A real hoolie: fantastic views in world of spindrift

Wainwrights: Dove Crag, Great Rigg, Hart Crag, Little Hart Crag, Red Screes
Hewitts: Dove Crag, Great Rigg, Hart Crag, Little Hart Crag, Red Screes

Date walked: 09/02/2018

Time taken: 7.45 hours

Distance: 23.1km

Ascent: 1555m

For me there is nothing to equal a hill vista in which all the tops have a dressing of white. The odd blizzard - if short-lived - is OK ...

....but I'm not inspired by long periods in white-outs (quite apart from the stress of trying to work out reliably where one is).

For the last couple of weeks it's seemed as if the Highlands - and indeed the other mountainous areas of the UK - were engulfed in one long snow storm - at least to judge from the Met Office forecasts.

So when there seemed to be at least one day for which reasonable weather was forecast, I had to go for it.

Forecast. Not too much snow, though likely to be pretty cold and blowy!!

One day of good weather is not really enough for me to invest in the 2 days of travel necessary to get to and from the Highlands, so I decided on the Lake District, having more hills that I haven't been into than Wales, and not being too far to travel.

After a bit of poring over maps, I plumped for a route near Kirkstone Pass, from which I could bale out easily if conditions turned out to be problematic, but might also be able to extend if conditions were very good. It involved a short section of biking to get the best overall route: park up the car at the end, bike to the start, then pick up the bike once the route is completed.

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The MWIS forecast rather suggested that things might be a bit challenging, especially as regards being able to stay on one's feet. And on the ridges this turned out to be absolutely correct.

When I set off from home at 03.30 it is pouring down, and the rain continues until shortly before I arrive at the Kirkstone Inn just after 7.00am. But it is now snowing quite heavily, and all the hills around are clag-bound. The snow isn't showing any signs of melting, and there is already a cover of about 2 cm on the asphalt. I briefly contemplate going for another route that starts at a lower elevation, since my car is absolutely dreadful in snow, and I don't fancy being stuck at the top of Kirkstone Pass. But in the end I decide to stick with the orignal plan, though cycling down the pass to my start point just beyond Hartsop I take it VERY steadily.

At the start point I conceal my bike in the woods, chain it to a tree, and am on my way up into the hills shortly before 08.00.

Image20180209_075842. Looking north, there's not much cloud on the summits

Image20180209_081313. Looking south towards Kirkstone Pass, Hartsop Dodd dominates the foreground, with Caudale head looking magnificent to the left of it, and Red Screes - where I hope to be in the early part of the afternoon on the right. Some clag on the tops, but it seems to be dissipating quite quickly...

Image20180209_082903 ... as this pic taken 15 minutes later shows.

Image20180209_083455. Looking north again, back the way I've just come, all the tops are now clear. Centre pic is Place Fell - one I've yet to get up. For the first 20 minutes or so of the ascent I was walking in the lee of the wall on the RHS of the pic; but now I'm in the open, and there's a pretty stiff breeze.

Image20180209_083618. I crest a small hillock, and there before me are four of the 5 hills I'm planning on visiting. Cue: very big grin :D . (Grinning turns out to be a risky undertaking: in the freezing wind a grin rapidly becomes something more like a rictus!)

Image20180209_083618 (labelled)

As the rising sun begins to light up the hills to the west, it becomes apparent that there is some dramatic spindrift on most of the tops...

Image20180209_085022. Spindrift on Red Screes and Little Hart Crag - about 3 and 3 km respectively away from where I'm standing!


Image20180209_085245. ...and on Dove Crag (LHS) and Hart Crag (RHS).


Progessing in this wind is a bit of a battle, and it may be that this is the reason I head for Dove Crag, rather than Hart Crag

Image20180209_092327. Looking back the way I've come towards Hartsop-Above-How. It's a gusty wind, and I'm frequently completely shrouded in spindrift - actually rather marvellous!

Image20180209_092409. Looking towards the cliff below Dove Crag in which the infamous Priest's Hole is located - infamous because people planning to spend the night in it have been injured or killed while trying to find it. Not being a priest, the decision to give it a miss is not a difficult one...

ImagePriest's Hole.

The snow is quite deep in places, so it takes a while to get to the summit of Dove Crag. Once there I wonder why on earth I've come here first: it would have been more logical to ascend Hart Crag first, since I want to visit Great Rigg...

Image20180209_094258. This view is looking south east from the summit towards Kirkstone Pass and beyond.



Image20180209_094318. Looking slightly south of west towards the Scafell group - very impressive. In the middle background the ridge that runs between Great Rigg (RHS off pic) and Heron Pike.

Image20180209_094843. Now I head north towards Hart Crag. The wind is pretty fierce on the ridge here.

On the ascent to Hart Crag I encounter patches of ice with a strange surface texture, rather like bubble wrap. It's pretty slippery stuff, so I try to stick to walking on projecting rocks. I start to think that maybe I should get my crampons on, but I'm put off by the obvious fact that it's going to be a real pain to do in this wind (frostbite pain!!!)...

