Sundays on the hill are never my favourite…Too may people. Still, the sun was shining. I had been into work for a bit then made my way to Coniston. I know, Coniston again. I have a bit of an obsession with the area. I guess I have spent so much time underground there that I have a real affinity with the place. I suppose we all have a favourite. Its hills are steeped in history. Mine exploration has always been in my blood since my Dad started going ‘underground’ when I was a young girl. He is now a leading author in Mining History. I just love exploring. I’ve added a couple of photo’s so you can see my other passion.
The hills are full of vast dark chasms from the mining of copper and quarrying of slate. Really interesting stuff! If you like the dark…
Anyway, today was a mountain day….I sat in Gill’s café with my weather forecast info up and tucked into a tea cake!
I was a little concerned about the winds. They looked to be stronger than I had hoped but I really wanted to be in the snow.. Despite the temperatures showing very cold wind chill up to -14!
I was soon driving the car up the Coppermines valley. The water from Church Beck glinted as it dances over the rocks. It was a stunner of a day. I parked up and went through my mental check. I picked up my pack and looked forward to the coming months when it would be lighter!
I had decided to head to Levers Water then up to Sam Bottom and Prison Band. The conditions underfoot would be difficult as the snow was melting. I knew my back would take a kicking from slipping a lot but it would be ok higher up.
Levers Water shone under a warm sun. It was incredibly beautiful. There weren’t that many people around really. I was pleased.
As I headed into the snowline it became arduous. Heavy wet snow and boggy ground. There was no wind though! Yet. As I approached Swirl Hawse I felt a chill breeze hit me from the North. I decided it was time to layer up!
The going was much better from here. The snow was hard packed and consolidated. I thought about putting my spikes on-again I had opted to not carry crampons. It was the right decision.
I looked up at the ridge, the sun silhouetted the rocks against the sky. It was just amazing. I was so lucky to have today off.
The first of the Sunday walkers appeared. I always despair at how ill equipped people are in the hills…. I watched as walkers attempted the unforgiving ground. Scrabbling around for grip on ice covered rocks and hard packed snow. No axes, crampons, spikes or poles. It’s very saddening that people just seem ignorant to their own potential mortality. Or they would risk serious injury. It just doesn’t seem worth it.
I try to avoid making contact with people and so I picked a line to avoid most of them.
I was soon on Swirl How. It was still quite early so I could take a bit of time now and enjoy my surroundings. I headed across the ice scoured ground keeping a good distance from the people in jeans!!!!!
I dropped down to Levers Hawse before the pull up onto Brim Fell. I saw two ladies with a map. They looked a little unsure of where they were. As I chatted to them I felt a little sad. They were in their 60’s and had clearly had a struggle coming off Brim Fell. They wanted to get off the hill. I didn’t fancy sending them down to Levers Water as it looked treacherous at the top. Again, no ice axe etc… I had no choice to send them vis Prison Band as it was the least steep of the descents. They had old and worn (summer) boots on and looked a little tired. Still, they had a bit of energy left and they had plenty of light. I cracked on. I kept looking back to make sure they were heading the right way and they hadn’t gone off Great How…..
The wind was now very cold as I neared the summit of Brim Fell. I wandered around looking for a little shelter; there isn’t a lot up there to be honest!
I chose a spot on the ice under a rock that would give me some shelter! The wind seemed to be picking up which was a pain. As I unpacked my hands were really cold!!!!! I wedged them under my arms for a minute and felt the life return. At least for a while.
A guy and his youngster popped over to see what I was up to. We exchanged a few pleasantries and they ran off into the distance. I thought about the 2 ladies and hoped that they had got to Swirl Hawse where the going would be easier.
The sun sank low in the sky as the last walkers disappeared from The Old Man and I was alone. It was time to turn into Michelin Girl! Vajra trousers and Firebee on! I was now super warm! My bed was ready and the Jetboil was on. Dinner was Lamb Casserole from Real Turmat and Rice pudding with strawberries from Bla Band. Oh, and some Wolfblass of course
I was soon sipping coffee and having my food. It was welcome. I was really hungry. The Lamb Casserole was exceptional! MMMMMMM! The rice pudding, I hadn’t tried before. It was ok. It was more like a calorie hit than a pleasure but I ate it nonetheless as its Important to keep food going in when it’s as cold as this!!!!!
I tidied up my bits and got the camera out. I wandered around and found a good spot to sit. Memories of being up here with close friends came flooding back! And in warmer times.
I sat and watched the sun sink behind the Isle of Man and as it did the chill increased.
My eyes stung in the wind. I’d hoped to get away with it remaining light…it wasn’t to be. I headed back to my bed for a brew. It would soon be time to turn in. It was so cold! I checked the forecast. Minus 5-6 with considerable wind chill. Brrrrrr! Time to do teeth. My toothpaste had already frozen. Not a nice feeling as it touched my fangs!!!!
Soon I was tucked in. My pack wrapped in a large S to S dry bag made a bit of a wind break to protect my head. I lay back and stared up into the night sky. My eyes already picking out satellites.
My back wasn’t great tonight and I knew I wouldn’t be able to lie on my back for long.. Before I knew it I was asleep. Awoken by my phone pinging. I had 2 messages; one off Peter Dixon and one off Ste Mac..both informing me of Aurora activity. My eyes struggled to focus on my phone. I popped my head out of the bivvy as I struggled to find my camera and mini tripod. It was now very windy and colder than earlier!! I gathering you all know how cold it was! I was adamant I wasn’t getting out of my bag. I caterpillared along the ground. A sight to behold. My headtorch slipped down and smacked me on the bridge of the nose. Don’t you just love it when that happens; especially when your face is cold! I rested on my elbow and looked up. Sure enough, there it was! Fingers of pale green searched in the night sky. The ground was so iced up and the wind so strong I struggled to keep the tripod static. Grrrrrr. I got 4 shots. They were ok I thought.
There was a heavy cloud bank at low level so the strongest green was hidden from view. Still, I saw it. The pink was visible to the naked eye above the green but only just! My night was now perfect…apart from the wind that wanted to freeze my eyes!
I wriggled back to my rock and replaced my pack. Soon I was asleep again. I was awoken to the noise of the wind and a scraping noise. I froze and my heart beat heavily, I was aware that the wind had picked up again, I put my headtorch up and looked out, my pack was 3 metres away sliding across the ice being pushed by the wind!!! Bloody hell. I was wriggling along in my bag again to retrieve it. I reverse wriggled back to my perch and wedged it under my head. I curled up as best I could and tried to ignore all noises. I slept sporadically after that. Soon though it was 5.50am.
The sky was getting lighter and sunrise promised to be good. I was reluctant to get out as I was toasty in my down cocoon; still, work beckoned and I had quite a walk down. I reached in my bag for my gas and fired up the Jetboil. Coffee and Bla Band Fruit porridge was soon on the go. I left an inch or so if water in the bottom of the Jetboil, within 10 mins of boiling it had formed an ice crust!!! Wow. Nippy
It was that time. The sun started to creep as I packed and the light changed from blue to pink to gold. It was a stunner. I snapped away on the way down at the perfect snow capped fells… I wished I wasn’t working but needs must.
I put my spikes on for the descent down to Levers Hawse. The tarn was boasting stunning shadows as I descended and the light was perfect. The snow was crusty and ice was present everywhere. I was careful in my descent and only slipped a couple of times-I would pay later with back pain but I was happy!
I passed the old stopes at the side of the tarn happily thinking of all my vertical fun in them. I loved the mines.
Soon I could see the car and reality clicked back in. I would be at work in time and would looking forward to a non-powdered coffee..As always!
I love mountains….