Saturday, December 29, 2012

Seathwaite Fell

The approach from Seathwaite

Wainwright claimed that Seathwaite Fell is "rarely visited - except, of course, by the custodian of the infamous rain-gauges which record, to its shame, that the fell and its vicinity has much the heaviest rainfall in the country."

map and route

3d route shows the steep descent

Stockley Bridge
Seathwaite was living up to its reputation today.  The hail was bouncing on the way up to Stockley Bridge and the path was waterlogged in more than a few places.

I had planned to head up to Green Gable and then on to Base Brown but the cloud was very low and so I took the main path up to Sty Head and then had a think about where to go from there.

I did have a little look at crossing over Styhead Gill with a view to taking on the steep climb up to Base Brown but, with the heavy rainfall the gill was flowing thick and fast, and there was no clear crossing place so I pressed on to the stretcher box where I took shelter to consider the map.  The Gables were cloaked in cloud and I didn't fancy trying to find my way so I had a look around.  The Gullies on Great End still had plenty of snow on them.  After a while the cloud cleared over Seathwaite Fell and it was an obvious choice to head that way.

looking back to Seathwaite from the start of the climb up to Sty Head

Base Brown - The East Face above Taylor Gill.  The split rock looks like it has just fallen down the scree but it is in the same place in Wainwright's drawing from almost 50 years ago, as is the smaller rock above it.

from the higher southern summit looking towards the 'generally accepted' summit

There are two summits on Seathwaite Fell.  The southern summit is higher by approximately 30m.  The north summit has been adopted as the main summit due to its more spectacular location on the edge of the fell.  Today, the views from the southern summit were better.  It was very windy and I didn't hang around.  It's a pleasant stroll over to the northern summit.  I was really pleased with my progress, my knee seemed to be holding up very well and I had a bit of a run over.

heading over to the north summit

north summit of Seathwaite Fell
At the summit I met a group of people who had taken the direct climb up from the valley floor.  They were going on to Glaramara and I thought about asking to tag along but decided not to push my luck with my knee and that it was time to head back.

I asked them about the route down to the valley.  They told me it was very steep and craggy but doable so I set off that way.

The climb down was steep but never risky.  I found a mostly grassy way down and, with a steady zig-zagging approach, I was soon back on the path heading back to Stockley Bridge.  The weather had eased up a bit at this point and I stopped for a drink and to take my waterproofs off before continuing on to my car at Seathwaite.  An extremely heavy hail storm hit just as I was getting to my car.  Once inside, it was blowers on the wet feet before heading into Keswick for a coffee and a browse.  I really enjoyed today's walk and it has reinforced to me that waterproof clothing works and a bit of rain, hail and howling wind shouldn't stop you getting out.

zig-zagging down to the valley floor, looking across to Glaramara and Red Beck

back down to Borrowdale from the steep descent

looking back to Seathwaite Fell

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


The remnants of Manflu, my knee misery and post christmas lethargy conspired to weaken my resolve today, meaning that I only managed to get up a little fell.  Binsey it is then.

looking south from the trig point Skiddaw group on the left

route taken

Going up Binsey was a whim.  We were on the way back from Keswick.  The maps I had didn't go as far north as Binsey, it was even out of the range of the trusty Harvey 1:40.  It was just there, sticking up on the other side of Bassenthwiate and we thought, why not...

I wasn't even sure where to park.  We thought we would just drive as near as we could get and set off from there.  That's what we did, heading towards higher ground until we were at the highest point.

We parked off the A591, down a little lane which was signposted Topenhow (pronounced Trepp-enna).  There was a clear track heading up onto Whittas Park.  It looked like there was a trig point on the horizon but when we got closer it turned out to be a chimney.  It didn't stop Jonathan from climbing on top for a pose though:

the chiney with hearth

I'm not sure what the building is, or was.  It has been built into the side of rock.  There are old quarries in the area so it might be something to do with that.  It would be a great place for a wildcamp, get a fire going in the hearth, lots of shelter available.

From here, the path was wide and grassy and pleasant enough until we got to the top.  The view over Bassenthwaite towards Whinlatter Forest, the Coledale Fells and Keswick was very enjoyable.  This would make good running terrain if it wasn't for my dicky knee.

top of Binsey

looking over Over Water and the Back o' Skiddaw fells
across Bassenthwaite to Whinlatter and Newlands

Monday, December 17, 2012

Lingmell and Scafell Pike

UPDATE Shortly after I wrote this post, I received The Wainwright Companion as a Christmas Present.  It's a wonderful book which has taught me many things.  One of which is that the cairn that Wainwright referred to as 'a graceful ten-foot spire' was on the summit itself, not the one on Lingmell Crag, and has now been replaced by the wider, less impressive summit cairn.  The slender column like cairn on Lingmell Crag that I am pictured next to looks very much like a shorter version of the original summit cairn which is where I got confused.  I will leave the rest of the blog post as it is, mistakes and all.

Lingmell with Great Gable to the left, taken at the end of the walk (from outside of the pub)

After some deliberation, we settled on Lingmell for today's walk.  It seemed to meet both our purposes, I wanted to bag it and David wanted to get some good pictures.  The plan then, steep climb up the nose of Lingmell from Wasdale and then decide from there whether or not to go on to Scafell Pike.  Of course, we did carry on to Scafell Pike.  Here is the route:

In my blissful ignorance, I marched off up the nose of Lingmell.  My recently acquired walking sticks taking the strain, allowing me to make rapid progress up the steep climb.

David had already mentioned once or twice that the climb we were undertaking was not one of his favourites.  He continued to remind me of this as we continued to climb.

