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Hill Explorer - UK Hiking Routes

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  • Mark Barrett
  • October 27, 2015 09:04:49 PM
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A Little About Us

Walking, Hiking, and Scrambling route descriptions and reports, mainly focusing on Snowdonia and the Peak District, eg. the Snowdon Horseshoe, Tryfan, the Bochlwyd Horseshoe, and Kinder Scout. GPX files provided for all routes.

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The Welsh 3000’s Challenge (Aborted)

Preparations After a successful (but not painless) attempt at the Welsh 3000’s a few years back, I decided to have another go at it this year – but this time north to south. There were a few reasons for this but the main one was that I thought Snowdon should really be the finish to...

Preparations

After a successful (but not painless) attempt at the Welsh 3000’s a few years back, I decided to have another go at it this year – but this time north to south. There were a few reasons for this but the main one was that I thought Snowdon should really be the finish to a challenge like this. A proper climax. Finishing on Foel-fras the last time felt a little too much like an anti-climax. My preparation for the walk hadn’t really gone according to plan. I had actually only completed one proper walk in the preceding month and my fitness levels weren’t really where they should have been. Kit-wise, I was fine. I’d been sent a lovely pair of Hanwag Tatra Light GTX boots to review by the online OutdoorSupply.co.uk shop, and 1000Miles had also sent me a pair of their well-regarded Fusion socks complete with ‘blister free’ guarantee. I had a pair of foldable walking poles that I could stick away in my bag for the scrambles and all the necessary other gear that an ageing 40-something body would require (knee sleeves, knee braces, ankle supports, Voltarol gel, etc).

My plan of action was to head to Snowdonia on Thursday afternoon, park at the small car park near Drum, then try and get a few hours sleep before starting the walk up to Foel-fras around 2 am. After an uneventful drive, I arrived at the car park around 8 pm and spent a short while scouting around and preparing my bag so that I was ready to start walking the second I woke up. At 9 pm I reclined the seat, stuck a pillow under my head and closed my eyes. What followed was 2 and a half hours of utter boredom as I lay there, trying to breathe steadily, trying to imagine all the numbers from one to a thousand, trying to will myself to sleep. At 11.30 pm, after deciding that I still didn’t feel remotely tired, I made a slight change of plan and decided to skip the sleep and start walking at midnight.

The Carnedddau

At this stage, I didn’t want to make the walk any more difficult than it needed to be, and so I followed the clear farm track that heads east on the northern side of Foel-ganol and Yr Orsedd, eventually taking a right turn and continuing to follow a good track gradually upwards towards to the summit of Drum. A much-appreciated wind shelter greeted me at the top. It was a windy night and with the wind-chill factor taken into account, it felt very much like winter. I was layered up and wearing my hat and gloves.

It was still clear at this point, but somewhere between Drum and Foel-fras, the mist rolled in and all of a sudden my torch became rather less useful as it only lit up a wall of white in front. Luckily, a wall was there to guide me as far as Foel-fras so navigation wasn’t much of an issue. At the summit of Foel-fras – marked with a trig pillar, I took shelter again behind rocks and had a bit of a rest and took in a bit of food and drink.

In the wind shelter on Drum
In the wind shelter on Drum
Foel-fras trig pillar
Taking another break on Foel-fras

There’s not an awful lot I can describe between Foel-fras and Carnedd Llewellyn, it was all a bit samey. At some point, it lightened but that didn’t really improve visibility much. On a clear day, navigation would have been fairly simple as it’s a case of following ridges between summits, but when you can’t see more than a few yards in front of you, it becomes a bit trickier. Naturally, there was a complete absence of good views too. I’m pretty sure that I managed to grab the summit points of Carnedd Gwellion, Foel Grach, and Carnedd Llewellyn but it was hard to tell for sure.

Garnedd Uchaf
Garnedd Uchaf summit? It’ll do!
Nowhere
I have no idea…

From the summit plateau of Carnedd Llewellyn, a little detour needed to be made to grab the summit of Yr Elen. I headed west down the slope and crossed the atmospheric ridge leading up to Yr Elen. I imagine that the views are normally quite spectacular from here however I have only ever been up twice; Once in the dark, and once in the mist. After obtaining the summit, I backtracked across the ridge and contoured around the southern slope of Carnedd Llewellyn until I hit the path on Bwlch Cyfryw-drum. This was a more familiar territory for me, having done the Carneddau Southern Ridge Circuit fairly recently. I crossed Bwlch Cfryw-drum and passed Ysgolion Duon (Black ladders), annoyed that I was missing some great views. At least I had seen these before though. Onwards I walked, bagging the summit of Carnedd Dafydd when, all of a sudden, the mist parted a little and patches of blue sky beyond became visible. As I progressed towards Pen yr Ole Wen, visibility improved further and I managed to catch the great view looking down into Cwm Lloer.

Crossing the ridge to Yr Elen
Crossing the ridge to Yr Elen
On Yr Elen
On Yr Elen. Great views!

