I just had to decide where. There are a few odd hills in both Wales and the Lake District that I haven’t yet visited, and the odd one whose cairn I’ve only seen shrouded in mist; and there are more of these in the Lake District than in Wales, so that’s the area I plumped for. When Dr Frank and I had walked a Glaramara round a few years previous, being a little short on time, we’d omitted both Seathwaite Fell and Base Brown. Moreover, low-lying mist had caused us to miss what is, according to cognoscenti, one of the finest views in the Lake District, namely that looking north from Green Gable. So that set a good part of the route; all that remained was to devise the best way of making it a round. On our first round we’d ascended Glaramara via Thornythwaite Fell, and although this is a fine characterful route, I fancied something new. A red pin at Thunacar Knott caught my eye, and so the decision was made, especially since this route naturally combined with a return via Seargeant’s and Eagle Crags – which I understand Wainwright is pretty complimentary about.
So this is the route I fixed on:
Sadly, this meant a 03.00 am rise on the Tuesday morning if I was to get a good chunk of the morning available for walking – the AA was telling me it’s a 3.75 hour drive to Seathwaite, which is where I’d decided to start from; though I was sufficiently pumped up at the prospect of getting into the hills in good weather that no great effort was required to get on the road well before 03.30.
An uneventful drive saw me arrive at shortly before 07.00am, and the early morning mist was evident on the Scafell group of hills, and well down on Base Brown – the first target. But the forecast said (Oh, why do I never learn: “the forecast said….” - but in the hills the forecast is as often wrong as it is right… ) that the mist would clear some time between 08.00 and 09.00 – which left, I thought, ample margin for it to be clear by the time I reached Green Gable so I should be able to get the views.
Rather to my surprise, there were very few cars parked on the roadside approaching Seathwaite, so my parking was easy - probably due in part to the earlyish start, and it being mid-week and outside the schools holiday period.
20220614-065551. Base Brown viewed from Seathwaite prior to starting out.
After a quick breakfast, I headed west up the path towards the waterfalls, which follows the rather wonderfully named Sourmilk Gill (note that to get from Seathwaite to the start of the ascent, the path/right-of-way passes through a farm building!!!).
20220614-071948-2. Sourmilk Gill waterfalls partly visible.
They are really rather spectacular, becoming more so as the path rises...
Ahead the path turns from west to south-west and towards Base Brown.
20220614-082125. First I headed to this huge boulder, unsure whether it was the Hanging Stone...
20220614-082557. ...but a few minutes later it became apparent that it wasn't: this clearly was it!
The path zig-zagged around the shoulder of the hill, crossing the contours at an acute angle and so not rising not too steeply to the plateau...
20220614-085858. ...after which it's an easy walk to Base Brown summit.
20220614-090443. Ahead Green Gable summit is clag-bound, though it's already after 9.00am. Cue: mental preparation of indignant letter to the Met Office...
20220614-092440. Looking back towards Base Brown after 15 minutes of ascent towards Green Gable.
20220614-094205. A further 15 minutes of ascent saw me reaching the summit. But - still the views were veiled by cloud.
So I donned my down jacket, and hunkered down to wait - ever the optimist - for it to clear. After all, the cloud was only in the West; to the East all the peaks were clear, so surely the last few peaks in the West couldn't remain clag bound for much longer...???
Every now and again during the following half an hour there were part-breaks in the cloud, allowing maddeningly brief glimpses of the potential views to the North and North West.
But after half an hour I really was getting cold: the air temperature was anyway not that high, and Windy Gap was living up to its name, and some. So reluctantly I decided I needed to make a move.
20220614-095314. Looking down to Windy Gap as I packed up my sac preparatory to heading down there. The path ahead then ascends Great Gable; my route is left down Aaron Slack.
I'd probably descended around 100m when I thought to take a last disappointed look back. Only to see that - YES! - the cloud really did look as if it might clear any moment, and sufficiently long at least for me to get the views. I hastened back to the summit, and just as I arrived the cloud cleared completely.
20220614-100011. Absolutely stunning (this looking north west). .
20220614-100029. Same view slightly zoomed, Buttermere and Crummock Water seen more clearly in the background, just right of centre.
20220614-100114. To the South West Great Gable almost entirely clear of cloud.
But that's not on the route card today. I spent 10 minutes or so just enjoying the views...
...before continuing on my way.
Via the endless scree that is Aaron Slack...
20220614-101243. Great End prominent on the RHS.
I must say that, having ascended Aaron Slack the last time I stood on Green Gable, descending it is massively preferable!
