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Lakes 2014: Four and a bit to Helvellyn
Trip Report

Lakes 2014: Four and a bit to Helvellyn

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Lakes 2014: Four and a bit to Helvellyn

Page Type: Trip Report

Location: England, Europe

Lat/Lon: 54.52677°N / 3.01727°W

Object Title: Lakes 2014: Four and a bit to Helvellyn

Date Climbed/Hiked: Jul 13, 2014

Activities: Hiking

Season: Summer

 

Page By: markhallam

Created/Edited: Aug 10, 2014 / Aug 12, 2014

Object ID: 908332

Hits: 725 

Page Score: 83.69%  - 17 Votes 

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Introduction

Four and a bit to Helvellyn 2014
Wee Ee demonstrates cheesing manoever

“Oh – Look! You’ve been cheesed!” said my son Andy, peering interestedly at the pungent yellow smear just above my left knee.  The originator of the oily splodge, Andy’s daughter Eevee – my granddaughter – had already moved on in search of another leg to pull up on. Mangled bit of Brie in hand, she was now crawling briskly across the cafe floor towards a group who had just entered. Seeing the expressions on their faces, I could tell that reception would be mixed, right round the spectrum from alarm, to curiosity and on to frank adulation...

But my other son the Uncle and daughter the Auntie had already moved in to intercept...

I returned to the matter of the crushed brie impregnated into my leggings. Our little expedition had not even begun yet – and so it seemed reasonable to assume that the ‘cheesed’ area would be maturing nicely by the time of our return to civilisation. I went on to speculate that in previous expeditions I was accustomed to the rather different hazards of strained body parts, the odd bit of lightning – and trying to avoid an unsolicited trip into a crevasse. True, a certain amount of grunginess could be involved – although never before to the point of actually wearing ripe soft cheese – and before having even set foot on the mountain...

But this expedition was going to be something a bit special.

Any moderately numerate reader could have surmised thus far, that we were a party of five. Actually, as the title suggests we were four and a bit... since the fifth and smallest member of the party was only 11 months old, topped the scales at no more than 8kg - and was not yet (reliably) ambulant. At 53 years of age, I was the oldest and fattest – topping the scales at no less than about 90kg. I was also Grandfather, Father and Expedition Leader. But in terms of height ranking – I was only at number 4 out of 5 – just one above baby Eevee. My three children; Keith (23), Andy (20) and Fiona (17) are all taller than me.

Four and a bit to Helvellyn 2014
The Helvellyn team

The special bit about this expedition was that it was going to involve a multigenerational attempt to camp out in the wilds and climb a mountain. Our four and bit members spanned some three generations of family. I am representative of the third generation to climb mountains – and, with a little assistance, baby Eevee would come to represent the fifth... Andy her father, had started at age three years – so thought he’d get one up on the old man by starting his daughter off before she was even a year old.

Unfortunately Eevee’s Mum, Angela couldn’t join us on this little venture since she was working – or perhaps she’d had the good sense to stay out of something which promised to be extremely messy at best...

The mountain chosen for Eevee’s first climb was Helvellyn – at 950m/3116ft, the 2nd highest mountain and 3rd highest summit in England (after the ‘Scafell’s’). Andy and I already had a bit of history with Helvellyn, having spent the night in a snowcave right on the very summit, in the exceptional snow of April 2013 – 4 months before his daughter was born.

I had a bit more personal history with the mountain having traversed it as part of The Patterdale Round on a glorious day in May 2012 – and then as recently as March 2014, when I camped up by a very frozen Red Tarn, from where I climbed it twice in full winter conditions – once via Swirrel Edge and once via Number Two Gulley – the latter which I wrote up as a route page on SP.

The plan for the current multigenerational family expedition also included camping by Red Tarn – but then climbing Helvellyn via either Striding or Swirral Edge, depending on the weather and/or factors as yet unknown, as determined by the youngest member of the party.

