North Wales Adventure – Day 1

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Way back in February, I got the idea that I’d like to try sea kayaking. I’d had a taster quite a few years ago on holiday in south west France, but never got round to following up on it. Well time is moving on and I decided if I didn’t do something soon I’d never have the chance so I booked on a 2 day small group introductory course in Anglesey. After I’d committed myself I had another thought – I might as well extend the break and do some walking in the mountains of Snowdonia, so that’s what I did – I sorted out accommodation for three nights in advance of the course so I had 4 days to explore.

I packed up the boot of my car last Tuesday morning and set off for Capel Curig where I had booked a couple of nights in the Bryn Tyrch Inn. Arriving around midday I parked up and set out on a relatively easy walk I’d based on a route found on the Snowdonia National Park website which would take me up to the modest hill of Crimpiau. I started from the hotel rather than the car park near the chapel but returned to there and extended the route, looping back to the hotel through the Coed Bryn-engan forest.

We’d had several weeks of hot sunny weather with blue skies, but there was a change in the air in Snowdonia and although it was warm, cloud had moved in and visibility wasn’t brilliant. But that didn’t spoil the walk.

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Initially the route followed well defined paths. After the prolonged dry spell the going underfoot was good, but it would normally be boggy in places. But the OS maps for Wales don’t show all the paths through the hills and mountains, even though they may we well worn and quite obvious in places. This makes planning a route tricky, but I was following one from the National Park and had printed out a copy of the route with a map and photographs. The second half of the walk moved into uncharted territory, but there were clear paths most of the way even though they weren’t marked on the OS map.

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Crimpiau is a small hill, but there was a short, sharp climb to the top which required use of my hands in a few places. The main attraction is the magnificent view of the surrounding mountains of the Snowdon horseshoe, Moel Siabod, the Ogwen valley (the Glyderau, and Trefan)the Carneddau and Llyn Crafnant. On reaching the summit I could see all of these and more, albeit the visibility wasn’t brilliant. It would have been outstanding only the day before!

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Return was along the ridge, passing Llyn y Coryn. It was wet underfoot in places and I reckon it would be quite boggy during much of the year with normal rainfall.

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Looking down towards Capel Curig and the Snowdon horseshoe

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Reaching the “centre” of Capel Curig there wasn’t much to see. A couple of walking equipment shops, a convenience style store (the café mentioned on various web sites appears to have shut), the Chapel and St Julitta’s church. I headed west on the road towards the Plas y Brenin Mountain Activity Centre, stopping off to take a look at the small church of St Julitta’s.

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This old building was the original chapel after which the village was named. Originally named for Saint Curig, it’s dedication was changed when a larger chapel was built a short distance away at the junction with the A5 in 1883.

Reaching Plas y Bryn I crossed over the river bridge at the top of Llynau Mymbyr

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and followed a path through the forest

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that took me back to the A5 opposite the Moel Siabod café, a few hundred yards east of my hotel. I stopped for a brew before heading back to my car and checking in.

A walk to Walk Mill

Sunday morning, the day after our walk around the Sandstone Trail, was hot and sunny. The heat wave had really arrived. We had a late breakfast sitting in the garden and a couple of us were looking forward to watching England play Panama in the World Cup in the afternoon. But as some of us have itchy feet and don’t particularly like lounging around in the sun for too long, we decided to get out for a walk across the flat Cheshire countryside near Waverton. Steve and Anne suggested a walk to Walk Mill, a water powered flour mill with a café, a few miles away across the fields. Sounded like a good idea!

We started off walking along the canal

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before cutting across the fields. Although we made sure we stuck to Rights of Way, the paths took us right through growing fields of maize, wheat rape and other crops.

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and passing some typical Cheshire style houses

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some of them very old

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Eventually we reached Walk MIll

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Although it’s now located in a new building, there’s been a water mill on this the site ever since around 1200. Although today it grinds grain to produce stone ground flour, it was originally a fulling mill for the treatment of cloth.