Towards the bottom of Aaron Slack, instead of descending as far as Styhead Tarn, I turned off on a path that initially was supposed, according to the map, to contour gently along the side of the Great Gable south east slope before gently descending to Sty Head. I think this must have been a "there really ought to be" path, rather than "there is a" path. Suffice it say, I - randomly - came across the odd sheep tracks, but nothing that could reasonably be called a walker's path.
20220614-104209. Looking south towards Sty Head from the putative "path".
But in the good visibility, there was no difficulty in reaching Sty Head, and choosing the right path to continue - namely, the main path to Scafell Pike, Angle Tarn, and, ultimately, Langdale. The plan was to walk a few hundred metres along the path, and then cut left towards Seathwaite fell - see dashed orange line on map extract below.
I was contentedly trogging along, when I saw this small crag - about 25m high, and - oh dear! - eminently scramblable .
20220614-110137. Now I hadn't come prepared for scrambling at all - normally I would carry a 60m rope, harness, chocks, tat, krabs, and the like - for "just in case" situations - I think a sensible precaution if one is climbing solo. On the other hand, it would surely be rude to ignore such a brilliant looking crag, especially one that looked so very doable. I took a more careful look at it from close up, and it still looked most doable, especially given that the rock was dry and extremely rough. And it was (very approx. route marked in yellow). Probably grade 2 - perhaps 3 because of the exposure. But MASSIVE fun - really: the icing on the cake of what was already proving to be a brilliant day.
Not to mention a layer of geological icing....
And good views once the scrambling was over - eg looking down....
... and lifting one's head a little, looking north west towards Great Gable, Green Gable, and Styhead Tarn.
Moving on, then, more tasty sections of rock appeared...
Same with approximate scrambling route shown...
The mini-arete looked inviting from a distance, and was even more so close up...
I hope that's clear, even from this poor pic, in which I've managed to miss much of the actual arete on the LHS . Not especially challenging scrambling, but heaps of fun.
Then on to Seathwaite Fell, from which the views, in all directions but especially looking north west...
20220614-114732. ...are really rather fine!
But now I have to rejoin the main path. This is looking south from somewhat beyond Seathwaite Fell summit. Part of the main path I was heading for is visible more or less in the centre of the pic. 20220614-115853.
It's easy going to get to the main path, and even more so on the path itself, so I'm soon at the highest point, after which the path descends towards Angle Tarn.
20220614-123821. Looking back north west from the high point (just below Allen Crags) towards the Great and Green Gables.
20220614-124035. And looking ESE along the path, the way I was now heading. Bowfell's various crags showing to dramatic effect on the RHS.
20220614-124847. Ahead the Langdale Pikes are very clear. I'm heading to the left, first towards Thunacar Scar, then on to High Raise. But I make the big mistake of not checking the map, and assume that the pimple about a third of the way in from the LHS of the pic is High Raise. Had I looked at the map, it would have been obvious that it couldn't be High Raise, given the fact that the contours are quite widely spaced around High Raise summit . How often have I done this ???
20220614-130059. Angle Tarn and the Bow Fell cliffs.
Very shortly after this I took a left turn off the main path up to Rosset Pike.
20220614-131213. The summit of Rosset Pike.
20220614-132033. Looking East from Rosset Pike summit.
20220614-132544. Looking East from a point a bit further down the ridge, where the convex slope doesn't obscure the view of Mickleden and Langdale.
Again, the path along the ridge is clear in some places, invisible in others; but it's an excellent route, with great views on the RHS down into Langdale. The descent from Black Crags into Langdale Combe necessitates a bit of care on the bouldery stretches, but that's all.
20220614-143321. Looking back on the ascent from Langdale Combe up on to Martcrag Moor, towards Black Crags and Mansey Pike.
20220614-150950. The watershed is somewhat boggy, but I managed to avoid wet feet. The unmistakable Pike of Stickle showing very clearly centre pic.
20220614-152336. Thunacar Knott summit. Not especially prepossessing in itself, but good views.
I should have taken the opportunity to check the bearing to High Raise from here; but in such fine clear weather, it's not really necessary, is it...??? I was labouring under the misapprehension that the rocky pimple ahead was High Raise...
In fact it was Sergeant Man!
20220614-155602. Not such a big detour - but not such an inspiring summit either!
Now thinking that I needed to take a bearing for the next stage of my planned route, I did take a look at the map - and realised that I hadn't yet reached High Raise. So I took a correct bearing - because High Raise is so little of a raise that it's barely visible from Sergeant Man: this is all you see...
...and headed off in the right direction this time.
Well, High Raise may not be very inspiring in itself, but the vista from the summit is quite superb...
20220614-161224. ...so I sat down on a rock for a few minutes to enjoy it - this is looking approximately south west.
The next destination - Sergeant's Crag - is clearly visible from High Raise; but after the previous screw-up with directions, I confirmed with the map and compass that I'd identified the correct hill this time, and set off on the bearing indicated.
