|Distance:||18.2 km or 11.3 miles|
|Ascent:||1029m or 3376ft|
|Descent:||1025m or 3363ft|
Monday, 26th February was forecast as being a reasonably fine day with sunny intervals and not too much wind on the tops. So, with strong easterly winds and extremely cold temperatures forecast for several days to follow, I decided on a trip to the Lake District to make the most of the one day weather slot.
I'd been wanting to do a bit of snow/ice climbing as it had been a few years since I last gave it a go, and from what I'd been hearing recently, the conditions around Helvellyn's crags at the moment were about as good as you can get. - So Helvellyn (yet again!) was the plan.
GPX Track of the route walked: -
Walk Elevation Profile: -
For the walk in, I decided on a different route to my normal Mires Beck choice, parking up by the White Lion Hotel in Patterdale, skirting Glenamara Park towards Thornhow, then taking the Grisedale Brow - Hole-in-the-wall path for a change.
Looking across to Ullswater from the Glenamara Park area, just after starting the walk: -
The view along Grisedale Valley from the minor road to Thornhow Farm: -
Some of the fells to be visited later in this walk: -
St.Sunday Crag (left), and the Grisedale Valley from the Hole-in-the-wall path: -
Looking towards the head of Grisedale from higher up on the Hole-in-the-wall path: -
Before reaching the Hole-in-the-wall, I began to encounter some good stretches of water-ice and hard snow lying on the path. By the time the Hole-in-the-wall was reached, there was quite a bit of snow around, (although much of what had been there a week ago had melted). What snow was left, was now almost bullet hard, and kicking steps was beginning to prove quite difficult. - Soon time to be putting the crampons on methinks!
The Hole-in-the-wall, with Helvellyn beyond: -
At the Hole-in-the-wall, I headed straight towards Red Tarn, skirting its northerly shoreline towards the headwall.
Helvellyn, as seen on the approach to Red Tarn: -
Helvellyn from beside Red Tarn: -
Looking up to Swirral Edge (right), and cornices on the Red Tarn bowl skyline: -
Striding Edge, seen across a frozen Red Tarn: -
The crags and gullies of Helvellyn's Red Tarn face: -
I'd provisionally intended having a go at Gully No.2, but it soon became obvious that several climbing "pairs" were kitting up for that route, and more were already climbing in the gully. I could see that there was only a narrow strip of snow, at more or less the crux of the route. With several roped pairs already climbing, it could be a while before I would get chance to get past that point. - The wind was increasing and it was getting decidedly cold standing around, so I made up my mind to have a go up the snow by the northern side of Viking Buttress, (keeping as close as I could safely manage to the exposed rock face).
No.1 Gully (yellow), No.2 Gully (red), and my route to the summit by the side of Viking Buttress (green): -
My choice turned out to be a good one, but I should stress that this part of my route was most definitely a climb, rather than a walk, and not the sort of place to be without a good head for heights, the right equipment, and relevant experience in its use! 12-point climbing crampons, 4-season - rigid sole - crampon compatible boots, a pair of ice tools (ice axe & hammer), and climbing helmet all being essential for such routes.
About half way up, the wind really increased and it got very cold. - My moustache froze solid, and even with two pairs of gloves on my fingers went numb. But even so, this was the best of places to be. - The snow was bullet hard, - in absolutely superb condition for front-pointing. - Days like this don't come along very often!
Red Tarn and the top of No.1 Gully from the top of Viking Buttress: -
The top of my chosen route was within a few yards of Helvellyn's cross-shaped summit shelter, so it was a quick dash to find a spot out of the wind, and a chance to warm up with a hot brew and a sandwich. - (The Fell top Assessor's report said the wind-chill was -18°c at the time!).
The western vista, (Bowfell to Great End). - As seen from Helvellyn summit shelter: -
Great Gable from Helvellyn's summit shelter. - (Zoomed-in close-up): -
Luckily, the strong wind didn't last too long, and after lunch it was a pleasant stroll across to Nethermost Pike and Dollywaggon Pike before descending to Grisedale Tarn.
