Last days of ‘winter’

A glorious weekend in the Lake District as the last few days of the meteorological winter draw to a close. Today Steph, Seren and I went for a leisurely run around the Kentmere Horseshoe. Compared to the central tops of Helvellyn and surrounding peaks and the higher areas around Scafell Pike, there is very little snow cover elsewhere and the Eastern fells around Kentmere are no exception – just a few isolated patches of snow, but the ground is well frozen.

Fell running in the Lake District

Beyond Froswick, Steph running onto High Street

Fell running in the Lake District

Steph negotiating one of the few snow patches

Fell running in the Lake District

Looking across to the snowier Helvellyn range from High Street

Fell running in the Lake District

Firm snow made the going easy on High Street

Fell running in the Lake District

The summit trig point of High Street

Fell running in the Lake District

Seren in launch mode on High Street

Fell running the Lake District

Clear, cold conditions and amazing light above Kentmere

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No messing on the Pottage

Managed to grab a short day of climbing with my colleague Matt ahead of a few days working in the Cairngorms. Conditions are currently very good, with a good general cover of snow, scoured in places and some notable spots of avalanche potential but in the Northern Corries, away from the East and North-East facing aspects there is some great climbing – hence the Mess of Pottage is currently the place to be. The few people we saw approaching the base of Fiacaill Buttress etc – you are officially off your head or wish for an early death!

Having originally planned to climb Yukon Jack, we found ourselves at the base of the Message. An awesome line, well protected, technical but at no point overly sustained. The guidebook gives it Scottish IV (6) with a mention that today, with very little turf left, it may actually be V (6).

All photos courtesy of Matt Fuller.

Scottish winter climbing

Approaching the Mess of Pottage, Coire An-T Sneachda, Northern Cairngorms

Scottish winter climbing

Awkward little bulge lower down on ‘The Message’

Scottish winter climbing

On the main chimney groove of The Message

Scottish winter climbing

Nearing the top of Pitch 2/3 on the Message

 

 

 

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Night running

Another cold, clear night. Another late evening foray onto the Kentmere Fells.

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‘Hodgson’ Skyline

Saturday dawned bright. The forecast was essentially good again, albeit perhaps a little cloudier with the odd snow shower or two. By recent standards a thoroughly decent day.

So today we have ran around the skyline of Patterdale, following much of what to many fell runners will be known as the Ian Hodgson Relays route. Converting the numerous legs of this annual relay race into a single route, following the skyline around Patterdale makes for an excellent route in its own right. Starting and finishing at Kirkstone Pass, it’s about 17 miles / 28 kilometres of running and approximately 6000ft / 2000 metres of vertical height gain. You could easily start and finish this route in Patterdale also. It includes ascents of Red Screes, Fairfield, St. Sunday Crag, High Street and Caudale Moor / Stoneycove Pike.

It felt colder than the past couple of days today, mostly due the effects of the keen easterly wind that was blowing. It also wasn’t quite the sunny spells days we had hoped for. On the high tops above 700 metres (which is about 3/4 of this route), low cloud clung to the fells and coupled with the light snow which was falling at times, visibility was reduced to little more than 30 metres at times. That coupled with the soft snow and relative lack of well-trodden tracks made progress both slow and hard going. I’ve ran this route in under four hours before, but today it took a little over 5 and a half.

Fell running in the Lake District

Steph & Annie making their way to the summit of Red Screes

Fell running in the Lake District

Steph, Annie, Bille and Memphis drop down from Cofa Pike en route to St. Sunday Crag.

Fell running in the Lake District

Beneath the snowline, Place Fell behind. Heading for Angle Tarn

Fell running in the Lake District

The shapely profile of Red Screes pierces the cloud above Brotherwater

Fell running in the Lake District

The frozen obelisk atop Thornthwaite Crag

Fell running in the Lake District

Climbing towards Stoneycove Pike, the last big climb of the day.

