Monday, June 10, 2024

Back O'Blencathra

Date: 31/05/2024

Wainwrights: Carrock Fell (661m), High Pike (658m), Knott (710m), Great Calva (690m)

Start/Finish: Mosedale Village

Total Distance: 14.5 miles

Time Taken: 8 Hours 

The Route : Anti-clockwise from Mosedale

                        A Video of the Hike

It has been a long time since I was last in the fells. 12 months to be precise, when I climbed up Jacks Rake with my lad. Lots of excuses - mainly the appalling weather and the fact that at my time of life, I really don't want to be braving the elements and suffering unnecessarily in bad weather for zero chance of a summit view. So today was time to make amends and continue the quest which started 15 years ago and had been stuck on 198 Wainwrights for far too long. 

I only had 4 fells left in the Northern Region and they were ones at the back of Blencathra, namely: Carrock Fell, High Pike, Knott and Great Calva. It was going to be a long hike to link these 4 together but I wanted to get them done in a single stretch so a route was planned and I headed off to the Lakes at first light on a cold but clear Friday morning, hopeful that my fitness hadn't completely abandoned me. 

I parked the car in Mosedale and then headed along the road northwards for about a mile. The scenery is dominated by the impressive looking Carrock Fell on the left side. 

Carrock Fell from Mosedale

Most of the fells north of Blencathra and Skiddaw are quite benign in appearance, being mainly grassy mounds with little in the way of rocky scenery. No so with Carrock Fell though. It is decidedly craggy and imposing with steep gnarly flanks. The only accessible path on the OS map was on the eastern face and that was where I headed. The path leaves the road by a small lay-bye and heads upwards, flanking the right side of a steep gully, before emerging onto the summit. 

The way up Carrock Fell

The summit of Carrock Fell is a shattered pile of rocks with an impressive looking cairn and a wind shelter. The views are impressive in all directions. 

Carrock Fell Summit

After a 20 minute respite, I head off westwards on a good path, which then veered northwards towards High Pike. 45 minutes later I was stood on this interesting summit.

High Pike

High Pike Summit looking East ...

... and looking West

High Pike summit is dominated by a large triangular pile of rocks which could be clearly seen from Carrock Fell. What was unexpected is the lovely stone bench and an impressive trig point. The bench is a memorial to a young boy who loved this area but tragically passed away aged 16 in 1944. 

The Memorial Bench on High Pike Summit

The route then re-treads the path back down High Pike before veering off South-Westwards towards Knott. About halfway along the route is Lingy Hut Bothy, one of just 4 Bothies in the Lake District. It is basically a wooden shed guyed down to prevent it from blowing away. Inside are very basic amenities and a sleeping platform. Perfect for a night out on the fells if you don't want to carry your own shelter.

Lingy Hut Bothy

Knott (as opposed to 'The Knott', in the Far Eastern Fells) is the highest fell on today's route, at 710 meters. It also has the least impressive summit of the 4. No trig point, bench or wind shelter. Just a small pile of stones.

'Knott' summit

From Knott, Great Calva is due South and looks impressively steep and mountainesque in its profile. The path continues westwards and then turns due South to climb up between Little Calva and Great Calva. 

Great Calva (left), LIttle Calva (right) & Skiddaw (background)

Little Calva isn't a Wainwright but I thought it might be worth the small detour onto its summit. It wasn't. 

Little Calva Summit
A good path now heads straight up onto the summit of Great Calva. This is another fell with impressive summit features including a large cairn and great views in all directions.

Great Calva Summit

It was now a case of tackling the steep descent off the eastern face of Great Calva down a heather invaded path which winds its way steeply down to join the Cumbria Way. It was then another 4 miles following the River Caldew back to Mosedale.

The path down the west face of Great Calva

The bridge over Grainsgill Beck

The Cumbria Way

Nearly back at Mosedale

So that's 202 Wainwright's done and dusted. Just 12 to go, over 3 hikes. Should be finished by the end of summer.

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

VW Camper Van Tour Part 2

Since I last posted about 'Skippy', our 1979 VW bay window camper (you can see that post here), we've done a few more upgrades and modifications which I wanted to share. The van was on wedding duty today and so we got her tarted up and cleaned and I did brief video which you can see below.

