Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Beautiful but oh so dangerous.



I was really looking forward to yesterday; after a week of not hiking we were finally heading back to the fells.  Plus I'd had 2 days of work cancel on me and although that means we feel a bit of a financial pinch at least the weather and the fells were spectacular.  I can't lie, we had an utterly glorious day full of stunning views and breathtaking adventures. As we made our way around the Langdale Pikes I was, as usual, running through what I might write in this blog.  I had in mind something witty and silly along the lines of my "bog bound" blog, but this time about the challenges of walking on ice.

The thing is, late yesterday evening when I finally found time to catch up on the day's news I read about a walker tragically killed on Sca Fell, just a few miles from where we were hiking.  It struck me that this is not a time to laugh about the ice but an opportunity to demonstrate that however stunning the fells may look right now, they are a very dangerous place to be.

The first few shots show you just how beautiful they are and why people like us are inexplicably drawn to their summits, even in full winter conditions.

Looking toward Crinkle Crags

Loft Crag & Harrison Stickle

Harrison Stickle up close
And here's a few shots to show you what it's really like up there.  Everything that looks like snow isn't soft and fluffy and lovely, it's hard and slippy and dangerous.  Though still undeniably wonderful to look at it's pretty deadly to walk across.

A simple path down and across a small beck, now
just a sheet of thick ice.

View from Harrison Stickle to Pike of Stickle

Scafell Pike lost in the mist.

Snowy/ icy traverse.
Take another look at the picture above.  Just to the left is a sheer drop down into Dungeon Ghyll; there is no margin for error on a day like this.  A few minutes after I took this shot we crossed another more dangerous section and, had it not been for me having the right equipment and our combined experience of the fells, what was breathtaking bit of adventure could have ended very differently.

We had planned our day carefully; a safe, well marked/trodden route we were both familiar with and no difficult ascents/ descents, and yet it was still incredibly challenging.  We had all the right clothing, equipment and provisions and may have looked over-encumbered for such a relatively short hike, but in these conditions it's best not to take any chances.

I've no desire to scare people away from the fells, they are truly in my blood and are a glorious place to visit but, if you plan on hiking please make sure you are properly equipped.  Each Mountain Rescue call out puts other people's lives at risk and all of them are volunteers.  If you want to contribute to their amazing work, please visit my Mountain Rescue page where you'll find a link to their Just Giving account together with a map showing all of their call outs since May this year.  Enjoy the fells but please, stay safe.