Winter is almost upon us so Steve and I wanted to grab an epic round of summits that offered good views whilst the Lake District is enjoying this unusual period of high pressure and therefore decent weather and visibility. Being November now, we know winter is going to descend on us any day soon and we have our crampons at the ready and are praying for snow, but we want to grab a few last big summits with great views while we still can. So a route I have always wanted to do was plotted included 9 Wainwright summits, however, an accident followed by a temperature inversion chopped them down to the following six...
The route downloaded as a GPX after the event looks like this when plotted as a KML and imported to Google Earth.
And here is the GPX file in Viewranger for those of you who prefer to see a traditional mapped version.
Saturday night I went to bed, excited as ever, but I just couldnt sleep. No matter how hard I tried I couldnt get a single minute. Finally, after a lot of tossing and turning I started to nod off around 1am, then boom... the house alarm tamper alert went off. Fuming, I got dressed and went to investigate. It transpired that the alarm unit had decided 1:30am was a cracking time to report to me that one of the PIR batteries was going flat. Since the low battery warning cant be shut off, and its very loud, out came the ladders and a set of new batteries were quickly installed to the PIR to stop its infuriating beeping.
However, what little chance I had of sleep had gone. I was wide awake now and just couldnt get back to sleep. The more I tried, the more frustrated and angry I got. The thought of a 15 mile hike in a few hours was starting to make me feel rather unwell to be honest.
5am finally came and Steve, upon hearing of my plight by text offered to call it off. I politely declined as I wasnt willing to spoil his (or my) day, but instead I accepted his kind offer of doing the driving for safety as its a 5hr round trip before even considering the epic hike we have planned. He picked me up at 6am and we hit the road... stopping at Tebay for breakfast.
We parked up at Cinderdale Common near Crummock water at 8:30am and made towards Whiteside. Crummock water was looking beautiful as always.
To our right, Grasmoor as usual, just looked incredible. One of the few peaks that I think "looks" like a mountain.
And to its left, our ascent path up to the first summit, Whiteside. Even with its summit covered in cloud, it still looked a lot easier than ascending Grasmoor, thats for sure.
The path I had plotted took us over a lovely bridge that immediately had me make a mental note to return with my SLR. I know I will be able to make something special of this view with my proper equipment and will certainly return one day.
Gasgale Gill... another contender for a return with my SLR.
Looking back as we gain height. Mellbreak looks fabulous as always. There will be a lot of stops for images from here as I am really struggling today. This ascent is really taxing me after no sleep. I just cant seem to find a pace that doesnt make me feel like I am going to die. Even standing still hurts today!
The route ahead up Whiteside... the lone hiker gives it scale.
I nipped on ahead to get an image of Steve. I like humans for scaling in my images and doing so has resulted in some great images for Steves wall over the past year or so.
The route onwards takes us through lots of thick foliage.
And its quite tall in places too.
Grasmoor looks great keeping us company on our right though. I am glad we arent trying to scale that from the front which was my original plan earlier in the week.
There are lots of quite exposed areas on the route we chose to ascend with. We both love paths like this.
Looking back at Whin Ben after we breach its top. Beautiful.
But that was just the start... there is plenty of ascent yet to do.
There are plenty of hands on sections too, and this rock is all extremely slippery. Unusually so we both think. At first I thought it was something with my boots, but Steve confirmed that he too was having serious traction problems.
I can almost read my own expression here... I am sure I was thinking "What the hell am I doing here on this slippery rock?!" Steve has taken some awesome images on his phone. I cant wait to see what he produces when his Sony RX100 arrives this week.
The cloud moving in on us gives some real drama to the views around us. Tired as I am, this makes it all feel worthwhile.
The Whiteside ridge is ahead. It looks amazing in the clouds. I must admit though, I was really struggling here and was questioning my decision to do this route with no sleep. Thus far this has certainly not been one of my better ideas, but being in the clouds certainly makes me feel alive no matter how tired I am.
Finally, the hardest bit is over. After a pretty gruelling 2000ft of ascent we reached summit one. Whiteside. The days route gets easier from here. But there were unexpected challenges ahead...
This was also one of those days where the conditions can turn round and bite you on the ass if you are not careful. The next two images illustrate that nicely as I hadnt moved from the spot between them. They are literally 10 seconds apart. Beautiful views one second...
