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Thursday, 26 July 2018

Knipes Do Helvellyn

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I seem to be climbing Britain’s most popular mountains at the moment – consorting with the crowds…..

This trip came about due to a plan I had to take two of my grandsons up Helvellyn during their compulsory incarceration at Pietowers – an annual event. However, since the East Midlands Sept of Clan Knipe was on holiday near Ullswater, a Plan B developed which involved an earlier walk, which involved me, LTD, The Lad and the two grandsons. Grandson #3 was to keep his mum company during an extended period of sitting about in the sun at Red Tarn.

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So that’s what we did. We trundled off to Red Tarn, set up Camp 1 and then the Advanced Party scrambled over the classic Striding Edge – Helvellyn – Swirral Edge round accompanied by many, many other people and one or two dogs. Helvellyn is the follow-up walk to the traditional Penyghent rite-of-passage trip wot knipesprogs have been forced to do by the gentle use of brainwashing and peer pressure for the last severalteen years. Striding Edge, though, is not compulsory. Helvellyn is, of course, a bit bigger than Penyghent and often leads to a desire to climb Ben Nevis, Snowdon and Scafell Pike, though Three Peak attempts are discouraged by labelling them as anti-social and a drain on Mountain Rescue teams.

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In terms of anti-socialness, one prune had a drone buzzing about sounding like a swarm of angry wasps, and, for some reason, he jumped a gap between two boulders and almost squished LTD. I suppose that with such a heavy population, there was bound to be at least one moron. My bad luck was that this one was close to me and the dog. Story of my life, actually – I usually get the strange ones in YHA dormitories, late-night bus stops and busy train carriages….

We used a length of climbing rope to get LTD down the rockstep at the end of Striding Edge and, I noticed that somebody following us with a collie also used the same tactic to prevent their pooch from blobbing off horribly.

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I’d not been along Striding Edge for a while and I’d forgotten what a lot of fun it is. It’s no wonder that its popular.

After our scrambly adventure, a pickernick was had at Red Tarn and some dipping was done in the beck lower down the hill. It was a steaming hot day, which is a bit unusual for Helvellyn.

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Snowdon and Other Welsh Hills

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If I were to attempt to compleat (sic) the Nuttalls list of English and Welsh mountains with a 15 metre prominence – I would have had 9 Welsh hills to do and one English hill – the English Hill being Pillar Rock, a summit that it seems I am unlikely to get to the top of.

Five of the Welsh Hills were well spread-out around North Wales. Note the past tense.

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So, me and Dawn and LTD went to North Wales – quite near the village of Llanbedr and, in hot weather, we bagged Craig Eigiau – now there were four. Craig Eigiau is on the East side of the Carneddau and has a rocky and ever-so-slightly scrambly summit. We completed a short six-mile round by visiting Mellyn Llyn and Dulyn, both of which tarns are also reservoirs; Dulyn having the dubious honour of having the wreckage of a US air-force transport plane which crashed on the crags above the tarn in 1944 in bad weather. Sadly, all of the four aircrew were killed. A propellor in the water by the shore is the main piece of extant wreckage.

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Then it rained for a day, so we were confined to camp – although me and LTD ventured out into the misty drizzle to bag the local Tump, Foel Ddu and it were a right Foul Ddu (yes, I know that the pronunciation is wrong for a pun like this..dhuhh)

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Then it was hot again and we went to the beach as opposed to bagging anything but finally, on a drippy morning we parked expensively in Llanberis and set off up the path towards Snowdon. We got quite wet. Other peeps, in shorts and t-shirts, and, in one case, sandals, got even wetter. At the halfway station, me and lTD marched off up the slope, off the main path to acheive the ridge leading to Llechog – Nuttal number two. Llechog is remarkably similar to Craig Eigiau in semi-scramblyness but that the view of Llanberis Pass below is stupendous. As we were doing this, Dawn was doing her own thing.

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We returned to the tourist path and plodded off with the crowds to the summit of Snowdon. The train and the Miners Track route added extra bodies to the crowd on top of the hill, and, in addition, there was the sound of a swarm of wasps, which turned out to be a small drone.

It could be argued that attending a hill with such a large crowd of humanity and their dogs is not a “propah” hillwalking experience and that its much better to be alone with one’s meditational thoughts instead. I don’t mind, though, in fact, I quite enjoy the busy paths. If I wanted to be alone I wouldn’t climb Snowdon but would opt for Bink Moss….   Many of those peeps up there were clearly in the midst of some personal challenge, just getting up there being a major victory. They weren’t hillwalkers at all, they were your jolly Uncle Joe, your sister’s boyfriend or even your Mum and her poodle Samba. I find this quite uplifting in it’s own way.

