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Long moody day around Skiddaw

Long moody day around Skiddaw


Postby The English Alpinist » Wed Nov 04, 2015 6:23 pm

Wainwrights included on this walk: Bakestall, Carl Side, Dodd, Great Calva, Latrigg, Long Side, Lonscale Fell, Skiddaw, Skiddaw Little Man, Ullock Pike

Hewitts included on this walk: Carl Side, Great Calva, Long Side, Lonscale Fell, Skiddaw, Skiddaw Little Man

Date walked: 31/10/2015

Time taken: 13

Distance: 36 km

Ascent: 2587m

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This was day 1 of my ambition to solo walk all the 214 Wainwrights in a single calendar winter (end of October to end of March, between the changing of clocks). Mostly this will be separate journeys, but sometimes perhaps staying overnight to do a pair of days. I plan to go up in most weathers (apart from the truly dangerous), and spread the days equally over the 5 months. Thus I’ll get a fascinating, if sometimes frightening ‘voyage’ through a Lakeland winter. I've plotted it in 30 walks, which is probably too tough and I might break this down further, but… I've accomplished day 1!

01.jpg

Starting at Castlerigg Stone Circle at dawn, this added a bit of mileage, but was worth it for the atmosphere and symbolism of it (I hope to finish there too on the last day). There was a light drizzle which came and went, and low-level clouds drifted around in all directions it seemed, whilst Skiddaw was ominously hidden in a thick bank of clag.

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02c.jpg
View of Great Calva, destination for later in the day, much later.

I was quite pleased with myself to find the way onto Latrigg without hitch, thanks to the Harvey 1;25,000 Superwalker map (very recommended!). This was fiddly but interesting in its own way: lane into the edge of Keswick, the old railway track, bridge over the river, bridge over the A66, and into the wood. Strenuous already up Latrigg, making me doubt the wisdom of the whole idea, but as I crested the summit dome I was pleased to see the well-known car park for the tourist route up Skiddaw. On the slog up I caught up with a group of 4 friendly Liverpudlians. One of them was quite taken by my LFC compass neck-strap! When I caught them again later on in the mist on Little Man, I could tell they found this rather surreal. I explained: I'd taken a detour to Lonscale Fell to bag my Wainwright.

03.jpg
Was not as happy at this point as I pretended to be. Rather aggressive conditions at the top.

Skiddaw summit was wild, a good reminder that so much depends on wind chill and how much water there is in the air (more to the point, keeping it out!). Base layer, medium mitts, two mid-layers and summer waterproofs sufficed for everything thrown at me today. In addition to the Liverpudlians, who arrived shortly after me, several fell runners were doing various routes around here. One of them, a youngish woman, did a quick turnaround on the summit throwing on a light waterproof, then away she went with a smile. I'm pretty fit, taking on longer walks than most, but I feel humbled by the stamina and technical skill of the fell and ultra-running breed. Downhills especially: how DO they do that so easily?! Well, I allowed myself a bit of pride for use of compass to help find my way off the summit to Carl Side. I don’t use GPS: I see the advantage, and the extra-guarantee of safety it must bring, but for now at least I’m sticking to old-fashioned purity.

Morale dipped as I descended to Dodd, for the sake of it ticking it off the list. I've never been on Dodd and wasn't sure how to find the summit, particularly when all I could see were the hazy contours of a lot of trees on the hillsides. Moreover, I had the masochistic prospect of climbing back up to Carl Side again, unless I called it a day right here. Fortunately the summit route on Dodd is well-marked, a civilized low-level fell. I even saw a group with two babies in rucksacks (the purpose-built kind) at the top! One was blissfully asleep as they arrived at the rather stylish summit-slab. Overall, I was surprised by the number of people around on this drab sort of day late in the season.

04.jpg

A sandwich lunch-break and the success of bagging Dodd lifted my spirits, and I took it patiently back up. Reaching Carl Side again, the tiny tarn there being a reassuring marker, I turned towards the Long Side Edge walk this time, much recommended by AW, and I'm glad I did this. The spectacular ‘hidden valley of Southerndale’ was indeed hidden – in mist – but finally the clouds were breaking a little. As I got lower down the Edge past Ullock Pike, the views of Bassenthwaite and the various cloud formations across to the Solway were simply awesome. I was reminded of AW's phrase, 'the canvas of a master' (although he was referring to the view from Little Man which was denied to me utterly). The Edge is an easy enough walk, but care needed on wet rocks in places.

05.jpg


07.jpg
It's not called the back of beyond for nothing!


