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Great Gable & Kirk Fell from Honister Mine

10.16.14

Posted by paul  |  6 Comments »

Like a lot of my walks that are pre-planned this walk was no different. A walk from Honister Mine to take in Great Gable & Kirk Fell was the main objective whilst along the way taking in Grey Knotts & Brandreth, two summits that I had only visited maybe once or twice before, my means of gaining them were by a steep pull up straight from the Honister Mine Car Park where memories came flooding back from a much earlier excursion during my novice career as a fell walker.

Gone are the light mornings until next spring, it is now the time I have to get used to driving to Lakeland under the cover of Darkness, it wont be long until what I call my 3 hours on 3 hours off walks are under way, what I am of course referring to is winter time when we barley see 6 hours of daylight.

Until then we have a couple of weeks to enjoy daylight before we set our clocks back, it’s a day like those when I will look back at walks like today with a slight hint of sadness as we wave goodbye to summer, but before all that lets enjoy what we have left before we finally close those curtains.

This is Great Gable and Kirk Fell from Honister Mine.

 

ASCENT: 3,600 Feet 1,098 Meters

WAINWRIGHTS: 5, Grey Knotts – Brandreth – Green Gable – Great Gable – Kirk Fell

SUMMITS VISITED: 6, Grey Knotts – Brandreth – Green Gable – Great Gable – Kirk Fell (North Top) Kirk Fell

WEATHER: Overcast With Light Showers Not Amounting to Much, Brisk Winds Across The Summits With Sunny Periods Towards The End of The Walk. Highs Of 15°C, Lows Of 10°C

PARKING: Honister Slate Mine

AREA: Western

MILES: 9.7

WALKING WITH: On My Own

ORDNANCE SURVEY: OL6

TIME TAKEN: 7 Hours

ROUTE: Honister Pass – Grey Knotts – Brandreth – Green Gable – Windy Gap – Great Gable – Beck Head – Kirk Fell (North Top) – Kirk Fell – Black Sail Pass – Kirk Fell North Traverse – Beck Head – Moses Trod – Drum House – Honister Pass

Wainwright Guide Book Seven

Book 7

The Western Fells

 

-Kirk Fell

Bland the southern aspect may be, but the dark north face is very different. Here, shadowed cliffs seam the upper slopes in a long escarpment, a playground for climbers, above rough declivities that go down to the Liza in Ennerdale. Linking with Great Gable is the depression of Beck Head to the east; westwards is a counterpart in Black Sail Pass. And between is a broad undulating top, with tarns, the ruins of a wire fence, and twin summits: on the whole a rather disappointing crown for so massive a plinth.

Alfred Wainwright

 

Map 1Map 2

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Fleetwith Pike & Honister Crag from Honister Mine 08:30 10°C

I was a little behind schedule by the time I reached Honister due to getting stuck behind two lorries carrying wide loads along the A66. This meant I was trailing half an hour behind which didn’t really matter just more of an inconvenience really.

Although the sun had been up an hour already I kitted up under a mix of grey & hints of sudden blue skies only for the latter to be dashed by the strong winds that carried the clouds quickly across the morning sky.

I lace up to the sound of a generator humming away in a large shed with a dimly lit light, One of the large wooden doors is half open as I spot a worker scurrying about his morning duties. I unload £5.50 into the parking meter most of which were 50p’s which as you could imagine, left me feeling a lot lighter in more ways than one.

I pick up my path directly behind the car park in search of my first summit of Grey Knotts where I cross over a wooden sty which leads directly onto open fellside.

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Just follow the fence.

I have vivid memories of this path which back then the last time I was here it was under three/four feet of snow, my memory was of just how incredibly difficult it was cutting boot holes into fresh snow. They say some routes will always be remembered during which weather you undertook them under which explains why I still cant get those memories out of my head!

Despite the path being pretty steep straight from the car I was quite surprised how quickly I made my way up, even getting a good sweat on in the process.

The path is made of rock pitched steeply & at times an odd scramble is required to heave oneself up, this was made difficult by just how slippery the rock was underfoot, after the third time, I stopped counting how many times I slipped back or performed an acrobatic attempt at the splits.

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Here, looking back over Honister Mine along the Honister Pass through to Borrowdale from my ascent.

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In the other direction, Fleetwith Pike, Honister Crag, Dale Head & Robinson on the opposite side of the Pass.

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Entering the cloud at around 1,800 feet ASL

It was around the point that I reached the first shoulder or false summit that I left any clear views behind me as I was presented with swirling cloud sometimes quite thick in places. For me personally I like to split this path up into three, the first of which is what you can see from Honister Mine, the next two sections are shorter than the first but again has that false summit feel to the ascent, the final of course is the summit.

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Grey Knotts summit.

