Friday, 7 September 2018

A Buttermere Backpack

Yup. They are orange. But at least he didn't wear the lime green pair

“Please let me come with you, David, oh please, go on let me.”

“No Geoffrey, and you know why.”

“But I like dressing up as a smurf, and that costume keeps my ears warm.”

“I said no, Geoffrey. You really showed me up when you wore it last time.  Those real backpackers were laughing at us when we had lunch on Thornthwaite Crag.  I have my reputation as a top fellsman to think of.  It took me almost 50 years of walking in the Lakes to earn that. It was destroyed in the course of one quick trail mix break.”

“Oh pretty please.  I promise I’ll dress soberly this time.  Oh go on.”

I gave in. There has to be some kindness amongst all the horridness in this modern world.  And did I make a single comment when he turned up wearing his orange Rab trousers?  I did not. My true nature shone through, as it always does. Sainthood cannot be many more years away.

Route for Day 1

The weather forecast was promising. The sun came out as we parked up in Buttermere and headed off along Crummock Water. A nice gentle start.  Forty-seven years of walking in the Lakes and I had never been along the delightful path along the western side of Crummock Water.  Picturesque, and with an added bonus, as the Kirkstile Inn is just beyond the end of the lake. We arrived at lunchtime, with half the day's distance but hardly any of the climbing done, and so we stuck to a single, non-alcoholic drink (and not even a single alcoholic one, in case you think I was being clever in the use of language there).

Looking back to Fleetwith Pike from Crummock Water
The path along Crummock Water
Happy Chappy at the Kirkstile Inn
After some loin girding on leaving the pub it was up through Holme Wood and along the beautifully engineered terrace path high above Loweswater, followed by a steep pull up the lower grassy slopes of Burnbank Fell and on and over Blake Fell and then down to hunt out a dry spot to camp in the col before Gavel Fell.

Loweswater and Holme Wood, with Grassmoor in the distance
On Burnbank Fell
I'm just starting to get that weary feeling in this picture
We were pitched by 4.30pm.  Geoff was soon in his chair and brewing up.  I have never seen anyone look as comfortable and relaxed when wild camping as Geoff is on a warm sunny evening.  For once I had decided not to have a freeze dried meal for my dinner but to cook properly – well as much as one can on a meths stove with one pot and no plate.  The less said about the meatball and baby wipes incident the better.  Suffice to say I have now washed all the affected clothing.

Geoff in his element

Just before sunrise on our second day

Temperature inversion over Crummock Water

The second day was tough.  It was only 13km and 828 metres of ascent but some of the climbs were fierce and the descents even worse.  It was also much hotter than we had anticipated, with brilliant sunshine for most of the day and little opportunity to top up our water bottles.  When I got home I checked my old logs and found that the last time I had walked the Red Pike – High Stile - High Crag – Seat ridge was in 2011.  Seven years has taken its toll on my fitness and ability, but it is absurd to complain.  It remains a superb walk with the most fabulous mountain scenery in all directions.
Fleetwith Pike from near High Crag
Grey Crag looked superb.  Had I really hauled a heavy rucksack of climbing gear up to it from the valley floor one hot day in 1996 for several hours of climbing on its traditional rock routes?  I had.  No way could I ever do that these days.  The descent of Gamlin End was as horrid as I remembered, but at least I knew it would be bad, so had reconciled myself in advance to a few minutes of purgatory.  But beyond Seat and Scarth Pass the going down to Ennerdale was fine, and the brew at the Black Sail Hut even better.  After this Geoff picked out a splendid camp spot a little higher up the valley for another evening of sunshine.

Glorious pitch in Upper Ennerdale, with Great Gable and Windy Gap on the skyline

From my early morning walk with Mr Trowel


The Black Sail Hut

Warnscale Bottom and surrounding Fells

The head of beautiful Buttermere

Rain had been forecast for our final day but our luck held.  There were a couple of showers in the night but none as we made our way up to Scarth Gap and then down to the lovely Buttermere shoreline.  It was an easy finish to a superb three days with excellent company. Thanks as ever, Geoff.  And you know that the insults are because I am really secretly jealous of your sartorial elegance in the hills. 😄
Route Days 2 and 3 - with various bits missing as I struggled with the screen shot

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Post-Walk Ramble about a Pre-Walk Daunder

