Long Shadows in the Moonlight
Well indeed the sun had truly set by the time I got off the fell, moonlight and a decent head torch my only comfort.
The day had started late, looking at the weather forecast the evening previously I had expected fog lower down and had delayed my journey so that I don’t get to Braithwaite until around ten in the morning. I wish I had got up early, as you can see from the photographs the air was clear and very cold, the snow unconsolidated powder, knee deep in places, everywhere white and wintry. The initial pull up to the shoulder below Grisdale Pike, Sleet How, is pretty steep but the trail is well made and the sun is out, it’s very warm work. Stopping frequently for photographs as the views back towards Skiddaw and Blencathra are amazing, Grisdale Pike is still not in view. Then as the ridge proper is gained the vista opens up to encompass the whole horseshoe around Coledale itself. The views stretch from the Solway all the way south to the Langale Pikes, Scafell Pikes and everything else in between. I’m reminded of similar views we had earlier in the year on the Lakeland 3000, except this time it’s white not green.
Stopping briefly on the top of Grisdale Pike itself for another photo opportunity it’s then down to the col and back up to Hopegill Head, often called Hobcarton Pike, the latter being my preference. The route has to be forged through knee deep powder snow as no one has been this way. There’s a crust on the snow and it’s exhausting work. Once there Hobcarton provides a welcome rest for food and drink and endless views of the mountains and snow. To the north you can see all the way to Galloway. The ridge to the west, Whiteside, looks positively Alpine.
By now the sun is well past midway in the sky and it’s increasingly obvious that the likely hood of getting down before dusk at least is slim. Despite encouragement from a passing photographer extolling the virtue of Grasmoor I declined and pushed on over Sand Hill and down to the col at Coldale Hause then on up the very long slog up to Crag Hill. It doesn’t get any easier.
There’s only time to linger briefly at the top of the ridge to take another photo or two, this is too good to miss, before pressing on down and back up to the slight top beyond Sail. Another photo stop and the last of the coffee. Now I’m alone on the hill it seems, everyone else has bailed out down Sail Pass. I push on, despite being very tired and the inevitability of darkness, to the last top on the route, Causey Pike.
Causey Pike is reached just as the sun was setting. The photo at the head of this entry was taken just before dropping steeply down towards the path and Braithwaite. Moonlight and then the new head torch, bought for the Lakeland 3000 earlier in the year, get me off safely if a little slower then anticipated. The usual. crampons off, then crampons back on, uncertainty adding to the delay.
Down to the road at Newlands and there’s still some way to go to get back to Braithwaite and then the car. The icy tarmac road is as lethal as any on the hill and seems to go on for ever. That which was a very pleasant summer stroll in shirt-sleeves earlier in the year is now just a grind. Then welcome lights in Braithwaite, a corner shop is still open and a welcome cup of tea is ordered. I realise I have no money to pay, having left my wallet in the car, still a mile or so away but the store owner takes pity on me and refuses payment anyway and indeed offers cake. I declined apologetically. The friendly hospitality is very much appreciated and restores my faith in humanity. (You know who you are, thank you!)
Update: loking back on the times it wasn’t too bad after all, excepting of course I got back in the dark. Compared with our last outing in August which took 5 hours for exactly the same route the 7 doesn’t seem so bad.