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Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Hallelujah Flash Mob

As its almost Christmas, or Yule, or whatever, I thought I’d share this brill bit of video wot John Jocys sent to me this morning.
I’m off shopping for Bruno’s temporary antlers after this….

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Helvellyn Weekend with the Fight Club Hikers

helvellyn appears from a coud
Friday afternoon saw me slide over the Pennines to Glenridding to join the Fight Club Hikers Second Anniversary do in a frozen camping barn a mile out of Glenridding.
setting off rest stop
Those attending (apart from me) were, in no special order, Wibble, Titaniumdude, Walkingirl, Darksky, UKMase (alias Masey), Peter Crawford and, a bit later, Der Allte. Plus Mille, Pepper and Woodstock.
It was, of course, perishing cold both inside the barn and outside and it seemed to have snowed quite a bit during Friday night, Saturday morning.
a hole in the clouds
We arranged a walk suitable for dogs, hangovers and icy conditions thus: Sticks Pass, Raise, Helvellyn, Nethermost Pike, Dollywagon Pike, Grisedale, Travellers’ Rest. 12 Miles and 3500 feet of upness. Masey along with various random colleagues also bagged Stybarrow Dodd and, whilst most bypassed Dollywaggon Pike, he and Gill did that one too.
helvellyn summit ridge
It was slippery and snowy and windy and even colder than the Barn. Millie got herself an icy beard, whilst Woodstock was frustrated in any attempt to curl up somewhere warm for a nap. Pepper, meanwhile, is a collie and is designed for this kind of stuff.
waiting for darksky
The tops were covered in a wispy kind of clag, but , suddenly, Helvellyn appeared out of the clouds and the day became sunny. Helvellyn was busy.
At some point, we lost Darksky. He became detached from the back of the group and failed to turn up after a shivery half an hour’s wait on Helvellyn Lower Man, and a shorter wait on the summit. The dogs in particular began to suffer badly from the cold and a search of the ridge leading up to Helvellyn produced no evidence of Mr Darksky, we pressed on regardless. This was his eighth trip up Helvellyn, so he knew the place fairly well. Turns out he descended by Swirral Edge.
masey overlooking grisedale heading for nethermost pike
We slithered and slipped down to Grisedale Tarn and then down the length of Grisedale, where it went dark. Most people spent sometime crashing to the ground doing comedy pratfalls on hidden ice. Minor injuries were received.
fch towards dollywaggon pike
Eventually, we made it to the bar of the Travellers Rest, where we rested, warm and toasty and increasingly intoxicated, till around midnight (I think) Der Allte turned up and bought cheesy chips. Darksky was reported to be tucked up in his sleeping bag back at the refrigerator camping barn.
All was well with the world, having enjoyed a very fine hillwalking day.
Ultimately, we walked the mile back up the the barn and spent a second shivery night.
The car thermometer was reading minus 5.5 C in the morning. There’s been a bit more snow. The drive down the valley was interesting, without the benefit of brakes (I had brakes, but using them was less than useful – there was no stopping.)
descending to grisedale tarn
Cracking weekend, though. Thanks for the invite, and to Masey for taking the matter in hand and booking the barn, and to Gill for the chips. I’m still drinki the Spanish wine.
I’ll put a link to Masey’s blog as soon as he produces an account.

Edit: Here it is

This is complete with a potted history of the Fight Club Hikers.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Crook Around the Compass – North

billy row war memorial
The Durham County Council Rights of Way Supremo recently suggested that as I wander aimlessly as a cloud around Crook quite a lot, that I could also keep an eye on some paths/routes which were developed by the local Council (wear valley at the time), the local ramblers and the local Walking for Health peeps.
There are four walks around Crook – North, South, East and West – hence Crook around the compass and  three around the nearby village of Howden-le-Wear.
Today, me and Superdawg set off in incipient snowstorms to have a look at the North walk.
stile with no style
I must say, I didn’t think much of the route description, which has metal gates where there are no metal gates and tracks which are footpaths and so on. There are missing “bridleway” signs and waymarks and the two stiles on the route are defended by adjacent b*****d wire (censored for the sensitivities of Moffateers who had a traumatic experience with this stuff). But despite the driech weather and the new open cast coal mine next to one part of the walk, its basically a very nice walk. It has two pubs and an off-licence as well, so its ideal for a summer evening. And it’s dog friendly too.
billy row green
I did come across two off-road motorcyclists , whom I deliberately got in the way of. Eventually, when I let the first one past, he saluted me in a rather strange sort of manner, and the second stopped to chat. I pointed out that they weren’t supposed to be riding motorbikes on the bridleway, at which point the lad demonstrated his flashing blue lights and explained that he was a policeman on a bit of a jolly patrol. Thats OK then.
Their number plates were illegally covered in mud by the way.
Anyway, the walk is three miles and about 300 feet of uphill, so its fairly easy. I did an extra mile. (eck!)
And it was snowing, though not sticking. Its a week earlier than similar weather last year, though, and we all know what happened last winter…
crook north

