The Roaches

Memories from a trip to Keswick - 2012

March 2012 - With the Britannia flat now a thing of the past Mr Swarbrook decided that a rented house would provide a suitable replacement so the four available bedrooms were occupied by myself, Alison, Gordon, Jane, Jon, Sarah and Dave. Terry and Mark had booked a couple of nights in a Keswick hotel so a good merry gathering was there to be enjoyed.

The forecast for the week was superb with the main aim of dragging Dave up to the summit of Scafell Pike. Would he do it?...

SUNDAY - Scafell Pike from Seathwaite via the Corridor route. Return over Broad Crag, Ill Crag and Grain's Gill. 9 miles\3400ft ascent.

The forecast didn't dissapoint. It was glorious. This was the day that Dave had been looking forward to dreading for weeks.

We drove to Seathwaite where the parking was surprisingly easy considering the fantastic weather. We booted up and set off to Styhead Tarn via the well worn track over Stockley Bridge.

A brief rest on the way to Styhead Tarn.

The earlyish start meant that a sedate pace could be enjoyed and Styhead Tarn was reached with minimum fuss. Everyone, apart from Dave, was looking forward to the next section of the climb which involved the gradual ascent of the Corridor route which traverses along the side of the Scafell Pikes up to the Lingmell col. Sarah had developed a particularly snotty cold and could only advance after depositing copious amounts of snottage. Despite this complaint she battled on whilst leaving her own marked dotted green route which could easily be used as an invaluable guide to the summit for future attempts.

After a short descent we hit the Corridor route and began the ascent in the cool shade of the Scafell Pikes. The temperature soon rose as the sun eventually appeared above the Pikes and this resulted in numerous 'tops on\tops off' stops.

On the Corridor route with Great Gable in the background. Great Swarbrook and Alison can be seen on the path.

After a short while we reached a short scrambly section which some of us enjoyed more than others but as the rock was nice and dry the downclimb was a lot easier than it could have been. Various routes to safety were taken so an HF Holidayesque count was required to confirm that all of us had survived. All were present and correct so on we went.

Terry, who appears to be an expert in cliff navigation, safely sees Gordon and Jane across the rocks. Gordon didn't want to die before he got his redundancy payment.

We passed the top of Piers Gill and after a short while reached the point where path forks away from the direction of Lingmell and heads straight up to the summit of the Scafell Pike.

This would see the start of the 900ft slog over rocks and boulders to the summit. Dave looked up and wept.

The team coax Dave up the bouldery slopes. Only another three false summits to go.

The false summits came and went with only one incident of note which saw Gordon smash his shin against a rather hard rock. This resulted in a couple of small cuts but a rather nasty looking leg egg which quickly ballooned to a rather gruesome looking size. Gordon though, being a hard northerner, took this in his stride after some expert medical attention from myself (this involved the careful removal of an antiseptic wipe from my medical kit).

I sauntered on to the summit in order to get into position to capture Dave's great moment and, three hours later, he duly arrived - Dave reaches summit (Note: this video is 75MB in size so you've been warned).

Terry, Alison, Mark and Gordon pose on the summit. Gordon had decided to don his trousers in order to hide his horrendous shin egg.

Lunch was taken on the eastern side of the summit and all was good with the world. I managed to 'check in' on Facebook and announce Dave's success to the world but the image used to accompany this great event was later seen to be a rather poor one. Still, it's the thought that counts.

Dave on the summit of Scafell Pike. A rather more agreeable shot than the one posted on Facebook.

Lunch was done so off we went towards Broad Crag. The descent to Broad Crag col was the usual loose slippy affair with the continuing walk over Broad Crag being the usual boulder affected ankle breaking affair. Dave was beginning to suffer from cramp in both legs so a couple of stops were required in order to allow for drinks and revival time.

Esk Pike, Bowfell and Crinkle Crags from near Calf Cove.

The descent down Grain's Gill was as enjoyable as usual and we were in no rush to get back. The weather was still superb as we walked back through the farm at Seathwaite and de-booted in readiness for the drive back to Keswick and maybe, just maybe, a pint or two.

Trolls guarding the bridge over Grain's Gill.

It had been an excellent day with many first time summits of Scafell Pike which included Dave, Alison, Jane, Sarah and Mark. Gordon had summited as a lad when it was called 'Ye Old Pikes of Scawfell' but apart from the different rock type and an extra volcanic layer he maintains that it's still reasonbly similar to how he remembered it.

Where to tomorrow?

MONDAY - Blencathra via Hall's Fell ridge. 5 miles\2503 ft ascent.

