789

 Why is 6 frightened of 7? – Because 7 8 9!

Which is the best kind of hill weather – clear skies and consistent sunshine, or wild winds and poor visibility which eventually clear to give dramatic views? We had one of each this weekend and I’m still debating with myself about which I enjoyed the most. The occasion was an annual get together with old friends in the Lakes – this time at the King’s Head at Thirlspot in the Thirlmere valley.

Saturday started promisingly with sunshine, although the hotel windows had been shaken all night by strong winds. We started our ascent of the hillside behind the pub in strong sunshine but to the north Skiddaw and Blencathra had disappeared in a band of cloud and as we climbed cloud seemed to blow up and over the hills around us giving each a close fitting white cloak.

Great How and Naddle Fell, Siddaw and Blencathra missing in the background.

By the time we reached the first (minor) summit of the day at Brown Crag we were just below the cloud, in fact it felt almost as if a raised hand might be swallowed up and disappear from view.

Once in the cloud we missed a turn which took the path around the flank of Whiteside and continued directly towards its summit, eventually following a bearing when the path became a little intermittent. It was now very windy and I think that we were all reassessing our ambitions for the day. On the summit of Whiteside we huddled together to make ourselves heard over the wind and decided to leave Helvellyn for another time. Instead we turned north to go over Raise to the top of the Sticks Pass. There some of the party opted to drop back towards the pub to escape from the fierce wind and the very wetting mist. Most of us continued however, climbing Stybarrow Dodd and on to Watson’s Dodd. I was enjoying myself immensely, rather revelling in the adverse conditions (it would have been different if it had been raining too!).

Watson’s Dodd has a spot height of 789m – hence the post title and the puny joke at the outset. Descending from there we were surprised to find that after a small loss of height, the unpromising open fellside was surprisingly sheltered. This being a first opportunity for a comfortable lunch and tea-break we stopped to take advantage. On the ridge between Stybarrow Dodd and Watson’s Dodd it had increasingly felt as if the sun were on the point of breaking through the mist and we had briefly seen short-lived patches of blue sky through rents in the clouds. Now gaps began to appear revealing views – at first of the sunlight cloudscape opposite above the far side of the valley. The glimpses were tantalising and it was hard to be quick enough to catch them with the camera.

  …but the gaps in the mist became more frequent and longer lasting…

We stayed for over an hour, enjoying the sun’s warmth, admiring the enfolding views and watching the clouds and their shadows scudding by at an impressive speed.

The scene was ever-changing: a shoulder could be obscured by cloud one moment…

…begin to clear…

…and be almost cloud free in very short order…

Eventually we moved on and headed down towards Castle Rock.

 

Castle Rock bottom left, Naddle Fell in the centre.

Which was the last Birkett of the day.

A bit of bracken bashing to stay above the intake wall led us first to Stanah Gill…

…which looked as if it would reward further exploration – and then to a path which would lead us back, in glorious evening sunshine…

via Fisherplace Gill…

 

to the King’s Head.

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789

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