Small Water Camp and Swim

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On Piot Crag, Haweswater behind.

We eventually arrived at the end of Haweswater late on the Bank Holiday Monday afternoon. The car park was still fairly busy, but was also noticeably emptying. We chose to revisit Small Water, the site of A’s first wild-camp, two year ago, for the same reasons we’d chosen it then: it’s a short walk-in, starting from quite high altitude. In addition, we now knew for sure that there were a number of good spots in which to camp by the tarn.

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An early rest during the ascent to Small Water.

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Looking back to Hawes Water from close to the top of the climb to Small Water.

It was still hot, so when we arrived at Small Water, we dumped our heavy bags in a suitable looking spot, and made a bee-line for the lake. The southern side of the tarn was still bathed in sunlight, but the sun would evidently soon disappear behind the hills, so we made the most of the opportunity and dived in for a swim. (Except TBH, obviously). The water was cold, but not at all bad, once you were in, and the surroundings were superb.

The place we’d selected to pitch our tents, which was close to where A and I camped last time and which I’d ear-marked then as a likely place to get two tents comfortably, was still in the sunshine fortunately, at least for a little longer. The Quechua tent we bought A goes up very quickly and A has the process down to a fine art, having used it several times now. The boys and I took a little longer with Andy’s tent, but felt that we’d made some progress with how to do the trickiest part of the process, so that was something.

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We enjoyed our pasta tea whilst watching pink clouds drifting overhead. The boys went through their usual routine of running around excitedly, exploring our surroundings and climbing every boulder and small crag they thought they could manage, whilst the rest of  us filtered water for the morning. One final, short outing, to circumnavigate the tarn, the boys constantly on the look out for places where they might jump in, and then we turned in.

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Our pitch.

The next morning brought low clouds and, in our tent at least, recriminations: the boys and I all felt that we’d had a poor night made worse by the snoring and tossing and turning of the other two, who had, in our opinions, both clearly slept soundly and loudly. We can’t all have been right. TBH and A, meanwhile, who both sleep like proverbial logs, slept on after we’d got up, and eventually I steeled myself and woke them up.

We’d all put together our own versions of this porridge mixture. B was adamant that the edition of powdered milk, which we didn’t have when he’d tried it before, had transformed the result so that it was “as good as porridge at home”. A meanwhile, had ground up her oats so that, after the addition of hot water, her’s actually looked like proper cooked porridge. She’d also added chocolate chips and I have to confess that, having tried it, the result was delicious. TBH’s innovation was powdered coconut milk, which I didn’t even know existed. That worked too. You’ll have to excuse all of the details about food, but if you’ve ever been back-packing, you’ll know how vital getting that right is to the success or otherwise of a trip.

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The boys loved these slabs, right by where we camped. Here, Little S is shouting “Look at me Andy”, which he seems to have adopted as a catch phrase. I think the first time he did it, he will have been only about three and had just scaled a small cliff above a beach at Towyn.  I don’t know if, even then, he was being mischievous and deliberately trying to frighten our old friend Andy, but that’s been his intention ever since, so that now he sees it as an in-joke and will shout it even if Andy is not with us.

After our leisurely start we set-off up Piot Crag. It looks fairly intimidating from below, and perhaps more so when you are part way up, but we knew that the route ‘would go’ as A and I came this way last time.

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You reach a point where the way ahead seems barred by crags…

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But in fact there are two lines of crags and if you head right you reach the bottom of a stone-filled gully which leads up between them, steeply, but safely.

I had been quietly hoping that we might find…

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…some Roseroot having read that it can be found on the steep crags above neighbouring Blea Water.

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It’s a member of the stonecrop family, many of which are quite small, but this is fairly sizeable by comparison. It’s a succulent and has thick leaves, like a Sedum. The Wild Flower Key lists it with Orpine, which grows abundantly on walls near home. Apparently, its roots, when dried, smell like roses, hence the name. I’m sure that I’ve seen it before, but can’t think where. I think it’s quite rare in the wild, but is also grown in rock gardens. The flowers weren’t fully open, which was a shame, but gives me something to look out for in future. I wanted to climb above it to get better photos of the flowers, and Little S, naturally, was keen to come with me. When the first hand-hold I grabbed, a very substantial lump of rock, started to come away from the rockface, I abandoned the idea.

