Battling St. Jude

9 11 2013

Sun 27 Oct 2013

Trust us to pick the same week as the ‘St. Jude hurricane’ to take a hillwalking break to the Lake District! Now my Scottish Munro-bagging was over for the year, Richard and I teamed up for a week-long trip to the Lakes, starting at Broughton-in-Furness and then moving mid-week up to Rosthwaite in Borrowdale. Unfortunately, the day after we arrived, the hurricane was due to hit England – luckily, mainly down South. Although we weren’t hit by the worst of the winds, it was quite windy enough to make our day in ‘The Connies’ very tense!

(half my film photos and Richard’s digital)
Normally, we’d set off for The Connies from Little Arrow but, due to the prevailing wet conditions and very soggy ground, we opted to set off from Torver instead as that sticks to a tarmacked road which later turns into a well-drained and firm landrover track as far as the holiday let of ‘Tranearth’.

As I judged the wind to be westerly, my plan was to go into Goats Water’s coombe, up to Goats Hause and then ascend the western side of Coniston Old Man – I figured the wind would blow us up this section as it should be directly behind us. I was pretty sure it would be very blustery through the coombe past Goats Water – it usually is.

We were soon heading up past the spectacular Bannisdale Quarry hole (my photos, taken in better weather on another day)

Bannisdale Quarry from West

Bannisdale Quarry (Aug 2011)

We had a lovely walk up to Goats Water as the wind wasn’t hitting us yet…

Goatswater's Coombe

On reaching the coombe cradling the tarn, however, it became very windy indeed and kept trying to knock us over. Richard wasn’t at all keen but I reminded him that it’s often like that through the coombe but generally, when you reach the hause, it settles down. He kept saying he was going back to the car and I kept saying that was fine but I was continuing as I wanted to get the summit but, each time I turned round, he’d changed his mind and was following.

Goatswater

We were battered horrifically all the way up the stone-pitched path to the hause where I expected the wind to abate as usual. At first it blasted as hard as ever but, as we reached the path up the Old Man, we dropped out of the wind as expected. I looked up towards the summit and was upset to see that the wind wasn’t westerly as I’d thought – it was a south-westerly… that meant we had no chance of reaching the summit as we’d have to head into the wind along the ridge – with the prevailing wind strength, that would have been impossible. The Dow Crag ridge was also out of the question for the same reason.

Sadly, I realised that we had no chance of summitting anything if we wanted to stay safe. Retracing our steps was probably the safest option but I gave Richard the choice of either that or taking the path under the western edge of Coniston Old Man and Brim Fell to come out on the col of Levers Hause. I thought he’d again opt to go back down but, surprisingly, he opted to continue. The path runs south-west so I assumed we’d probably be okay as the wind would be behind us…

We set off happily along the path and made good progress with the wind blasting us along nicely. However, I noticed that there were waves racing towards us across Seathwaite Tarn down to our left. The wind was obviously rushing westerly through the gap between Dow Crags and Grey Friar and I could see we would run into a bad crosswind very soon. Just as we got to the part of the path where it narrows and traverses above craggy gullies, the wind again hit us from the side.

Luckily it was blasting us towards the hillside rather than trying to pluck us from the path. It was trying to blow my buff off my head though and also ripping the lid open on my camera case, exposing my precious Zenith and making me worry about losing it. I had one hand trying to hold down the camera case lid and the other hanging on to my buff – I should really have been using one of them to repulse the hillside I was being battered into.

Richard was ahead of me at this point and almost on all fours with both hands against the hillside inching his way along. He kept stopping and looking back – I wasn’t sure whether it was in consternation at the situation or whether he was checking whether I’d blown away yet!

At this point I had to acknowledge that the situation was pretty serious… We could no longer head back the way we’d come as the wind was too strong to safely battle back along such a narrow path against the gale. We had no choice but to continue to the fairly narrow col and hope we didn’t get blasted over the eastern crags which, with a westerly gale, was a possibility. I could see cloud being hurled across the col and down over the crags ahead…

By now I was also bent double – I’d worked out that bending over my camera case was the only way to keep the lid down so I could spare one hand to push against the hillside while the other continued to attempt to keep my buff on my head. I didn’t have my coat on at the time so I couldn’t put my hood up and it certainly wasn’t the place to try to put extra clothing on!

Just short of the col, I diverted us up onto the slightly wider ridge of Brim Fell where we found a hollow and I struggled into my coat. I fastened my hood as firmly as I could and we continued down the final few yards to the col. Strangely, although I’d seen the cloud rushing over the hause, the wind didn’t hit us at all. I led us down the steep start from the hause on the stone-pitched path.

