I’m just back from a meet of the Mercian Mountaineering Club based at the Achille Ratti hut at Dunmail Raise near Helvellyn in LD. This hut can sleep 38 in bunks, and has all the necessaries including the Travellers Rest with five real ales just down the road! It is cosy, and that cosiness was welcome Friday night when we were greeted with heavy rain and a gale, this was still roaring round the hut Saturday morning, and my XYL quickly bespoke a visit to the local garden centre in Grasmere followed by a circuit of Rydal Water. When we reached the hamlet of Rydal the cloud broke, the wind dropped and the sun came out, and our walk met nothing worse than a few short stinging hail showers that whitened the hills. Oh well, she’s entitled to her share of enjoyment!
Sunday was something else again, one of those perfect days that you get so rarely in the Lakes but never forget, crisp, cloudless and still. I had already decided that my target was to be Seat Sandal, LD-022, for the simple reason that although I’m sure that I have climbed it in the past, I have no memory of it and no photos in my slide collection - a sure sign that it was done in foul weather after a heavy night in the pub!
The route selected was simple, up the track towards Grisedale Tarn, and at the col head up beside the ruined wall to the summit. In practise it was nowhere near that simple, the track gets virtually no sun in winter, and in places the path (such as it is) was badly iced up. The rocks showed plenty of fresh crampon scratches, showing how seriously some walkers took it. I managed without crampons - just! The bruise on my situpon testifies to my pushing the safety margin! There were spreads of ice on the path above the col, too, but they could be evaded, and the snow-covered but gloriously sunny summit was soon reached and the terrific panorama opened up.
Batting opened on 2 metre FM using a half-wave mobile whip in the front socket of the 817, with an immediate pile-up, not something the 817 handles well! It quickly became clear that there was a problem - the battery symbol showed fully charged on receive and empty on transmit at 2.5 watts, and reports showed that my signal was weakening. My guess is that one of the nicads was succumbing to old age, I can’t help but sympathise! I pressed on and hurriedly worked fifteen contacts, knowing that when I ran out of customers I could unpack and plug in the SLAB and continue on my favourite band, 5 megs. However, I’m sorry to say that I ran out of fortitude. I stopped to have a hot drink and a bap, the tomato in the bap was just starting to freeze! I got up to hunt for the best position for the antenna and discovered once I left my sheltered spot that the light breeze had now developed teeth and a lot of windchill, and I felt that, how shall I put it? The family jewels were in line for cryogenic preservation. The activation was in the bag, and as far as I am concerned, in winter mountaineering discretion is the ONLY part of valour! I quickly packed and headed downhill again. Conditions were no better on the path, and indeed the descent took easily twice as long as it should have done, but eventually I was back at the hut and thinking of the communal evening meal of spaghetti bolognese followed by a cheeseboard and bottle-conditioned “Gold Miner”. Heaven!
Note for the future: from the summit of Seat Sandal there is a terrific view of Fairfield, Cofa Pike and St Sunday Crag. I have never done Fairfield from the west, it looks a terrific route up - definately one for my little black book!