The Roaches

The Lakeland Peaks - July 21st-26th 2013

Ken Hodgkinson, Mike Riley, Sean Bond, Susan Lewis, Jim Eason, Mark Jones, John Gordon, Rich Salt
Jane Salt, Gordon Darlington, Alison Bond, Ann Baxter, Netty Worthington

DAY 1 - Keswick to Buttermere: 9.5 miles 3533 ft.

Here we go again.

Ken returns along with newcomers John Gordon and Mark Jones (son of the famous Terry) but Nick was unable to make it for the third year on the trot due to band commitments (not the band called the Commitments but, oh you know). Sandra had pulled out of the walk earlier in the week which left us with 13 lucky walkers including a miserable Jim.

The weather had been stifling for a couple of weeks and we were under no illusion that the temperature, coupled with the steep Lakeland climbs, would result in this being one of the more challenging weeks - if not the most challenging. To ease the team into the walk and to provide a wealth of useless information I'd created a PDF guide to the week.

John's wife, Janet, joined us for the pre-walk evening meal in Keswick and took on the very important role of pre-walk team photographer on the Sunday morning. It had been almost five years to the day since we met at the same location for the Lakes Valleys walk, Moot Hall in Keswick, so we were hoping for a similar excellent week in the Lakes.

We marched out of Keswick towards Portinscale where we'd head towards Hawes End and Skelgill before dropping height slightly before reaching Stair at the foot of Causey Pike. The weather was stunning but very warm and the path leading up to Causey Pike looked steeper than normal in the blazing midmorning heat.

Mike, Gordon, Alison and Ann 'power' up the lower slopes of Causey Pike. Mike's puffing a bit.

After a few hundred feet Alison announced to the world that she'd given birth to a couple of lovely little blisters - one on each heel. This wasn't a good sign as she'd had problems with her boots for some time and was hoping that a rather expensive pair of Superfeet insoles would be the answer. They weren't, so a pre-emptive Compeed attack was made to assist her on her travels.

It got warmer. This didn't stop John and Jim from powering on up front with Rich and Netty keeping close company. This remained the pattern for the rest of the week with the rest of us taking turns in accompanying whoever was making up the rear. Mike was suffering on the ascent due to the heat and with Jane also finding it hard to cope. As expected, Gordon didn't help one bit.

Sweat, foul language and red faces on the final climb to Causey Pike.

After much puffing and face pulling we reached the rocky bluff that protects the summit from older people like Ann, Gordon and Ken. The younger members of the party waited in case we had to support the older members up the simple scramble.

The team begin the terrifying ascent of Causey Pike's summit rocks. Ken ploughs on safe in the knowledge that I was helping by taking his photo whereas Sue wonders if she'll make it alive. Mark makes sure that Mike doesn't do anything daft.

After a short period of grunting and unnatural bodily bending we all made it to the first Wainwright of the week. The views were excellent.

Ken and John soon got chatting and found out that they'd got something in common and had met before - at Queens in Basford.

At last! Drink and breather time. Quite why Mark was laughing so much after carrying Gordon in his rucsac is anyone's guess. Jim's looking pale with his sun cream facial.

The next Wainwright to face the wrath of our sweat was Scar Crags. This was a simple gain compared to Causey Pike so we decided to take lunch on its narrow summit ridge. All was good but the 500ft slog to Sail, the next Wainwright of the day, was waiting to pounce.

Alison looks back to the summit of Causey Pike from the path to Scar Crags.

After losing a couple of hundred of feet in height we hit the col between Scar Crags and Sail and then laughed at the stupidity of the newly made path that snakes up to Sail itself. This is mountain madness at its best.....

Team Pighole descend in readiness for a hot, steamy and snakey ascent to the summit of Sail. Jim, John, Rich and Netty take the lead.

It's fair to say that the ascent of Sail went on a bit. Turn after bloody turn after sodding turn makes the ascent far longer than the previous 'straight up' route which, in my eyes, was far better to look at than the horror of the new path.

The summit of Sail is a sparse grassy affair with an insignificant cairn and a decent view of the next Wainwright - Crag Hill. We reached the summit in dribs and drabs and had another much earned breather. Regular doses of Haribo were used to prevent a premature death or two.

Crag Hill looks further and higher than it actually is from Sail but Ann decided to walk on in an attempt to find a cooling breeze. She got as far as the col and waited for the rest to descend.

Team shot, minus Alison, on the summit of Crag Hill - the high point of the day.

I cheered the team up by mentioning that the way to Buttermere was all down hill from now on apart from the uphill bits. This went down really well.

