The Roaches

Memories from a trip to Keswick - 2013

March 2013 - The excellent weather of the previous year had been replaced by freezing temperatures and snow. This was to remain for the week so we were unsure as to how many walks would be completed being as many members of the group weren't equipped with crampons and ice axes.

The same attendees from 2012 met up in Keswick on the Saturday night. The plan for the following day was to ascend Lords Seat and Barf from Whinlatter. This was a 'break in' walk which would give us the chance of assessing the conditions on the tops. Dave however, wasn't prepared to add injury to the knocks he'd received from a fall a couple of weeks back so decided to conquer Keswick instead.

SUNDAY - Lords Seat and Barf from Whinlatter. 5 miles\1440ft ascent.

The complex pattern of forest roads around Whinlatter weren't considered an issue as Alison had done this walk a couple of times and Jon the once. However, past experience was to be of no use as we'd lost our way after only 100 yards. We pissed about in and around the visitor centre before Alison remembered where the route began.

Team photo shoot at the start of the walk. This time last year we were sweating our bag off.

The trees were covered in snow and ice which provided pleasant viewing. The occasional snow fall from a tree straight down our neck helped to keep us on our toes but, as was expected, the first junction in the forest road provided Alison and Jon with another moment of memory loss. A quick look at the map solved this particular problem so on we went.

Marching through the wintry forest.

Another couple of route finding issues arose with one in particular being rather annoying (to me anyway) but before long we were ascending the gradual slopes to Lords Seat.

Mark and Terry on the final slopes of Lords Seat. Grisedake Pike and Hopegill Head are in the background.

The views off the top of Lords Seat were excellent and enjoyed by all. I was amazed we'd actually got this far after the morning's navigational tomfoolery so was particularly pleased.

Next on the list was Barf. A short descent and reascent was all that was required to reach the summit but an increase in the amount of ice meant that we were to tread carefully.

Alison poses on the summit of Barf with the cloud covered slopes of Skiddaw in the background.

A short icy descent to the stream was endured before we reached the safety of the forest road. A 'stand up' lunch was enjoyed whilst looking down at the Bishop and the Clerk before we powered on back to the car park.

Jon, shortly after commenting on the possibility of Mark and Terry heading off in the wrong direction, managed to turn right instead of left when exiting Whinlatter. This made Jon look silly.

Where to tomorrow?

MONDAY - The Helm Crag, Gibson Knott and Calf Crag ridge. 8 miles\2100 ft ascent.

More snow had fallen overnight so we aborted any plans to hit the higher fells. We'd been blown off Gibson Knott on the previous visit so we'd got an issue to settle. We drove down to Grasmere, parked up and kitted up in what looked could be a grim day.

Dave decided to rest for another day so the same eight from the previous day were ready to rumble.

View stop on the ascent to Helm Crag.

The summit of Helm Crag was soon reached with the snow proving easy to walk on. There was very little ice so we soon reached the col between Helm Crag and Gibson Knott. Would we conquer it this time?

The answer to this was 'yes'! The snow was deepening however and in parts was around a foot deep. This added an air of adventure for many of the team as snow can transform a low summit into a wee alpine environment. Terry was beginning to tire and questioned how much further we'd got to do. Would he turn back?

Approaching the summit of Calf Crag with Gibson Knott and Helm Crag visible in the background.

After a quick map check near Bleasdale Tarn we decided to head down into Easedale rather than attempt Steel Fell. Terry was beginning to pick and and by the time we'd dropped into Easedale was walking at a fine pace.

We enjoyed a pint in the Red Lion and then said our goodbyes to Mark and Terry who had to return home. Another good day.

TUESDAY - A gentle bimble around Newlands from Keswick. 8.7 miles\1000ft ascent.

Cat Bells and Newlands.

Gordon, Al and Dave on the road to Braithwaite.

WEDNESDAY - Causey Pike and Scar Crags from Braithwaite. 7.7 miles\2450ft ascent.

More snow had fallen but this didn't prevent us from having a crack at Causey Pike and Scar Crags.

It felt pretty cold when kitting up in Braithwaite but after a short march along the Newlands road we were ready for the ascent to Causey Pike. Gordon, Jane and Alison were equipped with newly purchased Microspikes whilst Jon and Sarah chose to use the wire soles type of protection. I, however, decided to trump them all by taking crampons. I would be the only survivor.

At about 1200ft the snow was turning rather icy so everyone, except me, decided to don their respective ice gripping solution of choice. Regular readers may noticed that a similar sentence has been used before.

It's spike time!

I'd decided to leave crampons on until as late as possible with the preferred option being to not use them at all. More ice appeared on the final ascent of Causey Pike so rather than risk a fall I let the others continue whilst I donned my crampons.

All was going OK until at one point my left crampon became loose due to a rock knocking the locking pin out. I'd noticed that the others had stopped so shouted up to tell them to continue - which they did.

A few minutes later the same happened again but this time the entire connecting plate had fallen out of the crampons. Bollocks! More pissing about ensued with me trying to refit the crampon without having to take the boot off. I eventually managed to get it reconnected and fitted and carried on up.

After a brief scramble on the upper knoll of Causey Pike all seemed OK. That was until the crampon came loose yet again. Rather than piss about for the third time I decided to pick up the pieces and head to the summit. This is when I noticed that I'd dropped the connecting plate. Jon checked the immediate vicinity but had little chance of finding a steel plate in snow and ice. Sod it!

It was at this point that the others decided to inform me of the ease of use and reliability of their chosen ice spike solution. Bastards!

We took in the views from the summit whilst I packed my crampons away. Alison's poles were to be my icy saviours from this point onwards.

The team in the col between Causey Pike and Scar Crags (the next peak along).

Apart from the odd patch of deep snow the traverse of Scar Crags was completed with ease. A quick lunch stop at the foot of Sail would signal the start of our descent towards Outerside but we were beaten to it by a group of older walkers who appeared to have no protection against snow and ice. This was a mistake.

The path skirting the side of Scar Crags was completely blanked out by snow with certain sections flattened to ice by previous walkers. A fall would result in a slide towards Force Crag Mine so it was important to stay upright. Alison's poles provided some protection but they weren't as useful as the Microspikes etc as a couple of minor falls confirmed.

We were soon at the base of Outerside but a team vote decided to head down rather than take in Outerside and Barrow. Some of us had had enough.

A pint of Cumberland Ale in Braithwaite completed a fine day.

THURSDAY - Outerside and Barrow for Jon and Sarah. Kendal and Bowness for the rest of us.

Thursday turned out to be the best day of the week. Jon and Sarah revisted Braithwaite and walked over Outerside and Barrow whilst the rest of us enjoyed a 'holiday' day in Kendal and Bowness.


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