Lakes Expedition 2009


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Lakes Expedition 2009

  1. 1. Area Choice12 November 200916:14 Eastern Fells Area of OperationThe Cumbrian mountains presented an excellent introduction to my UK travels for the followingreasons: ○ There was a wide variety of low and high level walks encompassing some of the finest fell trails in the country with spectacular lakeside walking and water falls of the finest grade. ○ It enabled me to visit my sister and family who I had not seen for a long time ○ There was an excellent Mountain rescue service across all the fells with short response times ○ Areas of habitation were relatively close by, increasing safety levels if I got lost ○ I wanted to test out the recommended routes of Alfred Waignwright in areas he highlighted for solitary walking. ○ The area would give me a fantastic range of social history, Roman influence, Fauna and flora, mining history and geology to exploreI chose Patterdale on the edge of Ullswater Lake as my base camp area for the first two weeks because: ○ I could explore the Eastern Fells and Far Eastern fells from a central base camp positioned between the two ranges of Helvellyn and High Street. ○ There was a bus service from Patterdale to Penrith Railway Station ○ It was easily accessible by road from Penrith and Windermere from the M6 ○ It was away from the main tourist areas of the south and would be quieter. ○ There was an excellent variety of scrambling and walking of different difficulty levels Northern Fells Area of OperationI chose Scales village for the last week because: ○ Dusk was arriving increasingly early and I wanted immediate access onto the Blencathra range without lengthy approach and egress time. ○ There were several recommended routes up to Blencathra from the A66 side near Scales including scales fell, Halls fell and Doddick. ○ There were no nearby base camp sites ○ There was a good bus service from Penrith to Keswick stopping at Scales. Area & Route Choice Page 1
  2. 2. Scrambling Routes 14 December 2009 17:241. Nethermost Pike• Patterdale Hotel and follow road north towards Glenridding. Turn left into Grisedale Lane after passing St Patricks church and the Patterdale Mountain Rescue centre.• Follow the lane all the way up to the top keeping Grisedale Beck on your right down in the gorge.• At the end of the Lane there is a fence and gate dead end. Turn right and cross the Beck using the bridge and follow the path up the slope to the turnstile• Here, rather than following the path up Birkhouse Moor to the Hole in the Wall, keep to the valley bottom path and walk due South West past Braesteads Farm and the small underground reservoir.• Walk all the way to the 3rd footbridge on the OS Map below Nethermost Pike, where the Nethermost Cove Beck joins the Grisedale Beck.• Leave the main path and head up the fell side due west to the dry stone wall which crosses ahead of you. Climb over this and push through the thick bracken up towards the beck waterfalls above you. Try and follow the sheep tracks and you will probably meet the old miners path which is partially hidden.• Cross the beck carefully and then decide whether you want to scramble up the right hand or left hand channel to the midway plateau. I chose the left hand side.• Zigzag your way up slowly across the crags. 3 point contact at all times.• Cross the plateau noting the old mine buildings and calfs hole• Scramble slowly up onto the final ridge and note Hard Tarn down on your left and Striding edge over on your right• At the summit you have a choice of returning vide Swirral edge Helvellyn or descending to Grisedale Tarn and then back down the valley to Grisedale woods and Patterdale. I chose the latter. Total distance:7 miles Time:6-7hrs Ascent:2,800feet Level: Moderate2. Helvellyn (via Striding Edge)• Choose day carefully otherwise crowds. Midweek and low season. Nov-March preferably weather permitting. Avoid high wind, rain or ice.• Approach as above to Grisedale turn stile• Long slog up Birkhouse Moor to Hole-in-wall. Stop frequently and enjoy the views• Take the left hand path towards Striding edge via Bleaberry crag. Wonderful views down to Red Tarn on the right and Swirral Edge opposite• Follow the established path or if you feel daring the crest. Slow walking with some 3 point scrambling.• Unpleasant scree slope at far end up to summit but otherwise relatively easy• Walk to summit noting memorials and then turn north to Swirral Edge• Slightly more difficult descent with frequent 3 point scrambling but still relatively straightforward.• Walk across to east side of Red Tarn and then back up slope to Hole-in-the-wall,• Descend to Patterdale on the same route you came up. AVOID descent via Glenridding on the other side of Birkhouse Moor. This is a tedious slow zigzag over stony ground with lower standard views. Total Distance:5 miles Time :5 hours Ascent:3000feet Level: Easy3. Blencathra (via Sharps Edge)• Choose day carefully otherwise dangerous. Avoid high winds, rain and ice• Start at Scales village pub/hotel and walk due west beside A66 to small cottage positioned close to road• Turn right up footpath beside cottage to gate and then turn right again walking due east up scales fell.• Ascend path which is a smooth gradual climb up to top and then bare to the left around fell side walking Area & Route Choice Page 2
  3. 3. • Ascend path which is a smooth gradual climb up to top and then bare to the left around fell side walking north west with the Glendermackin beck to your right in the valley below. Watch out for shrews.• Climb the rock steps beside the scales Beck and at the top you meet Scales Tarn with the daunting Sharps Edge towering above you to the right.• Follow the track up to the start of the ridge and then decide whether you wish to follow the established path on the north side or "ride the crest"• Move very slowly and pick route carefully maintaining 3 point contact at all times. Avoid long smooth rock faces.• At far end choose right hand channel up to summit albeit scree ridden. Smooth rocks on left side dangerous.• At summit turn due south to highest point and then follow ridge to Knowe Crag. Descend down to Blencathra Centre car park and then back via Threlkeld Distance: 6 miles Time: 5 hours Ascent:2800feet Level: Moderate to difficult Area & Route Choice Page 3
  4. 4. Easy Grade Routes 14 December 2009 17:241. Aira Force, Ullswater• Patterdale Hotel and follow road A592 towards Glenridding . Alternative journey using bus every hour.• Follow footpath from glenridding beside lake, off road, wherever possible.• At Aira Force entrance follow good footpaths either side of beck up to main falls and 1 mile beyond to very attractive High Force falls.• Keep on East bank and walk on up to Dockray village and have lunch at village pub• Return same path or consider longer route across Round Howe back to road• In season there is a new tea room at the foot of Aira Force grounds. Distance: 14 miles Time: 6 hours walking time2. Grisedale Valley, Patterdale• Follow route as to Nethermost Pike (see scramble section)• From the bridge you can either turn left eastwards and cross the Grisedale Beck at this point or walk further up the west bank towards Ruthwaite Lodge. Before reaching the lodge cross the bridge to the other side and return down the valley towards Patterdale.• There are magnificent views of St Sunday Crag above you and the wooded plantations at the bottom contain a population of Red Squirrels• Join Grisedale Lane again back down to Patterdale• Watch out for the belted Galloway cows Distance: 7 miles Time: 4 hours3. Scales Farm to Threlkeld• From Scales Farm walk west beside A66 towards Keswick.• On reaching the small cottage beside the north side of the road turn off right up the slope following the footpath to the turnstile.• Here turn left west towards Threlkeld and follow the path at the foot of the fells.• At Scaley Beck there is a tricky bit of scrambling down and up the other side but nothing too challenging.• Continue on crossing Doddick Gill and then Gate Gill, immediately on crossing the latter turn left down towards the Farm and the Blencathra Fox Hound Kennels (very famous)• Follow the path down joining the lane into Threlkeld Village.• Make sure you visit the Horse & Farrier Pub for a meal and pint of "Sneck Lifter" Outstanding Food.• Return on the same route or follow the bridleway below the kennels through an avenue of trees to the A66 and then back to Scales Distance: 4 miles Time: 2.5hours walking (lunch extra)4. Mungrisdale Common (via scales fell)• Ascend Scales Fell from Scale Farm as before but at top cross eastwards to other side of ridge and then descend to the Glendermackin River path and follow the path on the east side up the valley behind Blencathra mountain past the old lead mine workings.• Keep going up valley to top where the path joins Mungrisdale Common and then return down the other side of the valley closest to Blencathra to Scales Fell• Look across A66 from the top of Scales Fell towards old railway and you can see Mosedale Viaduct Area & Route Choice Page 4
  5. 5. • Look across A66 from the top of Scales Fell towards old railway and you can see Mosedale Viaduct Bridge Distance: 8 miles Time: 3 hours Area & Route Choice Page 5
  6. 6. Medium Grade Routes 14 December 2009 17:251. Place Fell and Lake Ullswater Walk• From Patterdale Hotel turn right along the road to Kirkstone, past the Post Office and then cross the road and walk up to the next lane joining the road on the left side.• Cross the Goldrill Beck Bridge and walk up the lane to the hamlet of houses at the top• Cross the gated entrance to the footpath signed to Boredale hause• Slow south easterly plod up fell side to Boredale with spectacular views down to Patterdale and Brothers Water• At Boredale Hause cross roads take the far left hand path north up to Place fell. This is a long hard and steep climb zigzagging upwards. Get into a short step padding rythym• Place Fell summit is marked by a rather incongruous trig point on an overlarge stone plinth. Magnificent views South East to Martindale and Boredale• Descend down to old sheepfold and then turn left around High Dodd northwards past the old slate quarry. The sound and sight of Scalehow falls can be picked up hereon in on your left.• Follow the left hand path down below high knott and a fantastic vista of Ullswater Lake will open up before you looking across to Aira Force.• Turn left at the bottom and follow the lakeside path thereon over the Scalehow footbridge towards Silver Point• At Silver Point you have a choice of the easier low path or the high path around Silver Crag back towards Side Farm.• At side farm you can turn right back across the farm track crossing Goldrill Beck to the A592 or carry straight on to the hamlet you started from. If the former watch out for the Alpine club House at the road junction on the left. There are rare endangered Yellow Hammers feeding at the Beck. Distance: 10 miles Time: 6 hours Area & Route Choice Page 6
