Monday 13th February. Recce for the CHA.
Les and I had intended to do the recce last Friday but we had to postpone it due to the weather conditions. Sub zero temperatures and freezing rain. It was the same all over Europe. On Saturday, The Italy v England rugby international in Rome was played in snow, whilst the France v Ireland match in Paris was called off at the last minute due to the pitch being frozen.
By Monday things were improving and it was a balmy +5 degrees in Merseyside, but would it be the same in Cumbria?. We drove to Sedbergh and started our walk at 10.00am. We walked along Howgill lane before turning off towards Lockbank Farm and passing through the gate to access the fells. It was a bit of a slog climbing up the steep slopes of Winder and I was working up a bit of a sweat even though by now we were in patchy snow and ice. As we rounded the hill it all changed. We had been in the shelter of the hill and as we emerged into the wind the temperature dropped by several degrees, but we were making good progress. We rested at the top of Winder 473m. and admired the view. A toposcope helped us to pick out some of the major peaks in the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales.
The summit of Winder, 473m
It was getting chilly and we decided to put on an extra layer more to keep out the wind than anything. We continued along the main path towards Calders and the Calf bypassing Arant Haw. Conditions were deteriorating, the wind speed was increasing and we were in several inches of snow.Over the weekend many people must have passed this way and the snow had been trampled and then froze to create a sheet of ice. Alongside the path there was thick snow. Nowhere was the going easy.
The pull up towards Calders was horrendous The wind was coming from the Northwest and having passed over the snow capped fells in the Lake District it was freezing. Slim line Les seemed to be able to scythe a way through it but I was getting buffeted whilst trying to keep my footing in the snow. I was literally following in the footsteps of Les. We had not seen anyone except for one man and his dog and that was way back on Winder. Could this be the time to turn back. It was under a mile to the top but I was way outside my comfort zone and hardly making ant progress. Then looking up I spotted the trig point in the mist. All I needed to spur me on. Soon we were at the top. The cloud had lifted and we were able to enjoy the view.
At the summit of the Calf, 676m
We continued past the trig point and then veered left to descend along the tongue of White Fell towards Castley Knotts. Reaching the valley bottom we had to cross the ford over Long Rigg beck which we just about managed without getting our feet wet.
Soon we reached a minor road but it was three miles back into Sedbergh and we did not want to do three miles of road walking. Our plan was to link up with the Dales Way and follow this for part of the way back. It looked easy on the map but proved quite the opposite. We could not find a path linking up with the Dales Way. Eventually at Thwaite farm we spoke to the farmer who led us through the farmyard to a stile and pointed out the route. It still did not feel right and after following a very indistinct path we came to a locked gate. This could not be the Dales Way. Backtracking we made out way down to a footbridge where we spotted a Dales Way sign. Also a notice indicating that the route had now been diverted and follows the river. We need an updated map. Once on the proper route it was well signposted and we continued along to High Branthwaite. We then re-joined Howgill Lane for the final stretch back into Sedbergh. The unplanned diversions had cost us 40 minutes and added on an extra mile. We got back to the car at 6.50pm after almost 13 hard miles walking.
I was exhausted and needed something to revive me. Back in Crosby we called in at the Nags Head. They had Ruddles County @ £1.70 a pint. Difficult to refuse.
We hope for better weather when we lead the group on Sunday, but at least we now know the way.
Shades of white and grey