Who needs a compass?

Steve near the top of Great End - the cloud was thickening in to a white-out, it had been blue skies when we arrived at the base of the crag

Steve and I had a great day on an easy winter route on Great End today. With it being quite easy we soloed a lot of the route, only donning the rope for a couple of entertaining pitches – one of thin ice and one turning a large chockstone.

Steve starting his fun chockstone pitch, the second of the two interesting sections
Steve starting his fun chockstone pitch, the second of the two interesting sections
Steve near the top of Great End - the cloud was thickening in to a white-out, it had been blue skies when we arrived at the base of the crag
Steve near the top of Great End – the cloud was thickening in to a white-out, it had been blue skies when we arrived at the base of the crag

We ended up on top at 2.45pm. Next we set off in the general direction of the path from Esk Hause to pick this up and descend back to Seathwaite. Unfortunately the cloud had come in and it was close to a white-out. We didn’t see any paths, the snow was deep. We laughed at having come out without a map or compass between us, “We don’t need maps, we are locals and know these hills like the backs of our hands!”

As we descended a little and the cloud thinned. We looked down in to a deep snow filled valley and stopped. I said, “What valley is that?!” It certainly wasn’t Seathwaite. We stared at it. We stared at each other. There was a wide winding river flowing down the valley. Could it be Eskdale? Completely in the wrong direction. Or maybe it was Llangstrath? At least Llangstrath goes back towards Borrowdale!

With only a hour’s daylight left we opted to hike back up towards Esk Hause and try to retrace our steps and fix our error rather than descend in to the wrong valley. And if it was Eskdale it would be several hours in the wrong direction by car with little prospect of getting a lift over Hardknott Pass after dark mid-week.

Were these the beginnings of a major epic?

As we climbed back up towards where we thought Esk Hause should be we luckily found a path. Following it we happily curved round to where we should have been. We had been perhaps only 500m out of place, and we had indeed been looking down in to Llangstrath, facing East and not North as we should have been.

The motto? Even locals get confused in white-outs, take a map and compass, think it through before blindly descending, and pray for a bit of luck!

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