  7. 7. Difficult Grade Routes 14 December 2009 17:251. Grisedale Tarn and St Sunday Crag (via Fairfield)• Route as Nethermost Pike to footbridge• Carry on up Grisedale Beck gorge past Ruthwaite Lodge (Renovated by Outward Bound Trust in memory of trainer killed in NewZealand on Mount Cook)• Slow slog up path and make sure you detour at top to see Wordsworths Brothers Parting Commemoration stone just below Tarn• Enjoy Grisedale Tarn which is beautiful in any weather. Stop for a picnic.• Follow path on south side of Tarn up to Grisedale Hause cross roads and then gird your loins.• Turn left up steep slope for 45mins of 1:2 gradient on your toes• On reaching the summit at Fairfield pause and take a compass reading and orientate yourself using the map, particularly if there is mist.• Head down off your current ridge to the left northwards onto the lower ridge known as Deepdale Hause. This is a narrow strip connecting Fairfield to St Sunday crag. DO NOT carry on up the cairn signed path oblivious to the direction change required otherwise you will join the highway to hell , eventually ending up in Ambleside.• Continue along St Sunday Crag ridge all the way towards Patterdale eventually rejoining Grisedale Lane at Home Farm. There are magnificent views across the valley to Helvellyn. However you may feel masochistic and in this case walk due South East to Hart and Dove crag all the way to Ambleside. Return via the Kirkstone pass. Distance: 12 miles Time: 6 hours (12 hours via Ambleside)2. High Street (via Angle Tarn)• Up to Boredale Hause as route for Place fell walk.• Take the south path towards Rake Crag and Stony Rigg following the high level narrow path around the Angletarn Pikes towards Angle Tarn.• On reaching the tarn walk around its perimeter and then carry on southwards towards Satura Crag.• You will reach a long stretch of dry stone wall and follow this along the ridge with views leftwards across Bannerdale.• At the end of the wall turn right down the slope towards Hayeswater in the distance. At the bottom of the slope the going gets slow due to constant dips into peat bogs. Follow the path upwards towards the Knott zigzagging your way up. This is a slog to the top.• At the top you join the old Roman Road High street which connected Penrith with Ambleside forts. Take time to enjoy the views across to Martindale and look out for the Red Deer on the slopes.• Continue south around the junction with Rampsgill Head Crag and then walk up the long hard slope of Racecourse Hill to the Trig point at the top. This slope was used for Horse Racing at the yearly Shepherds festival in July which ended a hundred years ago• Walk back to the junction with Rampsgill and then turn North East towards Wether Hill following the Roman Road. Pass High Raise and on down the slope crossing the peat bogs. These are festooned with bird life• Wether Hill marks the 9 hour walking point on this route requiring an overnight wild camp or bivvy. Highly recommended.• From Wether Hill follow the dry stone path westwards down the fell side towards Gowk Hill past the old shepherds House and on towards the Steel Knots overlooking Martindale Hamlet. Follow the path or detour to get a vantage point from the Knots.• Martindale Hamlet and church are delightful and the church well worth a visit (Elizabethan)• Follow the lane around and head up to Dale Head Farm past the Fox Hound Kennels on the road. At the Area & Route Choice Page 7
  8. 8. • farm turn up the slope to the right onto Beda Fell side• Hard slog up to the top and join Boredale Hause again OR take the lower path up to Heck Crag past the old settlement and then hard scramble up to Angle Tarn and then back to Boredale Hause. Distance : 18 miles to Wether Hill and 10 miles back to Patterdale via Beda Fell or 14 miles via Angle Tarn Time: 9 hours 1st part and 6 hours 2nd part Alternatives: (a) Martindale Hamlet start and walk up to Angle Tarn and/or Boredale Hause via Beda Fell or Heck Crag, and then return down Beda Fell (Moderate) (b) Mardale Head Car Park near the Rigg and walk up Riggindale ridge (Waignwright recommended) to High Street watching out for Golden Eagles (Difficult) Area & Route Choice Page 8
  9. 9. Travels Through my Land and Mind by James Cooke12 November 200916:16Sunday 4th October 2009I was up at 3.30am. A little earlier than normal with a little apprehension about the journey ahead and afear of missing the train. My ticket was limited to travelling on the 0815 to Glasgow or bust! I was alsoconscious of my somewhat laboured sequence of dawn activity to get mind and body moving. The BBCworld service magazine round up at 4am with lashings of Fair Trade Arabica Coffee, shave and bath, Little Olde England -breakfast of porridge and a frenzied last minute pack of auxiliary items, divided between my Aztec Destination and Direction of Travel70litre pack and a big holdall stuffed with dry freeze food bags, trail mix and numerous gas canisters.There was no threat of starving on my journey but there was a small risk of explosion and I just hopedthat no security operations were imminent that day to screen luggage on the underground or Eustonstation. I was facing a jail term of at least 25years after an overzealous prosecution under the Explosivesubstances Act, Offensive Weapons and Food hygiene regulations.At 7am I ventured out of my front door in Soho, central London full of enthusiasm and energy. This wassoon punctured as I came to terms with the enormous weight of equipment I was carrying. Not so muchthe backpack which was well balanced and comfortable but the holdall which skewed the entire effort.My initial springing step quickly evaporated into a lopsided crawl similar to an HGV loaded with haybails going up a hill and threatening to topple over due to loose tethers. The assembled groups of drugdealers waiting for their early morning punters watched in awe as this Neanderthal like man waddledtowards them. Super Fast Bendy Bus driven by Richard Branson Oh take me back to my Cave!I reached Leicester Square underground Station sweating and panting after a journey of 250m. This justdid not bode well!Reached Euston at 7.45am. Managed to topple over the newspaper turntable in WH Smiths afterturning too quickly in a narrow corridor of space and my backpack cut through like a scythe in summercorn. No chance of retrieving anything or I would have toppled over like a turtle on the beach with no Somewhere in the heart of Englandhope of recovery. there be a village so sublimeVirgin 0815 train to Glasgow on time. Not too crowded. Got two seats to my self and found space for myequipment. Quickly engaged IPod after listening to two middle aged couples trying to impress eachother with their travels and life experience. It never ceases to amaze me how many people on publictransport talking to complete strangers try to summarise their entire life story in the first 15 minutes oftheir meeting. Why?1117 Arrive Warrington Bank Quay. Met by my sister Hilary who I hadnt seen for 2 years. Back to Lymm,Cheshire. The last time I was here was in May 1984 (25 years ago)during my honeymoon, when Liz and Ihad lunch on the patio before returning to Ruislip from the Lake District.The house sits in a residential road with tightly compacted semi -detached post war properties, oppositethe primary school where my nephew and niece attended. David, my brother in law welcomes me and Iam pleased to see him after so long. He is recovering from cancer surgery but he does not look very On the Allotment with my Supper indifferent from how I remember him except much thinner. the backgroundIn the afternoon we all take a 1.5hr walk to Hilarys allotment where I am asked to choose the leeks Iwould like for supper. Very impressive. Then back home via the canal and Lymm village centre.Rowan, my niece comes over for supper, she is 28 years old now and teaching sciences in a Liverpoolsecondary school in very difficult circumstances. I also spoke to Jonathan my nephew in Texas on thephone. He is a vet working at one of USAs biggest veterinary research hospitals.Bed 9pm Diary Page 9
  10. 10. Monday 5th October16 November 200909:58 Up 5.30am. Last shave and wash for 5 days! Re-packed rucksack absorbing fuel and food rations for week. Pack feels comfortable and well balanced. I estimate approx 25Kg in weight. Hilary drives me up to Lakes starting out at 7.10am. M6 vide Preston and Penrith. Traffic not too bad and kept moving throughout. Slowest before Preston. Arrive Patterdale exactly 9.10am (100miles). Full cooked breakfast in the Patterdale hotel for both of us . Very busy restaurant with elderly tour groups. Manager informs me hotel full throughout year. £159 for 5 nights half board (Breakfast and Dinner). Single night £58 Bed and Breakfast per person. An Oasis of Good Ales First Day Area of Operations Base Camp - "Palace of the Fells" back, side and front Check weather forecast on Hotel notice board. This is very comprehensive and has been taken from the view Mountain Weather Service web site Weather looks good today but heavy rain on Tuesday. 10.15am, Hilary drives me up the approach track to Side Farm and then declares that she doesnt want me to lose that "Wilderness feel" by taking me all the way to my base camp and deposits me half way despite my earnest pleas that this wont be necessary. After a last hug and kiss to her condemned brother, she accelerates away in a cloud of dust and squealing tyres. The farm is completely quiet and my attempts to contact the owner fruitless. By recalling the web pictures in my mind I decide to walk north along the track closer to Ullswater Lake, to try and identify the camp site. After 10 minutes my search is concluded successfully and I locate the field. There is only one other tent and I spend 15minutes walking around to find the best location to pitch avoiding trees and rough ground. I have a clear view across Ullswater to the quay side at Glenridding with two ferrys moored alongside. Place fell ascends steeply behind me. I pitch tent, which takes me 1.5 hours (first time) The day is clear, sunny and warm! At 1.15pm I set off for Place Fell with just my day sack and essentials. I ascend southwards up the fell side to Boredale Hause and am surprised how steep it is. Big bags of stone in black plastic wrappers are Looking East from Place Fell piled at the bottom to repair the paths. The views west to Brothers Water and Patterdale are great. I get towards Boredale into a stride pattern of short steps and "pad" upwards. At Boredale Hause (crossroads) there are five path choices and I select the North East one towards Place Fell. The climb is very steep and winding and I eventually reach the trig point at 2.30pm. Rest for water and trail mix. Very few others about, wonderful! I head off down the fell side and turn NW at the bottom around the old sheepfold and cross the former slate quarry on towards Scalehow Falls and the edge of Ullswater Lake. As I reach the final descent to the lake I can just see the falls