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Way back in time before the onset of adulthood I enjoyed countless days heading into the hills of Yorkshire with nothing more than a squashed sandwich & youthful sense for adventure! Despite long past youthful and work commitments keeping me in the city, the sense of adventure and love for the outdoors never left me. After digging my boots out and returning to the hills I attended a number of courses to improve my hill knowledge and skill base, during one of these courses it was suggested I join the Mountain Leader Training scheme and was delighted go on to gain the MOUNTAIN LEADER Award in April 2012. As well as spending time on the hills and mountains of the UK I have also enjoyed trips to the Nepalese Himalaya, Swiss & French Alps, Mallorca’s Tramuntana, Andorran & French Pyrenees, Morocco’s High Atlas, Tanzania’s Mt Meru & Kilimanjaro, Argentinian & Chilean Patagonia and winter expeditions to Norway’s Hardangervidda. Since gaining the ML I have also gained the SINGLE PITCH AWARD, INTERNATIONAL MOUNTAIN LEADER AWARD and the WINTER MOUNTAIN LEADER AWARD. I am now enjoying working in a freelance role whilst trying to get out climbing as much as possible.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Scafell Pike - My Mountain Nemesis?

Something that a person cannot conquer, achieve etc.

 Found in in the Lake District National Park Scafell Pike is the highest mountain in England, with the summit standing at a height of 978 metres (3,209 ft) above sea level. It has a stony summit which can be reached via a number of routes, the most commonly used routes begin at Wasdale from the West and Seathwaite from the North East as these are the the common starting points used during the National 3 Peaks Challenge.

 It is at this point that I should confess Scafell Pike has never been my favourite mountain and in fact I was beginning to believe that the mountain had a grudge with me, or I had upset the spirits of the hills in some way! During 5 previous outings on which I have crossed the summit of Scafell Pike it has been with head down and compass out due to little or no visibility, sliding about over the slippery rock strewn summit with nothing to hang around for - my mountain nemesis!
 To add insult to injury it wasn't just myself that the views from the summit were reluctant to reveal themselves to! Undertaking the National 3 Peaks for charity over the first weekend of July 2012 with Ellie, Chrissy, Jodie & Richard we thought we may of had half a chance of a rewarding view but we were met with a heavy mist & constant rain from the start, which were joined by strong winds on the summit!

 With a high pressure system loitering over the UK I decided to beat the mountain spirits and headed for the Lake District to ascend Scafell Pike in the clear, still, winter conditions of mid February.

 Setting off at approx 7am from Seathwaite I made my way 'quietly' through the farmyard towards Stockley Bridge where I stopped for a 'kit faff' to take a layer off.
 Beginning a route from a cold valley floor can make kit selection a slight dilemma as though the air temperature may be very cold, and the ice and snow on the ground suggests it is very cold, you may begin to warm up very quickly whilst walking. This is where a layering system made up of a number of  layers that can be reduced to prevent overheating or added to for insulation is important.
  During my 'kit faff' I decided to take the route following 'Grains Gill' & 'Ruddy Gill' rather than via 'Styhead Pass' as I was now enjoying bright winter morning sunshine.
Following the route along 'Grains Gill' towards 'Ruddy Gill'.

 I was soon above the snow line as I made my up to the foot of  'Great End' which I skirted around and onward to 'Broad Crag',whilst all the time soaking in the endless views of the Lakeland Fells.
Col from 'Broad Crag' to 'Scafell Pike'
  Although revelling in finally beating the mountain spirits and with a summit view finally within my grasp it was whilst crossing the small 'col' between 'Broad Crag' & 'Scafell Pike' that I came across a worrying sight. A couple of people struggling to make their way up to the summit over the bullet proof neve (snow which has compacted/frozen to ice) without crampons or ice axe between them! Whilst the gentleman was encouraging to his walking partner she seemed extremely nervous and even more so as I approached with crampons fitted to boots & ice axe in hand!
If only more women gave me that 'I want your equipment look'!
Entering into a conversation whilst gently enquiring if all was well I was further alarmed to hear that an ice axe had been left back at the car in the thought it wouldn't be needed.
N.B winter conditions in the mountains should never be underestimated!
I was relieved to hear that they would be taking a less hazardous route of descent.
The reward for a winter ascent & beating the mountain spirits!

Rocking horse shit views from Scafell Pike.
Scafell Pike to Scafell.
  Taking my time on the summit to take it all in, enjoy the mountain and reconsider the label of mountain nemesis, it occurred to me that the mountain spirits may of been holding back on the views during my previous visits so I could enjoy them in the full splendour of a rare day like this? Though as I retraced my steps back to Seathwaite it did cross my mind that a more likely explanation was that it tends to p*ss it down more often than not in the Lake District!

Approaching Scafell Pike summit on a summers day July 12!


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