By Mal Philpott

Day 1 – Saturday.

Dismal weather forecasts led discussions deep into Friday evening that eventually pushed the main objective of Pike O’ Stickle to a possible route for Sunday and a proposal for a late start and somewhat less ambitious (hopefully sub-cloud base) Gowbarrow and Aira Force circular walk was agreed for the next morning.

After an apparently unique ‘earlier than scheduled’ start on Saturday morning and a short drive to the car park at the foot of Aira Force, Clive led us off eastwards along the footpath above Ullswater at a gentle amble. An easy incline and several pauses to view the lake led us sedately to the Memorial Seat. Apparently satisfied the 2 new boys were keeping up, Clive upped the pace a little and we headed north and around and up to Gowbarrow Fell, crossing paths with quite a lot of charity walkers and families (few of whom were as well (over?) attired as us, it was noted!)

A short coffee break huddled in front of the trig point out of the wind with fine views across Ullswater and low cloud to the south west convincing us we’d decided well on route choice; and then we continued across the farmland and down to the head of Aira Force.  Lunch was broken out at the side of the higher cascade and for 20mins or so sunshine and the noise of the falls was enjoyed until cloud cover and a little rain brought a slightly premature repacking and covering up.

A gentle descent alongside the Aira beck with frequent stops to view the falls (mostly from approved locations though it was noted a couple of ‘youth’ pushed boundaries) and finally we arrived in the arboretum with an appreciation of the mass planting of specimen trees 150+yrs ago.

The day was still young and the weather still holding out – what to do now ?

Following Charles’ suggestion to ascend Place Fell above Patterdale we parked up near the George Starkey hut where the group split. Roland and Clive choosing to take a sup at the Patterdale Hotel to ensure fitness for the next day’s event, and the remainder setting off to cross the beck but without quite orienting ourselves first. Once we were directionally sorted, Ian in training for Ama Dablam later this month, led us off at a spirited pace, poles a clicking, up past Tide farm and onto the trail to the col. At one point we stopped to chat to a fell runner being towed back down the trail by his totally blind Collie – amazing creatures. We all enjoyed the increase in work rate and built up a relatively good rhythm before the route curved sharply at the col to head up to the peak. The wind had increased a reasonable amount by now and hoods were up as we summited in about an hour. We could see rain across towards Langdale but it looked like we would avoid it as we set off at a quick pace back down to reverse the route.  Thankfully a democratic decision to not continue in a loop via High Dodd ensured we were only caught by rain for the last 10minutes.

A deserved couple of Wainwright Golds were enjoyed at the Patterson Hotel prior to returning to base camp.

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