Thursday, July 06, 2006

Leg 3: Wasdale to Dumail

Change of clothing, a bit of food, attention to my ankle, foot massage, fresh shoes and socks and we are off on the longest leg with the biggest climb. The Clayton team having passed us on the Yewbarrow descent leave just ahead of us but take a longer route to Scafell. Wasdale is dry and almost warm but before long the damp wind is chilling and waterproof jacket is back on.

Part way up a descending walker pauses and calls out as we climb past "I did mine about 15 years ago. Well done, just keep going". A brief acknowledgment that does little to show how much I appreciate his encouragement is all I can manage.

There is no "easy way" to do this climb and for once the clag helps by concealing how much is left to do. A gel halfway up helps and before long the gradient begins ease, providing the first indication that there might be an end to the torture.

Having previously discounted Broad Stand as an option and, in these conditions, discounting the "climbers' traverse" we go all the way down Foxes Tarn Gully that is pouring with water, washed with rain but sheltered from the wind. Passing a group of resting walkers we cause some amusement trying to run out of the bottom of the gully and up the climb to Mickledore. The 'run' up the climb doesn't last any length of time but perhaps the clag will have concealed how quickly we were reduced to walking.

Scafell Pike requires care to ensure we are not lured down the wrong descent and Broad Crag is passed just ahead of schedule while Ill Crag hides in the clag and we back track, a little, to its summit. Great End marks the end of the ridge and the end of the wet boulders that make progress so difficult. Esk Pike is soon crossed and Bow Fell reached. Retracing steps to the descent literally marks a 'turning point' on the leg because for the first time it seems instead of traveling away from Wasdale we begin to travel towards Dunmail.

Descending Bow Fell is slow and conditions underfoot are treacherous but Rossett Pike is reached about 5 minutes ahead and now the wet boulders are left behind. Pike O'Stickle seems a long way away and more than a 1000 feet above us and I think this was the part of the leg I was dreading. Having recced it early in the year the climb into the Langdale Pikes seemed hard with relatively 'fresh legs' and I wasn't looking forward to it with legs that had already done over 14,000 feet of climbing. Improved fitness, the occassion and strong support team all helped to make it far less difficult than I feared. Even Harrison Stickle's 300 feet weren't too bad and are off looking for Thunacar Knott and it looms out of the mist, right on schedule.

Sergeant Man then High Raise along with careful route finding ensures we lose no significant time but we are about 7 minutes down by Calf Crag and the same at Steel Fell. A slow, careful descent to Dunmail costs a few more minutes but arriving 15 minutes down doesn't seem too bad and I felt as though I had got through the longest leg, almost on time and in reasonable condition.

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