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Monday, 15 January 2018

High Cup Nick and Backstone Edge by GPS

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Langstrath pools will have to wait a little bit longer for a blogpost because, in the meantime, me and LTD did this one:

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The idea was to bag two fairly diminutive Tumps at Dufton – Harthwaite and Keisley Bank. Harthwaite is not open access and bagging the summit is a trespass, but, as there was no stock on the hill, and nobody to witness my ascent, I considered it fairly harmless to visit the top. It’s a lovely, green hill with a small disused quarry on the top and a gate at the bottom gives access to a lane which, in turn gives access to the open access land on which stands the slightly higher Keisley Bank.

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Keisley Bank has a steep scarp facing the Pennines, at the foot of which is a small but bijoux tarn, – Studgill Tarn -  hidden away and, probably, not very well known.

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The plan was to bag these two and then head up to High Cup Nick via the Pennine Way and getting there involved negotiating a series of broken walls, gates, frozen bogs, unfrozen bogs and some sheep pens. When we arrived, the results were disappointing. The fog was down, the wind nithered through the nethers and the ground was frozen hard, so we retreated inside our big orange group shelter for a chicken salad butty, a Coopland’s curd tart (don’t mention this to the cardiac nurse or, indeed, the dietetic nurse). In the comparitively tropical climes of the big orange bag, we (that is to say, me) consulted the Howgills and Eden Valley OS map for a continuation of our adventures.

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A traverse of Backstone Edge was the decision. This involved switching on the Garmin, selecting the trig point on the summit as a target and heading off up the steep and rocky edge into the feeezing misty murk of Backstone Edge. Almost immediately, we put up a large male (? dog ?buck ?bull) hare who hared off into the glaur. Everything was well iced and it took us a good half an hour to get to the trig point. The trig point is about to fall over. A second target, just 200 metres away, was the high point, at 699 metres. We found a cairn quite close to this point, but not quite at the point marked on the map.

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Next, was a “mine”, about 700 metres away and down a steep slope. This marked the start of a bridleway whioch eventually leads back to Dufton via Great Rundale. Great Rundale is a huge gash in the hills with mines in the crags at either side and a very large area of industrial devastation at it’s head. This is not pretty, but lower down, the valley becomes deep and impressive and the track leads easily back to Dufton.

We did 10 miles and 2600 feet of ascent. I was quite glad I had the Garmin too. I don’t use it for seriously all that much although I do like to watch the distance to target numbers decreasing…  The back country behind Backstone Edge is quite rough going and a bit flat, so navigation can be tricky, although, in practise, the numerous ponds and tarns provide good targets, and the edge overlooking the Eden Valley is pretty distinctive.

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Saturday, 13 January 2018

Borrowdale 1 - Sour Milk Gill and Seatoller Fell

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Desultory arrangements resulted in me, LTD and Dawn nicking off to Borrowdale  on Monday last for a few days camping.

Two walks were done from the campsite at Chapel Farm – this one and an exploration of the lovely pools in Langstrath. Since some people might be  specially interested in the pools, in which much refreshing dipping can be done, in conjunction with a spot of sitting about scoffing chicken salad butties and bananas whilst soaking up the hot sun, I’m leaving that for a separate blogpost. So, you’ll just have to make do with the one walk on this one.

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It had been specially cold over the previous few days, and Monday night was a rippingly chilly night. although, at only –2C or –3C, quite a bit warmer than it had been.

The dawn (not Dawn (!) (dhuhh) ) was typically late for early January and despite the huge amount of sleep provided by the long and dark hours from 5pm the previous afternoon, it was specially hard to wake up, particularly in the light of various interesting, if irritating dreams.  LTD was snuggled on his own mat, with a woolly comforter and an ancient but serviceable four season sleeping bag and, apparently, hadn’t even noticed the onset of daylight to disturb his 14 hours in sleepy snoozy dreamyland during which his dreams seemed to consist of various bouts of running about and barking. But we did not care, because our target for today was Seatoller Fell, a small but contoury lump just above..er…Seatoller, so not too far away and easily acheived in a shortish timespan.  We were to get there via Sour Milk Gill, a steep and icy climb with a scrambly bit.