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A winter’s evening

Friday has seen an idyllic evenings run over Helvellyn today. Apart from a little cloud which was clinging to the tops the weather was incredibly benign with virtually no wind. Compared to the far eastern fells, the central fells around Helvellyn are holding more snow in greater depth and to slightly lower elevations. Snow currently lies above about 575m, at this altitude it has been gradually thawing through the day, especially on south and south-east facing slopes but above 675m the cover is wide albeit a little shallow.

Currently there is a reasonable trod, but once on Birkhouse Moor, the trod was less defined, the snow relatively soft and with occasional deep post holes which made the going slightly harder.

Fell running in the Lake District

Perfect snow conditions. Running through the mirk on Striding Edge.

Fell running in the Lake District

Catstycam emerges through the cloud.

Fell running in the Lake District

Looking north to Raise from Swirral Edge

Fell running in the Lake District

As night falls, Helvellyn emerges from the clouds

Fell running in the Lake District

A crescent moon rides high over Helvellyn

Fell running in the Lake District

Dusk over St. Sunday Crag and Fairfield

Fell running in the Lake District

Days end on Helvellyn

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Finally…..

At long, long last; a dry, clear and sunny day has given way to a clear, cool, starry evening.

Wednesday has seen me head out on my first proper night run of the entire winter. A short-ish outing from Kentmere up along the track to the summit of Garburn Pass before heading north  onto Yoke and Ill Bell after which we returned and headed for home.

Conditions were perfect for night running. It was around 2c in the valley, slightly below freezing from around 550m and it wasn’t until we reached Ill Bell that even the slightest of breezes could be felt.

Fell running in the Lake District

A lone head-torch makes it’s way to the summit of Garburn Pass

Fell running in the Lake District

A long exposure lights up the distant lights of Morecambe Bay en route to the summit of Yoke

Fell running in the Lake District

The same view but more akin to the view with the naked eye

Fell running in the Lake District

Above the snowline. Steph on the summit of Ill Bell, the bright lights of Kendal in the distance

 

 

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Facing the inevitable

A quick blast up to the Scottish Highlands on Saturday night with the intention of climbing on Lochnagar on Sunday. The forecast meant conditions were never likely to be perfect but the corries of Lochnagar can often be relatively mellow when everything else all-around is kicking off.

So as we left the Spittal of Glen Muick in fairly blustery conditions we were optimistic that there would still be some climbing possible. Considering it is early February there is a shocking lack of snow low down in the Highlands presently and there were a lot of nervous mountain hares bounding around through brown heather in their very white coats.

Luckily for them, snow showers were blowing in as we left the security of the few pine trees that remain in this corner of the Highlands. As an aside its a shocking example of what isn’t growing but should be, especially within a National Park and on a royal estate. There is a certain peace that comes from walking through and amongst Caledonian Pine which isn’t replicated by vast, monotonous swathes of grassland and heather. Whatever your view on ecology you surely cannot argue with the well-being that we get from being in native forest.

Roll-on an hour and the snow-showers had turned into persistent snowfall and the wind had increased. More people were walking out from Lochnagar than in, most of whom we dismissed but there were a few, clearly experienced souls mixed in amongst them that made me think all might not be calm in the corrie.

And so it proved. As we hit the col and began our descent into the corrie floor, the visibility plummeted. Not quite white-out conditions, but not far off, a swirling blizzard which reduced visibility to no more than 30 feet and at times less than 10. We made our way across the broken boulder field, plunging through occasional holes in the snow across to the base of the crags. I think we knew what the answer would be but we were still keen to actually see. Not that there was much to see, it was snowing hard, just the occasional glimpse of the crags revealed itself. There was only one way from here and it was back. Today was not a day for climbing.

Scottish winter climbing

Sammi and Andy readying packs at the Spittal of Glen Muick

Scottish winter climbing

The hardshells come out as conditions begin to deteriorate

Scottish winter climbing

Stormy conditions in the corrie

Scottish winter climbing

Andy negotiates the boulder field as we climb back to the col, having called it a day.

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