Four and a bit to Helvellyn 2014
Eevee, aged 11 months, setting out to experience her first night in a tent, as well as to climb her first mountain

Ascent to Red Tarn

Four and a bit to Helvellyn 2014
Aunty Fiona got to carry the baby

About an hour after the cheesing, the expedition was assembled in the car park by the Patterdale Hotel, at the foot of a distant Helvellyn. The next challenge involved a rise in elevation of some 2000ft (600m) associated with a horizontal distance of around 3 miles – to reach the little mountain lake of Red Tarn. Not that much in say, Alpine terms... however there were a number of heavy items to transport not least including a family tent – and Eevee herself. These ‘items’ alone weighed in at close to 10kg each – and there were plenty other items; not to forget that Wee Ee herself, probably required at least her own body weight in supporting equipment. We had things organised such that Aunty Fiona got to ‘carry the baby’ – and not much else – keeping her load down to no more than 10kg. Keith, Andy and I would have to carry all the expedition clobber, including both girls personal kit – and our loads would weigh at least 15kg.

Four and a bit to Helvellyn 2014
Grisedale - initial ascent up sunny green slopes in background

 As we prepared to take up our loads and cast off, I was keeping an anxious eye on the weather. The most up to date forecast that morning had been far from encouraging: with the promise of rain showers, some of which would be heavy, moving up from the southwest. Having picked the far northeast corner of the Lake District, we were in the bit that would be the last to get wet – but nonetheless, we could take it as a certainty – get wet we would; it was merely a matter of when...

But for now, as we set off, it was still dry – and even a little bit sunny...

A kilometre of main road led us out of Patterdale and to the left turn leading up into the pretty valley of Grisedale. From here we walked up a narrow windy lane ascending upwards through a bit of forest. After about another kilometre of this, we came out of the trees into open countryside. At this point a track deviated off to the right. We followed this, crossing the main river in the valley bottom – and started the long rising traverse spanning the northern side of the valley – up towards the still distant landmark of ‘The Hole in the Wall’.

The Hole in the Wall is where the path divides: one branch heading horizontally to Red Tarn and Swirral Edge – and the other angling upwards towards Striding Edge.

The two young men bounded off up the path – and I regretted that their rucksacks had been smaller than mine – making it harder to load them up like mules. My rucksack was the only one which easily accommodated the big family tent – slung across the top – so I reckoned that my load was slightly heavier than theirs. To be fair to them, both had offered to swap – but I’d preferred to keep my own pack, which fitted me and whose waist belt was adjusted to keep as much weight as possible away from my dodgy spine.

So I followed at a more circumspect pace – and had Fiona and Eevee for company for the first 1000ft of ascent. For the moment Eevee was quite happy cooing and burbling to passing sheep – and showing no signs of the boredom which could lead to sticky substances being found in Fiona’s long hair and/or outright rebellion. I noticed Fiona, wisely, had tied her hair up to make this form of entertainment a little harder to pursue...

We passed various parties descending the path, having come down from the Lake – and/or one of the Helvellyn trade routes. The odd composition of our party did attract a certain amount of attention – especially around the issue of wee Ee’s exact origins. The lack of an obvious mother in the party clearly resulted in a certain amount of confusion as to the exact dynamics of the situation – assuming people thought 17 year old Fiona, a trifle young for the privilege. However the searching and sometimes slightly puzzled facial expressions prompted Fiona to comment: “S’pose it must look pretty strange: someone your age, half way up a mountain with a baby and three teenagers... “

This puzzled me: “Hang about – three teenagers? At the latest count I make it only one" although I did agree on the number of old gits and babies...

“No – it’s three... Keith and Andy are still teenagers by the way they behave, especially Keith!”

I sensed we were moving towards something which could manifest as an outbreak of inter-sibling conflict in due course – and steered conversation towards less controversial areas.

A little while later we came across the two ‘teenagers’ sunning themselves by the path. We all stopped for a drink and a snack – and also to give Eevee a break from the confines of her backpack. Thus far she had made no complaint – but it made sense to keep ahead of the game, so to speak. Despite the numbers of sheep round about, we found we had picked a relatively dropping free patch of hillside – and Eevee could have a little wander without the need to worry too much about culinary experimentation with anything she found. Besides which, Andy had already provided a more attractive alternative to sheep pooh in the form of a regular supply of dried mango flakes.