Dave decided to have a rest following his success in attaining the summit of England's highest peak but the rest of us decided that Blencathra was there to be enjoyed.

The weather was still excellent but slightly cooler and noticeably windier.

After parking in Threlkeld we made the short climb alongside the gill and wandered along the fields to reach the foot of Hall's Fell. Sarah was still suffering and looked upwards to the steepening route with nervous trepidation.

The march across the fields towards Hall's Fell. The field had already been visited by Sarah during the previous evening hence the colour.

I'd climbed Hall's Fell on a few occasions and always remembered the first section as a steep thigh burning little devil. Unsurprisingly, it hadn't changed.

Terry and Mark revised their clothing before attempting the climb and Sarah deposited another load.

Up and up we go. The path twists and turns up the initial slopes of Hall's Fell. Gordon, who had wanted to climb Blencathra for some time, was wondering if Cat Bells would have been the better option.

Steep paths are hard work but at least they allow you to gain height more quickly. This however, wasn't helping Sarah who had to stop at regular intervals to wipe her nose. The increasing wind speed wasn't helping either as she had to maintain easterly facing nostrils in order to avoid what could have been rather unsightly blowback.

After a few stops Sarah decided enough was enough with Jon, being a gentlemen, deciding to walk her back to the car.

Nearing the end of the initial ascent. The wind was now quite strong and Terry, knowing that the rocky ridge was awaiting, was beginning to have second thoughts on continuing and comtemplated turning back.

As I waited for the group I met a walker who had just descended the ridge. He maintained that the wind on the ridge wasn't dangerous and that the ridge itself offered some respite. This was relayed to Terry so on we went.

The base of Hall's Fell ridge proper was reached with the initial scrambly sections a pleasant change to the steepness encountered on the lower slopes.

First scramble complete. Terry dons his mountaineering gnome hat which unfortunately affects all sense of direction.

After more rock work the first tricky section was reached. I decided to show off and traverse a knife edge but fell as my landing foot hit the smooth mirror-like rock that marks the route. No damage done so on we went.

The second tricky section involved a tight move between two rocks and a short drop onto the ridge. I followed this but Terry decided that a marked path to the right was the correct way. I corrected him and shouted over for him to follow me. He decided that he was correct so waited to alert the others. I shouted over yet again to tell him that his route wasn't a path and that he should follow me. This was ignored.

Alison was the first to arrive and Terry, the guardian of the peaks, decided to send her to the right, completely ignoring my advice. After a minute or two Terry turned around and informed me that Alison was 'stuck'. Great! I asked Terry what he meant by 'stuck' and explained that Al had run out of path and was hanging over a drop and unable to move.

Knowing that Alison isn't too bad on rocks I waited for her to reverse the route but after a further wait it appeared that her rucsac was causing her problems. Mark decided to meet her and help her back to the correct route.

The moral of this tale is to never trust Terry on the hills as he isn't an expert in cliff navigation.

Tricky section number three. A loose groove that avoided the ridge. I decided to let Terry assist the others due to the success of his previous mountain leader effort.

Everyone was enjoying the ridge to various degrees but there was still an element of uncertainty in certain people's faces.

The last section is an enjoyable scramble that leads directly to the summit of Blencathra. Everyone was glad to be there.

Jane, Gordon, Terry the mountain gnome, Mark and Al on the summit of Blencathra.

The walk along the tops was breezy but enjoyable with great views in every direction. We headed towards Blease Fell and descended steeply towards Threlkeld and the cars. That was the end of Terry and Mark's weekend but they'd had a great two days and, in Terry's case, only nearly killed one person.

Another great day. What would Tuesday bring?

TUESDAY - A gentle bimble around Derwent Water (three quarters of the way before the Lodore Hotel stopped us in our beery tracks). 5.6 miles\257ft ascent.

WEDNESDAY - Walla Crag, Bleaberry Fell and High Seat from Keswick. 9.2 miles\2174ft ascent.

Alison, Dave, Jane and Gordon were already well accustomed to Walla Crag and Bleaberry Fell as this was one of their friendly Keswick walks. I'd not walked in this area for nearly 25 years so was well up for a memory top up. Jane however wasn't feeling too well so Gordon, who like Jon, is a real gentleman, decided to abort the walk and stay with Jane. Sarah was feeling a little better so we set off from Keswick to see if we could summit on High Seat which is something that Alison and Dave had failed to do on a couple of occasions.

Snotbags and Jon on Walla Crag.

Jon and I had mistakingly mistaken an anonymous lump for Bleaberry Fell and Bleaberry Fell for High Seat. This mistake was noticed as Jon and I summitted on 'anonymous lump'. Either Al or Dave had already realised our mistake and didn't tell us or we'd introduced an element of confusion into their knowledge of the central fells.

