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I enjoyed the Mell sisters and their cousin
by The English Alpinist » Mon Nov 16, 2015 10:33 pm
Wainwrights included on this walk: Gowbarrow Fell, Great Mell Fell, Little Mell Fell
Date walked: 16/11/2015
Time taken: 5
Distance: 17.7 km
Ascent: 987m2 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
Today was 3 of the lesser fells, moreover on a weather window in between all the unbelievable rain we're getting. Strong winds were forecast again, but not so strong on these modest summits. It would be a nice way to bounce back from the ferocity of Blencathra. I had half a day free, which means I was on son-picking-up-from-school duty, which meant I had to finish the walk by no later than 1.30 p.m. to get back to the school in Lancaster in time. All in all, an ideal day to knock off these 3 genteel specimens. I've never walked them before, indeed had never heard of them until doing all the planning for this, but I've seen them often enough without knowing what (or 'who') they are. I was about the make the acquaintance of Little Mell, Great Mell and Gowbarrow Fells.
There were several possible starting points to take in a walk of all 3, but I opted for Park Brow car park. I could have trimmed a mile or 2 off the route, but I decided I wanted to take in the famous Aira Force. It was an atmospheric start in the morning twilight, the gushing essence of Lakeland. Also, by going this way, I could visit the viewpoint recommended by AW: Green Hill. It offers more sight of Ullswater and hills either side of it (the great natural divide of the Eastern and Far Eastern Fells) than the summit of Gowbarrow itself to which it leads. Well worth the extra effort, and after a couple of brief false turns around the waterfall I found my way up there, and along the coarse and knobbly top to the summit proper. The sun began to reveal itself above the Far Eastern Fells during this, as if in an uneasy debate with the clouds as to which should prevail.
AW tends to refer to the Fells as masculine, but I feel the two Mells are definitely feminine. They're petite, with smooth curves, and nothing hard or rocky about them whatsoever. I'm not so sure about Gowbarrow. Even though it's even less high, it has a moorland ruggedness to its plateau, and is distinctly craggy on the north and west. A Tomboy maybe. From the direction I was doing it, it felt like the main climb of the day, although Great Mell was to be a bit of a slog. From the top of Gowbarrow you get a perfect vantage of both 'sisters', and hence the rest of the day's walking laid out as nicely as a map on a table. Little Mell presented herself to me, an innocuous-looking stroll up grass from The Hause (south face). Getting there was a different matter. Coming from the trig on Gowbarrow, the official way would have been north west through some woodland, going out of its way a bit and back on itself. I wanted to cut down on mileage, so I attempted to forge a direct route northwards down to the road, thence to enjoy a nice easy approach walk. I succeeded in a fashion, weaving along sheep trails and by walls, negotiating bog and descending waterlogged farm pasture to a gate through which to escape. I emerged a little distance east of 'Ulcat Row', I believe, with all hope of a dry-foot day abandoned.
It mattered not! I was having a short and pleasant day, and was delighted not to be rained or hailed on, and to be granted that thing which humans seem to need much more than sheep: views. To those on a Wainwright mission, the detached nature of the Mells and the approach-walking in between - of which the choice seems to come down to tarmac or quagmire - might be viewed as a pain. Not this Wainwrighter, though. I soaked up the rolling green landscape, intermittent sunlight and fresh gusting wind. The short climb to the top of Little Mell was rewarded by something closer to a gale but still far from distressing, and satisfying views including Cross Fell and the Pennines far to the east, and not least big sister. Great Mell beckoned, all possible routes laid out in fine visibility (mind you, it would have had to have been a pretty dismal day for these low heights to be smothered in cloud).
