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A Nice Day for an Amble


#1

The Mercian Mountaineering Club New Year meet was at the Barrow MC hut next door to the Youth Hostel in the Coppermines Valley above Coniston in LD. This nice little cottage has self-catering facilities for 16 visitors, gas and electricity provided, mattress and pillow, but BYO sleeping bag! £30 each for four nights makes this a very cost-effective break. Handily under the Old Man of Coniston, G/LD-013, it also gains from having the pub that brews Coniston real ale at the foot of the access road!

As the date of the meet approached the Coniston webcam showed a lot of snow which caused some concern as on the meet there last year the members had to be ferried up by landrover, but this year our landrover enthusiast wasn’t coming! However, a rapid thaw set in a couple of days before we set out and the track was no problem although the nearby rocks sported some impressive icicles!

Friday 31st was mild and dull, there was a chance to activate the Old Man, but the local word was that the top of the Tourist Route was badly iced up. This is hardly an inspiring route, being approached through abandoned slate quarries, and I decided to ascend by Levers Hause above Levers Water. Nobody knew if that route was iced up so I decided to pack the FT817 and do a recce which could change to an activation if all went well. The weather conditions were impressive with cloud coming and going low in the valley and a cloud layer shrouding the summits - in the clear zone one felt like the filling in a giant sandwich! I found it slow going skirting Levers Water in an anticlockwise direction, breaking through ice to the bog around the head of the lake, but I went far enough up Levers Hause to establish that it was largely ice free. So, back to the hut for a communal meal and the New Years Eve festivities, playing a couple of games of “Werewolf” and a round of “Who Am I” before the chimes of Big Ben on the FT817 heralded the usual antics plus fireworks and the launching of hot air balloons - one of which crashed on a member and one got caught in a tree! All in all, we amused ourselves well into the early hours and supped a fair amount of booze!

The next day a communal hangover saw a number of keen and skilled mountaineers reduced to a stroll around a frozen Tarn How…a drizzly morning, anyway, although it brightened up in the afternoon and the temperature plummetted. The thaw was at an end, the keener ice climbers sharpened their gear before retiring for the night!

Sunday 2nd looked a nice day for an amble, the sun was trying to break through and the ground was well frozen. I left the hut at nine and set out for Levers Water, but this time I crossed the wier and walked over the dam to some very impressive copper workings around two deep gashes in the rock. There was a decent track the far side of the lake which led directly to the track ascending Levers Hause. This was a steep and slow plod between impressive buttresses of rock and the col between Swirl How and Brim Fell came as a relief even though it was heralded by a spread of white ice. The ridge was surprisingly busy with dozens of walkers visible at any time. I ambled slowly over Brim Fell taking in the views and uplifted with the joy of simply being there, sharing greetings with everybody I passed. As an aside, isn’t it strange how people will greet you on a mountain when they would probably act as if you were not there if they passed you on a city street? Anyway, from the summit of Brim Fell it could be seen that there were many people clustered around the strange hat-shaped monument on the summit of the Old Man. I briefly reflected that the summit of Brim Fell was probably within the AZ, but why let a crowd put you off when you have come so far? Eventually another spread of white ice and verglas announced my arrival at the summit, and after a look at the view I looked for a nearby perch to operate from.

When I stopped I realised just how cold it was! I got out the thermos and poured myself a cup of hot Earl Grey, and drank part of it before putting it down to fish out the rig and plug in the half-wave whip (this was a lightweight activation!) but when I picked it up again it was freezing! I took out a package of pork tongue butties: they were as stiff as a board! I’ve no idea how cold it was, but it was into minus double figures, and a speedy activation was indicated.

I switched on the rig and selected 2 metre FM, and immediately found a family activation of Gummers How, LD-050, doing a roaring trade. I worked 2E0OCC/P, M0OYG/P and M6MIJ/P and then moved off to 450 to find my own pile-up. One call and I had it! I was pleased that the chasers co-operated in keeping the pace brisk as by now I was feeling the cold. The batteries were feeling the cold, too! I noticed that although the receive voltage fell slowly to 9.5 by the end of the activation, the transmit voltage was plummetting. By the time I had fourteen contacts in the log the transmit voltage was down to 8.3 and the audio was degrading. With numb fingers and nose and a misbehaving rig I decided to call it a day and apologised to the many chasers still calling me. I was disappointed not to have worked to the end of the pile-up, and I know that those who didn’t get me were also disappointed, but there was little choice. So I quickly packed and made the decision to descend by the Tourist Route, which was very busy.

