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. 

Monday, 10 October 2016

Settle Limestone Walk

This lovely walk takes in the best scenery around the Settle area.  Roger, Les, Carol, Ken F, and Heather started on the most beautiful day of October sunshine.  The first main attraction of the walk was a tour above a very large limestone quarry leading to Schoolboys Tower.  The quarry seems to be disused and will be a useful climbing area in the future when agreements are made to climb on its fine, long, limestone lines. Undulating ground westward and northwards took us to the tiny village of Feizor.  A tiny cafe was open but we had more important trekking to go eastwards to the Craven Arms pub at the village of Stainsforth. 

After the meal, we ascended the track near Stainsforth Beck to see Catrigg Force waterfall.  It was here that the planned continuation walk plans began to unravel.  The planned route would visit the caves and limestone cliffs of Attermire Scar but Les was suffering from a hip problem and the easier option was to follow the River Ribble, where salmon were said to be leaping up the waterfalls, to Settle.  There were many groups of people by the waterfalls but they were probably disappointed.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Isle of Skye Meet

The meet took place using the recently improved BMC Glen Brittle Hut. The weather was variable but with a couple of good days.

As a mixed group activities included walking, scrambling and climbing (when it was dry enough).
Places visited included Coire Laggan, (where some brave folk endured the freezing waters of the lochan, Uillish, Suisnish, the Coral Beach, as well as Chris and Jonah's exploits in Sron na Ciche.
Visits to the Old Inn at Carbost produced an invite for Chris to join in the Friday night jam session with the very accomplished local musicians. Chris more than held his own, delighted to find he was playing with a former Peat Bog Fairy(google if you need to).
Mention must be made of the gourmet food - thanks to all the contributors, especially Malcolm.

Photos include a venture onto a decidedly damp Sron na Ciche for some lower great classic mountaineering routes on the famous Cioch Buttress. A pleasant ambling approach via The Terrace and Collie's Route (mod) culminated in the excellent Wallworks Route (V. Diff) with an improvised variation to avoid a damp and protectionless corner.
Later in the week with cloud still blotting out any suggestion of sun Chris managed a section of the ridge, approaching via the spur on Sgurr an Fheadain, before scrambling the section from Bidein Druim nan Ramh to the summit of Bruach na Frithe, rewarded with superb views across to Bla Bheinn.
On the final day, the rain held off long enough for Chris to make a scrambling ascent of Central Buttress (diff) in Coire a Grundda, an excellent long climb in a spectacular and lonely setting".

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Braithwaite BBQ Meet 16-17th July

We were spoiled with lots of sunshine this weekend in the Lakes for the club BBQ meet.

Both climbing and walking were able to be enjoyed by members and guests.

On the Saturday, Ken undertook a full day's walking on the ridges surrounding the hut while Chris and Hannah took Alfie (aged 8) on his first multi-pitch route - Quayfoot Buttress in Borrowdale.

A fantastic climb although slightly damp still in places from the recent rain, but with beautiful views throughout! Sarah, Brian and Yvonne joined us Saturday evening for the BBQ - thanks to Sarah for the homemade goodies!

Sunday brought more sunshine and a climbing opportunity for Yvonne and Ken, while the rest of us decided to have an easy day! - Hannah

Alfie (8) on Pitch 3 of Quayfoot Buttress.
View from Quayfoot Buttress
Ken, Chris, Yvonne, Sarah & Brian at the BBQ

Friday, 1 July 2016

The Classic Malham Cove/Gordale Scar Walk - 13th March

The Sunday walks try to find interesting hill territory within an hour's drive from St. Helens. This classic walk is so well known that an exception was made with a longer drive. Seven members arrived at the start point near Malham Tarn on a misty, quiet day. The calm did not last long - as soon as we met the Pennine Way path to Malham there were hoards of fellow trekkers.

Simon on limestone pavement Malham Cove

 A tea break on the limestone pavement above the cliffs of Malham Cove was tranquil but the steps down to the cove were thronged with tourists. Fortunately our route to Malham now veered from the tourist track leading us directly to our lunch destination, the Buck Inn. If you want a cheap meal this is not for you but the quality of the beers and the food was excellent.

Waterfall at Janet's Foss

Continuation of the walk took paths by Gordale Beck and the magical Janet's Foss. Gordale Scar offered a welcome challenge to the climbers amongst us.(see above pictures).
A good day out and well worth the long drive.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Beginners Meet - May 27-30th - Braithwaite

Despite a small turnout, the weather in Braithwaite provided the opportunity for some great climbing and walking.

On the Saturday, Alice and Jonah traveled to Buckstone How and scaled Honister Wall, followed by Woden's face.

On the Monday, Alice was joined by Simon and Yvonne and a short drive to Shepherds crag, starting off the day on Brownstone slabs.

Simon and Yvonne paired up to tackle Brown Slabs and then onto what should have been Brown Slabs Direct, but Simon leading may have veered onto Brownstones arete, leading to a bit of a zigzag climb - made for an interesting variation.

Alice and newcomer Matt tackled Brown Slabs, Brown Slabs Face and then Alice took on the test piece of Brown Slabs Crack. The climb went well for Alice with only a small bit of trepidation at the crux of the route.

Towards the end of the day, the group decided to finish on Jack Daws ridge. The multi-pitch route should only be defined as a climb for the first pitch, with the remainder being more scrambles. However the group weren't disappointed as the views in the late afternoon were the sort that Borrowdale is famous for and still a reason why so many climbers flock to the location.

Alice on Belay
Simon on Belay at Brownstone Slabs
Yvonne seconding up Brownstone Direct/Arete
Alice at the top of Brownstone Slabs
Beautfiul Borrowdale
Yvonne after climbing up a magical mystery route led by Simon
Matthew, Alice, Yvonne & Simon after climbing Jackdaw Ridge