Easy walking brought me in fairly short order to the foot of the small cliffs on the south side of the crag
20220614-164954. Approaching Sergeant's Crag.
20220614-170514.The summit cairn. Once again, excellent views...
... but I have to say, Sergeant's Crag is probably best viewed from a distance - either from Langstrath, where the slabs show to good advantage...
Sergeant's Crag viewed from Langstroth.
Viewed from Blackmoss Pot.
... or from the approach to Eagle Crag (see pic at 17.41.40 below).
20220614-171625. Looking up Langstrath from close to the summit, the descending sun casting the north-facing slopes of the valley sides in deep shadows.
Looking back south to Sergeant's Crag.
20220614-173936. The summit of Eagle Crag has even less to recommend it than Sergeant's Crag - but the sting is in the tail!
20220614-174140. Looking back south from Eagle Crag, from here Sergeant's Crag looks much more impressive than from the approach or the summit.
20220614-175420. As with practically every elevated point today, yet another magical panorama, this time from Eagle Crag looking down at the Stonethwaite valley. This has really been a special day.
But now came another dollop of icing on the cake - though of the variety where one thinks, "ooh, that was a bit too much...".
There are no paths shown on the map, either for ascending or descending Eagle Crag. Moreover, the contours on the north west, north, and north east sides are pretty closely bunched and punctuated with "cliffs" symbols. However, it did look - at least from the contours on the map - that, with a bit of cautious zig-zagging, one might be able to avoid vertical drops and get down via the north face. Knowing that it's not uncommon for quite effective paths not to be shown on the map, I'd planned to look around once I got to the summit, and if there was a reasonably worn path, to follow it as far as I could - reasonably worn meaning: track clearly visible, with recent boot prints. Well, there was such a path clearly visible on the summit, and it headed in the right direction - ie a tad east of north. It soon became pretty steep, not to mention being very muddy and hence slippery. I noticed also that all the boot prints were opposite to mine - ie in the "up" direction. But I kept going. In dry conditions it wouldn't have been too bad - perhaps a grade 2 scramble -, but the mud, slime and soggy turf made it much more of a challenge. Eventually I came to what turned out to be the real crux of the route, where, initially, I couldn't see how it could be down-climbed. Although it wasn't especially high - perhaps 3 metres - I couldn't see any foot or hand holds that would facilitate a downclimb; and a jump looked like it would be a pretty parlous undertaking, because the ledge below was quite narrow, with a significant drop if one were to fall off it after jumping. Eventually, by dint of hanging on to a secure hand-hold, and leaning right out, I saw a couple of acceptable hand and footholds that, at full stretch, I could just use to get down to the ledge.
After this it was a reasonably straightforward descent to the valley bottom, the path on the lower slopes being clearly visible from higher up. The downclimb certainly capped off the day with a frisson of excitement - I don't mind a bit of calculated risk, but I have to confess that this kind of aleatory risk, where you're not really in anything like full control, I normally try to avoid.
20220614-180923. This is the view looking back at the crux. It looks quite harmless on this pic, but I can assure any doubters that it wasn't!
20220614-182934. This shot looking back at the crag gives perhaps a better indication of how steep the cliff is...
After this it was all simple, gentle valley-bottom walking, via Stonethwaite and the Seathwaite valley, back to the car at Seathwaite. Particularly nice was the fact that most of it was on paths and track, rather than metalled roads (however minor).
Sat in the car before setting of on the long drive home, I reflected for a few minutes on the day. The arbitrary manifestations of my heart condition means that I never know whether it will be a "good day" or a "tolerable day" - which essentially is measured by the ease with which I can ascend the steeper of slopes.
This day had been not just a "good day", but actually a perfect day. I just felt a sense of - quite tired but - absolute satisfaction and pleasure. It perhaps seems a bit hackneyed and corny to say so, but it seems to me
that the hills really can work a special kind of magic, which it's almost impossible to imagine being bettered. There's an intangible, indescribable, timeless something that on the best hill days can wholly fill one's consciousness and render "why?" and "wherefore?" questions quite pointless.johnkaysleftleg wrote:Excellent report from a fine route through some of the best country England has to offer. Glad you got the view from Green Gable eventually, all things come to those who wait apparently. As for Eagle Crag there is an eminently practicable route down from the summit which I have ascended twice, I admit it may be a bit more tricky to find the way down but for what it's worth my GPS from the route can be found here.
Wainwright put it rather well:-
"The fleeting hour of life of those who love the hills is quickly spent, but the hills are eternal. Always there will be the lonely ridge, the dancing beck, the silent forest; always there will be the exhilaration of the summits. These are for the seeking, and those who seek and find while there is yet time will be blessed both in mind and body."