Milton Mountaineers go wild in the Lakes

9 October 2019 | 0 comments

At Hassness House, on the shores of Buttermere, the lounge was buzzing as 20 Milton Mountaineers assembled for another adventure.The buzz was almost a frenzy, as everyone was finding their place, we battled with train trouble, weekend traffic jams on the Honnister pass and dinner was waiting. Soon, however, with his usual efficiency, DC organised everyone into their chosen walking group, the harder grade 8 walks with Julia, or the grade 4 walks with John. All set.

Mist on Buttermere, Saturday morning

I’m thrilled to be re united with this brilliant group of visually impaired hillwalkers and their sighted guides , whom I led around the Giant’s Causeway last year.

Sunday, and the grade 8’s head up to Haystacks. A steady climb with some significant scrambling towards the top, where poles were put aside and 3 points of contact were needed on the rock at all times! Julia bobbed up and down the rock seeking the easiest line. Haystacks, at 597m altitude, isn’t the highest of the fells, but certainly one of the most attractive, with rocky peaks and a commanding position overlooking the Buttermere valley. We picnicked at Innominate tarn, with it’s tiny islets, such a favourite spot of the famous Alfred Wainwright, that it was here he asked for his ashes to be scattered. The descent gave us first sight of the slate quarries, and the slender Blackbeck tarn, which pours down a deep, narrow cleft in the rock. After a very long, tiring and stony descent, Laurie’s cake back at the house was soooo good. Together again then, with the grade 4 walkers, who had walked up the beautiful Rannerdale Valley, listening to John’s many stories along the way, such as the history of the coffin road, and the fate of the fallen corpse….never found. They reached the high col and then sampled the delights of the Buttermere cafe, then returned by walking around the lake. A good first day.

Three more splendid days. Walking to Keswick on differing routes. Some braved the harder rocky path sloping away into the (very full and fast flowing) river, and shuffled along the chain railing. The walks were a journey through the villages and history of Borrowdale, the lead mines, the medieval farms, the churches, the spaces where Beatrix Potter drew her inspiration as a young girl on her holidays. Finally, the wonderful long terrace path above Derwentwater.

Terry charging up the hill, Buttermere in background

The grade 8 group made a really good effort for ‘Wainwright bagging’ – reaching the summits of the fells AW described in his wonderful guides. One day it was Whiteless Pike (660m), Wandope (722m) Crag Hill aka Eel Crag (839m) and Sail(773m), then another day we completed the ridge with Robinson (737m), Hindscarth (727m) and Dale head (753m). The ridge walking was superb. Other walks took in Loweswater and another nice pub and Crummock Water with a rather boggy lake shore.

Julia, Meg and DCP, over the stepping stones so carefully placed by John

Pausing mid way through my recollection of the walks, what other memories? The hilarious (in hindsight) hunt for the Boot room key, ironically finally found by one of our visually impaired guests – well done Rachel. We had fire officers and engineers planning how best to pick the lock or remove the door, it could have ended in tears. Then the splendid jolly evening down at the Fish Inn, where cocktails were sampled by many. The grand 3D reconstruction of the lake district using string lakes, slate driveway chippings and lots of sellotape. The interesting talk by Cockermouth Mountain Rescue and testing the emergency equipment, including the group shelter and the vacuum body bag.

All the Milton Mountaineers in the Hassness lounge, with Debbie and John, exploring the 3D map, showing off fab yellow branded gear.

On Thurday both groups headed upwards, despite the grim forecast. One group to Grey Knotts (697m) and Brandreth(715m). Only to turn back due to driving rain. Enough. The other group to Castle Crag, with more success, sneaking a moment at the top in the only 10 minute sunshine window of the day – top marks to John!

Friday was a trip to Scale Force, impressive at 51m high. Coleridge wrote of it: ‘Scale Force, the white downfall of which glimmered through the trees, that hang before it like the bushy hair over a madman’s eyes.’ More rain. A picnic in the apartment in Buttermere and a restful afternoon for some, a walk around the lake for others. John took more of the group over to the Winlatter Forest for some more sheltered and even paths. More rain, but a lovely forest all the same.

Peter Rabbit – who else?

What a grand week. The weather genies were not on our side, but we sauntered out every day regardless. My respect and admiration for this amazing group continues to grow. I hope there will be more outings to come. Thanks all.


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