cascading over the rocks in the distance but it would be difficult to approach due to the vast amount of bracken and undergrowth so I just take a picture using zoom. The early evening light is breathtaking and the views equally so across the lake. I reach the lake at approximately 4pm and take on more water and trail mix. As I do this a rather surreal situation develops before me. For the first time that afternoon walkers come towards me along the lakeside path. Junior, teenagers, parents and grandparents from what I can only assume as being a family of orthodox Jews. The older males have beards, hair wringlets and skull caps. What on earth is going on? They take an Scalehow Falls eternity to pass me saying nothing but pass in a single file 8 persons in total. I cant help chuckling out loud at this whole bizarre sight in a corner of England I least expect them. Its almost like meeting Osama Bin Laden on a country stroll in the middle of nowhere. As I head off SW I am approached by another group of walkers and I suddenly feel angry and irritated that my solitary walk is being spoiled. This group is led by a younger man followed by an assortment of relatives some of whom are clearly disabled. A woman pushing a man in a wheelchair calls to me hello and asks how much further it is? I think how much further to where? and answer mischievously that its a long way still. I immediately regret this as the man at the front turns to the group and says" Im terribly sorry we should never have come this way its all my fault" There is a look of desperation in their eyes. I guiltily rush on. Return to camp via Silver crag and arrive 5.45pm. There are now 3 more groups, one full of giggling school girls. Oh god why me? Cocoa and curry for supper. Bed 8pm. Cant get warm and at 4am it started to rain hard. Diary Page 10
  11. 11. The Vista from High Dodd acrossLake Ullswater towards Aira Force Diary Page 11
  12. 12. Tuesday 6th October17 November 200909:516.10am wake. Ive been in my sleeping bag for 10 hours, not all of it sleeping mind you. Turning is afrustrating manoeuvre often resulting in the side zip of the bag being wrapped around my ear and asense of slow strangulation. There is a slight ridge on the ground and although my new "Neoair Therma-Rest" is very good I have been rolling off the edge to either side of the tent wall. My dreams have beenadversely affected as a result, probably requiring some psychiatric care on my return to London.I struggle to escape and put my trousers on lying down, an art to be practised in the days to come. I vowto keep my woolly hat on next night to increase warmth and to avoid the wet condensation feel of thetent in the morning on my head.The alpine stove bursts into life (my old reliable friend I love you) and I brew up my cocoa, an immediatemorale raiser, using my new trangia mini kettle. I immediately sense another friend in the making.Opening my first "lunchlite" bag of freeze dried bacon and potato breakfast I realise that it was designedfor frying not boiling but doggedly continue in need of the calories. The result is a mulch of little tasteand of truly "yuck" immensity.Its raining hard and I plan a low level walk to Aira Falls 5 miles north of my position on the north westbank of Ullswater Lake. The cloud is so low there is no point going up high.0845 Leave camp fully togged up with water proofs and day sack. I head straight for Patterdale PostOffice, where I had spied the previous day, the supply of freshly cooked bacon baps all day. Havingabandoned my own boil in the bag spectacular I felt I deserved a treat. I was not on an SAS survivalcourse but an expedition of enlightenment! I make friends with Gillian and Tom, the post mistress andmaster eagerly, realising my future well being may depend on this relationship. They sense my slightdesperation and offer me a double bacon bap with sweet tea and make cooing noises about the days "Bacon Bap paradise"ahead and how much Im going to enjoy myself. Patterdale Post OfficeI head off up the A592 and pass St Patricks church, Patterdale and the new Patterdale Mountain RescueCentre positioned next to the Fire Station and old Police House. All look extremely well maintainedalthough the Police house is now private. The Rescue centre is extensive and very modern looking andwas funded by the Sports Foundation. Its many garage doors indicate a range of vehicles and I envisagesomething of the Thunderbirds HQ about it all. I find this all very reassuring in my plannedcircumstances of assaulting some of the Lakes more demanding fells and crags.I thread my way through Glenridding and cross the road repeatedly to join the path beside itoverlooking the lake. Its still raining but I begin to relax relishing the smell of rain, autumn leaves andbeing alone at last. I feel somewhat unsettled again passing the boat yard where Liz and I had hired amotor launch during our honeymoon and had zig-zaggged our way across lake Ullswater. Where had 25years gone and why had things gone so wrong? I knew many of the answers to that immediately. I feltsad and poignant about the whole situation.There were several points where I was forced to join the road and became very much aware that I wasfair game to the idiots driving, who saw me as open season sport, to see how close they could pass me Thunderbirds HQ Prince William with the Team July 2009at 80mph without launching me skywards and then having to suffer a lot of tedious form filling at thepolice station. This in turn pressured me to find alternative routes which inevitably led to boggy ground,field crossing, barbed wire man traps and countless gate crossings. I loved it all nevertheless! Perhaps Iam an outdoor type after all. So many years traversing Scotland Yard politics and gang psychology hadtemporarily dismembered my natural instincts for the wilderness. Oh Ray Mears how lucky are you!At 1140 I eventually arrive after 2 hours walking. I feel dry, comfortable and fit. My walking boots arefantastic and there are no blister hotspots at all.Aira Force is managed by the National Trust and as expected things are well organised and well Aira Force on a Quiet Daydesigned. The routes to the falls are over prepared but understandably so due to the number of disabledpeople visiting. Its very different from my last visit 25years ago when things were a bit more wild. Iclimbed the numerous timber stairs with high expectation of the falls being in full spate due to theheavy rainfall. My expectations were amply fulfilled and Aira Force was a roaring plume of waterdeafening and magnificent falling 100feet into the narrow granite gorge.I trudged up the side and marvelled at the numerous tributaries and inlets all of which funnel intonarrow gorges of plated granite 2-4 ft apart and up to 30ft deep. I made High Force a mile further up,which was a much wider expanse of waterways cascading downwards. I sat at the side on a stone andrefuelled with grapefruit flavoured water and trail mix. The view was magnificent, only spoilt by thenumerous visitors on either side ,crowding out what would otherwise have been a scene fit forWordsworth to describe.I moved slowly down the gorge filling my senses and enjoying the views, sounds and smells. Passing viaone of the many bridges to the other bank I manage to avoid most people and get space on my own.The bridges are interesting in themselves, one dedicated to a younger brother killed in the first worldwar.On reaching the main gate I realise Ive missed an opportunity of a circular route vide Dockray village, a Aira Force Video Diaryfurther mile up from high force, where there is a recommended pub. Oh well..................................I cross the road and walk down to Aira Becks exit into Ullswater. The afternoon ferry to Pooley Bridge ispassing. It looks sleek and elegant. A party of ducklings with mum swim out, seemingly to meet it. Im on Lake District Lake Districtmy own again and all is well! Expedition... Expedition...My return to Patterdale is much faster as I trot down the sections of road I avoided earlier. My tacticsare far more brutal this time and I take up a position in the middle of the road where there is no ignoringme. I practice a rather forced grin and pretend to be an escaped lunatic. This has the desired effect andcars are forced around me, many quickly closing their automated windows and putting on their hazardlights. Oh what fun. I laugh until I cry! Glenridding to Pooley Bridge Steam FerryOn one section below the road I come across a party of about 30 Kendal Mountain Rescue bearded "who says the age of romantic travel is dead"beasties practising abseiling on the short cliffs. All in red kit. I give them a cheery hello and mutter undermy breath "might see you later in the week"I arrive back in Patterdale at 4.50pm (1hour 10 min) and head for the Hotel happy and fit albeit coveredin wet clothing and equipment. Treat myself to a pint of Tilleys "old faithful" and a bar meal of burger Diary Page 12
  13. 13. and chips. Fantastic. Rang Hilary to assure her I was still alive and living modestly off slugs and rainwater.Back to camp and lights out 7pm. Diary Page 13
  14. 14. Wednesday 7th October17 November 200912:236am awake and up in the dark. Feeling fit and well. Back stiff but hey, Ive lived with that for 18 years. Area of Operations Day 3Just get rocking and rolling. Before opening up the tent I can feel that there has been a massive drop intemperature and that it has stopped raining. At 3 am there had been a visitor to the tent. Heavy breathing and rustling sounds just beside theventilation flap above my head. Unfortunately I knew it wasnt Beyonze fatally attracted to mywilderness aroma but some other less attractive creature probably a fox or badger. Lying there in thedarkness hearing and sensing this is always a bit unnerving. You feel exposed as you cant get out of yourbag and tent quickly to chase "it" off. The only thing you can do is shout or blow your whistle. SomethingI had done in the Brecon Beacons camping with my son to hilarious effect as he thought I was beingmurdered and thrashed about furiously until I explained what I was doing and calmed him down byoffering him several swigs of whisky from my hip flask. Night Visitor Chief Suspect - Looks Nothing like Beyonze except for a big......!The night had been quite noisy with the geese on Ullswater having had an all night party and the owlscalling to each other ,interspersed with the hourly chime of Glenridding clock tower. I was getting usedto this natural cacophony but was still aware of it as I rested. The Barnacle Goose - "Wild Night-time Party Animal"I got out of the tent and my head torch displayed a layer of frost on the ground. I switched off andlooked up to a sky emblazoned with thousands of stars. It was crystal clear and the light of a 3/4 Mooncut down. I watched entranced. The eastern horizon dominated by Glenridding Dodd was graduallyilluminated by the dawn light. As I watched, a sudden shooting star flashed across Birkhouse Moor.Magical.Drinking my cocoa