A very early start, up at 4am (after only getting to bed between 1 & 2am) and out by 5, remembering this time to have something substantial to eat so energy levels were high. So after some toast and coffee we were in the car and heading North. The weather forecast for today was for bright and sunny spells in the morning turning to rain and wind later in the day. So fingers crossed the bulk of the day would be good for us.
We parked at the farm at Seathwaite and could see our route clearly up the side of the mountain via Sour milk gyhll and immediately we had to contend with the steepness of the hillside. The waterfalls on the way up were a welcome distraction and gave us plenty opportunities to stop and snap. It was really a lovely walk upwards.
At the top of the first leg there was a plateau area which we thought would be good for a quick snack stop and I went into my bag to find the bananas. Oh dear, the bananas were still sitting on the table at home and not in my bag at all. Good job Chris had packed the Caramel Wafers but it would still leave us short on snacks for the day, oops!
After navigating our way through a tricky bit of scrambling we were on the top and the weather was still being kind to us however there were some dark clouds on the horizon and the threat of a spot of rain was not far away. The views gave us clouds swirling in and out, obscuring and revealing views min by min. It was a beautiful place to be.
Down off Base Brown it was an easy walk over a plateau and then up the side of Green Gable. We passed 2 chaps here who had come up the side snow field which I thought in today's avalanche potential conditions probably wasnt the best way to come up the mountain. Everyone has different levels of what they consider risk I guess.
Tummies were rumbling so half way up Great Gable we found a nice little sheltered spot and got out the sandwiches. Home made bread from an interesting recipe with cheese spread and 3 peanut m & m's each for dessert since we had to ration the remainder of the snacks as someone forgot the bananas hmmmmm!
Onwards and upwards for the last stretch towards the summit of GG. The views were indescribable and there were really no words to capture the sights that met our eyes. The clouds had practically dissapeared and left us in awe of all the beautiful peaks that surrounded us. GG is a bit like grand central station and people were appearing from all angles. It was busy on top with groups of people arriving and departing, stopping for lunch and just generally milling around. We didnt stick around long but headed North to descend with the intention of Kirk Fell which stood right in front of us.
The descent off GG was a great deal trickier than anticipated which meant the camera was packed away. A path obscured by snow which was soft and resembled the innards of a beanbag making it very slippy and soft underfoot. Match this with some very steep parts and you have a recipe for the potential of something going horribly wrong. Luckily we were able to hone in on our winter skills training (thank you Scot and SD Adventures) and moved slowly down the hill backwards using ice axes and kicking, keeping us safe and getting us down that particular section without incident. After the horrid soft snow we were on shale and this is my least favorite of walking surfaces. Its loose and with each step the ground moves away with you. The potential for slipping is great and after one slip I was left with a very sore pinky finger after jamming it against a rock. Ouchie ouch ouch! I detest Scree, it really isn't a pleasant ground covering at all.......!!!!
Half way down we decided that Kirk Fell was not for us today. It was already afternoon and we'd been going since early this morning so we decided to follow the path that contoured the hill and took us back round the valley that would take us back to Seathwaite. What we didnt anticipate was that the path would play hide and seek with us and that we'd miss it completely taking us too far down the mountain, on the horrid shale, to go back and find it which meant we'd still have another incline in our day later on when we'd have to climb our way back up and out the valley. It was an unexpected and annoying detour to our day as the weather was starting to change and the wind had increased in strength.
The last surprise of the day came in the form of a proposition. To take the safe and boring path back down the hillside to the farm or to have another little adventure and take the more scenic waterfall path via Taylor Force Ghyll which would involve another bit of scrambling and some very impressive views of a fantastic waterfall. We chose the adventure and even though our limbs ached and bodies were weary it was a good choice as the waterfall was indeed spectactuar and the little scramble down was really good.
On the last stretch now and we can just about see the car back at the farm. Down onto the valley floor we followed the river that we'd crossed that morning before our hike up the hill. The last hurdle was a stile to get us over the last wall and thankfully some very kind farmer of bygone times had made a lovely little sheep hole in the wall for his sheep to get through. I opted for the sheep hole as there was no way I had the energy to haul myself over a stile. I was running on empty and although exhilarated by the day exhaustion was creeping in. Wet, tired, hungry and thirsty the car was a welcome sight. Fresh water and a towel and we headed for Keswick for some well deserved fish and chips.
It was indeed a day of contrast. A morning filled with blue skies and anticipation and an afternoon filled with rain, wind and a lot of hard work. A thrilling day all round and a fantastic walk filled with ups, downs, laughs, scary moments, funny moments, tense moments and lighthearted moments, eye spy and lots and lots of fun :-), roll on the next adventures.