Tag Archives: Scrambling

March madness? The Lake District revisited

I’m sure I could hear a helicopter and it was close. That thud thud thud of rotor blades. I was puffing a bit and Tim had just disappeared over the snow cornice just below the summit, out of sight.  Deep breaths. ‘Are you ok?’  I shouted. No reply. ‘Are you ok?’ I shouted again.  “Yes, use the holes for your hands and feet, I’ve kicked them to make them bigger” came Tims voice. It was at this time that I realised that it was my heart that I had heard and not a helicopter. Now that it was all quiet I better get going.

March 2019 – The Lake District

Sometimes it’s good to go back to your favourite holiday haunts. A week at the end of March in Cumbria seemed like a great plan so off we went.

Tim and I have enjoyed so much walking in this area I need to write a book.  For this posting, however, I’ll share a couple of days that took our breath away.  Let’s take a look at Striding Edge and Jacks Rake.

1.  Striding Edge, ridge to Helvellyn

I’ve talked about this ridge in a previous post – the link below takes you to it if you want to see a few more photos.

On the edge of something big

Getting up high in the mountains is generally an easy thing in clear weather.  Find a route, follow a path, take your time, take a map.  Striding Edge is best done on a calm day, set off early and turn back if the weather turns nasty.

Leaving Glenridding early in the morning we gradually left the houses behind.  Once off the Tarmac our route followed close to a Beck (mountain stream).

In the photo below our route is on the far left of the peak, slightly shadowed.

On a sunny day it’s a pleasure.

Once you reach the brow the mountain scene really opens up and it’s time to decide what you’d like to do and where you’d like to eat your packed lunch.  Our choice was take the ridge on the left, scramble along it for a couple of hours then get onto the summit of Helvellyn.

Helvellyn (with snow on top in the photo below) is the third highest peak in the lakes there are several routes up, most of them far easier!  Tim, in this photo, is making his way up onto the ridge itself.

Photography – we love it.  However we’ve found that recording our adventure on film is quite a bit of fun too.  So, as we crossed the ridge we filmed the whole event on a GoPro action camera.  Film making takes time though and our stomachs needed a snack so we stopped for a few minutes.

It is possible to walk along the crest in most places but there’s also small pathways on either side. You need both hands if you want to scramble about  – as this photo shows.

We eventually found ourselves at the remains of a cornice.  This is a snowy lip on the edge of mountains.  You can see it here as we got closer.

This is how I started this post – with my helicopter heart rate.  I pulled myself together and climbed up, following in Tims footsteps up onto the flat summit, my crawling/staggering steps being filmed as I came into view.

Phew – it was quite a morning.  After enjoying our lunch near the top we made our way down, basking in the surprisingly warm sunshine as we went.

2.  Jacks Rake – route up to Pavey Ark

Sometimes I really wonder how we ever got into these high places.  Our parents didn’t take us, we didn’t visit on school trips or took guided holidays.  But here we are, in our middle years and now fairly experienced walkers in these wild areas.

One place that is somewhere special is The Langdale Valley.  Here you can enjoy the mountains of the Lake District in a variety of ways from simply gazing up while having a pint or scrambling along a rock face.

We have enjoyed both.  Today though we would take on Jacks Rake – a route that quite honestly can look terrifying.  The red line shows the route in the picture below.

Its a grade 1 scramble which means using hands as well as feet (sometimes elbows and knees) to climb but if you are fit and healthy and wear good walking shoes or boots and appropriate clothing anyone can do this.

I won’t describe the whole route taken to reach the foot of this climb but it is really enjoyable following Stickle Ghyll, which is crossed twice to reach Stickle Tarn.  If you find yourselves in the Langdales, and only want a short walk, park at the New Dungeon Ghyll car park and take the path behind the buildings here.

All this is merely a warm up if you plan to climb the rake or go up any of the mountains that all come into full view.

A rocky path is followed around the tarn to a faint path with large boulders the size of small cars and scree.  Up we go then.

The photo above shows Tim almost at the start of the rake.

At the rock face itself we packed away our jackets and sticks got the action camera out and started the climb.  The terrain is, well, it’s rocky but as you can see there is a groove or channel that makes you feel slightly more secure than you might imagine.

We were doing this on a Sunday and even though we had set off early we were joined by other intrepid scramblers, most of them in small groups of twos or threes.  Most of them quicker than us so we let them pass where there was room.  I like to think that we are not slow, we just like to stay safe and enjoy the day. You can see some people who passed us in the shot below.

As you can see there are a few flat sections or are they ledges that allow you to walk along like a normal human being! And then some sections that don’t.

As long as you keep going up the view gets more and more impressive.  I’m actually filming and photographing Tim at the same time here and even though he was smiling I don’t think Tim could quite believe his eyes…..