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The day turned out hot and mainly sunny too, so all those pairs of sweaty shorts would be drying out. Me and LTD went off to bag Crib-y-Ddysgl, a subsidiary 3000-foot top on the way back, and we had the place to ourselves.

Then, with an easy descent on grass we rejoined the tourist path back to Llanberis, meeting Dawn who was soaking up the rays near Clogwyn Station before finishing the descent to the station cafe for chips and tea.

Next day we went home – so only two more Nuttals bagged, leaving three to do. Quite good fun, though, and I got a nice tan.

The question is, who will drag a panicky old bloke on the blunt end of a Very Tight Rope up the Slab and Notch route on Pillar Rock. And, more to the point, get me back to terra firma without too much screaming in terror or, more importantly, short flights with sudden ends?

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Monday, 9 July 2018

Tangling With Tussocks on Caldbeck Fells

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After having a trundle in the Borders significantly delayed and shortened by the eight sets of roadworks between Knipe Towers and Langholm – thats a set of traffic lights every ten miles with very little evidence of anything much going on (the Longtown delay was the longest), I decided to have another bash at walkies in short order and drove off in a bit of a huff to Mosedale, which is just a bit to the right of Penrith.

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And so, on a summer’s day which wasn’t really too hot, me and LTD tripped the light wotsit up  the little dale past Swinside to the Cumbria Way whoch follows Grainsgill Beck past the old tungsten mines (all tungsten is quite old, apparently) to Lingy Hut.

Lingy Hut has been dunnup by the Mountain Bothies Association since I was last there which was some significant time ago. I spent a draughty night with two peeps who’d got a bit lost in the hillfog and who opted to stay there instead of their planned B&B in Caldbeck. We had a nice night. They played Beach Boys tracks on a sort of boombox thingy and I shared a bit of whisky…

Anyway, it’s been dunnup and draught-proofed. You could spend a night there and it would probably be quite nice, but you’d have to carry up some water from Grainsgill.

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The objective of today’s expedition, though, was to add eight new tops to LTD’s bag. This involved wandering about quite a lot, doing some contouring, tangling with tussocks, blundering through deep heather and snoozing on soft bilberries, or in LTD’s case, on some rocks.

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The tops in order were these:

Great Lingy Hill 616 metres

Miller Moss 609 metres

Little Lingy Hill 600 metres

Coomb Height about 620 metres

Won’t tell you the name of the next one – Pike (dhuhh) 590 metres and a bit

Knott 710 metres

Little Calva 642 metres

Great Calva 690 metres.

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As for me, I’d never been to Pike before. It was very nice. It has a cairn and a nice view.

We snoozed in the sun for a long time on Great Calva before plunging the 1000 feet down to the path back to Mosedale through the Very Deep Heather.

Its a bit of a plod back to Mosedale, so I was more than gruntled to discover that The Friend’s Meeting House has a pop-up tearoom, staffed, presumably, by volunteers and serving pots of tea and dangerous-looking cake and they let me take the dog in.

We did 15 miles and 2880 feet of ascent.

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Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Fiends Fell and Melmerby Fell–A Reconnaissance

