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Friday, 13 September 2019

Ladhar Bheinn (1984)

Following my trawling of the past in my last post I also unearthed this little adventure from 13/15th July 1984 just a month or two after that Carlin Gill saga.

I mentioned in a reply to comments on that post that I would advise youngsters setting out in life to keep records. They will much appreciate that in later life.


Verbatim from my records:

Thursday/Friday/Saturday - July 13/14/15th 1984

This plan was formulated the year before with Tom on our Sgurr- na- Ciche trip.

Ladhar Bheinn in Knoydart is a remote peak requiring a long march from any direction.

The original plan was to take the ferry from Mallaig to Inverie, but it transpired that there was no reliable return journey during the weekend.

It then occurred to me that I had the Mirror dinghy, and with an outboard motor we may be able to approach by boat.

After some thought there were two possibilities. The first was from the North, launching at Corran, but although a short distance it seemed to involve a more open sea crossing not suited to the Mirror Dinghy, and the second plan was to launch at Kinlochourn which we settled on.

We set off from Tom's parents at Grange-over-Sands at 6:00 p.m. with the Mirror dinghy on the roof of my Ford Sierra. and a newly acquired Yamaha 2 h.p. outboard engine in the boot. We arrived at Kinlochourn in the dark at about midnight and tried to get some sleep in the car - this is never a satisfactory business.

After a quick breakfast we launched and packed the boat and we were away by about 8:00 a.m. on the high tide. About halfway we put into a small island to refuel and unfortunately struck a sharp rock fracturing the plywood hull of the boat - this was not too serious, but it meant we had to keep bailing as we motored on. We saw seals popping up to have a look at us, and we saw a salmon or sea-trout leap about two feet clear of the water.

Our intention was to land at Barrisdale Bay, but on the falling tide we ran aground on a shoal  about half a mile out and it was apparent that entry to the bay was not possible without knowledge of the exact location of the channel. We eventually landed at Inbhir Dhorrcail to the North West. The weather had been fine and was improving. By 1:00 p.m. we had pitched the tent and were ready for off after a quick lunch.

We ascended by Creag Bheithe - long and steep all the way - a great ridge with magnificent views into Glen Barrisdale and Loch Hourn. Eventually the way was barred by the daunting steepness of Stob-a-Chearcaill which rises sheer for 500 feet or so in a series of grass ledges divided by almost vertical rock walls. There seemed to be no alternative to climbing this so up we went - it was not difficult but certainly demanded care and concentration with one or two small scrambling sections where moves had to be made. At the top we were in some mist and worked out a compass bearing to prevent us from getting down the North East ridge of Choire Chorrcaill which we had noticed on the ascent. All went well and we progressed  up the magnificent summit ridge with the mist clearing, giving us superb views accross to Skye and Rhum.

We reached the summit and  visited the separate trig point and then ate, and dealt with a miniature of Glenmorangie that my daughter Jill had given me at Christmas, which I had been keeping for a suitable occasion.

We descended by the unrelenting Stob a Choire Odhair which is the North East arrete of Ladhair Bheinn leading directly and steeply down to our camp site for 3000 feet or so. We saw a number of deer on the way. At the bottom we were crossing a grass meadow and my legs buckled underneath me and they were just like jelly - I couldn't have been very fit, but it was a very demanding descent, and no it wasn't the whisky!

We were back at the tent about 8:00 p.m. and proceeded to make repairs to the outside of the boat's hull with Elastoplast daubed with Nickwax, and this enabled us to make our return trip to Kinlochourn without much bailing the following morning. From Kinlochourn we drove straight home. 

I had done a round trip of 720 miles and got back in time to see Jill win an important swimming race we had been anticipating for some time.   

Departure from Preston

Breakfast at Kinlochhourn. Tom has a degree in chemistry with a resultant attention to detail in food and other preperations


Note the hair style

Towards the sea

Refuelling and...

...a bit later attention to damage

Boat repairs - Tom's attention to detail shining through again in this study
Elastoplast and Nickwax save the day

The old Blacks Good Companions Major (with A poles and sewn in groundsheet!)

From well up on Ladhar Beinn

Very steep grass ledges to come

Tom on the summit

I see from this Tom was carrying his ice axe

As is so often clouds cleared as we descended

Spot the tent

Approximate only depiction of route 

General location for followers from abroad who may not be familiar with UK geography

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

"...for whenever men are right they are not young" - e.e. cummings

In my last post (Carling Gill) I mentioned my previous visits to the Howgills but it seems my memory has not just dimmed but been completely extinguished - I have no recollection of the epic account I wrote below but I found my handwritten record whilst having a purge of my books today.

I cannot believe that I set off so late in the afternoon on such am ambitious walk and that we included the ascent of Black Force which on this last  Saturday I commented:

"We eyed the impressive gash of Black Force. I had read about a party having a scary time on that ascent - it looked as though it would need drier weather or commitment verging on the foolhardy..."

