Striding Edge from Helvellyn Feb 2009
(Copyright T.Booth - G4YTD)
Helvellyn, Nestled neatly at the side of Thirlmere was my obvious choice for a mid week, spur of the moment day off and winter bonus collecting activation. Helvellyn holds happy memories for me as it was the first "real" mountain I ever climbed with my late father, and also the last one we climbed together. I had intended a Saturday activation, but checking the weather, impending birthdays and family events ruled that out. Faced with cashing in a days holiday or missing out on the summit bonus points was an easy decision to make (Thanks Martin!). So there I was at 3.30am, standing outside the house trying to open the car door quietly and looking up into the clear sky, things were looking good already, at least on the East coast. The journey as far as "The Otters" (Otter sanctuary on the A66, regular travellers will know where I am) was uneventful, then joy of joys, a pea souper of fog, just what I needed. This continued as far as the car park on the side of Thirlmere. By the time I was booted and ready to roll with the ridiculously heavy QRO pack on my back, it was 0645, and starting to get light. Pity the weather wasn't so obliging. I headed off into the clouds with the thought that a bad day's walking is better than a good days work any day. The path from the view point at Thirlmere took me up Helvellyn Gill towards Browncove crag. It was still thick fog, believe it or not in a moment of madness I suggested to my late Father that this was not how to play the game, and I hadn't driven all this way to not see the Langdales! In true style, it then rained.. not much, but enough to show authority. I laughed and continued up the path. As the path levelled out a little at the foot of Browncove crags, the swirling mists started to clear and I broke through into the most fantastic sunshine and blue sky, Laughing out loud, this was more than I could have hoped for as the camera was quickly deployed and a few shots rattled off for the album. Climbing higher made the views better, Blencathra and Skiddaw were visible above the clouds looking majestic in the sunshine. The grin from ear to ear would have worried most had I been in company, but what a feeling, total tranquillity and not a living soul to share it with. Truly MY mountain as AW was fond of saying. Climbing higher, the stone path gave way to patches of snow and ice that was easily passable with caution. As the huge QRO pack and I claimed the summit, the expected wind was not there, just a spectacular view showing an expanse of cloud around 700 feet below me with the more prominent peaks breaking through, a full 360 degree, panoramic view of total isolation. Money could not buy this, and all the B&B dwellers 3000 feet below me would be wrapping up against the weather. The special gift I had been given that morning will stay with me forever. Feeling very tranquil I sat at the trig point for five minutes enjoying the solitude and real wild silence, everything so clean and a million miles away from normal life. I had climbed this rock for a purpose and it was time to give some points away. I took off the mountain jacket, fleece and tee shirt, and changed into a clean and dry shirt. The coats were placed on the ground to dry out a little in the sun, incidentally the thermometer on the rucksack was showing 12 degrees, positively tropical! The link dipole was set up on the 5m pole, which was strapped to the trig point, battery and radio set up, I tuned round the band as the self spot connected, and less than 60 seconds later was into the first contact. Steve in Connah's Quay, a regular chaser. Sorry to all those I was preaching to about how stunning the view was, but take a look for yourself, its not every day you can see a cloud inversion from the summit of your favourite peak, sitting in the sun playing radio, and on a work day too. The pile up was fantastic with a good 30 minutes of hectic radio giving away SOTA points and grid squares to the WAB chasers (A good move putting the details on the WAB reflector). 5MHz was not playing today, three contacts later and the band died off. I couldn't complain, everybody who called in that I could hear on 80 and 60m was worked, so hopefully no disappointed customers. With the kit dismantled and packed away it was time for my other pastime, photography. A good hour later, with plenty of shots in the can for stock, magazines and agency web sites it was time to shuffle off through the snow to Fairfield . The cloud base appeared to be getting higher as I set off towards Dollywagon pike for activation number two. The walk was pretty straightforward to Grizdale tarn. The conditions were pretty grim, with visibility down to around 5m in places. The early start was catching up with me a bit as the summit of Fairfield hove into view, it had started raining by this time and the QRO kitchen sink and all pack was getting pretty heavy. I had decided on a quick 2m activation for this one as my hands were freezing, I was soaked through, and didn't fancy drying out a swamped 857. 2M FM raised Keswick and a second contact in Colwyn Bay , followed by white noise. Mission failed. To be honest it didn't matter, I had collected 13 points from Helvellyn, had one of the best photo opportunities in ages, and was looking forward to a swift one in the "Thirspot" inn. The decent and walk back to the car was uneventful, the pint most welcome, and I even managed a few house points by taking the blonde person a bag of chocolate home from the Friary in Keswick.
I set of at 3.30am, returned home at 20.30hrs, drove just over 300 miles, took far too many pictures, worked loads of chasers and had a very enjoyable day out.
I sit on the sofa the evening after, typing this with an ear to ear smile as I look at the A3 print of striding edge surrounded by a sea of cloud drying on the lounge floor. People ask me "why do you do it", well, a picture says a thousand words...
Thanks to all the chasers.
Heres to the next one.
Thanks to the following for the summit points:-