I have to say that the start of the descent was a little hairy in places with drifts of white ice and frozen snow with spreads of verglas below them, but I took it steadily with the occasional excursion onto the open hillside and only had one little slip. The tarn below the summit took a while to reach, and as I approached it I saw to my amazement a guy coming up dressed in a city suite…and as he came closer he even appeared to have Hush Puppies as his footware! I warned him about the ice but he continued. There is little more to be said about the descent, I took the safest options and got back to the hut via the Miners Bridge as the light was fading, and my condition can only be described as knackered but elated!

Incidentally there were many black nylon bags of rocks stacked in places along the Tourist Route, I imagine that they were helicoptered in and the track was about to receive a makeover. Now riddle me this: why go to the trouble and expense of 'coptering in tonnes of rock to improve a track on a hillside littered with megatonnes of similar rocks? Does the NT have more money than sense?

Afterword: when tested back at the hut the rig performed normally, my guess is that at least one of the cells does not perform well in the cold!

73

Brian G8ADD


#2

In reply to G8ADD:
Thanks for report, enjoyed reading it,can remember You mentioning the voltage dropping between contacts on 2m,specialy after you had charged the rig up (maybe we should all fridge test our bats).
Thank Again
73`s
Bob G6ODU


#3

Nice report Brian and shame I missed you from G/SP-005 Pendle Hill. I couldn’t feel my fingers after about 15 minutes on the summit. Good effort to climb the Old Man in such conditions.

Despite making a Thermos unbreakable flask full of hot tea before I left home I discovered the flask was useless at such low temperature and my brew was cold when I opened it up after half hour on the summit. Even my first cuppa was only lukewarm.

Seems those that braved the conditions and ventured out had fun and everyone got home safe.

73 Chris 2E0FSR


#4

In reply to 2E0FSR:

Try “Purging” your flask before use with boiling water for 20 minutes before filling with your beveridge. You use much less of the beveridge heat to warm the vacuum. Also wrap in an old thin “karrimat” (also your situponthinggy) to help with the insulation.


#5

In reply to G6DDQ:

I prep the flask with boiling water and leave it for about 15 minutes until I pack my gear and load the car. Then I empty the water out before immediately re-filling and I have never had a problem. I reckon the low temperature killed it as it was a tad chilly up there.

Anyway, don’t wish to hijack the thread, good effort Brian!

73 Chris 2E0FSR


#6

In reply to G6DDQ:

Proper pre-heating is an essential. Not keeping the flask in an outside pocket (keep it right in the middle of your rucksack if possible) and insulating it as you suggest will certainly keep any flask warm for ages. They also cool down very quickly once they have been opened so two smaller flasks will let you have hot drinks twice on a walk whereas one large one will not be anywhere near as effective.

73

Richard
G3CWI


#7

In reply to G8ADD:

Now riddle me this:
why go to the trouble and expense of 'coptering in tonnes of rock to
improve a track on a hillside littered with megatonnes of similar
rocks? Does the NT have more money than sense?

The NT are trying to preserve a fragile upland ecosystem. Using rocks sourced on the hillside would seriously damage the ecosystem over a large area. Thus when carrying out path repairs, stone is often sourced from a less fragile area such as an existing quarry. Such grants as are available for works like this will require a detailed environmental impact assessment and this is just one way to reduce the impact. Helicoptering in stone is another as it removes the need for land vehicle access (if that was possible).

73

Richard
G3CWI


#8

In reply to G3CWI:

Although my poured drink chilled extremely rapidly, the thermos stayed nice and hot: I stopped at the ruined quarry buildings to have a late lunch having thawed the butties in my poachers pocket (ideal for an 817!) and the tea was still quite hot. However as soon as I started to unwrap a Kitkat for afters I had three large dogs hanging around looking half-starved! I have never before seen so many dogs out for the day, there must have been hundreds, although a dog owner myself I would not let my half-baked staffie run around loose so close to lambing.

