I had been considering a summit top camp on Robinson the week previously, but I didn’t manage to get myself organised, and instead did a quick cycle ride out to Wasdale Head and a climb onto Illgill Head. With the weather conditions favourable for the night of 27/28 January I got my kit packed during the week, and was ready for a summit camp.
After work on Friday afternoon I set off on my bicycle, heading out of West Cumbria and into the more tourist friendly parts of the Lakes – although at this time of year you are guaranteed a quiet experience. I set off early in the afternoon, with the bike laden down with winter camping gear (an ice-axe was packed, as the overnight conditions remained uncertain). The plan was to summit Dale Head (G/LD-020) and then walk across to Robinson (G/LD-021) for my camp,
The night before I had changed the bottom bracket on my old MTB, in order to fix a nasty creaking sound, that I assumed was coming from a deteriorating bearing. The bearing was not in great condition, but it didn’t seem to have fixed the creak. However, about 10km after setting off I located the cause when my right pedal disintegrated – the shell coming away from the axle. This is a relatively common occurrence for Crank Brothers pedals – the outer bearing is tiny, and cannot withstand the lateral forces sufficiently. The pedal was well maintained, as the smearing of marine grease on the axle shown in the photo will testify. Fortunately, I carry a heavy bag of spares with me whenever out cycling and this included an M8 hex wrench (manufactured by King Dick – a favourite tool brand of mine) and a spare pair of Crank Brothers egg-beater pedals. I quickly swapped out the bad pedal, and continued. At least the creaking was now fixed. I also carry a bearing replacement kit for the pedals, so would be okay if the replacement pedals failed too!
The first part of the ride includes steady upwards gradients, with views into Ennerdale. The snow of the previous weekend had melted and only a few small patches were visible atop Pillar and High Stile. I was comforted that the going would be easy – which is just as well as most of todays’ walking would be in the dark.
The route now followed by a rapid descent down Fang’s brow to follow the C2C route for a short distance alongside Loweswater, with Melbreak on the far side looking more substantial than its 2 points would suggest. Passing Loweswater village a favourite view comes into site across Crumnock water, Buttermere and into the narrow valley between Fleetwith Pike and Robinson – it’s a lovely view.
I turned off the road into Lanthwaite woods, enjoying the change of pace as I controlled the bike over some rough trail for parts of this off-road segment. The huge mass of Grasmoor could be seen above me, and through the trees. It was tempting to make this my objective, as I had already been riding for a while by now. But with plenty of time until dusk I decided to press on, joining the road at Lanthwaite Gate and passing the usual parking spot for Grasmoor (with the “Lambs Tek Care Sign”).
Emerging from Lanthwaite woods
The road to Buttermere always feel long – several little climbs that I always forget about. Eventually I passed through the village and straight out the other side, heading towards Honnister Pass. The light was fading a bit now, as the clock passed 1600hrs (with sunset at about 1630 hrs). I made my way along the valley, looking up to my left at Robinson, and the ridge that separates it from Dale Head. One of my objectives today was to scout-out a short cut from the ridge to the valley.
I eventually reached my destination, a bridge where the road crosses Gatesgarth Beck at an elevation of about 150m – before the road properly kicks up to the pass. A car was parked here, with a toilet tent next to it and a bivvy-bag laid out under a rock – it seemed an odd combination to me. I’d rather sleep in a tent and toilet under a rock, but anyway. I locked my bike to a speed limit sign and re-packed my bag, moving the pannier contents into the rucksack. I was soon off, walking up the road to Honnister Pass – it was around 1630 hrs.
As I walked I looked up to the ridge and identified a route directly down to my bike, following a dry-stone wall from Litledale Edge for most of the route – it looked fine and the OS 1:25000 map showed no significant crags at the top.
I reached the top of the pass as dusk was falling, and sat on a rack for a quick breather – it had a taken a few hours to get here from home and it had already been a bit of an adventure. The route up to Dale Head (G/LD-020) is rather easy, I paused again at about 550m to drink some water, have a snack and ready my radio/logbook (rather than fumble around in the wind/cold at the summit). With darkness now properly around me, I started the climb up the last 200m of ascent.
I sensed the air starting to change, with the wind now coming from the west – signalling the summit was in reach. Sure enough, the silhouette of the summit cairn emerged, with the lights of Keswick behind. I used the Carin as a desk for my log, and began calling CQ at 1800hrs. First to call was the familiar voice of GM4WHA followed by 2E0LLB (who had received my APRS beacon also) and 2E0IKM. With no further calls, I swapped the ¼-wave whip for a RH770 ½ wave antenna and then spoke with 2E0MKU and G6LKB.
It was getting rather cold, and my thoughts were already on the prospects of a warm tent so I didn’t hang about for any more contacts. Conscious of the 150m cliff that lay around 2m from me, I carefully moved away from the cairn and set a compass bearing westwards for Hindscarth Edge.
