An alternative Fairfield Horseshoe 23.10.2016

A chilling north-easterly wind was blowing as I left Cow Bridge and followed the shoreline path by Brotherswater. I had to move quickly, as I was only wearing a light fleece over my merino base layer, in anticipation of the steep climb to High Hartsop Dodd that I would shortly be facing. I still couldn’t resist an early photo though.

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Middle Dodd and Red Screes, seen across Brotherswater

Passing Hartsop Hall, I was struck by the solidity of the stone pillars that held up one of the outbuildings. I love the traditional Lakeland farmhouses and find myself much more drawn to vernacular architecture than to the splendour of our great cathedrals or stately homes.

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Dove Crag catching the sun

Within minutes, I had left the farmland behind and was tackling the relentlessly steep ascent to High Hartsop Dodd (1702 ft). As I expected, I soon felt very warm, despite the wind. Having said that, I needed an extra layer as soon as I reached the summit! The retrospective views were stunning and it was fascinating to observe the ever changing patterns of light and shade on the woodlands and hill slopes.

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Looking back on Brotherswater, with Angletarn Pikes and Place Fell in the background

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Patterns of light and shade on the slopes of Hartsop Above How

The onward ridge to Little Hart Crag (2090 ft) was a joy to tread and on reaching this next summit, I was able to see down into Scandale and towards Windermere. There were patches of sunlight here and there, and it was clear that the western half of the Lake District was enjoying better weather than the east.

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The ridge heading to Little Hart Crag

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Looking down on Scandale; a glimpse of Windermere in the background

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Another view of Brotherswater and Place Fell

The ascent to Dove Crag led me to the broader paths of the classic Fairfield Horseshoe route, which I planned to follow as far as Fairfield’s summit. I met a couple on the summit of Dove Crag (2598 ft) who planned to descend via the route I’d just come up, and they checked a couple of details with me before moving on. There was no let-up from the bitterly cold wind and so I pressed on towards Hart Crag (2698 ft). I could see that the mist was touching Fairfield’s summit, but I was confident that the wind would cause regular breaks in the cloud cover and allow me a view.

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Zooming in on Great Gable and Dale Head

Approaching the summit of Fairfield (2863 ft), I found myself in the mist and was briefly dampened as a shower passed over. It didn’t last long though and as there was room at the summit shelter to sit in the lee of the wind, I decided to stop for an early lunch. This turned out to be a good decision as the cloud lifted almost as soon as I arrived, allowing more superb views across to Gable and the Scafells. They were bathed in golden sunshine, but I wasn’t jealous.

Leaving the summit, I was a little worried that the narrow ridge over Cofa Pike might be too exposed to the wind to cross safely.  Luckily this wasn’t the case, and I was soon climbing up to St Sunday Crag (2759 ft).  The sun was starting to shine by this point, so I was able to take my time and enjoy my surroundings a little more.

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Looking north to Dollywaggon Pike, Nethermost Pike and Helvellyn

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Grisedale Tarn and Seat Sandal, with the Scafells and Great Gable in the background

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Another view towards Nethermost Pike and Helvellyn

Looking back towards Fairfield, I was particularly impressed by the tremendous prow of Greenhow End. It looked formidably steep from this angle, but apparently involves nothing more demanding than Grade 1 scrambling. I must return to explore it some time.

From St Sunday Crag, I dropped down to Gavel Pike and descended to Deepdale via the east ridge. I found an intermittent path in places, but it was obvious that this is not one of the more popular routes. It always amazes me just how many of these off the beaten track routes there are in the Lake District – yet how often I hear people describe the area as overcrowded!

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Looking back up at Gavel Pike from the east ridge

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Mosaic of farmland and woodland on the valley floor

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Looking over to Rest Dodd and High Street

Reaching the valley floor, a simple stroll down a farm track and through delightful woodland returned me to my start point.

Mardale Horseshoe 22.10.2016

The lake level was surprisingly low when I arrived at Mardale Head, allowing glimpses of the old field boundaries leading to the village now submerged beneath the reservoir. I tried to imagine the valley as it would have looked before it was flooded, but found it hard to picture fields and farms where now there was only gently lapping water. The trees, bracken and even some of the moor grasses were a blaze of autumnal colour, lending a cheerful note to an otherwise sombre scene.

