Students, Harry Tatham and Jack Mason report on their Greenland training expedition in The Lake District which took place on 30th March - 3rd April
The training expedition began immediately at the end of Lent term. As everyone else was leaving to go home for the holidays the Greenland team were on the M6 heading North to the Lake District. The first night was spent at Hollows Farm in the Borrowdale valley near Keswick. At the crack of dawn were woken by Mr Saville to the lovely aroma of porridge made with water! We needed as much energy as we could get for what was to come.
Our first walk began by ‘gaining height early’ climbing Sour Milk Gill, before scrambling up Base Brown to Green Gable. It soon became clear that Mr Saville did not like taking the easy path as we scrambled up the broken cliffs to the summit. This was a steep start to the journey especially as we were carrying everything we needed to survive independently for the next few days on our backs. We continued along the ridge up to the summit of Great Gable were we enjoyed a well-earned rest. We found that the vertical trek ‘to gain height early’ drained our energy rather quickly, but we had our limited supply of chocolate bars to keep us going. From Great Gable we then headed west over Kirk Fell before dropping steeply back down into Ennerdale valley. By now we were all really starting to feel the effects of the first days walk but it was far from over! With Mr Saville’s words of “not far now, just over the next hill” and the thought of a warm meal we all romped up Pillar Rock and onto the atmospheric peak of Steeple. From here you could see back over the very tiring route we had travelled, with Great Gable dominating the skyline. Our first nights camp was in an almost surreal spot known as Scoat Tarn on the west edge of the Lake District, with views out over the sea toward the Isle of Man and North up to the Scottish borders.
The second day our hike began with a scramble from our campsite to get back to the ridge of our existing route. After spending a good hour recovering with a gentle downward slope, we came face to face with Yewbarrow. This steep ascent was a true scramble, relying on every member’s balance to keep them from a slight tumble, especially with an 18kg bag on our backs. This was a very rewarding climb and at the summit we were greeted by some beautiful views over Wasdale and our next checkpoint, Scafell Pike. Descending Yewbarrow proved to be a challenge with there being no clear footpath the slope was covered in scree but every man came down alive. The next challenge ahead was Scafell Pike which looked daunting when at the foot of the mountain, so as a result we had a tactical half hour siesta in the valley base. Scafell Pike (England’s highest mountain) and the ensuing journey to our second nights camp, proved to be the most challenging part of the training expedition both physically and mentally as none of us had any energy reserves left to climb the seemingly endless series of path and ridges. By the time we had all made it to summit there wasn’t a man in the team who wasn’t taking the weight off their feet and enjoying the spectacular view that we could have had if we hadn’t been fully surrounded by thick cloud and fog! Here we had the most amazing, well-deserved Twix any of us had ever eaten. From here to our next camping spot, it was a steady downhill slope to another beautiful spot beside Sprinkling Tarn, and for the first time Mr Saville wasn’t the first to the campsite and, for once didn’t find the best spot to pitch the tent, as Matthew Walter beat him to it. A second night of dehydrated food beckoned and of course the luxury of Oat-so-Simple with water for breakfast. Yum-yum-yum!
The next morning brought great news as we realised that at the end of today’s activity we would finally be able to shower and recuperate. After packing our tents we made the shorter hike down to the minibus which took us back to Hollows Farm from where, after a short café stop, we re-grouped ourselves and spent the rest of the day climbing on Wodens Face a 25mt high rockface just a short walk and river crossing from the campsite. Watching the varied first attempts at crossing what was only a very small river it became clear that we all needed to practice this important skill before we leave for Greenland although we did provide amusement and an amusing spectacle for a few tourists resting by the river. Alex Taylor gained the Muppet of the trip award when he removed his shoe to cross to avoid wetting his trainers and promptly threw them to the opposite bank, where a slightly short throw resulted in them landing in the water; Uncomfortable wet feet and wet shoes. We spent about 4 hours rock climbing putting our rope skills to the test on a number of different climbs. The following day we had hoped the overnight rain would have filled the rivers so we could undertake some river crossing practice, however, after waiting until midday for the rain to clear, the rivers had still not changes noticeably from the previous day, so we decided it was time to pack up camp and head back home, dropping Jack and Dougie off in Ambleside for a revision camp at Windermere School. We returned to Trent tired, and with lots of wet kit but also some good memories of what had been a hard but rewarding few days spent in the hills.