Thursday 31 March 2016

Grasmore and Rannderdale Knotts

We finally had a day that didn't promise rain or snow, so was the chance we were waiting for to do Isabelle's walk she had planned.  Evie had seen what was going on, so wanted to get in on the walking planning front - and had planned a 2 mile walk that would barely have us break a sweat.  Now the problem was the peak she had picked (Rannerdale Knotts) was also one we could take onto the end of Isabelle's walk.  This would clearly devalue her planning, so virtually all of this walk was take up trying to get Evie to accept that we might do Rannerdale Knotts on this walk...

Difficulty: 5
Walkers: Tim, Caroline, Isabelle (13), Grace (11), Evie (8), Poppy (5 1/2)
9:58, 0.0km 0h00 0m, Start (114)
12:33, 2.9km 2h35 729m, Grasmoor (852)
13:35, 5.1km 3h36 843m, Crag Hill (Eel Crag) (839)
13:55, 6.0km 3h57 872m, Wandope (772)
14:30, 7.3km 4h32 906m, Whiteless Pike (660)
16:09, 10.3km 6h11 995m, Rannerdale Knotts (355)
17:28, 13.0km 7h30 1039m, End (113)

It really was a marked change from the rest of the week - calm and warm.  I even found an extra free car park on the way to the one we had picked out.  And then had to reverse back out again.

The view over Crummock Water was great, almost not quite enough to distract everyone from the relentless climb up to Grasmoor.  700m of ascent straight from the car park, covered in under 2 miles of walking but taking 2 1/2 hours!  Slow going at the back, watching Caroline stride away.  Still, a lot better than having to persuade Evie to take another 20 steps, as we did a few years earlier...

Finally it flattens out near the top.  Robinson is in the background, still snow covered, with the ridge between Whiteless Pike and Wandhope between it and us.  Here Isabelle is walking with Poppy, with Evie just behind.

All smiles at the top of Grasmoor, the high point for the week.

From here it's a really easy stroll over to Eel Crag.  Well, it's fairly open, even if 130m down and 110m up isn't that easy for everyone or motivating for the likes of Evie.  No hint of scrambling here.

Caroline at the top of Eel Crag, Well actually Crag Hill on the map, since Eel Crag is to the north, but this is the GPS for the official Wainwright, which is what we're really counting...

More at the top of Eel Crag.

A lovely smiling Evie, although Caroline looks less convinced. A snowy Robinson is easy to pick out in the right hand background.

The walk over to Wandhope is one of those that you just don't want to get that close to the edge.

The top of Wandhope, Robinson far left, and Newlands Hause mid left - you can see the road appearing over the crest and going down to Buttermere village.  Buttermere itself is also just visible in the centre.  At this point I revealed to Evie that I did actually have some fudge - she had been going on all week that the megre walking rations of mini chocolate eggs were insufficient and she really wanted some fudge.  Sorry, did I give that enough emphasis - Evie wanted fudge.  Anyway, on the last day we relented, and brought out the fudge for all - the effect was miraculous as we all sped up with the sugar rush!

The top of Whiteless Pike, with the route up to Grasmoor visible running diagonally up the ridge in the center.

Evie, frustrated that the fudge had all gone, made sure she was the one handing out the eggs.

We finally managed to persuade Evie that we were going to do Rannerdale Knotts as well, which was a really great finish to the week.  Superb views, not that high, and a great Poppy sized path.

One the way down we had a brief hour of family harmony, as the girls made up a very complex and evolving story.  Poppy was the Queen, Grace was the butler, and Evie and Isabelle were the naughty princesses that were always going out on exotic and expensive holidays.

Just to point out how great the location was, this was my view from the sofa, beer in hand, as Caroline read Poppy a bedtime story, with Maiden Moor catching the last rays of the sun.

