Tobar nan Ceann Gang

The blog of a bunch of middle aged men trying to stay youthful…!

Archive for the ‘Lake District’ Category


Scafell Pike Weekend

Skafell Pike

Back down to the Lake District for the latest adventure of the TNC Gang, this time to tackle England’s highest Mountain – Scafell Pike and to try the scary looking Via Ferrata on Fleetwith Pike at Honister. The weekend was also going to be the first time of staying in a Youth Hostel which given our ages, seemed inappropriately named!

Stevie and Jay were TNC debutants for the weekend and they were joined by Hammy, Jock, the two Johns and Toba from north of the border and Craig and Neal from Bolton. Previous TNC trips had seen some pretty favourable weather – not this time!!! Has anyone ever been any wetter?!

After very early starts from our homes we met up at Seathwaite in time for us to make a start on the hike just after 9am. The plan was to ascent Scafell Pike using a route in a recent ‘Trail’ Magazine that would also allow us to conquer 2 other Wainwrights – Scafell and Great End. As we set off from Seathwaite Farm, the rain was coming down steadily, the hills were shrouded in mist and the forecast was gloomy. The rivers in the valley bottoms were running fast and deep whilst the becks and waterfalls on the sides of the fells were white with fast, cascading water.

Given the conditions the initial progress was quite slow and it was obvious that the longer planned route, wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste. So we divided into 2 groups. The two Johns and Toba went off to Wasdale whilst the rest of us battled on up the hillside.

The higher we climbed the gloomier it got. We followed the path as best we could but there were times when we just weren’t certain where we were going! We did our best with the maps and GPS but eventually, soaked to the skin and waning in enthusiasm, we abandoned plans for a longer route and concentrated on getting to the top of Scafell Pike.

The route was made easier by the presence of many cairns marking the way. They were a godsend in the conditions and for all those campaigning to have them removed – think again! The upper slopes of Scafell Pike are characterised by large boulder fields. They were very slippy and awkward to cross and progress was very slow. Eventually though we made it to the top. Any expectations of feelings of euphoria were replaced by relief and a desperate struggle not to get blown over!

We didn’t stay long and promptly set off back down the hill. We chose to return to Seathwaite via Esk Hause and after a couple of wrong turns we were back on track and clambering over boulders, following the cairns. Much of the return was alongside streams which were still raging and thunderously noisy! On many occasions we had to try and cross them – ordinarily that would mean nothing more than stepping across but today it was about jumping, hoping and getting very wet feet!

Finally we returned to the car at Seathwaite Farm, surprised that the 2 Johns and Toba hadn’t yet got back down the mountain. Theirs is a separate tale…!

It was a good walk and very challenging in the conditions, but this is one that I would like to try again in the future – just in better conditions!



Youth Hostel

Overnight accommodation was arranged at the Borrowdale Youth Hostel. It was the first time that we had used any of the YHA properties and any worries about us being too old were well wide of the mark! If anything we were possibly the youngest of the 80+ people staying on Saturday night!

Having booked accommodation for 8 of us we were allocated bunk beds in the one 8 bunk room that they had… not ideal! The facilities were good though. Thankfully they had tumble dryers as well as a drying room; cooked meals (and kitchen facilities for anyone wishing to cook their own) and perhaps most importantly – alcohol was available from reception!

The fact that there was 9 of us meant that Jay had to stay at the nearby Gillecombe Bed and Breakfast accommodation. It was warm and comfortable and he was mothered by the landlady who made sure he was fed and watered and that all of his clothes and boots were warm and dry by the morning!

Sunday 4th September

Woke up with a slightly dodgy head but pleasantly surprised that I’d enjoyed a full nights sleep considering I was in a room with 7 other blokes! Thankfully the rainclouds of yesterday were replaced by bright blue skies and warm sunshine which was a relief for us all.

After a reasonable cooked breakfast at the Youth Hostel, we paid a visit to Keswick to see the Castlerigg Stone Circle. The circle is around 4,500 years old and is surrounded by fells on every side, a fabulous setting and well worth a visit, even if it isn’t quite on the same scale as Stonehenge!

But looking around the ancient stones was only really filling in time, waiting for the main event. Unfortunately the Via Ferrata wasn’t booked until 3pm so there was a little more waiting still to be done. This gave those not taking part the opportunity to leave for home and so goodbyes were said to the two Johns, Stevie and Toba.

