A Lucky Horseshoe
A Lucky Horseshoe – 214 Summits in 214 Days
Thick, dark grey cloud hung over the tops like a blanket. It didn’t look promising at all. Yet first thing this morning it all looked so good when I left my home in Kendal. The Kentmere peaks white with late spring snow. Clear blue skies and not a cloud in sight.
This morning was my only window of opportunity to get a long run in, before a family trip to the West Coast over the Bank Holiday weekend. So I’d set off early, and was now parked up in Little Town in the Newlands Valley, jogging up the road, wondering what the morning had in store for me.
Deep snow lay amongst the heather and had drifted onto the narrow path running along the ridge up to the first summit of Ard Crags.
It was shin deep, the top few centimetres were frozen, making the going hard work. Running was impossible. So it was hands on knees, post holing upwards. I’d hoped the snow was windblown along the ridge, making progress easier, yet it had drifted into a deep cornice.
The views made up for the difficult underfoot conditions. Sunlight was streaming over the Catbells ridge, warming the air. Creating spectacular thermal clouds, quickly rising and enveloping the higher tops.
The going became slightly easier along to Knott Rigg, and running became child’s play. I had a huge smile on my face.
Robinson was shrouded in thick white cloud. Wet bog lay under the soft snow. All I could do was keep pushing on as best I could, round Buttermere Moss, then up the steeper slopes, into the mire. There were great views behind me.
Then as I neared the summit, a total white out, the cairn just about the only dark object around. I needed a compass bearing to find my way off to the col of Littledale Edge, following the fence and bounding downhill in huge steps in the deep snow.
I stopped, mesmerised. The cloud was lifting, sunlight was getting through. In seconds the sky was bright blue and the whole of Hindscarth appeared out of nowhere. Again, the climb to the top was an effort, then the fun of the downhill, and a nice ridge run to Dale Head.
Slabs of snow came loose on the descent to Dalehead Tarn, rolling away into huge snowballs. Another grunt up High Spy, thermal cloud swirling around the cairn.
The final run for home along the ridge down to Maiden Moor was a blast, the snow wasn’t as deep, and patches of heather and grass were showing through. The first walkers of the morning appeared, all wrapped up, overloaded with big rucksacs, ice axes strapped on the back.
Catbells was my final summit, looking stunning with the late spring snow.
I changed back at my van, and drove to Rheged, to my friend Peter Sidwell’s cafe, for a strong flat white coffee, and eggy muffins with crispy pancetta.
I flicked through the photos. This is surely my favourite Lakeland horeshoe, and this morning, a lucky one at that.
I got back home to Kendal just after midday. My little boy Ash excited about heading off soon for a train ride on La’al Ratty, and wild camping somewhere nearby on the coast.
8 Wainwright summits today, that’s 128 down, 86 to go.
© Graham Patten