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Too much adventure with High Raise and friends

PostPosted: Tue Sep 22, 2015 11:09 pm
by nigheandonn
The Keswick start is getting quite familiar, and late August was very like April - still light at Penrith, and with the light fading over the northern hills on the road to Keswick.

The next morning I took the bus down to Borrowdale and got off at the Stonethwaite road end, and went up to leave some of my stuff at the hostel, since this was really just a long vague loop back to the start. Walking down the road to Stonethwaite Eagle Crag was peeking out from behind the nearer crags, which are in the south just to confuse me.

Crags from Stonethwaite

Since I wanted to be on the north side of the river by the junction, I took the track over the bridge again. The path was still surprisingly rough, and deep in buttercups at some places and deep in water at others - it had been a wet night, and probably a wet summer.

Past the junction and over the bridge I started looking around for a path, and saw a trace of one on the other side of the fence - having got over the fence and through some overenthusiastic bracken I found that slightly further on I could have had a stile and more of a path, but I got there in the end. The path led upstream through one wall - with a rather clambery bit - and along to a second broken one, where I turned uphill. There was plenty of bracken about, but a decent path so that I wasn't really pushing through it - it was probably still a good idea to have my waterproof trousers on, though.

Eagle Crag

The wall caused me slight confusion by running out at a smaller lump which I obviously wasn't mean to climb onto, but the path swerved round to cut across the hillside, and the wall eventually started up again as a fence higher up.

As I got near the top of the slope it started to rain, lightly enough and warmly enough at first that there was really no point in putting more on - bare arms are waterproof enough - but quite persistently, although the sky looked brighter further ahead. As I came up to the stile at the top of the wall, though, it changed its mind and just poured - the kind of rain where you can drink what's running down your face - and Borrowdale mostly vanished into the rain.

The gully was easy enough, even with the water pouring down it, it was just all a bit miserable!

The gully

By the time I got round the corner onto the Langstrath side the rain was coming and going, but the wind got up - and then the whole of Langstrath suddenly cleared into sunshine, which gave me hope.

It would have been an absolutely beautiful place in better weather, all shelves of rock and heather. By this time the wind was more trouble than the wind - I followed a shelf along to its end, looked at the rocky corner I was probably supposed to climb up with the wind trying to blow me off it, and retreated to the other end of the shelf where the scramble was a bit rougher but the wind was blowing me into the corner.

Heathery path

Coming out onto easier ground I suddenly met two people who hadn’t been there a second ago - they seemed equally surprised to see me, and told me I must have been camouflaged - as my waterproof jacket is bright purple I thought they were just being silly, and then looked at the sea of equally purple heather all around me and agreed they might have a point!

The summit was sloping rock with the cairn at the very edge and a view up to Borrowdale - and as we sat there a rainbow arched over the valley. I’ve been up above a rainbow before, but it always feels a bit odd.

Eagle Crag summit

To get to Sergeant’s Crag it was down to the wall corner - where the path mysteriously leaves you at the top of the wall so you have to clamber down - and then just following the wall along. The summit was rock again, and I ate my lunch tucked into a corner out of the wind. There were blaeberries growing here, which is a thing I'm not sure I've come across before, so that was a nice added treat.

The wall

Sergeant Crag summit

High Raise loomed ahead, and looked a long way up. There was a path at first, but it was WET - far more how I expected the central fells to be, not so much mud as grass soup. When the path faded out I think it really got drier, but there was no very obvious way to go.

Looking up to High Raise

I’d aimed to the right of the crags, but then as there were stream gullies ahead I turned up towards Low White Stones - and then having got to the bottom of the stones, decided not to go up to the ridge, but just to cut up over the top of the streams.

Low and High White Stones

Having finally reached High Raise, it was worth it - it was a nice busy hill with paths and people converging from various directions, and almost a perfect viewpoint, since it was so much in the middle of everything. It may not be exciting, but I liked it.

High Raise summit

The main thing missing from the panorama was the Scafells, with their heads in the clouds at the top of Langstrath - and although the Pennine wall was just visible, it was too hazy to definitely pick out Ingleborough.

Langstrath with its head in the clouds

I knew that I couldn't see Sergeant Man from the summit, but set off confidently for the little tarn and the summits beyond - only to find, having followed the path to the top of the biggest one, that I was on top of Codale Head instead.

