Lush, with fan club, on a mission
First to beat The Challenge
Knitters leave Patterdale behind
A part of Lakeland is forever Forking
FRBs make fells look easy
Knitting circle put their feet up
H5 versus the East and West Fells
They had been tested on Ivinghoe Beacon, Dunstable Downs, Barton Hills and Sharpenhoe Clappers by Private Parts, Forkin' and Ringer. They had been honed to a keen edge by that master of the sharp knife Bangers. Were the H5X4 Challenge Team - Bangers, Capt. Fantaastic, Cardiac, Count Roadkill, Depth Charge, Dogz Bollox, Fat Controller, Forkin' Dickchair, Lady Penelope, Lost Cause, Nik-Nak, Private Parts, Rapid Withdrawal, Ringer, Screamer, Shufflecock, Smiffo, Submissive and Zebedee (plus Lush Big Knickers and Kisses Anytime in non-walking roles) - now ready to follow in the footsteps of the legendary English Lakeland Fellwalker Alfred Wainwright? They had talked the talk, now it was time to walk the walk.
Owing to the frustrating constraints of having to w*#k on the Monday, Submissive and Lost Cause moved the event forward by a day and began their walking weekend on the Friday, while the rest of us were travelling the 260 miles or so north to the Gillside campsite at Glenridding, Cumbria. Friday was a glorious day, dawn to dusk sunshine, perfect for travelling in, but an added challenge to an already difficult day's walking for Sub and Lost. Water was at a premium but they completed the first leg of their challenge in good time and shape.
The rest of us arrived in pairs and triplets at the excellent bunkhouse accommodation on the campsite. We had been warned by The Count that this was basic, but in fact was well-equipped and ideal for our needs. The separate toilet/shower block next to the bunkhouse was shared with the rest of the campsite, but this didn't seem to cause any issues, probably because of our early starts in the morning - the Hash was up and ready to leave by 7.30am!!! The toilet block was however indirectly the source of quote of the weekend (see later).
By penny numbers we made our way down on Friday evening to the Traveller's Rest pub just a few hundred yards down the lane for a few well-earned refreshers, after which it was back to the bunkhouse for Lady P's superb chilli and baked potato. We were met at the pub by Fat Controller and Kisses who were staying at a nearby B&B [FC's snoring is legendary but the guys have a new contender - who shall remain nameless - for the title of Man Most Likely To (Get Thrown Out Of The Room)].
Count Roadkill had put together two walks of 10 peaks each: the East Fells comprising Angletarn Pikes; Rest Dodd; The Knott; Rampsgill Head; Kidsty Pike; High Street; Mardale Ill Bell; Thornthwaite Crag; Caudale Moor and Hartsop Dodd, and the West Fells comprising Raise; White Side, Catsty Cam; the mighty Helvellyn (the 3rd highest peak in England); Nethermost Pike; Dollywagon Pike; Seat Sandal; Fairfield; St Sunday Crag and Birks. It was generally agreed that the West Fells walk was probably the more challenging of the two. Half the party would tackle one route the first day, then swap over for the second day.
Saturday morning dawned overcast but good walking weather as we set off on our first legs (second leg for Sub and Lost). The FRBs to West started with what seemed like two hours uphill climb towards Helvellyn. The first peak was Raise, a cunning line of cairns that gave hope that the summit was reached, only to be dashed by another cairn teasingly placed a little higher along the rising hill. Shuflecock may have been first to the first peak of the day. Private Parts was the group leader, making sure the Forkin left was observed as per the instructions to reach Helvellyn.
At the Swirral Edge the low clouds gave the impression of walking into nothingness, so Forkin wisely elected to stay at the cairn and monitor the poles that were excess baggage along this knife edge path. Captain F left his walking sticks as he bravely pushed into the mist, in the manner of 'Stars in Their Eyes'. He re-emerged in the form of Zebedee through the clouds from Catsycam. Having moved on Forkin had left a sign. The walking group observed it and photographed it for posterity. In years to come there may still be people walking Swirral Edge saying 'This sign marked Forkin must lead to the next peak' and before you know it Helvellyn will be renamed.
On what is still called Helvellyn there was a hot Coffee & Bacon Butty tent operated by some enterprising upstart raising funds for his expedition to Peru. After a hot brew it was onwards to Dollywaggon Pike visiting Nethermost pike along the way. The downhill grassy descent was steep enough to slide on the seat of your pants as Rapid Withdrawal experienced. Seat Sandal loomed, with Depth Charge marching fearlessly up the scree to conquer peak number seven. Meanwhile back in the valley Forking was having his own fun by skinny dipping in the Grisedale Tarn. Feeling fresh with clean kit on this didn't last long up the dusty, rocky scramble to Fairfield. Next was St Sunday's which involved a lot of climbing to negotiate a path between the crags. At Birks there was a fateful injury that befell Cardiac. With Smiffo and Depth Charge administering first aid the the injured party the downhill finish was done slowly and gingerly over uneven pathways.
