Helvellyn, 3rd to 4th November 2001

I’m afraid this is going to be a very short report, because I’m kid busy at the moment!

Our first weekend trip of the year was a success, with a full complement of eleven happy campers; other mad people were Ben, Roger, Arran, Mary, Steve, Michelle, Daniel, Stuart, Andrew and Ed. And of those, the latter five were the most mad of all, because they went on an even longer and more arduous walk than the rest of us! And I thought 12 miles was hard going…

We arrived at the campsite in good time on Friday evening, early enough to set up the tents and make our way back into the village and to the Travellers Rest – where we did rest, and also drink, and after that were merry. Some, of course, were merrier than others; I’m sure you don’t need me to name names! Eventually we trickled back to the campsite and into bed, ready for a hard day’s climbing to follow.

The next morning looked grim. The clouds were low, and we couldn’t see more than half way up the mountains. More to the point, little bits of each cloud were doing their best to get as low as possible, as a fine mist pervaded the campsite. Unperturbed, we set off up the near slopes to lead us to the peak of Helvellyn.

We quickly decided that if the really mad lot were going to complete their longer walk by nightfall, it would be a good idea if we let them walk a bit quicker instead of waiting for us stragglers to keep up, so shortly after starting the long, steep climb, we split in two. Navigation was unusually easy, we just followed a wall all the way up the hill! Until eventually the hill narrowed, and narrowed, and narrowed.

This was the notorious Striding Edge! A narrow rocky ridge, whose sides dropped so steeply into the cloud that we couldn’t even see the bottom. Rocks made slippery by rain and moss. Hints of path that lured you on and then disappeared without trace. And all around, the mist closed in and not another soul in sight, an eerie sense of being cut off from the rest of the world. A far cry from the previous Ben Lairig trip here in the summer, when the ridge was baked in sun and had two hundred people fighting their way up it! Unfortunately I have no photos of the ridge to show you; no-one seems to have been brave enough to get their cameras out on that bit!

Eventually after much tortuous scrambling and hanging on and fervent praying (no, it wasn’t that bad really!) we reached the end of The Edge and finished the gentle stroll up to the peak of Helvellyn, and into the teeth of a howling wind – which had fortunately not attacked us earlier while we were on the ridge. It was at this point that, had we managed to keep up with the other group, or paths diverged, as they turned left and we turned right. And I think we made the right choice.

Within five minutes of walking away from the top, the clouds had gone, the sun was out, and we could see for miles. The views, as they always are in the Lake District, were incredible. The wind was still strong, so we ploughed on for another couple of miles before looking for somewhere to stop for lunch. When we got to Sticks Pass, where we had intended to start our descent, Roger decided that carrying on over the Dodds, the next few peaks was a good idea. It would have made the walk about 40 miles long. He was outvoted. We started down the hill.

After a mile or so, we came to a quarry, and to appease Ben and Roger, agreed to add a mile or two to our original planned route, as we were still brimming with energy, and a while later emerged at the lakeside. This seemed like a good time for a rest, so we did. Apart from Roger, who spent the entire time harassing the local wild fowl. Before long we were headed back to the campsite, and so to the pub. And a very nice pub it was too.

The landlord seemed to like us as well. We kept giving him lots of money. (Certain people did, anyway). So much so that the next morning, when several among us had pledged to get up extra early and do a long walk while the rest of us had a more relaxing day, those people were feeling decidedly the worse for wear, and not at all like going up another mountain. The weather had turned grim again, much worse than Saturday, and nobody could face climbing in the rain again. So we piled into the bus and drove to Keswick, where we spent the day looking at ridiculously expensive stuff that ridiculously mad people use to climb ridiculously big and steep mountains – with several in the group desperate to buy some of it…

And then home.

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