Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Tilly, Skiddaw & Sledging

Arriving at the car-park
Following the success of the last Twitter group walk (in terms of fun rather than navigation at least) we decided to set forth again, this time heading for Skiddaw Little Man, Skiddaw, Bakestall and back around the Cumbria Way on a 12 mile horseshoe route.  A horseshoe route?  What could possibly go wrong?

A rather misty Skiddaw
We all met in the car-park with the mist hanging low in the valleys and clinging onto the summits above but with the promise of “sunny intervals” at midday.  We carefully checked the route (nothing if not learning from our mistake on the previous walk, although we had Ray and Gary with us so the odds were definitely in our favour) and headed off to our first mountain.  Tilly the beautiful black Labrador was with me on another visit and she was particularly excited about the walk as for her, more people equals more treats!

Tilly in action in the mist
The path up the Jenkins Hill path to Skiddaw is very steep and before long I was a straggler at the back but as well as Tilly I had the company of Phil (chief photographer) and Ria, who appreciated all the “Tanya stops” (can’t really call them view stops as the mist meant there was nothing to see!)  Tilly was scampering around and having a great time.  After the others had waited for us to catch up, I started chatting to Gina (of legendary chocolate brownie fame) and found myself at the front of the group for a while.  After a few minutes I turned around to see where Tilly was and I had a moment of panic as I could not see her anywhere!  I ran to the back of the group shouting her name (deafening Phil in the process) and then saw her trotting further down the path stopping at everyone she came to then moving back to the next person.  Poor Tilly had lost me and was working on the odds that I would not be in the main group but at the back somewhere.  Usually she would have been right!  I called her again and then started waving my arms manically like I was conducting an aeroplane to land to catch her attention.  I was wearing a bright pink ski jacket so she soon spotted me and came racing back up the path, covering me in kisses as she arrived.  

My microspikes
At the fork in paths to Skiddaw Little Man and Lonscale Fell, we split into two groups.  I headed straight for Little Man (very conscious that at my pace an additional fell would hold everyone up).  Very soon we were in snow and it was frozen so quite treacherous to walk on so I had an opportunity to try out my new microspikes purchased in Keswick a few days before.  Basically it is a set of spikes and chains that fit on your boot and give you better grip on ice and snow.  They were easy to put on and the moment I started walking again the difference was amazing.  I have never used them before but if you are doing fell climbs in the winter then I would really recommend them.  They are much safer and give you a greater sense of confidence.

Black Labrador
Beautiful misty Tilly
Tilly did not have microspikes however and when she attempted sledging (where she puts her front and back legs out and pushes herself down the snow) she was unprepared for the ice and went hurtling into freefall for about 10 metres before catching herself on some grass.  It did not stop her trying again a few minutes later though!  Every time she stood still for a while, her fur caught the mist on it, making her look a rather aged lady!  She will still look beautiful when she is old.

We reached the summit of Skiddaw Little Man in one piece and by this time I was deliberately trying to find every piece of ice and snow I could to use my spikes.  The next summit was Skiddaw, where we were going to meet the others who had gone off to Lonscale.  It was absolutely freezing when we got there.  The wind shelter was filled with snow and ice and the wind chill was biting.  It felt like a thousand icicles were dancing on my face.  Dave dug me out a shelf in the ice to sit on as we all started eating lunch, hoping the others would arrive soon before we turned into human icicles.

Lunch - Tilly's favourite part of any walk
Lunch is Tilly’s favourite part of any walk so she did not care about the cold.  Those eyes were turned on each individual one by one for any food they may wish to share with her.  Everyone caved in (although she was not sure about the apple core donated by Bruce and much preferred his sandwiches).  It occurred to all of us at this point that we had let Gina go off in the other group so had no brownies!  Poor planning!  Note to self: always be in the Gina group.

Just before midday the clouds parted and all of a sudden one of the “sunny intervals” appeared and we could see for miles all the way back to Keswick and Derwent Water.  We all leapt up with our cameras and then as quickly as it had arrived, the view disappeared and I do not think any of us got a photo!  

After lunch, without the others having arrived, we decided to press on as it was just too cold.  I sent Gina a text to let her know and my hands were so cold it was almost illiterate but enough to get the message across.  We headed off down the slope towards Bakestall.  Tilly decided it was time to give sledging another try and this time it was much more successful.  She seemed pleased with the attention she got from it from those nearby so promptly turned upside down and went sledging on her back!  Such a show-off!

Then suddenly, out of the mist behind came a voice....Dave had gone ahead from the other group to catch us up.  Having found us, we waited for everyone else to arrive before heading off to Bakestall.  As we were lower down the snow disappeared (much to Tilly’s distress) so microspikes came off and as we reached the Whitewater Dash waterfall, we stopped to have brownies.  Hurrah!

Skiddaw House
It was a bit of a shock to hear it was about six miles back to the car-park along the Cumbria Way but at least it was mainly flat.  I was a bit worried about Tilly but she did not stop scampering around and looking for treats and was not bothered at all by the distance.  The route back took us via Skiddaw House, which is quite a remote youth hostel (although at least there is a good track to it, unlike Black Sail near Ennerdale) that used to be a hunting lodge.  Peering out from a tiny copse in the mist, it looked quite eerie.  

Skiddaw on a rather clearer day
The final couple of miles saw some views down towards Thirlmere and across to the fells we climbed on the last walk and before long we were back in the car-park and heading off to the Horse and Farrier pub at Threlkeld, where Tilly received more treats from Ray (including a cheeky one she stole from his hand!)  Yet another great Twitter walk even though the weather was less than great.

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  1. That just about sums up the walk perfectly Tanya. A good day though not quite the weather that was forecst, but better than some walks you've been on with the others. 16.5 km, without Lonscale is a decent walk by any standard, well done one & all. Tilly did good too.

  2. Was a great walk - and you're absolutely right about the spikes; it's the longest I've stayed vertical in many a walk!

    1. Wish I had bought some sooner. I was glad I had them today as well on Coniston Old Man...

  3. I think you will need those spikes again Tanya if you continue to refuse to let bad weather put you off these intrepid walks.

    Why I have sissy friends who refuse to go for walks with me if it is raining!

    Tilly continues to enchant.

    1. Tilly is a superstar! So much character and just loves the mountains (and treats and attention).
      The Lake District is wonderful but being a "fair weather" walkerwould mean many fewer walking days! :-)

  4. Enjoyable read and lovely pics Tanya.

    I have some of those spikes and tried to walk in them in Derbyshire snow but the snow built up underneath until I was walking on about 6 inches of compacted snow and I ended up having to take them off! Must have been the wrong sort of snow lol!

    1. Thanks :-)
      They were marvellous for that walk and Coniston Old Man this week. Will test them further over the winter :-)