Sunday, 28 April 2013

Great Whernside, Wharfedale

Somehow the middle of March 2013 offered that rarest of occasions -  a free day! When I checked my diary and realised Claire and I had a weekend without appointments, so after a quick chat with our fellow walker Dave we decided to meet up at Kettlewell for an exploration of some of the fells of the Dales. The original plan was to take in both Great Whernside and Buckden Pike, but the weather had other plans for us.

There are a number of ways Great Whernside can be tackled from Kettlewell, and the route we picked seemed pretty straightforward and direct.

We started off heading out of the village along the pretty lanes before taking the footpath heading towards the interestingly named Hag Dyke. This was pleasant walking territory and we gained in height pretty quickly. We got a little bit confused at the scout hut which is situated at Hag Dyke, about halfway up Great Whernside, but soon found our way back onto the path.

Shortly afterwards and we found ourselves walking in the white stuff, and it was only a few minutes until we were knee deep in snow at times!

The deep snow made the walk considerably harder, but we pressed on upwards, soon reaching a collection of cairns. From here onwards we encountered a whiteout and wouldn't really see anything beyond the white ground and sky until well off the summit of Great Whernside.

Fortunately we were well equipped with map, GPS and the compass which kept us headed in the right direction, and shortly afterwards we reached the trig point that marks the top of Great Whernside. At this point the snow was also coming down and so we didn't hang around for long, as when we stopped for even just a couple of minutes the cold really got to us. We stayed on the summit plateau for a short while mainly guided by compass as there was no way of discerning the path on the ground!

Conditions improved slightly after we had passed through the summit crags and we could see a slight depression in the ground which looked like it was where the path should be and fortunately we were right. A short while on, and we came to some very steep slopes.

It was far too slippery to attempt to walk down them and so we had to just sit down and slide all the way down. It was great being a kid again and we've never come off a fell quite as quick as this!

Now that we were off the higher ground the visibility improved, but by this point we had got fairly chilled, and the prospect of going through that all over again wasn't all that appealing and so we decided to head back to Kettlewell and save Buckden Pike for another day.

We crossed the little road from Kettlewell to Coverdale, and took the path back to the village, following Tor Dyke and the Top Mere Road. This was a really nice path that made for pleasant walking, and as the skies cleared we had great views back over to Great Whernside and down onto the picturesque village of Kettlewell.

All in all a great day out and good preparation for the next big Dales walk, which I'll be telling you about very soon!

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Causey Pike, Scar Crags, Outerside & Barrow

A mad idea from Claire and her colleagues meant that we found ourselves in Keswick on a night out mid-February, followed by a night in the freezing cold camping barn at Catbells afterwards. The problem was that if no-one volunteers to stay home and stoke the coals whilst the others are out having a good time, then that fireplace and camping barn is going to be cold!

An early start and a big breakfast at Booths soon warmed us up and meant we could head back over to Newlands and park up just beyond Stair for the start of this walk. Our planned itinerary was up the front face of Rowling End and onto Causey Pike, following the ridge over Scar Crags before taking the path down at Sail Pass which would bring us back along the lower slopes of Causey Pike before crossing over to ascend Outerside and Barrow.

The pull up Rowling End was a hard slog, but it did mean that we reached higher ground pretty quickly. As always each step upwards was rewarded with a view that was opening up and behind us we had fantastic views over Keswick and Derwentwater. The flat section along Causey Pike was a welcome break before the final scramble up. This looked much trickier than it actually was and as usual, a scramble up seems easier than using the same route to come down.

Having seen very few people, it came as a surprise to find a load of people resting on the top of Causey Pike, I wonder when the bus was due?!?! It was pretty windy here so we didn't linger for long.

One of my favourite parts of fellwalking is the ridge route - it's a great reward for the hard work in getting up the fell, and the ridge from Causey Pike over Scar Crags towards Sail is a delight. Good walking conditions and really rewarding views.

Ahead we could see the hard work done by Fix The Fells to restore the path up Sail, and you could see the scars left behind by the thousands of boots that had widened the path beforehand.

On reaching Coledale Hause we turned sharp right and headed along the path that would take us down to the bottom of High Moss. The path was iced over in places meaning we had to either go off-road, or sit down and slide down on our bums - this was nothing compared to the slides down Great Whernside which I'll be telling you about in a future post!

From here it was an easy walk over to the base of Outerside and a short and pleasant climb up. At this point the wind had picked up a bit so it got really cold whenever we stopped.

A short pause on the summit of Outerside and we pushed on, over the crags of Stile End until we made the summit of Barrow and our fourth fell of the day. From here once again we had brilliant view over diminutive Swinside and onto Keswick, Derwentwater as well as over Bassenthwaite Lake over to the Skiddaw range.

In a rush to get out of the wind we retraced our steps to Stile End, before taking the steep path down the side of Barrow which brought us onto the main bridleway along Stonycroft Gill, and here it was an easy walk back to the Newlands road and the warmth of the car.

Monday, 1 April 2013

More La Palma Sun: Pico Bejenado

And so we come to the last post of this series of walks on La Palma. We look forward to returning to this amazing island again and picking up from where we left off!

The conditions were perfect for us on this walk. Although there were clouds swirling around some of the nearby mountains and over the volcanoes in the southern half of the island, Pico Bejenado was surrounded by clear skies. This mountains is fairly unique on La Palma, whereas others tend to form part of a chain, Pico Bejenado stands proud on its own, at the southern end of the La Caldera de Taburiente national park.

There are only a couple of good starting points from the south, mainly due to the inaccessibility of the terrain to the north. We chose the El Barrial route, taking a long walk up a dirt track before arriving at the starting point at the start of the national park. From here the route was signposted really well, with directions at every junction helping us along the way, so we barely needed the map and occasionally dipped into the guide book to read about the attractions such as the lava tubes as we went past.

We gained height very quickly, and had some fantastic views back towards the mountains of the volcano route. The path was nice and varied, using a forest track through the pine forest before giving way to sparser scrubland and then towards to the end getting much steeper with sharp drops.

When we reached the point at which the path meets up with the other recommended walk, we found ourselves on the edge of a massive cliff as we could look deep into the heart of the Caldera de Taburiente.

Although we felt like we were near the top we still had several hundred metres of ascent ahead of us, but the panoramic views meant it was a pleasure all the way.

One on the pretty small summit we enjoyed our sandwiches and a bit of banter with a handful of other walkers before retracing our route back down.

This walk was fairly hard work, made a lot easier by the excellent waymarking and the great idea of going up the mountain gradually with long hairpin footpaths instead of just heading straight up.

As with the other walks, we rewarded ourselves with a bit of relaxation and swimming on the beautiful beach at Puerto Naos to finish the day.

Overall, La Palma was a brilliant holiday, we will be back!