75 Hen Comb – Fill in the gap

In August I had intended to tick off Hen Comb on a walk out from home to Melbreak on the “Another Wainwright Day”, but bad weather had cut the walk short.

Again the weather was not the best, but that was to be expected on 31 December 2019 it was blustery and cold, low cloud but this time no driving rain. I walked from home and about 500m onto open fell I met a couple ahead of me who were walking in my direction, but had stopped to admire the view.  They explained they had walked from Loweswater the previous day but realised they were running out of time so had headed back without finishing the walk.  The day after they were finishing the last part of the walk in reverse up from Ennerdale, determined not to leave the walk incomplete.  I was in admiration and shook Nick’s hand hoping that some of his determination to finish would rub off on me.

The summit of Hen Comb was cold and very windy, but I found a sheltered spot just off the top and spun in peace.  However when I packed away, the wind-chill was freezing and my soaked hands were numb. Visibility was about 5m and with hands cold as ice it was the first occasion on this round that I have had to use the compass in anger. I now carry a second pair of gloves, learning that the times you will need to use your fine dexterity will always be in the toughest conditions, and those are mostly when it is coldest.

Not deterred by the cold, especially when there is a wager at stake I also had to message Mark to update on my position.  The deal had been whoever made it to the Kirkstile pub first had the right to a 2nd pint and therefore would not be driving home.  I took great delight in informing Mark I was on my way down an hour ahead of schedule, at speed, to enjoy my first pint while I waited for him to arrive.  Despite the number of mountain days being less than average in December I was delighted to feel less unfit than I had expected, and was well down my first pint when the transport arrived.

 

74 Gowbarrow

December came with its usual chaos of organising Christmas but in our family there was an added complication as Mark contracted Pneumonia, so most of December remained “Wainwrightless”. Finally my first outing with Mountain Bagging, came about on the 27th December.  Mountain Bagging is the walking group I have been looking for all my life. It is friendly inclusive and very enthusiastic for climbing the fells, but up until today I have not found a weekend that fitted in with my plans to join them on a walk.  With Mark out of action and Bheinn in action on the “Switch” enjoying his Christmas presents I took an opportunity to meet and walk with these “facebook walking friends” I already seemed to know so much about who might start to think I was a phantom walker if I did not put in an appearance.

Typically I was always at the back preceded by many children excited by their Christmas holidays.  I tried my first every geocaching experience and love the idea of always having something in your pocket to leave for somebody to discover on every walk. I met people from all over the north of England who love the fells, and want to share their experiences.

The climb up Aira Force was reminiscent of being in the Alps and the falls were stunning in their winter spate.

One of the children celebrated their 100th Wainwright at the top, but I was a bit puffed out and wrestling the wheel out of the bag to enjoy the celebration.  With frozen fingers the pace around to the viewpoint above Ullswater was a chance to warm up and test my downhill speed.

And the best reason to out with Mountain Bagging, Cider in the Royal Hotel Dockwray afterwards of course!

 

73 Harknott

A cautionary tale.  When the road closed sign is out on a mountain pass route. It probably means the road is closed.

Icy, cold winter ascent, despite clear visibility and use of the compass we became disorientated on the way down and had to back track twice.

72 Little Mell Fell

As winter sets in, my aim is to pick off the smaller Wainwrights as they present themselves.  Every month I attend a Spinning and Weaving Guild meeting in Mungrisedale and can see Little and Great Mell Fell as I turn off the A66 so after a day of spinning, chatting, eating great cakes and learning about natural dyeing at Acorn Bank I took the opportunity of a very quick sprint up Little Mell Fell.  I felt terribly rebellious not changing from my jeans into proper walking trousers, but I was perhaps warmer than in my skin tight lycra. No views and a wheel covered in peat happy in the knowledge I was over 1/3 of the way and a bonus that the Eden Valley Guild of Spinners Weavers and Dyers had chosen to support The Calvert Trust for their Christmas Charity.

