Scafell from Wrynose 20th April 2015

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Scafell (left) and Scafell Pike (right) in the distance looking north down Moasdale at the start of the day.

I’ve never been up Scafell before, in all the times I’ve been to the lakes. This way starts from the beautiful area between Wrynose and Hardknott passes. It starts by following the wide valley of Moasdale. This was like walking on a wet sponge most of the way. Lovely and soft on the feet but you need to think light thoughts to avoid sinking. Great views of Crinkle Crags on the right, Bowfell just after, then the fantastic Scafell range including Scafell, Scafell Pike, Ill Crag, Great End, Esk Pike, and the various classic rock climbing crags like Scafell Crag and Esk Buttress.

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Long Crag in the middle distance and the scafells behind.
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Bowfell in the distance, seen from Lingcove Beck, looking north.
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Looking south down eskdale.

At the end of Moasdale the path rises a little and then drops down. On the map you seem to have to do a slight detour left to follow the marked path but it’s quite easy to carry straight on to cross the stream via whichever stones you find convenient then contour round just below Long Crag towards the aptly named Great Moss. All the way so far I hadn’t seen a soul, despite it being some of the best and warmest weather of the year. I thought as I got to the foot of Scafell I would see more people coming up from the Eskdale path but still there was no-one.

The path now gets steep and it starts with some pleasant easy scrambling (perhaps barely grade 1) with a lovely tumbling stream on your left and some turquoise rock pools that would need a much hotter day to tempt me in. The mountain scenery is tremendous, especially the various crags to your left on the flanks of Scafell and the massive Scafell Crag way above you.

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Scafell crag. The foxes tarn path goes left up here. You can take one of many possible lines, either up the grassy rocky steps in the centre, or up the gully – see next pictures.
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The gully approach to foxes tarn. Easy scrambling but with some large boulders looking ready to fall down.

The Foxes Tarn path isn’t obvious so you need to be careful with your map reading and match the actual terrain to the features on the map. There are various feasible and obviously trodden lines and I took one of them. It was scrambly up steep grass and rock steps but perfectly fine (as long as you watch where you’re heading for). I soon naturally joined the head of a great defile filled with boulders and then saw a couple below me join the defile at its base, so perhaps that was the normal way? It didn’t look very attractive as it all looks on the point of falling down. More on this later.

After the defile there is still plenty of loose almost-falling-down rocks, then what I presume to the the tarn, which is more of a puddle. There was still a snow patch here, even after all the warm weather we’ve had. Now the path turns right and up a very unpleasant scree/gravel slope but not for long and then the top.

To the right is Symonds Knott, which is right at the top of Scafell Crag. You get a great view of Scafell Pinnacle and Pisgah behind it (which you can easily scramble onto) and down the very steep and narrow Deep Gill, still choked with snow, and a great view to Pike’s crag beyond in the sunshine (Scafell Crag has a reputation for being cold but Pike’s crag gets all the sun going).

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Across great moss eastwards towards crinkle crags from near the top of the ascent.
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Looking down from the top of scafell crag, pinnacle buttress in the foreground, Pikes Crag centre/middle ground, great gable in the distance. I think the view of pinnacle buttress is showing us Low Man followed by the knife edge arete.
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The top of pinnacle buttress in middle ground, Scafell pike in the distance.
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Great Gable, Kirk Fell, buttermere and borrowdale in the distance, looking approximately north west.
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A good view of the head of Deep Gill, Pinnacle buttress, showing the top of high man with Jordan Gap separating it from Pisgah Buttress.
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Scafell summit, looking south

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A few people on the top but not many and certainly not as many as the Pike over the way. Not being the highest has advantages if you like solitude.

I got a good show when a fast jet, which I’m guessing was a Hawk trainer, flew by between me and Great Gable at about mountain top height, straightened and then dived steeply down towards wastwater, ending up seemingly skimming the surface of the water. Of course, the camera was turned off with the lens cap on so no chance of getting it ready to get an action shot.

