I was suffering a chest infection, so this blog is written by David Thomas.
With John away, Robin Humphreys kindly “volunteered” to take over leadership duties. His first action was to summon everyone to Tweedie’s Bar in Grasmere, whether, despite, or because of, the consumption of many pints of beer a decision was made that as the weather forecast was poor for the morrow, we should play it a little conservatively and head for Fairfield instead of Helvellyn
In the morning – grey and not too cold at Grasmere – Robin ordered crampons all round. Maybe a little excessive we thought, but obediently complied. Having walked along some lanes to the other side of the valley, we now started up a wide track alongside a very busy stream, Little Tongue Gill. This now has a new mini-hydro scheme on it with the generator building cunningly half-buried near the road and the take-off much higher up where we headed onto open moorland. The weather was still fine, but dashing clouds above warned of high winds and snow flurries.
As we ascended the track got steeper and we had a couple of bail-outs, so, as they were accompanied on their descent we were down to 12 as we arrived at Grisedale Tarn – the last vertical 100 metres up to it was a hard pull from Hause Moss. At the tarn we had some discussion about lunch, but as it was only 11.30 we decided to press on up the face of Fairfield. This got progressively steeper and more windswept and, more icy. Steve Crowcroft, Robin and I stopped to put on crampons, which put us, Robin especially, well behind the pack, who were manfully struggling up the steep icy slope. They therefore had rather a long wait at the top in what was now one of the frequent snow squalls passing across. It was very cold and visibility was also quite bad.
All together again, we set off south towards Great Rigg. As we did the weather cleared to reveal fantastic views to the south and west – to the south with the low sunlight flashing off the lakes and to the west range after range of snow covered mountains, with bracken browned sides and grass greened valleys. Beautiful. In high spirits we arrived on Great Rigg for a group photo, before setting off on the long trek down to Grasmere. An excellent day – and a good choice as the alternative planned route up Helvellyn would have been very demanding in the conditions.
The forecast for Sunday was not good in the morning, with high winds, clearing up from about 3pm, but with the winds intact. We agreed to do Pike O’Blisco, from the Langdale valley. I’ll not go into enormous details here – I’ll leave it to myth and legend to expand the story, which will no doubt improve with the telling – but because of one of our cars getting stuck in the snow on the way to our start at Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel with three others in convoy and then finding an injured motorcyclist in the road and having to call Mountain Rescue and an ambulance, we were only nine starters for the day.
We set off up to Blea Tarn – an easy walk and a pleasant stroll around the tarn and then around the side of Pike O’Blisco to a road leading up to Wrynose Pass. The road got steeper and the snow deeper and as we arrived at the point where the footpath leads up to the summit of the Pike another discussion was held as to the wisdom of going up further. We could see spindrift off the tops and even where we were there were gusts of cold northerly wind. A sensible decision – as it turned out in retrospect – led us on up the road before turning north to head for Red Tarn. We were now in 6 inches or more of snow, drifting deeper in places and walking into the teeth of the gale. It was bitterly cold and the going hard. A stop for lunch in the rather poor shelter afforded by some rocks was a short and dismal affair and so we soldiered on, with our spirits kept high by the beautiful scenery around us. Where else can you get such views without actually being there?
Past the tarn we started a very steep descent along a path, which the kindly people of the National Park had repaired with rocks. Unfortunately, the rocks faced slightly downhill – to aid drainage we suspect – and the result was an ice and snow covered lethally slippery slope. No damage done we arrived at the valley floor to be met by two of the motorcyclist rescuers to hear the full details of their story over a nice cup of tea in the very welcoming Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel. Here we met other walkers with tales of being blown over by the high winds on the peaks, as I said a sensible decision not to go for glory.
Robin’s spell as a stand-in leader provided a real test of route decision making both before and during the day as well as coping with a variety of tests due to walker’s abilities etc. We all felt he had performed his role admirably and look forward to the next time…..!