The Roaches

The Lakes Valleys - July 20th-25th 2008

Terry Jones, Dave Swarbrook, Ken Hodgkinson, Sean Bond, Dave McNeaney, Mike Riley
Alison Bond, Gordon Darlington, Jane Salt, Ann Baxter, Nick Barber
DAY 1 - Keswick to Patterdale

Having spent the last four years walking various recognised long distance routes it was decided that a 'made up' route would fill the void of suitable alternatives. The result was a circular route around the Lake District which would provide a different walking experience as distance would be replaced by steeper climbing.

Eleven walkers, the biggest number yet, signed up to the task so on the morning of Sunday 20th July the team posed for the customary official group starting photo in front of Keswick's Moot Hall. This would be both the start and end point of the weeks walk - would we all come back in one piece?

The weather of the preceding few days hadn't been too great and the forecast for the next few days varied from sun and showers to localised thunderstorms. Could Bond Tours deliver the usual warm sunny conditions for a fifth year on the trot?

Only Ken and Terry had performed any serious amount of pre-walk training. Ken had been spotted on mid-week jogs whilst Terry had walked his favourite Hartington to Dovedale route an incredible 1282 times since he last joined us on the West Highland Way in 2004.

Macca was so unfit that he'd aborted any plans to get sponsorship for Acorns and had to purchase the world's most expensive knee supports in order to give himself a fighting chance. It had already been a tough year for the kids at Acorns and Macca only added salt to their wounds with his poor attitude to personal fitness and, in some cases, personal hygiene.

Terry was unimpressed with the number of tea bags in the teapot at breakfast which kept him chuntering for a good few hours. Would Terry survive the day after drinking such weak tea?

We set off in fine conditions and walked towards the Castlerigg stone circle. This was to be the longest walk of the week as we had to cover 12.2 miles and 3118ft of climbing in order to reach our destination, Patterdale. The challenge of the walk was the Sticks Pass, a 2400ft climb over the main Helvellyn range which would see us descending towards Ullswater. Dave and Macca had been dreading this day for weeks so could they overcome their injuries and lack of fitness and conquer the uncompromising mountain range that was rearing its ugly head to the east?

Alison and Ann kick off at a good pace whilst Dave Swarbs acclimatises to his Scarpa SLs in the background.

The walk over into St John's in the Vale was a pleasant affair which for some, required a quick donning of the waterproofs as a brief two minute shower ensued. The men of the group, Gordon and Mike, decided that waterproofs were for puffs and continued to march on in their t-shirts. The short shower had soaked them just enough to show their impressive muscle definition which Ann enjoyed immensely.

Approaching High Rigg and St John's in the Vale as dark clouds gather in the distance.

It was now quite warm and the sky suggested that there would be no further rain. The walking pace quickened and before long we reached Stanah and the foot of the Sticks Pass.

This was the crux of the day's walk and for some the test that would determine whether the remainder of the walk would be too much. We had plenty of time on our hands so a slow start to the climb ensued.

Nick and a few others hit the slopes with a good dose of vim and vigour whilst Ann, Jane, Macca and Alison made up the middle team. Sean started off with Dave in order to ensure that he didn't run off and get the bus.

The long ascent up to the Sticks Pass. Jane, Ann and Macca can be seen in the foreground with Dave just visible in the far, far, far background. Skiddaw is the large hill in the background.

Just as the gradient eased we came across a large sheepfold which provided us with a well deserved lunch location.

The temperature cooled as the breeze, altitude and the sweat of the climb collided whilst Alison collapsed into one of her famous heaps and prepared for the next section of the climb.

Oh no! - Princess Potty Fingers is back on the scene and doesn't look too happy.

We had eaten our sandwiches and were just about to tuck into our choccy bars when Dave arrived. Dave had enjoyed the ascent far more than he'd expected and was disappointed to find that the onward slopes were nowhere near as steep as the initial section.

