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Mainly Borrowdale - A 3 Day Circuit

Mainly Borrowdale - A 3 Day Circuit

Postby pic4186 » Thu Jun 25, 2009 5:50 pm

Wainwrights included on this walk: Allen Crags, Brandreth, Glaramara, Great Gable, Green Gable, Haystacks

Hewitts included on this walk: Allen Crags, Brandreth, Glaramara, Great Gable, Green Gable, Red Beck Top (Glaramara South Top)

Date walked: 25/06/2009

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On Thursday 18th June my son (Rob) and I set off on a 3 day circuit centred on Borrowdale that was to take in Haystacks, the Gables and the Allen Crags / Glaramara ridge.

After parking at one of the campsites in Seatoller (by agreement with the owner and in exchange for a small fee) we started our walk on road – up the Honister Pass as far as the quarry. We reached the top of the pass just as the heavens opened to a tremendous downpour – and took shelter for an hour or more at the excellent cafe there (http://www.honister.com).

As the skies cleared a little we donned our wet weather gear, which along with hat and gloves was to be de rigueur over the next 3 days, and climbed the old tramway path underneath the quarry. Once more we were fortunate to happen upon shelter as another heavy downpour started – this time at Dubs Hut – a spartan one-room stone and slate building near the quarry. As the rain kept us pinned down into the evening it was starting to look like our first night under canvas may in fact be “under slate”!

IMG_0692 Haystacks from Dubs Hut.JPG

Finally the storm passed and that evening saw the best weather of the trip. We crossed the swollen stream near the hut (with some difficulty – when exactly does a stream become a river?) and continued onto Haystacks via Blackbeck Tarn. This is a lovely walk to be recommended to all, and the evening sun created a beautiful patchwork of colours and shadows.

IMG_0693 Buttermere & Crummock from Haystacks approach.JPG

IMG_0696 Evening sun on Blackbeck Tarn.JPG

Conscious that the weather could close in again at any moment we decided to pitch before making our way to Haystacks summit. We found a sheltered spot by Innominate Tarn and hastily set-up camp before dashing off to make the summit before sunset. It is easy to see why Wainwright loved Haystacks so, and to be there at sunset was a magical experience.

IMG_0704 Ennerdale Water sunset from Haystacks.JPG

We sat and watched the sun go down over Ennerdale Water before making our way back to camp in the fading light to prepare a late supper. We’d brought with us a selection of dehydrated foods – ranging from the “plastic and awful” to the “not really food at all”. The accompanying hot tea however was excellent and more than made up for the limitations of the menu.

IMG_0717 The Gables from Inominate Tarn pitch.JPG

Overnight the rains returned and we were pinned down again, until lunchtime Friday. Because of the delayed start we decided to cut our planned day 2 walk a little but would still include Brandreth and the Gables. The afternoon was thankfully dry but very windy and unseasonably cold.

We descended Haystacks away from the main path and to the right of Blackbeck Tarn. The walk up Brandreth was a bit of a trudge up a grassy slope, but we thought the summit itself was fine (not one of Wainwrights’ favourites). In the mist the rock-strewn summit area was kind of atmospheric and other-worldly. It also gave us a fine view of the ascent to Green Gable and the giant bulk of Great Gable behind.

The walk to Green Gable was enjoyable with the objective always clearly visible and Great Gable seeming to close in around us. We liked Green Gable – it is respectably high with a shapely summit – and feels like a proper mountain. It’s just that the scene is so completely dominated by the giant Great Gable – it seemed almost close enough to touch.

IMG_0727 Great Gable from Green Gable.JPG

We approached Great Gable via Windy Gap. It is well named. On a calmer day or when travelling light the scrambled ascent to Great Gable would have been hugely enjoyable. With heavy pack and in stiff wind I personally found it to be a real test and needed Rob’s help to get my pack over the steepest section. It wasn’t the physical effort but the difficulty in maintaining my balance that was my main problem.

