Mountain Days | Walking The Wainwrights | Winter Walking

Scafell Pike in Winter

Storm Heading My Way

After driving up to Scotland for a 5 day expedition up, along and around Ben Lawers I only got a day in when a patch of signal updating the forecast alerted me a storm heading towards the Northern part of the UK. I would be snowed in if I stayed. This seemed like a dream come true for a short while as I had everything I needed to get through the pending adventure.

I’d set out to ‘get away from it all’ for 5 days and this would definitely make it so but I had a group hike around Fleetwith in the Lake District scheduled for the Saturday and a Navigation Workshop booked in on Sunday. Responsibility prevails and I drop off the ridge to make camp; next day heading for finer weather and the beloved Lakeland. Up on top I clocked 77mph breeze and couldn’t see a thing for most part of the day, life can be beautiful.

I descended below the snow line and contorted the MLD Trailstar around an old ‘shielding’, the Easton pegs used in very unconventional ways that served purpose. My head rested on a rock as did my legs but I slept comfortably in adventure.

Next morning I sighed over a cup of cowboy coffee, reflecting on my truncated wanderings and quietly celebrated the peace I’d found. I literally stuffed my temporary home into my rucksack and took a rough bearing West along a crooked wall which would lead me to that familiar red machine parked up near the pass. Now for a three hour drive South and escape the pending storm.

I didn’t have a long day so I thought I’d summit Bessyboot and see if Glaramara was in reach. The hail came as I topped the subsidiary summit of in the jaws of Borrowdale.

I awoke next morning with lots of snow in the valley and strewn on the fells. I’d parked in Seathwaite down near the farm, ready for a day up Glaramara. I’d done Bessyboot in between Scotland in a hail storm and promised I would get a pair of goggles when I got home, ouch. Now my plan would be to climb up the side of Glaramara, get in Allen Crags and see what day is left.

When I got to the start of the climb my brain cells engaged. What the hell was I doing?

There’s snow from Seathwaite to Summit and the sun was beaming down on me. Although I had spikes, crampons and an ice axe at my side I was down to a t-shirt soaking it in. Why would I not have my sights on Scafell Pike?

I scooped a mouthful of water from the beck and sucked it through a Sawyer pondering my day, quickly coming to the conclusion that today was now looking like another wild adventure instead of a box ticking exercise. I carried on up the valley, through ‘the gate’ and up by those trees to Styhead Gill.

Styhead Tarn and Great End from the Seathwaite ValleyStyhead Tarn and Great End from the Seathwaite Valley
Styhead Tarn and Great End from the Seathwaite Valley
The valley was beautiful in the sun and with the storm that had been forecast over the week I’d not seen a soul all morning.

Kahtoola MicrspikesKahtoola Micrspikes
Kahtoola Micrspikes
I chatted to a couple at the Stretcher Box and the farmer up a Stand Crag whilst I snapped Great Gable but that was it for the whole ascent. I clambered down ‘the tricky bit’ in my Katoolah Spikes and praised them time and again, got to a fork and excitedly realised that Ling Mell would get the green light as well today.

As I reached the large summit cairn, having strapped on my Grivels at the col I heard a horrendous swoosh, a split second before turning to see a fighter plane flip and fly inverted a hundred feet or so above my head like he’d headed straight for me to say ‘Hello there!’. Wow.

I couldn’t have got a photo if I tried, I was spellbound and just lifted a hand in salutation.

Down now to the col for a change of spikes and a clamber up the boulders to the Pike. The wind getting to the summit get’s crazy so I film a cheeky vid for my profile video. The sky was stunning to the South and managed to get two photos of the shelter and the trig which stitched together beautifully, see cover. I crashed the other side of the shelter to get a drink and a bite.

I need to be quick. It’s December and it’ll be dark at 4. It’s just passed 3 now and I’ll be walking in the dark soon enough. I really need to get down to the Stretcher Box and a path of sorts by sundown.

The wind is wild. I can hear nothing. I sense a presence.

I’m sat against the towering shelter and turn around to see this guy in spandex like he’s doing a get fit section on Good Morning Britain in the 80’s, head band and everything! Shared the bejesus out of me.

Get this. Him and his friend got dropped off in Wasdale in the afternoon and they’re running to his home; in shorts, tshirt and trainers! Where does he live? Langdale? Grasmere? No, Glenridding!!! Next time you criticise someone wearing clothing you would not in the mountains consider their experience and skill. I’m thinking of getting to the tarn by nightfall and these guys will be running over mountains during the night for hours. Legends. Me, humbled.

Scafell Pike route via the Corridor RouteScafell Pike route via the Corridor Route
Scafell Pike route via the Corridor Route
I scramble down the gully that we’ll be ascending on our Scafell ‘Hike To The Pikes’ event in April 2019. The going is very slow from here, what might be a half hour in daylight takes an hour in the failing light and thickening cloud. There’s soon the tricky crag by the beck to negotiate, something I wouldn’t recommend anyone do in this light. I have the right gear and take my time, there’s a step to climb up and the axe comes in useful. Eventually I return to Styhead Tarn. From here I can relax. I make a brew as the light is no more and chill on my final few miles back to the van.

I never set out to climb Everest but I’ve had a great adventure. Most of what made my day was the time I’ve spent alone to wash away the stress. I’ve seen 5 people all day if you include the pilot! What a day, Scafell Pike, what a mountain.

Can’t wait for a return. Next time will be with clients, a different story will be told.

Now, see if you can resist booking yourself on to my Scafell ‘Hike To The Pike’ event.

Kit I’ve talked about: Kahtoola Microspikes – Grivel G12 Crampons – Grivel Helix Ice Axe

READ NEXT: Adventure Above The Snowline

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