Still smiling, camped below Scafell in Upper Eskdale in the English Lake District 
I thrust the last sixpence of my pocket money into the shopkeeper’s hand and snatched the bar of chocolate from her. I rushed outside, hastily tearing the paper and silver foil off. I chucked the chocolate into the bin and examined the inside of the wrapper. My heart sank. It wasn’t there.  My head dropped forward and I walked dejectedly home with a heavy heart. And then I saw it. Shining in the gutter.  A tanner. A bright sixpenny piece. With a shameless lack of guilt I picked it up and raced back to the shop and bought another bar. My sunken heart now leapt as the wrapper came off. There it was. The golden ticket, bearing these words:

Lord Elpus and The Stringpuller invite you to attend their annual Pre-Walk Daunder.

If you wish to come please gather with the other Daunderers at the Wasdale Head Inn in the magnificent English Lake District by 7.00pm on Thursday 19 April 2018.

Be there or be square.

PS No fit bastards unless they are both Mad and Bad.

PPS No ultralight gear allowed.

And so it was that I gained the last coveted place on the most sought after backpacking event of the year. The famous annual Pre-Walk Daunder, a limb and gear shake up before a lesser backpacking event known as the TGO Challenge. And I wasn't even going on the Challenge this year.

Billy No Mates camped at Wasdale Head Inn awaiting the arrival of the others
The forecast was for wall-to-wall sunshine. But on the Friday morning we woke to clag and so visited the Inn for bacon butties. The sun arrived, the clag disappeared, and the Lake District did 'sunny spring day' in its own unique way. Nowhere else in the world can do it like this. The ultimate joint enterprise, the combined work of nature and man creating perfection.


Looking back to Kirk Fell, Great Gable and Scafell
As the Lake District did its own thing so did the seven Daunderers. Within an hour the first schism had occurred and we were in three separate groups. Andy and Robin raced ahead. Phil, Alan, Mick and Judith walked some and sat down some. With rather more of the latter than the former. I could not keep up with Andy and Robin and could not sit down as much as the others, and so walked on my own from Illgill Head to Whin Rigg, where I found Andy and Robin, lying in the sun waiting for me. We decided on an optional route extension to Irton Pike before heading to the pub beyond Eskdale Green for an unwise pint before the last climb of the day.

As we were getting ready to leave the pub the others arrived. By now, being in full Daunder mode and mood we decided not to wait for them and left to find our camp spot, which was two or three killy o'metres further on, involving a 250 metre height gain to get us over the hill. Not much in the scheme of things but we'd now been on the go for over eight hours. I was glad to be on the move again. I was done in and more than ready for a brew, food and sleep.

Andy and Robin on Whin Rigg

Looking towards Water Crag. On Friday night we camped near the sheepfold just visible in the centre of the photograph

A man on a mission. Andy on the lookout for a decent spot to pitch

Safely pitched for the night
Saturday and another fabulozy sunny day. Mick decided to add his own route variant and skirted around Water Crag as we went over it. We met up with Mick on the way to Rough Crag and the seven of us walked together for a few killy o'metres. Al realised that this was not authentic Daunder behaviour so went off alone as we diverted to the Stanley Force waterfalls.  As agreed, he kindly waited for us further on; but we unwittingly varied our own route and so missed seeing him until we arrived at the Woolpack Inn at lunchtime.  Al was standing in the doorway, empty pint glass in hand.

Lunch at the Woolpack Inn, Eskdale
The schisming continued after lunch. Robin, Mick, Judith and I headed up the beautiful Eskdale Valley, whilst Phil, Al and Andy stuck to the planned route over rough ground. The Upper Esk is a joy. Remote, wild and full of gorgeousness. There were some splendid waterfalls, none more so than the sweat that poured down Mick's face in the afternoon heat. Robin led us to a spot on the edge of the Great Moss, just across the stream from Cam Spout Crags. Andy bowled in about half an hour later, with Phil and Al a few minutes after. 

Upper Eskdale

Upper Eskdale
Camped on Saturday night in Upper Eskdale, opposite Cam Spout Crags on Scafell
Thunder rolled all around us at bedtime. This is known as a bad spot for electrical storms. We lay in our tents listening to the crashes, and to the ferocious rain and hail storm that battered silnylon and cuben fibre. It's not good to be up in the mountains during an electrical storm but there was nothing we could do. The worst passed in about an hour and after that it was possible to sleep.

