Beinn Dorain and Beinn an Dothaidh

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A cast of thousands (well a dozen or so) assembled for our winter gathering, this year held once again at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel and, as ever, superbly organised by Andy. On the Saturday, The Tower Captain and I decided to tackle the two hills which tower over the hotel to the East – Beinn Dorain and Beinn an Dothaidh.

The route was extremely simple: follow the path beside the Allt Coire an Dothaidh into the slightly forbidding looking Coire an Dothaidh…

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Turn right at the col for the long haul up to Beinn Dorain before returning to the col to nip up Beinn an Dothaidh via a circuit of Coire Reidh.

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Looking down Glen Orchy.

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Looking across Loch Tulla.

Towards the top of Corie an Dothaidh I was really surprised to see, emerging from the snow, the flowers of what I assume to be Purple Saxifrage, familiar to me from the limestone crags high on Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent.

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We stopped for a while, behind a boulder near the top of the corrie, for a drink and a bite to eat.

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Lochan on the ridge, unnamed on the OS map.

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Beinn a Chuirn and Beinn Mhanach, with Beinn Sheasgarnaich behind TC.

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Looking up to the steepest section of the climb on Beinn Dorain.

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Looking back towards Beinn an Dothaidh.

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Across Loch Tulla again. Ben Starav, Stob Coir an Albannaich and Stob Ghabhar.

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Pano. Click on this, or other pictures, to view a larger image on flickr.

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Looking south-west, Ben Oss and Ben Lui prominent.

The weather was pretty changeable and we had a few showers of snow, hail and rain, but on the whole that just added to the drama of the views.

The false summit of Carn Sasunnaich came as a surprise, in mist I can see that it would be very easy to be fooled by it.

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I was feeling in particularly fine fettle along this section of ridge, like I was really in my element.

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In fact, here I am, feeling very pleased with myself. The Tower Captain took the photo, I don’t think he’ll mind that I’ve used it.

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Looking back along the ridge to Carn Sasunnaich.

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Across Loch Tulla again – the weather coming in.

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Looking toward Ben Oss and Ben Lui again.

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Looking South from the top.

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Ice formations on the slopes of Beinn an Dothaidh.

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Looking back to Beinn Dorain.

I was hoping that Beinn an Dothaidh would give us superb views across the vast expanse of Rannoch Moor, but, by the time we had reached the top, the weather had closed in again and our views were a bit limited.

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Looking down to Loch Tulla.

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Beinn Achaladair.

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Large cornices and the summit of Beinn an Dothaidh.

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The Tower Captain on the summit of Beinn an Dothaidh.

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Looking towards the hills around Loch Lyon.

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I’m not sure what kind of rocks the hills we climbed are composed of, but they seemed to glitter in the combination of damp and sunlight we had, with lots of silvers and golds on display. Eventually, it occurred to me to try to photograph them, but I only took one photo, which hasn’t really captured the effect very satisfactorily.

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When we got back down to Coire and Dothaidh the snow had mostly melted and the late afternoon light put a completely different aspect on the views.

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We sat by the same boulder as we had on the way up for one final rest stop…

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…before returning to the pub for food, drink and a convivial evening with old friends.

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Beinn Dorrain

Can’t be bad.

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Beinn Dorain and Beinn an Dothaidh

Fairfield Horseshoe

Ambleside – Nook Lane – Low Sweden Bridge – Low Pike – High Pike – Dove Crag – Hart Crag – Fairfield – Great Rigg – Rydal Fell – Heron Pike – Nab Scar – Rydal Hall – Rydal Park – Ambleside

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Mist over Ambleside.

A friend from the village has decided to join B in playing rugby for Kirkby, which means I now have someone to share lifts with. Presented with a first opportunity to miss a game and have a day off, I dithered; B has been playing for several years and I’ve missed very few games. I enjoy the matches and recently the team has hit a rich vein of form. On the other hand, the forecast wasn’t too bad and the hills beckoned. I was torn, but you can see which outcome eventually won.

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Heading towards the ridge, Sweden Crags, Low Brock Crags and High Brock Crags on the skyline before the snow. High Pike behind.

I was out early, partly because one of the forecasts I looked at suggested clear skies around dawn and also because I discovered that certain Lake District carparks cost just a pound for the day, if you arrive before nine in the morning, including the Lake Road carpark in Ambleside.

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Looking south over Windermere.

