Most years I spend New Year in the Lake District with a walking club and this year we were at Hawes End, an old Victorian house on the Western shore of Derwent Water near Keswick. I got a lift there with my friend Jane and her two kids and we arrived on the evening of December 28th. Hawes End is run by Cumbria Outdoors and has beds for 50 people – we managed to fill it with about equal numbers of kids and adults. It was self catering so there were volunteers to coordinate each day’s food which included a cooked breakfast, packed lunch and hearty evening meal.
I was expecting it to be cold and windy so I had packed lots of warm clothes, crampons, ice axe, goggles etc. The first day four of us set off walking from the centre to do the Coledale round. The footbridge across Newlands Beck had been washed away in the recent flooding so we had to detour through Stair to reach Rowling End. Visibility was good and we made decent progress along Sleet Hause, over Causey Pike to Sail and then Crag Hill. Descending Crag Hill was a bit of a slog through deep snow and we decided to head straight for Coledale Hause rather than do the detour onto Grassmoor. Due to high wind and blowing snow we also decided to miss out Hopegill Head and made straight for Grizedale Pike where we we found ourselves in cloud for the first time. It was a bit grim up there so we descended quickly to Sleet How where the wind eased off. The rest of the descent was OK apart from the icy paths as we came down into Braithwaite – not quite treacherous enough for me to bother putting crampons on though. Due to another bridge out we had to return via Stair which was a bit of a trudge, it was dark by the time we got back to the centre.
The next day I set off with a large group of adults and kids for a widdershins circumnavigation of Derwent Water. When we reached the Borrowdale Hotel we headed up to Moss Mire in order to avoid walking along the road but once there I joined a breakaway group aiming to reach High Seat at 608 m and then take in Bleaberry Fell on the way to Keswick. Once we were up on the open fell we found ourselves struggling into a strong headwind and there was a lot of blowing snow again. It became increasingly difficult to look ahead (I had neglected to take my goggles) so we found ourselves stumbling though deep snowdrifts. Somehow we found the summit where there was a reasonably sheltered place to eat our sandwiches. Since it was now becoming difficult to even stand up in the wind we decided to abandon the rest of our route and descend straight back down to the Borrowdale Hotel with the wind at our backs. From there it was quicker and more pleasant to go back round the lake the way we had come rather than completing the circuit via Keswick.
On New Year’s Eve I went for a lower level walk with Jane. We stopped in Keswick for a coffee and then headed up Latrigg. Serious walkers tend not to bother with it because it seems so insignificant next to Skiddaw but it is actually a really nice hill with excellent views. The last time I had been on Latrigg was in the late 1970s with my parents and it was interesting doing it again after all those years. From the summit we headed roughly East down to Brundholme, crossed the Gretna over the old railway bridge and made our way to the Castlerigg stone circle. We walked back into Keswick via Castlerigg and fortified ourselves with a hot chocolate before doing the last leg back to Hawse End.
We had the centre booked till Jan 2nd but Jane needed to get home and wanted to leave fairly early in the morning so I wasn’t going to be able to do my traditional New Year’s Day walk, or was I? There was a full moon in a clear sky so after dinner I decided to head up Cat Bells which is about 450 m. I took my crampons with me and set off about 23:00 aiming to reach the summit by midnight. The moon was so bright I didn’t need my head torch and there was very little wind. The path was icy so when I reached the summit I immediately put on my crampons ready for the descent and then waited for midnight. The surrounding snow covered mountains looked amazing in the moonlight and within a few minutes I started to see fireworks going up from Keswick and nearby villages. With crampons on it seemed to take no time to get back down to the centre for a nightcap. So technically I got my New Year’s Day walk after all.
I would have liked to stay longer but there will be other opportunities. There are more photos in my Keswick 2009 flickr set.