Lake District Trip (1973)


By D. Sweeney and R. Wheal

This year's Lake District Trip started on April 12th at 9 a.m. outside the Northwood Hills Hotel- and even then the staff were looking very wistfully at its closed doors. The coach roused from slumber in some Kentish cornfield or perhaps on loan from a museum chugged over the hill, sank down alarmingly on its springs as boys and luggage were distributed about it and, after a short delay, slowly left parents and Northwood behind.

The eight-hour journey was along tedious motorways, and most of the party occupied the time reading lurid books or sleeping.

Met at our destination - the Underscar Guest House -by Messrs. Clarkson and Ryan, we were shown to our rooms by Mr. Joiner and left to change for dinner.

Having sought in vain for the night life of Keswick on Thursday evening, Friday morning saw us starting the holiday proper with a 'gentle' twelve mile introduction to fell walking. The route from Buttermere to Seatoller took us from the quiet, green valley of the village to the lonely heights of Red Pike via Scale Force-the highest waterfall in the Lake District. From Red Pike we travelled along a switchback ridge which took in High Stile, High Crags and Haystacks. The long slog down the Honister road to Seatoller was to become very familiar to us in the days to come.

Undeterred by low clouds outside, and the discomfort of the group inside, the coach, guided by Mr. Joiner, took us to the village of Patterdale early on the second morning. The destination was Helvellyn ultimately, and Striding Edge initially, but unfortunately both were a long way up and the journey to the 'promised land' of 'the wall' was long and arduous and great were the sufferings of many. These were soon forgotten though as our intrepid leaders led us over the knife-edged Striding Edge, which required concentration and calmness in great measure. Sighs of relief at the end of the 'terror' were short-lived when the last few yards to the top of Helvellyn were found to be blocked by snow. Despite footholds kicked in the snow many of the group found these final feet very difficult. After lunch on top, we descended to the Wordsworth village of Grasmere.

The coach's dogged refusal to break down, despite much chugging, prompted Bill the coach driver to join the walk on Day Three. An ascent of Great End up Skew Gill with the possibility of scrambling up Cust's Gully was the day's programme. The initial walk up to the Sty Head Tarn on a perfect summer's day lulled many into a false sense of security which lasted until the 'corridor route' was left and Skew Hill was entered. As our leader remarked from time to time the going (straight up) was 'a bit hairy' and when the final climb out on to the mountain-side produced a cascade of small stones which fell amongst the party, everyone was prepared to give Cust's Gulley up for the day. The staff, however, remained undeterred and our fate may well have been in doubt but for the fortunate fact that Cust's Gully was knee-deep in snow. To avoid retracing our steps, Mr. Clarkson pioneered a new route to the top of Great End and we then continued on our way to Seatoller.

The weather being fine and visibility good, there had been little opportunity for Mr. Joiner to indulge in his favourite habit of getting lost. This, however, was soon altered on Day Four when the walk from Buttermere to Seatoller via Pillar and Green Gable ('a long way' according to our pre-holiday information) was undertaken. As the cloud lowered down the slopes of Pillar Mr. Joiner, suffering also under the handicap of 'advancing years', got Mr. Clarkson lost, found the route again, got the group across the terrors of a snowy Shamrock Traverse, only to lose completely all sense of direction and to decide that Ennerdale Water was Wastwater as the former appeared out of the mist. Mr. Clarkson, fortunately possessed of a compass and the ability to read it, managed to correct the error and to lead us back on to the right route, and we reached Seatoller at 8pm.

Mobile toilets would have been useful on Day Five-our half day-as the hot weather had encouraged everyone to drink gallons of soft Lakeland water with the result that there was a considerable number of disturbed stomachs for the last two days. Despite this problem the whole party slogged their way up from the Langdale Valley to Pavey Ark and then ascended this rock cliff by the famous Jack's Rake. This was the most difficult thing that we attempted all week and was universally regarded as the best day. The walk was very short and by 3pm. we were in Ambleside, buying gifts for parents and friends.

With the soft water really doing its worst on Day Six it was a small group that undertook the last walk. On a bitterly cold day most of the walkers were somewhat dejected, but arrival on the top of Scafell, the highest mountain in England, dispelled everyone's 'blues' and the magnificent views were admired and lunch eaten before we moved off in the direction of Scafell Pike. With Lord's Rake- the route we intended to follow-full of snow, the walk was, to the satisfaction of nearly everyone, shortened and we returned to Seatoller.

Before dinner everyone worked hard packing, and, after the meal, small groups went their ways to say farewells to persons or places. The staff got everyone to bed finally.

Early the next morning the coach was loaded and after breakfast and final farewells, we started the journey back. Eight hours later we arrived back at Northwood and the 1973 Lake District Trip was over. 

D. Sweeney and R. Wheal

1973 School Magazine



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