Gordon looks over his domain.

Jim had found a walkie talkie on a cairn near the summit and, using his tried and tested boy scout training, managed to produce various whistling noises. He didn't locate anyone. A brief discussion followed: should we take the walkie talkie to Buttermere and contact Mountain Rescue or leave it where we found it and hope that the owner was close by? We chose the latter but another walker decided that returning it to Keswick was a better option so off he went.

What's next? Wandope was the next Wainwright and a mighty easy one at that. The walk alongside Addacomb hole was enjoyed by all and in no time at all we were on W5!

Whiteless Pike was visible in the distance but only after I'd got it mixed up with Third Gill Head Man. Stupid boy. The final climb of the day was from Saddle Gate up to Wainwright number 6 and all that remained was the descent into Buttermere and the pub.

Netty and Sue smile at the thought of a long cool drink at the Bridge Hotel.

The descent turned steeper on the lower slopes and the team spread across the hillside as we descended at various speeds. Ann's legs were now jellified so she resorted to poles in order to remain upright.

I pointed out the small Wainwright of Rannerdale Knotts to Jim who promised to run up it after dinner. The rest of the team failed to believe this would happen and were proved correct.

We were all pleased to see the Bridge Hotel after an excellent day on the hills. Peroni was the preferred drop for most but whatever was drank didn't touch the sides - on numerous occasions.

Mark, John and Alison reflect on their day.

The smell of Sue's feet goes unnoticed as Gordon feels Ann's wrath.

Ann spent most of the night naked after finding out that the baggage carrier had left her bag in Keswick but brought three non-Pighole bags over to Buttermere. This wasn't good. Luckily the excellent management at the Bridge Hotel sorted everything out and to everyone's relief Ann was soon flaunting her holiday wares.

Alison's blisters weren't looking too good. They would need lashings of Compeed to get her back on the hills so let surgery commence!

Our new slightly controversial rehydration methods seemed to be working well and, luckily, this article backed us up...

So, Fiona Bradley, do one!

A tough walk but a warmer forecast for the morning promised a tougher day ahead.

DAY 2 - Buttermere to Wasdale: 9 miles 3208 ft.

Ann had enjoyed the descent off Whiteless Pike so much that she decided to miss the day's walk. This decision was made easier when the baggage carrier offered to drive her to Wasdale for nothing. She could also ensure that her clothes arrived without issue.

Today would see us peaking out on Great Gable, one of the Lake's highest and roughest peaks. As forecast, the weather was hot - very hot. Thankfully the first couple of miles next to Buttermere itself would help us to cool down - or would it?

No was the answer. It was boiling. We'd all spotted the path climbing uphill from Warnscale Bottom with dismay from below and after only a few hundred feet we were sweating cobs.

Then, something amazing happened. Jim removed his legging bottoms to reveal his legs! We'd been warned about the whiteness and knobbly knees on numerous occasions but the heat forced Jim to sensually disrobe.

Ken's hat, Rich's face and Mark's look give some impression of the heat. Even my shadow looks fucked. Mark's wearing the hat that his mum told him not to wear.

We trudged uphill hoping that at some point the path and beck would meet and after a couple of hundred feet of climbing it did. It was hat dip time.

This hat dip broke two records: 1) the earliest ever hat dip in a day and 2) the most amount of water left in the hat on refitting. It was fantastic with the only minor problem being that it was so hot that the hat and top soon dried out.

Looking down to Buttermere and Warnscale Bottom. Haystacks is the rocky peak to the left.

I decided to fill one of my empty water bottles with mountain beck water which looked fantastically clear. Alison however decided that I'd obviously suffer from an awful stomach bug due to drinking litres of sheep piss. Would she be right?

Nearing Dubs Quarry. Rich's head is now even redder. Jim looks pale again. Gordon's t-shirt is see through.

Mike and Jane were struggling due to the heat and their faces dropped as we reached the top of the path. The summit of Brandreth was a good 800ft further uphill and we no longer had any protection from the sun now that we'd lost the protective slopes of Fleetwith Pike behind us. This would be a toughie.

Mike looks for an escape. Jane wants to die. Nobody is interested in the fact that Great Gable is now visible.

Jim confessed that he'd considered calling it a day due to the heat but decided to battle on like the dogged individual he is.

We headed for Brandreth in the usual dribs and drabs or should it be drips and drops? Mike was looking rather pale which was a concern as everyone else's faces were the same colour as Hellboy. We eventually reached the summit of Brandreth, and the first Wainwright of the day, where Mike and Jane decided to opt for the lower level Moses Trod route and miss out the two Gables. Gordon, still with marriage in his sights, decided to join Jane and miss out on the day's high point.

