Sour Howes and Sallows

Friday morning the weather was icy cold but sunny. Me and my lovely wife decided to take our silly old pooch for a short walk in the lake district, ticking off two Wainrights, Sour Howes and Sallow.

Starting off from the village of Troutbeck we headed up an initially steep trail, which soon levelled out to a gentle slope up. We’d walked part of this route last year in the other direction. After a mile we turned off the track onto a very steep footpath, navigating a difficult ladder stile, difficult for Nelly, followed soon after by another tricky ladder stile. We were know up on the higher fells, enjoying great views over Windemere. We stopped for an obligatory selfie.

We continued up in the sun until we reached the summit of Sour Howe.

We then did a quick little detour to the summit of Cappel Howe, which isn’t a Wainright but it seemed a shame not to add in an extra mile.

We followed our trail back to the top of Sour Howe and continued in a circular route up the gentle slope of Sallows. At the top we again admired the views and had a snack. We then followed a steep path back down to a wider but very icy track.

We hadn’t seen another person all morning, until suddenly we were inundated. Two runners, chatting as they ran uphill, followed by a mountain biker and then loads more walkers.

We followed the track back into the village. Our six mile walk had taken exactly 3 hours with 500m of climbing. An excellent little walk where we were back home before 1pm, and two more Wainrights ticked off, only another 190 to go.

Helm Crag, Gibson Knott and Calf Crag

Wainwright bagging has begun. As I wrote last week, my lovely wife gave me a Wainwright Bagging book and map (read about it here), so we set off towards Grasmere to tick off three more fells.

Once again we were blessed with amazing weather. It was cold, but there was very little wind and no rain. Setting off early we parked in the main carpark in Grasmere and started walking in the same direction as when we’d walked to Easedale Tarn (read about it here). However this time we turned off our previous route and began climbing.

The next mile was a very steep climb with amazing views as we eventually reached the summit of Helm Crag, famous for an outcropping of rock at the top called The Lion and the Lamb.

There were a number of other walkers and runners enjoying a rare day without rain as we continued over the top and across a saddleback towards our second Wainwright, Gibson Knott. Before we reached it we past a second outcropping of rock called The Howitzer, as it vaguely resembles a large shell stuck in the ground. There was a man who had climbed up to the top. We waved and declined to join him.

There’s not a great deal to say about Gibson Knott, except that we stopped to eat a ham sandwich before making our way towards our final Wainwright, Calf Crag.

At the summit of Calf Crag we patiently waited for another pair of walkers to vacate it so that we could take our turn taking photos. Looking back we could see both of the previous summits and the valley for our return route.

Off the top we turned sharply and steeply down into the valley. If we’d continued we would have eventually reached a number of other Wainwrights, including High Raise, Ullscarf and Sergeant Man. We were now out of the sun and it was colder as we continued down, picking our way over icy sections until we reached the valley floor for the last few miles back into Grasmere.

Grasmere was busy, and despite wanted to find a cafe for a brew and cake, none of them felt particularly welcoming. A number of cafes had signs saying No Dogs, so we continued back to our car. The car park was chaos as it was overflowing with visitors, so we quickly headed on home.

Our walk had taken a few hours even though it was only 9 miles, mostly because of how steep the main ascent and descent had been. However, we ticked off another three Wainwrights, leaving only 196 remaining. It might take a while.

Wainwrights

There are 214 Wainwrights in the lake district, named after the famous walker and guide book writer, Alfred Wainwright. These are the hill tops or fell summits that are included in his series of books covering the lakes. I will ignore that towards the end of his life he wasn’t a particularly nice person, and instead concentrate on the fells.

Me and my lovely wife like to go walking or running in the area as often as we can, but quite often we chose low level routes. When we pick higher routes we don’t worry about if the hill is a Wainwright or not, or even if we reach the summit.

However, this Christmas Helen gave me a Wainwright Bagging book and a map.

My wife knows me very well, and knows that I like to tick off items. A few years ago she gave me a Stobbart spotting book which lives in the car. You can imagine my disappointment when we overtake a Stobbart lorry on the motorway only to find that the cab isn’t a Stobbart.

Anyway, first job was to check Strava to see which of the Wainwrights I’ve already climbed and tick them off the book, as well as any that I’d done before Strava (if a thing even exists). One problem was that I couldn’t find Coniston Old Man. We’d walked that a couple of years ago but it didn’t appear to be in the book. I looked under C, and then I looked under O. I found it eventually under T, for The Old Man of Coniston.

After all that, I could tick off the huge amount of 15 Wainwrights. That is all I have summited. 199 to go, which should keep us busy for a few years.

