Sunday, 4 February 2018

Winter Climbing & Walking Meet - Braithwaite

Saturday morning at 6:45 a band of winter climbers emerged from their bunks and busily prepared for a snow and ice climbing day on Great End.  At 8 a.m. they left the hut and journeyed to the car parking at Seathwaite. The objective was to climb Cust's Gully.  As we ascended the light rain turned to sleet, then snow.  The whole face of Great End was covered in fog but we could just about make out the start of Central Gully.  Cust's Gully was known to be high and far to the right but in the mist it was difficult to make out anything distinguishable.  The trek was easy under the rocks but Cust's Gully was nowhere to be found.  Checking the guidebook we decided that we were too low and a climb over steep rocky terrain to the next level shelf would be necessary.  Eventually, after much searching, we found the narrow steep-sided gully of Cust's with the unmistakable chock-stone wedged in it. 
Here we split into three groups.  Chris and Stuart decided to climb the grade III Window Gully. Ken roped up with Kieran and Phil whilst John, the other leader of the day, roped up with Simon and Lee  to climb Cust's Gully.  Snow conditions were not firm but there was enough purchase on the boots to allow us to move together as two teams.  A small rock pitch under the chockstone gave a difficult pitch where a permanent belay was made.  The final steps out of the gully were relatively easy.
We waited on the summit for Chris and Stuart, in total white-out. Eventually we heard a faint whistle and they joined us in the shelter of some rocks. Their climb had involved  a tough pitch of mixed ice and rock in lean conditions, lead by Stuart and giving Chris his first taste of grade III winter climbing. After a month of frustrating conditions it was fantastic to finally feel the crampons and axes bite into real ice.

Above the icy rock - the chockstone feature evident

By Taylorgill force: Phil, Chris, Stuart, Lee, 
Simon, John and Kieran
The descent in the cloud was far from easy.  Ken was armed with map and compass which gave a good, safe line of descent but the compass then led us uphill for too long.  Something was wrong.  John checked our position on his new navigation gizmo and decided we were starting the ascent of Esk Pike.  A quick turn-around brought us to the branch off to Esk Hause and a new compass bearing toward Sprinkling Tarn.  The fog had descended still further and no features of Great End were now to be seen but at least it had stopped snowing.  Down to Styhead Tarn where a mountain rescue man was quite rightly turning back young hopefuls wanting to climb Scafell so late in the day.  Our descent then took us over the small scramble by Taylorgill Force, one of the highest waterfalls of the Lake District. 
The day was finished off with a communal meal of corn beef hash and fruit salad at the hut before going to the pub.

On the Sunday we rose to a much brighter day - no risk of rain or snow.  The quest was now to climb Helvellyn from Red Tarn.  At Glenridding car park we waited for the car parking machine to register 9a.m. after which it allowed you to buy a ticket.  The trek to Helvellyn was arduous
over ice-glazed stones and a gradient that seemed to last forever.  Eventually the bowl of Helvellyn became visible; one of Lakeland’s finest winter views. Red Tarn was surprisingly unfrozen. 

Stuart climbs V Corner (III) Red Tarn Cove

We roped up into three groups as before.  Kieran had gone home to celebrate his father's birthday and his place was taken by Ian.  The main groups chose the Grade I Gully 2 (as opposed to the Grade II Gully 1, confusingly) whilst Chris and Stuart plumped for a grade III route.  The main teams made good progress at first but as the gully steepened conditions under foot were not good - 10 cm of soft snow covering an icy base.  Both Ken and Ian tried to fit crampons on the steep icy slope in vain - they would have to kick and cut steps. The exit from the gully was particularly tricky, rising to about a 70 degree angle on uncertain snow, but the two axes helped a lot to steady the climb.
Stuart and Chris made a successful ascent of V-Corner, a line of weakness up the buttress to the left of Gully 2, culminating in the tricky eponymous corner. Again, conditions were leaner than ideal but Stuart lead the first and third pitches boldly, with Chris succeeding on his first grade III lead on pitch two. They moved together on the upper snow slope to rendezvous with Ken and party on the summit plateau, with glorious views over the snowy fells.

John and his team decided to descend by Swirral Edge                                                                        
Ken chose Striding Edge as a descent because one of his team had no crampons.  Striding Edge is longer but safer because Swirral can be lethal in icy conditions without crampons - there are no rocks to stop a fall, just a continuing icy slope to Red Tarn, far below.

