Regular followers will know my that youngest daughter has now turned 7 yrs old and likes to get out on the fells with me. As with all kids, she grows very fast and costs a small fortune in clothes. So, with winter now setting in, a quick evaluation determined she had pretty much nothing suitable for the oncoming winters hikes.
Not for mountains anyway, obviously she has tons of "Street clothes" as I call them. But nothing that will stand up to the changing British mountain weather. I personally insist on layering even though kids hate it. Ella especially hates it as like me she seems to always be too hot and wears less than most people in bad weather so layering is essential for Ella so we can regulate her temperature and comfort levels so that she enjoys her hiking.
Anyway, I digress... On Saturday we went to Go Outdoors to find her a new waterproof coat, a good base layer and a windproof fleece... I discovered that virtually nobody makes kids fleeces in windproof material! I was surprised at that but after much searching of racks Bear Grylls and Cragghopper came to the rescue. Its lucky Ella always favours boys colours and brands as they didnt do a girls version in that brand.
All we needed now was a nice cold, windy route to test it all in. (And a loan to pay next months mortgage since the week before I also bought her new Merrel boots, Bridgedale socks, a Berghaus rucksack and a hydration bladder. Im sure you parents are all familiar with the term "I want one too dad!" which also applied to hiking poles come to think of it... Groan...)
So.. remote, with a cold and strong cold wind. Where can we go on Sunday?
Cold Pike! Plenty of height to get near or into the cloudline at 2300ft, always changeable weather due to the valleys it intersects and incredible views if you get lucky with a clear line of sight to the Langdale Pikes. Routes were plotted and plans made...
The route on GPX as plotted during the walk with viewranger, my favoured GPS software.
The same GPX file converted to KML and viewed with Google earth.
My route here with kids always starts off at altitude. There is a lovely little parking slot or three at the "Three Shire Stone" on Wrynose pass and it sees you parked at around 1100ft above sea level. This way you can get up to Pike O Blisco, Cold Pike or the Crinkle Crags with a lot more ease than the usual path up from the Langdale Valley. But be warned... you have to get there early to bag yourself a space.
After booting up and changing into our warm clothes... we exit the car onto the fells. Ella immediately lauches into some superhero moves with her new swords, erm, I mean hiking poles.
I love this path from Wrynose into the fells. Ella and I have done it quite a few times and its still her favourite. The car is still behind me in this image, 1 minute into the hike. How cool is that view?
Ella is always very slow and careful over these streams after a bad stumble on her first trip out with me. It was a real lesson in how slippery rock can be. You will note on Ellas rucksack sits young Ben. He is called "Ben Nevis" as I brought him home as a gift from Scotland when I climbed Ben Nevis earlier this year.
The route onwards through an area called Duddon Grains. Its bleak... a brilliant place to bring people for a very fast and easy experience of how remote some of the Lake District really feels. I absolutely love it round here.
Ella, or more accurately, "Commander Ella" has opted to be my guide today and has insisted I must follow her every footstep. Since she refuses to use perfectly easy paths, instead opting to scramble over rocks that are sat next to perfectly serviceable paths... I know our average pace today is going to be VERY low today!
I was taking a picture of one such rock when I was photobombed. I preferred the photobomb image. LOL
After passing through the High Tainton How area, Cold Pike finally comes into view. Ella celebrates this with an odd display of some superhero move.
She is very excited. She keeps telling me this is an easy route and we will definately be doing Pike O Blisco as well today. Hmm... we will see. This is her first visit to Cold Pike and the route is a little longer than Pike O Blisco which, naturally, I havent told her.
Young Ben tries out many different forms of transport throught the day...
Ellas favourite stream. Having scoured my OS maps I can not find a name for this little beck and on her first visit, upon hearing this Ella asked if that means we can name it. "Of course" I said... and she called it "Ella's Beck"
She really enjoys using her new hydration bladder. Probably the least usefull of the new items, but to Ella its the most fun apparenly. I must admit, I wouldnt be without one nowadays, hydration is so important to muscle function and energy levels on the fells and to know that she has 1.2litres on her back makes me happy too. However... there was an unforseen downside. There were a LOT of little toilet stops!
The winds picking up now and with it comes some rain. That can only mean one thing... its full on ninja balaclava time!
The cloud is moving around at quite a rate today. Cold Pike is now hidden in cloud. I fear the worst for a while but Ella loves the fact we are up in the clouds so its no big deal just yet.
But that may change... it will be very cold and wet up there now. We are at about 1800ft, so I think that cloud must be around the 2000ft mark, some 300ft below the summit. I make a mental decision that if it drops to 500ft below then I am not walking her up through it. I dont want to tell her that as she will be very upset but I have made that decision in my head and will stick to it.
With that in mind, I sugggest we stop for a coffee and see whata little time brings us. Ella has her own flask and loves stopping for coffee. Her smile says it all and she even asked me to take this picture because she has decorated the cup with stickers.