Shortly before arriving at the summit I left the wire fence & broke off right, within fifty yards or so I was at the summit which had another wire fence running south to north surrounding the summit itself, I studied the fence a while knowing full well if I walked further north I would find a sty to cross over, however I spied what seemed to be a new looking sty closer to my location south which I used to gain the summit rock.

Of course I could have just scaled the wire fence, it only being waist height but I think my ‘upper regions’ had seen quite enough activity with my attempts on doing the splits just a short while ago!

Sadly summit time was brief due to lack of visibility, however all was not lost as I spied my path which ran either side of a wire fence all the way to Brandreth.

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Brandreth is seen during a clearing in the clouds.

Either side of the wire fence good paths can be found, I suspect they are used ‘directional’

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Here looking over Fleetwith Pike towards Robinson & Grasmoor while down below Buttermere, Crummock Water, Rannerdale Knotts & Mellbreak can be seen all the way through to the the Loweswater Fells.

It was no use I had to down pack to take out my Hat & Gloves as the wind started to nip at my ears & fingertips, I think I had all but forgotten what it felt like to hear & feel a strong cold wind through a woolly hat.

Bliss.

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Pillar, Scoat Fell  Red Pike (Wasdale) in front of Brandreth summit cairn.

Although the cloud had cleared the wind was bitterly cold, the light in contrast was amazing & atmospheric. The cloud scurried across the skies over head revealing a hint of sun only resembled by the faintest of afterglows through the thick cloud. Conditions of which are too difficult to capture with a camera but make days on the fells very remember-able .

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My first real view of Kirk Fell & Pillar as I descend Brandreth.

Kirk Fell is todays main objective which will be climbed from Beck Head seen as the depression in the far left of the photo. I have climbed Kirk Fell many times & knew of a path known as the North Traverse which runs along the wide expanse of the fell in between the top of the Black Sail Pass & Beck Head. The path isn’t clear in this photo but if you keep your eye level with Beck Head & run your finger towards the top of the Black Sail Pass across Kirk Fell beneath the scree – that’s the approximate location of the North Traverse.

But, all that’s in a while yet, first I have to climb the Gables.

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Green & Great Gable seen over Gillercomb Head.

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Kirk Fell & Pillar seen from one of the un-named Tarns while crossing Gillercomb Head.

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The spectacular hanging valley of Gillercomb seen with Base Brown to the right & the Seathwaite Valley far below.

From Gillercomb Head I headed off into the cloud in search of Green Gable, the path here is wide & very easy to follow with large cairns lining the route. Shortly before arriving at the summit I sit out a shower in a makeshift stone shelter which could largely be described as a pile of stones, over head a pair of Ravens squawk over the noise of the wind as the rain pelted at my jacket, for those few moments everything felt quite surreal.

The shower soon passed giving me the green light to get up of my comfortable boulder on which I had perched myself upon. Through the cloud a strong sun started to penetrate my ascent towards the last few hundred yards before reaching Green Gable summit.

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Green Gable summit shelter, as I contemplate another sit down.

Nahh best not, my bums still numb from the last one.

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Cloud mixes with sunlight as I took on my descent towards Windy Gap.

During my descent every now & again the cloud would part revealing the large stone cairn at Windy Gap or even the vast vertical crags of Great Gable. It was at this point I resided to the fact that I wouldn’t get no clear views from here on in, then, whilst crossing Windy Gap vague glimpses of Styhead Tarn would appear revealing The Band then Great End, all within moments Styhead opened up before me as a wall of cloud waited precariously to blanket the fells once more.

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A precious moment reveals Styhead Tarn, The Band & a glimpse of Great End summit.

Moments like these don’t last long, but when they do they are highly rewarding. In great spirit I continue my climb towards Great Gable summit.

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Great Gable summit complete with the FRCC Memorial Plaque.

Climbing Great Gable in low cloud with a howling wind can be a tad intimidating & I would be lying if I told you otherwise as I familiarise myself with the crags & the little scrambles this intimidation turns to butterflies in the pit of my stomach while all around me, visibility is down to just twenty yards.

At times I would stop for a breather or to check my ascent route then press on until the summit shoulder was reached, no false summits here, just a mass of pulverised rock leading you all the way to the summit.

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The New FRCC Memorial Plaque found at Great Gable summit.

I found it odd that I experienced little wind whilst at the summit yet below & across the ridges I was reaching for hat & gloves, perhaps the calming effect that Great Gable has on mother nature.

Ashes are scattered below the Memorial together with a wooden cross with a large Poppy placed across the top, after all Great Gable is the fell that the Fell & Rock Climbing Club holds their own Remembrance Day Service here in November.

I am encircled by cloud & with not much wind to push it along I decide to bed down to see if anything transpires while at the same time leaving my own words whilst reading the Memorial Plaque.

