Oak Cottage - Loweswater

Retreat to the quiet of the Western Lakes

The Cottage, and  the view up the Buttermere Valley
Oak Cottage homepage.





Date : Tues / Wed 19th and 20th April 2005.

Occasion : Two George Fisher / North Face training days in order for staff to chat about and try out equipment from the shop, and in particular "North Face" gear.

Location : Head of Borrowdale Valley in the Cumbrian Lake District. Two separate walks on subsequent days with an intermediate camp at Stonethwaite.

Walk details : Seathwaite to Base Brown, Green Gable and Great Gable and back. 5.15 Miles (8.3 km) 2,650 ft (810 m ) of ascent. 5 hours including a stop for lunch. Starting point map ref: NY 235 122. (NW Lake District).

Weather : Fine and sunny the first day, cooler with blustery wind and snow flurries the second !

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Normally these postings reflect my personal walks in the Lake District. Today these pages hopefully reflect the two day event organised by Fishers and North Face, where the objective was to allow the staff of Fishers (including myself) to get out onto the fells to try out, and also to chat about the equipment on sale in the shop.

It was an opportunity to experience first hand existing and new equipment, and what was rather nice, we got paid for doing it !

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The first half of the party set of on a fine and sunny first morning from Seathwaite, crossing the footbridge over the infant River Derwent and making a start on the steep ascent alongside the wonderfully names Sour Milk Gill.

Blue skies, clear air, the sound of rushing water,

Someone's happy . . . names withheld to protect the guilty !

Customer Services @ George Fisher.

Out of uniform . . . into the environment.

Looking down on the Seathwaite Valley


Sour Milk Gill Falls.

There was even a slight rainbow as the water cascades down from the fells.

The ascent from Gillercombe and up past Base Brown.

There is still a slight snow covering on the distant Helvellyn hills but it was fast disappearing in the warm sunshine.

Several of the members carried a GPS (Global Positioning System) a satellite navigation system for fell use.

They have three main purposes, to tell you where you are (by means of a grid reference), to keep a track of your route so far (keeps a tracklog), and to help with forward navigation (by downloading your route in advance).

They use the radio signal from the satellites to triangulate your position, and they will continue to perform at night or in bad weather when lack of visibility makes compass calculations impossible. A really good piece of safety equipment.

We were able to follow our planned route easily, see time, speed and altitude statistics at the touch of a button and play back our tracklog on our mapping computer afterwards to see where we actually went !

More info at Garmin or Magellan Gps sites.

The wide footpath up Green Gable.
(see also mapping gear test below)

The Western Fells from Green Gable summit.

Pillar with Pillar Rock, Ennerdale, the High Stile Ridge and Haystacks, Buttermere and Grasmoor with the snow.

The descent to Windy Gap - a wide scree path.
Lunch on Gable summit - mmm .. nicer without the plastic !


Even nicer to be able to relax horizontally.

This first group seem to have got the good weather.


Using both Anquet and Memory Map we were able to printout our intended route, using the Ordnance Survey 1:25k or 1:50k mapping, onto A4 sheets of standard paper. This avoided the inevitable fell side origami of large maps in high winds.

Planning our route we used the mapping systems to give us an estimate of time for the walk, the amount of ascent, and also to program the GPS in advance - a great time saver.

Both systems performed well, Memory map was slightly more advanced on the technical detail but Anquet produced nice 3D images and easy, well documented printouts.

Remember however to clear the previous days walk off the Gps before you start a new one as displaying the tracklog gets a little confusing if it does the same route twice !

The view of Wasdale from Westmorland Cairn.
(Sorry - copyright prevents me publishing O.S.Maps here on the net without paying extra for the privilege)

Gable Crags, part of the Great Napes.

The gully and screes lead down into Great Hell's Gate and crosses the Gable Traverse path lower down.

Homeward bound the first day.

The view down Borrowdale from above Taylor Gill Force.

Grains Gill as it passes below Stockley Bridge. End of a fine sunny afternoon.

Time to go and meet up with the evening crowd.

Our camp was to be on the farm site in the Langstrath Valley, on the riverside between Stonethwaite and Eagle Crag.

The North Face 2m. Igloo Base Tent - a really sociable meeting area especially once the evening light faded.

The Evening Barbeque.

Several of the"first day" folk stayed on for the evening , and many of the "second day" contingent arrived after work, in order to enjoy the barbecue and the overnight camp. Lets hope the forecasted rain would hold off as long as possible.

"Gear testing" the refreshments.


The evening fortunately stayed fine and dry and we ate outside.

(right to left) "Are you sure you couldn't manage another crisp ?" . . . . "Shall I ?" . . . . "Go on then !"

( The fourth person couldn't say anything as her mouth was already full )

One of the pieces of equipment that we were able to try was the North Face Apex Soft Shell shirt.

This turned out to be an excellent lightweight "soft shell" windproof shirt with excellent water repellency, good breathability and a soft inner lining that provided an good element of insulation.

In the cold of the second day, the shirt worn over a winter Icebreaker Merino 260 base layer proved an excellent combination for walking, and a packlite outer gortex shell was added when requires just to keep out the strongest wind and the snow flurries on the higher fells.