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Looking up Mardale Beck towards Mardale Ill Bell (in the mist)

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Some of the old field boundaries leading down into the waters

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Looking up the ridge towards Rough Crag

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More of the old field boundaries, with Kidsty Pike looming behind

We headed up towards High Street along the Rough Crag ridge, which to my mind is the most interesting and dramatic approach to an otherwise rather featureless mountain. As we gained height, the mist continually revealed and then concealed different parts of the skyline and small patches of sunlight briefly illuminated patches of hillside, before the gaps in the clouds closed once again. A brief gentle shower cooled us on one of the steeper sections but did not last long. From the summit of Rough Crag (2060 ft), revealing views down into Riggindale and towards Blea Water opened up, the surface of the latter showing very little disturbance from the wind.

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Haweswater from Rough Crag

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A sudden opening in the clouds above Harter Fell

Reaching the summit of High Street (2718 ft), the mist closed in once again and we started to feel the effect of the wind. Consequently, we didn’t linger. The day still being young, we decided to head over to Thornthwaite Crag (2572 ft) and as we did, we walked into clearer weather, with Windermere and Morecambe Bay both becoming visible. It seemed as though every man and his dog was at the summit, so after admiring the view of the Ill Bell ridge, we turned about face and took the path that contours around the head of Kentmere and towards Mardale Ill Bell (2493 ft). We were able to enjoy the view down into Kentmere before we were once again enveloped in mist as we neared Mardale Ill Bell.

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Nan Bield Pass and Harter Fell from Mardale Ill Bell

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Brightening weather as we descend to Nan Bield Pass.  The tarn in the centre of the picture is Small Water.

Happily the mist was only thin and we were able to pick out the onward route to Nan Bield without recourse to map or compass. Part way down, we decided to drop down the Kentmere flank to find shelter for lunch. As we sat eating, we were rewarded with a sighting of a trio of red deer hinds at the bottom of the slope. This being the rutting season, I had hoped to see or at least hear the stags, but it was not to be on this day.

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Looking back at Mardale Ill Bell and Rough Crag from Harter Fell

Reaching the summit of Harter Fell (2552 ft), we found ourselves on more featureless terrain, but as the cloud level had lifted, we were able to enjoy far reaching views down into Longsleddale and across to the Pennines. We dropped down to Gatescarth Pass and just beyond encountered the only truly boggy section of the whole route. A wide detour was required to outflank it, but we were soon heading up drier ground towards Branstree (2339 ft). Looking back towards Harter Fell, I was surprised by the craggy aspect that it presents in this direction. More moorland terrain followed as we continued to Branstree North East Top (2208 ft) and Selside Pike (2149 ft), interest being provided by a well-constructed survey pillar (built in connection with the reservoir) and a small but attractive tarn. The oddly-named Captain Whelter Bog turned out to be much less wet than we had feared an in fact was far less of an obstacle than the nameless quagmire at Gatescarth pass.

As we descended towards the old corpse road, we were hit by the only truly wetting shower of the day. Thankfully this too was brief and didn’t require the dreaded overtrousers! I was looking forward to the old corpse road as its history has always fascinated me since I first learned of its existence. I was interested to see that it appears to have been roughly surfaced in places and that even though it must now be many years since it was last used for anything other than recreation, parts of the surface are still visible. Even more impressive to me was that the dalesfolk had carried coffins up such a steeply-graded path. They truly were made of tougher stuff in those times.

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The head of Mardale from the Old Corpse Road

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Autumnal colour above Rowantreethwaite Gill; Hopgill Beck beyond

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The waterfall in Hopgill Beck

Just before the final descent to the lake, we encountered a cluster of what I took to be shielings, which enjoyed a stunning view of the valley. Relict woodlands in the two gills to our left provided further autumnal spectacle. Did the people who had lived up here during the summer months appreciate the beauty, we wondered? Given the sense of loss that displaced people often describe (particularly the victims of the Highland clearances, and the Irish emigrants), I thought that they must have done. As we dropped down the final slope, I was reminded of Wainwright’s words describing his first visit, which he made just before the lake was dammed, but after the village had been evacuated: ‘I thought I had never seen a more beautiful picture.  Nor a sadder one.’