Dan was my neighbour and is a friend and a fellow outdoory but with a main interest in sailing. From my memory I know he was not too confident on exposed terrain and to think he made that ascent is another matter of surprise to me.

It is sobering to note how age has altered my perspective and at the same time I'm glad that I am still here despite my contempt for self preservation in those days. 

I was a young 45 at the time.


As written in my journal - it would have been tweeked more today.

Sat. 5th May 1984

My first trip ever to the Howgills.

Set off from home at 4:15pm with Dan. To Tebay turn off, then down to Carlin Gill.

Started walking about 5:30pm. Slight drizzle but clearing - dead cow on side of stream - fearful stench. Drizzle stopped as we entered the steeper sided part of the gill. - this is very impressive scenery, much more rocky than I expected. Minor scrambling up the stream, and the scene becomes more dramatic all the way. 

We arrived at the branching gill on the right of Black Force - both main gill and  Black Force looked equally interesting, and the decision  which to follow was not easy - we opted for Black Force.

High in the sky above the top of Black Force we saw what Dan identified as  a peregrine falcon. The gill steepened considerably and we were now on mixed rock and very steep grass. Dan climbed out onto the side, but I stayed in the gill and pressed on. A grey wagtail rose from its nest and on the wall of the gill I found its nest with four or five eggs. The bird was vividly yellow as it flew from me, and impressed a memorable image on my mind. Next I found two different bird rings - looked like pigeons - victims of the peregrine? I have since sent the rings to the RSPB.

The gill now steepened again and  the way was blocked by a waterfall which I tried to climb direct, but eventually turned by the rib on its left. Dan was waiting at the top and we spent a fair amount of time watching a pair of ravens on the opposite side of the gill - they were obviously guarding a nest the site of which we could see on the opposite side of the gill.

We pressed on to the top of Field Head - 2045ft. finding two skylarks nests with eggs on the way. From Fell Head we could see the route ahead  to The Calf 2220ft. With some compulsory loss of height in between. I think we both knew that we would probably end up coming off in the dark if we went to the Calf but we kidded ourselves and pressed on. We made a slight detour to visit the large patches of snow on the summit slope of the Calf. Here we took some photographs and  kicked steps in this old snow which was in fine condition. We found two more nests with eggs on the way.

Suddenly on the top of the Calf it was much cooler. We got below the summit and ate sandwiches looking across to Killington Lake and the M6 (Ryvita paté  sandwiches - very good.)

We returned by Bush Howe and under the steep sides of Wind Scarth to Weathercalf Moss. Here we saw four or five wild ponies with long shaggy manes - they moved slightly in a codescending manner to let us pass, but they were not affraid. We then turned west and eventually picked up the top of Carlin Gill and tried to follow the stream bed back down again, but eventually our path was  stopped by an apparently overhanging waterfall with steep rock on both sides. It was now starting to get dark. The Waterfall looked to drop away for 50ft. or so, and certainly demanded a return visit to see if it could be climbed from the bottom, but tonight we gave it best and climbed out up very steep grass onto the northern side of the gill and over Uldale Head and back down to the car. It was now about 10:30pm and quite dark as it had been for the last three quarters of an hour.

This was a fine and eventful walk and an impressive introduction to the Howgills which are certainly worth visiting again.

It was interesting to note that this was bank holiday weekend, and we did not see anybody on the whole walk.

CLICK TO ENLARGE - The route is just short of 8 miles. I have drawn it as near as I can from my description

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Carlin Gill

Saturday 7th September 2019 - Carlin Gill

There is something I can't define about my avoidance of walking in the Howgills. I vaguely remember an excursion with Gimmer many years ago - the details have dimmed but my remembered perception is not favourable, although not one of epic drama. I hope Gimmer may elaborate.

I climbed Green Bell and Middleton only because they were part of a trig point campaign. 

Years ago I climbed Grains Gill in full winter conditions cutting steps out of the steep exit, and also had a scary time on the adjoining Weasel Gill on rocks near the top on a trip with my old neighbour Dan which was his suggestion.

When I walked The Dales High Way it followed the splendid ridge  across the  middle of the Howgills from Sedbergh to  the A65, so again the prime motivation was not from attraction to these hills, and those are my total visits in what one may say is a lifetime.

When Bowland Climber phoned me to suggest a walk in The Howgills I suggested Carlin Gill. I had read somewhere that this was a worthwhile objective. 

The first mile followed the lively beck with ever steepening and enclosing hills on either side and an increasingly rocky path; the surroundings were majestic and a delight. The sides steepened and the path now on the northern side rose high above the beck with an almost vertical drop down to the right and more and more care was needed. We eyed the impressive gash of Black Force. I had read about a party having a scary time on that ascent - it looked as though it would need drier weather or commitment verging on the foolhardy - my photo below does not convey the steepness.

