The Roaches

Memories from two walking trips in the winter of 2008-09

A couple of visits to the Lakes were made, Sean and Jon in Dec 08 and a larger 'team' descended on the Britannia flat in Feb 09.

DEC 2008 - Sean, Jon and Geraint

At last! - good old fashioned winter weather, the tops were covered in snow and the visibility was great. We had planned a three night stay in Keswick with Geraint staying over on the Saturday night.

The plan for Saturday was to tackle Green Gable and Great Gable from Seathwaite - via Gillercomb. The weather was fantastic so Jon was hoping to give his newly purchased crampons a good seeing to. He was also looking forward to using Terry's ice axe - thanks Tez!

Jon ascends Sourmilk gill on the way to Gillercomb. He's dying to use his crampons.

The ascent of Sourmilk gill is always a nice start to the morning as it provides no time for a 'walk in' which results in a steep 800ft climb. Just what you want after a few beers and a biggish breakfast.

It was during the ascent of the gill that Geraint decided to tell us that he'd lost two stone in order to reach maximum physical fitness for an alpine climbing course. He was moving at a noticeably quicker pace than me and Jon and at one point was almost running. To be fair he hadn't had a gallon of ale the night before - that's our excuse anyway.

Jon and Geraint on the summit of Green Gable. Geraint had been waiting for us for just over two hours hence the look of annoyance.

Jon wanted to use his crampons. This was evident throughout the morning as every ten minutes we heard 'should we be using our crampons here?'. Geraint informed Jon that the snow was too deep for crampons and that they would be nothing more than a pain in the arse. Jon chuntered and moved on.

The view over to Gable and down into Ennerdale was superb. Jon however was slightly concerned about the ascent of Great Gable as he'd not walked in mountainous terrain in snow before and the initial climb from Windy Gap looked rather steep. We told him to stop being a big poof and get on with it.

Great Gable, Kirk Fell and Pillar from the summit of Green Gable.

We descended to Windy Gap and began the initially steep ascent of Gable. Jon was dying to use his crampons and was convinced it was the right thing to do when another walker, who was descending the steep slope, asked if we were carrying crampons as it was, as he called it, 'a bit dodgy'. The look on Geraint's face was a picture - he couldn't decide whether to call the guy a 'condescending twat', hit him with a gloved fist or bite his lip and carry on. He decided that the latter was the best option but decided to use a few expletives as he moved away.

Jon asked if he could use his crampons. Geraint said no.

To be fair the use of crampons would have made the lower slopes a bit easier to manage but the fun of seeing Jon wasting £80 was well worth the odd slippy moment.

The view westwards from the summit of Great Gable looking over Wast Water.

The summit was reached and lunch taken. We decided to descend directly to Styhead Tarn and did so with little fuss - and no crampons!

The descent to Seathwaite slowed somewhat as the snow turned to ice but we eventually reached the car and headed back to Keswick where curry and beer was waiting.

An excellent day was had by all. Where to tomorrow?

The weather on the Sunday wasn't as clear and the previous day but was still great for walking. It was however noticeably colder so we decided to have a smaller walk over High Spy and Maiden Moor. Geraint left us and headed back to St Bees so it was just me and Jon.

We decided to park in Newlands and walk along the Castlenook Mine road before ascending to Dalehead Tarn. As we gained height the ice on the path became more problematic and Jon wondered whether or not he should use his crampons.

It was decided that we should soldier on but Jon, probably in an attempt to highlight the fact that crampons were a valid option, took his time over the ice.

Oooh it's icy - can I put my crampons on?

We braved the snow and ice and eventually reached Dalehead Tarn.

The temperature dropped significantly on the gradual climb to High Spy and Jon asked if wearing crampons would make him any warmer.

Looking back over to Dale Head from just below the summit of High Spy.

We continued over Maiden Moor and contemplated going up to Cat Bells but it was decided that a descent down Yewthwaite Gill into Newlands was the better option so down we went.

We returned to Keswick where more food and beer was enjoyed. Jon hadn't used his crampons and wondered whether he should take them back - he decided that maybe one day they would be useful so he packed them into his rucsac.

The weekend's walking was over - would Jon ever get the chance to use his new foot toys?