Snowing a bit in Crook today…


Nearly time to break out the snow shovel and call for the snow fairy


This is what happens when you lose a bet.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Wet Wandering in Weardale Without a Full Set of Gloves

elephant trees in the clag
At the last DVCRS** AGM, a couple of weeks ago, I volunteered to lead a few walks in the Durham County Council Guided walks programme for next summer.
Durham CC has a big programme of guided walks with at least two walks every week, and often many more than that. And they’re very popular.
wet cattle
So, I’ve planned out four walks altogether. The idea is that I’ll walk each of the routes over the next few dark and damp weeks and then present them to the volunteer co-ordinator with some dates and some background info, risk assessments and so on. I’ll need to walk the routes again just before they’re due to take  place, just to make sure that the Cross Fell Mer de Glace hasn’t covered them up with a fresh layer of glacial drift or anything like that.
Today was the turn of Walk #1, it being the first walk wot I did.
the clag
This took place in heavy rain and a bit of hill-clag. And I lost one of the seal skin gloves I bought in Alston the other week. Bugger. Anybody know a one –handed person who just needs a left handed glove? They can have it. Its a good glove.
Anyway – I started in Wolsingham, went up by the Elephant Trees, down to Bollihope and back along the riverside.
her turn to go for the shopping
The Elephant Trees have appeared in this blog before – but for anybody unfamiliar with them, they’re a group of trees on the Weardale skyline which probably once looked a bit like a group of elephants. Weardalers are very fond of them. They contain lots of romantic graffiti.
bollihope quarry
And Bollihope has appeared on the blog, too. There’s a nice limestone quarry, with a pinnacle and some trial levels into the Slit Vein, a partially preserved lead mine complete with netty (toilet) and some extensive lime kilns and another quarry containing some Frosterly marble.
And then there’s the river, with kingfishers, herons and jumping salmon.
dvcrs walk 1 013
somebody mentioned the vet
We both got wet and Bruno got to run around in the empty fields. And I lost me glove. Did I mention that?
Anyway, its a good walk that works quite well. 11 Miles and 1100 feet of upness with mainly very easy walking.
It’ll do.
I need a glove shop.
**DVCRS = Durham Voluntary Countryside Ranger Service
dvcrs walk one

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Red Pike with Rye and some Thirlmere Birketts

martin rye and crummockwater
First of all, after much prevaricating and cancelling and moving of dates around , I eventually managed to meet up with Martin Rye in Buttermere and after a brief rest in The Bridge Hotel, we strode off up the outrageously steep path up Red Pike.
Martin was on a mission to do a spot of wild camping and wandering about around Buttermere and Grasmoor and,there's a link to his account of his adventures at the foot of this post.
fleetwith pike bleaberry tarn
We achieved the top of Red Pike without too much fuss and very little in the way of cardiac emergencies and, such was the measure of our success that we went on to bag Starling Dodd, not too far away to the West.
walker arriving at red pike martin, starling dodd and The Shadow
It was here that I had to take my leave of Martin, so he went that way (towards Great Bourne) and I went this (towards Scale Force.  It was nice to walk with Martin for a while - its always good to meet other bloggers and backpeackers and TGO-er -types. put a face to a name and all that kinda stuff....  I expect he had a fab time wandering the Western Fells.
scale force
About a mile from Buttermere I got a message from Martin with a picture of his tent, saying that he was camping quite near the top of Great Bourne.
By the time I got back to my car it was fairly dark.
The next destination was Derwentwater YHA for the Annual general meeting of the Over the Hill Club, which although not entirely populated by TGO Challengers, was a child of the Challenge. The AGM was on Sunday morning, so we passed the time in some light boozing and watching the footy on TV…
On the Saturday an elite group went off to do the Coledale Round, yet an even more elite group assaulted Scafell Pike, some more relaxed individuals went for Barf, a few recalcitrants went shopping and I went off to bag three Birketts at the foot of Thirlmere.
raven crag
The first was Raven crag, which I realised I’d already been up, so that would only be two new ticks. Next up was a Castle Crag which inevitably has an iron age fortification on the top, and the last was The Benn.
raven crag summit
Each of these is a rocky tor sticking out of the spruce plantations and each has a fine view. I did quite a lot of sitting around drinking coffee. The Benn is slightly spooky for some reason. The whole walk was only three miles but with 1500 feet of ascent, so that gives quite a good idea of the slanted nature of this walk. I repaired to Keswick for a meat and tattie pie and a small custard.
view from the benn
After the AGM, I bagged Foulds Brow on the way home. This is a small and heathery flat moor overlooking Wigton. Its a Wainwright Outlier. Its times like this one when bagging things becomes an obvious obsessive bit of behaviour. It might have quite a good view in less hazy conditions.
It was snowing a  bit on the way home on the A66, and the general snow level on the North Pennines and the Lakes continues to creep gradually down the fellsides. Its a little bit earlier than last year. It might be a good idea to buy snow shoes.
Martin Rye's account of his stravaigs in and around Buttermere are at

