Helvellyn Winter Pilgrimage
by dav2930 » Sun Jan 17, 2016 9:00 pm
Wainwrights included on this walk: Birkhouse Moor, Catstyecam, Helvellyn
Hewitts included on this walk: Catstyecam, Helvellyn
Date walked: 16/01/2016
Time taken: 6.3
Distance: 17 km
Ascent: 945m4 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).
It just so happened that fellow walking enthusiast Karl, a relatively recent convert to Winter conditions, was also keen to get out that weekend, given the best forecast for many weeks. So the plan was quickly agreed and off we set for Glenridding early-ish on Saturday morning.
Usually I do the circuit clockwise, starting up Birkhouse Moor and quite often taking in Catstycam. Just for a change I fancied doing it anti-clockwise and going up Catstycam by the north-west ridge which, unaccountably, I'd never been up or down before. Karl was happy to go along with that idea.
As we drove alongside Ullswater it was clear that the snow cover on the fells was very thick and continuous. The weather was matching the forecast too. So it looked like a very promising day.
And as a bonus, the main car park in Glenridding was 'free until further notice'. Not dwelling too much on the unfortunate reasons for this, we set off up the icy road to the mines.
I had considered the possibility of going up the gully in the middle of Catstycam's north face (a straightforward grade I when in condition), but the snow wasn't consolidated enough to give a good climb today. As we approached the disused (and unstable) dam in Keppel Cove, we were wading up to our thighs in the stuff.
Despite the signs warning not to, we walked along the top of the dam to cross the beck. Daft, crazy fools!
The snow was equally deep and soft on the other side. It was hard work getting to the foot of the ridge and up the lower part of it.
But as we gained height and the ridge became better defined, the snow became firmer and icier. Time to get the ice-axes out. A bit higher still the ground steepened and the ice was more predominant. Time to put on crampons.
The upper part of the ridge was a fine, airy stomp up ice and hard neve. Fantastic!
Suddenly we were on the summit of Catstycam - a superb viewpoint.
A line of walkers were heading up Swirral Edge. From solitude we would soon be joining the crowds.
The route up Swirral was well-trodden and straightforward enough, but still an exhilarating way to reach the summit ridge of Helvellyn.
By now we had noticed some very murky clouds to the north and west. But still had good views.
We stopped for coffee and food at the cross-walls shelter just below the summit of Helvellyn where, as usual, lots of people had gathered. A couple of guys had come up one of the gullies on the Red Tarn face; another chap was trying to get a drink from his hydration system but couldn't because the water had frozen in the pipe. There were climbers, walkers and skiers; it was a convivial and chatty atmosphere. Eventually we got up and headed off for Gough's Memorial and the steep descent to Striding Edge.
The chimney at the start of Striding edge proved to be a real bottleneck, with a constant stream of people coming down it. Eventually Karl and me went up the left and right walls of the chimney respectively, otherwise we would have been waiting there all day.
Once above the chimney bottleneck it was a pleasant stroll along the ridge. It had begun to snow and the clag was coming in over the tops, but it wasn't windy and conditions remained pretty good.
At the hole in the wall we stopped to remove crampons and put away the ice axes, then carried on along the broad ridge of Birkhouse Moor. From the cairn we took a fairly direct line to meet the path down Mires Beck and back to Glenridding, ploughing through thigh-deep snow in places - all good fun. The clag had come in thickly now, but that did nothing to diminish the satisfaction of our day. It had been great.
The path lower down Mires Beck was a bit icy in places and a few folk had slipped because the ice was hidden under a fresh layer of snow. Definitely conditions for Microspikes! We passed the Traveller's Rest pub but it was packed so we ended up having tea, cakes and an ale or two in the Inn on the Lake. Sheer luxury!
by Guinessman » Sun Jan 17, 2016 9:42 pm
by The English Alpinist » Sun Jan 17, 2016 11:12 pm
by ChrisW » Mon Jan 18, 2016 5:33 am
by trailmasher » Mon Jan 18, 2016 12:26 pm
by johnkaysleftleg » Mon Jan 18, 2016 1:55 pm
by dav2930 » Mon Jan 18, 2016 7:58 pm
Guinnessman - Yes there will have been even more snow on Sunday following a hefty dump through Saturday afternoon and evening (getting home from Glenridding was slow going even on the A66). Sounds like an interesting walk you did; well done for getting up Fairfield in such deep, unconsolidated snow!
TEA - Your epic Wainwright agenda is as good an excuse as any for missing out Striding Edge - it'll still be there for you when you've completed your mission
ChrisW - I think you're spot on about everyone just wanting to get out in the snow as a change from the rain! Just shows it doesn't always rain in the Lakes - sometimes it snows (as the Cumbrian farmer said to the tourist).
trailmasher - There certainly were an awful lot of folk up there! I suppose you can't blame them as it was the first day of decent weather for weeks, as well as the first really substantial snow cover of the winter. We really enjoyed the day despite the crowds!
JK - The North York Moors are beautiful with a character all of their own. I've never seen them covered in snow but I'll bet they take on a whole new dimension. Glad you had a fun day.