Lunch eaten - off we went. Well most of us 'went' OK apart from Alison who seemed to be suffering from her overly horizontal rest period. She struggled to walk at her normal rate and struggled to reach the top of the pass. What could have caused this mysterious bout of crapness?

At last, the top of Sticks pass. It's a bit windy now so on with the woolies.

The 'forward' party waited at the top of the pass for the 'backward' party and we all began the long descent towards Ullswater as one. The route veered through the various tips and quarries above Glenridding before flattening out near Glenridding Beck. The team split again as the quick walkers, which now included a rejuvenated Alison, ran ahead.

Nearing Lucy's Tongue just before the steep descent to Glenridding Beck. The hills of the High Street range can be seen in the distance.

We reached the Youth Hostel in dribs and drabs due to boot problems, urination stops and fatigue. A quick drink was had on the site of the old Greenside lead mine before we marched along Glenridding Beck and into Glenridding itself. We were nearing the end of the walk so it seemed strange that nobody had the urge to pop into the local pub. What was going on?

There were more strange goings on: Nick, who usually suffers from all manner of foot injuries had powered through the day thanks to a set of recently purchased foot supports. Would his feet see the week through? Dave, who was fretting about which boots to use since December, had also enjoyed an injury free day whilst wearing his Scarpa SLs.

A few minutes later and we were in Patterdale. The Patterdale hotel lawn was a fine place to stop and rest and this resulted in the ordering of the first of the night's beers.

Hhhhmmm - beer at the Patterdale Hotel.

Apart from Alison's 'moment' after resting at the sheepfold everything had gone fine. The biggest day of the walk had been negotiated without injury and everyone appeared to be in fine fettle. The weather forecast for the following morning was good so the intention was to split into two teams with one team tacking the 2863ft giant, Fairfield, with another taking the valley route to Grasmere over Grisedale Hause.

A few of us watched the end of the golf before hitting the hotel restaurant with the rest of the team and then popping over to the local for more beers. Alison and Macca sorted out the Keswick restaurant bookings for the following weekend which prevented the need to panic over food arrangements after our triumphant return to Keswick.

The decision as to who would join which team would be made in the morning.

Keswick - Patterdale - Distance walked: 12.2 miles Height climbed: 3118ft.

DAY 2 - Patterdale to Grasmere

We awoke to glorious sunshine and weak tea.

There was a good feeling in the camp and all that we needed to do before hitting the hills was to decide who was going to take which route.

Macca and Dave considered the Fairfield option for a brief moment (very brief to be fair) but decided that the valley route over Grisedale Hause was the sensible thing to do. The Fairfield option, via Deepdale, would require 2490ft of climbing with the valley route being only 770ft lower. Both walks were exactly 7.5 miles in length.

So that was it - decision made. Macca donned his solar powered fan cap and 'Ain't half hot mum' trousers in readiness for a hot day's walking and off we went on our separate ways.

A beautiful morning in Patterdale. The 'A' team prepare for a hot sticky ascent of Fairfield.

After a short section of road walking we entered Deepdale. Deepdale is quite a lonely valley but it provides an interesting route to Fairfield by offering excellent views of the crags of Greenhow End.

As expected the going was hot but pleasant.

Walking into the upper reaches of Deepdale. The initial aim was to reach Deepdale Hause (the dip in the ridge seen to the right) before turning left onto the summit of Fairfield.

Everyone in the 'A' team was moving well. We assumed that the two members of the 'B' team were now well on their way to Grasmere - by bus or taxi.

Speaking of the 'B' team, here they are:

Macca models his amazing solar powered fan cap on the way to Grisedale Hause....

...whereas Dave models a more 'sweaty' look.

The 'A' team had now reached the foot of the steep section which leads to Deepdale Hause. 300ft of steep, loose, scrambly terrain lay ahead - every step had to be carefully negotiated.

The beginning of the steep climb to Deepdale Hause.

Terry, being a gentleman, assisted Ann over the rockier sections of the climb whilst Ken, who isn't a gentleman, rocketed into the distance.

