24/7/83 Coniston Old Man from Dunnerdale

Route: Leeds Hut Duddon Valley – Grey Friar – Coniston Old Man – Seathwaite Tarn – Duddon valley 

A frustrating slow start from the Leeds hut up to Cockley Beck. Once on the hillside proper, the pace improved somewhat. The path was hard to find. We had to take quite a few rests – not a fit party. Only myself, Mitchell and Duncan were fit enough. We went straight up the side, leaving one member of the six-person party as a dot in the distance. We arrived at the summit of Grey Friar to find IH and a brace of his kids, already there – having come up a quicker route, if that were possible.  

The weather improved but remained hazy. As a larger party we pushed on down to down to a tremendous col affording a great view of Seathwaite Tarn, and thence up onto Brim Fell. From there, Levers’ Water was visible, as was Coniston Water itself, though almost hidden by haze. From there up onto Coniston Old Man itself. 

From the summit we split again into two parties. IH and his family went over Dow Crag and back to Dunnerdale via the Walna Scar Road. We descended to Seathwaite Tarn for a refreshing swim. Thence along the side of the tarn, over the dam (it is a reservoir) and down to Hinning Ho. Then up the Dunnerdale road back to the Leeds hut.  

My feet suffered because my socks were threadbare. Of the original party of six only two of us (one being me) brought water onto the hill! 

26/7/83 Scafell Horseshoe omitting Scafell

Cars were dropped off at the Woolpack in Eskdale, thence, to the Three Shires Stone at the top of Wrynose. A good start, missing the first summit (Cold Pike, 2259’). Cloudy on the tops, no spectacular views. For the first time through the “shelter” on the eponymous Shelter Crag (2631’). First sight of Bow Fell from the three tarns, looked very impressive. Near Three Tarns one of our party got separated from everyone else here and committed the almost unforgivable sin of crying “Help! Help!”. We knew so little in those days!

Ore Gap – windy. Broad Crag saw the only photograph of the day, a hazy impression of Great Gable. Descend to the col before Scafell Pike, and up – impressive [when you’re 18 as I was]. Lots of tourists on the mountain. Over Scafell Pike, down to Mickledore. Here, the appearance of The Lord’s Rake put off Mr AP [who was reputably, Eric Clapton’s lawyer at the time] and so we did not go up onto Scafell. Instead, via Broad Stand down into a hanging valley, down into another, lower, hanging valley, and hence down into upper Eskdale – a river valley rather than a glacial U-shape. A long slow descent to Brotherilkeld [the roadhead, or the point at which the Eskdale road reaches the foot of Hardknott Pass]  and then a painful two mile tramp along the road to the Woolpack where we’d left the cars. The walk caused blisters and some deep cuts to my toes from adjacent toe-nails. At the end I was limping. But a darned good days walk notwithstanding. 

28/7/83 Kirk Fell

Route: Kirk Fell from Wasdale Head Inn 

The tops were in cloud as J. Rivett and myself left the pub and started up. Fast, with one stop. We reached the summit thinking it was Great Gable. Both of us realised that we had climbed the wrong mountain; neither of us mentioned it. We were not close friends. We descended very fast back to the pub.  

Back in the pub, few if anyone had actually even moved. This was that occasion at the end of my childhood when I said something coarse and someone said “He’ll never be refined”. We shall see.

29/7/83 Harter Fell

Route: Harter Fell (2129’) from Dunnerdale, through to Eskdale and back via col 

A lively jaunt through the forests to the summit in cloud. A party of six of us including the legendary teacher “Doc” Hawley made an ascent of Harter Fell. Good views of Wrynose bottom before going into the clouds. Over to the Woolpack (arriving just in time for last orders) and back via the  col, through drizzle, along a way-marked rout to Birks Bridge, thence along the road to the Leeds Hut. 