I watched the early morning trans- atlantic flights turn towards London and realisedLockerbie was very close to the north . Their vapour trails crossed the sky one after another. The sunrose behind me and all the autumnal glory of the fells and crags was revealed. Hues of brown, red andgreen. Fantastic. God it feels good standing here!Big day today. Long trek up onto the old Roman Road of High Street and a high level overnight bivvywithout any tent. The weather was going to be sunny and clear. Perfect.I loaded my Rucksack with sleeping bag, mat, weather proofs, Stove, food, tarp and bivvy bag. Feelsheavy but well balanced. Head out of base camp 0845hrs via Patterdale and the Goldrill Beck Bridge up The old Roman road now called High Street connected the two forts at Penrith and Boredale Hause. Slow padding walk getting into a rhythm. Legs feel very strong and all the gym work Built in approximately 100AD, it crossed very boggy ground in parts but avoided the heavilyseems to have paid off. Very few people about, perhaps my cunning plan of visiting during school term, forested valleys at the time by being positioned high up on the connecting fell ridges. Below is alow season and mid week is paying off. cross section of the building technique, the shadow of its course on Race Course Hill and one of the wagon types used at the time.I traverse across the fells from Boredale to Angle Tarn slowly treking my way around the narrow pathshigh up overlooking Brothers water (so named after two brothers who drowned there in 1860) and pastthe two stumpy Angle Pikes arriving at Angle Tarn shortly after. Its large with three distinct islands (notall shown on the OS map)and a peninsular jutting out from the north side. There are a lot of peoplewalking around its edge or picknicking at the side . Just what I didnt want to find! I move quickly on andpad towards Satura crag, stopping for a refuel hidden behind a hillock beside the dry stone walloverlooking Bannerdale.As I sit there Im struck by two major factors one positive and the other negative. As always Ill start withthe bad news. During my brief stop of 20-30mins about 20 walkers pass my unnoticed position in groupsof between 2-6 every 5 minutes. They are of various ages and nationalities almost all with those damnedubiquitous telescopic sticks you see festooned across outdoor equipment stores. Some with one andmany with two. Im sitting on the hard shoulder of the M1 of the far Eastern Fells and I dont like it! Icame here for a solitary walk of self re-discovery. Where the hell are all these people coming from. Dontthey have jobs to go to. This is not the summer season when I would expect these numbers. I can hearthe approaching "clickety clack" of their walking sticks, like blind people moving forward on an urbanstreet. Wainwright promised me solitary wilderness in this area. His popularity has magneticallyattracted people to this route spoiling the experience in just the way he would not have wished.The second factor was the spectacle before me of mile after mile of dry stone wall stretching across thehead of the crag and down into Bannerdale valley. Who had done this, why and how long had it taken?The sheer enormity of the venture was humbling, getting such quantities of stone into position on thisdifficult terrain. I vowed to research this on my return to London. Most of the main walls in the high fells had been erected by 1850 as a My view from Satura Crag down into Bannerdale. consequence of the various Enclosure Acts of the 18th and 19th Note the long stretches of dry stone walls centuries. These empowered certain landowners to create a boundary around their claimed land against the previous common land grazing rights of all the locals . Gangs of unemployed miners were often used to build the walls.I continue on and the going gets very tough approaching the Knott. A very rough zig zag ascent with lotsof sticky bog in the dips. Eventually I reach High Street overlooking Riggindale Beck and Haweswater inthe distance. I watch two Red Deer stags fighting just below me rutting with their antlers. They must bepart of the Martindale herd which is the oldest in England. Diary Page 14
  15. 15. part of the Martindale herd which is the oldest in England.I can see the distinctive Riggindale Crag leading up from Haweswater. Waignwright describes it as a"connoisseurs" route onto High Street. This as I was to discover in the days ahead was code for hell.Rough climbing, sapping your soul and entire body! Riggindale Crag. The "connoisseurs" route up to High StreetI kept a sharp eye out for the Golden Eagle, as this was the area in which one of the few UK breeding from Haweswater reservoirpairs remained. I carried on up the deceptively steep slope to the cairn and trig point of Racecourse Hill2,800 ft up. The wind was cold and bracing as I admired the thought of past dales folk racing their horseson this ground 200 years previously, in the annual festival. I sat behind the wall at the top shelteringfrom the westerly wind and refuelled. The numbers of people passing was relentless. Its 4pm and Idecide to head towards Wether Hill on the Roman Road and find a spot for my bivvy. This would allowme a route back to base camp via Martindale and Beda fell the next day.As soon as I crossed onto Rampsgill Head the number of people fell away dramatically and I began toenjoy myself. I then started a long weary walk north past High Raise and Red Crag. The ground was veryboggy and peat banks were all around. However, I was alone in the dwindling light and felt exaltedlooking down into Rampsgill valley. I could see smoke rising from the red roofs of "The Bungalow" andimagined the deer herdsman stoking the fire. I could hear the sky larks above and my steps surprisedone particular bird from the marshy ground which l thought could have been a snipe. I began to move The Golden Eagle, Riggindale. The Manchester Waterwest off the Roman Road which was becoming increasingly boggy and followed the fence bordering the Authority are attempting to introduce another breeding pair.deer park and then the dry stone wall. I had been walking almost continuously for 9 hours over roughascending ground with about 25Kg. I was "cream crackered" and felt very concerned that the groundwas totally unsuitable for a bivvy. Then I saw a possible opportunity, an opening in the wall where an oldgateway had been with a small grassy bank beside it. It was perfect almost preordained. Snipe spotted and confirmed identification. Not to be confused With Snape from HogwartsI set up the tarp on the diagonal to the wall and pinned one side under the top stones of the wall andthe other pegged to the ground, forming a shelter underneath. I unrolled my bivvy bag and inflated myneoair which I placed inside the bag together with my sleeping bag. I suspected it was going to be a coldnight and put my neck warmer and extra fleece on. I pulled my hat down and my neck warmer up soonly my eyes were exposed. In the failing light I donned my head torch and assembled my stove and hada brew and meal. The air was still, very cold and the sky clear. The long grasses around me wafted gentlyand there was almost complete silence apart from the baying deer stags below me. What was more analmost perfect sunset cast a rich light across the distant peaks. I stood there feeling a sense of onenesswith all around me, something I had not experienced since childhood. Its hard to describe but I felt atpeace, perfectly relaxed and not at all afraid in my solitude.I got into my bivvy without difficulty using my rucksack as a partial pillow and pulled the cord up. I couldstretch out without difficulty and felt very warm and cosy. My only concern was my bottom half whichwas sticking out into the gateway and uncovered by the tarp. Any passing deer stag could have trampled High altitude bivvy, Wether or pinned me with its antlers "A bivvy on a barbecue stick". I was so tired I didnt care and felt Pyjamas and night cap.reasonably secure.I watched the dwindling light across the Helvellyn range to the west and followed the progress of a largeSea King Rescue helicopter between the peaks. Perhaps some poor bastard hadnt had such a good dayas me and the mountain rescue boys were in full swing.At about 7.30pm I fell asleep more comfortable and content than I had been all week. I could feel thecold air on my face and see the distant mountain shadows. All is well. This is why I had retired from thepolice, a pressing need to reconnect with mother earth! Diary Page 15
  16. 16. Thursday 8th October19 November 200910:19At Midnight I awoke. There was a blaze of white light around me and feeling somewhat startled I peeredout. Not to worry, the Moon was throwing down its stage lights on the set around me and what a set!The fells were lit up with heavy shadow in part and sparkling crystals from the forming frost shone outlike countless jewels. I estimated that it was about -2celsius. Above was a perfect carpet of stars. Believeme I felt very humbled and moved by the whole experience. Tears welled up and I felt a deep sense ofbeing truly alive for the first time ever!I eventually fell asleep again but was awoken at 3am by the sound of very heavy rain on the tarp abovemy head and a growing wind which was pulling at the anchor points. All remained secure and I fellasleep again.At 7am I woke up feeling very refreshed and rested despite the nights interruptions. The wind wasblowing cold and hard from the west and low cloud shrouded parts of the valley below me. It took me30mins to boil the water in my kettle and I had to build a shelter around the stove. Whats more, the gascanister froze fast to the stone it was sitting on.I gathered my kit together and took the tarp down in a brief shower of cold spiked rain. The tarp haddeveloped a small hole in the corner where it had been pinned with the stone. I truly didnt want to leave this place and felt I could have stayed in that spot for several days and nights Area of Operations Day 4in an affinity with the elements.At 9am I donned full kit with waterproofs and set out north westwards towards Martindale via Gowkhill . I was completely on my own and revelled in my solitude. I marvelled again at the vast expanse ofdry stone wall and noted the derelict shepherds shelter Wainwright had mapped in his books. Iwondered when the last time it had been in use and the life of a shepherd in the centuries before me.Could I have been happy doing this sort of work. I suspected that I could have been, perhaps with someseasonal variations and a damned good woman to go home to.I wound my way towards Martindale with a slight detour to the overlooking Steel Knots where Iencountered my first people of the day. I tried to be polite but wished they would all bugger off! Alifetime of working with people and seeing humanities worst degradations had eventually caught upwith me. Perhaps I would be better off in the Canadian Wilderness as the new Grey Owl.I descended to Martindale taking a short cut down the fell side through