Half an hour later, as I was descending Pen Yr Ole Wen’s east ridge, it was hard to believe that there ever was any fog, or any cold weather for that matter. It was a gorgeous day and the sun was burning bright. I removed both my jacket and my fleece, and also my hat and gloves as I enjoyed the very sudden transition from winter to summer. My knees were really starting to feel the strain though on the descent, not helped by the fact my backpack weighed a ton. It probably took me twice as long to descend as it would normally have done. I was tired, and I needed a break and a pick-me-up. I made a diversion across to Ogwen Cottage where I bought myself a nice cup of coffee, followed quickly with another drink from my bag. I applied some Voltarol gel to my knees and removed my knee compression sleeves, replacing them with some more supportive knee braces. After half an hour or so, I made a move back towards Tryfan.

Looking back towards Carnedd Fach
Clear sky at last! Looking towards Carnedd Fach.
Waterfall on Afon Lloer
Waterfall on Afon Lloer
The mighty Tryfan
The mighty Tryfan!

The Glyderau

I decided to stick with my original plan of ascending Bastow Buttress so this meant a longer walk to the eastern side of Tryfan then a slog up to the heather terrace. In hindsight, I’d wasted an awful lot of time between the top of Pen yr Ole Wen and Tryfan’s heather terrace. I ascended slowly, struggling to put a lot of weight on my left knee when bent. It meant making a slight adjustment so I only used my right leg to get up any large steps (of which there were many). It seemed unlikely at this point that I was going to make it much further but I soldiered on.

Scrambling Hell – Part 1

I arrived at Bastow gully. I’d done this scramble a few years back and recalled it as being fairly straight-forward. The tired mind though combined with the lack of faith I had in my legs was giving me second thoughts. All of a sudden, moves that I’d normally not even think twice about were looking quite daunting. I couldn’t even bring myself to make the initial move up onto the buttress. I think the fact my bag was so heavy was also working its way into my reasoning. The weight and bulkiness of the bag, the tired legs, and the less-than-sharp brain could easily combine to create issues with balance and stability. I moved a little further up the gully to see if an easier way up onto the buttress presented itself. It did… or at least it looked easier. It actually turned out to be rather scrappy and probably not much safer than the official route. Once up, I expected to be OK. I remembered that the route had both harder and easier options, however once I was up there it was nothing at all like I remembered. Everything looked daunting. Every time I started climbing, my nerve would go half way up and I’d have to climb back down again. Attempts at bypassing via grassy channels would often lead to a dead end. I almost climbed myself into trouble once or twice and I was struggling to understand what was happening. My confidence was shot to pieces. Eventually, by means of a rather convoluted route, I eventually topped out onto the north ridge.

Intermission – Let’s talk about knees’s

Before I continue, I will mention a strange thing that I noticed around this point. My knees had suddenly become fine again and I could happily support weight on both of them! But how? Surely if you bugger up your knee from too much walking up and down mountains, then it doesn’t get better by doing even more walking up and down mountains? When the pain happens – and it generally always does after more than 10 miles or so in the mountains – it’s always focused around the front of the knee, the patella. And it’s always a lot worse when descending. I’ve never actually been convinced that I have a problem with the knee itself. I’ve never ran or done much cardio at the gym. Everything I’ve ever done at the gym has involved lifting very heavy things for a relatively short period of time. So the strength is there but the endurance is most certainly not. My long walks tend to be 2 or 3 weeks apart and during the time between walks, I generally sit on my arse all day behind a desk. My current theory (and my theory does tend to change every few months if I’m honest) is that the essential muscles involved in hillwalking (mainly the quads but also hamstrings and calf muscles) do not have the muscular endurance necessary to maintain this kind of activity for so long. They eventually fatigue and are no longer able to offer support to the knees, which end up taking the full force of the impact of every step. If any physiotherapists or sports scientists read this… does this sound likely? Also, when this happens, I can always guarantee that when I wake up the next morning, I’ll have terrible DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) in my calves and quads but no pain in my knee whatsoever. So my little theory on how I’m going to improve this? Hill running! I reckon that if I take up running up and down hills, gradually building up the distance, then eventually my leg muscles will have the endurance necessary to cope a lot more easily with all this mountainous terrain. We’ll see. Watch this space.

Scrambling Hell – Part 2

So here I was on the easy part – the top section of Tryfan’s north ridge. I began climbing. Strange, it seemed a little trickier than normal… Imagine my horror when I turned around and saw a group of other scramblers actually being held up by me and my slow climbing. The embarrassment! I let them pass and I sheepishly continued to the top. I’d brought shame upon myself – a level of shame I’d not felt since that time I was overtaken by the actor that plays Eric Pollard on Emmerdale whilst ascending Ingleborough. I felt like renaming my blog from Hill Explorer to Hill Amateur. Eventually, I made the final big step onto the summit along with an exclamation of triumph. ‘Fucking twat’, I said out loud. I’m not sure why I said it out loud, it was supposed to be a thought. Nobody heard apart from a youngish red-headed lass who turned and grinned at the outburst. Brilliant. More shame. I smiled back and gave her a pathetic thumbs-up gesture. I’m not sure why, or what it was supposed to mean. I felt like shooting myself. I didn’t hang about on the summit and headed straight for the south ridge descent.

