An (edited) exchange of emails with my old friend CJ:
In a moment of weakness, TBH has suggested that I meet up with you for a walk. Are you free at all this week?
Where did you have in mind?
I didn’t have anywhere in mind. Do you still have Wainwrights to do that aren’t miles from anywhere?
If I am to complete my Wainwrights this year (which I did hope to do.) I need to do Wasdale tomorrow. Either Seatallan/Buckbarrow or Whin Rigg/ Illgill head. (I’m saving Scafell til last!)
Have you seen the forecast – 100mph gusts apparently. Hmmmm. 9.30 at Miterdale it is then.
In fact we were both early, arriving just after 9. I’d very carefully prepared the night before, but managed to leave my home-roasted-ham sandwich somewhere by the front door, and my socks in the fridge. Or possibly vice-versa. Fortuitously, the village shop in Eskdale Green has outdoor gear on the floor above the usual village grocery and newsagent set-up, so I picked up some new socks there (but not any lunch, because I wasn’t yet aware that I’d left it behind).
Breaking with tradition here’s a map (at the start rather than the end)..
From the car park in Miterdale Forest, we used the forestry tracks to climb to the stream below Great Bank. The ascent of Great Bank from there was a bit of an obstacle course because many of the trees have been felled and left in situ to rot. The forestry which hadn’t been felled was equally awkward because the trees are so close together.
Clearly there are a few Birkett-baggers (or other lovers of obscure Lakeland crags) who come this way, because there was a faint path leading into the trees on the left-hand skyline. With hindsight, I would recommend a more direct approach, picking a way up through the crags.
Muncaster Fell, the west Cumbrian coast and Irton Pike from Great Bank.
Great Bank turned out to be a pretty good viewpoint. Like quite a few of the more obscure Birketts I’ve visited, it has more going for it than the map might suggest.
Irton Fell and Whin Rigg from Great Bank.
From there we dropped down to hit the wood at its narrowest point and then it was a steady, and soggy, plod up to Irton Fell (point 395 on the map). It was very windy, but some way short of the ‘hurricane force’ winds predicted by some sources. Anyway, from here on in our route was cunningly designed to put the wind behind us along the ridge and then, hopefully, to be reasonably sheltered on our return.
On Irton Fell we met a path and the walking from there became much easier, despite the wind. CJ and I chatted about anything and everything as is our wont. I asked him what he would do when he’d finished bagging the Wainwrights. Here are some of his ideas:
- Walk for pleasure.
- More cycling.
- More wild swimming – perhaps swimming in all of the tarns.
- Some long distance paths.
- The Outlying Fells (“If I can’t kick the habit.”)
I’ve been trying to convince him of the merits of the Birketts, but I don’t seem to have won that one. Yet.
We were soon on Whin Rigg, Wainwright number 209 for CJ.
Illgill Head from Whin Rigg
The wind was very cold, so it wasn’t a day for hanging around, besides which CJ had forgotten his flask so we only had one cheese sandwich and a small flask of hot blackcurrant between us.
We were on Illgill Head (number 210!), almost bang on midday. From there we dropped down the north-eastern shoulder and were in sight of the path which would take us above Burnmoor Tarn and round to Tongue Moor when I fell. The ground was sodden and fairly treacherous, a thin smear of topsoil would slide off down the slope and you were lost. CJ had already slipped over a couple of times and I had been hubristically boasting about the efficacy of my trekking poles as an aid to balance. They didn’t help at all in the event – my left foot scudded downhill, my right stayed firmly planted and I found myself doing the splits. My ballet days are far behind me and I really shouldn’t attempt the splits. My weight came very heavily onto my right leg, in a very awkward position and then I put in a couple of forward rolls for good measure.
When I untangled myself and my poles and assessed the damage I found one irretrievably bent pole and one very painful ankle. Any thoughts I’d had of persuading CJ into a detour onto Boat How were immediately dismissed. In fact CJ suggested ringing for the Mountain Rescue, but I thought that I could probably hobble as far as the car.
The long walk down Miterdale, which might otherwise have been very pleasant, became a bit of a trial. Purgatorial would be a bit strong – I sort of enjoyed it, in an odd way. But it hurt. I was extremely glad of my remaining pole.
The cloud had been lifting through the day and now we even had a spot of sunshine. CJ opined that we would finish the walk without getting wet. More tempting fate – as we approached the farm at Low Place (which might be helpfully renamed ‘mudbath’) it started to rain.
I put my cag on, so naturally it stopped again. I wish that always worked.
The River Mite.
Great Bank again.
On Friday, with my ankle and foot continuing to swell, I went to see the GP. He tells me that nothing is broken, but that I can expect 6-8 weeks to recover. B*****!
And an extract from another email from CJ:
Well that’s me done! All Wainwrighted. Had a few hairy moments on Scafell in quite a lot of snow. Total whiteout in fact, probably needed winter gear. We had to walk off Slight Side down to Burnmoor tarn. Lucky we’d done our walk 2 days before to give me the lie of the land or we might have been in trouble.
One happy ending then….
….at least, it will be if I can sell him the idea of Birkett-bagging!