thick bracken. My knees werebeginning to scream at me on the descents and my progress slowed considerably. I rejoined the mainpath and was overtaken by an elderly couple who gave me a cheery hello and asked whether I was OK. Ianswered that the knees were complaining and they replied " Oh the joints the joints!" in something ofa jolly ode like delivery. Im not joking, these two had the legs of athletes and were supremely fit. Wehad a brief chat and I discovered they were 70 and 75 respectively. They moved off ahead of me andsoon were out of sight. There is hope for all of us and I found these two a bit inspirational, particularly asthey were NOT using those damned telescopic sticks! I hobbled after them feeling distinctly inferior. Moon Light over the Cumbrian Mountains This is the form of light I experienced - BreathtakingI reached Martindale at about 1130 and had a good look at the village church of St Martin. It was smalland compact with a simple Methodist feel about it. Just what I liked. There had been a church on thissite for over a thousand years and the current one had been built during Elizabeth I reign. The Yew treein its grounds was about 1300 years old. There was one service a month now run by one of those newtype travelling vicars with 20 parishes. The church looked remarkably well maintained and I mused onmany things. Why here? Well, I suppose it may have served the mining population as well as the villageand it was now well maintained due to the number of visitors donating. My research revealed a similardegree of well being in these small chapels throughout the lakes. One benefit of all these blasted peopleI suppose! I sat outside and refuelled. The day was now sunny and clear. I could live here if it was just a"tadge" more remote.At 1215 I set off again towards Beda Fell passing several farms and a kennels which I guessed was theMartindale Fox Hound pack. I was disappointed to note on passing the gateway to the Bungalow whosesmoke I had seen the previous evening that it was NOT the Deer Herdsmans but was a holiday let. OhGod not more tourism.I stripped down anticipating the hard slog up to Boredale Hause and joined the track at Dale Headenjoying the sight of a small group of young red deer on the fell side close by. Beda Fell was a slog butmy ascents were very strong and my knees briefly stopped hurting. I noted the tracks of Mountainbikers on the path and had to admire their tenacity and fitness. If I had the opportunity again I would The Elizabethan Church of St Martin, Martindalehave diverted via Heck Crag past the old settlement up to Angle Tarn but I was committed before I knewit . I reached Boredale Hause and rested with some trepidation about the last descent to Side Farm andthe state of my knees. I edged off and padded down the fell side trying to even the weight between bothlegs acting as a brake. My knees were screaming but didnt give way as I feared. I hobbled into basecamp at 3.10pmI spent the rest of the afternoon having a slow shower, tending cuts and bruises, kit drying andpreparing a meal. I spread my bivvy and tarp out on the grass in the evening sunshine and stretched out.My evening entertainment arrived shortly after with a young couple in a large 4x4 with trailer, whocommenced setting up camp on a spot ahead of me. Im not exaggerating but it took them over 3 hoursto assemble what can only be described as an earth bound equivalent of the international space station.The tent kept expanding with multiple tunnels like a Tomato plantation. The bed was erected using anair compressor on the car, and was of gargantuan proportions. I wondered whether the couple weregoing to move from one compartment to another, like the winter palace, throughout their stay. Youcould have fitted about 30 people into the tent. Next came the inflatable sofa and chairs then theGazebo, cooking range and lastly various wines and candles (you know the ones on stands you get atShakespearean plays in Regents Park open air theatre) I watched in eager anticipation of the inflatable The West Wing of the "Camp Spectacular"plasma TV being erected and fell about in fits of hysterical laughter.I fell asleep at 7pm and was vaguely aware of three sets of owls across the valley competing with eachother using increasingly flamboyant calls, one seemingly off key.I awoke at 7am the next day! Diary Page 16
  17. 17. Friday 9th October19 November 200912:127am up and got a brew on. Noticed Mountain Rescue vehicles parked in Glenridding opposite withemergency lights flashing. Another wayward soul being sought on the Helvellyn fells. Dangerous placethis!My right knee was very painful and I could only move it slowly. I rubbed in vast quantities of Junipercream which helped. No other part of my body was sore or stiff which I thought was amazingconsidering the distance and terrain I had covered the previous 2 days. I was obviously much fitter than Ithought. I suspected the knee problem was a cartilage tear due to the steep descent braking with a fullpack. My other knee had had all the cartilage removed after an RTA in 1985 and had settled downovernight. I sent a text to my Trainer John bollocking him for missing this preparatory area of fitness. Hereplied "sorry" and informed me his hourly rate had gone up!I decided that it would be prudent to have a rest day of sorts and planned a day of note completion,Cumbrian ale and a trip up Ullswater to Pooley Bridge in one of those very sleek looking ferries.8am walked up the track to Patterdale. I was ambushed by a very fine looking Guernsey herd of cows Area of Operations Day 5spread across my way, including a very large bull. There seemed to be a lot of high value herds whereverI walked and mused whether the farmers had had a big compensation payout after the Foot and Mouthoutbreak of 2001 which I knew had hit Cumbria very hard. As I crossed the Goldrill Beck bridge I caughtsight of a very unusual looking bird in the trees beside. It had a bright yellow head with black flecks anda brown body with black stripes. It had a long tail with squared off feathers. Another piece of research.I pulled into the bar of the Patterdale Hotel at 9.55am and startled the barman tidying up from the nightbefore. " A pint of old faithful please" He replied "I cant serve you until 11am". I asked him to check hislicence as the hotel hoardings clearly indicated otherwise. He disappeared off into the Hotel archivesection and came back somewhat defeated duly pulling me a pint.After delivering my post cards direct to the "postie" outside the hotel I walked up to Glenridding FerryQuayside stopping off on the way at the National Parks office to try and identify the birds I had seen at The Yellow Hammer - Identified after research. Graded Red Endangered by RSPBWether Hill and Goldrill Beck. This caused much merriment when I referred to the first bird as a possibleSnape sighting. The young bearded assistant looked at me mischievously and told me Snape had neverbeen sighted this far from Hogwarts and it didnt bode well. I took it in my stride and roaredappreciatively at my faux pas. After an extensive look at the bird books and on line I was however nofurther on in identifying the little blighters. The ever majestic Lake Ullswater slipping away behind us.I walked across the road and just caught the 1.45pm ferry to Pooley Bridge. I travelled on TheLady of theLakes, which had been re-launched by Willie Whitelaw in 1979 after a fire. It was a beautiful boat, cleanshining veneered woodwork and sleek lines. It was freezing cold and I was glad to have brought a lot ofoutdoor clothing. I wrapped up and stayed on deck to marvel at the landscape on both sides. Therewere about 10 other passengers but this was soon to change at our one and only stop at Howtown.About 60 young people wearing nothing but T shirts and trousers got on board evidently having finishedan outdoor training course with the Outward Bound Trust. They were made up of youngsters fromBlackpool 6th Form College and BAE Systems. They obviously hadnt learnt anything about dressingappropriately for the weather and they all sat on deck shivering, thinking this was the macho thing todo. Oh dear. As we left Howtown an older walker rushed up the quay and shouted to the crew that hehad a train to catch and must get on board. He attempted to jump the 10foot gap before beingdissuaded and the ferry pulled back in to avoid an incident. Human behaviour never ceases to amazeand amuse me.As I watched from the upper deck I could see many of the spots I had walked down in the previousweek; Aira Gill, Martindale, Wether Hill and Scalehow falls. The sky was cloudy but majestic and the lakelooked wonderful. I had a short chat with the helmsman who told me that people often tried to jump onboard and they were petrified of being sued if they encouraged it at all. The ferry service was year roundexcept Christmas day, and they had just had a very busy season, only yesterday having taken 100passengers on this particular service. My life and other humansWe arrived in Pooley Bridge at 2.45 and I walked into the village which was very toursisty with poorsouvenir shops except the Ullswater Steam Ferry Shop which was excellent. I had a steak and a pint ofHartleys cask ale in the local and then walked slowly back to the Quay, again startled by the sheernumbers of people about on a low season Friday. My journey back was uneventful on the 4.55pm ferryand I stayed on deck again in a bitter SW wind. I walked back to camp at 6pm in heavy rain. Both kneeswere painful particularly the right one. I had made the right decision to rest.I had a bad night with a neighbouring couple having a deep philosophical conversation until 2am. Whycant people have noisy sex and then just go to sleep. I could accept that. The heavy rain forced me touse the porch twice as a latrine. Blast the cask ale drinking of the previous day. Kneeling and peeing toavoid all utensils and food supplies is no mean feat. Diary Page 17
  18. 18. Saturday 10th October22 November 200910:51Awoke at 5.30 and was pleased to note that the rain had stopped. I got a brew going in the porch andlooked out of the tent to a clear star covered sky and the light of a half moon.It took me 1.5hrs to pack my kit and tent and then I tottered off at 8.30am to the Patterdale Post Officeand had a chat to Gillian and a very welcome double bacon bap. I sat and ate this on the bench oppositeand watched the hoards of walkers arrive, all seemingly hell bent on climbing Helvellyn on a clear sunnyday. Goodness knows what its like in high season. The roads and car park soon filled up with parkedvehicles and the "clickity clack" of you know what!The 108 Bus was very prompt and I sat back for my £4.60p ride to Penrith Railway Station which took 50mins. I then caught the 1124 Birmingham New Street Virgin Train calling at Warrington. The train waspacked. I firmly pondered the rapidly emerging population crisis in the UK which all my antennae hadalready sensed both in London and now in the Lakes. In such a small island the numbers of people werein danger of overwhelming the infrastructure and spoiling the enjoyment of hitherto unique areas ofcountryside. What was to be done?Met by David and back to Lymm to sort kit, R&R and CBS (cuts, bruises and swellings)Looking a bit rough after the first week Diary Page 18
