Upon checking the shift rota, four lovely "off" days happily coincided with the latest round of lock down easing. Having been teased all year with endless sunshine and views of the forbidden fells from my spot on the garden bench, it was inevitable that rain was forecast. No matter- a perfect opportunity to try out the new tent in true British weather (SMD Skyscrape Trekker FYI). To save myself a drive, my plan was to access the Western fells via Sty Head using the free parking at Stonethwaite. Spend the second day bagging a few new Westie Wainwrights before returning on the last day via the Sca Fell range. Poor weather changed the plan to the following two-dayer in order to avoid being zapped by the incoming storm. Needless to say I am very thankful for the 4G coverage in the LD to access to the forecast at 700m!
Arriving at Stonethwaite sometime in the morning I managed to grab a spot on the grass verge near the large layby just passed the school. My hope that everyone would be back at work during the week was sadly incorrect with the roads being much busier than a typical Wednesday. Unfair as it was to begrudge my fellow midweek walkers, I do love the quieter winter months and the less popular parts of the highlands where the start of your adventure doesn't feel quite like you're visiting the supermarket on a Saturday.
The ascent up Rosthwaite fell is not marked on the OS map at all, but is a well trodden and predominately stone built footpath. The path starts opposite the entrance to Stonethwaite campsite and follows Little Stanger gill to its source, before swinging south to vaguely bumble along between the crags to the summit. I can imagine that at night or in poor visibility that navigation up here would be a nightmare. Equally, the tops offer plenty of hidden nooks and crannies for an undisturbed campsite with running water aplenty. I followed the grassy path, or maybe sheep track, until I could see the corridor of Combe Door which took me to the final scramble up to Glaramara's summit.
A long and peaceful traipse south brought me over Allen Crags and to the busy highway of the Southern fells. The gouges of these well trodden footpaths cover the hills like scars, and with people scattered in every direction, it was a stark contrast to the quiet grassy slopes I was leaving behind. A swift downhill and right turn took me to Seathwaite fell summit, then more downhill to the crowds at the stretcher box before descending into Wasdale.
I reached the car park at Wasdale Head just as the rain began. Looking up at the near vertical crags that encompass Yewbarrow I was beginning to regret my choice of campsite. At nearly 6pm I started the soggy climb from Overbeck Bridge car park through waist high wet bracken, which ensured no part of my legs remained dry. The final ascent was more cliff than footpath and I had to give an extra boost or two to help my very trusting Labrador up several rocky sections. I quickly made camp, relieved to be warm and dry and soon fell asleep with only a faint worry that my new kit wouldn't stand up to the persistent rain. Wild camp for the views they say....
The short summer night meant the pup was awake with the sun, so I donned the wet clothes from the day before and set off walking before 7am, fully caffeinated and with the hilltops all to myself. Unfortunately, the mountain forecast for the next day had changed from "90% cloud free summits" to "hillfog and potential thunder". Since I didn't fancy the hike over Sca Fell and friends in a storm with zero chance of views, a new route named "Retreat" was created and sent back to HQ (OS online).
The descent from Yewbarrow's northern crag was even more exciting than last nights climb up. The scramble sections were so high I had to drop my pack first, then climb down to find a braced position from which I could lift and lower my unwilling pooch (a harness is a must!).
We made it in one piece, and quickly made the ascent of Red Pike and Pillar with A* views all around. Revisiting these hills from another perspective was well worth it, and I almost forgave the weather for spoiling my plans.
Spurred on by the thought of home, and with the hillfog gently chasing me along, I opted to try out the low track which skirts behind Kirk Fell and Great Gable, before taking the straightforward tramline route down to Honister and the car. Soon I was home, wanderlust satisfied, smug about my decision to come back a day early as I listened to the rain beating on the windows.
A few observations: the fells were no where near as busy as I imagined they would be. Maybe luck or more likely because my route was quite odd! Neither did I encounter the mountains of litter facebook insisted I would find. Maybe thanks to volunteers or those following the code and picking up after others.
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