59-71 Raise (Helvellyn) – Loughrigg – 1/3 Complete

September and October felt rather quiet.  School was back but The Wild Wool Barn and Workshop was still in Summer mode with many visitors and guests taking much of my time.  But despite my mountaineering not feeling frenetic the tally increased by another 13.

Raise (Helvellyn) and White Side

I had forgotten what a masterful ridge the Helvellyn to Clough Head straight is.  The undulating top stretches for miles and attracts all types of outdoor enthusiasts including skiiers, mountain bikers, Bob Grahamers, Fell runners and “spinning walkers”.  The aim had been to do more but my energy levels dropped as we ascended to the ridge, probably at the thought of the packet of emergency Quinoa having been used to stabilise the wheel on rocky ground, or maybe it was just the thought of the Quinoa instead of a bar of Galaxy!

Whin Rigg

Is a steep climb out of Western Wasdale and is always accompanied by the feeling of lethargy as it is the one you do when you can’t be bothered to drive to the central lakes and just want an easy (not so!) walk.  Back to the Shepherds Arms in Ennerdale for roast dinner as the Screes and Strands were variously fully booked or did not serve food.

Longlands Fell, Meal Fell and Great Cockup

A day of rare couples freedom.  Bheinn was on Scout camp so we headed to our old stomping ground of the Northern Fells.  The wind was so fierce we could barely speak so it was a very quiet day and the wool spun upwards.

Knott Rigg and Ard Crags

A full family day and always an easy climb but again autumn winds made for a very fast retreat to The Bridge Inn Buttermere for late lunch – yum.

Outerside and Barrow

When I had completed the big round of Buttermere tops in the Summer I had left these 2 so was looking forward to clearing them up. Walking  the easy path from Newlands with the flank of Barrow  on our right hand side we waved at brave canyoneerers, in the river below.  I would not be brave enough but Bheinn and Mark would have liked to try.  A rainbow seen from Barrow over the chocolate box view of Derwentwater I always thought was a fake made for a perfect day not spoilt by the fact that  The Swinside Inn was closed due to winter opening times so I was unable to use my Lake District “£s” so we revisited an old haunt, the Coldeale Inn.  We are starting to become experts in the pubs that serve food all day, an absolute must for walkers who traipse off the fells at all hours of the day.

Haystacks

I had planned a long walk back from Wasdale to Ennerdale home, but as we left the valley I noticed that the tops were covered in snow. As the wheel is heavy and does not contain much space for lots of bulky winter gear I decided that a long winter traverse was not going to be sensible.  Even more sensible would have been to check the weather forecast before departing. Will I ever learn?

So caution being the better part of valor Mark drove me to Butermere and I planned a longer but lower level route along the Ennerdale fells from East to West, but Haystacks was more of a climb than I expected and the squally weather including sleet and snow forced me down the Ennerdale Valley floor and a 7 mile walk and talking to the Ennerale Ultra runners. This brought back memories of hundreds of hours of training runs in the valley in the days when I joined the ultra runners in their passion to push their bodies further than they expected.  Now I think I enjoy taking my time, walking within my limits and seeing the views.

Loughrigg 71 – 1/3 of the Wainwrights Complete

I was accompanied by and old school friend whose struggle with dodgy knees made this a great feat, and I am sure endurance of pain on the way down.  I never used to think that milestones such as a 1/4 a 1/3 or half-way were worth any celebration but this time I feel chuffed and proud. I am amazed that I am already 1/3 of the way after only 6 months and had not put a finish time on the challenge but am starting to think I might be able to make it by the end of summer 2020.

58 Melbreak another Waynwright Day

Plastic Prohibition and the Time machine.

My enjoyment for doing crazy things on mountains had got me noticed and I had been approached by a climate change awareness campaign to be an ambassador for their day of  activities on the Wainwrights.

