Tuesday, 24 February 2015

The Winter Wainwright Challenge Day 1: The Glenridding Circuit.

Up early for an excellent breakfast and then off over the Kirkstone Pass to Glenridding for our first route: A Glenridding Circuit.  This was to take us from the village up to the minor summit of Glenridding Dodd and then on over Heron Pike, Sheffield Pike, out to Hartside and then back to Raise, Whiteside and Helvellyn Lower Man before tackling the descent of Swirral Edge and the ascent of the final Wainwright of the day, Catsye Cam and then descending back to the car.  However, due to ice and severe avalanche risk, we had already abandoned any thoughts of Swirral and Catsye Cam.  As we set off from the car it was already windy and the weather looked ominous.  We reached Glenridding Dodd with clear skies for it’s magnificent views along Ullswater and across to the Far Eastern fells, but by the time we had reached Heron Pike we were in cloud and driving snow and spindrift.  Time to don snow goggles and crampons.  From the relatively sheltered position of Sheffield Pike we headed across wide open, exposed fellside to Hartside.  Steep hard snowslopes prompted us to get out ice axes in case of slips.  Once exposed to the wind we appreciated it’s full fury; it was living up to the forecast of steady 40-60 mph.  On Hartside, however it suddenly increased dramatically in strength and began to snow and hail.  The only thing to do was dig in our axes, kneel down and cling on until it passed.  Even then driving snow and spindrift meant we were trying to operate in whiteout conditions.  I remember that only the top half of each of us was visible through the spindrift.  The only sensible decision was to retreat, which we did as quickly as possible, soon reaching lower ground and calm conditions.  A late lunch and finding our way back to our starting position completed an epic day.  All that remained was beer o’clock and sustenance in the hostel.
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