Date: 17 January 2019 Weather: 1’C, sunny, some breeze
Height gain: 1,227ft Distance: 4.7 miles
Time taken: 3 hours 20 minutes Wainwright count: 60 of 214
Route: From Aira Force car park following footpaths in an anti-clockwise circular route.
It’s a beautiful sunny, cold and crisp winter day and we decide to head for a mountain known for it’s views which we last did on a very wet and windy May day as a first walk of the holiday (on that occasion straight after climbing Hallin Fell).
We park up at Aira Force car park which is quite empty although there are other people around. We boot up and put on as many clothes as possible in the cold weather. I decide to use the loos and trek across the car park to them. There is only cold water and the hand dryer isn’t working. By the time I get back to the car I’m absolutely freezing despite all my layers and my hands feel like blocks of ice. It takes some time to get my thick gloves onto very cold and damp hands and I’m still trying to wriggle my fingers into them as we head out to find the footpath.
We start walking towards the waterfalls before turning right and crossing Aira Beck and picking up a footpath that runs alongside Ullswater. We initially gain height gradually and the views are soon stunning in the clear winter light:
The gradient picks up as the path moves uphill towards Memorial Seat and I start to defrost in the sunshine. The views behind us and to our right just keep getting better:
We reach the edge of the hillside and turn left to continue up and around the mountain. The path is very enjoyable – wide and clear and not too steep but it is icy in places and we need to keep our eyes on our feet to make sure we don’t slip over on the ice patches.
We make reasonable time and reach the summit in an hour and a half. The views north-west to Blencathra and Skiddaw are excellent:
The views south-west towards the Helvelyn range are also good, although shooting into the sun for the photos:
We spend quite a while admiring the views and taking photos before starting to descend to find a sheltered place for lunch. We spot a good venue tucked into a wall, but too late a party of school children on their way up gets there first:
I’m pleased to see young people out enjoying such a wonderful day in the hills, but I wouldn’t want to be the teachers looking after them in such cold weather.
We find a craggy outcrop away from the wall which provides enough shelter and comfort and enjoy our pasties. We gaze at the route down and the valley below us, Dockray just peeping out among the trees:
The descent off south is steep and quite eroded in places, the mud thankfully frozen solid today as we pick our way down. Once most of the descent is out of the way we turn left and head back towards Aira Force walking through the attractive woodland paths and back to the car park.
It’s been a stunningly beautiful day and we’ve been mostly snug with all our winter gear on in the very cold weather – although when there’s sunshine and very little wind such cold temperatures aren’t too much of a problem (icy patches notwithstanding). If we do this walk again I’d do it the other way around – up the steep eroded route and back with the views of Ullswater in front of us.