Sunday, 15 January 2012

I am in BIG trouble if my mum reads this!

Hiking rations for the day.
Funny isn't it, no matter how old you get you're still scared of a telling off from your mother aren't you?  Well, I am anyway!  After my previous post about being laid low with germs I'd promised everyone faithfully that I'd rest and stay put.  Afterall I've been ill since late December and am in the middle of a long courses of strong antibiotics from the doc; unfortunately I've never been one to do as I'm told.  I promise I would have done as I said if the weather had been rubbish, but stunning, icy clear January days are SO rare, especially at the weekends, that it would have been an absolute sin to miss it.  So I packed appropriate rations for a short hike and we set out with no real plan in mind other than to drive somewhere were I could have a little walk and see some of the fabulous scenery.

Wrynose Pass, part road part ice rink.
We aimed for Coniston first off hopeful of some still and serene shots across the lake, but it wasn't all that still so we carried on.  I then had the bright idea of seeing how far we could get up Wrynose Pass, reckoning there'd be some fab views from there.  As I warmed to my theme I noticed that Wrynose Pass provided pretty easy access to Pike of Blisco and thus a simple if slightly taxing walk would be within easy reach.  We'd clocked Wrynose Pass on our Wetherlam adventure and promised ourselves we'd return, so now seemed as good a time as any.

Wrynose Pass was entertaining to say the least. The parts in the sun were OK but the parts the sun hadn't reached were covered in black ice (and white ice for that matter).  We gingerly edged upwards in our battered old Ford Focus until we dared go no further.  When I checked the map I noticed that just along the road was a straightforward route up to Crinkle Crags. Our "drive with a short hike" was rapidly becoming a "drive with a longer than anticipated hike".

Three Shires Stone
We slithered along the road with Steve performing what he called "controlled slides" and me skating all over the place like Bambi on the frozen pond.  We then realised we were actually in Middle Earth as we reached "Three Shires Stone", the "historic meeting point" of Lancashire, Cumberland and Westmorland - I wonder if they ever went out for a drink together.  Now on the look out for Hobbits we continued upwards towards Mordor.

It really was a perfect walk in perfect weather.  Not a cloud in the sky and a clear and very easy to follow route, the only thing less than perfect was my respiratory system and the quiet stillness of the day was punctured only by my hacking, wheezing and swearing as we made our way past Red Tarn.  (One of the many Red Tarns in the Lake District as it happens, they really were quite uninventive when coming up with names for these things.  Rather like "Mountain View" B&B establishments I mean c'mon, it's not hard to be a little more creative than that is it?)

Crinkle Crage. Simply stunning.
Although I was suffering I have to say that every single painful step was worth it.  The views in the Lake District are amazing at any time (well, anytime the mist is high enough for you to see them), but today they completely took your breath away. Crystal clear skies of the most spectacular blue and the fells so crisp and clear you felt as if you could reach out and touch any one of them. 

It was certainly a popular route but that's unsurprising given the amazing conditions.  Parts of the path were somewhat slippy as we got higher but it was easy enough to walk along the grass instead, plus the icey conditions had the added advantage of freezing the boggy areas making them a lot easier to cross.  We generally employ a "ninja feet" approach to bogs, a technique honed from watching one too many Kung Fu movies, the aim is to take lots of small steps on your tippy toes and thus avoid sinking into the mire.  It never usually works, except when the bogs are frozen.
Frozen boggy path

It took us around 1 3/4 hours to get to the top of Crinkle Crags via Great Knott and about an hour and a half to get back to the car via the appropriately named Cold Pike.  My legs were like jelly and had no strength in them, my head was throbbing, I felt nauseous and if we hadn't reached the car when we did I think I'd have just collapsed in a heap.  I know many people reading this won't understand at all why I didn't just stay in bed and do as I was told for a change, but those who do understand know that when the weather is this perfect the fells have a way of pulling you towards them that simply cannot be explained. I honestly think it did me more good to be out on the fells than sitting indoors pining at the amazing weather and doing nothing.

There will be plenty of days in my life when I can stay indoors wrapped up in a duvet watching TV but there are very few such perfect hiking days, and when I'm old and grey (sorry, older and greyer) I'll not remember the days I was wrapped in a duvet but I will remember the days like today.  Wainwright always said his plan was to walk the fells so that when he was no longer able to he could re-live all the walks in his mind - and no-one called him crazy did they?
Grassy icicles next to a stream near to Cold Pike
Snowy patch on Crinkle Crags

ScaFell Pike & Friends from the top of Crinkle Crags.