After enjoying coffees and then lunch in Keswick it was soon time for the Via Ferrata which is located on Fleetwith Pike at Honister. Via Ferrata actually means ‘Road of Iron’ and involves ascending the steep rock face by standing on step irons drilled deep (hopefully!) into the rock. At all times you are harnessed and clipped onto a steel cable for safety but there are still places where fear strikes home!

There were about a dozen people in our party and after putting on the harnesses and hard hats it was time to make a start on the initial ascent up the mountain. The advertised 4×4 transportation turned out to be an old bus, but no worries as we bagged the back seat! There were also a few children in the party which took away any apprehension that I might have had!

After a brief walk through dark and wet mine tunnels we arrived at the start point on the cliff face and attached our harnesses to the cable. Every few metres or so, we would reach a point where the cable is fixed to the rock and so the harness had to be unclipped and then reclipped on the other side. Having two clips meant that you were always clipped on – unless you were daft enough to unclip them both at the same time!

At this point it’s probably worth mentioning that they don’t allow you to use your own camera. I thought that that was just so that you would purchase the official photographs, but its probably because a camera is easy to drop… gutted!

Anyway, its fair to say that I have had sweaty palms every time I’ve thought about the Via Ferrata for weeks. But in all honesty most of the climb wasn’t scary. I felt totally secure on the harness and had no problems leaning over the edge – totally reliant on the safety equipment. Possibly the hardest aspects of the trip were the ascent of vertical ladders (which relied quite a bit on upper body strength – not exactly my forte!) and climbing round corners that required a very long step – pushing out your foot and hoping to feel something secure to stand on!

Mid way through the ascent was a zip wire crossing which added to the overall experience but in truth that was over just a bit too quickly! After that it was back on the steel rope and up to the top, passing a few psycho mountain sheep that make light work of the terrain. Group pictures were taken at the top before a speedy walk back down the hill to the café that was now closing for the day.

All in all the activity lasted for about 3 hours and was very good value at £35. I personally think that it would be very good to help anyone overcome a little fear of heights – I know it worked for me!

Why not have a look at the weekends photo’s, Scafell Pike Weekend Photo Galleries


Lake District – ‘Blencathra via Sharp Edge’

In early April 2011, 5 members of the TNC Gang met up near Keswick in the Lake District for what proved to be a great weekend of hiking and scrambling. Numbers for the walk were depleted thanks to Mothers Day but those that did attend were pushed to the limits of their ability whilst tackling Blencathra via Sharp Edge and Foule Crag.

The 5 involved were Craig, Jock, Stuart and Neal along with debutant TNC member Harvey. Excellent Bed and Breakfast accommodation was provided at the Scales Farm Country Guest House and this is very much recommended for anyone staying in the area. Alan, the guy that runs the place even doubled up as taxi driver to and from the pubs in Keswick on the Saturday night – first class!   –   Don’t forget to visit our personal Photo Galleries

Saturday 2nd April 2011

Having arranged to meet in Mungrisdale at 9am it came as a shock to find that Jock could not remember the meeting point.  Having no phone signals made the confusion even worse! That minor issue was soon overcome and by the time we did meet up, the heavy rain had slowed to a drizzle and we set off from Mungrisdale (pronounced Mun-GRIZE-dl, with the emphasis on Grize) taking a pathway up the side of Souther Fell.

The skies were grey and heavily overcast but the rain petered out without wetting us too much. The ascent wasn’t particularly difficult but was an initial shock to the system for those bodies that hadn’t done much walking for a while! Once close to the top, Souther Fell (pronounced Sooter) became a very long and mainly flat plateau of land – perfect for getting into our stride having worked the muscles on the way up.

As we headed towards Blencathra, the view of Sharp Edge became visible as the cloud level started to lift. Slowly but surely blue sky started to become visible and a short time later the rain clouds were gone and we were left with clear skies and great weather – if a little windy in places!

The pathway curled round and up Blencathra alongside a tumbling stream that came down from Scales Tarn at the foot of Sharp Edge. The ascent was fairly easy going and the not always complementary references to Julia Bradbury were pretty regular! Soon the tarn was reached and the quiet banks of the water were chosen as an ideal place for a spot of lunch. From here, Sharp Edge and Foule Crag loomed high to our right and the excitement started to build. There were no suggestions of taking the easier route to the left of the tarn and everyone knew just by looking, that this was going to be an achievement to be proud of!