Scramblers on Tryfan north summit
Scramblers on Tryfan north summit
Tryfan summit
Tryfan summit including an Adam & Eve leap

I was actually managing the descent perfectly fine until around half-way down. I made a leap from one rock to another, carefully looking at my feet and failing to see the rock jutting out at head height. As I landed on the second rock, I bashed my forehead against the jutting out rock and, for a split second, thought I was going to be knocked out. Luckily I somehow managed to keep my balance. I still have a tender spot on my forehead a few days later. Once in Bwlch Tryfan, I sat down for a break and some fuel. I encountered again the lads who I was holding up earlier and had a bit of a chat with them about scrambling. It was really hard work. My brain and my mouth weren’t coordinating properly and I was finding it really difficult to come out with coherent sentences. I may have stuttered once or twice. After ending the chat, I headed up the scree slope to the beginning of Sinister Gully, leading up to Bristly Ridge.

This scramble did not look like I remembered it. It was bigger and badder. It looked daunting. Was I really thinking about taking my eldest kids up here later in the summer? No way! That’s going to scare me to death! I climbed up the whole thing slowly and carefully. I felt unnaturally nervous. I knew that I’d flown up here numerous times in the past without any difficulty whatsoever. I really wasn’t feeling myself. After a lot of cagey and very deliberate climbing, I eventually topped out onto the plateau of Glyder Fach. Thank Christ it was all over! No more scrambling until Crib Goch. I made a mistake trying to incorporate it all. I should have just taken the quickest route up and down each summit. I’d have been much further along the route by now.

The rest of the Glyderau

I walked across Glyder Fach, hopping from boulder to boulder, across the distinctive formation of Castell y Gwynt, and across the weird landscape of Glyder Fawr. In all honesty, I was absolutely sick of boulders. I’d had them under my feet for so long now… I was longing for a nice grassy field to walk across. I very carefully made my way down the crappy scree slope towards Llyn y Cwn and Cwm Cneifio, using my walking pole to prevent any nasty accident as a result of my tired legs. The steep path ahead leading up to the summit of Y Garn looked incredibly demotivating. I pushed myself using every ounce of energy that remained up the steep path towards the summit, trying not to think about all of the route that I still had to complete. I continued walking down the slope of Y Garn towards Bwlch y Brecan. Actually, at this point, I’d probably describe it better as shuffling rather than walking. I knew I didn’t have much left… the sun was getting to me, and my body and mind were close to giving up. I seemed to be drifting into dreamland every now and again whilst walking, and I knew that if I was to close my eyes for a few seconds, I’d most probably just drop to sleep where I stood. I looked at Crib Goch in the distance. Such a long long way.

Cantilever Stone on Glyder Fach
Cantilever Stone on Glyder Fach
Glyder Fach and Castell y Gwynt
Looking back at Glyder Fach and Castell y Gwynt
View over Llyn Idwal
View over Llyn Idwal
The steep path to Y Garn
The steep path to Y Garn
The horrid scree up to Glyder Fawr
The horrid scree up to Glyder Fawr

I made a decision to quit when I got back to Nant Peris and get a lift back to my car. I could have continued attempting to shuffle my way up through Cwm Glas and Crib Goch’s north ridge, but was it worth the risk? What if my wobbly legs stumbled whilst walking across it? Or what if my brain suddenly took a micro nap? Nope, it wasn’t worth the risk. It’s not like I’ve never completed the 3000’s before. They’ll still be here next year after I’ve spent a year doing endurance training. They’ll still be here next year when I totally smash them in under 16 hours. Oh yes! Mark my words. This is my vow! I should have been shaking my fist at Crib Goch whilst thinking this, just for effect. It wasn’t quite over yet though… after one last valiant push to get to the summit of Elidir Fawr, I endured the most horrid descent of the day back to Nant Peris, ironically meaning that the ending of this journey was just as anti-climactic as when I did it south to north the first time.

Looking across at Foel Goch and Y Garn
Looking across at Foel Goch and Y Garn
Last push to Elidir Fawr
Last push to Elidir Fawr

Things I learnt:

1. I need to drink more.

2. I need to eat more.

3. I need to sleep more.

4. I need to focus a lot more on making good time. The map at the foot of the page demonstrates the unnecessary extra mileage I added on just to go to Ogwen Cottage.

5. I need to save the scrambles for scrambling days.

6. I need to train a lot more seriously and work on my endurance much more.

So that’s all folks. I hope I haven’t bored you all to death, and I hope that in a years time, you’re reading my new article about how I smashed the 3000s in 14 hours using all my newly discovered skills. Thanks for reading.


Yr Aran, Snowdon, and the Watkin Path

I met up with Michelle, my walking partner for the day, in the car park at Nant Gwynant. It had been a tiring drive but I was eager to get on up into the mountains. The object of today was to explore yet another route up to Snowdon via the smaller mountain of Yr Aran....

Cwm Llan

I met up with Michelle, my walking partner for the day, in the car park at Nant Gwynant. It had been a tiring drive but I was eager to get on up into the mountains. The object of today was to explore yet another route up to Snowdon via the smaller mountain of Yr Aran. The weather forecast was promising but, at this point, I wasn’t to know just how good it was going to turn out to be. After kitting up, we headed up towards the Watkin path.