  19. 19. Monday 12th October22 November 200911:26Set off 7.20am. Driven by Hilary using a different route via Kendal and Windermere, up the KirkstonePass. Arrived 9.10am (97 miles vs 117 via Penrith). Clear sunny day, no wind.Set up base camp in Patterdale within 1hr. Its getting quicker each time.Due to the weather conditions I set off for Helvellyn at 11.45am intending to take the classic route ofHole in the wall, Striding edge and then back down Swirral Edge. This would need a certain degree ofscrambling and care over my route.I walked up the Grisedale Lane towards the Grisedale Beck crossing, with the beck roaring beside me onthe right down in the gorge. It was quiet, no people just the sound of the trees and beck. Bliss. I paddedon up the steep slope and stopped at the bridge to spy out my route up Birkhouse Moor to the Hole inthe wall at the top. I could see the faint line of the track ascending to the heavens and prepared myselffor another slog.As I started my climb another quirky situation developed. At about 1230 a man looking like a commuterwith smart open necked shirt, slacks and ordinary shoes passed me. He was holding a brief case. He Area of Operations Day 6looked like a tax inspector, aged about 40, clean shaven, lean and fit. He rushed past me with thecomment "Got to catch a bus" I, thinking he was throwing some good old Cumbrian humour at mereplied "What, to Piccadilly Circus?" He said " No Ive got to get back for the 2.10pm to Penrith" I let thispass thinking "shit thats quick. How is he going to get to Helvellyn and back in that time. Is he on hislunch break and doing a bit of fitness training? or is he just another mad Englishmen".He rattled on up the fell side at an incredible pace and I felt somewhat inferior again, until my nextencounter with him later in the afternoon.The views were breathtaking up the valley but I had to keep my eye on the track as there were manydeep gullies and other foot snares for the unwary. I did however feel fit and my knees were not hurtingat all on the ascent. There was no other person about at all, and I thought, at last, I have found thesolitude I craved and everyones gone back to work. I reached the break in the dry stone wall at about1.45pm and before me was a very unwelcome sight.Like aircraft stacked above Heathrow there were about 15 young walkers (20-30yrs old) grouped at thetop waiting for landing instructions from the Helvellyn control tower. Looking ahead was striding Edgewith a thin stream of walkers along its length like a multi coloured column of ants. This is where thenations unemployed were on a Monday afternoon in October! Either that or there were an awful lot ofyoung people pulling a "sickie".The ridge however looked spectacular and rugged in the bright light and below lay the wide expanse ofRed Tarn in the hollow, its water looking Mediterranean blue. There was nobody around it or camped sothat was a small blessing at least.I rearranged my kit putting on a fleece and hat and packing away my map case in anticipation of someslow tricky scrambling. I took my place on the approaches of Bleaberry crag and refuelled with a piece ofmy sisters excellent flapjack she had prepared the previous Sunday. As I did so a large blue commercialhelicopter approached Striding Edge and hovered overhead. It was so close my concern was its downdraft dislodging some of the climbers below. I discovered that it was the Great North HelicopterAmbulance, training due to the fine weather. This was closely followed by a glider crossing from thewest. My jibe earlier about Piccadilly Circus was not far off the mark at all. I now half expected aLucianis ice cream van to be selling cornets at the summit.Just at that moment the "Tax Inspector" I had spoken too earlier appeared just below me at about 2.15and he recognised me and said" Im getting too old for this sort of thing Im going back" I replied " Imafraid youve missed your bus". He looked crestfallen and slunk off. Inwardly I cheered and mumbled tomyself " Ah blown yourself out have you. Im still going with plenty in the tank!" A self satisfied grinstretched across my face.I crossed Striding edge with relative ease, walking across the uppermost crest, climbing two chimney The author on Striding Edge with thesections and completing a short dangerous traverse. After ascending the final slopes of scree, I reached Gough memorial stone at the summitthe summit at 3pm. After all my concerns about vertigo I surmised that this was not a problem in open & Red Tarn belowspaces and my fears were more focussed on lift shafts and bridges in more confined surroundings.However many Die Hard movies I watched, I couldnt get used to this scenario, after having beeninvolved in some hairy rescue situations during my police career.I walked up to the Gough memorial stone in a cloud of midges and stood quietly transfixed by the storybefore me of Thomas Gough whose body was found in 1805 at that spot. He had evidently fallen orbeen hit on the head by falling rock but had managed to reach the summit mortally wounded. There hedied and he lay watched over by his loyal and loving pet dog. The body and still watching dog werediscovered 3 months later!After taking in the distant views to NSEW I walked down to the start of Swirral edge and enjoyed 30minutes of scrambling and then a walk on the north side of Red Tarn to the Hole -in the wall. Here Ivaried my route and descended Birkhouse Moor to Glenridding via Mires Beck. The descent went on andon zigzagging its way down the fells. My knees were ok as I had a support bandage on the right one andthe left was only grumbling. However, I regretted not going back the way I had come as the route wastedious and stony. I wound my way past the old slate mine, the YHA centre, upper and lowerGlenridding and finally back to Patterdale at 6.45 after almost 3 hours. It had taken me 2 hours toascend.Lights out 7.30pm feeling very weary. Immediately fell asleep. Diary Page 19
  20. 20. Tuesday 13th October23 November 200911:03Up at 7am. Flapjack and cocoa. Sunny, good visibility and no wind.I plan a serious days scrambling in an area which I hope will be devoid of people. Im going to climbNethermost Pike via the East ridge, approaching from the Grisedale Beck side. There are no paths andthe area is covered in steep crags and bracken. This is an outward distance of 5 miles rising 2,500 feetfrom my current position.I set off late at 10am having been very careful over equipment selection and weight. I followed the sameroute as the previous day except rather than ascending to the Hole -in-the wall, I remained on the valleyfloor, beside the beck, working my way up the north side. No one in sight, clear and sunny. Bliss.Another herd of exotic looking cows were grouped in a field to the left on Braesteads Farm. They weresquat, plump and all black except for a very distinctive broad pinkish loop around the midrift . The Belted Galloway - Dates Back to Charles II. Very Hardy Upland Breed. Low fat meat & high quality milk. Becoming popular again.I reached the main footbridge over the Beck below Nethermost at 1225 and surveyed the way up forsuitable routes. The Pike looked daunting with large areas of dark craggy cliffs at two levels with a smallplateau midway. The fell side below was covered in thick bracken split in the middle by the fast runningNethermost Cove Beck which fell towards me over cascading waterfalls to join the Grisedale Beck. Myroute was further barred by a very high dry stone wall cutting across from east to west. Still no one insight.I stowed my map and outer clothes, refuelled and set off up the mountainside. I estimated that theentire ascent would take 2 hours. I crossed the wall easily using the through stones as a ladder andeventually found a sheep track through the bracken up the fell side towards a likely looking crossingpoint on the beck. The water channels were deep and fast flowing and I hopped across protrudingstones easily until I made the mistake of stepping onto a dark area of one stone which appeared dry. Itwas however covered in algae which was like ice and I slid off into the water and thumped down ontomy backside with water up to my knees. A mistake I was careful to avoid again over future days. I got upsomewhat bruised and continued up opting for the left channel up the crag where there appeared to bemore footholds. I zigzagged my way slowly, painfully aware that I was on my own and couldnt afford to Nethermost Pike - A Glorious Days Scramblingmake any more mistakes. The pictures show the whole pike on the left and a close up of the last sectionI reached the plateau at 1.30pm and was presented with an interesting sight of disused mine houses anddiscarded mounds of stone. In the middle of this area was a protruding smooth rock face with a verticalslit down the middle. I came up close and discovered that the gap was about 2 foot across and beyondwas a void. I could just make out a shelf below some 300 feet below and stepped back quickly realisingthe danger. My later research revealed this was a natural feature called a calf hole, often indicating anentrance to a cave system below. I hadnt got the right equipment or experience to explore this so Imoved on. The Plateau containing the old mine, outbuildingsI reached the second set of crags leading up to the east ridge and slowly ascended with frequent stops and Calfs Hole entranceto take photos and video footage. I could see Hard Tarn below me on the south side which waseloquently described by Waignwright, who noted the passage of a newt swimming around its edge in1962. Thick cloud was coming across from the west which made for a dramatic scene around me and Irevelled in my solitude at this wild high spot. This was clearly going to be one of my best days so far!At 3pm I reached the top after 2.5 hours climbing and scrambling and in the gathering cloud mist took acompass bearing towards Dollywagon Pike, which I renamed Dolly Parton. My bearing became crucialwith the enveloping cloud, but my compass work did not let me down and I reached this shortly afterwithout mishap. Video DiaryIn the mist I could unfortunately make out the voices of several people and as I joined the good descentpath to Grisedale Tarn was dismayed that I was on another of the Lakes motorway systems with severalgroups of walkers behind and in front. Just before starting the descent I noticed a rather interestingmetallic structure in the ground. It was triangular in shape with a supporting strut and pineapple shaped Lake District Lake Districtcrown to the top. It looked victorian and I surmised that it was a type of trig point with the Expedition... Expedition...perpendicular side pointing north. I checked my compass and noted that it was about 10 -15 degrees offnorth but magnetic variation each year could account for this discrepancy. Another bit of research to do.I descended the path and at 4.20pm near the bottom a break in the clouds revealed a very dramaticview of the Tarn, which was large and eerily surrounded in tumbling banks of mist. There were severalyoung people grouped around 5 tents on its Eastern shores. I quickly moved on down the valley NE The old Victorian Trig Pointarriving at the bottom at 5.20pm. I then took the south bank of the Grisedale Beck and walked beside Dollywagon Pike Summitthe waterfalls. Several birds were hovering over the bright red berried Rowan trees. They were sparrowsized and almost black in colour with a white flash marking on their backs. Their calls were shrill, shortand continuous.Passing beside woodland in the Grisedale valley I recced a possible low level bivvy position for thefollowing night. I wanted to experience a contrasting location to my earlier camp, this time in woodland.There seemed to be plenty of possible locations behind a high dry stone wall, which offered shelter fromthe wind.I reached base camp at 6.45pm after almost 9 hours of walking and climbing Diary Page 20
