Thursday, 27 November 2014

It's a Fairfield to St Sunday Crag

Hartsop Above How – Dove Crag – Hart Crag – Fairfield – St Sunday Crag – Birks

10.3 miles

1st July

I parked at Brothers water where my first fell waited above, Hartsop Above How.  When paths shown on the map randomly start and stop in the middle there’s got to be a beginning and an end, an entrance and exit, even with sheep paths, unless farmers are now using the RAF planes to parachute them in. There was indeed a path.

A couple of Ravens where having a bun fight; not lunchtime yet so it wasn’t my bun but to be honest if they wanted it I’m not going to argue with them, they’re massive and so are their beaks.  I got to the tree line just to miss a pair of small fast metal birds whizz passed. As I made my way up the slope to Gale crag I stopped to take a photo when some larger slower metal birds glided over Kirkstone Pass and low over Ullswater. You want aerobatics we’ll show you aerobatics croaked the Ravens.

I made my way along the long flat summit of Hartsop above How, taking a moment on Dick’s seat, he wasn’t using it so I’m sure he wouldn’t have minded. As the summit began to fall away I stopped to view my route ahead and looked for the Priest’s Hole which is a cave in the crags of Dove Crag. So far it has be a dry warm year luckily this enables you to pass the peaty bog spots with ease and remain dry.

Hartsop ridge with Dove Crag to the left and Hart Crag / Fairfield on the right

Dove Crag and Priest's hole from Hartsop

The ridge continued up to Hart Crag but I took a detour down and across to the base of the crags of Dove Crag. You can’t see the cave from the main path that passes down to Dovedale but a small discreet path scrambles up towards it.

Zoomed right in from Hartsop

Priest’s Hole is a small narrow cut in the rocks and probably popular with the wild camping crowd. Evidence of cooking utensils, food packets and bedding lay at the back of the cave. After several attempts to get a widescreen shot of me in the cave a couple of sheep went flying over, I’m amazed at their agility clearly something or someone had startled them. It was indeed a group of guys taking an ‘interesting’ approach to the cave.  With lots of branches attached to one of their rucksacks I would say they were going to camp the night with a fire and I suspect a 6-pack or two.

I have always wondered what the wild camping etiquette is if someone has already set up camp in the remote area you wanted to camp in, do you ignore and squeeze in, pitch near by or go elsewhere?  Does it fall under the bothy social code. And when does the idea of solitude wild camping become a gathering. Imagine you planned a nice quiet evening to watch the stars and get up early to photograph the sun rise, would you appreciate the noisy late night or expect a few free beers and join in.

Lamb taking it easy in the afternoon sun

Looking towards Fairfield
I made my way up on to Dove Crag then carried on up to Hart Crag, passed the head of the valley, Rydal Head where Rydal Beck cascades down the valley into waterfalls above Rydal Mount. Reaching the highest point of the day, Fairfield summit you are able to look down the Grisedale valley and Grisedale tarn. A family had pitched a couple of tents next to the tarn, it looked really inviting, must do that one day.

Grisedale Tarn

Cofa Pike and St Sunday Crag
Coming off Fairfield, with Seat Sandal all on its own behind the tarn
I looked across to Seat Sandal and took a moment to consider “nipping over there”. It's kind of on it's own so it might end up being done on a seperate hike. It looked too much of a down and up then a return around Fairfield and with the evening sun approaching I decided against it. I shall consider it again when I’m on Dollywagon Pike after having done the Helvellyn ridge.

On to St Sunday Crag; dropping over the rocky outcrop of Cofa Pike down to Deepdale Hause is around a 100m descent and ascent on to St Sunday Crag. The south shore of Ullswater reveals itself as you walk to the end of it's flat ridge. It was now 9pm and the evening sun gave the grassy slopes of Birks a golden glow.

Sunset over the grassy slopes of Birks 

There were no paths marked to Arnison Crag and as the sun was already setting I wasn’t going to try to find a way through moor and crag to get to it, even though again this would leave it out on it's own. As I dropped down the steep path behind Patterdale it had turned dark so donning the head torch I marched the 2 mile walk down the road back to the car.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Walla Crag

Walla Crag – Bleaberry fell

3.7 miles

I had a disagreement with some food last night and was feeling quite ill. It wanted to stay at home but that wasn’t going to stop me from getting out into the sun. So after performing some peristaltic pyrotechnics I headed off to Keswick.

Turns out it was probably right to stay at home. It was too hot. Too hot to deal with a stroppy stomach at least.

It was only going to be a fairly short walk of Walla Crag, Bleaberry fell and High Seat so up I rambled up from the NT car park below Walla Crag and followed Cat gill to the top. The south east shore of Derwent reminded me of the Alpines and sort of has an Indonesian islands look where forested cliffs drop straight into the water.  

Felt like many Med hikes I’ve been on
 The main path takes you up along the right hand side of a wall and hides the views all the way till you reach Walla Crag. This is a good thing because the Derwent and Keswick panorama explodes out in front of you as you step up onto the crag; though here is stile lower down in the woods that allows you to pop your head out for a sneaky peek.  

Derwent Water and Bassenthwaite lake

I stopped to replenish my strength and watched the cruise boats below and army aircraft fly by. You can see the whole of Keswick below you and you realise it is actually quite small and must have a planning convenant that all buildings be white.