Terry and Ann were forming an unlikely bond. Gordon, who works for Ann, maintained that the vast social and intellectual gap between Terry and Ann would result in verbal and possibly, even physical, carnage. So far, this hadn't being the case. Was Ann warming to the celebrity barber of the Potteries along with his incessant weak tea ramblings? Time would tell.

Finally after much effort and sweat the 'A' team reached Deepdale Hause and a glorious view over to the Helvellyn range. Gordon decided that his left knee could do with a bit of assistance so Terry lent him his knee support which would become Gordon's best friend during the week.

127 years of experience: Ken and Terry pose with Grisedale Tarn in the background. The 'B' team are somewhere down there.

Nick poses in readiness for the final ascent to Fairfield - nearly there.

A pleasant drink stop was enjoyed at Deepdale Hause with the enjoyable climb over Cofa Pike looming ahead.

Alison, after another prolonged stop, felt unwell so took the final climb up to Fairfield slowly with a little assistance from her loving caring husband.

We finally hit the summit of Fairfield and were treated to a wonderful 360 degree panorama of the Lake District. Hills pierced the sky in every direction with lakes and tarns gleaming like jewels in the midday sun. What a place to take lunch.

The 'B' team had now reached Grisedale tarn which, to be frank, has shit views compared to that from the summit of Fairfield. This was the punishment for taking the low road. Even the 'A' team's sandwiches tasted better.

The summit of Fairfield: Great views, great company and great food. Gordon sports his new knee support.

The view for the 'B' team from Grisedale Tarn - Yawn!

We ate our lunch and prepared for the direct descent into or should that be 'onto' Grasmere? As we descended the view changed from the Lakeland panorama to a birds eye view of the Vale of Grasmere and surroundings. Alison was feeling slightly more chipper and was beginning to reach her maximum descent speed.

The descent from Great Rigg (near Fairfield). The Coniston fells and Grasmere itself can be seen in the distance.

As we descended we lost the cooling wind that had tamed the midday heat and things got a bit 'sticky'. At times the path meandered through thick ferns and at one point appeared to turn into a wall. The variation in descent speed was again evident so the forward party waited for the others to before the final stroll into Grasmere.

Guess who was waiting for us at the end of the walk?......

....yes, that's right, it's Macca and Dave! - 'the boys to entertain you'.

Macca and Dave had already been to the pub.

'The Swan?' asked Terry.

'No, the Travellers Rest' replied Dave.

'What's the food like in the Swan?' asked Terry.

'Don't know, we've been to the Travellers Rest' replied Dave.

'I thought you'd said you'd been to the pub' asked Terry.

'We have been to the pub, the Travellers Rest' Dave replied in a slightly terse manner.

Terry was confused.

We walked to our accommodation for the evening, the Forest Side Hotel, and eventually managed to check in. Unfortunately there was no food available in the hotel so Dave and Macca plucked up the energy to give Grasmere a going over, find a decent restaurant, and book a big table for eleven.

Dave and Macca returned with good news.

'We've booked the Ash Cottage restaurant for 7:30, 11 people' said Dave.

'The Swan?' replied Terry.

Dave sighed and ordered another beer.

We drank, ate and drank some more before walking back to the Swan for a final few dranks. The evening sky was a joy to behold but a few hundred midges decided that we looked good enough to eat so we moved indoors until the barman called last orders - at 10:20pm!

An easy day lay ahead but Alison had decided that the day's walk had taken its toll so she planned on returning to Keswick and joining us in Langdale later the following evening. The only easy, and cheap, escape routes over the next few days would be reliant on finding room with the baggage carriers so this was an ideal opportunity to take a break.

Nick, for the second day running, had no injuries to report so so far the walk was proving to be unexpectedly free of the forecast foot injuries.

Alison was given strict orders to purchase additional underwear and walking tops for Sean whilst in Keswick. Others perked up as they realised that 'Al's Cabs' would be available for business if required later in the week. Would her services be required?