If we're to be pedantic, there IS only one possible route off Little Mell: back down the way you've come. No other path is marked on the map, even the Superwalker XT25 map. AW says the purist (is that me??) ought to 'ascend along the wooded hollow from the charming bridge at Thackthwaite' (so supposedly one could descend this way too). Along with his advice being over 50 years old, and barbed wire and stone walls tending to be surprise presences at times, I ruled this out as incurring extra walking which would likely be rewarded by wet (wetter) feet. My eyes told me as clear as a November day in England that Great Mell was west. Originally I had indeed planned to be a good boy and go back down south - 'permitted path', it is grandly called - from there to follow the roads around to Great Mell's access point at Brownrigg Farm. However, I reckoned one who calls himself The English Alpinist ought to be capable of better. West I went, following a natural spur of moorland, then rustic slopes to the valley. I found myself working diagonally down, because I appeared to be on sheep trails which became proper trails, which near the bottom had the prestige even of black-dashed lines on Superwalker. I had to run the gauntlet of some impressively prickly gorse bushes, but this was no hardship with my last goal of the day so tantalizing close.
Well, so near yet so far. I didn't realise it at the time, but I had landed on the road a touch north of what I thought was 'Greenrow' (a cottage, or two, I forget how many). I cursed the inadequacy of the path signposts as I blundered through farmland. What I thought was the holy grail of the 'right of way' taking me to Brownrigg across authentic swampy cow pasture, did take me over authentic swampy cow pasture but also over a few becks (at least one had a bridge) and barbed wire. Not least, I had to negotiate a cattle corral. They assembled for me in expectation of something, but I'm not sure how they'd have taken to 'Science in Sport GO' bars. A final combined stone wall-barbed wire fence was conquered, and I emerged uninjured and clothing untorn onto the Brownrigg road. I walked up and down for a few hundred metres before figuring out which bit of it was indeed Brownrigg, but my spirits were undimmed, and in this miniature territory little time had been lost.
The third and last climb of this fine and almost-wintry day was a bit of an effort, 25 minutes of watery and peaty gradients, but it was plain-sailing from here. I lingered at the summit of Great Mell a little longer than the last two to enjoy the magnificent panorama, not before appreciating the wind-tortured old trees on her slopes, a feature since time immemorial on this ultra-exposed dome of a hill I reckon. It probably gets more of a bashing than a lot of the bigger fells of the district. Today was absolutely no exception to that, as I was blasted up there, but it was not cold enough to be nasty. Blencathra was laid out to the north in all its glory, full visibility even up there, as if teasing me for the fail of 2 days ago. Good forecast for Friday, though: I'll be back!
As to the rest of this day, I had no shame in taking roads all the way to the car at Park Brow. About 4 miles, it seemed to go in no time, and I even treated myself to the waterfall walk between High Cascades and Aira Force for the last half mile. Tourists were well into in double figures now at 12.30 p.m, in an assortment of ages, compared with 7.30 a.m. when I cut a solitary ghostly figure around there.
I even had time to drive out to Mungrisdale afterwards in the vain hope of finding my compass (on the Liverpool neck strap) which I left out there 2 days ago. I think I put it around a fence post or on the ground, on the back lane somewhere between Scales and Mungrisdale whilst doing a change. Sentimental value only, and I'll try to make no meaning out of such a basic blunder. I didn't find it, but I did find an impressive little landslide. Before I got to it, some C to C cyclists warned me I wouldn't be able pass in the car, but that I should take a little walk to it because 'it is worth seeing'. Indeed it was, and here it is....
by ilovescotty » Mon Nov 23, 2015 12:00 pm
by ChrisW » Wed Nov 25, 2015 12:34 am
I do think you should have shared a bit of Sports GO bar with the cattle ...for science and all that
but I feel the two Mells are definitely feminine. They're petite, with smooth curves
Reminded me of the mrs
by The English Alpinist » Wed Nov 25, 2015 10:30 pm
ChrisW wrote:Another cracker TEA, great to see you enjoying the hills so much, your enthusiasm is definitely catching . You still managed some lovely shots of the wet foot wandering too
I do think you should have shared a bit of Sports GO bar with the cattle ...for science and all thatbut I feel the two Mells are definitely feminine. They're petite, with smooth curves
Reminded me of the mrs
Enjoying them for the moment, Slowly but surely sure the weather is getting grimmer though