Weddings are something we started doing last year. We have a relationship with 2 local companies who have similar vintage camper vans which they use exclusively for weddings and other events. 

Skippy with friends, Mary (left) and Dusty (right)

Skippy is used mainly for camping but we can also use her for weddings and so we act as an additional van if needed by one of the 2 companies. If you are interested is hiring Skippy, or one of the other wedding vans, I will put their websites below.

Chase the Sun 

Broughton Wedding Cars

On Duty !

The first upgrade we did last year was to have the original steel wheels (which were getting pretty rusty) sand blasted and powder coated to look like new. Demon Wheels in Preston did this for us and they did a superb job. We are really happy with them. They look great with the original chrome hub caps and the while wall tyres.

Baby's got new Shoes ...

The next major upgrade was to have all the seats and the mattress reupholstered. This was done by Phil Dixon at Kew Coach Trimmers in Southport. We chose a lovely cream and grey pattern which matches the door cards. 

... and new Clothes

Phil did an excellent job using top quality materials which look like new. Again, we've been really happy with the result.

The Finished Interior complete with Original Furniture 

The other few jobs were just minor bits and bobs. We always struggled with fridge space on anything more that a 1 night trip and so we bought the Indel B TB18 compact fridge/freezer which sits perfectly between the 2 front seats. This is great for drinks and along with the Vitifrigio C39i we now have plenty of fridge space. 

Just Chillin

And the great thing about these 2 super efficient 12 volt compressor fridges is that they both are powered continually by the 180w solar panel on the roof which charges a large gel battery. And we still have plenty of capacity to charge phones, use the internal lights and power the radio. Which essentially means we have no need for an electric hook up when camping. Great freedom !

At Bug Jam, Santa Pod 2023

Camping in the Lake District 

The final upgrade last year was related to a problem I had with the wiper motor fuse frequently blowing. After a discussion on the late bay forum I found that this was a fairly common problem, and would need a replacement wiper motor, which are very hard to come by. 

Someone on the forum had designed a modification kit which used a VW Golf wiper motor as a much more reliable alternative. And so I ordered the bits, carefully followed the instructions and now have a perfect 2 speed wiper motor which is much quieter and has already paid for itself in the number of blown fuses saved !

And that's about it. Skippy is looking fine and we are looking forward to a great summer of camping and weddings. I have no plans for any major upgrades in the foreseeable future. I do keep toying with the idea of getting a diesel heater, and that might be the next project but otherwise its just the usual service and maintenance jobs. She is probably going need her underside wax oiling again at the end of the season. Keeping the rust at bay is of course the number one concern with these vans !

Sunday, March 5, 2023

The Blencathra Group - via Sharp Edge


Date: 14/02/2023

Wainwrights: Souther Fell (522m), Blencathra (868m), Mungrisdale Common (633m), Bannerdale Crags (683m), Bowscale Fell (702m)

Start/Finish: Mungrisdale Village

Total Distance: 11 miles

Time Taken: A leisurely 7 Hours 

The Route : Clockwise from Mungrisdale

                        A Video of the Hike

I've climbed Blencathra twice before, but never the surrounding fells. And so todays objective was to remedy this and climb all the fells in the Blencathra group, as well as Blencathra itself via Sharp Edge. I'd chosen a circular route from Mungrisdale and set of at first light on a cold, clear day.

Sunrise near Great Mell Fell

Its a nice gentle stroll up to the summit ridge of Souther Fell along a good path though the bracken. The summit is just a slightly higher grassy mound from all the others on the summit plateau.

The path up Souther Fell

View of Blencathra from Souther Fell Summit

A good path follows the western shoulder of Souther Fell until it drops down to the Glenderamackin valley. Another path then follows the flanks of Scales Fell up towards Scales Tarn.

Looking up to Sharp Edge and Foule Crag

Scales Tarn

From Scales Tarn there is a clear choice of routes up onto Blencathra summit. An easy path can be followed to the south, or the more challenging route along Sharp Edge and Foule Crag can be attempted. If the weather is inclement, particularly if wet and/or windy then I would strongly suggest the easier option. 