The Watkin Path

The Watkin Path was first conceived by Edward Watkin, a railway owner, and was originally designed as a donkey track. It was opened in 1892 by the fourth-time Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone. As well as being the most demanding path to Snowdon’s summit on account of it starting at the lowest elevation out of all the popular paths, it’s also described as one of the prettiest. The path was apparently used in the filming of ‘Carry On up the Khyber’. Not being a fan of the Carry On films, that didn’t really mean an awful lot to me.

Despite it being an incredibly well defined and well-used path, I still somehow ended up going wrong near the beginning. I somehow managed to leave the path on its left not long after starting and ascended steeply through woodland. The track I was leading us up became less and less defined as we progressed until eventually, it faded out completely around the area of a large stagnant pool. Instead of backtracking, I decided to continue and attempt to circle back down towards the Watkin Path. We were now in uncharted territory as we waded through long grass and navigated a couple of crags. I could see Yr Aran and contemplated attacking it from this angle before deciding instead to get back down to the Watkin Path and get back on route. Eventually, the path came into view at the bottom of a grassy slope so we made a beeline towards it.

Pool on Afon Gorsen
My wrong turning led to this pool
Navigating back to the Watkin Path
Navigating back to the Watkin Path
Watkin path visible ahead
The path now visible ahead

The weather had really improved dramatically… the sun was out, the sky was blue, and I was sweltering and overdressed. This was t-shirt weather in the mountains in November! The scenery around the Watkin Path in Cwm Llan is beautiful. There are waterfalls, abandoned slate quarries, derelict stone buildings, and all surrounded by some majestic looking mountains.

On the Watkin Path
On the Watkin Path
Old buildings by Aron Cwm Llan
Old ruins by Afon Cwm Llan
Another old building
Another old building
Micro hydro-electric plant on Afon Cwm Llan
Micro hydro-electric plant

Yr Aran

Once we had circled around Clogwyn Brith, we left the path and headed off up the slopes on the left, loosely towards the disused quarries. We aimed for an area on the ridge between Clogwyn Brith and the Yr Aran Summit, and before long a faint track appeared that led us up to our destination. On the top of the ridge, a wall guided us to Yr Aran. Whilst walking, we saw a helicopter land briefly on the top of Yr Aran, and we hoped that nobody was too badly injured up there. Eventually, we veered away from the wall so that we could claim the Yr Aran summit. The views all around us were astounding. Snowdon and the south ridge was to the north. To the north-east was an extremely impressive view across Cwm Llan towards Y Lliwedd. Directly west was the Nantle Ridge (still on my to-do list), and south-west looked towards Moel Hebog (another on the list).

Approaching Yr Aran
Approaching Yr Aran
Looking across Cwm Llan
Looking across Cwm Llan
Looking back along Yr Aran's east ridge
Looking back along Yr Aran’s east ridge
View towards Mynydd Mawr and the Nantlle Ridge
View towards Mynydd Mawr and the Nantlle Ridge

We retraced our footsteps back down to the wall then followed a path down to Bwlch Cwm Llan. Though it was a sunny day, many of the rocks underfoot were greasy. We had to be extra careful as some of them were as slippery as ice. We wondered if this was the cause of the accident that had the helicopter out only a short time earlier. Eventually, we reached the large pool by the disused quarry and readied ourselves for the final section. The quality of rock from this point forward improved and it wasn’t quite so treacherous underfoot.

A pool at Bwlch Cwm Llan
A pool at Bwlch Cwm Llan
Straight ahead to Allt Maenderyn
Straight ahead to Allt Maenderyn

Allt Maenderyn and Snowdon

The section began with a very brief scramble on sound rock before turning into a steep walk up the ridge of Allt Maenderyn (aka Snowdon south ridge). The path continued along the top of the Clogwyn Du cliffs before merging with the Rhyd-Ddu path that crosses the Llechog ridge to the west. Finally, we crossed the airy and atmospheric Bwlch Main and enjoyed the wonderful views of Cwm Llan once more. All that remained was the steep walk up the slope to Snowdon’s summit.

A brief little scramble on Allt Maenderyn
A brief little scramble
Looking back to Yr Aran
Looking back to Yr Aran
View towards Moel Cynghorion
View towards Moel Cynghorion
The final climb
The final climb to the summit

There was another walker on the summit who was just leaving. This was the first person we had encountered since leaving the Watkin Path much earlier. The long shadows cast by the late winter sun added to the beauty. We could have stayed a little longer but daylight hours were rapidly running out. I wanted to make sure we’d at least navigated the steep path down towards Bwlch Ciliau before darkness fell. As we descended, a mist arose above Llyn Llydaw and threatened to flow over the Bwlch Ciliau ridge. Fortunately, it didn’t rise any higher and visibility remained excellent.