9/8/83 Edale Skyline

Route: “Edale Skyline”: Edale – Grindsbrook – Kinder Downfall – Edale Cross – Brown Knoll – Rushup Edge – Mam Tor – Hollins Cross – Edale (11.5 miles/8hrs). Party: Myself, R.C.E Ball, C. Richardson, M. Briggs 

Up on the train: a HST from Derby to Sheffield then a class 101 DMU to Edale. We noted with pleasure for later that the Ramblers Inn served Theakstons. On up Grindsbrook which was fairly easy though one member of the party was slower. Kinder was bone dry and very brown. Across to the Downfall was no problem at all. The Kinder river was dry; the Downfall was not even damp. We had a nice lunch there with some bouldering practice. Then, onto Kinder Low, Brown Knoll and Rushup Edge. A first-class and [then] little-trod walk across beautiful moorland. [I think this was the time when Rich Ball mentioned the concept of the “sun-soaked corner” – as in find me a “sun-soaked corner” for lunch…] 

Visibility not so great with high summer haze. On to Mam Tor where we saw that for purposes of erosion control, the authorities [or the National Trust] were installing stone stairs from the summit of Winnats up to the top of Mam Tor.  We saw hang gliders. There was a disagreement between Ball and I regarding whether or not we had time for Lose Hill as well. I argued not – and prevailed. We descended to Edale from Hollins Cross.  We rounded off an excellent on the hill with a pint and a pub snack in the Ramblers Inn. A steak sandwich, with chips, and an apple pie, with a pint, was £1.70. We had a few games of darts before joining the 19:33 to Sheffield – a Derby-built DMU.  Mitchell lost his train ticket, making it an expensive day out for him: 

Original return ticket Derby to Edale: £5.50, Single Edale to Sheffield: £1.50, Single Sheffield to Derby: £3.50 

We all chipped in though with a few quid each to cover his loss. Subsequent door-to-door service from Derby station to home, in M’s dad’s Triumph PI Automatic.  I though, had a young person’s railcard, so the train travel cost me only £2.50. 

27/8/83 Wasdale Screes 

Route: A walk along the Wasdale screes 

The four of us arrived in Wasdale after a lengthy drive engineered to avoid driving over Wrynose and Hard Knott. We had a pub lunch in the King George VI in Eskdale Green. Following this, the original idea of a quick flash up Scafell disappeared into the low clouds. It was, after all, already two-ish. So we decided to stretch our legs by a walk out over the Wasdale Screes. I had seen those impressive slopes before, but not my companions, whose first sight of them will have been as we motored in along the shore of Wastwater.  So, after a lengthy walk-in we arrived at the first scree, and relaxed. We threw stones into the lake. I pulled a muscle in my neck doing this. An upsetting experience in which I was convinced blood was pouring from my ear.  We spotted someone’s old Thermos flask, and stoned it to destruction from a distance. Thence, back to the car, and onto the Youth Hostel in Eskdale, where there were many Germans. We had a good night’s drinking in the Burnmoor, then in the King George VI, and finally in the Woolpack – all within walking distance of one another.  

8/8/83 A walk in the Langdales

Route: Three Shires Stone – Adam-a-cove – Crinkle Crag – Shelter Crag – Three Tarns – Bow Fell – Esk Pike – Angle Tarn – Rossett Gill –Mickleden – ODG – Red Tarn and back to the Three Shires Stone. Party: Myself, the Mackervoy brothers, T.Nicholls 

Notwithstanding having spent ninety minutes yesterday avoiding Hard Knott, Roo took the car over Hard Knott and Wrynose this morning without difficulty though it does call for aggressive driving. Parking at the Three Shires Stone we hared off, much faster than the same trip some weeks ago. Cloud deck was around 3000’. Clear air. Good views into Oxendale and Langdale, and Skiddaw was visible, as was Coniston Old Man, and the Scafell massif. Helvellyn, Windermere, the power station on the coast – all visible. At one point a couple asked us if we could identify one small tarn, and we considered it to be Devoke Water.  

