The Roaches

Memories from a trip to Keswick - 2017

March 2017 - Well, Keswick again. The same personnel from the previous year were ready for another great week's walking. Jon and Sarah had travelled up on the Friday with Al, Ann, Dave, Gordon, Jane and myself joining them on the Saturday. The waterproofs had been reproofed so we were ready for whatever weather the hills threw at us.

SUNDAY - Derwent Water circuit from Keswick.

The forecast was for heavy rain and the forecast was correct. We'd made the decision to walk no matter what so why not take on an 11.5 mile easy stroll around Derwent Water?

After bypassing Friar's Crag we immediately hit a flooded area of the path which forced us to divert to the road. We'd half expected this as the rain had fallen all night and Derwent Water was looking pretty high. The lakeside path was unusable and the bridge which allows easy access to the far shore at the southern end of the lake was completely flooded and inaccessible. This meant that we had to walk down to Grange in order to bypass the sunken bridge.

Rather than risk hitting more floods on the Cumbria Way we decided to use the road beneath Cat Bells which resulted in better progress. The rain however, continued to fall.

Soppy Jane and soppy Gordon on the road beneath Cat Bells.

On reaching Hawse End we used the same path to Keswick that we'd used on 1229392 occasions. This was familar territory.

We reached Keswick and enjoyed beers, wine and food in preparation for a better day's walking. The forecast was good and a new Wainwright had been targetted so what could possibly go wrong.

Meanwhile - outside the house....

MONDAY - High Rigg

We awoke to find a solitary Gordon in the kitchen. He was wearing jeans.

Jane had fallen down the steps at the side of the house when returning from the previous night's pub visit (not drunk) and had hurt her arm and shoulder. She hadn't had a great night so Gordon's plan was to take her to the local A&E. Another big shock was caused by Dave appearing in his walking gear. Dave has a reputation for turning up in his jeans the morning after the previous day's walk but there he was - all kitted up and ready for the off.

The others had arranged to walk the small but perfectly positioned Wainwright of High Rigg in St Johns in the Vale. I drove Gordon and Jane to Keswick A&E but returned to join the others where we hopped on the ridiculously expensive bus from Keswick to Stanah - Five pounds fucking fifty each.

The weather was spot on and a different world from the relentless rain of the previous day.

Dave and Al prepare to experience the horrors of High Rigg.

The weather improved as we ascended and the path, despite being damp, exhibited nothing of the flooding around Derwent Water. The views to the south over Thirlmere and towards Clough Heed were particularly good.

The view south towards Helvellyn and Thirlmere.

The walking was pleasant and easy and after a short distance the summit could be seen ahead.

Looking to the summit of High Rigg with Skiddaw and Blencathra in the distance.

High Rigg summit shot. All very pleasant. Dave's new superboots getting their first proper outing.

Shortly after summitting the path descended steeply to the small chapel in St Johns in the Vale. We took lunch here before setting off in a northerly direction across Low Rigg to Tewet Tarn. A short hail shower resulted in the temporary donning of waterproofs but these were quickly removed as the sun made a reappearance.

Clough Head and sheep from near Tewet Tarn.

We used the road to reach Castlerigg stone circle before dropping into Keswick where a sharp rain shower signalled the end of an enjoyable day. On returning to the house we received the news that Jane had broken her arm so that was the end of the week's walking for her.

We planned to tackle Knott Rigg and Ard Crags on the Tuesday as this would be another two new Wainwrights for a few of us and a relatively easy day.

TUESDAY - Part way up Knott Rigg. All the way around Buttermere.

Jon and I drove up to the car park near Moss Ghyll falls but on leaving the car the power of the wind was instantly proving problematic. This wasn't noticed in any forecast but Al, Ann, Dave, Jon, Sarah and I set off up the steep grassy slope to try and hit Knott Rigg.

After around 200ft of ascent the wind was proving to be too strong for Ann. Al and I were slightly ahead of the others and on reaching 300ft was becoming noticeably stronger. Ann was now sat down with Dave acting as a windbreak. This wasn't looking good.

A decision was made to abort. Boooo!

A decision was then made to drop down to Buttermere and walk the 4.5 miles around the lake. Hoooraaay!

Team Failure walking the Buttermere round. Fleetwith Pike and Hay Stacks in the distance.

The strength of the wind was still noticeable at the lower levels so why hadn't we seen this on the forecast? Were we concentrating on the rain fall?

After enjoying a drink and sandwich in Buttermere were headed back over Newlands to Keswick. The forecast for Wednesday was appalling so we took a day in readiness to attack Knott Rigg and Ard Crags again on the Thursday.

THURSDAY - Knott Rigg and Ard Crags.

We were back at the Moss Ghyll car park where the weather wasn't quite as good as forecast. The wind however, had dropped considerably but there was a layer of snow on the higher ground. Ann had decided to give the walk a miss despite buying new boots but Gordon had been given the freedom to walk by Jane who was now feeling a little bit better.

