The best climber in the world is the one who is having the most fun
“The reason we haven’t started any major religions is because of the weather” And so the weekend started.
Never one to shy away from the important topics, this Tavs Tours excelled itself in tackling the big issues; the link between weather (or more technically climate) and religion, the third runway at Heathrow, Brexit, the state of UK politics and whether different types of jelly babies has different calorie contents.
Once again we were hosted very kindly by Dennis and Michelle in Braithwaite who claimed that they enjoyed having us despite us failing to understand why having 6 blokes descend on your house was enjoyable. As well as a lovely meal, they even joined us for a drink in the pub so we must have been doing something right (though being asked to participate in answering kid’s Trivial Pursuit questions was probably not what they expected)
The trip up proved eventful for all as some sneaked up early and got in a low level walk, some managed to avoid most of the traffic and some got stuck in the M6 closure which meant they were noticeably older when they arrived than when they started. Tav headed up in a converted tractor which after a stream of abuse actually redeemed itself by providing the transport for the walking as all 6 of us could squeeze in. Admittedly the rear kids seat only proved accessible to those of superior flexibility. Our entertainment that evening was found in the local pub where we carb-loaded for our efforts the following day and were only allowed to order things that the grumpy chef wanted to cook.
On Friday we headed off to do Helvellyn via Striding Edge followed by heading south along the ridge to climb Dollywagon Pike and Nethermost Pike and back via Grisdale Tarn. Whilst we left the car park with surprising navigational accuracy, our traditional navigational error appeared slightly later as we climbed a slope we didn’t have to, crossed a bracken field we didn’t need to and reappeared on the well made path we should have been on in the first place. The sun shone and the wind provided some gentle cooling which meant we had a very pleasant walk lead up to the start of Striding Edge where we paused to consider the ridge ahead.
It is fair to say that there is a different appetite for scrambling amongst the group so different routes were followed accompanied by a whole series of different facial expressions. However, everyone coped admirably and some even enjoyed it. Even the infamous chimney down at the end proved uneventful - partly because the exposure was very low as (and I quote) “the rock hugged you” A scramble up to Helvellyn and all was good. Heading south we bagged the named peaks and named the un-named peak (Tav’s Pike in case you were wondering) before a knee crunching descent to Grisdale Tarn (admittedly on a decent path).
By this stage we realised our estimate of distance was a little off. Having believed the entire walk was about 16km, by the time we had reached Grisdale Tarn (where we turned to head for home), the GPS was already showing 12km. The walk back along the valley was pleasant surrounded by new born lambs and lots of evidence how bad the floods had been with various structures washed away by the force of the various watercourses. Total distance for the day ended up at 21km but we tend to laugh at a margin of error of only 30%….
Nevertheless we made it back to Braithwaite for an excellent meal courtesy of Michelle before most of us headed to the pub for a nightcap.
The following day we had planned to climb Blencathra via Halls Fell. Our reason was best summed by none other than Wainwright himself:
"For active walkers and scramblers, this route is positively the finest way to any mountain top in the district"
The forecast for later in the day was for rain showers, wind and possible lightning so we aimed to head off early (which we of course failed to do). It is fair to say we were expecting more walking and less scrambling than the previous day. However after a bit of a slog up the lower slopes we were presented with a fine rocky ridge with the addition of various paths for those who wanted to skirt some of the more exciting bits. After the previous days practice, our improved skills were on display. Some people took the guidance to keep three points of contact with the rock at all times to the next level and managed four, five or even six points of contact. However we also discovered that some of these body parts were largely grip free. The ridge pops out right at the top of Blencathra and was a great ascent.
At this point we had considered heading down across Mungrisdale Common to Skiddaw House, up Skiddaw, across the other Wainwrights, dropping down in the valley and walk back to Briathwaite. Our planning suggested this would be about 24km but given our 30% planning inaccuracy the previous day, the fact that we would lose most of the height before regaining it, the increasingly windy weather and our ability to see that the pub in the valley was open we decided to head back to the car and pursue our social agenda instead.
We had a quick wander over to stare down Sharp Edge before heading along to the west end of the ridge and descending in a long looping curve back to the car in Threlkeld. A quick visit to the pub in the village for a celebratory pint and broad agreement that Wainwright was right before home for more beer and nibbles and a fine night in the Royal Oak.
We debated what the best Tavs Tours was and whilst, unsurprisingly, there wasn’t a consensus, this weekend probably ranks up as we did two classic routes, had great weather, wonderful hosts and copious amounts of beer and food. I suspect we will back to the Lakes before long.
You can see some of the photos here