Finally a break in the weather and we're heading north, early in the morning to our precious lakes. Will the weather hold, will we actually get out the car, time will tell but if so then we've got a great walk planned for today. High Street and then over to the missing one of that group - Raise (which we missed the last time we were up here)
After a few weeks of "bad weather stopping play" it was an exciting prospect that today we'd actually get our boots on and head out to the hills. The forecast was for dry and clear weather and although there was still a fair amount of snow on the Lakeland fells and conditions meant that warnings were frequent regarding difficult walking and sub zero temperatures but we were layered up, ice axes and crampons were packed as was our lunch, plenty water and snacks.
What I hadn't packed was my camera and I was gutted as today would have been the most excellent day for outstanding pictures so unfortunately we have no pics to share.
Up at 4am and out the door by 5 we still didn't beat the sunrise and the closer we got to our destination the more beautiful the sky became. Pink hues ribboned the sky ahead of us and a vibrant orange skirted the dotted clouds behind us as the sun started its ascent into the day.
We arrived at the car park and there was only 1 other car there. 2 chaps with ropes and clinky metal bits meant their day was probably going to be a tad more strenuous than ours. Within minutes we were all ready to go and we set off along the path that would take us round to the unnaturally forested peninsula of where the village of Mardale once stood before it was flooded over 100 yrs ago to provide water for the industrial towns in the area. It must have been a sad time for the villagers to be uprooted and see their homeland flooded to make way for industry.
The path upwards took us up quite steeply at first towards our first little peak of the day, Rough Crag. The ground underfoot was frozen and walking was not difficult but hard going in the drifty bits of the snow. The path followed a small wall as it snaked its way upwards. We could see the summit of High Street ahead and had several more ups and downs to complete before we made it there and already it had a low blanket of cloud sitting atop which we hoped would clear by the time of our arrival.
It was a beautiful walk, the surrounding peaks covered in layers of snow and the sun hitting different bits highlighting gulleys and ridges and the valleys in between. As I'd not been out for a good few weeks my legs took their time to adjust to the terrain and there was a little bit of huffing and puffing but nothing too bad and apart from a runny nose I was feeling great.
Rough Crag was the first "tickable" summit of the day and although not a Wainwright it was a Hewitt so definately counted as something significant. The route at this point was fairly easy going with some ups and downs but nothing too strenuous. We just followed the contours of the mountain until we could see clearly in front of us the spine of High Street that would lead us up to the summit. There was no one around, not a single soul and I love the sound of the silence on the hills, golden silence!
Continuing upwards the sky was darkening and the blue bits diminished as fine little pieces of snow started to fall. I was amazed by the snow as it was tiny little ice crystals no bigger than a pin head but perfectly formed as snowflakes, the kind of forms we learn as children and quite beautiful...dare I say it, almost angelic lol. All around us the views were decreasing and before long the weather had moved in and we were shrouded in mist and cloud. Sunglasses that were needed earlier were packed away and hats and gloves back on as the lack of sunshine, however weak it was, now meant that the chill was biting. Ice axes were now out and crampons firmly attached to our boots, we kept moving forwards and spirits were high. It was hard work but left you with a feeling of , yes, this is where I'm meant to be. All cares in the world diminish when you're on the side of a mountain, plotting your route, following a path. It truely is one of the best feelings in the world.
By the time we'd completed the last push up to the summit plateau of High Street it was a complete white out. Our route map told us that by continuing a little bit forward and to the left we'd find the trig point and off I went to find it, constantly searching with my eyes to see if I could see it.....and then there it was, standing proudly in the cloud just waiting there for us. The wall that lead up to it was peppered with snow patterns made by the wind and it was an eerie but magical sight.
On top the wind wasn't too bad and we stopped for a moment by the trig point to grab some food. Gorgeous Italian bread with peanut butter which provided much needed energy for the second part of our day and a cadbury's cream egg. Here is a stark warning for chocolate lovers. When you're holding your cream egg, gingerly in your gloves, enjoying every succulent bite and someone says.......oh look over there, pointing behind you, do not look, its a trap, a trap to steal your delicious egg and that, my friends, is what nearly happened to me. A valuable lesson learned!
The next part of our journey would take us to The Knott and as we moved over the High Street plateau the cloud started to life and gave us views to take your breath away. Suddenly we could see over to the surrounding peaks, North to Blencathra, West to the Helvellyn range, it all just opened up magically to provide a winter wonderland of eye popping scenery.
After seeing practically no one on our walk so far there were suddenly people around. Fell runners skipping over the landscape wearing and packing hardly any gear, skiers with dogs and other walkers enjoying the day.
After a quick stop at The Knott it was down and then back up a fairly steep incline to Rampsgill Head. By this time the ground was beginning to break up a little and the hard frost of the morning was weakening slightly which meant the hard crust no longer supported your body weight and with every step the top crust broke and it was probably the hardest section of the day. Back jarring, ankle turning horrid terrain but we plodded on trying to pick out the more solid bits to walk on.
Rampsgill Head was a "blink and you miss it" kind of summit, it has no remarkable features and could quite easily be missed if you weren't directly on the path. Luckily we didn't miss it and from there it was a relatively easy meander across to Kidsey Pike, the last summit of the day. My legs were starting to feel it now and tiredness was beginning to creep in after our early morning start but everything around, the views, the scenery were a great distraction.
The descent, like all descents was an interesting one. Practically straight down, through snow, rocks, ice, cowboy style. In the valley below we could see clusters of deer casually grazing and high above us dots of people on a path. Was that our path? Possibly but sometimes a detour brings unexpected results and looking back to where we'd been really gave us a sense of achievement and just letting my eye wander round the route we'd taken that day gave me a great sense of satisfaction.
The final part of our walk would lead us out of the valley back to the mound of trees at the end of the peninsula where we'd started our walk but our day was not without incident as just before we got down to a little bridge that would take us across the river on the valley floor I got bogged. My leg just disappeared down a bog and I was covered in slutch right up past my knee. Thank goodness for waterproof boots and gaiters. Yuk!
Before long we were back at the car. An epic day, an epic walk and it has only re-ignited my appetite for more. Too many weeks grounded because of the weather and fingers crossed going into Spring it will only get better from here on in. I'm ready for our next adventure............