Return by the same route, except on the way down (not mentioning ending up on my backside on the scree slope at the start) I went down the sharp tumbling defile I’d seen the other couple coming up earlier. Rocks from football size to family car sized are all perched as though frozen and on the point of falling. It’s a steep but exciting descent with some simple scrambling. I wouldn’t like to do it on a busy day, thinking about other people possibly dislodging the boulders above me, but I got down without shifting anything. If you’re coming up and are looking for this way, it’s pretty obvious, a dead straight gully on your left just below Scafell Crag.

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Half way down, Foxes Tarn just behind me, the top of the steepening into the gully just ahead.
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Back across Great Moss. Eskdale Buttress is the large crag on the left.
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Looking towards Long Crag (left) on the return.
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Looking north to Bowfell as I go over the top of the head of Moasdale (behind me).

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Return by the same route and still no people around, a real treat in this area.

Woodhouse Scar climbing

With the CMC we’re now into the outside climbing season and both last week and this we’ve had glorious sunny warm tuesday evenings at Woodhouse Scar.

I haven’t done much outside climbing for a couple of years (getting my excuses in early 🙂 but I didn’t expect to have lost quite so much ability.

First night, the 7th of April, I took a look at the rock and asked Michael (the local expert) to recommend a nice easy warm up. He suggested The Corner or Corner Arete, both Diff. It’s hard to say which I did as they’re eliminates of each other but it was fairly straight-forward. He next suggested Original Route as also being a straight-forward Diff which turned out to have a somewhat tricky boulder problem first couple of moves but otherwise fine. Honour having been done I top-roped Slanting Cleft (Severe) which was hard work (I fluffed an early move and fell off, glad I wasn’t leading it).

Move to next week and I thought I’d start by leading a V.Diff I’d led twice before, having warmed up the previous week and, I thought, got my climbing head back on. I tried The Layback. I got about a third of the way and frightened myself and backed off. That’ll teach me! Up with the top-rope and Tim goes up first then I have a go. I’m glad I backed off – carrying on from where I stopped was distinctly difficult and not at all elegant! I really am out of practice. So, no more V.Diff leads for me until I’m properly confident again.

Next stop Jetsam, also V.Diff, also on a top-rope. More straight-forward this time. Then onto Cave Crack. Wow, is this hard for a V.Diff! I felt like my arms were about to give out. I really do need to get my head back into shape and start using my feet and balance more effectively.

Finally, Basin Cracks (V.Diff). Tim and I had a look at the starting moves, which are undercut. It looked like a very tough start. We tried it and weren’t sure it would go but what the hell. Get the top-rope up and Tim goes first. Sure enough, the rope goes tight and he’s off. Try again, off again, so my turn. I look at it like a boulder problem at Leeds Wall and work out a sequence and rehearse it mentally. Tie on, and it works! Great handholds all the way up, and finally my head is working and I’m using my feet and balance correctly and what a great route. Told Tim he has to do it next time, as I’m sure he’ll be able to.

So I think it will be a few weeks before I’m leading V.Diffs but it’s nice to remember how much fun real climbing on real rock is.

Ribblehead to Dentdale via Whernside, 13th April 2015

We don’t often get to Dentdale. It’s a little out of the way but really beautiful. I remember it best from when we did the Dales Way some years ago. I knew I could get over there starting from Ribblehead. I like this idea of starting in one valley and walking to another. I started by the famous viaduct and headed straight up to Whernside, and I mean straight up. The path I took was very steep and eroded and I probably wouldn’t recommend it as anything other than a quick way up.

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Looking north-ish from where the straight-up-the-side path meets the main north-south ridge just a little south of the top of whernside.
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Whernside summit trig point. The narrow stile is to prevent fat yorkshire people from getting into Cumbria.

Very few people about, which is unusual for Whernside. At the top I went straight over and down the other side. You can go left towards Kingsdale or, as I did, right towards Dentdale. It wasn’t looking as lush and green as I remember because I remember being there only on sunny summer days and by now it was distinctly grey (or is that a contradiction?)

