Thursday, December 16, 2010

Winter Wild Camping

I've been watching the weather a bit over the last few weeks and gutted that I couldn't take advantage of those brilliant high pressure days with good snow that were going on in the Lakes and North Wales during the cold snap. So with that in mind, I managed to sneak up for a quick loop with a wintery wild camp thrown in for extra exposure and adventure.

I decided on a route out of Seathwaite as I've been wanting to go up Glaramara for quite a while now and this seemed like a perfect time. I stayed in Grasmere YHA (BH) on the way in, as I like it there, and got a good night's kip after the long drive. Next morning, out early ish and walking by 9am, up the farm track towards Sty Head Tarn, with light winds, a heavy rucksack and the snow spattered peaks up in front of me.



I was climbing up the route that we took down with Gav in Feb and it was nice to have familiar bits to begin and a nice gentle slope to get the blood pumping. I got up to Sty Head Tarn quite quickly shot a few pics of the frozen water, whilst the mist rolled in around the tops. The forecast had been for clear summits, but whilst some of the lower hills off to the west and north were below the threshold, I was in for misty tops and no views until the next morning.

Stretcher Shelter

After walking up to the stretcher shelter, I found the start to corridor route as its very obvious, and started out with the intention of not taking any risks if the two Gill top crossings were badly verglassed. That said, I had my points and axe, but with the recent thaw, there was a lost of ice and the snow was sugary in placed and pretty crap.

Anyway, the route was good and the going was pretty straight forward, until I got round to the thin step into the head of Greta Gill, where there was a lot of verglass, so I stopped to put on my crampons and take it cautiously. At this point, I was caught up by a chap going for Lingmell and we walked together for a bit and had a chat. The ice step wasn't as bad as I'd thought, but I felt a lot more confident with the crampons and I soon had them back off, parting company, as the ground returned to rocky, mixed with ice and snow.

The next tricky part was the step across the head of Piers Gill, which I knew would be a bit spicy, but was relatively easy as the snow was well consolidated and cut in with other people's steps. Its amazing though, how a heavy bag can make you feel a bit more twitchy and I stepped this one out very carefully, as one slip and its bye bye - not so cool when you're on your own!

After this it was up into the mist and the wind got up a bit for extra atmosphere, with vis down to about 20m. One section of the final approach is quite steep and I stopped again to put on the points, not out of necessity, but more for good practice. I took the steepest line I could and thought it was getting on for grade 1 winter, but just a guess.

On top of Scafell Pike

Finally topped out and was thankful for the shelter wall to get out of the cold wind and have a spot of cheese, bread and chorizo, before quickly taking my bearing and heading off, north towards Broad Crag, Great End and Eask Hause.

I got down to the saddle at Esk Hause after a bit of a glissade near the bield shelter
and made some calls to let people know I was still alive, whilst I had signal. Then climbed up to Allen Crags and on to find a campsite. The winds were light in some spots and picked up in others and the old game of finding somewhere flat/large enough for the tent that wasn't rock, snow or soggy, whilst sheltered, proved fun. I settled for a more exposed spot as the winds seemed pretty light and got pitched as it started to 'ice'. I would say snow, but in reality, the cloud that I was in was just condensing into ice...

Sums up conditions nicely...

A quick pitch and into my new Rab down jacket and I was warming up nicely. Tea, one of Steffi's mince pies and beef stew and dumplings was just what I needed. Then bed by 6! - not much to do when its dark at 4.

I had a broken nights sleep, mostly as my roll mat is crap and I'd occasionally wake up with a cold arm/shoulder/bum as I'd slid off it onto the floor. MYST get a wider one that stays inflated for winter camps.

Bit of a sleep in as there wasn't really a 'dawn', the gray just went from one dulux shade to another. and then that lovely chilly start and packing down the tent.

coffin shape is a bit worrying...

Pike of Blisco looking down towards Langdale from near my campsite.

After a bit of a wander and some pics I struck out up Glaramara - not far - for some amazing views before having some fun sliding and practicing arrests, before heading down towards Hind Gill.

Hoar frost on Glaramara

You sense its been chilly here, lately.

Hard life being grass.

Hind Gill proved steep and I genuinely had one moment where the grass was frozen and I was about a meter from a BIG drop, where I had to take it pretty steady. Beautiful views, though and I sat and watched a shepherd and his 4 collies running up the hill over the other side of the Gill, getting sheep down before the next cold snap.

It was nice not to rush and take it all in, heading down to the Farm where I'd started the day before. Packed up and a coffee in Ambleside before the long drive back. Can't wait to get back out in Jan.

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