Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Winter Lakeland roadtrip.

Last weekend I drove down to the Lake District to meet up with Andy and Graham, we'd been hoping to get in another weekend sailing trip before the end of the year and despite the forecast being a bit marginal decided to go for it anyway.
I left home at 7:30pm on Friday evening and after stopping off briefly for food and fuel drove down to the Lakes. The arrangement was for us to meet up in a National Trust car park on the eastern edge of Derwentwater at 10am on Saturday so I headed in that general direction before searching for a quiet corner to park up for the night. I ended up driving up Borrowdale and up Honister pass in search of a suitable spot. I reached the summit of Honister and was saddened to see the Honister Hause youth hostel in a derelict state. I'd spent some time in my younger days hillwalking from the youth hostel with a group of friends and have happy memories of time spent there but unfortunately it seems to have fallen victim to the economic troubles. I turned round at the summit and drove back down to a layby that I spotted on the way up the pass and parked up for the night.
I was woken by my alarm at 7:30am and emerged from my cosy bolt hole in the back of the van to a cold, frosty but fair morning.
I didn't waste time eating breakfast but instead decided to relocate to our rendez-vous layby at Derwentwater first. I arrived well before our allotted time but Andy was already there so we chatted and started unloading our kit while I made a brew and a bite to eat. The views across the lake towards snow capped Skiddaw were lovely.
 Soon after Graham arrived as well and we got on the water. There was no wind but the conditions were perfect for paddling so we just carried our sailing paraphernalia with us in case the wind picked up later.
Looking back at the car park with Graham just launching. There were some small frozen patches on the lake and like little kids we couldn't resist paddling through them. Although the ice was really thin the noise of it breaking against the hull of Andy's canoe was enough to stop him doing it again but Graham and I were both paddling plastic boats so had no such concerns!
We paddled north in the direction of Keswick,
passing St Herbert's Island on the way,
we paddled on passing Nichol End marina and exploring the northwestern end of the lake for a while
 ............before heading back to the marina for a look around the chandlers shop and lunch in the cafe.
It was Andy's birthday so Graham modified a scone to serve as a birthday cake for him!
While we were in the cafe we met Kath who had attended the OCSG meet at Ullswater back in July. She was out training in a K2 kayak with a friend in preparation for the Devizes to Westminster marathon canoe race. After lunch the wind had picked up a little which meant we could sail back (unfortunately the breeze had brought cloud and sporadic drizzle as well).
It was fun sailing my Nova Craft Pal again (I haven't used it since I got the new canoe back in August), especially as I was sailing without outriggers. The wind was a little unpredictable and flukey with some strong gusts so concentration was essential.
By the time we arrived back at the car park the light was fading and the rain was starting to become more persistent so we packed up and drove to Langdale campsite for the night. Graham and Andy pitched their tents at the site while I decided to sleep in my van again then after getting sorted out we adjourned to the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel for the evening.
Overnight the wind picked up a lot and the gusts started to blow down the Langdale valley with the noise of a freight train! It rained as well but thankfully by morning the rain had stopped and the sun came out.
After breakfast we packed up and hit the road again for our sailing venue for the day, Windermere. The forecast was for very strong, gusty winds so we didn't hold out much hope for our prospects for the day but when we parked up just north of the ferry on the western shore of the lake it looked quite nice.
We rigged up the boats and prepared to set off. We were hoping to meet up with another canoe sailor (Graham C) who was intending to launch from the other side of the lake. As we sailed out of our bay the wind was very light and variable however seeing large yachts on the far side of the lake experiencing "knockdowns" should possibly have rung some alarm bells!
Once we'd got a bit further out we could see Graham C sailing on the far side of the lake so decided to cross and join him however as we neared the middle of the lake we began to experience the strong winds and waves that had been affecting the yachts we'd seen. I reefed my sail down and sailed on through increasing chop and really nasty gusty conditions followed closely by Andy and Graham. We met up with Graham C and decided to seek the more sheltered conditions back on "our side" of the lake. I reefed twice more while crossing back and ended up with a tiny sail that didn't really want to work too well in the conditions but it was a necessary evil (any more sail and I would have risked damaging the rig). We battled back across, threading through some yachts who'd admitted defeat and were motoring back down the lake to safety.
I shipped a lot of water on the crossing and had to bail for quite a while. The conditions didn't feel particularly scary (after my recent experiences sailing on the Gigha trip) but they certainly weren't very enjoyable so we decided to land back at the cars and have a cuppa and some lunch. It was a good chance to catch up with Graham C while we ate lunch.
Afterwards we decided not to go back out (Graham had no choice as his car was on the far shore). Despite the offer of a lift over to collect his car and bring it back to pick up his canoe, Graham decided to sail back across so we said farewell to him as he set off.
We loaded up our boats and I set off to catch the ferry while Graham and Andy waited to make sure that Graham C made it back across safely (they both had a shorter drive than me).
The view up the lake as I waited for the ferry.
Thanks to Andy and the two Grahams for joining me for the weekend, it was nice to get back out in my other canoe again and get out in two venues I'd not sailed previously. Using the Pal again has left me pondering a few developments for it in future (but that will be another story).

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Knoydart (a retro blog).

A few years ago I was invited to join a couple of friends on a walking trip into Knoydart (one of the remotest parts of Scotland). We walked in from Kinlochhourn to Barrisdale where we camped (but used the facilities of the estate bothy). Our original plan was for me to bag Luinne Bheinn and Meall Buidhe on day two and meet my friends at Inverie the "capital" of Knoydart (they would take an easier low level walk from Barrisdale). Once there we would camp a second night and enjoy a meal and an evening in the legendary Old Forge pub before walking back out to Barrisdale together on day three, spend another night there then walk back to Kinlochhourn on the final day. In the event due to illness in the party we had to stay at Barrisdale which (while disappointing in one way)  opened up the possibility for me to climb Ladhar Bheinn instead. Ladhar Bheinn is one of the finest mountains in Scotland and made for a great day in the hills.
Loch Hourn just after we departed on day 1.
The view west.
Day 2 and I set off up Ladhar Bheinn. This is looking back at Barrisdale where we were camped.
Barrisdale Bay (which dries out at low tide).
The view back east up Loch Hourn (the way we'd walked in the day before).
West towards Arnisdale.
Ladhar Bheinn with Sadie (my companion for the day) in the foreground.
It was hot work!
As we got higher the views opened up more and more.
The path became quite airy higher up. 
Looking back the way we came (the path goes over the ridge).
Finally we made the summit (and shared lunch).
Looking back at Ladhar Bheinn from our descent route. The ridge we climbed is on the right. 
And from a bit further down.
Eventually we reached the bealach that would have been our route to Inverie had we been able to make it.
It was an easy walk down a good track back towards Barrisdale.
That evening we were treated to a lovely sunset. 
Home sweet home!
The next day I should have scaled Luinne Bheinn and Meall Buidhe but I was feeling a bit tired after my exertions and didn't fancy another day on my own on the hills so I walked up Glen Barrisdale instead.
The view from the head of Glen Barrisdale towards Barrisdale Bay
and the other way up Glen Barrisdale.
The view back down the glen.
On the last day I walked back out to Kinlochhourn while my friends took a lift in a water taxi to save them the walk. 
I still feel I have unfinished business in Knoydart. I want to visit Inverie and I'd like to bag Luinne Bheinn and Meall Buidhe. Maybe a visit by canoe will be the way to achieve these aims.