The cloud was heavy over Wast Water and the surrounding fells.  As we climbed it was sitting on top of Lingmell.  

There was an, ever so slightly blue tinge to the cloud and we kidded ourselves that we would break through the cloud but, as we climbed further, the cloud seemed to drop to meet us below the top.

David not enjoying the climb

Further up, we started to see patches of snow.  At this point, we were over the steepest part and crossing towards the summit cairns.

A little bit further on we decided we needed to put the microspikes on.  The snow itself was fine to walk on but there was a bit of ice making it slippery underfoot.   The microspikes seemed to be the correct choice of footwear for the day and we continued to progress across the ice and patchy snow until the snow got deeper and covered the whole ground rather than patches.
snow and poor visibility

Lingmell summit
Soon enough, I think sooner than we were expecting, we came across the summit cairn on Lingmell.

We had been aiming for the lower, thinner cairn but obviously had overshot.  

After a quick check of the compass, and a few summit photos, we headed off to the other cairn for more photos.

The next cairn, further north by approximately 200m, on the edge of Lingmell Crag is described by Wainwright as, "a graceful ten-foot spire"  It is also well known for its photogenic qualities, usually providing fantastic views over to Great Gable.  Today, it was neither ten-foot tall nor did it provide any views.  Perhaps Fix the Fells could look at restoring it to its former glory?  Ooh, Fix the Fells and cairns - now there's controversy!

on Lingmell summit

Lingmell Crag "ten-foot" cairn

Next, we headed down to the wall at Lingmell Col to make a decision on whether or not to continue to Scafell Pike.  

I think we had already made a decision to continue but David consulted his Wainwright guide which suggested it was another half an hour (presumably we should have added a bit for the deep snow we had to walk through) and we both agreed that it would be daft not to continue.

The snow was deeper now but we were still gripping well with the microspikes so followed footprints and cairns all the way to the top.

There was little wind and it wasn't really that cold.  It was foggy though.  Very little visibility.

following cairns and footprints

I recognise that!

David on top of England

and me!

We spent about 20 minutes on the top, trying different angles to get a good picture.  Then we headed back down the same way,picking up the Hollow Stones/Brown Tongue route.  It's true that this is not the most exciting way up or down from Scafell Pike but it did the job and as we got further down, the cloud lifted!

cloud lifting over Wast Water
We had a pint and something to eat in Ritson's Bar and then were greeted with a clear view of Lingmell on leaving the bar:

Lingmell with Great Gable to the left

My knee held up well.  I felt it a little bit on the descent along Brown Tongue but all in all, I can't really complain (especially after watching David's Joss Naylor DVDs when I got home).  Joss lives in the area and David made me slow down by his house in case he came out (again!)

Thanks to David for allowing me to use some of his photos (the photos with me in are all taken by David).

I enjoyed the walk despite the lack of distant scenery.  I bagged another Wainwright after all.  We have planned another Lingmell walk when the conditions are better, perhaps up the Piers Gill path.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Fixing Buttermere

I learnt two new things today on a Fix the Fells work party.  First of all, I learnt what a Revetment is.  Secondly, I learnt how to build one.  The particular area of path that needed a revetment was on the opposite side of the lake from Buttermere village, in Burntness Wood.  There is a point where a shoreline path splits away from the main forest track.  A little way along this path, the side has slipped away.

The photo on the right shows where the old revetment wall has fallen way.  The path has started to also fall away.

I think if this path was left, water would start to flow through the groove, eroding the path further and before long, a much wider gap in the path would appear.

In this instance, the revetment wall is used to hold the bank back and keep the path stable.  Most of the erosion here will be from people walking on the path and water running down from the fells above.  The steep sides of High Stile slope down to this point.

You can see that further along, the revetment wall has been built up with a lot of stones.  It looks very solid but we wanted to try to create a more natural looking bank on the section that we were working on today.

The photo on the left shows the same section from the side.

The first job was to dig out all the loose soil and dig the turf away so that it could be used later to help landscape and blend in the repair.

The shoreline of Buttermere Lake at this point is a very fine shingle beach.  This was considered when we planned the work as the stones needed to be sufficiently dug in to prevent the possibility of them sliding down on the shingle and the bank collapsing.  This meant digging a big old hole. 

Ian's dog - Titan

Ian stood in the hole.  I hope he's not looking for his dog

the turf is kept for landscaping afterwards
large boulders being levered and rolled into place on the bottom row
a few layers done - wet and muddy work
Titan supervising some finishing touches
The biggest stones went at the bottom which meant that we needed some really big stones for the bottom.

It's important to angle the stones back into the bank so that the pressure of the stones on top as well as people walking along the path pushes into the bank and makes the revetment stronger.

Each stone needs to bed in with the stones around it,  much time was taken and stone placement was debated and trialled before settling on the correct position.

It's also important that the bank looks as natural as possible so soil and the turf we put to one side was put on when we had finished the stone laying.  The whole process took us the best part of a day.

another Ian pointing out the bit we have done today



And that was it.  A good day out in the lakes, some local environmental volunteering done, some very muddy clothes and the satisfaction of a job well done and putting something back into the area of the world that I love so much.

The tools were packed back into the National Trust land rovers.  I elected to walk the mile or so back to Buttermere rather than squash in the back.  

The land rovers had managed to get across Buttermere Dubs at the edge of the lake.  

I'm not sure if the level was higher at the end of the day but the strategy seemed to be to go as fast as you can and hope you have enough momentum to get across.  

Both of them did.

Getting out of my muddy clothes was very nice, getting home and having a steaming hot bath was even nicer and if I hadn't been so muddy and cold beforehand, I would not have appreciated that bath half as much.