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.

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

A Round from Rosthwaite.

Rosthwaite – Stonethwaite Beck – Stonethwaite – Big Stanger Gill – Bessyboot – Tarn at Leaves – Rosthwaite Cam – Coombe Door – Coombe Head – Glaramara – Looking Steads – Lincomb Tarns – Allen Crags – Sprinkling Tarn – Great Slack – Seathwaite Fell – Styhead Gill – Stockley Bridge – Grains Gill – Seathwaite – Black Sike – Strands Bridge – Folly Bridge – Longthwaite – Rosthwaite.

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Big Stanger Gill.

Be warned – there are an awful lot of photographs in this post, which doesn’t really reflect the quality of the photos, which were hampered by overcast skies and flat light all day, so much as just how much I enjoyed the walk. The idea for the route germinated after our ascent of Scafell Pike, which left me with a hankering to visit Sprinkling Tarn again after a gap of many years. Then, when I started perusing the map for a suitable circuit, I was drawn to the rash of blue dots across the hillsides south of Borrowdale, and the plan for this route duly emerged.

I’m not sure that I’ve ever been up Bessyboot before, and unusually for me, it actually occurred to me to take a peek in Wainwright prior to my walk, rather than doing my research afterwards, when, frankly, it’s a bit too late. The route up Stanger Gill is one of Wainwright’s routes, but no path is shown on the OS map at all. There is a path on the ground, clearly quite well used, and pitched with stones for much of its length. It climbs steeply through the trees, but there was a good variety of moss and toadstools to distract me from quite a warm and humid climb.

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One advantage of a steep climb is that good views behind rapidly emerge…

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The view back down to Stonethwaite.

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Waterfall in Big Stanger Gill.

When the ground finally begins to level out the path emerges into an area of rocky knolls and boggy hollows…

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Racom Bands.

The path seemed to lead me very circuitously, spiralling in on the summit of Bessyboot (which Wainwright calls Rosthwaite Fell).

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Looking north from Bessyboot: Tarn at Leaves, the knobbly top of Rosthwaite Cam and Coombe Head behind.

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Looking south from Bessyboot along Borrowdale to Skiddaw.

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Tarn at Leaves and Bessyboot.

“Tarn at Leaves has a lovely name but no other appeal”

Wainwright.

I think this kind of rough and complex terrain is really satisfying, and have no idea why Wainwright, the old curmudgeon, should be so negative about Tarn at Leaves.

Rosthwaite Cam was a big hit with me: a splendidly rocky and isolated little top, with nobody about and an easy scramble required to reach the summit.

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Looking north from Rosthwaite Cam – on the left the double bobble which Birkett anoints as Stonethwaite Fell and on the right Coombe Head.

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Looking south from Rosthwaite Cam: Tarn at Leaves, Bessyboot, Derwent Water and Skiddaw.

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Looking west from Rosthwaite Cam. From this vantage, Fleetwith Pike looks rather odd; like some powerful giant has taken great scoops out of the sides of the mountain.

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This is brew-stop number one, under the sheltered side of the enormous chunk of rock which forms the top of Rosthwaite Cam.

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Rosthwaite Cam from Stonethwaite Fell.

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And again, with a less wide-angled setting on the zoom.

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This tiny cairn is on the minor hummock which forms the eastern edge of Coombe Door.

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Small tarn at Coombe Door, Coombe Head on the right, Glaramara behind on the left.

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Crags of Coombe Head.

This was a walk across very rocky terrain; that rock was coarse and knobbly, and extremely grippy under boots. I was intrigued by these crags below Coombe Head where the rock, which surely must be volcanic, was neatly layered as if it were sedimentary.

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The view from Coombe Head along The Coombe and then down Derwent Water is an absolute cracker. It would be a shame to bypass it to head straight for Glaramara, but that’s precisely what the main path from Borrowdale does.

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Tarns near Coombe Head and Glaramara.

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The twin tops of Glaramara, viewed from brew-stop number two on Looking Steads.

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Esk Pike, Allen Crags, Ill Crag, Great End and Lingmell from brew-stop number two.