We stopped for a brew and then had a look around the mill

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We set off back across the fields and arrived hot and sweaty and settled down to watch the match with a cool drink

A walk on and around the Sandstone Trail

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The day after our visit to the Lady Lever Gallery, and after a very pleasant evening spent with our friends in Waverton, the four of us drove over to the small Cheshire village of Burwardsley, parked up near the Pheasant pub and set out on a walk devised by my friend Steve. It was forecast to be warm and sunny, although not too hot, in fact it was perfect weather for a walk.

Of late most of my walking has been out on the mountains in the Lake District or on the Lancashire Moors. The Cheshire countryside is very different. Rich (in both senses of the word), verdant countryside, largely flat with relatively modest hills.

Our route would take us through fields, along short sections of quiet country roads and along a good section of the Sandstone trail over the Peckforton Hills.

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From Burwardsley we walked along quiet roads and paths through fields to Harthill, with it’s pleasant old church

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and the biggest whisk I’ve ever seen!

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The route took us across more fields and quiet roads to another pleasant village,Fuller’s Moor and from there, our first serious climb of the day up a steep path to Maiden Castle, the site of an old Iron Age Hill Fort on top of Bickerton Hill.

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Although steep, it was short, especially compared to some of the hills I’ve been climbing lately, and it didn’t take long to reach the top. We made our way to the summit of Maiden Castle and as it was now after midday stopped to eat our butties while admiring the view over the Cheshire plain which extended across the Mersey over to Liverpool and, to the south west, the Welsh mountains of Snowdonia.

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We also had a view of the sandstone ridge of the Peckforton Hills we would be walking along after our break.

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Resuming our walk we followed the route of the Sandstone Trail along Bickerton Hill passing Kitty’s Stone, at the highest point of the hill. It’s a memorial to Leslie Wheeldon, the benefactor who helped the National Trust acquire the hilltop heathland. It displays poems written by him in memory of his wife, Kitty.

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Descending the hill to Bickerton church

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we had another short stretch of road walking before another short, sharp climb up to join the ridge. We’d diverted slightly from the trail as Steve was keen to include some steep climbs in preparation for a forthcoming walking holiday in the Tyrol!

Following the trail through the woods along the ridge

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we reached the trig point at Raw Head, the highest point on the Trail

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The rest of the walk followed the Sandstone trail, following the ridge, descending and then climbing back up to Bulkeley Hill

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From the summit, we had extensive views over the Cheshire plain, this time to the west, with the Jodrell Bank radio telescope just about visible in the distance

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We descended the hill reaching the gatehouse to the Peckforton Estate

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It was relatively easy walking now through fields back to our starting point. Just as well as it was mid afternoon, the temperature was rising and there was little shade.

The final stretch was along the lane, passing typical Cheshire sandstone buildings

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Reaching the car, we changed out of our boots, dumped our rucksacks in the boot of the car and made our way to the Pheasant Inn

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where we finished the afternoon with a most delicious meal

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including a naughty dessert!

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A Sunday Stroll

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Well, I’m not sure it would classify as a stroll, but last Sunday, to make the most of the good weather we’ve been having (which, surely, can’t last much longer) I decided to head up to the Lake District and tackle Skiddaw, England’s 4th highest mountain.

I set off early and drove up the M6 to Penrith and then across to Keswick (takes about an hour and 45 minutes) where I parked up on the edge of town, close to the path towards Skiddaw. I initially followed the route that skirted  the smaller hill, Latrigg, which we’d climbed last March. This is the well trodden “tourist route”, which some bloggers are quite sniffy about. But I’m not that bothered about their opinions, it was the most convenient way up. There were certainly plenty of other people taking the route.

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Skiddaw is an attractive mountain when viewed from Keswick. Walking up, certainly the first half, is a bit of a steep slog with the views behind you rather than ahead. But looking back over  to Keswick, Derwent Water and nearby hills gave an excuse for a bit of a break.

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Unfortunately, some weather was passing through, with cloud and rain over Helvellyn, Borrowdale and the Newlands valley, and visibility wasn’t that great. 