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Descending west from Whernside summit, looking south down Kingsdale.
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Descending west from Whernside summit looking north into Deepdale (middle distance running south to north) which runs into Dentdale (running west to east).
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The Howgill fells in the distance
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Winding wall on Deepdale side.
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A barn in Deepdale.
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Fairly typical dry-stone wall in Deepdale.

I’d hoped to use the dales way for the way back but measuring my progress and the map I just didn’t have the time so I returned over a higher and bleaker way following the Craven Way along a track that goes over the north end of the whernside ridge and down again to the railway. There was quite a nice surprise as I got there to see this waterfall in Force Gill, then a less nice surprise as it started to rain heavily about ten minutes before I got the car.

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Force Gill waterfall.

Gargrave to Malham 11th April 2015

A shock to the system as winter returned after a week of summer. Gale force winds and low temperature found me under-dressed and cold and didn’t encourage the taking of photos. This was a circular walk following the pennine way from Gargrave to Malham and a return on different paths. We thought we’d walked every path in the dales but most of this was new ground which was a really nice surprise.

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River Aire a few miles into the walk, not far from Airton.

It’s pretty easy going with little up and down, roughly following the line of the river Aire both there and back. Lots of birds around today – avocets, curlews, wagtails, wrens, herons, a buzzard, Joy took more notice of them than I did. She tells me we didn’t see any swallows, she’s keeping an eye out for the first of the year.

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Nearer to Malham.
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Gordale Scar in the distance, centre of picture.

We saw hardly anyone until we got to Malham, which was crowded at the end of a bank holiday week, but we left it straight away and left the people behind again.

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Looking back to Kirkby Malham

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There was a strange occurrence later on near Airton. Sheep always run away from you when you enter a field but in this small paddock all of the sheep and lambs ran up to us and surrounded us. As we walked on they followed very closely with the lambs jumping up on us. I’ve never seen that before and I’ve got no explanation for it.

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Very oddly-behaving sheep – normally they keep well away.

Cragg Vale, 8th April 2015

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Stoodley Pike monument from just before Withens Gate.

It had suddenly turned from winter to summer. I’d got sunburn the day before while working on Marsden Moor with the National Trust, I’d also half killed myself from a full day’s manual labour (hard work for someone fresh from 27 years as an office worker) followed by an evening’s climbing. I thought a nice stroll from home over to Cragg Vale and back would be an easy change from some lake district mountains (which had been my plan). Not really a photography day. There won’t be so many of them now until autumn but at least there are plenty of flowers to photograph.

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Stoodley Pike on the way up from Todmorden.

I took the familiar route up to Withens Gate and the reservoir beyond, the way we’d gone the year before to see Le Tour climb up Cragg Vale. It had been a busy route then but today I was on my own. The sky had nice wispy clouds making interesting chevron shapes, I’d like to know how that happens.

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Withens Clough reservoir
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There was a lovely moss garden growing all along the dam wall and looking very ornamental.
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Wispy clouds in the middle of the day.

There is a very nice permissive path from the reservoir that contours on a level route alongside a drain (sounds bad but is actually very attractively overgrown) looking down all the way on Cragg Vale and Calderdale beyond.

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Looking down Cragg Vale from the contour path from the reservoir.

Eventually you drop down to the valley bottom and the really gorgeous riverside walk along the vale. This really is a local treasure, probably not much known outside Calderdale. Strong midday sunshine in the woods made good photographs almost impossible (I’ll have to come back in autumn) but close-ups can be made to work. I saw two deer but, as usual, as soon as you see them they run away.

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I was surprised I resisted the urge to get coffee and cake at Greens in Hebden Bridge but bought a naughty cake to take home with me on the train.

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The Rochdale canal on the way from Mytholmroyd to Hebden Bridge. All the bargees seem to have little vegetable or flower gardens next to their moorings. Despite the summer weather and abundance of flowers the trees are still naked.