High Cup Nick

When the weather is as unseasonably warm as it has been, the only option is to go on a mini adventure. My lovely wife, Helen, had bought me the latest edition of Trail magazine. There was an article all about staying in Ravenstonedale for four days and completing a walk in the Howgills one day, the next day in the lakes, another day in the Yorkshire Dales and the last day in the Pennines. The walk in the Pennines was up High Cup Nick, which is part of the Pennine Way.

We drove out to the small village of Dufton and found the Pennine Way without any trouble. The first mile was on tarmac, but as we went through a gate, we began climbing up on a well-trodden path. The views going up were amazing, and we hardly saw another person all day, although we did hear a lot of shooting across the valley.

About halfway up we encountered an older man walking his dogs, one of which was remarkable. Apparently, it was a Russian Wolf Hound and was very distinctive.

We went through a couple more gates and allowed Nelly off her lead as there weren’t any sheep. And then suddenly we could see High Cup Nick.

The photos don’t do this amazing feature justice as the three sides of the steep valley drop away.

We sat down on a handy rock to enjoy the panoramic view.

We then ambled our way back down to the car. It might have been only an eight-mile walk, but it was one of the most stunning walks we had ever been on. It also made us realise just how amazing the Pennine Way is, and while we might not want to walk it, there are plenty of long-distance footpaths that do appeal to us. One possibility that does appeal to us is the West Highland Way.

Anyway, if you’re ever in the north Pennines, we can recommend the walk up to High Cup Nick from the village of Dufton.

Troutbeck Round

Friday evening my brilliant wife Helen stated that on Sunday she needed hills. Saturday evening, we perused our collection of walking and running guides and opted for the longest route in Helen Mort’s excellent Lake District Trail Running book. We’ve done a number of her routes and they have all been excellent. I created a route for my Garmin, and we made sandwiches, bought additional snacks, loaded up a rucksack and prepped for an early start on Sunday morning.

Best laid plans and all that! Fireworks, and Nelly our silly old Pointer was completed stressed most of the night, meaning that no one managed much sleep. On top of that, the weather forecast was for rain, lots of rain.

We woke up Sunday morning not completely refreshed, the forecast hadn’t improved, and it would have been very easy to stay in bed for most of the morning. But no, we headed out and we were parked in a small layby near Jesus Church in Troutbeck before 8am. We had a plan B, in that if the weather turned really bad, we would double back as the first part of the route was fairly flat and low lying.

Out of the village the first footpath was quite steep before levelling out and heading north through the valley. It was warm, hardly any wind and incredibly peaceful. Nelly was also allowed off the lead to be gate monitor.

In the distance, the clouds looked ominous, with all of the hill tops obscured. We continued walking, making good progress and when the path started to climb, we stopped for a cherry scone and a drink. The first four miles had been a doddle.

Slowly we climbed higher and higher, the wind buffeting so strong that it blew my woolly hat off my head. Fortunately, I managed to retrieve it before it disappeared over the edge.

We continued up, expecting rain at any moment. The route carried on a little further north, but noticing another footpath, we cut off the tip of the route and started on the wide path back.

The route back goes over three different peaks; Froswick, Ill Bell and Yoke. Froswick at 720m high we skirted around, but Ill Bell at 757m high was a steep and tough little climb. There were two cairns at the top, and clouds, lots of clouds, and wind. We navigated to the correct path down and every now and again the cloud would lift enough for some amazing views.

After the summit of Yoke at 706m high we began the slow and steady descent back down to Troutbeck. Amazingly, it still hadn’t started to rain. There were also quite a few walkers and runners headed in the other direction. A few more miles later and we joined the track we had taken from the village, with Nelly leading the way again. At this point there was the first spots of rain, but it didn’t last too long and wasn’t very heavy.

Back in the village we passed the field holding the Pumpkin Fesitval, we passed the small carpark that we missed, past the chruch and back to the car.

Our full route was 17.4km (just under 11 miles) with 930m of climbing (lots of feet). As expected, the rain started to lash it down as we sat in the car eating a sandwich as we prepared ourselves for the long drive home. What we love about this area of the Lakes is that it is only a 45-minute drive, and less than an hour to Ambleside.

Anyway, an absolutely fantastic walk. The three of us have eight tired legs between us. I fully recommend Helen Mort’s book if you fancy a few interesting walks or runs in the area.

Next week will be a tough week for both me and Helen, so this was a much-needed day out.