DAY 3 - Grasmere to Langdale

This was the easy day of the week - a simply stroll over Easedale to Langdale. The weather was very warm but overcast and quite oppressive.

Alison's plan was to get the bus to Keswick so we were down to 10. Macca's solar hat had packed in on the previous day so he had to resort to a common white cap as a replacement. He did however decide to wear his 'ain't half hot mum' pants which got a few giggles.

Ready for the off at the Forest Side hotel - apart from Macca.

The walk into Easedale was a pleasant but rather sweaty affair and noticeably busier, in terms of human traffic, than the previous walks. There were old men (Terry, Gordon and Ken) and women (Ann and Jane) everywhere along with gangs of kids and their pets.

The sweaty march up Easedale along the ankle turning stony path. Is that Dave in the distance?

After only 300ft of climbing everybody was sweating like a horse.

We stopped for a drink at Easedale Tarn and watched various holidaymakers take a dip in what looked to be icy cold water. At one point a teenage (late teens before you ask) decided to brave the waters wearing only a skimpy white t-shirt and pink shorts. Certain members of the team (no names will be provided as that's not fair) prepared their cameras for the inevitable wet t-shirt moment. Disgusting!

Macca used maximum zoom in an attempt to obtain a saucy wet t-shirt shot. He was shaking too much to obtain any further shots.

Jane, Gordon, Mike, Ann (the winner of the annual Lakes hairy faced woman competition for 2008) and Ken resting by Easedale Tarn.

The path narrowed as it followed the banks of the tarn. The holidaymakers were now being left behind as our hardy mountain types ploughed onwards and upwards. A short steep section lay ahead which lay below Belles Knott (described by Wainwright as the Matterhorn of Easedale) so Sean held back and walked alongside Dave.

After what seemed an age, a brief stop was had at the top of the climb but we were now heading into the clouds so the view was becoming, for the first time in the week, restricted. It was however becoming cooler so the early morning sweat disappeared to be replaced by late morning shiver.

The climb from Easedale Tarn. Sean can just be seen to centre right.

After another gradual climb we reached the day's highpoint and, due to the mist and numerous paths, had to resort to GPS and compass to find the right path. The path marked on the OS map didn't exist so Sean set off over the moraines to get an indication of where we were. Suddenly, Stickle Tarn appeared in the distance so the rest of the team were hailed and we set off on a pathless mission to the tarn. We eventually came across the path and yomped purposefully towards the tarn.

The view over Stickle Tarn to Pavey Ark is always impressive so nearly all team members took a vast array of photos.

Terry the travelling tinker takes in the majestic view over Stickle Tarn to Pavey Ark.

Nick goes for the tough look.

Whereas Dave took the opportunity to have a good dump!

All that lay ahead was the descent down Stickle Ghyll to the New Dungeon Ghyll hotel.

The team split apart which followed the pattern of the week's previous descents. Ann took her time on the rocky terrain and carefully negotiated the crossing of the ghyll without the need of Terry's help.

Crossing the ghyll and avoiding the crocs.

The descent continued with Sean and Nick ploughing ahead. They decided to wait by the ghyll for the rest of the team which gave Sean the chance to play an hilarious trick using the timeless 'squirting water from a plastic bottle' jape.

Gordon, his accomplice, monitored the descent of Macca, Dave, Jane and Ann in order for them to get a bloody good soaking - how we laughed!

Prepare to die Baxter - ha ha ha!


Ann seemed to enjoy her soaking whereas Macca wasn't too chuffed about his two soakings so we walked the final few hundred yards to the hotel together.

The Wainwright's bitter was rather pleasant so a couple or more were enjoyed before a short photo frenzy.

Using your skill and judgement can you tell which of the ladies hadn't walked?

Alison had delivered the goods and bought Sean some smart pants. Macca drank too many beers and turned into a comedy drunk, his eyes and legs were going everywhere so Alison had to almost carry the raging pisshead to the Old Dungeon Ghyll where he could get even more pissed. Stupid boy!