The Fairfield Horseshoe must be one of the best known and most popular walks in the Lakes. Even early on a cold, wintery day, with a mixed forecast, there were a few people about.

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The Coniston Fells.

In actual fact the weather was much better than any of the forecasts had suggested. The weather did eventually deteriorate, but not before some marvellous views over a mist covered Windermere and then a spell of glorious sunshine. Even when the weather worsened, the clouds veiling and unveiling the hills and the light shining through gaps in those clouds and spotlighting parts of the scene were dramatic.

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From Low Pike. Another view over Windermere.

On Low Pike I stopped for a while to take in the view and catch up on some breakfast: tea from a flask and some leftover low-carb Spanish Omelette. (Cauliflower replacing the potato: works a treat. Curiously, radishes are not bad either)

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High Pike from Low Pike.

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Heron Pike, Rydal Fell and Erne Crag catching the sun. I would be on the ridge later, but without much sunshine.

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Low Pike, Scandale and Scandale Beck from the High Pike ridge.

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Heron Pike and Rydal Fell again. Scafells and Langdale Pikes beyond.

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Coniston Fells. A great view of the horseshoe I walked quite recently.

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The long steady pull to Dove Crag from High Pike. Fairfield behind.

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I want to call this snow/ice on the wall rime, but I’m not sure that that’s the correct term. There seems to be a paucity of terms to describe snow and ice features in English, so that we often have to use terms from other languages – névé from French or sastrugi from Russian for example.

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I suspect that these beards of snow are the result of snow being forced through the wall by strong winds and building up these shapes on the lee side.

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Fairfield and Hart Crag.

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The Eastern Fells.

With the sun really shining now, I stopped for more tea. Out of the wind, it felt quite warm and I enjoyed sitting in the sun and listening to the drip of the snow melting.

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Looking back to Dove Crag.

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Great Rigg and Rydal Fell.

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St. Sunday Crag.

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Scrubby Crag.

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The horseshoe and Rydal Beck.

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Hart Crag.

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Cofa Pike and St. Sunday Crag.

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Hutaple Crag, I think.

The cloud, as you can see, was coming in quickly, which it had been threatening to do for a while. There was briefly a view of all of the fantastic ridges on the Helvellyn massif. I would have taken a photograph or two, but just at that moment I met an old friend who was walking the horseshoe clockwise with a small group and we stopped to catch up whilst the mist descended around us.

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Fairfield summit.

I was over Great Rigg in thick mist with no views at all, but then dropped below the cloud as the ridge descended. Somewhere hereabouts I found another sheltered spot where I could hunker down and eat my lunch: cabbage and chorizo soup from another flask, the warmth of which was most welcome.

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Rydal Fell and Heron Pike.

The cloud was swirling across the ridge, alternately hiding and revealing the view. The photograph above came after numerous frustrated attempts when the clouds made the ridge ahead vanish at precisely the wrong moment.

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Fairfield from Rydal Fell.

I took a photo from almost the same spot only last summer. Although I haven’t walked the entire round for many years, I’ve often visited some of the individual tops in the meantime. Unusually, I know exactly when I did last walk the whole horseshoe, because it was the second hill-walk which TBH and I did together. (The first was the Langdale Pikes via Jack’s Rake on Pavey Ark.) Which dates it as early in the summer of 2000.

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Heron Pike and Windermere (now mist free) from Rydal Fell.

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Rydal Water, part of Loughrigg and Windermere from Nab Scar.

On the lower slopes the snow had turned to slush and for a while the going was tediously slippery.

By the time I met my friend again, on the track through Rydal Park, it was beginning to rain a little and it was almost dark. It had been a long day, but very satisfying. Bill Birkett gives 10.25 miles and 1045m of ascent for this route. Mapmywalk gave 14 miles, but only 957m. I don’t suppose it really matters which is right, although the magnitude of the discrepancy is a bit alarming.

And the rugby? They won. And survived without me, funnily enough. If I could guarantee a day as fine as this one, I might even be tempted to miss another match at some point.

Fairfield Horseshoe

No Jokers on Ingleborough

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Pen-y-Ghent in a winter suit.

