Nobody could claim that we weren’t Fully Equipped for this chilly foray up Cross Fell.
We had the spikes and the axes and the snowshoes and lots of layers of toasty clothing. I didn’t have a dog, though, based on the weather forecast which had winds with 40mph gusts and a wind-chill of Minus 17C. I thought this would be too cold for the pup, so I left him at home with a dentastick and Mrs Pieman. In the end, the met office reported lighter winds on Cross Fell (we knew that!) and a wind chill of only minus 16C. So… a bit warmer….
This walk, in fact was a reccy for a Wednesday Walkers Walk next Saturday (yes, I know…)
We set off from Kirkland in bright sunshine along paths of frozen grass and sheepmuck and into the hills, where it soon became apparent that this was going to be Hard Work. We were following a couple of young whipper-snappers who quickly disappeared into the distance, snapping their whippers as they went. Some people are far too fit for their own good…
The snow was deeply drifted over the bridleway and was soft and a bit squeaky. So, we put the snowshoes on. This helped only a bit. We battered our way uphill, spirits lifted by the increasingly extensive and beautiful views all around and, especially of the lake District, not too far away across the Eden Valley.
So, we too the snowshoes off again and fought on, lunching at the little shelter cairn on the edge. It was full to the top with drifted snow – not an ideal spot to bivi today…
Onwards and upwards, me now wearing spikes we decided to shortcut the elbow in the route and took a direct line towards Cross fell Well – a patch of ice indicating the wet patch. And we’d put the snowshoes back on by this time. Sometimes they helped and sometimes they didn’t. But occasionally, there was hard old neve just under the snow and this stuff was nice and crunchy and, above-all, very hard and easy to walk on.
Eventually, we hit the summit plateau and wandered over to the newly rebuilt cross-shelter at the top. We rested only briefly here – it was no place to hang around, given the cutting wind and the fact that time was pressing, so we left, smartish for the tall cairn on the edge, and, taking another shortcut to take out yet another big corner, we descended deep snow back down again.
A track took us back to the start, passing the Hanging Gardens of Mark Anthony on the way – a bit of an overstated label for a couple of mediaeval lynchets
The tall cairn appears to have a big white nose and a mischievous grin and we had a brief chat about Conservative Party Education policy and the security situation in Uranda Burundi, of which neither of us knew much at all.
The depth and consistency of the snow meant that this walk took almost twice as long as it would normally have done and was really quite hard going – which means, of course, that I may need to abandon the idea when it comes to next Saturday’s walk . In which case, I have an easier alternative which still goes fairly high but which has less climbing.
In any event, if the day is anything like yesterday, whatever walk we do will be amongst remarkable beauty. So, I’m hoping the snow stays around, but stiffens up quite a lot, and if this happens, it could be breathtaking. It just needs some freeze/thaw.
Thanks to Matt for some of the pics.