Whenever you put boot on fell, you have to take all sorts of factors into consideration; weather, terrain, route, gear and your party’s ability. There are plenty of benefits of walking in the mountains and hills, but there are also things that could go wrong. Our walk up Beda Head luckily didn’t need outside help but it goes to show, even seasoned hikers have problems.
It’s Friday and Kel and me were on dayshift, I was set to finish at 5pm and Kel at 4pm, so it was up to her to get home first, pack my car and get all sorted for a quick blast down the A66 for when I pull up on the drive in her shed, I mean car. We had a passenger just for the journey; one of my mates had set his family off to Center Parcs in the morning, arranging for us to drop him off on the night so we had a slight detour before settling in the caravan. We were on the road for roughly half five so things looked good as it only usually took us just short of 1 ½ hours to get to Morland, and the detour wouldn’t add much, so we should be settled for 8pm planning our route for the next day. The rain was pounding down but, hey ho that’s to be expected. Process was good until Bowes and the road cone fest, can anyone tell me why the road works are there!? Bang to a halt and an hour later we managed to come out of the other end and back on our journey. We drove up the long road to Center Parcs and dropping our mate off to tackle the resorts fierce security while we made our way to our own peaceful, quiet resort, Aaahhhhhh!
As the rain bounced down on the tin roof of our, errgh hum, Kel’s sisters caravan we cast our eye over OL5 map and tried to marry it up with the go4awalk.com route which we’re using to get all the peaks in to accomplish our Wainwright goal before I’m 50! Route sorted and after a couple of night caps, it was bed time.
Next day driving down the side of Ullswater the weather looked good and as we drove through Howtown there were a few cars parked at the bottom of Hallin Fell so a lot of people were already on the fells. We parked at Garth Heads (427186) near where the footpath crosses the small road up Boredale.
We planned to take the footpath east up Beda Fell to the ‘head’ then drop down to Boredale Hause then up onto Place Fell and heading north to High Dodd then back to the car. This was taking in two Wainwrights and a good few views, plus a post walk pint in the Pooley Bridge Inn and Kel’s favourite cider. Boots on and straight into a steep climb up to Howsteadbrow and Winter Crag, the temperature was that awkward type of temperature where it’s slightly too warm for a fleece but just too chilly for just a base layer. We trooped up to the crag and turned right heading to the top and the ground levelled and as we got closer to the top Ullswater revealed itself and with the clear skies every fell in the west could be scene. Unless it’s driving rain or blowing a hooly I normally like a good little chin wag and it never seems to amaze me that Kel can name most of the fells from every angle. Our ‘view stops’ are usually a feast of Kel turning a full 360 degrees pointing and saying, “Helvellyn, Sheffield Pike, Gowbarrow etc etc!” But today seemed very quiet on the stops with Kel just appearing to look down and breath heavily, more than usual. My concerned questions were met with “Aye I’m alright!” and “just tired, maybe too much Pinot last night!” Too much Pinot!!?? I was concerned; it’d take a lot of Pinot for her to say it’s affected her the next day. I remember when we went up Helvellyn the day after a good sesh. We’d stopped at Parkfoot, which isn’t really our place but we were with camping friends. Our mates weren’t hill walkers but like a good BBQ and the alcohol that went with a good pile of meat and buns. Anyway needless to say our attack at Helvellyn was a bit ropey and we were sweating 14% but Kel was still chipper and we still made good pace.
But today was different, her chin was down for her not to be talking, this was a concern. I knew that if she didn’t perk up on the flat on the summit I’d have to monitor her without making a fuss. The summit came and went, she’d smashed a ‘Snickers’ in and we’d started looking for the path down to Boredale Hause. We’d been blessed with cracking weather today and I was taking in the surrounding peaks, but the guided tour of their names was still missing and I was getting a bit worried about my weary wife.
As we dropped off the top over Freeze Beck and to a possible bait stop, I noticed a slight spring in Kel’s step, she’d said on the top that if she felt this rough at the ‘hause’ we’d be cutting short which I’d whole heartedly agreed. Now, this ‘spring in her step’ didn’t mean all was good. During my time in the forces I’d had many times where I’d had to monitor individuals who’d just been poorly. Nothing to do with fitness as I’ve known the ‘Racing snakes’ who ran the fells be taken down by stomach bugs during exercises in the mountains of Wales. The art is to watch faces and mannerisms; fatigue comes in three stages as far as I’m concerned. Initially quiet and getting quite tired with more than frequent stops and not saying much. Then, a second wind where there’s about half hour of “yeah I’m ok now” and picking up the pace. This second stage is where you have to wait and rest, sit down and have bait. If you’re walking bud is knackered and has fatigue caused by whatever, they’ll fail whilst resting. If you don’t clock this this second stage and crack on, it may get serious about an hour later. I’ve seen the third stage and many people have collapsed and CASEVAC’D (casualty evacuation) off a hill because someone failed to recognised the second stage. The casualty won’t know and will think life’s good and try to crack on, that’s why it’s important to have a monitor buddy to call the shots. You might get “What ya goin on about I’m fine!” but take the grief cos if they’d gone up and collapsed you’d be feeling worse.
We sat and started to have bait, it was a busy crossing with walkers coming up from all directions, Patterdale, Boredale and a few coming from Angle Tarn direction. We perched on a rock and tucked into our butties; Kel just nibbled and nibbled then stopped eating. I refer back to my previous paragraph where I mentioned mannerisms. Kel had settled by the side of a small boulder, about shoulder height, and had lent against it. Next thing I knew her eyes closed for a brief moment and there you go, stage two. She’s never done that before ever, so with a slightly concerned grin, I told her we were getting off the hills. She said OK!
The journey down Boredale confirmed my prognosis as Kel admitted she did not feel herself. She perked up slightly again but I had no concerns as we were dropping down to farm land and a flooded path and watch a big black cloud covering Beda and Place fells ready to bolster Boredale Beck on its way into Ullswater.
I wasn’t concerned that Place Fell hadn’t been bagged, to be fair, it’s not going anyway. I was just glad I got my wife off the hills before anything bad. It’s mainly a man thing too, no way am I gonna phone mountain rescue unless necessary, I would carry Kel, her daysack and mine off a fell before I used a much unfunded and overworked resource like mountain rescue.
I hope people that read this blog don’t think I’m a ‘know it all’ and a total knob. I have had past encounters with all sorts of stuff and while passing on my experience, I’m not the font of all, just know some stuff!
PS, my new boots are the dog’s swingers!!