- Hills: Winder
- Classification: One of the Howgill Fells, and a Tump
- When: Sunday 6 December
- Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
- Distance: 4 miles
- Time: 2 ½ hours. Too cold for any breaks
- Weather: Overcast and windy; cloud base at about 600m
- Bog factor: Relatively little
- Snow factor: Where did it go? Nothing much below the cloud line.
- Post walk drink: Malbec (of course)
- Post walk watering hole: The Dalesman, Sedbergh
- Uses of the arse crampon: One, on an unexpected tricky bit
- Mishaps: Mild insomnia, path erosion, slippery conditions underfoot
After my last blog post, it’s fair to say that things going from bad to worse in the wider world has had a negative effect on me getting off my metaphorical (and literal) arse and writing something. London having been bunged first into tier 3, about a week after I got back from my trip North, then a few days later into tier 4, had rather killed off any inspiration for writing blog posts. Whilst I understand the point of these restrictions, I can’t deny I am getting utterly fed up of them, and combined with an incredibly busy period at work in the run up to Christmas the whole thing has done nothing whatsoever for my stress levels. As I’ve said before the problem with lockdowns is that all they do is kick the can down the road and it seems that in the case of the latest ‘surging mutant virus’ as the papers have put it, it hasn’t even achieved that. At least at the time of writing there is some positive news about vaccines but that will still take time and the prospects of continuing to be unable to do so many things for another few months or so frankly isn’t great. I’d normally be using this time of year to plan adventures for the next 12 months but until we have some idea of when things will be easier there is just no point – for whatever reason it is more depressing to plan something then have to cancel it than not to plan it in the first place. Comments on certain internet forums along the lines of ‘get your virus ridden arse back to London’ don’t exactly help and nor do comments about sticking to my local hills as I don’t have any!
Anyway end rant and on with the walk! After my snowy, and somewhat slow, wander up Bonscale Pike on the Saturday, the weather forecast was not great – though promised a much better day on the Monday. I also felt pretty knackered. This was due in part probably to my long layoff from the hills and partly to a less than brilliant night’s sleep. I was also feeling slightly hung over which seemed a bit unfair as whilst I had indulged in a few glasses of Malbec the night before I had been pretty restrained – honest! I also didn’t really feel like a long drive – so the obvious thing to do seemed to be to walk up one or two of the hills behind the town. I’ve never done any walking in the Howgills before and it seemed daft to visit a range of hills I’d not been to before and not do any walking in them!
The obvious choice, given where I was staying, was to walk up Winder which is the hill directly backin onto Sedbergh. If weather conditions and energy levels allowed I could potentially extend the walk further into the Howgills but would be able to play it very much by ear. The walk looked to be pretty simple on decent paths which some nice waterfalls en route which is always a bonus. Given it was only a short walk it also meant I wouldn’t risk knackering myself out given the great forecast for the following day.
It’s always nice to start a walk straight from your accommodation and this really was exactly that – up a minor road and picking up a footpath which rises relatively gently by the side of a stream. Well for the most part it does! However, before starting to cut across the flanks of the hill, there is a bit of path which is eroded, rocky and quite close to a pretty big drop. It was also wet and whilst it posed no issues going up it was the sort of spot which did make me wonder if the arse crampon would be required on the way down. This was a little concerning as it has been so long since I have used the arse crampon that I was starting to worry I would have forgotten how to deploy it if and when the time came!
Once past this bit, the rest of the path was straightforward enough, though still slippy in parts and boggy in others (though the bog wasn’t generally too bad). The path cuts up towards a col at a gentle angle, then there is a slightly steeper bit which allows cutting off the corner. I was making heavy weather of it though which was annoying – and not helped by the fact it became clear there was a hill race that day as various fit looking people started thundering past! However, once on the ridge it was an easy wander to the view indicator on the top of Winder. The views over to the Lakes were really good, if remote, so it was time to take a few photos plus the inevitable terrible summit selfie. It was however too cold and windy to hang about for long so after about 10 minutes it was time to head back and take a call about what to do next.
Ultimately at the time of reaching the path that I’d come up, I decided that it would be better not to extend the walk. The next hill along, Arant Haw, was more or less clear and there wasn’t much snow – but it was clear that the walk the previous day had taken more out of me than it should have; I was cold and pretty tired and wanted to make sure I had enough in the tank for a decent day the following day when the forecast was much better. I took the same route back which for the most part was fine – until the rocky and slippy bit I’d come across on the way up. I had hoped it might have dried out a bit but it was quite clear that it hadn’t!
It was time for the return of the long vanished piece of mountaineering equipment. I could probably have got away without it but there was one bit where a slip could have been nasty so it was deployed for security. Given that Wainwright himself says that it is important for a hill walker to have a stout posterior I would far rather risk a wet behind and looking a bit silly than the alternative!
Once over that bit the rest of the walk was straightforward though I did have a rather wet backside! The mountaineering minion was a bit unhappy though as he was in need of a good wash. At least it was only a short walk to my accommodation where I could freshen up before having a pottering around sort of afternoon visiting a deserted Dent (which I had last been to many years ago) before a lovely, and definitely substantial, meal in the Dalesman pub later on – accompanied by the inevitable glass or two of Malbec!
All in all a decent enough little walk and not the last of the year – that would come the day after in superb conditions. As to what 2021 will bring, who knows – but surely it’s got to be an improvement on 2020? Keeping everything crossed…