Sharp Edge & Foule Crag

Looking back along the ridge
Sharp Edge is a common site of hiking accidents which unfortunately includes 12 fatalities since records began in the 1940's. As such, it is a region firmly on the radar of the Keswick mountain rescue team. Accidents usually occur as a result of slipping on the smooth, polished rock along the ridge, particularly an awkward sloping rock which hikers call the 'bad step'. In wet weather it can be treacherous. Today however, the conditions were fairly calm and dry underfoot.

                Every Step along Sharp Edge

Once sharp edge has been safely traversed, the difficulties are not yet over. Facing you is a angular rocky outcrop called 'Foule Crag'. This is a hand and foot scramble which demands 10 minutes of further concentration until the summit plateau is reached. Then you can finally relax and enjoy a pleasant 5 minute stroll up to summit of Blencathra where stunning views in all directions are an ample reward for your efforts.

The next objective was the somewhat bland and uninviting grassy mound of Mungrisdale Common. For those who have no desire to 'collect Wainwrights' then I would advise avoiding the 90 mins of torment required to cross, and then re-cross the boggy terrain in order to bag this particular summit. Your feet and knees will certainly appreciate it.

Mungrisdale Common is the grassy lump in the mid ground

The summit of Mungrisdale Common 

Bannerdale Crags is the next fell on the route. As it is approached from the western side it looks decidedly un-craggy, as the drama is hidden from view on its east facing aspect. This was a perfect place to stop for a brew and a bite to eat.

Bannerdale Crags summit - looking back towards Blencathra

Bowscale Fell is clearly visible to the north and a good path arcs around the head of the Bannerdale valley to reach it. The return path drops down to the valley and follows Bannerdale Beck back to Mungrisdale Village.

Bowscale Fell summit

This hike brings the Wainwright total to 198. The next hike will tackle the 4 fells to north of Blencathra which will then complete the Northern Fells.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Back O'Skiddaw

Dates: 19th & 20th May 2022
Wainwrights: Binsey (1467 ft), Bakestall (2208 ft), Great Cockup (1726 ft), Meal Fell (1804 ft), Great Scafell Fell (2136 ft), Brae Fell (1923 ft), Longhands Fell (1585 ft)
Total Distance: 13.6 miles  
Total Height Gained: 4000 feet
Time Taken: Day 1 = 1 hour.  Day 2 = 7 hours

                A 30 minute Video of the Trip

These are a difficult group of fells to link together in a single hike, mainly because Binsey is sat out on its own as the most northern of the wainwrights. I therefore decided to take the camper van and tackle Binsey on its own and then move closer to the other 6 fells which can be climbed easily as a group. 

Day 1 Route up and down Binsey

I set off straight after work and arrived at the foot of Binsey at about 18:30. It's a short climb with the summit reached in just 30 minutes. The summit has lovely uninterrupted views north and west towards Scotland and the Isle of Man. 

Binsey overlooking Over Water

Binsey Summit View over Bassenthwaite Lake

It would be great place to watch the sunset but I was about 2 hours too early so I headed down and then moved the van to a nice spot close to the start of tomorrows walk.

Day 2 Route

After a nice quiet night in the camper I set off up Bakestall at 5am, mindful of the weather forecast which had thundery showers heading my way in the early afternoon. The path heads up grassy tussocks on the right side of dead crags. The summit was reached almost exactly an hour after leaving the van.  


Bakestall Summit

From Bakestall I headed down a path on the northern side of the fell picking up the Cumbria Way at Dash Falls and then heading westwards under dead crags before veering off north towards Dash Farm and then up onto Great Cockup. A cuckoo, the first I've heard this year, kept me company for most of the 2 hours between fell tops.

The Fells on the route ahead from the descent from Bakestall

A good path then leads on towards Meal Fell, then Great Sca Fell, Brae Fell and finally Longlands Fell. The whole of this region is a series of grassy mounds reminiscent of the Howgills. This section of walk was populated mainly be skylarks. I didn't see another person until descending off Longlands Fell. 

