Club Archives and History
We have some old blog posts and newsletters preserved on the site for posterity. You can view them below.
- Skiing in Glen Shee, April 2013
- A Crookrise rainy day come good, June 2013
- The Meet That Never Was, January 2013
- Hanging Around In The Peak, October 2012
- A Tale of 2 Winter Belays, February 2012
- Winter Skills in the Cairngorms, January 2012
- LMCers in the Pass, October 2011
- Dave and Holly's Trip to Yosemite, August 2011
- Paul's Trip to Ailefroid, July 2011
- The Greenwoods Go Climbing, Easter 2011
- Photos in Videos with Music, 2004 - 2011
- Wasdale Head Meet, 13th - 14th August 2010
- Buttermere - Dalegarth Campsite, July 2010
- Tour of the Lake District, April - May 2010
- C2C - A Taste of Things to Come? June 2004
Skiing in Glen Shee, April 2013
Last week saw that rare and magic alignment of good snow and good weather in the Scottish Highlands.
After returning from Kintail, I spent most of the week looking at webcams and forecasts; praying that it would hold out until the next weekend for some Scottish skiing. Conditions looked amazing, and I got pretty distressed by a wobble in the forecast on Tuesday that suggested it would all breakdown by Saturday. But by Wednesday night it was looking good again, so the plan was on!
I decided to go to Glenshee, not only because it looked to have the best snow, but also it has got by far the most extensive lift system with a large variety of runs and access to a huge area of terrain. It is also much better organised than Cairngorm. So no fighting for lift passes in the morning or ridiculous lift queues. Setting off from work at 3 pm on Friday, the 6 hour drive up to Braemar where I'd booked into the Youth Hostel went in no time at all, as most of it was in the daylight.
The next morning, I was up at 6.30am, along with the rest of my dorm-mates - all up for the skiing other than a bewildered Japanese woman who must have wondered what was going on. By 8.10 am I was up at the ski centre and had my lift pass, and was able to get on the first lift, which started at 8.20 am. The snow was in absolutely amazing condition considering it was nearly 2 weeks since the last snowfall. It could have fallen in the last two days, as the cold temperatures had kept it dry and powdery. There was an enormous depth of snow, with some of the lift stanchions buried to within 3 metres of their tops. Glenshee's fleet of 5 piste-bashers had been hard at work, and had pisted virtually every marked run in the ski area, producing beautiful squeaky corduroy. Off-piste could best be described as trying to ski across a building site; with a hard surface of brittle wind-formed sastrugi.
I headed straight over to Glas Maol, which boasts Britain's longest marked run - a 2 km long red run from near the top of the 1068 m high peak. It also has possibly the world's longest drag-lift to get to it! It was an absolutely fantastic run down, as good as anything in one of the big Alpine resorts, and virtually empty first thing in the morning. One advantage of its system of drag-lifts is that Glenshee's pistes are never crowded.
After a few repeats, I then did the unpisted red direct from the summit, followed by the West Wall black run, which had also been left untouched by the piste bashers. The latter had developed an impressive mogul field, the like of which I've never seen in Scotland. It initially looked quite intimidating, with elephantine bumps followed by a drop-off on the hardest line. I stuck to a middle line, with more modest sized bumps, which turned out to be quite friendly as the snow was nice and grippy. The bottom half of the run is a long natural half-pipe feature, which was brilliant fun, with the cruddy snow giving just about the right amount of challenge.
I also enjoyed the great collection of shorter pisted red runs from Meall Odhar in the next valley along, again on perfect snow. After lunch, I made a brief foray to the other side of the ski area around Carn Aosda and the Cairnwell. Here it was a completely different story, with the slopes catching the full heat of the sun and the snow already very slushy or scraped down to an icy base. I had a look at the Tiger; the black run off the top of the Cairnwell which is supposedly Scotland's hardest marked run. Its icy moguls glistened like teeth in the sun and along with the "Expert only" signs giving dire warnings of its difficulty left me happy to leave it for another day. Its rickety looking one-man chairlift also looked fairly hardcore!
After two or three runs in the slush, I headed back to Glas Maol and Meall Odhar for the rest of the afternoon. The weather looked to be coming in in the Northern Cairngorms, with snowclouds on the horizon, but Glenshee kept its own bubble of blue skies and sunshine right to the end of the day. I hung around for the last lift up Glas Maol and a quiet final run down, before working my way back to the carpark for 5 pm. It had been surprisingly tiring spending the whole day on drag-lifts, and with cough which had started on the drive up rapidly turning into a chest infection, I was feeling pretty shattered and ready for an early night.
Sunday dawned a very different day, with fog down to valley level and snow steadily falling. There seemed less of a rush to get going in the morning, so after a leisurely breakfast chatting to my hostel mates and dosing myself up with Paracetamol and strong coffee, I got up to the ski centre for 9.15 am. I was surprised by how busy it was again, and I felt like a bit of a softy Sassenach for having even thought that people wouldn't be out skiing in these conditions. The visibility was very poor in the morning; a chance to work on those "Jedi skiing" skills of getting down stuff by feel when you can't tell the difference between sky and snow or up and down. As the day went on, the cloud base lifted, and the accumulation of fresh snow gave an added bonus. I finally packed it in at 3.30 pm, and treated myself to a slice of banoffee pie in the cafe before heading home.
All in all, Saturday was one of the best days skiing I've had this year and had made the long drive up well worth it, although two days skiing with a chest infection is probably not what the doctor would have ordered, and I'm now suffering a bit as a consequence (this article is written from my sick-bed...).
There is still masses of snow up there, and the Scottish skiing season is not over yet. Last year the best conditions of the whole season were at the end of April, so it's always worth keeping an eye on those forecasts if you fancy a cheeky last minute weekend of skiing.
A Crookrise rainy day come good, June 2013
Well six of us turned up. Then it rained. We all got cold.
Keith and Mike climbed a damp crease in the rain. I rushed a light lead - Steve soloed it as the rain began. Wayne and Gaz came and joined us from further down the crag. Keith got cold in his shorts.
After a short fashion show, he and Mike went somewhere warmer.
Meanwhile Steve led a green chimney belonging to Slingsby "because it isn't raining in here". Gaz and Wayne had lunch. The rain stopped. Wayne led the now dry crease.
Steve found a pile of left handed lichen to top out into. Steve and I had lunch. Gaz led a flaky wall with a scary top out. Wayne was spellbound by the even scarier route (or was it?) next door. Steve couldn't resist the warm and dry crease.
Everybody looked at some Hovis. Steve and Wayne tried to steal it but were shaken off the starting moves a few times. The midges arrived. We all moved on to the seaside, where I led directly up an octopus and after Gaz had climbed the cats whiskers Wayne was last seen approaching a sole...
The Meet That Never Was, 25th January 2013
Wonder why I'm writing it now, rather than skiing powder or climbing packed out gullies? Then read on...
Sara, Stuart and I set off from Leeds on Friday evening in light snow. As we skirted the Yorkshire Dales on the A65 the snow got heavier and the road got slippier. We stopped for fish and chips in Penrith, where we decided to abandon and head back to Leeds. The car wouldn't get up the hill out of Penrith so Sara and I got out and pushed. A bunch of locals appeared and gave us a hand.
We decided to come back via the A65 because the M6 was closed further South due to extreme weather. The A65 was very snowy, but everything went fine until we got stuck halfway up a hill near Kirkby Lonsdale. Sara and I got out and pushed, and some Irish turkey farmers who were following in a lorry lent a hand and their bucket of grit. We got to the top of the hill.
We slipped and slid our way towards Leeds. In some places there was a lot of snow, in other places, not so much. We passed through the Ingleton Triangle, which was warm, balmy, and snow-free. I believe Sara may have seen a parrot; we were all a bit tired at this point.
We got stuck again going up a hill near Skipton. It was too slippery to get moving without a push. A convoy of lorries had stopped, blocking our side of the road. Sara and I tried to push the car around the lorries and up the hill while Stuart used his shovel to dig some tracks through the snow. Each time we got moving a car would come in the opposite direction and force us to reverse.
The police came and told us the road ahead was bad and the road from Skipton to Harrogate was closed. It was about 1am so we decided to give up pushing and sit it out. Stuart wanted to stay with his car, so he got his skis out and went for a little tour down the road. Sara and I got a lift with the police to the Skipton Travel Lodge. Sara and I sat in the reception with the night receptionist. He wasn't used to seeing human beings in his job and it troubled him, so he gave us the key to an out-of-order room to sleep in.
