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Wild camping Skiddaw Vs Storm Dorris
by rorymch » Wed Mar 15, 2017 7:36 pm
Wainwrights included on this walk: Skiddaw
Hewitts included on this walk: Skiddaw
Date walked: 25/02/2017
Time taken: 8
Distance: 17.8 km
Ascent: 1058m10 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
Earlier this year my youngest brother and his friend told me they wanted to go up a mountain - having never walked up one before. So I agreed to take them up one. The plan would be to head to the Lakes for a weekend and, weather permitting, climb Scafell Pike with a wild camp at Sprinkling Tarn. We booked train tickets from London for the weekend of 25th/26th February - hoping to catch a bit of snow. I thought I'd throw them in at the deep end and see how they got on (with full understanding that if anyone of us wasn't happy with the conditions we would turn back). Then my other brother's girlfriend caught wind of our trip and decided to book a train ticket too, also never having climbed a mountain. My responsibilities increased by 50%...
As our trip approached so did Storm Dorris and I began to come up with a plan B and a plan C. B was to climb Blencathra via Doddick Fell and C was to climb Skiddaw via Skiddaw House (limiting exposure as much as possible to the predicted prevailing winds from the SW).
We packed our bags on Friday the 24th, premade a cauliflower and paneer curry, had a couple of pints at our local and got an early night as our taxi to Euston would be arriving at 6am. I checked the weather and decided we would be doing plan C...
Waiting for our train at Euston, the concourse suddenly filled with football chanting and a huge group of excited guys carrying a box of beers each and already making a good dent in them. I like a drink as much as the next person - but it was 7:30am... I turned to my brother and said 'I bet you anything they are on our carriage'. Low and behold, just as we got comfortable in our carriage they all bundled in and sat right beside us and continued boozing. One of them chucked up around Manchester. It was an interesting 3 hours - Those of you who live close to mountains are very lucky. Anyway, I digress.
We arrived at a wet and windy Penrith and hopped on a bus to Keswick. My responsibilities, having never been to the Lakes before, stared out the windows at the mountains in what I can only describe as an apprehensive silence. I suppose the landscape is quite awe inspiring the first time you see it.
At Keswick, we grabbed some last minute supplies and then set out for the hills around midday. The first incline up the Cumbria Way towards Mallen Dodd was a bit of a shock to everyone's system with regards the weight of their rucksacks. I'm fairly used to hiking with a heavy pack and know that the first mile or so are the hardest before you get your rhythm, but even I felt it - The only 4 man tent we could get our hands on at short notice was 9 bloody Kilo's and, not wanting to put the others off with too heavy packs, decided to take it all myself. I don't know how heavy my rucksack was but it was rather heavy.
But we soon got into the swing of it and reached the car park south of Lonscale Fell for our first breather and to put on our waterproofs. Probably just slightly too late as we were already getting damp. From there we headed up towards Whit Beck and the weather cleared very briefly for the first views across to Blencathra which gave my responsibilities what they had come for. But it was short lived and as we continued on the rain and wind picked up.
We forded Whit Beck and my brother fell in to his knee. The first wet foot of many. We followed the Cumbria way up and around Lonscale Fell with the wind and rain getting stronger and the others still in good spirits (whistling the Lord of the Rings soundtrack) but with the reality of spending a night out in this weather starting to kick in.
As we rounded the fell, Lonscale Crags gave us shelter from the prevailing winds but another difficulty presented itself - my brother and my other brother's girlfriend apparently realised then and there that they suffer from vertigo. I wish we had known before! If there was any silver lining to doing this during Storm Dorris it's this: My initial Scafell Pike plan was to take us up via Esk Hause and then descend via the Corridor Route - and I'm pretty sure we would have had a couple of wobblies on the bad step. So just as well to be doing Skiddaw instead - thank you Storm Dorris.
With a little encouragement and some careful footwork they made it past the worst of the vertigo-y sections of Lonscale Crags and were soon at the head of the valley where we stopped for a well earned homemade flapjack.