Four and a bit to Helvellyn 2014
Andy applies the Factor 50 to his daughter

Andy was already wearing some of this mango – since it had been applied to his leg in much the same way as the cheese had been applied to mine a few hours earlier – as his daughter demonstrated her little party trick of pulling herself up to standing, without remembering to either drop or finish eating whatever was in her hand. Prompted by the still slimy patch on my leg, I was able to put it to Andy that he could consider himself ‘Mangoed’...

There was a temporary interruption to Eevee’s good humour when, in deference to the intermittently strong beams of sunlight reaching us, the factor 50 had to be applied. Ignoring the yells of protest Andy carried out this unpopular fatherly duty with grim determination.

Four and a bit to Helvellyn 2014
Wee Fi and Wee Ee high above distant Patterdale

 Although it was still warm and dry, looking to the southwest – and the direction in which we were headed – some darker bottomed clouds were beginning to appear, with a sort of milky opaqueness behind. All the signs were that what we knew was on the way was approaching steadily.

“We need to get on up there and get the tents up” said Andy, reflecting my exact same thoughts. We all shouldered our loads – wee Ee back on Fiona’s back – and started off up the path again. As before, Keith and Andy shot off ahead, whilst I brought up the rear with the two ladies.

My damaged back had begun to protest at the 15kg+ of a load I was carrying and Fiona had started to observe that her shoulders were aching – and so it was with a little relief that we arrived at the hole in the wall. The team re—grouped for a another short break – and some minor rebellion responded to addition of a little more clothing to combat the cooling effects of a strengthening breeze – and a bit more mango.

Four and a bit to Helvellyn 2014
Fiona discovered that there was mobile reception

 A short distance beyond the hole in the wall, the summit block of Helvellyn was in view, but Red Tarn still out of sight at the base – and about a 2/3 mile ahead of us. Just at that moment Fiona’s mobile phone rang, startling her – and in due course I heard her telling somebody “...you’ll never believe where I am just now!”

The sky beyond Helvellyn was getting increasingly murky and we soon said goodbye to the sun, as the milky overcast moved overhead. As we approached the Lake, the wind continued to pick up. Fiona had some spontaneous grumpiness erupt from her passenger, which we thought was down to these blasts of cooler air. But it turned out to be tiredness – since within a few moments Eevee was fast asleep.

We caught up with Keith and Andy, packs off and prospecting for tent sites at the Lake side. There were indeed some nice comfortable looking flat areas. The problem was the wind; now constant and tugging insistently at us, as we stood taking it all in.

“You’d think it would be sheltered here with all that mountain up around us” one of them observed. And indeed, the lake was completely enclosed on three sides – the 1000ft east face dead ahead, Striding Edge on the left and Swirral Edge on the right. Strangely, dead ahead was where the wind was coming from...

Four and a bit to Helvellyn 2014
Circum-navigating Red Tarn - to find a camp site

“Yes” I agreed “you would - But I do know it can be really windy down here... do you remember me talking about my Dutch friend ‘The Peak Monster’? Well, he got his tent blown down here two years ago – coincidentally the day before I had a perfect day on Helvellyn... and then I had surprisingly strong winds when I camped here in March!”

I pointed to the far shore of Red Tarn, right at the bottom of the East Face “I think over there is the most sheltered spot – but even there we’re going to have some exposure... that’s where I camped in March” And I remembered that it also wasn’t so flat over there – not a problem finding a site for my little one man tent – but I knew we were going to have to search to find a much larger pitch to accommodate the big family tent.

With the wind and thickening overcast I was beginning to instinctively be on alert for the first cold drops of rain.

“We’d better get a move on” I said.

The lads shouldered their packs again – and off we strode around the lake side. Wee Ee made no comment. She had fallen asleep. “I thought it had gone quiet back there” Fiona observed.

Round at the far shore it was even harder to find a good site than I had expected. In a lot of places there was just too much of a slope. The little knoll I had camped on four months earlier was flat enough – and just big enough – but was now much too boggy (it would have been frozen hard in March).

