It was so quiet I could hear the snow making that spooky creaking noise as I placed each foot carefully. The snow was so deep it came above my knees in places and melted into my walking boots and I had no idea why I hadn’t put my gaiters on. The wind was whipped through my layers of clothing and the hail was hitting my face so hard it hurt. I simultaneously felt totally alive and sure I was about to die of hypothermia!
Only one fine day was forecast for the week between storms Ciara and Dennis. ‘Let’s go to the Lake District for the day,’ I suggested, thinking it would be good to make the most of the fine weather after two weeks of being trapped by DIY. The weather was still expected to be cold and breezy so I pictured us wrapping up for a brisk walk through some attractive sheltered woodland, but I left the planning to my partner. As I have mentioned before, he is trying to walk up all the Wainwright Fells and so after consulting his lists and our maps, parked the Blue Bus near the church at Troutbeck. We weren’t early birds and our favoured car park by Trout Beck was busy even on a week day in February and we had to resort to the lay-by up the road.
He pointed up the valley to a snowy ridge and told me we were here to climb Froswick; it was clearly a hill! There also was not even a hint of sheltered woodland, this was a completely exposed route. Only 720 m high, Froswick is on the ridge between Thornthwaite Crag and Ill Bell, both of which we have climbed. Any sensible person would have included Froswick on a walk up one of these bigger neighbours and hardly even noticed the extra exertion. For some reason Froswick had been missed on all of our trips to the surrounding hills and remained without a tick on the list.
In the valley it was a pleasant enough February day but we set off well wrapped up against the cold we expected as we climbed higher. The ground was sodden after the heavy rain during the first storm and we jumped over becks and sloshed across bogs on the path from Limefitt Park, following Hagg Gill.
The hardy Herdwick sheep were sheltering where they could and the other walkers we met were all climbing The Tongue, the distinctive hill that sticks out into the valley. As we climbed higher the landscape became white and the gusts got stronger, the clouds chasing across the horizon and blue sky just occasionally peeping through. Walking in deep snow is hard work and I was plodding on with my head down, using my walk leader’s footprints to show the way. I was wearing five layers of clothing and yet could still feel the chill of the wind on my skin!
Looking up from the plodding, I could see the clouds were still high and the top of Froswick was in sight. I was beginning to think we would get to the top, although I was tired and cold but common sense kicked in and after a brief huddle over the map we jointly decided it would be most sensible to abandon the hill that day.
Descending in deep snow is lots of fun, and much quicker than going up, but it was still almost four in the afternoon by the time we were back at the ‘van. Although we did have our head torches, walking on wet ground is easier in daylight and it is doubtful whether we would have got to the top and back down before dark. Knowing when to turn back is an important skill for hill walkers.
I have no doubt we will be back to attempt to walk up Froswick on another day, I just hope it is a bit warmer.
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