ACROSS THE DODDS TO HELVELLYN
Boy it had been a while since my last long walk in the lakes, or anywhere for that matter!! I think the last trip was to Fairfield with my Dad a sunny but windy trip. Weather forecast was for rain on and off all day so we were expecting a wetting at some point. Four of us on this trip, Pete, Paul, Mike and myself in two cars as we were doing a linear route leaving one car at both the start and finish. The trip up was quick, as Paul drives at a minimum of 95 mph which left little time to look at the clouds forming over the fells we were to visit, damn!!!
The sun came out as we reached Pete on the road to Keswick and we set off for the drop off car park in Wythburn Forrest. The meter was out of order, result!! We all piled into Pauls car and drove back up the valley to the start at St Johns in the Vale, for a set off time of about 10 ish.
All booted and packed we set off up towards Clough Head when we hit a bit of ‘light drizzle’ and on went the wet layers. The rain got a lithe harder as we reached White Pike and a quick look over to Blencathra and Skiddaw showed the sun casting shadows on the wrong side of the valley for us !!! Onwards and upwards to Clough Head behind a couple of lady walkers whose pace was putting us to shame as we plodded up the rather uninteresting climb to our first summit of the day.
On top the rain stopped, and started again just as quickly so the wet layers stayed on for now. The clouds gathered over Blencathra behind us and the weather forecast seemed just about bang on. However the rain seemed to get less and less the more walking we did. The next time we looked back over to the valley and Keswick the sun was shining, another walk in the sun could not be on the cards surely!! The high fells of Scarfell Pike, Great Gable etc were popping their tops up into clouds which were skirting around us but not depositing any more rain thus far.
We carried on along the route over the Dodds, Great, Watson’s and Stybarrow, ticking each one off as we passed. We missed Stybarrow Dodd along the way and had to do a detour to get up to the peak, couldn’t lie about being on the peak if we hadn’t actually got there! We stopped on top of Great Dodd for a quick pit stop, soggy butties and tea the choice of the true athlete!! The Dodd range and Calfhow Pike were boggier than I expected and we were constantly leaping across peaty water saturated ground, luckily without any slip ups!!
The Dodds came and went and we were soon clambering up to the rocky summit of Raise with it’s impressive summit cairn. A good photo opportunity here and the 3 stoogies posed obligingly in the sunshine!!! Yes I did say sunshine. The wet gear was off, the heat was up and the sun cream was on!! Love walking with Pete as we never get very wet!!! That’s the kiss of death for the good weather then !!!!
The high Fells were now out of the cloud and we had great views all around the Lakes and even over the lowlands of Scotland, not that my pictures show this unfortunately. Moments later the weather moved in on Keswick and the heavens opened leaving the residents drenched and the once sun bathing fells of Skiddaw and Blencathra in dark shadow. Still no rain for us.
Helvellyn was in fine sunshine as we neared the summit, as was the route back from where we were. We passed lots of Duke of Edinborough kids consulting maps on their expeditions, either lost or well on their way to being so!! Having said that they were having lots of fun and at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about, encouraging kids to enjoy the great outdoors and developing their self esteem along the way. Wish I had done something like that whilst I was growing up, but far too late now, will have to settle for dragging my middle aged body up the fells with friends. Having said that, isn’t that the D of E way of things anyway, (without the middle aged body of course) !!!
We finally got to the what was quite a busy summit on Helvellyn passing the impressive Swirril Edge with large groups almost queuing up to tackle it and this was mid week, what it is like on a weekend I don’t know but it would probably not be for me!! Lunch was taken at the summit cross shelter along with the many other visitors, and we commented on the endless visitors moving around, one in particular was dressed in full tennis gear. He would have had a right walk to get his balls back from up there!!!
Striding edge was equally busy, and equally impressive, with a constant stream of people exiting the climb up to Helvellyn. St Sunday Crag was looking very tempting from here. I remember looking at it from Fairfield and thinking how nice the walk looks from the valley below. Still on my to do list this year, maybe in the snow!!!
We left the crowds of Helvellyn for the far peak of Dollywaggon Pike which was probably about another couple of miles away. Good flat ground was a feature of the whole walk really and a good stride could be got up making crossing the miles easy and enjoyable. We paused for a few minutes on the peaks as we crossed them, with Paul contemplating his next foray into the peaks on ...... I guess he was thinking of the missed peak on his last trip with Mike, never did get to the bottom of whose fault missing it was but it is a good excuse to revisit the Lakes.
Dollywaggon Pike cake into view and we decided to take the direct route down to Grisedale Tarn and then up onto Seat Sandal. This was a steep, part eroded step, part scree descent to the tarn. We had evaded any slips, trips or falls thus far but that soon ended. Legs were tired, and I took a half tumble a couple of times to cheers from Pete. However I recovered my composure mid slip both times and there was ‘nothing to see here’ either time. Pete on the other hand did his tribute to the late great Michael Jackson about half way down. His moon walk on a 45 degree slope was effortless, all that was missing was a sparkly glove for his hand which he waved around in a vain attempt to rescue himself from the situation. Never an opportunity missed to take the mick !!!!
Grisedale Tarn is surrounded by great peaks, a lovely setting for some wild camping, but several campers were already there and I suspect the experience would have been more campsite than wild camp for them unfortunately. I would like to wild camp myself at some point but a more secluded spot would be my preference.
We got to the foot of Seat Sandal and decided that with tired feet the hour of up and straight down was a Fell too far for today. The Fells will still be there next time we visit and we descended the path along side the stream to the valley floor. The stream was very impressive in parts, forming a criss cross of waterfalls all the way down. This would be very impressive in the full wet water conditions which can present themselves at times in the lakes.
At he valley floor we headed back to the car park through the forest of ...... I must thank the RAF at this point for buzzing us at about 100ft, bloody hell they are loud and you don’t hear the jets coming either. There is no better feeling after a good long walk than taking one’s boots off and settling into the comfy seats of a friends leather upholstered Mercedes!!! Cream leather and sheep poo, a great combination by anyone’s standards!!!
Once we collected the other car we headed to the pub for a well deserved pint of cider ad a good old chewing of the fat!! Another great walk with good friends and weather. My legs hurt for days after but no pain no gain I suppose!!! On to the next one soon !!!