Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Leg 2: to Wasdale (August attempt)

View from the Breakfast Bar at Wasdale

Road crossing is quick, fresh shoes and socks after a quick foot massage as well as a bit too much warm rice & bananas but I am terribly aware of the consequences of not eating enough. After about 6 minutes I am ready to get away and Rob leads off into the darkness. Grey Knotts is an awkward climb that does everything it can to prevent a steady rhythm developing and before long I am struggling to keep up with Rob and Doug. A quiet word from Chris and the pace eases. Rob was and maybe still is puzzled because he was only trying to maintain the pace we used previously but this time I have eaten so much that I feel sick. I know, however, that it will pass and all I have to do is hang on and try not lose too much time. Over Grey Knotts and Brandreth to the climb to Green Gable and although this section is a little slow we are still 10 minutes ahead and I am beginning to enjoy this, my favourite section of the route.

Even in the dark the character of each of these hills is striking and Great Gable's steep rocky sides are a pleasure to ascend. Leaving the summit we know dawn isn't far away and that the darkness hasn't prevented us keeping to the schedule. Descending isn't a great strength of mine and Great Gable provides a number of entertaining routes to Beck Head and this time the rocks are dry and I am happy with darkness and dry rock - the last time it was daylight and very wet. The cold northerly wind suddenly makes its presence felt here and we stop to put another layer on and despite that the split times for this leg are within 1 minute of each other with the June attempt the quicker. Kirk Fell provides an opportunity to start eating again as the first traces of the new day can be seen in the sky. No spectacular sunrise but a gradual draining away of the darkness as we climb Pillar. There is a lot to be said for a morning start but nothing quite compares to the soaring spirits that daylight brings - I know a morning start involves a new day too but by that time I was so tired that even dawn couldn't make things seem that much better.

Seven minutes ahead at Pillar and we see broken clouds on the high fells around us. It is just not possible to not look over to Scafell where the biggest climb on the route awaits but that is a distraction that has to be shut out - Steeple is the next summit that matters and it is only ever the next summit that matters. Low swirling clouds rob us of the views down Ennerdale from Steeple and I think about a hot sunny afternoon on a recce in June, sitting on Steeple's summit wondering if it was possible for life to get any better. Turning our backs on Ennerdale we head towards Wasdale. Chris continues to ensure I eat and drink enough, Rob continues to encourage while they alternately route find and hang back to shepherd me to the next summit. Doug carries and provides food and drink on demand - I can't ask for anything more from the three of them.

Red Pike is crossed, Dore Head passed by and Yewbarrow reached in sunshine at twenty to seven on an unforgetable, beautiful morning and from here it is really difficult not to glance over to the slopes of Scafell. Down the scree for breakfast of rice pudding and bananas with a view down Wasdale to die for.


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