Saturday, 8 October 2016

Health | Hostel to Hostel Hill Bagging in the Lakes Final Day; Day Four: Helvellyn back to Grasmere

As soon as I opened my eyes on Day 4 I audibly groaned. Everything ached. There was a blistering pain in my right knee and my legs felt exhausted. I'd also done the whole trip using my Dad's rucksack which was a sized M/L for a man and had resulted in sitting really weirdly on my back and left cuts in my hips. A full cooked English breakfast later I was feeling slightly less reluctant about the day ahead. A thick layer of drizzle had now descended on the day but I was raring to go now and raring to complete our challenge. Mostly raring to get to the gingerbread prize that was waiting for me in Grasmere. 

So. Off we set. 

Graeme on the ascent to Catstye Cam and Helvellyn

The blistering sunshine of Day 2 was long gone and had been replaced by 40mph winds and fog. The ascent of Helvellyn was tough going but as we approached the top we were feeling determined (bordering on stubborn) and turned off to also tick off Catstye Cam. The wind was so violent on the ridge that runs to the summit that we were reduced to being half bent over, shuffling forward, and holding hands so that we had the safety net of one another on the off chance one of us got blown off our feet. Tricky fake summits later we took in the awe inspiring Swirral Edge to reach the summit of Helvellyn. 

Taking on the weather on Swirral Edge

I'll be honest, I was feeling pretty smug when we reached the summit of Helvellyn so was horrified to be brought crashing back to reality by seeing not just the leaders in an 80km fell race (see my blog post Day Three for more) but also several walkers in totally inadequate clothing and footwear. Guys - I so want to encourage anyone reading this that you can climb any mountain in the Lakes too but please THINK! Safety is paramount in the mountains - people die in the mountains. Dress smart, pack well and if the weather looks perilous and you've no idea what you're doing - err on the side of caution. 

Fell runners near the summit of Helvellyn
Off the back of Helvellyn there was a lovely long slope across Nethermost Pike and Dollywagon Pike before a brutal fast descent out of the clouds to Grisedale Tarn. And here we made a bold decision. We'd done enough and done Fairfield before - we would cut out more ascent and take a long but low route back to Grasmere. And it was long but it was beautiful. Below the clouds the day was clear and bright and the valley views to Grasmere were fantastic. It was painful, but a lovely way to finish. 

Enjoying the views over Grasmere valley

Back in Grasmere we bought as much gingerbread as we could carry and made it back to our hostel. 

"Graeme.... Don't suppose you fancy quickly fell running up Helm Crag? It's right behind the hostel AND it's a Wainwright... Oh and Gibson Knot is also a Wainwright and is right next to it!"

An hour later and our two final mountains bagged. Exhausted but exhiliherated we had made it. And I couldn't be more proud.

Now - when's the next trip?!

And so Day Four Complete:
Hills Bagged: 6
Wainwrights: 6
Total hills bagged: 43
Wainwrights: 25
Kms walked today: 18.5km
Total Kms walked: 83.7km
Hours out: 8½
Total hours: 33½
Ascent today: 1,168m
Total ascent: 4,670m

Monday, 3 October 2016

Health | Hostel to Hostel Hill Bagging in the Lakes Day Three: Keswick to Helvellyn

There are some days when you simply don't want to get out of bed. Maybe it is cold outside, maybe you've not slept well, maybe it's just one of those days. Well turns out two days of extreme hill bagging can have that effect on me too. I was not impressed this morning when the alarm went off. We were up for an 8am breakfast, which kindly, in spite of the closed kitchen at YHA Keswick due to the flooding, they had still managed to provide for us. A full English, a mini danish, a yoghurt and several cups of tea later we were ready to go after a quick run to Greggs in Keswick for supplies for lunch.

My awesomely mad Dad had joined us for Day Three of our adventure and we met him at the bus stop. Right now ladies and gentleman: no judgement please. Yes, I did say bus stop. But my knees hurt a lot. And the challenge wasn't to kill myself. It was to survive. And hill bag. And be on holiday. So yes, we caught the bus from Keswick to Threlkeld. And it was awesome.

Waiting for the bus

Threlkeld is a sleepy little village but which is pretty infamous on the Bob Graham round as the end of the first section of four. The Bob Graham Round is a 66 mile, 27,000ft circuit of the 42 highest peaks in the Lake District that fell runners attempt to complete in under 24 hours. Looking from Threlkeld towards Clough Head and the ridge that follows over the Dodds towards Hellvelyn it was hard to work out how we would get through the day let alone how Jasmin Paris, who broke the Bob Graham round record this year managed the Threlkeld to Clough Head summit section in just 39 minutes.

As we begin the boggy ascent to Clough Head we meet not one but two fell runners. Dad stops them and as with all rural communities they are soon thick in conversation. Turns out they are putting down race flags for the 3x3000 80km race taking place the next day starting and finishing in Keswick featuring 4000m ascent and taking in Scafell Pike, Helvellyn and Skiddaw. I mean - can everyone stop making us look unimpressive!

Enjoying the view from Clough Head
Finally we're on the incredible ridge the leads to Helvellyn: up White Pike to our first Wainwright of the day, Clough Head and then following the gorgeous ridge over Calfhow Pike to the Dodds: Little Dodd and Great Dodd (where we say goodbye to Dad - heading on for other hill bagging options before heading back to Keswick) and on to Waston's Dodd and Stybarrow Dodd before the surprisingly long ascent to the potentially the most boringly named mountain in the Lakes: Raise. Boring in name but not in nature. We sit just below the summit and cook ourselves hot chocolate while feasting on our sandwiches and admiring the expanse of valleys around us.

With Dad on the summit of Great Dodd

By the time we leave Raise we are both beginning to feel the miles in our legs and in particular I'm really struggling to descend so when we reach White Side we agree to follow the fork in the path towards the Youth Hostel rather than giving ourselves Helvellyn to finish on for the day. This seems sensible as we can't avoid Helvellyn on our route the next day and twice in two days for no reason seems a little keen even for us.

Mountain bikers on the way to White Side and on to Helvellyn

And then as try to descend we hit a problem. I can't go down hill. My knees just can't do it. Attempting to descend causes three things to happen: 1) a lot of pain; 2) a lot of complaining; and 3) a fair amount of tears. Sometimes that is just the way it goes in the mountains. I can remember at the time trying to work out the adjectives I would use in this blog post to describe how extreme the tearing sensation was in my knee caps but I remember being unable to think about anything else at the time. Time has caused my mind to save me from the worst of that experience thankfully and I can just remember the Speedster's patience as he helped me get down from Raise to YHA Helvellyn which, thankfully for everyone is situated at 963ft up.

A well deserved cider later and a smashing game of Monopoly we make friends with some of the other guests over Supper Club - fish and chips followed by cheesecake. I go to bed smiling. We made it. I made it. Until tomorrow...

Supper Club at YHA Helvellyn

And so Day Three Complete:
Hills Bagged: 9
Wainwrights: 6
Kms walked today: 17km
Total Kms walked: 65.2km
Hours out: 6½
Ascent today: 997m
Total ascent: 3,502m