My condition at the end of the London run [the Ventures had recently run by relay, from Derby to Gilwell Park) had been good. I considered it gone now. T was fittest. We slipped off Bow Fell to Esk Pike, then down screes to Angle Tarn, a beautiful location where we took lunch. [Roo and I and others had camped here in Easter ‘81 when were barely 16, having walked in with expedition bags, all the way from the train station in Windermere. Including climbing Rossett Gill in early evening when already exhausted. I remember that walk still. 27/12/20] 

Thence up to the lip of the descent of Rossett Gill – dreadful, steep, unpleasant in either direction. Once at the head of Mickleden we almost used up all our drinks, and then slogged along to the Old Dungeon Ghyll. At the ODG, we bought soft drinks and obtained fresh water. We also saw a newspaper and so learned of the Rams’ disastrous 5-nil defeat against Chelsea. Then we split: the two Tims went along Great Langdale to Chapel Gate, whilst Roo and I slogged up Oxendale non-stop up Brown Gill to Red Tarn, and thence back to the Three Shires Stone and the car.  Down into little Langdale, where we caused a bottleneck at the junction while talking to a guy in a Volvo about where he might camp. We sent him over into the Duddon valley. We ourselves went to Chapel Stile to pick up the two Tims, and thence into Coniston to stay at the Holly How Youth Hostel. The entire weekend cost £13.25. 

18/9/83 Knotlow Cavern (Monyash)

Route: Knotlow Cavern (Grade III?) Party: A. Mackervoy (Roo), S. Burns, A. King, myself 

On the road to Ashbourne by 9, with detours to Steve’s house and my house for forgotten items – a flask in my case. Thence to Monyash, collecting the key to Knotlow from a shop in Monyash village. We noted that the “Bull’s Head”, which I’ve visited on at least three occasions, has re-opened as “The Hobbit”.  

At Knotlow we took a look down the 210’ engine shaft, and opened the Knotlow shaft itself, a comparative baby of 50’. Returning to the Allegro [for it was an Allegro, alas] we moved our gear into the barn and suited up. It was windy and cold; the odd powerful gust of wind penetrated the barn, raising goose-bumps on naked hairy thighs. Back to the car for hardware, and over to the shaft. A single rope is made secure to a belaying pin, and I was first to abseil in, without mishap. Andy and Steve followed, and then our leader Roo. A ladder was left fixed for our return, and we descended to the second pitch, which was shorter. Another ladder was left here. Then we proceeded for some way through simple chest/waist high passages. Andy K and I were disappointed – this is in no way lives up to nearby Hillocks Mine, just across the way from here. Steve kept his gob shut – this was in fact his first time caving. A free-climb descent of ten or twelve feet was next. The  other three went down this easy enough, then it came to my turn. I started well enough, chimneying down, and then I slipped… 

Falls like this occur before you even have the chance to be surprised. I fell the 10’ to the rocky floor in an instant but it seemed slow – I perceived duration during that fall, though it could have only been a split second.  I was unharmed and we proceeded. But all three of my colleagues were highly amused by the look of total, uncomprehending surprise (a “yokel look”, one of them said) on my face when I slipped.  

A little further, came unpleasant surprises for us who did not know the route. The passage became a crawl, filled with six inches of muddy and unbelievably cold water. Then the crawl became a squeeze. The first squeeze was satisfyingly hard – not quite frustrating.  The second was easier and wetter. The passage continued as a crawl. Our leader Roo suddenly started talking about “the Bung series” and “Nick’s claim to fame” [I was the largest member of the party by some degree.] 

“You go first, Nick. Not meaning anything…no offence intended…if you can make it, we all can…” 

The way ahead led through a smooth, rounded hole, not unlike the neck of a wine bottle. A couple of false starts and I realised I could not make it through this with a helmet and lamp pointing other than downwards. Off came the helmet and lamp, which was shoved in front of me by hand, and I wriggled through with some difficulty – quite satisfying difficulty. Shortly after that, my lamp [these were actual hydrogen carbide lamps] drowned and went out. We got it relit, and we pushed on. The crawls and occasional squeezes continued relentlessly, to the point of pain in the elbows, to the point of the overalls almost being shredded by stones on the floor. The crawl went on and on, and on. Just at the point it was beginning to be a serious pain, it opened into a small room. A little stream trickled through. Iron bars inserted into the rock aided a free climb of eight feet or so to another crawl, leading to a fissure, and the end of the passage, where we rested before turning back. 