The Snowdon summit is in sight
The summit is in sight
Snowdon summit
Look, no queues!
Snowdon summit toposcope
Snowdon’s summit toposcope
A seagull enjoys the evening sun
A seagull enjoys the evening sun
A mist starting to rise from Llyn Lydaw
A mist starting to rise from Llyn Lydaw

We found the Watkin Path on the right, just before the ascent to Y Lliwedd begins, and followed it steeply down the slopes. Not long after this point, it became dark proper and the torches came out. It was a shame as there was no doubt still plenty of scenery to see. The path remained steep as far as the quarries. Once past that point, it was easy walking back to the car. Due to the darkness we, unfortunately, missed the famous Gladstone Rock. This was the rock that Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone stood upon to address a crowd of over 1,500 back in 1892 when he opened the path.

Looking back at Snowdon from the Watkin Path
Looking back at Snowdon from the Watkin Path
Moon over Y Lliwedd
Moon over Y Lliwedd


Crowden Clough from Edale

Crowden Clough is always a fun day out for children, especially during a dry spell where they can climb the dried up waterfalls directly. My older two children, Sam and Luke, were visiting for the week and wanted to do something that involved a bit of climbing rather than simply walking. They’d both done Crowden...

Crowden Clough is always a fun day out for children, especially during a dry spell where they can climb the dried up waterfalls directly. My older two children, Sam and Luke, were visiting for the week and wanted to do something that involved a bit of climbing rather than simply walking. They’d both done Crowden Clough before and enjoyed it so I decided on a revisit.

The last time we did the route, we first ascended Grindsbrook before dropping down the western slopes of Grindslow Knoll to Crowden Clough. This time we decided to skip Grindsbrook and head straight to the excitement. We started at Edale and set off along the Pennine Way. It was a gloriously sunny day but there was still a bit of a chill in the air at the time of setting off.

The path follows a stream for a short while before reaching a fork. The right-hand fork heads up to Grindslow Knoll. The left hand is the Pennine Way and crosses pastureland – eventually ascending up to Kinder Scout via Jacob’s Ladder. We weren’t to go that far. At Upper Booth Farm, a bridge is crossed over Crowden Brook. The footpath that leads up Crowden Clough is immediately on the right.

On the Pennine Way from Edale
On the Pennine Way from Edale
The Pennine Way
…and again

The lower part of Crowden Clough is easy walking and, on a sunny day like this, extremely picturesque. It’s only in the higher section that it becomes a little more exciting with rock hopping, stream crossing, and waterfall climbing. For the less nimble, or for those just wishing to take things a little easier, a path on the left gradually climbs away from the clough and towards Crowden Tower just before the difficulties start.

Climbing steps from the Crowden Brook bridge
Climbing steps from the Crowden Brook bridge
Crowden Clough
Easy walking to start with
Waterfall on Crowden Clough
A picturesque waterfall
Crowden Clough
Getting closer to the fun bit

The kids naturally had no intention of taking any easy option and they took their time, leaving no boulder unclimbed on their mission to the top. The climax of the route was a large steep waterfall. In wet weather, there’s usually far too much water coming down to climb directly. Instead, it’s usually ascended via the wall just to the left of the waterfall. This is how I’ve always tackled it before, but on this occasion we were lucky and the brook had dried up enough to allow the waterfall to be scrambled up directly.

Rock hopping in Crowden Clough
The rock hopping starts
Crowden Clough
Navigating a small waterfall
Crowden Clough
Sam about to take a leap
Crowden Clough
More waterfalls
Crowden Clough
Navigating large boulders
Crowden Clough scramble
The highlight of the route

Once up, there are a few smaller easier waterfalls to navigate before the top is reached – the top being the point where the Kinder edge path crosses.

Before continuing, we couldn’t help but notice the interesting large rock formation ahead. I hadn’t investigated this before so we decided to go and have a look. From a distance, it didn’t look particularly climbable for kids but, upon closer inspection, it was a nice little playground that kept the kids busy for another twenty minutes.

Crowden Clough
The top of Crowden Clough
Looking along Kinder Scouts edge path
Looking along Kinder Scouts edge path

After finishing on the rocks, we headed back to the edge path and followed it east to Grindslow Knoll before taking the easy descent path back to Edale. By this time, the chill had totally disappeared from the air and we all felt like we were roasting. Sam had even taken his t-shirt off!

Heading towards Grindslow Knoll
Heading towards Grindslow Knoll
On top of Grindslow Knoll
On top of Grindslow Knoll
Grindslow Knoll
Warm for some but not others!
Fantastic view of Edale from the Grindslow path
Fantastic view of Edale


Outdoor Adventures with Children: Lake District

‘Outdoor Adventures with Children – Lake District‘ is a new guidebook from Cicerone Press detailing 40 family days with under 12’s exploring, biking, scrambling, and much more. The book is written by Carl McKeating and Rachel Crolla who, between them, have written a number of other books for Cicerone including the new revision of ‘Scrambles...

Outdoor Adventures with Children – Lake District‘ is a new guidebook from Cicerone Press detailing 40 family days with under 12’s exploring, biking, scrambling, and much more. The book is written by Carl McKeating and Rachel Crolla who, between them, have written a number of other books for Cicerone including the new revision of ‘Scrambles in Snowdonia‘ and ‘Cycling the Way of the Roses‘. My kids and I joined Carl and Rachel to test out a couple of the routes, and I can vouch that they had a fantastic time. I managed to get back in touch with the pair of them for a brief question and answer session about the new book…

Q1: What inspired you to write Outdoor Adventures with Children?

