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Walking in Cumbria and Beyond

Crinkle Crags

Crinkle Crags

Days like this are a total affirmation of my ‘reasons to go north’. Any doubt that I may have had vanished with the anticipation of a good day on the hills, then when it materializes in to the sheer pleasure of snow, ice and isolation there is fulfilment.

Even as I pulled the plastic cover off the car the -4 frost was sending tantalising contradictions to my senses. The sky was blue and the sun was shining and yet, how would the weather be in the mountains? Obligatory coffee at what is becoming a habitual meeting point in Willf’s meant we didn’t actually start walking until just before 12. Even then the sun was shining and the white tops looked inviting.

Not many people were about as we left the National Trust Car park at Dungeon Ghyll, though there were a few cars.  There are several choices for the assent; we took the route from Stool End Farm, crossing Oxendale Beck and up Browney Gill (For a free PDF route map  to email link ). The valley was clear and we swung right to go up Browney Gill, so called because of the coloured rocks along the way. As we climbed the first serious notification of the drop in temperature, aside from streaming noses and chilly fingers, were the frozen streams. But climbing in cold was quite a new sensation for me. I have in recent years done quite a bit of skiing but not a lot of walking in snow. So, going up mountains has meant a restful, but often cold, sojourn on a lift or a frightful drag on a bar, when the sheer terror of falling off has meant ignorance anything else. Today, we were walking hard, and though it was sub zero, I was generating enough heat to drive a small furnace. Even Rosie had to take her coat off.

The snow crept up about 300m, well before we reached Red Tarn. The tarn was frozen and  looked Christmas card perfect with a snow covering of 10 to 20cm. As we walked on towards Crinkle Crags the peace was interrupted by the raucous noise of a helicopter. Turning round revealed the bright yellow of the rescue team. We watched for a while as it looked as though it was going to land and though we saw a few people a little lower than us none appeared to be in difficulty. We continued, surmising it was a training run.

The snow cover was increasing steadily and we were glad that there had not been a fresh fall as the trails were obvious by the compacted snow. Visibility was diminishing by the minute and the wind was picking up losing our way was not an option we wanted.

Almost at Bad Step, the second of the crags, we noticed a couple with an emergency blanket over them. It transpired the lady had fallen and possibly broken her ankle. We offered hot drinks etc but they were well equipped and though not exactly happy, were prepared to wait until the emergency services found them. We continued grateful that we had a free rescue service. Commenting, that we would remember to put a survival blanket in next time we went out in the snow.

 

Rosie and I, Shelter Crags

A rare photo

The accident doubled our decision to take the easy route round the back of Long Top and not over it (Bad Step). Even better it was sheltered and we were able to stop in relative comfort, rehydrate and take on a few calories and carbs before covering more ground. Just stopping dropped us a few degrees and hats, thicker gloves and Rosie’s coat all came out of backpacks.

Snow and mountains though, are just a perfect combination and the ice formations and drifts were too photogenic to ignore, despite the cold. Each of the crags was a fresh challenge as we sought footholds both up and down before we began a rather euphoric decent down The Band. Once we dropped out of the mist we were able to see across to the Langdale Pikes again and appreciate just how long the walk down Mickleden was back in November. The Band gives gentle decent back to Stool End Farm.

Just below the snow line we notice the helicopter and several rescue vehicles in the valley. Watching for a while it took off and disappeared towards Red Tarn and then flew back and out towards Windermere. Presumably end of mission. At the gate at Stool End Farm is a collection bucket for Mountain Rescue. Do remember to take a donation if you walk this route.

Grid Ref NY286061 OS OL6

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10 Comments

  1. Take a bivvi bag / tent when out on the hills as Mum and Dad did. Mum is doing okay given a broken ankle; just a small slip and you can be in trouble, especially at this time of year, even with every bit of gear. Ironic since I rang her to give my mountain bike route in the snow a couple of days ago and made sure she knew I had a space blanket, first aid kit, phone etc. I hope you had a good walk. Keep going North – we’re better than the Southerners! Take care and pack the bivvi bag.

    • Hi Ali
      So glad to hear that your mum is OK. Thank you for letting me know. Off again tomorrow. Will make sure we have the bivvi bag in.

  2. PS And ‘All’ put in a few pennies for Mountain Rescue, you never know when you might need them. They are fantastic. Happy walking / climbing.

  3. Agreed! We have a fantastic service.

    • Family triathlon already in the planning to raise funds… Best wishes

      • That’s a really good idea. I have several friends who do triathlons. Let me know the details in good time and I will publish for you. If you set up a ‘just giving’ website I will provide a link.

  4. A very good account of a well favoured walk with the added example of risk. One has to hope for the best but be prepared for the worst on the fells. The MRT’s do a fantastic job putting themselves at personal risk and discomfort. They don’t mind it for geuine fell lovers who are prepared and come to mishap, but despair at the ill prepared and rightly so. Lakeland in winter is stunning on a good day, enjoy it all.

    • Thank you Ray! Not quite one of your marathons, but a great day for us and it was good to get feedback that the accident had a happy ending!

  5. Good comment Ray. Mum and Dad were (as usual) very well prepared but ultimately grateful to the mountain rescue and air ambulance teams after Mum’s slip. A large donation has since been made. Mum is at last walking again – they are in Buttermere today. My parents inspired my love of mountains in The Lakes and here on our moors in North Yorks. I am about to go to The Alps cycling with friends. I have my first aid kit plus space blanket packed! Thanks for your help at the time. I wish you happy times on the fells. Good to hear from you.

    • Extremelypleased that your mum is better and back on her feet. Best wishes to her, Alvina

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