When the climb levels out there’s a summit ahead. But it’s not the final destination. Rather a subsidiary peak, Skiddaw Little Man, something of a “false summit”. Although there’s a path to the main summit that avoids them, in a moment of madness I decided to “bag” it.

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It was a very stiff, steep climb to the top, but didn’t take so long and there were good views from the top.

 

A steep descent then it was time to climb again, this time to the main summit plateau.

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It didn’t take too long to climb the final stretch up to the top – a flat plateau with some cairns, a windbreak shelter and a trig point.

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I stopped a while to take in the hazy views down to Bassenthwaite

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and over to Blencathra

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After a short rest I set on back down the mountain, by-passing the Little Man.  Now I was facing the views so in many ways the descent, was more pleasurable.

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Getting close to the bottom of the mountain another moment of madness overtook me, and I decided to extend the walk a little by climbing to the summit of Latrigg to take in the views as the haze was beginning to clear.

Looking over Keswick and Derwent Water

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over to the Newlands Valley, Causey Pike and Grisedale

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and back to Skiddaw

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After a short while I made my way back down to where I’d parked the car. All in all it had been a 9 1/2 mile walk with 3925 feet of ascent. But I hadn’t quite done. The sun was shining and I felt in need of some caffeine, so I dumped my rucksack and walking poles in my boot and walked down into Keswick. There’s a nice little coffee shop I know in the main street (Java)!

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A walk up Pendle Hill

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As .. I .. travelled, …I …came near a very great hill, called Pendle Hill, and I was moved …….. to go up to the top of it; which I did with difficulty, it was so very steep and high. (George Fox, 1624-1691)

Trying to make the most of the long days and good weather (while it lasts), last Tuesday I started and finished work early so that I could get out for a walk. It took me about an hour to drive over to Barley in Pendle where I parked up and set out to climb Pendle Hill. The area has two major claims to fame. It was there that George Fox, the founder of the Quakers, had a revelation which led to the founding of the Society of Friends. But it is probably best known for its association with the Pendle Witches who were executed 400 years ago in 1612.

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It’s an interesting curiosity that “Pendle Hill” actually means “hill hill hill”. The following explanation is from Wikipedia

In the 13th century it was called Pennul or Penhul, apparently from the Cumbricpen and Old Englishhyll, both meaning “hill”. The modern English “hill” was appended later,

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The summit is 557 metres (1,827 ft) above mean sea level. So it doesn’t qualify as a mountain, but it’s a stiff climb up the steep main path from Barley. The hill doesn’t have a distinct summit. Its a long ridge. There’s a trig point at the highest point which is known as the “Big End”.

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Reaching the trig point there were extensive views down to Barley and beyond to the east

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and over to the Bowland fells to the north with glimpse for the Yorkshire Three Peaks through the haze to the north east.

I set off along the plateau, following the Pendle Way, to descend by Boar Clough. (“Clough” is a local term used for a steep valley or ravine.)

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Usually this route would be much more difficult underfoot but the recent warm dry spell meant that the ground was firm, rather than wet and boggy, and the stream that has carved the clough in the hill side was  just about dry.

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I descended down into the larger ravine of Ogden Clough

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Following the valley I reached the first of the small reservoirs

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I carried on down the track and just before the second reservoir cut across the valley through some woods. I was still following the Pendle Trail but the section also forms part of the Lancashire Witches’ Walk, a 51-mile (82 km) long-distance footpath between Barrowford and Lancaster, opened in 2012 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the trials of the Pendle witches. The poet laureate,  Carol Ann Duffy, was commissioned to write a poem for the trail and Ten cast iron tercet waymarkers, designed by Stephen Raw, each inscribed with a verse of the poem the have been installed at sites along the route. I passed the second of these.

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Looking closer at the inscription

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The whole of the poem is inscribed on one side of the waymarker, but it’s not so easy to read, but you can see it here.

My route now took me up  the hill on the opposite side of the stream

Looking back

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and up through and then besides Fell wood before following a path eastwards through the fields towards the small village of Newchurch in Pendle.