Image20180209_101340. Looking back south east towards Dove Crag from the summit of Hart Crag. The hoolie continues to hool...


Image20180209_101314. Looking west towards Scafell from the summit of Hart Crag, my sac weighted down with a rock to stop it blowing away (it did travel a couple of metres in the wind on Dove Crag!).

I'm having the greatest difficulty in staying upright now - the wind is gusting quite dramatically, and I'm leaning at about 30 degrees into the wind just to avoid getting blown sidewards. And this is where I make a big mistake. The view towards Great Rigg is pretty fine, and I want to photograph it. Balancing against the wind I take off my gloves, and get out the camera - just as I'm dealt a particularly ferocious buffet... I go flying sidewards, out of control. Fortunately I keep hold of my camera, but when I regain my balance some 10 metres or so from where I was originally stood, I look up to see my gloves disappearing at a rate of knots towards the big drop into Rydal Head. Without thinking I race after them, and just before the slope becomes too steep for racing I manage to catch up with one of them. But the other one has disappeared into the snow and spindrift. Damn! Every time I go out on the hills I seem to leave a token bit of kit somewhere :( . The only comfort is that at least I have a spare pair of gloves with me.

I quarter the slope for a while looking for the missing article, but without much hope: even in the lee of the slope there's still a heck of a draught! After a fruitless 15 minutes or so of searching, I head back up to the ridge. Which is easier stated than accomplished. In the lee of the slope the snow is soft, but near the top there are patches of hard ice under the snow, and it's exceptionally difficult to get sufficient grip to resist being blown back - at one point I sit down in an attempt to remain static, but am nonetheless blown along for several metres.
ImageBlown away...

Eventually I manage to work my way up to the flat area, and at the same time the wind force abates somewhat, so I'm able to walk, albeit with a bit of a struggle, and leaning at a crazy angle into the wind.

Image20180209_105413. And manage to get the odd pic between gusts, this looking just west of south towards Great Rigg. I keep well away from the cornices visible on this pic, given the very real possibility - with the wind coming direct from the RHS - of being blown a long way to the left towards the cornices before being able to stop :roll: . The RHS side of my face is quite numb with cold, notwithstanding the fact that I'm wearing a beanie and a hood...

Image20180209_105433. Same view as a pano, with Scafell Group centre background.

Image20180209_110303. It's a gentle descent to the bealach before a similarly gentle ascent to the summit of Great Rigg. Looking north from the summit towards Helvellyn, the sac again weighted down with a large rock to prevent it being blown away.

Image20180209_110324. Pano looking just east of north towards Fairfield, with Helvellyn showing herself off on the LHS.

Image20180209_110324. Labelled.

Image20180209_110415. Pano featuring the Scafell group to the west again. Superb!

Image20180209_110509.And looking south down from the summit towards Heron Pike, Windermere catching the late morning sun, and behind it in the far background, the sea - Morecambe Bay.

Image20180209_110349. The way I've just come, and now the way back: up in the direction of Fairfield. The frozen RHS of my face gets a little relief now, as it's the turn to the LHS to get frozen :D . And towards the top of the ridge, I still frequently get blown a few paces sidewards before I can recover my balance on the icy ground (yes, I know, I should have put on my crampons long ago...).

Once back on Hart Crag though, where I turn south, things become much better, since the wind is now in my back.

Image20180209_113248. This view is looking ahead to Dove Crag again, with Red Screes in the background, centre pic.

This is when I experienced just why I should have put my crampons as soon as I encountered the hard ice. Walking along almost flat ground, my left foot shoots out from under me, and in a fraction of a second I'm flat on my backside. Completely automatically my body seeks to arrest the fall with my left arm, and immediately there is a violent shooting pain in my left shoulder. I sit there for a couple of minutes collecting my scattered wits, and then try to move my arm. Ouch ouch ouchety ouch!! It feels not unlike when I tore the rotator cuff on my right shoulder 18 months ago, but actually worse. I get up and carry on - not that I have much choice; but it looks like any thoughts of continuing beyond Kirkstone Pass are at an end. (From a visit to A&E the following day, it seems nothing is broken: soft tissue injury of some kind, to be monitored. Hopefully not rotator cuff - took 15 months to recover from the op on my right shoulder :( ).

Image20180209_114733. Fewer pics from here on - I can't lift my left arm, so have to take them right handed. Here is a last look back north at Hart Crag from Dove Crag.

Image20180209_122031. The route ahead to Little Hart Crag, and then on to Red Screes, is clear enough. The wind has been progressively easing off this last hour too, so the going is much easier.

Image20180209_122031 labelled.

Image20180209_122347. On the way a fine view down Dove Dale towards Brothers Water.

Somewhere around here I meet the first folk I've seen all day, a couple who're planning on dropping down into Scandale, and from thence to Ambleside. We both comment on the brilliant weather, gale notwithstanding, and then head our separate ways.