Anyway, here we are almost at the top. Stickle Tarn below us and beyond that the Langdale Valley.  You can’t actually see the path that runs alongside Stickle Ghyll or the car park from here.

We did stop a couple of times to admire the view or discuss Boulder negotiating.  Here is Tim almost at the top.

And then there is one last clamber before its all over and you find yourself with masses of space and feeling exhilarated.  Now to find somewhere to eat our sandwiches!

I would urge you to add this to your bucket list. Go, just go.


Thanks Sue & GC – I think this fits into your latest photo challenge of Comfort    in my case out of our comfort zone…..

Photo Challenge Comfort



WordPress Challenge : Scale

imageA ridge called Crib Goch in Snowdonia, North Wales.

This photograph was taken during our second crossing of this ridge – just ahead of us you can just see a couple of people scrambling their way across the rocks.  It helps to show the sheer scale of the place.

Our first crossing of this ridge was part of a route called The Snowdon Horseshoe and is detailed in an earlier posting.  If you would like to read it please do follow this link – I’d love to receive comments.




Snowdon Horseshoe – including the best scramble ever

In 1995 our mountain explorations started in the Lake District.  Tim and I returned many many times, venturing further and becoming quite confident explorers in this beautiful part of this country.

How we started our Lake District adventures

Our first mountain ridge walk

We then started to take trips to the mountains of north Wales with our mountain bikes, to Snowdonia.  The mountains here are magnificent, all jagged and formidable.  As we cycled around the valleys we stared up at them in awe.  Little did we know that one day we would be standing on these summits too.


Our approach to the Snowdon Horseshoe – Snowdon has cloud overhead

Mount Snowdon and The Snowdon Horseshoe

Snowdon – at 3,560 feet (1085m) it’s the highest point in Wales and England.  It has numerous walking routes and one railway track leading right to the top!  It’s very very popular.  Tim and I have been to the top five times now. We’ve enjoyed days when the sun shone warmly, walked through snow as well as rain and cloud.  Always on foot and always starting from a car park on the mountain pass called the Pen y Pass.

The Snowdon Horseshoe – this is a challenging route with just under 4,000 feet of ascent with lots of exposure on narrow ridges. Guide books suggest you need at least 8 hours to complete it.  The route is considered to be alpine climb in winter conditions which means using rope and other technical equipment, at other times its a scramble which means using hands.  It should definitely be avoided by walkers in icy or wet weather and best enjoyed if you have a bit of mountain walking experience.

Note : ‘Horseshoes’ in walking terms usually involve a high level route which, when looked down at from the skies above, is horseshoe shaped!

I’m travelling back in time for this one, almost 8 years, and with the help of a few photos, this is my recollection of the day.

3rd May 2009 – 8:15am at the  Pen y Pass car park

We parked the car right behind the small cafe and paid for our ‘all day’ ticket.  With some slight anxiety we then tipped all of our extra layers, hats, gloves, etc out of our back packs and put them on.  The wind felt a bit cool but we were optimistic.

For this challenge we were accompanied by our good friend Duncan.  With Duncan, and his wife Chrissi, we had shared several walking holidays all four of us having the same love of the great outdoors.    Chrissi didn’t join us this time and I think she was really quite relieved when she looked through our photos afterwards!

The first photo we took at the start of the Pyg Track – about 20 steps away from the car.  Me and Duncan trying to say ‘cheese’ and having a nervous giggle.  Tim was being the sensible one, he was the parent on this trip and was probably still going through a checklist in his head – map, drinks, lunch, first aid kit, whistle, survival blanket, etc.


The Pyg Track at the start

The Pyg Track is a good path with views down to the road as it disappears to Llanberis.  As expected it gets steeper with a few boulders as obstacles in places, but generally its easy enough and, after our shivery start, we began to warm up.

We reached a point called Bwlch Moch.  Its a junction – time to decide whether to carry on or turn right onto the shoulder of the ridge.  The three of us paused. ‘Is that wind too strong?’.  ‘I didn’t think it would be this windy’. ‘Is that wind going to get worse?’

Pulling ourselves together we turned right and posed for another photo right next to the finger post confirming the route.


Turning off the Pyg Track

Shortly afterwards we reached a wall of rock.  We were joined by a small group of friends (all men) who went ahead of us scrambling and heaving themselves onto the shoulder of the ridge.  We followed them.

The section that followed was a bit like going up a rocky, uneven, ever steepening staircase.  It was actually quite enjoyable.   The sun started to break through the cloud and every now and then we stopped to admire the views below.  Tim and Duncan always seemed to be ahead of me – Duncan leading the way, Tim taking the photos and me just having fun recording the whole event on my camcorder.  The photos below show cairns (small piles of rock) that can help show the way to go.