By early morning the roads had been cleared, which was lucky because we had to leave the Travel Lodge before the day staff arrived. As we left, Sara was going to give the night receptionist the bottle of brandy she was carrying, but thought better of it because it made us look like vagrants.
We met Stuart on the road and got back to Leeds about 8.30am, 14 hours after setting off. Although the trip didn't turn out as planned, we all managed some winter mountaineering - Stuart skied, while Sara and I climbed several hills (pushing a car).
Respect to Stuart for not only driving, but keeping the car under control in really tough conditions.
Hanging Around In The Peak, 21st October 2012
“So what is your history with Quietus1 Mike?” asked Bruce.
“Well I had a go, but I came off. My foot was on the heel hook so inverted as I fell.”
“There was a lot of rope stretch, so I landed on the ledge below, hit my head, and got concussed. Luckily I was wearing a helmet.”
On the promise of good weather Bruce, Mike, Wayne and I were driving to the Peak, but so far we had no clear plan of where to go (Millstone? – to shaded, Bamford? – not enough to do). In that moment it was decided: High Neb.
We arrived, warm from the walk in under the blazing sun, at a beautifully tranquil High Neb Buttress2. Mike and Wayne got started on High Neb Buttress Variations, while I followed Bruce up Norse Corner Climb.
Next, I balanced my way up Where did my Tan Go?, while Wayne was around the corner getting pumped out of his tree leading The Dalesman. With full sun and a light breeze, it was some of the best conditions this year; T-shirt weather at the end of October!
As Bruce and I scrambled down the descent to the right of High Neb, our eyes were drawn upwards. Above us lay a roof; gloomy, horizontal, jutting out a body length from the cliff, and split by the crack line of Jeepers Creepers. Bruce had been contemplating this line for a while. He was ready to give it a try.
He quickly dispatched the lower section. Stood on a ledge, with cams in the roof crack above, he then spent several minutes trying different ways of placing his hands in the crack before finally making an attempt. A tentative reach, a couple of moves, retreat back to the ledge looking confused. He made a couple more attempts - leaving the ledge to hang from the underside of the crack - before deciding that for him, today, it wasn’t going to happen.
I couldn’t miss the opportunity to try Jeepers Creepers, especially since Bruce had pre-placed the gear. I climbed to the ledge below the roof and stuck my hands in the crack. It was smoother than I expected (and this with Bruce telling me how smooth it was!). There was nothing for it but to grab a hold just to the left of the crack, feet up, launch outwards, sink a jam… and retreat back to the ledge looking confused.
I gave it several more attempts – jug, hand jam, heel hook – each taking me further than the last, before I peeled off, broken, exhausted, dangling like a puppet. I skulked off to one side and finished the climb via the Severe variation.
But all that is unimportant. Because down below anticipation was building as Mike taped up his hands.
By the time Bruce and I had cleared our gear from Jeepers Creepers, Mike was making his way up to the ledge below the roof section of Quietus.
A crowd gathered as Mike sorted out protection in the roof. Eventually he was ready. He edged out, Gecko-like, across the underside of the roof. The crowd started to cheer as he reached upwards around the end to get his first jam in. It looked like he was going to do it! More importantly, Mike had groupies!3
In seconds it was all over. Mike retreated back to the ledge. He had a couple more goes but didn’t better his first attempt. For Mike, too, it wasn’t going to happen today, but at least there was no concussion.
After that the day coasted gently to a close. Bruce and I climbed Icy Crack, an indifferent route, before wandering along the crag to watch Wayne climb Quantum Crack. A bank of mist that had been moving along Stanage for a while finally reached us, and Wayne finished the route in cloud.
We walked down to the car in cool, misty, conditions that were a stark contrast to the earlier sunshine. There is every possibility that this will turn out to be the last climbing day of the year, but what a day to end on.
1. Quietus is the central line through the huge roof that dominates that crag at High Neb.
2. The day before Bruce and I had been at the Popular End of Stanage, which was swamped with several minibuses worth of climbing clubs.
3. The crowd included a handful of enthusiastic young lady climbers (and their perhaps less enthusiastic male companions).
A Tale of 2 Winter Belays, 15th February 2012
Winter climbing, it’s a strange beast really, particularly what we like to think of as our ‘special’ British variant of the activity. Many of us will drive for hours long into the night for a dusting of snow and a long walk in to be met by conditions that make us think ‘yeah, it is in nick, honest’. A start in the dark by headtorch will often be matched with a walk out by headtorch, if not climbing by headtorch, a slump into the car and a nod to our partner of ‘yep another good day out, winter climbing is ace isn’t it’.
As winter climbers we seem to readily accept less than the ideal. This covers: weather (think of those days fighting up a gully route with spindrift piling down on you), accessibility (think of the walk ins to Little Brenva Face, Lochnagar etc), conditions (think of that feeling when you place a tool, remove it and the spurt of water comes out of the hole) and protection on a route (50m run out anyone?).
Two incidents, a fortnight and 400 miles (by road) apart, have led me to think a lot about this last point. I wouldn’t regard myself as an uber experienced winter climber but have played in the snow and ice for 15 years or so across the UK and further afield. Before you read on think about when you have rigged a winter belay, or belay in general, how much did you think ‘that’s enough, that will do’ or ‘that’s bomber and won’t be going anywhere’.
Incident number 1
A surprisingly good forecast for Ben Nevis happened to coincide with a pre-planned trip to Lochaber so spirits were high with a 5-10mph wind forecast and 80% chance of clear summits. Two pairs decided to head up to Number 3 Gully Buttress and try one of the routes in the area. My partner and I made good time in great weather up to the CIC hut leaving an overflowing North Face car park behind us. On heading up to the buttress we could see teams on several of the routes we had been eyeing up so plumped for a line that was harder than we had planned on but looked like good fun – Two-step Corner V 5 with a team on it ahead of us making good progress.
Ice screw protection there was aplenty with rock pro here and there including for some of the belays. We made good progress taking stances where we felt comfortable. Initial impressions that the ice wasn’t great were unfounded, or it may have been the party ahead of us clearing the crud off! I decided to put a belay in approximately 10m from the top and the final cornice. There was a large bulge of ice next to a featureless bit of rock with some fat icicles on the left. So I decided to put my cordlette round an icicle (which had touched down and good fist size diameter) and a 15cm screw into the ice. ‘That should do, it’s only a little pitch up and round the corner to an exit through the cornice’, I thought. Then looking down at my rack realised I had one ice screw left, only a 10cm one, but decided to place it as well, just in case. Then tied in to the power point with a clove hitch, kick myself a stance in the soft snow and jobs a good un. Safe!
My partner worked his way up the 50m pitch and joined me at the belay. A traditional exchange of pleasantries followed by a pointing of the way up. Then he was off. This was the point at which I was glad I had set a belay up here as the ice was a classic snow / ice combination that he wasn’t really enjoying. Then he fell! Both axes and crampons ripped when his crampons were 2 meters or so above the cordlette on the icicle. We were on a section that was maybe 60 degrees so it should have been a nice slide, however, his crampons snagged the cordlette flipping him backwards to then point headfirst down the gully. 120m+ of steep terrain lay below as he hit the snow slope before twisting sideways as the rope came tight. I looked down to see a smiling face looking back at me with the panorama of the abyss behind him.
I was trembling having had flashes of the two of us careering down the route, if we’d been lucky we might have stopped on the snow ledge 50m down as the route crosses Number 3 Gully Buttress route, otherwise it would have been all the way down to the main gully. My stance had failed and I was lower than I expected. Looking up I could see that the icicle had snapped, no doubt helped by him snagging the cordlette so the fall had been taken by the two ice screws, the second one a bit of an after thought. It was a factor 2 fall as he hadn’t got any protection in with total fall length in the order of 10m. My partner was uninjured which was a pleasant surprise given flailing axes, crampons and ice screws and his rucksack combined with the powder snow helped to avoid a back injury.
He climbed back up and after an inspection of the belay finished the climb. When I came to strip the belay the clove hitch on the rope wasn’t going to come undone easily so I just left the carabiner on there! In the hut later on it took 5 people to have a go at undoing the knot! The successful de-knotist won themselves a bowl of gingercake and custard.
So the winter adage of ‘don’t fall’ had been broken and I reflected on the occasion. Only the second factor 2 fall a leader has taken on me and it reminded me of the forces involved in such a scenario. My partner appeared non-plussed about the incident, however, a week later at the bouldering wall he did say that on the journey home he had ‘re-lived’ the event and now appreciated the seriousness of the situation!