Image20180209_124545. Little Hart Crag ahead - all easy going so far, thank goodness.

Image20180209_125313.Looking back WNW from the summit of Little Hart Crag towards Dove Crag.

Image20180209_125435. Southwards the route to Red Screes is very obvious, and again, easy going.

Image20180209_133706. Looking back north west to Dove Crag on the ascent to the summit of Red Screes. Around here I meet another couple on their way down. They tell me they've become "rather demoralised" by the patchy ice, and so have decided to head back to Ambleside.

Image20180209_135658. It seems to take an age to get to the summit - the shoulder is an important part of the body for walking, right? :roll: . But actually the ascent more than it looks - 265 metres - so I suppose it's not too awfully slow.

Image20180209_140310. From here it's an easy descent to Kirkstone Pass via a winding path. But it's pretty steep with plenty of ice at the top, so now I do put on my crampons. And I must say, I feel a hell of a lot safer on the ice and icy rock.

Image20180209_141631. Kirkstone Pass Inn from the point where the path becomes very steep.

About 100m down I meet a couple of ladies coming up, wearing only trainers. I try tactfully to warn them about the dangers of the ice, especially on the way down. I just hope they were OK.

Image20180209_143343. On reaching the car park, a last look up at Red Screes (magnificent!) before driving back down the north side of the Kirkstone Pass to Hartsup to recover my bike; and then back again, where...
... recalling the importance of replenishing insensible liquid loss after hard exercise, I pause for a short break at that establishment of historical, cultural and architectural distinction located at the top of the pass;
....which, greatly to my surprise, I discover offers a quite superb beverage containing just the right mixture of vitamins, mineral and liquid necessary to support the most rapid recovery from the day's exertions.

Image3D view of route

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Comments: 6

2 underrated hills and a rather too hairy scramble

Attachment(s) Hewitts: Dduallt, Rhobell Fawr
Date walked: 02/02/2018
Distance: 34.6km
Ascent: 1367m
Comments: 9
Views: 265

An arctic Ben Vane in snow and sun

Attachment(s) Munros: Ben Vane
Date walked: 16/12/2017
Distance: 11km
Ascent: 977m
Comments: 6
Views: 566

Sun and snow: a Loch Earn round + some timely reminders!

Attachment(s) Munros: Ben Vorlich (Loch Earn), Stuc a'Chroin
Corbetts: Beinn Each, Meall na Fearna
Date walked: 15/12/2017
Distance: 24.5km
Ascent: 2339m
Comments: 14
Views: 1025

Japanese Rock Garden? a perfect short winter Howgills day

Attachment(s) Hewitts: Calders, Fell Head, Randygill Top, The Calf, Yarlside
Date walked: 30/11/2017
Distance: 24km
Ascent: 1897m
Comments: 11
Views: 382

1, 2

On the way back home... a'Bheithir in the cap

Attachment(s) Munros: Sgorr Dhearg (Beinn a'Bheithir), Sgorr Dhonuill (Beinn a'Bheithir)
Date walked: 12/11/2017
Distance: 16.5km
Ascent: 1724m
Comments: 28
Views: 1136

Kinloch Hourn

This post is not published on the Walkhighlands forum
Attachment(s) Munros: Sgurr a'Mhaoraich
Corbetts: Buidhe Bheinn
Date walked: 11/11/2017
Distance: 15.6km
Ascent: 1832m
Views: 51

Great Glen Meet: Tee before 2 at Loch Lochy.

Attachment(s) Munros: Meall na Teanga, Sron a'Choire Ghairbh
Corbetts: Ben Tee
Date walked: 10/11/2017
Distance: 25.4km
Ascent: 2036m
Comments: 6
Views: 392

1, 2

Cadair Idris ridges walk: 8 hewitts round + Brocken Spectre

Attachment(s) Hewitts: Cadair Idris - Penygadair, Craig Cwm Amarch, Craig-las, Craig-y-llyn, Cyfrwy, Mynydd Moel, Tarren y Gesail, Tarrenhendre
Date walked: 27/10/2017
Distance: 39.5km
Ascent: 2948m
Comments: 20
Views: 787

A short walk in the foothills of Snowdonia

Attachment(s) Hewitts: Foel Gron, Moel Cynghorion, Moel Eilio, Mynydd Mawr
Date walked: 12/10/2017
Distance: 17km
Ascent: 1564m
Comments: 10
Views: 437


User avatar
Location: Effete South (of WIgan, anyway)
Activity: Scrambler
Pub: The Bell, Trysull
Mountain: Cuillin Ridge
Place: Glen Brittle
Gear: Compass
Member: None
Ideal day out: Heavy ridge walk with plenty of scrambling and height gain - eg Welsh 3000ers, Wastwater Circuit, Cuillin Ridge
Munro rounds: 50

Munros: 141
Corbetts: 19
Wainwrights: 51
Hewitts: 156

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