FEB 2009 - Sean, Alison, Dave S, Macca, Ratboy, Mike and Jon

The Britannia flat was ours for the week or in Macca's case, a couple of nights. For some reason Macca had decided, at late notice, that he wouldn't be staying the week and refused to tell us why. If you know why Macca decided to come home early please email me.

As is now customary we decided to split into two teams for the first walk. Team 1 would contain me, Jon, Ratboy and Mike whilst Team 2 comprised of Alison, Macca and Dave. Team 1 were to head to Seathwaite and tackle Allen Crags and Glaramara with Team 2 aiming for the summit of Bleaberry Fell.

The weather was cloudy with the tops covered in snow.

I'd forgotten to bring my gaiters which was annoying and Jon had forgotten his camera.

Team 1 ascended via Grains Gill which, considering the icy conditions, was surprisingly good underfoot. That was until Mike and Jon decided that crampons were required so a short fifteen minute 'break' was enjoyed whilst they donned their virgin spikes. Mike had purchased a pair of crampons the day before so, like Jon, was itching to wear them.

Ratboy fitted his crampons in around two minutes and joined me higher up the gill. I decided to leave the crampons off as the going was fine.

Looking down Grains Gill. Mike and Jon can be seen in the middle distance pissing about with their crampons. Another group of walkers had decided to don their crampons based on the fact that Mike and Jon were wearing theirs.

Forty minutes later, using my new super camera zoom, I was able to take this shot of Mike and Jon. This was taken from the same position as the previous shot.

After what seemed like an age Mike and Jon finally caught up with me and Ratboy. They were both wearing crampons and big cheesey grins. For Jon it was a dream that had finally come true.

We reached Ruddy Gill and continued up to Esk Hause. Ratboy took his crampons off as the route became rockier whilst Mike and Jon were told to keep theirs on as any attempt to take them off\on again would increase the risk of us dying on the mountain overnight.

As we reached Esk Hause the situation changed - for the worse! Ice was becoming the norm but luckily for me, who still refused to wear crampons, there was a couple of inches of give which was more than adequate for keeping up a reasonable pace. The reasonable pace horizontally was quickly replaced by a more than reasonable pace vertically as the ice suddenly turned to glass. I fell at an awkward angle and bent my knee sideways in an attempt to stay upright - it failed to have the desired effect so down I went.

It was finally time to me to don the crampons except their was a minor problem - they didn't fit my new boots. Various attempts were made to shoehorn the crampons on but they wouldn't fit due to my new boots being too wide. I decided to march on without them in the hope that the slopes of Allen Crags would see a return to snow and the end of the ice - it wasn't to be.

Without crampons, any form of movement was nigh on impossible - the ice was simply too thick and no grip was available, even with the assistance of an ice axe. My C3PO-type movements were captured on video for all to see - VIDEO1.

Emergency crampon fitting session at Esk Hause. I'd also managed to cut my hand on the ice when falling.

A couple of attempts to fit the crampons failed so I resorted to sliding down the ice on my backside which, at times, was rather uncomfortable. This too was captured on video - VIDEO2.

After 'arsing' about for a few hundred yards I decided that enough was enough. The terrain wasn't improving and I was now traversing steeper slopes and running the risk of crashing into rocks. Also, the raucous laughter from my team mates was threatening to cause an avalanche so one final attempt to fit the 'bastard' crampons was made. Shortly after leaving the summit of Allen Crags I eventually managed to fit the crampons with a reasonably amount of stability even though they were at an awkward angle.

We could now finally move at a normal pace. As we approached the summit of Glaramara the weather began to close in and low cloud and snow was now the order of the day.

The descent from Glaramara towards Hind Gill would have been nigh on impossible without crampons. The ice was as smooth as ever and at such an angle that any fall would have resulted in the need for an ice axe arrest. This was no place for 'bumming'. As we descended another group of walkers were struggling on the slopes to the extent that the single member that was wearing crampons was forced to cut holes in the ice for the others. Their progress was painfully slow and with a few hundred yards of ice to negotiate it looked like being a long afternoon. If I hadn't have been able to fit my crampons I honestly believe that my team members would have killed me and buried my body rather than work tirelessly to get me down safely.