We got down to the Car Park at 5:30 as the light was fading on one of the most successful winter climbing meets ever and a pleasure to be with such an enthusiastic team.     

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Nicky Nook and Grizedale Walk

Six members and guests turned up for the walk on a perfect winter day.  Nicky Nook Hill gave the most amazingly clear views over the plain of Lancashire and Morecambe Bay; unusually the hills of the Lake District were clearly visible.  There is a short cut to the walk from the summit of Nicky Nook to the reservoir but all the party opted to extend the walk to take in the beautiful Grizedale wooded valley.  The Priory Pub at Scorton was a welcome rest stop after the 11km morning walk.

Hannah, Ken, Yvonne and Jud with guests Stuart and Liz. 

After the excellent pub meal someone shouted that the ice-cream shop was open - irresistible. The way back to the car park is a short 3 km so how could we resist!

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Clywdians Walk

The walk in the Clywdians Hills (Offas Dike) near Mold took the smaller limestone hills to the east of Llanferres.

The walk passed Pothole Quarry then continued by tiny paths not even marked on the map to the limestone pavement highpoint of Bryn Alyn (408 metres) giving great views of the higher Clwydians Hills and the hilly eastern forests.   Continuation of the walk passed by real caves (relics of 4000 year old human remains and later Roman remains found there) and a potter about at Pot Hole Quarry. 

Elevenses at Bryn Alyn

The group at Pothole Quarry

Moelwyns Climbing and Walking Meet

I don't know why this meet is not more popular.  Wonderful climbing on south facing cliffs with a micro-climate similar to that of Tremadoc with hard 2-pitch routes and easier 6-pitch slab routes more than a 100 metres long.  Accommodation was at the 'Lancashire Caving and Climbing Club hut at Tanygrisiau just 20 minutes away from the climbing cliffs.
After saying this area is blessed with good weather it was not to be this year.  It rained heavily all night and with lighter rain in the morning we were wondering what to do.  The three of us, Ken, Yvonne and Neil decided on a walk direct from the hut along the Ffestiniog valley.  Mercifully the rain stopped and we entered the Ffestiniog Railway station of Duallt to discover that this was a special "Victorian" weekend for the railway with many extra trains with tiny old carriages on a Victorian theme.  A goods train carrying a few small wagons looked as though it had just come out of the box of a toy train set.  For those railway buffs, there is a video attached of the normal scheduled steam train working hard up the slopes above Duallt.
The walk continued through forestry and by swollen rivers and waterfalls and it started to rain.
Nice to get back to a warm, comfortable hut and a hot meal.  The nearest hostelry, 'the Kings Arms' is just over a mile away.  We were made very welcome by the locals who were curious to know all about these hill walking strangers.
Sunday was forecast to be a dry day in the Ffestiniog region but so much rain had fallen in the previous 24 hours, low level cloud kept rolling in over the rock climbing crags.  Eventually we decided that climbing would be on damp rock and decided on a walk.  Walking in the mountains in this region is more of an industrial archaeology outing. Our walk took us by the massive Stylwan Dam (pump storage scheme), onward past many mines to two massive mined craters 300 feet deep in the middle of a mountain plateau.  One of these craters connected via a mine tunnel to the abandoned mining village of Cwmorthin over a mile away.  We were fascinated at all the mining history around us, mines, villages, waterwheel housings, inclines and slag heaps, tramways and were determined to 'google' the history of the region when we got home.   

A pleasant meet in spite of wet rock.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Pembroke Climbing & Coast Walking Meet

Kieran & John on "Gone" Alice climbs 'Heart of Darkness'

PEMBROKE gave a great long weekend enjoyed by all on these superb limestone sea cliffs. Brilliant weather, wonderful beaches and friendly pubs all make this a must go to destination for all keen 'trad' climbers. Notable ascents were Chris and Alice on 'Heart of Darkness' (HVS 5a), and Kieran and John on 'Army Dreamers' (HVS 5a) and Pavla and Stuart ascents and first abseils.
The final highlight was the magnificent 'Threadneedle Street' (S) which saw Kieran, John and Chris finishing the weekend off.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Alpine Meet