Judith on the 'causeway'
I had been slightly apprehensive about the first part of the route for Sunday morning, expecting to have a long tedious wade through large amounts of bog to get to the climb out of Great Moss and up to Esk Hause. Fortunately, we found a small path near the east bank of the Esk, that in places seemed to have been raised in the distant past to form a small causeway. This took us over the worst of the terrain to the site of the final schism of the trip.  Andy, Robin, Judith and I decided to go trackless up and over The Tongue to get to Esk Hause; the others followed the path by the stream.
Robin just below Esk Hause, with Judith emerging from the cloud in the background
Descending through the clag from Esk Hause to Sprinkling Tarn

Rain showers had been hitting us since our camp spot. As we got higher the clag came down, the wind became quite wild and the rain close to torrential for a while. Andy hared on ahead. Judith was happy to potter on behind. Robin and I followed Andy, albeit at my much slower pace. No more photographs were taken after Esk Hause. The weather was just too awful to bother. But awful in that satisfying way - after two days of superb sunshine the rain and wind felt right. They added to the experience and, perversely, to the enjoyment. Robin and I headed past Sprinkling Tarn to Sty Head and then down the superbly situated path to Wasdale Head. And we did not talk about gear once. No. Not once. Honest. When we got down the Inn was open. And it was good.

As always my thanks to all my fellow Daunderers for their excellent company, and for Phil for planning everything, including a route which could not be bettered. Except where we chose not to follow it. 

Pouting for the Camera
Al, Phil, Robin, Mick, Andy, Judith and Fellbound
Photo courtesy of TGO Challenge Legend Alan Sloman

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Two Men on the Bummel

Geoff's superb Thorn bicycle. Red, shiny and fits all adventure camping touring bicyclists up to 4 foot 7 inches tall

Does my tent look big on this? My grown up bike. A black, shiny, customised Surly Disc Trucker courtesy of  Jack at Alf Jones (Gresford) Cycles

(If you go no further with reading this blog do click on Jack's link above for the most brilliantist two things he ever, ever has done in his life)

“I have it!” exclaimed Harris; “a bicycle tour!”

George looked doubtful. “There’s a lot of uphill about a bicycle tour,” said he, “and the wind is against you.”

“So there is downhill, and the wind behind you,” said Harris.

“I’ve never noticed it,” said George.

“You won’t think of anything better than a bicycle tour,” persisted Harris.

I was inclined to agree with him.

“And I’ll tell you where,” continued he; “through the Black Forest.”

“Why, that’s all uphill,” said George.

“Not all,” retorted Harris; “say two-thirds.”

From Three Men on the Bummel,1914, by Jerome K Jerome
(Did you know that the ‘K’ in Jerome K Jerome stands for Klapka? I thought you didn’t.)

On The Road Again (Click linky thing for sound effects)

“I really think you should walk before you try to run,” said Geoff, “the Black Forest for your first ever bicycle camping adventure tour sounds rather ambitious. Perhaps the Delamere Forest would be more feasible.”

“Well in actual fact I wasn’t planning on walking or running, I shall be on my shiny new black bicycle,” I shot back with my normal laser like wit, "but if that’s all you can manage then it will have to do."

The following day Geoff arrived at Fellbound Hall clutching a bottle of Domaine Leflaive Batard Montrachet Grand Cru 2014. “Slosh a bit of that into a couple of glasses and please get the food served pronto my good man,” he said.

I took the bottle and studied the label.

“Sadly, Geoff, it isn’t chilled enough. I’ll stick it in the cellar so that it’s ready for another day.”

I served up.  Some scrag end of animal, Bisto Gravy Granules, tinned carrots and mushy peas (Best Before End 2014), washed down by a bottle of Tesco’s most excellent value range called ‘Spanish Crispy White, 2017’. I think Geoff appreciated the effort I'd gone to in undoing the screw top. This was followed by Sainsbury’s Apple Crumble, remove outer packaging and plastic film then microwave for 1 minute in a 850 watt model.

The following morning I stood on the drive way and watched Geoff get his shiny red bicycle out of the car. “Is there a small boy coming with us then?” I asked. “Come on Geoff, stop messing about. Where is your bicycle?”