Sean managed to get pissed enough to show off his new pants so, as expected, Macca's camera pounced at the sight of naked flesh and managed to capture the moment in all its glory.

Smart pants. The Lake District's Stan Collymore.

After Dave had escorted Macca to bed, because he didn't know what he was doing, Sean, Mike and Dave managed an additional sneaky one in the New Dungeon Ghyll which capped the night off perfectly.

Earlier in the evening Dave and Macca had contemplated using 'Al's Cabs' rather thank walk over to Wasdale - what would they do come morning?

Grasmere - Langdale - Distance walked: 5.57 miles Height climbed: 1810ft.

DAY 4 - Langdale to Wasdale

Nobody was surprised that Dave and Macca had decided to take Al's Cab rather than walk to Wasdale but the big surprise was that Ann had also decided to take the car. The previous three days had take its toll so Ann decided that a mid-walk break was required in order to reenergise her tired legs. Alison had a full cab - who'd have thought it?

Wasdale was 8.5 miles away with 2400ft of climbing, mainly over the hated walker's graveyard of Rossett Gill.

The weather was similar to the previous day in that it was overcast but very warm.

The walkers and passengers gathered outside of the New Dungeon Ghyll, said our goodbyes and headed off in our separate ways. The original 11 were now down to 7.

The majestic day 4 walkers prepare to set off.

The route followed the Cumbria Way as far as the Stake Pass\Rossett Gill junction. The climb reared ahead of us but due to the oppressive heat appeared twice its height.

We girded the loins and started the slow trudge up to the summit of the gill.

Time for a breather halfway up the gill - has Gordon pulled his shorts up?

The path swung to the right, to the left and back to the right before the final short pull to the top of the pass. The route was busy, as always, with walkers of all ages overtaking each other as dictated by their individual 'rest break' pattern.

The final push to the top - nearly there.

The heat of the gill disappeared on the top and we were treated to a cooling breeze. The annoying undulations next to Angle Tarn were next and as the cloud base was only a couple of hundred feet above use the excellent views of Bowfell, Esk Pike and the Scafells were lost.

If the weather cleared the plan was to take in Scafell Pike and descend directly into Wasdale. The forecast had promised a clear afternoon but the situation wasn't good as the cloud appeared to be pretty stuck in its ways and didn't look like shifting.

A quick drink stop near Angle Tarn - about to tackle the annoying undulations.

On we plodded until we reached the great crossroads of the Lake District, Esk Hause. This is where no end of puzzled walkers take the wrong route and either head up the wrong hill or down the wrong valley but there would be no issues for us men, and woman, of the mountains. The confusing terrain of Esk Hause was highlighted when a mum and her lad descended from Allen Crags and asked Sean where Scafell Pike was. They had ascended Allen Crags in the belief that it was Scafell Pike and after being pointed in the right direction scuttled off to conquer England's highest peak - they are probably currently living under a boulder in upper Eskdale.

We abandoned the plans to climb the Pike for the simple reason being that we couldn't see it. Sprinkling Tarn was next on the list and lunch!

Decision time at Esk Hause - Pike or Tarn?

A pleasant rocky outcrop next to Spinkling Tarn was ideal for a lunch stop. The cloud was clearing to the west with the summit of Great Gable now visible but the Scafell range was still covered in cloud. Cust's gully could be seen on the front of Great End with its famous lodged boulder and all was well in the world.

Ken aborts lunch position one as he realises the ground is wet. The rocks seen to the right in the middle distance were far more comfortable. Great Gable is the peak in the distance with Green Gable to the right.

Lunch was eaten so on for the final descent into Wasdale. Mike began to slow as his right knee began to ache and the descent looked like being another slow one.

Ken looks concerned as we wait for Mike near Styhead Tarn. Lingmell is the peak to the right with Scafell Pike in cloud to the left.

The path skirted across the side of Great Gable before reaching the flat base of Wasdale. Mike was really struggling by now and was glad to reach the Wasdale Head Hotel and prepare for his journey home and a rest day.

