Lake District 2013

Walking holiday 2013.

Venue : Rydal Hall, Lake district

Monday April 29th to Wednesday May 1st 2013

Well, a very small band of walkers kept up the traditional walking holiday this year.  Just Ray, Dave Mills and myself, John.  We’d looked at going back to Arrochar again but the logistics of 3 in a cottage didn’t stack up with the cost so we’d looked elsewhere.  Parts of the lakes that we couldn’t access normally from home in the day seemed a good alternative and Ray found us three ensuite rooms at Rydal Hall for 2 nights.  I say 3 rooms, it was but one had it’s bathroom across the corridor, Dave drew the short straw!  We were sharing Rydal Hall with the landed gentry, on a conference looking at managing woodlands on their estates.  They were loud!  Louder than some of the younger TYG’s that have been with us in the past, particularly in the mornings!

Anyway, the journey up was uneventful, even Ray was up and ready for the early start.  Breakfast at Tebay and on to Braithwaite, North Lakes.

Day 1 – Coledale Horseshoe.

Didn’t start too well, couldn’t find the car park, but we got sorted and set off about 9:30.  Steep climb to start with grey and overcast but levelled off a bit to give us a breather.  Looking back over Braithwaite and Keswick there are patches of sunshine, it might clear up.  Then the going gets really tough as we start to ascend Grisedale Pike, its very steep in places but we are shielded from the wind which has appeared as we climb higher.  On the top it’s blowing a gale, nearly takes Dave off his feet, that’s how strong it is!  Looking back into Keswick we’ve noted that the sun has been shining on the same field all the way up.  Must find that field when we get down.  We don’t linger on top, it’s down and round and up to Hopegill Head.  We do get the occasional view through the cloud and the valleys below do look grand.  We come of the top, which was remarkably calm, into a hail storm and its very windy and stings a lot!  Down towards Coledale Hause we run into snow and it’s big flakes of very wet snow, we’re just getting used to that when the sky clears and within minutes, clear blue sky and a few degrees above freezing for 5 minutes.  We decide to stop for lunch and it clouds over and the drizzle starts.  Nice!

Up to now we’ve seen one other hardy soul, not surprising on a cold, wet, windy Monday in the Lakes.  As we set off again we head for a major meeting of paths below Crag hill and all of a sudden there are 3 people behind us, one man and his dog to the right and 6 people to the left, we all stop for a chat, long enough to disorientate one group who set of in the wrong direction.  Good job we asked where they were heading!  So, over Crag hill and a change of route now to take in Causey Pike.  One Wainwright for me to bag!  Well, it was too close to miss.  Thankfully we see an alternative path down to our route so we don’t have to retrace our steps.  Looking ahead there’s another Wainwright to bag, Dave and Ray are less than enthusiastic about another detour so we part company for a while and I set off to conquer Barrow.  Not a big mountain but, a great view down Derwent Water into Keswick and the end of the day in Braithwaite.

I got a call from Ray and Dave to say they were in the pub and ther was a pint waiting for me.  I arrive at the pub, but there's no Dave, Ray or my pint.  There are two pubs and the one they are at is very well hidden and takes me twice round the village to find.  I suppose that’s one detour with more than a tick at the end of it.

After a brief rest back up the hill to the car and on the road to Rydal Hall.  It’s a lovely place, big hall, gardens camp site and lots to see.  Ray saw most of it but we didn’t have much spare time to browse.  Quick shower and change and it was Dinner time.  We were situated a long way from the gentry, in the library, an intimate setting just for ourselves and another John, a retired vicar from Edinburgh.  It was nice to have additional company.  You get to chat a lot on the walks, so it was nice to here someone elses story.  The food was excellent, the beer in the local, down the road was good, but an early night beckoned to be ready for the morrow.  Unfortunately, Ray wasn’t feeling too well by the end of the evening and day one was the last walk he took part in.


Day 2 : Bowfell via the Great Slab

Change of plan.  Ray, as chauffeur for the 3 days is too unwell to walk and the planned walk involved quite a long drive round to Buttermere.  We decide to stay more local and do one of our other planned walks, the ascent of Bowfell.  We’d all done this before but Dave was taking us over the climbers traverse and up the Great Slab.  So, Ray dropped us off outside the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel and we set down the valley.  Total contrast to yesterday, we start by applying sun cream, its that hot and sunny with no wind.

The climb up the band is predictably slow, good path, over some rocky outcrops.  The view down the valley grows as we climb.  Crinkle Crags over to the right and the Langdale Pikes over to the left as we look back both bringing back memories of previous walks.  There’s quite a few more walkers out today and a few climbers on the crags behind the Dungeon Ghyll.  As we approach the top of the Band, the path branches off to the right, climbs steeply and goes round the back of Bowfell.  A small ledge provides the path through patches of snow along under the steep slopes of Bowfell.  Then there’s a big patch of snow to cross as we approach the buttress, it looks like there’s no way up to the summit but as we reach the end of the snow the slab appears going back up behind the cliffs.  We climb up about a 40 degree slope, the slab has patches of moss all over it making it a bit precarious.  As we climb you get the full impression of why it’s called the Great Slab.  It is huge, we estimate about the size of a football pitch, a solid piece of rock on a very steep angle.

Once at the top, we’re only a few hundred yards from the summit, a very rocky outcrop with loads of people enjoying their lunch.  The suns gone in but it’s nowhere near as cold as yesterday.  We then modify our plans and decide not to carry on over Esk Crag but to descend via Angle Tarn and Rossett Ghyll.  Back at the Old Dungeon Ghyll, Rays waiting for us but the call of the local Yates’ bitter is too great to leave just yet.



Day 3 : Helm Crag

Our plans changed again on Wednesday, Ray will drop us off in Grasmere and spend the day at Rydal hall.  We decided to climb Helm Crag and continue up the ridge to descend by Far Easdale gill.  As we walked up the valley we met a couple from over the pond, looking for Kes-wick.  We manage to establish that they are walking the Coast to coast path, with only a guide book and no map and are looking for the road to Keswick so they can cross it on their way to Patterdale.  We set them on their way.  Helm crag is known as the Lion and the Lamb, it’s not very big but it is very interesting, craggy and good views from the top.  Didn’t see the lion or the Lamb!  We did see the American couple again from the summit, they had gone about another half mile and were asking directions from a passing motorist. From Helm Crag we turn north and head up the ridge, stopping to view a Peregrine Falcon on the cliffs and a Buzzard overhead.  The weather turns increasingly inclement as we climb higher.  As we reach the head of the valley we meet our first walkers coming the other way.  Two Australian walkers, are the scouts for a larger party walking the Coast to Coast and heading for Grasmere.  When they find out there is an easier way down the valley the group end up in a discussion about which path to take.  The stay on the ridge, me and Dave take the quick way down the valley.   One of the group offer a wager of Aus$5 that they’ll be in Grasmere before us.  We gratefully accept but never see them again!

A pleasant stroll down a good path back into Grasmere and the awaiting ice cream shop, wait for Ray and then head back to home.

A small group this year but no less enjoyable.  Good company, plenty of fresh air and one or two fine pints of local beer.  What more can you want!  Join us next year.


We only covered about 19 miles but climbed a total of 10,000 feet in the 3 days.

John C.

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