The day was called “Another Waynwright day” – https://www.another-way.org.uk/another-waynwright/ and on my 51st birthday I committed to spin on Melbreak and help raise awareness of the effects of climate change and the scourge of plastic pollution.

I had intended to walk over Hencombe, but I woke up to driving rain and initially thought I might have to just spend the day in The Kirkstile pub – spinning – of course.

Finally at noon I was able to walk out, but missed the deadline for sending pictures at 1pm from the summit.  It was wet and  windy, but a pleasant, easy walk from home on a bridleway. I found the perfect location for taking photos of The Wild Wool Barn in autumn when the leaves are no longer on the trees.

As is often the way with a pleasant walk the rhythm of my steps and the fuggy cocoon of being wrapped up against the unseasonably wet weather my mind wandered to the purpose of being an ambassador for a cause.  In my life I have never been on any form of protest or activism.  I always worried that I might discover that afterall I don’t agree with everything the cause stands for.  Today I realised that all political groupings have different levels and areas where members’ beliefs will not be wholly represented. I understood I supported the cause in principal even if I did not agree with all the nuance of the argument.

I wanted to take part and show my comfortable level of involvement of concern for climate change for me and for my son who was of an age for me to need to show that I was capable of putting my money where my mouth is.

My concerns for being involved were that campaigns can often be black and white, or highlight just one argument for a cause. My personal worries were that “Plastic Prohibition” may be a red herring and that those campaigning for it have not fully thought about how we manage life without it.  Had they really thought through how life was 30-40 years ago and why we bought into the convenience of single use plastics.

So what had got our generation to the point that the next generation are angry at us for our lack of action or lack of care for the consequences of our action?

I am hearing a lot of (mostly young) activists, who suggest prohibition and removal of the conveniences that the use of single use plastics has created for us and I wonder if they realise it is my generation who have given them the power to speak out, who spent our working lives, banging on glass ceilings with “no-entry to females” written firmly on them.

The Growth of the Use of Plastic in my Lifetime

I grew up with the female work options of being a nurse or a spinster teacher, a lawyer, a doctor or a wife.  To speak when I was spoken to and to be pretty.  I learnt to type on a manual typewriter and have learnt and relearnt every incarnation of “Word Processing” and electronic communication over 40 years.  All my phones have been 2nd hand given to me  by well meaning friends who thought I ought to have one and I finally succumbed to a smart phone as an essential business need.  I have grown through such vast change.  We were the generation who went without, who made do and mended.  We had 1 tv in our household, and it was black and white when the rest of the world had colour.  I have friends who chose to walk, take the bus, cycle because is make economic and moral sense without the world telling them to do so.   Or others who did not own a fridge because they could not afford it.  Who went without.  Weddings were saved up for and 2 pairs of shoes was quite enough.  A foreign holiday was a once in a life-time event and you saved up for it.  A hen-do was a meal at the local Italian. We had lunch boxes and flasks and we had a biscuit tin not individually wrapped snack packs.  I certainly did not ask for all this single use convenience, but it has arrived as a natural need for progress, as the scaffold for equality and stops me going insane with exhaustion, while I try and define myself by my career, be at home and at work and at school for my child. Cook, shop, clean and own, afford and maintain a house and be seen to be having the most fulfilling life which has to be reported in all its shininess on social media.

What do we really need to do?

I wonder how many activists have considered that convenience in the form of plastic is not a question of irresponsibility but  is a response to equality, equal opportunities and the social pressure to have and be seen to be having everything.  So if we want to save the planet we need to save ourselves.  We need to sit down and not say I am going to do without this plastic , but ask ourselves why do I need it and how am I going to create the time to cope without it? What do I have to change in my lifestyle to find time to be able to work without the conveniences.    The changes we need to make are surprising and are considerably greater than buying a reusable water bottle.  Considerations like 2 parents working full time with 3 cars on the drive and 3 foreign holidays a year will have to be ditched.  If 2 parents are working full time with children, who does the shopping and cooking from scratch, hanging the washing out, walking to the shops?  Who is going to have time to do that?  Who will work part time?  We have to ask why have we had children if we really don’t have time to be with them (and I don’t mean ferrying them to afterschool clubs where somebody else parents them) or care about the quality of their life style ?And make those difficult changes.

