop that the view of upper Kentmere and its horseshoe draw the eye, making you wish you were amongst the tops of the higher fells.  Quite often the best views of the high fells are from the lesser heights, of which this vista is a superb example.  The view south towards Morecambe Bay, with Heysham power station sat in an island of sunlight this evening, adds to the enjoyment of the deserted summit.

Heyhsam nuclear power station

The linking ridge to the higher Hollow Moor summit made for an excellent evening promenade.  The views to upper Kentmere remained and continued to draw the eye, as did the old triangular stone gatepost which ostensibly marked the summit.  This was beyond the 426 metre spot height and just beyond a mound that I felt was very slightly higher.  With my untrained eye, I was unsure where the summit lies exactly, but I visited all three points so I’m confident that I stood on the actual summit.

Upper Kentmere from Hollow Moor