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Bridge at the bottom of the Old Corpse Road

Noss 22.06.2016

Noss is another of the places that for one reason or another, we’d been unable to visit on our first trip to Shetland.  We were determined that we wouldn’t miss out on seeing its spectacular cliff scenery and abundant bird life a second time.  Even reaching Noss is a bit of an adventure, requiring a ferry across to Bressay, followed by a three mile journey across that island to its wild eastern coastline.  An old track then leads down to a small jetty where a second ferry (just a RIB taking a few passengers at a time) crosses the narrow sound to land on Noss.

A full circuit of the island is only six miles, but I predicted at the outset (correctly as it turned out!) that we would nevertheless be rushing to make the last boat back.  It’s that kind of place.  Walking anti-clockwise seems to be the norm, presumably because the southern coast is slightly more interesting, and also because this direction gives a more dramatic build-up to the scenic highlight, the Noup of Noss.

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Rounding the delightfully named Stinking Geo, near the start of the circuit.  The Noup of Noss can be seen on the far right.

The route begins with fairly gentle walking on grass, above low cliffs.  As elsewhere in Shetland, we found the remains of crabs and sea urchins everywhere.  After rounding Stinking Geo, we began to gain height, and the cliff scenery became more dramatic.

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Tarristie of Setter

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A small natural arch

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The Point of Hovie, with its cave

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Looking back at the Point of Hovie, with Bressay in the background.  Sea pinks in abundance!

In some places, chasms are starting to open up as the cliff edges break away due to the constant pounding of the sea and the winter storms, so the temptation to go right to the edge had to be resisted!

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Feadda Ness

At Cradle Holm, a rockfall on the Noss side has caused the two islands to re-connect at low tide, though it must have been high tide on our visit as there was clear water between the two.

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Cradle Holm from the west

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Looking down the channel that once separated Cradle Holm from Noss, but now only does so at high tide

It was here that we encountered our first puffins, and a comical trio posed obligingly for the camera.

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The old dry stone walls also seem to be popular with the Shetland wrens (an endemic subspecies).

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Shetland wren

As dramatic as Cradle Holm is, nothing quite prepares you for the spectacle of the Noup of Noss.  A towering prow of old red sandstone, it rises sheer from the sea to a height of 592 feet and is home to innumerable gannets, fulmars, shags, guillemots, kittiwakes, razorbills and black guillemots.

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Noup of Noss

Though not in fact the most numerous, it is the gannets that grab the attention most with their amazing diving antics. The ears are also bombarded by the din and the nose by the pungent aroma of guano.  I spent quite some time just enjoying the sensory overload.

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Gannets

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Seabird skyscraper!

The view from the summit is stunning for such a low altitude.  It is apparently sometimes possible to see Fair Isle away to the south, and Foula overtopping the lower hills of Mainland.  I tried, but couldn’t pick either of these out, though it was clear on our visit.

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The view across the island, with Bressay and Mainland in the background

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Looking back to the Noup

The northern side of the island doesn’t quite live up to the drama of the south.  Even so, there are plenty of headlands and geos to investigate.  I can never resist walking out to a headland, which is probably why we were able to take several hours over a six-mile walk!  As it was, we only made the last boat back with ten minutes to spare.  But after all, it would be criminal to rush around such a magical place.

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A few images from the return leg

Some photos by Georgina Collins

Point of Fethaland 20.06 .2016

We’ve recently returned from a fortnight in Shetland, during which we were out exploring its fantastic coastline every day and amazingly, experiencing almost continuous good weather.  I don’t intend to write a post about every single day (because I’m too lazy), but hopefully this will be the first of three posts covering some of our most memorable days.

Fethaland is the northernmost tip of Mainland and somewhere that we hadn’t visited on our previous trip to Shetland.  Like everywhere in Shetland, the coastline here is a chaotic jumble of cliffs, headlands, inlets (geos), skerries, stacks, natural arches, sea lochs and caves.  Every twist and turn of the coast reveals another staggering view, or another headland that just has to be walked out to.  For this reason, even short walks in Shetland take hours.