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Parsley Fern.

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At the top of the gully there’s a fair bit of spoil and a few structures. There must have been some sort of mining or quarrying hereabouts in the past. We stopped for a quick drink.

From there it’s not much of a climb to the top of Mardale Ill Bell.

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Small Water and Harter Fell..

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High Street and Blea Water.

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Small Water and Haweswater. Piot Crag is the ridge on the left in shadow.

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I quite fancied continuing along the ridge to Harter Fell, but I was in a minority of one.

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A dry Kentmere reservoir. Working on the dam apparently.

The consensus was that we should return to the tents for lunch and then another swim in Small Water.

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Small, odd structures by Small Water, marked on the map as ‘shelters’. By boys decided that they are garages, although they aren’t remotely big enough for anything but a Dinky toy car.

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Lunch was humus and pan-fried bread, an experiment with camping food that I’ve wanted to try for a while. I’d made chapatis with tea on the Sunday night and remembered, or thought I could remember, old friend Geordie Munro once making them in a Trangia pan lid, whilst we were on a backpacking trip, and how welcome they were after a few days of less imaginative fare. So I’d brought flour, salt and dried yeast in a freezer bag and then warmed some water to add to the bag after we’d had breakfast, leaving it to rise in the tent’s porch. When we got back I found that the mixture was so sticky that there was no real way that I could hope to flatten it out into chapatis. Instead I turned lumps of dough out of the bag into a hot pan which I’d sprayed with oil. I couldn’t even flatten the mixture in the pan, because it stuck to my spoon, but, if I cooked it for a while and then flipped it over, I found that enough of a crust had formed that I could then press on the cooked side to begin to shape the loaf. By repeatedly flipping and squishing the loaves I managed to get them to cook through okay. I made three, of which the photo above shows the last and by far the largest. How were they? Well, there was none left and I shall definitely being doing that again. My hands did get a coating of sticky dough, but I found that it soon dried and fell off without my having to worry too much about how to remove it.

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Small Water pano.

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After lunch – another swim in Small Water. It being earlier in the day, we could try the north shore and still be in the sun. Here the bottom shelved even more quickly than it had on the other side, so that two strides in you were already deep enough to swim. Only me and the boys swam this time, TBH and A watched and took photos, including these which TBH took with my camera.

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I don’t know why it’s never occurred to me to swim here before. With the steep slopes of Small Water Crag as a backdrop, this is an amazing place for a dip. I was reminded of a larger tarn in a similar, but larger corrie in the Pyrenees, where I swam when TBH and I were there years ago. Without a wetsuit, Little S didn’t last too long, but B and I had a good, long swim. That’s us, the tiny dots in the photo above.

We weren’t the only ones enjoying a swim: we repeatedly saw fish jumping out of the water. Probably after these fellows…

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Mayfly piggybacking on my towel.

After that it was just a question of packing up and retracing the short walk back to the car.

Sadly, one further bit of excitement as we walked down – a herd of sheep went hurtling past us down the hillside with a collie in close pursuit. The sheep gradually split into smaller and smaller groups until the collie was only chasing three, then just one lamb. They were quickly way below us, but I could see that the dog had the lamb cornered against a wall. Still barking furiously, the dog had the sheep turning repeatedly back and forth, back and forth. We carried on down and, when we reached the same wall, I dumped my bag and started to make my way around towards the pair of them. I tried to discourage Little S from joining me, not knowing what frame of mind the dog would be in, but he went racing off and soon B had joined us too. We realised that they’d moved on again and the sheep was in Blea Water Beck, trapped against the fence which continued the line of the wall across the beck. As we neared the stream, Little S, anxious to help the lamb, went haring off ahead, disappearing over a slight rise. He reappeared seconds later, at quite a lick, looking more than a little alarmed.

“The dog’s after me, the dog’s after me.”

