Mountain Days | Walking The Wainwrights | Winter Walking

The Coledale Horseshoe (Extended)

Fells – x 12 Ascent – 7608 ft Distance – 19 miles Time – 30 hours With – Solo

  1. GRISEDALE PIKE (2595ft)
  2. HOPEGILL HEAD (2526ft)
  3. WHITESIDE (2320ft)
  4. GRASMOOR (2795ft)
  5. WHITELESS PIKE (2165ft)
  6. WANDOPE (2553ft)
  7. EEL CRAG (2753ft)
  8. SAIL (2536ft)
  9. SCAR CRAGS (2205ft)
  10. CAUSEY PIKE (2090ft)
  11. OUTERSIDE (1864ft)
  12. BARROW (1493ft)

What an experience. 19 miles, 12 Wainwrights, 7608ft of ascent, a wild camp, three cries and one migraine.

After getting up at 4:15 and hitting the M6 I park half a mile up the Whinlatter Pass in a muddy little car park right at the bottom of GRISEDALE PIKE.

2400ft of ascent later and half a dozen stops to take in the increasingly breath-taking views on this perfect February day I reach the Pike summit followed by a nice couple from Ormskirk, Rupert and Pricilla, who are on their second round. I could chat for hours about these hills, especially when they’re offering their knowledge of what I haven’t done.

The views are seriously stunning, you’re pretty high up at 2595ft but you’re in the right place I think as well, photos can’t do it justice but I’ll keep trying.

My route today takes me around the usual Coledale Horseshoe plus a few sprus to add the spiky WHITESIDE, the mighty GRASSMOOR and the beautiful WHITELESS PIKE, 12 in total so as it’s not a long summer’s day and I haven’t set off early I’m wild camping ‘somewhere where it get’s dark’.

Past GRISEDALE PIKE and over HOPEGILL HEAD (which is stunning from the pike) the spur takes me out to WHITESIDE and back, the highlight being the sight of the massive GRASMOOR and Crummock Water.

Carrying on round the horseshoe past the Coledale Hause and up to the crossroads so I can leave the bag, I head out again, this time to GRASMOOR, a long trudge really and back to the crossroads, pick up the bag and take it out to leave it again along Whiteless Edge for a little trek out to WHITELESS PIKE for some gorgeous views of Crummock Water and the ‘Western Fells’ as the sun is fading.

Returning again to pick up the bag and fork right up to WANDOPE and what a view of the Southern edge of EEL CRAG, my 7th of the day, for the sunset and a camp.

By 6:30 the tent’s up and a nice veg soup heated and bread dipped, I’m on a very intentional journey tonight to get warm, Vicki’s told me to eat loads, Simon advised a hot water bottle, Danny a coat and Richard has ordered us all to go naked!

I did eat plenty, warm as well using my new AlpKit BruKit, which by the way is just awesome. It heats water up so quick like the JetBoil, the wind doesn’t get to the flame as it’s protected, the pan is all connected with a bayonet fitting so is easy to take off but stable while cooking and it’s non-stick so cleans easily after the rice pudding.

I try a few night photos of the stars and fail miserably before it clouds over but get some practice anyway before reading the temperature as -10c at 8pm ish before I batten down the hatches and bed down. I do believe there was a full moon which I could sense but it was too cold out to even check. I try the naked thing in the down bag but get too cold, I’m told that you heat the air in the bag and then that keeps you warm. I just don’t want to heat anything but myself so I get every item of clothing I have on and keep my warmth to myself, my coat get’s stuffed in a bag for a pillow.

Eventually I get warm and the thermometre tells me it’s 30c in my sleeping bag. This is success. In time I’ll write a blog on Sleeping Warm Wild Camping.

The sleep app on the phone tells me I got 6 hours of great sleep. I do wake cold at 4:30 though and next time I will bring a flask so I could have a brew at this time to heat me a little. It’s early days in my wild camping career.

If you must know, I don’t have to leave the tent to pee thanks to my investment in an ‘Innocent’ orange juice bottle and this doubles as a hot water bottle. It works guys, don’t knock it until you’ve spent the night in a tiny tent on a mountain summit at 2753ft.

It’s snowing and I figure I have a couple of hours at least to go before I can get out. I can’t risk the morning walk in the dark as it’s straight out to SAIL over the arête which I’ll need light to negotiate.

I didn’t freeze and after starting the day with a Redbush tea I pack up and set off from a very cloudy EEL CRAG. As I clamber down the arête looks a little scary in the cloud, an abyss.

After I take a selfie in the cloud on Sail the strangest thing happens.

The cloud completely clears to reveal the most beautiful mountain scene. Crag Hill, my bed for the night and descent over the last hour appears and takes my breath from me. I’ve cherished this photo ever since, not just for it’s magnificence but for what it physically did to me that day, rewards you just can’t get sat in your pajamas at home.

Coming down from SAIL, having no water and not a stream in sight at this altitude I break some snow with my boot and scoop it into the AlpKit pan, after a couple of minutes, just enough time to eat a bag of tuna and sweetcorn, I’m feeding the protein with what I now consider the best cup of tea I have ever drank.

Sitting on the side of this snowy hill heading down to join the zig-zag path up to SCAR CRAGS a mile away, the long slender spine of ARD CRAGS now visible in front of me to the South, I feel sad. It’s a shame not to share this fantastic experience with somebody, I really wish my wife could be here going through this with me.

My first, WANSFELL, I did with my son Jack. The TROUTBECK TONGUE I did with Amber and took Teresa out to SOUR HOWES after SALLOWS which we had a beer and a small bottle of wine on it’s summit, at 9:30 in the morning. All wonderful.

I started up these hills to lose weight, get fit, relieve stress and 6 months ago my head was in a mess, I needed the hills, I was addicted. I don’t know what I would have done this last 9 months without getting up these hills – nervous breakdown, divorce, who knows.

Now though, I would love to share them.

Anyhoo. Down the zig-zag to strip off.

I have loads of clothes on and I’m roasting. I get down to the skin and start again, stuffing damp thermals in my bag. There’s something about being completely naked on a snowy hillside too early for anybody to be around.

I’m much lower now and I’m on the last few fells. Onto CAUSEY PIKE. I leave the bag at a junction so I can come back and head for the two little ones in the middle of the valley.

I fork to the right now on my return after picking up the bag, slip and the pole takes my weight and breaks. I really believe I might have gone tumbling down the side if the pole hadn’t saved me.

The ‘Water-To-Go’ filter bottle is really needed here but it’s all frozen up so useless. I need water so I drink straight from the stream. There won’t be much bacteria that could live in this cold anyway I’m guessing. I’m confident that I will live.

OUTERSIDE, Stile End in between and BARROW are easy low hills but I’ve clocked up a few miles, outdone myself with regards the ascent and I have had a migraine since waking. The cold mornings don’t agree with the arteries in my head, I’ve regrettably had a miserable day. I should have brought one of my inhalers which would have given me a chance.

I’m here to experience whatever comes to me. Fun of course but also fear. Contentment but sadness, even misery and fish & chips with mushy peas and ‘the biggest cup of coffee you can muster’. This was my order to the lady upstairs in The Kingfisher. I must say that since I started eating fish last year to aid with the protein, the haddock in The Kingfisher was the best I’ve had.

I get home and have an amazing sleep in what feels like the most comfortable bed on the planet, the cosiest pillow I’ve ever laid my head on with the most gorgeous woman I’ve ever met.

The Coledale Horseshoe – 106 down, 108 to go!