Monday, 15 November 2010


snow! it's snow!
As you can see, Bruno was delighted to find a patch of old snow on Blencathra. He ate quite a  bit of it and then started on the ice on a puddle.
Old snow in November eh? Must be that terrible global warming….
doddick fell
I met the bro at Threlkeld in spring sunshine  frosty November sunshine and we wandered off along the intake path to the foot of Doddick Fell – a way up Blencathra from the South which doesn’t involve any derring-do or the potential for falling off anything. I hadn’t been this way before, so that was good and, it has to be said, it’s quite a nice way to get up the hill. Its also quite a good way for people who don’t like to be scared by their hill. Nobody dies on Doddick Fell, unless they weren’t very well when they set off. Or they’re standing in the way of a large inheritance.
top of doddick fell
Or they get struck by lightening, briefly, very briefly regretting that blasphemous outburst at the road works on the A66….
Somewhere after passing Sharp Edge, we started to come across patches of old snow. And then, a bit higher, there was a general but thin cover of icy new snow. There were also some decent-sized patches of hard neve. There’s not enough yet, though to warrant getting the crampons out. The ground isn’t frozen either, so you’d just end up sticking to the mud.
blencathra view appearing
The top of the hill was shrouded in mist when we arrived, but cleared almost immediately whereupon it began to snow. This was not a good place to sit and eat a wensleydale cheese and tomato butty – nor a banana…. so we descended the North side a bit.
atkinson pike
We lunched at the top of Foule Crag in a not very cosy spot and in a snow shower.
dog with snowflakes
A short time later, we discovered that the cairn on the top of Mungrisdale Common is nowhere near the top of Mungrisdale Common, not that anybody is all that bothered.
Alf Wainwright’s inclusion of this bit of watery moorland is a puzzle. It has, though, resulted in a soggy path of a type more often found in my home Pennines to a small cairn in the wrong place.
skiddaw with cloud cap

We proceeded to the Cloven Stone – a distinctive rock used as a boundary marker – and then, with a bit of contouring, to a sheepfold. You can only fold a sheep eight times, apparently.
cloven stone
The track to Skiddaw house brought us back to Threlkeld.
Its cold up there folks. Take a hat and gloves. We did 8 miles and 2500 feet of mainly quite steep upness. Nice to see a bit of snow again. It’s almost time for that Slade record.
and here it is, merry christmas everybody’s having fun. look to the future now it’s only just begun –un –un…

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Remembrance Service on Castle Crag

castle crag

I stayed at Brian’s last night to try to ensure that we could get to Borrowdale in time for the Remembrance service on Castle Crag

time to scrape

As it happened, it had snowed overnight and this had frozen on the road, so the first couple of miles were driven at a snail’s pace, including a very tricky steep descent into a small  gorge with concrete “things” at the bottom to run into. Nothing fatal at 3mph, but there would be damage….

I discovered that the ABS braking system works but doesn’t stop the car sliding slowly sideways down the hill, and the only way to stop this was to actually drive down the hill.

climbing the spoil heap

The Lake District was marginally warmer and we arrived at Grange, parked badly outside the church (where another Remembrance Service was about to start) and rushed off to Castle Crag, a couple of miles away and 700 feet higher.

Its a steep thrutch up through old spoil heaps from a slate quarry and we arrived suitably out-of-breath about two minutes before the two minute silence.

borrowdale from castle crag

There were about a hundred people on the top, and quite a few dogs, one of whom, a veteran border collie, was in possession of a three-foot stick and was shaking this to death during the  two minute silence. The stick occasionally came into contact with a calf or back-of-a-knee.

at the memorial

But the service was brief and moving and there were prayers and poems and an 89 year-old veteran of Arnhem. I hope that if I ever get to that kind of age that I have the strength to climb up Castle Crag.

Castle Crag has a memorial to about a dozen local men who lost their lives in the Great War. It’s also the site of a hill fort and has a slate quarry which stopped just short of knocking about fifty feet off the top of the hill. It’s a steep, 700 foot nobble which has fine views over Borrowdale

people leaving the summit

Later, Brian chatted to the veteran whilst I was rescued from the summit by a woman who thought I was having trouble getting down the short scrambly bit.

castle crag quarry

And even later, we investigated   the quarry and  after that, a hole near the foot of the crag, discovering a bivi cave complete with banal graffiti and some old towels. A good place for lunch, though.

bivi cave

The weather on the return journey had cooled once more and was just on freezing at Hartside and a bit lower at Killhope Cross. The Pennines here have a thin crusting of icy snow.

More walkies tomorrow.