Incident number 2
Sometimes we push the bounds of what is ‘in’ and the second incident was definitely during a day of dubious conditions I will readily admit. However, the number of people that were on Clogwyn y Garnedd (Trinity Face, Snowdon) on this day indicate that we weren’t the only people with a plan to get some winter climbing in. After initial thoughts of a visit to Cwm Lloer were dashed by a distinct absence of snow in the Ogwen Valley we popped round to the Pen y Pass car park and opted for the highest crag in Wales as our best chance of getting something done. The Pyg Track was verglassed so things were looking good. The forecast was fair, if a touch warm, but it promised good views later in the day.
As we approached the base of the cliff features such as the Spider were starting to appear although there was quite a lot of blackness and the ice didn’t look particularly well affixed to the rock. Our friends opted for Central Trinity whilst my partner and I went for Right Hand Trinity, a classic grade III. After some hard work getting up to the base of the climb I headed up the first pitch and belayed under a large stone / cave. It was mainly a mixed route rather than neve / snow which are the more normal conditions for this route I believe.
On arriving at the stance I noticed a dodgy jammed flake, some tat and a small spike. I discounted the flake but went for a better chockstone next to it as well as taking advantage of the tat (appeared to be in good condition) and spike. Excellent, a bomber belay that would take a factor 2 fall if needed I’m sure! My partner seconded up and then led through leaving me on my stance to await the arrival of another party following us up.
The leader was bashing his way up using a pair of Nomics leashless and looked like he was wearing an MRT jacket, joking about only putting a single piece of gear in on the 40m pitch. He got to my stance threw a sling around something, clipped in and called safe. I’m often timid about making criticism of others belays unless outright I can see something that they may have overlooked. This chap seemed very confident but I did raise an eyebrow to myself when he then used a bug direct onto the sling to bring his second and third up simultaneously. Whilst my leader was carefully picking his way upwards I sparked up a bit of conversation with them. Asking what channel their radios were on in case they were on the same channel as ours. I also clocked a bigger radio on the seconds rucksack strap so I asked the question ‘Are you MRT?’ to which the answer was yes. His second also offered the leader use of his reverso for the next pitch. They were all nicely tidied off waiting for my leader to finish and me to clear the next pitch. Then their belay failed.
They were tumbling down in a flash. Three sets of crampons, three pairs of axes and three helmeted heads heading down the gully with 40m or so to go to the Spider snowfield. My instinctive reaction was to lock my leaders rope off, a bizarre thought given I wasn’t attached them at all! Due I think to the fact that there was very little rope between them, they got wedged in a narrowing of the gully about 10m down. A moments silence broken by questions of ‘you ok’ and ‘don’t move’ from me and between themselves. At this moment I get a chirp on the radio from my leader ‘safe’, what great timing! I quickly call back ‘give me 5 mins or so’ before focusing my attention on these three bodies beneath me. Since my partner was safe I quickly tied off the rope onto my power point and dropped a loop down to the team in case they wanted to clip in, I also shouted that there was a spike they could sling right in front of them, which they duly did very rapidly!
The leader carefully made his way back up the slope and gratefully accepted my help to place a better sling and clip into the tat. Luckily the third (possibly less lucky being under two pairs of crampons) had managed to catch one of the Nomics before it had headed off below. We joked about them at least having a radio on which I could have called their colleagues for help if necessary along with talk of needing a change of pants! I eventually called my leader and said that I was ready to climb now. I left them to it and skitted my way up the rest of the route. A good day out, at least from the climbing perspective.
So why did the belay fail, why had they chosen for three of them to hang off a single sling, why didn’t I say that the area he had placed the sling looked dodgy when I approached the stance originally, did I give them enough room to join me on the stance if they wanted to? All questions I don’t know the answer to, some only the other leader knows. I’ve mulled it over in my mind and put some of it down to our lower expectations of good gear on a winter route and some down to a nervousness of speaking out sometimes.
Every trip out I learn something and everytime I read someone’s experiences I play it through in my mind and hope to use as a learning experience. Sometimes subconsciously, sometimes consciously. My takeaway from these incidents were that I shouldn’t be complacent on a winter belay, after all I wouldn’t be happy in summer with a belay like that and speak out if you’re not happy about the ropework of someone else. The second point is really hard and needs to be phrased sensitively and don’t take offence if you get a rebuff. If anyone sees me out and about on the crags and notices something I’m doing to be a bit amiss or have room for improvement please tell me, it is quite possible I have missed something that you have seen from a different angle and I would hope to learn from the discussion.
So boys and girls, stay safe when you’re out and about and think about your belays!
Winter Skills in the Cairngorms, 17th - 18th January 2012
Having managed to successfully get two places on a heavily subsided Winter Skills course through the Conville Memorial Trust, Amy and I set off on the long journey from Bradford to Grantown on Spey. Approximately 350 miles and 7 hours later, we arrived at Ardenbeg Bunkhouse and after finding something to eat, meeting our fellow applicants and acclimatising to the typical Scottish temperature for a January evening (it was bloody freezing!!), we hit the sack in preparation for an early 8am start.
After meeting our instructors (Jonathan Preston and Mark 'Sammy' Samuels, both British Mountain Guides) and having our kit checked, we arrived at the Cairngorm Ski Centre around 9.30am. An hours walk and we found ourselves in the majestic setting of Corrie an t-Sneachda. Arming ourselves with our Ice Axes, we were taught out to 'edge' across very hard snow slopes by using the edges of our boots, how to cut steps (which is actually more of a slash than a cut) and various ways to descend safely in hard snow. After a quick fuel stop, we practised throwing ourselves down another, slightly more concrete like, snow slope - sorry, I actually meant we practised the all important ice axe arrest!! Our guide 'Sammy' decided the snow was too hard and bumpy to try them head first on our backs so we just practised the basic rolling onto one side. We all seemed to manage reasonably well although the falling around did result in a few bumps and bruises.
Ice axe to one side and on went our crampons!! Having used crampons before, both Amy and I were not complete novices and after walking up, down and across a frozen stream and remembering that it's wise to impersonate John Wayne whilst wearing crampons, Sammy taught us a few different techniques and after half an hour or so, he was suitably convinced that we knew what we were doing. Crampons back in our bags,
another fuel break before we moved to another part of the Corrie on to dig snow holes!! We didn't actually dig full size holes as we didn't have a couple of hours to spare but we certainly got the idea. It was amazing the difference our small snow holes made - you are able to get completely out of the wind - an absolute necessity if the worst happened. By this time it was around 3pm, the end of our first day and all that was left was an hour’s walk back to the car.
Day Two. The forecast for today was similar to the previous day, cloudy, a slightly higher chance of precipitation (we didn't have any on the first day) but stronger winds. Temperature was around 0 degrees but with wind speeds of 30-40mph (gusts of 50mph on the tops), it certainly felt a lot colder than that!! Due to the forecast, Jonathan and Sammy decided on Corrie na Ciste and specifically the 'West Wall' (which is actually an East facing slope but was given its name by skiers as it's on the left hand side on the way down the mountain....), as it was lower down and a lot more sheltered.
Given we practised with axes and crampons the day before, the first chunk of the day concentrated on various types of belays. These included a snow bollard, an ice axe belay, the 'Stomper', the New Zealand boot / axe belay and finally a simply bucket seat belay. After practising them all, it really is amazing how effective they all are. To test the bucket seat belay, I ran from above Amy down the snow slope (with plenty of slack on the rope which seem complete madness when you’re running down the icy slope!!) but thankfully the belay worked a treat - Amy didn't move an inch in her bucket seat and I fell flat on my face, which is a pretty good result, rather than flying down the side of the mountain!!
A short walk up the hillside and we learnt how to dig an Avalanche pit, looking at the different types of snow crystals and and the different layers within the snow pack whilst also testing the slope. Avalanches as a separate topic is incredibly complicated but at least I now have some kind of understanding which is all important when out and about in the winter, especially when considering which route to take and which slopes to avoid.
The second day was finished off with a bit of navigation although as the visibility was reasonably good on both days and as we stayed within the Corries, the navigation aspect didn't play as much of a part as I expected although this is obviously a fundamental issue in winter conditions.
All in all, an excellent couple of days and not surprisingly, I spent the following couple of days trawling the internet for snow shovels, ropes, avalanche related items although I have yet to buy any such gear but it's always good to look.
The Conville Memorial Trust offer other courses for anyone under 30 (we must have just scraped in!!!), all of which seem excellent value for money.
LMCers in the Pass, 15th - 16th October 2011
The wet summer had hampered most of my aspirations for multipitch climbing this year, although I’ve had a lot of good days out in the Peak.