Carl: Obviously having two kids ourselves was a key factor. To be honest, we were really surprised that there was not an equivalent to this book. It was a bit like when we wrote Europe’s High Points: Reaching the summit of Every Country in Europe, we wanted to buy a guide book that did not yet exist so we thought we better write it! Rachel has been particularly driven by the societal value of this book, you know, her desire to change the world for the better – this one is definitely her brainchild.

Rachel: Well I kept hearing news reports about ‘nature deficit disorder‘ and how kids these days are glued to screens and supposedly getting fatter and lazier; getting outside less and having more mental health problems. I’m also a primary school teacher and I’ve worked in both inner city and rural schools. So I believe it has given me some perspective. I’m a big fan of getting children outside and having adventures, getting fit and playing in the great outdoors because I’ve seen first-hand how much children and parents get out of it. This book hopefully will inspire parents and children, but importantly it really facilitates family adventures by giving parents all the information they need to go out and do something inspirational with their kids. I am proud of this book because parents will know that these routes are clear, reliable and have been tried and tested by real families. Above all they have been given the thumbs up by the harshest of critics – the under twelves! Getting outdoors is not always an easy sell is it?

Scafell Pike summit
Approaching the summit of the highest peak in England
© Carl McKeating & Rachel Crolla
Full of beans on the way up Loughrigg
Full of beans on the way up Loughrigg
© Carl McKeating & Rachel Crolla

Q2: What would you say to any parents out there who want to get their kids into the outdoors, but can’t get them off their iPads?

Rachel: There are ways. My instinct is to say – and I’m going to sound like an unfashionably strict teacher here – take the Ipads off them and remind them that you’re in charge; don’t give them a choice about whether they want to go out or not and they’ll quickly discover you were right all along and the outdoors is a whole lot more fun than Minecraft! Obviously, sometimes that is easier said than done. To be honest though, technology does not have to be the enemy; it can also be your road to success. I know some parents who were keen to get their children to go on hikes and so on, but were finding it an uphill struggle until they discovered geocaching. Geocaching is essentially treasure hunting for kids. You use a free smartphone app that functions on a GPS system and usually has clues. With phone in hand you go on a hike tracking down hidden treasure (well, Tupperware boxes filled with tiny ‘swapsy’ trinkets!). It sounds ridiculous, but it really works to get techy kids enjoying the outdoors. For younger kids, rebranding a ‘boring’ walk as an ‘adventure’ or ‘going exploring’ works really well. Failing that, there’s just good old fashioned bribery!

Carl: Yeah, I used to be a secondary school teacher. I lost count of the amount of times kids thanked you afterwards for getting them to do something they thought they didn’t want to do. Sure, it can be hard for them to try something unfamiliar, but then are we as adults any different? If children climb a mountain or complete a bike ride, you can be certain that even if they found it difficult at the time they’ll be really proud of it afterwards and will want to tell their friends all about it.

Great traffic free cycling in Great Langdale
Great traffic free cycling in Great Langdale
© Carl McKeating & Rachel Crolla

Q3: What adventures do you remember having in your own childhood?

Rachel: My parents were quite outdoorsy. When my mum was eight months pregnant with me she had to help my dad down Scafell because he’d twisted his ankle. So it’s in the blood really. I went to the Lake District a lot as a child and remember doing some of the adventures in this book myself. I particularly enjoyed taking a blow-up rubber dinghy out on some of the lakes. Thankfully there are still a lot of the lakes which allow public access for swimming and boating – it’s all in the book!

Carl: It’s funny, I had traditional working class parents from inner city backgrounds and I used to think I had grown up without really accessing the world of outdoor pursuits. Looking back now I realise the opposite was true. We used to go out and play on the local gritstone outcrops in Yorkshire – Almscliff, Ilkley Moor, places like that. And while I thought we were just mucking about playing hide and seek or soldiers or whatever, it was all scrambling and even rock climbing without ropes – we just didn’t know it. Even today I laugh at my parents’ attitude to risk: some of the stuff we used to blithely clamber up I now know are graded rock climbs – in retrospect, it was total madness! I was in cubs and scouts; at that time they did crazy outdoors stuff that would turn a health and safety inspector ghost-white. Most of all I remember a week-long school trip to the Lake District where ours was the only class that had army instructors. Those nutters let me do forward abseiling: it was fun, terrifying fun – but that was total madness too!

Navigating to Wild Cat Island on Coniston Water
Navigating to Wild Cat Island on Coniston Water
© Carl McKeating & Rachel Crolla

Q4: Who is the book aimed at?

Rachel: Primarily the book is aimed at outdoorsy parents who want the best ideas about routes that will work to keep the whole family entertained. It’s for people who want to do a range of outdoors activities like camping, scrambling, going to caves, kayaking and biking. That said, this book will also work for parents who might not be sure they are outdoorsy – it’s for the converted and the yet to be converted!