It was only a small collie, dripping wet, it had clearly been in the stream. It took one look at me and turned to run back up the hill to its owners. The lamb didn’t seem to be hurt in any obvious way, but nor did it want to budge from it’s position, backed against the fence at the edge of the stream. We left it, and later saw it head up the hill to rejoin the flock. We also saw the feckless dog owners, with the collie now back on a lead, approaching the car park, but chose to head to Shap chippy for some tea rather than staying to get into a row with them.

Small Water and Piot Crag

 

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Small Water Camp and Swim

Heron Pike and Alcock Tarn

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Fairfield Horseshoe from Rydal Fell.

Another evening post-walk work. It was still quite warm. My plans centred around an evening swim. Northern Rail’s failings threw a spanner in the works, because a cancelled train left me driving the kids home first. Since I was at home and had some cooked chicken in the fridge, I decided to quickly throw together a salad to take with me to eat whilst I was out.

So, I was a bit later setting off than I usually am, and I still hadn’t decided where to go. I was trying to think of somewhere not too far away, with a shortish walk in, a good swimming spot, and which was likely to retain the sun as it began to sink. I couldn’t really think of anywhere which met all the criteria and, more by default than anything else, finally parked in Rydal, intending to visit Buckstones Jump. But I’d forgotten that the track we’d used when I took the boys there, has signs saying that it is a farm track only, with no public access. I stood and vacillated for a while. I could just trespass; would there be anyone about to notice me now? But in the end, I chickened out and changed my plan.

Not before I’d noticed this gnarly old Oak though…

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Or, more specifically, the fungi growing on a splintered part of the trunk…

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I’m pretty sure that this is Sulphur Polypore, or Chicken of the Woods, something else, like Herb Paris, that I’ve waited a long time to see. It’s allegedly good to eat and if I’d had a ladder with me, or a small boy adept at shinning up trees even, I would be able to report on the flavour. But I didn’t have either, so I shall have to wait again.

I consulted the map and realised that I could climb Heron Pike and then return via Alcock Tarn, giving what looked to be a fairly reasonable round, all sticking to western slopes, where I would keep the sun for longer.

The climb up Nab Scar was, frankly, too steep for a hot and sticky evening, but at least I was rewarded with views back to Wansfell and Windermere.

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I met a couple descending just before I took this photo; they were the last other walkers I saw all evening.

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Nab Scar pano.

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Heron Pike from Nab Scar.

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Rydal Fell, Great Rigg, Fairfield, Hart Crag, and Dove Crag from Heron Pike.

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Heron Pike and Windermere from Rydal Fell.

On the top there was a welcome bit of breeze. Welcome, that is, until I wanted to sit down, make a brew and enjoy my salad and the views. Fortunately, I found a small hollow just off the top of Rydal Fell which was sheltered, in the sun, and had fine views of the Coniston and Langdale Fells, with the Scafell range beyond…

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My salad barely touched the sides, but making and drinking a cuppa took a while, which was a perfect excuse to sit in this peaceful spot and soak it all in.

I’ve been quite surprised to discover, retrospectively, that Nab Scar and Heron Pike are both Wainwrights and that, in addition, Rydal Fell is a Birkett. I might not have bothered if I’d paid any heed to wainwright in advance however:

“Heron Pike is a grassy mound on the long southern ridge of Fairfield. From no direction does it look like a pike or peak nor will herons be found there. It is a viewpoint of some merit but otherwise is of little interest.”

From Rydal Fell I almost doubled back on myself,  contouring around the western slopes of Heron Pike before descending towards Alcock tarn.

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Loughrigg, Coniston Fells, Grasmere, Alcock Tarn.

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Alcock Tarn.

