The joy of being a Duke of Edinburgh Assessor is being able to spend time in the hills and meet groups of young people who are learning new skills and challenging themselves with being self reliant in the outdoors.
This weekend I got to assess a friend’s group, which meant I also spent the weekend with his gorgeous dog Beamish. The scout group were more hardcore than some gold groups I’ve met recently as they were wild camping for three days straight as part of their Gold expedition in the Lake District – hiking from Keswick to Borrowdale, over to Grasmere and then up the Thirlmere Valley.
It was certainly a gale Saturday when we decided to head up Great Gable from Honister and we battled the wind across the fell tops.
The best bit about going away for the weekend with Mountain Rescue friends is the fact that many of them are climbers. Usually this means I get a chance to improve my frankly terrible techniques. The bonus this weekend was the lack of urgency to get out of bed and leave the bunkhouse as it had rained and snowed overnight, ruining any plans of climbing.
Thankfully by the time we’d got up the rain has stopped so we headed down the Borrowdale valley to the Honister Slate Quarry for a quick ascent onto the fells. Considering I was in the Lakes last weekend when the dregs of winter snow had almost vanished, it was a surprise to find a fresh dusting to play in.
It was a last minute decision to go the the Lake District over Easter, one I thought I was going to regret as I sat parked in traffic on the M6 watching it rain.
I’d arranged to meet Tony from the Yorkshire Mountaineering Club at their huts in Coniston to find out more about the club and make the most of the weekend and 4 long hours later I arrived.
The Club’s huts are located near the Coppermines Youth Hostel, up a dirt track about two miles out of the centre of Coniston. As someone who camps regularly and is only an occasional user of Youth Hostels I thought the huts are a bargain for guests to stay in (less than camping!) and are in a fantastic location.
Waking up at 6am to the sound of the dehumidifier in the drying room, it was clear that Tony is an early riser and was keen I was too. We’d decided the night before to head round to Eskdale to go up Sca Fell and so set off bright and early.
The path up the River Esk is a gentle start to the day, which was good as while Tony is a keen mountaineer, in his 70’s now he’s certainly not running up fells anymore.
The joy of assessing young people doing the Duke of Edinburgh expeditions is the excuse to be out in the hills myself. So last weekend I spent a few days around Borrowdale and Easedale as they headed off on their expeditions. Thankfully the weather was pretty good.
I met the at Walla crag first walking in from Ashness Bridge. I had to wait a while but great views over Derwent and Keswick so who cares?!
The joy of assessing a Duke of Edinburgh group out in the Lake District is the chance to get out on the fells and meet them in remote locations. The Scout group I was assessing this week had their first camp up at Dale Head Tarn so I used that as a good excuse to bag Robinson, a fell top I’d not yet been up.
Heading out from Little Town in the Newland Valley I headed up towards High Snab Bank and onto Robinson. It was a scorching hot day and laden with 3 litres of water for the group I was feeling knackered before I’d even got near the top!
I have to admit to being a bit excited about the prospect of finally finishing the Pennine Way over a final week of walking after having started this route 8 years ago. So taking a week off work and roping in my parents as willing sherpas I headed out on the fells.
Dufton to Alston (18.75 Miles/ 30 Km)
Heading out I had a skip in my step, eager to get on the fells. I did however have a minor hangover from a great night in the Stag Inn, the fantastic pub in the village (which does excellent meals). Despite being in sunshine in Dufton I could already see that Great Dun Fell and Cross Fell were shroud in mist.
One of the things I love about camping is the early nights; bed time at sundown. It is truly relaxing and restores inner calm after any frustration of everyday life, to be able to nod off as the sun sets.
The exception to this is when it rained an incessant heavy downpour from 7pm, making me feel like I might float away in my sleep, its my own fault for not proofing the tent before I left. She who doesn’t proof the tent sleeps in a puddle. Lesson learnt.
So I appreciate the small things, I moved my tent from the puddle and appreciate the reduced seepage through the ground sheet. I appreciate the luxury of my mp3 to be able to drown out the sound of the rain, and later I’ll be grateful for the ear plugs.
It was only the promise of good weather in the morning that made me stay put. “It had better be nice in the morning or I’ll drown the weather man in the puddle under my sleeping mat”.
Thankfully I woke to gorgeous sunshine, so all I needed was a coffee and the world was great again.
There is nothing better than a few nights in a tent to improve inner calm. So I was grateful to be able to escape to the Lake District for a couple of days this week, and made sure it was in a quiet valley so I could properly relax. I love the Lakes at any time of year, but summer fills the hills and makes it difficult to spend the day alone. So when I turned up at the Three Shires Stones on the Wrynose Pass at lunch time and had to abandon my car not quite off the road, I did think I’d struggle to find peace and quiet whilst out walking.
It might be the quieter side of Cumbria but the Howgill Fells get just as many people walking them so its always good to find a path that is a bit quieter.
Despite Cautley Spout being a great waterfall and worth the short walk in, the path at the side looks steeper than it is to the inexperienced walker, or in this case scienceboy who was dragged with me for the days walk. “Are we nearly there yet?” was the constant chatter to the top, I forgive him – its been a while since he’s joined me and I’ve certainly been on some long walks recently.