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Kirk Fell & the Ennerdale Valley is revealed through the cloud.

Every now & again the cloud would lift but not entirely although enough to aid my navigation using the stone cairns in the direction of Beck Head & Kirk Fell. I continue to sit out & wait just a few minutes longer it was here the time spent sitting out of the cloud prevailed when all of a sudden Kirk Fell & the Ennerdale Valley opened up, I quickly shouldered pack & followed the stone cairns.

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Kirk Fell appears through the cloud from the start of my steep descent.

I had an all but clear run whilst following the stone cairns before reaching the top of my descent route which when I look back makes me ponder why I would use this way down again as a much better & less awkward path lay off to the right which follows a natural ridge all the way down towards Beck Head.

I had come mentally prepared especially to take in this rough descent as I knew it would be hard on the knees & testing on the mind. From the top of the path Kirk Fell & Beck Head dominates my descent, below me my path drops away in short zig-zags where the scree was loosened by recent rain causing me to slip or slide in a controlled fashion, this only adding to the shock both my knees & ankles are now taking.

That was the good part of the path which fell away into two close-by scree runs, a large boulder field lay to my left which were about the size of footballs, but I found these unstable before reverting back to the scree.

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Wasdale Head seen with Illgill Head, Wast Water Seatallan & Yewbarrow from my descent.

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Kirk Fell & Beck Head.

The sight of three sheep grazing close to where a large erratic boulder stood was my target which progressively got nearer & nearer although at times painfully too slow.

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Rib End, Beck Head & Beck Head Tarns.

I soon pitched down on the soft grass that Beck Head provided, without looking back I made my way to the large boulder where I de-shouldered my pack & just about readjusted almost all my gear including dropping the trousers to adjust my shorts, whilst I was at it I best pull the socks up too as they seemed to have disappeared somewhere into my boots – who if they could talk, wouldn’t be thanking me right now!

It’s close as dam it to lunch so I take out a sandwich & perch myself down much to the amazement of three of the tamest sheep I had yet to see, if anything one got so close I could touch it, I could only guess it was having a good chuckle at my descent route.

Scafell Pike is partially hidden yet I can see Lingmell & Broad Crag quite clearly, from the Mickledore Ridge up towards Scafell is all but lost beneath cloud but it shows promise, everything just looks a mucky green & brown, the crags mingle & at times I cant tell the difference between rock & grass from my perch here at Beck Head.

I try to pick out The Corridor Route starting at the top of Piers Gill which is quite distinctive even through my mucky green & brown vision, however I gave up as just like Mickledore & everything beneath it gave way to just browns & faded greens.

I couldn’t let myself sit down so with my sandwich in hand I have a wee explore over towards Beck Head Tarns, it was here I spotted the ‘better path’ that I should have used but impatiently didn’t, a few choice words crossed my mind but I certainly wasn’t going to beat myself up over it.

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Green & Great Gable seen over Beck Head as I now take on Kirk Fell via Rib End.

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Once again Both Gables can be seen as I approach Kirk Fell summit shoulder.

My ascent on Kirk Fell was positively delightful via Rib End, here although the path is quite wide it in places is obstructed by solid rock so alternatively up to three different narrower paths make up the ascent.

After a steady & steep climb the rock gives way for grass which was most welcoming to the pads of my feet, it was here I felt a hint of tiredness creep in during the easy haul towards Kirk Fell secondary summit, its North Top.

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Pillar,Black Crag & Scoat Fell seen shortly after leaving Kirk Fell North Top.

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Great Gable from of one of the two Tarns that make up Kirk Fell Tarn.

I had been really looking forward to the crossing in-between the North Top & the main summit itself which didn’t disappoint although I was left feeling a little empty for reasons unknown once I reached Kirk Fell summit.

It was here I ponder my views which are starting to break up all around me, I decided to have a sit down in the summit shelter but I didn’t stay long due to a cold wind that blew straight in at me from the south west, perhaps this was the reason which left me feeling empty I’m not too sure.

I knew my legs would have appreciated a longer stay but the wind told me otherwise which was in remarkable contrast to the little wind I had experienced on Great Gable only an hour earlier.

With this I set of & follow the old ruined fence in the direction of Kirk Fell Crags.

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Broad Crag, Lingmell & Scafell Pike are now all but clear from cloud.

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Fabulous views over Pillar & the High Stile Ridge.

I follow the fence before the summit plateau narrows, keeping left here will lead you down Kirk Fell Crags, towards the right, a steep ravine that isn’t on todays itinerary.

Shortly before taking this photo I spot movement coming towards me from the direction of Kirk Fell Crags, we make for each other.

