After all that waffle, in my last post, about my aspirational hare-brained schemes, here’s the evidence of what happens when one of them comes to fruition. Or not.
I’d been planning this one for a while. When I say planning, I mean that in the vaguest of ways. ‘Thinking about’ would be more accurate. Attention to detail was completely lacking.
My family had all bought tickets for Highest Point, an outdoor music festival in Lancaster, not to be confused with Lancaster Jazz Festival, or with The Lancaster Music Festival which is mostly staged in pubs. Why wasn’t I joining them? Well, I was tempted by Kaiser Chiefs and even more so by Basement Jaxx, but the latter were playing a DJ set, and frankly, whatever the attractions, they couldn’t compete with the prospect of a weekend of early summer walking.
So, TBH very kindly dropped me off in Milnthorpe, with about 30 seconds to spare, and I caught the 555 bus through Kendal and Windermere to Grasmere.
I must use the bus more often. It’s a bit slow. And we did sit in Kendal Bus Station for quite some time, for no apparent reason. But I enjoyed being a passenger, and taking in the views, especially after the front seats at the top became available in Kendal, and not having to worry about parking.
Anyway, when I finally arrived in Grasmere, it was bright and sunny and warm for once, much more so than the photos suggest. I popped into Lucia’s for some extra provisions (highly recommended) and then set-off up Easedale in the company of two gentlemen from the North-East, one of whom was very keen to ask for directions (“Is that Helm Crag?”) and tell me about his route, their accommodation in Keswick and so on. The other gent was as taciturn as his companion was garrulous, which made me feel like I was intruding.
Over the years, I’ve looked at maps of the Lakes (particularly my colourful old inch-map, which has a lot to answer for) and thought that I ought to walk along the broad central spine of hills from the Langdale Pikes northwards. I’ve also often thought that it would be brilliant to walk the long ridge from Threkeld to Ambleside over the Dodds and Helvellyn and Fairfield etc. So, here was my madcap scheme – to (sort-of) combine those two, with a bivvy in between, probably on High Rigg I thought.
Since I was using the 555, a start in Grasmere would be easier than trying to get to Langdale, and it would also make it convenient to include Tarn Crag.
It was a really glorious day and on Tarn Crag I sat for quite some time, enjoying the pasty I’d bought in Grasmere and video-calling my mum and dad, to share the views with them.
Since I’d already climbed High Raise earlier in the year, I contemplated trying to contour around from Tarn Crag to Greenup Edge, hopefully visiting a remote little tarn on route, but in the end I couldn’t resist the temptation to climb High Raise again.
I had another stop on Codale Head, and sat for while.
And then another bit of a sit on High Raise. The views from High Raise are expansive. On this occasion I was sharing those views with quite a few people, most of whom seemed to be participating in some sort of organised challenge walk, with people in teams; I wondered whether it was a corporate bonding exercise, based on some of the conversations I overheard.
Not to worry, they were all heading down to Grasmere from Greenup Edge, having started, I gathered, in Langdale. In fact, the remainder of the day was very, very quiet, at least until I reached Keswick.
It took a while to reach the top of Ullscarf, so another rest and a sit-down seemed appropriate. I have a bit of a soft spot for Ullscarf. Years ago I bivvied a couple of times with friends on the slopes above Harrop Tarn and would then climb Ullscarf via its eastern hinterland early the following morning, often in thick mist. In the days before sat-nav, I was chuffed when I actually managed to arrive on the summit. Those empty slopes above Thirlmere always seemed to be a good place to spot Red Deer.
I finished the last of my water on Ullscarf and then dropped into the top of Ullscarf Gill to refill my water bottle.
Standing Crag is a Birkett, but not a Wainwright. It’s well worth a visit in my opinion. I didn’t stop for a sit here. It was well into the afternoon, and it was becoming clear that I’d probably bitten off more than I could chew.
It seems that a consortium of charities have been restoring the peat bogs here. As well as flagging the paths (sadly with some very soggy gaps between the flagged sections) they’ve also created little dams to create some really wet areas…
It was lovely, in a very wet kind of way.
If I hoped that reaching the rocky top of High Seat would spell an end to the bog, I was destined to be disappointed. But it was drier, at least. And after Bleaberry Fell, the bog-snorkelling comes to an end.
I had a long overdue rest on Walla Crag. I must have looked all-in, as a bloke who walked past asked me if I was okay. Which I was, of course. The light was lovely.
I did briefly contemplate a bivvy on (or near) Walla Crag, but I’d been promising myself a take-away tea in Keswick all day and the draw of a greasy, high-calorie meal won out.
It was still light, just about, as I arrived on the outskirts of town, but it was also almost 10 o’clock, and I was striding out whilst using Google Maps in an attempt to work out where the nearest open shop was. Fortunately, I found a little grocery store which was still serving and stocked up on water and ginger beer. It had been thirsty work!
One of the pubs near the Moot Hall had a live band who were playing an excellent selection of covers. (Heart of Glass, Take Me Out, Maggie May, for example, if memory serves me right.) It was very loud out in the street, lord knows what it was like inside the pub. The town centre was extremely busy with revellers, I suppose I probably stuck-out like a sore-thumb. Or a sun-burned, muddy, sweaty, but very happy hill-walker. Anyway, I found a bench where I could listen to the band and tucked into my well-earned donner and chips. So I got my live music in the end, on top of a day’s walking.
I’d already decided by now that High Rigg (where I envisaged a soft heather bed and a very comfortable night) was much too far away. I was also having doubts about my proposed return route – it would be both longer and with more up and down than the walk I had just done. Too much, I thought.
I opted instead for a midnight ramble on Latrigg.
It was dark, but the moon was bright and it’s a wide, well-made path, so I didn’t really need my headtorch. After a warm day, there was now a cooling breeze. Actually, it was pretty windy and quite cool.
I found what seemed like a reasonable spot, overlooking the town, put on every item of clothing I’d brought, including a balaclava, and climbed into my sleeping and bivvy bags.
How did I sleep? Well, better than I’d expected, which is to say – some. The ground was a bit hard, without a cushioning of heather. Also, at some point during the night, the wind changed direction and I woke up to find that it was blowing over my shoulders and directly into my sleeping bag. I’m usually reluctant to completely seal my bag over my head, it’s a bit claustrophobic I find, but I did that now and then slept much more soundly.
The app gives just over 20 miles all told, and almost 1300m of climbing (which is a bit of an underestimate I think, but maybe not too far out).
Wainwrights: Tarn Crag, High Raise, Ullscarf, High Tove, High Seat, Bleaberry Fell, Walla Crag, Latrigg.
Birketts: all of the above, plus Codale Head, Low White Stones, Standing Crag, Watendlath Fell, Shivery Knott, Middle Crag (I narrowly bypassed Blea Tarn Fell, but, fortunately, I’ve been up there before).
I’m grateful to Mr Birkett for all of those extra ticks: fourteen tops feels like a better return on the effort than eight. Some of them are a bit underwhelming however, but if you like walking in the Lakes (and why wouldn’t you?) I would recommend checking out Codale Head and Standing Crag, I think they should be in everybody’s lists.
And my new plan for the morrow?
You’ll have to wait!
(A short playlist for this post: ‘Higher Ground’ Stevie Wonder, ‘Gotta Keep Walking’ Willy Mason, ‘May You Never’ John Martyn.)