Helvellyn from Thirlmere – Monday 6th August – Week 4

Lakeland’s most popular mountain

The summer of 2012 is and continues to be remembered for the constant rainfall. June was already recognised as the wettest since records began. I guess as a  resident Englishman one shouldn’t be surprised by a month of rain drenched weekends, which is tolerable I guess, but April, May, June and July have barely offered up a few good days for walking. The SMASH diary had in mind the high peaks to be tackled in what should be the drier of months; clear blue skies, long days, sunset desents. We had already postponed our ascent on Skiddaw scheduled for early July, remains un-smashed. Helvellyn would be our last climb before Scafell Pike in August so it was kind of important that we set our expectations right by getting in some of the big peaks beforehand.

After postponing Helvellyn from its original planned date of 29th July again due to poor weather conditions we figured the next weekend would give us a good spell, but it didn’t! Talking to the SMASH regulars, we all remained uncertain about the chances of getting out at all and were feeling properly down trodden about cancelling another walk.

However after keeping a close eye on the forecast there looked like the weather might break just a bit on Monday so on a bit of whim I grabbed the little people and made the journey to Thirlmere.

Jack and Emily were less than impressed with the weather but at least the rain was holding off and we set off up the clear stepped path beside Helvellyn Gill. I already knew this walk was going to be less inspiring for them and started a trivia quiz to keep our minds from the task. At this juncture I had my doubts about the weather and set in my mind this was more about just getting outside and seeing if Jack and Em would deal with the conditions. The walk would be straight forward though and had no intentions other than to reach the summit and come back down on the same path.

The cloud line was around 500 meters and so we disappeared into the soft white cloud admiring the surreal nature of how new features suddenly appeared from the mist.

The quiz went well. Emily thashed Jack and I for not knowing any of her horse based questions which of course remains her specialist subject.  I fought fire with fire and hit her with a bunch of questions about mountains and bikes. Jack on the other hand read like a book of general knowledge leaving me wishing I had room in my head for the more fascinating facts of our world rather than passwords and work based garbage that would send a glass eye to sleep.

We met no one on the way up. There was a guy on the summit who we spoke to and learned he had ascended from Striding Edge which I thought was brave in these conditions. The four of us all had that look on our faces that said, what are we doing up here? But equally it comes with a wry smile that expresses the inner pride that you bothered to go out at all today and climb over 900 meters to see absolutely nothing at all when you got there apart from each other and a wet trig point.

It could be any trig point against a featureless backdrop

I directed the guy over towards the shelter from the trig where he continued toward Dollywaggon Pike. Jack, Emily and I fumbled about for our lunch bites with wet gloves pulling at draw strings and clips in that panicky shivery style when your eager to get at some food that you know will make you feel normal again.Just then a group of about 6 teenage girls rocked up carrying back packs that looked like they might have more teenage girls inside them. It turned out they were on their third day of a 4 day walk across the lakes and were clearly trying their best to remain upbeat about the journey knowing the weather had been cruel and would remain that way. They took their places on the bi-directional shelter from the wind and had lunch and then they were up, onwards and upwards as they say and they headed toward Whiteside.

Are we pleased to be here?

We had our fair and took some very uninspiring snaps if only to prove we were on Helvellyn. There was no view at all and in a way this was kind of amusing to Jack and Emily, they found it bizarre to climb all this way into the cloud and see nothing. How do you deal with that? I guess they could have attacked me and pushed me over the edge. Surprisingly Jack was joking about it remarking that it was typical of me to make them come up here.  They were great though and now we had had enough of the wet clouds we wanted to get down quickly and the moment it was suggested Emily visualised herself back in a warm car wearing dry clothes and hugging her favourite cushion for a sleepy ride home. It sounded like a nice idea, so we stepped up the pace. In doing so though Emily took a trip and though I was holding her hand she went down and grazed her leg and to make matters worse I accidentally trod on her arm.  She was a bit tearful but her determination to get off this mountain was reignited and she manned up to walk off the beating she had taken.We dropped down below the cloud line and could see the start-finish as others were making their way up. I have to say too many looked less than prepared for what they were planning. One father dressed in black jeans and a t-shirt leading his wife carrying a hand bag and an umberalla, his daughter in similar inapproapriate garb. He asked if he was going the right way for Helvellyn. Without being direct or suggesting he wasn’t really equipped for the cold, wet and poor visibilty. He had no map or a shell jacket, I confirmed he was on the trail for Helvellyn but added there was nothing to see thinking it would disuade him from pressing on. I detected a slight gesture of thanks from his daughter. I hope they didn’t continue.