There was a good view across the valley to Pendle Hill

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Continuing to follow the Witches’ Walk

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On to Newchurch

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I paused to take a look at the “new” church (well, it was new in 1740).

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I passed the souvenir shop (which was closed as it was now well after 5p.m.)

I love the inscription above the door. It’s in Lancashire dialect. “Gerrit Spent” looks like a Dutch gentleman’s name but it translates as “get it spent”. The rest of the transcription meaning “they don’t put pockets in shrouds”.

The final leg of my route took me across the woods and fields towards Barley

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with Pendle Hill in view as I walked along the track back to the village

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Another good, varied walk (just over 6 miles)  during the late afternoon and early evening on a fine day.

The Fairfield Horseshoe

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The weather has been cracking for most of May so I’ve been trying to take advantage of it as much as possible and get up on the moors and fells. Travelling over a Bank Holiday weekend can be a bit of a trauma, but I decided I’d extend the recent long weekend by a day and drive back up to the Lakes. I set off early (07:15) and as traffic was lighter than usual due to the school holidays I was parking up in Ambleside before 9 o’clock. In a moment of madness I’d decided to tackle one of the classic Lake District walks – the Fairfield horseshoe. Leaving from and returning to Ambleside it’s an 11 mile walk that takes in a total of 8 peaks.

It was an easy start. A short stretch along the busy Amblside – Grasmere – Keswick road before turning off along a gentle path towards Rydal.

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Passing Rydal Hall, where I popped into the garden to get a view of the Georgian mansion house

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and then Wordsworth’s former home at Rydal Mount.

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Then the climb began up to the first of the 8 peaks, Nab Scar. A hard start up a long, very steep (seemed almost vertical!) hill. BUt as I climbed great views staryed to open up, looking back to Windermere

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and west to Loughrigg

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Rydal Water, and the Coniston Fells

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Grasmere, the Langdales and even the Scafells

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It was hard work on what was turning into a hot day and I was beginning to doubt my sanity, but eventually I reached the top of the climb and started to head towards the next peak, Heron Pike. That meant some more climbing, but a lot easier than the initial ascent.

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As I started the climb up to the next peak, Great Rig, the wind was picking up and it was becoming cooler. A welcome breeze even if it meant I had to hang on to my hat to stop it blowing away down to Grasmere!

Looking back to Heron Pike from the windy summit of Great Rig, where I stopped for a bit to eat,

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and looking on to the next summit, the mid point and highest point on the walk – Fairfield at 2864 feet.

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It’s more exposed and some cloud was blowing in from the east on the strong wind. I kept my fingers crossed that it wouldn’t be too misty on the top.

After some more climbing I reached the top of Fairfield. It’s a broad flat plateau littered with rocks without an obvious summit.  The cloud was blowing in and out and it was windy and much colder than when I started in Ambleside.

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Halfway round, I stopped for a rest and a bite to eat, sheltering behind a cairn where I chatted with a couple of other walkers. Then it was time to set off to complete the second half of the circuit.

There’s a number of paths from the top of Fairfield leading to different directions. But the cloud dispersed and i had no problem finding the right one that lead towards Hart Crag.  As I followed the path I got a good view  along the valley towards Windermere and both of the ridges – the one I’d just walked and the one I was to follow back to Ambleside.

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Heading towards Hart Crag

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After reaching the summit there was a steep descent before the next climb up to Dove Crag

Now views opened up towards High Street and the Kentmere Horseshoe with the distinctive shape of Ill Bell standing out on the horizon

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Reaching the top of Dove Crag I stopped for a short while, sheltering from the easterly wind behind the summit cairn where I chatted with a couple from North Wales I’d been following round the route.

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Another steep descent and there were two more peaks – High Pike and Low Pike to traverse. There was a drystone wall all along the top which the route followed.

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The wall walks the fell –
Grey millipede on slow
Stone hooves;
Its slack back hollowed
At gulleys and grooves,
Or shouldering over
Old boulders
Too big to be rolled away.
Fallen fragments
Of the high crags
Crawl in the walk of the wall . . .