The descent across Great Gable and Ken starts to annoy Terry. He's pushing it you know.

As we yomped across Wasdale we could just make out two fat people, an old woman and red haired 'pict' like character in the distance - It was Dave, Macca, Ann and Alison.

They had decided to make a small effort and walked a mile or two up the dale to welcome their heroes. We eventually reached the Hotel but, in customary style, headed straight for Ritson's bar and ordered beers.

Nick and Ken warm down outside the bar.

Terry decided to check in but in Terry fashion decided to insist on a bath, a quilt made from Angolian moose hair, water from the summit of Mt Teide, three packets of limited edition 30th anniversary Chewits and a full body massage personally administered by Fern Britton. As he dictated his wants a rather unhappy queue formed behind him until one of the queuees, Ken, decided that enough was enough and told Terry to 'take what he's given'.

The fallout from this little confrontation became apparent later in the evening where a rather quiet Terry sat to one side and ordered his food slightly later than the others. That bloody bastard Ken had annoyed our Tez by telling him to get a move on - it was just like walking with Stadler and Waldorf.

As the night progressed Ann decided to return to the walk. Dave and Macca decided that Al's Cabs still offered good value for money and decided to miss another day. Mike was pleased to find that his car was still in one piece and set off for Leek.

Another night of beers was enjoyed and off to sleep we went, apart from Terry, who sucked on his Chewits in anger.

DAY 5 - Wasdale to Buttermere

Breakfast was a rather posh affair in the Wasdale Head Hotel with the various ingredients arranged as if Gordon Ramsay was the morning's chef. Even Terry's tea was up to the required standard so as we looked out onto the glorious sunny view of Great Gable we knew we were in for a hot but stunning day.

As promised Ann returned to the fold and as expected Dave and Macca joined Alison in the Variety Sunshine Coach.

The day's route would see us pass over the Black Sail Pass and Scarth Gap which covered 6.7 miles and over 2350ft of climbing.

Ann wonders if she's made the right decision as the heat increases and the climb appears harder.

The walk began with a pleasant march up Mosedale with Pillar looming at the end of the valley. The path than began to ascend up into Gatherstone Head but fortunately a pleasant breeze helped to maintain a comfortable temperature during the 1400ft climb.

Heading into Mosedale with Pillar in the distance. Ann powers to the front.

The start of the ascent over Black Sail Pass. Yewbarrow is the peak over the valley with the Dore Head screes clearly visible.

The crossing of Gatherstone Beck provided a convenient hat dip opportunity and a number of the team enjoyed the cool refreshing water.

Crossing Gatherstone Beck. Terry finally plucks up the courage to ask Ann the big question - 'How many tea bags did you have in your pot this morning?'

The climb continued until we suddenly hit the top of the pass. Ennerdale was below our feet and the route ahead could be clearly seen. Drinks were enjoyed before we began the steep descent into the head of Ennerdale.

The final push to the summit of the Black Sail Pass. Ann powers to the back.

A small scrambly section slowed the team down as we descended into Ennerdale but we reached the valley floor without too much fuss. The cool clear water of the River Liza proved to be another great hat dip opportunity so we spent a few minutes looking into the river before heading off to the Black Sail Hut.

Descending into Ennerdale: Gentleman Ken makes sure he gets down quick - just in case Ann falls.

Drinks were enjoyed at the hut whilst Ann enquired about the toilets - they were locked and would remain unlocked.

Fully revitalised, apart from Ann who wanted to visit the toilet, we set off for the final climb of the day over Scarth Gap.

Right that's it! - the toilets are locked so let's bugger off. Black Sail Hut with Green Gable, Great Gable and Kirk Fell in the distance.

The climb up to Scarth Gap was a steady affair with ever improving views of the craggy north face of Pillar. The Pillar Rock became more obvious as we gained height and was an impressive sight.

Ken pauses to admire the view of Pillar and the rock from the ascent up to Scarth Gap.