With the light dimming progressively and ominously we launched a search which spanned the entire 250m width of the far end of the lake. The ante was upped somewhat as the first few harsh cold rain-drops impacted on exposed skin. Notably the top of Helvellyn was now lost behind a swirling vale of dark grey cloud.

Hastily we back-tracked and stood once again on the squelchy surface of my former residence; the little knoll. A decision had to be made – and quickly.

Just to the side of the knoll and practically level with the lake, was a flat area large enough for the big tent. We had previously dismissed it as being too rocky – and some of it was boggy. But on closer inspection it would do – and besides we needed plenty of rocks to anchor the tent. As anticipated the winds were less than they had been 400m away, on the other side of the water – where paradoxically there had been plenty of good pitches. However, we were still exposed to sudden blustery gusts, rocketing down from the fells above. We’d have to work fast and efficiently to get the tent pitched and secured in the relative lulls in between.

Perhaps disturbed by the latest gust – or by the cold peck of one of the early rain-drops, still (thankfully) in advance of the main event – Eevee chose that moment to wake up from her slumbers. She was not happy. We needed a tent up – right then.

Keith, Andy and I turned to the matter of the big tent. We left Fiona wrestling with her niece – who was cold now, but also wanted to be down on the ground to have a bit of a crawl – with a small stream and other wet bits to contend with...

As I remembered from last time I erected this tent; it was an absolute sod to put up – and especially in a wind. It was a big Volkswagen Beetle shaped dome. Being very large it wanted to go everywhere but where we wanted it to go every time there was a gust of wind. Somehow we had to get four long rickety poles threaded through sleeves criss-crossing the rather aged and delicate fabric. Unlike modern poles, these had fabric snagging metal cuffs at every join. And with the elasticity of the shock-cord within having faded long before, there was no longer enough pull to stop the joins from falling apart.

I have to say, putting the bloody tent up was not the highlight of this trip. Keith and Andrew, affected by the frustration of the moment fell relentlessly into inter-sibling conflict as they barked curt orders at each other – and even at Fiona, who wasn’t far enough away to avoid catching the odd stray bit of flack.

Somehow – I don’t quite know how – the infernal poles got threaded, eventually down the right sleeves, and held together just long enough to – between gusts – get the tent stood up and at least partially secured to the ground. Aware that we didn’t have long until the next blast came and knocked it all over again, I worked like a Trojan rounding up boulders...

Four and a bit to Helvellyn 2014
The camp site - between rain squalls. Note rocks holding tent down.

“Isn’t that hurting your back Dad?” asked Fiona, solicitously.

Yes – it did hurt my back. But I was a man who had camped on Aconcagua. I knew about wind. And hurting back and all, I knew we had to have rocks... LOTS AND LOTS OF ROCKS!! Keith’s function had turned towards being movable ballast – with the very responsible job of ensuring our new home didn’t take off whilst the securing process continued. Most of the ground was too stony for tent pegs. Even when one could be squeezed in, I found myself distrustful – and added the additional reassurance of a large rock over the top.

Finally, the tent exoskeleton was just secure enough to be tentatively let go of. Keith was released. And we then swiftly moved Fiona with her still wriggling and protesting cargo inside – with as much of the baggage as possible. Andy and Keith joined her – but their function now was to erect the two inner sleeping compartments, on either side of a largish central living space – presently occupied by Fiona, Eevee and the rucksacks.

Outside Grandpa continued rolling rocks until satisfied that we had an Aconcagua grade pitch. All the main load bearing guys were secured to boulders of up to 15kg in weight. And the weather side of the tent was protected by a low windbreak of more boulders – some of which were also acting as additional anchor points.

At that moment the sky burst open.

I darted inside the tent just as clouds of rain came lashing down, crackling noisily against the now taut green canopy. Inside was a little oasis of (relative) order – and dryness. We had fortuitously fitted in between the boggy areas and our new residence boasted a clean dry patch of grass for Wee Ee to explore, without the inconvenience of soaking up bog-water.  The lads had already nearly finished fixing up the two inner compartments.