The route narrows somewhat along the edge but the the ridge is always plenty wide that there is no real risk; however I took my time – admiring the view out in the darkness towards Keswick on one side and down into Buttermere on the other. The route climbs up a little to pass over the end of Hindscarth before dropping down to Litteledale edge.
I could sense the presence Of Robinson in front of me. A patch of snow high above me on the hill faintly glowed as a sliver of the waning crescent moon emerged from cloud, and the faintest glimpse was given of the summit profile. However, Had to turn away from the path to find some water. Heading northwards across the moorland towards the 550m contour I scouted around. The lights of Keswick in the distance gave me a good sense of direction, and there was no risk of getting lost. The blue streams on OS maps often don’t correspond well to running water. I had to descend around 100m to locate a faint dribble of water. I filled my bottle and drank thought my filter, before taking plenty to last me until tomorrow morning – around 3 litres to be sure.
Rather than re-join the path I headed on a direct course for the summit, following the occasional sheep trail. At about 700m the gradient eased and the ground coverage changed from grass to patches of tundra-like moss and lichen in places.
Atop the summit plateau I was pleased the find the wind fairly slack – around 15 to 20mph, and the ground unfrozen. I located a patch of grass a few metres away from the summit, and slightly in the lee where I erected my tent. It was now about 1930hrs. Rather than call out on the radio straight away I opted to get my kit sorted as there was a threat of rain (and it wasn’t especially warm!).
I first put-up the 6m mast for my flowerpot antenna, and then the 6m mast for my linked dipole. The network of 40 guys on each mast (eight in total) plus the web of guylines on my tent created a cats-cradle of trip hazards in the dark. The last use of the poles had been a hasty retreat from Cross Fell earlier in the month, and despite promises to myself I had not tidied up the guylines on the poles , so I spent a good 15 minutes re-tying bowlines and taut-line hitches after detangling the paracord.
With everything eventually sorted I dived into the tent and called CQ on 2m – it was now after 2000hrs. First to respond was GM4WHA followed by 2E0LKB, 2E0IKM, 2E0LLB and 2E)MIX. There followed a good number of contacts. At 2030hrs, at the suggestion of GM4WHA, I switched over to 144.650 for a DV QSO. This made use of my new (second-hand) Yaesu FT5D and was my first ever experience of digital. I made around four contacts on DV.
After all the excitement I started cooking. My choice of stove today was a simple Esbit stove, although I had not brought enough Esbit tablets to cope with the icy water so ended-up with tepid water to rehydrate my meal.
As I was cooking I changed into sleeping clothes and moved into my sleeping bag, I then setup my Venus SW-3B radio for a little CW. Calling around on 40m I could see RBN picking up my signals, but I got no responses. The band seemed to be rather quiet.
After eating, I reverted back to 2m and made a few contacts, eventually having a long chat through the GB3LD repeater, followed by an attempted QSO on 40m CW with the contact I had made. I then spent some time listening around on 2m (surprising number of QSOs to hear on 2m from a hill at that time of night) and playing with APRS.
At about midnight I went to sleep, leaving a VX6 HT connected to the flowerpot antenna, and listening on 145.500 though the night. I was occasionally woken by a station (there was a welsh station calling several times at about 3am, but I was too sleepy to answer).
At about 0650hrs, just as I was firing up the CW radio again, I heard GW4BML/P atop GW/NW-005, and Iwas pleased to have a S2S from the snugness of my sleeping bag. I moved back onto CW and made a good number of contacts, although a residual sleepiness meant my Rx and Tx was quite poor.
At 0820 I heard GW4BML/P again, this time on GW/NW-004 giving me a second S2S. I continued on 2m, making contact with GM4WHA, 2E0MKU, G1FUA and GW1UJU. After a few other QSOs, at about 0900hrs, I dismantled my camp and headed off the summit.
I headed SW to Littledale edge, to a point almost due north of my bicycle and 400m above it. This was where my shortcut was to start. I climbed over the fence, and headed straight down the hill. As I moved through the mist, I found some really interesting ground ahead of me. Presumably rarely trodden, and with a couple of good potential camping spots. The hillside was a mixture of grass and occasional heather patch.
As I passed the 400m contour the vegetation changed to bracken – thankfully brown and withered at this time of year. Unfortunately this route would be highly unsuitable during bracken season, and I couldn’t see any route that would avoid it. Now following the wall until the 300m contour, I climbed another fence before dropping down to Gatesgarth Beck. I reached my bike little more than 30 to 40 mins after leaving my camping spot – this was a perfect shortcut outside of bracken season.
Back on the bike, it was a pleasant ride home – with no further mechanical issues.
Turn-off point for the shortcut - look out for the upside-down fence post