For years I have favoured the Scottish hills over those of the Lake District, and have been known to state in cavalier fashion that the latter are more like a children's playground. I don't know if the Lake District exists as a sentient body, but if it does, yesterday it wrought its retribution on me for those ill considered remarks.
In a recent post recording Gayle's increasing list of conquered Marilyns she included Lord's Seat, which I realised I had overlooked, having climbed a different Lord's Seat and ticking it off by mistake. "Well" I thought, it's only a children's playground peak which will be a quick up-and-downer, and looking at the forecast yesterday, on a dire morning of unremitting rain, I saw there was a weather window between 1:00pm and 3:00pm, so off I went.
There was a good path leading off the minor road and I was in happy mood because rain had abated as predicted, and I distinctly remember thinking to myself, "this is great, a typical sylvan Lake District path, and a pleasurable ascent ahead, and how clever I am for planning this so well."
I failed to notice the indistinct diversion from the path left across the stream. The path I was on continued with all appearance of being the main route. A couple of hundred yards further it started to rise steeply up loose shale and scree and I thought "this is a bit steep," but I pressed on, then found myself clutching at heather and worrying about footholds. That was when I should have turned back. But I continued to a point when I considered ascent safer than descent. It became steeper. I was sweating profusely. I was moving slowly for safety. I put my poles away in my sack because I needed hands-on all the time. I was now definitely beyond the point of no return. Looking down made me increasingly aware that this was not a place to tumble. It went on and on. Then I saw a rock band ahead blocking the way, fortunately with a rake going diagonally left, but even that had a small rock outcrop halfway up, but I had no option. I had two attempts at that rock pitch, and got into a desperate situation and came very close to coming off. After instructing myself to suppress the fear I managed by kneeling on my replacement knee which is something I do not do, but now that really was the difference between achievement and what would have been a potentially fatal fall, and it had to be done. That was serious.
After more dangerously steep scree and shale scrambling, the path cut back right horizontally, yes there was a well worn path through heather, cut out of the very steep hillside, so I reckon, despite its severity, this is a trodden route. A fall off that path would have had you rolling several hundred feet, and the path was intermittently furnished with tricky rocky steps. It lead to scree and a gully with proper rocks for footholds and handholds giving what under less stressful conditions would have been a pleasant scramble. But my two hour weather window had expired and I was enveloped in fine, highly penetrating rain with increasing wind.
Eventually after easy ground with continuing rain and limited visibility I came out on the summit of Barf. Against all likelihood in those vile conditions another figure appeared from the mist swathed in what I think was a pink plastic mac which was being ripped and swirled in the now violent wind. We took photos of each other. He was trying to retrace his steps back to Whinlatter Pass I think, and seemed to have no map or navigation equipment, but there was little I could do to advise him.
I was now, believe it or not, on my planned route to Lord's Seat which summited Barf on its way, albeit by an easier path. I continued over boggy ground, fortunately on an unmistakable path to Lord's Seat Summit only quarter of an hour away. I managed to get a murky photo but feared for the camera getting soaked.
There was a path from the summit leading to a Forestry Commision road and then a branch off to descend on the path I should have ascended by from the other side of the stream near the start. Even that path was incredibly steep, wet and slippery, and rocky with a difficult section down-climbing a mini waterfall. Great care was needed all the way and I proceeded oh so slowly. I actually fell twice, but backwards, and the slope was so steep that the arc of my body was reduced from what would have been more serious on level ground.
Back at the car I found that a lens from my expensive varifocal specs had disappeared - a small price to pay for return to safety.
I do carry spare specs.
Intermingled with this story is another mini disaster. For years I have struggled with those wretched mini military tin openers which risk a visit to A and E, and tend to bend like plasticine. I searched the Internet for a lightweight backpacker's alternative but as far as I can tell there is nothing so specialised, so I admitted defeat and decided to try and find the best household compromise in terms of weight. I saw Lakeland had a selection and because I had time to spare yesterday to coincide with the late weather window I called at Lakeland Windermere. Helped by an assistant I bought a likely looking device, but back home I realiased it was not a tin opener (less said). Today's weather prompted a non-walking day with Pete so we drove back to Lakeland and I exchanged for a £15, supposedly proper job. I have just got back home and tried it out and it is uselss. I did manage to open a tin of peas, but had juice running down the tin, and turning the mechanism only worked intermittently with a jerky, stop start action. For fifteen quid I expect better than that, so that will be going back as well.
A white painted rock prominent from the A66. I think there is a story - Google if you want
|Zoom to same|
|The Sylvan path just before the left turn to cross the stream which I missed. At this point I was in a pleasant little world of well-being|
|"This seems to be getting a bit steep?"|
I assure you it was much steeper than it looks, but we always say that don't we?
|Lord's Seat summit|
|My approximate route up Barth|
|Click to enlarge if you are thirsting for more detail|
|The incompetent tin-opener|