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Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Two walks with two good friends

Pete and I can’t remember cancelling a Thursday walk for weather for a year or more.

Thursday 9:30 am - from my study window, howling gale and lashing rain. I reckon the cancellation phone call is imminent.

No phone call - drive to Pete’s - he gets in  - I suggest cancellation giving him easy option - he is indignant, “it’s only showers” he says. I’m caught on the hop, but  welcome the optimistic stance.

At Levens rain has stopped but wind is ferocious. We have deliberately chosen a short four miler, but apart from being shoved frequently by the wind for several yards in unplanned directions, we only experience one ten minute shower, and even then find  shelter in a barn doorway, and arrive back at the car dry again. 

Coming back into Arnside we find “Road closed” notices, but the combination high tide and high wind has receded and we can drive through with only one section of flood, but Pete’s wife’s art class Christmas party has been abandoned because most people are unable to get there.

Here, and below as a zoom - distant view of our Lake District National Park - for my USA readers: that is an area of lakes, and mountains only up to 3000ft, and about 20 miles east to west and 40 miles north to south. The second part of this post locates in the middle of all that. 

This  was taken on 28th December 2011. On this Thursday, 5th December, water reached a third of the way up the road sign left of picture. Pete's Wife's art class is held in the village hall about a hundred yards up that road


Saturday 6th December

My commenter Gimmer is my oldest friend going back to school and scouting days. He studied chemistry and went to Oxford. I went to work.

Gimmer's penchant for chemistry led us to making bombs based on sodium chlorate, (I think), and also something to do with potassium crystals mixed with ammonia. We roamed the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District, camping, walking, rock climbing, and caving, as well as amusing ourselves by turning off the electrical master switch in the village hall where our soppy contemporaries were dancing. 

In later years we had forays into Scotland, and G accompanied me on the last week of my GR5 trip (Lake Geneva to Nice).  Gimmer lives mainly in the South, but also periodically visits his late parents' house here in The Lakes.

I still have twelve Marilyns unclimbed in The Lakes, so as a means of focus last Saturday, which coincided with my birthday, we made the long drive to Wasdale Head to climb Illgill Head directly above the famous Wastwater screes.

My day was made when, with my recent membership of The National Trust, I saved £4.50 on parking. Unbelievably, ours was the only car there at 10:30am on a Saturday - so much for my frequent grumpy-old-man complaints about the overcrowded Lake District - we met only one lonely fell runner on our round trip.

We visited the traditional and nostalgic Newfield pub in Dunnerdale afterwards, and then back on the LD fringes we had a good birthday meal at The Eagle's Head in Satterthwaite. Almost what some Spanish guys I climbed with would call a dia completo:  a café  coffee meet in the morning, climbing together during the day, and having a convivial meal together in the evening - we only missed the morning coffee.

Great Gable identified:  location of zoom shot below and a major rock climbing venue including the famous Napes Needle

Illgill Head from Wasdale Head car park - the summit is further back. Our route went topside of trees on left
Great Gable - zoom to crags below
Great Gable famous rock climbing location including Napes Needle. The big scree to the left of the crags is Great Hell Gate

On the summit. The pointy one sticking up above the edge is Yewbarrow, one of the steepest ascents in the Lakes.


mike M said...

The lake district looks very similar to our Adirondack high peaks area, but it appears the tree line is at a lower elevation. Trees well over 4000 ft. up in the Adirondacks. Are the upper reaches here considered alpine vegetation areas?

mike M said...

I meant are the upper reaches in your photos considered alpine areas?

Sir Hugh said...

Mike M - I have asked my friend Gimmer to reply to you. I am sure he will provide a more definitive reply than I would without researching exact definitions of climatic regions.

gimmer said...

not my speciality (but it was one of my father's, oddly enough): the high rocky areas are the best last refuges of ice-age alpine flora in England - although some species on the high plateaux have been wiped out by heavy foot traffic in the last fifty years which 10000 years of nature had not achieved!
It doesn't get as savagely cold for long periods like the northern Adirondacks, nor as hot in summer, but high up it is cold and damp for much of the year, which affects the classes of alpine vegetation, of course.
With its varying geology and habitats, there is a surprising variety of such flora, despite its being such a small area geographically.

That's all i can offer - for a better glimpse, see the webpage:

and for overwhelming detail:

I believe the treeline was higher in the past, when the climate was warmer, but a colder climate with strong cold damp winds and, later, grazing by sheep and to some extent cattle, keeps them down on the higher hills, except in fenced plantations and sheltered steep crags and valleys, where the seedlings and saplings have some protection against wind and nibbling.
So the few trees growing above the natural treeline, even those in more sheltered rocky gullies and on broken crags, tend to be stunted and wind-blown, often giving wonderful contorted shapes (the trees mainly - the sheep too, to some eyes!) somewhat like those on the Oregon and Olympic coasts.
The botany (and other science) of the area has been pored over and documented since - well, at least the Age of Enlightenment and the Romantic era - when the 'English Lake District' became a mecca for curious divines and wandering scribes - I expect the Romans mentioned it in letters home!
So the bibliography, both 'scientific' and 'literary', antiquarian and modern, is staggering - and floods on still.

Sir Hugh said...

gimmer - Thanks a lot for that. I knew you would rise to the occasion.

mike M said...

A bounty of information, yes, and thank you. The ADKS are around 44 degrees N., well south of your Lake District, but it seems the ocean would make for a gentler climate there. Efforts have been ongoing since the sixties to preserve the alpine flora in the ADK's. My trips up Algonquin were 20+ years ago but I can remember being approached by a fellow who fits this description:
"the Adirondack Mountain Club and Nature Conservancy started the summit steward program two decades ago. This program hires stewards to stand atop select mountains - usually Marcy and Algonquin - and talk to hikers about the alpine zone."

I believe I encountered a proto-summit steward!

Alan Rayner said...

One of my very first Lake District ascents was Great Gable via the climbers traverse and around the back of Napes and then picking our way up through the crags to the summit.
Scared me to death. I was about 16 yrs old and would tackle anything at the time. Funnily enough i have never been back up that route.

Sir Hugh said...

Alan R. - Similar for me. Being atop of Napes Needle was terrifying - can't remember how we descended - must have been circa 1959.

Blonde Two said...

It must be a terrible confession indeed for a walker to admit to having conquered neither a Munroe nor a Marilyn. Is it too late to start?

Not sure if we have a name equivalent down Dartmoor way, but I have visited a fair few tors and even more bogs.

Sir Hugh said...

Blond Two - There are 7 Marilyns in Devon and Cornwall, all of which I have done. High Willhays is actually on Dartmoor. Go to:

See also my post 15th April this year and the ones either side. I spent a couple of weeks visiting all the Marilyns in the South of England including Willhays.

You may have more trouble with the 282 Munros, they are of course all in Scotland. I did around 240 of them after the age of 60 so I am guessing you will have oodles of time. You can do most things if you set your mind to them.

Blonde Two said...

Sir Hugh (are you really a sir? - I have one in the family so won't be too phased) ((Is it rude to ask?)) (((Am I using too many brackets?))).

Well that is an enormous relief - it would appear I already have three although none of them in Devon. For some reason, High Willhays has always eluded me - a goal for next year's Ten Tors training I think!

I was walking up the Worcester Beacon when I was five though so feel much happier.

Sir Hugh said...

Blond Two - Sir Hugh Munro listed the Munros back in the early 1900s. My middle name is Hugh, so Sir Hugh seemed like a good Blogonym.

Blonde Two said...

Am starting to feel a bit "local". Must get out more and up more hills.

Thank you for not commenting on the brackets!