Bijoux Birkett Bagging Back O’ Skidda
Immediately following a TV News report of people carried off by an avalanche in Cumbria was perhaps not the ideal time to tell the wife that I was off to the Lake District in the morning.
During the evening, I was struck by an attack of Lassitude du Neige – a fear of being carried off either by an Australian Women’s Darts Team (abducted by Aileens) – or being swept away by a moving white hillside. I studied the map and the lake District Weatherline and MWIS and discovered that it was only Northern and Eastern slopes which were a bit iffy. My route for today would have been up Northern and Eastern slopes. I was doomed to an evening of indecision. Later - the police issued a statement about the unstable snow conditions
Eventually, I chose some low, rounded hills on which nothing could go wrong.
Two of them were named “Cockup” – Low and Great.
I made a cheese butty and told the dog.
We parked by Overwater and investigated the frozen tarn. Bruno rescued a stick from the ice. Country lanes through green countryside took us through Orthwaite to Horsemoor Hills where we bagged our first little Birkett – the diminutive Orthwaite bank – 348 metres with a nice view of snowy Skiddaw and an apparently frozen Bassenthwaite Lake. It soon became clear that today’s windchill was teetering off the scale. It was, in fact, perishing. Bruno whinged at waiting about, so we made a rising traverse to Birkett number two – Little Cockup, where a short stop was made for more insulation.
We climbed Great Cockup – up into the frozen snow and yet more nithering draughtiness which insinuated itself into my bones and played bongos on my blood vessels. We descended, shivering to the glacial overflow channel at Trusmadoor , finding a cosy spot by the beck, just abandoned by a couple having their lunch. There was a hint, just a hint of warmth in the sun.
I decided against further explorations which would have only taken me to higher, more frozen and much colder places, being unable to get the idea of drinking hot coffee in a warm and comfy car to the sound of Steve Wright in the Afternoon… Bruno seemed to agree, so we followed the bridleway back to Horsemoor and the lanes back to Over Water where the car was, indeed , very warm, and the coffee still hot, and Steve Wright was on the radio.
It was late anyway and the hills were beginning to get white and cloudy caps.
As an afterthought, we bagged the extremely easy Birkett Aughertree Fell – a matter of a few shivery minutes. We left for the fleshpots of our house…
On the way home, I picked up a chap called Frank. He was fairly elderly, had a big rucksack and was happily quite drunk drunk. He’d been standing by the A66 for hours being ignored by and making rude signs at lorry drivers. The police at the nick opposite his hitching spot had been waving at him. Apparently, he’d spent the night sleeping out in the park in Penrith – but what was significant was that he had a selection of Norwegian army kit and, despite the rough sleeping, was well turned out. Whilst we crossed Stainmore, he waved his arms and stated “I’ve walked over all this..” – indicating the rough and flat moorland – the kind of place avoided by most hillwalkers. I suspect this chap had a bit of a history. I dropped him off in Barnard Castle. He seemed quite happy…..
We did 7 miles and 1400 feet.
Nice to be home today…..