Author Topic: Yoke, Ill Bell, Froswick in the snow  (Read 1069 times)

richardh1905

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Yoke, Ill Bell, Froswick in the snow
« on: 22:46:51, 20/12/19 »
Yoke, Ill Bell and Froswick from Kentmere     18/12/2019

The sight of snow on the hills spurred me into action, so I strapped my ice axe onto my rucksack and drove up to Kentmere, parking at the hall. For once I left Tess, our spaniel, behind - I didn’t fancy having her pulling me around on steep snow. I started walking just before 11:00, rather a late start for a day on the hills in December. The weather wasn’t as good as forecast, with clouds down to around 2000’, but I could see that there was plenty of snow on the fells.

I had hoped to do the full Kentmere Horseshoe, but I realised that this was not going to happen, so I planned to descend down Nan Bield Pass after traversing the western half. Even this proved to be over optimistic.



I enjoyed the steady climb up Garburn Pass, a bridleway leading over the hill to the Troutbeck valley, and the views down the Kentmere valley unfolded behind me as I climbed. The path was pretty rough though, with some steep rocky sections and washed out cobbles.


Kentmere valley from Garburn Pass - not so easy in the dark!

At the top of the pass, I took a well used path that climbed northwards towards Yoke.


Looking west from the top of Garburn Pass - I took the path to the right

I entered the snow at around 2000’, and, unfortunately, entered the clouds a couple of hundred feet higher. The wind picked up, and it really started to get cold - time for gloves, hat, buff, and an extra layer. A couple passed me whilst I was struggling to put my jacket back on.

The snow got quite deep, and had a weak crust on it, so the going was hard at times, in up to my knees. The summit of Yoke came quickly enough though, marked by a large untidy cairn behind which the couple whom I had met earlier had stopped for lunch.  After exchanging brief pleasantries, and having a quick look at the map, I continued onwards along the ridge, the ground dropping away steeply to the east. I briefly emerged from the clouds as I descended, and I got a good view down to Kentmere Reservoir far below me.


Kentmere Reservoir far below

I was soon back in the clouds as I started climbing Ill Bell, though. The ground steepened somewhat and I decided to get the ice axe out, certainly more useful than a walking pole on steep ground. Grabbed some lunch too - it was now 1 pm. The well built summit cairn seemed to appear out of nowhere in the mist; I reached the top sooner than expected.


Ill Bell south cairn plastered in snow

I passed the second cairn and descended steeply to the col before Froswick. By now it was beginning to dawn on me that I might run out of daylight on the hill. Whilst I had a head torch with good batteries, I didn’t fancy blundering around in the snow in the dark. I considered descending eastwards down steep snow covered slopes to Kentmere reservoir, and even went over the edge and cautiously descended a dozen steps before common sense got the better of me.

I pressed on northwards and struggled up Froswick, again in the mist, before dropping down below the clouds to the col before Thornthwaite Crag and High Street. It was a pity that the cloud level hadn’t been a few hundred feet higher. I again considered descending to the east, but if anything the slopes looked even nastier - steep grass covered with slushy snow. Time for a rethink as the time was now approaching 2pm.


The path to Thornthwaite Crag and High Street. I descended to the left.

Rather than retrace my steps over the ridge, into the teeth of the strengthening wind, I decided to take the safe but long option - descending to Troutbeck down the old Roman Road, and then climbing back to Kentmere over Garburn Pass. I rang my wife to let her know that I was going to be late back, but that I was coming down off the fells.

So I cut across westwards to join the bridleway, which soon took me below the snowline - I was struck by how green the grass was. Time to swap ice axe for walking pole, and grab a bit more to eat - I had bought plenty. The bridleway descended steeply at first, and gave fine views of the valley below, which is interesting in that it is split in two by a low rounded ridge, The Tongue, an unusual glacial feature.


The Tongue with Windermere in the distance

Once in the valley, the bridleway turned into a decent farm track, pleasantly skirting the eastern slopes of The Tongue. I passed a couple of fine Herdwick rams, very noble beasts.


Looking back up the valley towards Thornthwaite Crag

After a mile or so, I came to a junction - I took the left path over a footbridge which crossed Hagg Gill by an old barn and some quarry workings, quite a pleasant spot. No time to linger, though - I still had miles to go even to get to the foot of Garburn Pass, and the daylight was beginning to fade. So I plodded on; the path this time skirting the eastern side of the valley, fording a stream, passing a farm and then climbing up to the start of the pass, the best part of 3 miles from the footbridge.


Quarry, footbridge and barn - a pleasant spot, even on a dreary winter afternoon

By now the light really was fading, and it had started to rain. I crammed down a bit more food to give myself a boost for the pass, and got the head torch out, ready for when I really needed it.