Brew-stop number two turned out to be an ill-advised affair. After the warm and sticky climb up Bessyboot, it had been quite cold on the ridge: the wind had a real edge to it. I’d hunkered down behind a large boulder to make my mug of tea, and put on all of my spare clothing, but this was the only time all day when it there were drops of moisture in the wind, and the boulder didn’t provide as much shelter as I’d hoped. By the time I’d slurped the last of my char, I was uncomfortably chilled.

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Bowfell and Esk Pike across a small tarn.

Tarns abound on this ridge and I felt that, although the ground is often boggy, there must be some scope for wild-camping.

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The rocky lump on the right here, in front of Allen Crags has a spot height of 684m on the OS map and is another Birkett (High House).

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Great End, Great Gable and Sprinkling Tarn from Allen Crags.

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Looking back to Glaramara from Allen Crags.

Brew-stop number three, just off the top of Allen Crags, was much more successful than the previous halt. I found a natural hollow amongst some shattered rocks where somebody had even built a small, untidy wall to raise the shelter a little higher. This turned out to be a very comfortable seat, well out of the wind and with excellent views.

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Langdale Pikes, Windermere, Lingmoor, Pike O’Blisco and Bowfell from brew-stop three.

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Piek O’Blisco, Wetherlam, Bowfell and Esk Pike from brew-stop three.

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Great Slack and Sprinkling Tarn.

Two tents were being pitched by Sprinkling Tarn, both by what looked to be father and son teams, both on the protruding parts of the shore which are almost islands in the tarn, and both looking to be conspicuously lacking in shelter from the wind.

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Sprinkling Tarn and Great End from point 631, not Great Slack, but with better views of the tarn then Great Slack.

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In ‘The Tarns of Lakeland’ Heaton Cooper calls this Sprinkling Crag Tarn.

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Glaramara from Great Slack, the diagonal gash across the hillside is Hind Gill, which, apparently, a faint, steep and very quiet path follows: one for another day.

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Seathwaite Fell from Great Slack.

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Lingmell and Peers Gill from Great Slack.

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Great End from Seathwaite Fell.

Seathwaite Fell is another pleasantly rocky top. It’s surrounded by steep crags on three sides and so has superb views down into Borrowdale.

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Seathwaite from Seathwite Fell.

The only part of my route which I wouldn’t necessarily recommend is the first part of my descent from Seathwiate Fell, down towards the path above Styhead Gill. I found a faint path which seemed promising and followed it into a steep little gully. The stream was mostly hidden below the jumble of rocks and boulders, so at least the going was mainly dry, but it was quite loose and a bit too steep for my liking. I only stopped to take a photo once the gradient had eased…

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At which point, in a wet flush at the mossy margins of the stream, I noticed these tiny, delightful flowers…

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…of Starry Saxifrage. I took several photos, none of which came out well, but each of the five petals has two characteristic yellow spots near it’s base, the centre of the flower is turning pink, and between each petal there are conspicuous red anthers. This is a plant of the mountains, and I shall be on the look out for it again in future.

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Stockley Bridge, Grains Gill, with Aaron Crags on Seathwaite Fell behind. That pool does look suitable for a swim (I’d been wondering), but it was too late and too cold.

I still had a fair walk along the valley, then by the river Derwent to get back to Rosthwaite.  By the time I reached the car park, the skies had begun to clear. For once I didn’t really resent the good weather arriving when my walk had finished; I’d had too much fun to feel any regrets. I brewed-up one more time before enjoying a pink sunset reflected in Derwent Water as I drove home.

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View from the car park.

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In all, I was out for about 10 hours, which is also how long it had taken us to climb Scafell Pike the week before. This was a good deal further then that, with probably a similar amount of ascent and a roughly equivalent amount of sitting around enjoying the view. All of which is very vague, I’m afraid. I couldn’t hope to estimate how many tarns I passed either, but I can be more precise with my tick lists: the route included eleven Birketts, of which four are also Wainwrights. I didn’t see many people about at all, especially over the first part of the route until I joined a more significant path on Glaramara, and the last section of the hills over Great Slack and Seathwaite Fell.

A Round from Rosthwaite.

Mean and Moody Weather on Scafell Pike

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Around the New Year, TBH is always keen to reflect, to look back at the year gone by and to make plans for the year ahead, “What do you want to do this year?” she’ll ask each of the rest of the family. My answer is always deeply predictable and revolves around getting out for lots of walks and finding some time for some camping and canoeing. Of course, TBH has her own ideas and this year suggested that we might set ourselves the target of climbing the National summits, Ben Nevis, Snowdon and Scafell Pike.