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There was no snow at this level – up to about 400 and a bit metres, but the paths were icy and the becks and waterfalls were heavily decorated, although not fully frozen.

And the sun beat down mercilessly. Actually, it was a bit chilly, but quite beautiful anyway, with spectacular cloud formations pouring over nearby higher fells and dispersing as they descended.

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We bashed and tiptoed and heaved our way up the path, cleverly designed to hold as much ice as possible, thereby making the whole expedition just that little but more of a thrill.

From the Seathwaite slabs, a wall lead us around the head of the corrie, under the ramparts of Raven Crag and, by contouring, on to the top of Seatoller Fell.

We returned, as the light began to fade, by the Honister Pass road, which was quiet and quick.

It was just about 6 miles and 1400 feet of up, most of it squashed into a small area above Seathwaite.

Just time for soup and a snooze to build up strength for  a stewed steak and spuds tea and our main sleep later on. This is what I like about winter camping, you can get sooo much rest.   ZZzzzzzzzzzzzz

Friday, 12 January 2018

Shivery Walk (Upper (very Upper) Weardale)

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I’m doing a bit of blogpost catching-up here, being a couple of walking incidents behind.

This one is from 5 and 6 January and concerns “A Shivery Walk to the Border” The Border in question being the county boundary bgetween County Durham and Northumberland. This is a guided walk, initially done as part of Durham County Council’s guided walk programme (wot I’ve abandoned) and now done for the Wednesday Walkers Walking on Saturdays group, which is a kind of DCC splinter group, organised almost entirely by email by the redoubtable Eric Borley. Peeps can get on the list of email addresses by request. (Just ask)

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So, me and LTD did the reccy on 5 January. This was a bit late because the walk took place on 6 January, but the weather was , frankly ‘orrible during the week before and I had Christmas whisky to drink anyway, so it all had to wait.

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So me and LTD did the reccy, from Cowshill , adding the summit of Middlehope Moor for an additional thrill and it was all very cold and snowy and a bit icy and windy and, a bit on the ‘orrible side to be fair. We began with  clear views and then the hill-fog came in and me beard froze, as did LTD’s tail and it was not specially very nice.

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Overnight on 5/6 January, it snowed again and, at 07:30 am on the 6th, it was dark and cold and there was heavy hail hitting the parapets of knipetowers and so LTD declared a rest-day – having briefly looked outside and then headed back to his cosy stink-pit next to the radiator in #3 Barrel-Vaulted Tower, refusing to consider putting a harness and lead on and threatening extreme violence to anybody who might try toi disturb his cosy time,  his favourite place. So I turned up with an empty lead, but , not unnacompanied, having collected Li Yang from her hilltop fortress on the way.

11 other people turned up.

The sky was blue and the cold was “noticeable” – partly from the fact that my beard froze and formed icicles where icicles are Not Required.

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We heaved ourselves up into ever-depening snow to the Northumberland boudary, crossed it and entered an arctic landscape of pure white and blue, eventually achieving the summit of Middlehope Moor with it’s immpressive 18 inch frozen cairn.  I suspect that most walkers were a bit underwhelmed after all that effort.

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The things got worse. We headed for a small square blob on the near horizon – rumoured to be an old sheepfold where the burning sun and the shelter from the arctic nither would produce conditions suitable for a coffee-stop and, if too much time were to be spent here, a lovely suntan which would make holiday-makers in the tropics or Australia jealous with rage, and those  wimpy doggies now abed curse themselves that they were not here..

This took some considerable effort, the drainage ditches and hags being hidden under deep and  soft snow, letting in whomsoever might go first up to their nips, and having to be lifted out by whoever was behind them. I spent several episodes up to my chin in snow.

In the end the sheepfold was a bit warmer and just about OK for brief stop.

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Then we had miles and miles of semi-frozen tussock and grass, whilst all the time being beaten by fierce and uncompromising blizzards of snow and bits of ice wot hurt on the face until we found shelter begind the complex walls of Race Yate where the blue and purple flourspar glints unnoticed in the weakened sun. [Thats enough of that sorta stuff by the way]

And so, we finshed more easily by roads and riverside paths back to Cowshill, 8 miles in total.

We might do this walk again next year. Please don’t try it in the summer, it’s much more fun when it’s a bit cold. and it’s much, much more beautiful.

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