The climb up the western side of Garburn Pass is quite easy in comparison to the eastern side, a gentle if long ascent up a well surfaced track, very atmospheric in the gathering twilight, with a crow calling in some pine woods.


Looking back towards The Tongue from the start of the Garburn Pass

By the time I got to the top it really was getting dark, and I did the last half mile of the climb with my head torch on. I passed the path that I had taken earlier in the day and started the descent. Walking down a rough track with a head torch takes care - I have noticed that a head torch casts no shadows visible to the wearer, as the light source is so close to your eyes. This has the effect of ‘flattening’ the ground, spoiling my depth perception. I was also reminded of the fact that it is difficult to judge the depth of a puddle by torchlight!

Slowly and steadily I picked my way down the pass, aware of the fact that I would be in a spot of bother if my head torch failed. As I descended I started to enjoy the experience - rivulets of water running down the path sparkled like jewels in the torchlight, and the bright lights of Kentmere beckoned. All the same, I was glad to get onto easier ground, and I arrived back at the car at 5:30 pm - it had taken me an hour to come down the pass, 10 minutes longer than it took me to climb it in the morning!


A late finish

All in all, an excellent day, despite the weather and the late start - certainly a day that I will remember.

12 miles in total, with 3,400' of ascent, and 3 hills, a valley and a pass that were new to me.

https://my.viewranger.com/route/details/Mjc2MjcxOQ==
« Last Edit: 07:55:40, 21/12/19 by richardh1905 »

April

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Re: Yoke, Ill Bell, Froswick in the snow
« Reply #1 on: 08:16:16, 21/12/19 »
Great report Richard  O0

That descent down the Garburn Pass to Kentmere is awful in daylight  :) It is on our never again in descent list  ;)
"Who would've thought...... you are light and darkness coming through" words by Tim Armstrong

richardh1905

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Re: Yoke, Ill Bell, Froswick in the snow
« Reply #2 on: 08:37:49, 21/12/19 »
Thanks April; thought that I would share my experience of what turned out to be a bit of a minor epic in it's own way.  :)

And I imagine that Garburn Pass would require extra care with heavy packs; it is certainly the roughest ground that I have tackled by torchlight.

vghikers

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Re: Yoke, Ill Bell, Froswick in the snow
« Reply #3 on: 10:08:15, 21/12/19 »
An interesting outing with evocative pics  O0
I think any mountain walk in those conditions would seem like a bit of an epic to us nowadays with the constraint of very short daylight hours!. It's ages since we were forced to walk by headtorch, though we did buy brighter ones recently for that eventuality.

Bigfoot_Mike

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Re: Yoke, Ill Bell, Froswick in the snow
« Reply #4 on: 11:46:43, 21/12/19 »
It looks like it was an interesting day out Richard and possibly an unexpected epic. It has been a while since I have been descending with head torches, but I remember the lack of depth perception and my walking companion nearly walked off a 15 foot drop where the track changed direction, when we were returning from a day on the Glyders and Tryfan to Beudy Mawr in Llanberis pass. It must have been more difficult for you with snow and mist to contend with.

pleb

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Re: Yoke, Ill Bell, Froswick in the snow
« Reply #5 on: 11:55:35, 21/12/19 »
Not jealous  :-\
We're all doomed! DOOOMED I SAY!

forgotmyoldpassword

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Re: Yoke, Ill Bell, Froswick in the snow
« Reply #6 on: 12:11:48, 21/12/19 »
Nice write up and quite enjoyed this one!  Although I knew the moment you said you started at 11:00 near the shortest day of the year and planned a Kentmere round you'd be on a hiding to nothing, it was only a matter of the way you bailed out of it!  Got to say I like the map-route trace included, I do know most of the Lakes well enough (especially this area) to not need it most of the time but for areas I don't often visit it's nice to have a reference.


Glad you didn't take the direct descent in those conditions, too! Sadly there usually isn't a 'quick way off' in winter conditions unless you bring a sledge with you!  I've got the Kentmere round planned for late January, hopefully with some icy conditions but a bit more light - if you want to come along to complete the route you're more than welcome.  Regarding the problem of headtorch shadows, I nearly broke my ankle misjudging a step due to that very reason and bring along a tiny LED torch which sits in a backup pocket for winter walking - it's a nice backup if my headtorch batteries run out/it breaks, or more likely your walking partner needs some light - but more importantly it allows you to cast a different shadow when walking in the darkness which gives you depth perception.


