Sorry about the lack of posts recently, been distracted…
I haven’t been going out on big mountain walks for quite a while due to achilles tendon problems. Now I think it’s time to say sod it to the achilles tendon and go walking regardless. For this Cumbria trip, I fancied Place Fell.
Place Fell is a high of modest altitude but big attitude. It sits in a prominent spot at the southern end of Ullswater. I’d been looking for viewpoints around Ullswater for a while and had been thinking of Place Fell but I’d never been up there. The obvious starting point is Patterdale. I chose further up the valley at Brotherswater because I’m a cheapskate and you can park for free there.
You can start out walking through very pleasant woods on a path just next to the road but eventually you’re forced onto the road until Patterdale. This is a handy spot to buy sun cream and a hat in case you’re stupid enough to have come out without either on a sunny spring day. Obviously I would never be that daft.
Over the river now and then up the path to Boredale Hause. Turn left here and follow the steep path to Place Fell’s rocky summit. The spectactular 360-degree panorama includes Ullswater, Helvellyn, High Street, the Patterdale Valley, and Blencathra. It was somewhat spoiled though by the icy cold gale blowing at the top which meant you couldn’t stand in the breeze for more than a few seconds before retreating to shelter. I donned all the clothing I had to try and keep the cold out.
Now to descend northwards towards the lake and the hidden surprise of the Lowther Tea Room. I was heading for what I thought was just another stone barn, to sit and have a sandwich. Only when you’re standing right in front of it do you realise it’s a tea room right by the lake. I didn’t go in (did I mention I’m a cheapskate) but it looked very nice.
The return is on the lakeside path. The trees looked particularly beautiful in their early spring foliage. From the head of the lake, I stayed on the east side of the river all the way to Hartstop for a beautiful day out.
Following the lovely walk we did last week, we did another in the same area with a slight overlap, starting from the tiny village of Graig-fechan (yes, spelled with a hyphen and lower-case ‘f’). You can see the route at www.plotaroute.com/route/336686
Joy and I did a great walk around the south-eastern end of the Clwydian range in north Wales, the physical and metaphorical high point being the summit of Moel Gyw. The approximate route can be found at www.plotaroute.com/route/335828
I was fortunate to have some good light from the low winter sun. Combined with some very shapely hills and tremendous views it made for good monochrome photographs.
In 2017 I’m intending to spend a lot more time in Wales and I think this walk will have to be done again. It has great potential for sunset photography.
This was Joy’s last hurrah before going back to full time work so we made the effort to get to the mountains and find some snow.
We did a simple route that I thought we could do quickly and then extend if we had time to spare, though I over-estimated our speed. We did a round of Tryfan, going up to Bwlch Tryfan from the Cwm Bochlwyd side and back again down Cwm Tryfan.
From the road the path is almost immediately rough scrambling and very wet but with glorious weather. Dazzling snows on the summits, plenty of colour low down, very little wind. It started to cloud over as we approached the pass but still good weather.
Snow conditions up to the pass were easy but the snow was much deeper on the south side with some exciting traverses across steep slopes. No footpaths were visible under the snow so we relied on map and compass, backed up by footprints. These only mean someone else went this way, not that they got where they were going. This proved true as we dropped further down into the valley. We followed the map and compass and used our mountain sense to find a sensible way but it was very slow going along rough boggy ground, still under snow.
Eventually I reckoned I could predict where the proper path was so I took a look and hey presto! there it was. This speeded us up a little but it was still a five hour round trip back to the car.
Foel Goch and the dramatic ridge of Yr Esgair from Llyn Ogwen
Heavy snow drift by the Bwlch Tryfan stile
From Bwlch Tryfan looking to the outliers of the Carneddau
The northern Glyders
Crags of Mynydd Perfedd with Llyn Ogwen below
Nant Ffrancon looking towards Conwy from Bwlch Tryfan
Pen Yr Ole Wen is reflected in Llyn Ogwen
The summit of Y Braich catches the last evening light and reflects in Llyn Ogwen
Joy and I made the journey to Ambleside in hopes of catching the snow at its best and we weren’t disappointed. We did the very popular walk to Troutbeck via Wansfell Pike and return via Skelghyll Wood.
There was a heavy overcast but otherwise good weather to start, it made good subdued light for photography.
We were soon glad we had taken our very useful mini-spikes and walking poles. The popular track was steep and iced up. Plenty of people were spending a lot of time falling over.
Views from the ascent and the summit were beautiful and I took plenty of shots. Glad I did as when we arrived at Troutbeck it started sleeting and didn’t really stop until we got back to Ambleside. We’d been very slow on the way over so the sleet encouraged a much quicker return. Views were much curtailed, with the cloud now down quite thickly.
All in all we took five hours for a route that should have taken about three and a half.
Delicate shapes of trees in snow on the slopes of Wansfell above Ambleside
Delicate shapes of trees in snow on the slopes of Wansfell above Ambleside
Ambleside in the valley with Wetherlam in the distance seen from the Wansfell ascent
The High Street range from Wansfell summit
Red Screes seen from the Wansfell ascent in winter
A dry stone wall engulfed in snow on Wansfell summit
The Fairfield horseshow is in the distance in this view from the ascent to Wansfell from Ambleside
With a suspect ankle I didn’t want to commit to a big distance so I thought I’d just amble and wander around the crags, trying to find alternative ways up the hillside and get a good view of the crags at the same time. I particularly wanted a good look at Gimmer, which I’ve never been close to before.
