Well... the weekend arrived just after the latest storm to hit the Lake District. Storm Gertrude was promising average winds in the 50mph region and the potential for 100+ mph above 3000ft along with potential rain, sleet and snow so our route needed to be planned with care. Given the forecast we decided to do a couple of new summits that will keep us at sub 2000ft on a small but hopefully nice little horseshoe route. Today we will climb:
The route looks like this in Opentopo Maps.
And like this in Google earth.
This was to be my first double summit with my new winter rucksack fully loaded. I tested it up Loughrigg with my wife a few days earlier, identified a few annoyances and have hopefully fixed them so I was keen to get out and see how it fared. Steve and I have always carried more stuff than your average hikers do as we always just take the day as it comes and very often say "Sod it, let's grab a few extra summits while we are up here" and that usually results in a long dark descent in the early hours so we always go equipped with lots of food, spare clothes and a shelter to ensure no matter what happens we have enough provisions to see us through should things drift out of plan. However, I have never been able to carry a stove as my 45-Litre Rucksack was jam packed. So it was upgrade time, and my new 65-litre rucksack now contains a stove, frying pan and lots of food for a nice hot lunch and hot evening meal if we want it. In fact, for those interested, all this is in my Rucksack today, plus a container of food. I'm still impressed it all fits with room to spare!
I left home at 6:30 am to collect Steve and we proceeded to Braithwaite near Keswick which is approx 2hrs from us in Blackpool. We ended up driving over to Mosedale en-route to spy on a car parking slot and program it in the satnav for a future hike up Great Calva and Knott so we didn't actually make Braithwaite until about 9:30 am.
Parking was found for free near Braithwaite school, and a short walk soon sees us walking through Braithwaite Lodge onto the edge of Barrow.
Almost immediately the views back towards Skiddaw are amazing.
The route up starts off as a pretty gentle grassy slope, which is plenty slippery due to all the rain we have had this last few weeks.
The view over Braithwaite to Bassenthwaite is lovely from here too.
It's very cold and windy we are on the fell and gaining height so I have to lose the Rab fleece I usually wear and put on my Montane down jacket instead. This thing is amazing, to date I have only ever needed a base layer and this jacket down to around -20C. Without any doubt, this is the most amazing outdoor garment I have ever owned. It takes up a huge lump of room in the rucksack, about 5 litres, but its worth it as its very light indeed and feels amazing to wear. I love it.
Here is a snap of me with Skiddaw behind... This mountain really does look awesome no matter where you view it from. Undoubtedly one of the best views in the lake district for me and a summit I will be visiting again in the near future with Steve and my daughter Steph.
To our left, Cat Bells appeared to be hosting its own disco!
We decide it's time to try out my new MSR Windburner stove. Here's a snap Steve took of me doing just that. Bacon medallions are on the menu this morning so we find a little crag out of the main wind stream and fire up some grub. The stove fires up instantly in what is still a strong wind here and it stays lit even when I lift it up into the much stronger and colder wind up above this big rock. Both Steve and I are very impressed indeed and I will be ordering the skillet that goes with it very soon and do a proper review.
We sit and enjoy our bacon butties and coffee while watching the ever changing light around Cat Bells.
Onwards now, and we are able to see the snowy flanks of Grizedale Pike and Sail coming into view ahead.
Looking back from the first "false summit" as I call them. (You know the one... when it looked like the top, but it wasn't)
Ah, there's the real summit!
It's pretty steep here, so photo opportunities abound while taking much-needed breathers.
To our right is the Outerside ridge. We will travel to the rear of it today and come back along the front. I noted there were a couple of folk up there enjoying the views already. Can you make them out?
There were a few fell runners out here today as well, I thought they added a great splash of colour to this scene.
Almost there now...
The view from the summit of Barrow back to Skiddaw.
And over to Causey Pike, Sail and Outerside.
I noticed a large group of walkers heading up Causey Pike and grabbed a shot of them. (Can you see them just below the last ascent to the summit?)
The long winding path to the rear of Outerside.
Looking across to Rowlings End below Causey Pike.
The group I was watching have now started the descent of Causey Pike and are heading to Sail.
