Slipping and Sliding on Seat Sandal

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!


Brian G8ADD

In reply to G8ADD:

"and bottle-conditioned “Gold Miner”

Shame on you Brian, clocking up all those “food miles” drinking a Forest of Dean product in the Lakes. In future I recommend you visit Stavely and procure some b/c Hawkshead NZPA. Less carbon footprint - think of the children etc etc …

In reply to G1INK:

We’d drunk up our supply of “Westmorland” the previous night so had to restock from the Ambleside Co-op, and it was a nice pint, although Pauline forgot that “bottle conditioned” translated to “don’t shake the bottle”! Stavely is a long drive from just up the hill from Grasmere but its worth remembering for next time I’m in that area, I can take a bottle up LD-046 on a hot summers afternoon - if we get one!


Brian G8ADD

In reply to G8ADD:
Hi Brian,

I really enjoyed reading your report but didn’t envy you the iced up route, well done! Seat Sandal is a nice grassy summit in the midst of rocky ones. The route you saw up LD7 is steep and also loose but not too bad. The route down Seat Sandal to link to it is just the same near the bottom after commencing on grass.

FB - 73, John G4YSS

In reply to G4YSS:

Having walked the Fairfield to Seat Sandal route, I think that the description given by Frank G3RMD in relation to the lower part of the Seat Sandal section is most apt… he called it “interesting”! Rather enjoyable for those of us that don’t mind a bit of a scramble. :slight_smile:

In reply to G8ADD:

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!

Is not the problem the mode rather than the rig - that little matter of contention ratio? I’m sure you’d have had the same issue with any FM rig… or does someone know better?

Gerald G4OIG

In reply to G4OIG:

In fact I had originally intended going up by the col: taking the ACW traversing path around the tarn and then a short pull up to the col, but the amount of ice on the lower path gave me some concern that full winter gear might be necessary on the scrambly section. Considering that I used to lead comfortably at Scottish Winter Grade IV I’m now a bit of a rabbit on the ice!

I’ve just finished experimenting to try and reproduce the problem I had with the batteries. I tested each cell for voltage straight out of the rig, all fell between 1.360 and 1.365, consistant with partial use. I then ran 5 watts FM for a couple of minutes and tested again, they now tested between 1.355 and 1.361. I then put the rig in the freezer for an hour and tried it again. Interestingly, it was giving a low output now, and the battery indicator now showed empty on transmit but full on receive just as it had on the summit. Another thing I noticed is that if I cycled through the settings of the power output switch it no longer flashed on the high setting, consistant with the lower output. I conclude that the cells are all OK and the problem was due to the low temperature on the summit. The rig seems to reject the high power setting when it is cold, which may explain why some people think that it won’t transmit above 2.5 watts on the internal battery. After half an hour in a warm room it is back to normal.


Brian G8ADD

PS Pass on the contention ratio issue, Gerald, I only operate FM for SOTA, SSB is my preference!

In reply to G8ADD:
Enjoyable description of your LD walk thank you. For what it is worth, in my view the direct route up Seat Sandal from Dunmail Raise is a better option in winter. It’s a bit steep, but not usually as iced up as the one adjoining the beck. It has the merit of being shorter and the path is quite well defined. Also saves the final pull up the wall from the Tarn.