The team set off from Harlow Friday afternoon and battled the traffic for over 6 ½ hours to reach our destination in the early evening. We walked passed the famous ‘Hiking bar’ without stopping eager to check-in and head for the restaurant. First impressions of the hotel were a fragrant blend of Fawlty Towers and Cross Roads. We were greeted by a cloud of tobacco through which an elderly man could be seen, we all assumed him to be not only to be still alive but part of the staff.
The morale was still high at this point until one of the team noticed the local weather report. ‘Wind Chill -5 and winds of up to 55 Mph’ In the belief that the report was like the hotel (a few years out of date!) we carried on our evening enjoying some hearty food and confident chat followed by a quick walk up the hill.
We all woke early keen to undertake our task. Chris met the elderly man again sitting on a bench surrounded by a fog which was part Golden Virgina part Lake District mist. It turned out that he was alive and an expert in all things that can go wrong on the mountain; ‘Don’t go up there in these winds, last week a guide fell off a ledge to his death leaving his 20 clients to fend for themselves.’ ‘People go up and don’t get back to the hotel, I have seen it with my very eyes!’ This was discussed over a full English breakfast and we all decided that the old man was trying to scare us off.
The walk started with a steep climb to the summit of Pike of Blisco. This was far harder than expected and the adrenaline was pumping as the wind tried to blow us off the side of the hill. It was at this point Chris decided the old man was right and headed down to find a more sheltered route. The rest of us crouched on the summit hoping that the wind would subside where went into the valley to attempt to climb the next peak. The instructions were very clear to head SW towards the top of Cold Pike. Our route however took us across what could only be called a bog and even the most goat like of the team managed to get their boots soaked. Thankfully mine were the real deal and no water found its way to my socks however one of the team went for style over substance, nothing was admitted but we all know the truth! We searched for the path to the top but gave up and climbed Cold Pike ‘Freestyle’.
The next instruction was to head north to the top of ‘Great Knott’ (named after a distance ancestor of our fleet manager) then on to ‘ The Little Stand’ . The wind really picked up to the point it was virtually impossible to stand up. Tom being the youngest and most foolhardy was the first to the summit with Richard and Alex following up close behind.
I turned around to see Steve lying flat on the ground and it was clear that he wasn’t going to risk it. I signalled to Steve to head back down to the main path and then looked up realising the other three had disappeared. For a few short moments I rehearsed in my mind the conversations I was going to have with the 3 families….. ‘It was going so well….they were really happy at the time…he was doing what he loved…..’ Thankfully a blue bobble hat emerged from over the hill followed by the others crouching down, I breathed a sigh of relief and we all headed back to the path towards Crinkle Craggs.
As we began reaching the Craggs the mist came in along with more wind. We bypassed the ‘bad step’ and headed around the South Top across Long Top and to the summit of Shelter Crags where we met another team who had approached the route in the opposite direction avoiding the steep climb up Blisco. Knowing it was all downhill from here our spirits lifted and we knew we were on the home straight. Apart from a few wild gusts the wind died down and we took a leisurely pace along The Ban, stopping to have lunch at about 3pm. On the stroll down we were greeted by a smiling Chris who decided to try the walk the other way and the whole team completed the final few miles together.
That evening we celebrated in the hotel restaurant exhausted but full of a great sense of achievement. It turns out the old man lives in a camper van parked on the hotel grounds and stays in the hotel when the weather gets cold. He came as saw us off in the morning waving us goodbye like an old friend.
Looking forward to the next challenge where I hope more of our SCCI Alphatrack team will join us in our adventures!