It is a local woman & we are much the similar age, I’m getting out in between school runs she explains, we share out routes before I spot a radio aerial in one of her pack pockets, Oh I’m Mountain Rescue, I’m recruiting wanna join! I explain my situation before she comments, why don’t you move here?

My only answer is I would hadn’t I have the commitments back in Wigan, but one day I will!

We part wishing well on each others day before I reach the top of Kirk Fell Crags.

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Descending Kirk Fell Crags.

Kirk Fell Crags are a great way to tackle little scrambles which was just what I had been talking about with the woman I had just been chatting too, however descending this way can be a little tricky & one mustn’t be ashamed to use ones arse to descend by.

I follow the path down naturally stopping to gain the best ground using both my walking poles in the process, unlike my descent from Great Gable the path here is prominent with lots of alternative ‘ways around’ the awkward bits.

It was here I cut my teeth with my Ice Axe & Crampons on Kirk Fell crags during winter 2012 which I immensely enjoyed, each year I try to go back but something always gets in the way like lack of snow!

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Green Gable & Brandreth viewed from the bottom of Kirk Fell Crags/Top of the Black Sail Pass.

That’s the North Traverse path leading away around ‘the waist’ of Kirk Fell, huge anticipation follows as this is a brand new route for me.

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Kirk Fell North Traverse.

But first a little descent is needed where I would cross Baysoar Slack & Sail Beck before re-joining with the North Traverse.

It was here I felt the remnants of a passing shower overhead as large grey cloud now hung high right above Kirk Fell before being carried on by the wind, panic over.

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The Ennerdale Valley with Hay Stacks & the whole High Stile Ridge incorporating High Crag, High Stile, Red Pike (Buttermere) Starling Dodd & finally Great Borne towards the end of the ridge.

I was now on the main chunk of the North Traverse which as expected had a gentle ascent to it, the path is narrow in places & rocks that have detached from the scree above have to be negotiated. Above the North Traverse Boat How Crags dominate the crossing together with the all too familiar…

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Green & Great Gables over Stone Cove.

As you can see in the right of the picture the North Traverse passes through slight boulder fields which are easily negotiated, my next step was to figure out my route on how I will reach the bottom of Windy Gap seen here between Green & Great Gable. My objective was to make my way to a section of path around 980 feet (300 meters) below Windy Gap.

My map tells me I should follow the North Traverse back to Beck Head but my legs are telling me different as that route would involve a short ascent up via the ridge in the foreground on the photo.

After passing through the boulder field I made my way further along the traverse while trying to gain as much height as possible before making a sharp left off the traverse which would take me directly underneath the fore mentioned ridge.

My route was a little arduous due to the nature of Stone Cove most of which I had to side step in places, what I didn’t expect at such a height was just how spongy the area was which sapped at my energy levels. Directly below the crags I made for a stationary boulder which when I got closer I found a small stone cairn which told me I was following the right course.

The views from Stone Cove over into Ennerdale made up for those awkward side steps.

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The Ennerdale Valley from Stone Cove.

My of the track traverse was well rewarded.

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Seen again after crossing below Windy Gap.

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Kirk Fell & Pillar over Stone Cove.

After reaching my destined path below Windy Gap I headed north west on a section of path known beautifully as Moses Trod, here my path flanks me beneath Brandreth before heading a more lenient north beneath my first summit of the day, Gray Knotts.

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Kirk Fell & Pillar from Moses Trod.

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The Ennerdale Valley from Moses Trod.

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The Buttermere Valley from Moses Trod.

I came to a cross roads in my path where I headed a sharp right towards a wooden stile that crossed a wire fence, behind me Great Gable summit can still be seen & so can Kirk Fell but they are disappearing slowly beneath a mix of cloud & low light.

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Both the Ennerdale & Buttermere Valleys in one photo.

Note how Ennerdale seems higher than the valley of Buttermere, the difference of which is that Ennerdale is approximately 50 feet ASL higher than that of Buttermere.

Now that’s a David Hall fact!

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Descending back to Honister Mine.

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Robinson seen from the top of the Honister Pass.

Small figures descend Fleetwith Pike as a Land Rover kicks up a dust cloud making its way to the spoil heaps situated below Fleetwith Pike summit followed shortly afterwards by a large tourist bus not half full.

Although my mileage is kept relatively low in todays walk the arduous descents from Great Gable & Kirk Fell begin to show as tired muscles begin to ache, more so at the pads of my feet. My trousers show all the signs of a great day on the fells as do my boots who still haven’t forgiven me yet.

Honister is buzzing even though its midweek, lots of Mini Buses are parked on the car park as the tourist’s buy souvenirs from the mine shop, other tourist’s sip at tea on the benches outside as I walk by where it always takes me to a scene years ahead when I wonder one day, is that going to be me.