Wednesday 30 March 2016

Robinson in the snow

One obvious walk we had put off was to get Ard Crags and Knott Rigg - they were right above our house, and we had walked them three years earlier with Poppy in the carrier and actually walked right past the house we were now staying in.  However we knew that this walk was well under the kind of distance that Poppy was walking now, so it being saved for a (more) rainy day.  I had a large scale map printed out showing all the mountains we could walk: we sold Poppy on walking saying they were mountains, and have kind of neglected to point out the official definition of mountain...  Anyhow, Poppy was looking at this, and she suggested (in the way of one who has no idea of scale or contours) that we could go up Robinson as well.  I have to admit that I hadn't spotted this, but it really made a lot of sense - Poppy was also quite proud all day that this was her walk,

Difficulty: 5
Walkers: Tim, Caroline, Isabelle (13), Grace (11), Evie (8), Poppy (5 1/2)
10:25, 0.0km 0h00 0m, Start (199)
12:18, 3.1km 1h53 403m, Ard Crags (581)
12:53, 4.6km 2h27 457m, Knott Rigg (556)
15:24, 8.8km 4h59 891m, Robinson (737)
18:29, 14.9km 8h04 974m, End (198)

One this became very apparent from leaving the house - it had snowed quite a lot in the night.  Peaks that had a light dusting were now pretty covered, and even the lower peaks were white.  This is Evie at the top of Ard Crags, we had to endure more snow showers on the way up, but had another clear peak to take some pictures.  Behind is Sail (you can just make out the zig zag path we did earlier that week) and Eel Crag.

This is the top of Knott Rigg, with Poppy doing her best smile for the camera.  Behind is the route onwards towards Newlands Hause. The descent down grassy slopes was a great chance for the girls (well, apart from Isabelle) to practice running downhill as fast as possible - Grace was careful to be at the bottom to catch Poppy.

After a quick lunch stop we then climbed up past Moss Force and onto the wonderfully named High Snockrigg.  This had the distinction of being marked as a bog on the map, rather than just being an unofficial bog (as most of the fells are this time of year).  It was really quite wet, picking a path through really sapped the energy of the kids - even Isabelle was right at the back.

Still, this was the reward after another climb up - Robinson.  Here looking towards Dale Head on the right and Hindscarth (now looking very white) from the day before.

We spent quite a bit of time at the top - with Isabelle and Caroline mainly taking it easy, and Grace and Evie making snowmen.

Twenty minutes later, and we have the results!  The hats did come home with us, but I'm hopeful that they lasted for long enough to raise a smile with other walkers out over Easter.

The long walk back from Robinson, as the snow ran out.

A great illustration of the kind of route down that Evie loves - I had no idea where she is at this point, and just have to trust that she doesn't bound off a cliff...  Caroline hates this and is typically at the back, generally slower than my helping Poppy.  It really won't be long until Poppy is racing Evie down.

By now it flattened out, but this shows Evie's appreciation for the way down!  There was around another hour of walking after this photo, back to the house, for our latest finish time.  Due to the flood damage we had to take the road way back, rather than cross country over a missing footbridge.

Tuesday 29 March 2016

Dale Head

The second walk we did from the house: another one where we had an ambition to do the full horseshoe, but had the option after High Spy to come back along the valley.  That's what Caroline and I had done on a very wet and windy day in October 2013, when we parked at Little Town.

Difficulty: 6
Walkers: Tim, Caroline, Isabelle (13), Grace (11), Evie (8), Poppy (5 1/2)
10:38, 0.0km 0h00 0m, Start (197)
12:39, 4.3km 2h01 436m, Maiden Moor (575)
13:30, 6.5km 2h51 547m, High Spy (653)
15:04, 9.0km 4h26 834m, Dale Head (753)
15:48, 10.8km 5h10 909m, Hindscarth (727)
18:19, 16.3km 7h40 978m, End (197)

This time we walked across the valley from home, past the small car park at Little Town, and then up to Maiden Moor. Even Grace had remembered to bring her camera, and it was nice enough to take a picture!

Hmm, what did I say about it being nice?  At the top of Maiden Moor it was snowing (again), hailing (again), and very windy.

Still, shower fronts pass, and there were occasional breaks before the next one came through.  This was looking back towards Maiden Moor, with Bassenthwaite in the background.

After several more sideways snow showers we made it to High Spy.  It was past lunchtime, with the best cover available the cairn at the top, so we hunkered down for a quick snack.  It's amazing how much less you eat when it's like this.  Grace's hat clearly shows the prevailing wind conditions.