What a marvellous place the summit of Great Gable is – exposed and spectacular – and well worth the effort of getting there. The views all around and from every angle are truly spectacular – with first prize going to the intimidating side view of the Scafell range – lined up from Great End to the left, Ill Crag, Broad Crag, Scafell Pike, Scafell, and Lingmell in front.

IMG_0746 The Scafells from Great Gable.JPG

After descending to Styhead we took the uphill path to Sprinkling Tarn under the great bulk of Great End. It took some time to find a reasonably sheltered spot for our overnight pitch, and we were conscious of the need for some protection from the biting gale that was building.

By 9.30 we had set-up camp and finished supper – and decided to retire. Let's just say we were ready for a rest. This is a remote and exposed spot, and the storm brewed through the night – more than once I was awakened by the sides of the tent slapping my face as the poles flexed. Despite all this what a great night’s sleep we both had!

IMG_0754 Pitch at Sprinkling Tarn.JPG

We used Rob’s tent – a Vango Banshee 300 – and after this expedition I can’t recommend it highly enough. It is light, quick to pitch and pack, stable, tough and inexpensive. This 3 man version is just about right for two when backpacking – the absence of a large porch means that all our gear had to be kept inside the tent. Frankly the 2 man version (Banshee 200) would not have done the job – and it’s only a few ounces lighter and a few pounds cheaper.

IMG_0760 Great End from pitch at Sprinkling Tarn.JPG

Whilst the 1st day had been magical, the 2nd exhausting but exhilarating, it was the 3rd day that brought the most consistently enjoyable walking.

From Sprinkling Tarn we took the uphill path to Esk Hause, with Great End to the right and Allen Crags to the left.

Incidentally - a benefit of the mixed weather was that we saw few people on any of the days (see my earlier piece for my thoughts on sharing the hills with crowds – I am a grumpy old man). Most of those we did see were here at Esk Hause, but almost all took the highway to Scafell Pike.

We took the opposite path towards Allen Crags. After a quick and enjoyable climb we attained the summit. Allen Crags really is at the centre of things with inspiring 360 views – Langdales to the east, Scafells to the south, Gables to the west, and our objective for the day – Glaramara – to the north.

IMG_0766 The Langdales from Allen Crags ascent.JPG

IMG_0774 Sprinkling Tarn from Allen Crags.JPG

The ridge between Allen Crags and Glaramara is another place to be recommended and on a calm clear day a place to spend some time. The area holds real interest – punctuated by minor summits and glistening tarns – and glorious views left and right.

IMG_0785 Glaramara from near High House Tarn.JPG

After Red Beck (Glaramara South Top) we set our sights on Glaramara – the final summit of our trip. The climb was steep at first and then opened out through the mist into a strange and atmospheric world, strewn with boulders and cairns. We liked this place.

IMG_0793 Approach to Glaramara summit in the mist.JPG

Then the final descent – gradual enough to take the time to enjoy the views across the approaching Borrowdale valley. As we reached the lower slopes the weather cleared into a beautiful afternoon and for the first time since Thursday we packed away our waterproofs.

IMG_0800 Borrowdale from Glaramara descent.JPG

As we returned to civilisation the final mile back to base was something of a triumphant march, exchanging anecdotes from this excellent adventure and starting to contemplate the next one.
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Location: Kenilworth, Warwickshire

Re: Mainly Borrowdale - A 3 Day Circuit

Postby susanmyatt » Thu Jun 25, 2009 6:37 pm

Great pics and story, well done :)
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Re: Mainly Borrowdale - A 3 Day Circuit

Postby mountain coward » Fri Jun 26, 2009 12:10 am

Great report. Did you see the very beautiful smaller tarn right behind Innominate? One of my favourite tarns, along with Blackbeck and Haystacks Summit Tarn (don't like Innominate myself).

That scrambly bit up Great Gable (strangely on the second time I did it) was where I froze in my greener and even more cowardly days, got severe shakes and had to be removed from the mountain by Richard and two other men!!
mountain coward

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