A brief halt to recharge our carbide lamps, and then back through the Bung Series and the watery squeezes. When it was time to stand up, so much time crawling ruined our sense of balance.  

At the second pitch, everyone had difficulty getting up. I fell off near the top. This was a protected pitch, which was just as well, but it didn’t stop me emitting a healthy yelp of fear, much to the delight of my companions. The ladder was hauled up, and we cleared the cavern with no further trouble, emerging to a windy summer Sunday afternoon, about three o’clock.  

24/9/83 The 1983 Kinder Walk

Route: The “Kinder Walk” of 1983: Chapel-en-le-Frith Scout hut – Chinley – Throstle Bank – Hayfield – Williams Clough – Ashop Head – Pennine Way to Kinder Downfall – Kinder Low – Edale Cross – Jacobs Ladder – Barber Booth – Chapel Gate – Rushup Edge – Sparrowpit – Dove Holes – Chapel-en-le-Frith Scout hut. 22+ miles, 7 hr 59’ (placed 10th out of 40 teams) Party: Myself, A. Mackervoy, the Burns brothers 

A fast start to the race after a good night’s kip on the floor at Chapel, following the chaos of everyone forgetting various bits of kit. We were fast to the first checkpoint at Throstle Bank, jogging some of the way. Thence across a mist-shrouded moor, with a party behind us that could not catch us up. A quick descent to Hayfield, still running, still smooth progress. Once in Williams Clough, however, the pace slackened and one team got past us. Williams Clough took it out of me – I was dizzy, un-coordinated and slightly exposed by the time we reached Ashop Head. A couple of minutes lying down and some chocolate soon put that right, and then we were up into the clouds onto Kinder. Our time was still good. After what seemed an interminable tramp through the mists and ripping winds across Kinder, we reached the Downfall, which was running higher than I’d ever seen it before – not that we could see it – I was judging by the roar made by the waterfall.

We walked and walked ever southwards, but being forced to the east by a stiff westerly  gale. It was balaclava weather. We were relieved to arrive at Edale Cross. It became apparent that we had lost time, but we could not move much faster. At that point it was already clear that my feet were damaged.  

Jacob’s Ladder is strongly downstairs and that was painful – very painful. Along the valley with team #41 ahead of us, through Upper Booth and past the Derby Mountain Rescue Team bus, where we saw Andy Leonard acting as radio man. We got to the Barber Booth checkpoint at a road bridge under the Hope Valley line, just in time to see team #41 clambering into a car, obviously having dropped out. Good! 

At Barber Booth we learned that six Viking Venture Unit teams and one mixed team had already passed ahead of us – making us EIGHTH. This tremendous news was an amazing tonic, a remarkable shot-in-the-arm. We allowed ourselves a very long rest, perhaps seven or eight minutes. [The mixed team was from Spartan/Phoenix VSU’s]

The next bit up to Chapel Gate we did in a slight spray of rain, and only when descending to the A625 Rushup Edge road did we notice two teams rapidly overhauling us. The first team, an efficient-looking mixed outfit, was team #20, and they remained eighth, just a few hundred yards in front of us, for several miles, before pulling away for a strong finish. The second team, #6, were about fifteen minutes behind us in time, so we could let them about a mile in front of us before worrying.  

All along the main road into Dove Holes we struggled, and coming into Dove Holes, team #6 left us behind. We arrived at the last checkpoint in tenth place, a position we retained over the last couple of miles of road over the hill into Chapel. A great walk but owing to the fit and condition of my boots, damaging to my feet. [four days after the event both heels were still raw burns; I lost all ten toe-nails and I was limping for weeks including when I started university a bit over two weeks later; indeed there is some evidence that this one walk inflicted permanent damage to the skin on my heels. It is literally true to say that “they have never been the same since”.] 