In Heaton Cooper’s marvellous guide to the tarns of the lake district you can discover that Alcock Tarn was once Butter Crags Tarn before it was dammed, by a Mr Alcock, and stocked with trout. AW, the Auld Whinger dismisses it as ‘a dreary sheet of water’. He must have been in a foul mood when he wrote up Heron Pike. In ‘A Bit of Grit on Haystacks’, an anthology edited by Dave Hewitt and published by Millrace Books to commemorate both the centenary of Wainwrights birth and the fiftieth anniversary of the first of his Pictorial Guides, appropriately The Eastern Fells, which contains the entry on Heron Pike, Harry Griffin tells a story, which he learned from a mutual friend, of Wainwright abandoning a round of the Fairfield Horseshoe and heading directly down to Alcock Tarn from Heron Pike in order to avoid Griffin, who was also a friend, because ‘he talks too much’. Nice chap.

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Wainwright!

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Alcock Tarn. Dreary.

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Dropping down from Alcock Tarn I picked up the Old Corpse Road between Grasmere and Ambleside to take me back to Rydal. There are no photographs here because the sun, and with it the best of the light, had gone, but it’s a route which has appeared several times on the blog before, because this is one of my favourite low-level routes in the area.

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A little over 7 miles with around 550m of ascent.

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That evening, the valley of Rydal Beck soon disappeared into shadow, whilst I was in glorious sunshine on the ridge, so my choice turned out to be a fortuitous one. I have a pet theory about a different way to get to Buckstones Jump which I would like to try. I’m not sure when I will get around to it though.

Heron Pike and Alcock Tarn

Piers Gill, Lingmell and the Corridor Route.

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B outside St. Olaf’s Church, Wasdale Head.

A’s DofE training finished earlier than I had anticipated and we were able to make a leisurely trip up to Nether Wasdale and still arrive with plenty of time to enjoy the sunshine and have a barbecue with some of our friends. Church Stile campsite was heaving, perhaps because of the excellent forecast, but we were able to squeeze in next to J and C and C’s schoolfriend M. It’s a good job that I’d decided not to bother with the trailer tent however, because the ‘large grass plot’ we’d paid for was far from large. Church Stile is a first rate campsite, but extra fields have been added and all of the fields were, frankly, over-full. It was still quiet and friendly, but hot water for showers or washing-up was hard to come by, there were too many people on the site for the facilities to cope with. Hopefully, this was a one off: we’ve been many times before and have always been impressed.

Anyway, rant over, back to the real business of this post: other friends of ours were scattered over the site, some in vans, some in caravans, although others were missing, and much missed.  After a very leisurely breakfast, some of us gathered together to set off for a walk. Driving down to Wasdale Head proved to be a bit of a trial, with some real muppetry on display on the narrow lanes and idiotic parking at the end of the valley, but we managed to find spaces despite our very late start.

First port of call on the walk was the tiny church at Wasdale Head. The church is very old, these roof-beams reputedly came from a Viking longship.

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One of the windows apparently has an engraving of Napes Needle, which I seem to have missed – I shall have to go back to investigate.

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The post title pretty succinctly summarises our route. On the OS map, there’s a dotted line which follows the twists and turns of the edge of the deep ravine of Piers Gill. In years of visits to Wasdale, I’ve never climbed that path even though the prospect has always intrigued me. Time to put that right.

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Great Gable from Moses’ Trod.

Great Gable would dominate the view all day, which is no bad thing.

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Gable again.

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Walking beside Lingmell Beck.

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Crossing Spouthead Gill.

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Great Gable again!

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Crossing Greta Gill.

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The deep cleft of Piers Gill ahead.

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Greta Gill.

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Piers Gill with Lingmell behind.

The ascent beside Piers Gill was steep and I was still suffering with a rattling cough, which is my way of saying that I was very slow and probably held the others up no end. But they should probably thank me for that: this is rough, inspiring mountain scenery which, in my opinion, has no equal, in England at least. I can think of hills in Scotland which are crag-bound and steep and as awe-inspiringly formidable as this area, but I can’t think of a match in the Lakes. There was even a little easy scrambling to be had – which was highly amusing, as the children were solicitously checking that the adults were ‘alright’.

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The path beside Piers Gill.

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Looking across one bank of the gill to Gable (of course).

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B admiring the ravine.

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The Adopted Yorkshireman on Lingmell.