Lunch over and it was time to tackle Sharp Edge which had now become the only reason for the weekend. The pathway up to the rocky edge was steep and soon the clear path gave way to rocky outcrops that needed to be scrambled over. Craig and Neal in their haste, sought the naturally easier route without realising that they had missed the start of the more challenging traverse of the ridge whilst thanks to Harvey, Jock and Stuart did the whole of Sharp Edge from beginning to end.

From a personal point of view I found the experience of Sharp Edge very satisfying. The drops on either side were spectacular and focussed the mind on staying alive! For me there was definitely an element of fear, my heart was beating fast and although the actual traverse wasn’t that difficult, I knew that a single slip would certainly hurt a hell of a lot if not prove fatal. I had one dodgy moment when I needed to turn round and come down a section backwards – my inexperience really showed and I don’t mind admitting I felt “a little scared”!

The fear only added to the sense of achievement on getting to the other end and a well earned rest before tackling Foule Crag which is (apparently) a Grade 1 Scramble. That means it’s as hard a climb that there is before ropes and climbing equipment are required! Bearing in mind that the drop beneath us was now even further than on Sharp Edge, the fear soon returned and the legs started to wobble a bit!

Again, as a result of inexperience there wasn’t that much planning put into my route up the Crag and I hit a spot about 4 or 5 metres up where I just didn’t know where to go! My fingers were in crevices and my toes on small ledges and for a minute I couldn’t go either up or down. However after giving myself a good talking to and heard the words of encouragement from Jock (well sniggers and piss take) composure was regained and the ascent continued.

Eventually the climb became easier as the rock face got less severe. Crikey was I buzzing when I got to the top! The adrenaline rush was amazing and I don’t think any of us noticed any of the remaining walk to the summit of Blencathra.

The views from the top were spectacular – Carlisle, the Solway Firth and Scotland to the North; Penrith and the Pennines to the East; the Irish Sea to the West and the spectacle that is the Lake District in the South. Awesome stuff!

Having spent some time wallowing in our own glory we set off again, this time in the direction of Bannerdale Crags and then on to Bowscale Fell. From there we completed our circular route back down to the New Inn in Mungrisdale. After Blencathra the walking was pretty sedate with the most challenging section the final descent off the ridge at Raven Crag and into Mungrisdale.

Bannerdale Crags as a summit was barely noticeable although the large stone cross formed by white rocks in the ground added some interest to an otherwise barren moorland. Stuart laid himself out on the cross for comic effect and then topped it off by producing a kilt from his rucksack!

It was all to much for Harvey who made his excuses and left us early and departed alone via ‘The Tongue’.

The end of the walk was marked with a pint in the New Inn in Mungrisdale – a fitting end to a very good days walking! All in all, our hike was about 9.3 miles long, involved almost 4000 feet of ascent and took just under 7 hours to complete.

Wainwright’s Completed

Souther Fell – 1713 ft (522m)

Blencathra – 2848 ft (868m)

Bowscale Fell – 2303 ft (702m)


Sunday 4th April 2011

Quite a few beers were consumed on Saturday night so it was a bit of a surprise to wake up on Sunday and feel reasonably fresh and with very few aching muscles from yesterday’s walk. After a good Full English, we agreed on a further walk although there was a little disagreement on whether this would involve going up a hill or round a lake! Anyway by majority of 3 to 1 it was agreed to go up a hill and after Craig failed miserably to find St Johns in the Vale Church (to climb High Rigg), Stuart eventually chose ‘Barrow’ as our hill for the day.

Without posing anything as challenging as Saturdays walk it was still good to get out and stretch the muscles! Again the weather was kind to us and the 3.7 mile route was done in around 2 and a half hours. We parked in a small lay-by just outside Braithwaite – places to park not being too easy to find and then took the route up the northern ridge of the hill. At 455m, Barrow isn’t particularly high but it does offer some stunning views from the summit.

The route back down was through the Barrow Gill which included an impressive deep ravine carved out by a small stream.

The end of the walk marked the end of the weekend with everyone departing in different directions. It was a great weekend and a pleasure, as always to spend time in such good company!

Wainwright’s Completed

Barrow – 1493 ft (455m)


Blencartha Via Sharps Edge


St.Johns in the Vale Camping Barn

St.Johns in the Vale Camping Barn was the place the Tobar nan Ceann Gang stayed when we attempted to walk up Helvellyn, and is the third highest mountain in the Lake District. It is the most famous and most climbed and walked of all the Lakeland fells and is the ideal place to experience the majesty of the area. Only 4 of the gang completed it. Well done Craig, Neal, Jeff & Kyle.

