Easter in Borrowdale – March 30th-April 2nd

Borrowdale Youth Hostel

This year the IOG’s regular Easter trip to the Lake District was based at Borrowdale Youth Hostel – 2.8 miles from the Honister Slate Mine and 6 miles from Lake Buttermere. Organised by our ex-Chair, Matthew, something like 40 people gathered in the hostel, its camping pods and nearby accommodation for an active, stress-free weekend on the hills, fells and dales. The weather, though far from perfect, seems to have been bracing for all concerned and good times were the order of the day.

As usual, each day the party split into various groups depending on inclination, ambition and skill, and headed off on a range of different walks, gathering each evening over dinner and then the log burner, board games and cards in the hostel bar. I will upload the tales and pics as they come in – hopefully, those of us who didn’t or couldn’t go for some reason or other will get to experience second-hand the walks and other activities that make up this time-honoured part of the IOG calendar.

Saturday- Over Glaramara

Words and pics contributed by Torben

Having travelled up on Thursday and enjoyed Good Friday taking in some gorgeous views from Haystacks, High Crag, High Stile and Red Pike, the Saturday forecast favoured low-level walking and much of the group took this option.  However at least two groups ventured up from the hostel to Glaramara to see what they would find, hopefully without getting lost in the cloud!

I headed out confidently with Rachael (and her navigation skills) and Martin and Adrian, (both also members of Ipswich Mountaineering Club who were equipped with ice axes).  Sure enough there was a lot of snow and ice on the mountain and some excellent navigation, option assessment and careful testing of terrain led us safely up and over Glaramara where we met an American couple who had camped out that night and enjoyed an incredible sun setting on all the mountain tops around them.  They wanted to know if the snow had descended down into the valleys as they planned their route off the mountain.

Heading over towards Allen Crag we met a couple of fell runners who were completely lost and concerned that they may have been somewhere near Esk Hause.  With a little help from our navigator they went off in the direction of Glaramara for a descent back to Borrowdale YHA where they also happened to be staying.

After a very cold lunch at Sprinkling Tarn we headed down below the snowline via Styhead Tarn and up to windy gap, having taken the decision to avoid Great Gable in favour of the lower Green Gable and on via Brandreth and Grey Knots to the YHA at Honister Hause where Adrian was staying.

We enjoyed a welcome break from the weather and a re-acquaintance with the hostel staffer who famously appeared as a background interloper in our Coast-to-Coast photo here on a much wetter September morning. Rachael, Martin and I then returned down the valley to Borrowdale to compare survival stories with the rest of the group, and hopefully those two fell runners.

Another decent hostel meal followed by cards and board games in a warm, cosy bar that has walking memorabilia hanging from the rafters and a log burner roaring away and everyone seemed happy with their day’s work.

Saturday – Lou’s Grange Fell Walk

Words and pics contributed by Lou.

I managed to put most people off this walk with tales of boggy ground and steep slippery rocky steps. However, eight of us still set off on a cold wet Easter Saturday and headed towards my first point of interest. It transpired that no-one in the group had heard of the Herries Chronicles, so that was a bit of a damp squib and we climbed on towards the viewpoint of Kings How. Everyone had heard of King Edward, however, and even I know of his daughter Princess Louise (albeit from frequenting the pub of that name in Holborn). We got blasted with freezing snow and hail at the top, and no-one was keen on staggering a few extra yards to find the plaque explaining the significance.

From Kings How, we retraced our steps for a while and then headed over the wonderfully named Jopplety How, avoiding the worst of the boggy ground. Our spirits were raised once the tarn and tearooms at Watendlath came into view. We were pleased to find lots of space to sit down, spread out our wet clothing, drink tea/coffee/hot chocolate and eat cakes. I’ve never seen the car park so empty; the weather must have put people off.

After we had warmed up, the weather had improved to a light drizzle and we set off again across the fell to Dock Tarn. From there it was only about a further mile to the pub, but this was the hardest mile down the dreaded steep, slippery, stepped stones.

The Langstrath Inn was a very welcome stopping point, and a couple of pints later we returned to the hostel via a flat minor road in time for showers and dinner.

Favourite quote from Martin: “I didn’t realise the Lake District was so hilly”.

Zoomable map: https://osmaps.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/route/1968410/Grange-Fell-310318

Walk Statistics:
Planned: 6-7 miles (9.6-11.3km), 470m ascent, finish 4pm at the Langstrath Inn
Actual: 12.7km, arrived at pub 4.35pm

Sunday – Lou’s High Spy Ridge Walk

Pics contributed by Lou and Christina; words by David Truzzi Franconi.

Setting out from the Hostel we slithered and scrambled along the Derwent River, heading for Seatoller at the foot of the Honister Pass.  Bravely declining a ‘loo’ stop, we then headed across the fields, cutting through a farmyard, and started the climb to Dale Head. This is a long and arduous climb through the quarry workings that dominate the landscape hereabouts.

Rigghead quarry at the head of Tongue Gill produced the stone for Buckingham Palace and Scotland Yard. The area is also rich in graphite which was used in the production of cannon balls enabling a smoother casting and hence more accuracy; it also fed a burgeoning pencil industry at Keswick. Labouring through the middle quarry spoil bank you can see two adits one above the other as you head into the steeper upper quarry.