A Riggindale Round

10.12.14

Posted by paul  |  8 Comments »

I was in two minds today to walk at all due to some time off work that I have coming up but the forecast hinted that walking today rather than midweek would work out drier than what was forecast towards the latter of the week.

My plans for my next walk would take me west of the district yet given the fact that tomorrow is a work day the drive out west, then a day spent on the high fells might be a bit too much for what I normally regard as a Sunday walk, my next concern was where to walk then?

Today’s forecast was clear which gave me the green light to stay east of the park, or far east if I much preferred, which I did.

The far eastern fells incorporate the valley of Mardale & for me the holy grail that is High Street, incorporating High Street into a circular round is easy & takes no imagination at all, the fells just provide the rest.

Here’s A Riggindale Round from Mardale Head.

 

ASCENT: 2,960 Feet 902 Meters

WAINWRIGHTS: 5, High Street – The Knott – Rampsgill Head – Kidsty Pike – High Raise

SUMMITS VISITED: 8, Rough Crag (Riggindale) – High Street – The Knott – Rampsgill Head – Kidsty Pike – High Raise – Low Raise – Castle Crag (Mardale)

WEATHER: Calm, Dry & Sunny Highs Of 12°C, Lows Of 5°C

PARKING: Mardale Head

AREA: Far Eastern

MILES: 8.5

WALKING WITH: On My Own

ORDNANCE SURVEY: OL5

TIME TAKEN: 5 Hours 30 Minutes

ROUTE: Mardale Head – Rough Crag (Riggindale) – Caspel Gate Tarn – Long Stile – High Street – Straights of Riggindale – The Knott – Rampsgill Head – Kidsty Pike – High Raise – Low Raise – Castle Crag (Mardale) – The Rigg – Mardale Head

Wainwright Guide Book Two

Book 2

The Far Eastern Fells

 

-High Street

‘A striking range in grandeur and wilderness’

The range forms across the eastern spirit of Lakeland, providing a splendid full days march at a consistently high altitude, but is, distant to the areas most favoured by the fell walker and is comparatively unfrequented, appealing mainly to the lovers of mountain solitude.

Alfred Wainwright

Map 1Map 2

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First light close to Bampton.

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Dawn over High Street & Riggindale from Mardale Road.

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Haweswater & Mardale Head.

The sun had only just rose as I reached Mardale Head breaching the tops of the summits leaving them glistening in a fiery afterglow.

Knowing that I had beaten the sunrise here in Mardale by a good half hour gave me time to do some exploring which I did by stopping my car every twenty yards or so to check if the scenery looked better from up there or down here…odd & a little strange I know but like I say, I had a bit of free time.

I stopped my car just short of Rowantreethwaite Beck where I scaled a rocky outcrop that over looked Haweswater Reservoir. The sun hadn’t breached the tops leaving the valley in a pre dawn state complemented by a morning chill that bit at the tops of my ears.

I scurried along the top of the crag after a short climb that saw me get my socks wet at a time when I was only wearing my mid boots or what I like to call ‘my North Face trainers’

It was here I began to snap away much for the purpose of prosperity rather than publish as I knew these pre dawn photos wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste.

I arrived back at my car which was still nice & warm & a world away from the morning chill here in the valley. From here it was just a short drive to the large car park at the head of the valley, a place whose only inhabitants are a camper van & two neatly parked cars that had been there all night given the dew that had gathered over the windows.

I picked my spot next to the stone wall & face my car back up the valley in preparation for my get away some hours ahead. The North Face trainers are kicked off without untying them, not because I’m feeling lazy, but because I couldn’t wait to get boot onto fell.

Anytime now I expect to be joined by more fellow walkers, after all its nearly 08:00am and I’m still finding it strange that I’m the only person here this morning, not that I’m complaining mind.

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The Rigg with the High Street Ridge & the valley of Riggindale under morning sunlight.

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Here looking back on Harter Fell (Mardale) as I begin my steady climb towards The Rigg.

With my car locked I headed out through a wooden gate before quickly taking a right turn at a stone wall that runs horizontal with the head of Haweswater. From my vantage point I look up the shores at what should be a healthy looking Haweswater yet due to just 2% rainfall during August & September all that is visible is the course of Mardale Beck as it is fed from both Blea Water & Small Water (s) found higher up the valley.

Feeder streams run down the hillside spilling over the path giving evidence of recent rainfall, perhaps just hours earlier I wondered.

Often I would turn around to take a glimpse at Harter Fell as the sunrise broke across the summit crags while at the same time not quite believing that for now, I have all this to myself.

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Riggindale sunrise with Kidsty Pike distinctive summit top dominating the valley.

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Haweswater, Birks Crag & Measand End from the start of my climb towards Swine Crag.