But Geoff was indeed going to ride on a child’s bicycle with all his adventure camping equipment.

The stocks at Tilston, Cheshire

We set off and bicycled along country lanes. The Welsh potholes disappeared when we crossed into Cheshire. Those footballers’ wives racing around in their Range Rovers wouldn’t put up with all that bumpiness.  The villages were all delightful, comprising picturesque cottages and manorial halls. You could smell the money. We only stopped twice. The first time was, theoretically, to admire the stocks in the village of Tilston, but really it was to give Geoff’s legs a break from all the mad whirring round and round trying to keep up with me on my shiny black bicycle which has grown up wheels. The second stop was for coffee and cake in Tattenhall.

My Hilly Berg Rogan Josh
Geoff in his Terra Nova Southern Comfort 2

We arrived at the campsite. Geoff had his Terra Nova Southern Comfort 2 up in no time and started to brew up, all the while shouting helpful 'tips' such as "you should have got a Terra Nova" as I put up the Hilly Berg Rogan Josh. I put it down to jealousy. Hideous, rampant jealousy. So unbecoming.

Geoff ready to do it again

Then the following day we did it all again. Except we didn’t, as we went back a different route. At one point we swapped shiny bicycles but not for long. I felt like a clown at the circus, all squished up riding one of those tiny child’s tricycles, knees up by my chin, whilst Geoff couldn’t reach the pedals on mine. Oh. But there was cake again. This time in Malpas, surrounded by the real housewives of Cheshire having their lunch before their hard afternoon reading Country Living magazine or whatever they do before their husbands get back from the training ground.

I'm not telling you what Geoff had just done whilst still straddling his red shiny bicycle

All-in-all we had a lovely time. We did thirty miles each day. That may not sound much but the furthest I have ever cycled in my life is forty and I was sixteen at the time, and I now have a senior railcard. And our shiny bicycles were fully laden.  Indeed, until a few weeks ago I probably normally didn’t cycle more than a total of thirty miles in a year, let alone in a day.  My knees only ached a little and my backside not at all. Geoff has an ok bicycle really (it’s a Thorn) and it is very shiny, which is what matters most in the world of us adventurous touring camping bicyclists.

Incidentally, if you want to read a made up version of this trip, Geoff's blog post can be found by clicking this link. You can learn a lot from Geoff's blog posts. Whether that's good or bad I'll leave it to you to decide.

Monday, 26 March 2018

The Tale of the Toad and the Bumble Bee

All loaded up and ready for a trial run

'Once, it was nothing but sailing,' said the Rat, 'Then he tired of that and took to punting. Nothing would please him but to punt all day and every day, and a nice mess he made of it. Last year it was house-boating, and we all had to go and stay with him in his house-boat, and pretend we liked it. He was going to spend the rest of his life in a house-boat. It's all the same, whatever he takes up; he gets tired of it, and starts on something fresh.'
(Ratty describing Mr Toad, and his penchant for trying new hobbies, The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame)

It was at the back end of last year when I sat in Geoff and Chrissie’s motorhome in the Yorkshire Dales, drinking their beer and eating their food, when Geoff referred to one of his adventurous cycle camping trips.

“I could do that”, I thought. Stick some panniers on my bicycle, stuff them with my ordinary backpacking gear, and it would be off on the open road, my beautiful long locks blowing in the wind, steely blue eyes sparkling in the summer sun, the weight of my camping gear transferred straight to the ground without passing through my shoulders, and all would be well with the world. In my imagination there were neither hills nor rain. And there were no punctures or mechanical defects, for I am the least practical man on this planet when it comes to fixing things.

Geoff said that he would accompany me on a trip to show me what’s what, provided I promised not to make a show of him.
Of course things are never quite so simple…..

…. firstly, I learnt that you can’t just stick panniers on any old bicycle.  My machine had front suspension and no fixing thingies on the frame to attach a rack to the front. “No matter”, thought I.  I’d had that bike for 17 years.  Time for a new one.  I’ll pop to Halfords.  No good. They don’t do touring bikes.  And as I researched it became clear that few cycle shops sell good old fashioned touring bikes.  All you can find are mountain bikes; or road bikes (which were called drop handled racers when I were a lad) more suited to the Tour de France than a few hours bimbling on the potholed back lanes of the sixth richest country in the world.