Not so great the next!
We stopped on Whiteside for food, drink and for me to recover a little. Steve grabbed this shot of me enjoying a sandwich.
We watched the clouds come and go and eventually a break in the cloud left us with nice visability again so we moved on.
This shows our ridge walk from Whiteside to Hopegill head. It was beautiful but oddly treacherous. The path was incredibly slippy, we were all over the place on the wet rock, it was just really hard to find any traction at all.
Looking to the left, the views out to the coast were amazing.
Looking backwards to the summit of Whiteside where a nice family we spoke to before leaving it are still enjoying the views.
Looking up to the summit of Hopegill head. Such an incredible view... but disaster was about to strike!
While traversing this rocky section, Steve lost his footing on what looked a perfectly simple and safe sloping step and he went down with a real crash, his right arm taking his whole body weight as it landed under him on some some sharp slate like this.
The slate tore right through his clothing layers and from what I could see of the wound, most of his flesh. It was a mess. After he finished jumping around in pain, we sat down and got to work with the first aid kit disinfecting it, filling the area with Savlon and applying some gauze and bandage. We sat and evaluated our options while some pain killers took effect and Steve insisted he wanted to go onwards instead of my suggested option which was to descend back the way we came. He was in good spirits but also in pain. We decided to carry on and evaluate his condition as we went. As long as the dressings contained the bleeding he should be ok. We moved onwards and upwards through this slippery section.
Typically, it seemed we were out of the treacherous section within minutes. After clearing that rocky section, the rest of the route was simple. So near, yet so far. The last 20 minutes have been a stark reminder to us how easily one can get hurt on the fells, no matter how regular and careful a visitor to them you are.
My wife, a Paediatric nurse, had absolutely nothing good to say about my wound dressing skills when she saw this image. Admittedly, its an embarassing effort and I will be taking lessons to make sure my next attempt is a little more professional looking. We did however tidy it up later with some tape and the gauze underneath had contained the wound perfectly. My first aid kit is a great example of "All the gear, no idea". Something I intend to rectify.
Looking back from Hopegill Head summit along the ridge we have travelled so far.
Our original plan was to go from here to Grizedale Pike but in light of Steves injury and my lack of sleep we decided the sensible option was to miss as many summits as possible to keep the route sensible. So our route was adjusted to take us down into the gulley ready for the ascent up to Grasmoor.
It was definately time for lunch so we looked for a suitable place to stop. At the bottom of Sand Hill is a nice place where Gasgale Gill runs down the side of Grasmoor. Its a great place to stop for lunch and gives us a supply of clean water too.
Looking back up to Hopegill Head.
We again discussed Steves injury and our plan of attack moving forwards but he seemed to be feeling fighting fit for some reason. Hes a tough old boy for sure... so the highest summit of the day was back on the cards. We turned right and hacked our own way up Grasmoor as it saved quite a trek up to the official path.
It was here that our fortunes changed. The cloud started to drop down into the valleys. It looked incredible.
And it just got better and better. Steve said that this display of cloud was worth every minute of pain in his arm and given the choice he would take the pain again. Brave words... but as time went by I decided that I agreed with him... An easy decision for me since I hadnt suffered anything other than lack of sleep. Ha Ha.
Naturally we grabbed a lot of images here in case it dissapeard as fast as it had arrived. This is Steve on Grasmoor with the cloud behind him covering our original ascent summit. Whiteside.
An 8 shot stitched panoramic view from Grasmoor over to Whiteside.
So dramatic... its just incredible to be at the same level as the cloud and watch how it moves.
But you would need a video to see that really, so here you go.
Looking across to Mellbreak. Right about now I am missing my Canon 5D3 and Lee filters more then I recall ever missing them before. This little G7X has its work cut out with this epic dynamic range but on full manual its doing ok and produces images that no pocket camera has any right to do really. I have never regretted this purchase for one second.
We spent at least an hour up here. It was just hard to leave, but sometimes you have to remind yourself that you are at 2800ft and running out of daylight with 3 summits to go. Begrudgingly, we headed off Grasmoor and started the descent down towards Crag Hill.
A simple enough route, Crag Hill summit is up beyond the horizon there but we are tired and it feels like really hard work.
