Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Great Gable from Honister

This Saturday was the first Saturday this year where I didn't have any plans and the weather forecast was good. So I knew I had to get outdoors and I really wanted to get up a proper mountain as I've only climbed to the top of one 'proper' mountain so far this year. Nicky had no university lectures and also wanted to get out of the house and take a break from her constant study. I am really trying to get the walks on the website written up at the moment. For years there have been too many pages unfinished which has always upset me. The only problem is that a lot of the unwritten pages are from walks I did several years ago and never go the time to write up. Remembering these walks can be very difficult and I am not a fan of websites, guide books or any other walk directions written by people who haven't actually done the walk themselves. I've always been proud of knowing every single walk written up on my website I have done myself. I have decided therefore that instead of trying to remember these old walks I will instead re-visit as many of them as possible. One popular mountain I climbed several years ago but haven't since is Great Gable. On a sunny day several years ago me and my friend Woody decided to climb Great Gable from Honister. It was a great day until we got to the final ascent and the cloud came in and covered the mountain plateau of Great Gable. Being foolish and naive I decided to guess the direction of our descent route off the summit . Instead of descending to Windy Gap to return to Honister via Great Gable I accidentally led us down to Styhead Tarn. We walked back via Seathwaite and Seatoller which added several extra miles to the walk. Luckily Woody is the one friend who would just laugh this off and made the best of what was still a great day out. I certainly learned my lesson that day and have since always taken a compass bearing and used the map to get off summits in similar situations. So a return to the popular Great Gable was chosen.

Gable Crag on Great Gable from Green Gable

The north western corner of the Lake District National Park is not the easiest to get to, and Honister is now exception. Working out the fuel price when I got home I realised that with petrol prices as they are at the moment it cost us £45 in fuel to get to Honister and back from South Manchester. Add £5 for parking and you soon see why I smirk when people tell me hill walking is free. I have to say though it is the best way to spend £50. We set off quite late as I had a few things to take to the Post Office. The weather was blue skies and sunshine all the way. Nicky was constantly telling me off and to keep my eye on my speedometer and the road ahead while I was distracted by the usual suspects. Winter Hill rarely in view and usually shrouded in low cloud, today looked like someone had install polarising windows in my car as it looked so defined against a dark blue background. The Howgills, probably my favourite view from a car window outside of Scotland, looked incredible and were dotted with paragliders whose wings looked like huge feathers falling from the sky. Blencathra and its eye catching ridges looked higher than normal as the crisp clear air gave amazing clarity. We drove through Keswick where on a clear day when I can see the mountains from the streets all I can think to myself is "I would love to live here". We drove along the narrow road through Borrowdale in fear of meeting and having to share the narrow road with one of the double decker Borrowdale Rambler buses. When we reached Honister we found the car park was full so had to park on an area just above the car park which was  littered with worryingly sharp slate. We paid our parking in the mine shop and met a friendly shop assistant who told us where the Grey Knotts ascent path starts from as it wasn't too clear. There are the obvious ascent paths to Moses Trod that go up via the old incline and the mine road but I wanted to ascend Grey Knotts first and walk along the ridge to Great Gable passing over Grey Knotts, Brandreth and Green Gable.

Nicky on Great Gable above Beck Head

We walked to the left side of the mine buildings and found the hidden stile over the fence. The path was well laid and ascended the hill following a fence on the right. Skylarks flew above us as we kept stopping to look back over the fascinating Honister Pass and Honister Slate Mine. The path got fairly rough as it approached a crag and a hands on scramble was required at one point and a tight squeeze through a narrow gully. After that the going was fairly easy. Nicky played with tadpoles and frogs in the many pools of water. We crossed the stile over the fence then ascended to the crags on the summit of Grey Knotts. Over to the right hand side was the highest point on Grey Knotts from which there was a great view down into both Ennerdale and Buttermere. We made our way along the ridge to Brandreth where it was impossible to know which of around a dozen rocky knolls was the highest. We descended to Gillercomb and sat behind a rock sheltered from the wind and ate the tasty sandwiches that Nicky made while I was at the Post Office in the morning. The place we chose to stop gave us a great view across Gillercomb and Sour Milk Gill to Borrowdale and beyond. After lunch we ascended Green Gable. The summit of Green Gable gave us an overwhelming view of the huge Gable Crag. We descended the path to Windy Gap which was not easy, the path was very steep with very fine and loose scree. Windy Gap was a great though, the views on either side were awesome. Looking south east down Aaron Slack across Styhead Tarn and beyond, then looking north west over Stone Cove into Ennerdale. We set off up the ascent of Great gable which we knew would be the toughest part of the day. We are both commuter cycling and loosing weight. I feel extremely fit at the moment and it really showed in both of us. We powered our way past everyone else and were soon on the summit plateau of Great Gable and not even out of breath.

