Meall Glas

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Ben More.

Another day of blue skies and sunshine! Another marvellous walk.

When we reached this collection of boulders it seemed like a fine place to stop to admire the view.

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Actually, when the others reached this collection of boulders, I presume that it seemed like a fine place to stop to admire the view and wait for Tail-End Charlie, i.e. me. When I finally caught up, I declared my intention to spend the remainder of the day there, or thereabouts, sunning myself, snoozing, taking in the scenery etc..

It seemed like a fine idea, but in the eventually, when the others had set-off, I decided to follow on anyway to see how far I might get.

They were headed for Meall Glas…

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…and some of the party were intending to climb…

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…Sgiath Chuil too.

Here they are together, along with some more vertical stripes…

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I have a feeling that when I first climbed these hills, many moons ago, there might have been three Munros here, and that one of them has subsequently been downgraded, but I’m too lazy (and unconcerned) to look it up.

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The rest of the party must have realised that I was still, despite what I’d said, dogging their tracks, like Frankenstein’s creature trailing across the ice, so when they found a snow free patch they waited for me again.

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The final push!

By the time I reached the top though, only the Tower Captain was waiting, the rest having gone on.

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Obligatory summit photo number three.

If anything, I think I enjoyed this second outing of the weekend even more than the first.

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If I’m allowed to quibble, perhaps the views were a little more hazy compared to the Saturday.

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Three…

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…stripy…

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…summit panoramas.

But I can cope with a little haze!

Amazing weekend.

Meall Glas

Meall a Choire Leith and Meall Corranaich

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When you book* a weekend away in the Scottish Highlands, at the tail end of winter, months in advance, you are inevitably making yourself a hostage to fortune. Over many annual visits to the Killin area, our group of old friends have enjoyed quite variable weather, with days out memorable for both fine conditions but also sometimes for some pretty wild and unpleasant wind, rain, hail, snow – not necessarily all at the same time. We have never however, experienced a weekend on a par with this year’s superb trip. Days like these come far and few between.

On the Saturday we split into several groups with one party heading for Ben More and another for Beinn Dorain. The Tower Captain and I meanwhile opted for the two ‘spare’ hills at the North-Western end of the Ben Lawers range. This has the advantage of a very high start, although the road past Lochan na Lairige eventually became impassable and we first helped to push another car which was stuck and then had some dodgy manoeuvres of our own to negotiate before we found a good place to park off the road.

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Lochan na Lairige

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Lochan na Lairige panorama.

I took lots of panoramas. All of them, to a greater or lesser extent, have these vertical lines across them, but I’ve included them anyway because I think they give a better idea of the views we had.

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Meall nan Tarmachan.

We had to descend a little at first, in order to get to a point where we could begin our ascent of Meall a Choire Leith. That climb was a long old drag (much bigger than Arnside Knott! – see last post) and to say that I was very tired by the time we’d finished it, is somewhat of an understatement. The snow was pretty hard in places. On a previous trip the Shandy Sherpa lent me his Kahtoola Microspikes and, impressed with their efficacy, I bought myself a pair almost immediately afterwards. I haven’t worn them in the two years which have elapsed since, and for some reason didn’t put them on as soon as I might have on this occasion either. When I eventually did fit them, I again found they gave great assurance and wished I’d put them on sooner.

If the climb was exhausting, there was some recompense in the views…

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…with ranks of snowy hills stretching away in every direction.

Even this raven…

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…seemed to have paused to contemplate the majesty of it all.

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Meall Garbh, An Stuc, Ben Lawers and Beinn Ghlas. (I think)

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Obligatory summit photo number one.

We did some hasty mental calculations and decided that, even at my slow plod, we still had plenty of time to include Meall Corranaich.

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Looking back to Meall a Choire Leith.

The climb was long and gradual, and should have been relatively easy, but for, in the latter stages, some energy-sapping, deep, unconsolidated snow.

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Still, we got there eventually…

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Obligatory summit photo number two.

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More stripy panoramas.

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Click on any of the photos to see larger versions.

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Looking across Loch Tay. The two prominent hills are Ben Vorlich and Stuc a’Chroin. (Probably)

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(Soon to be) obligatory summit panorama.

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TC was wearing his own crampon substitutes which seemed to have coiled wire rather than spikes. They worked well, but had an unfortunate habit of coming off from time to time. Here, on our descent, he had just retraced his steps and luckily managed to retrieve them both.

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A final view of Meall a’Choire Leith and our ascent route.

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Fantastic. All that, and we still had the prospect of a delicious meal and a few convivial beers in the bar of the Suie Lodge Hotel to come.

*Not that I booked it. Thanks to the Shandy Sherpa for that. This is (I think) the sixth year that we’ve stayed at the Suie Lodge and it may, sadly, be the last, since the owners have it on the market. The warm welcome and great food there are highly recommended, catch it while you can!

