Following the Easter Break I was hopeful that the recent cold weather would have passed and the Lake District mountains would have lost their snow cover. However prior to my latest training walk the Lake District Rangers where saying that the high mountains where still in full winter condition and that ice axe and crampons were a must.
For this reason I cancelled the full team walk, as not all the team have experience in these conditions. I have walked in these conditions many times and following a chance email from an ex colleague, Gaz Rathbone, I decided I would go out to train and complete the full first section of the 33 Peaks.
We met at Dunmail Raise, the end of the first section and then drove to the start. I changed the start of the walk slightly due to the snow conditions and after about 45 minutes we had climbed to the first summit, Clough Head.
As you can see from the picture the weather was very reasonable , although with a bad forecast later in the day we were keen to complete the walk in good time. The picture above shows the second peak, Great Dodd and the snow that had been promised by the Rangers.
We moved quickly onto the climb up to Great Dodd and as we reached the summit briefly disappeared into low cloud. Luckily this quickly dispersed and we continued on to Waston’s Dodd. From here we were able to see the main peak of the day- Helvellyn.
We continued via Stybarrow Dodd and down to Sticks Pass.
Not many people know that there is a Ski tow in the Lake District and with the snow conditions as they have been it was no surprise to see that it was running – a few hardy skiers where working their way slowly down the short piste. Climbing onto Raise and then Whiteside we started to find more snow, and as we started to climb onto Lowerman we decided that we should put our crampons on.
As you can see from the photograph, at this stage there was more snow and ice on the path so the crampons made the climbing much easier. We climbed onto Lowerman and then got a great view onto the Helvellyn summit.
The photograph above shows the summit of Helvellyn and the side of Swirl Edge, where unfortunately earlier this year a young boy fell and was seriously injured. One mistake people often make is walking too close the edge. You can see on the photograph the huge overhanging cornices that have built up over the winter, that if you walk on are likely to collapse sending you hundreds of feet down the mountain side. To give you an idea of scale the black dots in the middle of the photo are people.
We climbed over the summit and then worked our way down via Nethermost and Dollywagon Pikes. At this point the route descends down to a tarn before a long climb backup to Fairfield. This climb was made more difficult than normal and the path was covered in deep snow. From the summit we were able to see the most of the peaks in the second and third sections.
The highest peak in the picture being Scafell Pike – the highest mountain in England and 24th of the 33 peaks.
We quickly descended Fairfield and climbed the short but steep Seat Sandal. This was our 12th and last peak of the day. By this point the weather had started to change and there was now a very strong wind blowing and just a hint of rain in the air. Following a steep descent we reached the end of section 1 and back to the car. The photo below shows the top of the pass of Dunmail Raise with the start of the second section on the left, probably the steepest climb of the whole 33 peaks.
So section 1 completed and at 14.5 miles, 6000 feet of ascent in 6 ½ hours in a time that would allow us to finish the 33 in under 24 hours. Only 20 miles, 21 peaks and 8000 feet of ascent to go, but that’s for next week.