Wast Water from Westmorland Cairn on Great Gable

The summit of Great Gable was great to see as the last time I was up there it was shrouded in cloud and  I could see no more than ten metres in front of me. There was a lot of people on the summit as there was a Ten Peaks fell race event taking place and many of the runners were chilling out and chatting on the summit rocks. One thing I really wanted to do was visit the Westmorland Cairn and take a photo of the famous view down the Wasdale Valley. It was as awesome as everyone makes out it is and as described by many it really is a quiet spot. Only four of us were enjoying this fabulous view whilst there was dozens of people on the summit rocks. Unfortunately it was way too hazy to get a decent photo. I walked to the very edge and was shocked by the leg trembling view down into the screes and towers of Little Hell Gate. We walked back up to the summit rocks then made our way to the descent path to Beck Head. I don't think I've ever seen a summit plateau with as many cairns as Great Gable. I'd dare say ever Ben Nevis has less. I don't have anything against cairns, but when there are too many it can be fairly pointless and negates the purpose of cairns. We descended to a point just above Beck Head then Nicky decided she wanted to go off to the right. It took us down a treacherous shortcut path. There were two fellow walkers behind us who had unfortunately followed us like sheep. They didn't seem very confident on the steep scree and twice knocked huge rocks tumbling past us which was quite scary. We soon found ourselves at the bottom of the impressive Stone Cove and staring up at the awesome Gable Crag. An easy walk back to Honister along the Moses Trod path and we were back at the car. A thoroughly enjoyable day out, a proper mountain and with Nicky for company.

I have uploaded the photos from the day here.

Route Map...

Monday, 16 July 2012

Beck Hole from Goathland

It was the annual Outdoors Magic North York Moors meet last weekend. This meet is organised every year by Steve, our delusional Yorkshire born friend who believes Yorkshire to be "God's Own County where the sun always shines". The North York Moors National Park is somewhere I have spent very little time despite it being less than two easy hours drive from Manchester. Unfortunately Nicky had a lecture on Saturday afternoon and I was out late on Friday night seeing the Stone Roses at Heaton Park, which was amazing by the way! Therefore we could not make the whole weekend. Steve and Elaina kindly offered us a room in their self catering cottage for the night which made things a lot easier for us so we agreed we would go up on Saturday evening and spend the rest of the weekend with them. I picked up Nicky from her University lecture in Manchester. She was late which gave me a valid excuse to park up near Oxford Road and browse the shelves of the Cotswold Outdoor Rock Bottom shop. There were Haglof's rucksacks at half price including a useful looking one with an innovative side on  laptop sleeve inside it. As I was about to pick one up and fondle it I felt a familiar cold breeze on my neck, I turned to find the missus giving me that "you do not need one" look.

The White Swan and village pond at Newton-on-Rawcliffe

The drive up was easy and the weather was looking good, despite reports of flooding all over North England. We passed York on the A64 then turned north to Pickering. The signs for the turn to Newton-on-Rawcliffe in Pickering were obscured by overgrown trees so we took a slight detour. We arrived in Newton-on-Rawcliffe late evening. It is a quiet elongated village on a hill with lovely stone buildings. We took photos of very cute Moorhens chicks in the village pond then headed into the cosy surroundings of The White Swan, the village pub where we had agreed to meet everyone. Robin and Milly arrived first, followed by members of a walking club based in York. Steve, Elaina and Craig followed them through the door half an hour later. Out of character for Steve to be last to enter the pub! We ate delicious chunky steak pie with vegetables followed by bread and butter pudding, washed down with a few points of rather moorish local ales. The guys told us of their days hike. They had been on a lengthy hike around the Hole of Horcum and Blakey Topping. Discussions of walking opportunities for the next day made me realise the guys had all had enough long walking for one weekend. They decided they wanted an easier stroll. I couldn't blame them as if I had done a long walk on the Saturday I would probably have felt the same way. So a route which we have done before was chosen, which I was a little disappointed about as coming all that way to an unfamiliar area I wanted to do something new, but at the same time I also wanted to spend time with our friends so I was just happy to be outdoors and with our friends. We also did the route in reverse and in completely contrasting conditions to last time so that kind of helped.

