I set out from the Patterdale lay-by just past the White Lion in Patterdale in the dark at 7.30am - excellent public toilets there, clean, working hand dryers and well lit with toilet paper on tap…well done Eden District Council.
My plan was to cover the ten Wainwrights in the Eastern Fells which surround Grisedale and I expected to be back at the car by 5.30pm. My main interest having done all these summits before was to accrue 44 points for SOTA on my push for the Mountain Goat Award - I started SOTA in 2005 and still have a long way to go. I also wanted to give WOTA Chasers a few new Wainwright’s. This scoring tally includes 12 winter bonus points for qualifying the summits of Helvellyn, Seat Sandal, Fairfield and St Sunday Crag. This round has been done before in the winter on HF by John G4YSS, using the callsign GX0OOO but no one has ever added six Wainwrights to the walk. I needed to be swift as I could be during the activations needing every minute of daylight. I was carrying my Yaesu VX-170 (X2) Transceivers and one spare battery pack. The antenna was the usual J Pole rucksack special.
The weather was mild but damp in Patterdale (12c) when I set out with showers expected. A poor forecast for the fells had been given as it transpired - it was wet windy and misty almost all day. I reached the Hole in the Wall at 0850z having encountered the first snow patches in hollows at the 1500ft level. From here I climbed the ladder stile to head up to the activation zone for the ill defined summit of Birkhouse Moor (LDW-078) and called CQ. Only three of the “regulars” were worked - John G0TDM, Geoff G4WHA/A and Mark MM1MPB. John and Geoff were to work me on all ten summits, Mark missed out on one due to a doctors appointment! A five minute stop and I set off back to the stile and onward via a wayward path to Catstycam LDW-010. I went wide to avoid snow drift and finished up heading for Striding Edge, visibility was down to about 25m and I never saw Red Tarn. Veering back to Catstycam I crossed Red Tarn Beck which is the outflow from Red Tarn and it was deep today. I didn’t quite top my boots. Turning right before Swirral Edge I was soon on the summit of Catstycam - a mini Matterhorn and one of my favourite Wainwrights, arrival time 1000z. My first contact was summit to summit with John G4YSS/P who was using the Scarborough Special Events group callsign of GX0OOO/P from North Pennines-001, Cross Fell with 59 reports both ways. Another nine contacts were completed including one with David G6ENN/P who was on a walk around Derwentwater whilst on his holidays.
Tackling Swirral edge was straightforward and quite safe up until the final section. Strong winds had melted the snow off the top of the ridge so that was my chosen way, rather than using the snow bound paths that run up both sides. It wasn’t icy - I guess the temperature was around 4c by then but there was a lot of water around and the rock was slape. I knew that this time last year two walkers fell off Swirral and both incidents were fatal, so extreme care was needed. I took my time thinking carefully about every step taken. By the time I reached the final snowbound slope at the top I had lost time on my schedule but I was safe. At this point I carried my ice axe but the snow had an insufficient crust for it to be much use, however I felt more secure with it in my hand as I climbed the last 50m or so on to the shaley summit of Helvellyn. The whole climb of Swirral took me 20 minutes and I was safe on top on LD-003/LDW-003. The best QSO for me from here was with Tim G4YTD/P who had just arrived on High Street LD-011. I worked Tim on 2m FM as he was setting up for 80m. Tim reported 66 mph gales on High Street and yes, the wind was strong but I felt it to be about 40 mph on Helvellyn and I was not in any risk of being blown off my feet as happened to me earlier in the year on Kirk Fell. It never fails to amaze me that the mist stays put despite gale force winds on the top of mountains.
The shelter on Helvellyn was snowbound apart from one corner which was in the wind, but I sat down to make 15 contacts in 10 minutes. As I was packing up I chatted to one well equipped walker who had come over Striding Edge remarking that it was passable with care. He was proceeding back via the pony track towards the Glenridding Youth Hostel.
Helvellyn itself was clear of snow almost up to the edge, but as I continued my journey on to Nethermost Pike I was shocked to see evidence of foot holes close to the edge of the cornice. Some folk must get a buzz out of putting themselves at great risk…I kept well away.
It only takes 15 minutes to reach Nethermost and another short stay of ten minutes produced ten QSOs. It took 20 minutes to reach Dollywaggon Pike and the first contact was another S2S with Glyn G1IEP/P who had just arrived on Ingleborough NP-005, Glyn was one of thirteen contacts which included John G4YSS/M who had returned to his vehicle on Great Dun Fell near the radar station gate after his activation of NP-001. It was pleasing to see that the milder weather had brought out plenty of activators in northern UK after the previous week of snow and rain. I now needed to descend and cross Raise Beck which is the western outflow from the Grisedale watershed. I hadn’t been this way to Seat Sandal before and it turned out to be a good route. I came out of the mist at around 2000 feet to encounter a few Herdwicks and a few chances to take photos before the mist closed in on me again. I crossed Raise Back at NY 33987 12083 and proceeded (with several rest breaks to catch my breath) to the top of Seat Sandal LD-022/LDW-069. Just after seeing the sheep I heard Brian GW4ZRP/P call CQ from NW-044 Moel Famau. I was Brian’s first contact I believe - shame I wasn’t on a summit at the time but en-route. I reached the summit of Seat Sandal at 1305z and stayed 30 minutes as the weather had now improved. Sitting against the broken wall I had my lunch and then made 15 QSOs finishing with an S2S contact with Mike M6MMM/P on SP-004 Shining Tor. Once again the fell top was clear of snow thanks to the wind shifting it away. I took my usual route off the fell down the left side of the wall, this was quite snowbound with a good melt taking place so holes could be kicked into the drifts for safety. The snag was you did not know if the snow was 3 inch deep or 3 feet and I was down to my crutch with one leg on occasion. My boots were filled and that meant wet feet for the rest of the day. I should have put my gaiters on over the top of my overtrousers, but felt this would have been too hot. You live and learn…
I left Seat Sandal at 1340z arriving at one of the shelters on Fairfield LD-007/LDW-013 at 1430z. I was now becoming tired and uncomfortably wet to the skin but at least I was not cold. I stayed 20 minutes, sat down and made another 15 QSOs including S2S with Brian GW4ZRP/P on NW-051 Foel Fenli and with G8JSM/P on SP-017 Billing Hill (Not reported on SOTAWatch).