I felt like I was holding all the aces. It was the day before my birthday, the sky was completely cloudless and the hills had a new dusting of snow. What’s more, I was driving along the A65 with an appointment with Ingleborough. The only thing I hadn’t decided was quite which route I would follow. I’d been perusing the map and some favourite websites the night before to try to make a decision. I hoped to find Purple Saxifrage flowering as we did last year on Pen-y-ghent. Now, Saxifraga Oppositifolia is rare in England, but I’d found several references to the fact that it grows on Ingleborough as well as Pen-y-ghent, not least in John Self’s online book ‘The Wildlife of the Lune Region’ which suggests that an exploration of the steep and fractured cliffs of the western face would be the best place to look. I also found an enthralling description of a route which would fit the bill perfectly.

But now that I could see those western slopes through my windscreen, I knew that they were in a deep shade and seemed likely to be so for some time to come. Knowing that I had to play the hand I’d been dealt, I decided to start my ascent from Clapham instead.

The first trick of the day was to find the right path out of the village and then a steepish pull brought me to Long Lane…

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Long Lane. The edge on the right is Robin Proctor’s Scar which I photographed last year during a walk from Austwick.

Long Lane climbed slowly but steadily and, although it was cold, it was wonderful to be out in the sunshine.

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Long Lane again.

I generally try to climb a hill on my birthday, but over the years I’ve learned to be flexible when work or other commitments have not allowed me to. This year I chose to take my birthday walk a day early, simply because the weather forecast was much better for that day.

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Rayside Plantation and Ingleborough Cave.

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Trow Gill.

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Pretty soon I’d reached the snow. At home we’d had rain the night before, but here it had fallen as a snow.

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Ingleborough and Simon Fell.

We see Ingleborough from Eaves Wood and on our daily drive in to Lancaster, and it has a very distinctive profile, so the view from the south-east was oddly unfamiliar.

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Pen-y-ghent.

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Looking back towards Norber. Distant Pendle Hill on the left-hand skyline.

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From the area around Long Scar I’d turned left on a marvellous green lane which made the going very easy. Even through areas of limestone pavement…

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Ingleborough and Simon Fell.

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Pen-y-ghent.

The breeze was only gentle, but still chilling, so I was pleased, after passing through the gate into the large field called The Allotment, to find a small hollow by a stream which afforded some shelter.

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It was a real suntrap! Everything was coming up trumps. I parked myself beside the beck: time to get a brew on.

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A prospect to warm the hearts ♥.

I felt quite warm and cosy sunbathing here, although there was plenty of evidence that I was kidding myself a little:

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Ice diamonds? ♦

I’d been listening to Meadow Pippits serenading the sun and I think I saw a couple of Wheatears, although I couldn’t be sure. It was great to hear some birdsong after the cold spring we’ve endured.

I sat for around half an hour in the sun, but then it was time to get going again. After the very gentle climbing I’d been doing, the next section was a little steeper, but brought the compensation of even better views.

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Pen-y-ghent and Ribblesdale.

Soon I’d reached the top edge of the great bowl between Simon Fell and Ingleborough.

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And then I was on the ridge itself, with new views to take in.

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Whernside and the valley of the River Doe. (Doedale?)

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The western edge of Simon Fell and Souther Scales Fell.

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Black shiver? The fissured boulder on the left is so distinctively gritstone that it had me thinking of all the rock features of the Dark Peak which still seem so familiar even though it’s many years since I visited any of them.

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Black Shiver from the other direction. I think.

The broad plateau of the top of Ingleborough was busy with walkers eating their sandwiches. I walked around the edges, thinking I could find some sort of shelter, but it seemed to be impossible to get out of the icy wind. Even the four way shelter at the very top didn’t seem to offer much protection, so I decided not to join the clubs ♣.

So I carried on, dropping down towards the prominent notch which is where, at some time in the past, a landslip has dropped down the slopes (hence Falls Foot on the lower slopes).

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My descent took me past a layer of broken limestone crags…

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Which is what I was looking for. So I began clambering around beneath those, in search of the, initially elusive, Purple Saxifrage.

I spotted these prominent plant stalks in a cliff…

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They were much too large to be saxifrage, but intriguing none-the-less. I shall have to return later in the year to see if I can discover what this is.

Eventually I found what I was looking for…

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…but the flowers weren’t quite open. Or not many of them were…

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I’d read that the flowers are purple when they first open, then gradually turn pink. There’s quite a contrast in fact, with the flowers we saw last year:

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Further exploration brought me to a dramatic spot…

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…where, with snow on steep ground, a limestone cliff above and another cliff, of a different rock, below, I decided that discretion was required and turned back.

