Hills: Dodd (Skiddaw)
Wainwrights: ditto (no.65)
When: Friday 24 February
who: Me and the mountaineering minion
Time on hill: 2 hours
Time in car that morning: 3 hours
Time in car the previous evening: 7 hours
Time spent queueing to get through Dartford Tunnel: 2 hours
Time spent after hill driving to Scotland: 3 hours
Total time in car to time on hill ratio: 6 to 1 (argh!)
Bog factor: zero
Other cock-ups: one (details below)
Those of you who read what I post will be familiar with the concept that what I post will usually involve one of the following: a transport related cock-up; a booze related cock-up; a miscellaneous cock-up of some description; and a hill walk of some description. Well this walk had more or less the lot although booze was this time not much in evidence.
The scenario: we were heading to Edinburgh for a week to chill out and see friends and family. Stuart also had all important tickets to Murrayfield to see Scotland play Wales. I had a days holiday I needed to use up so a plan was hatched.. I would drive up early, pit stop on the M6 somewhere and do a hill in the Lakes. Stuart scored a cheap flight on the EasyJet and we would rendezvous at his parents at some point after the walk/ flight.
This should have worked. In the absence of Storm Doris it probably would have. However bad weather has a habit of bringing London to its knees. I left work a bit early and was in the car at 5.. high hopes of making it up the motorway a decent way and pit stopping near Lancaster. I’d left the Travelodge booking fluid to see where I ended up.
7pm and I’m just about through the Dartford Tunnel and one of the worst tail backs I can remember. 8.30 and I’m stopping at a service station on the M1 about 20 miles short of the M6 trying to find somewhere to stay the night having abandoned all hope of getting to Lancaster. It doesn’t help that I forget my Days Inn password and therefore can’t make a booking for one of their hotels and all the M6 Travelodges seem to be full. Fortunately I manage to locate a Travelodge about 5 miles off the motorway near Stoke that has a room available and eventually get going again having wasted half an hour. More bloody awful traffic ensues and by the time I leave the M6 I’m knackered and get slightly lost. I eventually get to the hotel at about 11.45, phone Stuart, drink a glass of wine and pass out…
5am and I’m awake again. Curses!! I try and go back to sleep and fail miserably. At 6.30 I give up, make myself a cup of tea and stagger into the shower. Another cup of tea and a fat coke ensue and I’m on the road by 7.30. It’s a glorious morning! I stop for petrol and to stuff in a banana and keep going.
At about 10.30 I pull off the M6 and take the A66 to Keswick. Plans were fluid; with a good forecast the ideal was to go for Blencathra. However it was plastered in snow and given the journey so far, the lack of sleep and the fact my crampons and ice axe were in Scotland meant sense had to prevail. I was under equipped and over tired and conscious I had another 3 hours drive afterwards to get to Stuart’s family. Time for a plan B! Dodd, near Keswick reputedly had great paths and a great view. Decision made I was eventually parked up at Mirehouse shortly before 11. Geared up, paid the fee for the pay and display ticket stuck it in my pocket and got going up the hill..
The initial bit of the walk seemed to take forever. Great paths but I’m not a big fan of walking through trees. Plus the decision to wear the winter lined trousers was wrong and I was boiling. Plus I was knackered! There is not much to do in that sort of scenario but dig in and keep going. Once I broke out of the trees at the Long Doors col I felt much better. My pace picked up and the views started to open out. I could finally enjoy the walk..
Then I pulled my phone out of my pocket and the parking ticket was stuck to it. Yes the one that was supposed to be displayed on the windscreen but had absent mindedly put in my pocket instead.
Arrrrgh! I took a quick map check and worked out I was prob 25 min off the summit. Either I was going to get a ticket or not but there was no point going back now. I got the hammer down and made the top in about 15 minutes. The view it had to be said was cracking all round so it was time for a load of pics and the inevitable summit selfie.
As to the journey down.. I don’t think I’ve ever done a descent that fast. The Forestry Commission website suggests it’s a 4 hour walk – I did it in 2 which at least suggests I’m not quite as unfit as I think. Back at the car and thank god no penalty! I shoved the ticket in the car and retired to the Millhouse cafe for fat Coke and a bacon sarnie both of which were very welcome. I then drove into Keswick for a massive coffee and to Castlerigg stone circle for a potter about.
Only another 3 hours drive to go.. the post walk wine had to wait till I got to Stuart’s parents early that evening.
Dodd is a nice walk and a good way to break a journey. The whole episode however was a bit of a catalogue of disaster and possibly a bit mad. Still good to get out though!