I ended up at the fabulous  Alf Jones Cycles in Gresford near Wrexham.

“I would like a touring bike please. Black and shiny. And none of that drop handle bar nonsense. I've had two major back operations you know".

“Hang on I’ll get Jack. Jack’s your man. He cycled camped around the world fourteen times last year. He’ll sort you.”

Jack arrived. He looked like he had just strolled in from California in the mid-1970s.  Shoulder length hair and a long beard. The term ‘laid back’ seemed to have been invented for Jack. In my mind I was immediately back in 1977, listening to Hotel California by the Eagles or Crime of the Century by Supertramp on a tinny little cassette recorder, late at night in my Hall of Residence, putting the world to rights with friends. Oh yes. It will surprise many of you but I had friends back then.
“No problem dude. We’ll sort you. Peace and love man, peace and love", said Jack. He asked how I was planning to use the bike and what my requirements were. He didn’t bat an eye lid when I explained that I rather fancied something a bit special. I wanted a two wheeler, I said. And gears. Could they do me a Sturmey Archer 3 speed job, just like on the bicycle I had owned when I was 11?  And black. It must be black. And shiny. Black and shiny. That would be classy….. And some good strong stabilisers. From then on Jack wisely pretended that he didn’t think I was clueless. He translated my naïve or non-existent ideas into a bike. For the techie bikey people reading I have added two appendicitises at the end of this post. Appendicitis A is my simplified, layman's version of the technical specification of the bike; Appendicitis B is from the actual version as designed by Jack.

Well. My lovely new toy arrived at the start of the December. As did the snow, so my planned pre-Christmas overnighter ‘try out the bike, panniers and cycling thighs’ did not materialise. However, the bicycle was still shiny new and Mrs Fellbound was at work so she wouldn’t see me playing with it in the kitchen….

Sparkly spangling new. Note how I have cleverly photoshopped the picture and made it look as if the bike is propped up against some of our kitchen units. The photo was, of course, in reality taken in the garage Mrs F. Cough, cough.

Jack and his colleagues had already done a superb job but Mrs F and all the little Fellbound children bought me bicycle related bits and pieces as Crimble presents. Including a Brooks Saddle, me being a retro trendy hipster sort of guy. And some cleaning stuff. I have owned bikes for 55 years and didn’t know real bicyclists cleaned them. A bit of 3 in 1 oil on the chain every couple of years had been my philosophy. I also bought a clever little rear view mirror, mainly so I can check my hair hasn't been messed up too much when I take off my bicycling helmet.

Look at that lovely black leather. Doesn't this Brooks saddle just scream "fondle me, babes, fondle me"?
The cockpit, full of high-tech wizardry
Over January and February I went on lots of day rides. Within less than a fortnight of practising the stabilisers came off and I was flying.  Well almost. There was the occasional wobble as I got used to the butterfly bars and the SPD clip in thingies for my feet. Residents of smart Cheshire villages would run out of their houses to admire me in my new lycra winter weight bicycling skinny leggings, complete with strange bulgy bits to protect my nethers, the bicycle and my body working in perfect unison, a blur of sleekness as I raced by at speeds of, crikey, almost twenty killymetres per hour. The Brooks saddle confounded the doom mongers and took no breaking in. My backside remained as soft as a baby's.

After a few trips I transferred my backpacking gear to the bike to try it out fully loaded. Black bike and yellow panniers. I bumbled down the lanes of NE Wales and Cheshire like a giant bee. I reckoned I was ready. I was confident enough in my abilities to know that Geoff would be well impressed. The weather looked set fair for a couple of days and there was a pleasantly situated, open-all-year campsite just 30 miles along the lanes.

To be continued….

Appendicitis A
Technical Spec for people who just get on a bicycle to go for a potter

Pedals: Two
Gears: 3 big coggies next to the pedals and 10 smaller coggies attached to the back wheel
Lights: One white, one red. Powered by a dynamo thing in the miggle of the front wheel
Bell ring tone: "Ding ding"
Frame: Black, shiny, fine for fatties.

Yes, Geoff. The chain needs cleaning. And the rims. Should I use Vim or Ajax?