It has been part of my standard walking gear ever since.

Evening light over the campsite.


Camping out on a cool, damp night in April called for good tents and Lucy had several on offer for people to try.

Andy and I actually ended up with a 3 seasons tent which had an innovative mesh roof to the inner tent which was designed to reduce condensation by improving ventilation. It was a great tent, easy to erect, but a little cool for this breezy night in early spring (especially as I had taken a 3 seasons bag instead of my down one) A really nice tent.

The other innovative tent was the 2 metre dome, a geodesic style tent with about a dozen cross poles. With an internal diameter of 4 metres we had plenty of room for 15 plus the table holding the food and spare "lemonade"

Anyone got a few thousand pound to spare ?

The discussions continued into the night

Next day we packed away the tents, were joined by the rest of the crew, collected our goodie-bags

and got ready for the walk.

Dressed for a cooler day the second group start from Seathwaite Farm.


Group Photo.

Is that a slight bend in the bridge I ask myself ?

Fix the Fells

With all the visitors to the Lake District, the fell paths need on-going repairs to avoid the visual and practical problems associated with erosion.

On the way up the hillside we passed the National Trust workers re-bedding the stones and re-turfing the edge in order to prevent more serious damage.

Can you help by donating time by volunteering or by donating money to pay for these guys to continue their work?

Click on the "Fix the Fells" logo if you feel you can.

Path Workers from the National Trust


Sour Milk Gill - Day 2 - not quite so blue.
Climbing out of Gillercombe


On the second day four of the party diverted from the main path in order to reach the summit of Base Brown.

Peter was trying to re-walk all the Wainwright Peaks within the year. Today he would be able to collect three more towards his total of 214 Lake District summits as listed in Alfred Wainwright's Pictorial Guides to the Lakes.

A panoramic view west towards the Scafell Massif.

To the left Esk Pike, then Great End, Broad Crag, Scafell Pike (highest at 978m) Scafell and Lingmell.

Buttermere on the second day.

I think we drew the short straw when it came to the weather and the views, however I think the variety enabled us to check out the performance of the clothing in a wider range of weather conditions, which was good.

With the cold winds and snow flurries of the second day it was noticeable that when the waterproof / windproof coats came out most of the staff had chosen "Packlite fabric" as their jackets of choice.

This is the relatively new Gore fabric has been adopted by most manufacturers in the last few years, and despite its light weight nature it more than coped with keeping out the weather.

When not in use it has the added advantage of good pack-ability and light weight, so more room in the day sack and less weight to carry when you are not wearing it.


Someone had been here before us .....

Periods of sunshine, but a cool breeze as we climbed up Great Gable.

Below is Sty Head Tarn, which we would pass on the way back.

Lunch on Gable,

sheltered from the wind by the summit rocks.

A snow storm rushes past as we start down the "Breast Route" from Gable Summit to Sty Head Tarn.


Trekking Poles

Many of the group use trekking poles on the walk.

They definitely helped when ascending by allowing the arms to contribute to the efforts of climbing. (This would be even more advantageous had we been carrying heavier packs)

On uneven ground they allowed better balance and so saved the jarring and extra pressure on the knee joints.

On descent they allowed a more controlled walk and was particularly reassuring on slippery grass and loose stones.

There's no doubt that whether you use one or two poles, it is better than using none at all - irrespective of what age you are!


Descending on the path to Sty Head.

The Stretcher Box at Sty Head.

The Box acts as a rendezvous point and contains mountain rescue equipment to be used in the event of emergencies.

Crossing the beck between Sty Head and Taylor Gill Force.

Suunto Watches

Several of the party used Suunto Watches which add compass, barometer and altimeter functions to the normal timekeeping.

Setting the altitude before we left we were able to check our height as we climbed, and total up and display information for the walk itself. The compass would have been an aid to navigation if required, but was not really needed today.

With a heart monitor on the Suunto X6hr Andy was able to study and record his heartbeat during the walk. Very interesting, and great for those fitness training for health.


The 1000 ft boulder near Taylor Gill Force ....

.... A good place to check the accuracy of the altimeter.


One of many trees that suffered in the January 2005 storms.

It was not just the floods in Carlisle that hit the headlines, about half a million trees were lost in Cumbria alone due to the damaging winds, which also brought down power lines and disrupted supplies for up to ten days in some villages.

Stockley Bridge, nearly home.

All geography students will know that Seathwaite Fell is regarded as the wettest place in Britain.

The topography of the fells, and the presence of a met office rain gauge testifies to the fact. This cottage is affectionately known as Rain Gauge Cottage. It is not that it rains more often, it's just that when it does, it does it with real feeling.

Click here for the latest Lakes weather forecast.

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Thanks for a great day out to Lucy Ham of North Face, and also to George Fishers Management.

Please note: any opinions expressed within this report are purely personal

and do not necessarily reflect those of George Fisher Ltd or The North Face Company itself.

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Photos of the 1st day by Julie Thompson , the evening and the 2nd walk by myself.

Technical note: My pictures taken with a Canon IXUS 400 Digital camera.

Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.

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