My Strava route can be found here, if you wanted to give me Kudos or walk/run the route yourself.

https://www.strava.com/activities/8042733428

Loughrigg Fell

Another Friday and another family outing to the Lake District. 50 minutes after we set off from home we were parking up in Ambleside. We were going to walk another one of Helen Mort’s excellent trail running routes, this one up and over Loughrigg Fell.

We’ve been to Loughrigg Tarn a few times this summer and had walked from there into Ambleside a couple of times, so we knew the first part of the route. We set off through Rothay Park and up the steep track onto the lower parts of the Fell. However, instead of then dropping down to the Tarn, we turned and went up and over the top of the Fell.

Mostly we had the place to ourselves, overtaking a group of people early on, and then watching a couple of low flying jets on maneuver’s. As we neared the top we spotted a runner with her dog. The dog wanted to say hello to Nelly, but was called away as the runner was going in a different direction. The views at the top were stunning. We were really lucky with the September sun.

And then, just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, Grasmere came into view. As you can see, Nelly was also suitably impressed.

The steep descent was a little taxing on our old knees, but at the bottom we turned back towards Ambleside, first passing Rydal Cave. We didn’t stop to have a look as there were loads of people.

We don’t like to let Nelly off her lead on the Fells, as she could easily get lost. There are always stories about lost dogs. But, along the path overlooking Rydal Water, we freed the old girl and she pottered about in front of us. She’s getting old so we’re very mindful about doing too much, although it does seem that going out with us for a walk is preferable to going out for a run. Even a short slow run is a little bit too much for her.

Soon the footpath became road, with the last mile a little less exciting. We made up for that by stopping in Ambleside for a coffees, scone and cake at the excellent Giggle Goose, before heading home. A well needed mini-adventure to improve our mental well-being.

Sale Fell

The first entry in the Lake District guide book for dog friendly pub walks was up Sale Fell.

4 and a half miles with a large hill, with The Pheasant at the end. We parked at the pub and set off along a track, which eventually turned up and onto the fell.

The route continued up and up with amazing view over Bassenthwaite Lake, until we reached the view point near the top.

The small plinth was for 5 day old Jack

I have to admit that the plinth did bring a tear to my eye. His first Wainwright, 8 days after he died.

A little more sombre we headed down, and met a sprightly woman running up with her two dogs, both 11 years old, and both rehomed trail hounds.

We continued down, stopping to look at an old church, before the last mile on the road to The Pheasant. Veggie burger for me and fish & chips for Helen.

Another brilliant walk, this one organised by my beautiful Helen ❤

Family Howgills Adventure

With four days off over Easter we were determined to make the most of it. Knowing just how busy the Lake District always is over Easter, my lovely wife organised a tough long walk in the Howgills. As we had all day and weren’t in any rush we arrived in Sedbergh just after 9am. After a few minutes ‘faff’ as we worked out exactly where the route on Helen’s Garmin went, we set off up the correct trail. Three years ago we completed the Howgills Half Marathon (read about it here), which I said at the time was the toughest half marathon I’d ever done. Our walk today would follow an almost identical route (cutting a couple of corners and one massive unnecessary hill), except going in the opposite direction.

The first mile was through a whole load of fields full of lambs, with tricky styles to negotiate, so Nelly was kept on a tight lead. However we soon left the baby sheep behind and walked along a low level path full of coconut smelling gorse bushes.

We knew that the first few miles would be relatively easy, so we stopped for a short rest, some food and drink, next to the River Rawthey, before tackling the tough climb. Nelly could also cool her paws and have a drink.

It was a shock to suddenly find loads of other walkers, as we’d hardly seen anyone up to that point. They were mostly heading in the same direction that we were, up past Cautley Spout, which is the highest cascade waterfall, above ground, in England, at 198m high.

The photos don’t really do justice on how steep and long the climb was. As expected the views were amazing, although as we neared the top we paused to allow a group of walkers with dogs to pass. Annoyingly, one dog was off a lead and it wasn’t really the time or place for him to be so exuberant, as we were slightly precarious, balanced at the top of a very steep climb. Wayward dog was eventually harnessed so that we could safely continue to the slightly easier section of climb.

I don’t like to moan, but there was a group of three walkers who were walking quicker than we were, so we would let them overtake, and every time we did, they would stop, blocking the path.

As I said, once we reached the top of the falls, the climb eased off as we made our way alongside Red Gill Beck towards the famous Calf, the highest peak in the Howgills. There was also an Iron Age settlement that we passed, and unfortunately I can’t find any information about it.

A little further on and we reached the saddle between The Calf and Calders summits. Having climbed The Calf as part of the Howgills Half Marathon, and as we were a little tired, we turned left to head back towards Sedbergh.