Finally, with crampons, our heroes could descend the slopes of Glaramara in safety. The sunlit ice is clearly visible.

The descent by the side of Hind Gill was steep but luckily the ice quickly turned into snow which enabled us to move quicker apart from Mike who descended slowly yet carefully. Well, it was careful until he lost his footing and careered face first down the hill - a lucky escape.

Ratboy was sent ahead to check for crevasses and before long was way ahead of the rest of the team as we waited for Mike. We all eventually reached the path close to Seathwaite and laughed heartily about the day's comical exploits.

Meanwhile, Team 2 had aborted their attempt to reach the top of Bleaberry Fell due to the icy conditions and the fact that neither Al or Dave S were carrying crampons or axes. Macca had only walked so far before turning back to Keswick.

Dave on the ascent of Bleaberry Fell shortly before the summit attempt was aborted due to it 'being a bit slippy'.

Al had to rescue Dave after a fall had resulted in him getting caught on a barbed wire fence. It could have been far worse - imagine if Dave had fallen down the hill, hit a school bus and killed numerous children or demolished a large farmhouse!

The following day (Monday) saw Ratboy and Macca returning home, Al, Dave, Mike and Jon taking in a quick 6 miler around Latrigg and me searching the Lakes for a new pair of crampons.

Monday: Dave, Jon and Mike check the route. Jon asks 'is that the Ben?'.

Tuesday arrived and the weather was glorious. Al and Dave decided to walk around Whinlatter and take in Lords Seat and Barf whereas Mike, Jon and myself took on the Coledale Round.

The Coledale Round team parked at Braithwaite and marched towards Stair where the ascent of Causey Pike would begin. Mike had been warned about the small rocky climb that defended the summit of Causey Pike so we hoped that it would be free of snow and ice.

Looking up to the summit of Causey Pike. Would the rocky knoll be ice-free?

Fortunately the scramble to the top was both a trouble and ice free affair thanks to the warm morning sun. We reached the ridge and admired the view ahead of us.

Jon laughs as Mike has palpitations on the summit of Causey Pike. Scar Crag, Sail and Crag Hill can be seen in the background.

We continued along the ridge to Crag Hill which only required the use of an ice axe for a few yards on the ascent of Sail.

Jon poses on the summit of Crag Hill......

...whilst Mike marches across the summit plateau.

We descended to Coledale Hause before climbing over Sand Hill to reach Hopegill Head. The views to the west were excellent with the perfect visibility allowing us a clear view of Scotland and the Isle of Man.

Next on the list was the unnamed summit between Hopegill Head and Grisedale Pike. An icy slope above Hobcarton Crag required the use of crampons as a fall could have resulted in a bout of deadness. Thanks to my new crampons the tomfoolery of Sunday was avoided and all went according to plan. I'd even remembered to bring my gaiters!

Jon and I on the slopes leading to the unnamed summit before Grisedale Pike.

We eventually reached the summit of Grisedale Pike and only had to negotiate the loose descent from the summit to Sleet How to end the day. Luckily the descent wasn't as icy as it could have been so progress was safe but steady. Mike however wasn't enjoying the descent at all and struggled to cope with the conditions with the result that the descent from the Pike to near Lanty Well spring took nearly 1 hour and 20 minutes!.

Looking back over Outerside to the first peak of the day - Causey Pike.

By the time we'd reached the car the light was fading and we were glad to reach Keswick and the evening meal in the George Hotel - oh, and the beers!

Meanwhile, Al and Dave had enjoyed a cracking day on Lords Seat and Barf with the same excellent views that we'd enjoyed on the Coledale Round.

Look at the size of that fucker! Skiddaw can also be seen in the background.

Grisedale Pike from the climb through the Whinlatter forest. What is now know as 'Mike's ridge' can be seen to the left.

The remaining two days were spent walking around Seatoller, Castle Crag and Derwent Water - an easy end to what had been an eventful and excellent week.

Alison, Jon and Dave next to Castle Crag. Jon is looking for the route to the top.

Alison and Dave descend to Seatoller. Glaramara is the peak in the distance.

Let's hope the Britannia flat will be available for use next year and not turned into a Co-op funeral parlour!


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