Yet another trip to the Peak was the original plan for this weekend, but with a sudden change of fortune in this weekend’s forecast, the opportunity to climb in North Wales was too good to resist.
So Kev, Dave P, Mark and I hatched a last-minute plan to head over to Llanberis on Saturday morning. For those based east of the Pennines this meant a very early pre-dawn departure, with Mark getting up at 4 am to rendezvous with the others! I was able to set off at the more civilised hour of 8 am – but still tired from a hard week at work and a poor night’s sleep.
After cruising a very quiet A55, we all met up at the Vaynol Arms in Nant Peris at 9.30 am. It was a perfect clear sunny morning. After a brief discussion about where to go, we decided that the sunny side of the Pass was the best bet, so without further ado headed up to Carreg Wastad.
My main objective of the trip was to climb Crackstone Rib, the classic Severe on the crag, which had proved elusive on every previous visit to Llanberis over the last couple of years; either due to the usual wet Welsh weather, or lack of a suitably motivated climbing partner. Kev and Dave were also keen to do the route, so Mark and I let them go first; partly as they would probably be a bit faster, but also I thought I could observe the line they took up the supposedly ‘devious’ first pitch, which was to be my lead. As it was, in his enthusiasm Kev almost immediately went off-route onto something ridiculously overhanging, and I had to direct him back onto the correct line, which I was able to recognise from my bedtime reading of ‘Classic Rock’.
It turned out to be a very fine route indeed, which we all enjoyed. The splendidly exposed and delicate rib on the first pitch was particularly good; even better than I imagined it would be, and a very absorbing lead.
We’d all come a bit overdressed expecting it to be a crisp, chilly day with some shivering on belays. It was quite the opposite: the temperature must have been in the mid-twenties by noon, and with our extra layers of fleece and merino it was baking hot on the crag. Were it not for the bleating sheep, you could easily imagine you were climbing in El Chorro rather than North Wales. Remarkably, we had the crag virtually to ourselves too; I only saw two other pairs all day.
Dave and Kev next tackled Overhanging Chimney (VS 4c), with Dave putting in a fine lead of the bold first pitch, while Kev grappled with the chockstone on pitch 2. Meanwhile, Mark and I did Skylon (HS 4b). By the time we’d finished the second round of routes it was 3 pm, and time for a late lunch.
With the high summer heat, we almost forgot that it would be dark by 6.30 pm. What with the heat and sleep deprivation, lassitude had begun to set in. I was tempted to spend the rest of the afternoon dozing in the sun rather than exert myself up a three-pitch route with the clock ticking away.
The solution to this was to go for something a bit easier that we could get up quickly. Dave also fancied something less taxing for a last route, so we opted for Wrinkle (V Diff), another Classic Rock route which I’ve always rated one of the best of its grade in North Wales. Donning headtorches before we set up it seemed like a sensible precaution, but there was no need as we knocked off the three pitches in no time. Kev and Mark on the other hand went for a grand finale with Yellow Crack (HVS 5b), which the guidebook describes as ‘satisfying and brutal’.
Two hours later we regrouped; Dave and I suitably relaxed, and Kev and Mark appropriately brutalised. Kev described himself having been the most scared he’d been on a route for a long time on the crux, where he was further above his gear than the gear was above a nasty jagged deck-out. Long run-outs do seem to be a feature of some of the routes on the crag…
The light was now fading and the temperature dropping. Earlier in the day I’d looked across the Pass with some envy at parties on Main Wall on Cyrn Las; wondering if we should have had a go at that instead. Now I could see a slow-moving party dimly visible halfway up the fifth pitch and wasn’t quite as envious. Definitely one to save for a long summer’s day.
We headed back down to Nant Peris and pitched out tents at the almost empty campsite, then off to the Vaynol for dinner of rabbit stew and mash washed down with pints of Golden Dragon ale. A great end to a fine day’s climbing.
Normal Llanberis weather was resumed overnight, with periodic gusts of wind rumbling up the Pass and battering our tents, interspersed with showers of rain; making for another fitful night’s sleep. But our tents survived and it was dry again in the morning.
Having knocked off seven pitches and over 200 m of climbing the previous day, I was sated for the weekend, and headed home via Joe Brown’s. The others took a chance with an initially drizzly Pass and had a mostly dry afternoon in which they did Phantom Rib (VS 4c) on Clogwyn y Grochan.
We all agreed it was well worth the effort of the early start on Saturday to grab the chance of a fine day’s climbing in the Pass. It's definitely something I’d do again.
Dave and Holly's Trip to Yosemite, August 2011
Me and Dave have just got back this aft from a 3-week long trip to Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne Meadows. It was fantastic, we had excellent weather and did some quality climbing. Although the Valley itself was quite busy (peak tourist season), we had the routes pretty much to ourselves Our aim was to do some real classics and then to challenge ourselves with the East Buttress of Middle Cathedral (11 pitches, 5.9) at the end of the trip, which we did successfully!
Climbing highlights include:
- Royal Arches (16 pitches) 5.7
- Snake Dike (17 mile round trip, 8 pitches) 5.7 RUNOUT!! Skills to Dave for leading the lot, as I was feeling a bit peaky that day.
- Central Pillar of Frenzy (5 pitches) 5.9
- Excellent Smithers (3 pitches) 5.10
- Nutcracker (5 pitches) 5.8
- East Buttress of Middle Cathedral (11 pitches) 5.9 and a BADASS descent.
- Sunset from Glacier Point
- Rafting on the river
- Seeing all 4 major waterfalls (Vernal, Nevada, Bridalveil and Yosemite) - v impressive.
- Bagels, coffee and ice cream in Curry Village
- Mono Lake
- Mammoth brewery free 9-beer tasting (I was driver, obv!)
- Being there - its stunning
- Being more minging and scuzzy than I have been for a Very. Long. Time.
- The endless dust!
- Being effing freezing in the mornings in Tuolumne (I know, I'm too soft).
- Did I mention the mozzies?
Paul's trip to Ailefroid, July 2011
Just got back from a couple of weeks at Ailefroid in the Ecrins National Park in the French Alps.
It's a beautiful place with a great campsite and absolutely loads to do for the outdoors enthusiasts.
We did some sport climbing there are crags within 5 minutes walk of the campsite from single pitch to 12 pitch monsters. Also trad climbing.
Lots of Via Feratta but had to travel a bit more for that. We did some hikes up to some of the refuges with the plan of doing some big peaks but due to some dodgy weather and our lack of experience we didn't really do any alpinism, next time though.
The Greenwoods Go Climbing, Easter 2011
Anna and I headed over to Borrowdale for a few days. We camped in the site just up from Rosthwaite. £6 per person, per night, warm showers at 50p a go, but no hot water otherwise. Sunday afternoon we climbed at Quay foot Buttress getting a couple of good routes: Mandrake HVS and Abberation MVS. As Anna is not leading at the moment i had the pleasure of leading all the pitches over our break in the Lakes. Monday we headed up to Buckstone How, above Honister, but a bitter wind sent us scurrying back down into the valley. So we opted for Black Crag where we climbed Holly Tree Corner VS and Raindrop E1. Anna and Junior did a great job of seconding me on Raindrop, I know he or she is safely in Anna's tummy but no harm in starting Junior early! Tuesday we headed to Lower Falcon Crag. There is a bird nesting restriction on the left side of the crag, but the classic VS Spinup is still open so we started there. Next we climbed Illusion HVS. If you have your sights on A Dream Of White Horses this year then Illusion is a good inland warm up, but probably a bit harder, as it takes an exposed traverse under a large over hang and crosses a grove or two on occasionally questionable rock. Doesn't sound like a good route, now i have described it, but i assure you it was! Wednesday we got our day at Buckstone How. Fantastic views on excellent lines, an awesome mountain crag. We ascended Sinister Grooves (including a very hard VS pitch) and Alexas HVS before returning to down camp and head home for a rest. We did plan on returning this weekend after watching the Royal Wedding, but these strong Easterly winds unfortunately put us off. Still gave us a chance to go bike shopping instead.
Thursday 28th April
New member Wayne and I went to Ilkley quarry for the afternoon. He confessed to not being a crack climber so why not!! He chose S Crack as the first route and was very pleased to ascend it clean. I repeated Waleska, without any particularly large cams so it felt a little run out! Wayne then ascended Josephine Super Direct, stopping on a bird poop covered break to tie his shoe laces and ensure his backside was covered in sufficient crusty mess. then as the sun left us and the cold crept up i finished our evening on Bulcher, which I realised was a rare new VS for me in the Quarry. Well done Wayne, good climbing for a non jamming aficionado.
