Skiddaw (931m): amazing views after a whiteout

Publiziert von MicheleK , 3. Januar 2012 um 03:35.

Region: Welt » United Kindom » Cumbria
Tour Datum:10 Dezember 2011
Wandern Schwierigkeit: T2 - Bergwandern
Schneeshuhtouren Schwierigkeit: WT3 - Anspruchsvolle Schneeschuhwanderung
Geo-Tags: GB   Wainwright 
Zeitbedarf: 5:00
Aufstieg: 650 m
Abstieg: 650 m
Strecke:Parking E of Appletwaithe (Keswick) - Jenkin Hill - Little Man - Mon - Parking
Zufahrt zum Ausgangspunkt:Keswick is best accessed via A66 from M6. In winter accessing the parking may require 4WD and is on a small forest road. Better park in Appletwaithe and walk 1.5 km.
Zufahrt zum Ankunftspunkt:Idem. Drive from Parking to Keswick to find B&B.
Unterkunftmöglichkeiten:In Keswick many B&Bs for 30 - 60 GBP.
Kartennummer:OL4 Explorer Map the English Lakes

In December it has been snowing a lot in northern England and so I decided to spend a weekend in the Lake District, enjoying the beautyful scenery of white hills and green valleys.

I left London on Friday 7pm, drove up the M6 and slept in a motel along the M6 some 100km after Manchester. Left early on Saturday and was in Keswick, ready to start around 10am.

The weather was worst than expected and the cloud was as low as 400m. I started at 11:30am from the Parking above Keswick, as the forecast said the cloud would break in the pm and I was there to see the sunset. At 300m the closed snow cover started so I donned my snowshoes, although a good trace in solid snow could have been used and crampons would also be fine.

At 400m I get into a thick cloud and from then onwards visibility is 20-10 m and decreasing. Luckily there are traces so I find my way, however, the ambience is very spooky and I meet some locals who have returned due to bad conditions... but I keep going.

After traversing a fence at ca. 500m I traverse the E flank of Little Man and the trace becomes really faint and hardly visible when windblown. At some point I have serious doubts but still keep going - visibility is now < 10m and all is white around me. I still can make out the slope at least. Following the faint trace I meet again a fence which is on my map, what a huge help that is... I am relieved and I now follow the fence and then climb up the last 150m vertical meters to reach the expansive nearly horizontal summit ridge of Skiddaw.

I cannot make out the highest point but keep walking until I see appearing out of the fog the cairn marking the summit. Visibility is almost zero and a cold breeze is now blowing. I briefly meet two locals who know this place by heart...they leave quickly so I get the summit for my own.... ahahaha

During the descent from the summit ridge (N to S direction) I briefly experienced a real whiteout! Luckily I maintained my calm but those 10 min were interesting: while my plan was to follow the large ridge N to S in a straight line and go down the same way I came up, at some stage I got off that line and found myself in a flank which was getting steeper down below. As the change in slope is gradual (Skiddaw is a hill with steep grass flanks) and this was totally unexpected with visibility <10m I could not really understand which flank I was on (E or W) and my compass on the Suunto watch was also playing very funny. After 5min walking down, left or right I stopped and adrenaline came up: essentially I was lost in a white-out and I could barely make out the difference between terrain and fog!! Of course my phone did not have reception and I did not carry a GPS either (and was on my own...). After a few minutes I realized the only thing was to find a reference... so I decided to climb the grassy slope in the most direct way up (ca. 35 Grad) in the hope to meet the plateau... and so it was... after ca 5min only I was up again on the flat and wide ridge... uffff... 

Now I attempted the second descent and this time I payed extreme attention to tracks and walking a straight line. Some 30min later again out of nothing appeared the now I could walk all the way back. 

After 3.30pm the cloud broke, and I could eventually witness a fantastic sunset scenery above the Scafell massif with incredible light conditoins

- in the LD in winter, when venturing into unknown terrain, with whiteout risk, ALWAYS carry a GPS
- even if waiting for the cloud to break later in the pm, don't start at 11.30am
- be patient and enjoy each moment

Note: the WT3 is due to orienteering difficulties in a whiteout situation - not due to technical difficulties.

Tourengänger: MicheleK

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