So where was I? Ah yes, descending into Wasdale. More or less where civilization was reached, the snow mostly ran out too, so I had to remove my Kahtoolas and carry them while the ground was stony. A right turn toward Kirk Fell next, and height soon being gained again. I glanced across to Lingmell, guardian of the Scafells, and also to what I think is Yewbarrow. If I'm right, then this is a seriously tough start to leg 4 on legs that have just ran down one of the longest descents in England.
Unusually for me, I took a look at a map as I climbed around the flank of Kirkfell. This was uncharted territory for me - never previously had I set a foot in this natural amphitheatre called Mosedale that is formed by Pillar, Red Pike, Scoat Fell and Steeple enclosing it. I have never bagged any of those summits either. Or Yewbarrow, or Kirkfell. Maybe one day eh?
Yewbarrow is definitely in this photo (below) rising up from centre to right. At this point I had swung around more Easterly and could see ahead where Black Sail Pass was heading. Snow was getting deeper again, and the river was frozen. There were a lot of folk knocking around these parts. Several groups in fact. They mostly seemed to be off the main paths though - heading up daft ground into seemingly impenetrable rock. I realised later that many of them were climbing the icy vertices's. Must be bloody cold doing that I reckon- Ok when physically climbing but there seemed to be a lot of standing around involved.
|Gatherstone Beck on the West flank of Kirkfell. Looking to Wasdale|
Onward and upward we went. At the top of Black Sail Pass I glanced up to Kirkfell on the right before popping over the other side and into Ennerdale. I realised that to my right, between Kirkfell and Gable was the place I had been a few weeks ago with Sparky and Appleby Stu. I considered staying high and going that way under Gable to Windy Gap but figured the snow cover would make it tricky to find a good route. and anyway, I wasnt in the 'avoiding descent to save ascent' business.
|Windy Gap (skyline, centreframe).|
|zoomed in - Gt Gable in cloud|
Unfortunately this was the final photo of the day. Its from just below Black Sail Pass, (Ennerdale side), looking down to the YHA where I first went earlier this year on the recce and subsequently triumphant 50k trail race. The YHA is centre frame, with a vague wavy line directly above. I didnt go to the YHA as its beyond the stream in the valley bottom. Once I crossed the stream I tried to find a path to take me up the valley but if it exists then I never found it.
Kahtoolahs were not much use as I made my way up Ennerdale. There was nothing for them to dig into as not only was the snow getting ever deeper, but I was on a constant side slope and often struggling to move forwards at all. Windy Gap looked absolutely minuscule in the distance and I knew it would take a long time to reach there at the current rate of progress. Poor Scamp was often up to his armpits (legpits?) in the white stuff but this didnt deter him from covering his usual extra distance left, right and every which way.
Near the top I stopped to put on more gear. I wasnt working hard enough to keep warm - it was just to difficult to progress at all, never mind at a decent rate. As I sheltered to try to zip my jacket I heard voices, shouting. I looked around for an age before realising there were folk up in the crags way above me. I watched for a while in case they were stuck and signalling me - but they were obviously just some more climbers enjoying the winter conditions.
One final push and I reached Windy Gap. I didnt have any kind of upset stomach or trapped gas but it turns out that its not called Windy Gap for intestinal reasons..... But because its un-be-fuckin-leivably windy! Who'd have guessed?
Beyond the hause is an immediate drop into Aaron Slack and within just a few seconds the wind abated to a more tolerable level. I soon reached Styhead Tarn and potentially the end of the adventure. But glancing at my watch I noted it was only 3hr50 mins since Id set off and would probably be just a 20 minute descent back to the van. So I turned right instead and ran back to the Stretcher box then left up past Sprinkling Tarn to Great End buttress where I been earlier. This extra section was tough climbing in the deep loose snow, but reward came with the long descent back to Stockley Bridge where the path became an irrelevant factor. Choosing more or less any line I liked I just slid all the way back to the van, a pack of Hula Hoops (still awaiting some freeebies - I'd also take Cheesers btw) and a coffee.
4 hours 50 minutes van to van.
Guessing 20-25 minutes stationary taking pics or adding/shedding gear.
so hopefully will have been 15 miles at least - distance kinda irrelevant anyway - its all about the time out there, on my feet, pushing hard.
(an extra photo I just noticed Id taken soon after setting out. Note - to see all the photos much bigger, click on any and they will fill the screen)