Looking towards the Coniston fells, as seen when walking from Helvellyn towards Nethermost Pike: -
Cornices on the ridge between Helvellyn and Nethermost Pike: -
Looking back towards Striding Edge: -
Looking back to Helvellyn from the ridge towards Nethermost Pike: -
A wider view back towards Helvellyn from further along the Nethermost Pike ridge: -
Looking across to St.Sunday Crag, as seen on the approach to Nethermost Pike: -
Looking towards Nethermost Pike and Dollywaggon Pike, with Fairfield beyond: -
The view back to Helvellyn from Nethermost Pike summit cairn: -
Dollywaggon Pike as seen from the upper flanks of Nethermost Pike: -
Looking down Grisedale Valley from Dollywaggon Pike summit: -
Looking back towards Nethermost Pike from Dollywaggon Pike summit: -
St.Sunday Crag from Dollywaggon Pike summit: -
Ornate iron fence post on the summit flanks of Dollywaggon Pike: -
Approaching Grisedale Tarn, on the descent from Dollywaggon Pike: -
Whilst descending towards the tarn, the Great North Air Ambulance helicopter appeared, circled a few times then flew in and landed. It was obvious from what followed that there had been some sort of accident. Not knowing what had occurred, (the accident was across the valley on the flanks of Cofa Pike), it was interesting to see the extent and dedication of the manpower required for a rescue. By the time the casualty was recovered, two helicopters, and about twenty mountain rescue team members had been involved.
The Great North Air Ambulance, rotors still spinning, just after landing beside Grisedale Tarn: -
GNAA with Cofa Pike beyond - Paramedics, (circled), making their way to the casualty's location: -
A close-up of the Great North Air Ambulance: -
Looking down the Grisedale Valley towards Patterdale. (Taken near Grisedale Tarn): -
Coastguard helicopter, called in to winch the casualty: -
Lowering the stretcher: -
Very large icicles below Falcon Crag. (Some of these being about 7 - 8ft. long): -
Coastguard helicopter leaving the scene of the accident after picking up the casualty: -
The remainder of my walk was an uneventful amble back to the valley at the end of a great day out. But seeing the actions of all concerned with the rescue has reinforced my belief that we have some of, if not the, best mountain rescue organisations available in the world.
Even with two helicopters at the scene, MRT members, who passed me on their way up the valley continued to carry the heavy sled type stretcher and much more equipment up to the casualty - (in case of helicopter malfunction or inability to winch).
All that equipment had to be manually carried for at least a couple of miles from where the Land-Rovers had to be left in the valley. - Goodness only knows what it must have been like to have to carry not only your own kit, but rescue equipment or half a sled stretcher on your back up those very icy paths and across steep, bullet hard snow! - Had the helicopter not been able to winch and evacuate the casualty, they would have had to carry him down that same distance!
These men and women - all volunteers, giving their time and expertise freely, have my utmost regard. (As, obviously, do the helicopter crew and paramedics of both the GNAA and Coastguard helicopters that regularly attend such incidents).
Ruthwaite Lodge, with Nethermost Pike on the horizon: -
Frozen waterfalls near Ruthwaite Lodge: -
A brief glimpse of late afternoon sun catches the various buttresses of St.Sunday Crag: -
Looking back towards the head of Grisedale: -
Mountain Rescue vehicles awaiting the return of the MRT personnel: -
Final shot of the day, looking back towards the head of Grisedale: -
Footnote: I discovered after my return home, that the rescue was of a solo walker who had taken a long sliding fall on snow, with suspected broken pelvis and shoulder as a result. See: - https://t.co/lhorj8KLwi I sincerely hope that he makes a full and speedy recovery.
In case it's of any use to other viewers, (I find this sort of thing interesting), I did a comparison of some of the types of still images that can be had, showing GPX track of this walk.
This first one is OS 1:50000 scale (with my notes added), obtained from my Garmin GPS unit via "Basecamp" software (with additional OS Discovery & Explorer maps): -
The next one is OS 1:25000 scale (also with my notes added), and also obtained from my Garmin GPS unit via "Basecamp/OS mapping" software: -
The next is the GPX track superimposed on satellite imagery, also with my notes added, and also obtained via Garmin "Basecamp" software (with additional Garmin "Birdseye" (Bing) satellite imagery maps): -
The next is of the GPX track on Waymaps mapping in 3D, obtained after uploading the above walk report, and then logging into WalkLakes 3D - GPS mapping section: -
The next is a similar 3D view, also obtained via WalkLakes Waymaps mapping, but this time on 3D "aerial" imagery: -
This final one is of just part of the route, manipulated to give a better view of the Helvellyn area, also in WalkLakes Waymaps 3D "aerial" imagery: -
For anyone interested in obtaining similar images, I highly recommend becoming a WalkLakes "Supporter", which gives full access to such imagery (and a lot more besides!). - Once again, thanks are due to Paul and Beth, for making such a superb resource available.