Lunch on High Seat Bleaberry Fell. Alison had a lonely moment staring at the Helvellyn range whilst Dave chomped on his sarnies. Sarah and Jon have a shelter moment together.

High Seat could be seen a mile to the south so after a hearty lunch we stomped off to bring Al and Dave to the summit that had remained uncatcheable for all those years. Wainwright's guide to the central fells depicts this mile as one to wish on your worst enemy and a penance for sins. It was a bit squelchy at times but nothing compared to the bogs that surround Kinder, Bleaklow and Black Hill. If anything, the mossy nature of the bogs ensured that our boots remained as clean as newly hatched conkers.

The top of High Seat is a pleasant one and the greyness of the morning was beginning to turn all bluey on us. Very nice. The views were excellent and the descent to Ashness was pretty straightforward apart from the initial route from the summit where the path simply disappeared.

Al and Dave have a 'Get in' feeling on reaching the summit of High Seat.

The plan was to reach Derwent Water in time to catch the last ferry to Keswick. This was thought to be a fitting end to a good day so we sat on the Ashness jetty for 15 minutes before deciding to call Gordon to check the timetable that Al had left in the house. This was achieved and we awaited the ferry which was confirmed to be only 10 minutes away.

Multiple phone ringing then ruined the peace as Jane contacted us to inform us that the timetable was incorrect and that any boat was a good 45 minutes off. We decided that a walk to Keswick was in hand so off we yomped with Dave yomping like a man possessed which brought back memories of the last day of the West Highland Way. In fairness the walk to Keswick was fine as we managed to soak in the best hour of sunshine.

For some reason, and this isn't something we usually do, we headed straight for the Dog and Gun and enjoyed a couple of pintettes. Another great day with the forecast for Thursday being even better.

THURSDAY - Red Pike, High Stile, High Crag. 6.7 miles\3203ft ascent.

For some this was the final walk of the week as we'd promised to attend a wedding in Leek on the Friday night. Jon, Sarah, Gordon and Jane had another day to enjoy but we all decided, apart from Dave, to take on the Buttermere fells from Buttermere itself. The weather was as good as promised so a great day was expected.

Jane had recovered from her poorlyness but Gordon had experience a few issues so came equipped with toilet rolls.

The ascent of Red Pike from Buttermere is always a tester but all is good on reaching the tarn.

All smiles early on the ascent to Red Pike.

The smiles beginning to wane higher up on the ascent to Red Pike.

A drink and a rest was enjoyed at the tarn as the next steep section would require a spot of loin girding. The initial climb isn't too bad but the final steep loose section can be rather trying.

Ascending the red soil of Red Pike just below the summit. No smiles here.

After a bit of slipping and sliding the summit of Red Pike was ours. The views, as expected were stunning if a slight hazy.

Alison marched around the top looking for a suitable lunch location and found a dry grassy spot overlooking Ennerdale.

Us on Red Pike. This shot was taken by a guy who'd carried a huge DLSR up the hill. This shot had to be cropped thanks to the pisspoor framing he managed to achieve. The original has an extra 12 inches of sky above us.

Lunch had been eaten so onto High Stile.

Sarah and Jon enroute to High Stile. Red Pike is the peak centre right.

The walk along the tops from Red Pike to High Stile to High Crag is always enjoyable as the views across to Pillar, Great Gable and into the northern Lakes are excellent. The views into the coombs are also impressive thanks to the cliffs that fall away from the path.

After summiting on High Stile we marched across to the last peak of the day, High Crag.

Al, Gordon and Jane on the summit of High Crag. The steep descent down Gamlin End awaits.

After a quick view check from the High Stile summit we beefed up in readiness for the loose steep descent down Gamlin End. In order to prevent the need to climb over the annoying little peak of Seat we decided to take a marked path from the bottom of Gamlin End which cut across Seat and joined the Haystacks path. This was rocky, loose and rather shitty but it probably saved time.

Al celebrates a successful descent off Gamlin End. The others can be seen zigzagging down in the background.

A stomp alongside Buttermere brought us back to Buttermere village itself and a pint in the Bridge Inn. A fitting end to the week for Al and I.

This had been one of the finest, if not the finest, week's walking we'd experienced in the Lakes thanks to the weather. Gordon, Jane, Jon and Sarah capped the week off with a Friday ascent of Castle Crag with Al and myself taking in another 9.5 miles on the Roaches on the Sunday.

Will we ever get another week like it? What will Dave's next challenge be? Will Sarah ever get rid of that cold? Will Gordon's shin fully recover?....


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