Friday, 2 January 2009
Post-Christmas in Keswick
58.6 miles; 17350 feet; 20:09:19
After last year’s dismal weather were looking forward to the settled cold spell the forecasts promised. As a taster, on the way to Keswick, we stopped in Ambleside for a jog round an ‘extended Fairfield Horseshoe’. A couple of years ago we realised we had walked the Fairfield Horseshoe four of five times in mid –winter, enjoying sunshine and blizzards in equal measure, and decided to make it a tradition and, if possible, to include the extension of the descent from Red Screes. Although we added Red Screes this year we missed the best part of the route by running and getting down before dark. Walking off Red Screes after sunset provides a wonderful view of the Christmas Lights in Ambleside. Running down after dark would need too much concentration and anyway the gear shops were having sales!
Late afternoon Ambleside
With the weather improving we followed this with another look at the first leg of the 55at55 starting at the foot of Causey Pike and visiting Causey Pike, Scar Crags, Sail, Crag Hill, Wandope, Whiteless Pike and returning over Knott Rigg and Ard Crags. I had wanted to include Ranerdale Knott but this might have added another hour and a very cold hour as all the valleys were still frozen hard. We stopped on the ascent of Knott Rigg to watch cars struggling to get into and out of Newlands Hause from Buttermere. One made it down to Buttermere whilst two gave up and both cars climbing out of Buttermere gave up and reversed back down the road – while we sat in warm(ish) sunshine. I tried this leg in the dark and concluded it is just too difficult to get anything like a reasonable line off Whiteless Pike in the dark and so I am going to start my 2009 attempt on Saturday morning to do this leg in daylight.
Looking back to Derwent Water and Blencathra
After a couple of very cold nights the temperature didn't fall below about -2 but this was still enough to keep the ground frozen solid - the perfect time (the only time) to tackle the Bleaberry Fell to Armboth Fell ridge and so we did. The ground was solid and badly rutted in many places and in many others was simply ice and so progress was slower than we would have liked. Until High Tove we saw no-one else other than the hordes on Walla Crag who didn't seem interested in venturing this far south. High Street remained shrouded in clouds, as it had all week, but the rest of the high fells were bathed in winter sunshine.
North over Derwent Water from above Ashness Bridge
Having done most of the Grasmoor fells earlier we decided to try to visit the rest to add them to our 'Third Round' of Wainwright's high fells. Up the Coledale Valley to the hause and over Sand Hill to Hopegill Head and Whiteside which we had to ourselves. The solitude wasn't to continue as, even from here, we could see the procession over Grisedale Pike making its way over Hobcarton Crag to Hopegill Head. Returning to Hopegill Head we met the vanguard settling down for morning coffee. By the time we reached Grisedale Pike it was like the queue for Woolworths' closing down sale.
New Year's Eve dawned damp and foggy in Keswick and looked like it wouldn't clear all day. Back to Braithwaite we went to go back up the valley and down over Outerside for a short morning before coming home. About half way up Outerside we emerged frm the clag into glorious sunshine to see an inversion covering everything below 1500 feet.