Photos in Videos with Music, 2004 - 2011
I put lots of the photos from the LMC galleries in to some videos with some music to save you having to click through them all in the galleries.
Wasdale Head Meet, 13th - 14th August 2010
Despite the good forecast, Saturday started windy, cold and drizzly. Hypothermia started setting in just sitting around having breakfast. There were sullen mutterings about having to go for a walk instead of climbing. In the end, most of us decided to flog into the climbs to 'have a look', with a big group of us heading up to the Napes and Kern Knotts on Great Gable.
PJ set a cracking pace up the long ascent to Sty Head, closely followed by Bruce, whilst Paul, the third member of 'The A-Team', grumbled along at the back. John and I didn't even try to keep up. Meanwhile Dave C and Rob ('The Real A-Team'?) quietly overtook everyone on the hill. Clag continued to obscure the tops of Great Gable and Scafell Pike. The nagging cold gusts of wind refused to subside. I watched to see if the spattered drops of rain on the rocks would start to coalesce; hoping to find a valid excuse not to climb in these conditions.
As we neared the top of the pass, the cloud began to lift. At the sight of the crags above, the 'A-Team' bolted, leaving the path and shooting off up a steep scree slope. John and I didn't much like the look of that, and continued to plod up to Sty Head, where we picked up the Climbers' Traverse. We followed this round to Kern Knotts, where Clive, Anna, James, Keiran, Dave C and Rob were already getting established. "I think the others are going the wrong way" said Anna, pointing to three small figures marching steadily up the slopes above towards Westmorland Crag. "They're miles above the Climbers' Traverse".
We continued our pleasant stroll along to the Napes, enjoying lovely views down Wasdale, which was now bathed in sunlight. As Napes Needle came into view, we looked up to see the "A-Team"; now teetering rather sheepishly back down the 70 degree bilberry slopes above us. We restrained ourselves from making smug "Tortoise and Hare" observations when they eventually caught up with us at Napes Needle...
We'd all decided to do Needle Ridge, a classic 100m long VDiff route that climbs up directly behind Napes Needle; but not before a spot of lunch and helping a couple of scramblers to reverse the awkward scramble behind the Needle, after they'd realised that "threading the Needle" without a rope possibly wasn't such a wise plan.
John and I weren't in a rush, so we let the "A-Team" go first, and they positively romped up the first two pitches. It was then my turn to lead the first pitch, the start of which was much trickier than they'd made it look. A steep, very polished slab, totally unprotected for the first few metres, with difficult balance moves needed to gain the crucial handholds that were out of my reach, and a particularly nasty deck-out if I fell off. After a couple of goes and a short bout of whimpering, I got established and things soon eased off. It turned out to be a very nice route, mainly due to the exposure and spectacular position looking down over Napes Needle and Wasdale.
By the time John and I got to the top, the others had scrambled down the scree to the side and were eyeing up Arrowhead Ridge Direct, another VDiff which tackles an interesting rock feature on another of the Napes ridges. We were in a prime viewing spot, so settled down to spectate and take photos while we ate our second lunch. We were treated to some entertaining "traditional" climbing antics, but didn't fail to notice the CHEATING that went on as they half-heartedly grappled with the Arrowhead. They'll have to go back and do it again properly if they want the VDiff tick…
It had turned out to be a glorious, baking hot day. Having set out in cold weather gear, with only limited scope for stripping off layers, I got completely cooked. Several people returned to base very dehydrated due to water running out.
Claire, Dave T and Keith had a pretty arduous day after setting off on a supposed "entry-level" mountain bike route over to Eskdale and back. It turned out that most of this was unrideable, and after spending more than seven hours mostly carrying their bikes over hills and through bogs, they were somewhat less than impressed with the guidebook writer.
Neil and Steve also had a rather frustrating day. They set off to climb Slingsby's Chimney on Scafell Pinnacle Face, but were unable to locate it and were then repelled by Broad Stand, which was still greasy after the previous week's rain. They finally resigned themselves to walking up Scafell Pike.
We all celebrated or consoled ourselves with fine ales and tasty food in the Wasdale Head Inn. It was also the peak of the Perseid meteor showers, and I counted nine in the space of 20 minutes in the pristine night skies above the campsite.
We awoke early on Sunday to another scorching hot and perfect day! There was nothing for it but to head up to the high mountain crags again. Dave C and Rob went back up Great Gable to climb Tophet Wall, the classic Hard Severe, while six teams headed up towards Scafell. Paul, Keith, PJ and Bruce tackled Moss Ledge Direct and Jones's Arete (MVS 4c) on Scafell Pinnacle Face, whilst Clive and Anna took a harder line up Right-Hand Edge and Pinnacle Face Direct Finish (HVS 5b). Meanwhile Keiran and James climbed the much-coveted Botterill's Slab (VS 4c). John and I, followed by Neil and Steve headed up to Pike's Crag, which faces Scafell Crag across Mickledore, to have a go at Grooved Arête, a 130m long VDiff. I'd been inspired to do this route in the pub the previous night when thumbing through my guidebooks and notes. One of the Severes on Scafell looked tempting, but climbing in the shade all day on rock that was potentially still damp from the week's rain wasn't so appealing. Pike's Crag however promised to be in the sun all day. One of my books described Grooved Arête as being "both technical and strenuous for the grade". Taking an impressive line of seven pitches direct up a steep arête for thefull height of Pike's Crag, it looked like a pretty worthy objective for the day, and John didn't take much persuasion to agree to it. For some reason, Neil and Steve thought it would be a good idea to follow us. In retrospect, I rather negligently failed to mention the guidebook quote to them, and the climb possibly turned out to be more interesting than they'd bargained for!
As we slogged up to Mickledore like over-laden mules in the sweltering heat, and the crag came into view, the line looked pretty improbable for the grade. And par for the course for a traditionally graded mountain route, it did indeed involve some improbable and “very difficult” climbing manoeuvres, with every pitch throwing in a different challenge. The pitches went a bit like this: grassy scramble (-), steep delicate wall and arete (S4a), sustained long chimney (VDiff), tough layback corner crack (S4b!?!), meandering slab (requiring several reads of the guidebook and much head-scratching) (Diff), slab and chimney (Diff), ledge traverse, unfriendly corner crack and steep headwall (HVD). Of course, this all averages out as VDiff… It was a wonderful climb, with long pitches on lovely rough rock, spectacular exposure, and an exhilarating final pitch, topping out right on the summit of Pulpit Rock. Going by UKC, it sees very few ascents, but I reckon it's one of the best I've ever done at this grade, and free from the polish and queues of its namesake on Tryfan. Perhaps one of the Lakes' best kept secrets?
We climbed in baking sunshine all day, with fantastic views over Wastwater, the mountains of the North West Lakes, and across to the others climbing on the huge crag of Scafell Pinnacle Face. Although their routes were of the same dimensions as ours, it looked like they were on some vast Alpine north face, with their tiny figures dwarfed by the scale of the crag. It looked absolutely awesome. They seemed very small and vulnerable, so there was something reassuring in being able to hear their familiar voices all day, sounding much closer than they were. Each time I shouted, my voice also echoed back powerfully across the great cwm between the two mountains, somehow reaffirming my own existence too.
Perhaps what was most amazing though was that, other than one other pair (plus Leo Houlding and his dad being filmed for some promo), there was no one else up there! The highest and finest crags in England were the LMC's exclusive playground for the day.
It was one of those days you never wanted to end. Even the walk off was gorgeous, with the path following the cool rushing waters of Lingmell Gill down through the woods in the still radiantly warm early evening sun.
We got back to the campsite at 7 pm. Claire and Dave T were cooking tea; having decided to sack off mountain biking, they'd had a glorious walk over Scafell Pike and down via Piers Gill. Dave C and Rob had already left; reportedly having had a good day on Tophet Wall with "(ahem..) 'interest' maintained from beginning to end…" according to Dave.
We'd just started to speculate about the other teams when they started to return. Last back were Neil and Steve at 8.30pm; tired but deservedly pleased with their successful day.
All in all, it gets my vote as one of the best meets this summer: a fantastic venue, awesome mountain routes, and for once the weather was in our favour!
The great unwashed (Barn Door Campsite): Cath S, Dave C, Rob M, John L, Paul L, PJ, Bruce, Keith, Welsh Neil, Steve W, Claire T, Dave T, James Rowe, Keiran
The fragrant ones (NT Campsite): Clive and Anna
Sleeping in a field somewhere: Ed and his rather dazed-looking mate.
For future reference:
NT Campsite. About £8 pppn, showers, strictly no groups, strictly minimum 6 metres between each tent. Midgey. FULL!
