Birkett Bagging Mania

Or My Favourite Christmas Present VII

Bog asphodel.

Yet another cracking day, in a sequence of clear blue sunny sky days and unalloyed joy which has lasted so long that I’m actually beginning to feel paranoid – what kind of a fall is this building up to? Bog asphodel was to be a feature of the walk, which yes meant that bog was quite a feature too. When I parked near to Cockley Beck there was cloud down obscuring all of the higher fells, but I was bathed in sunshine.

This slowworm was enjoying the sun too – basking in it on the path not far from the road.

It’s not a snake, but a legless lizard (which sounds like the definition of a snake to me….?). We used to find them in our compost heap in our old garden (about half a mile from where we live now). I never found one quite as big as this one though.

Another feature of the walk…

…were small heath butterflies, which like boggy ground and feed on cotton grass and other sedges. (Can you see a pattern emerging here yet?) I saw them throughout the walk even high up where the wind seemed to be making life very difficult for them.

I took a path into Mosedale but soon left the path, crossed the stream and contoured across a fairly boggy area…

Bog. Note hills capped with cloud and white dots of cotton grass. 

….to the base of a scramble onto Little Stand.

The scramble heads up here somewhere. I had ‘More Scrambles in the Lake District’ by R. Brian Evans with me and the sketch in there is so good that route finding proved to be no problem. The route takes in the craglet on the right, but the guidebook offers an easy route round to the right. I looked at the main route. I wandered round and looked at the easy alternative. Then I walked around the side. It’s a long time since I did this sort of thing and what little bottle I had seemed to have deserted me. Higher up however where the rock was at an easier angle and the crags were wider and offered more options, I did eventually get into the swing of things and really began to enjoy myself.

It helped that as I climbed a great view was opening up down the Duddon Valley.

Duddon Valley – Harter Fell on the right.

It also helped that the weather seemed to be improving as I climbed. Little peaty tarns like this were another feature of the day – you can see the bog cotton again here. By now the guide book was permanently back in my rucksack and I just picked a route that looked good – in this case from the left hand side of the tarn diagonally across the picture to the high point on the right.

From Little Stand.

Summit of Little Stand. Pike-a-Blisco in shade in middleground, Eastern Fells beyond.

You can see a couple in the photo above – they had come up the same way as me, I had had occasional glimpses of them ahead of me, but they were the first people I had met to speak to since I left the car two hours before. Along the ridge, Crinkle Crags was partially in cloud, but even so it was clear that there were lots of people on it.

Before the Crinkles  I had to traverse Stonesty Pike though – a level area with several low hummocks which may have the dubious accolade of least distinguished Birkett to date. In the true spirit of bagging however I did zig-zag wildly taking in all of hummocks before deciding that the first one was highest after all.

The crinkles were busy. Birkett seems to have got carried away here, bestowing Birkett status on five separate Crinkles and Shelter Crag, so I was intent on climbing every knobble in sight just in case. Since the path skirts around many of the ups and downs I still felt like I had the hill largely to myself. At the ‘bad step’ – a small scramble where a gully is blocked by a large jammed boulder – I watched one descending party hang over the edge of the small drop and then choose discretion and turn back for the top, but the man ahead of me made climbing it look easy so I followed suit.

Long Top – the highest of the plethora of tops hereabouts – was busy, so I continued and had the third crinkle, which is slightly off the path, entirely to myself whilst I had a cup of tea.

Long Top Crinkle Crags from the third crinkle.

The descent to Three Tarns, over more Crinkles and Shelter Crag, seemed to be interminable, but eventually I was climbing again, this time on to Bowfell…

The obvious path on the right was fairly busy and I opted to pick a route out amongst the crags to the right of that path. Very good it was too. (And when I got home I found that R. Brian Evans suggested the same thing in ‘Scrambles in the Lake District.’)

From the top of Bowfell I eschewed the main path to Esk Pike and traversed the ridge to the North top which inexplicably isn’t a Birkett. (Nor is Adam-a-Crag on Crinkle Crags which is a fairly prominent knobble – like many of the Crinkles, but well below the top on the Lingcove Beck side so quite remote and awkward to climb.)

Scafell and Scafell Pike from the north top of Bowfell. The prominent nipple in front of Scafell is Pike de Bield.

I was very tired on the short climb to Esk Pike but it was at least very short and not remotely steep. Although I’ve started with a clean slate in terms of Birkett Bagging, most of this walk was in fairly familiar territory, although I don’t think that I’ve ever climbed Little Stand by that scramble before. The descent ridge was completely new to me and for me this is where the bagging thing can really pay off: Pike De Bield – an insignificant nipple with just one contour of it’s own – is a real gem.  It’s perched above Upper Eskdale on the one side and Lingcove on the other – two of the remotest valleys in the Lakes, and it has grandstand views of the huge crags of the Scafells and good views the other way too of Bowfell and Crinkle Crags.

Looking back to Esk Pike from Pike de Bield.

Summit cairn on Pike de Bield with Scafells behind.

Upper Eskdale from Pike de Bield.

Looking back up the ridge – Esk Pike, Pike de Bield and Yeastyrigg Crags.

High Gait Crags on the other hand is another inexplicable one as far as I’m concerned. Crossing Pike de Bield Moss to get to it meant that my feet, which had dried out nicely after early boggy ground, got a thorough soaking again. Why Low Gait Crags, or Long Crag or Pianet Knott don’t deserve equal recognition I don’t know. I bypassed the first two but thought the latter might be an excellent vantage point – which it was.

Lingcove Beck and Bowfell.

Another stream crossing, a short climb to the watershed and then lots of bog asphodel and cotton grass on the extremely boggy Mosedale brought me back to the car. It was 7.30pm and as warm and sunny as it had been all day.

Shortly before I got back, I encountered this monster….

…which sadly I can’t seem to find in my ‘Complete British Insects’. I had seen several dor beetles during the day, but this was giant by comparison.

Once again I can give walk stats thanks to Birkett:

Distance: 8.5 miles (felt much further), up and down: 3345 feet.

He says 5.5 hours, but I took over 8.

12 Birketts some of which are undoubtedly Wainwrights, but I haven’t checked yet.

Birkett Bagging Mania

3 thoughts on “Birkett Bagging Mania

  1. Hello Mark
    Just to let you know that after a spell away from Google Reader I’ve very much enjoyed catching up with your postings. Some impressive wildlife pictures as usual. I found Birkett’s ‘Great British Ridge Walks’ a good spot to start a clean slate, and I may follow your example regarding the 120 Classic Walks. That’ll take a while!
    Have a great summer.

  2. beatingthebounds says:

    Hello Martin,
    I’m not sure whether I have ‘Great British Ridge Walks’, I shall have to investigate. I’m certainly enjoying the 120 Classic Walks if only because it’s made me widen my net rather than keep going back to easily accessible favourites.
    Thanks for visiting and commenting. I hope that you have a great summer too!

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