We seemed to have numerous lunch stops, but I didn’t take advantage of any of them for a collective group photo. I think I was genuinely a bit worn out. Eventually, we made it to Lingmell.

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Gable and Styhead Tarn from Lingmell.

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Scafell Pike and Scafell from Lingmell.

Old Father Sheffield half-mooted the idea of continuing on to Scafell Pike, but his suggestion didn’t meet with any enthusiasm. Scafell Pike is always thronged, even on a rotten day, and today it looked like it was absolutely overrun. Besides which, A and B and I were up there relatively recently. And I was already cream-crackered.

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Red Pike, Pillar and Kirk Fell.

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The Screes and Wastwater.

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A filling our bottles from one of the streams which feed Piers Gill.

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By Piers Gill again.

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Heading down the Corridor Route. OFS seems to have a hankie on his head. I think it was actually an Eddy Merckx style cycling cap.

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Round How and Great End.

I suggested diverting to Round How and Lambfoot Dub, but then decided that was too much effort and left the AYM to do it on his own.

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Looking back down the valley towards Wasdale Head.

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Piers Gill and Lingmell from our descent route.

We came down a superb, well-made path, clearly very old, with nice easy zig-zags. I felt sure that I had been down this way before, perhaps it was with CJ when we stayed at the Wasdale Head Hotel.

Gable still dominated the view. Here’s some close-ups, using my camera’s zoom…

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Napes Needle on the left. (I think).

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Napes Needle?

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A superb day. I’ve been walking in these hills, with these same friends (well, the AYM anyway), for over thirty years. I hope that this day will live as long in the memories of the four children who were with us as many of my previous outings have with me.

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Later, back at the campsite, another barbecue. B and I had Church Stile’s own Herdwick burgers, which were delicious. Then, for the second night running, a chinwag around a wood-fire burning in the portable fire-pit which TBH bought me for Christmas. B tended the fire whilst I sampled some Ennerdale Brewery Beer. I didn’t know there was an Ennerdale Brewery until I saw some bottles in the camp site shop, but I can now report that their beers are very palatable. Marvellous.

 

Piers Gill, Lingmell and the Corridor Route.

Little and Often: Progress Report

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Somehow the end of February slid by without any mention here of my progress, or otherwise, towards the target I’ve set myself of walking 1000 miles this year, above and beyond the pottering about I do at home and at work. This wasn’t because I’d fallen behind; I didn’t quite match January’s total, it’s true, but with a little over 120 miles logged, I had much more than I need to reach my, admittedly arbitrary, target.

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These photographs are from one of my ‘little and often’ strolls. The day after our friends left us was once again wet, but it briefly brightened up in the afternoon, so I took my chance for a standard wander to the Cove and across the Lots.

These are the benches where I sometimes sit to watch the sun set, currently graced by an entourage of Daffodils.

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I’ve been enjoying a website, Other-Wordly, “about strange and lovely words” and one of the words which I hope will stick with me is smultronställe, a Swedish term,

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Maybe these benches are not wild enough, or private enough, to match that description, but otherwise they’re a perfect fit.

The rain may have paused for a while, but the evidence of it’s recent ubiquity was everywhere to see…

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Even on the Lots, which usually stay reasonably dry…

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By the time I came back through the village, the skies were leaden again, presaging the imminent arrival of more wet.

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Here’s my calendar for February, from Mapmywalk…

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By contrast, March looks a little spartan…

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..and it’s true that illness and general busyness did hamper my efforts somewhat. In fact, at one point, I did find myself bitterly contemplating the possibility of a blogpost entitled something along the lines of ‘Too Little, Less Often’, but despite my misgivings, I still just about crept over the required mileage for a month, so that’s okay then. In fact, as of today, I’ve just passed 400 miles for the year so far.

