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Wild On Top

Wild On Top

Postby AndyRitchie » Sun Jan 06, 2013 6:49 pm

Wainwrights included on this walk: Bakestall, Skiddaw

Hewitts included on this walk: Skiddaw

Date walked: 06/01/2013

Time taken: 5

Distance: 11.5 km

Ascent: 840m

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Our first walk of 2013, after a couple of months away from the hills (Ben Lomond was our last major outing in late October) was a relaxed ascent of Skiddaw from the north (via Bakestall), taking advantage of the first dry weather for what has seemed like decades.

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Though the clouds often threatened, the weather-gods seemed to have decided that we should be spared any further heavenly watering, though they did eventually have their fun by teasing us towards Skiddaw's summit with promises of views beneath open blue skies, only to clothe the summit in chilled, damp cloud and unleash a furious wind that rendered any thought of a summit nibble on our sandwiches and fruit & nut Toblerone completely out of the question.

What could have been an uneventful walk up the valley towards Whitewater Dash was enlivened by the presence of a drag-hunt taking place on the fells, an explanation for the somewhat bizarre sight of 30 or so cars and 4x4s parked haphazardly in the valley (visible in the photo at the foot of the scree slope to the left).
Looking back down Dash Beck towards Binsey

The path up towards the falls was also far busier than either of us had anticipated, awash as it was with people dressed in country garb, hanging around in small groups and staring expectantly at the summits.
It was just as we began our ascent of Bakestall that a pack of 30 or so hounds appeared across the valley from us. It looked like the canines had decided to have some fun of their own by not following the scent-trail and instead were blazing their own path down from the summit of Little Calva to the valley floor below, much to the surprise of the 30 or so spectators whom we watched half-walking, half-running down the path from Skiddaw House.
Wendy making her way up Bakestall

And the entertainment of the drag-hunt did not stop there. Indeed, as we climbed further up the slopes of Bakestall, the air became alive with the sound of the Master of the Hunt's horn and the cries of his companion as they desperately tried to coax the wayward hounds back up onto the hillside, the sound bringing a vaguely surreal air to proceedings.
Wendy at the summit of Bakestall

All was quiet as we approached the summit of Bakestall, and it was here that the first hints of the weather-gods' peculiar sense of humour were revealed. Having been suitably lulled into a false sense of security by a near windless ascent and brightening skies, we were greeted at the small summit cairn by a full-blown, howling gale.
For a moment or two, we hesitated - two options were available to us:
1. Accept the summit of Bakestall as a worthy trophy for the first walk of the year, return to the car and then look for a coffee shop where a hot latte and a piece of carrot cake could be consumed with justified satisfaction;
2. Press on to the summit of Skiddaw and postpone the latte and carrot cake for a few hours further.
Needless to say, we opted for the latter, but only after we convinced ourselves that reaching the summit of Skiddaw would enable us to justify an extra large latte and a particularly slab-like piece of carrot cake.
Hence, we pressed on up the slope and into the teeth of buffeting gale.
Wendy ascending Skiddaw

Things still looked promising at about the 830m mark, though to our left, clouds were beginning to gather.
Looking east, where the clouds are gathering

After another 20m of ascent, the weather-gods played their trump card and, like some descending shroud, the cold, damp mist that had been drifting over the summit on and off for most of the day returned...
and stayed.
Oh, how those weather-gods must have laughed and high-fived each other as they watched us not only trudge those last few metres to the summit in the damp, bone-chilling gloom, but also then battle against a resurgent wind so ferocious that Wendy had to literally hold on to the trig point as she posed for the obligatory summit photo.
Wendy clinging to the trig point on Skiddaw summit

A hasty retreat was in order, down through a chilly clag that, in the short time since we had last seen the expanse of the hills around us, had dropped some 200m and now threatened to engulf the summit of Bakestall as well.
Eventually, the valley floor was reached, just as the lowering sun was starting to cast its golden radiance on the fields and the trees and, in spite of the weather gods' denial of a view from Skiddaw's summit, our hearts were warmed by the adventure of the day.
Pleasantries were exchanged with one or two of the drag-hunt fraternity who were still to be found at the car park near Peter House Farm, whereupon our thoughts turned to the well-deserved latte and extra-large carrot cake that awaited us on our journey home.
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Re: Wild On Top

Postby ChrisW » Mon Jan 07, 2013 1:04 am

Great report Andy but what a sickener to have the clouds roll in at the last minute like that, but on the bright side it didn't pee down (there's a first for a long time) and you did earn that extra large cake :wink:
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Re: Wild On Top

Postby johnkaysleftleg » Mon Jan 07, 2013 6:40 pm

Aye the top of Skiddaw can be a very windy place indeed! enjoyed the report, thanks for posting :thumbup:
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Re: Wild On Top

Postby Benjaminnevis » Mon Jan 07, 2013 7:46 pm

Ye canae beet a richt big slab ah carrot cake. Nm :D
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Re: Wild On Top

Postby garyhortop » Wed Jan 09, 2013 7:35 pm

Great report Andy and your picture of the gathering clouds really does the report justice...really get a sense of the conditions!! I bet the Carrot Cake tasted top!! :D
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