Longlands Fell summit view towards Over Water and Binsey

This trip took the Wainwright count to 194. Just 20 to go.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

The Skiddaw Group

24th March 2022
Start/Finish: Millbeck Farm
Wainwrights: Dodd (1612ft) , Carl Side (2420ft), Long Side (2405ft), Ullock Pike (2230ft), Skiddaw (3053ft), Little Man (2837ft), Lonscale Fell (2344ft), Latrigg (1203ft)
Distance: 14 miles
Total Ascent: 4117ft
Time Taken: 8 hours

The Route : Clockwise from Millbeck

I'm finally back in the fells! It's certainly been a while since my last Lakeland Hike. The Wainwright count has been stalled on 179 for the past 2 years. It was time to restart the campaign.

                           A video of the hike

My focus for the next few hikes is going to be on the Northern Fells. I've plotted routes to complete them all in 4 day hikes. Today was the first such route and was centred around the Skiddaw group of fells. The northern fells are not a particularly easy group to link together efficiently and so I used routes based on those suggested by Stuart Marshall in his book, 'Walking the Wainwrights'.

Views towards the Newlands and Coledale Valleys from Millbeck


I started at Millbeck on a lovely spring morning and headed up Skiddaw Dodd along the meandering forestry paths which traverse the fell. There are many route options. A map helps but it's really just a case of heading upwards at every route choice until the summit is reached. 

The views get better with height

Early morning mist over Derwent Water

Forestry path leading up to Dodd

Dodd summit view west over Bassenthwaite Lake ...

... and south towards Derwent Water ...

... and finally north towards Ullock Pike and Long Side

Postcard view of the Coledale Fells

The summit view from Dodd is really quite something and far in excess of what could be expected from just one hour of fairly minimal effort. The next objective of Carl Side looms ominously to the north and involves a 10 minute retracing of steps before a path branches off downwards towards White Stones. Unfortunately about 400 feet of height is lost before the ascent returns with fury. An hour of hard labour results in the conquest of Carl Side which is a fairly unimpressive mound with a tiny cairn to denote the summit.    

Looking back to Dodd from the path up to Carl Side

Carl Side summit looking towards Skiddaw

Long Side looms to the west and an obvious path takes a direct course to its summit. A further narrow path continues towards Ullock Pike. The views down to Bassenthwaite Lake are stunning along the whole ridge. 

Ullock Pike view of Bassenthwaite Lake

From Ullock Pike, the route is retraced back over Long Side before a wide path veers off towards the ascent of Skiddaw. 

Long Side and Carl Side from the ascent path to Skiddaw

From the col at Carlside Tarn the route then steers north-eastwards up a steep shale path which eventually emerges onto a broad ridge leading gently up to Skiddaw summit. Of course the expected summit slugs were sat on the trig point enjoying their lunch. For the life of me I don't understand why people do this. Why sit on the very busiest point of a mountain, where everyone else wants to get to, surely knowing that your presence there is so obviously unwanted. Maybe they have no sense of self awareness ? 

Summit Slugs on Skiddaw

Little Man is the next objective and in clear view over to the south east. The summit is lovely place with fantastic views. A little grassy terrace a few steps down on the Keswick side is a great place for 10 minutes R&R.

The path to Little Man

Little Man summit view over Derwent Water

Little Man summit view back to Skiddaw

Little Man summit towards Lonscale Fell with Blencathra beyond

Lonscale Fell is clearly visible to the east and involves a fairly dreary trudge towards this expansive grassy plateau where the summit is marked by a small pile of stones.

Lonscale Fell summit view west back towards Skiddaw

Lonscale Fell summit view east towards Blencathra

It was now time to head downwards, initially re-tracing steps for 5 minutes before heading along a good path due south towards the car park on the Cumbria Way. From there, a path skirts Latrigg on the western side before looping round and approaching the summit from the south. Lovely views over Keswick towards Derwent Water and the Newlands Valley are ample reward from this last fell, the lowest of the day but perhaps the best viewpoint of them all. 

Views of Keswick from the descent path

Looking back along the descent path from the Hawell memorial


Looking back along the route taken from the flanks of Latrigg

Latrigg summit view of Keswick and Derwent Water

It was then a case of picking a route back to the car by the avoidance of road walking as much as possible.

Next up, the fells north of Skiddaw, or perhaps the Blencathra Group. Hopefully not too long off.

Wainwright count 187/214