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My Dad David died 10.09.13 aged 69. He had a huge love of the countryside. He loved walking and was a keen angler. I was desperate to find and own an object that summed Dad up, after an insightful conversation with a friend, I remembered his walking boots. This set me thinking... How about stepping into them and going for a walk somewhere with a body of water (sea, river, lake, canal, pond, tarn...) and stunning, just as Dad would have wanted.... Here I go in 'My Dad's Boots'

Monday, 29 December 2014

The Lake District - Helvellyn

This month's walk in MDB was in a word, magical. I chose to complete my eighth and final Wainwright of the year by ascending Helvellyn, standing at 950m (3,120ft) and being England's third largest mountain I was following on from my previous two months outings by smashing my ascent record. Using my OL5 map and my AW book one, I planned a straight up and down route, not my usual style but the conditions and short daylight hours called upon it.

Map: Bing and Ordnance Survey

On route, I took a detour off the A591 to view one of Lakeland's most beautiful stretches of water, Thirlmere. This reservoir provides water for the population of Manchester and fish (Brown Trout, Char, Perch and Pike) for those lucky anglers to spend a day there. A really special spot. 

I chose to park in a handy lay-by. Once I was booted up and had consumed a refreshing brew I walked from my parked car along the roadside verge to nearby Swirls Car Park. At the far end there is a little footbridge, once over this the well signposted route starts here.

The lower parts of the walk are set among the Autumnal bracken and the terminating waterfall from Helvellyn Gill on well made paths. There is a possibility to branch off, pardon the pun, on a separate woodland walk but Helvellyn was where I was headed today.

As soon as I start to gain height the ground begun to be become frosty and there was a sudden and noticeable change of air temperature. 

The brilliant views over Thirlmere and snow topped High Rigg were becoming more present as I took a look behind me.

The now very icy and and finely snow covered path takes you passed a small ruin.  

The stunning Lakeland fell panorama was opening up behind me.

A glimpse of Bassenthwaite Lake in the distance.

Me, well my shadow, and a snow capped Blencathra 

The further I climbed the more snowy and wintery the landscape became. It was as if I had traveled through Autumn to full blown Winter in less than half an hour.

The perfect high Lakeland winter landscape.

The path became really snowy by the time I reached Browncove Crags. 

Lower Man provided wonderful views.

The final push before the summit plateau.

I shall never forgot the summit of Helvellyn, I found a number of surprises there and each was incredible. Red Tarn, flanked by Striding Edge looked perfect surrounded by pristine snow.

A solitary Raven kept the crowd fascinated with its swooping aerial acrobatics and distinctive cry.

As the cloud came in over the summit MDB, and their new winter additional snow grips, and I hunkered down in the snow.

Looking out over Swirral Edge toward neighbouring Wainwright, Catstye Cam and Ullswater in the far distance. 

The Summit Trig Point.... Once I touched this I realised a simple fact that at over 3,000ft this was the highest point I had ever climbed to in the UK, pretty cool I thought.

The next thing that occurred to me was beyond anything I could have wished for.... My first ever Brocken Spectre! I am still pinching myself at the truly awesome sight of it. Maybe a sign from Dad that he approved of my choice of today's outing. 

As AW noted I chose to eat my butties and brewed up at the superbly constructed drystone built, X shelter seat that can be found a little way round to right of the trig point. 

Once I had spent some time lingering on the top I noticed the time and thought I'd better be getting myself back down as did others, looking behind I noticed the sky was so blue and the Moon was so clear.

The sun was setting beautifully as I descended.

Helvellyn is the hub for a number of other Wainwright peaks so I know I'll be visiting it again, but for today I would go as far as to say that was a winter day out to rival all others. I felt like a real mountaineer, I beat a personal best, witnessed a rare Brocken Spectre and had a fab snow day and not had to drive home in it, so just about perfect. I think I found the fell in its absolute wintery best. Loved it entirely. I'm looking forward to next month's adventure already. 

Till next time.... Tight laces. MDB x

Phil, Thank you! 

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The Lake District - Coniston Old Man, Brim Fell & Dow Crag

When I started out in MDB back in January I never for one moment thought the process would bring about a new obsession....but it has! I hasten to add a healthy obsession, that of bagging Wainwrights. For those who don't know, simply, these are notable Lakeland Fells that the great Alfred Wainwright (AW) chose as they were of interest and importance. He beautifully illustrated and reviewed the ascents, descents and summits of 214 fells in his seven incredible pictorial guide books, these fells would then be known as Wainwrights. Before I started this month's walk I had four to my name, Holme Fell, Cat Bells, Rannerdale Knotts and Haystacks. Last month, half way up Haystacks I had already firmly decided that I needed more. So this month I have not only managed to climb a higher Wainwright but I have bagged not one, not two, but three in one day; bringing my tally to an impressive seven this year! 

