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High Street at last

PostPosted: Sun Nov 10, 2013 2:36 pm
by nigheandonn
Shap may have not been the most sensible place to start this walk, but having committed to it for the day before, that's where I was - and if I wanted to get up Rough Crag, it's not really any easier to get to Mardale from anywhere else. So after a bit of a wander round Shap, taking a few photos of old buildings, this started with me retracing my steps of the day before, right over the corpse road through Swindale Head to Mardale.

A maze of stone walls and tiny fields brought me past the Goggleby Stone, and then out onto the road, past some nice stonewalled lanes, and the chapel at Keld.

The Goggleby stone

Keld chapel

The unfenced road across the moor brought me to what must surely be one of the most useless signposts anywhere - if you've come up there without a clear idea of where you're going then something has gone a bit wrong.
Beyond that was the boggy 'other route' bit, where it turned out to be no easier to keep my feet dry when I could see where I was putting them than it had been in the dark - a nasty worn out looking path, as if it had been too busy once.

A useless signpost

Following the path down into Swindale was nice, and easier than climbing out had been.

I climbed out of Swindale - which is hard work - thinking about the corpse road and the journey home - would you be more sad to leave one of your own behind, or relieved that you had successfully done the last thing you could for them? It's odd to think that in those days Mardale, at the foot of its two passes, must have been less remote than Swindale, which isn't really on the road to anywhere.

Swindale Head(s)

It had been a bit of a grey morning, but it was warming up now - t-shirt weather by the time I was up on the top. The path over the commons was still nice moorland walking, but somehow it felt longer when I was in a hurry to get to the other side.

I met my first people since Shap about halfway across, and they were having one of those 'overheard in...' conversations as I passed - or maybe it just sounded odd in the setting.
"You're the same age as me. When you had a rotary dial telephone, it didn't use electricity!"

The edge of Mardale is steep, and it comes into view slowly - first Kidsty Pike and the top of Long Stile, then more of the hills, and more and more of the lake.

Haweswater was visibly low - low enough that there were two islands, and if it got any lower it looked like there would be one again. I was looking forward to getting to the head to see what I could see, but it was slow slow work getting down into the valley, although less nervewracking than climbing out in high winds had been.

Haweswater and Riggindale

Out on the road it was quicker but busier - I gave up counting parked cars at 70, and every so often another would come past, find there was no room, and come back to the end of the line. No idea where all the people were, though.

Mardale is another nice valley, even with the reservoir and the cars, and must have been quite like a busier Swindale once, with the broad base of the valley for grazing. It also seems to have two heads - from the valley itself Riggindale seems to be the 'natural' head, with Mardale Head tucked round the corner out of the way.

There was far more wall running into the head of the lake than I had seen before, including the double walls of the old road, and a nice corner showing at the other side. I took a shortcut across the dry area at the head - which has obviously been done before, as there's a ladder stile for getting back onto the path - and headed along the other side until I found the path which cuts up onto the Rigg.

From the hillside it was even easier to see the ghosts of the old walls in the water.

Mardale Head

Ghosts of walls, Haweswater

Getting up onto the crest of the ridge was a nice resting place, and let me see the walls in Riggindale, although not such a birds-eye view as I'd hoped. I met a couple there who wanted to know if they were following the 'High Street ridges' walk they'd read about on the internet - I wondered how I was supposed to know, but we did agree that you could make up a very reasonable ridge walk. I didn't rest for long, though, because I needed to press on.

Riggindale walls

Both the map and Wainwright seemed to think I should be following the wall, but the path I found myself on didn't at first - but it followed quite an easy route, and it was obvious that the only way was up. I had been worried, looking at it, that Rough Crag would worry me - I can cope with a steep drop on one side but two is a bit much - but it really wasn't a problem. It was far more about clambering up ahead than about walking along the edge of things.

I felt a bit silly, having said that I needed to push on, that I was overtaken quite quickly by the same couple, but that was really the reason that I needed to hurry - I'm slow uphill at the best of times, which after walking 20 miles the day before, and with a sore hip and very little skin on my heels (they'd been attacked by new shoes earlier in the week!), this certainly wasn't.

I already knew that missing out The Nab was by far the most sensible thing to do - I was reluctant, as I'd failed to get there twice before, and it's a bit stranded in the middle, but missing out Mardale Ill Bell would be worse, and I didn't want to risk missing the bus incase I got properly stranded again...

I loved the clambery ridge, and would love to come back and do it with all the time in the world (a long summer day and no hurry to get to Patterdale) but under time pressure it was a long hot job - the landmarks of the top of the cross wall and the next steep bit and the top of Rough Crag itself seemed a long time coming.

Rough Crag is a nice bonus Hewitt that's not a Wainwright - not sure why it's less a hill than some other things, but it makes for variety...

