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Lakedistrict 2004 : A first encounter

Lakedistrict April 2004

I'd been going to Scotland for my regular doses of hillwalking. On hiking-site.nl I read an advert of someone named Theo who was looking for a companion for hillwalking in Britain. Like me he had two sons and a wife who didn't fancy hillwalking. I emailed him and soon we agreed to go to the English Lakedistrict together.We spent our evening on the nightboat to Newcastle in the bar with a few drams. After a short drive the next morning we arrived in the Lakedistrict shortly before noon. We had booked beds at the Glenridding or Helvellyn YH.We didn't linger at the YH and almost immidiately left for a round of Striding Edge, Helvellyn and Swirral Edge. Were we overconfident ? Let's call it 'The Dutch Way', we came for hillwalking so we'll do some hillwalking. It was raining and the views weren't any good but that didn't stop us.From the east we ascended Birkhouse Moor and while gaining hight it became clear that the wind got stronger and stronger by the minute. A wall going over Birkhouse Moor protected us from the worst of the gale and once at Hole-in-the-Wall we decided to get down to Red Tarn. Going over Striding Edge and subsequently Hellvellyn and Swirral Edge was out of the question. Back at the YH we read the MWIS mountainweatherforecast which stated gale force winds and a windchill of -10 C. at the summits in the afternoon. Like we didn't know that already !