Gaining the ridge and after some pre-dinner bog hopping we finally settled down to eat and recuperate, listening to the caw of ravens and enjoying the circular vistas of snow capped hills. We eventually reached High Spy at 650m. The three walks of the day all bisected this point at some stage. Rachael had left a snowperson with an IOG badge on its breast on the summit cairn which had sadly disintegrated by the time we reached it.

Heading onwards towards Cat Bells we enjoyed one last look at the amphitheatre of snow-covered hills and Lake Derwent surrounded by patches of forest that looked as if they had been placed by railway modellers. A rigorous plummet found us jarring our knees and leg muscles as we threaded our way slowly down towards Rosthwaite and the pub. (Lou is thinking of organising a trip to Lourdes for those still walking with difficulty). The Riverside Bar caters for walkers and Lou’s intention had been to stop for a quick one en route to the hostel.

Some considerable time and 3 pints of the wonderful local brew Snecklifter later, we were once more walking beside the Derwent, passing the cave where the excellent Millican Dalton, “Professor of Adventure”, lived during the summers of the 1920s. A debate then ensued as the best way to reach the Hostel, but Lou restored our faith in his navigational abilities by delivering us to the stone footbridge that carries the road to the hostel and our temporary home.

Thanks Lou – the doctors say the splints should come off by October!

Sunday – Surprise View to Watendlath Tarn, returning via Lodare Waterfalls

Our original plan for the day was to possibly climb Cat Bells, along with stopping at the Bowder Stone (or as I thought Boulder Stone) and taking in a waterfall. However, after some confusion as to where we were going first, two out of three cars headed straight to the car park marked on the OS map for Cat Bells. After discovering it was overflowing, we returned to the Bowder Stone car cark where we met up with the other car. Here, after taking in the massive stone, watching the guy bouldering to the top of the stone on several occasions and then climbing up to the top to take some selfies (using the stairs!), we wondered where to go next.

We spoke to the gentleman from the National Trust at the Bowder Stone car park, who recommended that we head to Watendlath Tarn after taking in the view at Surprise View. So we headed up to car park at Surprise View and took in the beautiful view across Derwent Water. We then set out to walk through the valley following Watendlath Beck to Watendlath Tarn, which was beautiful. Among my favourite sights were the ‘Teddy Bear’ cows, which looked like they had teddy bear fur, or possibly had been crossed with a poodle! We were fortunate with the weather, the sun decided to come out some of the time and it stayed dry. A contrast to the previous day of wind and snow! Fred and Bruce, some of the youngest members on the trip were with us, and they seemed to be enjoying themselves and kept the adults entertained, along with each other. We arrived at Watendlath Tarn and had our lunch, most of us out on the bridge while a few went inside the tea room that had been my shelter on Lou’s walk the day before.

Watendlath Tarn

Vicky, Justin and Fred left us at this point, as they needed to get back to meet up with Matthew and family as arranged, so they returned via the quicker route along the road. The rest of us re-traced our steps through the valley, detouring off to the Lodare Waterfall before returning to the cars. Karen managed to keep Bruce entertained so well playing the dare game that we were nearly at the waterfall before he realised that Fred was no longer with us. After stopping by the pub in Rosthwaite for a quick refreshment, we returned to the hostel. However, Vicky and I weren’t done, as we decided to have a quick trip up to Castle Crag before dinner. Justin was supposed to join us, but, somehow, we managed to lose him before we left the hostel! It turns out he thought we had left, and went to find us while we were still in the hostel looking for him. However, he used a different gate to the route required, so by the time he returned to the hostel to find us, we had left by the other gate. He missed us by only a minute or two!

A great weekend was had by all during this trip. My thanks go to Matthew for taking on the task of organising it, which wasn’t easy at times! Also thanks to everyone for their great company as always, and the great walks.

A quick trip up to Castle Crag before dinner

Concluding Words

Contributed by resident poet/comedian Glen

Borrowdale 2018

Breakfast time and full of bustle
Packed lunch frenzy adds to hustle
Energy sourced from inside the fridges
Needed much later to get up the ridges

Nine a.m. comes, time to get off our arses
To put best feet forward to tackle the passes
Onward in good spirit, some telling yarns
Sharing some stories en route to the tarns

Stubbornly trekking to skyward summits
Where IOG-ers dare, and where temperature plummets
All members blend in, and everyone gels
Whether low in the valleys or high in the fells

It’s Easter time but no sign of a cleric
Just plenty of running from mobile young Eric
Indeed, on this trip some people brought sons
Others were content with just hot cross buns

Evening comes and time for reflection
To tell where you went and your general direction
The atmosphere’s warm and group members are chummy
Some playing Monopoly and some playing rummy

Just chilling out and enjoying no stress
Drinking a beer or trying some chess

But for some, work’s not done
And they huddle around maps This peak or that one
Via this valley perhaps? For these Sunday walks, there’s careful surmising
Of which hills to climb for our Group’s Easter Rising

Hail these walk leaders, able and true
Whose skills we appreciate, many thanks to you
Then it’s time to retire to the land of nod
Off to our bunks or maybe our pod

The trip’s over quickly, and really been good
As everyone thought it likely would
So time now to finish and take off one’s hat
To our excellent organiser, thanks so much, Matt.