Saturday in the Lakes

By Mike Hams – February 2002

We left early on the Friday expecting a long trip because the
weather in East Anglia was causing traffic problems. Winter snow
for the first time in many years and roads to the east were
reported blocked by snowbound vehicles. Our first piece of luck
was the A14 clearing at Exning just as we approached the turnoff
for Ely and a long and painful detour. The snow petered out by
Huntingdon and we had an uneventful trip along the M6 past all the
usual sights.

As we crossed into Cumbria the snow returned which was greeted
with some mild enthusiasm, this being a winter mountaineering
weekend after all. Rupert gave an admirable display of Olympic
class 4 man bobsleigh control as practised in a Ford Sierra down
the Kirkstone pass. We were all in need of a pint by the time
Sykeside appeared out of the murk. As the rest of the
happy/trembling participants arrived in the bar there were tales
of epic descents in the snow.


There was a decent snowfall overnight, leaving a covering above
500m but not much at the bottom of Kirkstone pass. Peter Krug,
Sheila Norman and myself decided to give the Helvellyn horseshoe a
go as none of us had been up in the snow before. Some of us hadn’t
been up there in the sun either but that wasn’t going to stop us.
A quick trip in the car to Glenridding and we were gearing up for
the walk.

Just outside Glenridding, I was kneeling down having tried to walk
on a sheet of ice in my new boots. A useful lesson learned and one
not repeated. The snow coverage became more complete as we plodded
upwards although with no snow falling it was a pleasant walk-in;
visibility was good low down although we noticed that higher up
the weather was closing in.


We reached the hole in the wall and discovered there were a lot of
people on the hill, ready to go along Striding Edge as soon as
they had coffee/tea/hot chocolate. Layers were adjusted, snacks
finished and a group of about 30 set off for Helvellyn. Only a
couple of people had donned crampons at this point, we weren’t
part of that select group. I was having a sudden introduction to
the art of ridge walking/scrambling, quite an interesting first
route. Part way along the edge, an RAF rescue helicopter arrived
to see what the state of play was and to practice some recovery
drills. A quiet time in the hills had been disrupted and there
were muttered comments about noise pollution.

We stopped for lunch just below the summit of Helvellyn to stay
out of the wind and avoid the crowd. My legs had also decided that
a rest would be a good idea or I would have cramp. We chose a
peaceful spot and ate our fill disturbed only by the ranger
collecting his weather/ path condition report and a chap with his
dog. After lunch Peter and I donned crampons having been gripped
on Striding Edge without them. Sheila had sensibly put hers on
half way along Striding Edge and had been unable to persuade us it
would be a good idea. The summit plateau itself was like a
convention centre when a political party is in town.


We joined the queue for Swirrall Edge and made our way down and
along to Catstye Cam, stopping twice to adjust my crampons that
each came off twice in quick succession. From there we picked up
the path from Red Tarn and continued back down to Glenridding,
passing the youth hostel and the old mine workings.

A grand day out on the hill was made all the more pleasurable by
changing into cool boots back at the car and a wee dram of good
malt. More pictures available at Lakes Feb 2003, password: Climb8

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