Monday 19 September 2016

Guiding the "Lakes 4". Seathwaite to Wythburn. Wednesday 14th September 2016

Last Wednesday, Iain had a long day out working for Hayley Webb Mountain Adventures assisting Sarah Abell with the challenge she had set for herself which was to complete the "Lakes 4" Challenge. Iain met Hayley & Sarah at Seathwaite at 07:15 to take over from Hayley after she had guided Sarah from Keswick up Skiddaw; and then back to Keswick before travelling onwards up Borrowdale.

The pair had started at 11:30 the previous evening and walked overnight. Photo one, taken at 09:00, looks back from Styhead Gill into Borrowdale which was still under a cloud inversion at the time. It looked like it was going to be a seriously pleasant day for us after the previous evening's rain & thunderstorms.

We left Hayley at 08:15 after an hours stop to breakfast on pastries, cake, tea and even a Bacon Butty. Hayley was then going to bed before meeting us again at an pre-estimated arrival time of 4:30 - 5pm at the foot of Wythburn near to Thirlmere.

Iain & Sarah made good progress to Styhead Tarn in calm, warm, weather which, once above the inversion, was also very clear & sunny. We reached Lingmell Col shortly after 11pm and then descended slightly on the Wastwater side before cutting across under Pikes Crag towards Scafell (photo two) where our route would be up Lord's Rake (right from the top of the scree fan) and then up Deep Gill which is the gully shooting up diagonally right above.

Photo three sees an elated Sarah an hour later after we had done our ascent of the route previously mentioned.

Getting up the scree fan proved not to be too arduous as a good path zig-zags up almost to Lords Rake. However, Lord's Rake itself proved to be something of a treadmill as there was a lot of loose scree in the bed of the fault. We managed to avoid most of it by sticking to the side of the gully; and soon reached the point where our route swung up left above Deep Gill on to West Walls Traverse.

West Walls Traverse takes firstly, a groove; and then follows a ledge above leading into, the upper part of Deep Gill. This route is finished as a scramble up the bed of the gill to emerge on the summit plateau of Scafell. From there it was only a five minute walk to the top of Sarah's second Lakes 3000'er. The views all around were stunning; and the time 12:15.

We had a brief stop on Scafell Summit, but there wasn't really time to hang about, we had only travelled around a third of the total distance to go at that point so we were going to have to crack on if we were going to make Wythburn by our ETA.

We'd ascended Scafell by one of its shortest routes; and now, we had to descend & then climb up on to Scafell Pike. Being able to descend straight to Mickledore would have been great; and the least height loss/shortest route (480 m distance + 115 m descent) if it were not for the notorious Broad Stand being in the way. So we had to go via Foxes Tarn (photo four) and then descend further before climbing back up under Scafell Crag to Mickledore (1.2 km and 295 m of descent & ascent) then onwards to Scafell Pike summit arriving there about 1:30 pm. This was second & last of the two Lakes 3000'ers that Sarah would ascend with Iain, however, we now had a long walk to get to Wythburn!

Photo five was taken at around 2:30 pm as we headed towards Calf Cove on our way to Esk Hause. Here, we passed three chaps working on the footpath apparently as part of the National Trust/National Park Fix The Fells Programme - good effort guys!

Calf Cove was another good place to load up with fresh water - the first in fact since we had reached the bottom of the slope below Foxes Tarn. Iain also found the water great for cooling his face off, as so far, the day had been very warm indeed!!

Just beyond this point, as we approached Esk Hause, quite a strong breeze was blowing up from Upper Eskdale which helped cool us down; although once we descended in the direction of Angle Tarn, it became quite still again and there, we also briefly had some rain.

Photo six was taken about an hour later as we approached Stake Pass. We had descended from Esk Hause towards Angle Tarn en route for Langdale and then turned left taking a path traversing the ridge behind Rossett Pike towards Stake Pass.

It had become apparent quite a while back that there was no way we were going to make Wythburn for 5 pm and Iain had tried to call Hayley to let her know this, but it seemed impossible to get a signal - even from here where we had a clear view down Langdale and out to towards Morecambe bay. The weather was hotter than ever and we still had over a third of the way to go; and one last big climb in the way!

Photo seven sees Sarah at the top of High Raise - our last high top on this section of Sarah's route to Wythburn. Sarah contemplates the mountains in the distance and Helvellyn - her fourth & final 3000 foot peak. The time was now 4:40 and it wouldn't be until 10pm that Sarah would finally get to stand on that distant summit.

We were both relieved to get to here after the 45 minute/300 m climb from Stake Beck done in baking heat with no breeze. At least from here on, it was all downhill. Well - almost!

At the top of High Raise Iain had also managed to send a text to Hayley indicating that our ETA at the foot of Wythburn was now more likely to be around 6:30pm.

An hour later, photo eight sees Sarah skirting the bottom of the Wythburn valley as we headed on towards the end our our time together and Sarah's final big pull up on to Helvellyn.

Our walk along Wythburn was wet to say the least. This remote & desolate valley really has to be the wettest in The Lake District, and despite the fact that the path does it's best to skirt the marshy valley floor, it was with some relief when we'd squelched our way to Wythburn Head Tarns and begun the final descent into the Thirlmere valley.

Photo nine was taken as we reached the lower floor of Wythburn and now only had about a mile to go to the finish. The finish for Iain - but not for Sarah that was!

In the background, Helvellyn glows in the evening sun, but by the time Sarah reached that skyline, the sun was long gone!

Together, Iain & Sarah covered 13.8 miles (22.1 km) from Seathwaite to Wythburn Car Park taking 10 hours & 20 minutes (we arrived at 6:35pm).

After we had all loaded up with more food & drink, Sarah & Hayley set off, reaching the summit of Helvellyn at 10pm and arriving back in Keswick at 12:45am the next morning.

An amazing achievement. Sarah completed her Lakes 4 Challenge in 25 hours & 15 minutes but, if you take off the break times, Sarah actually completed the whole circuit in 22 hours & 45 minutes. Congratulations Sarah!

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