I’m off to Ambleside in the Lake District with Les and Gordon to do a reccee for Crosby Rambling Club. Our plan is to climb Red Screes via the South Ridge, continue over Middle Dodd, descending towards Hartsop and returning over Scandale Pass. A bit of a challenge but what we had not expected was snow, lots of it.
The roads were clear as we drove up to the Lake District but we could see some snow on the fells. We set off from Ambleside along the path to Stock Ghyll waterfalls which were quite impressive. We exited onto a track which leads to the Middle Grove route. There was just a dusting of snow on the ground but some patchy ice, we would have to be careful! Leaving the track we skirted round a farm to cross the Kirkstone Road and join the South Ridge Path which should lead us to the summit of Red Screes.
By the time we reached the 1000ft contour we were in proper snow, only 2 or 3 inches deep but soft and with good grip – no problem. 500ft higher up the mountain the snow was about 4 inches deep but in places it had thawed and refrozen to leave icy stretches. The weather was good with patches of blue sky and the sun glinting in the snow, this was great.
We crossed the wall via the ladder stile and continued plodding upwards. The snow had obscured all traces of the footpath so we followed the line of the wall. Snarker Pike was on our right and we encountered some rocky sections covered in ice. Looking upwards we could see that the summit was covered in cloud, we would soon be up there.
At 2200 ft we were in 12 inches of snow, the temperature was minus 5 degrees and the visibility was down to 50 yards with no trace of any path. It was back to basics, good old fashioned map and compass work. Eventually the first of the three summit cairns came into view. We were almost there. The three cairns are separated by several hundred yards in distance but only a few metres in height. The highest cairn at 2541 ft stands alongside the Ordinance Survey column. A chance to pause to catch our breath and take the customary summit photo. It is also very close to the the edge of the steep drop into North East Combe.
It was well past our lunch time but this was no place to linger in these conditions.
Our original plan to continue over Middle Dodd had long been abandoned. Out priority now was to get safely off the mountain. We chose to head west and drop steeply down to the head of the Scandale Pass. It should have been straightforward. Descend to meet the wall, cross it and turn left and then follow the next wall down to the valley – easy. We set off on compass bearing and at about 2000 ft we came out of the mist. But, where was the wall? We couldn’t have missed it. Soon we found the answer. Only the top few inches were visible as a huge snowdrift had formed alongside it.
It was hard going, the ground looked even but we did not know what lay beneath the snow. One moment we left footprints only a few inches deep and a few steps later we were up to our knees. At one point I sank down into a bog.
The lighting was marvellous with the low sun slanting in from the west lighting up up the fells ahead of us. Low Pike, High Pike and Dove Crag. To our right we could look down to Hartsop with green fields untouched by the snow.
We reached the head of the pass at 2.50pm and at last we could find some shelter and enjoy a bite to eat. We still had over 3 miles to walk and would be lucky to get back before dark. The path down was more like a stream only frozen. We had to be very careful.
We eventually got back at 5.15pm. We had been walking for six and a half hours but we had only covered 10 miles. a good indication of what the conditions had been like. I had been wearing my heart monitor. I had burned off 4500 kcal and had an average heart rate of 140 btm. I had pushed myself and I was tired.
We had all had a brilliant day. The only casualty was my walking pole. I had jammed it into the ground when I thought I was about to slip. The pole held but ended up rather bent.
Back home and enjoying a nice glass of wine I can feel a great sense of exhilaration.
The walk definitely qualified for inclusion in the category – Adventures with Les!