Our plan was simple – we would set off from North Roe and keep the coast on our right till we reached the Point of Fethaland, whence a good track would return us to our start point.

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A couple of small geos near the start of the route

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Looking north – the coast of Yell can just be seen on the right

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Looking south across Burra Voe

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Looking right across the peninsula to the west coast

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Another of the many geos – Yell in the background

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Looking back south along our route

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Approaching the Head of Virdibreck

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Wick of Virdibreck

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Kame of Isbister – or as Karen called it, the Dragon’s Head

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Looking back at the Head of Virdibreck

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Another view of the Kame of Isbister and its natural arch

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…and another

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Looking north along the coast

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Trumba and Eislin Geo

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A closer view of Eislin Geo

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Our objective finally comes into view!

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The Isle of Fethaland – the northernmost point of the peninsula (though not actually an island)

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The rock architecture hereabouts was amazing

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You can really see why Shetland is so popular with geologists

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This geo isn’t maned on the map, but the headland has the wonderful name of Fluga Taing

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I wonder how far back that tunnel goes?

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Common seals (I think)

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Wick of Breibister

The Isle of Fethaland was the undoubted highlight of the walk.  The cliff scenery here is almost too spectacular to be true.  It must be an incredible sight when the winter gales bring the waves crashing in.

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Looking south-west from the north tip of the Isle

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Skerries off the northern tip

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The amazing cliff scenery on the west coast of the Isle

On the neck of land that connects the Isle of Fethaland to the rest of the peninsula are the remains of a haaf (deep sea) fishing station, which remained in use until the 20th century.  Amazing to think that somewhere that is so peaceful today was until relatively recently a hive of industry.

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Remains of the fishing station

Some photos by Georgina Collins.

 

 

Langdale Pikes via Jack’s Rake 04.06.2016

Although I’ve done a lot of hillwalking in the Lakes and am nearing completion of the Wainwrights, I’d never before done Jack’s Rake.  I got most of the way up one February day around ten years ago, but retreated below the top as I was concerned about the potential for ice.  A recent hut weekend in Chapel Stile with Burnley Mountaineering Club provided me with the perfect opportunity to put that right.

I left New Dungeon Ghyll at about 9 am and make rapid progress up Mill Gill, despite the warm and humid conditions, as I was keen to get the rake to myself if I could.  As I climbed, I encountered a large number of people descending, whose t-shirts declared them to be participants in the D of E Award Diamond Challenge.

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Cascades in Mill Gill

The water level in the gill was very low, and it did occur to me that it would have been quite possible to have done the scramble up the gill too.  Ah well, another time.

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Pavey Ark and Stickle Tarn

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A closer view of Pavey Ark = Jack’s Rake is the diagonal line that runs from bottom right to top left

The waters of Stickle Tarn were incredibly still with barely a ripple disturbing the surface.

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Stickle Tarn reflections

I didn’t hang around at the tarn, as there were two people just behind me and I didn’t want them to get to the rake before I did.  Not because I’m not a sharing person you understand, but there is some loose rock on Jack’s Rake, and I didn’t want any of it being sent down to me from above.  As it turned out, I needn’t have worried as they were climbers whose sights were obviously set on harder routes.

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Looking up from the bottom of Jack’s Rake

Reaching the bottom of the rake turned out to be the worst part of the day, as the path is now very loose.  I was glad of my poles for that part of the route, though of course I made sure to stow them securely for the ascent of the rake itself.

The ascent of Jack’s Rake (Grade 1, 500 ft of climbing) is fairly easy for the most part.  I did find that couple of the moves needed of a bit of thought, but that’s probably more of a reflection on my lack of condition than on the difficulty of the scramble.  For all that, I thought it was a fantastic route and would quite happily have done it all over again.

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A few shots of and from the scramble

I had a quick breather on the summit of Pavey Ark (2300 ft), before heading first for Sergeant Man (2414 ft), then Codale Head (2395 ft) and High Raise (2500 ft).

