The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Monday, 16 February 2015

St Sunday Crag, via Arnison Crag and Birks

Friday 13 February


I’ve many a time said that I don’t see the point of slogging all the way to the top of the hill if there’s no prospect of having a view at least most of the way. I’ve also many a time said that I’m not one for going up hills in strong winds. As such, my only possible excuse for today’s excursion was that we were nearby and couldn’t think of anything better to do with our time.

On the bright side (metaphorically speaking; there was no actual brightness at any point), the forecast rain hadn’t arrived when we set off, allowing us some vague optimism that the forecast might have been overly pessimistic.

As we briefly joined the path out of Patterdale, there were two people ahead of us and two behind. They went straight on when we turned towards Arnison Crag and they were the last people we saw until we rejoined that path on our return, whereupon two more people were seen. Surely it’s unheard of to go up St Sunday Crag without even seeing evidence (i.e. footprints) of anyone else? Okay, so conditions weren’t great, but I didn’t actually get blown off my feet, so they can’t have been that bad!

Our ascent to Arnison Crag was mainly sheltered, so it wasn’t until the top that we got the full force of the wind. Given that we were at only half the altitude of our main objective of the day, it didn’t bode well for conditions later on.

A bit more shelter saw us huff and puff our way steeply up to Birks, by which time we had ascended from simply ‘murk’ to ‘fully in the cloud’, and once on the ridge we were staggering around like drunks in the wind.


A short-lived hole in the cloud saw me grab for the camera. This was by far the best visibility we had on the entire ascent.

Then we got to the icy snow-banks on St Sunday Crag, where our outing would have certainly been curtailed if we hadn’t had spikes in our bags, which were quickly deployed to our feet. By the time we got to the top of the snowy bit, a careless stumble had seen one of my spikes put a new (and long) hole in my trousers; hey ho - they were due some more darning about now anyway*.

More staggering, bracing and the occasional crouch ensued as the path levelled out towards the summit of the hill, and the occasional ‘ouch’ emanated from my direction as frozen-rain/snow had now started to fall and some of those shards of ice were quite prickly as the wind drove them into my face. However, there was no chance we were giving up this close to our objective and soon enough it emerged from the gloom ahead of us.


Mick would happily have taken the long route, via Grizedale Tarn, to form our return route, but I fancied sitting in the dry with my book for the afternoon more than I felt like spending at least an extra hour out in the rain, so after a bit of navigation that would not be suitable material for a master class in how to leave a summit, we retreated back the way we had come.

The path around the NW side of Birks got us out of the wind for the rest of our descent (whereupon lunch would have been had except that by now it was raining sufficiently that staying hungry until we got back to shelter seemed like the better option). The only other bit of eventfulness on the descent was the incident that saw Mick’s poles thrown to the bottom of a scrambly bit, only to then decide the scramble was ill-advised and a different route around was required.

With a diversion to collect the poles from the bottom of the crag, we loped onwards and downwards, arriving back at Colin thoroughly wet with 6.2 miles covered with 2700’ of up.


(*I have a pair of 10-year-old Paramo Cascada trousers that have been worn a huge amount. Many people would have considered them to be worn out a few years back. I’m now seeing it as a challenge as to how many times I can sew them back together and squeeze more miles out of them, but as more and more of the material wears through, I may soon have to concede defeat.)

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