The Lakes: Helvellyn and Fairfield, and Dow Crag – 1986 and 1993

9/7/86 Helvellyn and Fairfield

This was a walk off the back of the 135th Derby (Broadway Baptist) summer camp at Loughrigg or thereabouts. Myself, A. Mackervoy, S. Burns, S. Giller, J. Clarke, J. Mew.

The rain came down in ropes as the van lurched past the rhododendron-lined village of Patterdale. As we set off, it was noon. We pounded up the path in the rain. Steve B burned off ahead and set a tremendous pace up the long, steep slog up Grizedale Brow. Drizzle persisted all the way, while the clouds kept the hills well hidden. After a while we regrouped at the crest and moved together through the mists towards Helvellyn. Driving wind steamed up the right-hand lense of my glasses, causing me to lean to the left, and the rain ceased to be a problem.

After a while, rocks loomed up – Striding Edge. Along the edge was fun; it was seven years since I’d last been here. Up onto the bulk of Helvellyn, a tedious final slog, to swiftly cap the summit in thick, swirling mist. We thundered onwards and downwards, getting very hungry, along the Dollwagon Pike/Nethermost Pike ridge, almost missing the zig-zags down to Grizedale Tarn.

When we stopped for a very late lunch at 3pm I was frustrated and demoralised. After eating I was bounding up and happy – a classic demonstration of the importance of maintaining blood sugar levels on the mountain by eating “little and often”.

Down to the tarn, then up Fairfield, and over through the mists to Greatrigg Man. At the last top, the clouds split wide open and the sun poured down onto the surrounding countryside. The clouds lifted and we moved through bright country air down over Rydal Fell, down the Nab Scar erosion path, on to Rydal itself, thence over a gentle pass in the early evening sunshine, back to our campsite at Loughrigg.

1/8/86 Ordinary Route, C Buttress, Dow Crag

Myself, A. Mackervoy and S. Giller walked into Dow in pleasant warm weather, and chewed our butties sat by Goat Water, as the weather cooled somewhat. It was slowly but surely deteriorating; already grey cloud was replacing hazy blue sky.

With some trepidation, the lads followed me up the screes to the foot of C Buttress, where we climbed into harnesses. Some of my colleagues were not confident; I was leading this as the most experienced in rock climbing. I led, straight up, easy enough climbing. I had someone on the rope below but it was a formality. I made an error notwithstanding, climbing two pitches rather than one and running out almost the entire rope. As a consequence, I could not see the people I was belaying up the climb until they were almost half-way up.

Moving upwards I kept the subsequent pitches much shorter, 50′ or so, always remaining in sight of my second. The only really memorable bits were a slab above the top of the third pitch and some delicate opening moves to the final pitch. I led unprotected except on two occasions when I stuck some metal in to protect me and tide me over a hairy move – and there were few enough of them.

The exposure (literally awful) and the rock scenery were tremendous. This is rock climbing as mountaineering rather than gymnastics. Technically very easy; there are more difficult and more complex moves to be found on the Bristly Ridge of Glyder Fach.

22/1/93 A visit to Dow

Myself and J. Parkinson, starting very late at 2pm from Turner Hall Farm in Dunnerdale, hiked up White Pike, along the Walna Scar Road and up onto Dow Crag. There was good weather and exceptional visibility. It was exceptionally windy. On Dow Crag, we could see the wind ripping waves and spray off the surface of Goat Water, and twirling the spray hundreds of feet into the air.

There was no ice or snow anywhere. We took a very pleasant walk-out, walking towards the setting sun along the edge of Seathwaite Tarn. Spent around three hours on the hill.