Saturday dawned stormy. Conditions were forecast to be relatively severe on the fells. A fresh dusting of snow lay down to 300 metres in the Langdale valley.
Scrambling to the rocky peak of Harrison Stickle was trickier than normal. The rocks were covered in a slick layer of Verglas and the wind was building to ferocious levels. It was virtually impossible to stand up on the summit. Turning down west brought us directly into the full onslaught of the storm-force winds. It was the sort of day when you physically had to lean down hill in order to get down hill. We’d been out barely an hour and I was already knackered.
It felt like a bit of fight running around to Pike O Stickle. We climbed its eastern edge, a momentary escape from the wind as swathes of hail and graupel hurled themselves at the fells. From there on we were fully exposed, running down and across Martcrag moor, feet sloshing through icy cold, boggy ground and one hand attempting to shield the pellets that were being fired into your face.
We were heading for Rosset Pike, following the increasingly worn trods of the this part of leg 3 of the Bob Graham Round. Climbing out from Stakes Pass, the wind had temporarily abated, but it soon reared up once more; it felt like trying to pull a steam train, the head-wind was reducing any running to a broken walk, feet tiring in the soft, squelchy ground whilst your breath was forced back into your lungs.
Standing on Rosset Pike wasn’t quite impossible, but I did get knocked sideways twice. The summit of Bowfell looked Himalayan. Streams of snow could seen swirling high on its face like plumes in a jet stream and icy runnels clinged to its crags. We picked our way up the rakes, away from the stormy conditions just a hundred metres or so above us.
We’d only seen a handful of people all day and the summit plateau of Bowfell was no different. We passed a few groups of committed walkers descending to Three Tarns but most were heading down. The wind, the ice having convinced most people that a warm fire and a pint was a more sensible way to spend the day. More the pity.
It was hard work getting out bed on Sunday. I felt tired and despite the advancing days of winter, it still felt dark. But I was heading out again, this time with team-mates from Ambleside, so excuses didn’t really matter.
Leaving the Three Shires Inn in Little Langdale the drizzle was incessant. It was an uncomfortably cool 4 degrees and through the mire that was clinging to the fells above, fresh snow could be seen. But there was little change in the conditions with height. By the time we’d made our way over and back down to the Coppermines above Coniston, little had changed. Picking our way up towards Low Water, the damp slick of waterlogged snow became thicker, but very little was frozen. The damp snow just became thicker and thicker.
By the time we reached the summit of the Old Man, my legs were shot. I’d ran all the way but my stride was laboured, it had felt unbelievably hard work. Dan who had led the charge to the summit was sat happily munching into a snack by time I’d got there.
It was a claggy and slightly less snowy affair running across to Swirl How, the broad ridge line had been windswept, the snow lay in lees and hollows but the path was mostly clear and the drizzle continued, no sign of any freezing level today. The roller coaster of winter conditions continues.