Helvellyn Youth Hostel is a suitable venue for a large group. Julie has Lots of Friends, and we were all satisfactorily housed in the hostel's many rooms. Andrew hit the jackpot though - his minor nocturnal nasal murmurs having gained sufficient legend to warrant him a rare single room, whilst the rest of us were billeted in groups of 2, 4 or 6.
Breakfast was sufficient, if dull and tasteless (apart from the baked beans) and singularly lacking in bacon. This is the downside of manned hostels as opposed to 'RentaHostel', where the pleasures of self-catering can be an indulgence.
Julie had planned a walk - distributed to all by email - but an injury prevented her attendance on her own birthday walk!
So we milled about for a while...
It was probably a good idea for the 54 of us to set off in small groups, as you can possibly detect potential pace discrepancies from the above image.
Rain had been forecast, but it started fine, if cloudy, and we drifted off towards Glenridding Common and a selection of routes up Helvellyn. The view back down the valley was fairly benign.
As we climbed up towards Whiteside Bank the switchback track slowly rose above the snow line and sported chilly views across to Helvellyn, whose summit remained obdurately in cloud.
Approaching the 830 metre col the weather looked ominous, but here it was calm and sunny, so we lingered a while with Pam and Paul, whilst Andrew insisted he was not fit enough for Helvellyn and would return via Raise and Sticks Pass or beyond.
The four of us, Sue, Pam, Paul and me, continued on up to the summit via the easy Lower Man ridge, on which we met Graham and Tove, with crampon clad Dave and GS in tow, having shed Keith and Carol, who had not fancied the steepness of their Swirral Edge route.
No one else was wearing crampons today; the snow was very soft and in places quite slushy. Arriving at the summit at midday, after our leisurely 2½ hour stroll, it was a bit breezy. In fact, on the way up Pam (2nd from right below) had been blown over, to be saved by Sue's walking pole, which had now assumed the shape of a banana.
There were four people striding towards the summit from the opposite direction, so Sue's picture is of Chris, Alys, Johnny, Rupert, Paul, Pam and me. The Ghosts of Helvellyn were pottering about nearby.
By now it was somewhat inclement, so cameras were stashed for the rest of the day. The four of us battled on over Nethermost Pike and Dollywaggon Pike in pretty grim conditions, to descend to just above Grizedale Tarn by 1pm. Lunch time. Weird Darren, had he been here, may have produced a stove. We had convenient flasks. "Shall we shelter?" I asked. "Oooh, that would be good" came the reply, in unison. So we lunched 'indoors' in the calm and warmth, with sleety rain lashing down outside, of a rarely used little blue shelter I carry for such occasions.
After 20 minutes or so the condensation within the shelter produces its own showery microclimate, but those minutes are really valuable, so it was a refreshed and fortified quartet who set off down Grizedale for the long walk back to the hostel.
The weather did improve as we descended, but the rain persisted and actually worsened after we arrived back at base at 4pm.
Here's our (well, Julie's planned route which only the four of us out of her 54 guests managed to complete!) route - 18km, 1100 metres ascent, taking us around 6½ hours, including over 30 minutes of breaks, on not the easiest of days.