Friday, 28 August 2020

Lake District Holiday Part Four: Finally Getting Up Helvellyn. . .

It's often touted as the best walk in the Lake District and one of the best in the UK, but bad weather has always forced me to turn back from Helvellyn - the third highest mountain in England. But on the last day of our vacation, I finally got to the summit and I can now see what all the fuss is about.

I didn't want either the drama or the crowds of Striding Edge, so we went up a better and just as scenic a way.

We parked at Glenridding and headed up towards Sticks Pass.

I liked this route because there are level areas where you can rest between all the ups. And this valley has a lovely path to walk along.  We're heading for the ridge in the center of this photo, then we'll turn left and go up to Raise.

And the view from Raise where you can just see Thirlmere peeping out below.

This was as far as I'd ever been and that day was full of cloud and rain so I never saw the next bit of our route.  But again, it was lovely to have a flat bit with lots of views before climbing Lower Man and then just the last bit of up before Helvellyn proper.

Here's Lower Man looking steeper as we approached.  Have I mentioned how hot it was?


And now we're on the top of Helvellyn looking down at Swirral Edge and Catstye Cam. This is another route you can take either up or down.

And the next three photos are of Striding Edge from various angles.  It doesn't look too bad from here, but I had a good look at it with binoculars and it's definitely not for me.  Too narrow a ridge and a bit of scary scrambling.  It may be a walker's rite of passage, but you get the same views no matter how you get to the top.

We then headed towards Nethermost Pike and then Dollywaggon Pike, two more Wainwrights to conquer.

And looking back at the path without the sun glaring in our eyes.

The descent was surprisingly fast, heading down to Grisedale Tarn.  The path consists mostly of large stones arranged as a very long staircase but as it was dry, it was easy to navigate.

But one last great view before the descent.

And some relief for tired and hot feet in the tarn.

I was very tired by then and have to say the valley path back to Glenridding seemed to go on forever.  This was more technical than the descent as the stones were uneven and slippery at times and you had to pay attention.

We were out for about eight hours (had a longish lunch break at the top of Helvellyn) and walked about 13 miles in total.  Completely exhausted by the end, but what a walk!  Definitely in my top ten. 

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Lake District Holiday Part Three: Two Walks Among the Heather. . .

Our fourth and fifth day of walking brought two of the hottest days. Lots of sun beating straight down so a lot of these photos are unfortunately very hazy.

Day Four:

We all wanted to do a walk that started from Keswick so we began by a visit to the famous Castlerigg Stone Circle which always impresses, but perhaps moreso in a different type of light. 

The sheep had the right idea.


We then decided to climb two smaller Wainwrights - Walla Crag and Bleaberry Fell. The Liverpud had done these before, but they were new to me. You can see the heat haze over Keswick as we were walking up.

The big surprise waiting for us on this walk was all the heather in bloom (sadly not looking its finest in these photos due to the intense sun).  We've always avoided the busy Lakes in August so I've never really associated the area with heather, but of course there's lots of moorland between the fells and this walk had it in abundance.

This is the famous view from the stony crop on top of Walla Crag, looking out over Derwent Water.

And you can see the trail leading off to the left towards  Bleaberry Fell.

And the view from the top of Bleaberry.  At this point, I'd had enough of the heat and so turned round the same way we'd come, and headed back to our accommodation while the boys went on to another fell.

Day Five:

We decided to drive about forty minutes to Crummock Water and start our walk from there. This is a very pretty part of the Lake District and often quite deserted but not today - if I'd aimed my camera to the left, you'd have seen lots of families on the beach.

This is Melbreak, our Wainwright for today.  We scaled it via a path on the right hand side. Very steep and the path had lots of loose shale on it, posing a bit of a technical climb.

Part way up, you can look back and see Loweswater.  We certainly got glimpses of most of the lakes during this holiday.

Heather was also in bloom alongside the path going up.

About a third from the top you could take a quick peek around the side. Crummock Water is directly below and that's Buttermere in the distance.

And now we're on top of the ridge heading towards the far side where we'll make our descent.

But first, the full view, as we enjoyed a very welcome breeze on the top.

The descent was very easy and gradual and at the bottom is Scale Force.

Then we skirted Melbreak and came back along the Crummock Water path.  You can walk entirely around this lake which I did several years ago (blogged here).  As I did then, we stopped for a break on that little spit of land you can see jutting out.

Here's the view from that spit. You can see how steep Melbreak is on the left. It was good to get the climbing out of the way early; the rest of the walk was a delight with wonderful views. 

I have really enjoyed tackling some of the lesser known hills on this holiday - you still get some wonderful surprises and you have them mostly all to yourselves.

But for our final day, we went on a big one and a popular one and it was a fantastic walk.  Back with that one soon.

Monday, 24 August 2020

Lake District Holiday Part Two: A Circular From Hartsop and A Few Thoughts On Summer. . .

Day Three of our holiday saw us tackling this little Wainwright - Hartsop Dodd which stands at 618m.  You basically start climbing up a path that runs just to the left of the drystone wall you can see running up the fell.  Then you turn left and follow the ridge up to the summit. It's a steep climb but not a long one.

Once you've turned left, you can look behind you at Brothers Water directly below.

And Ullswater further back at the end of the valley.

Here are some of those views along the ridge as we walked towards Stony Cove Pike.

And now you can see Windermere ahead.

There are so many routes and so many different mountains in the Lake District that even after nearly ten years of walking in the area, I'm still piecing all the bits together. It's a little like a jigsaw puzzle because you are often viewing hills you've climbed but from different angles and different directions.  There are always delightful surprises in store and there was one today when we came unexpectedly upon this view of the Kentmere Horseshoe (one of my very favourite walks in the Lake District, blogged about here). 

We had intended to continue on to High Street and make our way towards Angle Tarn, but it was so very hot and there was quite a descent followed by a steep path up to Thornthwaite Crag.  So we decided to cut the walk short and head back along this valley that follows Pasture Beck.

This is looking back at where we've come down.  It was a very pleasant track and someday, we'll go back up it and finish the walk we'd intended.

The sheep were very relaxed, probably too hot to move.

After a welcome shower, a short nap and a nice meal in Keswick, we walked down to Derwent Water in the evening when it was cooler.

Three days of walking in the heat had taken its toll on me. I was really tired and decided to take the next day off while my companions went walking.  I spent the morning wandering around Keswick. There's a lovely indie bookshop called Bookends and it was so nice to have a proper browse.  I came away with a few interesting titles.

And then spent the rest of the day reading and knitting with my feet up. My holiday book was Autumn by Ali Smith.

I've enjoyed all of the books in her seasonal quartet and am amazed at how quickly she has been able to write these. She captures very well the zeitgeist of the last four years and the whole gamut of emotions surrounding first Brexit and now Covid. And yet each novel, while indulging in a few angry rants at the state of politics in the UK (and why the hell not?) is also a self-contained story with interesting characters, questing plots and all the playfulness and profundity of language that Smith is so good at conveying.  She not only makes you look at this depressing news-driven world in a new way but has you also marvelling at the fascinating versatility of simple words.  In this strange year of isolation, Summer has made me feel more connected to this global experience than any real-life event.  Highly recommended.