Gordon and John stare in awe at Gable but it was all downhill from now on for Gordon and uphill for John. Jane's thinking about what to wear in Barcelona.

I'm sure I remember there being a breeze on the summit of Brandreth but this may have been caused by heatstroke.

We descended as a group to Gillercomb Head and parted ways. The breeze disappeared on the climb to Green Gable and sadly didn't reappear on the summit. We all enjoyed the view down to Ennerdale and to the peaks of Pillar, High Stile and High Crag but in front of us now towered Great Gable - 2949ft of rock and scree. Here goes!

Sue looks down to Ennerdale whilst John looks for a high score on Angry Birds.

Team shot on Green Gable's summit. Looking good. Is Ken planning to do something stupid?

Green Gable summit looking towards Great Gable. Let's go!

Shortly after beginning the ascent of Gable from Windy Gap Ken slipped and fell onto large scree boulders which were dangerously close to breaking away. This caused Alison to screech as she realised that if the boulder pile did collapse Ken would be in a rather dangerous position. This was certainly no country for old men.

Luckily, Ken survived his fall and after quickly regaining his composure we gave birth to a new word: 'Kencentrate'.

The scrambly ascent to Gable's summit takes your mind off things and after a short while and three hundred kencentrates later we were proudly stood on the famous summit. The heat haze meant that the views weren't as good as they can be but a good few minutes was spent taking in the sun.

Jim wanted to show Alison the war memorial which wasn't there as it'd been taken away for renovation. Never mind.

An amazing view on the summit of Great Gable - Jim's legs that is. Rich wins the highest point attained by any team member award for the week.

All we had to do now was descend. There were three options:

1) The safe route down to Styhead Tarn. Longer but easier.
2) The crummy route down the front (White Napes area). Shorter but hard.
3) The crummy route down to Beck Head. Shorter but hard.

Being as Ann, Mike and Jane weren't around I decided on route 3. Oh how we enjoyed this. The first part of the descent is relatively straightforward as it passes over larger rocks with occasional rocky holds for hands which then changes to small shaley scree with very little to hold onto. Mark decided that the use of the arse would be the best way to descend which would have been OK if it hadn't thrown up clouds of brown dust onto the walkers behind him. John, Jim and Rich powered down to ensure that Mark's arse cloud didn't ruin their skin and clothes.

Down and brown. Ready for this?

Mark reckoned this was the easiest way of descending. His sphincter thought otherwise as did the people getting a spray tan behind.

After what seemed an age and much kencentration we assembled at the Moses Trod path and looked up to 'admire' our descent route.

We could now see the Wasdale Hotel and were gasping for a pint or six. The rest of the route was a noticeable improvement on the Beck Head descent but we kept our guard as a few loose sections required care - especially for those with wankles.

On reaching the junction of Gable Beck and Lingmell Beck the downhill was done. I enjoyed a massive hat dip moment and filled my guts with what appeared to be the finest mountain water known to man. The water at this point had at least 2000ft's worth of potential sheep piss and dungery in it but it tasted fantastic - better than any beer I'd had all week *.

The hotel bar was ours. We sat outside and enjoyed a few pints before showering, bathing and heel repairing. Alison's heel blisters were now so bad that she cried in the bath. This looked like being the end of her walk.

Ooooh - painful.

Gordon went for the scampi.

The weather for the following day was for heavy thundery showers so we monitored opinion throughout the evening and at around 7:30pm decided to book a morning minibus and taxi to Langdale rather than get frazzled on either Esk Pike or Bowfell.

(* - this was bollocks and only felt like that at the time)

DAY 3 - Valley walk from Old Dungeon Ghyll to Chapel Stile: 6 miles.

The weather was overcast and heavy so we expected a stormy day. This didn't happen so we enjoyed a sweaty six miler along the Cumbria Way with a couple of beers at the Wainwright's Inn.

Alison visited the shop where she bought her boots a couple of years ago to try and find out why she was suddenly suffering from heel issues after they'd been so comfortable. They didn't know why it was happening but did manage to sell her a new pair of walking shoes. That's sales technique for you!

John had disappeared to his Bowness holiday pad to check on the aftermath of a weekend party. He failed to return for dinner and had no means of getting in touch due to the lack of a mobile signal and the loss of phone lines due to a recent thunderstorm.

Gordon tries to get Jane to pose for the camera. A fight ensued. Jane won.

