Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Glen Sannox Horseshoe

A full round of the Glen Sannox Horseshoe is no mean feat especially when the days are getting shorter so Graham, Wally and I set off at sunrise yesterday morning to tackle this magnificent ridge.
As we climbed the lower slopes towards the Devil's Punchbowl, we could hear stags roaring in the glen below, and were bathed in beautiful early morning sunshine.
By the time we were on the ridge of Cioch na h-Oighe, the sun was up and a cold wind was whipping across the knife edge ridge.

The scramble up the Cioch is an entertaining ramble amongst granite slabs and blocks.  The Cioch itself forms a hook on the prow of the ridge.From here, gentle undulations broaden out on to Mullach Buidhe (below).

The northern slopes of Mullach Buidhe give way to a steep climb up on to North Goatfell. The route turns right here, and begins a long descent past granite tors in to the Saddle below Cir Mhor.

The climb back up out of the saddle is energy sapping, and once on the summit of Cir Mhor, it was sobering to think we were only half way round. The going gets easier for a while after this however, with a gentle descent form Cir Mhor (below), and a steady climb back up to the summit of the Castles (Caisteal Abhail), the highest point on the "Sleeping Warrior" ridge that bounds the northern flank of Glen Sannox.

The picture below shows the view form the summit of Caisteal Abhail, looking back towards Cir Mhor at the right of the picture.

Finally, the ridge narrows once more and there is plenty more fine scrambling to be had.

Negotiating the steep loose slopes of the Witches Step can be tricky in poor conditions.  The main difficulties of the climb out of the step are avoided by descending north in to the gully and picking up a traverse path that winds over steep rock back up to the ridge. We were fortunate that although there were squalls of snow and hail forecast, they passed us by.  Besides a bitterly cold wind, we were treated to near perfect weather.

To find out more about guided walks in Arran's Mountains, visit my main website:

Thursday, 14 October 2010

A quiet corner of the Lake District

After a few days working in Arran Active last week I was desperate to get outside again and enjoy some of the unseasonal weather we are having.  I grabbed my opportunity with a quick day out in the Lake District- on route from Scotland to Wales to visit my family. There are lots of bits of the Lakes I don't really know at all but with a bit of searching I found a route that ticked the boxes of being off the beaten track, short, fairly challenging, and close to the motorway.  A tall order for the Lakes!
I found the route in a guidebook called the Ridges of England, Wales and Ireland, where it is listed as an easy winter route.  Starting from Patterdale, I followed an easy path up Grisedale under the flank of Striding edge and then struck up rough hillside to Nethermost Cove.
View over Ullswater from the start of the walk up Grisedale.

View up Grisedale, looking towards Dollywagon Pike, with Nethermost Cove in the top right of the picture. 

 Heading up in to Nethermost Cove, with Eagle Crag above. 

I found the route from here on completely deserted, although there were plenty of people above on Striding edge.  The cove is a quiet and tranquil place and I would have loved to have spent hours just relaxing under the crags of Helvellyn. Instead, I headed up over the pathless moor above Eagle Crag and on to the East Ridge of Nethermost Pike. 

 View of of Nethermost Pike from the top of Eagle Crag.

Final craggy ridge before arriving on the summit of Nethermost Pike. 

Nethermost Pike is a quiet summit, despite being within a stones throw of Helvellyn. From here I took the ridge over High Crag to Dollywagon Pike, to descend down The Tongue and back in to Grisedale. 

Looking across to Dollywagon PIke from High Crag.

Looking back up towards Dollywagon and High Crag from the bottom of The Tongue.

All in all a fantastic day out for a cynic who has spent too much time in remote and quiet Scottish Hills. I met two folk on the ridge, and that was all once I had left Grisedale- who would have thought it on a glorious sunny Sunday in the Lakes?!