Sunday, 10 January 2010

Walking over Watendlath Fell

Last Thursday, 7th January we took a wintery walk which was on one of the coldest days so far this winter. The ground was at times so frozen that we skimmed the top with our crampons and barely went very deep and at others it was over the knees! The problem was that you never knew when you placed your foot if it was going to grip into thinnish snow or sink right down......Sometimes it was both feet sunk right down to the knees and then it was a struggle with a few expletives thrown in. The start was pleasant enough; here I am striding along the road at the side of Thirlmere. We caught the bus to the end of the lake and then walked up the path to Steel End Farm and past it on towards the Dob Gill car park. On the way I rescued a sheep which had gotton onto the road and which was panicking at our approach. Bella did not help because she was all ready to chase it and kept up struggling and barking in her attempt to be naughty. Anyway, after the sheep was safely back behind its gate, we continued to the car park.

From there we followed the path upwards through the trees and it was like a winter wonderland. Here you can see Pete and Bella on the path.

We continued until we came out up by Harrop Tarn, but you could not see it only a large white flat surface. This photo shows it just under the far trees with the sun glinting on it's surface. It really was a lovely day for sunshine and it kept us a bit warmer than in the forest.

We kept going along the path until we came out onto the bare fellside and that is when we started going up to the knees in very deep snow. So the going became much slower and much more tedious. Incidentally, it was virgin snow, not a soul had gone up there and after a while we realised why because it was very tough going and even trying to follow sheep tracks was not helping. Eventually we found the fence we knew was there from our map and started to follow it as it gave us something to hang onto when the snow was fighting back.....We found a convenient place where the fence posts were proud of the snow with a couple of rocks and settled down for a bite to eat and a welcome cuppa. All around us as you can see from the photo below was deep glistening snow which glinted like billions of small diamonds. It was very pretty to look at as some of the ice had formed slightly larger lumps which really did shine magnificently.

After lunch we pressed on keeping to the fence on its right hand side and followed it along to the higher ground you can see at the end of the fence in the middle of the photo. We had originally intended to march along the tops until we passed Shivery Knott and onto High Tove and High Seat and then Bleaberry Fell, but it was becoming quite obvious that we were not going to be able to do the ridge in the time we had left. Even though we had caught the 9.30 bus from the War Memorial in Keswick we were running out of time fast because of the conditions under foot. So we decided to go for plan B which was to drop down towards Watendlath instead.

Bella thought this was a good idea because by now she was starting to get covered in ice balls on her face, chin, legs and belly. I had stopped every half an hour or so and de iced her but this was not stopping it from forming again very quickly. She had not seemed to notice it but I was not going to let it get too dense on her. So we went along the fence until we passed Shivery Knott and Shivery Man and then turned away down towards the left after we reached Middle Crag. This next photo shows you how deep the snow was because as we approached the gully to go down to Watendlath we passed the sign for Wythburn, which was where we had come from, only the sign was broken so you could only see 'burn' and rather buried in snow......

I am actually able to walk along the top of it here because it was nice and hard but you can see my right foot has still sunk in quite a way. This was better than most of the going.

Suddenly we saw Watendlath in all its splendid wintery glory, it was a joy to behold. You can see the frozen tarn on the top left of the buildings. Our way down passed some wonderful snow formations which were about two feet thick and they formed smooth overhangs above the path in the gully. When we reached Watendlath we sat on the bench by the stream and I discovered that Bella's coat had filled with ice beneath her belly, so I had to haul it all out. Also her coat had ice actually inside the two layers of fleece and outer fabric too. We thought it must have been condensation which had frozen in there. So after giving her a slurp of my left over tea we decided to go back via the road. On the way we passed Surprise View and it lived up to its reputation today alright. This photo shows Derwentwater almost frozen right over.

Three people were skating just off picture to the left at the top of the lake and they were even skating over the areas which looked cracked. Rather them than me. I have been in that lake many a time when I was sailing dinghies and I would not like to think how much colder it could be with no wet suit on if you happened to go through that ice. Also I know how deep it is too and I quickly took my eyes off them; best not to watch. It was also time to move on because we had the bus to catch at the end of the lane by the Youth Hostel. We arrived at the stop and five minutes later round the bend it came. A well timed end to a wonderful day. On the bus I couldn't resist giving Bella a big hug and a kiss on her head I was watched by a bemused teenage girl opposite; well I thought, Bella is my heroine today.


Tess said...

This is soooo not fair! Trust me to be missing out on some fantastic walks - remind me not to break any limbs again! Streuth, it looks ruddy deep. That's the only problem with snow, the fact that it can slow you down when it's that deep. Once again, some fantastic views, am just so annoyed that I'm not able to enjoy witnessing them myself! Poor Bella, bet she was glad to get home after being frozen! You'd think that the layers of fur/hair would keep doggies warm, but even Maia and her bushy coat have trouble with the snow down in Kent!

BilboWaggins said...

lovely walk Lyn, I think many people don't realise just how energy sapping it can be to walk through snow like this.

kira said...

I see, that's (more or less) the walk you proposed last year as a winter walk, because the area up there is very muddy, and therefore it would be easier to walk on the ice (with crampons) than in the mud, you said. OK, but in this deep snow? That must have been very very strenuous for all of you, but most of all for Bella. Snow and ice in her coat, ugh! Fantastic, how she made it, anyway!

"Daisy" brought a lot of snow over Germany, however not that much here in our are, just about 10 cm or so.

I very much enjoyed the accidentally trip to Dresden over New Year, and will mail you some pictures.

Tess, just give me a note should you like to have them as well.