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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.