Distance: 12 miles (Tot: 482.25)
Ascent: about 5000'
Well that wasn't a bad day at all!
It was preceded by a night that felt warmer than any other on which we've camped on this trip so far (which was a bit unexpected given our altitude overnight). It was the cloud cover that did it.
It was also the cloud cover to blame for the sound of rain pattering on nylon as we woke up this morning, which didn't herald the type of day we were hoping for for our ridge walk.
Not put off, we were up and away at our usual hour (by which time the rain had stopped), climbing the man-made stone staircase that leads to Dollywagon Pike.
The main motorway of a path actually by-passes most of the tops, but we took a detour to the top of Dollywagon mainly bacause I've always liked the name.
I made a little bit of a meal regaining the path from there, but by and by we did make it up Nethermost Pike, and with the odd hint of brightness breaking through the gloom we could only hope for a miracle lifting of the cloud in the next half an hour.
Alas, it wasn't to be. As I stood atop Helvellyn for the first time in 25 years, we could see nothing except each other and the long line of a cornice of the last remaining snow.
With the temperature up there being somewhere below 'very cold' (and with windchill added in somewhere below 'very very cold'), we didn't tarry long on the deserted summit (bit of a contrast to the last time I was up there during Spring Bank holiday week 1984 (or 5) when the skies were clear and the summit was teeming).
We were really careful with the next bit of the navigation as we didn't want to find ourselves overshooting the turn we needed to take on Lower Man, as to do so would see us descending in completely the wrong direction.
Still in dense cloud, we paid attention to our timings, noted when we needed to turn (which was pretty much in the right place, as it turned out) and yet still got lured in the wrong direction by the good path! Fortunately we hadn't gone more than a hundred yards when I realised we had overshot so off uphill we headed and by the time we got to the right place the cloud broke and we could see clearly our route ahead. That's also when the first snow started to fall (alternating with frozen rain and hail - but at least none of it got us wet!).
The climb up the next lump got the blood through to my fingers again, and I was positively glowing by the time we paused for elevenses on Raise - where we cooled down a bit too much. Good job there was another hill to warm us up!
It was after Raise, at Stick's Pass that we saw the first people of the day. All those other summits all to ourselves - which wasn't overly surprising given it was so early on a murky Monday morning.
We didn't need to go to the top of either Stybarrow Dodd or Watson's Dodd, as paths by-passed each, but having visited every other top on our day's route it seemed a shame to miss these out. Plus, the day had cleared remarkably by the latter hill and we had fine views of seemingly endless tops.
Great Dodd was our last top of the day, and once there attention was needed again as the obvious direction down was not where we needed to go.
By the time we were by Wolf Crags, quite low on our descent, our stomachs were rumbling and finally the day had warmed up enough to contemplate stopping. Down we plonked ourselves with a good view and out came lunch.
For a while we contemplated what might be going on on Threlkeld Common, as there seemed to be a number of groups of people walking around with odd items.
The answer came when a chap came down the hillside right behind us (he'd just popped up in his lunch break to touch the snow) and in chatting we found out that they were geography students from Durham University using ground penetrating radar and taking core samples to examine the geology of the bowl. The chap who happened upon us was Josh and in making a donation to H4H he won the award for the most bizarre location of a donation. We've certainly had donations on hills before, but on this ocassion we were no-where near a path and on really quite a steep slope. It turned out that Josh had seen us there and figured that we had taken a good route of descent (what he didn't know was our history of taking ridiculous descent routes!).
After a lengthy chat Josh had to go to rejoin his group who were laying out the radar thingumy, and we had a few more miles to walk.
Having surveyed the ground below over lunch, the decision had been reached that the direct route across the Common would be as good as any and so with the sun now (finally) beating down on us, yomping and bog-trotting we went.
Reaching enclosed fields by some farm buildings we were met with a number of 'no path' signs, which left us with a bit of an issue as to how to rejoin the RoW. A bit of discreet trespass was the answer.
By the time we were on the road to the campsite there was barely a cloud to be seen and every single top was clear. Don't you just hate it when that happens? (And, clear skies = another cold night, I guess).
It's another C&CC site we're at tonight, and this one charged us full price. It's not cheap, but the facilities are good - I don't think I've ever had a better shower on a campsite. The laundry facilities have been used too (and I've sworn that I'll not wash all of the clothes in one go by hand again!), so we'll be notably less smelly when we set out in the morning too.
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