Treasure hunter finding a geocache
Treasure hunter finding a geocache
© Carl McKeating & Rachel Crolla

Q5: How did you decide which routes to put in?

Rachel: Not too tricky, we know the Lakes really well. We also did a lot of consulting other parents and asking about their experiences and what things they’re kids had enjoyed in particular. We were keen to ensure a wide range of activities and to make sure the majority of routes had options for families with younger and older children. In the end we have a mix of classics and off-the-beaten-track places. We kept the routes within the grasp of under-12s. At the harder end you’ve got routes that we tested with your sons, like the Corridor Route on Scafell Pike. We also tested out Jack’s Rake on Pavey Ark with them because we knew they were strong scramblers with good mountain instincts. While Jack’s Rake was a potential route for older kids, it was deemed in the end just that bit too hairy to recommend in this book, even for older fairly experienced kids.

Descending to the tremendous falls at Aira Force
Descending to the tremendous falls at Aira Force
© Carl McKeating & Rachel Crolla
Jack's Rake was deemed to be too extreme for inclusion in the book
Jack’s Rake was deemed to be too extreme for inclusion in the book
© Carl McKeating & Rachel Crolla

Q6: How does the grading system work?

Rachel: We went with a ‘ski run’ system. Green routes are for everyone, blues for those wanting a bit more challenge. The idea is that you build experience on the greens and blues before tackling the red and black routes. Most of the harder routes have easier options too. That said, a green or blue route is not just for beginners, it will be enjoyed at any age.

Q7: Will there be similar books following for other areas?

Carl: We’re hoping so. As we live on the border of the Yorkshire Dales National Park that’s the next logical area. Then the Hillexplorer site is a mine of useful information about the Peak District and of course, we’re always keen to get back to Wales, where we worked on Scrambles in Snowdonia… they’re in the pipeline!

‘Outdoor Adventures with Children – Lake District’ was published on the 11th April 2019, and will be available directly from Cicerone Press themselves, or alternatively from any number of other book retailers.


Pike of Blisco to Crinkle Crags

The day before this walk, I completed the Fairfield Horseshoe in glorious weather. That night, as darkness fell and I sat in my car preparing to snooze, the thick fog rolled in. It was no surprise, the weather forecast that I’d been regularly checking had predicted as much, and the fog was here to stay...

The day before this walk, I completed the Fairfield Horseshoe in glorious weather. That night, as darkness fell and I sat in my car preparing to snooze, the thick fog rolled in. It was no surprise, the weather forecast that I’d been regularly checking had predicted as much, and the fog was here to stay all day. One thing was for sure – there would be no outstanding views on this walk.

Pike of Blisco

The walk started at the Old Dungeon Ghyll car park, a normally popular starting point for walks around the Langdale Pikes. It clearly wasn’t so popular on this morning as the car park was empty bar 2 cars, and I certainly wasn’t complaining about that as I love a quiet walk. From the car park, I headed south along an unnamed country lane that eventually led uphill towards Blea Tarn. After a short spell of walking, the lane briefly followed the line of Redacre Gill which signalled to me that my turning point was coming up soon. A footpath veered off on the right, following the line of Redacre Gill upwards towards its source. The footpath initially starts to the left of the gill before eventually crossing over to its right. I’ll be honest, this part of the walk was a real slog and it seemed to take a lifetime of walking and wheezing before the top was reached. To make matters worse, there’s at least 2 false summits on the way that do the usual job of dashing your hopes. And of course, there’s always at least one show-off fellrunner that overtakes you whilst you huff and puff, doing their best to make you look physically unfit to be on the hills.

Looking back during the initial ascent to Pike of Blisco
The initial slog
Scrambling ahead on the Pike of Blisco
Scrambling ahead on the Pike of Blisco

Visibility wasn’t too bad at the moment. It wasn’t good enough to see any surrounding mountains but good enough to see a decent distance in front and behind. And more importantly, it was dry. Eventually, the final slope to the summit of the Pike of Blisco was in sight. This section added a bit of interest to the route as the path became a series of easy mini-scrambles. The top was reached quickly and I soaked up the amazing views all around me of grey mist.

Somewhere on top of Pike of Blisco
Somewhere on top of Pike of Blisco
The summit of Pike of Blisco
The summit

Cold Pike

The route now headed initially south downhill before eventually turning to more of a westerly direction. The next stop was Cold Pike and it was just about visible through the mist as I made my way down the slope towards Red Tarn. The valley floor made a good place to stop for a breather before the next ascent.

Cold Pike from Pike of Blisco
Cold Pike from Pike of Blisco
Pike of Blisco from Cold Pike
Pike of Blisco from Cold Pike

The path continues on the opposite side of the valley but doesn’t ascend directly to Cold Pike. It instead passes it on its northern side. A detour needed to be made in order to bag the summit of Cold Pike but I unfortunately became a little disorientated in the mist and missed my turning off spot by some distance. This section unfortunately added a lot more time to my journey than I was intending. The map at the bottom shows my intended route. I was actually almost at Crinkle Crags before realising my error and backtracking. Eventually the summit of Cold Pike was reached, and again I was treated to occasional glimpses of nearby mountain tops through the mist. I imagine that the view from here would have been amazing on a clear day.