Codale Head

There was a nice little gap between, with tiny tarns full of reeds, and a path round the outside where it was dry, so it was actually a nice diversion - I think this was just the point where I gave up any thought of hurrying.

To Sergeant Man

The real summit of Sergeant Man was like a tiny Stickle - and with a good view of the real thing.

Sergeant Man summit

Blea Rigg was mostly a downhill walk, past the rock slab which could be climbed by walking up it (I didn't try) and the path junction, with views down to the two tarns - Codale and Easedale - on the left.

Two tarns

The summit was another of those odd as-viewed-from-the-valley ones, and would probably have been far easier to find from below - I went hunting around in what looked like the highest point on the ridge, then realised that I was supposed to be looking a good bit further down right above the face of the crags - that did bring me to the cairn, but there was higher ground on the other side of the path!

Blea Rigg summit

From Blea Rigg I was going cross country to the next ridge to find the summit of Tarn Crag - from what the map showed there wasn't a path, but it didn't look like there would be any trouble finding a way. I stuck reasonably close to the edge of the crags until they became more of a rough slope, the only problem being when I had a choice of heading down over rough ground or sticking to decent ground but having to go up again - the rough proved too rough and I retreated to safety, but came down to the main path quite quickly anyway. There was a lovely view on the way round of the stream going down to Easedale Tarn, and the split streams tumbling down from Codale Tarn to join it.

Rough ground ahead

From the main path down into Easedale a little thread of path did lead off past Codale Tarn, which looked very pretty and peaceful.

Codale Tarn

At the other side the path led up to the low point of the Tarn Crag ridge, and I headed along towards the summit perched above the lake.

Tarn Crag summit

It did feel a bit like going downhill to the summit again, but on the other hand it was a lovely perch, up above Grasmere which as so often was in its own little patch of sunshine, and with a shaft of sunlight playing along the other side of Far Easedale like a searchlight.

The Central Fells may not be spectacular, but what I have fallen in love with about them is the variety - not just from grass to heather to bare rock, but the way you can be walking sometimes hand in hand with the Helvellyn Dodds, and sometimes with the high hills of the south, or with Skiddaw and Blencathra, or the green fields of Grasmere, and easily with two or more in quick succession.


But although I liked my Grasmere and Dunmail Raise view, I was right over the wrong side of the central ridge now, and time was getting on. I thought the next part, trying to follow the vague edge of the Tarn Crag ridge until I either joined the Greenup path or the main ridge, would be difficult, but it was far easier than I expected, and I even met a tiny trace of path which brought me out on the edge of the valley somewhere around Broadstone Head, where I could see the paths from Far Easedale and Calf Crag joining down below me (as well as a man carrying a bicycle on his head!).

Brownrigg Moss and Ullscarf
I thought about trying to get up onto the ridge, but the path I was on was going down into the valley, and it seemed like it would be easier to follow it to join the main path. The path led down for a bit, then seemed to decide that it was a path up to the ridge after all, and turned uphill. I didn't really mind which way I went, and a path is usually easier, so I followed it up, as it met a streambed and turned to join it.

The problem was how much it turned - by the time I realised that it was going right back on itself rather than heading onto the ridge above it was too late, and the ground above was too steep, for trying to cut back. I started to suspect that the path was heading right back to High Raise - but it was also improving a bit, and I could really only go on.

I eventually came out back on Codale Head, where I'd been earlier - still in the light, but with it very clear that it wasn't going to last much longer. I knew the summit of High Raise wasn't much more than half a mile away, but it seemed one of the longest half miles I'd ever walked - then hurrying down over the very worn path to the lower summit and through boggy bits to Greenup Edge, knowing that Wainwright had described the bit over Lining Edge as a scramble, and wanting as much light as possible to get over that first bit.

Fortunately the path turned out to be quite solid, a pale stone staircase that I could see quite well even with the little light left. The first part was quite definitely down, then a flatter bit and some more down and a long descending slope.

I was trying not to spook myself, either with the plain business of walking in the dark, or with the slightly unearthly landscape of bumps and mounds (yes, I know that there is nothing odd living there, whatever I may have read when I was younger, but there are places where knowledge isn't very certain in the dusk...), but it was quite hard work. Singing helps!