The coat is off now as she is hot again. This windproof fleece I have bought her really is a little too big, but the next one down was too perfect fitting to last for more than 3 hikes before she grew out of it so I opted for the next size up to get some time out of it. Ella loves it and says its lovely to be able to feel the wind "power" but not feel the cold from it. I totally agree.... good exposure protection is a joy to wear and its lovely to hear Ella appreciate the garment. It takes the sting out of the price. As luck would have it, our 20 mins here saw the summit of Cold Pike come back out of cloud.
Whenever I pass a navigation cairn with Ella, we always top it up with rocks. Ella likes doing this to help people who may be lost get home safely. She enjoyed learning about navigation cairns on our early walks.
We also pretended some of them were Ben Nevis so that Ben felt at home sitting on them. I had to laugh at that Idea when Ben is actually already stood on the flanks of two genuine 2300+ ft mountains. You cant beat a little minds way of thinking. :)
As you round the corner of Red Tarn Moss, Red Tarn itself comes into view. Its a nice surprise when you have never seen it before. I remember coming here with my wife and me being baffled that we couldnt find it evben though my Nav said we were looking straight at it. The weather was so bad we walked straight past it both on the way up, and then again on the way back down Pike O Blisco and didnt see any sign of it. A stark reminder of how bad the weather in this area can be.
Ella in front of Red Tarn, with Cold Pike and Great Knott as a background.
Eventually on this path you come to a crossroads. You can go straight on and down into the Langdale valley, turn right and ascend Pike O Blisco or turn left, as we are doing and head up Cold Pike and onwards to Crinkle Crags etc if you so wish. This image shows the path to the left before we reach it. The mountains in cloud at the back are the Crinkles.
After turning left there are a couple of becks to cross. This was Ellas pictorial way of saying... "How do we cross this?" It was flowing quite fast so I guess Ella was more apprehensive than was necessary. We were across it in seconds.
The path to Cold Pike...
Ella and I spent a ridiculous amount of time at this puddle. Believe it or not she was fascinated by a slug that was crossing this puddle along rocks, with an ANT on its back. I am a keen believer in letting kids do the fells at their own pace within reason, so we watched patiently as this slug went about its business complete with probably unwelcome passenger. It went about it slowly... very slowly!
Looking left from the path we can see the Summit of Cold Pike now.
Looking back from here, the Langdale Pikes look amazing. I was up there doing a 9 summit round with my pal Steve only last saturday so its awesome to look back at the summits that we were stood on early in the morning. The one sticking up is Pike of Stickle.
And here is how we look right now to anyone stood there looking back. This is an image I took from there last Saturday. Cold pike where we are now stood is the two peaks in the rear left of the image.
I saw these hikers coming up from the Langdale valley and thought their tiny bodies flanked by Pike O Blisco looked good and worthy of an image. The path behind them looks painfully steep!
My nightmare... I hate wet steps when I am alone, let alone with kids. They are so dangerous yet they look so safe. Ella actually complained later in the day about me being over protective. I told her that we had been out 5hrs, it was meant as a compliment but she said "We would have gone much faster if you didnt keep telling me to slow down, and take care, and come back" LOL. Very true I suppose.
A quick snap of Ella taking a break, her cheeks now showing signs of the wind and cold.
The view back over to Pike o Blisco.
Pike Of Stickle, Loft Crag and Harrison Stickle dominate this view.
Ella with the Langdale valley in the distance and Pike O Blisco behind her.
Halfway up the path we decided to go off track and make our own way up the flanks as Ella was missing the scrambling she enjoys on Pike O Blisco. We headed up this way through and indeed over, these rocks.
Looking back on the path to Crinkle Crags, some of which our short cut will save us from walking.
Its suddenly very cold up here. We suit up in our coats and Ella complains of a runny nose. I remind her that its good news as it means we are high. She remembered me telling her most humans get a runny nose and the sniffles above 2000ft and I sugegst we can check on my altimeter if its true. We take a look (Suunto Ambit 3 peak) and indeed we are at 2150ft. Since the fact was backup up by technology she is pleased to have a runny nose and just wipes her snot all over her new gloves with a smile. Ah gloves... I had clean forgotten she has new gloves as well. I wonder if we can afford any food next week? Ha ha...
Looking back from here over Great Knott. We are almost there now but that thickening cloud is a silent worry for me.
The last lump of rock between us and the summit. Its extremely cold here. Colder than I am comfortable with. I only brought a fleece and waterproof soft shell today. Not because I am an idiot but because I purposely opt to stay colder than the kids I am hiking with, be them my own kids or other peoples. That way I dont become complacent wrapped up lovely and warm in my own arctic spec exposure protection and clean forget that those with me may be heading into hypothermia! Its a rule that has served me well and I am pleased to say that Ella has not once said she felt cold today... Until now! (Not that this image depicts any such hardship)
Ninja balaclava on... we make the last scramble up this seemingly easy piece of rock. It turned out to be treacherous, covered in moss and soaked from the days clouds. Great care was needed here and I was very worried about Ella slipping and getting hurt. Although as usual, she didnt share my fear.
The summit. As we breached it we felt the full force and wind chill coming from the west, firing straight up Wrynose from the coast unobstructed. Ella popped a stone on and said... "Lets Go Dad".