Meall a Choire Leith and Meall Corranaich

Sunshine and Spite on Ben Ledi

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Strathyre and Loch Lubnaig.

Our weekend in the Highlands ended with a day which promised little, but delivered in fine style. The forecast was awful: strong winds and heavy precipitation. We set off in full waterproofs and heavy rain, and although the rain stopped briefly to reveal blue skies above Strathyre and then even a rainbow moment…

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…it was soon raining again and it became a heads-down, plodding onward climb. At least we were soon high enough for the rain to turn to snow.

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A cold lunch stop.

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When we hit the ridge it was extremely windy, but at least some views began to appear again.

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You had to time your pauses for a view though – here’s a lovely view in the general direction of Stirling which is disappearing behind a squally snow shower…

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And then, for half an hour or so, we had a sunny spell as we completed the climb and crested the ridge.

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The sinuous cornice curling away on the continuing ridge was a delight.

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As were the views to Ben Vorlich and Stuc a Chroin.

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I think that this must be Glen Finglas.

Shortly after we began our descent the weather deteriorated again, turning really wild. The wind howled, the snow was driven horizontally and briefly it was very difficult to see the rest of the group ahead. Dropping down into Stank Glen we encountered deep drifted snow and for a while the descent was almost as much hard work as the ascent had been. Somewhere on the way down Grandfather Sheffield and I lost the others. Inexplicably, we ended up ahead of them rather then behind, but met them again just below these impressive waterfalls on Stank Burn.

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Garbh Uisge.

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Our route.

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One last blather before heading off for our respective homes.

Sometimes there can be a fine line between a great day and a poor day. The forecast hadn’t been good, and in the end it wasn’t far wrong, but that half an hour on the ridge made the day. One to treasure.

Sunshine and Spite on Ben Ledi

Wansfell in the Snow

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B was invited to spend a day as a guest of Morecambe FC. Training in the morning, watching the match (against AFC Wimbledon) in the afternoon. I was tempted to join him in the afternoon, I haven’t been to watch Morecambe since they moved into their new ground, which was quite some time ago. But then, the forecast was for sunshine. There was snow on the hills. The temptation was too much.

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It’s just recently dawned on me that, in the same way that I used to manage to fit a pretty good walk in by setting off ridiculously early and then aiming to be home for lunch, now that weekend mornings are dominated by sporting fixtures and/or training for the boys, I can still accommodate a half decent stroll by setting off at lunchtime.

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So that’s what I did. It was around one o’clock when I parked in a little pull-off by Trout Beck (the stream) and set-off up into Troutbeck (the village).

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I like Troutbeck, it’s a handsome place, especially when the sun shines and there’s some white stuff about to enhance the views.

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Nanny Lane climbs out of the village towards Wansfell and Baystones. It was quite busy, although most people seemed to be heading the other way – back down into the valley.

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I kept right, sticking with the lane rather then making a bee-line for Wansfell Pike and when the lane ended and the right-of-way heads up-hill via a stile, I stuck with the wall – just to ring the changes really.

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Red Screes, Broad End, Stony Cove Pike.

On Baystones I was finally exposed to the full force of the wind. It was fairly fierce. So much so that taking photos was quite challenging. I put my rucksack down, and even though it was encumbered with a full load of extra clothing, a virtually full water bottle, ice-axe (unnecessary), micro-spikes (uncalled for) etc, it blew away and I had to chase after it.

Looking at the map I realise that, so tempting is it to climb Stony Cove Pike from the top of the Kirkstone Pass, that I’ve never explored the ridges it throws down into the Troutbeck valley. Broad End – prominent in this picture – is a continuation of the St. Raven’s Edge ridge which I’ve climbed many times from the Kirkstone and I suppose that Baystones and Wansfell Pike are the further continuation of that ridge. There’s definitely scope here for a Troutbeck horseshoe, maybe starting and finishing at Troutbeck Bridge. Hmmmm. If I ever have both the time and the energy…..

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Froswick, Ill Bell, Yoke.

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Looking along the ridge towards Wansfell Pike it was clear that the slopes were being regularly scoured by spindrift. So having had a free, outdoor-gym work-out courtesy of the ascent, I know enjoyed a complementary exfoliating face wash. It was a bit rough going, but still on the enjoyable side of invigorating.

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And the views were pretty good. Especially of the Fairfield Horseshoe which was catching the sun to good advantage.

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Looking back to Baystones.

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Like Black Fell, Wansfell Pike has something of a grandstand view of Windermere. My first walks in the Lake District were somewhere above Windermere, when we were holidaying in Garange-Over-Sands – in about 1978 I think. Wonder if we came up here?

