An early start from home got us to Buttermere and over to Crummock Water for about 9.00am, after a quick stop at Tebay services for water and other bits and bobs. Before we reached our parking space we thought we'd hit the jackpot by spotting a little bird of pray on a post by the roadside but by the time I'd reversed (albeit slowly) it had flown away so we never knew what it was, sparrowhawk or kestrel. About 10 mins later along the road a massive bird swooped in front of the car, big and bulky with the markings like an owl but the head of something much more fierce. It was a buzzard (after investigation) and was the most majestic thing I'd ever seen. Just a shame we only saw it for a moment.
By 9.30 we were ready to head off up our first target of the day, Whiteside. The climb up was steep (but not too bad lol) almost from the get go and our attention was constantly being dragged to the right where the tops of the route for later in the day could easily be seen covered in gorgeous snow. Behind us was Mellbreak, looking all orangy in the morning sun and we knew that tomorrow we'd be tackling that first and it did indeed look inviting.
On up Whiteside there was no respite in the rocky path up. The occasional rocky scrambly bit but mostly a zig zaggy path taking you straight up the mountain side. Before long we were at the snow line and everything seemed to get a bit icier. Pools of water frozen in time kept us alert as we really had to be careful where we put our feet for one wee mistep on ice and we'd be off back down the mountain the quick way.
Up onto the top and it was a glorious view that met us. Way over to the West we could see all the way to Scotland over the fields of wind turbines and to the East and North was the route we'd be following today.
Keen to get on with the walk and get ourselves amongst the snow proper we practically skipped down off the summit making our way over to the path that would take us up to Hopegill Head. The surprise that met us was a tasty little ridge before the final steeper path to the summit. Under normal circumstances we'd have been able to tackle this ridge without hesitation but today, each footfall was met with sheet ice and made it extremely precarious indeed. At one point it was hands AND feet work and I do believe I slid down a bit on my backside........you just have to do what you have to do, excellent fun.
Through the ridge section and it was sunglasses ON time. The glare from the carpet of snow that met us from all angles meant it definitely was sunglasses time. The view of the summit of Hopegill Head looked as if a coach had just pulled in, there were people coming at it from all angles and it looked busy up that at the cairn. We didnt hang around long there but instead, took a few mins to admire the view then scuppered off down to a quieter bit and those who had wee grippery things for their boots put them on and those who didnt resorted to descending the hill on the mat that they sat on for lunch stops........I can testify that the sliding mat option was indeed the most fun way of descending a hill.
At the bottom, we settled on a bit of rock with snowy hill flanks on all sides and had first lunch of the day. Having bought our bread, ham and relish in Marks and Spencers instead of the usual local grocery store our sandwiches really were a higher standard than we were used to and did everything but raise our pinky fingers when tucking into our lunch hehe! After lunch we had a very spiritual moment when a bit of walking on water took place.......would it crack, after a few intrepid footsteps no one got wet lol.
Lunch over we set back on the path again up towards the base of Grasmoor skirting round the side of Eel Crag that we were on the previous weekend. Everything covered in snow and quite deep in some places with previous footsteps showing the depth of snow that had drifted into the valley however it now had a thick icy top to it making it quite difficult to penetrate. Wandering up and through the valley we soon could see Wandope in front of us, Eel Crag to the left and the impressive Grasmoor to the right. The path up Grasmoor looked white, icy, quite steep and without the extra benefit of having grippers I knew that it would be tricky. However I used the foot holes of a previous walker and tried as much as I could to stick to them and the rocky bits that protruded through the ice and hard packed snow.
Once near the top it flattened out a bit but we soon realised that we were only a few mtrs from quite an edge that fell into the valley below. 1 false step and there would be nothing stopping me from slipping off the edge. With that thought in mind we started to make our way more towards the middle of the plateau to continue our journey over to the summit. Was it the small poor looking cairn or was it the shelter that was the summit. Either way, we tagged both and after a few pictures were taken we headed off towards the path downwards again.
2 main thoughts at this point 1. The dark clouds coming in from the West and 2. The steep icy incline that we'd just come up had to be descended. The clouds didnt bother me as much as the descent and I had earlier said that I'd probably be better coming down on my backside but that would be too dangerous as there would be nothing to stop me and I would have no control as it was so very slippy and icy. So we reached an agreement that we would link up and together we'd take it step by step down the slope. I knew I had to stick to the broken up bits as that would give me more grip and almost as soon as we set off down I stepped on a glassy slick bit and toppled backwards. Luckily that was that last tumble for me and the rest of the descent occurred without incident. It was good having the help and reassurance of someone there with you, guiding you and supporting you and before long we were on the last bit and running down the last 20 mtrs or so to the base. At the bottom I couldnt stop laughing and that was really the theme for the whole day. Laugher and fun!
Wandope was the next target and it was still very icy underfoot as we headed towards the 4th Summit of the day. Not much of a climb up to the top but again the views were impressive stretching right over the Scafells, East over to Helvellyn and back towards Grasmoor and the route we'd just been on.
Everything was pretty tame now, slippy and slidy wise, compared to what we'd just encountered coming off Grasmoor but it was still fun to pretend it was slippy and scary and I did this quite often teasing of course......however that came to an abrupt halt when I found my lovely hat whisked from my head and thrown across the snow.......ok, I'll behave, if I must lol.
We're now descending out of the snowline and down towards Whiteless Pike, what we assume to be the 2nd last Wainwright of the day however we can see the sun starting to set behind the hills ahead and wonder now if we'll have enough sunlight to complete our walk. Whiteless pike is a rocky affair with a summit coming to a point and then a sharp descent off the other side. It was around here we stopped for second lunch, finishing off the "by royal appointment" sandwiches and having a few more nuts and fruit etc. The views over to the Scafells was incredible with Great Gable standing proudly in front glowing gently in the evening sun.
Down off Whiteless Pike it was apparent quite quickly that in the fading light we'd not make our last target of the day and Rannerdale Knotts would have to wait for another day. It was still very frosty and icy in the shadow of the valley and as we were walking along the path Chris decided he could indeed walk on water and stepped on a frozen bit of the path. It was sheet ice and within seconds he was on his back, his camera slung around his neck strangling him and thankfully the cracking noise I heard was the ice and not anything else. No injuries thank goodness but a moment that did take your breath away!
Following a path that would take us back to the road and up to where we'd parked the car we followed the route down over the road and down to the waters edge. A beautiful setting but in the fading light we'd no time to mess around and had to hustle back up along the treeline back to the road where we found the car just as darkness started to settle in.
An amazing day, outstanding weather, fantastic hills and superb company. A day filled with laughter and memories made that will last a long long time.
Roll on tomorrow with more big hills and a celebration !