Posts Tagged ‘swimming’

Snow Swims on Great End

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

Crofty, Guido, Rob and me headed up to the lakes on a bit of a punt for Friday, not really sure how much would be in condition. We settled on Great End as one of the most reliable crags, I was specially keen on Great End as I have had Window Gully on my wish list since seeing it last year.

Arriving at Seathwaite there did not seem to be much snow although as the sun rose Crofty remarked hopefully that there was a sprinkling on the tops. By the time we arrived at the crag it was clear this was something of an understatment. The whole crag was plastered and some of the gullies appeared to be banked out, I could hardly recognise Window Gully despite thinking I had a clear picture of it in my head from last year.

Jim and Guido made a beeline for Central Gully Left Branch, mentioning they might follow us up Window Gully after, we headed straight for Window Gully. Despite reports on rotten ice elsewhere in the lakes on UKC we found the ice here very good, after a cold night it was hard and on the brittle side, both of us were sending fusillades of icy shards down the hill and I have a fine bruise on one knee from failing to dodge one of Rob's incoming missiles. We soloed the first few pitches but I was lured sideways by the upper icefall which was really fat and blue, I chickened out of soloing that as the initial bulge looked steep and it was a long way to the bottom of the hill.

Topping out we found we had made good time, it was still only 11.30 so after descending Cust's Gully (very banked out, lots of spindrift coming down) Rob suggested One Pitch Gully, which was, suprisingly, just one pitch. What a swim the approach to that turned out to be, it was three steps upwards two steps down through thick soft snow. Rob had done this route last year so I led. It was quite nice to have the variety of a mixed pitch after our earlier ice pitches. I found the moves left onto the ridge quite tricky but there was a reassuringly solid nut to protect it and some really nice axe torquing.

Topping out once more we were met by howling blasts loaded with ice crystals and I mutated into a yeti as my hairline turned into a fringe of icicles. It was clearly Pie O'clock so we headed down to consume said pies while waiting for Jim and Guido to finish. Eventually we saw two familiar looking figures which seemed, surprisingly as it was now 3pm, to be heading back up for a final route. "They're keen" we thought and shouted to them that we were heading down to the car. They waved back happily but God knows why they thought we were informing them as it was not Jim and Guido at all – they were, as we discovered, waiting back at the car.

With the climbing done the only remaining possibility for an epic was the journey back, and this was duly supplied as the A66 turned into a shaken snowglobe and Jim did his Ice Road Truckers impression all the way back to the A1 – well driven Jim.

Rob's other pix here

Definitely not a day for the hills

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Approaching the startSo said Andy Mayhew's excellent Mountain Weather Forecast for last weekend, at And in most people's view, he'd have been absolutely right.

But we and over 2000 others begged to differ, and so Alan, Rob, Pete B, Carmen, and I headed for Borrowdale to take part in this year's Original Mountain Marathon (OMM). The weather earlier in the week had been poor to say the least, with heavy rain and widespread flooding in the Lakes, and apparently on Thursday it was touch and go whether the event would go ahead, but in the end the all clear was issued.  

Saturday morningCarmen and I camped overnight at the event centre, Seathwaite Farm at the head of Borrowdale. The winds were strong, but not as strong as they were due to get later, when torrential rain and 110mph gusts were predicted. Our start time was 9.01, when the winds were picking up but the rain not yet falling. Carrying slightly more than usual due to the weather, we opted for a cautious route choice; we were doing the Long Score course, which gave us 6 hours (7 in a normal year) to visit as many controls as we could. Rather than doing as usual (getting over-optimistic, and ending up with a mad dash to finish in time), we decided to get a couple of high level controls to start, and then take the lowest route possible towards the mid camp (at Gatesgarth Farm near Buttermere) leaving plenty of time spare.

Near Styhead PassSetting off towards our first control, near Sprinkling Tarn, the winds soon asserted themselves, and making progress towards Styhead Pass became increasingly slow and tiring. After this, we quickly abandoned plans to head uphill to a high scoring control above the Corridor Route, and instead headed down towards Wasdale Head. A couple of good but easy controls on the lowest slopes of Kirkfell, and we headed up the path towards Black Sail Pass.

The 'missing' controlBy now, the rain was falling heavily and the winds increasing yet further, even when the wind was behind us it was sometimes hard to make much progress due to the effort needed to stay upright! After a brief detour at the pass where I started to lead us uphill instead of down (oops), we picked up another control before descending towards the upper reaches of Ennerdale. Or rather, we would have picked up another control, but it wasn't there! There was a marker post to show where it should be, and it matched the map, so we're convinced we were in the right place. Perhaps it had been blown or washed away.

The next problem was crossing the stream in the valley bottom, which by now was a raging torrent. We watched 2 people ahead of us link arms and cross together, the water was at waist height and they struggled before finally making it across, so we took about 1 nano-second to decide on a half mile detour to cross a bridge downstream. Even this was tricky, requiring a thigh-deep crossing of a side stream to reach the bridge.

We then followed another stream up to reach the col between Haystacks and Brandreth. This was another torrent, completely uncrossable until we got to the col, which was a shame as the path was on the other side! So we had to go up scree and heather on the left, nervously eyeing the drop to the water below. Uphill again, into the teeth of the storm, walking was by now becoming virtually impossible but we managed it somehow, and at lastmanaged to find a tricky control relatively easily.

Bridge crossing From here it should have been an easy descent down the old mine track to Buttermere. But first we had another river to cross, this one looked unfordable (2 people in front turned back), so another long detour up stream until it was shallow enough to wade – only thigh deep at this point, and 50 feet wide. Even following the mine track back down was slow and difficult, it was like walking down a river for most of the way, knee deep in places, with numerous stops to cross side-streams/waterfalls joining from the right.

We thought we had it bad until we passed the main bridge in the valley bottom – the bridge was deep under water with just the hand rails poking out the top, people were having to use these to haul themselves across, exciting stuff.

All that remained was a trot down to the midcamp where we arrived with 3 minutes to spare – only to be told that the event had been cancelled and we had to walk back over Honister Pass!

Our tent on Sunday morningTo cut a very long story short, the road was closed before we got going and so we ended up having a virtually sleepless night camped at Gatesgarth Farm in a tent that did its best to collapse, but somehow just about stayed up. The next morning we joined the procession of people walking over Honister Pass back to Seathwaite.

Approaching Honister PassSo in summary – definitely not a day for the hills, but it nevertheless managed to be one of the best, and certainly most memorable, days I've ever had in the mountains. My only regret is that the event was cancelled – Sunday was relatively dry and sunny, with only light gales!

Postscript.  Apparently there was another mountain marathon in the area at the same time, but it was very different. The one we were on, everybody was self-sufficient, and ran round in pairs, carrying tents, sleeping bags, spare clothes, and food for 2 days. Almost everyone got off the hill OK on Saturday, and the few who didn't spent a safe (but probably thoroughly unpleasant!) night camping in the hills before descending the next morning. A dozen or so had to be helped off by mountain rescue, mostly with minor injuries or mild hypothermia, everyone else got themselves down safely.
Descent from HonisterIn this other event, by contrast, 1700 ill-equipped runners were unaccounted for, and hundreds were trapped on the hills overnight. They were lucky to still be alive when they were finally rescued the next day. But you've probably heard about that one already…

Sorry about the poor quality of the pictures, it's hard to take good photos when you're being blown off your feet!

An appeal has been set up to collect money for the local mountain rescue teams – the majority of us didn't need them, but it's always good to know they're there!