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Harrison Stickle from Pavey Ark

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Looking down to Stickle Tarn and Great Langdale

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The distinctive summit of Sergeant Man

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Another glimpse of Stickle Tarn, from Sergeant Man

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Zooming in on Grasmere

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Steel Fell and the mist-shrouded Helvellyn range from the unfrequented top of Codale Head

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Sergeant Man from Codale Head

I stopped for lunch on the summit of High Raise, before pressing on for perhaps the least-distinguished summit of the day, Thunacar Knott (2372 ft).  It does possess a nice tarn though.

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Tarn on Thunacar Knott

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Harrison Stickle from Thunacar Knott

After walking in relative solitude for most of the day, it was a bit of a shock to the system to find the summit of Harrison Stickle thronged with people.  Who could blame them though?

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Stickle Tarn from Harrison Stickle

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A shaft of sunlight highlighting Jack’s Rake

As the day was still young, I decided to visit the other two Langdale Pikes, Loft Crag (2231 ft) and Pike o’ Stickle (2326 ft).  I was surprised by how few people seemed to bother with the former; I spent quite a while on the summit and had it to myself the whole time.

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Loft Crag

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Looking back at Harrison Stickle from Thorn Crag

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Side Pike and Blea Tran from Loft Crag

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Approaching Pike o’ Stickle

Pike o’ Stickle must be one of the best summits in the Lakes.  Not only is it the perfect shape, but you can’t get to the top without using hands as well as feet.  It’s certainly one of my favourites.

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Harrison Stickle from Pike o’ Stickle

Leaving Pike o’ Stickle, I headed across the featureless expanse of Martcrag Moor.  I took special care as the previous time I’d walked across there, I tripped and sprained my ankle, which made my descent to the valley excruciatingly painful.  Luckily, there were no mishaps this time.

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Retrospective view of Pike o’ Stickle

Reaching Stake Pass, I decided I still had time and energy for one last top, so headed for Rossett Pike (2136 ft).  Earlier in the day, I had even entertained ideas of heading up Bowfell too, but the heat and humidity had taken their toll on my energy levels and I decided that this would be too much.

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Looking down Langdale from Rossett PIke

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Bowfell’s Great Slab from Rossett Pike

Leaving Rossett Pike, I couldn’t resist a quick peek at Angle Tarn, in my view one of the most beautiful spots in the Lakes.  I must camp out on its shores some day.

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Angle Tarn

I suppressed a shudder as I looked down at the old path that used to run straight down Rossett Gill.  A steep, endlessly shifting river of scree, it must have been one of the least pleasurable of Lake District paths to walk.  Thankfully, the old packhorse route nearby was brought back into use some years ago and makes for a much more forgiving descent.

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Mickleden from the head of Rossett Gill

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Looking back at Pike o’ Stickle from the descent

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A closer view of Pike o’ Stickle

As I trekked back along Mickleden, my weariness was alleviated slightly by a group of buzzards riding the thermals far above me.  What a magnificent sight these birds are – even though they are pretty common these days, I never tire of watching them.

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Pike o’ Stickle and Loft Crag from Mickleden

As so often seems to be the case, I enjoyed the best weather of the day as I walked the last couple of miles.  A good reason to do more wild camping, I suppose.

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The view down Great Langdale as I neared the New Dungeon Ghyll

Mellbreak 30.05.2016

 

Mellbreak (1680 ft) is a hill that I’d been intending to climb for a long time, but somehow had never got around too, mainly I think because it’s fairly isolated from other hills and so doesn’t really make for a full day out.  However, the prospect of another warm and sunny day meant that a relatively moderate walk was just what we were looking for.

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Lanthwaite Wood

We started from Lanthwaite Wood, near the foot of Crummock Water.  It was wonderfully cool in the woodland, and the sun was creating beautiful patterns of light and shade through the trees.  Every now and then, gaps in the trees allowed us tantalising glimpses of Mellbreak across the beck.

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Mellbreak seen across the beck

Emerging onto the lake shore, we enjoyed the fabulous views down the Buttermere valley, before striking out across farm pastures to the foot of Mellbreak.  This section of the route was quite fiddly as the route of the path across the farmland wasn’t entirely obvious.  As usual, I found that I needed the map far more in the valley than I did on the tops.