Cold Pike summit
Cold Pike summit
Tops of mountains poking through the mist
Tops of mountains poking through the mist

Crinkle Crags

I apologise for all these photos looking a bit bland and similar. There really wasn’t much to capture apart from rock with a backdrop of mist. From Cold Pike, I headed back to Crinkle Crags and made my way up to the top of the first crinkle – named South Top. All of a sudden, the mist parted and I had a lovely clear view of the second crinkle ahead of me. I thought for a second that the mist was going to continue to disperse leaving the rest of the route clear. I was wrong. The view lasted for about 30 seconds before the mist came back in, thicker than ever. Visibility was now very poor and to make matters worse, the drizzle started. I made my way down from South Top to the supposed highlight of the route – the bad step! This is a small simple scramble that can be avoided by skirting around and following the path to the left. The bad step itself is navigated easily by climbing the wall on the right. Once up then it’s a brief walk to summit the second crinkle – Long Top.

The mist parts on Crinkle Crags
The mist parts on Crinkle Crags
Navigating the 'bad step'
Navigating the ‘bad step’

I’d love to describe the rest of Crinkle Crags but unfortunately I could barely see a thing from this point on in the mist and drizzle. I lost my way a little bit on Long Top and ended up wandering west instead of north before realising my mistake. The plan from here on was to simply climb anything that looked high and hope that they included all the official summits on the crags. I’m confident I did that so I’m claiming them. I continued following the route north, gradually downhill over rocky terrain, until I arrived at the area on the map labelled ‘Three Tarns’. The original plan was to continue on to Bowfell and then Rossett Pike but daylight hours were running out fast. I decided to cut the walk short.

Somewhere on Crinkle Crags
Somewhere on Crinkle Crags
Somewhere else on Crinkle Crags
Somewhere else on Crinkle Crags

I headed east from the three tarns down a steady track known as The Band. The track follows the ridge all the way back down to Langdale. As I descended, the mist started to thin out and I was rewarded with a view down into Oxendale to my left. It wasn’t much of a view due to the mist, but it was much better than what I’d gotten used to up on the top of Crinkle Crags. Eventually I arrived back at the car, just in time for darkness to fall. And after a tough day up mountains in the mist and drizzle, you just can’t beat following it with a quality 4 hour car journey back home again! OK, maybe not…

The path back to Langdale
The path back to Langdale
Oxendale below
Oxendale below


Ringing Roger and Golden Clough

Ringing Roger I devised this as a walk to take my 4 year old son, Harry, on. He doesn’t quite have the legs yet for a long hike but likes to feel that he’s climbed a mountain. The route to Ringing Roger is the shortest and most direct option available from Edale. After parking in...

Looking towards Grindsbrook

Ringing Roger

I devised this as a walk to take my 4 year old son, Harry, on. He doesn’t quite have the legs yet for a long hike but likes to feel that he’s climbed a mountain. The route to Ringing Roger is the shortest and most direct option available from Edale. After parking in the main car park at Edale (where we literally took the last available space), we headed off up the road before taking the Grindsbrook path on the right. After crossing Grinds Brook, we emerged onto open pasture land. The path to Grindsbrook Clough continues north, following the line of the brook, and the path that forks off on the right uphill is the path that ascends The Nab up to Ringing Roger. Naturally we took this path and headed on up. It was slow going as his little legs worked hard to power him up the hillside but eventually we arrived at the foot of the gritstone outcrop known as Ringing Roger. It’s possible to bypass this and continue along the path but, to a small child, clambering on rocks is the highlight of any walk. I carefully guided him up a few of the trickier sections and tried to give him a real sense of climbing up a mountain. After reaching the top, we took a short break and he fuelled up on Fruit Shoot and jam sandwiches.

Starting the steep section of The Nab
Starting the steep section
Ascending The Nab
Ascending ‘The Nab’
Enjoying a minor scramble on Ringing Roger
Enjoying a minor scramble
Admiring the view to Grindsbrook
Admiring the view to Grindsbrook
Gritstone formation at Ringing Roger
A not so comfy seat

Golden Clough

The original plan was to attempt to walk around the edges and return down at Grindslow Knoll, however we’d spent so long playing on the gritstone that I was worried it would be dark before we finished. Instead, I decided to return back down via the under-used path in Golden Clough. It’s a lovely tranquil path and I don’t think I’ve ever encountered another person on it. Even on a sunny Sunday like today, there was nobody in sight. The track higher up is rather loose with some larger steps down. No problem for my legs but I had to keep a hold of Harry’s hand the whole way down as he frequently slipped and stumbled on the path. He enjoyed the many little waterfall features near the bottom though. Eventually, we arrived at the bottom of the clough which meets up with Grinds Brook. From there, we walked back along the well-used path and back to Edale.

Heading down Golden Clough
Heading down Golden Clough
Golden Clough
Enjoying the tranquility
A waterfall on Golden Clough
Admiring a small waterfall
Golden Clough
Another sit down!
Golden Clough
Even the grass is fascinating


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