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 8 February 2010

On Thursday Last: High Raise

It had been a slow and mainly foggy trip from Halifax up to Ambleside, but in its latter stages the fog had started to lift and we felt (foolishly) optimistic that the mountain forecast would hold true and the rest of the murk would lift to leave us with fine weather until early afternoon.

Until Ambleside we hadn’t decided on where we would walk, but suddenly I decided that Langdale seemed like a good idea and declared that High Raise would be our objective for the day.

We were only the second car in the car park alongside the New Dungeon Ghyll, and after no small modicum of faffing we were on our way, up to Stickle Tarn.

Carefully picking our way around the icy bits of the stone staircase that leads up to the Tarn, several pauses were had to gape at the views unfolding as the cloud lifted to leave a gap between the mistiness still hugging the grass in the valley, and the cloud still shrouding the tops. IMG_0526 IMG_0528

By ten minutes in I realised that it was not nearly as cold as I had expected, and quite considerably warmer than it had been the previous day in West Yorkshire, and as such I had made an error in wearing long-johns. I struggled on with all vents open until a point where I adjudged that the people ahead of us were sufficiently far ahead not to be able to see back, and the people behind us were sufficiently far behind not to catch us up within the next three minutes and so, apologising for the delay, I declared an intention to undress and remove the long johns.

IMG_0535 Showing off my shocking pink undertrousers. I opted not to include the bare-legged photo.

For reasons best known to himself, Mick decided that the appropriate thing to do with my discarded, shocking pink underwear was to put them on his head, and so he stood patiently waiting for me to look up and react (as it went, I failed to look up and didn’t learn of this entire incident until much later in the day).

What he didn’t notice was the footsteps approaching from behind, and before he knew it he was removing his impromptu headwear whilst simultaneously greeting the chap who was, by now, alongside him. Being caught in such a ridiculous post didn’t faze him, however, as (so I later learnt) he figured that he would never see this complete stranger again…

Now much more comfortable, we progressed past more falls (another excuse for a brief pause)

IMG_0530 and finally we popped out at Stickle Tarn, which was wearing its winter garb:

IMG_0540 At this point it would have been a good idea to liberate the map from the pocket on my pack, as if we had done so we might have picked up the intended path. What actually happened was that we didn’t look at the map until ten minutes later, by which time we had missed that path (not that the path would necessarily have been visible under the snow, but at least we could have followed its course).

Combined with having once again been enveloped in cloud before we left the side of Stickle Tarn, the next couple of hours became something of a navigation exercise as we found ourselves not only with no view of what was around us, but increasingly with all ground features also obliterated by snow.

 IMG_0543 IMG_0544

Early in this adventure, whilst in amongst some craggy bits, I had a failure of confidence so great that not only did I get the GPS out, but I programmed a waypoint into it – the first time I’ve done that since a similar crisis of confidence in much better conditions in September 2008.

By the time we reached that waypoint, I had given myself sufficient of a talking to that the rest of the day was navigated by compass, albeit the GPS stayed out for the rest of the day and was used to obtain more positional confirmations than ever before.

Progress was slow, but finally we noticed that things had flattened out and we impressed ourselves by homing straight in on the trig point.

With the ascent taking longer than we had expected, and with the day marching on, and with the forecast being for more wet weather coming in during the afternoon, it wasn’t a difficult decision to abandon our intended (longer) descent route. Instead a quick look at the map caused the decision that we would simply head south for a kilometre and a half or so in the hope of picking up the path between the Langdale Pikes.

Not two minutes into our downwards route, it started to rain, so it was with hoods up and heads down that we yomped over whatever fell before us as we tried to maintain our southerly course as best we could.

The quality of the light was by this time getting to be about as poor as the visibility, which was causing optical illusions. At one point Mick pointed out Stickle Tarn over to our left, which made me doubt our position and navigation skills all over again, as the map told me quite clearly that there was no way that we would be able to see the tarn from where we should be.

That tarn, which looked to be some distance from us, turned out to be a patch of snow about twenty metres distant!

With optical illusions affecting both of us, and with me getting perhaps a touch crabby due to extreme hunger (it was 2pm, I’d had breakfast at 7am and had been doing quite a bit of exercise in between!), I called for a halt long enough to throw a sandwich and a cup of tea down my neck.

Down I plonked myself and as the rain had let up I liberated my down jacket and put it on in an effort of conserving the little heat that I had. Almost immediately it started to rain again. The jacket went back in its waterproof bag, and I hunched up my shoulders as I almost swallowed my sandwich whole, and inhaled a cup of something hot and wet.

Back on our way just a few minutes later, the descent seemed to be interminably long, probably because we were so low before we got out of the cloud, but apparently I was back to my happy self having benefitted from our spot of lunch:

IMG_0551Eventually (and not without a few arm-flailing moments on the steep, iced-up path), we did get back to the car park, where we met two chaps also just finishing their walk. A brief chat was had about our respective days, and it was only with Mick’s comment of ‘Didn’t expect to see him again’ as we parted that I came to learn of Mick’s earlier incident of being caught long-johns-on-head. I guffawed.

With my laughter dying down, we covered the final three yards back to the car and hotfooted it to the campsite to make our home for the night (Dora was our tent of choice for the night), where pretty soon the kettle was on and we were being revived with cups of tea.

IMG_0552 The stats for the day were that we walked 5.5 miles, with just under 2500 feet of ascent, in about 5.5 hours. Only four people were seen all day (the two ahead of us up the Dungeon Ghyll path, and the two behind us). The conditions were decidedly Interesting, not to mention challenging, but the assessment of the day was that for all but a few moments, it was jolly good fun.



  1. Wonderful! Just Wonderful!
    I want to see a recreation of Mick in his new headgear.

    You know you want to, Mick...

  2. Great report and by the sound of it action packed?! And for the contructive and inovative use of discarded underwear...10/10.

  3. Both: long-johns do make excellent ear-muffs; however, pink is not my usual colour!

    Alan: I have thought it over carefully and have decided to decline your tempting request for a recreation of the event. I'm afraid that you have just got to be there at the time.

  4. Michael? Who the heck is Michael? I think that I need to change some account settings.