Scale and Polish
Scale and Polish – 214 summits in 214 days
I had my first appointment today with my dentist and long time running friend, Brian Clough, in Windermere. I always choose his earliest 8.30am slot, so there’s no waiting if he’s running late. I get whisked in first as soon as he’s ready. I’ve been seeing too much of Brian in the last couple of years, professionally at least. It was some relief to hear I would only need a scale and polish.
My day had started much earlier, before 5am. I’m always an early riser, waking up like clockwork around the same ungodly hour each morning. It really is the best time of the day. I love having the house all to myself before the family wakes. I can get through a lot of work in my office without any interruptions.
A second appointment of the morning was with the Wainwrights around Coniston Old Man. It was an absolutely gorgeous day. As I’ve got such an understanding employer, me, I can be super flexible with my working hours.
The drive from Windermere, through Ambleside and along the road to Coniston was spectacular. I had to pinch myself that soon I’d be up high in the snowy hills on a ‘normal’ working day. I parked at the Walna Scar Car park, jogging the bridleway to the quarry road. Now the steep climb up the little worn trod that winds to the summit.
I’ve been up this route many, many times. Coniston Old Man is one of my favourite launch sites for flying my paraglider, especially on those long summer evenings. Today the trod soon disappeared under snow, and my rhythm was shot to pieces by superb views. I just had to capture them with my camera.
This snow was perfect. Frozen hard so I didn’t sink. The surface giving just enough for my studs to grip. A light north easterly breeze made the air cold. I made good progress. The Old Man trig point was half buried in a windblown cornice. The summit ridge another world of snow and ice, under a blue, blue sky. In the distance, the Isle of Man hung above the sea.
The shapely domed cairn on Brim Fell is only a few minutes from the Old Man. My route from here was going to take me down the steep snow slope to the col, then up the climb of Dow Crag.
Bounding strides were the way forward. Enough to make deep prints, braking my speed.
I was soon at the col, making the climb through snow and rock. Hard snow had filled gaps around the summit rocks, making it easier than usual to reach the top.
I contoured round Brim Fell, grateful that someone else had broken the trail yesterday, compacting the snow and helping with my own progress. Spindrift had filled in some of the foot steps in places, so they suddenly disappeared for a few metres, starting again on the other side.
I was confident crossing some steep snow slopes that plummeted down over crags, although I didn’t look down until I was safely across. Near the col, lovely sculptures in the snow, made by the wind, a mini Alpine world. A jet black raven flew overhead, so close I could see the glint in it’s eye.
A short climb to the cairn on Grey Friar, with dramatic views of Scafell.
Downhill through softer snow and another short climb to Great Carrs, passing the memorial to the crashed aircraft from the second world war.
Hurdles of drifting snow up to Swirl How, then a joyful descent on compacted hard snow, padded down by walkers, with views of Levens Water glistening below.
Wetherlam was the morning’s final summit, and the toughest climb of all. The midday sun now softening the snow, my feet going down to shin level on every step.
This made the descent great fun, and it was with some sadness that I left the snow line behind. Reaching partly frozen bog near the tarn, I ran along easy familiar trails back to my van.
I drove to Ambleside for a late lunch at the Apple Pie Bakery, bumping into my friend Aled Butler and his little boy Charlie. He told me he’s been enjoying the Wainwright posts, a good enough reason as any for a name check. I was home in good time to pick my own son Ash up from school.
7 Wainwright summits today, that’s 70 down, 144 to go.
© Graham Patten
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