Sunday, 29 January 2012

Snow, snow, thick, thick, snow...

Striding Edge
Distracting Icicles
I can honestly say that there's almost no part of me that doesn't hurt or ache in some way right now.  My back (dodgy anyway), my knees and ankles from the various tumbles and twists, my leg muscles from walking in snow and my shoulders from the rucksack that barely left it for 6 hours today.  But you know what?  It was a brilliant day!

We kicked off at Dunmail Raise, parking on the grass verge on the dual carriageway section and then made our way up Raise Beck, which got slippier and slidier the whole way.  It's actually easier walking in snow than it is walking through the snow line where everything is frozen and there's not a grippy spot to be found.  An hour later and we were up at Grisedale Tarn for our first grub stop.  I'd promised that we'd stop every hour to keep topped up, in reality we stopped after one hour, then after 2 hours and then not again until we were most of the way back to the car.  The thing that I've learned about walking in snow is that it doesn't lend itself to breaks; firstly there's nowhere to sit and secondly it's so bloomin' cold you don't want to stop anywhere for long.

Grisedale tarn
We invented route up to Dollywagon Pike, partly we followed other people's footprints and partly we got distracted by icicles and taking photographs.  I suppose we also got partly distracted by my juvenile insistence of diving into every huge snow drift and making massive deep footprints.  The snow was 2 feet deep in many places and I'm afraid I reverted to behaving like a 6 year old...

At the top of Dollywagon Pike the mist rolled in like something out of the Mummy (if the Mummy had been filmed on a cold Lake District fell and not a hot dusty desert).  Totally disorientated in the mist and snow we very nearly took an extreme shortcut down High Crag but stopped just in time.  The mist cleared and we resumed our route to the top of Helvellyn, and we were in good company, there were several dozen other people who also thought playing in the snow at 950m seemed like a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Unhelpful Snow and Mist Combo
The mist held off long enough to get some fab shots of Striding Edge, but not long enough to get shots of Skiddaw and Blencathra looking pretty darned amazing in the distance.  Just as I reached Lower Man with my camera poised they vanished again, this time never to reappear.

We made our way down via Birk Side and then the slipping and slithering began in earnest.  If we stuck to the path then we slipped over (well I slipped over, Steve remained irritatingly vertical at all times), and if I went off the path to find some grip I inevitably also found a deep drift, at one point vanishing up to my thigh. I may only have little legs, but that was still pretty deep.  We followed the path as best we could, tracking the footprints of everyone before us, but suddenly they all stopped as if simultaneously beamed aboard an alien spaceship.
Helvellyn Trig Point

Undeterred Steve found something that "looks like a path" so we followed that.  Eventually I asked "are there any footprints ahead of us that don't belong to sheep?"  "Erm..."  Thanks to Steve's intrepid nature and dead on sense of direction we made it back to the path at the foot of Birk Side and were back at the car by 6pm.

So here I sit, in a blissful and barely legal high induced by painkillers and a red wine so "full bodied" it practically requires a knife and fork to drink it.  Dinner is smelling wonderful and in a few minutes I shall devour a mountain of chips and a good sized steak - not a bad way to end the day really.
Helvellyn Shelter


  1. I have done the same start point twice - once up Seat Sandal when it was -5 degrees from Dunmail before we even started and the snow and ice were fabulous with clear blue skies the whole way!
    The first time though was the same way you headed up Dollywagon Pike and then across Nethermost Pike, Hellvelyn and all the way to Clough Head...the views are divine - at least you captured some of them before cloud descended!

  2. Amazing pictures. Great write up. Where's the snow angel? Lol. Well done.

  3. It's a wonderful route and we want to do it again in good, clear, weather. Fell Top Forecast was -5 on the summit before the windchill kicked in. Honestly only felt it on my nose though.

  4. I tried a snow angel but the snow had quite an icy crust so didn't work...

  5. Brilliant and very enjoyable write up. I feel like I went there myself. Enjoy your glass (or two) of wine. Cheers... Lee