In a similar vein: last night I was updating my ‘Birkett Tick List‘ page, essentially a list of the hills in the Lake District which I’ve climbed since I started to write this blog, back in 2008. I was engrossed in the technicalities of editing the page – something I’ve had trouble with, which is why it was almost two years behind, but it was quite enlightening to look back at two years of walks and realise that in that time I’d actually climbed far more hills than I expected. At one point, A was looking over my shoulder and pointed out to me that the list has become quite a long one. And she’s right: without ever really applying myself, I do seem to have accumulated a fair few ascents. Now, admittedly, the Lakes are compact and it’s often possible to tick-off several hills in a single walk. And also, it’s taken me 10 years to build-up a substantial tally, but I still feel like this is another victory for the steady , softly-softly, tortoise (rather than hare) approach.

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Blea Tarn Hill – somewhere I might never have visited without Birkett’s list to encourage me. Not a lot of effort being expended here, but we actually managed to claim a fair number of summits that day.

Little and Often: Progress Report

Souther Fell, Bannerdale Crags and Bowscale Fell

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The Tongue and River Glenderamakin.

As I drove through the Tebay Gorge, the cloud was virtually down to the road and it was tipping it down. So I was pleased to arrive in Mungrisdale in sunshine. The rainbow was a forewarning of what was to come, however, and along the ridge of Souther Fell I had first rain, then sleet and finally snow. The view back to Bowscale Fell kept partially clearing but Bannerdale Crags and Blencathra were well hidden by cloud.

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Bowscale Fell.

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Souther Fell after the weather had brightened again.

Down in Mungrisdale I’d seen a sign warning of bridges which had been washed away by floods. Almost immediately after I saw the sign, I crossed one of the bridges, which must have been replaced, so I knew that the warning wasn’t necessarily up to date, but it was still a relief to find that this bridge…

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…over the River Glenderamackin had also been restored. It was raining again at this point, but this was to be the last shower of the day, and it was short-lived.

Wainwright describes this route, via White Horse Bent,  as ‘tedious’ and recommends the East Ridge. It suited me well on this occasion, but I will come back to try the East Ridge when it’s not so likely to be plastered with ice.

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Bannerdale Crags and Bowscale Fell.

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Bannerdale Crags and it’s East Ridge – looks worthy of a return visit. Note Great Mell Fell catching the sun behind, which it continued to do all afternoon.

I stopped for a cup of tea near the top of Bannerdale Crags. There was little shelter to be had, but I donned every layer I had, so that I was layered up with a thermal, a shirt, two jumpers my cag, a snood and even an old balaclava under my hat. It wasn’t as windy as it had been on Selside Pike, but it was very, very cold. In the end, I kept all of those layers on for almost all of the remainder of the walk. I can’t think when I last felt so cold on the hill.

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Blencathra threatening to appear.

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Bowscale Fell.

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Bannerdale Crags and Blencathra (almost).

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Bowscale Fell East Top, Carrock Fell behind.

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Bowscale Tarn.

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Looking back to Bowscale Fell.

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The East Ridge of Bowscale Fell.

My descent, by the East Ridge of Bowscale Fell was an absolute delight. Bar one final steep step, it was a pleasant steady route all the way down, and the views of the distant snow-capped Pennines was superb.

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Time for one last cup of tea stop.

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Looking past Great Mell Fell to the High Street range.

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The Pennines over Eycott Hill.

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St. Kentigern’s Church Mungrisdale.

A quick peek in the church and then back to the car. My photos of the Winter Aconites in the churchyard didn’t come out too well unfortunately.

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Souther Fell, Bannerdale Crags and Bowscale Fell

Spindrift on Selside Pike

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Another snow-hunting expedition. The forecast was once again for mixed weather: wintery showers and maybe some brighter spells, but also for fierce winds. This is our crew shortly after we’d left the cars. We were joined by three of our friends, one of whom long-suffering readers might recognise as The Tower Captain, otherwise known as the Faffmeister, and also by their highly excited dogs.

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High Street and Kidsty Pike across Haweswater.

We’d had quite a bit of rain and snow on the journey up and as we drove alongside Haweswater it was snowing pretty heavily and settling on the road. But soon after we’d parked we had probably the sunniest spell of the entire day.