We reached the gap, found a dry spot to park our behinds, and ate lunch. Buttermere, the day's destination, was now in view along with the peaks of the Grasmoor group - all very pleasant.

The descent to the shores of Buttermere was relatively easy with only loose dogs to worry about. A grassy bank proved to be too good too miss so a five minute sit down was enjoyed as we gazed over the shimmering waters of Buttermere.

A relaxing moment by the shores of Buttermere. Ann and Jane can be seen in the distance. Gordon maintains the peace between Terry and Ken.

The walk alongside the lake was enjoyed by all until we crossed the field and finally entered Buttermere village. As you'd expect we headed straight for the bar in the Bridge Hotel and quaffed a few pints of wonderful Lakeland ale.

Terry opted for the soft drink option but decided that rather than drink the glowing fresh orange juice he preferred to knock it all over the table - silly Terry!

Jane laughs as Terry cleans up.

Alison, Dave and Macca arrived in Buttermere by bus in readiness to walk the final day whilst Mike decided to drive after deciding that his knee prevented him from any further walking. There would be 10 of us walking the final stretch to Keswick.

The beer and food in the Bridge Hotel was 'bob on' as was the quality of the accommodation. Another excellent night of beer and chatter was enjoyed as we sat outside looking up at the imposing peaks of Red Pike and High Stile.

The hard work was done, the walk into Keswick was an easy low level 9 miler but would the weather hold and make the week complete?

DAY 6 - Buttermere to Keswick

The weather held and we awoke to fantastic clear blue skies. Another hearty Cumbrian breakfast was devoured and we met up on the grassy banks of Mill Beck opposite the hotel. We were all present and correct apart from Mike.

The easy low level 9 miler into Keswick still provided a gradual ascent of 1700ft so we wouldn't be running at any stage. This was to be Alison's first walk since day 2 so she planned a slow easy start in order to get back into the swing of things.

Nearly ready, just waiting for Gordon, Jane and Terry.

The start of the walk followed the banks of the gill and was a joy to walk. The temperature was perfect and the tree cover provided welcome shade from the sun. We soon left the sheltered gill and walked into the fern covered hillside which was to form the route for the next 4 miles.

The walking, on a smooth grassy path, was easy underfoot and the breeze ensured that the body temperature remain normal.

Terry marches on whilst Sean and Alison maintain a steady pace at the rear.

A spot of emergency navigation was required at a point where the path split into two. The map clearly showed that we needed to take the upper section of the split rather than continue on our current course. Sean had seen an indistinct split a hundred yards back so requested that 'Buzz Aldrin' check on his GPS.

The location on the GPS appeared to suggest that we were close to the split so we continued for a few yards before Sean decided to take matters into his own brave, masculine, hands (look, I'm the website author so I can write what I want).

He leapt into action and powered upward through the ferns at an unbelievable pace, ignoring the numerous scratches and snake bites, until he finally came across the high level path - the path that we should be on. He shouted down to the rest and told them to retreat and take the path leading upwards at the indistinct split.

The team catch up with Sean after his amazing uphill run though the ferns. High Stile and Red Pike can be seen in the distance.

The path now maintained a steady level route before popping in and out of a couple of deep gills. At one of the gills, Third Gill, Macca and Terry decided that the path took an unnecessarily roundabout route so crossed the gill at a lower point and walked directly up to the path on the other side.

Dave looking uncharacteristically content after rounding Third Gill.

The route continued along the side of Wandope before reaching Addacomb Beck which was the start of the gradual 300ft ascent to the head of the valley which separates Sail and Ard Crags.

After a short drink stop we began our final descent to Newlands by the side of Rigg Beck. At times the going was rough over dry shifting terrain but nothing could stop us. Alison kicked back into turbo mode and descended at pace and even Ann, not usually a fan of downhill walking, kicked up a decent pace considering her, ahem, age.

Nick negotiates one of the looser sections of the descent. The rest of the team are somewhere in the distance.

Alison and Ken wait for the rest of the team. Newlands Valley can be seen in the distance.