  21. 21. Wednesday 14th October23 November 200912:14Up 6.15am. Not a good night. Couldnt get comfortable. The Geese had been having another all nightparty on the lake and by the sound of it a big fight at closing time.I spent the morning preparing for that nights bivvy and a long days walking the following. I decided notto take the tarp as there would be a certain amount of shelter from the trees and I wanted to get theweight down with reduced pressure on my shoulders. I was also inquisitive about the true protectivenature of the Gore-Tex bag.I wrote up my notes, rested my knees and had a long siesta in my tent watching the Lady of the Lakesferry leave Glenridding on its 1.45pm service up to Pooley Bridge. I counted about 60 people on theupper deck through my binoculars, so another good day for Ullswater Steam Ferries in the supposed lowseason.I left camp at 3pm under low cloud with positively balmy temperatures and headed back up GrisedaleLane into the Grisedale valley. I arrived at the Grisedale Plantation woods at 4.15pm and reconnoitredthe dry stone wall I had seen the previous day. I wanted a spot where there was good shelter from thewesterlys and I was hidden from view. I needed level, well drained ground that was not stony. I chosean area of slightly raised ground behind the wall that formed a type of platform from which I couldobserve the wood. It was under an oak tree.Unpacking I put a brew of cocoa on and arranged my equipment, using a moss covered rock beside meas a form of bedside table. I then walked out in all directions making sure I could not be seen from thepath or the edges of the wood. Taking off or hiding any coloured clothing I then arranged my bivvy into aseat so I could dangle my legs over the steps edge and be camouflaged as much as possible. I then satback with my mug of cocoa, flap jack and soaked up the atmosphere. My Bivvy - Goretex Army Grade 1 bag with Neo air Therma-Rest mat and sleeping Bag inside. Note the bed side table rockThe wood before me was mixed deciduous and pine. There was a clear aroma of pine and foliage with aslightly soporific feel of being swathed in a warm blanket. There was no wind whatsoever and you couldhave heard a pin drop. The stilled hush was broken occasionally by the deep croak of passing crowsflying across overhead and the gentle swish of falling leaves hitting the ground. Nothing else. Diary Page 21
  22. 22. The Carrion Crow - Clever and fearless. I watched them frequently enjoying the thermals at thehighest points and soaring as well as any bird of prey.After about 15minutes I became aware of a slight movement in a tree before me and reached for mybinoculars. To my complete amazement I got a focussed view of no less than a large adult red squirrelforaging in the canopy. It had a big bushy tail with a black tip which it was using as a counterbalance. Tomy further amazement it moved closer and closer to my position until it was in the oak tree above meand then it climbed down and sat looking at me about 4feet away. It seemed completely unfazed by mypresence and I half expected it to require a ticket from me for viewing rights or to open negotiations forsome of my trail mix which contained large quantities of hazel nuts. The smell of these had probablyattracted it, either that or the smell of my sisters flapjack. Whatever reason I was looking at the first RedSquirrel I had seen in 25 years since Loch Garten in Scotland and it was 4 feet away looking at me. Itsbody and head looked much more fragile than the grey squirrel but the colouring was exquisite. Iteventually hopped away and continued its search before dusk. In total I watched it for 1 hour with anuninterrupted view.Next came a wren sitting right beside me on the wall above my head, hopping to and fro with a shrillchirrup call for about 10 minutes.At 7pm in the growing dark I got into my bivvy bag and just lay in complete comfort listening to thewoods sounds. I felt elated and at complete peace with my surroundings as I had at Wether Hill theprevious week. The atmosphere though was in complete contrast, being at low level, warm, enclosedand quiet. The emotions I felt were very strong for some reason and the tears welled again. My notesread " I felt happy at long last, as though I was at complete one with my surroundings, in effect I hadcome home" Strange that being 400 miles from my flat in London. I had a real sense that I could havestayed there quite happily and lived out my days. Quite extraordinary. Diary Page 22
  23. 23. stayed there quite happily and lived out my days. Quite extraordinary.At 7.30pm the silence was rudely broken by the spine chilling short bark of a dog fox beside me, behindthe wall on the path. It ran west along the edge of the wood and then around the other side with shortchoked off screams as it went. A very eerie sound but I couldnt help smiling as I was getting the fullrepertoire of woodland animals. It faded into the distance and it then began to drizzle heavily with rain.It hit my face but I relished its feel on my skin as the rest of me felt warm and snug in the bivvy. I fellasleep with the water dripping off my nose. Diary Page 23
  24. 24. Thursday 15th October25 November 200911:03My slumbers were suddenly rendered at 4.15am when an owl directly above me on a low branch startedan earnest mornings revele of screeching. This took many forms of short and long blasts but with nosoothing hooting sounds in between. "My territory, what the hell are you doing here type of thing!" Icould see its shape above me but could not see whether it was a tawny or barn owl, probably theformer. It was literally about 4-5 feet away and my concern was one of those nuclear explosion like owldeposits, as a final passing shot, straight down onto my position. It eventually flew off without a soundfrom its flapping wings. It was a clear demonstration of its deadly stealth qualities. Night Time Visitor - Bless Him Area of Operations Day 9At 7am I awoke and packed up feeling really sad that I was leaving. I left eleven hazel nuts on a rockfurther into the woods as a gesture of goodwill to the squirrel and set off again west towards GrisedaleTarn. It had been an extraordinary night, one that I will never forget.At about 9am I reached Grisedale Beck in heavy mist quite alone, and listened to the cascadingwaterfalls below and beside me, shrouded but insistent. There was a chill in the air and heavy dew onthe ground. The fells and rocks were dripping. Ruthwaite Lodge - Any room at the Inn?Lake Distr... I padded up the steep track past Rowthwaite Lodge which was used by the Outward Bound Trust as anovernight shelter, and on up to the Tarn. Just before reaching it I detoured to an unusual looking objectsticking up from a rock face. I found a metallic sign with an inscription celebrating "The partingbrothers". Below on the stone was a half hidden extract from Wordsworths poem to the same, chiselledinto the rock face.I walked up to the eastern end of the tarn and was pleased to note no one about although there was asingle tent pitched. A row of empty beer cans lay outside the porch which I earnestly hoped was going tobe cleared up. The waters of the tarn were lapping onto the shingle and I noticed that there was a largequantity of foamy suds in the water and along the shoreline. Again , I hoped this was not man made Grisedale Tarn in the cloudsfrom people washing and if so it was bio-degradable. I feared the worst and felt angry about thesesupposed nature lovers camping out. Some were clearly not fit to be here, exporting their selfish habitsfrom home into this pristine environment.I carried on westwards up the fell side above the tarn looking back at its breathtaking beauty in theswirling mists. I took a few photographs and then girded my loins for a very steep climb up to Fairfield. Ittook me 45 minutes of leg breaking ascent up a 1:2 type gradient, wherein I was constantly tottering forbalance on my toes. I reached the top exhausted at 11.15am just as the mist broke to reveal a wondrouslandscape around me with deep gullies, a wide plateau and a ridge to my left below me.It was then that things started to go wrong to a degree that I have named the following event as "TheFairfield Incident"Feeling somewhat cocky from my surefooted navigation so far I struck out on the cairn marked pathwayahead towards my destination St Sunday Crag. I was intrigued by the ridge below me but read this onmy map as being a secondary path up from Grisedale tarn. Therein lied disaster, as I should have taken acompass reading at this point, which would have revealed the truth that this ridge was in fact DeepdaleHause leading to St Sunday Crag. After recovering I strode off confidently on a route which I was to laterre name as "The Highway to Hell" slowly descending what was in reality Hart Crag and Dove Crag. Themist and cloud closed in again and the ground was initially very rough with great shoals of loose rock The Fairfield Incident Begins -and slate to cross carefully. This then gave way to fields of peat bog of varying depths forcing me to hug Lake Distr... Diary Page 24
