My wife Mandy and I made a last minute decision to drive up to the lakes and do a bit of hiking last weekend, so I quickly plotted a few routes based around the expected weather and we decided to go far north up to Keswick as its our favourite area of the lakes. The destination summit was to be Walla Cragg. (1250ft)
Mocked up in Google Earth, my planned route looks like this:
We did our usual cafe refuel near our home in Cleveleys and got ourselves on the road for 9am and parked up at Derwentwater's Great Wood National Trust car park for 11am. As a National Trust member, I save quite a lot of money annually by being a member as car park fees can quickly rack up if you visit lakeland a lot as we do. Highly recomended for regular visitors.
Once we were geared up, we headed out of the car park south as I have chosen an anti clockwise route, favouring a steep ascent over a steep descent. As its name suggests, "Great Wood" is of course a wood, and since its now spring the colours are lovely... the greens are intense and there are lots of flowers springing up.
The route upwards takes us alongside Cat Gill and as always, its lovely to be close to running water, the sound of running water has always been rather soothing for me.
As the ascent starts and I begin to huff and puff a little, it occurs to me some 20 mins into the hike that I have forgotten to start the route tracker on my Suunto watch. What a fail. I briefly consider running back to the start so I can log it all. I look downhill at how far we have come and decide thats a ridiculous idea, so I start the watch and we carry on upwards.
The path is quite steep here. My OS map calculations suggest its approx 900ft per mile ascent. Its a lovely path though with a nice little drop on one side, giving it a lovely remote feel. Mandy so far is enjoying it too.
We stop at a little section where the path levels out with Cat Gill, mainly for me to rest my calves. Mandy is in fine form, but over the last few hikes I have been experiencing really bad calf pain. Unsure why - I must try and find out soon as its becoming quite debilitating and ruining my hikes.
Continuing upwards from there it gets a little hands on for a while. Mandy and I enjoy these sections nowadays, its great fun and an excellent way to gain height quickly.
After a little more ascent the views start to open up and Derwentwater comes into view, flanked by one of lakelands most famous peaks. Cat Bells. The view looking back here shows the path we have just ascended. Its quite steep this section.
A little further up the path, I see an opportunity for a potential view so we drop off the path and head across to the edge of whats called "Ladys Rake" on the OS maps. It was a very worthwhile detour and afforded us a view right back to the south end of Derwentwater and the amazing ridge that flanks it. I make a mental note to look at a walk that will include this whole ridge - I am excited already!
Perfect selfie spot we think...
From here, its only a short walk up to the summit of Walla Cragg. Height 1250ft.
The views, as expected, are quite exceptional.
Mandy took a little time to enjoy the views while I ran around with the camera as usual. The only downside today is the wind, its quite strong and VERY cold.
I got some great images up here. As always, the little Canon G7X pocket camera did the business. Its so nice not having to lump a great big SLR and tripod around with me anymore. Although, that said, I may well bring it all up here one day for sunset. The location deserves a little time with my high end gear to see what I can make of it, but for that I have to be alone. My wife and usual hiking friends would be bored senseless and cold sat here for three hours watching the sun go down.
Mandy took the opportunity to don her new Montane hard shell to protect her from the wind a little. Its her first outing with it, so typically it didnt rain. We then headed over to the official summit cairn and popped a couple of rocks on. I feel Mandy is quietly getting a little drained of the wind now as we have been here quite a while so we moved onwards to get out of it.
But just one more picture.... I wanted Mandy to stand here for a specific reason, Cat bells behind her is one of our next hike destinations. I thought this would make a great image and when we do Cat Bells I will try and remember to do a similar one from that side.
As we drop down from the summit, a large rocky cragg affords us some protection from the wind, so while Mandy warms up, I took a few more images. This is a great view of the Skiddaw range. One of my least favourite hikes, but one of my most favourite ranges to look at. Keswick nestled below it has to be one of the most picturesque towns in the country surely?
I grabbed a nice 8 portrait orientation panorama while I was up there. This is now one of my favourite panoramas to date and may well end up on my dining room wall. The resolution should be good for about 4ft wide.
Upon hearing a "Quack" we suddenly noticed that we werent alone in enjoying this view behind this large cragg out of the wind. It was quite warm and still here and a little duck was sat there seemingly doing the same thing.
This was a good spot to zoom in and grab a few images of the islands. Its easier out of the wind as I dont use a tripod with the G7X and while its image stabilisation is pretty incredible, a 40mph wind will no doubt introduce some shake at full zoom length. (Equiv 100mm / 4.2x optical)
Looking down on Derwent Isle, Friars Cragg and Strandshag bay.
