(Largely extracted from my diary)
On the trip – Stu Wells, Thomas Tyrrell, Alex May, Alex Hay, Jonathan Clayton, Mike Trousdale, Stephen, Simon.
After a cracking bit of stargazing in Scotland, I was hoping for a good clear night four our Lake District trip. Things were looking good when we dismounted the minibus, with Orion bright in the southern skyline, and the usually faint constellation of Lepus, the hare, lying clearly at his feet. Unfortunately, by the time we’d got the tents up a thin film of cloud had covered the sky over, and the only distinct thing was Cassiopeia. My hopes of learning a new constellation were dashed.
The group set off to the pub with head torches, while I lagged behind to enjoy the rare sensation of walking by moonlight, revolving in my head those lines of Coleridge:
Is the night chilly and dark?
The night is chilly, but not dark,
The thin grey cold is shed on high
It covers, but not hides the sky
The moon is behind and at the full
And yet she looks both small and dull.
The night is chill, the cloud is grey
‘Tis a month before the month of May
And Spring comes slowly up this way.
But it was February, not April, and I failed to find Christabel kneeling by the old oak tree.
I had a pleasant 3 pints in the Sticklebarn – I didn’t know The National Trust ran pubs, much less brewed their own ale – and a spirited game of Connect 4 with Jonathan. In the sleeping bags by midnight.
Next morning, breakfasted on porridge and headed up into the misty heights. The cloud was thick, low and unbroken – we headed up into it fifteen minutes in, and didn’t get out of it, or even catch a break in it, till the end of the day. Constant cloud drizzle, and the snow working its way down through the tops of my ungartered boots meant this was a wet one for me, as it was for pretty much everyone. I’m no stranger to wet weather and cold climes – on the contrary, I revel in them – but when I climb a mountain, I like to be able to recognise it again. We did Pike o’Blisco and Crinkle Crags, but they could have been Whernside or Ben Lomond for all I knew. Stu and Stephen grew a bit sick after the first mountain, so we left them and struggled on. The highlight was a sliding session on a deep slick slope, where I swore more in one breath than I had in a week, but we were all quite glad when we decided to skip Bow Fell and come down earlier. Good exercise is all that could really be said for the walk – that, and that it made us all extremely appreciative of the free hot showers and druing rooms the campsite offered, and the fact we could drive out to Ambleside and dine in a chippy rather than slaving over a camping stove.
Our group suddenly swelled by 3 the next morning – Jack had come for a walk and a lift home, bringing a friend along with him, and Megan had nipped down from Carlisle for the day. They had the best of it – the weather was fantastic, and we set off to Stickle Tarn in dry boots and high spirits. Such was the warmth of the day that I could almost have fancied a swim – but Alex Hay, who’d plunged into Llyn Llydaw with me last November declined to join me, I had no trunks or towel, and there was perhaps a little too much ice floating around for comfort. Maybe next month.
We decided to set off up Pavey Ark the easy way, which was a challenging enough scramble in itself, and lunched on the summit before trekking over to High Raise, which offered a dazzling panorama of mountains I haven’t climbed yet and don’t recognise but ache to know more of. After a fun piece of cross-country descent – more snow in the boots – we hit the Cumbria way, and eased down the valley by Langdale Combe, just as the light was beginning to slide up the eastern slopes, throwing the west into shadow. I felt fantastic all the way down, and the view was beautiful – the pub at the bottom was the crowning glory. 2 pints of 6% ale later, I was in the proper mood for the long journey home.