Three Peaks 2: Scafell

Start in clear sky, 00.32′.
Started well, we paused to enjoy the crystal clear starry sky.
By about 650m we were walking into cloud. Hill fog dominated the rest of the walk and contributed to our problems. We, as mountain leaders failed this day. If we were leading a party on this hill, we let them down. This should never happen again. See later…
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The plan was to get back to the bus by 5am. We were disastrously late.

No doubt we all will analyse what went wrong on this climb. Let’s start a list:

We lost a navigator- me. Once the hill fog came down, I couldn’t see. The strong wind filled my eyes with tears. Worse, my glasses misted up so map reading was beyond me.
Carl led most of the walk, he got up up to the summit easily and in good time. On the summit plateau however, the wind was so strong it took 2 of us to hold the map and take a bearing.
The maps themselves caused problems. They were printed from mapping software onto A4 laminated paper. One Side is zoomed in but without grid ref numbers along the edge. That meant flipping the paper to figure out the ref on the other side.
The result, a flower shaped route of false starts. Once we found ourselves near Mickledor.
By now, Carl was in panic mode. Even using gps, he couldn’t say exactly where we were at times.
What we did: back to the summit and took a heading along a line of cairns (300°). This led to an impassible drop. To avoid it, we skirted East and into a gap between crags. Landmarks appeared, a wall, a gully and water.  It was Piers Gill. The air was calming and now daylight. Hill fog remained. But I could function in this.
Despite skepticism from the others, I could now set a route with some confidence. They weren’t so sure, they didn’t want to climb. In response, I said “here’s the evidence”. I won the case and we set off east over a spur and met another path. There were people ascending (more 3-Peaks’).
Another hour and we would be down. I took a fall, Carl took several and it was obvious that we were tired, cold and hungry. All factors that diminish the quality of our decision making.
What we did wrong: we made poor decisions. We made navigation errors with inadequate evidence. A line of cairns, on its own is not enough. We need land-form, water features and something to sight on. The stress caused by the conditions caused semi-panic and drove us on with adrenaline. We pushed on when we should have stopped and considered.
What I should do: bring complete kit. I traveled light, a bad mistake. No waterproof trousers, no over-gloves. Why didn’t I use my cycling glasses? They, at least, were in my pack. We had a bothy bag, we should have climbed in, eaten food and carefully plotted a route down that we all understood. We could gather our resources and strike out with calm confidence.
Finally, another idea: get ski goggles. The kind with a clear visor and anti-mist treatment.

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