Snow, icicles and frozen waterfalls greeted those that made it to Striding Edge Hostel in the Ullswater Valley for the January meet. Particularly challenging conditions beset the first car to leave London when Andrew F spent 1.5 hours crawling through Slough to pick up Chuck. Drivers toughed out the rough conditions to reach the Lakes, but it was technical errors in the end that set most chaos amongst travel plans. Andrew later incurred a puncture heading to pick up Caroline and Bev from Penrith station, who were running late having missed a connection and got into delays at Manchester Piccadilly (the walking pole on the line had nothing to do with it!); he executed a quick roadside tyre-change to make the late-evening pick up. Meanwhile, in deepest, snowiest Derbyshire, Robin found his van had a failed battery…
Ian, Sarah, and James topped the record in the arrival stories – arriving with a police escort, having been found driving (suspected drunk?) around Glenridding. Ian assumed that he had indeed violated some traffic regulation, but it seems that it is police policy in Cumbria to be simply as helpful as possible. The police asked if they were lost and on hearing that they were heading to Striding Edge they escorted them on their way.
Robin appeared at what seemed like dawn (well, certainly in time for early breakfast) on Saturday morning, having fixed his battery and driven up in the night. He reported a pleasant sleep on the banks of Ullswater, despite the well below freezing temps.
Saturday got off to an unusually prompt and faff-free start. Andrew F, Caroline, Bev, Miriam, Bea, Sophie, Federica, Chuck, Robin, Bernard, John and Nick set off early for an ascent of Helvellyn via a very windy Whiteside (approx 70-80 mph). From Helvellyn they also took in the summits of Nethermost Pike and Dollywaggons Pike, before descending to Grizedale Tarn and walking back to the Hostel via Grizedale Valley. Another group headed up Helvellyn via Swirrel Edge: Gosia, Jules, Ian and Sarah enjoyed a lovely walk up with a little ice and lots of snow. Conditions clagged in at the top and the group navigated down an unnamed path with a compass, against high winds and with lunch in constant postponement (they finally ate it back at the hut).
Gus had headed off up the valley and enjoyed some scrambling up a snowy grass slope to the ridge with the aid of an ice axe, and later had fun on a short section of a frozen cascade. Meanwhile, David and Dan climbed a Grade III on Helvellyn. It was bitterly cold but there was only a thin covering of snow. Rather surprising given the long period of cold weather there was only intermittent ice. The route ended with a delightful steep pitch of alpine style neve up to the summit plateau.
On Saturday evening Margaret arrived, and it was straight down to the Travellers Rest for many, for some food, liquid replenishment, catch up and cheer.
The following day Dave and Dan went to Hart Crag to seek out the series of ice falls that frequently form there. Again the pickings were slim and in the end they soloed a modest pitch to the summit. It was on Sunday that the runners got into gear and Bernard and Robin ran up to Raise over Stang and the top of the ski tow, not particularly following any paths which continued as a theme for the day. They turned right dropping down at Sticks Pass, then round the back of Sheffield Pike down a long Ullswater before returning back to the hostel. Bernard seemed to enjoy his introductory session to the world of fell running.
Andrew G, Bea, Chuck and James headed up Helvellyn via Striding Edge and found enough snow to make it slippery but not quite enough for crampons. Crampons finally came out on the descent of Swirral Edge, and there was enough weather to make it dramatic but not scary. Ian, Sarah and Jules walked from the hostel along the high path towards Glenridding; however, due to a lot of intermittent ice, the going was very slow and the walk became shorter than anticipated and they returned for drinks at the hostel before setting off home. Nick and Margaret had an enjoyable march up to Red Tarn in very chilly and windy conditions.
Andrew F suggested a more adventurous route up Helvellyn than the previous day’s, this time via Swirrel Edge with a descent to the bunkhouse via Whiteside. Caroline, Bev, Miriam, Sophie, Federica, John and Gus joined. The winds on Whiteside had increased to a steady 80-90 mph. Footings and camera cases were lost! And on returning to Glenridding, Chuck was nearly lost too! Having returned to the bunkhouse via a footpath to pick up his forgotten gaiters, while driver Andrew had set off down the road to the pub in the car to collect him, Chuck managed to get just that bit more walking in for the weekend.
A cracking meet, polished off by many of the London-bound returnees meeting at the Tebay service station on the M6 where pockets lost pounds in the good food cafe and at the attached organic butchers and farm shop.