It had been my intention to loop back to Nanny Lane and hence return to the car. But, fortuitously, when I came across a signpost indicating a permission path not shown on my 1:25000, a couple with a newer map showed me that it linked up to another lane, the Hundreds Road, which would take me down to Robin Lane and give a more satisfying circuit. So naturally, I took that.

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The light, and the views across Windermere to the Coniston Fells were lovely.

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Down at the southern end of Windermere, Gummer How was catching the last of the sunshine. But I was using my new camera’s powerful zoom to take a closer look at the islands in the middle of the lake – we’re hoping to be back to explore some of the islands in our inflatable canoes this summer, hopefully on a less windy day than last time.

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Of course, one advantage of a late start is that you inevitably have a late finish too. I think if I’d been half an hour later it would have been really spectacular.

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But I’m not complaining.

Wansfell and Baystones

Wansfell in the Snow

Sunday Morning Snowman

Sunday morning snow

Last weekend, and Sunday morning brought two surprises: a covering of snow and a brief spell of blue skies and some sunshine. I was up early to try and catch up on some work, but the kids rescued me by suggesting we ought to be outside in the snow.

It was only seven o’clock and I was a little concerned about the kids waking our neighbours, especially since the boys had a friend stopping over and they were all very excited. I tried my best to keep them quiet, but…well, there was snow! We don’t get it very often; this weekend, when most of the country is in the grip of 14 foot snowdrifts, we have the Siberian winds, but no snow.

Actually, it was more a sort of wet icy slush than snow, already thawing rapidly. The blue skies would be short-lived too, black cloud was building which would soon bring rain. In the meantime, the kids were happy to play with the snow, whilst I snapped away, photographing the changing skies and bare oaks in the field behind our house.

Oak tree I 

I often take photos of these trees, mainly by virtue of their proximity to home.

Children and Oaks 

They are very handsome though.

Big sky 

Child and Oak 

Oaks 

Children at play. 

Low sun and Oaks 

A had begun rolling a snowball as soon as we left the house. The boys joined in….

Roll 'em, roll 'em, roll 'em.

Drawing an erratic line across the field….

Andy Goldsworthyesque? Line in Snow 2013 

And soon they’d built their snowman….

The Famous Five

….finishing just as it began to rain. We hurried home for pancakes and bacon and fried egg butties.

An hour later the field was green around all around the now incongruous snowman. There’s still a remnant of the him hanging on in the field a week later, testament to how cold it’s been this week.

Sunday Morning Snowman

Swirl How and Grey Friar from Three Shire Stone

Harter Fell, Hard Knott, Little Stand and the River Duddon 

Another early start, although not quite so early as of late: it was long after sunrise when I left the car at the top of the Wrynose Pass, but early enough for most sensible people to still be in their beds on a Sunday morning.

Grey Friar Map

I was aiming to be home for lunch again, so had chosen this route since it’s fairly short and has a nice, high start. The route: up to Wet Side Edge, over Hell Gill Pike, Little Carrs, Great Carrs to Swirl How, across to Grey Friar and then a contouring route back round to Little Carrs and hence back to the top of the pass.

Swirl How, Great Carrs, Little Carrs 

Initially the cloud was high and the views good. The sun was shining on Harter Fell and on the West Cumbrian Coast beyond. On the horizon, the Isle of Mann lurked, dark and slightly hazy.

Scafells, Little Stand, Crinkles, Bowfell, Cold Pike 

On Little Carrs I chatted to a chap who was only 20 off finishing the Birketts. Pillar Rock would be his last, with a Guide: “It’s easy apparently, with a rope.”

I’ll take his word for it.

He had come up the same way as me, and was on his way to Great How, then back to his car and off to bag Holme Fell and Black Fell above Little Langdale. He was, it almost goes without saying, moving faster than me, and I met him again, on his way down, as I left Swirl How for Grey Friar.

Swirl How, Great Carrs 

By then the weather had deteriorated and from then on there were intermittent snow showers and visibility varied considerably depending on the weather.

Wetherlam 

The ground was once again frozen solid. The snow too was hard and compacted, but just about took an edge. I was pleased with how my fabric boots coped, although on the way down I found some harder patches where I struggled. Fortunately the snow patches were less continuous than some of the photos might suggest, and I generally found ways to skirt them fairly easily when I needed to.

Swirl How, Coniston Old Man, Dow Crag 

This deterioration in the weather was as I’d been expecting, since it chimed exactly with the forecasts I’d read.

Grey Frair, Harter Fell (Isle of Mann?) 

What they hadn’t predicted was that when I got back to the car, the snowfall would have stopped and blue rents in the clouds would be beginning to appear.

Langdale Pikes 

In fact, the afternoon was somewhat brighter than the morning.

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I suppose that I met have felt a little cheated; maybe an afternoon walk would have been a better bet than a morning one.

