Great End Girdle

Today I was out with family and friends in the Lake District, aiming to take in Glaramara from Wasdale Head. However, because of different factors, it turned into a tenuous Great End circumference. Technically, it wasn’t a girdle, but the title is attractive!

It couldn’t have been more different from Dartmoor a few weeks ago. Away from the endless bogs and mires, the terrain was much more distinct, which aided navigation, but also hugely increased the sense of mountain drama. The weather was fair with sunny spells, and higher up, in the low cloud, there was drizzle.

After lunch at Styhead I thought the day would be a write off, as most of the party turned back, because of problems keeping my three-month old nephew warm. However, that, combined with some other interesting happenings, made for a formational day overall, which I am now happy to count as a ‘Quality Mountain Day‘.

Three things were noteworthy:

1. A walking party that includes a young baby introduces extra responsibilities on the leader. Babies are unable to regulate their temperature, and naturally exude heat from their skin as a heating mechanism. A leader needs to ensure that a baby is as well equipped and cared for as any other adult or ‘normal’ member of the party.

2. As ever, it is imperative to communicate plans and actions clearly and comprehensibly to members of the party. Although a leader may be clear personally about what is going on and what is required, as soon as uncertainty becomes evident among the party, this should quickly be addressed.

3. A radio can be a useful piece of equipment to a leader, particularly in a large party that gets strung out. Communication between leaders is equally as important as that between leader and party member. I was pleasantly surprised to see someone with a walkie-talkie, whether for leadership or safety purposes.

4. Although there may be accepted techniques for tackling steep, rocky terrain, such as turning face-in to the slope to descend, this is no guarantee that each individual in a party will necessarily adopt it. Sometimes it is necessary to introduce a technique as well as help personally in situations, giving an individual the confidence to adopt a technique in the future that he is not yet secure with.

Ultimately, we didn’t reach the objective of Glaramara or Scafell Pike – the latter became the secondary one. Instead, we ascended through the lovely Calf Cove, dipping down again to the Corridor Route and picking up the path beside Piers Gill. The damp, precipitous depths of the Gill were eerily enticing, and a trap for unwary walkers descending from Scafell Pike.

Looking into the Mirk of Piers Gill


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