Monday, 13 September 2010

Hobcarton & Grisedale Pike

Walk Statistics
Walk Date - 13 September 2010
Walkers - Steve Smith, David Boother
Start Point - Swinside Car Park (GR-NY 19144 24532)
Start Time - ??:??
Finish Point - Swinside Car Park (GR-NY 19144 24532)
Finish Time - ??:??
Duration - ?hrs ??mins
Average pace - ?.??mph
Distance Walked - 7.36miles
Height Ascended - 872.18metres

Peaks visited
Nuttalls (253)
Ladyside Pike(137)
Hopegill Head (81) first visited 03/11/2009
Sand Hill (80) first visited 03/11/2009
Hobcarton Crag [Hobcarton Head] (138)
Grisedale Pike (139)
Hobcarton End (140)
Hewitts (178)
Hopegill Head (58) first visited 03/11/2009
Hobcarton Crag [Hobcarton Head] (98)
Grisedale Pike (99)
Marilyns (176)
Grisedale Pike (28)
Wainwrights (214)
Hopegill Head (63) first visited 03/11/2009
Grisedale Pike (90)

Birketts (541)
Swinside (152)
Ladyside Pike(137)
Hopegill Head (110) first visited 03/11/2009
Sand Hill (109) first visited 03/11/2009
Hobcarton Crag [Hobcarton Head] (154)
Grisedale Pike (155)
Hobcarton End (156)
HuMPs (444)
Grisedale Pike (45)


Due to the severe weather conditions of the day photography was not a priority resulting in only two photographs being taken all day. These have therefore been included at the appropriate part of the walk description below.

Walk Description

This was the shorter of our weeks planned walks, chosen on the basis of a grotty weather forcast which was predicting rain all day with gale force winds on the summits.

We parked up in Swinside Car Park, just to the east of Swinside Houses on the Whinlatter Pass, setting off west along the B5292 and forking left to Blaze Bridge then left again at the next fork following the footpath across a field to reach open access land. Contouring south until we reached Swinside Plantation then followed the boundary west to the NW corner of the plantation, where we turned due south and made our way slightly uphill along the contours to the East corner of Swinside Plantation, all we had to do then was follow the wall WSW to bag our first peak of the day - a Birkett - Swinside.

There was a very strong wind with steady rain as we followed the wall up to the ridge top, but the exertion of the climb was still enough for me to take off my fleece to avoid overheating, leaving just a base layer and Berghaus . Dave assured me that once we got to the op the wind would ease.
It did into something just short of a gale, which catapulted the rain at you like bullets. Fortunately we changed direction to the south where we found Swinside, a nondescript top without any features just south and east of the wall junction. The wind was now to our side with slight shelter being provided in the lea of the broken wall. Descending slightly to get more shade we continued south in sight of the wall to our right to our first Nuttall of the day - Ladyside Pike.

She was anything but lady like hiding above the cloud line in what could only be described as “rough” weather. We did hide behind her breast for a short distance but this was only a brief respite as we approached the summit cairn. Dave defiantly sat on the cairn with his back to the wind and after a brief rest and photo of only two taken today we headed off in similarly windy/wet conditions for Hopegill Head. I was expecting something of a scramble but with the increasing winds around gale force, along with rain and slippery rocks turned this ascent into one of our most memorable so far.

What added to the interest was Dave’s declaration, who does not have the best head for heights, that ‘he was past his “comfort zone”’ and did not fancy going any further. This posed a bit of a problem as the route back downhill was probably worse than continuing further. So we broke the route down into sections, ignoring the bits we could barely see through the cloud and concentrate on the 8-10 yards we could see. As luck would have it and by avoiding any paths to the left, which we knew was craggy, each 10 yards opened up the next 10 yards. This approach was followed over steep, slippery granite up to the final scramble where the rock was replaced with grass. Not time to relax, but certainly easier going.

During the ascent, as well as staying safe and making the right decisions, I was hoping this was not going to put Dave off. He did not look happy and the irony was obvious when one of my reassuring lines was that - “I would not ask him to go anywhere he did not want to go” when clearly our presence showed the statement to be a lie. The elation on Dave’s face when we reached the top proved he had not been put off, further more he did not assault me when I told him we had to retrace our last few steps as the only reason we had got here was to bag the top - not to proceed forward.

Returning to the path we benefitted by being shaded from the wind enough to make us think it had dropped for the day.

While this took us out of our way, it did at least give us the chance to get some respite from the wind, passing the cairn, marking the top of Sand Hill we continued south towards Coledale Hause where it was only storm force!

Turning NE at Coledale Hause, the ascent to Hobcarton Crag was even better with some shelter from the wind being provided by the eastern side of Sandhill. Half way to Hobcarton Crag we had to cross Pudding Beck which had flooded its gully and was about 20feet wide of fast flowing water, Fortunately we managed to cross near the head so it was nothing more than crossing a full summer stream, lower down though I suspect the scene at Low Force would be quite spectacular.

On the last half of the ascent the wind returned. If anything it was stronger, but at least it was at our backs. Bagging Hobcarton Crag we pressed on NE to Grisedale Pike. Unbelievably the wind got stronger with the full force being felt on Grisedale Pike top. But again on the easterly side there was some shelter, so we took the opportunity to huddle behind a rock and have a quick tuna sandwich, oat bar and piece of fruit. Towards the end of lunch the wind shifted slightly making us feel very exposed and chilly quite quickly without our backpacks protecting our backs. Even in September there was concern about cooling down too quickly so we donned our backpacks, checked the map and set off or Hobcarton End, staying on the west side of the wall in case we got blown off our feet towards the edge or mistakenly follow the path down the wrong side of the hill along Sleet How.

Following the wall due north for a short distance to where it turned NE. From here we had to take a 320° bearing as visibility was down to about 50m and we no longer had the wall to follow. On the descent we felt the full force of the wind blowing us off our feet on a couple of occasions making it impossible to hold the compass and maintain a bearing. All effort was used to keep a firm footing, making sure we kept on the high point of the tongue as it descended to the col between Grisedale Pike and Hobcarton End, laying down occasionally to confirm with the compass our heading was still in the right general direction. At the 619m spot height marking the col, the full force of the wind was felt, being constant gale force, making communication barely possible even shouting directly into each other’s ear we had to repeat ourselves several times.
At this point our plan was to continue north over Hobcarton End cross the wall and head due north down the tongue and find a track through Hobcarton Plantation to the No71 cycle track, then west to the car.

However, very soon after climbing the stile over the wall wind levels returned to those experience in the col and because the edge seemed so much closer we decided safety was the order of the day and returned to the wall to follow it down the west side of Hobcarton End. Very soon after the fence turned south a valley and Hobcarton Plantation appeared out of the mist, below to our right and west. Following the fence further south and the next bend, the mist/cloud cleared exposing our descent across heather.

The slope was too steep to go straight down so we traversed backwards and forwards through the thick heather. In fact the heather was so thick it cushioned our steps making the descent a lot more comfortable on the knees and hamstrings. Some of the plantation had been harvested causing a discrepancy between the ground and what was on the map but at least the forest track remained though it was now in the open rather than the middle of the plantation. We still managed to deviate from the main path but maintaining a northerly bearing brought us to a track where we could see Swinside Cottages confirming we were near the car, sight of which around the next bend allowed us to relax and reflect on what had been one of the toughest and most challenging walks we had had, and where Dave had gone someway in overcoming his fear of heights while at the same time both of us retaining a healthy respect for the fells.


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