Barn Door Campsite. £2.50 a night, A Tap. No showers, fly-blown toilets, maximum 6 cm between each tent, loud Scouse neighbours. Good pub. Lovely views. We only just all managed to squeeze in on Friday night.
Buttermere - Dalegarth Campsite, 3rd - 4th July 2010
Saturday saw an early start at seven. After a leisurely breakfast all but one headed for Grey Crag. Norbert, recuperating from a knee operation, planned to retrace his steps from the 2008 OMM over Hindscarf and Robinson.
Kev, never a fan of a walk-in, had somehow been persuaded to make the trip to Grey Crag. Perhaps tempted by glossy guide book photos? Perhaps by some gross miss-selling on the length of the walk-in.
As we approached Birkness Combe a couple of other parties with climber-sized packs appeared on the path from the other end of the lake. No comment was made but the pace definitely quickened. Dave, Alan, PJ and Bruce pulling ahead to get to the crag and bag the preferred routes for their teams.
Grey Crag, altitude 700m, consists of several buttresses, divided by relatively easy paths and gulleys. According to the guide book, Grey Crag has an approach time of 1hr 25 min. There are lots of good routes grades up to VS and these can be linked in a variety of ways to give a good day's climbing. The table below shows the various climbs that each team did.
Eventually Cath was allowed to have her lunch. A good picnic spot was found at the foot of Oxford and Cambridge Buttress and we were joined by the others as they topped out on the Slabs routes.
"Aw whit? Thes sendwitch es impty! Et's jiss brid!” said Alan, dismayed to find that one of his sandwiches was just two slices of bread with no filling. He explained that Katherine had made his packed lunch for him, but apparently hadn't quite finished it.*
Dave P forgot his lunch completely and had to share Rahul's: a large Tupperware box containing a loose mixture of chocolate digestives and chilli sensation flavour crisps. Mmmm? This strange concoction obviously had magical restorative properties as Dave and Rahul were unstoppable and clocked up a total of five multi-pitch routes. They returned in darkness after a thirteen hour day on the hill.
Saturday night. Various dishes were barbequed whilst we were serenaded by the "Sirens" on Level One of the campsite. Fortunately no-one succumbed. The prize for charcoal eating went to Norbert for his grilled veg.
Mark's BBQ bucket became a camp fire of sorts and before we knew it we were the only ones on the campsite still up.
We woke early on Sunday to the sound of light rain on nylon. Alan had gone, leaving early on, perhaps to have words with Katherine about the empty sandwich. After a couple of hours the weather deteriorated into the forecast monsoon.
When wet the big tent becomes surprisingly air-tight. Folding it away requires careful venting of the pods and a team effort to squeeze out the air. Sometimes you even have to use Kev as a human rolling pin. Eventually the tent plus several gallons of rain water were deposited into the boot Kev's car and Kev went to change into some dry clothes.
A busy Keswick saw tea and cakes consumed and kit browsed.
*Humble Pie for Supper
It later transpired that The Mystery of the Empty Sandwich was actually some extra slices of bread that Katherine had thoughtfully packed for Alan to go with his BBQ sausages on Saturday night.
Attendees: Dave Clark, Kev Bowser, Cath Sanders, Alan Christensen, Tom Storey, Mark PJ Robinson, Bruce Haywood, Rahul, Dave Payne, Norbert De Mello, Steve Morley.
Dave would like to credit the historical quotes to the latest FRCC guidebook for Buttermere and St Bees.
Tour of the Lake District, April - May 2010
Our journey began in the glamorous surroundings of Halifax train station where I’d met my girlfriend Amy after completing a half day at work. Our lakes adventure would begin with a train journey to Windermere via Preston. Upon arriving at Windermere station, we hopped onto a bus to drop our rather large rucksacks off at Ambleside before visiting one or two of the local hostelries whilst carb loading and perusing the map for the following day.
Day One (Coniston YH to Eskdale YH)
After helping ourselves to the full English, our first day began! We had originally planned to walk to Coniston but as both youth hostels were full, we decided to get the bus to Coniston (via Hawkshead) and begin walking from there. Following what seemed like a never-ending climb up the Walna Scar Road, we arrived at the col, where the views began to open up. The Scafell massif was covered in cloud although Harter Fell was clear and provided us with a way marker for the rest of our first day. Dropping into the Duddon valley we hadn’t seen a sole and after a brief lunch stop next to the river Duddon, we climbed up to the side of Grassguards. Using the SW flank of Harter Fell as a handrail, we made good progress along the tops before Eskdale YH came into sight. A quick descent was followed by a very welcoming pint in The Woolpack Inn. An hour or so later we made good our escape and walked the few hundred yards as we arrived at YH just in time for tea!!
Miles - 10
Day Two (Eskdale YH - Wasdale YH)
Wastwater YH was the aim of today. After a pleasant walk through the fields, we arrived in Boot. Here we made a steady climb onto the tops. The weather was much brighter today, good spells of sunshine although the cold northerly wind provided a constant thorn in our side, as it would for much of the week, although we were happy to trade these coolconditions if it meant the rain stayed away. Turning left at Burnmoor tarn, we climbed up to Illgill Head (3901). An enjoyable stroll along the tops (3907 and 8092) brought us to our second peak of the trip, Whin Rigg (3909). By now the sunshine was beginning to wane, coinciding with a boggy descent down to Nether Wasdale. Nice! A tour of the local pubs (both of them!) and it was time for our check in at the YH and the end of day two.
Miles - 11
Day Three (Wasdale YH - Buttermere YH)
A stunning morning as we left the YH (3955) and made our way along the length of Wastwater. The tedious nature of three miles on the road was made much less painful thanks to the stunning views and early morning sunshine. After a quick comfort break at Wasdale Head, we began our ascent round the SW flank of Kirk Fell (8139) up to Black Sail Pass with Pillar looming at the head of the valley. Thankfully the warming sun kept the deceptive chill of the wind at bay and before long we arrived at the pass. It was very tempting to nip up to the top of Kirk Fell but as we still had plenty of walking left to do, we decided against it and instead looked forward to the next target; Black Sail YH. We had considered staying here but the waiting list had put that idea to bed. Instead we consoled ourselves with tea and cake, thanks to the honesty box policy at the hut. Strangely enough we seemed to be the only English walkers who had popped in for a brew as we were surrounded by a mixture of German, Dutch (?) and Australian walkers, all who seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves, having a well deserved breather and some cake. We managed to tear ourselves away from the welcoming atmosphere of the hut and continued on our way to Buttermere. We arrived at Buttermere village after climbing up to Scarth Gap Pass and down the other side. The obligatory alcohol was consumed before a short walk to the YH and day three was at an end.
Miles - 11.5
Day Four (Buttermere YH - Borrowdale YH)
Having enjoyed yet another hearty breakfast, we headed South East from the youth hostel clockwise around Buttermere to Peggy Bridge. We traced our steps from yesterday back up to Scarth Gap pass; again a clear day with bright sunshine (4033) but strong winds. A quick photo opportunity before we scrambled up to Haystacks; from here we had great views over Great Gable and our next destination, Brandreth. Following a distinct path, followed by a short ascent across open moor we soon arrived at brandreth; the whether had changed and become overcast, although there were still good views over Green Gable, Great Gable and Glaramara. From here we continued along the ridge in a North easterly direction taking in Grey Knotts before a steep descent down to Honister Slate Mine. From here we followed the bridleway down to Seatoller. From here we followed a footpath along side the river, taking us past the youth hostel and on to the Scar Fell Hotel, Rosthwaite where we enjoyed our daily intake of alcoholic beverages before heading back up the footpath to the youth hostel.
Miles - 10.5
Day Five (Borrowdale YH - Langdale YH)
By now we were becoming quite accustomed to the early starts and although it was not what you might call an alpine start, setting off walking at 08:40 is certainly early in our book! Unfortunately the weather wasn’t quite as kind to us today. The wind had dropped which did have a positive effect on the temperature but the unfortunate consequence of this was low cloud. As we climbed out of Stonethwaite up into the cloud (4096), our waterproof jackets made their first appearance of the week. As we approached Greenup Edge (approx. 620m), the rain became slightly heavier and the waterproof coats were closely followed by the bottoms. A long descent into Grasmere was followed by a brief lunch stop as we recharged our batteries. A mile or so later and after
enjoying a couple of pints of local ale (purely for research purposes) at the Britannia Inn in Elterwater we made our way to Elterwater YH. After waiting a few minutes for the reception to open, we were advised by the warden at the YH that we were at the wrong YH and we had booked in at the Langdale YH! Needless to say, I was not best pleased with myself!! Thankfully the correct YH was only a mile or so away but it was, however, a mile back uphill - not great after a full day walking and a couple of pints in the pub! This cloud’s silver lining was that the Langdale YH certainly seemed to be nicer, definitely more grand than the one at Elterwater.