Our plan was simple: follow the Old Corpse Road, which crosses between Mardale and Swindale, to its highest point and then divert up Selside Pike, returning by the same route. This had been one of the possibilities I’d considered for the day that we’d been up to the Garburn Pass and, never one to waste things, I’d decided to revivify the idea for this outing.

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Waterfalls on Hopgill Beck.

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Rough Crag, High Street and Kidsty Pike.

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The kids had their small plastic sledges with them again and weren’t long in finding an opportunity to use them. This time, I didn’t wait to watch them, but climbed a little further to…

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…the small ruined, roofless cottage of High Loup. Although we’d not walked far at all, I had it in mind that this might be our last chance of any kind of shelter from the strong winds and suggested it as a lunch spot.

I didn’t have to twist anybody’s arm.

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After our stop, we made it too the pass with relative ease, and then found a couple more spots for some sledging. Once on the ridge, I was finding the snow conditions very frustrating: it was the kind of compacted snow which suggests it will hold you, but then collapses when you shift your weight, which is hard work. At least, it was that kind of snow for me. For most of the party it was perfect snow – firm enough to walk on top of, but soft enough to take an edge and give some grip. Little S, however, had the opposite problem to me: he was making no impression on the snow, but the wind was making a huge impression on him. Between the icy snow and the gales he was struggling to stand up. He didn’t complain, but after watching him struggle for a while, it seemed madness to let him continue and I asked him whether he would like to turn back. He would. And the other boys would be very glad to keep him company. I don’t think that they were any of them very impressed with the spindrift which was attacking us. It’s a lovely word ‘spindrift’, but totally inappropriate for the wind-driven ice shrapnel which stings any exposed skin and manages to get inside every garment.

The boys were also keen to put into action their plan to use the sledges as much as possible in their descent. Unfortunately, Little S didn’t keep a tight enough grip on his and it whipped away on the breeze and is probably now lying in a field down in Swindale.

The girls, meanwhile, were keen to carry on to the top. TBH offered to accompany the boys and so I joined King Dilly Dally, and A and S in the summit party.

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Here’s A sitting on the snowdrift filled summit shelter.

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The view of the snowcapped Pennines across the Eden Valley was better then this photo suggests, but it was quite difficult to hang on to the phone at this point, never mind hold it steady for a photo.

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Baron Behindhand on the descent.

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S and A with poles nicked from their Dads.

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Rough Crag and Haweswater again.

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A modest outing of just 5 miles, but very enjoyable.

I’ve climbed Selside Pike twice before, since I started this blog. Once on another wintery February day, with X-Ray another old friend. Although it was February and very icy, in every other respect this was a very different day:

Selside Pike and Branstree

And once on a mammoth (by my standards anyway) circuit around Haweswater.

A Haweswater Round

We’ve been meaning to get out with the Duke of Delay again ever since his igloo collapsing antics on Wansfell last year:

Grand Designs – An Igloo on Wansfell

 

 

Spindrift on Selside Pike

Whitfell and Devoke Water.

Or: Three Brews with Views.

Birker Fell Road – Rough Crag – Water Crag – White Pike – Woodend Height – Yoadcastle – Stainton Pike – Holehouse Tarn – Whitfell – Woodend Height – Devoke Water – Seat How – Birker Fell Road.

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Hesk Fell, Woodend Height and Stord’s Hill seen across Devoke Water from Rough Crag.

It was our turn to do Kitchen Duty at rugby and TBH offered to go in my stead. I didn’t need to be asked twice. The MWIS forecast gave hill fog, with the best chance of some sunshine in the west, so I drove out to Ulpha in the Duddon valley and then up to park on the Birker Fell Road. Pike How, just above the road is a marvellous view point and one to bear in mind for future reference. It didn’t take long to reach Rough Crag either and I found a comfortable spot out of the chilly wind blowing from the north…

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…and settled down for an early brew stop.

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Water Crag from Rough Crag.

Water Crag was also easily and quickly ascended.

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Looking back to Rough Crag from Water Crag.

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This rocky little knoll is Brantrake Crags. It’s off modest height and probably doesn’t appear in any guide books anywhere, but I thought it looked worth climbing. The stream beside it, Linbeck Gill, which drains Devoke Water, also looked like a good place to explore.