29/10/83 Idwal Skyline

Route: Idwal Skyline: Llyn Ogwen (Milestone Buttress car park) – Tryfan’s north ridge – Bristly Ridge – Glyder Fach – Glyder Fawr – Devils Kitchen – Y Garn – Capel Curig  Party: Myself, Phil Bender, T. J. Walmsley 

Dawning very cold and crystal clear, it was an ideal day for hillwalking. We left the minibus at Milestone Buttress and started up the North Ridge [of Tryfan]. From this angle you can make it as easy or as hard as you like. The route we followed was sussed out by Phil Bender who had climbed Tryfan many times. We were the novices here. It ranged from easy strolling to some very exposed scrambling. [In those days there was not the obvious path up the North Ridge that the climber will find today. 29/12/20]. Much of the time we were climbing rather than walking [The North Ridge is very steep, almost 45 degrees when seen from afar. When climbing a wall of 45 degrees angle, it will feel and seem almost vertical. Tryfan may be the only mountain in the UK outside Scotland, the summit of which cannot be reached by just walking.] 

Fantastic clarity of scenery. From the A5 to the Adam and Eve stones at the summit, 100 minutes. It was very cold at the top. We could see Cardigan Bay, Anglesey, the Flint hills, and even Cader Idris and the hills of central Wales.  

We moved on in sunshine, down the south ridge. One has to watch out for being led into impossible descents, and pick one’s route with care. At Bwylch Tryfan (the col) there were remarkable views down into Nant Ffrancon. We started up Bristly Ridge as a walk, which turned into a gully, and became steady upward scrambling. Phil climbed a wall, thinking himself pretty cool, and found himself on a spire, from which he had then to come down again. It IS possible to walk up Bristly Ridge, but why would you? We found it quicker, easier and more satisfying to climb. The ridge levels out onto the summit of Glyder Fach, where there was a little snow in evidence. Here we enjoyed a pleasant lunch in spite of the cold, marvelling at the clear air and visibility. This was one of the clearest days I’d ever experienced on the high tops. The sun shone off Cardigan Bay; St David’s and Pembroke [??] visible in the far background whilst the coast of North Wales was visible behind Tryfan, which looks small from this angle. Snowdon itself was dark and menacing, blocking the sun. 

Onward from Glyder Fach – the path to Glyder Fawr lies across easy moorland; we followed the edge, looking down into the Nameless Cwm and in turn down into Cwm Idwal. On Glyder Fawr the reflection of the sun off Cardigan Bay was blocked by Snowdon. Y Garn, our next summit, looks lovely from here, the head of a succession of peaks marching off down the west side of Nant Ffrancon – a fine looking ridge walk for another time. 

There is a very steep descent to the top of the Devils’ Kitchen. The sun disappeared behind fair weather clouds. At Devil’s Kitchen, a notch in the cliffs above Cwm Idwal, the ground was still frozen. We spent time here chatting with an old fellow from Lichfield, who belonged to the same mountaineering club as a man who did the Welsh Fourteen three times in succession.  

We trundled on up Y Garn, glancing behind at the lake Llyn Ogwen, and in the dark shadow of the corrie, the cliffs and slabs of Idwal. Y Garn saw us all strung out, arriving breathless on the summit, seeking shelter from the cold breeze.  

From Y Garn, Snowdon again seemed to hide the sun. The enormous quarries at Dinorwic were grey on the horizon. The way ahead for us lay down a ridge, steep at times, sweeping clear away to Cym Cywion on the left and Cwm Clyd on the right. Descent to the valley put us in the shadows, and we enjoyed a leisurely tramp across Cym Idwal and on down to Idwal Cottage.  

An excellent short day, ideal for autumn, winter or spring. The visibility was superb. I shot off nearly a whole roll of slides.  

