‘Shit! What the F*@*$? ‘. They were the first words that came to mind when my car died early on Friday evening. We (Jon Denise and me) were on our way to Kinlochleven to spend two days at the FRCC hut (think luxury) and ice climb the place to death. The problem with the car was identified as my fuel pump so that put an end to Scotland. It took nearly five hours to get back home via relay and I was only just North of Alnwick!!!! The conditions in the Lakes were supposed to be good so I arranged for Jon and Denise to pick me up late Saturday tea time, hopefully giving me enough time to get the car sorted, well booked into a garage anyways (I didn’t!).
Making use of Jon’s FRCC membership allowed us to stay at Salving House another ‘hut’ owned by FRCC at the bottom of Borrowdale. This would allow us reasonable easy access to any of the Northern Lakes crags.
An early start (well it would have been if Jon had his act together) saw us hiking up the gully from Dunmail Raise towards Grisedale Tarn and Dollywaggon. The weather forecast seemed to be a little wrong as it promised a 70% chance of clear summits and we were being snowed on! Arriving at the small col between Dollywaggon and the crag (Dollywaggon North) we realised we weren’t going to get the spectacular views of my previous weekend at the same crag. Visibility was down to around 5 metres and the wind was blowing snow everywhere.
While Jon finished off getting sorted I decided to check out the descent which would take us to the foot of the crag. Wind-slab was starting to form but not so much that I was worried, Jon confirming my theory on his descent. The route I wanted to have a go at was one I had spotted the previous weekend (Rescue Groove IV **) and looked to be in good nick. We also planned our next route, Dolly Mixture IV, for our return. The Rescue Groove follows a groove/slabs which in the current conditions were covered in lovely neve, what I wasn’t anticipating was the poor protection. However, my confidence was high and I dispatched the route with no real problems that was until I got to the cornice. The snow which was being blown around was starting to form lovely ice cream whirls at the top of the crag. I excavated a passage through and over, nearly drowning myself as I did. A further 10 minutes of bumbling and pushing through the horrendous soft snow and one almighty mantle shelf saw me on top.
Jon arrived, impressed with my gear placements (not!). We then discussed conditions and wondered what effect the falling snow was having on the already laden slopes. Following a hot drink and a bite to eat I lowered Jon over the edge so he could take a better look and make an informed decision. The decision was made to abandon as we were worried about the upper slope, again just before the cornice. 1330 hrs saw us back to Keswick and drinking tea and eating cakes (very healthy ones J)
When we arrived back down at Dunmail Raise we got talking to a local from Penrith who had just come from Nethermost cove (Further along from where we were). He informed us that he had triggered a small avalanche there. This was good confirmation about our decision to abandon. It’s so very easy to allow self imposed pressure, usually from not wanting to look like a wimp, affect your decision but in this case we were happy. As well as this I have just read of an avalanche on Pinnacle Ridge, St. Sundays that occurred Monday and which injured three people and shook another badly. Further confirmation of our decision.
Funny moment of the day, getting back to the car at the end of the day, Jon jumps in the driver’s seat and tries to turn the engine over….unfortunately Denise had forgot the lights were on and had drained the battery….not just a little bit but a big bit! So much so that it wouldn’t start with a bump. We pushed it down to the next lay-by where the Penrith local kindly accepted our request to jump start it. Of course Jon just forgot about it and never mentioned it anymore that day….did he Denise? Hahahahaha.