Monday, 22 November 2010

Deep (and cold) Dale Horseshoe

Up the left side back down the right

I hadn't been out on the hills for about 4 weeks and therefore this Sunday was going to happen whatever the weather was throwing at us. Thankfully Glyn isn't too fussy about the weather so I was pretty confident we'd be up somewhere high in The Lakes.

By Sunday morning 6 of us headed to Glyns Co-ordinates on The Kirkstone Pass for an 8.40am meet up. Well 3 of us in my car did!, 3 other cars had somehow 'misjudged' Glyn's 'perfect' directions and ended up around the corner...........all of them.

the real start point

Still, at 9am prompt we set off bang on timeto walk over Hartsop Above How, up to Fairfield and then back via St Sunday's Crag. A dusting of snow on the top, fairly clear skies and almost no wind promised a gorgeous if uneventful walk.

Within 200 yards of setting off, Glyn was running back to the car for his camera, another 200yards on and we were suddenly in a farmers field with a free range bull. Catherine did a great job in scooting round the far side with Lexi so as not to attract attention. Another 200 yards later we were off track and bouncing on a thrown away mattress and already off track!

A bit of cross country in the direction of the now obvious ridge and were we back on track all systems go.......except for John who was a bit worse for wear.

John's leg disappears down a rabbit hole

Having decided to walk off his stomach ache we headed over the first summit and looked up to the snowy peaks in the distance. Despite my lay off and theusual partying, body abuse, beers ,cider, kebabs etc. my legs were feeling pretty good and I knew I was up for today's walk.

What's not to like?

It was a bloomin good job too, as we approached the climb to Hart Crag the weather started to close in and there was a noticeable temperature drop.

Jim does he usual flat ground sprint

You do get an extremely good view of The Priest Hole cave from this angle though. And erm I'm sure one of the other chaps has a decent picture!

As we started to climb, the solid ground turned to scree and Boothy came out (mid scree slope) with the classic, 'mind out that ones a bit loose' don't say. The light dusting of snow soon turned icy and deeper, and by the time we reached the ridge the strengthening wind was biting and the temperature well below freezing. John had also taken a turn for the worse and was really struggling to keep up. Just to assist the cloud came down and seriously reduced visibility. I'd negotiated the narrow part to Fairfield with my GPS previously in a white out, so I was quite confident this time.

To be 100% sure Glyn took a grid reference off me to match to his map......there was an eyebrow raised but nothing said. 4 miles into a 10 mile route and about 400 yards from the summit of Fairfield, John suddenly drained of all colour and energy. It was a very tough call whether to go on or to turn back, as we were already on the plateau we decided to go forwards and head off Fairfield on the planned route. We could always head down to Grisedale Tarn quickly this way. As we reached the summit the weather eased slightly and it looked like we would have plain sailing on the path back.

We hadn't counted on the frozen nature of the steep decent towards Cofa Pike though. In truth crampons and ice axes would have been really useful and if not essential then certainly recommended. In our defence the weather was much worse than forecast and we must have met another 15 people on route, none of whom had winter gear. The team did a great job of kicking steps down the iced snow slope and once down, we crossed the narrow ridge without too much of a problem.

Over the Pike and a very careful climb down the icy rocks brought us safely to the broader ascent of St Sundays Crag.

It's the pointy one and looked lovely earlier

If anyone knows this ascent, it has at least 4 false summits (I remember at least one friend cursing all the way to the top - Robbo), which isn't ideal if you're a bit drained as John was. A quick lunch break in a sheltered spot and without much incident we made the top. Surprisingly there was only me up for a snowball fight.

What could possibly go wrong now?

A complete white out is what.....that was a bit unexpected! Glyn took bearings and I went Satmap.

Now confession time, I may not have a clue how to use this machine properly.

I'm brilliant with the pictures and the Hansel and Gretel trail, but how was I to know you had to move the locating circle to the point where you were...... before giving grid refs to your pals? For 3 years now I've been giving out the wrong 'where are we' grid references. Woops. Thanks for not slugging me Glyn.

Fortunately I remembered that the path swung left from the summit and we followed the pictures perfectly on the Satmap

Once below the cloud line we headed over Birks and Arnison Crag with it's great viewpoint of Ullswater. Here's one from earlier.

Mid right hand side

If anyone knows the real route off here to get back to Deepdale Bridge then please post in the comments. We went 'off map' regular pals may spot a trend here and headed across- down , down- across, across a bit more and down a bit more, thanks for keeping us going there Jim. We could see the cars, but could we heck get to them without jumping walls. Eventually we were saved by a saint of a farmer who let us cut through her yard just as rain and darkness started to fall.

A 500 yard trudge back to the cars and then off to the pub. It turned out to be an eventful back onto the hills walk, but then again they are always the best ones. 10.5 miles in 7 hours, and everyone back safe and happy.


paul said...

Hi Paul,

Ive just discovered your blog & its great, very true & comical at times, sure makes for good reading & post, The white outs are a here to stay for the forseeable untill at least spring that is,I did the dovedale round back in Aug this year & truly loved it , love the kebab shot!

Anonymous said...

Cheers Paul, I'll check on your website to make sure I say hello if we happen to be on the same hill in future