Starting from the Old Dungeon Ghyll hotel I went up towards the classic climbing route of Middlefell Buttress, surprised to see only one team of climbers on it. The weather was perfect and I thought there would be crowds. I sat round and watched for a while, though climbing is a terrible spectator sport.
The gully and crags to the left were attractive, though bracken becomes a problem this late in the summer. The map shows a path (presumably a climbers’ path) going up here and towards Gimmer so I wandered upwards. I tried scrambling for about ten metres on a short buttress that started as good rock but then turned into a 45 degree slope of chest high bracken, which wasn’t so much fun but that only lasted another ten metres before I could see a very faint steep winding path. I stopped to watch the climbers again, who had made a little progress.
Carrying on up the now-disappeared path, just to the left of the gully that bounds Middlefell Buttress, I wasn’t sure where it would end up but it seemed a good line. It was just steep walking but with great views of the crags to my right. Eventually it joined the main Mark Gate path and I went left towards the base of Thorn Crag.
There’s plenty of scope for other scrambling lines round here, the route I took was mostly steep and rough walking but it was nice to go a little off-piste.
I traversed over towards the now-prominent Gimmer Crag, leaving the path to stay at the same height. I could now see the climbers’ path just below me so I joined that and carried on. I sat for refreshments on a comfy rock with a great view of the south-east face of Gimmer. I could see several climbing parties looking tiny on the huge crag. This rock is covered in famous routes and it was good to get a close look. I’m hoping I’ll get the chance to climb here one day.
I wanted to see the other side so I dropped down a little towards the bottom of the nose of the crag until I could walk over a grassy way which then dropped me into the gully that bounds the left side of the crag. I could now see plenty of climbers. I still didn’t have a plan but thought I’d go up to where they’d started from to get a better look. The gully was very tempting and looked like it would lead higher. I could always turn back if there was a blockage. It turned out to be fairly easy walking and scrambling with some rocky steps and among great rock scenery. I kept stopping to look at the climbers and eye up the various routes, trying to memorise the crag layout for the future.
At a fork in the gully the right hand fork looked like it led into steep terrain but the left fork looked good so I took that. There was one awkward step but otherwise it was straightforward and eventually topped out on the path between Loft Crag and Pike of Stickle summits. I went right to sit on the top of Loft Crag for sandwiches and look at the tremendous view down onto the rocks of Gimmer, over to Harrison Stickle, Crinkle Crags, Bowfell, etc.
Now up to the very tempting Pike of Stickle summit, taking in some easy scrambling on the way up. From here I thought I’d return via Jack’s Rake but the light was better to the north and I wanted to take some photos looking down Langstrath. I could see in particular the clear line of Cam Crag Ridge, a classic scramble up to Glaramara.
I wandered over northwards to Stake Pass to look down Langstrath, taking lots of pictures, then descending down the Cumbria Way and the long easy return along Mickleden.
From the return path I could clearly see the ascent routes. The fork in the gully I mentioned earlier could be clearly seen. The right fork did indeed look difficult but I’d love to go there again, it looks like you could take it then escape leftwards up steep scrambling rocks.
Much nicer weather than yesterday encouraged us to go higher. Harter Fell can be seen from all round the valley as a perfect pyramid and has very inviting rocky flanks (especially on the west and north). We once did a climb on the north side ( Demming Slab ) that turned out to be a very vegetated adventure but with a good mountain atmosphere for a relatively small peak.
We started (with our friends Richard and Polly and their dog Morgan) along the beautiful turquoise river Esk from Boot and along to the Doctor Bridge. I’ve no idea why it’s called the Doctor Bridge.
Past Penny Hill farm and you strike up the hillside and the terrain becomes really nice. Incredible views east and west along the valley and north to the cirque of the scafells, bowfell and crinkle crags. Lovely rocky knolls surrounding you, you cross a tumbling stream and eventually the path gives out and you have to follow compass and terrain clues until you find the crossing of Spothow Gill and find the clearer path that ascends Harter Fell west flank.
Now you can see the rocky west flank of the hill and out with the scrambling book, Steve Ashton’s “Scrambles in the Lake District”. We were looking for routes 100 and 101. His pictures and descriptions usually, shall we say, allow for a spirit of adventure. I was pretty sure I was looking in the right place but couldn’t see any evidence of the so-called Harter Beanie, the “prominent hat-shaped knob”, on route 101 but route 100, the north-west crags route, did seem to be there and it looked very inviting.
The start was steep grass but it led into a very nice looking rock gully with steep but beautiful rocky walls on either side. Move leftwards up great rock onto what looks like a steep exposed ridge, though when you get there it turns out not to be at all exposed but now you can see a continuous line of good clean rock stretching away above you.
You can pretty much put the book away now and choose any line you fancy. There is a more continuous ribbon that invited us up. The moves were never hard, with just two or three needing thought and meriting grade 2. We had the rope handy but never felt the need of it.
There is a break after this stretch then another crag above. Out with the book to find the best route, which isn’t obvious but the description is accurate and the photo in the book useful. This is another good section of continuous rock until the ridge flattens and you’re on much easier ground with the top of Harter Fell ahead of you.
There are still some very nice easy rocks to play on as you make your way to the summit. Harter Fell is one of my favourite summits and I’ve often thought I should take rock shoes and a bouldering mat to play at the top but never have.
Views all the way were incredible. We could see the Isle of Man to the west, Morecambe Bay south-west, Pillar, Scafells, Bowfell, Crinkle Crags, Hardknott Pass. The weather had turned clear and sunny.
Return back the way we came, still needing navigation following compass and terrain features until back at Penny Hill farm, then along the road to Boot.