Hello, my name is Mal Tabb.
Thanks for visiting our web pages. Marion & I operate a small outdoor activity organisation called Canoes, Mountains & Caves. We provide activities for: adults, young people, schools, charities, families & individuals. A key aspect of our work is the provision of a "Community Programme" which is offered free of charge to participants. If you think we might be able to help please don't hesitate to contact us, you can find out more about what we do on our main website www.canoesmountainscaves.com

Thursday, 30 August 2012

High Street via Rough Crag & Long Stile

With: Tala (our dog)
Weather: a bright & blustery afternoon following a wet morning
Where: Lake District, Far Eastern Fells - Mardale Head; Rough Crag; Long Stile; High Street; Mardale Ill Bell; Nan Bield; Small Water Tarn; Mardale Head

Distance: 6 miles

Height Gain: 2,150 feet

This was a deliberately delayed start as the weather forecast had predicted a very wet morning. Driving through Bampton and alongside Haweswater at about 2:30 pm it poured down in monsoon like fashion & the MWIS predictions appeared to be flawed. However, as the final pre-walk faff took place the sun came out; the skies cleared and in the main the day remained fair.

Its not very often the dog comes out walking with me and my mind is not yet made up about the fells as a dog walking environment, however, on this occasion it was a pleasure to have her along for the journey & there is no doubt she thoroughly enjoyed the extended period of exercise.

In pre-Blaithwaite days I did quite a lot of reading & reflecting on the concept of wilderness, particularly enjoying the writings of John Muir, and whilst not the most natural "wilderness" environment (Haweswater being man made) I have always felt this corner of the Lake District to be one of the wilder feeling parts of the National Park. Although in most of my dealings with United Utilities I have found them to be amongst the most difficult organisations to do business with (their customer service is truly appalling) they do appear to make a good job of managing this landscape.

Leaving the car park we cut across the head of the reservoir & along the path at the foot of the Rough Crag, Long Stile ridge. A little before the end of the ridge meets the water there is a faint path which ascends steeply allowing the crest of the ridge to be gained early. The views from this early part of the climb were awesome today.

Big Views Down Haweswater From Rough Crag
Wainwright describes the ascent of High Street via Rough Crag & Long Stile as the "the connoisseur's route" and goes on to say: "The ascent is a classic, leading directly along the crest of a long straight ridge that permits no variation from the valley to the summit" the picture below gives some impression as to what he was referring to. It reminds me a little of the Ullock Pike ridge.

Typically, as the last few steep metres were gained on approach to the summit the cloud began to drop and the previously blue skies quickly became shaded grey. However, the cloud did cease to descend before engulfing the high summits and fine albeit muted views were still afforded in all directions.

High Street stands at 2718 feet and has quite a history, I hadn't realised until this visit that the OS map still refers to it as Race Course Fell.

Leaving the obvious path I cut the corner slightly heading south east in the direction of Mardale Ill Bell. On arrival it became necessary to put on a jacket for the first time as the south westerly was by now both a persistent and increasingly cool wind. A few quick photos from the summit (these are on Facebook - link to the right of this post) and the descent began, initially gently and then steeply from Nan Bield.

Below: High Street summit

Oddly, again today, after leaving the car park I never saw another person until the descent towards Small Water where at the outflow there was a sizeable wild camp - the orange coloured Vango Force Ten tents being visible from some distance.

The final part of the descent was uneventful and we got back to the car at about seven o' clock a total walking time of about three and three quarter hours.

Small Water & Haweswater (camp just visible to right of outflow)

Monday, 27 August 2012

Gaping Gill via Winch

Looking Up to the Distant Light From the Bottom of Gaping Gill Main Shaft

We went to Gaping Gill today to take advantage of descent & ascent via the winch which had been set up by Craven Pothole Club . August Bank Holiday Monday is the last day of the winch meet & the last ascent is at noon so Alan, Clare, Kevin & myself made an early start to get to Clapham by 07:30. We timed going past Ingleton as just taking one hour from the new base camp which bodes well for future caving trips. Its quite a long walk in from Clapham to Gaping Gill, taking about an hour. However, the reward for getting out of bed at an obscene hour was that we were amongst the first to descend. 

The engineering works undertaken by Craven Pothole Club are truly impressive: damming Fell Beck; extensive scaffolding; winching gear; lighting; the list is endless. 

Gaping Gill is a 340' deep surface shaft on the south slopes of Ingleborough, the water of Fell Beck sinks into the main shaft and resurges at Ingleborough Cave further down the fell. The passages that make up the system are extensive. I've never used the winch before but did visit the bottom of the main shaft a couple of years ago doing the SRT trip from Bar Pot with Paul Richardson - its a good trip but the exit via Bar Pot is quite a tight vertical squeeze. Anyway, the whole winch system runs very efficiently: sign in; take a numbered wrist band; wait for your turn to walk out on to the gantry; get fastened into the chair; an impressive lower into the depths of the shaft with a brief shower on the way down and then a good ratch around the floodlight chamber before the process is reversed. 

For us a leisurely wander back the fell was followed by a visit to Inglesport - bang on lunch time!
Engineering Works for the Winch Meet

Alan Rainford in the Chair

Its difficult to get a true impression of the scale of the scene at the bottom of the shaft

Alan, Kevin & Clare in Gaping Gill

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Big Skies Cycling

Fading Light & A Big Cambridgeshire Sky

As inspirational as they are this post should in no way be confused with Team Sky or Mesrs Wiggins and Cavendish -as reported on several occasions I'm still learning to love the bike!

