Welcome to the Icehouse

Accommodation on the January Lakes trip was spartan to say the least but with well below freezing night time temperatures and somewhat inadequate heating it was borne stoically by those who went. The proximity of the pub, (almost next door), was a godsend and the food wasn’t bad either! But if it’s all about the location then this was still a good choice for access to the Scafell and Gable ranges at the head of Borrowdale.

On the Saturday morning we walked up besides Sty Gill to the col where we headed off to different objectives. Having been up Scafell several times Jeremy and I opted for Great Gable by a devious route I had once taken many years ago. We traversed across the ‘climbers’ path, a mix of scrambling and easy sheep trods, in full sunshine and without a breath of wind. Views down into Wasdale and across the valley were clearer now the early morning mist had lifted from the tops. After a brief stop we pressed on to the steep and slightly intimidating scree filled gully known as Great Hell Gate.

Looking up to Westmorland Crag a long way above us it looked like a major effort would be required to slog our way to the top. However by picking our way through the jumble of rocks and occasionally using the side walls as a hand rail we found ourselves gaining height quite quickly. It was tiring work on the scree but broken by several small rock steps and the odd flat space where one can catch one’s breath. Two thirds of the way up a jagged rock pinnacle divides the steepening gully and we opted for the shadier side where the frost still held the scree together. After a final haul that took us past Westmorland Crag we arrived at a narrow grassy arete that led to a col beneath the summit rocks. By now the sun was high in the sky and gave us some memorable views down towards Crummock Water and our to the coast. Despite only a slight breeze the temperature was still below freezing at the top and over the the last few hundred feet the sound of brittle ice crunching under our feet gave our arrival at the summit cairn an alpine touch.

After a brief bite we started down over Green Gable and a seemingly endless plod back down to the valley. The last section to the road was a bit of a scramble by greasy rocks but we arrived at the road unscathed. Here we waited for the other party for some time. We even retraced our steps back along the path we had taken earlier that day but we could see no sign of them descending. So we started off to walk back to the hut. Ever resourceful, Jeremy stuck his thumb out and caught us a lift after the first mile. Later the others arrived having had an equally successful day and then it was a shower and round to the pub. On leaving it felt even colder that the night before all were glad to take to their sleeping bags.

Next day Gordon headed home and the rest of us took the path from the slate works at Honister. We followed the well made steps and pathway over the top and down to the more interesting ascent of the vague ridge that leads to the top of Haystacks. Again we were granted a fine sunny day but with a chilly side wind. A long and winding path took us across the many minor outcrops and around the tarns that dot the hillside and here the cold wind was not so apparent. Eventually the more compact summit with its enigmatically named Innominate Tarn was reached and lunch partaken of.

Then it was a brisk descent and a final gathering of kit at the hut. Farewells were taken of those we would not see again for a while and it was back to the south and an easy ride home.

Steve Jackson

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