Swirl How Summit Cairn 

But, d’you know what – I was happy with what I’d had. A grey day on Grey Friar will do me just fine thanks. I enjoyed the swirling cloud and the views of white streaked mountains under leaden skies.

Harter Fell disappears from view

Next?

Swirl How and Grey Friar from Three Shire Stone

Woozles on Arnside Knott

As usual, I’d been monitoring the forecast as the weekend approached and it was pretty unequivocal: snow first followed by rain, rain and more rain. I’d just about resigned myself to a lazy weekend indoors, but late on Friday night, decided to check the forecast one more time. And lo and behold, between the two weather fronts, it seemed that there would be a few hours of much brighter weather. I hastily chucked some gear into my rucksack and retired to bed with the Ordnance Survey’s Lake District South East sheet.

Accordingly, I was out early the following morning. Our driveway was coated with a thin film of what had clearly fallen as snow, partially thawed and then refrozen into a crackling, slippery surface. But the road through the village was clear – it would be fine! A mile down the road and I was driving on snow. Another mile and I was passing abandoned cars and feeling the wheels spinning as the car struggled to to gain traction on a short, sharp little hill climb. The main road, when I reached it, was only marginally better. In Milnthorpe, I stopped at the petrol station to ask about the road ahead and to weigh up my options. To the North apparently the roads were likely to be bad. To the South I would find no snow at all.

I deliberated for a while and then decided to head home. I took a circuitous route and found that the snow had indeed petered out in just a couple of miles. Silverdale seemed to be on the dividing line, with green fields on the south side of the village but a thin white-over covering on the north.

 Arnside Tower

Arnside Tower

I’d already formulated Plan B: drag the kids out in search of snow. Little S couldn’t be enticed away from the goggle-box, but A and B were both keen to go seeking the white stuff, with the proviso that we must take sledges and find somewhere to use them.

Arnside Knott from the Tower 

Arnside Knott from the Tower.

In Eaves Wood, there was more mud than snow, and a lot of water dripping from the trees, but once north of the wood we found enough snow to sledge. It was as much ice as snow however and the sledges skittered down even a slight slope at an alarming speed.

Once onto the Knott, the snow was still pretty patchy and I began to worry that I had lured A and B out with false promises.

Saul's Road 

Not that I felt too guilty about that – it was fabulous to be out and they were clearly enjoying themselves, although both seemed to be quite tired, or at least, that’s what they told me when they insisted that I should carry the sledges.

Sledging at Heathwaite 

We kept giving the sledges a try, but it was still too icy to commit to anything but the gentlest of slopes.

Approaching the toposcope. 

Near the top of the Knott however, the snow was slightly deeper, although still with an icy crust. The view across the Kent, of Cartmell Fell and Whitbarrow Scar was wonderful, but the higher hills beyond were obscured by cloud, so perhaps it was serendipitous that I had turned back from my planned trip to the Lakes.

Across the estuary to Cartmell Fell and Whitbarrow Scar 

Along the shores of Morecambe Bay to the south we could pick-out green fields where no snow had settled.

Morecambe Bay 

A and B found another place to sledge….

Another icy sledging run 

…and then we paused for hot black-currant cordial with a view.

A pause for hot blackcurrant cordial

We visited the trig pillar…

Approaching the trig pillar. 

…thinking of heading home for some lunch, but decided first to check on the sledging possibilities in the large open field on the north side of the Knott.

At the top of 'the sledging field'. 

Pay dirt! This was the best sledging yet. A tells me the best sledging ever. That’s her…

The sledging field and the river Kent beyond

…slightly right of centre in this photo, on a long sedate run which will take her almost down to the far trees. Two of those, and two reascents of the hill and she declared herself ready to head home. Whilst A made her steady, controlled progress down to the bottom of the hill, B made several wild careering runs down the steep top part of the slope, all ending with him tipping out of the sledge or crashing into a bush or a patch of heather. They’re very different.

Tracking Woozles and Wizzles 

This photo of the two of them, which really belongs a little earlier in our story, made me smile, I think because it reminded me of..

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Well, I know, it’s not very similar. But it was in my mind because we’ve been rereading the stories together. What a delight it is to have an appreciative audience to read them to. All three of the ankle-biters enjoy them and find them funny, despite, or perhaps because of, how many times they’ve heard them before.

Great walk, anyway.

The next day the snow was gone. It’s raining again now, of course.

"Good morning, Pooh Bear," said Eeyore gloomily. "If it is a good morning," he said. "Which I doubt," said he.

"Why, what’s the matter?"

"Nothing, Pooh Bear, nothing. We can’t all, and some of us don’t. That’s all there is to it."

"Can’t all what?" said Pooh, rubbing his nose.

"Gaiety. Song-and-dance. Here we go round the mulberry bush."

Woozles on Arnside Knott