The forecast for the following day was good and an interesting day of six more Wainwrights was in store. Who'd be on for it?

DAY 4 - Langdale to Ambleside: 11.4 miles 3196 ft (oops, no it wasn't - it was 12.6 miles\3611 ft)

We awoke to hot conditions with cloud covering the tops of the higher peaks. Ann, Jane, Gordon and Mike decided to take the low level route to Keswick with the rest showing faith in my route planning skills and taking on another six Wainwrights.

John reappeared to take on the day's walk and report back on the state of the flat - He'd spent the night cleaning up after finding a bit of a mess.

Amazingly, Alison returned to the team after mummifying her feet in compeed and lining socks. Is she mad?

We all walked down the road towards the Sticklebarn and split into the two teams.

The initial ascent up Stickle Ghyll was sweaty and tiring. My legs weren't kicking in so a slow plod was to be the order of the climb but as the temperature was cooling as we gained height the incentive was there to crack on.

John, Sue and Alison clamber up Stickle Ghyll. Alison's smiling despite not being able to feel her feet.

We eventually reached Stickle Tarn but the tops were still in cloud. A quick photo stop was enjoyed before we cracked on up to the highest of the Langdale Pikes, Harrison Stickle.

The mobile phone fest at Stickle Tarn.

It was still cloudy on the top of Harrison Stickle but the odd spot of blue looked promising. It was now noticeably cooler and a far more pleasant temperature to walk in.

Cloudy but cool on the top of Harrison Stickle. The curse of Sue had struck again on this particular hill.

The GPS was out for the next section to Thunacar Knott due to the numerous paths covering the top of the Langdale Pikes. We were soon on Thunacar, where there's not a lot to see, and the second Wainwright of the day.

Next objective, the day's high point, High Raise (2500ft). The scenery had changed dramatically from the rocky environment of the Pikes to the almost Peak District-like central Lakes plateau. This helped us get a bit of a power on and, as was expected, the skies were clearing. This was looking good.

Netty models the new range of Lakeland Merkins which can also be used as a top quality snuff.

We reached the summit of High Raise to be rewarded with great views of the Lakes. All the major ranges could be seen and the greyness of the morning was changing to a more scenic blue.

A lone walker sat near to the summit cairn and welcomed me with a friendly 'Lovely day'. I replied with the honest comment that 'I've sweat my bag off for the last three days' which prompted the walker to pack up and move on.

Lunch on High Raise with views all around.

Wainwright number 4 was Sergeant Man which would be a quick moorland yomp to the south east. The view from the summit of Sergeant Man made up for what we'd missed off Harrison Stickle earlier in the day. It was now glorious.

We were now onto the long easy slow descent that I'd promised everyone throughout the week. Blea Crag, or wherever Blea Crag is, was done and dusted so onto Silver How. Alison's blisters were causing her some pain again so she tried to continue walking rather than stop and look at the views. Netty was also having the odd knee pain so decided to take her time but despite this a reasonable pace was maintained for a good few miles.

Mark and co power down from Sergeant Man towards Blea Rigg.

Alison and I had walked this stretch earlier in the year and noted the superb view down into Langdale. The same great views were on display today so a number of viewing stops were had.

Langdale from Lang How. Harrison Stickle now cloudless.

Silver How provided a great new view over towards Grasmere and the Fairfield hills. A good long break was taken looking down into the Vale but we still had five hot sweaty miles to go so up we got and on we went.

The descent off Dow Bank was rather painful for Alison so I offered Alison and Netty the chance to drop into Elterwater and get a taxi into Ambleside. This was rejected - they were better than that. My bitches are the best! (this includes Sue, Jane and Ann BTW).

Rather than ascend the last slopes of Red Bank we dropped down to the road where we climbed again, in boiling conditions, to High Close, where we'd head south towards Loughrigg Tarn. This was an enjoyable section for some but a long hot drag for others.

The final slopes into Ambleside. Nearly there.

We entered Ambleside at around 6:15pm, far later than expected. That was mainly due to a combination of some idiot who hadn't correctly measured the distance and ascent when planning the walk and the searing heat 'enjoyed' later in the day. Any plans to use the hotel pool were dashed by frequent use of the hotel bar. We deserved it.

The low level team had used both the pool and bar and looked suitably refreshed. Time for food and more beer.

The forecast for the following day was similar to Tuesday's as heavy thundery showers and localised flooding was expected. We'll see in the morning.

DAY 5 - Valley walk from Rosthwaite to Black Moss Pot: 6 miles.