Scafell, being closest to home, would, in theory at least, be the easiest to tick off, but things haven’t entirely gone to plan; we expected to complete the climb in May when we were camping in Wasdale, but high winds made that an unwise choice; then we decided to camp in Upper Eskdale in June and ascend it from there, but again the weather didn’t cooperate and we camped elsewhere instead. I tried to resurrect the Eskdale plan this summer, but the forecast wasn’t entirely convincing, so in the end we elected to tackle the hill in a day-trip.

When we parked on the verge at Seathwaite, the waterfalls of Sourmilk Gill were looking resplendent and I was glad that we’d opted not to camp: with the streams running very high, I wondered what Great Moss would be like – we might have struggled to find a dry enough spot to camp and we certainly would have found ourselves struggling with conditions underfoot.

This would prove to be a day of very changeable weather; we set-off in rain and were soon kitted out in our waterproofs, but by the time we had walked a little way up the valley, the sun was shining, with dark shadows flitting across the landscape in response to the threatening clouds scudding overhead.

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Grains Gill, Stockley Bridge and Seathwaite Fell.

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Little S and TBH approaching Stockley Bridge.

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Grains Gill from Stockley Bridge.

I had been hoping to assess the suitability of the pools around Stockley Bridge for swimming purposes. I think there is some scope for a dip here, but the stream was running too high today.

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We continued to follow Grains Gill and then Ruddy Gill, and although it was soon raining again, our spirits weren’t dampened. The gill, in high water, looked very fine and ahead the crags of Great End were continually disappearing and reappearing in veils of mist.

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When it brightened again, we found a spot to sit for some butties and a brew.

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With the weather lifting a little, a view had appeared down to Derwent Water and Skiddaw.

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And the changing cloud and patches of sunlight put on a show for us.

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Likewise, up the valley, the mist was still swirling atmospherically around Great End.

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We were moving steadily, but fairly slowly, even by my unambitious standards. When we reached the top of Ruddy Gill I offered the kids the option to divert via Sprinkling Tarn and so considerably shorten the walk, but they were having none of it,  and were all determined to continue to the top.

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Allen Crags with Derwent Water behind.

When we reached Esk Hause, Esk Pike had usurped Great End as the incredible disappearing hill…

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Now you see it…

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Now you don’t…

Great End, meanwhile, was clear, albeit briefly…

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…but the ridge from there, onward over Ill Crag, Broad Crag and Scafell Pike itself remained determinedly hidden….

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And it stayed that way as we walked along the ridge and up the final pull to the top. In the slight depression shortly before we hit the broad ridge we stopped again for a second lunch, it seeming likely that, in the wind, it would be too cold to stop. Now and again, as we continued, scraps of blue sky appeared overhead and it seemed as if views would soon follow, but it wasn’t to be. The top wasn’t as busy as I’d expected, but there were a fair few people up there and since the wind was indeed very cold, we elected, after a very brief stop, to press on. If anything, as we descended, it seemed that the cloud had lowered further and we didn’t drop out of the fog until we had reached the Corridor Route.

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The top of Pier’s Gill.

I love the Corridor Route, for me it’s one of the finest paths in the Lake District, with it’s steep crags and deep-cut gills on all sides, and the patchy cloud didn’t really detract from the drama, although I was glad that we had finally dropped below it.

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It was pretty late by now, but we had anticipated this eventuality and so, as well as the stove and kettle I often carry for brewing-up, I had a pan, some filled dried pasta (harder to buy these days than it once was, but Aldi stock some) and a jar of pesto. I was surprised by how many other groups were still about on the hills and, as we cooked tea, a party came by and expressed their envy of our impending evening meal.

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Round How and the Corridor Route.

We descended past Styhead Tarn, Styhead Gill and back via Stockley Bridge, finishing back at Seathwaite in the very last of the light, having completed our roughly 8 mile walk in around 10 hours. So, we hardly set any records fro speed, and I’m not sure either that we will get around to  Ben Nevis or Snowden this year, but we did enjoy a very memorable day.

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Mean and Moody Weather on Scafell Pike