The True Change to Save the Planet

In order to create a life-style that needs less convenience we need to slow down and possibly accept a lower income.  It is about balance, it is about re-balancing family life so that we have time to think and shop and be there for one another.  Only then will we have time to insulate our homes and buy our groceries from individual, local suppliers using our own reusable containers.  We need to put value on the home-maker so that we can walk our children to school and have time to hang our washing out when the sun is shining and not use a tumble drier.  These are the real changes we need to make before we have time to say I don’t need to buy my lunch in a plastic tub with it’s own fork from the convenience store. When I was growing up these everyday, “menial” duties were assumed the work of a woman.  Now we need to value everybody’s contribution to the healthy balance of a family. They are not menial they are valuable

I see this imbalance in our human value system as the main reason we have come to a climate crisis,   We have lost sight of what really matters.

The Future

But we are where we are at.  I doubt many people are going to sacrifice their comfortable life-styles and dual incomes, so that leaves us with the legacy of the plastic waste.  We need to be planning its reuse before we produce it.  The Plastic in itself is not evil, it is what we do or don’t do with it once we no longer have a use for it. But not to be overlooked is the fact that global warming is not the fault of plastic. Production of plastic accounts for just 15% of the use of oil.  Burning fuel for cars/ and home heating and manufacturing is responsible for the greater problems of global warming.  Plastic is making a mess and polluting the environment and needs a legacy plan, but the heating of the planet is the realm of burning fossil fuels.

Time to get insulating and building windmills.

51-57 Whiteside to Scar Crags

51-57 Whiteside to Scar Crags

NW Fells Buttermere

To say it was the most beautiful day of summer would be possibly not true. It was the only day of summer  – Saturday 24th August 2019 The Bank Holiday Weekend.  After 3 abortive attempts to take on rounds of 5 or more Wainwrights and only achieving 1 solitary mountain, over the previous 2 child-free weeks, at last, the weather had played ball.  After dropping off Ane (my gardening/spinning/Wwoofer from Denmark) at the bottom of Rannerdale Knotts we headed back to the base of Whitside.  Mark and Bheinn walked with me up the first 2/3rds but morale and timing meant they had to head back to pick up Ane, so I more or less started the “grande” round of 7 Wainwrights alone.

Whiteside was not very welcoming, the legions of flying ants had hot winged it over from Fleetwith pike and were there to greet me, so the spinning was more a post with the wheel then a concerted effort to create yardage.

On Hopegill Head I was greeted by runners coming towards me on the King Kong mini mountain marathon and was later greeted by email by a family who had spied me spinning.  Nobody spoke or commented but as I spun in the peace of the montain top I had been spied by a family lunching behind me on the summit.

Already having gained a lot of height on the first 2 mountains, on the walk from Hopegill Head to Grasmoor I had a sense of height and remoteness. I was high in the mountains in a stunning hanging valley, with blue sky and a stream to replenish my water. I sat for a moment, dizzy and overheated, until I realised I had my reading glasses on my head and I was magnifying the sun into my brain cells (that’s another 25 I’ve lost). The summer was certainly making up for lost time.  Grasmoor looks like a huge lump and the amazing plane you find yourself on at the top is quite something else.  I wondered if at Calvert Trust they had considered how or if people with limited mobility could me transported to the top to enjoy wandering around the top, picnicking and enjoying the best views I have ever seen of the fells.  I think you can see everything if you look East South East (apart from Whiteside and Hopegill Head which I had put behind me)

Wandope was a particular low point.  It is just a short lift up from the coll as you come off Grasmoor BUT as I wandered up it I could see the grass moving and glistening silver.  The flying ants (now low flying or landed) were EVERYWHERE!!!.  Spinning was limited to opening the bag, taking out the wheel, adding the bobbing turning it 5 times and absolutely NOT getting cosy and running.  Not sure why they all wanted to be there.  I suspect it was an altitude thing.