For years and years

Optimistic as ever

we started the next morning at 9am for the Grisedale horseshoe. At first it goes downhill in the direction of Glenridding before crossing Glenridding Beck. A little further lies the lovely and mysterious Lanty's Tarn between the trees and after crossing Grisedale Beck we start the steep ascent of St.Sunday Crag. From the start of the ascent to the summit at 841m in 1hr and 20mins, a distance of 3km, shows us we're not hillfit yet. Not familiar with the area we are quite intimidated with the view towards Fairfield and what looks like a big drop between St.Sunday Crag and Fairfield. As we get nearer the westend of St.Sunday Crag we're reassured by the view of a minor drop without really steep bits. The ascent of Fairfield via Cofa Pike however is daunting for TheoR not being familiar with scrambling and not having a head for heights. Eventually Cofa Pike is passed and crossing Fairfield is easy. The descent to Grisedale Tarn is very eroded and not very pleasant. We walked around the tarn and started the ascent of Dollywagon Pike via the zigzags. The path over the Pikes to Helvellyn is like a motorway and delays will be likely during the summerholidays. In no time we were at the summit of Helvellyn to enjoy our lunches while sitting on the benches at the shelter.Yesterday it would've been impossible, today it was heaven. What a difference a day makes. The descent from Helvellyn to Striding Edge is quite steep and badly eroded and wouldn't be fun in the rain at all. Striding Edge itself, although much more dangerous in wintry conditions, is an easy scramble. TheoR, having no head for heights, used the bypasses where possible but I followed the actual crest of the ridge, most of it with hands in pockets. It's like the Aonach Eagach in miniature. Two bumps, one unnamed and the other High Spying How, made it a bit more interesting. At Hole-in-the-Wall we turned left to descent to Red Tarn and from there we returned at the YH after walking for9hrs 45mins. north to Clough Head was our objective for the next day.For a third time we arrived at Red Tarn but this time turned right and uphill for aquick dash to Catstye Cam. On the way back we picked up our rucksacks to continue our walk. Swirral Edge couldn't be bypassed so this was TheoR's first real scramble. It gave him a very tight feeling in his stomach. There were some big rocks to negotiate but eventually we reached the rim of Helvellyn. We followed the motorway northwest now and forgot to turn right in time for Raise. It puzzled us that we had one hilltop in front of us, followed by a lake, where there should be several summits in a row. After studying the map thorowly we concluded we were heading in the direction of Browncove Crags and we should have turned north at Lower Man. Sometimes it's better to leave the motorway. Luckily we overshot the turn-off only 400m. Soon we were on the right track again and moving towards White Side and Raise. There was however a cold, strong wind coming from the north which slowed us down considerably. After Raise we passed Sticks Pass and arrived at Stybarrow Dodd. It became clear to us that going all the way to Clough Head and returning in time at Glenridding YH would be a very hard task and that cutting the trip short would be better. A faint path led us in an easterly direction to Birkett Fell. After crossing a drystone wall we followed it southeast to reach Glencoyne. A path followed a contourline high on the valleyside passing below Glencoyne Head. From the dismantled leadmines a broad and and ugly track led us quickly back to Helvellyn YH. It started raining on our way down. had fallen above 800m. Today we changed basecamp and, after a stopover at George Fisher's Outdoorshop in Keswick, drove to Honister Hause YH. During the afternoon we had a quick dash up Dale Head. From the summit we had great views of the hills to the east and south.Back at Honister Pass we had to drink tea in the car, the hostel opens at 5pm. During the evening there was no heating becuase of problems with the generator. I think it was close to zero in the toilet. Brrrr. The weatherforecast for the next day wasn't good with a cloudbase at 1500ft, rain and hail, sleet and thunderstorms possible. We followed the path to the Honister slatequarry and from there to Grey Knotts, Brandreth and Green Gable. The recently fallen snow wasn't much of a problem and gave fine views of Great Gable. A short descent into the aptly namedWindy Gap was followed by the ascent of Great Gable. The mild scrambling was too much for TheoR who stayed behind just beneath the steepest part. I continued to the summit. The wind was cold and an abandoned boot - did someone descent with one boot ? - was froozen to the summitcairn. I was about to return to TheoR when I sawhim coming up with other walkers who obviously convinced him the scrambling would be easy. Sometimes it just takes a little push to go thatlittle bit further and to extend your comfort one. The award : beautifullviews of the surrounding Lakeland hills with Wastwater stretching out tothe southwest. Despite the cold a good place to have lunch.We returned to Windy Gap but instead of going back up to Green Gable we turned nortwest into Ennerdale to follow a path called Moses Trod.We were blown off our feet several times by some severe gusts before getting back to the hostel. we started with low clouds clearing in the morning followed by a sunny afternoon. Today wasn't going to be any different. We started our ascent of the path leading to the slatemines with light rain. Underneath Grey Knotts we left the main path and walked to the coll between Brandreth and Haystacks. Staying on the lefthandside (E) of Loft Beck we entered Ennerdale. If it's pouring down it would be better to stay on the righthandsite (W) of the beck where there are no streams to cross.Black Sail Pass and Pillar were hidden in clouds. 300m from Black Sail Hut,a very primitive youth hostel, we crossed the bridge going over River Liza.Gaining hight towards Black Sail Pass the cloudbase moved away from asif the clouds were afraid of us. Pillar was still covered in clouds but we had good hopes of having some nice views from the summit. We went over Looking stead and the clouds kept retreating. Pillar became clear of clouds and showed its snowcapped summit. At 2pm we reached the summit. The obligatory pictures of standing on the trigpoint were taken and we wandered around the flat summit for a while, admiring the views. Eventually we backtracked our route and cooled our feet in the icy feeling River Liza. Dark clouds surrounded by yellowgreenish light were moving in from Great Gable but went over and away from us to deposit he expected thunder and hail somewhere else in the Lakedistrict. We arrived back at the hostel at 6pm. In the evening it started to rain heavily continuing through the night. We were going home tomorrow.

Continuing the ridge

During the night snow

The last couple of days

Grisedale Tarn from St.Sunday Crag

Grisedale Tarn

Dollywagon Pike and Striding Edge

TheoF descending to Striding Edge

TheoR descending to Striding Edge

Swirral Edge and Helvellyn

Great End in the background

Great Gable

Summitcairn of Great Gable

Panorama east, south and west from Great Gable

Ennerdale in the morning

Yewbarrow and Red Pike from Pillar



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