Meanwhile the East Fells squad, generally accepted as the Knitting Circle, went down to collect FC and Kisses from their B&B, only to be met by the fearfully piteous sight of FC struck down overnight by some hideous sickness or other (known as "fear" according to The Count) - I've seen healthier-looking corpses than FC looked at that moment. Kisses was similarly afflicted. Keeping his distance, FC bade us his regrets and we set off for the car park in Patterdale which charged the princely sum of £4.50 to park on a tatty bit of broken tarmac/stone for the day.
The Knitters made good progress, reaching High Street around 13.00, where we lunched while sheltering behind a dry stone wall from the wind and swirling mist. This was the high point of the walk (2,718 ft) and on the day was just about level with the base of the clouds. The descent from Fell 8 (Thornthwaite Crag) is a steep scree path and the sight of the seemingly impossible climb back up the other side of the valley was too much for Ringer, Nik-Nak and Dogz Bollox who split off and followed the beck to Hartsop, arriving at exactly the right time to rejoin the others in the party making the descent from their last Fell, where Subby and Lost Cause had become the first people ever to complete the H5x4 Challenge.
Saturday was rounded off by a good meal at the Traveller's Rest before retiring for an unheard of early night (10pm - yes you read that right, the hash in bed by ten).
Sunday dawned a noticeably cooler day than Saturday and after saying goodbye to Submissive and Lost Cause, the intrepid walkers (minus Cardiac, Dogz Bollox and Screamer all suffering trepidation) were keen to complete their challenges. Nik-Nak and Ringer started in the West but decided quickly to drop off from the others and made their own walk up to Red Tarn, almost as far as Swirral Edge before returning. This left the trio of Bangers, Lady P and The Count battling on for the Knitting Circle. But after 2,500 ft the cloud, the cold, the wind and weariness left the three at the top of the wrong mountain, effectively killing off their challenge. They ploughed on to the summit of Helvellyn and a couple of other peaks before finishing a genteel fell walk rather than the challenge they hoped for.
For the FRBs, with a slight route adjustment and parking for free at Low Hartsop, it was £4.50 up on the day already. Their walk started rather flat along the Goldrill Beck valley before a sudden uphill trudge to meet the Coast to Coast route. The C2C path was busy at times, more Kensington High Street than Patterdale. The peaks along it were clocked off, Angletarn Pikes up to Kidsty Pike. Resorting to reading the map it was at High street that a compass bearing showed the way through the grassy tussocks towards Mardale III Bell. At Thornywaite Crag both Depth Charge and Zebedee attempted to climb the 14 ft column. Following a successful mounting at High Street Zeb's couldn't get more than tossing a rock on to the stack. Down into the valley Rapid Withdrawal was bringing up the rear, but had enough in the tank to climb towards Coudale Moor as Forking exited right, down the valley floor towards the Car Park with Depth Charges car keys in his pocket.
All were back at the bunkhouse by tea-time for some celebratory sparkling wine and a circle were followed by a second meal at the pub and an excellent attempt to finish off the cheese board back at the bunkhouse.
Congratulations to Submissive and Lost Cause, and to Capt Fantaaastic, Depth Charge, Private Parts, Rapid Withdrawal, Shuffle Cock, Smiffo and Zebedee for conquering all 20 peaks and well done to everyone else for achieving their own personal aims. Congratulations also, and many thanks, to The Count for designing such excellent and challenging walks. Hearty breakfasts to fortify the walkers were provided by Cardiac (on sausages & beans) and Ringer (on eggs). Thanks to Lady P for providing an excellent catering facility out of very little, and as always to everyone (you know who you are) that (unbidden) just did those little tasks that make a Hash weekend run smoothly.
Oh yes, that quote of the weekend. The separate toilet block necessitated trips outside during the night. Thus one might encounter other Hashers or indeed other campers on a similar mission in various states of (un)dress. Forkin' declared that on such a venture he would "carry his underpants in his hand in case he met someone". The mind boggles...
RINGER & THE COUNT, WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM FORKIN'
** Lush was actually given a secret mission vital to the whole project. In order to prevent climbers curse - red wine virus - she took on the role of drinking Glenridding dry of red wine before the challengers could get to it. Mission accomplished.