I wonder if one day we will live in this town behind Mandy? We would both like to so maybe this image will be interesting to look back on in years to come as I hack up and down Skiddaw with a dog and a walking frame? Who knows...
Time to go. The path off the cragg is similar to the one on the way up, nice and thin with a drop on one side. Just how we like it. The views are awesome for quite a while with the Skiddaw range prominent most of the way down.
As you come off the ridge, you start to head towards Castlerigg. Its a nice easy descent with a wall to handrail all the way back down if bad weather came in and affected your navigation ability. No such problems today of course - the weather is great!
As always, there are plenty of sheep around. I thought these two just chilling out in the sun with the mighty Skiddaw behind them looked brilliant, and they werent too camera shy. I suspect they were hiding from their noisy kids!
After the majority of the descent, you eventally come to a road at a place called Rakefoot.
Roads are horrible things, usually full of cars and humans... everything we come to lakeland to avoid, but fear not, we wont be on it for long as you soon turn hard left off the road and cross a stream. This, we decided, was to be our lunch spot. We spent half an hour or so here and had a coffee, a bite to eat and I cooled my feet in the stream as I always do. Although today, I left the boots on.
Mandy took control of the camera for a while and her selfie posing instructions are somewhat different to mine as where I favour adjusting our position to include a great backdrop of mountains, Mandy favours adjusting our position to include a kiss... but its a great image so I thought I had best include it rather than pretend the camera seemed to have "Lost It".
From here, its back into the woods for a very nice walk back toward Derwentwater. Its a very thin path but presents no obstacles bar the odd mountain biker enjoying the paths too. Oddly, just as I took this image I stumbled on the worlds tinyest rock and nearly broke my ankles. So always take my terrain safety advice with a pinch of salt! If this were a video, you would have heard Mandy laughing at my missfortune. They do say that if you want sympathy, dont marry a nurse.. great advice that I ignored. LOL
I really have started to enjoy walking through woods, and Mandy does too, so I will be plotting many more woodland routes for the summer. Its nice to see the Bluebells are out now as well, which reminds me I must get up to Rannerdale Knotts soon!
This is the first time I have tried the macro feature of the Canon G7X. Im pleased with it and suspect the lack of sharpness here is a failing of the operator, and not the camera.
We come to a fork in the path and I get the map out to check our position and find its a left turn here to the car park and its very close. We are both a little sad the hike is over and we dont have to be home for a good few hours yet, so I calculate an alternative route down to the shores of Derwentwater to just squeeze a little more from our great day out... A short grassy woodland section takes us across the main road and out to...
Calfclose Bay. Derwentwater. A great place to stop, rest our feet for 5 mins and grab a few memories...
Calfclose Bay is home to a nice little hidden gem. The National Trust Centenary Stone. It occurs to me that I could probably get the Centenary stone on show with Walla Cragg behind it as a really nice image to illustrate the day. So we make that our destination. This sculpture was placed here in 1995 to comemorate 100 years of the National Trust in the lake district. There is a plaque set in the footpath close by explaining a little about it.
Here is the centenary Stone with Walla Cragg just to the left of center behind it.
From there it was back to Great Wood car park and back home. We had an awesome day and will definately do this hike again.
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.
Here is a little Suunto movie of the trip, showing the route via Google earth. (The start position is wrong due to forgetting to press start at the, erm, start!)
Here is some data from my Viewranger Account.
(This is active and you can change the maps used to OS maps etc instead)
And 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.) Sadly, its not quite accurate this time due to me forgetting to press the all important "Start" button for 20 mins... hey ho!
A little about me:
For as long as I can remember I have been passionate about landscape photography. I love nothing more than leaving the house at 4am and heading to some distant landscape with a view to capturing an awesome sunrise during golden hour and then staying out shooting all day until night falls and trying to capture an incredible sunset... this escalated into a love of hiking.
Sometimes it's very successful, as you will see from this website, but other times its extremely frustrating and I just spend 12hrs getting cold, wet and downhearted with the weather, but that comes with the British climate and makes the great captures all the more satisfying.
My equipment centres around the incredible Canon 5D MK3 Body which is a fantastic camera by any standard and with a resolution of 22mp allows me to create very large prints with no loss of detail, and I have the amazing 18mp high speed Canon EOS 7D as my backup body... just in case of disaster! If hiking any distance, or with long, hard ascents I often just take the awesome Canon G7X, a 21mp pocket camera that is almost as capable as my 5D MK3.
I hope you enjoy reading my trip reports and looking at my images. If you would like to hang any on your wall and its not part of my main gallery (A trip report image for example), please feel free to drop me a line and I will upload a high resolution version to the main gallery for purchase.