Hope to be out on Christmas Eve up Helvellyn myself, hoping for good conditions but it's looking a bit mixed over Xmas this year.

beefy

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Re: Yoke, Ill Bell, Froswick in the snow
« Reply #7 on: 14:48:19, 21/12/19 »
Great pics richard  O0
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richardh1905

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Re: Yoke, Ill Bell, Froswick in the snow
« Reply #8 on: 17:50:29, 21/12/19 »
An interesting outing with evocative pics  O0
I think any mountain walk in those conditions would seem like a bit of an epic to us nowadays with the constraint of very short daylight hours!. It's ages since we were forced to walk by headtorch, though we did buy brighter ones recently for that eventuality.

Thanks, vghikers.
Headtorches have got so much better within the last 10 years, my now quite elderly Petzl Tikka+ is like a pocket sun if I turn it up to full power, and I get a decent life out of the 900mAh AAA NiMH rechargeable batteries that I use. That being said, I should perhaps carry a spare torch if I plan to finish in the dark - I will next time.

richardh1905

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Re: Yoke, Ill Bell, Froswick in the snow
« Reply #9 on: 17:52:07, 21/12/19 »
It looks like it was an interesting day out Richard and possibly an unexpected epic. It has been a while since I have been descending with head torches, but I remember the lack of depth perception and my walking companion nearly walked off a 15 foot drop where the track changed direction, when we were returning from a day on the Glyders and Tryfan to Beudy Mawr in Llanberis pass. It must have been more difficult for you with snow and mist to contend with.

Interesting would be one way of describing it, Mike! I thoroughly enjoyed it as a whole, battling through the snow, descending into an unknown valley, even climbing over Garburn Pass with darkness falling. All adds to the spice of life.

richardh1905

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Re: Yoke, Ill Bell, Froswick in the snow
« Reply #10 on: 18:02:02, 21/12/19 »
Nice write up and quite enjoyed this one!  Although I knew the moment you said you started at 11:00 near the shortest day of the year and planned a Kentmere round you'd be on a hiding to nothing, it was only a matter of the way you bailed out of it!  Got to say I like the map-route trace included, I do know most of the Lakes well enough (especially this area) to not need it most of the time but for areas I don't often visit it's nice to have a reference.

Glad you didn't take the direct descent in those conditions, too! Sadly there usually isn't a 'quick way off' in winter conditions unless you bring a sledge with you!  I've got the Kentmere round planned for late January, hopefully with some icy conditions but a bit more light - if you want to come along to complete the route you're more than welcome.  Regarding the problem of headtorch shadows, I nearly broke my ankle misjudging a step due to that very reason and bring along a tiny LED torch which sits in a backup pocket for winter walking - it's a nice backup if my headtorch batteries run out/it breaks, or more likely your walking partner needs some light - but more importantly it allows you to cast a different shadow when walking in the darkness which gives you depth perception.

Hope to be out on Christmas Eve up Helvellyn myself, hoping for good conditions but it's looking a bit mixed over Xmas this year.

Thanks for the feedback - I realised I was on a hiding to nothing regarding the full horseshoe - my start was delayed as some friends called around, so I adopted a Plan B - then Plan C & D!

I too like to see a map on a TR, so much easier to visualise the route at a glance, even if I know the hills.

I perhaps would have taken the steep descent to the east if the snow had been firmer, but it was pretty treacherous stuff - unpleasant and just not worth the risk.

Thanks for the invitation - please message me when you have a date in mind as I would certainly like to take you up on your offer. I'll certainly be back up that way as the Kentmere hills are very accessible for me now that I live in SE Cumbria. And I like the fact that they are quieter.

Regarding torches - I really should have taken a spare as I knew that there was a high probability that I would be finishing in the dark. I have a 400 lumen Cateye bike headlamp that is pretty small - should do the job!

PS - enjoy Helvellyn - I'll be up there in the spring with my 12 year old son: he's dead keen to climb it, but maybe a bit too young for full on winter conditions.

richardh1905

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Re: Yoke, Ill Bell, Froswick in the snow
« Reply #11 on: 18:04:33, 21/12/19 »
Great pics richard  O0

Thanks Beefy :)

Mel

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Re: Yoke, Ill Bell, Froswick in the snow
« Reply #12 on: 21:56:09, 21/12/19 »
Lovely write up and pics Richard.  I like the Ill Bell south cairn plastered in snow pic - it looks like a creature lying on its back!
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richardh1905

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Re: Yoke, Ill Bell, Froswick in the snow
« Reply #13 on: 22:20:41, 21/12/19 »
Lovely write up and pics Richard.  I like the Ill Bell south cairn plastered in snow pic - it looks like a creature lying on its back!


Thanks Mel - yes it does have a face, doesn't it :)

sunnydale

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Re: Yoke, Ill Bell, Froswick in the snow
« Reply #14 on: 07:44:29, 28/12/19 »
Great photos & report Richard, looks a good walk O0
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