This section drained me more than any other, the ascent up Crag Hill... it just seemed to go on forever!
Looking back, it was hard to keep going the opposite way to this view. Why are we leaving this scene behind us?
Oh well, onwards and upwards to Crag Hill
As we breached the summit, I was stopped in my tracks by the view. And then... I literally ran! (well, I sped up at least. 101kg, overweight 44yr olds dont really run) The cloud was everywhere around us now and we just hadnt realised that it was blowing into the valleys and filling it up like milk. The sun was getting low now and I wanted to get as many images as I could before the light ran out leaving my little G7X powerless without a tripod. The late evening sun reflecting on these clouds (and indeed my ever balding head) make this image special to me as I know exactly how I was feeling standing there. Big thanks to Steve for taking this one with my camera.
The view across to the next summit we had decided to leave out... Sail. we wanted to do this but events and time had conspired against us to make this one unwise.
A 7 shot stitched panorama I shot as the late evening sun started to set.
Everywhere we looked was just incredible cloud. A full on temperature inversion has formed and was settling in for the night. We just could not believe our luck. I had wanted to experience this all my life and tried in vain many times to put myself in this position and failed. Finally, a dream was coming true for me.
With Wandope and Whiteless pike yet to do, we headed back down off the summit of Crag Hill to this view...
A photographers nirvana! I was snapping away and then suddenly, nothing. My camera battery gave its last millivolt. Thank the lord I carry a spare... I think if I didnt, I would possibly have thrown the camera off a cliff with frustration. Imagine not being able to look back on this memory!
My dream was quickly developing into the ultimate experience. Not only was I above an inversion, I now knew that I was about to experience the sunset up here above the clouds too. I am not embarassed to admit that I shed a tear at this view. It was an emotional 10 minutes for me as I watched day turn to night with absolutely zero man made light in view. I just sat here clicking away as happy as I recall ever being with a camera in my hand.
Steve was making awesome memories on his iPhone 6 too. Proof if any where needed that the best camera in the world is simply the one you have with you when you need one! What a great image!
Its almost over now... I hoped it would never end but I knew it had to. Why do we have to live on a planet that spins so fast? Argh!
And that was that. It started to go dark fast but left an incredible orange hue on the skyline.
We quickly made our way up and over Wandope and down towards the ascent point of the final summit, Whiteless Pike. Here is Steve en route.
Steve taking in the incredible views while we (Ok... I) have a breather.
The final ascent. This is the view looking across the final ridge, Whiteless Edge, to the summit at the end which is Whiteless Pike.
And a little video I couldnt help but make while I stood here in awe of nature...
We stopped for a breather at Saddle Gate as it afforded us a close up view of the cloud. Fascinating to think that there is over 2000ft below Steve right now.
Its almost fully dark, we still have the final small ascent to go and we are both very hungry too. Onwards we go by light of head torch with an agreed plan to settle down up there for 30 mins and eat well to ensure we are as sharp as can be for the challenging descent ahead of us.
At the summit of Whiteless Pike Steve gets to work cooking up some hot food. I cant tell you how much I appreciate Steve always doing this. Its high time I bought some gear to cater for myself really. This was done by light of head torch as its now pitch black.
While Steve cooked I tried to get a few decent images to no avail. It was too dark now for handheld shots. however, this one of the night sky and the faint glow on the horizon came out ok I guess.
And whilst the image itself is rubbish, this is what a temperature inversion looks like via head torch. Visibility was almost non existant for the next couple of hours as we desended and travelled the 4 miles back to the car. But we did it content and happy after an amazing and potentially once in a lifetime experience that we know the majority of humans on this earth will never get to enjoy.
After reaching the car It took us three hours to get home as it was just thick fog all the way back to Blackpool. We got home about midnight and I have honestly never been so happy that I didnt have to drive. Steves a star, I was so tired after that hike its hard to describe but the thought that I nearly cancelled it and would have missed the inversion and sunset just doesnt bear thinking about.
I slept well that night for sure!
Here is some data from the day. I wear the Suunto smart heart rate monitor to get the health data so its pretty accurate.
The Ups and Downs.
And my usual video of the route as provided by my Suunto Ambit 3 peak and Movescount App.
Until the next time... thanks for reading.