Saturday, 24 November 2012

Lake District (8 of 14)

After a few days of low level walking we were feeling a bit more refreshed to meet the days challenges ahead.  Having spent numerous holidays in the lake district it is surprising how many places there are to go, our destination today was to be Seatoller, with a walk to Castle Crag.

Our destination would be just a short drive to the National Trust car park at Seatoller, there we met up with the person who we joined the NT, thus allowing free parking provided you had paid your subscriptions, and a bonus is for those that spend their money in Cotswold stores you have the benefit of a 10% discount.

So as we left the car at the car park we greeted the gentleman with the green Land Rover and his German Shepherd companion resting peacefully in the back, we exchanged complementary comments about his dog and Blue, and then we set off proper.

Our walk would require a short road walk along the road that takes you from Seatoller to Honister Pass.

With no traffic to excite Blue as we reached the bend in the road, we left the road behind, to begin our ascent, Blue eager to progress was already pulling ahead, the benefit to the person holding the lead, is that it makes it less strenuous on the leg muscles. As always Blue tends to keep to the route eroded by others previously walking this way, there is one exception, to answer the call of nature, Blue always leaves the path to do his business, we never trained him to do this, perhaps he is a wee bit shy or just very polite. We have never adopted the "stick and flick" methodology and continue to scoop and bag it.

After a short and strenuous climb we came across a dry stoned wall, successfully navigating some walkers enjoying a well earned food stop, we continued to walk along adjacent to a dry stoned wall, we shortly came across a group of people travelling in the opposite direction with their dog also on a lead. Now although Blue  can be a handful, generally he is not out and out aggressive with other dogs, but because of the close proximity we would need to pass extra caution and control was required. Soon we were walking our separate ways.

The day was lovely and the views were fabulous, and the walk was truly relaxing, we never set out with a must do plan, because circumstances play a large part on where you can go with Blue, but the beauty of this walk is the distance you can see around you, so approaching cyclists and other ramblers with their dogs can be prepared for in a timely manner. Where we leave the path for others to pass by, if possible we will take up a position downhill, thus not giving Blue artificially higher status to those approaching and passing, frankly I am not sure it makes a scrap of difference to Blue, but if he decides to go, it is easier to maintain balance and control.

We had enjoyed this walk a few years previous, at that time we tried Blue out with saddlebags. But we soon dropped the idea, as they used to tend to roll, and with his history of back surgery it just didn't seem right.

As we continued along, we were seeking an ascent, and it was to be Castle Crag, never previously attempted by Blue or his two human companions, our challenge lay before us, a rocky pinnacle set just south of Derwent Water, it had been a focal point along our journey.

The peak just left of centre was our destination, so not too high or arduous, so we thought, we were to find out different over the coming hours.

Annoyingly our approach from where the picture above was taken, was a high point and for the next 45minutes our walk was a decent, into the valley below, as we arrived at the foot of this crag, it was becoming very imposing. So we debated to ascend or walk on by, after considering what Blue would need to endure, our vote was cast and we were to climb. To be fair the sight of a family group with young kids descending from above was the deciding factor, how dangerous could it be, they showed no signs of concern or apprehension.

As we approached the start of the ascent the family descending also had a pet dog, so we allowed them to pass what turned out to be a major challenge, a stile ladder.

Blue may be clever, but he has no patience, wonder where that trait comes from, so he is not going to be able to successfully climb a ladder. There was another way which involved a bit of a scramble and negotiating a way under a wire fence. Simple, no, Blue does not do separation very well, this was to be a challenge befitting the Krypton factor. Sue ascended the ladder stile, remaining in full view as Blue lead me up the rocky scramble with all the haste he could muster. As anxiety started to set in Blue struggled to pass through the wire fence, the only way this could happen was the fence had to be raised next to the lowest part of ground, which Blue struggled to observe, and after a couple of attempts scrapping his belly on the ground, he like a commando pulled himself through. In order to ease his passage the lead had to be released, and gathered as he exited the other side by Sue. The final piece of the puzzle was for me to get through the fence without any further assistance from Blue. Crikey feeling worn out just recalling it.

Our path from here on up was as expected, steep well trodden path, but this was not to last. Ahead of us we were to arrive at what could only be called a huge pile of slate/stone that had no structure, we could not even make out a path, how on earth are we supposed to ascend to the summit.

Good fortune was to light our way, others that had previously been following us, carried on upwards, then a previously unseen way ahead was revealed, to call it a path would be the most exaggerated statement known to man, once again a family debate, and the three intrepid explorers from Reading were to continue upwards.

The path ahead

Blue considering the challenge ahead

With a reminder from Sue to be careful, we began our ascent, the challenge would be arduous enough, I just hoped nobody would meet up with us descending from above. Blue as always will lead the way, and his tracking skills played a major part, for it was difficult to see the route. The trick was to give Blue enough play on the leash to move ahead, far enough that he is not under your feet and not so far as to be difficult to restrain. For this the halti collar is excellent, not my favourite, but today and at this moment a great benefit.

Little time was taken to admire any views, but a huge sigh of relief was the fanfare expressed by us all to be stood on solid ground, but not at the top, there was to be a further challenge before that could happen.

Plenty of praise and a well earned drink fro his water bottle Blue was to ascend a very steep section of track, considering the restraint that he has been under for the last hour, he shows no signs of stress or indifference.

Once more leading the way Blue lead us the final part of our ascent, the summit of Castle crag was below our feet, and given the route and challenges that it took to get here, for Blue, and us that was no mean feat.

Finally we could admire the views out across Derwent Water and the path below which had just been our route to the summit.

Derwent Water and Skiddaw in the background

Looking back on our path of ascent

After a well earned snack drink, and admiring the views a simple case of descent. Not really simple, because as mentioned earlier, Blue helps greatly when ascending, he pulls himself and you up the hill, to return and descend it is payback time. Blue has no conception of up or down, both are met as one. So the payback is that you are the brakes. Once I tried descending to match Blues speed, which within a few strides was an errant mistake, he simply went through the gears like a dragster. So the impact on your knees and toes is quite painful, unless you can step sideways like a crab or ensure Blue does not gain any downward momentum.

Blue today earned a gold star for his descent, the three challenges faced coming up were respected and met by Blue. It was very amusing that once we had descended the loose rock/stone section, while having a relaxing breather, Blue was so relaxed laying down he decided to roll over onto his back. Fortunately he was still attached to the lead, which saved him from completing a full roll which would have taken him off an edge down 30-40 feet drop below. He does make you wonder some days, but that is Blue to a tee, fearless and careless all in one.

Upon reaching the valley below we continued North to a clearing where a wide river makes for a lovely picturesque stop, we were welcomed by some local water fowl, who did not seem to worry about Blue at our side.

Time to leave the ducks in peace and return back along the valley to our car, our walk was 4 1/2 hours in time travelling approximately 5 miles and a height ascent of 484m

All in all a thoroughly excellent walk and enjoyed by all three of us. Time to go back to our holiday let to reflect on a beautiful day out and enjoy some good food and relaxation.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed reading about Blues adventures as much as he enjoyed making them.

To see more recent photos of Blue follow the Flickr link below