Tuesday 18 August 2009

Coast to Coast Preparations 1

I’ve just counted the days until our Scottish Coast to Coast and now wish I hadn't - 38 days is a long time.

Booking the flights a few weeks ago made it all seem real and I’ve been busy getting or making the things I need to take. Gear-wise I think I’m getting there, gradually ticking things off the list. It was quite  shock to see how many extras I need. It’s the little things that I wouldn’t take on an overnighter but are necessary for a longer trip. Things like a tick remover, foot cream, a length of dyneema, a larger pack towel, a few more dry bags, a toilet trowel and of course a larger hip flask! Like most lightweight enthusiasts I’ve also made the very light MSR tent peg toilet trowel, courtesy of Colin Ibbotson! This has to be the equivalent of my 18th birthday in terms of lightweight backpacking!

Some of you may remember that I was after a lighter pack for this trip and had decided on the Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus. However it looks like this isn’t going to be coming with me as Grant at GG and Ian at Winwood are all out of the medium sized packs until an unknown time in September. I highly doubt I’ll be able to get one in time so I’m planning on taking the trusty Litespeed for now.

There are a couple of logistical issues I still need to iron out before we fly and these are an unfortunate consequence of our mode of transport. Although we knew that flying enabled us to make the most of our time in the hills, some inconveniences are quickly restoring karma! As I can’t take gas onto the plane I’m having to work out where I can buy gas or if I can post it ahead. For most this wouldn’t be a problem but timing on the first day is a little tight so we could do without having to go into Inverness to buy gas. I’m sure we’ll sort something.

I’m having to be quite careful with packing so I can get the poles inside the pack for the flight and not have to carry too much as hand luggage. I’ve got an OMM Trio chest pouch for additional storage which I’m hoping will make life slightly easier.

I’ve been playing with my spreadsheet (I know, I know) and bar a few last minute additions I think I’ve got the overall pack weight to around 10.5kg. This for me is positively heavy but I will tolerate it knowing that I’m carrying 6 days of food and fuel. The base weight for this trip, including spare clothes and crocs etc is 7.7kg so by mid-way through I should be looking at a more reasonable weight.

More to follow as the plan evolves….

Sunday 9 August 2009

Trip Report – Coniston & Seathwaite

Finally, here is the report from a trip to Coniston in June…….

It had been my aim to be a bit more prolific this year with getting out in hills but considering it was June and I’d been away once – it just wasn’t happening for me. I was determined that Paul and I would get away before my summer holiday and so we booked the Friday off work and headed to Coniston on the Thursday evening.

The plan was to walk on out of Coniston (after a cheeky beer at the pub) on the Walna Scar Road to a pitch at Blind Tarn – just below Brown Pike. We arrived a little later than we’d have liked so it was a very quick beer and out the door at a swift pace. I’ve done this stretch of the Walna Scar Road once before on a glorious day but tonight there was a strong head wind and quite a bit of moisture in the air. Coniston-from-Walna-Scar

The sun was setting fast as we approached the shoulder of Brown Pike, picking up the higher of the two paths running between the disused Quarry. From this approach there looks to be no decent places to pitch by the tarn but as you get close an obvious spot comes into view. By this point it was dark and the tarn’s position provided a eerie atmosphere. Despite the seemingly sheltered position the wind was swirling around the tarn something rotten which was playing havoc with my stove! By now the lights from the villages on the coast to the south were in view and that familiar feeling of being out in the hills kicked in. pitch-at-Blind-Tarn We sat on some rocks at the edge of the tarn talking for ages and the wind eventually got the better of me and I  made a break for the down jacket. Needless to say Paul is now a down jacket convert!

The wind remained all night and the intermittent strong gusting really became annoying after a few hours. Eventually I reached for the ear plugs so all that remained was the feeling of cold air swirling around the mesh inner and the occasional nudge as the tent pushed against me.

The earplugs must have helped as I didn’t wake until around 6.30. I dozed a little as the drizzle hit the tent fly. Often when I wake to rain all I can think about is how good it would be to just lie in all day making tea and reading a book, but its not often you can get away with that here in England. Paul was having real trouble getting up as usual so I ate my cereal bars and took a wonder around the tarn before playing housewife and making tea. The visibility was awful with the cloud so thick and low I could hardly see Little Arrow Moor across the way. The wind was still showing off and letting us know who was boss and every now and then we’d get an appearance from the sun further down the valley towards Coniston. Had the sun have come out we would have been elated but as it stood it was cold, windy and not that inviting!


We packed up and rejoined the Walna Scar track heading up and over the shoulder of Brown Pike where the full force of the westerly wind really strutted it’s stuff. We met another walker heading the opposite way back to Coniston who didn’t look as though he was having the best of times. As we descended into the Dunnerdale Valley we looked for sheltered spots off the path to stop and have a tea break as we were a little early for the pub! We found a derelict stone dwelling next to Long House Gill and made a leisurely brew.



By now the cloud was just starting to lift and Harter Fell came into view. I’ve always fancied a walk up Harter fell, more for its 360 views that anything. We picked up the path skirting south around Hollin House Haw and past Turner Hall Farm. This path joins the road running into Seathwaite and moments later we were at the Newfield Inn. It looked so much more inviting without the thick freezing fog we had last time we were here in December! We reminded the landlord of the escapades of our last visit and washed down our ham. egg and chips with a few pints.

By now the sun was out and with the beer kicking in it was a struggle to put the packs back on to trudge on up to Seathwaite Tarn. It was still windy and partly overcast but the sun was still pushing through. In no time at all we were at the south end of the tarn and making our way north east stopping to take photos  of Raven Nest How. From here we could see our next challenge – Levers Hawse.


It would be a quite a sharp ascent and we took our time to choose our route as not to make any unnecessary detours. With the wind as it was we though about making our way south east and onto the ridge via Far Gill. We had wanted to get settled early and find somewhere out of the wind so we opted for the most direct route – which was quite frankly knackering!



Luckily with the wind behind us we made it to the top where (as expected) the wind nearly blew us over and made walking difficult. We walked briefly south along the ridge to pick up the track down to Levers Water which was looking stunning in  the sunshine.

It was hard to tell what the conditions were like down on the water so as we made our way down we scouted around for potential camping spots sheltered from the wind. We soon found that there weren’t many and so we continued on down to the water, picking up a track clockwise around the shore. The wind was gusting down from The Prison to the north and it whipped up the water causing waves to crash against the opposite shoreline.


We took some video and photos as it was too early to camp. We found perfect spot behind a rather large rock about 200m from the weir, but as it was just off the path we knew we would have to pitch late and leave earlier than normal. The wind was so strong away from the protection of the rock though, the likelihood of people passing was slim. Nevertheless we made food and went of exploring a little whilst the food re-hydrated. As I made my way over the weir and back towards our bags I watched Paul almost get blown over! The wind had now decided that a consistent direction wasn’t enough of a performance and was now gusting in every direction. No matter where we hunkered down to eat, the gusts would find us. We both had that look of disappointment on our faces as we wondered whether the tent would cope. Personally I felt it could but I wasn’t thrilled by the only sheltered pitch spot being almost on the path, on top of the fact that sleep would be unlikely. Tired and disappointed we packed away the stoves, raised our packs to our backs and set off back into Coniston.

It was around 10pm by the time we made it back into Coniston, where we had walked almost in silence, both trying to mask our disappointment at being beaten once again by the wind. It was a late return home with Paul dropping me off at around 1am wishing I was still on the mountain.