The Alpine meet is run every year but is not put onto the St. Helens Mountaineering Club card because it is organised by the Alpine Club.  It is a requirement that everyone on the meet is experienced in Alpine Climbing or has a mentor to show the ropes.  St. Helens members have been major participants in the past but this year we were fewer than usual with only 4 members.
Ken had gone on his own and expected to be mainly walking but a good run of fate was awaiting.  One of the “Climbers Club” girls (Claire) wanted to climb whilst her husband was cycling the passes.  This led to some great climbs in the Albigno valley up to 10 pitches of perfect granite including ‘Via Meuri, Pix Dal Pal, and Piz Balzette’. 
Dave and Tom arrived with a wish list of challenging routes.  This was Tom’s first Alpine Trip and he was feeling macho to the point of death defying but thankfully Dave was on hand to tamper down his ardour to realistic expectations.  Their first series of climbs, however, were enough to frighten and tire even the most experienced alpinists.  They tackled the 7 pitches of Via Felici (7a) then the 16 pitches of Spazzacaldera and the 5c Fiama. No wonder Tom looked doolally after this tiring, hard experience.

Success on the Fiama      

Dave went on to climb the 3900 metre snow covered Piz Palu from Diavolezza with two Wayfarers Terry and Dave.  The wind was so fierce that they turned back just below the summit.

Piz Palu snow ridge      

Other places visited by the team were Vho crag, a granite outcrop blasted out to make the old road, and the excellent via feratta routes of Chiavenna.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Working Weekend at the hut

The main task of the weekend was to improve the pathway from the main hut to the annex.
Simon was the architect and arrived at the hut with his father's truck laden with 2.4 metre decking board and stakes.  The idea of staking out the area for the decking board was worrying as there are unmarked water and electrical services between the two properties.  In areas where there might be a potential disaster, the stakes were only lightly put into the ground.
Tiles and a permeable fabric layer formed the base layer finished off with two tonnes of Honister stone  The cost of the project was under £300.
The turning circle for cars at the hut was also improved.  Ian had provided plastic hexagons which were laid on a prepared surface, filled with sand already stored at the hut, and covered with Honister stone.  The track at the other end of the turning circle was also flattened with much mud and vegetation removed.  We'll see how it goes once the ravishes of wet weather take their toll.
Car parking has always been a problem because the main track is lower than the car parking areas.  The rise onto the car parking areas has been much reduced so a slower drive on can be made.

The solar panels for the fridge battery were in line with the roof and at a good angle for a country like Spain rather than England.  In a trial, one of the solar panels was elevated from, 30 degrees to 60 degrees.  Immediately the power to the fridge battery increased by over 50%

Stuart, Simon W, Ian and Ken work on the path.

Ian was wishing to add to his list of 'Wainwrights.  He persuaded Ken to join him in the ascents of Barrow and Outerside starting at 7pm on the Saturday evening.  To our surprise, there were hundreds of people ascending Barrow.  We learnt that they were preparing for the "Keswick Festival of light".  The idea was that over a thousand people should ascend the peaks of Barrow, Outerside and Stile End then walk just after sunset 5 metres apart with torches in the colours of the Nepalese flag into the valley of the Coledale.  On the top of Barrow we could already see hundreds of people ascending Outerside.  As the procession started, everyone switched on their head lamps now coated with colours of red, green, yellow and white.  It was indeed a spectacular sight to see these hundreds of light descending the three ridges of Barrow, Outerside and Stile End into the Coledale valley.

On the Sunday, the work of re-angling the solar panel was quickly done leaving time for an ascent and scramble of Hall Fell Ridge on Blencathra.  It was a quick ascent but even quicker on the way down for Ken who slipped and cut his hand needing medical attention at Keswick Hospital.

Thanks to the efforts of Brian S we have at last got a qualified LPG engineer to look at the shower at the hut.  We were hoping that it just needed a service, but the engineer is unfamiliar with the brand and will be fitting a new unit in compliance with modern legislation.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Winter Meet at Braithwaite

We expected to be brandishing ice axes in the snows of Scafell on this meet but when we arrived in the Lake District not a flake of snow was visible even on the highest hills.
On the Saturday the high hills were covered in cloud but Cat Bells and Maiden Moor were clear.  We set off early from the hut taking the lovely path by Newlands Beck then by Skelgill Farm and the arduous traverse to the summit of Cat Bells

Atmospheric pictures of Skiddaw and Causey Pike from the slopes of Cat Bells (before the rain)

It was already starting to rain but the weather forecast was good and we thought it wouldn't last long.  We were aiming for a new path, a mile after Bull Crag on Maiden Moor but it was going to be hard to find.  It appeared to begin 100 metres after a "cairn" marked on the map shortly after a point where crags came close to the path.  After passing many large cairns we noticed a faint trace and a second smaller cairn heading in the direction of Borrowdale - this had to be our path.  After a while we passed a third cairn and a slope by a stream giving shelter from the wind - our dinner spot.  The path was still tiny but beckoned further towards Borrowdale before turning and traversing northwards by Nitting Haws towards Derwent Water.  This excellent path was going to cut out any tedious road work from Grange to the start of the shore paths of the lake.  It was still raining and we arrived back at the hut, soaked to the skin after our 12 mile trek, to a warm fire and a welcome cup of tea.