I had assumed that the youngsters and very youngster would occupy the two sleeping compartments. Andy would be with Eevee in one – nobody was volunteering to join him... although this in turn put together the unlikely and not always cordial combination of Fiona and Keith. I was tempted to unroll my sleeping mat and bag in the space between the two compartments. The space was plenty dry enough – although the ground outside was rapidly becoming saturated as rain continued to lash down.

I decided to stick to my original plan to erect my little one man tent, which we had also brought up. This would avoid cutting into Wee Ee’s romping area and would also get my gear out of the way to facilitate cooking... it was already approaching 6pm and Andy was beginning to make getting hungry noises.

When the intensity of the drumming of the rain diminished perceptibly, I threw on a cagoule and made to exit the tent.

“Do you need a hand Dad?” someone enquired. I didn’t need a hand. My little Integral Designs Mk1 ‘Lite’ was a cinch to erect, even in a wind. I found a suitable level area, relatively free of stones and bog and had it up and defying the elements in less than 5 minutes – and sleeping things out, ready and waiting.

I turned to the issue of dinner. We’d need lots of water – so I fetched every container we had from the big tent – and filled them from the lake. Having only put on a waterproof top, my bottom half took a bit of a soaking in the still quite intense rain squalls outside. No matter – I was wearing leggings, which would dry in no time. But a spin-off from this was that I noticed I had lost my cheesy patch by the time I got back in the dry again.

Four and a bit to Helvellyn 2014
Wee Ee and her Dad inside the tent

Back inside the large tent I got into a well practiced catering routine, which had become 2nd nature on Aconcagua in 2011 – and then was used to good effect on the very summit of Mont Blanc, almost exactly a year before. Stove and water – on. Everything laid out – just so... albeit just a bit more complex with four and a bit to feed and water. And some further complexity; with Eevee’s attempts to get in on the act – but mitigated by the team work displayed between the three siblings, in maintaining an effective wall round the cooking area.

With water boiling it was a dose each into 4 mugs with instant soup – and then a dose each into 4 freeze dried meal sachets – to be re-sealed and left to re-hydrate whilst the Potage du Poulet was consumed. Wee Ee had supplies of her own, fed to her by her Father – but by way of a treat I made her some Chocolat Chaud and put it aside to cool down into Chocolat Froid. When the sachets of Poulet et Riz, Carbonara du Spaghetti, Bolognaise du Spaghetti and some Indonesian concoction were ready, I distributed them with Sporks – and rounded off my routine with a quick swill of the empty mugs and La Dessert in the form of Chocolat Chaude... which was appreciated by all – except the wee one, who didn’t like her Chocolat Froid...

Four and a bit to Helvellyn 2014
Fiona and Keith discuss consequences of boundary transgressions

Andy diverted his daughter into their sleeping compartment. It was after all bedtime for babies. I detected a little anxiety as to what might be found in the nappy department – but there was nothing complex – and in due course Wee Ee was back resplendent in a pair of pristine white pyjamas. Within a remarkably short time she was in her little sleeping bag – and out for the count. I was impressed – having been convinced she’d have had to be chased round the tent until midnight before dropping. Clearly the day had tired her out.

Meanwhile out in the living area, things were less tranquil.

Keith and Fiona had opened negotiations on the matter of border conflict within their living compartment. Both were laying down the law on boundary incursions – which whether deliberate or accidental, would be treated as hostile and dealt with most severely. As regards the exact nature of ‘severely’ I don’t propose to even go there...

Rain continued to spatter against the tent canopy outside – although the intensity varied. The general gloom started to deepen – and with it being well after 9pm, we could presume it was approaching dusk rather than worsening of the storm.

With Wee Ee out for the count, I started to find that at the very opposite end of the expedition age scale, that the exertions of the day were taking their toll on me as well – and I was starting to ‘nod’. Leaving the youngsters to continue their still animated discussions, I took my leave and bid them all a very good night – especially Andy, who would be bound to hear from his daughter before morning.

Back in the very familiar environs of my little tent, I found that summer temperatures a mere 700m above sea level were a trifle warm for my Mountain Equipment down bag – and I left it open.