Eel Crag was thankfully ant free and the views changed from vistas of the whole southern and central fells to the Causey Pike,  Skiddaw and the path East towards Derwent Water and Stair.

The route to Sail was quite exposed and the sun had started to drop giving me the sense of how long the day had been and why I was feeling like I had done more exercise than I had for many weeks.  From Sail to Scar Crags was a zig zag motorway worthy of an alpine pass so I made swift progress.  On Sail I met 1 man only the 5th walker /group I had met that day. Where were all the tourists, mountaineers and walkers?  Considering the spectacular nature of where I was and the fact that it was the summer bank holiday it seemed unbelievable that I had met so few people.

I doubled back from the top of Scar Crags,  greeting the Swaledales and Herwicks grazing on the top, knowing I would be quicker on the path than heading towards Causey Pike and cutting direct to the track on the fell race route (however passing from below I could see the route of the fell race had caused a new path to be formed).  The phone rang and Mark worrying that I was overdue had headed out to meet me.

My best day ever. 7 spinning Wainwrights ticked.  I was surprised by lack of people and squadrons ants, and I learnt that it is not sensible to wear my glasses on my head when the sun is shining.

 

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Photoshoot Fleetwith Pike no 50

Photoshoot – Fleetwith Pike no 50

It was the call I had hoped for;  Cumbia Life were interested in my story.  Not just the Spin A Round challenge but the whole back story, the where the Spinning and Weaving business idea came from, why I was spinning Herdwick, how the business was growing.  Interview behind me and a first aborted attempt to stage the photoshoot postponed due to the uncooperative  weather not playing ball, late on a Saturday afternoon I met Phil the photographer at Honister Slate Mine with Ane, (my volunteer gardener with the Wwooff UK scheme, with her own portable spinning wheel – I was not alone) Mark and Bheinn. Starting at the slate mine may seem a soft option but trying to keep up with Phil who seemed to fly across the rocks up the mine tracks made this one of the quickest ascents I have made – and possibly the fastest photoshoot on record!  If you look closely at the photo you can see the thousands of flying ants which have settled on the bag. They settled in our hair, in the wheel bag, on the cameras, the lighting equipment, down our clothes and swarmed the summit cairn.

Running away from the summit, we re-convened about 20 m down to try again.  Scafell Pike and Great Gable forming the dramatic backdrop for the strange sight of a victorious spinster.

On the way down we disappointed Phil by being a family of very poor Sheep rustlers trying to sneak up on the resident Herwicks to turn them into media stars.

Following the excitement of modelling on a mountain top, and ticking off my 50th spinning Wainwright, strangely, I could not sleep.  Despite a career in marketing and promoting somebody else’s business I felt self-conscious promoting my own.  The sleepless nights were short lived. Now I am excited to see how my strange venture will be portrayed and what other calls will come…

49 and Holding

Whiteless Pike Number 49

Planning for what to do with my child-free summer holiday fortnight  – of course ticking off a serious number of Wainwrights. But this was not to be.  Why?  It rained solidly for 2 weeks.  I felt sorry for the campers who had chosen just these weeks for their holidays and felt sorry for me. My plans for a 2 day clear up of the NW fells above Buttermere, and a 6 top yomp from home to Wasdale became 1 quick trek up Whiteless Pike and many days setting up a weaving loom.

