Of course you could scroll through the archive of blog entries if you wanted, but I thought it might be a tad more convenient to group them all together here.
The Lake District is the mountain area I’ve been to more than any other and almost as many times as all of the other areas put together. I could wax lyrical about the beauty of the Cumbrian landscape but you could get that from dozens of other sites, so I’ll confine myself to letting the details of the walks, and the accompanying pictures, speak for themselves.
Quite a lot of this activity took place before I started blogging, so this has left me with quite a backlog to get written up and on here. So you can expect to see this page evolve over time, and as I go I’ll link the blurb below into the posts.
Entries below are presented in chronological order, and grouped according to each trip that I made. For specific mountains or walks, search the tags.
Ok, so this is definitely a retrospective. In 1992 my girlfriend, now wife, and I happened to be in the Lake District for a holiday and one day we thought it would be a good idea to climb a mountain. I can’t remember now why, or how we settled on it being Helvellyn, but you can read about it in: My First Mountain
One day at work an email came around from the Head of IT looking for volunteers to enter a charity 3 Peaks challenge, where we would be competing against a number of teams from the IT industry. He was keen enough to provide some budget for the cost of the minibus for our team of 9, and to give us a couple of extra free days holiday in order to uphold the honour of his department. I put my name down and found myself made team captain. Anyway, more to follow here in due course, but suffice it to say that the team did conquer the 3 Peaks, although not all of the individual team members. And through the pain of a tortuous descent from Scafell Pike with a wounded team member, one thing stayed with me ever since – the splendour of the landscape in the Lakes generally, and in the Scafell Pike area specifically. My obsession with the Lake District dates back to that early Sunday morning.
3. October 2005 – A Wet Weekend in the Lakes
A quick long weekend trip with my brother after a hard day at work. It rained the whole time and we had a massive bust-up with the B&B landlady. We had three days walking, one on an ascent of Skiddaw, the next walking south along the Helvellyn ridge from Stybarrow Dodd to Dollywaggon Pike, and the third we couldn’t be bothered with and so just went to the pub with the Sunday papers.
4. June 2006 – A Last Minute Stress-buster
Work had got a lot more stressful. I was trying to run a department that didn’t seem to want to be run, we had some really challenging client projects on the go, and I was moving house. I got so worked up that I was ordered by my family to go to the Lake District for a few days to chill out. So I did.
I travelled up on a Saturday and got there in time to have a quick walk on Loughrigg. The next day, it was the Fairfield Horseshoe. On day 3, the Langdale Pikes and the day I date peakbagging in earnest from, covering Loft Crag, Pike of Stickle, Harrison Stickle, Thunacor Knott, Pavey Ark, High Raise and Sergeant Man. My first major navigational hiccup descending onto Tarn Crag rather than Blea Rigg, with a scary stubble down through the bracken to Easedale Tarn meant I missed the bus back from ODG to Ambleside, but I discovered the joy of tarns, and in the end things worked out ok. Shattered after day 3, I couldn’t sleep that night anyway, and got up at the crack of dawn to do Wansfell before breakfast. I only made it as far as Wansfell Pike, but did make it back for breakfast. But the rest of the day was a write-off. The next day I was due to go home, and again got up early to attempt Red Screes before breakfast. Turning off too early on the Kirkstone road, I found myself walking up Scandale and no time to correct my course. My second entry on the list of failed ascents.
My last trip in June 2006, established 4 recurring themes – firstly going to the Lakes as my chill-out zone; secondly an annual trip there around the end of June; thirdly, the lure of peakbagging; and fourthly the collection of a number of failed ascents to be avenged. Things got steadily worse at work and this culminated in me taking a 3 month sabbatical from April to June 2007. Looking for something hillwalking related that I could do in this time, I set my sights on climbing all the Hewitts. After successfully knocking off the Peak District mountains at the start of the month, I headed to the Lakes for a 10 day trek, loaded up with camping gear and an unrealistic sense of how many hills I could summit.
