Snow you see it, now you don’t

After a bit of a lay-off, and a cancelled trip me and Michael got out to the Lakes this last weekend. Our plan was to spend some time looking round Ambleside to pick up a couple of bits of gear and then head up Loughrigg Fell, get back in the car and drive to Harrop Tarn for a wild camp, then to climb Great Mell Fell and High Rigg on the Sunday. Things almost went to plan. Almost.

We’ve been prepping for winter for a few weeks now, getting gear together, reading about winter hill skills and keeping our fingers crossed that a big swathe of the white stuff would adorn the fells of Lakeland. As most of the UK will know; the snow came in earnest and relentlessly terrorised many people over the course of a couple of weeks. The time came to pack the bags and jump in the car to enjoy it while it lasted.

Arriving in Ambleside we did a lap of the shops where Michael picked up some gaiters and a pair of sunglasses and I settled for a Greggs pasty, which is out of character for me. Pastry products consumed, we grabbed the day packs and set off in the direction of Loughrigg Fell, choosing to take a more scenic route than most to the top through snow only sheep had braved before us.

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Towards the top the untouched snow looked more like the ice moon of Hoth than any Lake District I’ve hiked through before. The cool air kept us alert as we plodded our way through snow that was over a foot deep in places whilst ice axes provided much needed support as the ground below was an unknown quantity at every step. It was great fun though and something I’ll definitely be doing more of next winter.

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We reached the summit in decent time, passing a guy on snowshoes who was mumbling something about walking down a steep bank in them. I would have gladly taken them off his hands on a day like this. We took a moment to do my girlfriend a favour; as a teacher she had invited me into the class to talk about water in the Lake District the other week. The class had then designed posters and I offered to take the best two up my next hill. So here’s my homage to year 5!

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On our way down we took a bit of time to throw ourselves down the slopes to practice ice axe arrests. The temp was up above freezing so the snow was quite soft meaning we weren’t sliding as much as we’d liked but it was a proper laugh and could be a lifesaver one day. But that was quite enough hard work so we stopped for dinner.

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Taking a slight detour on the way down we ended up pounding pavement for a couple of kilometres to get back into Ambleside. Not to worry.

Once we got back to the car at about 3.3opm we pointed towards Steel End car park below Harrop Tarn. Now this is where things went a bit fruity. The car park was on a downhill slope and buried under about 6 inches of snow. Sod it I thought, and drove the car in towards the ticket machine to check the prices. 45 minutes later, breathing in the fragrant scent of burning clutch and thoroughly soaked by the oncoming rain, we managed to extract the motor from the car park with a change of plan in mind. Since it was dark and we were both quite frustrated by the whole experience we settled on a stealth camp just outside a major town. This was the first time I had pitched my new Tarptent Scarp 1 and despite the  rain it went up in less than five minutes, providing excellent protection from the ever worsening deluge and boggy ground.

Unfortunately it was also pitch black so the pictures I took of the exterior are quite shoddy. Needless to say the tent was great, as expected. Plenty of room inside for me, clothing and all of my little bits and bobs with one porch set aside for wet kit (below) and the other for cooking dinner. I need to get it pitched in daylight hours to perfect the setup and get familiar with all of the details, but that day will come soon enough.

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P1020612Dinner was Wayfarer meatballs and pasta with a packet of Merchant Gourmet mushrooms thrown in, all cooked in my 0.6L Evernew pot – with no sticking again, as was the case in Weardale a few weeks ago. Thumbs up to this dinner – if it represents the rest of the Wayfarer range then sign me up. I’m glad I bought a few on the cheap when the Newcastle branch of Blacks closed down recently.

I started watching Drag Me to Hell on my phone. It was terrible. Sleep followed.

These two sleeping beauties arose early on Sunday morning and after a quick stop off at the public conveniences we made haste towards Great Mell Fell. It’s amazing how much fun you can have on a Sunday morning saying Great Mell Fell in daveswildcamping‘s accent. Dave and Paul‘s videos, along with its Wainwright status, were the inspiration for heading up this one. It proved to be as windy as Paul’s Kestrel had indicated which prevented me taking many photos.

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It was a quick up and down wander, taking just over an hour. Since it was Sunday and the Old Keswickian was not open until 11am we chose to bag High Rigg before sitting down for dinner. Notice the distinct lack of snow in the north of the national park.

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I had first spotted High Rigg when staying in a camping barn with the boys before tackling Coniston Old Man but had neglected to make the short climb that weekend. We pulled into a bus stop on the A591 and started tramping through farm fields towards the pass between Low and High Rigg. The climb was quite short and punctuated by a few streams and remnants of snow and the views were incredible, especially those of Skiddaw, Blencathra and the Helvellyn range. They had a real alpine quality about them.

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We passed the aforementioned barn on our way to the car and reminisced about kegs and peaches, calling time on the hill bagging with three Wainwrights and a Trail 100 to show for our efforts. Job done, bring on the chips.

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6 comments

  1. ReidIvinsMedia · January 29, 2013

    Sounds like you had a blast. Very glad your tent worked as expected.

    • rcbprk · January 29, 2013

      It really was a great weekend. Nice to hit some of the more isolated Wainwrights before doing some longer, multi-peak walks when the temperatures improve.

      The tent was great, did exactly what it said on the tin and kept me dry, which is the main thing. I will be adding some pulls on the zips and a couple of extra guylines on the main pole before the next trip though.

  2. jester1970 · February 1, 2013

    I was in the Newcastle branch of Blacks recently, sadly no cheap Wayfayrers! I did pick up a 3 pack of big-bite-valve mouthpieces for £5, a bargain considering this wee bit of silicone usually sells for about £5 for one! As for a Greggs pastry, is there a better way to start the day?

    • rcbprk · February 1, 2013

      Is that branch still closing down? When I was in a few weeks ago it was pretty much sold out of all stock aside from some jazzy Peter Storm jackets. I definitely agree on the platypus/camelbak accessories front, they’re really expensive for what they are. Spotted a cleaning kit for my Osprey the other day for close to £20! Scandalous! My bladder didn’t cost much more than that.

      As for Greggs pasties, I went with a local variant in Ambleside – the Meat and Potato Pasty. Didn’t say which meat it was but judging by recent news it was probably of the equine variety. Tasty.

  3. jester1970 · February 1, 2013

    I was in Newcastle on the 20th January. It was still closing down but there was very little stock left at all. I’ve managed to pick up Camelbaks and accessories cheaply in the past, usually in the bargain bin at my local Halfords.
    My Greggs weakness is the fresh cream apple turnover. Granted it’s fattening, but as far as I can tell it is completely free of horse. I may trot out tomorrow and get one!

    • rcbprk · February 1, 2013

      I’ll keep an eye on the bargain bins. Saying that, I could probably do with less gear these days – not more.
      Now a North East Greggs Round would be a hell of a walk…

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