It was raining in the morning and rather muggy. Maybe they'd got the forecast correct so this, and a combination of the effects of the previous day, prompted a bus journey to Rosthwaite in Borrowdale and a sunny walk up to Black Moss Pot in Langstrath. Lunch was enjoyed at the pub in Stonethwaite.

Rich and Netty enjoying the ride whereas Jim and Mark look like they're on the other bus.

DAY 6 - Rosthwaite to Keswick 9 mile2600 ft.

Everyone was on for the final walk of the week and the weather didn't disappoint.

Ann had her doubts but we persuaded her to make one final effort - She won't be with us for long after all. Brave ickle Alison decided to walk again but made a dangerous decision to try out her new walking shoes. This could be a disastrous mistake as we had over 2500ft of climbing and 9 miles to walk.

After sorting out various bill mistakes at the Scafell Hotel we met on the lawn and headed off on the Cumbria Way towards Castle Crag where we'd turn left to ascend to Rigghead Quarry.

Heading uphill out of Borrowdale. It's warm again.

On entering the slatey portals of Tongue Gill a welcome breeze developed. The path climbed steadily uphill through the remains of the quarry but the odd steeper section built up a sweat.

The ascent to Rigghead. Where's that breeze gone?

The skies blackened as we reached Wilson's Bield and a brief shower forced some of us to don our waterproofs for the first time in the week. Luckily the showers soon dispersed and we were back to t-shirts. All looked good in all directions so the final march into Keswick would be an enjoyable affair.

Ann doesn't usually baulk at the sight of a younger man's trouser contents but the damage inflicted on Mark's Cumberland sausage when descending Great Gable caused Ann to march off in disgust.

A grassy plod saw us reach the first Wainwright of the day, High Spy. The views were excellent so we treated ourselves to a Haribo feast.

Looks like we have a mobile signal on High Spy folks.

The march onto Maiden Moor was easy. A few of us messed around on the little ridge that shoots off over the valley which resulted in an impromptu photofest.

A few minutes later and Jim had located the indistinct summit of Maiden Moor where we enjoyed a panoramic lunch. This is the life.

Lunch on Maiden Moor with Skiddaw as a backdrop. Ann still can't look at Mark.

All that remained was the tiny cheeky little hill that is Cat Bells. Wainwright described Cat Bells as a hill for grandmothers and children so this should be a piece of piss.

We grouped at Hause Gate and began the final climb of the week to the final Wainwright, Cat Bells. The tops had been relatively quiet throughout the week but we knew that this particular summit would be packed.

Mad Mikey Mcmad and his mad eyes reach the summit of Cat Bells. Ann, Sue, Netty and Mark behind.

A couple of rocky descents followed which forced us to kencentrate again. The views around Newlands and the Vale of Keswick were superb and were a fitting end to a great week.

Looking back across Newlands to Hindscarth and Robinson from the descent off Cat Bells.

We'd planned to take the launch across Derwent Water to cap off our walk but the lack of rain had resulted in low water levels so the launch was unable to land at various points alongside the lakeside. We'd walk - sod it!

On reaching Portinscale it was decided that a drink would be the order of the day so we took a seat in the hotel gardens and did what we do best.

Drinks at the Derwent Water Hotel. That Ken gets everywhere.

After only ONE drink, I repeat, one drink, we set off for the final mile to Keswick where we headed straight to the Bank Tavern. Job done! It had been a hard but excellent week with 18 Wainwrights ticked off (19 for Sue and Ken as they walked up to Latrigg, along with Jane and Ann, on the Saturday) and a few more stories to tell when we reach Ken's age. Mike, Rich, Mark and Alison decided to go boating on Derwent Water to finish off their week whilst the rest of use mooched around Keswick.

This was always expected to be a difficult walk for many of us and so it proved but the intense heat made matters worse. Two planned days were aborted due to the threat of thunder and lightening but lower level valley walks saved the day which allowed us to walk on every day.

Jon, Sarah, Macca and Swarbs joined us for the weekend which added to our merry throng. Jon and Sarah hit the hills on the Saturday and got a feel for the heat, oh, and the beer. Janet rejoined us after her previous week's visit to sample some food and wine. It was a good weekend.

It's the West Highland Way next year and the 10th anniversary of our first long distance walk - who fancies it?

And, finally, here's the now famous injury list:

Walker Blisters Bites Toe Injury Dwarfism Knee Achy feet Wankle Dehydration Old Age
Sean     X    
Alison X      
Ann X X
Mike X     X  
Sue X X    
John   X  
Gordon   X  
Ken     X   X        
Mark X   X  
Jane   X  
Jim               X  
Netty         X        


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