We try to start with a good walk. It sets the year off with a good feeling.
After a lovely meal at home with Mike (why should my 22 year old rock guitarist son want to spend NYE with his dad and stepmother?) involving scallops, a few courses in between, and finishing with toblerone mousse (maybe that’s why he came!), we managed to get a good night’s sleep before leaving at 8 am and enjoying the quiet run up to the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel. It was a dull day but the tops were clear. We were pleased to find the extortionate NT cark park ticket machine out of action (£5 a day hereabouts) and whilst there were lots of tents ‘hung over’ the campsite, there was just one other couple in the car park. They ran off, and by the time we strolled up the path to Stool End at 10.10 we were totally alone.
We headed up Oxendale to reach the ridge at Red Tarn, shortly before which fleeces had been donned to counter the cool breeze.
A right turn took us past Great Knott and on to Crinkle Crags, the top hidden by outcrops and a spot of mist. We saw just one person before reaching the Bad Step, which proved an ideal, sheltered lunch spot. Lunch, however, was rudely interrupted when a chap launched himself down the greasy slab and surprised us by landing head first at our feet. Luckily he was shaken, not broken, but his mate, standing above, had turned white. We showed him the way down. It’s not so easily spotted from above, where the greasy slab looks like the easiest route as it’s a shorter drop. It’s best, for non-climbers, to reverse down the longer, less steep, route indicated in the photo above. It’s really very simple, even Wainwright had no problems here. But for the nervous it’s easy enough to avoid the whole thing by taking an alternative path to the west. It’s (sorry about all these 'it's's!) easy to go astray in the mist, so get your compass out!
The two chaps had not been here before. I think they were quite impressed (Cringle Crags is an Excellent Hill). We gave them some caramel shortbread (the only medicine we had) and they went happily on their way.
We continued over the Crinkles to Three Tarns, then over the deserted summit of Bowfell to Ore Gap, where we succumbed to donning overtrousers to combat the squally rain that had finally reached us - initially in the form of stinging hail that made our faces feel as if they were pin cushions.
Below Ore Gap we were in the lee of the wind, and the path down to Angle Tarn was free of ice for a change. Above the tarn our ‘people sightings’ doubled to its final tally of six for the day. There were three young people with fairly small packs but with sleeping mats and maybe bivvi gear, as well as completely unnecessary axes and crampons. Whilst we enjoyed the final instalment from our large flask, they faffed, clearly undecided (or divided) on what to do next. I had them down as being on a ‘Mission’ for Trail Magazine, possibly involving a winter camp with foolishly lightweight equipment, as part of that magazine’s continuing efforts (accidental or deliberate – I don’t know) to discredit the use of lightweight gear by sending inexperienced people into the hills with inadequate kit for the conditions.
We were soon speeding down Rossett Gill under a blue sky, to reach the valley in the gathering gloom of the short day, reaching the car at 4.10 (6 hours for the 15 km walk with 1150 metres ascent).
By now there was a nearly full moon to accompany us; a lovely evening.
We eschewed tradition by changing clothes, as we had a rendezvous with the ever hospitable Andrew and Rosemary at the rather upmarket Town House Hotel in Ambleside, where we pretended to be residents and enjoyed excellent helpings of afternoon tea and cakes before returning home in light traffic.
It’s Snowdonia’s turn this coming New Year’s Day, when the Dishy Pharmacist and I will be starting from Llyn Ogwen at 10 am for a walk over Y Garn and the Glyders, returning by the gentle route to Tryfan col and down past Llyn Bochlwyd. It’s about 11 km and just over 1000 metres ascent – 4 hours on Naismith’s formula, so we should easily be back by dark. If the weather’s foul, we’ll do something from Betws-Y-Coed.