As I climbed further towards The Rigg I pass a stony path that ascends sharply up the fell side, it is a path that I have seen many times & also a path that maybe one day I will take, then I remembered about the views I would miss out on should I take it like the one below which then changed my mind to take the longer way around.

 

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Looking back on Haweswater & the Naddle Forrest from my ascent on Swine Crag.

The stone wall marks the base of the ascent where I pick my way up to the right before crossing over where the wall has fell to ruin only to join a path that ascends away from the wall which then gradually rises steeper before joining the main ridge at the top of Swine Crag, which, is the first of many subsidiary summits that take in the main ridge before peaking out at Rough Crag found half way across the ridge. But, all that is a while away yet as right about now there’s something strange yet poetically beautiful occurring on the opposite side of the valley.

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Cloud slowly creeps down Gatescarth Pass between Branstree (L) & Harter Fell (R)

After leaving the stone wall behind I followed a succession of large cairns, here the path rises sharply & can be quite narrow in places,  but, to take the mind of all that I had this wonderful view of an almost motionless wisp of thick cloud as it slowly descended down the Gatescarth Pass, little did I know what was behind it due to my low altitude.

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The corrie of Small Water & the top of Nan Bield Pass.

Having gained the top of Swine Crag glimpses of Small Water can be seen still under morning shadow as the same cloud breaches the top of Nan Bield Pass before slowly dispersing over Small Water Tarn.

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Conditions show little to no wind in this close up of Small Water.

By now the sun had risen & was climbing rapidly over the fell tops, the strength of the sunlight & the warmth it brought would surely disperse any lingering hill fog…

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Small & Blea Water Corries seen with Mardale Ill Bell’s east ridge (L) & the north ridge (R)

Only ten or so minutes had passed between taking this & the last photo, sure enough I thought the warmth & the strong sunlight had done its job of dispersing the hill fog.

How wrong I was, but more on that a little later.

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Blea Water (63m) seen with Mardale Ill Bell north ridge.

When viewing Blea Water from the Rough Crag ridge it really isn’t hard to imagine why Blea Tarn is the deepest Tarn & indeed the third deepest body of water in the Lake District, only Wast Water at (74m) and Lake Windermere (67m) are deeper.

Just click on the photo to take you back to my ascent on Mardale Ill Bell via the north ridge during the summer of 2014

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Back to that ridge walk,  High Street from Rough Crag.

I had a huge incentive to explore the ridge which is exactly what I did sometimes descending only having to re-ascend to take in vantage points over Blea Water. The warmth from the sun & the incredible clear views were truly inspiring given that we are almost mid October, it was here I downed pack & took my jacket off then rolling up my sleeves before taking in the little descent where I would pay a visit to Caspel Gate Tarn.

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High Stile in front of Caspel Gate Tarn.

I made sure to keep to the left shortly after leaving Rough Crag summit, this descent would lead me via a narrow grassy path directly towards the Tarn where the calmness of the morning transpired in reflections…

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Long Stile reflections from Caspel Gate Tarn.

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Fly me to the moon.

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Branstree & Harter Fell reflections over Caspel Gate Tarn.

I was almost lost for words when I took this photo, not because it’s a nice photo but because of my location & the clearest of views it presented, not only that I had the best part of the climb still ahead before reaching the summit of High Street. And after all that, I even managed to keep my feet dry around Caspel Gate which can be notorious for being rather boggy at times.

Could it simply get any better?

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It just did…

Mardale Ill Bell, Harter Fell & the Ill Bell ridge peaking out over a Troutbeck valley Cloud Inversion.

With the more height gained while ascending Long Stile towards the summit of High Street I could steadily see the mass of white cloud south of my position, this surely was the same cloud that I had witnessed just an hour or so earlier; only back then, I hadn’t realised the enormity of what was pushing that cloud over into the Mardale Valley.

Before I knew it I was making my way across the summit plateau, without making for the summit I soon found myself somewhere in between High Street, Mardale Ill Bell & Thornthwaite Crag in ankle high wild grass, it was there I stood to soak in this incredible occasion.

To my west stood Thornthwaite Crag where I could see people stood motionless whilst they looked back towards Froswick & the Ill Bell ridge, it was a shared moment, felt by all.

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The Ill Bell Ridge seen with Lingmell End, below the cloud, the valley of Troutbeck.

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A close up of Froswick, Ill Bell & Yoke.

Anyone at their summits, surely feeling as blessed as I was.

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One last photo before I had to turn my back on this beautiful & rare phenomenon.

Why do cloud inversions occur?

A ground inversion develops when air is cooled by contact with a colder surface until it becomes cooler than the overlying atmosphere; this occurs most often on clear nights, when the ground cools off rapidly by radiation. If the temperature of surface air drops below its dew-point, fog may result.