We reached the potential point to turn back at Dale Head Tarn, but a quick word of encouragement from Caroline and we were up!  If only it were that easy...  So, after lots of encouragement, threats, walking off and abandoning, holding hands and pulling along, etc. we made it to the top of Dale Head.  Luckily the weather had cleared, so we got amazing views down the valley - we'd walked up the right hand ridge in this photo, our house is near the clump of white houses to the far end, at the bottom of the fell side rising up.

Caroline, taking one of many pictures, genuine evidence of sun hitting our faces!

This is the cairn at the top of Dale Head - Grace (following on from previous walks above Wast Water) made the largest snowman she could with what was around, slim pickings really.

The reward for walking faster is you get to rest and wait for everyone else!  Isabelle and Grace sheltering from the wind at the top of Hindscath.

By this point in the week they really have photo fatigue, so getting a posed shot like this is quite rare.  Grace is even almost compliant, but withholding her face out of residual protest.

So the way back down was fun!  On the way up Caroline was easily the fastest, having trained in secret for weeks (well, doing the Cambridge Half Marathon), and Evie was typically lagging at the back.  However on the downhills the order was reversed - you can just about see Evie in the distance here, and over this kind of terrain Caroline was just about keeping up.  However, anything you need your hands for Evie would bound and skip and be away - Caroline would then become painfully slow!

It's almost impossible to get photos to show some of the great paths, but this one almost gets it - there was quite a steep fell side dropping down straight off the path, which was pretty narrow and disappeared in places.  My real worry was Poppy, who was absolutely fine - she only tripped over a rock once on this path when she was distracted by me warning her to be careful...  This photo also shows Maiden Moor on the ridge to the right, and Keswick in the distance.

This was the longest walk with all the family we've done, at just over 10 miles, pretty impressive for Poppy at 5 1/2.

Monday 28 March 2016

Grisedale Pike

One thing I had tried to do for this week was involve Isabelle and Grace in route planning.  Isabelle had planned quite an ambitious walk, but Grace's was a bit shorter and lower, so given the weather forecast was supposed to be better at the end of the week we delayed Isabelle's walk and did Grace's.  I had hoped they would also navigate, and Grace did a bit but generally got bored and frustrated by the map blowing around in the wind.  For this walk we drove up Newlands Pass to Buttermere, then marked at the top of Crummock Water.  We had a chat to a guy out walking his dog at the car park, who warned caution at some of the walks given the conditions - I was very happy to listen but was confident that we were up for the challenge.  And like all the walks, there were easy ways to cut it shorter if necessary.

Difficulty: 5
Walkers: Tim, Caroline, Isabelle (13), Grace (11), Evie (8), Poppy (5 1/2)
10:53, 0.0km 0h00 0m, Start (152)
12:48, 2.3km 1h54 547m, Whiteside (707)
14:02, 4.1km 3h08 672m, Hopegill Head (770)
14:59, 5.9km 4h05 815m, Grisedale Pike (791)
18:14, 11.9km 7h20 867m, End (149)

Across from the car park. we found the bridge to start our walk, then headed up the left hand path up to Whiteside, following the left hand ridge in this picture.

The climb up, just before getting into the cloud.  Grace takes a break, she really doesn't like having her picture taken, but consented for some reason...

This was the top of Whiteside - a slightly uninspiring view

This is the ridge walk going east towards Hopegill Head.

The top of Hopegill Head, and thankfully we hit a gap in the cloud cover to see the view north east - not many more mountains to climb in that direction.  I'm still amazed seeing Poppy and Evie in those coats, since we bought them early on when we first took Isabelle and Grace out walking.

Grisedale Pike was the prize that awaited us, after we avoided the minor peak of Sand Hill.  A nice sit down was almost the reward we deserved!

We had picked a nice gentle valley walk back along Gasgill Gill for the route back, however this was one of the many times we were reminded of the floods from 3 months earlier that year.  Large parts of the path had completely eroded, and left us no choice but to find our own way down.  Grace was leading the way walking along the stream and stones, we really didn't make much speed down here!  The worst part was when the stream was running fast with no obvious crossing points, both sides of the valley covered with thick heather and no paths of find.  I started to head uphill towards a path that was there somewhere up above, but Isabelle came to our rescue by finding a point where it was possible to get everyone across.  Generally getting Isabelle & Grace across is easy - Isabelle has long enough legs and a sensible head to find a crossing point (clearly taking after me), Grace just doesn't mind accidentally slipping and getting a soaking foot.  Evie enjoys it most the harder it gets, so the only problems are Poppy and Caroline.  With Poppy the usual method is for Isabelle or Grace to cross ahead, or stand on a rock half way, then I'll help Poppy over to them.  In extreme cases I just give in and carry Poppy.  Caroline usually needs about as much help as Poppy, although I refuse to carry her!