06b.jpg

I was well into unexplored territory for me. I worked out a route around the becks and gills at the back o' Skiddaw (as AW puts it) to get to Bakestall. This was damp and dirty, but the views were constantly amazing with the late afternoon sun emerging more and more and the clouds changing from minute to minute. Standing on Bakestall, after a high traverse over heather and the semblance of paths, was an outstanding viewpoint well worth the visit even if you’re not bagging Wainwrights. Up there I was passed by a fell runner, the only person I’d seen since Long Side. Next it was down to the Skiddaw House track.

08.jpg

I had a decision to make, near sunset, whether to go up Great Calva or not. If I didn't, this only meant making another day harder, or requiring adding another day into the plan. With some trepidation and much stubbornness and sweat I went for it, up a dubious sodden path through the peat. It was only 1km though, the gradient is mild, and any falls you might take are soft. I'll never forget the experience of standing at the top at sunset, watching the moving cloud banks around the fells and the imperious black outlines of Blencathra and Skiddaw in cool blustery wind. I lingered a bit too long, because I knew this was very special and I'd probably never be there again, certainly not at that time of day. I felt this was borderline insane, but then again sheep live out there night after night!

09.jpg


010.jpg

The descent got scary. Half way down I lost the path, such as it was, just as the light completely went. I've never been benighted before on the fells, and couldn't believe how the light of the world just 'went out', so suddenly. :shock: I’d re-entered the mist, which probably had something to do with this. That was it, however – no more daylight whatsoever – and there’s a disturbing sense of finality to this. It was now total reliance on compass and head torch to get down. I didn't reckon I was in any real danger – it was mainly the psychological aspect – but I certainly wouldn’t fancy a forced bivouac out there amidst the wind, pitch-blackness and the heather. In half an hour I found the Cumbrian Way at the bottom by keeping due south, and was very reassured indeed to see the lights of Skiddaw House.

010c.jpg

From there it was a long trek in the dark back to Castlerigg, spooky but safe enough. Several other torches were coming up from Keswick, I noted, presumably planning to stay at the house, but I’d split off on a different descent to get me to Castlerigg. I'd used up the last of my drink on Calva, and took a drink from a Gill on the way down, I was so thirsty. A bit low, but fast flowing with lots of recent rainwater, so I felt it was ok. It tasted beautiful and was crystal clear. A final piece of satisfaction was gained from picking out various rights of way and lanes to the Circle in the dark. I felt a touch of relief that the car was where I left it in one piece (there’s a stark police notice there warning you not to leave valuables), and also I had not lost my keys anywhere, such as when I tripped up in the heather coming down Calva!

This was an epic walk, if that's not too boastful, and I'm delighted :D I was still capable of this at the age of 47 with nothing more than muscle stiffness which lasted 3 or 4 days (I was a 3-hour marathoner at the age of 29). However, I'm seriously in doubt whether I can do the rest of the 30-day schedule. I'm not Steve Birkinshaw or Ranulph Fiennes, and I do want to gain more pleasure than pain from this! This was merely a 'moody' day by Lake District standards, and the weather will get far fiercer, and benightment will NOT be a good idea out there. No more than about 12 miles will be practical in winter, but I have the odd 14+ mile day which I will have to look at. I might change it to a 35 or even 40 day mission, and have to fit in the extra travelling from my home in Lancaster. Anyway, one day at a time - Blencathra 'and friends' next week!
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Last edited by The English Alpinist on Sun Nov 08, 2015 9:43 pm, edited 20 times in total.
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Re: Epic moody day around Skiddaw

Postby richardkchapman » Wed Nov 04, 2015 6:46 pm

That's an ambitious target you have set yourself! Hours of daylight are in short supply over the winter, quite apart from any issues with poor weather! I wish you the best of luck.
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Re: Epic moody day around Skiddaw

Postby The English Alpinist » Thu Nov 05, 2015 12:43 am

richardkchapman wrote:That's an ambitious target you have set yourself! Hours of daylight are in short supply over the winter, quite apart from any issues with poor weather! I wish you the best of luck.