Map: Bing and Ordnance Survey

For this month's MDB walk I headed to Coniston Old Man knowing that I could I add this to my Wainwright total, and the bonus of this walk is I could bag Brim Fell and Dow Crag to boot, pardon the pun!  I have frequently referred to this walk as being 'The Old Man for The Old Man' and as it would have been Dad's Birthday weekend I felt it was a fitting place to celebrate. On route I stopped off to view Coniston Water.

I chose to park on the free Fell Gate Car Park at Walna Scar Road. The car park is reached by a steep narrow road leading up from Station Road in the village of Coniston. 

Using my OL6 map, I start my walk from the car park. The route takes you gently along a well made path bordered by bracken. The initial part is fairly soft in gradient but soon starts to steepen.

The path takes you to The Coniston Copper Mines, a site of much historic industry. These mines and associated buildings were abandoned in the 1950s and were once a rich source of copper and various minerals. There is much fun to be had in exploring the derelict buildings but do be careful! 

There are plenty of interesting artefacts to investigate on this section of the path. 

As you continue further up the path your next stop off is at the day's first of three tarns, Low Water. The light was amazing here and as I looked up I could see some light cloud and kept hoping for an inversion up top, sadly not today.

A bird's eye view of Low Water and neighbouring reservoir Levers Water in the distance, Wetherlam adds the back drop. 

A great distant view of a section of Windermere, Coniston Water in the foreground and the village of Coniston below.

The final push up to the summit is a good scramble. 

The Old Man summit cairn is a well constructed structure and stands at the pinnacle of, my now highest, and fifth Wainwright, standing at 803m (2,634ft).

The cairn is set on a large well made stone plinth.... Just the place to brew up and rest MDB. The views from the summit are extensive, on a clear day you can see Blackpool Tower, an apt feature as Dad was a lifetime BFC supporter.

My second Wainwright of the day, and sixth ever was Brim Fell 796m (2,612ft). It is in easy sight and reach of The Old Man summit. The next two Wainwrights along the Coniston chain, Swirl How and Grey Friar, can just be seen in the distance.... These will have to be bagged on another day!

A view back towards The Old Man summit. 

I then headed off from Brim Fell on to Goat's Hawse in the direction of Dow Crag.

There are no mountain goats up here but a flock of hardy sheep..... "Baaa....Wait for me!!!"

The second tarn, Goat's Water has a small population of Wild Brown Trout and some Char and can be fished on a sustainable catch and release basis. The view of Goat's Water and Dow Crag from Goat's Hawse is impressive.

Goat's Water, Old Man and Coniston Water in the distance.

The ascent of Dow Crag 778m (2,552ft), my seventh Wainwright and third of the day, is a rough scramble and then a rocky climb, but well worth the effort.

A tiny glimpse of both Coniston Water and Goat's Water.

The route then took me towards Buck Pike then Brown Pike.... I completely agree with my MDB Lakeland Advisor Phil, they should have been Wainwrights! 

The smallest and finest tarn of the day, Blind Tarn, can be found tucked at the base of Brown Pike. Blind Tarn is very rare owing to it neither having a visible inflow or outflow. Its still waters set in this beautiful mountain scenery give Blind Tarn a special, tranquil quality. 

As soon as I descended Brown Pike I made my way on to Walna Scar Road.

I carried along this rough meandering track.....

Passed The Cove, with Dow Crag to left, Goat's Hawse in the middle and Goat Crag to the right..... 

Over the beautiful Cove Bridge.....

Beside, as AW described it 'the small reedy' Boo Tarn, which was just visible as the day light dropped. 

I was soon back to my car and my final brew of the day. Before I set off I checked my map and marvelled at the momentous day I had just had.... I had enjoyed every second and again really tested MDB.

Happy Birthday Dad! 

Until next time.... Tight laces! MDB xx

Many heartfelt thanks to my very exclusive Lake District team; the lovely Claire for your wonderfully warm welcome and Phil for helping me stay safe and for sharing your truly amazing knowledge of this very special corner of the world. Thank you! 
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