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  • Sam Edwards

Wansfell Whiteout


Exhausted by emails and temporarily freed of parental responsibilities, I took the train north with Molly. Near Kendal the fells were dusted with snow; beyond Windermere, where the train stops, they were iced and alpine. On the way to Ambleside, with the bus running close to the lake shore, I planned our route - straight-up Wansfell, and then down to Troutbeck before turning back for coffee, cake and the trip home. In between some determined dozing, Molly was clearly excited, keen to see what the day (and I) had in store. Once at Ambleside, we headed for the road that parallels Stock Ghyll Beck, climbing till the tarmac finished, within earshot of the rushing water of the 'Force'. Striking east on the well-made path which flanks the fell, we soon hit the snow-line. I breathed hard, drawing in the cold air, whilst Molly (now middle-aged) bounded and bounced up the hill like a pup. The flakes were falling fast now, and in the whiteout I briefly lost Molly - until a ball of yellow fur rolled past, turned and then charged up the hill again, mouth agape in an effort to eat what the sky offered. On the fell-top the clouds cleared and I looked for the path down to Troutbeck. Thinking I had it, we began the descent, only to discover that the footprints we were following disappeared under the fresh snow fall, and in no time we were 'off-piste'. Weighing up the options - back up to find the right route, or continuing down as best we could - we opted for the latter, and were soon happily slipping and sliding our way towards a boundary wall below. On this side of the fell there was no noise, no wind, no body. Later, on the train home, Molly slept at my feet whilst I re-traced our route on the map, finding an innocent looking thin blue line - the stream into which we had both pitched (me up to my knees) during an increasingly uncontrolled descent. We had both yelped, shocked by the ice-water, before laughter (and barking) took hold and we clambered out. We ran hard off the hill chasing the warmth only effort and exertion could provide. At a cafe in town (the first we could find) I drank mugs of hot coffee, Molly dried out, and we both quietly steamed.


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