So with Helvellyn SMASHed I was confident that Jack and Emily and myself were better equipped in our minds and physically able to take on Scafell regardless of what the weather could offer in August. So it was a successful walk in as much as it was grim. Were we glad we come out?

Of course!

Walk Route Summary:– The Swirls Car Park Thirlmere, Browncove Crags, Lower Man (Helvellyn), Helvellyn,  The Swirls Car Park Thirlmere.Vital Statistics for this Walk

  • Length/Distance: 13.50km (8 miles)
  • Total Ascent: 1005m (3296ft)
  • Allow at least: 4.50hrs
  • Walk Grade: 5

October 29th 2011 – High Rigg

Low Clouds greet S.M.A.S.H. on High Rigg

For anyone who ventures into the great outdoors has to love the month of October. How can it be that this month can deal the 3rd hottest day of the year on our last walk onto Latrigg where it topped 28° then 28 days later blown over in 11° on High Rigg just a few miles away. October will be known forevermore as the box of chocolates month. Today the SMASH crew were down on their numbers as well as their luck for fine weather. The dreaded man flu was attacking the female variety too, Of course all who made it out last time were going to be missed on this outing, another lone peak squashed between the fell of Clough and the town of Keswick. As we approach Legburthwaite our starting location we are dwarfed by the range of the Dodds leading eventually to the Helvellyn massive, a mighty wall of scree and bare rock spotted with some very hardy looking sheep. We geared up for a not too wet day, the shelter of the car park low down is a poor indication of what lie ahead. The small people (Jack and Emily) joined Angela, Abs and Dean to ascend 357meters at High Rigg or given it’s alternative Birkett name Naddle Fell via Wren Crag. The climb starts steep within 5 minutes and already we feel a cold breeze on our backs. Emily starts out leading an obvious narrow path through the mature oaks and Scott’s Pine trees upwards to Wren Crag. Turning back we can see Thirlmere Lake and the A591 running through the valley. Thirlmere was once two lakes, Leathes Water and Wythburn Water before they were flooded and dammed to meet the increasing demand for water in Manchester. The path peaked and troughed and snaked along the ridge forcing a few ‘hands on the rock’ moments and the occasional bog jumping or stepping stone antics. You choose carefully or risk a booty. Abs and I broke out the wet trouser-ware. We knew they’d come in and glad we brought them. Jack traded the lead with Emily while Angela just stomped on with a tight hood and kindly lent Emily her woolly hat. That fine rain was actually just low cloud blown by a stiff wind to make it feel like rain. At least it was behind us. The extremities were beginning to feel the pinch of the wind chill, I wish I brought gloves. High Rigg soon loomed, displaying a boulder garden before it. A quick bound up to meet a stumpy cairn surrounded by puddles and an even spikier wind that made it almost painful to take in a full 360° view from the top. Angela wrapped tight couldn’t hear my gesture of “well done.” We made good time helped along by a south westerly that blew Abs off the summit to a quieter spot were he accidentally located the Geocache Jack and Emily we were searching for under a stone slab. SMASH took their name in the soggy log book.

“Don’t ask me why I enjoy walking.”

We set off for the return leg steeply down aiming for the youth centre. A sudden slip from Jack on wet grass spawned a new sport we proudly call Grarse Sliding. Amateurs now, but think of the future possibilities when one can steer their well trained buttocks to descend all Wainwrights. Is High Rigg No.210 the first of many? Almost certainly. We picked up the bridleway skirting around the base of High Rigg and happened upon the Tea Shop which was not unlike a house with Tea in. We helped ourselves to coffee and hot chocolate, dropped some change into the honesty box and left the lean-to conservatory to head back to the car for dry clothes and a warm, quiet journey home after an honest and spirited walk.