12/11/83 Ireby Fell Cavern

Route: Ireby Fell Cavern (grade III) 

Party: 11 persons including myself, led by “Caving Nigel”. 

We staggered across half a mile or so of fell from the minibus to the cavern entrance, and then underground. There was some sitting around as pitches were set up. This was a novice trip. Down the first pitch, then the second pitch, then on down the wet third pitch, making a total of around 90 feet of descent. Through a tunnel, then two wet and slippy free climbs of around six feet or so. Then along a bit and through a squeeze, a tight bit which took a bit of thinking to get through. Then hundreds of yards of narrow, twisty phreatic passages all around 12-18” wide. There were several ducks easily accomplished. After a lot of caving at quite a fast pace, we arrived at the head of the fourth pitch. The ladder for the fourth pitch, however, was at the top of the first pitch. It had been forgotten. There was some discussion. Caving Nigel, as the person responsible and our leader, volunteered to go back and fetch it, and started back alone.  

However, after waiting half an hour we decided in favour of Ingleton chippy, and turned back ourselves, hurrying. [9/1/21: There’s an unwritten story in there: the nominal 2 i/c of the party was “Climbing Nigel”, a very outspoken (gobby f***er would be putting it more accurately) Outdoor Ed student from South Shields. He would have led us back.] All straightforward caving except for the squeeze, which for me took about three tries. Up the third pitch, up the second pitch, getting tired now and needing to rest before the first pitch. I had no ladder technique; only the safety line kept me on near the top. Cleared the cave and retreated safely the minibus – a good day out. [I have a very vivid memory of two cavers taking the first pitch one after the other using what was then called SRT (Single Rope Technique), whilst we were waiting at the foot of the pitch for our turn.] 

The following day we did Calf Holes which I remember well for it was a sight we passed about two years earlier when we walked the Pennine Way.] 

3/12/83 A walk above Borrowdale

Route: Seathwaite, Borrowdale – Sprinkling Tarn – Esk Hause – Langstrath – Stonethwaite, Borrowdale.  Party: T.J Walmsley, A. Durrant, myself 

A poor day to begin with, clouds down to 1000’ throughout. We had the intention of reaching Sprinkling Tarn, dropping down to Sty Head, flashing up Great Gable, down to Sour Milk Gill and on home. We had Lake District tourist maps and our map-reading was indifferent. We never even saw Sprinkling Tarn. We blundered about in the grey, at one point even thinking ourselves on the Corridor Route on Scafell Pike. Completely lost, we got annoyed; we dropped down into a valley.  It was Langstrath – the long valley – and we had a four mile traipse down the valley back to Seathwaite. A learning exercise. [9/1/21 Langstrath I have not visited since, but the name remains in my mind. This day was a key day in learning about mountain navigation through bad experience.] 

4/12/83 Cat Bells and High Sty

Route: Manesty – Cat Bells (1481’) – High Sty (2143’) and down followed by some scrambling on Low Scawdel. Party: T.J Walmsley, A. Durrant, myself  

Left the minibus at Manesty, affording me memories of coming to the Newlands valley on my first Scout camp in 1977. We slogged straight upwards in clear air. The weather was in contrast to the Saturday, clear and clouds at around 2600’. A medium height ridge would do just fine.  

At the col we were greeted by a howling gale, our constant companion for the rest of the day. We nipped up to the summit of Cat Bells, and rested briefly, waiting for the summit of Skiddaw to appear for photographic purposes. Then along the ridge in the shrieking, howling – but at least dry – wind. As we moved south, clouds boiled over from the central massif, grey and obscuring the sun. Behind us the weather remained stable. When we arrived at High Sty the clouds swirled at around 2000’. We had our lunch in the wind, then descended a long, sweeping path. When we got to the bottom, it seemed too early, so we applied ourselves to scrambling on Low Scawdel, which was listed in the “Official Scrambles of the Lakes”. After some difficulty getting onto the hillside over fences and such, we scrambled up to the summit, then descended again, past a water works, to arrive at Grange about 3.30pm. A nice day. 

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