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Panorama of Whernside. Click to see larger version.

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Whernside and the extensive limestone pavements of Raven Scar and Twisleton Scar, part of the Great Scar Limestone.

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Gritstone rockfall below limestone crags. To say that the geology of this area is complex is a massive understatement.

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The Yoredale Series are layers of sedimentary rocks – limestones, sandstones, shales and a cap of gritstone – which characterise the Yorkshire Dales. In the photo above you can see two sets of crags, the lower limestone, the higher gritstone with gritstone boulders below the limestone.

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The crags at the top of The Falls. In shade still.

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And, on the other side of the gully, free of snow.

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Icicles, in spades. ♠

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Still quite cold, then!

Just along the edge from the Falls there are two heaps of stones…

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…that looked likely to be the remains of some sort of manmade structures. There’s a long history of Ingleborough being occupied, with an Iron Age hill-fort and hut circles and, even more improbably, a very short-lived Hospice Tower built in 1830, the base of which can still be seen on the summit. What age or purpose these small rocky piles might have had, I don’t know, but it’s interesting to speculate.

I climbed part of the way back towards the summit, detouring once again to check out a couple more limestone crags and find some more saxifrage.

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One short climb brought me to the Limestone Load, a level shelf between the two sets of crags which had gritstone features on the surface, but also a long line of dolines…

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Some of which had obvious limestone features…

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I was heading for Little Ingleborough…

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Looking back to the summit.

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Little Ingleborough.

On the descent from Little Ingleborough I finally found somewhere sufficiently sheltered to make me feel inclined to stop for another brew and a late lunch.

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Gaping Gill – Fell Beck falls 98m into the largest underground chamber in England which is naturally open to the surface.

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Gaping Gill pano.

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Bar Pot, another entrance to the Gaping Gill system. An exit too: whilst I was taking the photo some scraping sounds augured the emergence of a lone caver.

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Trow Gill.

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The path descends through Trow Gill, apparently formed by a meltwater torrent at the end of the last ice age.

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Foxholes a cave where human and animal remains have been found.

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Clapham Beck Head where the water from Gaping Gill finally resurges.

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Clapham Beck is one of the sources of the River Wenning and so is another tributary of the Lune, so that this walk is another instalment of my exploration of the Lune catchment area.

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Ingleborough Cave. I haven’t been in there for years, but it’s well worth a visit. Must take the kids.

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Clapham Beck.

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Since I dropped into the shelter of Trow Gill it had been feeling much warmer, so in Clapdale Wood I stopped for one final cup of tea.

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The Lake. Imaginatively named, don’t you think? And – it’s a reservoir.

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Clapham Beck.

Scenes from Clapham…

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Market Cross.

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In ‘Walks in Limestone Country’, Wainwright wrote:

Of the many walks described in this book, the ascent of Ingleborough from Clapham is pre-eminent, the finest of all, a classic. A lovely village….charming woodlands……..an enchanting valley……natural wonders………a climb to a grand mountain-top. Oh yes, this is the best.

I can’t help feeling that in amending my plan for the day I made a good choice. You might say that I played my cards right. Or that I was dealing from a full-deck.

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What’s that? Which birthday was it? Haven’t you worked that out yet? Just to clear-up any ambiguity: I didn’t come across any humorous types on Ingleborough. No jokers, you might say. Which leaves?

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My mapping app gives 13½ miles and just over 2000′ of climbing. Not a bad little outing.

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No Jokers on Ingleborough

Beinn Bhreac

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With another forecast for not particularly favourable weather, what to do with our Sunday? Over a lengthy breakfast, various options were tossed out for inspection, mulled over, discussed and ultimately rejected before Beinn Bhreac finally came out on top.

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Beinn Bhreac had the advantages of being a shortish walk, not too high and, for those with a bagging habit, the prospect of a tick, since it’s a Graham, and therefore, I think, also a Marilyn, (I’m pretty sure that the Grahams must be a subset of the Marilyns).

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In the early and late stages of the walk we also had some partial views of Loch Lomond.

The wind was pretty fierce again and this large boulder provided the best shelter we could find and so was the venue for two butty stops, one on the way up and the other on the way down again.

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The highest stage of the walk was quite wild again, although the wind was perhaps just a notch down on what it had been the day before.

