TETHERA PEAKS CHALLENGE
Monday 22nd August
As we approached our starting point, Skiddaw summit was engulfed by cloud. We wanted a challenge, and we wasted no time finding one. We started by making around 700 meters height gain in under an hour and quarter. Ascending Skiddaw via Ullock Pike isn’t the easy option, but the most rewarding in views. A nice ridge walk follows before another rapid scree-slope height gain takes you the main ‘walkers motorway’, a gentle ½ km then Skiddaw is ours. The Lake District opens out before us. Although pleased with ourselves, we have little time to dwell. Quick photos, drink and snack, then it’s off we go again, we’ve got work to do. A young American lad at the top asks us why we’ve got our large packs, we tell him, he looks at us quizzically, as if it’s sounds like a daft thing to be doing.
The first peak under our belts provides a great mental boost, one that isn’t even diminished by the daunting site of Helvellyn in the ominous distance. We descend down the main motorway. Almost seems a shame to have to loose all that lovely height gain. No matter, plenty of opportunity to gain more later. Down through Brundholme and onto the Dismantled Railway. What lay ahead of us was the trek through Burns Wood, St John’s in the Vale, Legburthwaite, passing the Northern end of Thirlmere into Thirlspot. This leg of the journey, coupled with the explosive bursts to get to Skiddaw at the start was more taxing then initially thought. Deciding that we didn’t have enough in the tank to attempt Helvellyn too today as planned, we headed for the campsite instead. The sight of the campsite, with attached pub, was most welcoming as we turned the corner. 10 hours after we started, it was simply now a case of “Packs off, tents up, pints in, boots off, food scoffed.” We felt the day upon our shoulders.
Tuesday 23rd August
Porridge cooked, tents down, packs on, off we go. Warm up with the 1 ½ km of flat walk, llama spotting as we go, until we get to the base of Helvellyn Ghyll.
Our intention is to follow a forest track, towards Wythburn, where – having learned the just how hard it is to climb 3000ers with full packs – we plan to leave our packs and make a lightning ‘up and down’ raid.
Unfortunately tree felling works mean the track is closed and we are left with no option but to take the hard slog up the Ghyll route fully laden. Time for more lovely, thigh burning rapid ascent, bypassing Lower Man to the summit.
Helvellyn is in the heart of the Lake District, and the view from here is simply amazing. Two down; one to go. Skiddaw is visible miles away now, but so is Scafell Pike. Anyway, currently on top of the world, we are actually doing this, actually doing it. This was even though we were still a bit broken from yesterday and Helvellyn was hard.
Our descent route takes us over High Crags and down through Comb Crags to the car park at the southern end of Thirlmere.
The 1 km past the Southern point of Thirlmere was to prove the fastest and quickest of the day – due to the busy traffic making it an uneasy roadside route. Then it was into the boggy marsh land that is Wythburn, and more delightful height gain. Walking next to waterfalls, although picture-esque is never going to be easy over a period of time. We’ve since been told that Alfred Wainwright once described this area as something somebody should be made to walk as a penance for a crime. To be fair, we did find this area punishing. Half expected to see a couple of Hobbits appearing. Unsurprisingly, we didn’t see another soul for hours, in fact, for the rest of the day. Deep bogs a plenty, I did find the bottom half of my legs disappear more than once. What almost passed as a path kept disappearing into the marsh too. The exit is by a 150 meter height gain over only 300m distance. It really was starting to feel like a challenge for me now. The view North Westward from Greenup Edge were really good however. There was still more marsh, with no end in immediate sight.
We trudge ever upward towards High Raise. Jon and Mhairi stop, I catch up with them. It’s decision time. Its now 1930 hrs, we’ve been walking for about 11 hours, fatigued, been over the top of Helvellyn, and some of Middle Earth, our wild camping destination is still km’s away, no confident water source to hand, danger of being benighted upon us, Skiddaw a distant shadow far away now, we agree that what we would need to do to continue would be a couple of steps too far. We had achieved a lot, but it was time to call the challenge to an end and use our escape route back into Borrowdale. End of the challenge it may have been, but not the end of our adventure.
We started to descend towards Borrowdale, but not long after we started to feel the fatigue really kick in, and a few unsure footings were made. Daylight fading quicker then we were, it was obviously wild camping time. Mhairi spotted a small area of flat next to a fast moving waterfall, near Linning Crag. Packs off, tents up, dehydrated food cooked, hot drink, and into sleeping bags, lovely warm sleeping bags.
Conditions of wind and rain through the night proved we had made the right choice to stop when we did.
Wednesday 24 August
Low cloud levels and the impending onset of more rain meant a steady start to the descent over the last few km’s towards Borrowdale. Noted for being the wettest place in Britain in terms of rain-fall, today made for no exception. We went through Borrowdale and onto Seatoller campsite, where we left early Monday morning. Thinking about all that we had done and seen since then reiterated our sense of achievement. Although we didn’t do over the top of the third peak, we all agreed that the challenge was a success. There had been a bit of decision making to do throughout, and we made good ones all the way as a team. The point of a challenge is to see if it is possible to do something. On this occasion we didn’t do it, but we certainly gave it our best.
So that’s the end of this story, but not the end of the story overall. There is a nice looking route to Scafell Pike from Seatoller via High Raise and Angle Tarn if anyone fancies it sometime.
I know we do.