Monday, 6 April 2009

Unfinished Business – Cumbrian Traverse

At around 06:00 on Saturday morning Pauline and I along with Keith Foster and Gary Murray left Broughton Mills just before first light in a gentle drizzle. Forecast suggested a difficult morning but a 90% cloud free afternoon and while the wind might build through the morning it would decline in strength in the early afternoon. If first light wasn’t far away neither was the clag although it did appear to be lifting a little, perhaps. Great Stickle (987 ft) was wreathed in clouds and by the time we reached Stickle Pike (1085 ft) a little later the clouds were above the summit – this, however, would be the only summit where anything beyond the hand at the end of your arm could be seen. The Three Shires Stone road crossing some 4 hours later allowed us to, briefly, drop out of the clouds. Occasional showers of rain drifted through most of the morning, never heavy and never prolonged but as we gained height the strength of the wind grew disproportionately. Coniston Old Man to Swirl How was difficult and cold and leaving Great Carrs was very difficult and Pauline was having trouble staying upright. Heavy rain driven by the (now) very strong wind was punctuated by blasts of hailstones – the joys of a Lakeland spring. By Esk Pike, almost seven and a half hours from the start there was no sign of the wind abating and while the rain had stopped we were all having trouble moving fast enough to keep warm. No matter how much any of us wished for signs of the wind dropping they just weren’t there. Re-grouping at Esk Hause, we decided we couldn’t keep warm for another 5 hours in these conditions and that continuing would run the very real risk of hypothermia.  Even “finishing” here meant we still had another 13 miles to cover before reaching a car or a fish and chip shop! Retiring to Borrowdale valley was the only realistic option and, perhaps surprisingly, we took it and headed down Grains Gill for Keswick. Neither the rain nor the wind had finished with us and eventually, about 6 hours late, the weather improved.

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Stickle Tarn from Stickle Pike at 06:50 and seven hours later our next view -  Grains Gill

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Evening sun below Stickle Pike (– how it should have been all afternoon)

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Early Sunday morning in Duddon Valley and the start of a near perfect day!

1 comment:

Donkarlo said...

Unlucky Ian,
Sounds a lot like the day we tried to do it last year, it got to a point where it just made sense to drop into Borrowdale. We made the call at the three shires stone, we were very cold at this point.