A sad tale of “woe, woe and thrice woe” (in the words of Frankie Howerd) follows. Those of a nervous disposition may wish to be sitting down.
The plan was to park up at Overwater and go and bag two Birketts – both minor lumps – White Hause and Frozen Fell and, in order to make a walk out of it, to visit Great Calva, which is White Hause’s mummy and Knott, which is Frozen Fell’s daddy.
This went well at first. I bumbled my way through the lanes, following the dog, as usual, traversed the bridleway towards Burn Tod, crossed the Hause Gill and climbed the steep grass to White Hause, where there was a howling gale and very nice view of Skiddaw, topped by dark clouds and a sprinkling of fresh snow. I noticed at this point that the view to the West had completely disappeared and formed the view that it was probably about to rain. I bumbled on towards Little Calva which was Just Up There.
After a bit more bumbling, it started to sleet a bit and the hillfog was creepijng down the higher hills all around. I decided that as I’d been up Great Calva lots of times, and that the weather was getting ropey, to cut the thing short by just going for Knott, bagging Frozen fell on the way down. And so, after tying up my bootlace, I turned towards the bealach between Great Calva and Knott, arrived without incident and started on the 500 foot of wet grass to the top of Knott. At some point on this climb, I was enveloped in mist.
Nevertheless, I arrived at the cairn on Knott in a driving storm of really wet, splatting snow, which Bruno wasn’t enjoying at all and, after tying up my bootlace again and glancing at the map, headed off in the general direction of Frozen Fell.
A few minutes later, I arrived at a strangely familiar cairn, but probably (note this word well!) from a different direction. This was the top of Knott. Again. A compass would be just the thing. I got it out, tied up my bootlace again and took a bearing on Frozen fell and headed off.
After a bit, things didn’t seem to be developing quite as they should. I decided to stop. Bruno thought this was a duff idea and wanted to press on urgently. It was only the fact that he was on the lead that stopped him abandoning the hill altogether, with me or without me. I tied up my bootlace and turned on the GPS. I was also having trouser problems at the moment too. They were creeping down my bum for some reason. I pulled ‘em up – they slid down. Meanwhile the sleet sizzled and splatted all around and there was some difficulty in actually standing up.
The GPS said it couldn’t find a signal and was I sure I wasn’t indoors or had I moved hundreds of miles recently or otherwise was it October? I replied in the negative to all of these questions and it said “Oh well, I dunno, then” and settled down for a little snooze. Mr compass was undecided as to where exactly North was and kept changing direction after I’d set off, making me stop and recheck the bearing. Bruno wanted off, my bootlace was untied again, my pants were falling down and I couldn’t get my gloves back on cos it was too cold.
This wasn’t, perhaps, my finest hour.
I set the compass, hopefully, for “West” (ish) and marched off into the teeth of the maelstrom (after fixing the bootlace and pulling up me kecks)
Soon, or, rather, eventually, I came to a steep slope. Mr GPS suddenly awoke and told me , after some button-pressing, that I was just 300 metres North of Frozen Fell. This was exactly how I’d planned it, obviously [koff], so I decided to go and bag it. Both me and Bruno were a bit underwhelmed by Frozen Fell, it has to be said. Its just a slight rise on a moor. And we were still in deep hillfog standing in a fierce, slanted sleet storm, so no view.
Quite chuffed that I actually knew where we were for a change, I tied up my bootlace, hitched up the pants and descended a steep little grassy arete which stands between the two arms of Frozen Fell Gill and was soon passing through the gap at Trusmadoor for the track to Longlands and Overwater.
At some point around here, a view of the Solway Firth appeared, complete with a sun-kissed Criffel and, not too long later, the sun came out as if nothing had happened.
Guessing the direction of Frozen fell was a bit dozy, I have to admit, and whilst the GPS problem was unexpected, I had a compass and a map, although the compass’s performance was scarily inconsistent (possibly affected by the dog’s retractable lead??). The speed with which a relaxed wander, albeit in a bit of a storm, suddenly develops into an epic, albeit a brief one, is a timely reminder.
I think I’ll buy a new compass anyway.
We did ten miles. We probably did ten miles. Who knows where we’d been? The track recorded on my GPS spells the word “idiot”. (although I was, in fact going in the right direction most of the time – I just couldn’t prove it till I got to an edge)