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On the 15th of September I’ll be leading a guided walk for the Wednesday and Saturdays Walking Group (Wednesday Walkers Walkihng on Saturdays) and I’d said that the walk would be on Fiend’s Fell; Fiend’s Fell being just a bit North of Cross Fell for those who’ve never heard of it and it’s also in exactly the same place for those who have heard of it….
Before any guided walk can take place, of course, it’s usually quite a good idea to work out the actual route and doing a reccy is reccymended (see what I did there?)
There’ll be another reccy about a week before – that is to say, at the end of August, but in the meantime, me and LTD went off to a sultry Melmerby village, between Penrith and Alston to explore a route.
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The now finalised route will go on quiet rough lanes towards Gamblesby, then follow an old road which leads up the steep Pennine scarp towards Hartside Pass. After this it visits Fiend’s Fell and Melmerby Fell before descending by a lane back to Melmerby.
At the top of Hartside Pass there was once a cafe, once well supported by bikers and the occasional hiker but now in ruins having unfortunately been destroyed by fire this past winter. The route was originally intended to go this way, but a little way before the cafe, LTD noticed a new footbridge across the ditch beside the track and a waymarker post pointing uphill with a thin trod heading straight for the summit of Fiend’s Fell.
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We did go to the cafe to have a look and found a way through grouseland (tracks, burned heather, grouse butts, traps)  on some quite rough ground which eventually produced an ATV track which also went to the top of Fiend’s Fell. But the other way is better, and, frankly, there’s not much point in visiting the ruined cafe unless it’s for an ice-cream, there being an ice cream van there. Under pressure, I would lead the walk to the cafe should there be sufficient demand for cornets or, indeed, lollies.
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Additionally, September 4th is at the height of the grouse-shooting season, so avoiding the butts is probably  wise. I may need a Plan B in case they’re shooting on the day – this would likely be an approach to Fiend’s Fell directly from the West, as opposed to the North, or even avoiding that hill and  going straight for the next hill to the South.
Fiend’s Fell is at 614 metres and sports a trig point and a cairn and some comfy bilberry plants on which to lounge about. In September, there may well be bilberries and, it seems likely that the approach lanes will be abundant with brambles, so when we do the walk, an ample supply of vitamin C will be provided free of charge to all participants.
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The route then heads South towards Cross Fell and climbs gradually to Little Knapside Hill and then to Knapside Hill which has a currick – that is to say, a large cairn with a shelter and a cracking view of the Eden valley and the Lake District, and more bilberry and short, springy turf on which to laze or snooze whilst soaking up the sun. The going gets easier with altitude and it’s only a short and easy hop to the top of the walk at 709 metres and the cairn on Melmerby Fell
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So far, we’d avoided much in the way of intense heat, having set off just before it got very hot, and, at midday we were up on the high tops where there was a lovely, cooling breeze, and it would have been nice to stay high and, perhaps, wander over to Cross Fell on the easy and gentle ground and benign, not to say superb conditions, but we had to follow the route and so, we headed towards Blencathra and found, after some exploration, a gap in the extensive scree slopes marking the edge and this gap lead to a sheepfold and a track which lead all the way back to Melmerby, where it was shimmering hot. Too hot for the dog’s paws on the road, in fact and, despite LTD’s hatred of water, I made him have a short paddle and dip in the two becks which are crossed. LTD walked mainly on the grassy verges and , somehow, we collected a small tribe of sheep which lead the way all the way back to the village, eventually invading a farmyard and causing farm staff to rush about shouting and waving their arms.
The walk is just about ten miles with 2100 feet of ascent and seems to work quite well. The fellwalking part, in good conditions, is superb and easy and the views are huge. In wet, windy and misty times, it might well be a bit of a challenge.
Come back in September to see what actually happened!

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Monday, 2 July 2018

2018 Northumbrian Beach Bivi #1

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Really really attentive readers will recall a multipicity of beach bivis in 2017 and, possibly 2016 too…
The idea is simple – go for a walk involving bagging something, head to Ross Farm and carry huge amounts of water, teabags, food, dog biscuits and a towel for a mile or so  and then eat, sleep, brew and dip for a day, or, possibly two if the weather and the sea conditions allow.
Now camping is Not Allowed on Ross Back Sands on account of it being disturbing to the snoozing of the local seals and the sand gets all churned up and in the wrong order. And, I expect, that some campers may light fires and leave litter and general poo all over the place. We’ve always been much tidier than this, leaving no trace at all of our short residencies, apart from a bit of flattened grass and sand and some footprints. It’s a big and spectacularly beautiful place and only gets busy in a small area and, after hours, there’s nobody else at all. Apart from the wardens guarding the terns and the fishermen chugging about just offshore. And the seals who like to watch people from a distance. And a fox and a lizard and some birds.
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On this occasion we didn’t bother with a pre-bivi hill-bagging but proceeded direct to the beach where Dawn put up a small tabernacle or shelter into which we retired for a snooze due to the fact that it was cloudy, misty and a bit chilly. In the late afternoon, the sun broke through suddenly just a short while before it set, but the next day was hot and sunny and the sea was relatively friendly, apart from the odd wayward current which, if ignored, would probably carry off the dipper towards Aberdeen. And some random and lively waves mixed in with the more gentle stuff just for added excitement.
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In the evening, we were visited by a “warden” – a chap unbothered by our bivi but what excited him was the prospect of us , and LTD, of course, disturbing the terns wot are nesting half a mile to the North, guarded, it has to be said, by  some notices, fencing and a permanent staff of..er.. guards in a hut. Anybody approaching the area during the nesting period, which seems to end at the end of July, is approached by a warden and diverted politely whence they came. There is legal force to all this, so trespassing is a bad idea. In any case, the terns will have soon done their stuff, so if anybody does want to wander around the nearby point, a postponement till August would seem to be just the thing.
We managed several dips in the sea, which had warm waves and cold waves, till it was time to leave on Saturday afternoon.
We may well be back. We left no trace at all, not even LTD’s squishy poo. You wouldn’t know we’d been there had the wardn not chanced on our camp.
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