Sunday, 16 November 2014

A rough day on Helvellyn

I had planned to do few days walking in the Lake District. After the birth of my daughter recently I haven't had as much time, or the finances to wander the hills, so this was set to be a good few days. I had booked a guest house in Keswick to stay for 2 nights, my plan was to get to Penrith as early as possible on Thursday morning, then catch a bus to Patterdale to walk Helvellyn in a circular walk, then return to Penrith after walking the fell, to get another bus to Keswick to stay over, - a relatively complicated journey I know, but this is what you have to do if you don't have the luxury of a car! The Friday I had planned to do a long walk over Catbells and on towards Buttermere, and then after another night in Keswick, a taxi back to Patterdale to do a circular walk of High Street before heading back to Penrith to get a train back to Leeds. Unfortunately the weather had other plans for me, now don't get me wrong, I do check the weather forecast - even checking the UK mountain forecast prior to any large mountain walks, however this time the forecast was mixed, the main forecast for Keswick was rain and wind, but, and I emphasise but, the mountain forecast was 'a mixture of bright spells with scattered showers' so this didn't sound so bad, almost a 'come on' really! Plus the rain and wind predicted was not set to hit that area of the country until late afternoon.
 So, I was stood at Penrith station at 9am, where after witnessing heavy cloud over the Lake District fells from Shap summit and flecks of rain on the train windows - this was not looking promising. The bus arrived spot on time and got under way to Patterdale, a place I have never visited before. It is a journey of about an hour from Penrith to Patterdale along country lanes. During the journey the weather seemed to simply be getting worse, Ullswater was looking 'choppy' to say the least, but on a plus note you could still see the fell tops, which is usually a good sign.
On finally arriving into Patterdale it was light rain, I made my way to the Patterdale Hotel where I had decided to start my walk from, I purchased some refreshment, then made my way towards the foot of Helvellyn.
Here outside of the hotel just after arrival...
Helvellyn 001
The rain had started to spatter onto my jacket, but nothing in the way of severe weather. My route took me along Grisedale but then cuts up onto the edge of Patterdale Common to navigate the heavily eroded footpath up the side of Helvellyn towards Striding Edge. On putting boot onto the rugged footpath the rain had really started to come down, and the wind was starting to howl along Grisedale.
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The fells of Nethermost Pike and Helvellyn itself were swamped in what I would describe as claggy cloud that the wind and rain was rushing out from. After reaching the height of 500 metres I would describe the experience as being hosed down with a pressure washer in a wind tunnel, and the wind was starting to blast me about trying to unbalance me. I was wearing a large pack on my back with my clothes, phone, and wallet in, stuff for the next couple of days, so I had become concerned about how much water was starting to get into my pack. I don't mind admitting that I was starting to get annoyed with this walk now, and the fact the weather was as bad as it was by this point in the day, considering it wasn't predicted for another few hours yet! So I battled onwards and upwards against the elements to a point on the path called Grisedale Brow, and to what is known as the 'hole in the wall' situated at around 720 metres up, this is where a stile allows you out towards Striding Edge. Just before I reached the stile the mountain was acting as a giant wind break, on looking over the dry stone wall that the stile was built into I was knocked back by the shear force of the wind, easily gusts of 60 - 70 mph. Now at one time I might have continued on despite the elements, however this was dangerous, simple as, and would have been madness to continue across a notorious narrow, high ridge in these conditions, and even if I somehow made the ridge, the summit of Helvellyn is a particularly exposed fell that on this day could quite easily had gusts of of 90 mph. So on that note it was time to descend back down the mountain. It takes a lot for me to make a decision like that on a peak, but this seemed the only option. It was also on this decision that with the weather set to be worse for the following two days, to simply go back home!
I know this isn't exactly 'Touching the Void' stuff, but this was my version 'A Rough Day on Helvellyn' :)
I leave you with this final photo I took just beneath Grisedale Brow. Thank you for reading.
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