Friday, 1 April 2011

Walk 48
10m / 5250' Time taken 10 hours 10 mins

178. LDW-032 Kirk Fell 2631'
179. LDW-008 Pillar 2927'
180. LDW-023 Scoat Fell 2759'
181. LDW-028 Steeple 2687'
182. LDW-026 Red Pike (Wasdale) 2710'
183. LDW-124 Yewbarrow 2057'

Route taken by Phil G4OBK and friend Geoff on April 1st 2011

Barn at Burnthwaite Farm B&B with Great Gable behind

Friday April 1st - gales, swirling mist, rain and the most challenging walk of our stay in Wasdale. A day without views but like fools, we went for it when we should have done something easier and left this grueller for another day...

I finished up with a knee injury which took six months to heal properly but we did achieve our objective of climbing and activating these six Wainwrights from Wasdale, albeit rather late in the day by the time we were done.  Kirk Fell, Pillar, Scoat Fell, Steeple, Red Pike (Wasdale) and the formidable Yewbarrow. We never saw a soul all day and we didn't take any photographs either - survival was paramount in the gales and the use of a camera was impossible. The wind was sufficiently strong to blow me off my feet on top of Kirk Fell and force us both into crawling on all fours to makes progress across the top of Scoat Fell. 
Kirk Fell © MIchael Graham under CCL 

After breakfast we went to position my car at Overbeck Bridge in Wasdale which was used to get back to The Wasdale Head Hotel for our dinner, when we came down off Yewbarrow late in the day. We knew that the walk in itself would leave us short on daylight time and we did not want to have an extra three mile walk at the end of the day in the dark.  The Wasdale Head Inn stopped serving food at 8.00pm so we had to get back by then to get fed.

After returning from the car drop we were walking from the rear of Burnthwaite Farm by 09.30am local time. The path soon turned north and started the unrelenting climb via Highnose Head to the shelter on top of the 2631' high Kirk Fell LDW-032/LD-014.  As we climbed the wind became stronger with visibility being down to a few yards in the swirling mist.  I was ahead of Geoff and rounding the summit of Kirk Fell when I was suddenly, without warning, blown completely off my feet  whilst I was attempting to get into the shelter. I crawled back to alert Geoff to the risk as he appeared out of the mist, and we both crawled into the shelter to take cover and rest.   The first station logged that day for WOTA and SOTA from Kirk Fell was John G0TDM in Penrith. 
We had no problem navigating via GPS to the summit of Pillar in the mist. There was a fair scramble after that down to the Black Sail Pass...I think we were on the right "path" if you could call it one. We had 10m visibility at best.  Pillar came and went - we had our lunch there and stayed 30 minutes making 18 contacts on 2m FM with the rucksack special and Yaesu VX-170.  Moving off downhill we reached Wind Gap - the wind there was no worse than anywhere else despite the name,  it was just b****y strong.  It was here that I made a navigational error, I'm not sure how I went wrong but we finished up descending over 300 foot down Green Crags when we should have been climbing up towards Scoat Fell from Wind Gap.  It was on this unnecessary descent that I fell, either banging or twisting my knee in the process, it was hard to tell. I picked myself up with that initial burning pain you get when you bash yourself hard. A couple of minutes recovery and we were on our way again, limping but it could have been a lot worse. The Ibuprofen and Paracetamol helped...After another scramble to get back to where we should have been above Green Crags we found the path but as we arrived on LIttle Scoat Fell the wind became more fierce as we rounded the summit. The only way to make progress to the stone wall to conduct the radio activation (which runs across the top of the fell) was to go down on all fours. We made the wall - our sanctuary, got down behind it and reflected on the madness of what we were doing....the flask came out and some food, and we got on with making more contacts with our Wainwright's On The Air Chasers.

Scoat Fell seen from the cairn on Steeple - © Copyright Michael Graham CCL Geograph
Steeple is attached to Scoat Fell via a link path on a ridge in the gap between the two fells. No wonder when I spoke to Derek 2E0MIX in Whitehaven on the radio from Scoat Fell that he warned us that we could taking a big risk walking across the gap between the two fells as we could get blown off.  We took heed and appropriate care, approaching gingerly, but there was nothing to fear as the gap was not facing into the wind direction and so it was relatively calm as we crossed the ridge.  To get to Red Pike (Wasdale) we walked back across the gap and crossed a grassy area coming down off Little Scoat Fell.  This area was inset with slabs of rock, one large slab we came across was shaped just like a coffin....ummm.  The wind had now abated and Red Pike came and went (17 contacts on 2m FM). We made our way over some crags and the mist finally cleared. We were now above the col of Dore Head looking at Stirrup Crag and the long top of Yewbarrow (LDW-124). At this point we realised we had lost the path again in the mist some way back and  made our way down some crags to the crossroads of paths which is Dore Head. 

Stirrup Crag from Dore Head  ©CCL M Graham Geograph

Stirrup Crag was our route up Yewbarrow and it looked and indeed was a formidable climb. If there was an alternative way we didn't see it. The climb started easily on some loose scree until we came across a ten feet high "chimney like" gap between rock faces. We shimmied up it but only just, and started the 1 Km walk across the top of Yewbarrow to the highest point arriving at 6.20pm local time.  My first CQ call found G1OHH in Lancaster coming back. We were glad to hear Sue's voice. We also spoke to Geoff GM4WHA/M in his car on his way back to Annan. He didn't think we would manage the last summit, and yes, we were tight on time.  We left the summit over Bull Crag and Great Door - a scree slope with grass sides in parts which we took to on the hairy bits of the scree. We reached the car at Overbeck Bridge at 7.42pm - Yewbarrow took some getting off. We knew the Wasdale Head Hotel stopped serving food at 8.00pm, and we were there by then. That wasn't true as it was after 9.00pm when they served up our steak and ale pie - what lousy service, which I later reported on Trip Advisor.  From reports later in 2011 the pub has seemingly sorted out its problems!

Over a pint we reflected on our testing day - six Wainwrights bagged, 87 contacts completed, not a single person met whilst walking the fells, and no summit to summit contacts whatsoever - we were the only activators out on the Lakeland Fells, Pennines and North Wales that day. The chasers were very active with six operators making contact with my station G4OBK/P on all six summits. These operators were:

Malcolm M0XAT (Seaton), Sue G1OHH (Lancaster), Colin 2E0XSD (Frizington), Geoff G4WHA (Penrith), John G0TDM (Penrith) and Gareth M0MOL (Barrow).

It is always more enjoyable when thinking back on a arduous day on the fells when the weather has been bad and there has been no visibility. We had beaten the elements but I had an injury which fortunately did not turn out to be permanent; we vowed to have an easier day tomorrow by bagging two Wainwrights on the south side of Wastwater - Whin Rigg LDW-156 and Illgill Head LDW-129/LD-029. 

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