Spikes and ice-axe were once more pressed into service, although it transpired that the steep ice-bound rocks which prompted that choice could actually be easily circumvented.

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As we descended, the cloud lifted momentarily giving us a bit of a view back up the hill.

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Years ago, pre-blog, we had a wander around some of the Luss hills on an equivalent weekend to this one. I was decidedly off-colour that day, but was still left with a decidedly favourable opinion of the area, which this walk has done nothing to dispel.

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The Tower Captain and Loch Lomond.

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Maps!

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Beinn Bhreac

Beinn Mhic Mhondaidh

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A frozen over River Orchy.

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A view from the approach walk through the forest.

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Wild weather on the summit.

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Drifted snow and icicles.

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Back in the forest – and a hint of blue sky!

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More ice.

 

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Maps!

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The occasion of this walk was our annual Highland Gathering of old friends. After heavy snowfalls followed by Atlantic gales our party was somewhat smaller than it should have been, with some people not able to make it. On the Saturday, those of us that did manage to get there mostly opted to climb Beinn Mhic Mhonaidh above Glen Orchy which was not too far from where we were staying at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel, is a Corbett for those who are bothered by such things, and is not too high given the low cloud and strong winds forecast.

One unanticipated difficulty was that the start of the track was closed, due to tree felling and the building of a replacement bridge over the Orchy, but after a bit of a conflab we decided that with the machinery standing silent on the track, and with the new bridge clearly almost finished, we would ignore the signs and go ahead anyway.

I’m not generally very keen on walks though pine plantations, but have to admit that the lower stages of this route, both up and down, were very pleasant, with some shelter from the wind and occasional views of the surrounding hills. Beyond the trees, the climb was steep. Initially, where there was a thin layer of fresh snow over frozen and icy ground, the going was much too exciting for me, but after we put our spikes on, and swapped a trekking pole for an ice axe, I felt a lot more secure and enjoyed the climb, especially some of the less steep sections of old neve which were in perfect condition.

When we hit the ridge, the wind was making walking quite challenging – I was glad I had goggles and a balaclava so that only the end of my nose was exposed to the the scouring ice and snow which was being blown about. Fortunately, almost as soon as we started to descend, the wind dropped considerably.

Back at the hotel, the beer, the meal and the conversation were all highly enjoyable, but I’m afraid I led the field in the Snoring in the Residents’ Lounge Stakes.

Andy, who booked and organised the weekend (cheers Andy!), has more and better photographs in his post about this walk here.

Beinn Mhic Mhondaidh

Souther Fell, Bannerdale Crags and Bowscale Fell

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The Tongue and River Glenderamakin.

As I drove through the Tebay Gorge, the cloud was virtually down to the road and it was tipping it down. So I was pleased to arrive in Mungrisdale in sunshine. The rainbow was a forewarning of what was to come, however, and along the ridge of Souther Fell I had first rain, then sleet and finally snow. The view back to Bowscale Fell kept partially clearing but Bannerdale Crags and Blencathra were well hidden by cloud.

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Bowscale Fell.

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Souther Fell after the weather had brightened again.

Down in Mungrisdale I’d seen a sign warning of bridges which had been washed away by floods. Almost immediately after I saw the sign, I crossed one of the bridges, which must have been replaced, so I knew that the warning wasn’t necessarily up to date, but it was still a relief to find that this bridge…

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…over the River Glenderamackin had also been restored. It was raining again at this point, but this was to be the last shower of the day, and it was short-lived.

Wainwright describes this route, via White Horse Bent,  as ‘tedious’ and recommends the East Ridge. It suited me well on this occasion, but I will come back to try the East Ridge when it’s not so likely to be plastered with ice.

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Bannerdale Crags and Bowscale Fell.

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Bannerdale Crags and it’s East Ridge – looks worthy of a return visit. Note Great Mell Fell catching the sun behind, which it continued to do all afternoon.

I stopped for a cup of tea near the top of Bannerdale Crags. There was little shelter to be had, but I donned every layer I had, so that I was layered up with a thermal, a shirt, two jumpers my cag, a snood and even an old balaclava under my hat. It wasn’t as windy as it had been on Selside Pike, but it was very, very cold. In the end, I kept all of those layers on for almost all of the remainder of the walk. I can’t think when I last felt so cold on the hill.

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Blencathra threatening to appear.

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Bowscale Fell.