The barn at St. Johns in the vale was a great place to stay:

Description of Barn:
An 18th Century stable and hayloft, in an idyllic setting over-looking St John’s Beck on a peaceful hill farm. With stunning views to Blencathra, Helvellyn and Castle Rock, the barn has a sleeping area upstairs, with a sitting and dining area below. Separate toilet, shower (charge for hot water) and cooking areas with the building. Wood and coal burning stove (fuel extra). BBQ and seating area outside. Low Bridge End farm has a tea garden – all home baking.

Toilet and shower in the main building. Hot Water (Extra Charge). Laundry Facilities (Extra Charge). Wood Burning Stove. Shower. Electric Lighting Throughout. Outside Seating and BBQ area,

In the photo: Craig, Jamie, Tobar, Stuart, Jock, Carl, Gerry, John, Jeff, Neal & Kyle



Four members of Tobar nan Ceann Gang Craig, Jeff, Kyle & Neal completed the walk up Helvellyn, the other 6 went off in a different direction to tackle a less strenuous walk.

Helvellyn (Archaic: Helvillon, probably from Cumbric: hal (moor) + velyn (yellow)) is a mountain in the English Lake District, the apex of the Eastern Fells. At 950 metres (3,117 ft) above sea level, it is the third highest peak in both the Lake District and England.

Helvellyn (By Craig)

On Friday 5th February 2010, the TNC Gang arrived at St John’s in the Vale near Keswick for a weekend in The Lake District with the plan of walking up Helvellyn, enjoying good company and getting merrily drunk – all of which were achieved – one way or another!

I was using the weekend as a final bit of ‘training’ for a charity trek in Vietnam later in the month. The weather was cold and recent snow fall was still on the ground even at relatively low levels and where the snow had cleared, the ground was frozen especially in the shaded parts of the valley.

Members of the TNC Gang descended on the Camping Barn from north and south and with people finishing work at different times it was quite a staggered arrival. But my 7 o’clock pretty much everyone was there, the open fire was roaring in the hearth and the beers were flowing.

The barn had electric lighting, a toilet and hot water but the stone floors and walls lost a lot of heat and so it took a good fire to warm it up properly. The fire also heated a back boiler for the water which seemed like a good idea until the middle of the night when the pipes started to cool down and the banging pipework kept everyone awake!

For some, mindful of the next days’ walk, the drinking was knocked on the head somewhere between midnight and one. For others the drinking continued until about 5 in the morning…

Saturday morning arrived with some pretty bad hangovers and plenty of moaning about snoring! The idea of cooking breakfast was abandoned and we went to the ‘The Kings Head’ at Thirlspot (on the banks of Thirlmere) for a proper breakfast. Once fed and watered we set off up the hill in the rough direction of Helvellyn. It was around this point that things started to go wrong…!

We took the path from behind the pub climbing steeply up the hill side. As the path meandered towards the left we were conscious that Hellvelyn was to our right so we took the next path on the right and followed it without much thought. Soon though we seemed to be heading down again and tracing the outline of the path into the distance we quickly worked out that our path was no good!

Time for a spot of improvisation and we went off-path and straight up over boulder fields and streams ascending in a very direct route if not particularly quickly. We soon reached a small plateaux but the exertion had begun to take its toll. The layers of winter clothing were being shed at a rate of knots and it was apparent that the group would split into two – and the two groups pretty much mirrored those that drank until the middle of the night and those that didn’t!

Personally I was pretty sceptical about getting to the top but Jeff and Kyle were determined to press on, so Neal and myself went along to see how far we would get. The peak was visible but the snowline was quite some way down the mountain and none of us had crampons or the common sense not to bother.

In the end, it was a long hard slog to the top. Crossing ice patches was perilous but the views on getting there were superb. As with most things, the harder you work then the greater the rewards.

The trip back down was far easier and much more fun – sliding down the snow and ice and enjoying the sunshine. We returned to the pub for a couple of pints and a bowl of soup before heading back to the Barn to rejoin the others. The beers flowed again that night although the second night is never quite as boisterous as the first!

I would love to go back up Helvellyn again in the not too distant future but maybe next time approach it from the other direction to take in Striding Edge. Definitely one for the summer months though!

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