A third annual weekend at Ninebanks Youth Hostel and as before the Sunday was some what brighter than the Saturday, and as before some of us went for a wander across the valley and up to Greenleycleugh Crags.
Two year’s ago it was me and The Adopted Yorkshirewoman. Last year I went with Geordie Munro and the Shandy Sherpa. This year it was the same last of the summer wine trio, but joined by Uncle Fester and the Junior Sherpa, D-Boy. (Although Uncle Fester is on Doctor’s Orders, apparently, not to overstrain himself by going walking two days in a row, so would soon turn back to the hostel. Cynical types might say that he’s rarely be known to overstrain himself by going walking even one day in a row. But not me, obviously.)
This party is the sleep-in-and-then-enjoy-a-huge-leisurely-breakfast-contingent and like last year we would meet the make-an-alpine-start-and-climb-every-knobble-in-the-vicinity-contingent early in our walk. You can see the three of them, lean and gaunt fell tigers, in the distance in this photo.
We stopped to chat for a while. The Hardman had apparently brow-beaten the Adopted Yorkshireman and the Madman into some Spot Height bagging on Hartley Moor. 574m was reportedly a little disappointing and featureless, but apparently 571m is a ‘cracker’. Not content with spreading his habitual scurrilous lies about the weather, the Adopted Yorkshireman tried to convince us that the moors were ‘surprisingly dry underfoot’ which obvious ruse didn’t take us in for even a nanosecond.
As we meandered up the fellside towards the crags, D-Boy, who is a relatively recent devotee of this hill-walking game, asked his greybeard companions about favourite mountain walks. I wonder if he realised what he’d let himself in for, as we all began to reminisce about lone-gone epic ascents, and balmy high altitude camps from the days of real winters and genuine summers. Many of the days which sprang to mind were fairly tough winter outings in rough weather: on the Fannichs, on Creag Meagaidh, Ben Mor Coigach, the Glyders – all of them walked with some of our select little band. Here we are, for example…
…on Tryfan, by the look of it. Some lunatic types, in their youthful enthusiasm, had decided to attempt the Welsh Threes in winter. Not me I hasten to add – I was never quite that keen. The Shandy Sherpa and I did volunteer to sleep in a minibus outside Idwal YHA, whilst they tackled the Carneddau, so that we could prepare a cooked breakfast in the wee small hours, but in the event we were asleep when they arrived. As is often the case, the spirit was willing…
As I remember, they were much later than expected anyway, and then waited for a large support party to join them for the ascent of Tryfan. Uncle Fester is on the left. In those days he had hair and a Man U scarf, heh heh. (Don’t worry, he’s changed a lot – I don’t think his fellow season ticket holders at the Etihad will recognise him*). The Madman is in the fetching green v-neck. Next to him, the Shandy Sherpa also had hair, and an ice-axe with a wooden shaft (endorsed by Edward Whymper, no doubt). Also sporting hair now long since departed, the fresh faced blondie in the centre is Geordie Munro. I’m on the extreme right, already beginning to bulge out of my ‘Giles-ing’ jumper. (Allegedly, I looked like a farmer when wearing it, hence the name. In fact, I was way ahead of my time: even then I knew that designer knitwear would one day be made fashionable by a detective in a Scandinavian crime drama.)
As we continued over the Glyders the party dwindled. Only the Madman, Geordie Munro and myself finished over Elidir Fawr and down to Nant Peris. I was exhausted I remember, but unlike the other two, I hadn’t climbed all of the Carneddau in the dark the night before. I think we had a drink in a pub in Nant Peris whilst we waited for someone to come and pick us up and I think I may have fallen asleep before I’d drained my pint.
Anyway, I digress.
Some of the days we recalled were more recent. Not all were winter walks. Some were more gentle affairs. I’m fairly sure I proffered the third day of this summer’s walk on Hadrian’s Wall with A and B as a particularly cherished recent memory.
Since then, it has occurred to me that we concentrated solely on memories of particular days, but that we might have interpreted D-boys query differently, and thought about our favourite routes for a walk.
I’ve opined before on the elements which come together to make for a good day on the hoof.
On this occasion, a sheltered spot out of the biting wind for a hot drink, and to share some left-over crumble and custard, was key.
The company was good.
A bit of blue sky didn’t go amiss.
A wildlife encounter always goes down well. We watched a kestrel strafing a buzzard over the fellside and on our way back to the hostel startled a couple of roe deer.
Also, peace and quiet is the norm here. I don’t think we’ve ever met anyone else up on the edge formed by Greenleycleugh Crags. The only company this time was a host of grouse. I don’t recall seeing them on either previous, snowy visit, but they were legion this time around. Judging by the number of these….
…we came across, somebody is working hard to see that the moors maintain a substantial population.
Greenleycleugh Crags are hardly spectacular. Nor are they remote – a road runs across the moor just below them. But, never-the-less, there’s something about the space, and the quiet, and the expansive views which is deeply satisfying.
The Shandy Sherpa said that this route had become one of his favourites and I realise on reflection that I feel the same way.
But this is a short afternoon walk with none of the drama or difficulty of most of the walks we’d recounted to D-Boy earlier.
Of course, we’ve changed, and in more than simply the receding hairlines and expanding waist lines not yet evident in the Tryfan photo.
But I think that there’s more to it than that. For a route to become a favourite, some familiarity is required. A favourite route, then, is one you’ve walked at least a few times, possibly on many occasions and probably in different conditions, seasons, times of day.
In the Lakes, a walk around Little Langdale and the paths into Upper Eskdale spring to mind, simply because I’ve walked them both on many, many occasions.
Accessibility is a key factor: when I lived in Manchester the walk from Old Glossop onto Bleaklow via Shelf Benches and Dowstone Clough was a favourite principally because it lay at the end of the 53 bus route and was therefore easily reached from home. Don’t get me wrong: it is a fine walk too, with much to commend it, but I wouldn’t still feel such an affection for it, many years after I last went that way, if I hadn’t had the opportunity to walk it frequently in the past.
A current personal top twenty would inevitably include many of the familiar paths around home, but maybe Greenleycleugh Crags would be bubbling under….
Which are your favourite walking routes?
*But his seat number is available on application.