The usual annual trip to the Lake District and our good friends at Church Stile Campsite. I drove up a day early through some pretty nasty weather but I still received something of a shock after I crested the hill on M6 near Lancaster. The Lake District was white. Plastered white. I heard it may be a little chilly with a chance of snow but this was full on winter. In late April.
I had planned a walk on the Friday afternoon but the weather was pretty miserable so I settled for a leisurely set up of base camp and an early pub meal in the mighty fine Strands Inn with UF and OGS, washed down by 3 pints of Porter, my favourite beer. Who needs to tick off summits and meaningless lumps on ridges when you can tick off local craft beers.
Saturday was forecast to be pretty good so plans were made for an ascent of Scafell Pike. TJS has been looking longingly at England’s highest summit for several years so I though it was time to fulfil my promise to climb it. It seems like all the adults felt an easier day was called for so I was accompanied by a gaggle of kids. TBF obviously took pity on – the kids – surprisingly, feeling they were not really equipped and experienced enough to deal with a full day barrage of sarcastic and pedantic remarks from the pack leader, and accompanied us
Despite the good forecast it was a showery morning and indeed to reinforce that message we were battered by a heavy hailstorm as we finished our faffing in the NT car park. The forecast was for a steadily improving day and in fact this was the last of the precipitation.
Scafell Pike would be my last choice of mountain on a Bank Holiday Weekend, its popular and very busy at the best of times. However it does have the advantage of the Corridor Route from Styhead Tarn, one of Britains finest mountaineering walks and one which I hoped the kids would really enjoy.
Its quite a long walk to Styhead, passing through Wasdale Head and its patchwork of fields before the climb to the tarn. All the kids were busy chatting about exams, computer games and the like and leaving me to my own thoughts. There was much laughter so I assumed they were enjoying themselves. The mountains were heavily clouded but there was enough visible to realise there was a good deal of snow up there. The Corridor route is wild and rocky and under winter conditions has real big mountain feel. I hoped the kids were up to the task.
I find the walk up the main path to Styhead Tarn a bit of long drag. On a whim I took the lower path for a change and it was inspired. Its a superb walk along the stream and away from the crowds. it climbs pleasantly and steadily with fine views opening up all around. Its mostly grassy and therefore much easier for older walkers with dodgy knees and feet.
As we crested the rise we were suddenly seeing the first of the snow. Almost before we knew it we were in deep, wet continuous cover. A late start meant lunch was in order and I picked a pretty cold and wet spot to eat. Still the kids were loving the deep snow and were in high spirits.
After sustenance gave us all a burst of energy it also seemed to perk up the weather. The sun started to come out and summits revealed themselves from the clouds.
The corridor route was busy and populated with a mix of serious walkers and some seriously under equipped tourists. One party of Oriental people were dressed in high street clothes and wellies and one of them had a sound system in his backpack blaring out music. The Far East has given us many great things but high quality popular music isn’t one of them. We put on a burst of speed and left them behind
Well, the Corridor Route was simply superb. It twists and trust over rocky slopes and buttresses and above several of the dramatic ravines that slice into the Scafell range. There was even some exposed scrambling that I don’t remember from previous visits but the kids weren’t phased. In fact they loved it, enjoying the sensational winter mountain views and messing about in the deep snow in equal measure. The snow and winter conditions gave it an air of seriousness although in truth it is just a path. I quite enjoyed it as well.
The view across to the coast and the Isle of Man was marvellous. I recounted a very old tale when on a miserable day in the Lakes, the weather suddenly cleared to an expansive blue to reveal the IoM. EWO fervently disagreed and uttered the words he has regretted for 30 years, “That’s not the IoM, if they were mountains they’d 30,000 feet high”. He was wrong of course and ever since as soon as anyone sees a distant mountain on the horizon they immediately state with a grin “If they were mountains……..”. Well it always makes us laugh anyway
Its a long route especially after the long approach walk. As we approached the summit the kids flagged a little, but the weather was improving by the minute and the closeness of the summit and clear blue skies spurred them on.
The summit was crowded as expected but not as bad as I thought. I imagine the deep snow had held many people back. We found a quiet spot for some more food and then headed down.
There really was a quite extraordinary depth of snow, waist deep in places. Scafell summit is rocky and awkward to walk on so we followed the snow. The kids had an absolute ball running and rolling about in it and it gave me enormous pleasure to see them having such fun.
This photo below of TJS seemed to provide enormous amusement to everyone
This one I call “LAC Scissor-Hands”
It would have put a spring in my step to watch the kids in full flight but my springs have long since sprung and rusted up like one of those old bed frames you see in some bothies. Still I metaphorically sprang.
We paused at Mickledore to look at Scafell and Broad Stand, well out of my league in summer conditions and definitely for another day in winter garb
The start of the descent from there is down a steep and slippery gully that paused the smiles for a few minutes. It was soon over and we continued to walk, run and roll our way down the snow
As we descended the views over Wast Water to the coast were breathtaking and near the bottom the yellow of the gorse gave a final flourish to what had been a sensational day. To capture England’s highest point via a classic mountain route, in winter conditions under a sunny blue sky is rare treat and one I think and hope will live with kids for a very long time
We finished the day off in fine style with a BBQ in front of an open fire. Chilly but convivial and we chatted until the lateness of the hour and the cold air forced us to bed. A classic day
And the rest of the weekend and the three seasons I mentioned in the title? We’d had winter. The less said about the Sunday the better. It was wet Spring. It rained for 28 hours straight although we enlivened proceedings with what seems to have become our annual Sunday trip to Mawsons Ice Cream Parlour in Seascale. It always rains on the Sunday but the welcome and the food always lifts the spirits. I came out stuffed and didn’t eat for the rest of the day. Monday? After it finally stopped raining we were treated to warm sunny Spring. The shorts were on and we took a stroll around the fields in the sunshine. Hard to believe I’d been wading in deep snow 48 hours earlier. Only in the UK.
The weekend was finished off with the usual epic football match played with a mixture of skill, determination, family scores settled and for my part some inspirational goal-keeping.
A long time to wait to do it all again next year