Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Tightrope walking on dubious snow...

Ace day in the Lakes on Monday testing kit and clothing, or at least that's my story and I'm sticking to it. My mate Chris just bought a Mazda Bongo with camper van conversion, so we headed up on Sunday evening, parked up, pubbed up and went to sleep.

It'd be nice to say that we got up bright and early and embraced an alpine start so we could watch the sun rise as we reached the summit, but the truth is that we woke up quite late, pottered about gently with porridge and coffee, geared up in a desultory, random sort of way and finally set off up Helvellyn.

Snow conditions lower down were frankly crap. Wet, unconsolidated cack of variable depth, but things got better as we got higher and hit the start of Striding Edge proper. Weird conditions, soft and slidey except along a foot-wide trail of tramped-down, cramponed snow, mostly along the crest of the ridge. Mostly straightforward, but some interesting, floaty, high-wire walking with steep drops on both sides.

Crampons feeling quite alien after not having used them for over a year, so full-on relaxed concentration to avoid catching a point and going arse over tit into the abyss. At which point, according to Chris, Type One Fun, would have become Type Two and significantly less fun. Fortunately it all stayed as Type One despite the iffy snow.

Down the final scrambly down-climb - two moves, snow firm fortunately - then a scamper up and onto the plateau. Lunch at the summit shelter, banter shared with two men hiding under a blokka bag, then a gentle meander back down via Dollywagon Pike and a frozen Grizedale Tarn because I wanted to recce the bridleway.

Rrrright... It looks like a toboggan run, god only knows what's underneath... And just occasionally the clouds would lift to reveal seductive glimpses of tiger-bread mountain flanks, then just as suddenly, the curtains would be drawn across hiding it all again.

Back down in Patterdale and drowned by memories of the last time I was there. In the summer. When it was different.

Cracking day. And good company. I like mountains.


  1. hi jon, a great little piece of blogging. i'm off to the lakes next week. hope to find similar conditions and the fun's not all melted away.

  2. Cheers Kate, have a great trip. Fingers crossed that the snow hangs about or even gets reinforcements. Watch our for polar bears...