We had another problem to contend with now. The slates of the stone-pitching were wet and slimy with moss and almost impossible to get any grip on. I knew the wind would be back any moment to blast around this coombe – I was right. We hadn’t gone far down the path when the wind was back battering us from the south-east and trying to knock us off the path. It also started hailing and raining heavily. What with the slippery rock and the buffeting gale, we made extremely slow progress with much use of hands. We could see another poor man below us having just as many problems staying on his feet.

Eventually, we had to leave the path and go down the rough grass instead. I hate wearing out extra bits of mountainside when there is a path but we didn’t have a choice really – I had no wish to break any more bones this year in a fall! We finally made it to the bottom of the path at Levers Water where we heaved a sigh of relief and stopped briefly for a piece of cake and a hot drink…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Looking back at our gloomy descent (Richard’s digi-photos now)

As we set off along the path above Levers Water, we noticed the surface of the water was starting to rough up as the wind was hitting it in all directions as it swirled around the coombe and waves were racing across the lake. The water eventually whipped itself up into mini whirlpools and almost a waterspout at one point – the following photos are also Richard’s as he snapped away. I was too busy squawking excitedly to take photos! (click on photos for a closer view)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We then set off for Boulder Valley past the spectacular collapsed mine shaft of Simon’s Nick (my photo)…

Coniston-Simon's Nick

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Boulder Valley and Low Water Beck (Richard’s photos again)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Boulder Valley was rather wet…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Coppermines Valley (still Richard)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We left Boulder Valley on the old mine trackway round to join the Miners Path from the Old Man for our long trudge back to Torver Common where we found ourselves back battling against the gale…

Wetherlam from COM Mine Track
Last look back at the Coppermines and Wetherlam (my photos again)

Torver Common tarn
I’m sure everyone must photograph this lovely tarn on Torver Common

We were pleased to drop out of the wind again onto the Torver Track and get back to the car. The weather didn’t really improve for the rest of the week, remaining too windy for the summits and very wet so, unfortunately, we didn’t manage any other summits either. Richard took this photo of me looking cheerful but very wet at the end of a walk in Borrowdale – says it all really…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

About these ads

Actions

Information

16 responses

24 11 2013
McEff

Ah, home ground. I must admit, though Carol, I’ve never seen wind stir up Levers Water as spectacularly as that. Not camping weather, that’s for sure.
Cheers, Alen

26 11 2013
mountaincoward

I could have sat and watched Levers Water all afternoon that day!

10 11 2013
bob

I spent a weekend at Coppermines a while ago and it rained so hard there we never got above 1000 feet so its nice to finally see what it looks like in your photos. You seem to really relish wild conditions Carol….
I noticed the big dump of snow in Cumbria on the news yesterday so I suppose it could have been worse :0)

10 11 2013
mountaincoward

Winter’s early again this year :-(

9 11 2013
chrissiedixie

Those photos of Levers Water are amazing! The Lake District is one of three places so far, where I have actually been lifted off my feet by wind and then dropped unceremoniously back on to the ground. A very scary experience!

10 11 2013
mountaincoward

That happened to me a couple of times in the Outer Hebrides but never (so far) in the Lakes – it is very scary!

9 11 2013
smackedpentax

I always look forward to your posts Carol, and this one doesn’t disappoint. I don’t know this area that well – it is years since I have been this way, but it looks like a good walk. Shame about the weather.

9 11 2013
mountaincoward

The Coniston Range are almost my favourite walking in the Lakes. They’re pretty friendly fells and suitable for any weather except perhaps gales!

9 11 2013
fedupofuserids

I stuck to my local hills on that day, it was windy & very wet on them too! Although biggest advantage of the Uldale Fells is there is no big drops to get blown off :)

Shame the weather coincided with your planned completion :(

Enjoyable report as always :D

9 11 2013
mountaincoward

I was sort of pleased that the weather was too bad for my compleation seeing as I’d cancelled it – I’d have been a bit upset if it had been superb weather. But I was upset not to get to the summit of anything all week :-(

You did right staying Back o’ Skidda

9 11 2013
CairnStoner

Sounds like a hairy day, glad I’d managed to get out a couple of days before the ‘storm’. Love the pic’s especially the second one of the quarry.

9 11 2013
mountaincoward

There’s an intesting scramble along a narrow arete just above that waterfall that I keep chickening out of… ;-)

9 11 2013
jackie sowrey

I love the scenery Carol. You must love what you do – the final photograph says it all!

9 11 2013
mountaincoward

Well I do love hill-walking but, even if I didn’t, the amount I eat a day, I’d need to do some violent exercise to keep the weight off nowadays!

9 11 2013
stravaigerjohn

Ages since I’ve been up that way

9 11 2013
mountaincoward

Pick a nicer day than that one when you do re-visit then!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: