I caught Bruno studying one of those Outdoor Leisure map things. “You’re to old and fat to be able to go up a proper hill nowadays” he says (He’s in a strop for getting the blame for scoffing one of the grandkids white chocolate Easter eggs when all along….) “Why don’t you blow the cobwebs off that unused ice axe and dig the crampons out of that drawer full of odd socks and go out and see if you can still deal with a few contours?” He said.
And so it came to pass that the knipemobile was parked on a hardened snowdrift just to the right of the King’s Head at Thirlspot, a spot picked explicitly for the bagging of Brown Crags – a Birkett sticking out of the side of Helvellyn/White Side like a little pimple. I’d brought the ice axe and the khatooola spikey things (not really used in much anger as yet) and my trusty old crampons just in case the khatoolas couldn’t cope and we stumbled off up the slippery snow towards Fisher Gill. I put the khatoolas on quite early. The snow was hard and icy and the evidence of other people’s slips was all around.
The snow was a bit patchy, mainly consisting of a huge and steep patch and some pretty drifts in the gill. We battered upwards, turning off near the top to bag Brown Crags. A Birkett with a very nice view.
Onwards and upwards and we hit the main snowline at about 650 metres. At this point, Bruno went a bit daft again and started charging about and chasing little snowballs that rolled down the hill. There was much windslab, but luckily not to deep and, maybe, not too steep and we were soon (well, fairly soon anyway) at the top of White Side where we joined a bit of a throng destined for Helvellyn. Bruno charged about all day, which accounts for why he’s now been asleep for six hours…
The top of Helvellyn has a huuuuge cornice and lots of icy snow and the khatoolas coped nicely with ice and even more nicely with hard snow. So I didn’t use the crampons which were still strapped to the back of the pack.
I lunched in the shelter with a chap from Mungrisdale and a bloke who had just climbed up the East face from the tarn. (see scary pic of him about to top out) But my bum was cold (I’ve been having trouble with this particular pair of undies in the elastic department, which isn’t very elastic just now and some of the more upholstered parts of the pieman anatomy used for sitting on were getting quite chilled. So I left.
Me and the Dawg descended the steep and icy snow of Browncove Crags, down to Helvellyn Gill, where, due to the sunshine blazing off the snow, it got quite hot (It felt hot, but it was only about 6C) So I stopped to take a layer off. This is where I discovered the loss of my beloved crampons – still in the shelter and seen by a chap who caught me up. Bugger. Bruno had curled up asleep at this point, a sign which I took to mean that a re-ascent of Helvellyn was out of the question. (This is just an excuse by the way, I couldn’t have climbed back up again….) Luckily, the khatoolas coped with everything.
For those intent on high level TGO Challenges, and given that the amount of snow we have at the moment is unlikely to disappear completely by early May – a pair of khatoolas in the pocket would seem to be a safe and relatively lightweight solution.
Apart from the tragic and careless loss of my crampons, though, this was a superb day to be up The Lakes. The dog was right. The route wasn’t long, though – just 6 miles and 3000 feet of up.