After the outstanding walk of yesterday and our fun in the snow todays walk would be less icy but still had the makings of being a lot of fun. Mellbreak and Hen Coombe were the targets for the day with Hen Coombe being Chris's 100'th Wainwright. Quite an achievement and something to celebrate for sure.
Rising early, sandwiches made and we ventured out along Crummock Water again to find our start point at the base of Mellbreak, no birds of pray this time sadly! We parked near a phone box, next to a van not realising our early morning chatter had woke the sleeping occupants of the van. Well they should have been up anyway so not to miss the beautiful frosty morning. Sky clear and bright and thick frost carpeting the surrounding area.
Mellbreak stood proudly in front of us and as we made our way up the snakey path we could hear what sounded like a hunting horn. Was there a hunt on today. We hoped so as getting pictures of that on such a clear day would be a bonus. Further down the path we met a young lad with the hunting horn and he explained that the hunt was yesterday and that 5 dogs had failed to come back so he was out, early doors, in the hope of calling them home. Throughout the whole day we never saw any sign of them and hopefully they made it back safely.
Mellbreak hits you hard with steepness almost from the get go and it was brilliant. The scree slope that takes you up the first part of the climb was thick with frost and it was hard to get a foothold as with almost every step the scree slipped you back. It was draining on the legs and lactic acid was soon flowing. We could see over to the hills from yesterday's walk and the snow was still sitting like a little bobble hat on the tops. The sun was streaming down Crummock Water and the stillness of the morning made for good reflections on the glass like top.
Once through the scree section of the ascent it was a rocky zig zag path that wound its way round the last section of the mountain bringing us out on the top where there was quite a nice cairn. This wasnt the true summit as Mellbreak was monkey nut shaped and its Southern hump was the true summit. As nice as this was we still had a way to go to reach the top.
Down the spine of the hill, following the path and then back up again to play hunt the top. Many little hillocks and rock piles could have been the summit and it took almost engineering and surveying skills to determine which little raised bit actually was the true summit but we found it and had the obligatory pics taken there. This was 99 Wainwrights for Chris and only 1 to go, eeeeeek exciting!!!
Stopping here for first lunch we were soon joined by a young lad who stopped quite near us. 2 others came over the horizon and seemed to not quite know what little hump was the true top after a few shouts of left a bit, no right a bit, back a bit, the young lad beside us realised he'd not stepped on the top and left his stuff to wander back over so that he could stand on the true summit. His bag, his flask and his tangerine sat there on the rocks waiting for him to return and for a moment we thought it would be funny to move his tangerine to the top of a little pile of rocks and then thought against it. So we carried on down the path that would take us hopefully to the next target Hen Coombe.
Down the very steep grassy path, yes it was THAT steep we met a young lad and man at the bottom who had stopped for lunch. The young lad was from London and had come up for the weekend to walk with his Dad. We stopped to chat to them for a bit then left them to their sandwiches which attracted some very curious sheep sniffing out whatever was on the lunch menu today. I hope it wasnt mutton eeek!
Continuing down the path we could see Hen Coombe to our right but the path kept steering us away from that direction. Every now and again we'd question whether we were on the right path but according to the GPS we were spot on. Perhaps the detour would provide us with some visual delight that we'd have missed otherwise or alternatively it would provide us with a deep, boggy, reed ridden, hard trudging relentless and energy sapping field of torture. Guess which one it provided us with???
Its hard when you're in a situation you know you must endure and there is no escape but to continue onwards with the knowledge that it will, at some point, end. It ended at the base of Hen Coombe. An hour of mental and physical blah! Not a part of the walk that I enjoyed and here we were at the base of Hen Coombe having had all the energy sapped out of us and we decide not to wander round the side on the gentle curving path but to head straight up the flank of the hill. So up we went. 1 step after another and just kept going like that until we practially reached the top. I'm so much better ON piste than OFF lol. As soon as we met that little path again vitality flooded back into my legs.....strange!
So here it was. The 100th Wainwright for Chris directly ahead. A small pile of stones marked the spot and I stayed back to take the celebratory pics of this moment. He stood, arms stretched out like Cristo Redentor in Rio and I was just thrilled to be part of this. For me, it was my 40th, I'm lagging 60 behind but my century will come one day.
Time to descend for the final time today and behind us the sky was darkening as the forecast cloud cover was moving over. It was mottled cloud and the sky threw some beautiful shapes at us. The light was fading even though it was only mid afternoon and the walk down off Hen Coombe was quite pleasant. Following the path down it brought us to a river. Chris went further down a bit to take a picture of the flowing water and I took the opportunity to skip across the rocks without an audience which I did sucessfully, phew! Unfortunately Chris wasnt as lucky and stepped on a particularly slimy and slippy rock and found himself almost in the river. Only a foot this time and again the camera was saved but he had a rather wet trouser leg but fortunately that was all. This walking on water lark isn't really working out lol.
Before we knew it we were back on the snake path where we'd seen the boy with the bugle earlier today and the car was just mins away. One last look back to Mellbreak and we were back at the car and thinking that perhaps that fabulous sky would be over Haystacks at the moment. So as quickly as we could we high tailed it along towards Honister Pass to see if we could catch Haystacks in a glorious moment. Unfortunately we didnt make it and consoled ourselves with popping into Keswick for a bite to eat before heading home.
The end of another brilliant weekend. I couldnt think of any place I'd rather be or be with on my weekends now. Life has a wonderful way to giving you exactly what you need, just when you need it most. Here's hoping for more clear, bright, sunny, frosty, snowy, fun weekends to come.