Winter Wonderland above Ambleside.
by The English Alpinist » Tue Jan 05, 2016 3:45 pm
Wainwrights included on this walk: Dove Crag, High Hartsop Dodd, High Pike (Eastern Fells), Little Hart Crag, Low Pike, Middle Dodd, Red Screes, Wansfell
Hewitts included on this walk: Dove Crag, Little Hart Crag, Red Screes
Date walked: 01/01/2016
Time taken: 6.5
Distance: 20 km
Ascent: 1360m1 person thinks this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
On the very day of the New Year, 2016, I undertook stage 12 of my mission to walk all the Wainwrights in a single winter. In comparison to the remoteness I experienced the day before, this was a very 'civilized' circuit from Ambleside, up to Dove Crag, through to Red Screes with Wansfell tagged on the end. In comparison to the foulness I experienced the day before, this was a fine if blowy winter's day. In comparison to the zero walkers I encountered the day before, today there was a veritable platoon's worth. I wondered how many New Year's resolutions were on display. I myself had not made one, as I'm counting the ongoing mission itself as it.
The first leg of the day was pleasure tempered only by the exertion of gaining height, up one of the Lake District's most well established routes, a section of the Fairfield horseshoe. I was not doing Fairfield, however, unless I was to get ineptly lost (I did it last month). It was a slight scramble in places, up and over Low and High Pikes, and a bit of care needed to be taken with dampness and ice. A wall accompanies you all the way, and seems like it can't decide which side of it to put you. At various points other walkers were hopping over it to join the 'true' path. Things got a little more daunting higher up, on approach to Dove Crag. Here was a landscape of iced bog and snow about ankle-deep, which you slithered on or crashed through if not concentrating. No big deal, though, and I couldn't be bothered to put on crampons yet if at all. Dove Crag summit had a stirring winter wonderland quality, and visibility was excellent, although the sky was a grey frown rather than a blue smile.
A touch of uncertainty preceded the next leg. I needed to depart the horsehoe now, to strike out towards Little Hart Crag and Red Screes. I wasn't quite sure what I was looking at (fells and ridges everywhere, and Little Hart nothing more than a rocky clump down below from this vantage). The path from Dove Crag is an official one, but it was disguised in the snow and a bit confusing in any case if you don't know it, as it involves cutting back across the summit. I deliberated whether to put crampons on, because it was quite steep to get down there, but finally just tramped diagonally across and down before joining the actual path. I was below the snowline once more, and treading the easy ridge walk to High Hartsop Dodd. This is lower still than Little Hart, and strangely not as high as 'Hartsop Dodd' (done last week). It occurred to me - duh - that the naming is to distinguish them from the village of Low Hartsop, above which Hartsop Dodd (the higher one) looms. I hope that makes sense.
With no water or ice actually falling from the sky, complaints are not allowed. Let's just say the wind was pretty strong, and made it jolly cold at times. The balaclava is becoming an increasingly desirable piece of equipment as the season progresses, as are the Scarpa winter boots. Without those (B2) I couldn't fit crampons anyway. I made the decision to do just this on High Hartsop Dodd, with Middle Dodd and Red Screes looming in the snowline. I'd already had some little slips. Well, I've displayed a few moments of greatness since October, but here I displayed rank incompetence. For about 10 minutes I just could not figure out how the heck to strap them on, even though I'd done it without any trouble in the deep snow day on Catstycam. I put it down to 'brain-crash' after a poor night's sleep. I gave up on it, and would just have to tread carefully over Red Screes. Few if anybody seemed to be wearing them this day anyway (not that that should be one's guide). On post-mortem of my technique the day after, I realised I'd simply been pointing the things the wrong way round Not sure I should own up to this, in view of the name I've given myself (there's always the edit facility).
Middle Dodd was attained without hazard, although I forged one of my supposed shortcuts. I skirted the rim of Calston Glen and Scandale Pass, instead of respooling over Little Hart's summit and ascending to Red Screes and then re-ascending Red Screes. My inspiration involved rough ground and a steepish diagonal climb of Middle Dodd. I look on it as a nice little taste of Alpinism, if not exactly the Eiger. It mayhap saved no time whatsoever, but the views were great and I passed much closer to some wild-looking sheep than I would otherwise have done. I emerged at the summit precisely, giving me some pride to compensate for the crampon-shaming. The ascent up to Red Screes now being a once-only thing lent a much more fitting climax to the day. Indeed it proved a landscape of snow and ice, but it was easy enough not to fall over. A thank you to the young man I met at the summit shelter who took some excellent photos of me. He was a proper photographer, and gave the impression he'd been hanging around there for several days running. I myself could not, as I had Wansfell still to do with just over an hour's daylight left.
My stomach sank a bit at the apparent distance of Wansfell, viewable in its elongated glory south of Red Screes. There was no 'apparent' about it, actually, it was in fact a mile to walk to gain access. The descent of Red Screes was the most ought-to-have-the-crampons-on section. Much care needed indeed in such conditions. Several people were on the way up, even at this hour, Kirkstone Inn and carpark being so close I guess, making a New Year's ascent so inviting. A teenage girl was fretting a lot about footing, with a possibly over-confident little brother up ahead and father giving instruction. Not sure whether they could possibly go all the way up and down in time. Myself, I made the summit of Wansfell 'in time', but it would have been pretty safe even by headtorch. I was pleasantly surprised by the grandeur of the ridge walk from this direction, and I recommend it in summer without the wet and filth (was not frozen at this modest altitude). I was not the last off it this day, as I saw a headtorch up there behind me.
Thus endeth a day which gave one or two little causes for embarrassment, but also much reason for pride. I'd done two days on the bounce, and had the satisfaction of having been one of the few people (if any) out there at the time all that snow that people were enjoying was being blasted down.
Note to self: rehearse crampon-fitting now and again.
by dav2930 » Tue Jan 05, 2016 8:08 pm
Couldn't help laughing at your crampon confusion - you won't be the first or the last to have done that!
by ChrisW » Tue Jan 05, 2016 11:19 pm
So many lovely shots in here too but as Me and MrsW spent our first anniversary in Ambleside it's the last of them that gets my vote just for the memories. Another great post mate, you're nailing it
by The English Alpinist » Wed Jan 06, 2016 3:24 pm
by lisd » Wed Jan 06, 2016 7:29 pm
by trailmasher » Fri Jan 08, 2016 6:02 pm
by The English Alpinist » Fri Jan 08, 2016 8:24 pm
Well, as I was saying...trailmasher wrote:Hope the weather holds out for you and of course, for every other hill walker
http://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/uknews/uk ... ailsignout
Also a 90kph wind and snow forecast for Sunday probably rules out planned trip up the Langdales
It did. TM! I, a friend and a few others were on on the Langdales. Strong wind, dark clouds above but good visibility and no precipitation. It was a good day. Report to come.