Good weather again for out last day -- so we set off on a circuit based on Phooooey's walk report here. Although we were going the opposite way around and starting from the Patterdale Hotel Car Park (preferring the steeper ascent and gentle descent of this direction).
We woke in the morning to a some drizzle and clag, but trusting the forecast we got to Patterdale at around 10 to find the car park surprisingly quiet (especially considering the forecast of good weather).
Anyway we were soon ascending Arnison Crag - a reasonably steep ascent that provides a couple of well placed "view stops" making it a pleasant climb up. We were overtaken on the way up by a lone hiker - who we stopped to chat at he summit. On hearing we were heading for Birks and St Sunday he tagged along for a bit as the route here isn't actually on the OS map. That said there is more than one obvious looking path heading along the flat ridge behind Arnison Crag. I chose the lower route as Viewranger was showing that as Phooooey's route, this doesn't stick to the top of the ridge, but traverses the north side until you can see a broken wall on your right (across a small stream). Phooooeys track told us to cross and go straight up, but we ignored that and stuck with the (now faint) path which was heading for the head of the little valley created by the stream (Trough Head) as that looked a better point to swing right and start the ascent of Birks. Sure enough when we got there we we joined the other path from Arnison Crag, that had followed the ridge line, and continued to our right to eventually meeting the aforementioned broken wall about 1/3 of the way up. Staying on the ridge line path would have probably been a more scenic route with views towards Hartsop on your right. Looking back down from where we rejoined the wall it was fairly obvious that in descent the wall looks the better route as you can see it leading towards the traversing path we had been on (and it would be easy to miss the path forking to the right to join up with the ridge line).
We continued along the wall until the slope eased and then turned left along the flat ridge of Birks until we met the final ascent onto St Sunday Crag. At this point we opted for the gentler route that traverses around to Gavel Pike before heading for the summit. Until now we had been largely sheltered from the winds that had been forecast - on hitting the summit we got the full strength of them - nothing massive 35-40mph gusts - but strong enough that we dropped back over the south side behind some rocks to each lunch.
After lunch it was off to Fairfield over Deepdale Hause and Cofa Pike - with the sun behind it Cofa Pike starts to loom menacingly overhead as we get closer and closer. Because of the shadow you can't pick out where the route further ahead goes - so it's just a case of following what you can see and picking you way through the rocks. Once on Cofa Pike we have two routes up onto Fairfield - the steep and slightly scrambly one, and the more gentle one . My natural instinct would be to go for the scrambly one - but I've done it before when dropping down to Cofa Pike and back as part of the Fairfield horseshoe, so I give the group a choice and the consensus is for the easier route.
Once on Fairfield we play "guess the summit carin" - to be sure some of the group visit many - I rely on Viewranger locating the OS and Open Cycle Map spot height locations. One of our number (a supply teacher) gets phone call and books some work for the following Monday at this point - reminds me of the time I got a call asking if I could pop around to someone's office whilst on Striding Edge.
We are now into the wide flat paths between Fairfield and Hart Crag - one of the few times this week we have been on such a path. Aside from the odd short ascent, and occasional steep. but short, descent it's all gentle downhill from here. Once off the bulk of Hart Crag we stop off for an afternoon tea break on a small crag looking back up at St Sunday Crag. The fine weather of the past few weeks means a number of potentially boggy looking spots barely move underfoot - although somehow it's very difficult to stride confidently onto those wide flat black peaty surfaces - an initial tester step being hard to resist.
Somewhere above Brothers Water the map and the path seem to disagree - at one point,where there is a sudden dip in the path, the map says the path should cross to the other side of the wall - there is no stile or obvious crossing point and a very good paths continues on our side of the wall. So we stick with the path - eventually popping on the road out at Bridgend for the 1.5km walk along the road to the car.
Viewranger track: http://my.viewranger.com/track/details/MTE1NjUzNw
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