Goathland Railway Station

After the White Swan we returned to the self catering cottage which was literally a stones thrown from the pub. We cackled over an episode of Mrs Browns Boys then went to bed. Craig told me earlier in the day that he didn't like the scary looking dolls decorating the front room so me being the meanie I am I crept into his room while he was asleep and placed one on his pillow. When I opened our bedroom door on Sunday morning I was greeted by the sight of all dozen or so scary looking dolls lined up in the corridor. Alexander, Milly and Robin arrived at breakfast in time for Elaina's fry up which went down well. After breakfast we set out for Goathland. Milly travelled in our car and kept us entertained. Goathland was sunny and full of tourists enjoying the Heartbeat memorabilia, references and landmarks. Goathland is of course famous for being the filming location for the television series. We left the tourists behind and made our way down to the beautiful Goathland railway station.

Steve bowling to Craig

We crossed the railway and made our way over Mill Scar. As we approached Eller Beck we stopped at a flat oblonge shaped area of grass. This was the spot where a few years earlier we spent a fun afternoon using our survival bags as sledges sliding down a small snow covered slope. Steve opened his rucksack and took out a set of cricket wickets, a cricket bat and a corky style cricket ball. There were no bails so Milly donated a section of her walking pole. The ladies sat and admired the professional sportsmen in action. This was a truly spectacular reenactment of the War of the Roses, or at least it was until the Yorkshire man broke the bat which meant the game had to be abandoned. Co-incidence or was the Yorkshire man scared of the Lancastrian's superb fast arm bowling? With the cricket bat broken we carried on walking. We let Nicky walk through the ford before telling her that we weren't actually going that way. A steep climb saw us reach the path that skirts Cass Hill. There was hundreds of Foxgloves, probably my favourite wild flowers. As we passed high over the North York Moors Railway a diesel locomotive with several old carriages made its way through the valley. When we finally reached the descent to Beck Hole Steve made us all wait patiently for the next scheduled train. We all stood patiently waiting for a ">steam train to pass under the bridge in true Railway Children style but sadly we were let down and had to watch a fairly boring diesel locomotive instead.

North York Moors Railway

We descended the road to Beck Hole. Another typical sleepy and idyllic North Yorkshire Moors village. At Beck Hole is the fascinating Birch Hall Inn. An incredibly cosy pub on one side of the building and sweet shop on the other. Both serviced by the same member of staff through a cobby-hole.  On the menu in the pub was Pork Pie, Pickle & Pint, we ordered several and headed to the beer garden at the rear of the pub in the Eller Beck gorge. Craig and myself, both sweet toothed headed for the sweet shop. The beer garden wasn't open the last time I was there, it is a great place to spend an afternoon. I scanned Eller Beck for wildlife and spotted a Yellow Wagtail and a Dipper both bobbing around on small rocks in the beck. Elaina harassed a few cute dogs as usual before doing some rather peculiar looking stretching exercises. By the time we left the Birch Hall Inn, Craig and Myself were starting to come down from our sugar rushes. We crossed the road in front of the pub and headed along the route of the Grosmont Rail Trail. We passed some lovely wee Pigs behind Incline Cottage then made our way up the old Beck Hole railway incline now a lovely walk through woodlands. Back at the Goathland car park we said goodbye to Robin then made our way back to Goathland, this time returning via the scenic route over and Wheeldale Moor which was very wild. Back at Newton-on-Rawcliffe we said our goodbyes.

I have uploaded the photos from the day here.

Route Map...