(extract from Wall by Norman Nicholson)

Apparently, the official right of way is on the right of the wall but the path seemed to be better on the left hand side. As we’d had good weather with little rain for the past few weeks, the going was good over the peaty ground, but it was clear that for much of the year sections of the walk would something of a quagmire.

Looking across Scandale to Red Screes

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and back to Scandale Head

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Looking down towards Ambleside and Windermere

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back to High Pike from Low Pike

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It was all downhill now into Scandale.

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At the bottom of the valley, with not much further back to Ambleside, looking over to my right I could see the fells I’d climbed that morning at the beginning of my walk

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Another half an hour and I was back in Ambleside

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Time for some caffeine!

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It had been a long but very rewarding walk in generally good conditions. 11 miles and just short of 4,000 feet of ascent. I was tired, but glad to have completed it and be able to tick another item off my bucket list!

Helvellyn, Nethermost Pike and Dollywagon Pike

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What a change May has been. After an awful start to the year the weather has been much better during this month so last Sunday (20th) I set off early and drove back up to the Lakes. I’d decided I’d climb Helvellyn, England’s third highest peak.  I’d decided to take the less adventurous route (I was going to type “easier” but it was anything but) up from the Thirlmere side rather than tackle Striding and Swirral Edges. I’ll save that for another day.

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Saturday had been a glorious, sunny day. Unfortunately Sunday wasn’t quite so good. The morning started rather grey and visibility wasn’t great. And it was windy on the top.

I parked up in the small car park by Wythburn church

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and donned my boots and started the steep climb up through the forest. Although it was still early, it was quite warm and I was only wearing a t-shirt and a light fleece I was soon unzipping the latter. I had a windproof / waterproof jacket and gloves in my rucksack, though. I had over two and a half feet to climb and the temperature was certain to drop. I needed my jacket by the time I reached the top.

I gained height quickly and looking back I soon got a good view of Thirlmere with Skiddaw on the horizon to the north

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I carried on climbing, taking a rest at Comb Crags to grab a bite to eat as my blood sugar had dropped. This was the view looking back

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The path skirted the flanks of Nethermost Pike before ascending up the ridge to the summit of Helvellyn

Reaching the hawse before the final ascent I could see the south face of Striding Edge

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A short climb and I had reached the summit. Helvellyn is a broad plateau so it’s not so easy to decide exactly where the summit is! But I grabbed a bite to eat in the shelter, snapped a few photos and then walked along  the plateau, taking in the views.

Red Tarn and Striding Edge. There’s still some snow in a sheltered spot the sun doesn’t reach.

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Swirral Edge and Catseye Cam with Ullswater  in the distance

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Gough’s monument

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It was windy on the top so I didn’t stay too long. Retracing my steps for a while before branching off up towards the top of Nethermost Pike

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Looking back towards Helvellyn

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Nethermost Pike is another flat topped mountain. There were great views over to the west where I cold make out the silhouettes of the  Coniston Fells, the Langdales, Bow Fell the Scafells and Great Gable. Pity visibility wasn’t better

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My route would take me over Nethermost Pike, High Crag and on to Dollywagon Pike

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Looking down to Grisedale

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Looking back at High Crag

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Another climb took me to the summit of Dollywagon Pike. Here’s a few views from the top

Down Grisedale towards Ullswater

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towards Fairfield

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Now it was time to start my descent, initially down the south side of Dollywagon Pike down to Grisedale Tarn

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A steep descent down the path

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Reaching the tarn I followed the path and skirted the south shore, resisting the temptation to climb Seat Sandal

Looking over the tarn back to Dollywagon Pike

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and over to Fairfield

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Now for the worst part of the walk, the descent down the steep path beside Raise Beck.

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I always find descents harder work as it’s hard on my knees. But I persevered and eventually reached the main Grasmere to Keswick road.

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It was just over a mile back to the car park, but fortunately the route didn’t entail walking on the tarmac as there was a path that cut across the fields

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and then through the forest

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A view over Thirlmere

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A steep descent down through the forest and I was back at the car park