Keswick with Skiddaw 

After a lengthy rest I headed off to Bleaberry fell which is a prominent mound on its own.  I promptly lost all my strength; boggy moorland does that. Luckily there was a path for a short distance as you approach the base and steps all the way up to the summit. Half way there was a rock that was smoothed perfectly as a seat with back rest so I put it to good use.

Bleaberry fell

Skiddaw and Blencathra
I turned my attention to the next peak, High Seat. I looked at the map, it was only 1mile away but I knew from previous walks the paths are not as clear as the map suggests and that it was all boggy moorland. I was too worn out for boggy moorland and a 3.5mile round return so returned my gaze to the Skiddaw and Blencathra view and guzzled all my drink I was desperate for.

I did notice though the words ‘Threefooted Brandreth’ near High Seat and remembered writing some weird blog about bears and yetis when I approached this area from Thirlmere. Looks like they were from a threefooted Brandreth...

Friday, 8 August 2014

The Langdale Pikes

Pavey ark-Harrison Stickle-Loft Crag-Pike o’Stickle-Thunacar Knott-High Raise-Sergeant Man-Tarn Crag-Blea Rigg


For my next walk I chose the classic and old favourite of ours and indeed many visitors, the Langdales Pikes. The large NT car park and two great pubs make it the obvious starting and finishing point. It’s a popular location for Ghyll climbing and I’ve seen many schools and college minibuses from all over the country. Today wasn’t a warm sunny day for it but a cloudy drizzly one but I guess it doesn’t matter all that much seeing as you are scrambling up rivers. As Beth says it doesn’t matter if it rains when swimming in an open air swimming pool, you’re already wet...

I started the steep accent up the well paved path following the ghyll up to Stickle tarn. There was one tricky section near the top but this has since been made easier by adding stepping stones across the stream.
The peaks of Harrison Stickle and Pavey Ark rise above you as you reach the tarn. 

Stickle Tarn and Jack's Rake up Pavey Ark

Here I sat on the wall and looked up at mountaineers climbing up the crags of Pavey Ark and on to Jack’s Rake, a tricky diagonal climb up the top. 

There has been controversy in the local papers recently reporting a number of fatalities going this way and there had been a call for signs warning you of the danger. Extra care and concentration is required here. I suspect most incidents were on the way down, I can see this as being dangerous as there's a difficult traverse half way.

I got to the base of the path just as it started to rain. Great, not what I wanted, the already smooth rocks now had a stream down it.

Jack's Rake

I paused with a furry creature also having a climb, luckily the rain was light and stopped very quickly.

That's cheating having 16 legs.
ok technically 6 legs and 10 (go)pro-legs

I eventually passed the climbers as they were tying up their ropes but they soon bounded past me as I got to the trickiest part. There’s two ways of getting up either up the narrow gap on the right and drag yourself up or the 8ft smooth rock on the left. This had two tiny foot holes way too small for my 12 ½ boots so I had to drag myself up.

Stickle Tarn

 After a pause and admiring the tarn below I carried on up, this is where the path disappears and you make your own way up the smooth rock.

I was surprised how the time had flown so I continued to my next peak. Luckily from here the next 4 peaks of Harrison Stickle-Loft Crag-Pike o’Stickle-Thunacar Knott were quite easy with little accents, it was only the boggy ground in the centre that slowed me down. This is where there aren’t any paths, well the ‘paths’ that lure you in are in fact streams flattening the grass, don’t get drawn in and maintain a wide birth around the edge.

Pike o'Stickle

Climbers up Loft Crag

zig-zag path to Blea Tarn

The clouds looked quite threatening throughout the day but luckily hadn’t really rained, instead allowed sun beams to shine through. I reached High Raise shelter and as I stopped to take pics of the rays I met the only other person up there.  He had come up all the way from Walla Crag to Ullscarf but ‘just kept on going’. Oh so easy to do!

Then he said something spooky. Something I’ve been having discussions with myself on the last few hikes. The reason he kept on going was because he was going to the next cairn but was this a cairn or a pile of stones? It’s not just me then I thought!

I don’t look at the maps at great detail all too often so only just realised that there are indeed the words ‘pile of stones’ marked all over the map. I do see many that seem unnecessary even for winter walking so sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference and their purpose. I might do a "this is a cairn or a pile of stone" photo competition.

On the way to Sergeant Man there was a lamb and a metal post, nothing too unusual about that you’d think but they were having a stand-off. A Cumbrian stand-off? A staring match perhaps, one the post was going to win but I admired the young-un’s determination. I stopped for 5mins to watch, both tough competitors, none backing down. I could see this match going the full 9 rounds so I carried on my way.

The way down to Tarn Crag was a little trickier as it was just open boggy moorland. Walking over the top of the crags I reached Tarn Crag with a view down to Easedale Tarn. I then dropped down the side to Codale tarn where again it was very boggy. Reaching the path up Blea Rigg made it much easier and quicker. The official top was further along where a path loops round the rocky ridge.

I then noticed heavy rain moving up the valley from Grasmere so it was time to go! I couldn’t find the direct paths down to Stickle Tarn but rather than take the long path round I went off path; bit of a mistake so many ups and down but at least it took me to this view I would have missed before heading back down Dungeon Ghyll...

And here's a few photos from a walk there a couple of weeks previous.