It feels like ages ago that I was in a terrifying position on a steep scree slope on Great Gable, yet my calendar tells me that it was only 5 days ago.
I’ve just been going through all my blog posts from the recent trip and adding in map snippets showing the lines of the gpx files I recorded, and in doing so I’ve finally been able to see where things went briefly awry on Great Gable. The analysis is below and should be looked at in the context of me being in a dense cloud, so I didn’t have the benefit of being able to see any of my surroundings. It should also be noted that I didn’t have a 1:25k map with me, only 1:50k. My thinking at the time was that as long as I followed one of the two Rights of Way (as shown on the snippet below) off the summit, or was somewhere in between them, then I’d be okay; if I’d had the 1:25k map then I wouldn’t have considered following the west-most line.
It took me 34 minutes to go 0.6km down this slope!
1) At this point the path on the ground (depicted by the black dashed line on the map) switches back to the north. I missed the turn and went straight on, in the process also completely veering off the bearing I had been following. I can only assume that having checked my compass quite a few times shortly after leaving the summit, I stopped checking here, because I seemed to be following a trodden line on the ground.
2) Yikes – horrible slippery crags, which, due to steepness and drops couldn’t be bypassed! This was the first point at which I gave thought to turning back, but on closer consideration decided that if I could get past the two crags immediately below me then then things would get easier.
3) I can’t believe I went so far off the line I was supposed to be on, but I’m guessing that I checked the GPS somewhere along the way and decided to go for the west-most Right of Way, setting a new bearing when I got there, which I followed for a short while.
4) Ye Gads! What was I doing? I really hope I was again blindly following what appeared to be a trodden line, because there’s no other excuse for veering off that far, and I certainly didn’t want to be west of the RoW.
5) Aaaarrrrrgggggghhhhhh! Dangerously steep scree. In amongst my analysis of: a) if I fall here what are the chances of dying? (answer: high); and b) what are the chances of falling here? (answer: high); I did feel bad about the erosion I was causing by moving buckets full of stone down the hillside with me on every step. It was in amongst all of this that I looked at the map (1:50k) and rather belatedly realised that on the line I was following there was a section where only one contour was shown between the 50 metre bold contour lines. A bit of a hint about steepness, if ever I saw one.
6) No more contour lines! Grass! Relief! Be still my quaking knees!
7) Ummm. Not sure what excuse I can come up with for the somewhat indirect route I took across the pass. I can’t claim to have nipped over to the edge to look at the views, as I was still in a cloud.