Appendicitis B
Technical spec for lycra wearing types (NB I got bored with typing this bit and didn't understand most of it so gave up)

Frameset: Surly Disc Trucker

Shimano Tiagra 10 Speed Drivetrain:
            -Triple front rings (50/39/30)
            -Shimano 11-32 Cassette
            -Flat Bar Shifters
            -KMC chain with quick link
            -DT Swiss TK540 36 spoke rim
            -Shimano DH-S501 Alfine 6v 1.5w Q/R dynamo front 
            -Sapim Plain Gauge Spokes

            -Schwalbe Marathon Tyres x 2

            -Shimano Pd-M324 Spd, one sided mechanism.         

Friday, 22 September 2017

Backpacking Sextagenarians

Well Geoff has pretty much told the story of our recent five day walk across the Lakes. And with remarkably few embellishments, and even fewer jibes at his inept companion.  He had endless scope for these, but chose not to indulge. Thus, my inability to put up a tent with his lightening speed, or to achieve the Holy Grail of drum tight silnylon to stop endless flapping in the breeze, hardly figured in his account. Several dodgy photographs he took were not used in his post.  So having no excuse to poke fun at this kindly old chap I shall keep to the facts, with some passing comments on my thoughts about backpacking at the start of my seventh decade. 

Geoff has also posted maps of our route, so I will not bother. I had originally hoped to do a much longer walk but various domestic commitments reduced the time I had available. As it happened five days was plenty, given my fitness level.

I'm not sure whether I'm proud to say that I am now entitled to own a Senior Railcard, but I flourished it at the ticket clerk at Penrith Station, gave Geoff a lesson on the need to push the button on the outside of the carriage to open the train door, and our journey began. Two sextagenarians setting off to zig-zag their way to Keswick from Windermere over five or six days. Six if we were feeling fit and full of life, and fancied a diversion to Buttermere.  Five if the organiser of the trip ie Lanky Old Fellbound was feeling radgered and fancied a gentle end to the stroll along the shores of Derwent water.

And we were off
Within an hour or so of starting I forced Geoff up Sour Howes and Sallows. It was only then that I realised that he has no understanding or empathy with peak bagging. Nor have I these days. To a point. But these unremarkable hills are two that I have only climbed once; and as my unintended second round of the Wainwrights is almost complete, it felt like they had to be done whilst we were passing.  I'd worried that the ground above the Garburn Pass would be boggy, and finding a decent spot to camp problematic, but we had little bother on the lower slopes of Yoke, and we finished our first shortish day nice and early in glorious sunshine but a cold, stiff breeze.
First wild camp. Lower slopes of Yoke

Gratuitous "look at the fabulous view from the tent whilst I'm brewing up" photo

Day 2, and there were eight Wainwrights between us and our intended camp spot high above Angle Tarn. Well actually only five were in the way, but the other three (Kidsty Pike, Rampsgill Head and Knott) were so close to our route that we did them anyway.  We'd got to the fabulous beacon on the top of Thornthwaite Crag before I realised that not only had Geoff no intention of setting up a spreadsheet, or at least a tick list, to record his progress at completing Wanwrights, but also that he had no idea how to pose on the top of a hill. He'll be telling me he doesn't own any cuben fibre gear next, I thought, but then dismissed that notion as ridiculous.

On Froswick. Fix the Fells remains on course to urbanise the Lakes.

Striking a jaunty pose on Thornthwaite Crag

Clearing clag and rain. Looking back to High Street from near Kidsty Pike
As we headed up the last pull of the day to escape the over-popular camping spots at the tarn we agreed without speaking that the top of Angle Tarn Pikes could wait for the following day, despite camping within five or ten minutes of the top. We was well done in we was.
Camped on Angle Tarn Pikes, at the end of a long Day 2

The best dehydrated meal I've ever had
I woke early. I always wake early. Five-ish if I'm lucky. Two-ish on a bad day. I brew up and get going slowly.  As I have aged and lost flexibility I do find being in a tent can be hard work, exacerbated by my unnatural height. Backpacking tents are not designed for lanky gits. I do a task, such as heating up water for my breakfast oats, then lie back and recover for a minute or so before taking on the next task. Eating them. Then the next.  That might involve, say, lassoing my feet one at a time with my trousers or socks to get dressed.  Or packing up a dry bag. Then realising just as I have done that thing with squeezing the air out and fastening the roll top that I have left something out and thus need to repeat the process.  So after about two hours I'm ready for a lie down again but it will be time to get my boots on.  I'm seriously thinking of taking a shoe horn on my next trip. Putting on my boots whilst lying on my side or sitting in the tent door way seems absurdly hard. Then I am ready to get the tent down and packed up. I'm sure it was all much easier when I was twenty.
Early morning brew, Day 3

