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Ullscarf in the wind

Ullscarf in the wind

Postby nigheandonn » Mon Jul 06, 2015 11:02 pm

Wainwrights included on this walk: Ullscarf

Hewitts included on this walk: Ullscarf

Date walked: 06/06/2015

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I had hoped that the Waverley's curse on my travel plans was over, now that she wasn't actually involved, but sadly not. The trip was already a bit disorganised, as I'd bought the train tickets before remembering to check that there were hostel beds available which meant I was staying in Cockermouth rather than Keswick, the weather forecast was awful, and I arrived at Waverley station to find the boards an endless list of delayed and cancelled, due to signalling problems!

Fortunately it all suddenly cleared up, and we left only about 10 minutes late, and got in to Penrith in plenty of time for the last bus, so all that could go wrong now for for me to get lost in Cockermouth, as the hostel is hidden away down a tiny lane which doesn't look fit to go anywhere. It's a bit odd, as volunteer hostels always seem to be, but really all I wanted was a bed.

Cockermouth is a nice looking place, but I didn't really have time to explore, as I was off in an early bus to Keswick for breakfast at Booths and another bus to the far end of Thirlmere.

From the road junction I went in past Steel End/West Head to the path on the other side of the burn, which was supposed to be not quite as wet as the other one. I was surprised by the approach, with Nab Crags towering overhead, as I really wasn't expecting it to be so dramatic.

Nab crags

Wythburn itself (which the bus pronounced Y-burn - 'as if it was the Y-Bird', I thought, and then remembered that I'd found out years later that it was actually called the Why Bird...) was the kind of nice empty place I like - Wainwright called it interesting but not attractive, but I thought it was both, in a quiet way, with the trees tucked in by the stream - this is possibly its best time of year, though.

It was a good bit drier than I expected, too - there were a couple of places where you had to pick your footing carefully, but it really wasn't anything I would have warned for.


Past the footbridge it turned a corner and narrowed towards the pull into the odd flat upper valley.

Approaching the top

The main landmarks of the valley are in this upper part - the tarns in the burn, and The Bog, with capital letters - the path skirted it and was dry enough! This part was definitely interesting rather than pretty, and reminded me of the bit up above Glenridding heading for the Sticks pass.

Wythburn Head Tarns

The Bog

Two guys passed me up here - I think the only people I met on the hills all day - and for a while we were following rival paths, as I took the clearest one on the ground while they took something closer to the line marked on the map. After a while I think both paths ran out, and I could see them starting to climb straight up the side of the valley - I'd meant to go on the Greenup pass and turn back, but watching them I decided that I might as well go for the more direct route.

Greenup Edge

Halfway up the slope I suddenly realised that I had been walking all the time parallel to the Calf Crag ridge from my last trip - I thought I'd got over this business of forgetting that hills and valleys are joined to each other, but obviously not!

Calf Crag and Steel Fell

The last rocky bit was a bit trickier than I expected - wet grass and feeling the wind more - but with a bit of wriggling about I came out on the main ridge, if that's the right name for something so flat. I don't know where the two guys had gone - I'd assumed they were heading for Ullscarf as they cut the corner, but I never saw them again.

Looking up to Ullscarf

It was pretty wild up here - not just that I'd come out of the valley, but that the wind was genuinely getting stronger - but it was so flat that it was more exhilarating than worrying. Most of the world was grey and dull, but Grasmere seemed to be sitting in a spot cut out of a different world entirely, glowing in the sunshine.

Grasmere in a world of its own

Ullscarf suffered from the usual flat hill problem where it always seems like it's going to be the top and never is - and it was getting wilder, with the wind doing its best to blow off my hat - eventually it managed, just by the summit, but fortunately I managed to catch it, as I'm quite attached to it!

The central ridge

Ullscarf summit

From the summit I headed down towards High Saddle, finding that I wasn't to follow either leg of the fence, but instead go somewhere in between. Of course, the worst gust of wind yet came as I was standing with one leg on one side of the fence and the other on the other!

The fence corner

Heading down, the wind got up to the point where I really did feel it was trying to take me off my feet - and although I would have liked to get to Great Crag and Grange Fell, I was happy enough just getting to Ullscarf, as otherwise I'd have to do a long boggy trek along the ridge to it. So after sitting down for a bit to see if it was just a gust which would ease, I dropped down towards Blea Tarn, meeting the stream somewhere below the level of Standing Crag and continuing round to the fence.

Blea Tarn

None of the paths either on the map or in the Wainwright book really seemed to exist on the ground, so I just headed along more or less parallel to the tarn, as it was far drier than following the fence. The weather had been getting greyer and greyer for a while, and now it got properly wet, in that sneaky way that soaks you while you're still wondering if putting on waterproofs is worth the hassle.

I was expecting the path to be above me, but when I finally met one it was below me, so I have no idea where it came from. It got clearer as it got closer to Watendlath, crossing a few streams before finally turning to zigzag down the slope.

Finding a path

Watendlath from above

It has dried up somewhere along the way, but I'd been keeping an eye on the clouds and pessimistically expecting that I'd reach Watendlath just in time for the rain to come on again - sadly this turned out to be even truer than I'd expected, and I ate my very belated lunch and got properly waterproofed in the doorway of the toilets, as it seemed to be the only dry place available. I also managed to fall full length, while doing nothing more dangerous than walking past a bench - foot just went from under me on muddy grass - so maybe not the best first experience of a place.

It was nice all the same, with the tarn and the cluster of buildings and some very Argyll-looking rocks - I don't know about geology, but I do know when I meet friends, even if I don't know their names.

Raise Gill

Watendlath Tarn

The pass over into Borrowdale was easier than I expected - I suppose because I was already futher up than I realised, so reached the top quite quickly - it was a much longer way down, but still a good path. It rained a bit on and off, but it was definitely doing its best to turn into a different kind of day - the sort of evening that utterly denies having had anything to do with all that wind and rain earlier.

Coming down to Borrowdale

My bed was at Honister, due to the general disorganisation - the plan had always been to have dinner in Borrowdale then walk up, but since I was earlier than I expected I started off by sitting outside the hostel drinking tea and trying to dry off a bit, before heading down to Stonethwaite. It was a long slow pull up to Honister afterwards, and I was desperate to reach the hostel - and then ended up going on to the corner when I thought I couldn't go a step further, because there was such a wonderful glow ahead. And then there was beer, and cake, and rest.

Sunset from Honister

Ullscarf.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

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Posts: 1602
Munros:19   Corbetts:9
Grahams:7   Donalds:26
Sub 2000:55   Hewitts:133
Wainwrights:214   Islands:34
Joined: Jul 7, 2011
Location: Edinburgh

Re: Ullscarf in the wind

Postby ChrisW » Wed Jul 08, 2015 4:56 am

Lovely write up Nigheanddon and a great looking hike, shame about the soaking but having the place almost all to yourself and closing with that sunset/beer and cake..well worth it I reckon :wink: :clap:
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Re: Ullscarf in the wind

Postby nigheandonn » Wed Jul 08, 2015 10:01 am

I could have done without the bit when the wind was trying to take me off my feet, because that freaks me out, and at least half of the trek uphill to the hostel - but otherwise, yes. Especially since I wasn't sure if I would get out at all with the way the forecast looked.
User avatar
Posts: 1602
Munros:19   Corbetts:9
Grahams:7   Donalds:26
Sub 2000:55   Hewitts:133
Wainwrights:214   Islands:34
Joined: Jul 7, 2011
Location: Edinburgh

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