Winter Wonderland in the Lake District

Well, this year has been hella busy. Bought a house, moved in, did a lot of renovating. Many new skills learned, many new injuries gained. Blogging unfortunately dropped off, as did hiking, but winter is back. Perfect light, dramatic scenery. Time to get out. Time to blog.

Winter means lots of things, more stuff to carry, more food consumed, remembering all the safety techniques you didn’t need in summer! It also means early mornings. In the UK (the Lake District in particular) days can be less than an office day, as a result, early starts from Manchester are a necessity. The alarm sounded at 5:45, god I hate waking up this early. Everything is ready from the night before. Drinks and food are made, all layers accounted for. Sock all ready in the boots I will be wearing. Getting ready is painless in the morning, but in winter the cold is painful. The first 30mins are an internal argument that this is a good idea and that longer in bed wasn’t the better idea.

After 30mins you’re committed, it’s happening, you just need to enjoy it. Passing Lancaster, passing the turn off to Blackpool and you start to get the signs for the turn offs to the start of the Lakes.

Todays walk is a short one. I follow lots of Facebook groups telling me the conditions on the mountains, forecasts have also informed me there will be snow. As I get onto the small roads into the Lake District proper the I am wary of any black ice and snow on the road, but this is what I am here for so it’s a good sign. The route takes me from Grasmere, up to Blea Rigg, along to Sergeant Man and down Tarn Crag. Its about 12-13km in total and should be an uneventful walk, so long as I can see where I am going.

A short way from the car and I am already in the countryside.

autumn-colours

just-past-grasmere

The morning fog is sitting low still, a good sign of an early start and gives the hills a great atmospheric feel.

The snow was soft and as I started the climb I could tell the day was going to be tiring, the thick layers of soft snow where just sinking beneath my feet. Climbing became more difficult until eventually I was wading through the snow.

blea-rigg-view

Walking and climbing higher into the hills, the snow became fresher and less well trodden. I hadn’t seen anyone by this point, but as I soon found out I was definitely making life easier for the people who where following me. In fact a large group had followed my tracks up to find me knackered and out of breath having a drink by the side of my fresh tracks.

Pushing on I met another group coming the opposite way and things were much easier all the way to Sergeant Man. Whilst on top I met a large group of walkers from a nearby university who were convinced they were on High Raise and not Sergeant Man. A little concerning as they were reading a map, a quick check with my GPS and they were happy with their location.

From Sergeant Man I walked a short way back along the, now, well trodden path back toward Blea Rigg, turning off to head towards Tarn Crag I was back on virgin ground. Fresh snow, no tracks and I was already shattered. The time now was 3pm, sunset is at 4pm. So I have about 90mins of light to get back down. Walking and wading through snow no waist deep I was getting my gear ready for a dark decent. Making notes of all the points around me and the terrain for when it did go dark.

looking-from-sergeant-man-past-blea-rigg

Walking toward Tarn Crag I stopped to top up my energy reserves; sandwiches, banana fruit loaf, protein bar and some water. Then off again. Then in the distance I could see someone who was walking my way. Passing I checked the way he had come, tarn crag? Perfect! So I was off, using his footprints to speed up my journey. Topping off with Tarn Crag, tapping the top and trotting on. Now at a jog descending in what I hoped was a quicker time than the sun, I again recce’d the area to ensure I was certain of trajectory. Sliding and shuffling straight off the front of Tarn Crag I was able to make it to the main path back to Grasmere just in time for about 1615. Light was fading and after another 45min walk to the car it was pitch black. But what a day.

Sore legs, battered body and absolutely pumped!