Today, fortunately, is to be an easy day. The easiest of the trip. With a break in Glenridding for cake. And possibly bacon. But certainly cake. I try to smile at all the Americans, and the many others doing the Coast-to-Coast. We are walking against their flow. "No, we aren't going the wrong way. No, we aren't doing it. No we haven't come all the way from Shap by ten in the morning."

Now I would like you to compare and contrast the next two photographs.  Ideally, I would have placed them next to each other, but my ability to manipulate Google Blogger is limited. It is true that Geoff may have much better IT skills than me and he can prettify his blog very nicely. He fails miserably, however, in the posing on top of hills department.  He really needs to team up with Alan Sloman for a day or so in the mountains. He would then learn the art pretty quickly, or face the backpacking equivalent of the Wrath of Kahn.  You will note that the top photograph is of an upright, rugged, rufty tufty but veryveryniceman.  The second appears to be a chap broken by a string of Wainwrights and the ranting of his walking companion. Someone who will lie on the ground and scream and scream if he hears one more complaint about Fix the Fells and its inept handiwork.

A fine figure of a man who has just bounded up Angle Tarn Pikes

A broken man, resigning himself to defeat in the posing on top of a hill competition. Never mind, Geoff, you will improve with practice.
After Glenridding we plod up Grisedale.  It rains heavily for a while. The wind gets up again and the temperature drops.  I had been reticent about stopping here but it was the natural place on our route.  We find a reasonable spot below the tarn.  Other tents are on its shores. Six more backpackers arrive and set up a hundred yards from us.  Fortunately they are quiet.  But camping at Grisedale Tarn is not a good experience.  It is over used , as are many of the tarns in the lakes, but this is one of the worst.  Rotting toilet paper and worse lie around.  Two broken beer bottles are poking out of a bog.  It goes against the grain, but I do wonder if regulation is needed.  At the least the National Park should start encouraging people to pack out toilet waste.  I know only the responsible would do it, but at least this would mean less mess in these areas, and less environmental damage. I don't know the answer really.

The impact of the over popularity of the Lakes saddens me, even knowing I am part of the problem. The erosion, the terrible path repairs, the litter, the mess at tarns such as this. I am glad I knew the area forty-five years ago, when these problems were much less.  I feel like a man in the wrong era these days. Apart from when I'm ill and want modern health care of course.
Ready for the third night out. Pitched on layers of used rotting toilet paper, tampons and broken beer bottles below Grisedale Tarn. A case for some form of regulation?  
The fourth day turns out to be far tougher than I had planned, despite following our route to the letter. Three more lowlyish Wainrights, but a reasonable distance and lots of ups and downs.  I have a difficult hour or so after Helm Crag. My legs lose all their power and turn to jelly.  I am physically shaky.  I put it down to dehydration, so we stop to filter water from a small pool. It works and I rapidly feel much better. But it's another long day. Fortunately with a camp site and a few pints and a steak in the very good Langstrath Country Inn at Stonethwaite. 
A sunny Sunday on Helm Crag above Grasmere. Generally, though, it was pretty quiet and we still found solitude for much of the walk

Rock gymnasts on the Howitzer, Helm Crag. I did it once to say I had. No need to repeat.

Looking east from the pull up to Greenup Edge

Looking back to Lining Crag having just descended a Fix the Fells staircase
The fifth day of walking. A gentle eight or nine mile day into Keswick. Still several hours, but little in the way of serious climbing as we follow the Cumbria Way along the River Derwent.  I bore Geoff with details of the ash scattering that my nearest and dearest will have to undertake for me by this river at sometime in the future.  We eat the best ever breakfast rolls at the cafe in Grange. Then it's Keswick.  My favourite town in the whole world.  The route being perfectly planned we get to the stop just fifteen minutes before the Penrith bus.

It had been a super trip with excellent company. But I was ready for a shower and a rest. 
Well it would have been rude not to go in. Grange-in-Borrowdale.