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


Tuesday, October 19, 2021

A Tour of our Vintage Retro Camper Van

Well its been a while since I've posted a camping / hiking video. Lots of reasons. Covid, work (healthcare), kids - basically a lack of time. I have however managed to finish most of the outstanding jobs on our camper van and I thought I would share the results before I wrap her up in her cosy cover for the winter. 

                See the video below

So let me introduce you to 'Skippy', our original Holdsworth conversion 1979 VW type 2, bay window, 2 litre air cooled camper van (called a ‘late bay’ by fellow ‘dub campers’). 

She is 42 years old and officially a historic vehicle, meaning no road tax and no MOT needed (although I always get her MOT'd anyway). We bought her about 6 years ago from a local lady who had 3 vans that she hired out for weddings etc. Skippy was surplus to requirement at the time and as we had hired her for 2 previous holidays, and knew her well, we decided to bite the bullet and buy her. 

The front of our bay window camper

She was is reasonable condition when we got her. The engine & gearbox had been recently replaced and were in great condition but there was some bodywork rust bubbling through in the usual spots and the interior was starting to look a bit tatty. We therefore decided to spruce her up. We wanted to keep as many of her original features as possible and so we renovated, rather than updating her. 

She's a pop top with a sliding side door

We started the work 3 years ago and since then she's had all her underneath sealed, rusted panels replaced and welded and a complete re-spray in baby blue. The pop-top roof was really tatty so we've had it removed and completely renovated with new canvas and head lining. She's been rewired and had a new split charge system fitted (a system which charges a separate 12v leisure battery in the engine bay and also allows for 240v hook up at camp sites). This powers the new interior LED lights, the sink tap and the radio. The system also powered the fridge but we found it was flattening the leisure battery in about 2 days (unless we used 240v hook up - which we wanted to avoid). We therefore decided to fit a 180w solar panel to the roof and this now charges a separate leisure battery in the van which is enough to power the fridge continually as well as a few 12v USB ports. 

This is the original Devon interior from 1979

We have removed, sanded down and re-stained all of the original wooden furniture and then re-fitted it over a newly tiled floor. All the door cards and interior panels have also been replaced. In fact the only jobs now remaining are to have the seats recovered, fit some new curtains and have the original rusty wheels sand blasted and spruced up. Then she will be ready to take camping next year.

The new floor & renovated interior furniture 

Of course there are always other jobs to do with a van of this age. I also want to fit a gas heater so we can use her in winter and a separate bottle fridge between the 2 front seats, also powered by the solar panel. 

For a more thorough tour, see the video at the start of this post.