That mountain I almost climbed (also known as ‘The curse of Wasdale Head’)

Is it really nearly three months since I last blogged? Well, back by no demand whatsoever, here I am. I think that means that I’ve broken practically all of my resolutions so far. In my defence it’s because I’ve been keeping resolution number 10, the secret unmentionable that I couldn’t reveal in my last post, which was to work hard in my new job. Well I’ve been working hard and commuting hard, and as a result I’ve turned into someone who goes to bed at 9.30pm and complains all the time. I must admit I’ve been quite enjoying the new hours I’ve been keeping, until it hits the weekend and staying up after midnight polishes me off for about three days. The commute, well that’s a blog post all to itself, especially after my two hour journey home last night avoiding burning cars, premiership parade road closures and a woman in a Honda trying to cross into the same lane as I was from the other direction. Hairy.

The career move has prompted a bit of a rebudgeting strategy though. Petrol to Manchester isn’t cheap, but luckily Aldi prosecco is, so I’ve not been suffering too greatly. It did worry me though that I’d be unable to carry on writing a blog about adventures, holidays and travel if I couldn’t afford to go on them, but it would appear that turning into a pensioner and being asleep more than I’m awake put paid to my blog career several weeks ago. Anyway despite this, I’ve got more excursions planned than my grandma this year (who has an incredible social life and will probably be on twitter soon) so I thought I’d share my latest outing.

This weekend, we braved Wasdale Head again. If anyone read the blog about Great Gable, some of this will be familiar information. However if you didn’t, to recap, we went to Wasdale Head two years ago to climb Great Gable and all that stopped there being a murder in the fells was 50 Shades of Grey. The mountain remained unclimbed. Until this weekend?

A few years ago me and Nicky realised we shared a love of walking. I say love, she loves it, I love reading, writing and talking about it, though am usually too hungover to do it with any kind of gusto or frequency. We began meeting up a couple of times a year for a good hike, starting with Pendle, then venturing to the Lakes, before deciding to crank it up a notch.

After saying she would never go up Ben Nevis again we somehow ended up booking 4 nights in a bunkhouse at the foot of it, and had made detailed plans for our trip including a spreadsheet for who was going to bring the cans of Coke and Mars Bars. The day before my trip my new boyfriend (who you may have heard me mention in previous posts…) decided to spend all morning reading me articles about people falling off Ben Nevis, people casually strolling off Ben Nevis, and people blowing off Ben Nevis. Apparently there is some tremendous gully up there called Five Finger Gully and because of poor visibility, snow cover, and people like me who listen to their guide book when it says to not attempt mountains without a compass, but has no idea how to use an actual compass, people tend to fall down this gully. This spoilt the excitement that had been building for my first walking holiday, and turned into sheer dread when Chris handed me two bright orange survival bags, just in case, and told me to keep them in my rucksack. About half an hour later it transpired that Chris had never been up Ben Nevis, he’d just once met someone who had, so I decided to push the fear to one side and go out for lunch with the girls.

As this blog isn’t about Ben Nevis I’ll keep it brief, but as I’m writing this now you will know that I didn’t fall off Five Finger Gully. To be honest I think we had more trouble on our ‘training’ walk the day before when we attempted a little known mountain called Stob Ban, ended up climbing up a particularly un-navigable waterfall, whilst wearing walking pants that didn’t fit and were cutting off circulation, and had a sheer rock face to finish that didn’t look at all appealing.

Ben Nevis was a breeze in comparison, just relentless zig zagging for what seemed like hours until we hit the snowy section, when all I can say is, I’m glad we had Mars Bars and Nicky knows her stuff. After being able to see nothing all the way up, shortly after starting our descent the clouds blew over for about ten minutes and we had the perfect view out over the rest of the mountain range and the Lochs below. You could say it was like God lent us his eyes…

Hols 107

Hols 128

We rounded off the day, and the holiday, getting drunk with some squaddies from Doncaster in the Ben Nevis Inn and with me falling out of my bunk bed in the middle of the night after too much Stella. Happy days.

The reason I mention all this is because this weekend we had arranged to meet Nicky and Gina in the Lakes, to continue our plan to conquer the highest mountains in the UK. Last year we did Snowdon, and experienced pretty much every season going on the way up, before having a similar holy experience at the top and getting ‘the view’.

Sadly, this weekend was not the case. The problem with trying to combine the diaries of three women and a man who watches football, is that you have to book these things fairly far in advance. So you know for a fact that when it comes to said weekend it’s going to be pissing it down. When we have a glorious weekend for walking one of the aforementioned people is likely to be at a christening, a wedding, on the Turf, visiting family, suffering from a Saturday night, or at a Backstreet Boys gig. Ever the optimists, myself and Chris booked to stay at the same campsite that was home to the Diamond Jubilee Disaster, but we had learnt – we were staying in a pod.

It was clear that it was all going to be doomed. For a start the plan was to be at the campsite by 9pm on the Friday night, walk up Scafell Pike with the girls on Saturday, and then mosey up Great Gable on the Sunday before the 3 hour journey home, just so I could tick it off my list.

We didn’t get into the pod until just before 11pm, after having to reverse Chris’s new shiny car for over a mile down a bridleway that I thought the campsite might be at the end of. It had been raining all week. I’ve become fairly scared of low fog in recent years (why do we get less brave the older we get??), Nicky’s waterproof pants had ripped, and the forecast wasn’t positive for the weekend. It wasn’t looking good.

So of course, we didn’t go up Scafell Pike. And we didn’t go up Great Gable. Instead on Sunday we had two cups of tea and a bacon butty and decided to drive home the ‘scenic way’ instead of exerting ourselves in the cold drizzle and potentially run the risk of needing a survival bag.

On Saturday though we did do Julia Bradbury and Wainwright proud, with a beautiful 6 mile walk up hill and down dale, passing through woods filled with bluebells, a traumatised cow, and even got the view out to Great Gable from the picture that inspired this so far fruitless mission. Plus if the fog had have come down lower, Nicky’s day-glo gloves would have certainly got us rescued.


My whiny teenage mutterings aside about being cold and damp, there was something wonderful about a weekend camping and being outside. It’s a brilliant excuse not to wash your hair, or yourself, for a couple of days and not feel remotely guilty about it. You don’t get phone signal so you are saved from the clutches of Facebook, Twitter and Clarets Mad for a few hours at least. I also meant I went into work yesterday rosy cheeked, well rested, and feeling pretty wholesome.

However I’m still looking forward to this weekend being in a cottage. Mainly because I won’t have to put walking boots and a kagool on to go to the toilet. Unfortunately there is very little chance of just nipping up Great Gable from Whitby, so it’s going to have to remain on the list for now.

I am confident though that we will do it at some point in our lives. It really wasn’t the weekend for it, and our walking quartet will come together again and tackle many mountains when the time is right. Chris is reading a copy of Outdoor Fitness as we speak…we mean business.

So it’s going to be third time lucky, or maybe we really are just cursed when it comes to Wasdale Head…

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1 Response to That mountain I almost climbed (also known as ‘The curse of Wasdale Head’)

  1. Pingback: Keswick when it drizzles | More holidays than Judith Chalmers

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