Miles - 11.5
Day Six (Langdale YH - Patterdale YH)
Another overcast day although the cloud base wasn’t quite as low as the previous day. Today we were heading to Patterdale via Fairfield. Once we made our way back through Grasmere, we climbed steeply up to Stone Arthur, a subsidiary peak of Great Rigg, which soon followed. We were now up in the clouds although the winds had now returned, providing us with the odd glimpse of the valleys below. We continued steadily along the first half of the Fairfield Horseshoe to arrive at Fairfield itself. The wind was still reasonably strong although the cloud was considerably thicker, preventing us from enjoying any views of the surrounding fells. A tricky descent (4166) involving some scree (walking poles were required) and we arrived at Grisedale Tarn. After a brief stop to enjoy the supplies we had picked up earlier in Grasmere, we made our way along the valley bottom and found ourselves in Patterdale. Once we hit the main road, we turned right towards the YH; Amy looked enthralled as I pointed out the George Starkey hut where I had stopped earlier in the year on the club meet. Unfortunately the final leg of today’s walk to the YH meant walking past the pub and yes, we popped in to rest our weary legs…..obviously nothing to do with the alcohol!!
Miles - 13
Day Seven (Patterdale YH - Windermere YH)
The penultimate day of our adventure had arrived and if we were both honest, we weren’t particularly looking forward to this day, which we believed was about 14 miles. Furthermore, the weather wasn’t cracking when we left the hostel. The wind began to pick up as it had done earlier in the week and as a consequence, the cloud cover began to disperse. A nice and gentle walk along paths and tracks brought us to Hartsop. A bridleway along the side of Pasture Beck took us into a very quiet and peaceful valley, with only the ever increasing wind and the odd sheep making any noise. A steep climb up and out of the valley and we found ourselves in a wind tunnel, otherwise known as Thresthwaite Mouth. Thankfully we soon dropped out of the wind as we descending towards the valley bottom (8385) and by this time, the sun had made it’s presence known, so much so, we decided to treat ourselves to a whole 30 minutes for our lunch break. By this time, we had made good progress and whilst we still had six or so miles to go, we were confident of completing the rest of today’s mileage without too many problems and surprise surprise, there was a pub en route! The pub happened to be a rather posh one and bearing in mind we had been walking for
seven days with very few changes of clothes (we were trying to travel as light as possible!), we felt a tad out of place but we made good use of the free, posh smellies in the toilets! A couple of pints later and a mile or so down the route, we arrived at Windermere YH which provided us with our accommodation for our penultimate night.
Miles - 12 miles
Day Eight (Windermere YH - Ambleside YH)
After seven days and 80+ miles, we only had a few miles to go as we made our way back to Ambleside. Our short route took us round the southern side of Wansfell Pike, followed by a gentle stroll through some woods before hitting the main road into Ambleside. We had returned to civilisation and whilst our legs and backs were tired, we had a fantastic week going from point to point. Highly recommended and certainly something that we’ll do again. Our week finished with a stroll into Ambleside (by this time we’d forgotten how to do anything other than walk!!) and rewarded ourselves with a spot of gear shopping. It’d be rude not to!!
Miles - 4
Total miles - 83.5ish
N.b. all miles are rough estimates based upon a map and rough estimations
C2C - A Taste of Things to Come? June 2004
C2C - A taste of things to come??June 2004
The Plan: Drive up from Leeds to Whitehaven during the day Saturday to do the route in 4 days, staying at the end with friends who live not far from the coast near Sunderland. Then get the train back over to pick up the car at Whitehaven and drive back again east before going home. We changed this plan a couple of days into the trip and split what was a very long looking last day in two and thus giving us a leisurely final leg on the Thursday. This turned out to be an excellent move as when we had finished the route we did have another 10 or so miles to tag on to get to our friends’ house.
Bikey Technical details:
Andy: Cannondale Bad Boy. Rack and Rhode Gear kiddie seat carrying Holly (3 years old and approx 2 5lbs) and towing a BOB Yack trailer with luggage for 4 (weight est. 40lbs.). Also used a bar bag with a map holder which is essential gear for such a trip.
Liz: Marin Bear Valley roadie spec. with rack and Rhode Gear kiddie seat. Carrying Jamie (18 months old; approx 25lbs).
Guides used: Ultimate CtoC guide 2nd edition (Excellent Books) and the Sustrans map which is essential.
Day One (Sunday): Whitehaven to Keswick
It has to be said that our Whitehaven B&B left a little to be desired, and the same I guess could be said about Whitehaven itself. Nice promenade and harbour though. The 4 ashtrays in the B&B room gave the game away. A bit smelly but it was OK – at least the breakfast in the conservatory overlooking the promenade sort of made up for the soft beds etc, and it was very close to the sea front for an easy start of the trip. We were on a steep hill though which made loading up the bikes first thing with kids and trailer a tad tricky.
The weather was forecast to be OK and although a bit overcast there didn’t seem to be anything nasty looking coming in off the sea from the West. I think we started the kids off in rainproofs just in case and we were in our light windproofs. Note that in the town there is much restricted parking (residents only) near the promenade which was OK while we were there as we have a disabled parking badge (Holly has cerebral palsy), but we ended up leaving the car for the trip duration just up the road on an unrestricted residential parking area opposite some houses (which was fine). The other alternative was a local garage that will lock your car up for a fiver a day.
With the kids’ weight on the back of the bikes we decided it was probably best to avoid the ‘traditional’ dipping of tyres in the sea on the promenade as one false move on the slippy jetty would have ended the trip before we’d even started. The route out of WH is a tad convoluted on tracks with routing “around the back of Netto” and through a couple of housing areas etc. However, is easily followed, guided as you are by the excellent C2C signposts, and fairly pleasant. Indeed, soon we were out of town on a cinder track kind of affair heading toward the Lakes.
It was then we encountered a problem in the form of access gates on the tracks. Twice in a short space of time we had to unhook the trailer to get round the low bar style aluminium gates which were just not wide enough for it – or much else for that matter (a standard sized wheelchair – I don’t think so). This was most annoying as, apart from the trailer being bloody heavy, we had both kids crying at one of these “all get off and unload” stops, plus I bent the drop out on one side of the trailer while taking it off onto the concrete path and had to bend it back with me plyers from the tool bag. (This was actually the only technical we had on the whole trip.) However, it all settled down after a few miles and we soon found the minor roads that we’d be on for the rest of the day. Nowt much in the way of hills as we trundled through an assortment of pretty Cumbrian villages, but did manage to miss our first marked tea shop stop completely as we just didn’t see the particular village!?
The weather had warmed up nicely and the sun had come out, the kids were happy and the scenery was lovely so we carried on to the village of Loweswater, just past the lake itself, turning slightly off the route (by ½ mile or so) and finding an excellent pub for our lunch.
The plan had been to get a decent break about every hour. A sensible average of 10 miles an hour on the road would mean we could split the days up into 3 cycling spells, and the kids (and we!) would need a couple of good stops. On the whole this is exactly how it worked for the 5 days. We might spend 2 hours over lunch in a coffee shop or pub and go for a walk round the area, or at least let the kids have a run about and play for a good while. This was everyone stayed happy, and the whole thing was done at a decent leisurely pace. And of course, we were always obliged to go and find the park and the swings for the kids of an evening, and we always seemed to roll into the B&Bs just as the Tweenies was starting on Cbeebies on the telly - so everyone was happy!
After Loweswater we were now getting great views of the Western fells and it felt great to be biking in the Lakes. A few miles after this stop though we knew we had a major climb: the Whinlatter Pass, and sure enough it was pretty horrid. The height gain was mainly on a (very) minor road and was incredibly steep in a couple of places. As the first big climb on the trip it worried the life out of me with the trailer on the back in that it was physically almost too hard to pull the thing up the gradients. I forced it up the steep bits (sweating and swearing a lot!) but did get up them, and then almost died on the last few little undulating pulls on the main road up to the top (which turned into a pattern for all the big climbs to be honest so beware!). At least right at the top there is the reward of the forest centre with its splendid visitor centre and coffee shop. Cue long rest break as we knew it was pretty much now all downhill on the last few miles into Keswick. Afterwards we made the mistake of doing the off road descent through the forest (should have stuck to the road with the trailer), but we eventually rolled into Keswick and located the B&B late afternoon. The Keswick B&B was great – top quality and only a short walk from town. The kids were able to have a play on the swings etc so they were happy and we ‘dined’ for the evening in the square outside the trusty Old Keswickian on their excellent fish and chips. Jamie amused himself and everyone else by chasing the pigeons around the square.