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Bannerdale Crags and Blencathra (almost).

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Bowscale Fell East Top, Carrock Fell behind.

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Bowscale Tarn.

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Looking back to Bowscale Fell.

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The East Ridge of Bowscale Fell.

My descent, by the East Ridge of Bowscale Fell was an absolute delight. Bar one final steep step, it was a pleasant steady route all the way down, and the views of the distant snow-capped Pennines was superb.

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Time for one last cup of tea stop.

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Looking past Great Mell Fell to the High Street range.

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The Pennines over Eycott Hill.

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St. Kentigern’s Church Mungrisdale.

A quick peek in the church and then back to the car. My photos of the Winter Aconites in the churchyard didn’t come out too well unfortunately.

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Souther Fell, Bannerdale Crags and Bowscale Fell

Spindrift on Selside Pike

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Another snow-hunting expedition. The forecast was once again for mixed weather: wintery showers and maybe some brighter spells, but also for fierce winds. This is our crew shortly after we’d left the cars. We were joined by three of our friends, one of whom long-suffering readers might recognise as The Tower Captain, otherwise known as the Faffmeister, and also by their highly excited dogs.

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High Street and Kidsty Pike across Haweswater.

We’d had quite a bit of rain and snow on the journey up and as we drove alongside Haweswater it was snowing pretty heavily and settling on the road. But soon after we’d parked we had probably the sunniest spell of the entire day.

Our plan was simple: follow the Old Corpse Road, which crosses between Mardale and Swindale, to its highest point and then divert up Selside Pike, returning by the same route. This had been one of the possibilities I’d considered for the day that we’d been up to the Garburn Pass and, never one to waste things, I’d decided to revivify the idea for this outing.

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Waterfalls on Hopgill Beck.

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Rough Crag, High Street and Kidsty Pike.

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The kids had their small plastic sledges with them again and weren’t long in finding an opportunity to use them. This time, I didn’t wait to watch them, but climbed a little further to…

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…the small ruined, roofless cottage of High Loup. Although we’d not walked far at all, I had it in mind that this might be our last chance of any kind of shelter from the strong winds and suggested it as a lunch spot.

I didn’t have to twist anybody’s arm.

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After our stop, we made it too the pass with relative ease, and then found a couple more spots for some sledging. Once on the ridge, I was finding the snow conditions very frustrating: it was the kind of compacted snow which suggests it will hold you, but then collapses when you shift your weight, which is hard work. At least, it was that kind of snow for me. For most of the party it was perfect snow – firm enough to walk on top of, but soft enough to take an edge and give some grip. Little S, however, had the opposite problem to me: he was making no impression on the snow, but the wind was making a huge impression on him. Between the icy snow and the gales he was struggling to stand up. He didn’t complain, but after watching him struggle for a while, it seemed madness to let him continue and I asked him whether he would like to turn back. He would. And the other boys would be very glad to keep him company. I don’t think that they were any of them very impressed with the spindrift which was attacking us. It’s a lovely word ‘spindrift’, but totally inappropriate for the wind-driven ice shrapnel which stings any exposed skin and manages to get inside every garment.

The boys were also keen to put into action their plan to use the sledges as much as possible in their descent. Unfortunately, Little S didn’t keep a tight enough grip on his and it whipped away on the breeze and is probably now lying in a field down in Swindale.

The girls, meanwhile, were keen to carry on to the top. TBH offered to accompany the boys and so I joined King Dilly Dally, and A and S in the summit party.

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Here’s A sitting on the snowdrift filled summit shelter.

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The view of the snowcapped Pennines across the Eden Valley was better then this photo suggests, but it was quite difficult to hang on to the phone at this point, never mind hold it steady for a photo.

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Baron Behindhand on the descent.

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S and A with poles nicked from their Dads.

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Rough Crag and Haweswater again.

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A modest outing of just 5 miles, but very enjoyable.

I’ve climbed Selside Pike twice before, since I started this blog. Once on another wintery February day, with X-Ray another old friend. Although it was February and very icy, in every other respect this was a very different day:

Selside Pike and Branstree

And once on a mammoth (by my standards anyway) circuit around Haweswater.

A Haweswater Round

We’ve been meaning to get out with the Duke of Delay again ever since his igloo collapsing antics on Wansfell last year:

Grand Designs – An Igloo on Wansfell

 

 

Spindrift on Selside Pike