Too true, and thank you. Which is why I was talking about breaking it down to 40 days, thereby massively shortening the mileages. I'll be working on a basis of 6 hours to get onto safe ground in mid-winter, and if I'm in the dark it will on lanes or very low valley paths only. Also, many retreat routes will be planned into it.
Last edited by The English Alpinist on Thu Nov 05, 2015 3:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Long moody day around Skiddaw

Postby The English Alpinist » Thu Nov 05, 2015 3:08 am

Update. Had a nice little test of my 'serious' waterproofs today, Berghaus Goretex. It was... 'raining a lot' in Lancaster, and I had a 2 mile walk into town. Water off a duck's back, and toasty warm to boot! Superb equipment. A sliver of confidence will be taken from this, but of course 6 hours around the Eastern Fells in horizontal rain would be a different matter!
Last edited by The English Alpinist on Thu Nov 05, 2015 4:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Long moody day around Skiddaw

Postby mamoset » Thu Nov 05, 2015 11:47 am

That's quite a walk, and plan, good luck with it. I think if you just edit your post, then delete all the text, it will disappear, not 100% on that mind :?
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Re: Long moody day around Skiddaw

Postby ChrisW » Fri Nov 06, 2015 6:43 pm

Well you certainly started with a huge bite TEA, that's a good grunt to say the least. I hope you make it with the challenge you've set yourself and keep posting so we know where you're at, looking forward to your winter day sprints trying to get it all in before the dark :lol: ....good luck mate :crazy:
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Re: Long moody day around Skiddaw

Postby The English Alpinist » Fri Nov 06, 2015 11:19 pm

ChrisW wrote:Well you certainly started with a huge bite TEA, that's a good grunt to say the least. I hope you make it with the challenge you've set yourself and keep posting so we know where you're at, looking forward to your winter day sprints trying to get it all in before the dark :lol: ....good luck mate :crazy:

'Sprints' might not be quite the right word! If there's a lot of snow, I expect I'll have to slow things right down and chop the days in half. Can't even look that far ahead yet, with atrocious rains forecast for the next few days I'm not sure when I'm going to psyche myself up for Mugrisdale Common, Blencathra etc :?
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Re: Long moody day around Skiddaw

Postby trailmasher » Sun Nov 08, 2015 1:35 pm

TEA that's a hell of a walk that you did so well done you :clap: :clap: You've set a target of 5 months to complete the Wainwright's and I wish you luck on your venture. :clap: Last winter I tried for a month to walk the hills around Dockray and had to abandon each time due to deep snow and freezing winds :( so I hope that we have a fair weather winter to help you achieve your goal :)
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Re: Long moody day around Skiddaw

Postby The English Alpinist » Sun Nov 08, 2015 5:28 pm

trailmasher wrote:TEA that's a hell of a walk that you did so well done you :clap: :clap: You've set a target of 5 months to complete the Wainwright's and I wish you luck on your venture. :clap: Last winter I tried for a month to walk the hills around Dockray and had to abandon each time due to deep snow and freezing winds :( so I hope that we have a fair weather winter to help you achieve your goal :)

Thanks. Look like I'll need every single piece of equipment I've got.. down jacket, goretex wateroroofs, balaclava, goggles, crampons, snowshoes.. *sigh* One week at a time!
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Re: Long moody day around Skiddaw

Postby simon-b » Sun Nov 08, 2015 10:24 pm

That's a good start to your mission. I hope it all goes well, and chances of success look good after this performance on your first 10. Lakeland is a beautiful place in winter.
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Re: Long moody day around Skiddaw

Postby The English Alpinist » Mon Nov 09, 2015 11:09 pm

simon-b wrote:That's a good start to your mission. I hope it all goes well, and chances of success look good after this performance on your first 10. Lakeland is a beautiful place in winter.

Thank you. Unfortunately I've been grounded this week (conflicting needs for the car!), but weather has been dismal anyway. A chance to get out there on Friday, and this weekend to finish up the Northern Fells hopefully, but weather only forecast as marginally better . :(
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Re: Long moody day around Skiddaw

Postby poppiesrara » Thu Nov 12, 2015 9:29 pm

A 13-hour day is a pretty daunting start to anything, great effort Alpinist! Even in clearing the whole lot in so few days, I guess there won't be too many plans quite so testing as that one?

Even living fairly close by, I guess this challenge is pretty weather-dependent, but I really cope you keep it going and get there - the story will keep a lot of us interested through the months of being homebound through the winter...
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Re: Long moody day around Skiddaw

Postby The English Alpinist » Sun Nov 15, 2015 5:17 pm

poppiesrara wrote:A 13-hour day is a pretty daunting start to anything, great effort Alpinist! Even in clearing the whole lot in so few days, I guess there won't be too many plans quite so testing as that one?

Even living fairly close by, I guess this challenge is pretty weather-dependent, but I really cope you keep it going and get there - the story will keep a lot of us interested through the months of being homebound through the winter...


It's taken more out of me than I realised actually. Very sharp pains in the shin bones come and go, all a result of that day, 2 weeks ago now. Leg muscles are still generally a bit weaker. I'm on the mend, though, I think, and nothing big scheduled until a 16-miler on Blencathra and satellites on Friday. And no, I won't be doing anything else as long as day 1!
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