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High Street summit Trig Point.

It was no use I had to make my way back towards High Street summit where I least expected to be joined by more walkers but by chance I had the summit all to myself, with a ‘hey it’s me again’ and a solitary hand across the trig point, my summit time was a little more brief than usual given the fact that the sun shone so bright the only way to now feel comfortable, was to stand with my back to it which paved my way towards the Straights of Riggindale.

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The Straights of Riggindale seen shortly after leaving High Street summit.

With my back against a strong sun I made my descent over the Straights of Riggindale, ahead I had clear views of my next four summits of The Knott seen far left, Rampsgill Head is next forming the mass of ground between it & Kidsty Pike striking over the valley of Riggindale with its impressive craggy outcrop of rock almost triangular in shape, behind Kidsty Pike is my final (Wainwright) summit of High Raise.

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Here, looking down on the what is now known as Hayeswater Tarn (Formally Hayeswater Reservoir)

Still, saying Tarn rather than Reservoir will take a lot of getting used to although I suspect the lack of rainfall seems to be aiding efforts in keeping the water level low after the Dam was demolished during the summer of 2014 helping to return the old reservoir to a more natural body of water.

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Views back up to High Street & Thornthwaite Crag before making my way towards The Knott.

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Long distant views over a good proportion of the High Street Roman Road incorporating Red Crag, Wether Hill & finally Loadpot Hill in the far distance.

The Straights of Riggindale will be remembered as a favoured part of this route despite what I had just witnessed over the Ill Bell Ridge as views demonstrated from the picture above have, and will always hold, a special fondness.

Ahead The Knott lies in wait along with a mass of walkers who had just claimed the summit moments earlier. They number well above fifteen as they envelope & swallow the large summit cairn with their presence, I squeeze through with a smile, tapping the stone cairn with my walking pole before anyone really noticed I had been there at all.

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Looking back on The Knott & its masses as I make my ascent on Rampsgill Head.

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Clears views over Gray Crag & Stony Cove Pike from my Rampsgill Head ascent.

Every now & again I would turn around in order to take in the views whilst getting my breath back, at the same time I noticed that one by one the walkers were descending The Knott all making their own way over the Straights of Riggindale.

My path is narrow lending its way over the grassy shoulder of Rampsgill Head, my legs feel a second burst & then another almost catapulting me towards the summit in great stead, below me views are widening over the valley Ramps Gill & beyond Fusedale.

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The Ramps Gill Valley with views over The Nab & Steel Knotts, beyond, Hallin Fell with Wether Hill & Load Pot Hill extending away towards the right.

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Here looking over Rest Dodd, Brock Crags, Angletarn Pikes, Place Fell with a distant Helvellyn range beyond.

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Here I zoom in on the top of the Nan Bield Pass as the Cloud Inversion once again, begins to creep its way over the ridge from Rampsgill Head summit.

I had soon reached the summit of Rampsgill Head where I met the first person I’d seen on todays walk, an elderly gent was throwing his pack over his shoulder as we both commented on just how great and (unexpected) the weather was. He hadn’t seen the cloud inversion properly as he had come from the direction of High Raise, your timing is perfect I explained, it looks like it is waiting to spill over into Mardale, but there just isn’t enough wind behind it I said, well that’s the way I’m heading he replied, with some luck I’ll get to see it all unfold. 

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A grand view of High Raise from my Kidsty Pike stroll, I’ll be over there very soon…

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Kidsty Pike lies just a stroll away seen shortly after leaving Rampsgill Head.

I make the short walk from Rampsgill Head towards Kidsty Pike were before making my own summit two young walkers appear from the direction of Mardale, it seems they foresaw the great weather as they are dressed in only shorts & T-Shirts, and who could blame them, I hold back my pace as I see they are taking photos from the summit, by the time I arrived they were ready to leave as we both passed on our Hi’s just beneath the summit.

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Extensive & clear views over towards the eastern fells, Catstye Cam can be seen far right.

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Rampsgill Head seen from High Raise summit.

Between my last two summits walking time was less than twenty minutes or so, yet in that short time I could now see that the Inversion was starting to creep its way over Stony Cove Pike already swallowing Thornthwaite Beacon in the process.

The scenery from High Raise was utterly fantastic which was the main reason I downed pack & decided to eat lunch as the cloud slowly engulfed the summits before my eyes.

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I think this cloud was feeling a little left out floating high above Red Crag & Wether Hill though…

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An eruption of cloud spills like Lava into the Mardale valley.

After lunch I pack my things together & re-shoulder my pack with thoughts of my next summit of Low Raise, but before all that I couldn’t believe what I was, and was about to witness over the head of the Mardale Valley.