Things went wrong on the day after I got there when I couldn’t do all of the planned walk over the Coniston fells and over Pike o’Blisco into Langdale, and I had to revise my whole plan on the spot. Having vastly underestimated the effect of the pack weight, I tried to trek less and use more fixed bases, which then started to yield results. But after a run of success in the North Western fells, the weather turned against me and the trip fizzled out with me scuttling home with my tail between my legs.
6. June 2007 – Some Honour Restored
With new boots, I returned to the Lakes for one last series of walks before having to go back to work. Only a short one this time, but I was much more realistic. The plan was simply to have a fixed camp in Langdale, and knock off what I could. I’d then move on for any remaining time. My first day saw me rise early due to noisy neighbours, and I was on the summit of Pike o’Blisco for 9am, moving round to Cold Pike and the Crinkles. But having risen so early, I ran out of steam, and called it a day at Three Tarns, ironically rediscovering some energy on the way down The Band – the only time I’ve raced someone down a hill. I didn’t fancy going back up there again the following day to continue, so relocated to Ambleside, had a quiet day, and then the next day exercised the ghost of the Coniston fells by walking over Wetherlam, Swirl How, Grey Friar, Brim Fell and the Old Man.
7. August 2007 – Family Camp in Langdale
Having hoped to go on a family camp to the Lakes during spring half-term, the weather was awful and we postponed the trip on the morning we were due to go. In August though, the weather was better and we camped in Langdale. However, we had a bad spot by the entrance to the field and as a result when it rained it got all churned up and we had some flooding. Walk-wise though, much better, with a pleasant stroll up to Stickle Tarn, then a walk from Clough Head to Stybarrow Dodd, and finally the big one – Bowfell via the Great Slab, moving on to Esk Pike, Great End and Scafell Pike. I was quite late back to the campsite, but it was worth it for possibly the best day’s walking weather I’d ever had in the Lakes, and the mangificence of the panorama from the top of England.
8. April 2008 – A Snatched Weekend
By now I’d well established a pattern of fitting in a series of short trips to the Lakes each year, and I took an opportunity over a long weekend in April 2008, using only a single day’s leave by taking two half days and going straight from work. Being April the weather wasn’t great though, but nothing like the issues I’d had before. I walked over Catbells, Maiden Moor and High Spy, then doing Castle Crag as a bonus at the end. The next day I walked up onto Ullock Pike, Long Side and Carl Side before slogging up onto Skiddaw, then descending to Sale How and then working my way around to Lonscale Fell.
9. June 2008 – Ambleside Ambles
My end of June trip being based around Ambleside seemed to have become a bit of an established pattern, so I created another long weekend through creative use of annual leave, half days and some conveniently timed and located seminars. My first day was a walk over Seat Sandal, St Sunday Crag and Birks; the second an ascent of Stone Arthur, then over Fairfield, Dove Crag and finishing on Little Hart Crag. Day 3 started slowly and it was late before I got going. Having decided to take it easy, I climbed Helm Crag, Gibson Knott (where I found a nice rock for a snooze against), then Calf Crag. That was all my target for the day, but I did that rarest of things for me – I extended the walk, going off-piste up alongside Mere Beck onto Tarn Crag, then Codale Head and Sergeant Man. Then I descended the right way this time over Blea Rigg and Silver How.
10. September 2008 – Me v The Weather
Snatching a few days at the end of the school holidays, I travelled by train to Ravenglass and then onto Eskdale Green by steam. A late afternoon walk over Irton Fell to Wastwater youth hostel ended the journey. Next day I walked with a guy I met at the hostel as we were both planning a similar walk and were both staying at Black Sail the next night. After being on a cruise ship the previous week, I wasn’t in particularly good shape and climbing Yewbarrow was a bit of a struggle. Not as much as trying to descend to Dore Head, though, and eventually we retraced our steps and cut down the side of the mountain. Red Pike, Scoat Fell and Pillar followed and it was late before we arrived at Black Sail, where everyone else was just finishing dinner, but there were enough leftovers for us. Next day I climbed Kirk Fell which involved the scariest, most precarious scramble I think I’ve ever done, made worse by rain and wind. I took one look at Great Gable and didn’t bother, opting instead to cut across onto Green Gable and then down over Brandreth towards Honister. It was till windy the next day, so my walk over Fleetwith Pike didn’t go any further round (I was planning on getting to Haystacks) and I nearly fell down the mountain on the descent of Fleetwith Edge. The trip concluded the next day with a walk over Ard Crags and Knott Rigg to Keswick. This trip turned out to be the worst weather-wise of all I’ve done.