The day had started seeming quite benign. The sun was shining but there was a bit of a nip in the air warranting the inclusion of a thicker 2nd layer to be carried.  It looked like we were heading upwards to a perfect day for 6 tops between the car park at Buttermere and the Swinside Inn.  Mark was going to accompany me over Whiteless Pike to Eel Crag and then I would continue over Sail to the northside of the Newlands Valley and he would head back to the car and meet me at the Swinside Inn at Stair.

BUT mountains can be unpredictable.  What looked like a perfect day from the valley bottom turned out to be a dangerous folly.  As we ascended the wind speeds and gusts were knocking me off my feet.  The further route on from Whiteless Pike to Wanhope looked exposed, was another league into the higher tops and further underfoot.  Taking refuge in the lee of the top of Whiteless Pike we assessed the map and decided that a 2nd round would be required to gather up Whiteside and Hopegill Head and could then include Eel Crag and Wanhope. So Whiteless Pike became the 49th spinning Wainwright and a cautionary tale to be prepared for anything in the mountains including turning back even if you feel you’ve only just got started.

 

Who Knows Where the Time Goes?

 

A lot has happened since I last wrote. I am the wrong generation to understand the need to for the constant update on Social media and as a result I am 20 Wainwrights ahead of where I was last time I wrote. Looking at the list I felt quite emotional at the thought that the challenge has already delivered so many wonderful experiences, and it’s hard to keep up. I have met so many incredible people out in the mountains sharing their achievements and motivations for being there. The Spin-A-Round challenge is delivering so much more than I could have hoped for.

June 2019

Ullock Pike, Long Side and Carl Side walking with Bheinn my son trying to remember when I was last up here. 27 years ago having taken the bus from Bassenthwaite to Keswick Mark and I had walked back along the ridge. He grumbled at the price of the bus all the way, pointing out it was cheaper to fly to Venice than get a bus for 7 miles (it was in the days of the 1p air fares).  This time there was no grumbling, but the realisation that we had walked in the wrong direction last time and missed the glorious views. Oh! and the ice cream at the Sawmill cafe.

Grike with friends giving my first “extreme” spinning lesson.

July 2019

Burbank and Gavel – walking home from a drop off 5 miles from home and appreciating the privilege to live were we do.

Lank Rigg – a Sunday stroll from home watching the local sport of hound trailing and wondering at the cacophony of  bridsong as the dogs disturbed the birds from their pastime on the fellside.

Binsey – the smallest option after dropping my father off at the newly opened Carlisle Airport and had wasted too much time in the garden centre letting  the day slip away.

Scafell Pike, Lingmell – Mark’s birthday with great friends and energetic teenagers learning the dangers of the fells and celebrating everybody’s summit victory. The hubbub at the top of the pike is like no other mountain I have ever experienced.

Bannerdale Crags and Bowscale Fell – totally alone on a Saturday evening, after an afternoon spinning with friends at ground level.

Armboth Fell, High Tove, High Seat – while Bheinn hiked Walla Crag with Scouts I met people who “KNEW” me from social media – Result!!! and had a run to the Mary Mount with 15 minutes to spare for a pint before we had to meet Bheinn from his Scout’s walk!

 

August 2019

Loft Crag, Pike O’Stickle, Harrison Stickle, Thunacar Knotts and around to Pavey Ark the LANGDALES the greatest names in the Lake District and the greatest classic mountains in a rare burst of August sunshine.

Followed by Holme Fell the 2nd  from lowest Wainwright summited. I opened my phone to take the obligatory selfie on the top to discover a list of crazy emails and messages about love and loss and business failures, flood and holiday baby-sitting arrangements possibly falling apart all needing to be dealt with.

Oh how I wish I had left my phone behind and done it like we used to (just heading to the hills), and how I wish I had written my blog more often as there are so many tales to tell. But I am learning and am perhaps not too old to embrace the social media age.  I have mastered Instagram, the clue being in the name “Insta” so for further adventures and more uptodate accounts I am much better at keeping up my social media at wildwoolworkshopennerdale  Instagram style………….