However, as Kay seems to have got off to as good a start as we could have hoped for with her latest round of treatment we took the opportunity to pay a short visit to our eldest daughter in Cambridge. Since its well over a year past that I last did any serious fell running my mind (if not my body) is beginning to entertain thoughts of trying to regain the levels of fitness that come with such activity - as such I took the bike with me. I actually quite enjoy the physical effort associated with improving fitness (its the dietary discipline which is more of a hardship!) & reckoned that the flat landscape of the Cambridge / Essex border was the kind of terrain the bike was designed for.

Each evening I took in a circuit of the, extremely pleasant, villages of the Duxford, Hinxton, Ickleton area. This environment is in sharp contrast to more usual Lake District haunts - as flat as can be and forever dominated by a seemingly huge sky. I enjoyed the experience immensely, the evenings were warm and as predicted the road bike quickly consumed the miles. The roads were quiet with regard to cars but quite well populated by other cyclists, I'll continue to take the bike with me when I visit in future & will aim to bring it more into use in Cumbria in coming weeks.

Apologies for the shortage of photos in this post but I had to keep stopping in order to use the camera - defeating the object of the training to a degree!!

Above: Ickleton Village Green 

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Nethermost Pike via East Ridge

Nethermost Pike's East Ridge
With: on my own

Weather: temperature 22degC in Patterdale; light winds; any cloud above the summits - a glorious summer's day

Where: Lake District

Distance: 9.5 miles

Height Gain: 2,930 feet

Like most folk who enjoy spending time in the fells I have a long  "to do list" and Nethermost Pike via the East Ridge has been on it for some time. Good weather and the proximity of the Glenridding / Patterdale area to my new base made yesterdays choice an easy one.

The drive past a flat calm Ullswater packed with holiday makers   enjoying the sunshine gave early warning of how busy the southern end of the lake might be and in the end I had to find a parking space on the Patterdale Hotel car park (by no means the most expensive parking in the National Park).

A short trudge up the road from the car park, past the church and hang a left towards Grisedale Tarn. Initially the shade of the trees held the sun at bay but once past the plantations the heat was searing. Its quite a while since I've ventured out in this area and it was good to reminisce about a day spent on St Sunday Crag & Cofa Pike with Kay and the girls when on holiday in the area what must have been well over fifteen years ago. After a steady plod up the valley the appearance of Ruthwaite Lodge, the landmark I was aiming for, almost came as a surprise.

Ruthwaite Lodge
Mine Entrance Behind Lodge
Just behind the lodge is a mine entrance and what looks to me like some open workings, this not an area of Lake District mining that I am very familiar with but I assume this is Ruthwaite Lead Mine.

Looking into Ruthwaite Cove is quite an impressive sight and I had already made up my mind to access the ridge after a short exploration of the cove before I set off. This is a pathless area but I quite like walking where there are no paths, for those who prefer navigating via a path Wainwright refers to a faint track leading to the east ridge from the Nethermost Cove area.

Ruthwaite Cove

This was one of the best parts of the day. Following the beck and generally trending to the right throughout the ascent the isolation was incredible, in fact after seeing a handful of folk around the lodge I never saw another soul until I descended back down to Grisedale Tarn perhaps a couple of hours later.

I never got right into the very heart of the cove - opting to ascend up on to the obvious ridge. 

Generally speaking the east ridge is quite broad with a more precipitous drop on the Nethermost Cove side. For the most part it is no more than a steep walk, however, I took every opportunity to engage hands and feet on rock and feel this made for a better ascent, although it must be said that to simply walk is possible just about through the entire length of the ascent. The views across to Striding Edge are excellent. The highlight of the East Ridge is undoubtedly the last rocky 30-50m of "arete" which is quite enjoyable and left me thinking what this area must have been like several millennia ago before the eroding effect of wind and rain took its effect. Hard Tarn viewed from above was good to see and I'd like to think closer inspection might be possible one day.

St Sunday Crag From East Ridge

A final grassy stomp led on to a deserted Nethermost Pike summit, in fact the whole of the Helvellyn ridge was deserted - incredible on a fine summers afternoon in the middle of the school holidays.

On this occasion I turned my back on Helvellyn's summit and headed south across what is almost a plateau in the direction of Grisedale Tarn. Dollywagon Pike was by-passed and the descent began. It was at this point that I encountered humans again!

The tarn is an impressive sight and in my opinion the efforts of the National Park in stone pitching on this path are some of their better ones.

Grisedale Tarn
The walk back out through Grisedale was a pleasure with the sun now getting lower in the sky, the time about seven o'clock. The rugged mountain scenery gradually giving way to a more pastoral setting, the sun on the Scots Pine making them glow bright red.

So what of the East Ridge? For me it was worth doing, not as exciting as its more well known cousin Striding Edge, but as an alternative and quieter point of access to the Helvellyn range its a good option.

Friday, 10 August 2012


Apologies for the lack of recent posts leaving Blaithwaite has been a time consuming process and we have been incredibly busy packing & unpacking boxes; assembling flat pack furniture and hastily adding finishing touches to newly decorated rooms.

However, Monday saw us out of the Coach House & into our new home - a Solway view exchanged for a Pennine view & just the shortest of drives to access the high fells!

Many thanks to all those folk who did so much to help get us moved a good three weeks ahead of schedule, we are very grateful.

Just one negative note in what otherwise has been a positive few weeks - Kay had to begin a further course of chemotherapy this week, very tough. Thanks to everybody for continued prayers & support.

As we no longer manage Blaithwaite House the title and appearance of the blog have had to change - I hope you like the new layout (thanks to Billy for his input on this)

However, as I pick up a new role with the Christian charity In2venture over the coming weeks I hope to resume blogging activities as usual - in fact more so if everything goes according to plan. As always please do leave comments, I really appreciate the feedback.