11. June 2009 – Keswick-based Bimbles
Holiday priorities this year meant I only fitted in one Lake District trip, so I made it a good one. Staying in Keswick, I used buses to get me around. Day 1 was an ascent of Seathwaite Fell then round to Allen Crags and back over Glaramara. I ran out of steam soon after and didn’t finish the whole ridge, thereby leaving Bessyboot as an odd one out Wainwright. Day 2 I did Binsey, a very straightforward walk, but I got a good view. Day 3 was my first foray into the Far Eastern fells – a walk from Patterdale over Angletarn Pikes, Brock Crags, Knott, etc and round to High Raise, before returning to Patterdale. On day 4, I tackled Eagle Crag and Sergeant’s Crag, then headed up onto High Raise and then decided to head towards Keswick and see how far I got – the answer being no further than Ullscarf, but this was ok as Ullscarf was one of my 2007 failures that I’d now wiped from the slate.
12. July 2010 – Escape to Eskdale
Having a horrible time at work, I couldn’t wait to get away for my annual trip and I’d been staring at the bottom left-hand corner of my Lake District map for ages. Black Combe was sitting there egging me on, and so I planned a trip to take in the far south west corner of the lakes. On the day I travelled up I walked over Black Combe and then got picked up from the fell road by my landlady. On day 2 she dropped me at the same point and I continued over Buckbarrow and Burn Moor to Whitfell. The rain was lashing down and I couldn’t see where I was going so I abandoned the walk at that point. The next day I was relocating to YHA Eskdale, so I did it by heading up over Hesk Fell, Stainton Pike then along to Devoke Water before descending to the hostel. Day 4 was Slight Side and Scafell, coming down from the tops just before the thunder and lightning started. Day 5 was Hardknott, Harter Fell and Green Crag.
13. August 2010 – Reaching Halfway
Less than 4 weeks later, another opportunity arose and I grabbed it with both hands. A trip based in Ambleside, this was a trip where I knew I’d, all being well, pass the halfway mark in the Wainwrights. I warmed up by ascending Red Screes, the right way this time, knocking off Middle Dodd and then back to Ambleside via Scandale. On day 1 I got really stuck in with the Langdale Pikes via Jack’s Rake then round to Steel Fell. Day 3 I was back in Langdale and walked up to Rossett Pike, my halfway fell, then in celebration extended the walk and finally got Great Gable, descending over Green Gable and Base Brown. The next day I did the rest of the central fells from Walla Crag to High Tove. After a day off spent with a local artist, I had an unexpected final day’s walking due to a poor weather forecast (for painting). A short jaunt to High Rigg saw me finish the Central fells, my first complete group.
Another extended work break means lots of walking, and I undertook the Cumbria Way as a training walk for the much tougher Cambrian Way (which in the event I postponed for a variety of reasons). But I didn’t want to just do the standard route, as it’s too low level. So the normal 5 day walk became 8 days, with an additional two days inserted to do a bit of peakbagging in the Northern fells. This walk has its own page .
With my career break now over half gone and opportunities for trips disappearing fast, I took an 11 day trip to Cumbria to bag some Wainwrights and Nuttalls. Having done the majority of the convenient stuff in the easily accessible centre of Lakeland, this was always going to be about knocking off some of the more peripheral fells. A difficult one to plan as it needed to be put together as a trek from base to base in order to access the target fells. The posts from this trip are all packaged up here.