Striding edge

Four and a bit to Helvellyn 2014
Early morning view

Four and a bit to Helvellyn 2014
Morning after the night before

I was half awake enough at various points through the night, to clock that the rain carried on – and even intensified from a pitter patter to a waterfall roar for an interval. Sleepily I made a mental note that we probably wouldn’t be climbing Helvellyn in the morning – and that we’d have the major pain of having to cope with packing up sodden tents – especially the big one.

A little before 5am I heard sounds which suggested Wee Ee was on the go. Some deeper pitched sound suggested Andy was reacting. I don’t know what he did, but the sounds diminished – and peace resumed (apart from the incessant rain – returned back to mere pitter patter levels).

I woke again at about 7am. The inside of my tent was illuminated with the dim orange which signified day light, albeit not very bright. But I couldn’t hear rain. I unzipped the door and looked out to see saturated grass – and thick mist cutting all from view bar a few metres of lake. But it wasn’t raining.

I heard a low murmuring coming from the direction of the big tent. It sounded civil in pitch, so presumably wasn’t to do with a border dispute in Keith and Fiona’s compartment. If there was action then I presumed there would be a need for coffee. Cursing my sore and un-bendy spine I wrestled on sufficient clothing and boots to get up – and struggled out of my little orange bubble.

Four and a bit to Helvellyn 2014
Wee Ee giving the old guy a hand up Striding Edge

Inside the big tent the big ones were sort of awake.  Wee Ee looked by far the brightest inhabitant – and beamed at me from the entrance to her sleeping compartment. Coffee was definitely required by the others, as well as by me – and I soon had the stove roaring, followed by the appearance of 4 big mugs of life-giving nectar.

After coffee and breakfast, Keith Andy and Eevee set off to annexe an island they had noticed about 100m from camp – and looming eerily out of the mist.

That done, all returned to the tent to consider an agenda for the day. It still wasn’t raining – but visibility was still about nil. This didn’t rule out an ascent of Helvellyn – but enthusiasm was lacklustre without the prospect of a view. Still – I took a couple of compass bearings from the map, which could potentially enable us to navigate across the summit plateau in zero visibility if need be. We decided we’d wait until 11am before making a decision...

At 10am the mist dispersed – and the cloud level migrated about half way up Helvellyns east face. Despite the forecast for impenetrable overcast, stray beams of sunlight began to burn through – drying both tents in minutes – and notably any nearby rocks. Striding Edge was on!

Four and a bit to Helvellyn 2014
Camp in the sun as we left for Striding Edge

We packed one day-sack for Keith and Andy to share in carrying. I would have the pleasure of carrying my Granddaughter.  Having traversed Striding Edge 2 years before, I was happy to volunteer to carry her along the odd bit of path below the crest wherever it seemed safest to do so, carrying so precious a cargo. This would give all the kids the opportunity to enjoy scrambling the entire way. I had also promised Andy that if at any time it seemed unwise to continue, then I would be happy to take Eevee back – and possibly go up Swirral edge and meet them on the top.

A wander round the lakeside followed by a short grassy plod put us up on the famous crest in about half an hour. We soon reached the scrambley section. Wee Ee and I kept with the main party for the most. The route, as I remembered, was mildly and pleasurably exposed – and any climbing was dead easy. As I said to the kids “if you are running out of good holds you are off route!” However, wherever there was an easier alternative, I took it, as I had promised my son that I would.

We reached a long straight section which involved balancing right along the very crest for about 100m. There was a bit of wind blowing across – and a gust could potentially disturb stability, so I dropped down to the path about 5m below the crest. The path was right out of the wind and so I was able to make fast progress to the end of the section – and be in time to scramble up and photograph the kids approaching.

We soon reached what I recalled as the crux of the scramble – a castellated section, which included an exposed descent to a saddle – and thence the final airy trail up to the summit plateau. Andy, scrambling at point, was concerned:

Four and a bit to Helvellyn 2014
On the crest of Striding Edge

 

Four and a bit to Helvellyn 2014
On the crest of Striding Edge

“I don’t know how you’ll feel about this bit with Eevee Dad!” he called up.

Eevee was perfectly happy – chuckling and cooing at the precipitous surroundings and swirly wreathes of mist. The rocks were as dry as a bone – and there was no potentially de-stabilising wind.