73

Brian G8ADD


#9

In reply to G3CWI:

I saw an amazing contraption on Meall nam Tarmachan CS-015 when I climbed it. The NTfS were doing some fine work fixing the badly eroded lower sections of the path and they had the most amazing rock moving machine. It looked like one of the low, flat bed trolleys you find in places like B&Q and garden centres. But instead of wheels it had caterpilar tracks and a small Honda engine. The handles had a twist grip throttle and brake levers. Unfortunately, the workers (mostly shifty looking students) had stopped for tea and biscuits so I didn’t get to see it work.

As for flasks, I always warm mine up first. I make tea or coffee in a measuring jug and make it just less than the flask size to allow for expansion. I add some boiling water into the flask and put the tea/coffee into the microwave for a minute or so to bring it back up to almost boiling. That way you get the flask warm and place very hot fluids into the flask.

I bought one of the auto-intelligent flasks. My ‘cool-box’ has a switch you can set to select either cool or heat depending on whether I’ve put chilled stuff or hot pies in it… However, my flask knows automatically whether it should keep the ice-cream cold or the tea hot. Simply magic! :wink:

Andy
MM0FMF


#10

In reply to G3CWI:

The NT are trying to preserve a fragile upland ecosystem. Using rocks
sourced on the hillside would seriously damage the ecosystem over a
large area. Thus when carrying out path repairs, stone is often
sourced from a less fragile area such as an existing quarry. Such
grants as are available for works like this will require a detailed
environmental impact assessment and this is just one way to reduce the
impact. Helicoptering in stone is another as it removes the need for
land vehicle access (if that was possible).

I appreciate this, Richard, but many of these bags were deposited very close to quarry tips containing vast amounts of suitable stone with no discernable ecosystem. You may remember that one of the best laid path sections there consists of close packed slabs of slate laid on edge, much nicer to move on than their rough approximate steps of andesite that are often more uncomfortable to move on even than the eroded hillsides even when they haven’t acquired a coat of scree that behaves as if it consists of marbles.

I sometimes feel that most of the work done on paths is a total waste of time and effort, the mountains themselves are a monument to erosion, one severe downpour can remove a complete hillside (fortunately a rare occurrance), and when a path is verglassed boots will tread out bypasses on virgin hillside. Much of this no doubt well-intentioned work is profoundly ugly, too, though YMMV.

73

Brian G8ADD


#11

In reply to G8ADD:

I appreciate this, Richard, but many of these bags were deposited very
close to quarry tips containing vast amounts of suitable stone with no
discernable ecosystem.

Upland ecosystems re-establish very slowly and much of what might be considered to constitute the early stages of a recovering “natural” ecosystem is hard for the untrained observer to spot. I am certain that expert ecological advice will underpin work carried out by the NT. They certainly don’t get everything right but they try hard to learn from their mistakes. Most paths represent a compromise of some sort - you simply can’t please all the stakeholders. Having been in charge of a project of this sort in the past I know that there is more to them than meets the eye!

73

Richard
G3CWI


#12

I have a stainless steel litre flask. I never pre-heat it. I make a litre of soup at 6.15am on a SOTA say and it stays piping hot all day, even after being half full from halfway through.

I once left my flask of soup in the hall on a SOTA Saturday. Instead, I took it to work with me on the MONDAY and had it for my lunch - still piping hot.

The tall stainless steel flasks seem to be the best in my experience.

Whatever the arguments about path maintainence work on the hills, I am just grateful that it goes on. I like the fact that people work on the hills to maintain my hobby, and with an environmental agenda. Whether or not they are doing so in the most efficient and effective way is for others with more expertise than I to debtae - I just appreciate it as an end-user.

Great report Brian. Thanks for putting it on.

Tom M1EYP


#13

In reply to G3CWI:

All this is fair enough in as far as it goes, but I imagine then that they had an expert ecologist balance the rival merits of re-establishing ecologies in the source quarry and the nearby quarry. It would be a very fine drawn line between andesite and slate! :wink:

73

Brian G8ADD