Lakes Feb 09 – Or – My first winter lead

The usual trudge up the A14 and M6 after work on Friday evening, saw us arrive at
The Brotherswater Inn just as last orders had sounded. Luckily, Steve & Martin
had set off about an hour beforehand so they purchased a small libation whilst
I, Christina and Joe threw a few bags into the bunkhouse. Pete & Lou arrived
about 45 minutes later and the posse was complete. Some discussion ensued as to
possible venues for the next day’s action. Well, I say discussion but in truth
we were more than a little reliant on Steve & Martin for suitable, in
“condition” routes. After all, I had a shiny new pair of Scarpa Charmoz boots to
put through their paces!

The view down the valley on Saturday morning, showed signs of promise for a gully
or two in winter conditions, so 5 of us set off for Patterdale and the walk in
to Tarn and Falcon crags. After a couple of hours walking, we arrived at the
foot of the slope below Dollywagon Gully (on Dollywagon Pike funnily enough!).
The new boots were doing marvellously – comfortable, easy to walk in and
crucially, no blister hot-spots.

Dollywagon GullyDollywagon Gully

Time for a quick bite to eat before gearing up ready for my first potential
winter lead! Steve and Joe set off apace whilst Martin hung back with me and
Christina for the first pitch, imbuing me with confidence for this new game. The
unfortunate traffic jam at the boulder choke soon cleared and Martin let us off
the leash and reverted to Plan A by teaming up with Steve and Joe. So this was
it – second time in crampons ever and about to embark on, what I later found out
to be, a grade II/III winter gully!! A couple of pitches of easy angled snow
(one of which Christina soloed with a rope!) and now it all starts to get a bit
more serious. One problem is that C n me are running with a 35m rope so we end
up belaying in some rather uncomfortable, calf-burning spots – e.g. part way up
to the first pitch that had any real ice – I get to place ice screws! Another
fantastic pitch with some proper ice led to a belay stance where Steve had
kindly left a couple of warthog anchors for me to clip (more gear I had not used
before!). By this time the calves are really stinging, but instead of swapping
the belay with Christina and leading the final frozen turf pitch, I ask
Christina to lead on through (well, solo really as she didn’t have sufficient
gear to protect it!). Judging by the glowering looks and the sotto voce
grumbling, she also was feeling somewhat fatigued! All’s well that ends well
however, she made it successfully to the top and utilised another of Steve’s
belay stances consisting of 1 deadman, a snow seat and a sling connected to an
ice axe buried in snow, to belay me to the finish. Fantastic!

Crikey! Quarter to four. How did it get that late!?! As the other chaps had been
standing around in the wind and the cloud for a while, we only had time to throw
a sandwich and some warm soup down our throats before packing up and walking
off. Time didn’t allow for a summit of Dollywagon Pike either – but the view
would have been non-existent thanks to low cloud! The walk off was a 2 hour
trudge, but now I know I can do a full day in the new boots, so …..”Bring It

Christina and I had a romantic bowl of pasta Bolognese followed by white
chocolate covered raspberries in the bunkhouse (it was Valentine’s day
remember!). Steve, Martin & Joe went to the pub to eat.

Pete & Lou had a good walk up on the snowy/icy tops with most of the day spent
wearing crampons by all accounts. They ate in the tent, then joined us in The
Brotherswater Inn. Plenty of talking done in the pub that evening, but not much
planning for Sunday!

Sunday dawned much milder than Saturday and the snowline was visibly higher. The
previous day’s activities had taken their toll on us all (with the exception of
Joe I think!). This, coupled with the fact that C & I needed to be back in Eye
to collect Mont by 8pm, meant a short walk in 3 season boots. We opted for a
wander up to Place Fell (above Patterdale) which turned out just right as the
cloud lifted as we neared the summit and we were back at the car by 1.30pm.

P & L had a pleasant walk up to Hayswater and beyond before departing for home.

All in all a great weekend with obvious highlights for yours truly.

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