We decided to have lunch next to a disused quarry at the junction of the path and the road. The beck looked so appealing that Sean decided not to have a hat dip but a top dip. The cool clear water proved too tempting to resist so off came the top, in it went, on it came again - ooooh lovely!

Macca never misses an opportunity to photograph flesh so here we go again.

Feeling rather cool after the top dip. Note how the water is seeping into the shorts.

We finished our lunches and set off across Newlands. The scenery changed as the path veered onto farmland, dipping up and down over Newlands Beck, with views over to Skiddaw to the north.

Is this a scene from the 'Last of the Summer Wine'? No - it's Nick, Ken and Ann having a breather by a gate. More 'compeed' than 'compo'.

As we had now lost the height gained earlier in the day the breeze disappeared and the temperature appeared to rise which meant that the final march into Keswick would be a hot sweaty affair - nobody was complaining. We walked through Skelgill and onto the road which would take us to Hawes End and the Cumbria Way path.

Walking into Skelgill with Hindscarth and Robinson in the background. High Stile and Red Pike (above Buttermere) can be see in the far distance to the right.

We were all familiar with the Cumbria Way route into Keswick apart from Terry. A few of us had walked this route on numerous occasions so we knew what to expect. The aim was to get into Keswick and find a beer dispensary!

Jane gains another 'gold' after becoming the only female to complete the walk. Even Terry couldn't keep up with her.

The final march into Keswick - go on team, you can do it! Nice bite Nick.

As usual nobody had bothered to organize a band or welcoming party. No friends or relatives had bothered to travel up to Keswick and clap us home so we decided to walk into the Bank Tavern and order large quantities of ale. We contacted Mike who joined us for a beer even though he hadn't walked - how cheeky is that?

We had completed yet another walk. The weather had been fantastic and the walking excellent - just how lucky are Bond Tours?

Considering the terrain there had been a remarkably low number of injuries, apart from Al's moment on Fairfield, Dave and Macca's general fitness levels, Mike's right knee, Gordon's left knee and Ann's tired legs. Nick had powered through all six days and has now surely found the answer to the problems experienced in previous years? Terry and Ken maintained their 100% record in fine style which begs the question: Should we attempt a tougher walk next year?

Sweaty Gord, sweaty Al and sweaty Ken in the Bank Tavern.

Sweaty Ann (who appears to be suffering from the smell of Sean's stream dipped t-shirt), sweaty Sean and sweaty Macca in the Bank Tavern. Sweaty Terry and clean Mike are at the bar.

Sweaty Dave and sweaty Jane in the Bank Tavern. Dave contemplates nicking the rest of Mike's beer.

We checked into the Queens Hotel and showered before meeting at the Dog & Gun for a few more tipsies. The curry house had already been booked so off we went.

The following day saw a few of the team take the bus to Cockermouth and visit the Jennings Brewery museum whilst Ken and Nick decided that being away from home would prove to be the ideal opportunity to watch Mama Mia together. It is believed that Ann and Jane shopped away in Keswick - or so they say. Terry decided that he would add Cat Bells to his list of summits on what turned out to be another hot steamy day.

The Mexican was to be the port of call for Saturday night and a good time was enjoyed by all....

The Mexican restaurant in Keswick. Terry asks Macca to ask the waitress if can have 6 tea bags in the pot.

The night was warm so we sat outside the Oddfellows Arms and enjoyed more Lakeland ale, along with many thousands of midges which eventually forced us to move elsewhere. As the following week progressed Alison turned into the elephant woman as numerous bites developed into huge lumps - a visit to the doctors was required.

The final group photo on the Sunday morning - back in front of the Moot Hall. Nick sits nervously as £600 worth of camera hangs from a plant pot.

As usual, find below the injury table - anything missing?

Walker Blister Knee Tired Leggies Icky Ticky Midge bites Fitness Failure
Alison X X
Mike X
Nick X X
Ann X
Gordon X
Dave X X
Macca X


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