Like a silk sheet a vast white cloud slowly slipped its way into the valley helped by no wind just sheer silk like movement as if I was stood still within the depths of time, I simply couldn’t believe not just my luck, but the magnificence & the beauty unfolding before my eyes.

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From left to right we have Branstree, Harter Fell & Mardale Ill Bell.

It seems that the Inversion had lay dormant all the while between the valleys of Longsleddale, Kentmere & Troutbeck before the warm midday air finally pushed the cloud over the tops of the valleys before slowly dispersing.

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Anyone on the Gatescarth Pass right now may think he or she might have gone to heaven!

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En-route to Low Raise.

Walking at its best.

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The substantial ancient stone cairn found at Low Raise summit, with Wether Hill in the distance.

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Mardale Head Cloud Inversion.

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Haweswater Reservoir with The Naddle Forest tops seen on the other side of the lake.

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Castle Crag Fort (Mardale) seen beyond Birk Crag.

My next destination was Castle Crag Fort (Mardale) a place & a summit that I had always wanted to visit but somehow never managed to include it into a walk. From Low Raise the path is narrow that stretches through wild grasses & at some points can be vague, the best rule of thumb is to just head down hill more or less in a straight line while trying to avoid the peat bogs which on a day like today didn’t hamper my descent too much.

The descent is at times rough & steep due to the nature of how wild & baron this lonely ridge feels, ahead the top of Birks Crag arrives quickly with what looks like a more steep descent only this time hampered by a series of rocky shelves that can be negotiated via a zig-zag decline, finding the lay of the land would also be an advantage if only to avoid some of the steeper parts of the descent.

If descending towards Castle Crag initial thoughts are to keep left, however keeping further along right of the rocky shelves will ensure a more comfortable descent as a narrow path can be seen (if only I had!) Once at the base of Birk Crag there is only a short walk left before reaching Castle Crag Fort, it was here I had the pleasure of meeting three very tame Deer that instead of bolting, stood & watched me walk by from afar.

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Haweswater Reservoir & The Naddle Forest seen right, taken shortly after descending Birk Crag.

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Haweswater Reservoir from Castle Crag (Mardale) summit cairn.

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Birk Crag & Whelter bottom seen from Castle Crag Fort.

Castle Crag Hill Fort is Iron Age in origin and occupies a steep drop down from the north-west, north-east and south-east sides of the Fort, past excavations have revealed The hillfort once included an oval-shaped internal enclosure measuring approximately 46m by 22m that is protected on its south-west side by a rampart of stones up to 2m wide and 1m high.

For now this once means of defence acts as my resting place where I lie on my side, pack still attached from the exact position from where I took this photo.

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Whelter Bottom seen from Castle Crag Fort.

In the year 1366 the Kendal Archers who were famously led by Captain Whelter ambushed Scottish raiders and buried them in the hollow below now aptly named, Whelter Bottom.

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Mardale Head seen from Castle Crag Fort.

Despite my glorious down time spent at Castle Crag Fort I knew I had to make it down to the shore by means of another steep descent via the northern slope of Castle Crag. My descent took me through a wide patch of bracken which was extremely wet noting that it was almost likely well within the shade of the hill itself, this meant careful footings as the bracken clasped around my ankles sometimes feeling like it wasn’t going to let go, not even after three good tugs at times!

Eventually I made it down, taking your time & not rushing during this descent no matter how impatient it may leave you feeling was key.

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Mardale Head seen over Flakehowe Crags.

I welcomed the lake path with open arms & no sooner had I been walking had I forgot about my steep descent down Castle Crag. My narrow path overflows with ‘run off’ water from the hill side which gets walked through rather than around, after all, I am very close to the end of the walk.

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The Rigg & Branstree taken shortly before crossing Bowderthwaite Bridge.

Mardale Head, lies just beyond The Rigg bringing my walk to an almost end.

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Riggindale.

I think if ever a photo can come close to just how well today’s walk went & indeed left me feeling, this one of the Riggindale Valley as the day light starts to close in to make way for thick cloud this photo comes close.

The light is fading & feels a million miles away from the scenes that I witnessed from Rampsgill Head all along through to Low Raise, scenes that I will never forget & scenes that I will hold dear for years to come.

Mardale Head is jam packed with visitors most of whom occupy the muddy banks where they throw sticks for dogs not really knowing the history beneath their feet.

I however make my way back to my car where I open a warm bottle of Diet Pepsi that has been lying in a warm boot for most of the day, cars around me drive around the car park looking for a parking space, some stop & stare ‘is he leaving yet’

I roll down the windows of my car & place my bum on the stone wall that overlooks Haweswater & its walls & boundaries that for now are visible & for a split second, all around me is forgotten.

I don’t think Mardale will ever leave me.