Still, we finally emerged from the valley, soaked and tired, and quite a bit later than expected.

Sunday 27 March 2016

Causey Pike & Sail

This was the second day, and after the disappointingly short walk of the day before we were going to take full advantage of the nicer forecast.  This was the first walk we were able to do from the house - we'd partly picked the location since we didn't have to drive everywhere.  This was is a kind of circuit, picking up Causey Pike and Scar Crags, and returning via Outerside and Barrow.

Difficulty: 5
Walkers: Tim, Caroline, Isabelle (13), Grace (11), Evie (8), Poppy (5 1/2)
10:53, 0.0km 0h00 0m, Start (198)
12:46, 3.4km 1h52 470m, Causey Pike (637)
13:25, 4.7km 2h31 569m, Scar Crags (672)
14:15, 5.9km 3h21 726m, Sail (773)
15:10, 8.2km 4h16 807m, Outerside (568)
16:24, 10.4km 5h31 893m, Barrow (455)
18:05, 14.9km 7h11 992m, End (188)

We started with cloudy but bright skies, a refreshing relief after the wind and rain of the day before.  A gentle walk north around the end of the ridge to start with, 

Causey Pike is quite a rocky peak on the top of the ridge, very easy to spot from a distance.  By the time we were climbing up here the snow had started, this picture at the top of Causey Pike is a great illustration of how we spent quite a bit of that week - completely covered, with pretty much only eyes visible.  Only Caroline would show her face!  For kids walking in these conditions you really need full waterproofs with hoods, hats, neck warmers than you can pull over the mouth & nose and waterproof mitten gloves.

Walking along the ridge got us to Scar Crags, that first snow shower had passed, although the wind remained.  Still, fairly good visibility, although clearly not a great day to go much higher...

View the other way from the same point - this time looking back to Derwent Water and Keswick beyond the ridge we can come along.

Another picture from the top of Scar Crags, looking west towards Sail and Eel Crag - you can clearly see the zig zag path going up Sail and the dusting of snow.  You can't see the wind :)

From Scar Crags you walk down to a saddle point before that climb up to Sail - the plan was to turn right and go onto Outerside.  We got there and it was snowing again, but found a little bit of shelter to have a very quick lunch stop.  Filled with new energy we were keen to go the extra mile and tackle Sail!  Well, that's not quite true - Caroline and I were keen, since we were there, and how bad could it be?  I think none of the girls were keen to do Sail, and it took a bit of persuading (read commanding) before we started the ascent up that zig zag path.

It was the kind of walk that we made sure I was holding Poppy's hand.  Each zig and zag would change the conditions - either snow at high speed into the face, and a struggle each step to make any progress, or the brief respite from the wind in the face but a struggle to keep upright and hard work to keep climbing.  At one point on the way up Poppy was crying quite badly, and I don't really blame her - however I explained in no uncertain terms that we were going to do it, and that she would be okay.  At this point she stopped crying, but was far from her normal chatty self as we both battled the conditions.  It was a mixture of snow and hail, although at the kind of wind speeds the snow feels bad enough on the face.

You can see a mixture of emotions on this picture at the top of Sail!  By this time the snow had stopped at least...

One thing that amazes me is how quickly they bounce back!  We managed to get Poppy chatting again quite happily, and by the time we descended out of the clouds to take this picture she was (once again) showing Evie a clean pair of heels.

Returning to our lunch spot we walked up the shortish climb to Outerside, eschewing the path that skirted around the bottom to Evie's annoyance. This picture is again looking towards Derwent Water and Keswick, with Skiddaw's snowy peak almost visible under the clouds.

On the walk across to Barrow quite an amazing thing happened - Evie (normally the most hard work of all them all) was really happy to walk with Poppy and sing songs together to encourage her.  It was really great to see them working together, even if they were both quite a way back!