I had relied on telephoning Roy G4SSH just prior to arriving on all four SOTAs and it really paid off with chasers queuing up to work me as soon as I keyed up, saving me vital time. I was now more than one hour overdue on my predicted schedule and I was to fall back further on my return back to Patterdale via Cofa Pike, St Sunday Crag and the last two Wainwrights of Birks and Arnison Crag. I still had daylight as I scrambled carefully down Cofa Pike. With snow in evidence and now tender knees to consider I was looking forward to the ascent from Deepdale Hause up to St Sunday Crag LD-010, my final SOTA summit which I needed to claim the 44 points for the day on my long journey to the Mountain Goat Award. The walk from Fairfield seemed to take forever and I was in position on LD-010 in just short of an hour. Only eight contacts were completed and they were all regulars who had been following me around my route most of the day. Thank you all: G0TDM, MM1MPB, G6LKB, M0XSD (Colin - new callsign), M6EPW, G4WHA/A, M6AUE AND 2E0MIX. I stayed 20 minutes and felt the cold now for the first time, moving off as quickly as I could into the gloom at 1605z to Birks LDW-125. It was dark by the time I reached the col above Blind Cove and I branched off right to Birks to see if I could locate the path, which I did in due course. It was now pitch dark but my Petzl headlight was performing well giving me safe passage across the moor to arrive on Birks at 1638z. Surprisingly I made 9 QSOs from this one which including Tom M1EYP/M and son Jimmy M3EYP/P on their way to Northern Ireland to activate summits there. (I had earlier worked them both from Fairfield as they were passing Leyland on the M6.)
Birks was now clear of mist and it was comforting to see the lights of Patterdale and Glenridding below me as I proceeded off the fell. I left at 1650z to proceed across unknown ground to the wall at Trough Head. From there I was to follow the wall round to the base of Arnison Crag LDW-194 to finish my tenth Wainwright of the day. This last tiddler give me a real problem with fatigue and a lack of vision outside a 10m radius now playing its part in my mission. I reached what must be the most substantial wall in Lakeland at NY 38785 14550 and for some reason felt I needed to be at the other side of it. The wall was over six feet tall at my side, solid and topped with a well supported netted fence. Hadrian would have been proud of that wall. Why I felt I needed to be over it I do not know - now I think back I reckon my thought processes were becoming “Kaput”. I went north for 200m along the wall in an effort to find a gate - nothing, so I returned to the beck which goes under the wall and crossed it, proceeding to the wall junction at NY 38807 14515. I continued north east now and came across a cast iron metal ladder - the type of shooting platforms you sometimes see in the countryside. This had been fixed against the wall as a crossing point and I mistakenly climbed it, finishing up on the wrong side of the wall to Arnison Crag where I needed to be. The wire top on the fence was intermittent and eventually as I started to lose height I found some well placed through stones on which to climb over the wall. “Hadrians Wall” must have been 7’ at that point but around 5’ at the other side. I fed my sac and pole on to the top of the wall and climbed it and then made my way (or so I thought) up to the top of Arnison Crag. After a bit of a wander I found the summit and the lights of Patterdale below me. I got a result - three QSOs with the regulars, G0TDM, G4WHA and enough to qualify and give Mark MM1MPB his 202nd Wainwright putting him in 3rd place ahead of John G0TDM in the WOTA Chasers table. I left the fell in the right direction but then lost my orientation completely and headed in the direction of The Kirkstone Pass Inn. After wandering around the fell top for 5 minutes or so in the dark I found the right heading at 1810z reaching the car in Patterdale at 1854z.
14.8 miles walked
6075 feet climbed
Walking time: 8 hours 50 minutes
Summit stopped time: 2 hours 35 mins
Yaesu VX-170 1st battery used for 98 QSOs
Yaesu VX-170 2nd battery used for 3 QSOs
102 Contacts (101 from summits 1 en-route with GW4ZRP/P on NW-044)
28 different stations worked
G0TDM & G4WHA worked on all 10 summits
44 points claimed over 4 summits for SOTA
6 Summit to Summit contacts
1 Summit Chaser Contact with GW4ZRP/P on NW-051 whilst walking
10 Wainwrights activated (Zero points as had previously activated)
Left home 5.00am returned home 10.00pm with 228 miles driven
Same report with pictures is available at http://wota-blog.blogspot.com/