Derwent Boating Microadventure

The setting sun cast a brilliant golden light across the trees, radiating warmth and gentle glowing colours. I was sitting on a small gravel beach on St Herberts Island watching the sun set behind Cat Bells across the open expanse of Derwent Water. My shelter was pitched on a small patch of ground just above the beach, home for the night, perched in the middle of one of Englands largest lakes.

I had been planning this camp for a while, the islands are obvious from the shore and easy to get to, making them an inviting target.  I had visited with my kayak before, noting a couple of nice pitches to hide away on, the idea of wild camping on an island somehow added an extra bit of wild feeling to the adventure.

Leaving the car in the Kettlewell park, I inflated my packraft, threw my rucksack into the bow, and pushed off over the still surface of the lake. It was late afternoon and the wind was virtually still, just a few shallow waves disturbing the surface of the lake.


Skiddaw Over Derwent Water

It was just over 2km of paddling out to island, the lake was busy with other craft, canoes, SUP, and small sail boats all enjoying the warm afternoon sun. As I approached the St Herberts it was obvious I would not have the place to myself, a couple of tents were visible amongst the trees near my preferred camping spot, but after a bit of an explore I was able to find a secluded little patch of the island to land on.

With the packraft out the water I quickly set up camp, then to work up an appetite I waded out into the lake for a swim. The water was gloriously warm yet also cooling and refreshing; I got carried away and ended up swimming right round the island which felt like almost a km.


My Alpaka Caribu


Golden Hour Light on the Camp

It was a wonderful feeling that evening after the sun fell behind the hills, tucked up in my sleeping bag enjoying a can of beer whilst listening to the sounds of the lake as twilight faded no night.

Morning dawned cool but with the sun the temperature quickly began to rise. The lake was virtually mirror still, with my packraft appearing to glide across a smooth clear blue sky. A very special adventure.


A Mirror Still Lake the Following Morning




A blast from 2014…

There is no such thing as a free lunch so the saying goes; well that’s not quite true, I can normally induce people to feed me by looking wistfully at kitchen cupboards, but generally you don’t get something for nothing. It’s equally true that any alpine trip especially one to Chamonix (a traditional base for British alpinists) is alway hobbled by the exorbitant cost of the bins up the mountains; a trip up the Midi normally knocks a considerable dent in the finances of any would be alpinist.

True you could do it the old fashioned way and WALK into the climbs but really the reason Cham is so popular is that is has such a brilliant lift network, the thought of having to slog 1500m up to the start of the real climbing is enough to bring many of us out in cold sweat “You want me to climb Ben Nevis to get to the start of the route?!”

So when a rumour that the the Swiss of all people; famous for living in one of the most expensive countries on earth were giving away free lift passes in Saas Valley summers alpine destination was pretty much nailed on.

For every night you stay in the Saas Valley you get a Burgerpass which gives you free use of all the lifts and buses but sadly not any free burgers. For the aspiring alpinist the Sass is also surrounded by fourteen 4000m peaks may at the easy end of the difficulty scale and with uplift to 3000m or higher; decision made were going somewhere new.

My the Swiss are efficient!

In preparation for going high later in the week James, Andy, and I decided to get a big rock route done on one of the lower peaks. The route we had selected was Alpendurst on the Jägihorn which is fourteen pitches and approximately 350m long topping out at about 3200m. More importantly it’s graded about F4 and really well bolted with traditional Swiss efficiency giving the route a really nice non threatening feel and removing the possibility of us sandbagging ourselves at the start of the trip.

Catching the first bin up out of Sass Grund leaves a shortish if steep walk in to the base of the crag which launches upward in a mass of golden yellow brown slabs. Once on the route the climbing is never hard but the moves are really enjoyable and the line appears to flow naturally between the bolts which are easy to follow.

Looking down the route from about pitch 9.

The climbing is mostly slabby but there is some chimney work and a bit of monkeying around with flakes. In order to minimise the amount of faff climbing as a three we block lead four pitch sections of the route giving each a good section of the climb to get our teeth in to. 

The rock feels really compact and solid and radiate a lovely warmth in the sun; were soon flying up the route enjoying every pitch and the ever increasing exposure. Lunch is taken about pitch 9 on a huge belay ledge with fantastic views out over the white dome of the Weissmies which looks amazing and the Lagginhorn which looks like a tottering pile of choss! A this point Sundays objective pretty much selects itself.


The last few pitches run through slightly steeper territory and leads to a rather stressful switch of leads on a painfully small belay for three; the climb also become a bit of an exercise in suffering as we have all brought excessively tight climbing (and now very smelly) shoes for the grade and look enviously on a a German pair who move past us in their stealth rubber trainers, the way forward on this kind of jaunt. 

A hugh pile of choss aka the Lagginhorn

The summit of the Jägihorn is a terrific viewpoint especially across to the high peaks of the Michabel chain on the far side of the valley including tomorrows target the Allinhorn, but conscious of a rocky decent and the looming cut off time of the last bin back to the valley the summit moment is a little rushed.

The decent is very much a scramble down steep bouldery terrain and worth the weight of bringing a pair of trainers on the climb for. We get in about 45 min before the last car departs from the valley before inflicting eau du climber on two unfortunate tourists who must have regretted jumping into the same car as us!

The Michabel chain taken from Hohass rather than the Jägihorn.