Carlin Gill ends with a dramatic waterfall and there is no defined exit from this cul-de-sac. BC had Wainwright's guide and his suggestion were vague. From everything I have read about Wainwright he tended to faint heart on airy and exposed situations; I am surprised that he managed to climb out of this place. It took us some time to weigh up the options before I set off first on the northern side. Within twenty feet I found myself on very steep grass mingled with moss which turned into a slimy slippery mess when footholds were attempted and I got myself to a point of gibbering no-return. By then BC had arrived, and with his assistance and encouragement I managed to reverse and follow him up less mossy very steep grass (I don't often use the word very but it applied here.) For me that was a pretty scary ascent - halfway I strapped my poles to my rucksack so that I could dig into the grass with both hands until we arrived at patches of heather which provide much better handholds. We traversed off to the right and fortuitously arrive on the exact contour to pick up the path leading to the col between Docker Knott and Over Sale involving a long and arduous ascent, but with ever increasing extensive views on this perfect sunny day.

One might have thought that once onto the ridge it would be easy going, but there were still less than trifling ups and downs taking us over Breaks Head and Fell Head then a long descent with several steep sections back to the car.

Our route only measured 5.4 miles, but it was more strenuous than anything I have done recently and coupled with the nervous energy expended on the ascent out of Carlin Gill I felt as though the distance had been a lot more, but what a fabulous and memorable day.

Definitely worth clicking first photo for slideshow

Preparing for the off

Approaching Black Force

Black Force - much steeper than it looks here

Approaching The Spout - terminus of Carlin Gill

End of the road - how do you get out? Camera has found its match for exposure 

Our escape - about twenty yards to the left of BC in the last photo

Zoom to the Scafells

Zoom to Arnside Knott - my house is somewhere in the middle of that photo

BC decides to convert to shorts

Steep sided valleys everywhere limiting route options in these unique hills

Zoom back to our exit from the gill

Friday, 6 September 2019


Thursday walk with Pete - 5th September 2019 - Bolton-le-Sands

As I drive around my locale I often notice side roads that I have not explored and wonder where they lead to. I must have driven the A6 between Carnforth and Lancaster hundreds of times during the twenty odd years I have lived here. A few days ago I found myself driving this fairly boring urban development, and midway a road sign tells me I am passing through Bolton-le-Sands.  One of those queried side roads does lead off to the left and I make a note to look at the map back at home. I find a narrow lane leading south from a village just off the A6 - it is relatively flat and looks ideal for a walk with Pete.

We park the car opposite a strikingly different church and disembark. We are in a village set back in time with ancient buildings where fancy carved stone lintels with dates and difficult to read ancient English script seems to have been a popular fashion in this village spread over a century or so. I realise this is the real Bolton-le-Sands which has been engraved on my mind for the last twenty years as a characterless chunk of modern mishmash spread along the old A6. What a delight.

I am so enchanted with all this that I have us heading off out of the village on the wrong road. Whilst I am photographing an old school an elderly lady is passing by using a walking stick, but quite sprightly and we have a group of three chat mainly about getting old and the need for keeping going. Pete proudly tells the lady he is eighty-five and that I am seventy-nine but we are promptly sandbagged when the lady tells us she is eighty-nine.

Our proper road has a "Road Closed" sign as we leave the village - I generally ignore these assuming they relate only to vehicles. The road is lined with ancient large trees for the first half kilometre with substantial detached posh modernish houses sporting large well kept gardens. Then we are out into open country. After another half kilometre hazard tape crosses the road and beyond a huge pile of cut down shrubbery blocks the whole width of the road and behind that a trail of several tree stump bowls interspersed with other debris. We manage to pick our way through. It is obvious that someone has tipped this lot from a vehicle with the root ball stumps dropping off as the vehicle keeps moving then the rest has been heaved out into the big pile. We wonder who has taken it upon themselves to close the road and what arrangements may be in progress for clearing this fly-tipping.

Further on we meet a mountain biker coming the other way and we tell him about the blockage. His name is Sean and as a kindred spirit has had a lifetime of outdoor pursuits, I say a lifetime but he is only sixty. Sean is on the verge of having a knee operation and he is apprehensive and doubtful but I hopefully encourage him. He says he can't walk but he can cycle, and at that point I reckon having a replacement knee is a no-brainer.

We walk nearly to our lane's junction with another lane before turning and walking back. We have abandoned the rest of the Lancashire Cycleway because of difficult logistics and questionably unsuitable terrain for Pete - it looks as though there may be potential for a further excursion around newly discovered Bolton-le-Sands.


See next photo

The young at heart eighty-nine year old lady is just cruising out of the picture to the right.

The Lancaster Canal - it was here I discovered we were on the wrong road out of the village -  we retraced

St. Mary of the Angels Catholic church. It was only built in 1882 but I thought its unusual architecture may have merited some information on the Internet but a brief search revealed nothing noteworthy. 

One of the many old buildings in the village, this being rare with its three storeys - see lintel below



I thought this may be an anagram and gave up after a while trying to sort it. Back home Internet told me it is a town in Australia

The fly-tipping blockage, and below

Behind that pile there was a trail of tree stumps