I always measure wind speed and temperature on the summits with my anemometer. Today's wind was, unsurprisingly, 45mph average and 66mph sustained gusts with a wind chill of -15 deg C. I did wonder what it was like up at 3000ft and read last night that someone measured 127mph while hiding behind rocks on Skiddaw with the same Kestrel meter I use. Blimey... those are deadly speeds and could easily pick up a large man and throw him off the fell. Indeed, a mere 66mph is very hard to make progress against and you can lean right forward into it and it will hold you up. Here's a pic Steve took of me measuring the data with my Kestrel on Barrow.
Onwards as we pass a section called "Barrow Door"
Looking back, Barrow is the ridge to the right.
Another fell runner passed us. What a place for a morning run eh?
Watching all that running has made us hungry. It's time to stop for another snack, but we have been looking around for a while now for some shelter and there is none around here. After a while, we came across a little sheep fold. Perfect! Its still blowing a gale here but its much better than nothing and im keen to see how the new MSR stove fires up in this wind.
It fired instantly and stayed lit. Perfect. Shall we have a porridge, a pot noodle or more bacon? Well, the bacon is by far heaviest so I might as well dispense with that first!
Perfection... 4 bacon medallions in a nice fresh bun with butter and a dash of tomato sauce.
All washed down with a couple of coffee's and a large slice of home made chocolate shortbread that my wife Mandy kindly baked us especially for today's hike.
Well, I guess we had best burn off a few of those calories now so its time to move on. Sail is ahead left... We had already decided before this point that given the wind conditions and the visibility problems that would arise if that 50mph wind contained rain, we were going to give Causey and Sail a miss today.
The ascent up Outerside is to our right.
Even the view back to Barrow is lovely from here. What a great area.
But the jewel in the crown is ahead. Hopegill head and the Force Crag mining operation below it.
Looking across to Sail pass. (Its in the top left-hand corner, the path running down towards us)
That looks treacherous in these conditions. Indeed, a friend on Facebook warned me about this the night before when she read that Steve and I were heading this way. Thanks Emma - you were right about the potential for danger there!
Steve enjoying the views.
Time to move on, so let's grab a selfie... My hood looks daft, but its clamped tightly around my head with the drawcord so the wind can't rip it back off. Oh well, its not a fashion parade I guess!
Moving upwards towards the summit.
As we gain height, Bassenthwaite comes into view.
Outerside Summit views. A tad below 2000ft but with views to challenge any of the big fells. A very pleasant surprise indeed.
I grabbed a quick ten shot panorama here. What an awesome summit view for a reasonably small fell.
Looking over towards Keswick and Derwentwater.
The weather is still providing us with lots of photo opportunities. It's lucky Steve and I never rush around, we always take our time and take lots of photos. People must look at our average speed data and wonder why on earth we are so slow. We really do make a great day out of every hike, believing that the fells are there to be enjoyed, not endured. Why rush?
From Outerside we head onto Stile End. The descent from here was tricky. Steve had a couple of minor falls on the next half mile section, as did a chap who overtook us... today was my lucky day and I stayed clean. It was very treacherous underfoot due to the rock being icy, and the ground waterlogged.
Looking back up Outerside after the main descent was done.
From here onwards it was a pretty simply hike back to Braithwaite.
Via Upper Coledale.
Just off this path as you drop back into the Coledale area of Braithwaite, there just happens to be...
A pub called The Coledale Inn.
Where we stop for an hour to warm up. A perfect end to another perfect day on the fells.
And that was it. Warmed up suitably we had back to the car for the long 2hr drive home feeling very pleased with ourselves. I will revisit this route again for sure, it's an excellent route and will benefit greatly from some warmer weather.
Here is some data from my Suunto Ambit3 Peak.
And here is the elevation profile.
And finally, a little 60-second video, courtesy of Suunto Movescount showing our route animated in Google Earth.
Until next time folks... stay safe out there and remember, the fells are there to be enjoyed, not endured. Take lots of time and pictures, leave only footprints and keep only memories.
All images in this blog were taken with my little pocket sized Canon G7X point and shoot. Its not a patch on my Canon 5D MK3 of course but I no longer lug all that around with me hiking as its just too cumbersome. When I find a scene worth of the 5D3's talents, I usually return one day to make the best of it.
**Hike Completed on Jan 30th 2016 - Wainwrights 116 & 117 of 214**