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" Scafell Pike Challenge ... Plan B "
Date & start time: Sunday 11th September 2011, 4.30 am start.
Location of Start : Seathwaite Farm, Borrowdale, Cumbria, Uk ( NY 235 120 )
Places visited : Stockley Bridge, Styhead Tarn, the Stretcher Box and return.
Walk details : 5.5 mls, 1450 ft of ascent, 6 hrs including stops.
Highest point : Styhead 1569 ft - 478 m.
Walked with : Hilton, Jill, Bethan the dog, plus the fellow marshalls and 14 teams.
Weather : Potential south-westerly 45 mph winds with gust over 75 mph. Blustery showers.
( but I don't think it actually got that bad )
[ Alter the settings to zoom or change the Map, use Everytrail to download the Gps route ]
On the weekend of Hurricane Katia, or what remained of it, blasted through Cumbria, a group of about sixty folk were trying to walk the national
Three Peaks Challenge . . . Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon, all within 24 hours. I had been asked to help as safety crew for the event.
They climbed the Ben Saturday evening, they naturally arrived in the Lakes early morning Sunday.
As a corporate organised event they have a full mountain crew to monitor their progress and provide safety cover if required.
Some, though not all of these folk had never seen a mountain before !
Silly O'clock at Oak Cottage.
My friend (and this week, fellow house painter) Hilton, joined me as part of the group of seven
that would have to be up on the hills in advance of the teams arriving from Scotland by mini-bus.
Hmm . . . 4.30 am Seathwaite Campsite
Don't make a noise so as to not disturb other campers . . . someone tell that to the weatherman !
Fortunately that's rain not snow.
By 5 am, Hilton, Jill and I were our the way up the fell.
This is the gate part way to Stockley Bridge and the blustery rain shower has passed over.
Stockley Bridge . . . this is where Plan B kicked in.
The forecast, and the conditions were so poor that it was decided not to allow the teams above Esk Hause this morning . . . we may not get them all back
. . . so while Hilton and the others headed for Grains Gill, Jill and I turned right and headed towards Styhead Pass.
The Thousand Foot Boulder . . .
At the head of the climb up alongside Taylor Gill Force there is a very prominent erratic boulder, exactly on the 1000 ft contour.
This acts as a local landmark and key identifiable feature on the walk up the Styhead Valley.
It was Jill's and my job to assess the "wind tunnel" that was the Styhead Valley,
to make sure it was safe for the walkers to return via that route and so give them a circular walk rather than a straight return down Grains Gill.
Passing Styhead Tarn . . . there was even someone wild camping tonight . . . rather him than me.
05.52 hrs and the first light of dawn as we pause and look back towards Keswick.
6.09 am . . . we made it relatively easily to the Stretcher Box . . .
Time for an early breakfast and watch the dawn break from the shelter afforded by the box itself.
6.11 am . . . the camera is picking up more light.
6.15 am and we can tell by looking, without the torch, what flavour the sandwiches are !
From Styhead we were in radio contact with our colleagues at Esk Hause
and following our earlier confirmation of the revised route, we have a slight wait before expecting the first team through our location.
Might just sneak another sandwich . . . the photo's out of focus because I couldn't hold the camera steady in the wind out here.
Daylight now and we open the Stretcher Box to see what's inside. Should you do so, please don't touch the contents but leave it as you find it . . . it is all important mountain rescue gear which can, and has been used in local rescues. Having it here and in good condition saves the teams a lot of time and effort.
[ The radio was ours . . . it is not normally there . . . we just put it inside the box to keep it dry ]
In emergency, the box also provides a bivvy shelter for one person . . . hold your cursor over the picture to see how !
Before the teams make it down from Esk Hause I take Bethan for a brief walk westward . . .
. . . which gave me views of Lingmell and Piers Gill
. . . and down the Lingmell Beck valley into Wasdale.
The white buildings are the farm and Inn at Wasdale Head.
Time to be on the way . . .
I should be at "my location" at the 1000 foot boulder so I decide to walk back with the first team.
Unfortunately for me, but it wasn't a problem, the second team were a bunch of fit guys travelling light. They had decided to be first back to Seathwaite and so were jogging back down the valley. They overtook me so I decided to tag onto them for a short while.
Tricky running with a reasonably large pack . . . but at least it was a couple of sandwiches and a cup of soup lighter.
I stopped to catch a daylight picture of the tent at Styhead . . . the guy inside was still not up . . . sleeping in till gone 7.30 am.
I don't know . . . what is the world coming to ?
Turning round, the 1st team had run on and left me so I proceeded on at a more reasonable pace.
The second team was by now reaching the bridge half way down the valley.
Taylor Gill ravine ahead . . . I could see the first team safely through and disappearing into the trees.
Bethan (and my pack) in the shelter of the rock I photographed on the way up.
I waited here to see all the other teams through . . . the weather is easing as the morning progressed.
Funnily enough, none of the teams seemed to mind the fact that they were not allowed to reach the top of Scafell Pike.
One look at the weather at Esk Hause had shown them quite enough of the conditions on the high fells today.
One team needed a little assistance as one of their members had injured her knee.
A bandage, a big glucose sweet and a couple of simple painkillers later and she was on the way again.
Suitable t.l.c. (tender loving care) will get a lot of people a long way in these sort of conditions.
Walking back down to Stockley Bridge.
My colleagues, John, Jill and Hilton bring up the rear.
9.30 am . . . is that sunshine I see ?
A close up of Taylor Gill Force.
The 1000 ft boulder, where I had been stationed, is at the top of the tree covered slope.
Seathwaite Fell dominated the valley as I look back from about the same place.
Almost back now . . . this is the aptly named "Rain Gauge Cottage".
Borrowdale is officially the wettest place in England, experiencing over 120 inches of rainfall each year.
There may be wetter places but they are not measured.
By the time we all returned to the base, the sunshine had unfortunately gone
but all fourteen teams were down safely and on the way to Snowdon . . . job done here.
- - - o o o - - -
Technical note: Pictures taken with my non-waterproof Canon G10 digital camera.
Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.
This site best viewed with . . . a windproof umbrella ?
Previous walk - Saturday 10th Sept 2011 Five go to Whiteside
A previous time up here - 13th October 2006 A Great End to our "428 Wainwright Fells"
Next walk - Thursday 15th Sept 2011 Three go to Sunny Ling Fell