In a radical break with tradition, I had actually been organised and booked a camper van pitch at the National Trust Great Langdale campsite, with the intention of climbing Bow Fell via Hells Gill and possibly on to Esk Pike one day, and then Langdale Pikes via Stickle Tarn the next. Unfortunately, there is always the weather.
I woke on Tuesday morning to heavy rain and winds, so decided I would try to get to Bow Fell via the main track up Mickleden and Angle Tarn. The wind was whipping up as I started the climb up from the valley floor, knocking me off my feet on one or two occasions. Knowing I was not remotely ‘hill fit’ and expecting the wind to worsen through the day, with few hardy souls out and about I had Edward Whymper’s wisdom ringing in my ears as I stopped my climb short of Angle Tarn.
“Climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are nought without prudence, and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste; look well to each step; and from the beginning think what may be the end.”
So I looked well to each step and retreated back to my van to dry out and try again.
Wednesday morning dawned with remarkable similarity to Tuesday. Wet and windy. I decided I would have a look at Langdale Pikes and hope Stickle Gill would provide a little cover from the wind up to the tarn and from there I’d be a able to judge the likely conditions higher up.
While the gill did give cover, it also provided a couple of fun little challenges along the way. One rock step, followed by stepping stones across the fast flowing stream, with wind gusting down the gorge. I confess I was not feeling my most sure footed (again, “look well to each step”), and I was grateful to to the two gentlemen who offered me a hand across.
I reached Stickle Tarn but the day had already been more of a challenge than I had been expecting. I pressed on to look at the way ahead, and see if conditions would ease.
There was I time when I would have relished the challenge of those conditions, but not this time, so again I retreated, and slowly, (very slowly) picked my way down, passing the hardy ones heading up to enjoy, as it would transpire, a far more pleasant afternoon than the morning had been.
Reflections and learning: I am frustrated, and a little disappointed. I have learned that I am not as ‘hill fit’ as I thought, so will take steps to rectify that sorry situation before my next trip away. Also, being organised and pre-booking backfired a bit, as I was committed to those dates, rather than delaying and going up at the end of the week rather than the beginning. The day I was leaving was the most perfect day – blue skies, and the lightest breeze. However, on the upside it was a good opportunity to have a look at a couple of routes I have not done before, so not a complete waste of a trip.
Day one ascent: 400m / 1312ft approx
Day two ascent: 400m / 1312ft approx