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The Lake District (6th – 10th February)

An account by Andy Nichols of a typical club trip.

The response to Barrie Wiltan's Thermawear Fetishists weekend in the Lakes was enthusiastic - and on the evening of Thursday 6th February, Colin and Angela Dooley, Sue and Tony Tucker, Tom and Colleen Gage, Barrie and Brenda Wilton, Chris Batstone, Martin Bishop, Andy Nichols and Mike Palmer travelled north to the ice climbing and snow walking we had been promised (via a pub at Sandbach which had a power cut as we pulled up outside - they must have been warned!)  Instead of falls of snow, we got something better - three days of flawless blue skies and cool, still air.  The best walking weather I'd seen in the Lakes for ten years.

The morning's first task was to visit Coniston to sound out the pubs.  Reassured, we set out for the hills. Colin, Angie and I scaled the Old Man of Coniston and completed the semicircle of crags to the north and east. The others, with a later start, had-time to trundle up and down the Old Man before dusk.

Later that evening, Bob Cross arrived after throwing the last of the days old ladies out into the cold streets of Bradford.  The driver succeeded in getting the lorry off the mountain and we all went to the pub. Mike must have exceeded the bounds of prudence with the Hartley's prize-winning Ales, because we woke blearily on Saturday morning to find him lurching around in his pyjamas and trying to retch up a mouthful of feathers left by the Night Parrot.

Saturday's attack was on Helvellyn, from Patterdale.  A dozen of us made our way up on to Striding Edge and to the top at varying paces and in small groups.  The D team pace is particularly difficult and those unused to the slow transfer of weight from one foot to the next, frequently overbalance.  The descent was along the plateau like summit to Dollywaggon Pike, down to the sombre Grisedale Tarn and along the valley towards Patterdale, a total of some ten miles.  Barrie and a group of ice men preferred the shorter, steep gully descent from the Pike as one variation; as another, the caving secretary went berserk at the tarn and insisted on storming up another two peaks before returning to the van - to the amazement of himself and the whole population of the Goddam Isles.

Saturday evening was another uproarious one at the pub.  At Barrie's request we tried to stay awake to catch the ghostly Irishman with the Night Parrot on his shoulder but failed.  The dormitory woke on Sunday morning to moans of "Like an Afghanistani crab-catcher’s bait-bucket!"  In the morning we were briefly joined by Jock and Judy before journeying to the New Dungeon Ghyll to dispose of Langdale valley.  The teams arranged themselves.  Mike, Colin and I climbed Pike o' Blisco, then on over Crinkle Crags and Bow Fell, down over Rosset Pike to the end of the valley, returning by Rosset Gill and the valley bottom.  We had intended to do the Langdale Pikes on the other side as well, but needed another ninety minutes daylight.  The 'E' team - whose members are nameless - did nothing, despite being joined by Barrie, who had aggravated an earlier ankle injury.  Anyway, that was what we decided it was, though a stranger in a passing Rolls tipped a jumble of gleaming bones out of a green felt bag marked 'For medical use only' and tried to persuade us it was malaria.

The rest of the party; Brenda, Angie, Tom and Colleen and Tony and Sue made their way with Bob Cross to climb Bow Fell by the little-known Fiasco Traverse.  At about the time that the 'A' team was trotting across the summit, Bob decided that his route was dangerously icy and there was no way up, so a perplexed group was lifelined back down a gully.  The other half of the group caused an uproar by bursting into laughter and the situation was only resolved when a boatswain stepped out of a nearby recitation, blow his whistle and sent them all back to the van, deciding he could do more than a little better himself.

And so to the pub for the last evening, where the colour T.V. in the bar was showing a programme so lavishly cultural that there were roars of approval from the B.E.C. members in the cheaper seats and the caving secretary in his determination not to miss anything, missed two rounds without noticing.

On Monday the meet wound down.  As a complete contrast, thin mist blotted out all the hills and sent us to the pub for a final session before the driver got the lorry off the mountain for the last time and we began the long drive back to Bristol - but with three magnificent days walking to look back on.