Sunday was bright and snow had fallen on the higher hills in the night.  We reckoned the new snow would be treacherous on the steepest ground so opted to climb Barf overlooking Bassenthwaite Lake.  Parking at Thornthwaite village we took the steep path by the "Bishop and the Clerk" emerging to snow on the summit of Barf.

The summit of Barf with snowy Skiddaw in the background

With wonderful views all around we wanted to stay high and walked to the summits of Lord's Seat and Broom Fell.  Descent was through the forest of Winlatter and the lovely Comb Beck to our start point. 

Friday, 2 December 2016

Introductory Meet for New Members - 2-4 December

The intention of this meet was to introduce people to using the hut and the wealth of walking and climbing in the Keswick region.
On the Saturday we walked direct from the hut door along the stream by Newlands Valley and scrambled up Rowling End and Causey Pike. At the saddle an option was given to return back to the hut via Barrow (making a 4 hour walk) or continue around the Coledale Horseshoe. Being a cold but fine day the team decided to continue over Crag Hill, Hopegill Head and Grizedale Pike returning to the hut at 3.30pm.
Plenty of time to relax by the fire, cook a meal and visit the pub in preparation for the following day's activities.

Rachel and Ian on Hopegill Head

The intention for the Sunday was to go rock-climbing on Shepherds crag but the weather dictated that it was too cold to be standing around belaying. As an alternative we travelled to Seathwaite to visit the higher hills and find some snow.

Snow Climbing onto Great End View from the Great End

New members are welcome to join us on any meets. At hut meets there is normally no planned itinerary and members do as they wish, walking, fell-walking or rock-climbing according to their wishes and ability.
The next introductory meet at the hut is on the weekend of 27-29 January, 2017

Monday, 17 October 2016

Moelwyns Weekend Meet

This probably turned out to be one of the best weekend meets of the year yet only four members (Ken, Ewan, Chris M and Yvonne) attended. 
It was raining during the Friday night but by morning the nearby south facing crags were already drying.  Chris and Yvonne fancied climbing on Craig y Clippau but somehow lost their way in the slate heaps and landed up at Craig y Wrysgan where they climbed the famed Honeysuckle Corner amongst other routes.   
Meanwhile Ken and Ewan donned on their big boots to climb the seven pitch v. diff. route of Slick.  This was a lovely varied route offering some quite tricky old-fashioned climbing from time to time.  After lunch they changed climbing technique, putting on the rock shoes to climb "Orange Outang" an 80 metre hard severe with rather sparse protection. 

There are many eating out possibilities in Blaenau Ffestiniog (pubs, cafes and Chinese take-away) two miles from the hut at Tanygrisau  but we decided to cook a meal and eat in the hut going out to the local friendly pub (the Kings Head) fifteen minutes walk away later.  We soon got bored with games of dominos so the landlord produced a game of draughts which was more exciting.  All of us had forgotten how to play this game but after a false start placing the pieces on all the squares as though we were playing chess, the locals came over and put us right.    
It rained during the night and the hills were still covered in cloud in the morning.  Ken suggested a low level walk from the hut into the Vale of Ffestiniog.  The walk followed close to the Ffestiniog railway track but then departed as the railway entered a tunnel   Our trek over the hill brought us to old rail embankments and a tunnel which was abandoned when the Tanygrissau reservoir was built and the pump storage scheme with the nuclear power station of Trawsfynnod.   We heard a train whistle in the distance so headed for the loop-the-loop new railway track at Dduallt built to gain height to avoid the reservoir.  Well worth the wait eating early snacks in the sunshine, we were rewarded with a first hand view of the train and its six coaches thundering round the bend before the loops and a second view as it crossed the bridge looping over itself.  Our walk then took us westward to a path junction which returned us to Dduallt station.

The continuation of the walk took us into the forest region of Clogwyn y Geilfr and the ravine of the Afon Goedo.  The walk followed the river in part past waterfalls and then crossed into open moorland for the return to Tanygrisau.  I'd heard before tales that the Vale of Ffestiniog was lovely and they were correct.