After Rough Crag and Water Crag, Birkett suggests a lengthy traverse to take in The Knott. For once, I’d done my research in advance and discovered that Wainwright, in his Outlying Fells book, has a separate walk which takes in the Knott, but also the ancient settlement at Barnscar and the waterfall of Rowantree Force. That seemed like a more sensible option to me, so I skipped The Knott and climbed directly to White Pike. After the previous two, very easy, ascents, this one seemed like a long way. It was well worth it though. The prominent cairn…

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…marked a spot with excellent views.

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Whitfell and Stainton Pike from White Pike.

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Cumbrian west coast from White Pike.

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Eskmeals viaduct and Isle of Mann.

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Woodend Height and Yoadcastle.

All of the peaks on this walk had stunning views. I’d be hard-pressed to pick a favourite, but Woodend Height would be hard to beat; from it’s top you can have great fun picking out all of the big hills of the western Lakes, across Devoke Water.

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Yoadcastle, Whitfell and Stainton Pike from Woodend Height.

Aside from the minor difficulty of surmounting a wire fence with a top strand of barbed wire, the walk around to Stainton Pike was delightful. This was yet another good view point.

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Looking back to Yoadcastle from Stainton Pike.

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Holehouse tarn and Whitfell from Stainton Pike.

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The estuaries of the Irt and the Esk from Stainton Pike.

It seemed like another brew was in order, and I found a wonderfully sheltered spot to sit to enjoy it.

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The Irt and the Esk and the dunes of Drigg nature reserve.

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Muncaster Castle.

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Isle of Mann and Eskmeals viaduct.

From there then, on to Whitfell.

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Large summit cairn on Whitfell.

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Looking back along my route.

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Duddon Estuary, Black Coombe and Buckbarrow.

On Whitfell you are a bit further away from the hills of Wasdale and Eskdale, but if anything, I thought this enhanced the view. I took several panoramas during the course of the day. Sadly, none of them were very successful, but I’ve included this one, if for no other reason than to remind myself of the great sweep of hills from Whin Rigg in the west round to Caw at the southern extreme of the Coniston Fells.

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Despite the forecast hill-fog, the higher fells were often clear…

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Scafells, Esk Pike, Bowfell, Crinkle Crags.

I’d flirted with the idea of descending from here, via Biggert to Hole House, then climbing The Pike and Hesk Fell on my way back to Devoke Water. This now seemed overly ambitious, and Hesk Fell looked every inch the tedious lump which Wainwright bemoans. So I wandered back to Woodend Height, skirting the other summits on my way.

Dropping off Woodend Height toward Rowantree How, I found another comfortable, sheltered seat and settled down for another brew.

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The view from my final brew stop.

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The same view from a little lower down: the rocky knoll on the left is Rowantree How. Note Seat How to the right of Devoke Water.

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Devoke Water and Seat How.

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Devoke Water boat house.

Seat How is another modest little top, but it is gratifyingly craggy, giving a satisfying scrambling finish to the round

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Devoke Water from Seat How.

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The pastures around Woodend, Hesk Fell behind.

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Harter Fell, Crook Crag, Green Crag, Great Crag.

I’ve often pontificated about the elements which come together to provide a good day on the hoof; I shan’t start again here, except to say that a really good walk might not just leave you wanting to come back and do it again someday, but may also fill your head with ideas for other walks you’d like to do soon. That was certainly the case with this one: not only did I find myself wanting to return to reascend many of the familiar hills I could see around me, but I also now plan to head round to the west coast to grab The Knott, and to explore the dunes at Drigg; I need to bag Buckbarrow, and The Pike, and even Hesk Fell; I spent large parts of the day thinking about a Duddon watershed walk and also wondering how to continue a high level route which would begin with Black Combe and then head north over Whitfell and these Devoke Water tops. Speculating about these more fanciful routes was great fun….in fact: where are my maps? After Harter Fell, where next?

Whitfell and Devoke Water.