Trip Report - Dale Head and Robinson: 360 degree views

This was my second Sunday in a row up in the Lakes and unlike last week I was finally blessed with great conditions all day. Blue skies, lying snow, no wind and easy walking. My only frustration was with myself due to missing the sunrise - luckily sunset made up for it.

Dale Head summit cairn, looking towards Helvellyn

Dale Head summit cairn, looking towards Helvellyn

This was another spontaneously decided location. Picked because it's been on my list for ages now, and when I checked the route the night before i discovered there's a fast, straight, direct route up from Honister Pass which involved minimal difficulty. In addition having researched on Google Earth several times it seemed that it would likely provide excellent views in all directions. This turned out to be bang on.

Route taken. Not a circular route, just there and back with a detour

Route taken. Not a circular route, just there and back with a detour

The route up was just as easy as stated in Wainwright and the other sources I checked. Just follow the path opposite Honister Slate Mine and follow the fence and a few cairns for about 3/4 of a mile until you get the summit. No false summits, no bogs, no scrambling. I reckon you could go up in a Land Rover if you wanted. Too easy really. The only difficult bit was actually on the tarmac of the road - unusually for me the only time I slipped on my backside was on an icy patch on the way back to the car.

The view behind me on the way up

The view behind me on the way up

The astonishing thing when you get to the top of Dale Head is the 360 degree views. You have mountains everywhere (although no lakes properly visible ). Major mountains too, all the highest ones. Skiddaw, Blencathra, Helvellyn, Great Gable, the Scafells, Robinson, Grasmoor and loads of others. All topped with snow. I'll let the pictures do most of the talking.

Helvellyn underneath a rare cloud

Helvellyn underneath a rare cloud

Pillar from Dale Head

Pillar from Dale Head

Having got to the top so quickly and easily I spent an hour or so marvelling at the views and decided I still had plenty of time to get across to Hindscarth Edge to see what the views were like from there - it looked like Skiddaw could be showing a bit better from that angle plus Buttermere should be on show. I set off down into the col and it was such easy walking that I quickly got to the fork in the path where you can go north to Hindscarth or north west on to Robinson. Robinson didn't look too far and with that also being on my wish list for a while I headed that way. More great views on the way and especially when you get to the summit. You get great views of Crummock Water and Loweswater and all the way out to the Solway Firth and the Galloway mountains of Scotland in the distance.

The View from Robinson. Crummock Water, Loweswater, Rannerdale Knotts, Mellbreak, Grasmoor and more

The View from Robinson. Crummock Water, Loweswater, Rannerdale Knotts, Mellbreak, Grasmoor and more

I stopped in the shelter at the top for a brew and a sandwich. It was a daft place to sit as the wind was blowing in my face and into the shelter so I should have been on the other side. Schoolboy error but no harm done. 

I'd say that for scenery, Robinson doesn't quite rival either Dale Head or Grasmoor on the opposite side of the Newlands Pass. You do get amazing views but a lot of it is partially obscured from the summit. I'm splitting hairs though, it's amazing. And if you're into short walks it looks like you can get up really easily from the car park next to Moss Force on the Newlands Pass. Another option to kill a couple of hours if in the area.

On the way back to Hindscarth

I still had a couple of hours to kill before the sun started to set so I dawdled along a bit of a detour to Hindscarth. More great views across the Newlands Valley towards Skiddaw and Blencathra. Another nice easy walk across an inch or two of snow with the occasional tiny frozen tarn. The shadows were lengthening nicely indicating golden hour would soon arrive.

 

The path back to Dale Head

The path back to Dale Head

It was nice to see Catbells from the opposite side - most of the time you see if from across Derwentwater or from the top of itself; the western side is less commonly photographed. Nice to see with Skiddaw and Blencathra in the distance.

Maiden Moor with Catbells, snow-capped Blencathra in the distance

Maiden Moor with Catbells, snow-capped Blencathra in the distance

Looking west from Dale Head

Looking west from Dale Head

The sun comes down

The sun comes down

I got back to Dale Head just at the right time. I had a good hour of light during which every hill top changed from white, then to orange, then to pink. I was like a kid in a sweet shop at this point.

The Cumbrian Mountains

The Cumbrian Mountains

The Helvellyn range

The Helvellyn range

I have loads more of these.

I hung around until after the sun dipped behind the hills and then set off back down the hill, noting it only took just over half an hour to get from the summit to the road. For a change I didn't even get my camera back out on the way down - even though there was still a bit of light in the sky I knew I had enough on the card already.


I've struggled a bit getting the right words to describe this trip. I will have to begin using a thesaurus. This was a very rare occasion when everything went right - weather and location made for a really enjoyable day with plenty of images to pick from. Probably the easiest day's photography I've had in months, even accounting for the 8 mile walk.

As a location this is highly recommended as a winter location. Maybe in summer it would be half a day unless you were going to make it into a really long walk taking in Newlands Valley or Buttermere. There's always the possibility of a summit camp as well, considering the fairly easy and short hike to the top. 

10/10

Total distance: 13.97km 

Total elevation: 981.4m

Total time: approx 6 hours

Trip Report - Pike o' Blisco & Blea Tarn

Time to close out the old year with a longish walk in an area I've neglected too long - Langdale.