Day 2 Keswick to Penrith
The morning ritual was set at Keswick with breakfast (my final full fry up of the trip I should add) and then a walk before packing up and setting off. As it was a relatively short and easy day we left it until about half ten until we got going on the bikes. Weather: fine and sunny.
The track from the station is excellent apart from the annoying gates every so often. Oh, and I almost had a head-on with some tosser coming from the opposite direction as we exited the path onto the side of the A66. Ok – it says “cyclists dismount” but you try dismounting and rolling down that short, sharp incline with a bloody great trailer – it was safer to stay on and roll down slowly. So I did this and there was this bloke who was hitting top speed at the end of his descent down the pavement tarmac on MY side of the track, and about to race up the incline into the trees. Luckily he saw me, braked and avoided a nasty crash. Ho hum. Then it was off the main road, through Threlkeld and along the pleasantly undulating lane (more gates – and one really horrible one on a corner on a steep incline which was another trailer danger: hill starts are not easy!). First stop of the day was at the pub at Mungrisdale. Lovely weather so the beer garden in the car park was fine. Our sandwiches (bought that morning from Greggs in Keswick – opens at 8:30 which is most handy); their drinks and their toilets.
Mungrisdale pub stop. Jamie performs for the camera.
Lovely scenery back to the A66 from the pub and then it was back onto lanes through to Greystoke where we did another stop at the village green with supplies from the shop. Penrith. We’d not been there before and it’s a rather fine looking town – but very traffic-ridden it has to be said. The B&B (Brandelhow Guest House) was excellent: lovely large en suite room, and near the town centre.
We found another great kiddies playground up the hill near the castle and Safeways, and were planning to go for the Italian restaurant in town but he kids were tired so we took the McDonalds option instead. There was an exceptionally loud thunderstorm in the middle of the night, but the morning dawned fine and clear once again.
Day 3 Keswick to Nenthead
Weather: fine and dry. Forecast was a barking mad 32 degrees, but mercifully we got some cloud cover. It was very warm and humid all day.
Due to very hilly nature of the forthcoming day the ‘light option’ breakfast was taken: cereal followed by scrambled egg, bacon and toast.. We avoided the rather convoluted looking CtoC route through the town by cycling straight up the hill from the B&B to join the top road (recommended) and thence commenced the day’s proper climbing! To be honest the dreaded Hartside pull wasn’t that bad as it’s not too steep – just loooong. However, once on the main road at the top there’s that utter horror of having the end in site and yet it’s still around a couple more zig-zags so doesn’t seem to get any closer. Luckily by this time we were moving with a group of fellow CtoC folk from (it turned out) near home who’s verbal encouragement was a great help. Still, I had spots before my eyes and a tremendously sore back and kidneys from the sheer effort when we eventually rolled into the Hartside Café car park. The best part of 2 hours stopped there did lead to a complete recovery mind, along with copious amount of tea and food! Great views back west from up there.
The bikes admiring the view and resting outside the Hartside café after their arduous ascent.
And then it’s down and down t’other side which was a joy with more fabulous scenery to behold. (For those of a squeamish nature planning on tackling this route mention should be made about the amount of dead rabbits splattered about the roads all along the way – it’s fluffy bunny carnage out there folks.) And then, just when we thought it was safe to trundle to the evening stop, we encountered the Garrigill climb. Jeez – and no chevron markings at all on the map. The steepest road climb on the whole route? Maybe equal with the one coming out of Stanhope on day 4 but this one has no warning: a right turn off the road and minor it’s road wicked gradient hell. Dammit I was ALMOST past the worst when I had to stop for a breather, and did push a bit up to the crossroads near the first top (well, it was the second big climb of the day…).
But it was those “undulations” (as it says in the book): the four or five smaller climbs past the woods towards the mast that really got me: bugger they hurt. And another thing - the descent into Nenthead is VERY steep – easy the steepest part of the whole route. I had my brakes practically full on and I was still rolling down, pushed by the weight of the trailer. Thinking about it if it had been wet I would have been in serious trouble – maybe disk brakes next time? The B&B, No1 Glenview, was along the end of the street up and round the back of the pub and was another iffy one: a bit smelly (dogs this time) and scruffy; very soft beds etc. However, there was a wonderful view of the valley from the window, and the landlady gave us a load of fruit and fruit juice when we arrived, and she washed a load of stuff for us for free, AND she only charged us £40- letting the kids go free (the sympathy vote I think!).
We headed for the excellent looking kids playground in the village (there’s not much else in the village it has to be said) and encountered a solo CtoC’er, Celia, who was looking for a camp site for the night. We directed her into the Nenthead Inn and she was still there when we all went in ourselves looking for food. She joined us for an excellent meal (pasta - fuel for serious hill climbing!) and a beer in the conservatory bit. It’s so nice to meet and chat with fellow cyclists – especially ex-courier type girls who work in cycle shops and teach people cycling safety and can talk gear ratios! She went for the camping in a field option and was duly hideously midged on what was a warm, humid night (the threatening rain held off for her though). We suffered the soft beds and a ropey breakfast including stale cornflakes: eww.
Day 4 Nenthead to Consett-ish
We knew there was a big climb coming first thing out of Nenthead, but it was not too bad – again a long one but not too steep. The weather had looked a bit ropey first thing – possible rain – so we had our waterproofs on for the first time, but it just spotted a little and held off, clearing up nicely again as the day went on.
A great run over the top and down once again into Allenheads, and there we did a big tea and cake stop (with Celia, who’d caught us on the climb) at the excellent café next to the Allenheads Inn. By the time we set off again the sun was out, and the next town was Stanhope, which is where we did that day’s long lunch stop in an excellent café in the town (just off the route, but worth the detour). We ate as soon as we sat down to give us as much digestion time as possible, and as ever avoided stodge like fried stuff (no chips!). At the café we bumped into the Hartshead climbing group again which was fun.
The climb out of Stanhope is the last on the route, and, let’s face it, torturous: a mile or so of steep winding B road up onto the moors, and even when you finish the serious steepness there it still keeps going up with more of those horrid undulations, which look like rests up ahead as you go over the little tops, but are in fact stretches of less steep uphillness. The reward for your endeavours however is the utter joy of the Waskerley Way. Just before what looks like the final uphill road you are directed off rightwards through a gate, and then it’s about 15 miles of downhill at full tilt on a dead straight cinder track (it’s an old railway) with just the odd gate to contend with. Marvellous.
Day 5 Consett-ish to Sunderland
We’d booked into a B&B (Castleneuk Guest House) just before Consett in Castleside (a mile or so off the route). Nice B&B, not much to write home about in the town.
After the problems in Whitehaven I wanted to avoid access gates on the route and there were plenty marked on the map now we were back in urban areas. So, I marked an alternative B road route on the map avoiding the CtoC round the Stanley area and re-joining at Washington Arts Centre where there was a café. (With hindsight I think we could have stayed on the CtoC route as the access gates we did see this end were all the high ‘A’ style ones which we could get through no with the trailer problem.).
Washington Arts centre café is hugely recommended by the way: top place, great food, nice and cheap and seats outside (we stayed in side in the cool as it was too hot outside!) and a handy wall against which to lean bikes.
After this lunch stop we had the last leg through to the prom at Sunderland. All a bit convoluted through the urban spread of Wearside, and we somehow managed to cross the bridge into Sunderland town centre before we realised we’d gone wrong. Past the Stadium of Light and around the rather nice new harbour complex leads you to the end … somewhere on the prom. Actually a bit of a let down really as there’s no marker statue thingy like there is at the start. But, hey ho, we’d done it and we marked the occasion with a photograph on the prom, then and continued along the coast in the sunshine for a few miles to our friends’ place.
Finished: but where’s the marker post?
The train journey and drive back the next day took about 6 hours in all. The ticket from Newcastle cost about £14.
All in all it was a great trip. We and the kids all had a really good time and we reckoned we paced it perfectly for all concerned. We were very lucky with the weather: no rain at all. With the kids I would not fancy the Pennines or Northumberland Moors in anything other than decent conditions. The route is fairly hard in that it is damned hilly in the middle, but anyone who is reasonably fit could do it no problem, even if they have to get off and walk a bit. Oh, and I’d recommend you use a mountain bike with smooth tyres as you’ll need those low off roading gears for the big climbs.