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Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.

Nethermost East ridge in winter

Nethermost East ridge in winter


Postby Pointless Parasite » Sun Jan 21, 2018 2:39 pm

Wainwrights included on this walk: Arnison Crag, Birks, Dollywaggon Pike, Nethermost Pike, St Sunday Crag

Hewitts included on this walk: Dollywaggon Pike, St Sunday Crag

Date walked: 20/01/2018

Time taken: 5

Distance: 15.4 km

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The weather forecast was for light snow, mist and fog with poor or very poor visibility. Turned out to be complete nonsense. I was traveling by bus and had 5 hours before the last bus to Penrith. There were a few horseshoes I could fit in, including one going up Raise and Stybarrow Dodd. As I was expecting a white-out, I decided to have a look at Nethermost Pike and St Sunday crag as they looked easier in terms of navigation. Initially I though about ascending Nethermost last, then descending via the East ridge, but then thought it would be a lot safer to do things the other way round. Good decision!

First view of the NE ridge. Not looking too promising :shock:

Image
East ridge from Grisedale by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

The lower part of the ridge was under knee deep snow. Luckily, two other climbers had broken trail for me, which made things much easier.

Image
East ridge lower section by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

View back down Grisedale as the sun started to come out:

Image
Place fell by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Once I'd got up the lower section I could see the trail-breakers up ahead on the steep upper section of the NE ridge. They seemed to be struggling. Every time I looked up they seemed to have hardly moved. After a while it became clear they were down climbing, facing in. Looking up from below I couldn't understand what the problem was. It seemed like a fairly simple climb up mixed snow and rocks. When I finally met them, the told me they had retreated after reaching a tricky section up above. They were well-equipped, competent looking climbers, although the younger of the two was on his first climb with crampons. I had little reason to suspect I would fare any better but decided to have a look.

Image
East ridge upper section from below by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

The slope steepened noticeably and became increasingly exposed. Any slip from here would result in an unstoppable, tumbling fall down a steep, bumpy slope and down the rocky section below :crazy:. The snow didn't feel good. My foot holds did not feel at all secure and I was almost entirely reliant on ice axe belays for safety. Eventually I reached the other climbers' high point and it was immediately obvious what the problem was. There was a steep section in between two rock outcrops - the kind you need to haul yourself up over. In itself, it wouldn't be too difficult. The problem was the increasing exposure. Any slip from here would result in a long fall that would likely to be fatal. I started up, slowly, digging the shaft of my ice axe down as deep as I could. It felt like it would take my weight, but the problem was that every time I moved up, I needed to remove the axe and rely on dodgy foot holds :crazy: . This is the first time I've ever needed two axes. The other two climbers had descended safely and were looking up at me. I was getting the collywobbles but there was no use worrying about it. The only was out was to keep going.

After a while, I managed to get myself up the worst bit, after which the gradient decreased a little and led onto a slope of solid ice and then snow. Up ahead the terrain became much rockier. Once I was up among the rocks it would get a lot easier and I was able to quickly reach the top of the tricky section. From now on, the ridge was much less exposed. I could slip without falling all the way back down the mountain. After an easy scramble up jagged rocks I was up: 8)

Image
East ridge near top by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
St Sunday from NE ridge by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
East ridge looking down by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
East ridge top by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

From the top of Nethermost, it was easy going from now on. The weather was starting to become really incredible as well:

Image
Nethermost summit 2 by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Hell Vellyn - glad I wasn't up there:

Image
Helvellyn summit by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
Nethermost summit by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
High crag by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
High crag 2 by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Nasty :shock:

Image
Cornices by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
Great rigg from Dollywaggon by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
Dollywaggon descent by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
Grisedale tarn by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

The route up St Sunday was under deep snow, making for slow going:

Image
St Sunday summit ridge by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
St Sunday summit ridge 2 by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
St Sunday summit ridge 3 by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
Fairfield from St Sunday by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
Nethermost from St Sunday by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

The flat summit of St Sunday would be easy to get lost on in poor visibility:

Image
St Sunday summit by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

The descent down to Birks was through more deep snow after the final rocky section of St Sunday:

Image
Birks by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

I wanted to climb Arnison Crag as well. When I first saw it from Birks I laughed out loud, it just looked so small:

Image
Arnison by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

It was awful. Relentless knee deep snow all the way. I finally reached the summit as it started to get dark. The summit is on a little iced-up rocky outcrop. I downclimbed it with my ice axe in one hand and a sandwich in the other.

Image
Arnison summit by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Back down to the bus stop with 20 minutes to spare 8)
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Last edited by Pointless Parasite on Mon Jan 22, 2018 10:50 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Pointless Parasite
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Re: Nethermost NE ridge in winter

Postby johnkaysleftleg » Sun Jan 21, 2018 2:47 pm

Well that looked like a fine adventure, wonderful conditions and some very fine pics. I do fancy that ridge up Nethermost pike but I think I'll leave it for a nice sunny day in the summer :lol:
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johnkaysleftleg
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Re: Nethermost NE ridge in winter

Postby Broggy1 » Sun Jan 21, 2018 4:31 pm

Really excellent report :clap:

That NE Ridge is really excellent (and avoids the touristy/popular bits of the Helvellyn range).

To do it in winter conditions must have been special (albeit hairy).
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Broggy1
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Re: Nethermost NE ridge in winter

Postby trailmasher » Sun Jan 21, 2018 4:42 pm

Nice one PP, some great shots there :clap: and well done for getting up the NE ridge route in difficult conditions. Must be worth a gold star :lol: A fine ridge walk with plenty going for it :clap:
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trailmasher
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Re: Nethermost NE ridge in winter

Postby dav2930 » Sun Jan 21, 2018 5:13 pm

An adventurous route for the conditions, well done :clap: . On the Friday I'd been looking at the winter climbing section of UKC and folks were reporting a very unconsolidated snowpack with dangerous cornices and generally unstable conditions in the gullies, which rather limited our ambitions for the Saturday. It turned out not to be as bad as I thought, but still you were wise to stick to the ridges. I imagine it must have been hard going up the Nethermost ridge. Great report and photos. :)
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dav2930
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Re: Nethermost NE ridge in winter

Postby Mal Grey » Sun Jan 21, 2018 6:55 pm

Good effort, mentally tough as well as physically by the sounds of it. I've been up that way in summer conditions, great way up the hill.

Some great photos too!
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Re: Nethermost East ridge in winter

Postby Pointless Parasite » Mon Jan 22, 2018 10:55 am

Thanks for the comments. BTW I've changed the title to East ridge. No idea why I keep thinking it's NE :roll:

And yes the snow was not great. I met a group of climbers on St Sunday who had just finished the Pinnacle Ridge route. One of them said that the snow lower down was 'like dust'. There didn't seem to be much risk of avalanche but my footholds did not feel at all secure. This week is going to be pretty warm so there's a good chance it will melt anyway.
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Location: Sunderland

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