  25. 25. The Fairfield Incident Begins -and slate to cross carefully. This then gave way to fields of peat bog of varying depths forcing me to hug A video diary entry full of falsehoods!the dry stone wall to avoid being sucked down. My progress was slow but determined although my Lake Distr...knees were beginning to complain again. Several groups of walkers passed me in either direction. Where the hell am I? I took a fall down this short crag injuring my handIt was only when the cloud broke at about 2pm that I realised my folly. Before me in the distance was agreat stretch of water with a narrowing waist in the middle. There was what could only be described asa multiple decked ship slowly making way into mid channel. This certainly was not Ullswater and couldonly be one thing. Lake Windermere. I had been walking due south instead of north east. I could see thelarge town of Ambleside stretched beside the lake at its northern tip. I stopped feeling a little desperateand considered re tracing my path, but the descent had been so difficult I resolved to press on. Irepeatedly swore at myself for being so stupid. The ground got no better and I slowly trundled my waydown several difficult crags having to scramble down in places with my heavy pack. In between thesecrags were further dangerous fields of deep bog, one of which was actually fenced off with danger signs.I managed to keep my sense of humour as I was joined by a large swarm of midges above my head whofollowed me thereon. "Blood tonight boys. Hell be dead by dusk" I kept ranting breaking into hystericallaughter. I consoled myself that this was not a life threatening situation as I had food, water and shelterbut sensed that if I had been navigating Napoleons army, a portable guillotine would have been erectedand my head taken swiftly. What made matters worse I was no longer on the map, having disappearedoff the southern edge, so I could not plan a contingency route out of my predicament.My right knee was now screaming at me and repeatedly giving way. It clearly indicated that I had a torncartilage . I went into endurance mode and resolved to carry on regardless thinking about Joe Simpsonscrawl back to his Andean base camp with multiple injuries in "Touching the Void". It was funny but I feltsupremely fit apart from my knee. However, I began to make mistakes and fell at one small cragscrambling, cutting my fingers as I braked. I thought to myself that this is how disasters can happen witha catalogue of incidents running together to cause a situation to develop. On The Highway to Hell!Several fell runners passed me in the opposite direction with no equipment at all just shorts and a thin Joss Naylor in his elementsinglet. One of them was bloodied down his head and arms like a gladiator leaving the ring. He hadevidently fallen but was undeterred. Perhaps it was Joss Naylor himself, the local hero of fell runningfolklore.I limped down the final fell side into the outskirts of Ambleside at 4.30 walking down luxury villa linedlanes dreaming of a hot bath. I reached the centre bloody, sweaty , bog covered and exhausted . Divinginto the nearest newsagent for two cans of ice cold coke, I think the female assistant thought I was avagrant and almost threw the cans at me hoping I would leave asap. I limped over to a bench and drankboth in quick succession. As I came to, I realised the shoppers were looking at me strangely, as though Iwas an alien. They were all well dressed and around me was a succession of very trendy outdoorclothing stores and cream tea shops. Evidently no one had seen a real walker before and most hadclambered from their 4x4s in Gucci moleskin clothes into these twee retail stores before returning totheir hotels and luxury villas. I left my bench and gave the onlookers a 21 gun coke belch salute!I briefly considered getting a taxi but decided to punish myself and really test my endurance capabilities.I adjusted my equipment and walked out of town heading for the Kirkstone pass. The road was narrow,1:3 gradient and very busy. I had to constantly dodge into the ditch to avoid oncoming traffic whothought I was fair game. I eventually reached Kirkstone Inn at 6pm and then came off the road followingthe fell side track down the valley. It went on and on. In the growing dark I momentarily mistookBrothers Water for Ullswater and gave myself false hope. I crossed the swiftly flowing Kirkstone Beck at7pm at the safest point I could find but still found the water coming up to my thighs. The gradient downthankfully slowed and my knees calmed down. In the pitch black I walked around Brothers Water on atwisting path and then rejoined the road, alternating between each side depending on the direction ofoncoming traffic. Eventually, at Hartsop, a footpath started which reduced my risk of sudden death byabout 80%.I staggered back into camp at 8pm after 12 hours continuous walking covering approximately 25 miles ofrough extreme terrain! Diary Page 25
  26. 26. Friday 16th - Saturday 17th October26 November 200914:56I woke up at 8am after almost 12 hours sleep.No doubt about it, rest day today. After a very slow breakfast and wash I wrote up my notes and tendedmy CBS (cuts, bruises and swellings) Apart from my knees and cut hand I was feeling fine, even my backwas bearing up apart from the usual morning stiffness. There was no stiffness in my leg muscles at all.Amazing, and a testament to my fitness training beforehand.I had another long siesta between 1-4pm and did some major kit drying and sorting. I was filthy andneeded to be put through a car wash.I then had a slow dinner and went to sleep again at 8pmI got up promptly at 6am, on the saturday, and went to work packing my kit carefully. This time it took55mins (Im getting quicker each time). It was a clear sunny day and I went for my customary bacon bapwith Gillian and Tom at the Post Office.They had just come back from a short break in the Hebrides and were very cheery. I gave them myweeks news and related the Fairfield Incident to them which caused much mirth and merriment. Gillianexplained that walkers constantly came in asking why Windemere Lake looked so different and wherewas Ambleside, having walked the other way to me from Fairfield. It was what the locals called one ofthe Fells "Twilight Zones" where time and place became very confused. I vowed not to be so cocky nexttime and take a damned compass reading. I then gave my farewells explaining that I was going toexplore the Blencathra range the following week. Gillian leaned across the counter and whispered "yoube careful on Sharp Edge, its very tricky!" How right she was, as I was to discover.I caught the bus to Penrith and got on the 1124 back again to Warrington Bank Quay. Diary Page 26
  27. 27. Monday 19th October26 November 200915:27Up 6.15am and caught the 0827 train to Penrith from WBQ.Impressed with WBQ. Clean, refurbished and new ticket office. Very friendly newsagent who called me "her darling" I told her I was single and available.In Penrith I caught the 1022 bus to Keswick. Very prompt and efficient with a friendly bus driver. Hegave me a very comprehensive briefing on all the different types of bus ticket you could get acrossCumbria and drew my attention to the old railway bed which took the old Penrith to keswick service. Hehighlighted this as a good way of walking from Scales to keswick. All this conversation took place over 30minutes whilst he drove the bus and took on more passengers. I had to stand close to the driverscompartment to hear him, right beneath an enormous sign saying " Do not speak to driver whilst bus inmotion" I think if you had given him a microphone he would have been very happy giving guided tours.I got off at Scales village, having booked a B&B the previous weekend. There were no nearby campsitesand as the light continued to draw in each day it was crucial to make the most of each, particularly as Iwanted to make my assault on the Blencathra range. So out of a pressing need for efficiency rather thancowardice I had retreated indoors. I was met by the landlady Angela and was pleasantly re -assured thather mission was to make me as comfortable as possible. I had had a vague sense that she could havebeen very prohibitive, making me wear slippers and delivering statements such as "I do hope there willbe no alcohol drunk in the bedrooms or sex with wild animals before 9pm"I was shown to a very carefully re furbished annexe and my room. A shower, loo and double bed withheating. Oh luxury oh heaven. I lay stretched out on the bed feeling both guilty and indulgent.At 1145 after rearranging equipment and clothing I set off in the pouring rain for Threlkeld MiningMuseum via the fells route. Mining was and had been so integral to Cumbria that I felt it was importantto learn a lot more about the methods, people and way of life. What better time to do this as theweather was so inclement and not a thing could be seen at high level. I walked slowly along the foot of Lake Districtthe Blencathra fells, Doddick and Halls crossing the scaley beck and Doddick Gill. These were in full Expedition ...spate and I had a tricky time at Scaley where the path descended and ascended to the beck over verycraggy ground. At Gategill Farm I turned towards Threlkeld Village past the hunt kennels and the oldlead mine. The rain was pouring down and my walking boots were no longer waterproof as indicated onthe label. The first time they had let me down.I called in at the Horse and Farrier Pub at 1245 and had a fantastic fish and chips lunch and made myacquintance with Jennings "Sneck Lifter" cask ale. Setting off again, I crossed the road and discoveredthe most bizarre Post Office. It was set in a private house with the counter at the original front door anda converted front room. I had a chat with the post mistress who told me that the original one had beenclosed due to the national closure programme and that she was determined to keep things going. I leftfeeling so much that this was an England that had been and Cumbria was one of the last remnants ofdefiance and old England spirit. The people were largely warm, welcoming, generous and determined.I spent 3 hours at the museum. It was run by a group of volunteers and I met the curator Donald whowas one of those larger than life characters. The museum was a relatively recent addition to the oldquarry site and the team had created a whole set of tunnels and workings to demonstrate mining life tovisitors, together with several rooms of static presentations.Donald explained that mining in England had got serious during Elizabeth Is reign due to the realmsdesperate need for metals on the growing navy. German miners were considered the best in Europe andElizabeth set up the Royal Company of Mining with their guidance and training. The Threlkeld lead minestretched almost 2 miles into the mountainside and its employees were expected to work until theywere 70 retiring with no pension. There was an average of 120 deaths a year and the miners weredivided into unofficial classes of " Bull dogs" and "Crusts" denoting the most seasoned and those doingjust enough to earn their daily crust of bread.The lighting was provided by sheeps wax candles, fixed to the miners caps, which stank dreadfully .More modern inventions such as drills had often added to the suffering ,due to the vibration, causinggradual paralysis. Shafts would be mined up from a deep seam position to allow gravity to helpextraction and water would be allowed down from the surface to draw air into the shaft. 5pm I walked back to Scales. The rain had stopped and the sky was clearing. The Blencathra rangelooked daunting with the five separate fell sides stretching down to the valley ,like stubby fingers on ahand. Diary Page 27