This was going to be quite a long day, but it was also looking like a far nicer one, and the clocks changing even gave me an extra hour to play with.
I was heading into the mysterious east, but it started off with the familiar road to Hartsop - I really should have gone round by Rooking, but I forgot about that path until too late.
The car park at Hartsop Bridge was jampacked. It's always a slightly odd feeling to just walk past all the people fighting for space, like being on a different plane, but not an unpleasant one. Most of the people about seemed to be setting out on the Hayeswater path, though, and I turned off towards Hartsop Dodd alone.
It was steep, but at least I could see the whole journey to the summit when I started, and the first part up to the ridge didn't seem too bad. After that it was just a long haul upwards, with occasional compensations, like the first view of Brothers Water after making it to the ridge, or the encounter with a mountaineering sheep.
I invented a new way of dealing with the long uphill stretch, which was to walk for 16 and rest for 16 - I think because 16 steps fit to 8 bars of music, although I wasn't actually walking to tunes - in any case, it seemed to work quite well, and I was getting on faster than the man who was now following me up by walking for a while and sitting down and resting for a while. Although I'd seen my whole route at the beginning, it does get deceptive closer to the top - it's a long way from where the ground starts to flatten out to the actual summit.
Someone had put a sheep's skull into the main cairn, which gave it quite a grisly look - I didn't find, or didn't recognise, a cairn that was supposed to be marking the summit, but it was obviously somewhere around the post in the wall - the summit area is extensive, but not flat enough to be confusing.
The weather wasn't quite as nice as it had been until then, but still nice enough - I sat down a bit further along for a rest, as I was doing well for time.
Most of the hard work was done by then, and I followed the wall up to the summit of Caudale Moor, looking down into Caudale itself. Eventually I reached the second cross wall, and could see the summit cairn off to the left, which the cairn on Thornthwaite Crag behind.
With my last Far Eastern summit conquered, the pub was calling, and I set off for Kirkstone, following the wall down, and forgetting to go and look at the monument until it was too late. I suppose I knew in theory that it was a long way down, but I was surprised by how far it was, and how isolated it all seemed - around the path is too flat to let you see into the valley, so I could never really tell how far I still had to go. My left knee was starting to hurt going downhill, as well, and I couldn't work out whether I'd fallen on it the day before or not (I knew I had fallen, and onto my left wrist, but I was too busy worrying about my wrist at the time to think about anything else - I fell on it badly a few years ago and it's never been quite the same since.)
I knew there was nowhere I could have gone wrong, but when the path eventually started to go up again - which Wainwright denied - I did start to wonder. Fortunately that marked the last bit along St Raven's Edge before coming out at the top of the steep slope above the pass, and I could finally see my destination. And it was steep, but the bits where I could slither down rocks were easier than all the plodding had been.
After running ahead of time to start with I was now behind, and I hurried on to reach the corner of the wall at 5 to 2, hoping that they didn't stop doing lunch at 2. Fortunately the pub was still busy with lunchers, and I joined a long queue of hungry bikers to order, before going to sit across the road with a celebratory half pint.
I took a ceremonious picture of said half pint, along with the fairly battered Far Eastern Fells book and the not very battered (yet) Eastern Fells book, to mark the end of an era, and thought about what was coming next.
From where I was sitting, Red Screes looked daunting, and I was almost starting to regret coming that way - the first part of the path was clear enough, but there was no obvious way out the top, and it looked like it would take a long long time. Wainwright wasn't very reassuring either, calling it a rough scramble, although there seems to be a lot more path now than is shown in the book.
But there was nowhere else to go, so I set off, and it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable hills I've climbed - just getting on with it, without any messing about. It was mostly winding steps, and sometimes scrambly bits, with the only unpleasant bit being where it crossed a rock which sloped outwards - but that was only a few steps. I was accompanied up some of it by a dog who kept leaving his owners and running ahead, and starting to miss them or meeting a sheep and running back again, and running on past me again - it must have climbed a lot more hill than I did. Lesson of the day seems to be that (within reason) I prefer hills you climb to hills you walk up, just maybe not first thing in the morning - and of course ridges are nice once you're up.
It was a nice summit, too - the kind you come on suddenly, not the kind that hides from you, with a cairn and a trig point and a small tarn and a few people around and good if hazy views. I was quite surprised how much closer I seemed to have got to the familiar western skyline, just by crossing Kirkstone - I really did seem to be in a new area.
From there it was on to Middle Dodd, along the edge of a scooped out bit still holding snow, past what seemed to be a small shelter made out of the fallen down wall, and up to the summit - quite a nice walk except that my knee was hurting again, after being fine on the climb.
From the wall I left the path to try to contour round to join the Scandale Pass path at about the same height - I'm not sure if this was really a time saver or not, but it did save me retracing my steps. Sometimes there seemed to be a path, and sometimes I wasn't so sure, and sometimes it got mixed up a bit in stones or wet bits, but it wasn't too bad, although I eventually cut back to the path a bit sooner than I'd meant to. Then it was down and down to the pass, which didn't seem to get closer very quickly.
From the pass to Little Hart Crag was more interesting - wall, then fence and tarn, then junction, then two nice adventurous summits with more tiny tarns and rocks and cairns.
High Hartsop Dodd is mostly a long walk downhill - it's definitely a separate hill with its own identity from the bottom, but not really from the top. It's not very obvious where the summit should be, either - the first couple of rises are the highest points, but really still part of the slope down from Little Hart Crag. There are some good compromise candidates in the middle, reasonably separate and reasonably high, but they're just not really part of anything that would have been given the name of High Hartsop Dodd from the valley, and in the end I had to agree with Wainwright and everyone else that that the last rise is the one.
By the time I got to the steep descent my knee was really playing up, but I just had to be patient and take it as slowly as I could - I was running a little bit later than I'd hoped, but there was plenty of light left. Apart from nursing my knee it was really just a case of following the ridge down - although at one point I followed it a bit too directly and ended up at the top of a tree, which I realised couldn't be right.
My slow descent eventually brought me out to the barn at the bottom of the hill, where I could speed up a bit - the pub was calling again - and the path across the fields to Hartsop Hall and Sykeside, past some noisy cows which were fortunately behind a wall, and the usual collection of sheep.
The plan was to have dinner at the Brotherswater Inn for a change, rather than rushing back to Patterdale, which was very nice - and I was feeling quite pleased with myself, having managed to carry out all my plans for the second day in a row!
And then back to Patterdale in the dark, which was nice in its own way - fairly peaceful, with just enough light not to need a torch.
Three more discoveries were made along the way:
1) that very few drivers bother to dip their headlights for walkers, and how nice it is when they do
2) that I know the road far too well, and can tell when the pavement is about to change from one side to the other without seeing it
3) that sheep snore, which is a bit spooky, and made me glad that I had the experience of hearing someone sneeze when no one was around (and discovering it was a sheep) in broad daylight on the West Highland Way!
And so to bed...
Sadly the third day didn't carry on the winning streak. I'd already abandoned the original plan, to go over Dove Crag and its south ridge to Ambleside, when I realised how early I would have to leave the Lakes to get over to Newcastle before the evening. The replacement plan was to wander up via Glenridding to Gowbarrow Fell and hopefully a Mell Fell - but I woke up feeling so grotty - slow and weak and achy - that eventually I only wandered up to Aira Force before getting the bus up to Penrith - a nice enough wander, but not the same as a day in the hills. So the Eastern Fells are already living up to the old story of constant rearranging of plans! And I have lost the memory card with the photos on it, which is very annoying - fortunately I'd already saved the ones for the two hill days in the draft posts.
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