I arrived in Stonethwaite, a beautiful little village in the North-Western Lake District, 5 miles outside of Keswick just after 12pm on the 4th January 2018.
While parking the car I was transported back to the days when I would camp by the river at the far end of the village, overlooked by imposing, beautiful fells. The reason I came back here is that I have no memory of ever climbing the fell that directly oversee’s that camp-site.
That fell is called Glaramara.
I had intended to start big and climb Ben Nevis for my first adventure, but the friend I had agreed to do this with couldn’t make it so I decided to go solo, taking a stroll down memory lane instead.
Aware that time was against me and the weather was forecast to turn to icy, rainy and windy conditions, I quickly changed into my waterproofs (more on that later) and sprayed my boots down to give them an extra layer of water-proofing too.
I packed light for a quick ascent, with a mind to reaching the top of Glaramara, then dropping down Hind Gill and circling back around to the car – I have no idea what the exact distance is, but I’m guessing around 6 miles in total.
- Chocolate bar and an Apple (Braeburn, obviously)
- Thermos Flask of Tea
- Survival bag (I forgot to tell anyone where I was going, safety first!!)
- Water, 1 litre
- Ordnance Survey Map OL4 (North-Western Area of the Lakes)
- Wooly Jumper
- Phone (for pictures only!)
After a quick chat with a local man and his lovely Scottish Terrier, I set off for the base of Glaramara at 12.35pm, giving me just under four hours of daylight to reach the top and get back to the car.
Walking past Chapel Farm, I headed on to the path that ran up to ‘Tarn At Leaves’ – I planned to jump the stream to access my intended track, but ended out sliding my way across the rocks of a fairly heavy-flowing waterfall (and here I learnt my first lesson of the day about not taking the weather into account properly!).
I reached the other side reasonably dry and baking hot, so I stopped to remove my wooly jumper and carried on in just a T-shirt and waterproof jacket on my top half – confident that I was generating enough heat from the steep walk to not require the layers.
Shortly after this I lost the path for the first time, as there was so much rain fall during this week, many small Gills had appeared and the actual path had been lost among them. So I scaled a fence and found myself climbing almost vertically up a very loose mud slope, with a few rocks to grab as hand holds – it was a bit hairy but time wasn’t on my side and fortunately I re-discovered the path at the top (God bless Cairns!!)
At this point, I was roughly a third of the way up when the clouds dropped and I was enshrouded in fog, no more views across the valley but still plenty of visibility to keep going.
Unfortunately at around the two thirds mark I came to realise that my trusty mustard-yellow Mountain Warehouse waterproof wasn’t waterproof anymore, nor was it particularly windproof, my top half was soaked through with rain, I was being hammered by wind and I was still surrounded by icy fog – though I’d come too far and I wasn’t prepared to turn around without reaching the top!
As I discovered snow (still clinging on from the previous week) I ran into the only people I saw on the fell that day, they told me that they had ascended using the Hind Gill route but that it didn’t have an obvious path and they didn’t recommend descending that way. I told them that I couldn’t be put off and that I would give it a go anyway, before shivering my way past them and beginning the final climb to the top of Glaramara.
Apart from I didn’t begin my final climb to the top of Glaramara, I lost the path again and climbed up what I reckon to be Combe Head – where I looked up at what was quite clearly the fog-tipped top of Glaramara. This struck me as a good time to reach for my chocolate bar and have a cup of tea – maybe even throw on the Wooly jumper for added warmth – and this was also when I discovered that the waterproof back pack cover that I had decided against buying would have been a really handy investment.
My gloves, hat and jumper were all soaking wet and freezing cold – I dug past them and grabbed the Thermos and Chocolate, wolfing down the latter and sipping urgently at the former. Deciding against pulling on cold and wet kit, I threw my backpack on and headed for Glaramara’s highest point.
Path or not, I made it to the top and quickly did a victory wiggle before consulting the (now soggy) map to find Hind Gill. As I mentioned earlier, my problem was that the rain had sprung up what appeared to be a circulatory system of Gills, great for the frogs but terrible for me finding my path. I took one stab at following a ‘Gill’ and ended up in a heavy bog with a steep descent in front of me.
Retreating back I saw that I had roughly an hour and a half of daylight left, a quick self analysis told me I was shivering hard, all of my reserve clothes were soaked, my phone was soggy and unresponsive and I didn’t fancy spending the night in an orange survival bag, or needing to be rescued on my first adventure! I decided to find the path (the actual path) and head back down the way I had (sort of) come.
The descent took around 50 minutes and passed without much incident, it turns out spotting the path from higher up is much easier than from below. The only surprising discovery I had was that whenever I slipped or lost my footing I seemed to call out ‘Hellooo’ in an exaggerated way as I stumbled – if any of these 51 remaining adventures do finish me off, please remember that I probably went out sounding like Robin Williams when he reveals his cream covered face to the social worker in Mrs Doubtfire!
Back at the car, I found my hands were too cold to undo my trouser button so I took all the wet gear off that I could, wrapped myself in a towel and jumped into the car to warm up with the remainder of the Thermos.
10 minutes later I re-emerged warm enough to take my trousers off, and proceeded to change into dry, warm clothes – only realising that I was directly in front of a families fully occupied living room as I zipped up my jeans.
Can’t wait for the next one!