It was a shame to leave so soon and we have never left a summit that fast before but it was cold and she was feeling it. I checked the mountain forecast again later that night and it was probably around -1 deg c and a 30mph wind. We had planned to get my emergency shelter out and have lunch in it up here. Anyone who hasnt tried it should do so. Its amazing how warm the shelters get. It really is great fun.
Here is an image from a previous trip of our emergency shelter on Pike O Blisco. They are great fun and pack down to about 8" x 4" and weigh next to nothing.
Great fun to be inside for kids and adults alike and a means to stay warm and dry at lunchtime no matter the weather. They can of course also be used for emergencies, though I hope never to need mine for that.
As we dropped down out of the wind, I suggested to Ella we get the shelter out and eat and she said "Lets do it on Pike O Blisco instead!!" I truly expected her to have dropped that idea by now.
As a compromise, we stopped at about 1900ft where it warmed up and had some late lunch. It was lovely sitting there chatting and it was clear Ella was determined to do Pike O Blisco as well. I was happy to, but didnt think Ella had it in her. Not willing to dent her enthusiasm I agreed it was fine... but inside I was thinking it wasnt a good idea.
I mean... Its not exactly next door is it? Here is Ella pointing across to the 2400ft Pike O Blisco.
Fresh as a daisy and raring to go. She reminds me that she gets lots of energy from eating and will be able to run all the way to Pike O Blisco once she has finished this Sandwhich. Bens face probably mimicks my own thoughts quite accurately...
Onwards... the view back is beautiful. I so love this area and cant wait to one day do Crinkle Crags with Ella too. But thats a step to far for her just yet.
I persuade Ella to go round the rocks this time. But its very boggy and I am quickly reminded that us getting filthy is of course all my fault as going over the rocks would have been a cleaner route! A fact that I cant really disagree with. Little monkey!
The happy little hiker identifies signs of human traffic and suggests we follow it to the main path that we can see in the distance. Her first sensible idea that hasnt involved any totally unecessary rock climbing.
Turning left towards Pike O Blisco... all that remains now is a reasonably shallow descent back to the crossroads by Red Tarn.
As Red Tarn comes back into view... I note that the cloud is low and getting quite thick over that way too...
Looking behind us, it seems some cloud is following us and drifting in towards our intended path. Ella has never been in thick cloud so I am a little worried how she will deal with it if it happens.
As we reach the crossroads at the bottom where we have the option to go straight on and start up Pike O Blisco or turn right and head to the car, the cloud is coming down hard. I sit Ella down and ask her what she really wants to do and warn her we may be climbing in cloud and have to stay in it all the way up, all the way down and all the way back to the car. (yes... I laid it on thick!) I explain I am happy to do it and she will be safe, but she might not like it as she wont be able to see much, explaining its like very thick fog. She says she is scared of fog and wants to head back. I am quietly pleased to be honest... its been quite a big day for her so far.
Ella taking one last look at the cloud before we move on.
It was indeed getting very thick, but I was reasonably sure we were going to have a clear path back to the car.
Did I say clear? No... a rocky unecessary path back to the car resumed in earnest. Ella reminded me she was "Commander Ella" and I was to only stand where she has stood. That was fun at times, infuriating at other times.
On the path back, eagle eyed Ella spotted some rock climbers. She was in absolute awe of them! We walked a little closer to watch them climbing. It really was good to watch, and to listen to their clear instructions to each other.
A zoomed and cropped in view of them.
Heading back - you can just make out two cars at the roadside from here. The days hiking is nearly over.
Suddenly I remember something important. We havent taken any pictures of the two of us! Selfie time.
And here we are, back at the parking slot by the three shire stone with only our car left. Ella comments that maybe the other people all went home early when it got cold because they havent got good coats like hers. My Go Outdoors bill is now totally justified. :)
The plaque in the ground.
Its not easy to read so I have cropped in so anyone interested can have a read.
Ella by the stone itself.
And that brings us to the end of a brilliant days hiking in the fells. I highly recomend this route for anyone wanting to take kids into the mountains to get a feel for it on an easy route where its quite hard to get lost. It offers two true mountain peaks (Its only technically a mountain if its over 2000ft), the remoteness and if your lucky, the views. Ella and I would always choose Pike O Blisco out of the two, but she wanted to get a new summit to her name today so we chose this one, possible for the last time as I know she wont choose it over Pike O Blisco given the option in the future. For now - Pike O Blisco remains Ellas favourite fell walk, and mine is still Haystacks.
Here is a little Suunto movie of the trip, showing the route via Google earth.
Some data aquired by the Suunto Ambit 3 peak watch too. Interesting for ascent, descent and mileage etc. (calories are pretty accurate as I wear the Suunto Smart HR monitor too.)
Finally - The "Ups and Downs"
All images in this blog were taken with my Canon G7X point and shoot pocket camera. My camera of choice when hiking any distance. The Canon 5D3 SLR stays at home and only comes back with me if I come across any location really worth coming back for with time on my hands to make the best of it.