Dec 09 28
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Went back to Blea Water today, this time with Li’l Pete, again with the intention of doing Birkett’s. Got a bit closer than last time, but still failed. Third time lucky perhaps?

After another early start, Pete and I headed to Haweswater to see how far we could get. The roads were fine up to Bampton, but then worsened until we were sliding along between the frozen tracks left by others. We couldn’t turn ’round, so carried on to the car park and Mardale Head where we, er, ‘parked’…

The walk in was almost harder than Wednesday. The upper few inches of snow has gone through a couple of freeze/thaw cycles to present an icy crust, but only the sort that just about bears your weight before collapsing into the still powdery waist deep stuff below. Oh, how we laughed…

We won't be queuing for routes then...

Looking on the bright side, some consolidation must be a good thing, so we continued to the foot of the route, enjoying the once again beautiful setting – the one hour usual approach taking us two and a half.

The hard bit of Birkett’s Gully is supposed to be the top couple of pitches, so we half geared up at the bottom of the first steepening and agreed to solo up to the hard bit. Soon enough, we were committed to the route and not liking what we found (ah, the benefit of hindsight…). The steeper steps through small buttress and gully systems featured unconsolidated snow over unfrozen heather, turf and loose rock. Nice.

Er, can we go home now?

We decided to be sensible and head back down. Then we decided we couldn’t get back down so tried to find something to ab off. I found a small spike (and I mean really small!) which I thought might be persuaded to work. A quick bash with the axe just to make sure it’s solid and… oh. It’s broken. Hmmm.

Considering all one of our options, we picked the line of least resistance and continued upwards!

Fortunately, there’s a long section between the first steepenings and the top pitches, so after a few more adventures, we found ourselves on easier ground looking at the gully proper. Suffice to say, despite forgetting my sensible head for a bit and wanting to go and ‘have a look’, we agreed we should head left and make good our escape.

The mid-section snow slope, with Blea Water below

We plodded up the snow slope, registering it’s perfect 45 degree prone nature, pausing only briefly to dig a snow pit just to underline the fact that we shouldn’t be there, and gingerly crab-crawled left, up and off. All good fun…

The Traverse of the Gods?! Almost... Birkett's Gully takes the deep cleft behind Pete

Did I mention it was a stunning day again?! Emerging on to the High Street plateau, we were greeted with wind scoured snow formations, glistening in the sunshine – breathtaking not only to look at, but also to move through. We hung a right to pick up Riggindale and a route down, but had to gain more height to do this. We weren’t laughing now. A brief stop to take in the views from the top (ish!) of High Street, and onwards and downwards.

A more relaxed Li'l Pete

My favourite hill - Blencathra, looking fantastic as always...

Good to see the Big Yellow Taxi about on our way down too, buzzing around Blea Water and Small Water (only training this time though). Unfortunately, neither Pete nor I had brought our radios so couldn’t ask for a lift down! We hung around hoping to signal them, but to no avail. As we watched them head out down the vallley, we continued our weary way to the car…

Oi, giz a lift!

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