We then headed on up into the moorland north of Burnt Horse and onwards towards Skiddaw House. I'd never been up here before and I have to say it really is a beautiful place. As we crossed Salehow Beck, Skiddaw House came into view through the mist and rain and wind - I've always found it funny how some form of civilisation in the middle of nowhere always feel more remote than just being in the middle of nowhere. There was no sign of anyone at the Hostel - I don't know if the owners live there all year round but there was a notice saying it was closed during the winter months.
We skirted around the northern side of Skiddaw House and I suggested we start looking for a place to camp - the area was fairly flat and the river was close and we could find a wall to provide a bit of a wind break for our tent. Around 4pm we found a spot directly south of Skiddaw House with a corner wall to protect us.
Luckily by now the rain had stopped and we were out of the worst of the wind so setting up the tent was a breeze (sorry). We collected water from the river and I got the stove out for a cupasoup each.
We settled into the tent and made a make shift washing line in the doorway in an attempt to dry out some of our soaking clothes - everything was wet. We had a beer each and as the light began to fade we cooked up our paneer and cauliflower curry with some boil in the bag rice and toasted some naan bread over the stove. A hearty, warming meal was just what the doctor ordered and we started to warm up. I strung up a tea light lantern to give the tent a nice glow and we spent the next few hours drinking beer and playing cards with a very wet deck...
Around 10pm we all popped out to have a look at the incredible sky that had cleared during the evening and marvel in the Saturday night we were enjoying so far from the regular routine of some trendy bar in South London... Then we all climbed into our sleeping bags and quickly fell asleep.
Sunday morning we woke around 7:00 to the weather still holding out. We made coffee, breakfasted on beans and bread rolls and went about packing up camp.
Despite having to get back into wet clothes and boots the others were still in good spirits but I knew that the forecast was for more rain and increasing winds throughout the day so I was eager to get us all on the move. We set off around 9:30, just as the rain started.
From our camp up to Skiddaw is where I stopped taking photos...
The first 100/150 meters of ascent was not too bad and the others quietly trudged on - but the wind was increasing and the buffeting was starting to make walking quite arduous. But from about halfway, around Sale How, it started to get very strong and my mind was on two things; stay upright and keep shouting encouragement at the others - taking photos was the last thing on my mind.
At about 700m my other brother's girlfriend quietly (as quietly as could be in the gale force winds) turned to me and said "I'm about 5 minutes away from having a breakdown..." But I told her to dig deep and keep moving, one step at a time and we'd get there. And slowly but surely, we did, with little more than stinging faces from the driving rain and a few tumbles onto all fours from the wind.
When we met the tourist path on the shoulder between Little Man and Skiddaw the wind must have been gusting around 60mph and I made the call that we would not be continuing on to the summit. No one fancied the idea of another hour or so up and then back to our current position with no views to admire. The forecast also said the afternoon was going to get even worse so we grabbed a quick 'summit' photo and headed on down the tourist path. Everyone now in great spirits, having completely forgotten the pain of the walk up, as you do.
The walk down the tourist path was just as hard with the increasing winds, but a few more 'blow overs' and some getting even wetter, we made it back down to Keswick by about 1:30. Our first stop was Blacks on the highstreet to get my brother a dry T-shirt and then we bundled into The Lion, piled our soaking kit onto the radiator (which the barmen kindly put on full for us) and settled in till 6pm with lots of food and drink and a bit of Six Nations.
We hopped in a taxi back to Penrith and jumped on our train back to London and were all home and in bed by midnight. It was a fantastic weekend, despite the weather, and the others did a great job for their first time up a hill. I was very impressed.
They are now talking about the next one...
by Alteknacker » Wed Mar 15, 2017 10:55 pm
I tend to do most of my walks alone, and so probably would have turned back. It's particularly brutal having to get out of a warm bag and put on clammy clothes . But there's a lot of fun to be had even in these circumstances in a group, for sure.
I was up there a couple of weeks before you, but in pretty optimal circumstances - didn't require any perseverance at all.
by Mal Grey » Wed Mar 15, 2017 11:06 pm
Must be something about storms beginning with D. I had a bit of an epic after deciding to wild camp in the Brecon Beacons during storm Desmond last winter....which meant new poles being ordered for the tent...and also being blown off my feet despite the heavy pack...
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