Sleeping in a metal box is not the best way to keep warm on a sub-zero winter’s night. Metal really is not a great insulating material. Thankfully I had made a nest on the floor consisting of a memory foam mattress topper, a duvet, two sleeping bags and a shivering dog. I woke at first light and pulled up the blinds to see, nothing. The windows were covered in ice both inside and out.
The £10 stove that lives in the Bongo was sluggish but it did manage to eventually boil enough water for a cup of coffee. I stood outside in the empty car park with plumes of steam rising from my mug, enjoying the silent morning. It took a bit of coaxing to get Reuben out and then I realised why, he was a broken dog. He resembled a crab as he shuffled over to the verge for a pee, limbs appearing to have been removed and put on backwards in the night. I’m not sure if he was putting it on for my benefit but it was a sorry sight. The day before we had done the Newlands round and the wind must have got to his brain as he spent the day racing around constantly. He was now paying for his canine over indulgence.
My plan had been to crack out the spikes and climb Helvellyn, but it was evident that he would not be up for it. I decided it best to head on home for his sake, a real shame considering the stunning weather forecast. Over another cup of coffee in the van I could not resist a quick look at my map. The summit of Great Mell Fell always catches my eye on the drive along the A66. Reuben would want a walk at some point during the day. I thought we might as well make it a scenic one.
There is room to park a couple of cars next to the track on the south east of the fell. We took to this track for a bit before entering the woods through a gate. I let Reuben off the lead once in the woods where he decided that maybe he was not too stiff for a bit of a run around. We contoured along a narrow trod for a bit before climbing directly up through the trees. Boggy patches were well camouflaged by a thick carpet of fallen leaves.
After a while we headed further west and finally picked up the main path to the summit. Breaking out of the woods the view was of snow clad hills rising above the Matterdale Common.
Further up the hill the path passed through an area of old pine, weatherbeaten from the westerly winds that must hit this isolated hill.
The sun felt warm in the completely still air, there was not even a hint of a breeze. I really could not have asked for more perfect conditions. Great Mell fell itself is a bit of a dull pudding, but the views are anything but dull. The snow topped Blencathra dominated the view and I found my eyes constantly being drawn to its bulk. Helvellyn would have been stunning but the low light meant that it was just a dazzling flash of light due to the reflecting sun. I spent a good half hour just quietly savouring the conditions and the views. Reuben intently looking out for anything that he could provide with a bit of love.
The long drive home was soon calling so I reluctantly set off back down the path, passing three groups on their way up. I had timed the walk perfectly to get the top all to myself for so long.
Next time you are whizzing along the A66, pull over for an hour or so and climb Great Mell fell, the views are definitely worth it.