Hills: Place Fell
Who: just me
Time: just under 3 hours
Pre walk drink: Too many glasses of merlot
Weather: urrgh, don’t ask.
The occasion was a walking forum meet, which I had attempted to organise for the last weekend in June. It was a momentous event because it was the first ever meet up for this group which was organised outside of Scotland…. and unfortunately this seemed to put a number of people off despite my entreaties that there is plenty of good walking to be found South of the border! It was ultimately a select group, which was no bad thing as at least we could easily all find a table in the pub. The location was Patterdale, which I had never been to before but I understood was nice with a good selection of hills within easy reach. My target for the weekend – in an ideal world – was to do Helvellyn, but going by the weather forecast, it looked as though that would probably not be an option. To be frank, after doing the CMD Arete in crap weather for a friend’s compleation I did not want to do one of the classic ridges of the Lake District in similar weather not to mention risk getting blown off. This decision was vindicated nearly two years later by doing said ridge in stunning blue sky! Report to follow in due course :)
We had taken the day off to travel North which was probably just as well as it seemed to take an unfeasible amount of time to actually get there – the joys of the M6! We picked our fellow blogger Mountaincoward up in Carnforth at about 3.30 and were in Patterdale about an hour later to check into Patterdale YHA or as it shall henceforth be referred to, Stalag Patterdale. Good points: you can get a beer, a cooked breakfast and for that matter an evening meal if you particularly want to 🙂 Bad points: a small breeze block green painted room with bunk beds that were less than comfortable… and no lock on the ladies loo. 😯 And a bloke in the ladies shower the following morning! 😯 A bit of a shame really as the place is in a good location, it just clearly needs some work. On a bit of a digression I do think that youth hostels have lost the plot a bit re pricing – Patterdale was £46 per night for a 2 person private room and on looking at Glencoe for a potential weekend later in the year it was £56 for a twin – it is even worse now at £59 for a twin in Ambleside. 😯 Okay, dorm beds are still cheap but you do start to wonder whether it is worth just paying extra for a hotel or B&B which at least usually has the benefit of being en suite. Still, at least we weren’t camping, given the general sogginess of the conditions.
We met up with the assembled crew at the White Lion in Patterdale which had excellent food and decent drink as well. Needless to say a companionable few drinks were had which resulted in the inevitable slightly – okay more than slightly – sore head the following morning. 😦 Given a pants forecast any idea of doing Striding Edge had been binned and we opted to make a fairly late start. The pants forecast, unfortunately, seemed to have actually got worse by the time we shambled out of Stalag Patterdale so we opted to do a low level walk and see whether it cleared up a bit. 4 miles later we were pretty wet but the weather did not really seem to be getting any better until about 1 when it did seem to clear up a bit. Stuart was still less than convinced this would last; me being an endless optimist decided to say stuff it and go up a hill anyway. Place Fell was a reasonably quick walk and by all accounts a nice one with a good path which seemed ideal for a quick blast up and down. 🙂
The path was indeed excellent and gets you up to the low point between Place Fell and Angletarn Pikes pretty quickly. The views were pretty good and apart from the odd shower it stayed dry. Once at the low point, another excellent path winds up Place Fell. It’s steep in places but straightforward; there is one mildly scrambly bit up a rock outcrop but it can be bypassed (which I did on the way back down). There is one annoying false summit (or FFS as they shall henceforth be known) but once past that it is a simple walk to the cairn and trig point on the real top.
However, just as I was getting to the top the weather started to change namely the wind became pretty fierce although the views were still good. The trig point is perched on a rock outcrop and it was a case of flail up the outcrop, touch the trig, get back down, visit the cairn (which is apparently the true summit although when I was actually there it wasn’t obvious which was higher) take a few pictures and get the hell off the hill. The views must be cracking on a clear day and were still pretty good but it was obvious the weather was turning – it was not a day for hanging about. 😦
Blam! About 5 minutes after leaving the top the wind got up more and it started hailing. 😦 This then stopped and turned to heavy rain then back to hail. Arrrgh! It was windy enough I didn’t want to risk putting my rucksack down to extract my waterproofs in case the rucksack took off in the direction of Ullswater so by the time I got back to the low point and the rain eased off I was absolutely soaked and thoroughly miserable. 😦
Got off the hill as soon as I could and back to the youth hostel to dry off and have a quick post walk drink before meeting up with the crew back in the White Lion a bit later on. I know that some people say they find walking in ‘interesting’ conditions enjoyable because of the feeling of taking on what the weather chucks at you – and have concluded that I am not one of them! Not that this has stopped me trying to on the odd occasion subsequently, including my walk up Pen y Fan in far worse conditions last November. I must obviously be a glutton for punishment! 😦 On the plus side, climbing a mountain while getting soaked still seems to be a decent hangover cure…