Paul and I had walked over Kinder Scout three days before as we didn’t believe that the snow would have cleared from the roads in time for us to drive to the Lakes. As luck would have it we would be able to walk twice in a week. Given that I’d got this golden opportunity (pass from Shirl) I wasn’t going to ask twice. Mark, once again was somewhere around the other side of the world, so it was just Paul and I that eventually set off from Braithwaite. I say eventually, as Paul seemed to have a 50 mph limiter on his old Rover and genuinely appeared to be passed by all manner of vehicles on route for the Lakes. We had looked at routes up Skiddaw and decided to do a circular walk over Ullock Pike and Longside Edge rather than just use the tourist path up and down from Keswick.
By Eck ! It was cold. There wasn’t much snow as we set off up the ridge, but as height was gained the dusting of snow became much more obvious. What neither of us could get over was the temperature which when combined with the wind chill factor really ensured that every available layer of clothing was donned even as we climbed the ridge. In fact looking down on Bassentwaite we could clearly see that two thirds of the lake had frozen over. In freezing temperatures the best combination of weather is when the sun shines low in the sky and endless visibility abounds. Believe it or not, that’s exactly what we had as we gained height along the highway in the sky that was Longside Edge. It was brilliant, however one look up to the summit of Skiddaw and we could see that things were about to change. Once over Carlside we took the diagonal route over the shale towards the middle top. It was so cold. The cloud had reduced the temperatures no end and the wind had built up as we trudged up through the ice encrusted shale and rock. By the time we reached the summit everything was caked in a layer of white ice. It was almost like looking at everything in black and white. Quite eerie really.
Our options at the summit were either to return the way that we had come or to try and concoct a return route by heading north. We took the latter option, and as I suggested to Paul headed towards “Dead Mans Crags”. So we set off following the ice encrusted wire fence all the way to Bakerstall where the visibility was regained and we could then fathom out roughly which way to go. Cockup was reached under overcast skies and then a beeline was made towards the “Back O Skiddaw Road”, which in turn took us along the tarmac all the way back to the car.
We hadn’t had a long walk and so given the combination of glorious sunshine and the closeness of the Castlerigg stone circle to the main road we were able to spend twenty minutes looking around this amazing Stone Age relic. What a scene this was, a series of 4000 year old standing stones neatly arranged in front of Skiddaw and Blencathra, with the whole scene bathed in the golden glow of the suns last rays of the day. This was not only a great sight, but also a total contrast to the summit a few hours earlier. What wasn’t a contrast was the pace of our return drive home. Never mind, we had had a great day that I didn’t really want to end.