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Grasmoor and Rannerdale Knotts seen across Crummock Water

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Heading across the farmland towards the foot of Mellbreak

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Low Fell

Above Highpark farm, more lovely woodlands led us to the base of the hill.  There were many small dragonflies hereabouts, but as they didn’t land for long enough for us ever to photograph one, we were unable to identify them.

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Looking across to Whiteside and Grasmoor from the start of the ascent

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Starting the ascent

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Looking back on Loweswater

The climb up to Mellbreak’s north top is every bit as steep as it looks from below, but thankfully, the breeze increased rapidly as we gained height.  Less welcome were the midges that we found in the more sheltered spots.  We found the loose scree rather tiresome, but it didn’t go on for too long before we were back among rock and heather.  Once established on the eastern edge, there were stunning views down to Crummock Water, by this time well below us, and further down the valley towards Buttermere.

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Looking down on Loweswater and Low Fell

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Crummock Water and Buttermere

There were quite a few people about on the north top, though most of them seemed only to be doing this one, and not continuing to the higher south top.  The intervening ground between the two is not at all what you would expect from below – an undulating heathery plateau, with various boggy hollows, much more reminiscent of the Pennines than the Lakes.  The views in all directions are superb however, thanks to the Mellbreak’s precipitous sides.

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Whiteside and Grasmoor from the north top

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The main summit from the north top

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Mosedale with Starling Dodd behind

I had to agree with the general consensus that the south top is inferior to the north in terms of both views and character.  As though aware of its failings, it manages only a feeble summit cairn, though there is a better one a few feet lower down, which also happens to have better views than the summit.

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Crummock Water and Buttermere from near the main summit

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Hen Comb from below the summit

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Looking towards Red Pike

A steep but rapid descent brought us to the beck that flows from Scale Force, which we had visited two days previously.  As it was still only fairly early, we decided to make a detour to Buttermere for ice cream.  Walking back along the shores of Crummock Water, I was struck by just how much wilder the western side of the lake is than the east.  Here we were still very much in mountain terrain, with the slopes of Mellbreak soaring directly above us, complete with crags, heather and bogs, while on the other side of the lake was the road to Buttermere and lush green farm pastures.

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Descending towards Crummock Water

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Looking back at Mellbreak

 

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Low Ling Crag jutting out into Crummock Water

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Crummock Water lake shore

This was a fantastic walk and I was glad that we hadn’t left Mellbreak for a bad weather day, or a quick half-day, as is often the case with the lower hills.

Fleetwith Pike, Haystacks and High Stile 28.05.2016

We were keen to get going as early as possible for the punishingly steep ascent of Fleetwith Edge, but even though we left Gatesgarth at 8.30 am (OK, I know it’s not very early, but the hostel didn’t serve breakfast till 7.30), the sun was already high in the sky.  Luckily one or two of the steeper sections were still in the shade, but we were still pretty warm by the time we arrived at the summit of Fleetwith Pike (2126 ft).  At least the heat gave us a good excuse for regular stops to take in the view – and what a view it is.  This must be one of the finest routes up any mountain in the Lakes.

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The view to Buttermere, shortly after leaving Gatesgarth

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Haystacks from the ascent route

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Pausing for breath on the ascent – the haze was already starting to build up

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Buttermere from the summit cairn

While admiring the view from the summit cairn, Georgina spotted a ring ouzel nearby.  Given that I’d only seen my first one two weeks previously, I was pretty pleased to see another one so soon.  I was even happier when another two came to join it!

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Ring ouzel (photo by Georgina Collins)

We were soon joined on the summit by a chap who asked us if we’d seen anybody wearing a red sash – the first of several people to ask us this question.  I gather that they were participants in the Lakes Hunt, a cross between hide-and-seek and tag for grown-ups.  We never saw any of the ‘hares’ (the people who wear the red sashes and who are pursued by the ‘hunters’), but we were to hear their horns several times throughout the day.

Beyond Fleetwith Pike, I made a detour to visit the summit of Honister Crag (2077 ft), a Nuttall summit that was only ‘discovered’ fairly recently – too recently to feature in the book, in any case.

