It’s been on my to-do list for a while and the opportunity presented itself a few weeks ago during the planning stage of a geocaching idea. Come to Grisedale, decide on the geocache spot then go up Saint Sunday Crag.
However after my recent walk up Fleetwith Pike I felt bold enough to take the direct route (did I say bold enough? I meant just about fit enough) and go straight up Birks, get onto the high ground and enjoy the high level walk to Saint Sunday. Sounds great on paper. Sounds like a plan.
Down by Ullswater the weather was having a tantrum; boiling hot then freezing cold, but by the time I was at the foot of Birks the sun was out, it was three layer walking. Some bright spark decided that a staircase up Birks was a good idea and whilst I understand how steps prevent footpath erosion they’re hard to climb, harder than a steep footpath.
Elevation gained and fine views down into Grisedale and the coniferous playground of the Patterdale Hall estate I ended up on a traversing footpath below Birks summit and here was where the wind introduced itself. I knew things were serious when I saw a couple who looked like they were coming down from K2.
The bobcap and a hood eased the sense of intensity from the gale, but it still made staying upright problematic. It was one of those intermittent howlers, the kind I first encountered in Grains Gill. What I thought was an RAF jet coming up the valley was an approaching front, which arrived with all the tempestuous nastiness of a hurricane . . . then calm. Ten minutes later the sound of jets was coming again, same tempest, and on and on all the way up the valley.
The same jet engine winds were blowing up here and the closer I was to Saint Sunday, the greater the thrust! The path up the narrow end looked lethal in this wind so I followed the path along the cove towards The Cape (Wrath). As if things couldn’t get any worse I was virtually blown off my feet, something I haven’t experienced since my forced sit down arrival on Skiddaw a few years ago.
Gavel Pike, a Wainwright that Wainwright left out, was fifty metres away, but I didn’t think I’d get there alive. When I made it to the rocks and shelter I looked behind me and saw for the first time where the wind had been brewing.
From the Vale of Grasmere, Fairfield, Dollywagon Pike, Nethermost Pike and Helvellyn look like sublime, proud rounded fells, all big and bumbly. But from Gavel Pike you see the arse-end of these monsters with their ghylls and fissures, their prehistoric erosion and tectonic immensity. The colossal roughness is in sharp contrast to the mathematical perfection of the slope that sweeps up to Coledale Hause, all tense and taught, strung out from Saint Sunday to Cofa Pike.
That was the source of the wind, the turbulence generated by a south westerly roaring over the lofty scoop of Deepdale and through the grinding gap at the head of Grisedale.
So, decision. A simpe one: would I die between here and the summit of Saint Sunday? Up on the top a human figure appeared and didn’t look like a speck in the distance, so I went for it, on all fours at one point and reached the bouldery tumble of the summit. A bit blustery would be an understatement, but the views. . . .
Remember I was supposed to be scouting Grisedale for a geocache location and in an ideal world I would have ventured onto Coledale Hause and dropped down to Grisedale Tarn. But in an ideal world I’d be a millionaire, author of several succesful novels and the owner of Valencia football club. But it isn’t and I’m not (times three). In the real world I’d be blown off the Hause like a plastic bag.
The journey back was over Birks summit, a lonely fell but with grand views toward Hartsop, Place Fell and of course Ullswater. I concluded this is my favourite lake, favourite valley. Yes, it’s crowded on tourist summer days, but it’s just populated enough to not feel isolated (eg Haweswater), but not overpopulated like Windermere. Fifty metres either side of the main road and you’re spoiled for choice and how many people have you seen wandering up Deepdale or falling off Sheffield Pike.
But the wind, the wind today was a killer. A pint in the The Inn on the Lake eased the pain and chicken satay back at a Chinese restaurant in Ambleside did everything else. And I’ll have to go back to Grisedale to choose that geocache location.*
*A geocache treasure trail involving five different sites, created as part of a promotion campaign for my second novel coming out in June. (Or just a clever excuse to keep going back up to the Lakes.)