“Its fine Andy – big holds all over the place” I replied.

And it was. But I still moved very methodically, one limb at a time, testing every hold thoroughly before committing to it. I reached the saddle. The difficulties, such as they were, were now over. All that remained was a mere 300ft of steep zig-zag trail up to the summit plateau.

Half an hour later we were all gathered at the big cross shaped stone wind-break, just below the summit – designed to provide shelter in any wind direction. We’d already had a group photo taken by a friendly passer-by. There was now very little wind – nevertheless, it seemed wise to let Wee Ee have her summit romp with as much shelter as possible. However, some restrictions to her freedom had to be imposed when she started displaying an appetite for the gravel that was underfoot. Eventually she settled for a breakfast cookie instead – but not before voicing her annoyance at being denied.

Four and a bit to Helvellyn 2014
Looking back at Striding Edge from just below Helvellyn summit

A little while later Uncle Keith ceremoniously lifted her up on top of the trig point at the true summit.

Somewhat proprietarily Andy and I observed that a tent had been erected near the true summit – right on the spot we had occupied in our snow-cave 15 months earlier. There seemed to be several parties of heavily laden teenagers around whom we presumed were on Duke of Edinburgh Award expeditions – and it seemed likely that the summit tent was acting as base for their assessors.

I peered over the top of the east face to see mossy slopes and crags dropping precipitously away down to our camp 1000 feet below. It seemed extraordinary to think that I had climbed those same slopes with 2 ice axes and crampons on hard frozen snow, just 4 months before.

Four and a bit to Helvellyn 2014
The team at the summit

 

Four and a bit to Helvellyn 2014
Eevee's first summit!

Clouds were now swirling around the summit and shutting off the view. It was time to go down anyway. Andy wanted to carry his daughter along the rest of the summit plateau and scooped her up into his arms, as I followed with the empty back-pack.

After about 200m we reached the top of Swirral Edge – and our descent route back down to the lake – and the tents. Eevee went back into the back-pack at this point. We moved carefully down the easy scramble – mostly just steep rubbley trail, but the odd little bit requiring use of the hands.

We were back down at the tents around midday. I felt extremely fortunate that the unexpected weather improvement was going to allow us the luxury of packing up dry tents – albeit that the big family tent was still going to be a pain.

Fiona reverted back to Eevee minding since the ground was still a bit too damp to let her loose on. I happily left Keith and Andy rolling heavy rocks and collapsing the big tent. There came a brief return to the terse barking of orders interspersed with curses not really fit for Eevee’s ears as they struggled with getting the infernal poles slid out of their sheathes – and re discovered how annoying it was when the accursed sections kept separating prematurely.

Meanwhile I packed up my own tent and possessions – and joined them in time to fold up a sleeping compartment.

Four and a bit to Helvellyn 2014
Starting descent of Swirral Edge

 

Four and a bit to Helvellyn 2014
The return to Patterdale

In due course all was packed away. With consumables consumed there was more space all round in the rucksacks – and Andy, in deference to my advanced age and general spinal frailty, generously volunteered to carry the big tent, lashed to the top of his back pack. Fiona once again got to carry the baby.

It took an hour to pack so we were off again soon after 1pm. As if to make up for the earlier inaccuracies of the weather forecast the clouds came in again as they had been supposed to be – and we faced a brief rain shower. But before any of us reached the point of dragging out waterproofs the sun broke through again – and we were dry the rest of the way.

We were back at the car not long after 2pm. After brief stop for petrol and to stock up on drink we hit the road for what we hoped would be a routine trip home. However, the Mango chips put paid to that. Someway between Penrith and Scotch Corner something happened which realistically no nappy made by man could be expected to withstand. For maybe 20 minutes Father and Son, the Grandfather and Father crouched shoulder to shoulder in a lay-by – doing what had to be done, whilst junior member of the expedition did everything she could to try and wriggle away. Fortunately there was a near inexhaustible supply of wet wipes, large plastic bags – and another spare set of clothing – so, somewhat heroically, the deed got done – and presently we were on the way again.

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