Blea Tarn

It took seconds to decide where to go for this one: I opened up my 'Best Walks in the Lake District' book that I haven't looked at for a while, the page fell open at 'The Ascent of Pike O' Blisco' and I knew that with a name like that, that hill was the one. I had a choice of days to go out so I closely watched both the local weather as well as the mountain forecast and eventually plumped for new years eve which looked likely to have the best chance of some dry weather, despite looking pretty gusty up on the hills. As usual the day didn't quite go to plan...

It started going wrong as soon as I parked the car and got out to put my boots on. This robin flew into my car and defecated in it. Cute...but...you know. 

Robin in my car

The route described in the book as basically as shown in my recorded route shown below, except for a couple of deviations where I ended up slightly off course for various reasons. Starting at the New Dungeon Ghyll car park, I went anti-clockwise, up Pike O' Blisco, down round Blake Rigg and back past Blea Tarn. The advantage of doing the route this way is that there is a decent engineered path up the Pike O' Blisco, and you get to the top of that hill early on which is generally a good thing, rather than getting to the summit towards the end of the walk when you're tired.

The problem is that for me, Blea Tarn would have been better in the morning light rather than the evening (not that there was much light all day to be honest) and also climbing up that direction means you have your back to the Langdale Pikes all the way up. This meant that several times on the way up I looked around and discovered there was a hint of good light hitting the Langdales which had gone by the time I got my camera out for a shot. I suppose the flip side is that going up the other way would have been a bit of a nightmare as the path was indistinct and basically just grass and bog, so it would have been an unpleasant slog anyway with an even steeper walk down. I suppose you can't always have your cake and eat it.

My route (anti-clockwise)

So anyway, to cut a long story short there are no photos from the climb up. The climb itself was fairly uneventful. With your back to the Langdales it's not the most inspiring view. The recent snow had largely gone so apart from the occasional patch of melting ice there wasn't much to see. When you get to the top things improve somewhat.

Tiny frozen tarn with the Langdales in the background.
View from the top

At this point things got a bit hairy and I was met with the 60+mph winds that had been forecast. It's almost always windy up at the top of the hills but this was something else and it was genuinely difficult to stay upright. I got blown off my feet a couple of times and it was futile trying to take pictures, it was just too gusty. I abandoned my plans of getting some pictures looking down at the valley and headed down the hill, sulking.

Not too much to report from the way down. It's lots of grass, lots of rocks. The hills were shrouded in cloud and there was little in the way of snow. There is a pretty cool river which runs down with lots of little waterfall sections but I didn't bother with that really, it has some potential but not particularly spectacular.

Wrynose Beck (phone shot)

Wrynose Beck (phone shot)

The next part of the walk takes you along the Wrynose Pass for about half a mile before you branch off to the left, bypassing a rock formation with potential called Castle How and heading  for Blea Tarn. On the way to the Tarn you pass a few really nice features including a double waterfall and a large rock outcrop called Tarnclose Cragg. Both of these have excellent potential and I'll be paying a visit at some point in the early morning when I reckon the light could be quite nice.

Tarnclose Crag

Tarnclose Crag

Blea Tarn is somewhere I've seen so many photos of already that I'd never really fancied visiting. However as I was passing anyway I could hardly pass up the opportunity. I doubt there's much in the way of original compositions to be had, certainly on the first visit as it basically photographs itself. I will be back though, if only as it's an easy option with a car park right next to it. Cheating I know, and breaking my rule of trying not to take the easy option but what can you do?

Blea Tarn

The final section of the walk was along the Langdale Valley back to the car park. The light (such as it was) was totally gone by now. I managed to grab a quick pano of the valley to at least provide I've been there - not a great shot by any means but it will be a reminder for the future.

Langdale

Langdale


So all in all a mixed day. A decent length walk where I didn't get rained on for a change. Pike O' Blisco itself is a bit 'meh' - definitely not a classic hill in my opinion. But I beat my aversion to Blea Tarn and have found a few other future locations too. Great Langdale in general looks to be a great area so I'll definitely explore here more in 2018. Not too much in the way of amazing images but overall an enjoyable end to the year.

Total distance: 13.64km

Total elevation: 970.4m

Total time: approx 6 hours

Blog post #1

Right then. After several abortive attempts my website is finally here. What took me so long you ask? Well, to be honest I never really felt like the standard of my images was good enough. No matter how often people tell you they like them, if you're not happy yourself then you're not happy. But after entering the Landscape Photographer of the Year this year (and not being selected as expected!) I at least managed to come away with a few individual images where I though 'Yeah these are actually OK'. And so that gave me a little confidence to try to put myself out there a bit more.

So here it is. I'll try to keep this site for my very best photos and my other online presences will be more for dumping images up while I decide whether I like them or not. I'll sell images via this site and also try to keep up this blog - I'm no Charles Dickens but it will give me somewhere to empty my mind of photography related thoughts without the pressure of worrying about whether anyone is reading them! I may even do the occasional review, talk about my gear, report on locations and things I've discovered, things like that.
 

Bear in mind the website is new so there's not much here at the moment but check back as I'll do my best to keep it fresh. If you like any of my images and would like a copy let me know - they are very reasonably priced and will come in many different formats. 

So, thanks for visiting - hope to see you again soon.