Friday, 9 March 2012

Back to the hills

I hadn't been back to the Lakes or any other hills for that matter since the Tour de Helvellyn back in December.  Every time I looked at the forecast it was gales. I've been picked up by the wind a couple of times in the past and it's an experience I don't want to repeat so I stayed away. But with the Hardmoors coming up and a fair bit of Bob Graham reconnoitering to be done and John K waxing lyrical about the Lakeland 100 course I thought it was about time I got my act together and got up there. Nothing too taxing for starters, I would go for a walk, boots and all, so I opted for what I could make of Leg 2 of the BG Round.

There's a lot of renovation going on at Tebay services so I forewent the full English for a sausage butty in the car which saved a bit of time and put me in the car park at Threlkeld just after nine. Out I got into the bright blue but still rather windy day and sidled off down to the river to begin the climb up Clough Head. I should have known better for a first day out of course because this is the second biggest climb on the whole Round, luring you in with a gentle ramble up to the Old Coach Road then hitting you with over 1500 ft of full frontal grass to the top. I took well over the hour (the BG schedule says 50 minutes) but once on top, out of the shade and into the sunshine, it seemed worth it and I breezed along the mostly frozen ground feeling all was well with the world.

I had to stop on the pull up to Great Dodd to attend to incipient blisters (just when did I last wear these boots?), but apart from that the sun and wind accompanied me to Sticks pass in fine style. There was another lone walker a Dodd or so ahead, but otherwise I saw no-one for five or six miles. Maybe I'm selfish or just antisocial but I'm happy with it like this.

After the pass more people and more clouds showed up so it was clear I'd had the best of the day. But I carried on over Raise, then Whiteside lived up to its name with the path becoming completely snow covered from here on, easy to follow the footprints now up Lower Man to reach the usual cluster of humanity at the strange but efficient cruciform shelter on Helvellyn summit. But as promised the wind was getting stronger as the day wore on, odd moments of having to stop and crouch, looking for convenient rocks to hang on to if it all got out of hand. I had the usual minor difficulties finding the tops of Nethermost Pike and Dollywagon in the clag, but then they were done and I was down into the daylight again at Grisedale Tarn.

I'd enjoyed the day but the wind was dampening my enthusiasm for going higher again, so I ignored Fairfield and Seat Sandal and scuttled off down Tongue Beck to Grasmere, tea, and the bus back to Threlkeld. A good enough return to the fells, but we won't dwell on how long I took. We all have to start again somewhere.

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