We then had almost three miles of continuous downhill, but not a nice easy downhill as much of it was steep or technical. We were both feeling tired as we walked back into the town, with aching knees and sore toes.

Sedbergh is also known as a book town, and in the bus stop there was a free library, where I managed to snag a Jack Reacher novel. Hopefully you don’t need to read them in order as the one I picked up is the 21st in the series. We then grabbed an ice cream before heading home.

I have to say that once home we all collapsed and pretty much did nothing for the rest of the day. However, we had walked 10 miles, with one huge climb, in glorious Easter weather, and I am always happy to have tired legs after a family adventure.

Cat Bells

Last weekend we headed off once again to the Lake District for a mini-adventure. This time for a walk up the iconic fell of Cat Bells. Lots of memories for Helen as this was the very first fell that she climbed as a seven year old with her father. Helen had never been back, and I had never been there at all.

Our route was inspired by the George Fisher Tea Round and shorter Espresso Round. We’d never heard of them until a crazy friend completed the 30 mile Tea Round. The round heads to the summit of all ten fells that can be seen from the upstairs window of the George Fisher shop in Keswick. The 12 mile Espresso round does four of the summits. Both start and finish from the shop, and if you complete the longer route you become the proud owner of a free T-Shirt.

Anyway, as we were walking we decided to miss out the flat out and back section from Keswick and start in the village of Portinscale. With the rain we were all wrapped up in waterproofs and Nelly was even wearing her little jacket.

We set off and it wasn’t too long before Cat Bells was looming before us. Not long after that we reached the false summit.

The well trodden path was easy to follow and we climbed up to the main summit to find there were dozens of people at the top. We took a few photos and then headed back down the way we had come.

We didn’t double back for too long as our second summit was Rowling End.

The sun had come out as we scrambled our way up the very steep footpath, although as we reached the top the heavens opened. In the distance we could see the formidable summit of Causey Pike. With the weather so bad and the route to the top a little too difficult with Nell, we opted to take the footpath down the easier side of Rowling End. Unfortunately this meant that we would miss out the fourth summit of Barrow.

We chatted to a couple of other walkers on the way down who said that Causey Pike wasn’t too bad, so we’ll definitely go back another day.

Back in the valley we followed the road in the shadow of Barrow as we headed back to the car. We stopped off for a coffee and cake at a lovely cafe in Portinscale before heading back home.

Our route had taken a little over four hours and was just under 10 miles, with lots of climbing. I like the look of doing the shorter Espresso Round with Helen and then maybe doing the longer Tea Round later in the year, if Helen will support me.

Another brilliant day out with my brilliant wife and our silly pooch. More days like that please.

Sadgill

Yesterday was a good day. I’ve unexpectedly been placed on Furlough for a week and as my wife had booked a hair appointment in Kendal she asked if I wanted to head out that way for a run while she was busy. I didn’t need to be asked twice as I knew just the place for a run. Last summer I cycled up the Longsleddale Valley as far as the road goes (read about it here). This time I would drive to the end, leave the car and head up and over a couple of fells.

I created a route using Strava, although my first route up and over Kentmere Pike was a little ambitious for the available time, so I opted to head up Grey Crag and then back along the bridleway.

I dropped Helen off in Kendal and then set off up the A6 towards Shap. The Longsleddale Valley is almost 5 miles of a narrow road with few passing places. I was fortunate to only meet two vehicles, and on both occasions I was at a passing place. At the end of the road there is enough parking for about ten vehicles, and on a damp Tuesday there was plenty of space.

Almost immediately after setting off I was reduced to a walk as my route appeared to go straight up.

I continued up and up, until I reached a short plateau where I was able to run once again. This didn’t last long as I continued up. The views from the top were disappointing as the sun had disappeared almost as soon as I had started.

Once over Grey Crag I skirted Tarn Crag before dropping down towards the Gatescarth Pass Bridleway. I had deliberately made my route with the steepest sections uphill and the easier sections downhill. The steep sections at the start would have been far too dangerous for me to have run down.

The bridleway surface wasn’t too bad as I nipped back towards the car. The 9km route with over 500m of climbing had taken 90 minutes and was an absolute cracker, definitely one that I want to do again but with Helen and Nell. Although maybe next time we could go over the more famous Kentmere Pike, a fell that I have never been up.

I hadn’t seen another person the whole time that I had been out, and even though there were still plenty of other cars the place was deserted. I quickly changed in the car and drove back to Kendal to meet up with Helen. Her hair appointment hadn’t finished so I had time for a coffee and a slice of tiffin. I also have to add that Helen looked stunning.