Saturday, 23 November 2013

Back in the saddle................November 22nd
  The local TV station has promised fine weather for today, Friday 22nd November so we have opted for a day across in the Lakes. There are five gadgies making up today's team: Dave, Brian, Harry, John and me and we have decided to have a short walk up Blencathra;
Blencathra is also called Saddleback because from the east it looks vaguely like a saddle. I prefer Blencathra, much more interesting and ancient name. There seems to be some dispute over its name, one source says it comes from blain meaning top or points and an element unknown meaning Arthur, hence Arthur's points. Another source  says blaen is Old Celtic for a bare hilltop and cathra means chair (as in cathedral) so it is a bare hilltop looking like a chair. This gets my vote. Regardless it is a high bump for England at 2847 feet or 868m for Europeans. Its geology is similar to its neighbour Skiddaw, quite different from the mountains on the south side of the A66. There are the remains of lead and zinc mines, waiting to be reopened when the price is right. It also boasts a rather frightening arête, Sharp Edge, once called Razor Edge but conditions and age have persuaded us to miss this one out.  It is one of the most northern mountains in the Lake District and the directions from Newcastle are : A69, M6 south, A66 at Penrith and pull off at the side of the road at Scales Farm. The whole of the route is covered on OLO 5, English Lakes North Eastern Area and the lay by on the A66 is at GR NY 339267.
                                          Yes it's a car park again, now to be expected.
We walked back east for about 100 yards past Scales Farm where we chatted to a lady who was walking her dog. She said the weather for the last few days had been cold and bright, just as it was today and most unlike the heavy rain that the north east had suffered.
A finger post pointed us in the direction of the footpath we were to take. Initially the path, which is so well trodden that it is almost a ditch in places, contours in a north easterly direction before turning north west and climbing steeply. At 1 mile in contours again, almost, and climbs gently on the south west side of the Blackhazel Beck (which becomes the River Glenderamackin). Still an easy path, but quite muddy today because of recent rain.
                                               Looking North East on the way up.
When the path reaches Mungrisdale Common there is a cross roads. The route that we took to the summit turns almost back on itself and heads south west up a steep slope. Not only was it steep but it was covered with a thin veneer of frozen snow making it slippy in places. We met a young man making his way down, he had had the sense to bring crampons. He told us he had come up via Sharp Edge and that it was quite tricky, possibly dangerous without his pointy feet. A good reason for our choice  of path! (Plus the fact we want to continue drawing our pensions).

                                             First glimpse of Blencathra top from the route
                                                      up the valley.
Climbing on past Foule Crag, the Blue Screes and Atkinson Pike we soon reached the summit of Blencathra. It had taken just under two hours, a distance of 3 miles. We declared a Herbie Spot. After weeks of denying fatty foods Dave had weakened and brought some pork pies! Went down well with the sandwiches and chocolate.
                                            Snow on the summit, but not beyond
                                                 Skiddaw from Blencathra
                                            Knowe Crag
                                                   Dave and John enjoy sunshine and sandwiches.
The views from our lunch spot made the climb all the more worthwhile. To the north we could see over the Solway Firth to the hills of Galloway, north west to Skiddaw and west to the Coldale round.
The rest of the Lake District spread out to the south, Ullswater and Derwentwater glittering in the sunshine, best views for weeks!
There were several other people out enjoying this brilliant November day. A young lady walking alone from the Blencathra study centre, knowing some geology, a couple of young women who were fell runners. Really depressing people these; you struggle up the mountain only to be overtaken by a lycra clad runner out for a bit of exercise.
Lunch over we headed down, by way of Scales Fell. Like the ascent the path down was slippy in places where the frozen snow remained but the path is a well constructed one, designed to drain and provide an easy downhill zig zag.  Looking down we could see Scales Tarn which was still and reflected Sharp Edge clearly.
                                                   Sharp Edge
                                                  Sharp Edge in the mist.
                                 Last look at Blencathra
                                               Hedge laying at Scales Farm
                                                                                                                                                            Below the snow line (4m) we continued until we re-joined our original upward path and walked back to the parked car at Scales Farm (5m).
At just over 5 miles this was a relatively short walk for gadgies but it had been a good one.
This mountain has been an inspiration to poest as well as gadgies;
                                                   On stern Blencarthas (sic) perilous height

                                                            The winds are tyrannous and strong

                                                         Two lines from a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

                                                      The boy must part from Mosedale's groves
                                                          And leave Blencathra's rugged coves

                                                            And two from William Wordsworth
It was early in the afternoon and still sunny, although a mere 6 degrees C so we decided to visit the Horse and Farrier in Threlkeld and have some ale in the beer garden. Sadly the garden was closed but the pub was open. After a pint we agreed to have another, in the famous BoatHouse in Wylam near Newcastle so off we went. The Boathouse had its usual selection of fourteen beers making choice difficult. Thankfully I was driving ha ha. Discussion over a pint or two ranged over the usual topics, including satire today which was eventually defined as "pricking the pompous". Brian asked how we would define a pricker of pompous Scots. Saltirists I replied.  A good day out all round. And a bit of culture thrown in too.
On the way home the usual bets were made on the queue at Gorman's fish and chip shop n ear Cowgate. Gorman's supposedly serves the best fish and chips in the city. Anyway Harry won the "Gorman's Gourd " award with a guess of 18 customers. Congratulations

The Matrix  MMCCVI   (A bad day)

                                                                            steps                 miles

LIDL3D                                                             17731                 8.0
ASDAPED                                                           3025                 1.42   (junked)
Daves LIDL3D                                                  16579                  7.62
LIDLUSB                                                          15486                  6.84
OUTDOOR GPS                                                                           72,5  (No idea, but on plotting 5.3m
Brians GPS                                                                                    5..2
Measured by Dave                                                                         5.3
Measured by me                                                                             5.1

( I was watching Granada TV's equivalent of Look North, baby sitting my little sister. Can't remember the announcer's surname but he was Mike........)
 Some extra photographs of the walk by kind permission of Harry Nagel, routemeister and excellent photographer.


                                                  Looking west from the summit
                                              Lunchtime on Blencathra
                                                     Brian descending Scales!
Last view of Blencathra
PS. Did you notice that we went without a bacon sandwich and that there is no bird  or beast of the blog. All quiet on the wildlife front, except for a pair of ravens and they have already appeared.
The pies are back!
PPS I have totted up the mileage for my gadgie walks this year and it comes to 432.2 miles with 44 walks, an average of 9.8. Something else to be added in future.