Rough Crag summit

(I'd been feeling a bit odd since the night before - not really sleeping, not really hungry, and generally not quite right - and a bit worried about it. Somewhere around Caspel Gate I suddenly found out why, which was a bit unhelpful with people coming up behind me and not even a rock to go behind...)

Long Stile had definitely lived up to its name, but just when I thought it was never going to end I found myself at a cairn, and in the wind, and out onto the top of High Street - which has been a long time coming, as it was my aim on my first ever lake district hill walk a year and a half ago, when I was chased off the top of Thornthwaite Crag by a hailstorm. It's an amazing place, although not maybe for seekers of pointy spires - but I was impressed by the way it opens out, both the view ahead and the sheer scale of the plateau.

I sat down against the wall for a little while, and ate a bit of late lunch, but I was determined to get over to Mardale Ill Bell and back, as it would be so awkward to get back to, and I didn't have much time to spare even for that.

High Street summit

Helvellyn ridges

I was mildly amused by Wainwright's precise insistence that Mardale Ill Bell was 4/5 of a mile away. It was an easy enough walk, vaguely downhill, over grass for most of the way and then through stony patches.

Mardale Ill Bell summit

Mardale Ill Bell isn't much of a summit either, but it does have the good view of the (Troutbeck) Ill Bell ridge that High Street doesn't - the two hills don't seem to have much in common, but if Ill is ild is fire then it makes sense that both valleys would have one, and that the bigger High Street, which can't be seen well from either of the others, would be missed out.

The Ill Bell ridge from Mardale Ill Bell

Heading back up to High Street shouldn't have been much harder, but I found that my hip was really starting to hurt - either I'd worn it out, or gradual uphill was just what I couldn't do, but I was slow and achy and miserable. Going downhill through the Straits of Riggindale was easier, but still a bit slow.

I find it a bit confusing around there - there's a clear path going on and down ahead, and I have to tell myself sternly that it's the Angle Tarn path, and I don't want it. Rest Dodd also looks far more imposing from around the Knott than its height would suggest, which is another reason why I've never made it up there yet.

Looking north

Looking down Riggindale

Finding a path down the steep slope to Hartsop was harder - I was never quite sure whether it was easier to go down loose stony bits that were probably paths but didn't help much, or straight down the grass. But determined effort brought me out at the reservoir with a chance still of making the bus, although by now it hurt to go downhill as well - I was tired enough to be the kind of untidy walker who trips over things and kicks stones about, but I couldn't really help it.

Hayeswater Gill is pretty, but there wasn't really time for taking pictures of it - just one in its autumn clothes.

Autumn colours, Hayeswater Gill

To add to the autumn colours I was followed most of the way down by a bright orange man, just close enough that I felt bad for closing gates on him, and just too far away to reasonably leave them open. We did both make it out onto the road about two minutes before the bus arrived to take us to Windermere, where not only I had time to go to the Co-op for food for the train, but also for a quick half pint.

So good overall - good weather, my first ambition achieved, the highest hill in the far east, and two Wainwrights and two Hewitts for my map - but by the time I got back to Edinburgh my hip was so sore that I could barely lift my leg high enough to step onto the bus, and it gave me trouble for a while, although it's ok now. I'm blaming the heather on the Shap Fells, although it's never been as bad before.

And I'm changing my plans again - I'd intended to tag Hartsop Dodd and Caudale Moor onto an adventure on the other side of the Kirkstone Pass, but with four left it seemed to have turned into a nasty up and down and up from Hartsop - and that slope below the Knott is genuinely nasty. So accepting that it needs to be done, and why all the rush, a last visit to Martindale and round onto Rest Dodd from the back sounds like a nice adventure, and saves me from up and down the same way.

However it happens, I really will get to the end of the Far Eastern Fells in the spring - it'll only be two and bit years since I started them!

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Re: High Street at last

PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 12:33 pm
by johnkaysleftleg
The ascent of High Street vis Rough Crag is one of my favourites in the whole of the lakes, I've done it three times and It just doesn't get old.

Re: High Street at last

PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 1:02 pm
by nigheandonn
I can see that - I'm glad I finally went up that way, and not from Thornthwaite Crag or Mardale Ill Bell as I would have done earlier (and I'm glad I didn't go down that way!).

It's just a long way in if you don't have a car - there are obviously easier places than Shap to get to High Street from, but I can't see an easier way to Mardale Head, unless you can make the sole Tuesday bus to Burnbanks.

Re: High Street at last

PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 1:41 pm
by johnkaysleftleg
nigheandonn wrote:I can see that - I'm glad I finally went up that way, and not from Thornthwaite Crag or Mardale Ill Bell as I would have done earlier (and I'm glad I didn't go down that way!).

It's just a long way in if you don't have a car - there are obviously easier places than Shap to get to High Street from, but I can't see an easier way to Mardale Head, unless you can make the sole Tuesday bus to Burnbanks.

Without a car I can't see you having any other realistic options other than Shap.