Sarah and Gordon enjoying the climb to Knott Rigg. Al, Dave and Jon are in the background.

It's an easy 850ft climb to the summit of Knott Rigg but the steep grassy slope and snow meant that care had to be taken in order to avoid a slip. Dave wasn't overly happy with the environment so I lent him my poles to ease any fears. Dave made it to the summit were he decided to stay. We gave Dave strict instructions to find a sheltered spot and not attempt the descent on his own whilst we walked the ridge to Ard Crags.

Jon and Alison on the ridge to Ard Crags.

Looking towards the summit of Ard Crags (far right).

Ard Crags summit selfie minus Dave.

We retraced our steps over Knott Rigg where we rejoined Dave who hadn't frozen to death or attempted a solo descent to the cars. The descent was pretty easy and we hit the car park in our usual dribs and drabs. Our sandwiches were eaten, standing up, before returning to Keswick and the pub.

Two more Wainwights for most of us!

FRIDAY - Skiddaw from Ravenstone.

The weather was stunning. As good as it gets.

Al, Jon, Sarah and I took a taxi from Keswick to the Ravenstone Hotel with the hope of conquering Ullock Pike. Long Side, Carl Side, Skiddaw and Skiddaw Little Man. Dave and Ann had set their sights on Latrigg so this was a full-on Pighole attack on the Skiddaw massif. It should be noted that the use of taxis may be far more economically pleasing than the local bus services - we will remember this.

On being dropped off at the hotel the steep climb began where, to add to the steepy enjoyment, a low branch scratched my eye. Still, musn't grumble.

As we gained height the views over Bassenthwaite burst on the scene and, on reaching the ridge, the snowy ramparts of Skiddaw loomed large.

Sarah, my shadow, Jon and Alison on the route up to Ullock Pike.

A fell runner decided to highlight our fatty patheticness by yomping past us at a ridiculous rate. Still, we were going to enjoy more hours of mountain sunshine.

On gaining height the rocky steps of Ullock Pike were holding small patches of ice which Sarah was careful to avoid. Alison too, post Gordale Scar, was being extra careful on the steeper ground. As we approached the summit of Ullock Pike the fell runner, who had ran to the summit of Skiddaw and back, dropped down the rocky slope with painful ease which reminded me of my youth.

We eventually reached the summit of Ullock Pike where the entire route could be seen ahead of us. This was great!

Alison enjoys a cup of coffee on the summit of Ullock Pike. Long Side is next with Carl Side.

Alison couldn't get over how good the weather was or how stunning the views were. On one side we could see the entire Lake District with Skiddaw forming the bulk of the view on the other.

Al and I marched up to Long Side and waited for Jon and Sarah.

The view over the Lakes from Long Side. Dodd is the small wooded hill in the middle distance.

The snow was noticeably deeper on the gradual ascent to Carl Side. My 17 stone frame was sinking into the crispy top layer whereas Al simply marched on top. There's a lesson to be learnt there I think.

Sarah and Jon about to descend from Carl Side. Alison is ready to tackle Skiddaw for the first time.

Sarah hadn't enjoyed the icier sections of the climb so made the decision to completely ruin Jon's day and abort at Carl Side. Alison togged up to join me on the 700ft snowy climb to the summit of Skiddaw.

Alison with Skiddaw in the distance. The final climb would follow the collapsed wall and turn right onto the summit.

Al wasn't sure about the secureness of the footing after around 100ft of climbing so she decided to 'spike' up. She felt a little bit safer but still wasn't sure so out came the poles. I decided to use my polls for added grip.

After around 200ft Alison decided that the slope to our left was a tad steep and unsettling but, despite this, I assured her that all was OK so we should carry on. Al then decided she couldn't move and wasn't even happy about turning around - she was stuck!

Al wasn't sure about continuing as the slope ahead appeared steeper and icier. She wasn't happy where we were so the situation wasn't going to improve. I decided that enough was enough but Al stared ahead to see if she could continue. After minutes of this I shouted her back down - the attempt on Skiddaw was aborted. Women had ruined both Jon's and my day. Jane had also ruined Gordon's week and Ann had ruined Dave's week thanks to her snoring.

Al and I reascended Carl Side where we would drop steeply towards Keswick. Jon and Sarah were enjoying lunch next to a rocky outcrop.

The return to Keswick was enjoyed in stunning sunshine but the failure to ascend Skiddaw was crippling Jon and I. What a let down!

Fortunately the pints of Peroni enjoyed in the Pheasant Inn helped to soothe our anger. We then rejoined the others and enjoyed a further outside beer or two.

It had been another great week but the pain of Jane's broken arm was a real downer. On the positive side Dave's new boots had given him a new lease of life and Jon and I had summited on Skiddaw before anyway.

Same again next year please! - minus any injuries.


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