Tobar nan Ceann Gang

The blog of a bunch of middle aged men trying to stay youthful…!



Four members of Tobar nan Ceann Gang Craig, Jeff, Kyle & Neal completed the walk up Helvellyn, the other 6 went off in a different direction to tackle a less strenuous walk.

Helvellyn (Archaic: Helvillon, probably from Cumbric: hal (moor) + velyn (yellow)) is a mountain in the English Lake District, the apex of the Eastern Fells. At 950 metres (3,117 ft) above sea level, it is the third highest peak in both the Lake District and England.

Helvellyn (By Craig)

On Friday 5th February 2010, the TNC Gang arrived at St John’s in the Vale near Keswick for a weekend in The Lake District with the plan of walking up Helvellyn, enjoying good company and getting merrily drunk – all of which were achieved – one way or another!

I was using the weekend as a final bit of ‘training’ for a charity trek in Vietnam later in the month. The weather was cold and recent snow fall was still on the ground even at relatively low levels and where the snow had cleared, the ground was frozen especially in the shaded parts of the valley.

Members of the TNC Gang descended on the Camping Barn from north and south and with people finishing work at different times it was quite a staggered arrival. But my 7 o’clock pretty much everyone was there, the open fire was roaring in the hearth and the beers were flowing.

The barn had electric lighting, a toilet and hot water but the stone floors and walls lost a lot of heat and so it took a good fire to warm it up properly. The fire also heated a back boiler for the water which seemed like a good idea until the middle of the night when the pipes started to cool down and the banging pipework kept everyone awake!

For some, mindful of the next days’ walk, the drinking was knocked on the head somewhere between midnight and one. For others the drinking continued until about 5 in the morning…

Saturday morning arrived with some pretty bad hangovers and plenty of moaning about snoring! The idea of cooking breakfast was abandoned and we went to the ‘The Kings Head’ at Thirlspot (on the banks of Thirlmere) for a proper breakfast. Once fed and watered we set off up the hill in the rough direction of Helvellyn. It was around this point that things started to go wrong…!

We took the path from behind the pub climbing steeply up the hill side. As the path meandered towards the left we were conscious that Hellvelyn was to our right so we took the next path on the right and followed it without much thought. Soon though we seemed to be heading down again and tracing the outline of the path into the distance we quickly worked out that our path was no good!

Time for a spot of improvisation and we went off-path and straight up over boulder fields and streams ascending in a very direct route if not particularly quickly. We soon reached a small plateaux but the exertion had begun to take its toll. The layers of winter clothing were being shed at a rate of knots and it was apparent that the group would split into two – and the two groups pretty much mirrored those that drank until the middle of the night and those that didn’t!

Personally I was pretty sceptical about getting to the top but Jeff and Kyle were determined to press on, so Neal and myself went along to see how far we would get. The peak was visible but the snowline was quite some way down the mountain and none of us had crampons or the common sense not to bother.

In the end, it was a long hard slog to the top. Crossing ice patches was perilous but the views on getting there were superb. As with most things, the harder you work then the greater the rewards.

The trip back down was far easier and much more fun – sliding down the snow and ice and enjoying the sunshine. We returned to the pub for a couple of pints and a bowl of soup before heading back to the Barn to rejoin the others. The beers flowed again that night although the second night is never quite as boisterous as the first!

I would love to go back up Helvellyn again in the not too distant future but maybe next time approach it from the other direction to take in Striding Edge. Definitely one for the summer months though!

Helvellyn Photo Album

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