Saturday, August 31, 2013

Coledale Valley Navigation Practice

heading down off Sail and that path

I have entered The Lake District Mountain Trail.  It's in a few weeks time and it looks like a fun event.  There are three levels, Classic (approx 16 miles with 7000ft climbing), Medium (approx 12 miles with 5000ft of climbing) and Short (approx 10 miles with 3500ft of climbing).  The venue is announced a few weeks before the event (it hasn't been announced at the time of writing).  Shortly after you set off you are given a map which is marked with the checkpoints.  You then work out your own way between them.  It's good old fashioned navigation, no GPS allowed.

The website has a cool Routegadget feature that allows you to see past courses plus the routes taken by the entrants.  I used this to check out last year's short course:

So I had a bit of time this morning and thought I would give it a go.  I ended up getting to the first two check points (marked by a triangle on the map below) and then I ran out of time so headed up to Sail to come back via Causey Pike.

over the beck up towards Causey Pike

looking back over Derwent Water from the climb up Barrow

I had my GPS in my bag in case of emergency.  You are allowed to do this in the event but if you do use it, you are obviously supposed to declare yourself out of the event.

My route to the first checkpoint could have been better.  There are a few things I should make clear, first, those helpful dotted lines on the maps are not there on the ground!  Second, I was using a Harvey 1:40 map which is the same as those used for the competition.  The maps on the left are OS 1:25 maps which are much more detailed.

You can see that my track snakes up the side of the fell.  I set off up the fell far too early and found myself in deep bracken.  If I had carried on, there is a path I could have taken to the Barrow Door junction.  This would be an easy place to spot on the ground due not only to the crossroads of paths but the fact that it is a col.

I am hoping in the event, the checkpoints are brightly marked, perhaps even with a marshal at each one to help you get there.  My onwards route was a bit better.  I flanked Outerside.  I got onto the main path at one point but this is a horribly rocky path so I got back off at the earliest opportunity.  I then contoured around using various crags and sheepfolds to check my height.  I was heading towards a beck, the checkpoint being just the other side of it.  I saw the path up to Coledale Hause.  This is a very distinct path so it is useful to anchor all the other points on the map from there.  I hit the checkpoint straight on and was happy with this.

path up to Coledale Hause with Eel Crag on the left

The onward route would have been probably to take this path and then head over towards checkpoint three but I was running out of time so I decided to head up towards Sail and follow the delightful ridge route along to Causey Pike.

from Sail looking up towards Eel Crag/Crag Hill

and in the other direction - one of my favourite routes

The infamous Sail path.  I don't think anybody likes it but nobody can think of a better way of doing it.  The path, which extends up Scar Crags, is actually nice to go up.  I have to admit I took the track to the side on the downhill though - hopefully I don't get kicked out of Fix the Fells.

from Scar Crags over to Causey Pike

distinctive and beautiful.  The heather on the right hand side had a wonderful purple tint (this is the same heather they are trying to protect with the path on Sail).

there is a steep descent from Causey Pike.  I branched off left to head towards my car but this is the view looking back up.

and forward, heading back to the valley

I did have a bit of time after I finished so I popped into Keswick.  It was very busy today so I didn't hang around for long but I did have to stop to take this picture.  Can you see the distinct profile of Causey Pike?  I've just ran across that.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Helvellyn, Lower Man and White Side

Dixon memorial on Striding Edge

Scorching hot bank holiday; where better to head that Striding Edge.  We even set off late, starting walking at about 11am, planning to be on top of Helvellyn right in the middle of the mid-day sun.  I was walking with Dean and Jonathan today, both mates from work, both of whom I supervised on their student placements.  Dean had done very little fell walking before, which is why we opted for this classic.

From Glenridding, up to Lanty's Tarn, to the Hole in the Wall, Striding Edge, Helvellyn, Lower Man, White Side, back down to Glenridding.  9 miles in total.

Lanty's Tarn

the slog up to the Hole in the Wall

about to head over Striding Edge

Dean enjoying Striding Edge

The Chimney - the only difficult bit on Striding Edge - not that difficult and there is a path around the side

up on top

from Helvellyn Lower Man looking back over Swirral Edge

White Side summit
not that far to Raise - no let's head back

still having fun on the way down

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Graystones and Broom Fell

the impossible climb to Graystones

After a stressful day at work, it was nice to get out on the fells.  The plan to park on Whinlatter Pass near to Scawgill Bridge and then climb steeply to Graystones, along the top of the forest to Broom Fell and on to Lords Seat, returning through the forest, perhaps bagging Brown How, the Wainwright summit in Whinlatter forest.

From the parking spot, we followed a trail which wound steeply down to Spout Force.  This was overgrown with bracken and nettles and was an indicator of what was to come later.
Once over the beck, we climbed up to wall which I had planned to climb along side.  Again, the area was overgrown with bracken and gorse.  We climbed up to the old quarry and looked around for a path but were again defeated by gorse and bracken.

So, we turned around and followed the path back to the viewpoint to Spout Force.  The path stops abruptly and we opted to climb through the forest to find a forest road.  Now, I've been caught out doing this before, evergreen trees grow quickly and, what starts as a nice jaunt through the woods can end in an impenetrable barrier of pine branches.  The trees looked to be quite mature and we could see light between them so we went for it and it worked out ok.  We meandered up through the forest and eventually picked up a wide track.

Running in the forest gave me the chance to practice some fine navigation.  It's very easy to get lost on a forest track.  After closely inspecting the map and taking several compass bearings, we found our way back out above the bracken and gorse, at the wall that I had wanted to climb along.

Running through the forest was beautiful.  Lots of nature and some good runnable gradients.  We climbed the rest of the way up to Graystones where we dorked around for a bit on the summit.  The cloud came in around us so I took a compass bearing but decided it was probably easier to follow the walls to the top of the forest.


From Graystones we ran along the top of the forest to the eastern corner where we followed a track up and over to Broom Fell.  The cloud had rolled into Graystones but it cleared somewhat and we had some beautiful scenery with cloud rolling over fells and summits peeking out above cloud banks.

summit cairn on Broom Fell in sight

Jonathan on the final push up to Broom Fell

he made it

cloudy coledale fells

Broom Fell

From Broom Fell we had the option of continuing on to Lords Seat.  However, I got a text from my wife as I was ascending Broom Fell asking how long I would be.  I had forgotten that I said I would get a curry on the way home.

With this small detail in mind, we took the direct descent down the wall into the woods.  

This is a steep descent which, about a third of the way down, had us deep in bracken again.  Jonathan said to carry on, even when I reminded him of all the ticks that would be jumping out on him.

It was tough going through the bracken, running along with our arms in the air!  After a while, the wall had fallen down and we walked along the top of this but were soon back into deep bracken.  Definitely a path to revisit in winter when the bracken will have died back.

Eventually we found our way back onto the track and ran down to the car.  We both decided to make the run up to a 10k so did a short out and back run on the road.

There are loads of great routes in and around Whinlatter.  It's about 20 minutes from where we live so we will definitely be back to explore more.