With apologies to Spike Milligan and the Goons
On arrival in Patterdale, somewhat later than planned, our hero Gripp stares alternately into the back of the car and upwards to the fell tops and the sky. He’s thinking of the weather, the distance and the snow and icy conditions.
He’s troubled, there are three pairs of boots in the car; the new inov-8 trail running shoes untested in the snow; the old and trusted Scarpa Manta mountaineering boots and the cheap and bendy lightweight boots he’s been wearing all summer and to which he has a fondness that apparently outweighs reason and experience. True since wearing these boots he’s not had blisters and that is something of a miracle for he as been troubled with the ragged and bleeding heels affliction constantly through out his walking life and there are distressing visuals to prove it. He forgets though that the adoption of the 1000 Mile socks may also have something to do with it too.
He recalls the previous outings using the Scarpa’s with dread, all he remembers is pain and suffering all the way up and down the fell. He forgets also the fact that this was before he got himself fit and 2st lighter and was, at that time, unable to walk more than 100 or so yards up an incline without getting out of breath. He makes his decision, wear the bendy boots, take the short ice axe and we’ll be OK, it can’t be that bad! can it?
An hour and a half later just at the start of Striding edge proper Gripp was beginning to see the error of his ways and the lack of forethought in his decision. A slight panic was developing in his lower organs and the iPod was switched off to help his concentration, he needed all his experience and skills to be focussed on the snowy ridge in front of him.
He could of course have done the sensible thing, go back down to the pub but that would have been defeatist and cowardly, at least in his mind. The staff from Patterdale Mountain Rescue would not have thought so and the newspapers would not have their story if he had. You know the kind of thing Reckless Walker Endangers Life and Costs mount as Helicopter Rescue is launched blah blah. BBC News / Cumbria
He presses on, at first the broad expanse of the ridge is easy and the Névé is almost perfect. But as the ridge narrows and funnels him onto the crest of the ridge the ice is showing through and the rocks are covered with verglas, with zero grip from the bendy boots,` balance is all that keeps our hero upright and moving forward rather than accelerating vertically downward.
The ridge narrows even further and Gripp has to resort to the old fashioned approach, a cheval which brings new meaning to a shiver in his nether regions. There several points on the route now that demand all the concentration he can muster and others on the same journey gasp in astonishment, not as our hero imagines at the skill and bravery but at the foolishness of his escapades.
As the ridge abuts the fell proper there is a steepening of route which is banked nearly to the vertical with hard snow and ice. With bendy boots it’s impossible to kick steps in the frozen water and Gripp has to rely on climbing what rock remains sticking out of the snow and using steps kicked by others or resorting to an ancient and almost forgotten skill of step cutting. Twice the second hand steps give way and sliding backwards the ice axe is brought into play. At least he had the sense to bring that.
Then almost suddenly the terrain flattens out onto the summit plateau and the stone cross near the actual summit of Helvellyn, euphemistically referred to as a shelter,is reached. Gripp sits down with some relief and refuels with coffee and favourite hill food
..to be continued