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Fleetwith Pike and Buttermere from Honister Crag

Heading now for Haystacks, we dropped down to pass Dubs Hut, one of the few MBA bothies in the Lakes.  It seemed that there was a work party in for the weekend, though they were out when we arrived.  It was impressively clean and well maintained, so if any members of the work party read this, thanks guys!

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Dubs Hut with Haystacks behind

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The spotless interior of Dubs Hut – the loungers were labelled as MBA property, so I guess you normally have to sleep on the stone bench or the floor

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The entrance to the bothy

The climb up to Haystacks was a delight; nowhere steep, but a succession of heathery hummocks, small crags and infant becks.  It’s easy to see why it was Wainwright’s favourite.

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Admiring the view back to Fleetwith Pike from one of the many knolls

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Another view of Buttermere

The path also passes a couple of delightful tarns, both of which would make idyllic camping spots.  Innominate Tarn is of course famous as Wainwright’s final resting place, but I thought Blackbeck Tarn was just as attractive.  No doubt it is less popular too!

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Blackbeck Tarn.  The increasing haze made photography difficult.

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Innominate Tarn

We stopped for lunch on the summit of Haystacks (1958 ft), which also boasts a lovely tarn.  It also gave us chance to boost our energy levels for the second big climb of the day, from Scarth Gap to the summit of High Crag.

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High Crag from the summit of Haystacks

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Pillar from Scarth Gap

The ascent of Gamlin End wasn’t as bad as it looked from below, though it was unpleasantly loose at the top.  Still, somebody has done an amazing job of repairing the lower two thirds of the route.

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Heading up Gamlin End

The summit of High Crag (2441 ft) is the beginning of the fabulous High Stile ridge, a lofty promenade that offers vertiginous views down into Burtness Comb, with Buttermere below.

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Buttermere seen below Burtness Comb

The ridge leading to High Stile gave us great views of Grey Crag, home to some classic climbs.  That we only saw one pair of climbers on the crag on a warm and dry bank holiday weekend I think speaks volumes about current trends in climbing – increasingly, traditional mountain crags are seemingly being abandoned in favour of sport climing, bouldering and indoor walls.

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Climbers on Grey Crag (photo by Georgina Collins)

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Looking back along the ridge to High Crag from the summit of High Stile

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Bleaberry Tarn and Buttermere from High Stile

High Stile (2631 ft) is the literal and metaphorical high point of the ridge, with stunning views down into Buttermere and Bleaberry Comb.

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Bleaberry Comb and Tarn from the ridge leading to Red Pike

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Looking back to High Stile

Our final summit of the day was Red Pike (2477 ft), an accurate if unimaginative name for the peak.  It’s another stunning viewpoint, and one that we were lucky to have to ourselves for a few minutes.

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Looking down to Buttermere from Red Pike, with the Robinson – Dale Head ridge in the background

We didn’t fancy the look of the horribly loose and eroded path leading down to Bleaberry Tarn, so opted for the longer but more forgiving descent via Scale Force.  This is perhaps a less dramatic route, but it is quiet and does give good views towards Mellbreak and Crummock Water.

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Looking towards Lingcomb Edge, our descent route, from the summit

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Crummock Water from the end of Lingcomb Edge

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Red Pike from Lingcomb Edge

The highlight of our descent route was Scale Force.  This was a popular spot with Victorian tourists, and still seems pretty popular today.  Today’s tourists have to walk though, unlike the Victorians, who were ferried across the lake in boats to the foot of the waterfall.

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Scale Force

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Fleetwith Pike seen across Buttermere from our return route to the village.  Our ascent route was via the edge in the centre of this photo. 

The return to Gatesgarth via the lakeshore was a beautiful walk, as always, and I was lucky enough to see a family of goosander enjoying an evening swim.

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Goosander family

Luckily the haze that had been so prevalent for much of the day began to shift as evening began, allowing me to enjoy probably the clearest view of Fleetwith Pike I’d seen all day, a beautiful end to a fabulous day.

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Fleetwith Pike from Gatesgarth

Some photos by Georgina Collins