Come join me in my misadventures at altitude!

I'll be blogging about all sorts of shenanigans from my everyday life.
From mountains to running.........
From tales at altitude to fundraising............

Places I explore and places I love from all over the world.

I hope you enjoy reading.......

Sunday, 8 January 2012

New Years Day; Whin Rigg & Illgill Head.

It’s 9am on New Years Day 2012 and I’m in The Lake District….alone.  
After quite an unhappy, yet eventful 2011, I took the decision to travel here and start the year on a more positive note in a place that I love. 
So far it’s going to plan…… 
I’m up early and hangover free. Yay! Just the three pints of Jennings the night before with some lovely local gentlemen folk, has left me feeling rather energetic and raring to go. I shovel down my breakfast, pack my rucksack and I’m off. 
Todays plan is to hike Whin Rigg and Illgill Head taking in the wonderful views of The Wasdale Valley and Wastwater below. The weather is windy and a little wet but its clear and that’s good news.
I set off from Santon Bridge heading SE to Irton Pike.
Navigation has never been a strong point of mine so today I’ve taken the unusual step of obtaining a GPS on my phone. I have several maps and two compasses, but I wonder just how useful those compasses are if I’m not quite 100% capable of using them. “Oh well” I shrug and off I go. 
I’ve been gone just minutes when I notice that my bum feels wet, very wet. In fact so do my legs. I fumble around and discover that the bladder in my backpack has leaked and now I look like I’ve wet myself. Great start. I pull on my waterproofs and I’m thankful that most of the Wasdale residents are asleep or nursing hangovers and not witnessing this calamity.

After a few ‘minor’ wrong turns (yes I couldn’t actually locate Whin Rigg), I spy her and my heart skips a little beat.
Wainwright describes Whin Rigg as………..
“No mountain in Lakeland,
not even Great Gable nor Blencathra nor The Langdale Pikes can show a grander
front than Whin Rigg……..”
So I start off on a fairly obvious path taking in the pretty landscape and watching the fauna come to life on this beautiful, crisp morning. Before long I’m glad that I have brought my walking poles with me. It’s been raining heavily in the Lakes lately and the ground is boggy and soggy and mulchy and stinky……and I cant find my path.

I’ve only been walking an hour but I seem to be too low, too westerly. I’m stumped that I can’t find a path, a path that everyone says “Oh you can’t miss it!”. But I can and I often do. The moment I hear those words…..”You can’t miss it….” I know I’m doomed. I remember what my drinking companions the night before have told me “follow the wall”. What bloody wall?
I’m now almost knee deep in boggy marshland and wish that I had invested in gaitors rather than buying yet another expenisve North Face jacket. I make a mental note to purchase some on payday…..
 ….and then I spot The Wall. Its way off, (or rather I am) and I make a mad dash for it. The bogs are starting to freak me out a little bit and I’m having visions of drowning in quicksand. I think back to being a kid in the 70’s and wonder what Tarzan would do. Tarzan would probably have a friendly elephant pull him out with his trunk, but there are no elephants to save me on Whin Rigg….just sheep.
I finally make The Wall and wash my soggy, stinky boots in the little stream. I think I’m in the right place so I decide to check on my GPS. Hmmmmm not the reading I wanted. I’m in the wrong place. What a surprise.
I drink my can of coke that I was meant to drink at the summit and decide to plough on. 

I spy a punk rock sheep sporting a fleece of pink, blue and yellow. I ask politely if I’m heading in the right direction (I'm desperate at this point ok?) He bleets something back at me which sounds remarkably like “southern twat”. I mutter “blasted mint sauce dodger” (in a posh southern voice - sort of Surrey-ish) under my breath and huff-off.
Within minutes it’s clear I’m on the right path and a sense of elation envelops me. I check GPS and for the first time ever it gives me a wink and a thumbs up. I start to move fast as the weather is turning and the clag is coming in. I’m losing the view quickly so I'm overjoyed when I spot the summit. I set up the camera and pose. Then I decide to have a picture of me 'looking into the distance....' As I stare off camera with my best 'wistful' face I spy the ‘real’ summit......           "Oh F*** off!" I mouth as the camera captures this beautiful moment with a click, click, click..
So I scupper to the real summit and take my pics all over again! And then its off to Illgill Head.
There are still no views when I reach the little Cairn that marks the summit of Illgill Head. I’m a little disappointed that I’ve missed these views that so many talk about, so I munch down my homemade veggie sausage rolls (not my best batch, these ones need something….maybe meat) and then set off North to descend, then skirt around the Miterdale Forest. It’s just as I take my first few steps that suddenly (and without warning) the clag clears and then the sun shines. I have beautiful, wonderful uninterrupted clear views of everything. I do a little jig and thank Mother Nature for being so kind to me today. My plans change quickly and I decide to retreat the way I came in. These views are too fantastic to miss. With a hop, skip and a jump I’m heading back certain that I wont get lost.

Before long I’m back at Whin Rigg and it looks completely different this time around. I perch in the shelter on the edge taking in the views and marveling that I have this all to myself. And then something magical happens….it starts to snow. Little snowflakes fall from heaven and land on me. My red jacket soon turns white and I’m covered in perfect, unique patterns.
I scoop up my belongings and decide to head back. I’m cold now and hungry and the thought of a pint of Jennings has become very appealing.
I pass some friendly hikers on Irton Pike and we stop and chat for about 10 minutes. The wind is really picking up and I can barely hold my balance, so I make a hasty steep descent and head for my car back at the Inn. I still have daylight so I decide to head over to The Wasdale Head Inn. I buy some bits and bobs in The Barn Door shop and end up staying for a little chat…again. But the pub is calling so I ‘pop in’ very quickly and have a cheeky half of Laughing Gravy. Its quite busy and the snug area with the fire is well occupied with lovers, couples and families. I sit in the main bar aware of my filthy, stinky boots but no-one bats an eyelid, they never do. The sun is beginning to set so its time to make the dash back to Santon Bridge just in time to see her set over Wastwater. I pinch myself as happiness gives me a hug.


  1. thats a great read! Its is as much fun as your tweets! You have a good life my dear heres to your adventures up there and down here in 2012!

  2. That did make me smile!! Love the sheep comment!! I know what you're like with navigatation!! Lol!
    I know you will have a fabulous 2012!! x

  3. You're an inspiration and a donut! Love ya!

  4. You made me laugh a lot Karen. You are so funny. Just love the description of the punk sheep as a mint sauce dodger and your veggie sausage rolls missing something!
    Glad too you had that sublime moment with the view and the snowflakes.

  5. great first post! I think the different fell farmers compete in some sort of unspoken 'who can have the most ridiculous looking ewe' contest, hmmm... anyway, I'm at Wasdale again at the end of the month, showing some eager-beavers the way up Scafell Pike...I think the 'laughing gravy' will be the best part.