Hmmm, Snowdonia or the Lakes? A common question in our household, usually on the Friday evening preceding a ‘planned’ day of walking on Saturday. I say planned, but what usually happens is a conversation between me and Mrs. C. along the lines of,
“Fancy a walk Saturday?”
“Can do. Where you thinking?”
“Snowdonia or the Lakes?”
“Don’t mind. You choose”
“Which d’you prefer?”
“Either. What about you?”
Snowdonia is considerably more familiar and closer to home, so usually wins out. However, a fortuitous turn of events conspired to drag me to both destinations over an extended Bank Holiday weekend.
Thursday morning saw me on auto-pilot along the familiar A5, bound for a meet up with fellow ML trainee Nick outside the Pen y Gwryd hotel. The plan was to bimble round the Snowdon Horseshoe, then drive back to Capel Curig and find a spot to camp. Most likely up on Cefn y Capel, the eastern-most spur of the Glyders that rises up behind the Pinnacle Stores in a series of heathery, rocky knobbles. Friday would be a sensible half-day of navigation and rope work practice around Crimpiau, then home for tea and cakes. And it all went to plan – mostly…
We got up and over Crib Goch under fine and reasonably clear conditions. However, the continuation up Crib y Ddysgl and onto Yr Wyddfa was spent in low cloud and strengthening winds. By the time we’d reached the heaving, stinking summit café I was ready to don another layer and considering putting my gloves on. Ah, summer in the mountains. We eventually dropped out of the cloud at Bwlch y Saethau and enjoyed the rest of the route in glorious sunshine. Another ML trainee, Charlie, was coming to the end of a week spent based in the Ogwen valley. We’d managed to make phone contact on our way up Crib Goch and Charlie had agreed to come over and meet up with us – he was waiting for us atop Y Lliwedd. Inevitably, three trainee MLs in the same place at the same time can only lead to one thing. Intense discussion over the subtle nuances of contour-based micro-navigation is not that thing. Drinking beer in the Plas y Brenin bar is.
Walking uphill with a loaded pack on a humid evening, in fading light after sinking a couple of pints of Brenin ale is not to be recommended. Still, Nick and I eventually located a reasonable pitch somewhere on Cefn y Capel and managed to get the tents up and feed ourselves before retiring. I don’t think I slept much. It was windy during the night and the constant flapping of my tent’s flysheet and flexing of the main pole provided far too much stimulation for my beer-tainted brain…
After a pleasant sunrise, it soon clouded over as we bimbled off Cefn y Capel and headed over the road towards Crimpiau. First up was a bit of rope work practice on the rocky outdrops of Y Pincin. Having barely handled a rope since ML training I was pleased at how quickly it all came back. Before long, Nick and I were belaying each other up and down little scrambles and enjoying the crotch-melting delights of the South African abseil. Rope work sorted, we carried on up the valley below Crimpiau, working on navigation. Timing and pacing was tackled first, before we had a go at some micro nav on the confusing terrain around Clogwyn Mannod. I reckon my map’s wrong…
The onset of drizzle and lunchtime rounded the session off nicely and it was home to overload the washing machine and sleep in a proper bed after a great couple of hill days.
Ah, the August Bank Holiday weekend: rain, gridlocked roads, overcrowded hills, more rain. Fortunately, events didn’t unfold in their traditional manner and after repacking my rucksack with the ‘big tent’ and ‘other stove with the pans’ (I have technical names for all my gear), Mrs. C and I installed ourselves on the M6, pointing ‘oop north’. A lunchtime start seemed to avoid most of the traffic and we made decent time. I’d fancied a walk in the area professional grumpy old sod and fell walker, A. Wainwright once christened the ‘Far Eastern Fells’. More specifically, the bit between Haweswater and High Street, which had looked so appealing from a walk round the Kentmere Horseshoe last year. Arriving late afternoon at the busy Mardale Head car park, we loaded up and set off, destination Blea Water.
Reaching the outflow from Blea Water, we crossed the stream and headed up the broad bounding spur below Piot Crag. A bit of hunting around found a dry pitch with adjacent kitchen (flat rocky bits) and a marvellous view over Mardale Waters and the valley we’d just climbed.
We enjoyed a calm and warm night, waking to a marvellous sunrise with cloud swirling around the tops. As we packed up it looked as though we’d be in for a sunny day. However, as we set off on the climb up Long Stile to the High Street plateau, the cloud came down. It stayed with us as we rounded the head of Riggindale and returned to Mardale Head via Kidsty Pike. Still, at least the drizzle was warm and I could practice timing and pacing a bit more.
Returning to the car at lunchtime provided the ideal opportunity to pop in to the very pleasant Bampton Tea Room for a bite to eat. Heading back to the M6 through the town of Shap provided the ideal opportunity to pop in to the New Balance outlet store to stock up on T-shirts…er, I mean technical base layers.
We arrived home early evening to launch another assault on the washing machine, before perusing the take-away menu from the awesome Oriental Delight.
Hmm, chicken or beef?