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Thu 11th June 2015

Helvellyn 6th June 2015

Helvellyn 6th June 2015

Helvellyn 6th June 2015

Some years ago I travelled to the north west of Scotland to take part in a mountaineering training week run by the mountain guide Martin Moran. Gathering on the first evening expecting a slide show or being entertained with romantic stories of mountaineering feats my bubble was burst when in strode Mr Moran and without any preamable he gave us instructions to read chapters 3 and 4 of his book Scotlandís Winter Mountains – The Challenge and the Skills because we were going to be tested in half an hour!

The subject of chapter 3 and 4? -  Weather and, in this case, specifically weather in mountain environments, which, for those of us who spend time in Britainís highland places, often bears little resemblance to the general weather forecasts . His title for chapter 4 is The Infernal Conditions and how apt this title was for those of us gathered in the car park on Saturday 6th June ready to enjoy a day in the Lakeland fells.

A few weeks ago I had a group of determined walkers on Skiddaw in less than ideal conditions and once again a small group set off to climb Helvellyn in some of the strongest winds I have experienced in my 35 years of mountain travel. I must have remembered something from my impromptu weather lesson because I knew that as you climb higher the weather, whatever it is often gets worse. The temperature drops, wind becomes stronger and rain becomes more intense. I suppose we should be thankful that on this day we had no rain! Just the wind and what a wind it was - strong in the car park, wickedly powerful as we climbed up to Browncove Crags. Unusually as we climbed the people we met on the route were mostly descending. They had one message for us – the wind is too strong – we didnít want to risk it. We struggled on until it started to become clear that the wind was gusting to the extent that it was difficult to stand up let alone communicate.
At around 750m in height I decided that I would ask the group what they wanted to do. We had to lie down on the path to talk to each other but a consensus was quickly reached – it was not sensible to carry on and in any case it wasnít much fun. We descended, disappointed but safe and with everyone in one piece.

Alan Hinkes, the highly experienced mountaineer and guide talks about making proper mountaineering decisions. His contention is that no mountain is worth injuring yourself and making the right decision at the right time about whether to carry on or return another day can often be the hardest decision of all. On Helvellyn this Saturday morning the decision wasnít, in the end, that difficult but it was the right decision. What we experienced was annoying and disappointing but thatís mountains and their occasional infernal conditions.

Thank you to John and Julie for helping out – your expertise, support and good humour is invaluable.

Thu 11th June 2015

South Middleton to Ingram

South Middleton to Ingram

After the winds of yesterday Sundance had danced the night away a least in his dreams.

Sunday was bright but breezy but and a big BUT not as windy as yesterday.  The group and mini bus left Ingram by 10.00 and drove round to S. Middleton, what a difference when we were dropped off last month it was cold windy and wet (very).

Leaving South Middleton we followed a good farm track that climbed up away from the cultivated fields and on to the open fell side.  We left the farm track at Middleton Dean Farm.  And followed a good footpath over fairly non-descript fell until we descended a little to a small footbridge over a small burn and being fairly sheltered from the wind we stopped for our first lunch stop.

After lunch we followed the path uphill passing the Dodd Farm and once more ended up walking over non descriptive fell.  We drifted a little of the path and Mike decided to walk up hill into a very wet boggy area and much to every ones delight ended up with wet feet as his boots leak.  Passing the site of a medieval village the path gradually descended to Green Law.

After a couple of Kís walk along the road and then a farm track we arrived for lunch stop number 2 again sheltered from the wind and sitting next to the R. Breamish (were some one paddled there feet).  Leaving the Breamish behind we past Alnmoor farm and then climbed the steep path up to Chesters.  The path slowly descended into a small wooded valley before a steep climb brought us to Brown Hart Law.

It was now all down hill to Ingram village and very quickly to our cars  and the end of a pleasant days walk with some stunning views of the surrounding countryside.

Sun 7th June 2015

Holy Island The Pilgrims Way June 2015

Holy Island  The Pilgrims Way   June 2015

Sundance had done the soft shoe shuffle and put on his oldest pair of shoes and it worked (nearly) only a few spots of rain right at the end of the day while waiting for the mini bus to take us home.  Yes it did not rain while we were walking but boy did we get wet.

The Group all met for a coffee and a biscuit before climbing on the mini bus to be taken to the mainland end of the causeway.  After Mike had wittered a bit and taken a group photo we set off.
The gentle gale helped us navigate the causeway road until we crossed the bridge over the South Low.  From here on we were supposed to walk over some muddy sand with occasional hollows of water.  The SW gale was pushing the water over the sands so now the terrain was water with very occasional semi dry bits.  

As we plodged our way across the Pilgrims Way the spray from the upwind walkers quickly wet any one foolish to be down wind.  Mike kept on saying to anyone who would listen ďIíve never seen it like this beforeĒ.  

With the winds help we managed to complete the crossing in double quick time and most of us were wet to a least knee level.  

It was really mind blowing to watch the whole of the surface of the crossing form into ripples of water moving away from the sea and the occasional gust lifting a fine spray into the air.
Good fun in a masochistic way, made slightly more pleasant as the water was not freezing cold.