77 Dodd

We were optimistic that Mark would make it up Dodd but still the recovery from illness is slow. Walking from the Sawmill Tea Room direct to the summit Mark turned back 1/3 of the way up.  After 2/3rds at the bench the view was just about visible and then we disappeared into the cloud.  We seemed to be the only people out without a dog, so had a few confused conversations as we described people we had seen with dogs.

I spun alone on the summit (save 1 man and 2 dogs) and on the way down again engaged in conversation with old friends who had seen me “knitting” on  Lattrigg. They knew about the Castle Crag Race and commented that the cakes and tea at the Youth Hostel were as much fun as the race itself and hoped they could increase their “spinner-spotting” to 3 in the near future. We could not wait until next week for coffee and cakes and enjoyed our fair share at the cosy and welcoming Sawmill Tea room.

 

76 Castle Crag – Did I really agree to dress up as a Gorilla?

 

When you start an unusual and lengthy challenge it is always good to go into it with an open mind.  I have found that however much you plan you will be very surprised by the unexpected opportunities that open themselves up to you. This is one I really did not see coming……

With Mark recovering from Pneumonia we thought a New Year’s Day stroll up Castle Crag (the smallest Wainwright) might be possible. We parked up in Rosthwaite and talked about Prince Charles enjoying staying at Yew Tree Farm, and Julia Bradbury buying pasties from the Flock Inn.  We reminisced about fell running days and the route of the Borrowdale fell race and how the times posted by the fastest fell runners were almost incomprehensible.  We split for a few hundred yards as Mark and Bheinn crossed the stream on the stepping stones.  I have always had trouble co-ordinating crossing flowing water and it wasn’t until I keeled over after completing the 1 mile Great north swim I was diagnosed with Vertigo, which seems to be the reason why I can’t make my feet go forward when the ground/water beneath me in s travelling at 90 degrees, so avoided becoming stranded in the middle of the river by taking the easy path enjoying the best views of the pack horse bridge where I met up with Bheinn.  Mark was already walking at a snail’s pace so it was no surprise that 1/2 way up the climb he stopped on a rock in favour of photographing the view above reaching the top.  As you leave the grassy part of the hill and cross the wall to the summit, rocky climb a path has been landscaped into the slate slag heap left from the the mining past of the area.  We fell into step with a very chatty man, who told us about the standing slates that look like grave stones and the uphill fell race that is won in just under 12 minutes.  I think you could put a 0 on that time for our walk.

The views are truly stunning from the top.  In both directions you can see the beauty of the lower landscape overshadowed by the high mountains  of the Borrowdale valley to the South and Skiddaw to the North.

When I started the spinning challenge I assumed I would  meet people on the tops of the fells but generally people are sitting, contemplating or eating and resting on the summit.  Most of my conversations have been with people on the route up or down, and this time was no exception.  We ran into (literally) some old fell running friends who now run an adventure centre in Keswick.  Lou had been the British and English Fell running Champion in the days when we competed but now runs for fun and exercise and organises events for other up and coming runners.  The Advetnure centre is called Kong Adventure and they have a Gorilla mascot who attends the events and has been known to take part in some alternative activities during the races.  They wondered if the Gorilla might be allowed to take the spinning wheel to the next fell race and the Spinning wheel agreed to oblige.  A fell running, spinning Gorilla, now I did not see that coming……

 

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.

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.