The clouds broke as we went up onto the shoulder of Crib Goch


The silver line is the Pyg Track way below

The higher we got so did my woolly hat.  I had no idea that I looked like a cross between a Smurf and one of the seven dwarfs. Obviously the boys didn’t say anything and let me continue for the whole day with a silly hat.

Once the group of friends ‘disappeared’ out of sight we knew the ridge of Crib Goch would be within view.  Sure enough it was. We had read and researched and knew what was coming next but nothing, absolutely nothing, prepares you for the awesome (and I use that word rarely) sight.  This is a photo of me looking at the view ahead.  Spot the couple behind me who look like they are crouching in fear!  It was now 10:30am.


Directly ahead the ridge narrowed.  So much that, to feel comfortable on this knife edge, you should drop down a bit on the left and hang onto the top as you shuffle along.  The photos below show Duncan catching the group who had passed us earlier.  They were moving quite slowly and a couple of the faster friends were coming back to check on the slower ones….

image image

With the cloud opening up the views and then closing them there was a certain air about the whole scene.  I loved it and my hat was having a wild time too – as you can see from the summit photo Duncan took of me and Tim.

It was now 11:20am – three hours from the start.


From here we dropped down slightly to make our way round The Pinnacles.  There are three and generally everyone passes the first two then climb the third.

Going round the first two Pinnacles – you can just spot a couple of people going over the final Pinnacle

The final pinnacle is really was quite exposed on one side where a gully opens up on the north.  Even I was slightly apprehensive – take a few deep breaths.  Duncan went first, followed by me and then, once we shouted down to say it was fine, Tim joined us.  Wow, what a thrill.

The photo below shows the Pinnacles and Crib Goch – all behind us now with  just one more scramble up onto Crib y Ddysgl just ahead and then Snowdon.



One more scramble which was tougher than it looks!

It’s funny how photographs flatten the image sometimes – what you can’t see here is the whole magnificent scene dropping away behind me and to my left the dark pyramid of Snowdon.  Once I had scrambled up (climbed up!) we decided it was time to eat lunch.  It was 12:05pm.

Crib y Ddysgl is also a rocky ridge but relatively easy compared to Crib Goch.  Still, we had to use our hands and scramble across in places.  The summit, at 3,493 feet, was flat and broad – how strange it was to get up and walk ‘normally’ again.  Then all of a sudden we turned left and joined the stream of humanity who were making their way up the easy ‘tourist path’ from Llanberis on foot or by train.

Mount Snowdon – it’s like joining a huge party at the top.  All ages, all nationalities, with dogs and cameras and, in some cases, totally inappropriate clothing, all enjoying the moment.  We walked on – almost without stopping.  Maybe it was just a bit too busy for us.  Maybe we had one eye on the slightly darker clouds that were heading our way from the west.

At the summit the cafe was closed.  In June 2009 a new cafe was opened and, though I’m not keen on the whole idea of having a cafe at all, I was very impressed with the design when we visited in 2011.  Even if you don’t walk up – visit the cafe, it’s worth it for the views.

Descending south from Snowdon summit, on a rough track, we then made our way up onto our final peak – Y Lliwedd.  A big rocky staircase of a walk up –  we lost the crowds and were on our own again.  Strangely the noise of the train chugging it’s way up Snowdon was louder here (louder even than my heavy breathing!) than at any other place.  We stopped for a breather at the summit and glanced back – Snowdon was disappearing into the cloud and we were grateful for having had a view all the way round (so far).  Tim was warning us not to get too close to the edge of the ridge at the top – the drop on the northern side was sudden.


There are two summits on Y Lliwedd

It’s a bit of a blur now but I’m sure it started to snow or sleet or hail, only briefly, but with that we said good bye to the ridge and made for lower ground. It was 4:15pm as we we started to go downhill – only 2 miles to go!  It all levels out once you reach The Miners Track. From here the route is easy  and eventually (with a cheer) you reach the car park.

From memory it took us 8 hours in total – we had had an epic day.

September 2011

We didn’t take as many photos as we would have liked crossing the ridge and promised ourselves a return trip to try and capture the grandeur of the place.  In September 2011 we did just that.  Retracing our steps and getting up and across before the crowds on a wonderfully warm clear day  – here are a couple of photos.


Snowdon from near the Pinnacles on Crib Goch

Crib y Ddysgl – scrambling

The easy way up & down!

Lunch just below Snowdon summit – Crib Goch is the ridge to the right of my face

The whole scene from the summit on a clear day


I accidently cut my finger on Crib Goch summit (on this second trip), just a small cut, but it makes it somehow good to know that way up there on a sharp piece of rock a little bit of me has been left behind.