It could have been far worse - the other thing I was worried about was that it was going to be the kind of grassy trail which is easy to lose in the dark, but there was always a clear pale path, and it was generally quite smooth walking, not a stony mess. And having got dark, it really stopped getting any darker - there was always a bit of light reflecting from the sky. So it mostly just seemed a very long way down - even when I came down by Eagle Crag I was still a long way above the valley. I did have a little torch, but as long I could see the path I preferred to stick to the light that there was, instead of being in a tiny circle of light.

Somewhere down there I felt as if someone had switched a light on, and realised that although it was still behind hills or clouds for me, the moon was shining on the slopes of Rosthwaite Fell - which made even more of a difference to my mood than the light. I also gave a person in a tent a fright, and got one myself when they turned on a torch and the whole tent glowed like a giant alien cocoon...

Further down the moon came out for real, over the hills behind me, and it was like meeting a friend. Eventually I came down to the junction where I'd left the path that morning, and along past the campsite where I hope no one was trying to sleep - by then I knew what the path was like, a bit rough but clear and fairly level - and I knew that I was nearly home. And very glad to be down, even with a peculiar ready meal for a very late dinner instead of the pub. The hostel beer tasted very good!

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Re: Too much adventure with High Raise and friends

PostPosted: Wed Sep 23, 2015 8:09 pm
by Ibex
Wow, thats a pretty epic walk!
I did Eagle Crag, Seargeants Crag, High Raise and Ullscarf a few weeks back and that was a great walk. Also did the direct route up Eagle Crag and it was a fantastic The little heathery terraces are great.

Did not so much enjoy the long boring walk from Sergeants Crag to High Raise. Though I did see a deer up there.

Re: Too much adventure with High Raise and friends

PostPosted: Wed Sep 23, 2015 10:38 pm
by johnkaysleftleg
A long and eventful walk taking in some fine tops. Like Ibex I found Eagle Crag to be a smashing little fell. Well done for getting down safely in the dark, I've always fancied seeing what the fells look like by moonlight.

Re: Too much adventure with High Raise and friends

PostPosted: Wed Sep 23, 2015 11:03 pm
by nigheandonn
Ibex: It was a bit Uncle Tom Cobley and all - trying to mop up the remaining central fells. At one point I was planning to go down on the Elterwater side which would have made more sense, but I wanted to be in Borrowdale for the next day...

Eagle Crag was lovely, the weather not so much!

JK: A moonlight walk sounds nice, but if I'd planned one I'd have picked somewhere I already knew! I was very glad when the moon came out, though.

Re: Too much adventure with High Raise and friends

PostPosted: Thu Sep 24, 2015 3:19 am
by ChrisW
Damn that's an epic hike, the rain at the start sounded bloody terrible so carrying on the entire day after that is impressive on its own. The spooky walk out made me laugh, I can imagine that poor sod in the tent just lying down to sleep when the dulcet tones of 'nigeanddonn' come drifting in on the air .

I had a spooky walk out myself once and never tried the singing thing...maybe I'll have a go next time :lol:

Re: Too much adventure with High Raise and friends

PostPosted: Thu Sep 24, 2015 10:33 am
by nigheandonn
I'd long forgotten about the rain by the end of it!

I think I'd stopped singing by the tent - that was mostly up the top - so he'd just have had the tired footsteps going past in the dark. Is that better or worse? ;)
I'd never thought about how weird one of those one person tents might look when glowing from inside, though!

Re: Too much adventure with High Raise and friends

PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 2015 5:31 am
by ChrisW
nigheandonn wrote: I think I'd stopped singing by the tent - that was mostly up the top - so he'd just have had the tired footsteps going past in the dark. Is that better or worse? ;)

Worse mate...much worse :shock: .... :lol:

Re: Too much adventure with High Raise and friends

PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 2015 10:07 pm
by trailmasher
A fantastic route over some fine hills well done you :clap: with the worst stretch from Sergeant Crag to High Raise as it is indeed a boring plod over rough ground :roll: and a well deserved drop of the clumsy drug later :D

Re: Too much adventure with High Raise and friends

PostPosted: Sat Sep 26, 2015 1:28 pm
by mamoset
A good old walk out that one nigh, like the Eagle Crag summit pic.