Arriving at Bleach Green Cottages car park at Ennerdale Bridge at 10:15am on Day One of my Ennerdale challenge the sky was blue and the sun was shining. Unusual in my experiences in the Lakes. However, perfect weather to enjoy the ridge from Great Borne to Haystacks and the eventual end point at Honister YH. The forecast was for gloriousness on Saturday and grimness the day after. Very accurate as it turned out.
I left the car for the night with the steering lock on and the hope that any potential car thieves would take one look in my messy fiesta and think "nah".
A short walk along the track to the weir revealed Ennerdale Water with numerous hills and mountains in the distance. Originally we were going to overnight the car at Bowness car park but decided to take 2 miles off the Sunday and add it to Saturday's walk to balance them out.
The path along the lake is about 2 miles to Bowness and a pleasant warm up for the steep climb up Rake Beck. We passed through gorse in bloom framing Herdus ahead to the north and Crag Fell impressively to the south. From the foot of Bowness Knott we followed the road for 0.5km and when the road bore left turned right off it over a stile. There is an obvious path (not marked on OS) uphill between the tree line and Rake Beck. It's worth a short diversion up Bowness Knott here, especially if you're bagging Birketts, for the view back over Ennerdale Water. There's no definite exit on to Bowness Knott so we hopped over the fence at a low point shortly before Brown How. Initially the path is not obvious but it soon becomes apparent as you make your way towards the summit. There are only stumps left of the plantation on Bowness Knott so we straight lined it back towards Brown How (another Birkett).
A well-preserved grouse butt or fox trap, a good 5 feet deep, is at the foot of the ascent.
The next 20 minutes were spent pulling up alongside Rake Beck. Decent path although sliding away a bit in places. A small but sheer waterfall is about two thirds of the way up (unmarked). The breeze sent a lot of spray back in my face as I peered over.
At the top we turned left towards Herdus (Birkett), another worthwhile minor diversion. From the summit cairn great views towards Ennerdale. Now the ridge walk began in earnest. Wainwrights beckoned ahead. First up was Great Borne with its distinctive rocky plateau, trig point and shelter. Great views of Mellbreak, Hen Comb and Blake Fell. Ploughing on to Starling Dodd next feeling exceptionally fit, powering up the ups and trotting down the downs despite dodgy knee. That was the least of my problems, however, as my newish Berghaus' boots produced a rubbing sensation on my right heel. Bit of a disaster as, like a muppet, I'd forgotten the first aid kit and blister plasters. It doesn't matter that I hadn't had a blister in 8 years and the previous identical pair of boots had felt like slippers, it was incredibly daft and I now had a day and a half of hard walking to pay for it. I was able to cadge some padding and tape off some fellow walkers (they had no compede either!) but it didn't help much. The descents were fine but the rub on the blister on the ascents were painful plus.
Anyway, the weather was beautiful and I could see everything as Wainwrights came rapidly at regular intervals - Red Pike, High Stile, High Crag. Across Buttermere valley Robinson, Hinscarth and Dale Head to the north were in the sun while Pillar was ominously shrouded in shadow to the south.
I tackled the steep descent down High Crag by running it rather than walking. It still hurt. These days I prefer steep ascents to steep descents but looking back up High Crag it looked demoralising. A runner on the way up concurred.
Haystacks followed Seat. I'd never been up it before and it was a particularly fun little hill. Craggy and scrambley you can literally make almost any way up it. I went for a short scramble that looked easier from the bottom than the middle.
Not far from Honister now but first I had to climb Fleetwith Pike. The previous summer I had tried and miserably failed to find the summit in thick cloud and heavy rain and wind. However, today it stood high and proud at the head of the valley. From Dubs Quarry go left and around the back of it on to a vague bridleway. This curves in the direction of Honister but I took a path off to the left which goes more or less straight up to the summit of Fleetwith Pike. As you would expect the view down the valley is impressive. Relieved that I had no more heel-rubbing ascent to do I could relax as I wandered along to Honister Crag (Nuthall) and then down along the quarry track to the hostel. The following day I'd be returning to the car via Great Gable, Kirk Fell, Pillar and the rest.
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