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Scafell Pike - an early start for nothing... but
by trailmasher » Thu Nov 26, 2015 10:54 pm
Wainwrights included on this walk: Raven Crag
Date walked: 16/11/2015
Time taken: 3.22
Distance: 12.65 km
Ascent: 830m5 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).
For some reason my GPS had stopped running from somewhere under Raven Crag and I didn't notice until we were coming off from the Iron Age Fort so unfortunately the part of the route leading onto Raven Crag and back off doesn't show on the track log.
Today we had planned to get up Scafell Pike, Pen, and Lingmell via Grains Gill/Ruddy Gill and return by the Corridor Route, so as we set off from home at 6:30am for a 7:30am start from Seathwaite the weather was looking good with some clouds but the promise of sunshine from mid-morning and clear on the high fells. It was cool when we set off but all in all not bad for a middle of November day. We sallied forth with hopes held high for a good day out until fate struck an ugly blow as when we had negotiated the back streets of Keswick to arrive at the Borrowdale Road we gazed upon a most unwelcome red and white rectangular sign that informed us that the road was closed. Closed for what? Is it flooded as I know that it's prone to around Grange? has there been another road slip like there was a couple of years back? a landslide?
If we knew why we could make provisions for it and take another route, but with no information as to what the problem was there was no point in taking the back roads through to Grange - where it floods anyway - or driving around by Buttermere and Honister only to find that we still couldn't get to Seathwaite. And besides that, daylight is a very valuable asset to people of the outdoors at this time of year so we couldn't afford to mess about as it's beginning to get dark nowadays by 4:30pm and we didn't want to get caught up high in the dark especially in the unstable weather conditions that were forecast for later on today.
So, we went back to Keswick and waited until Booth's opened at 8am and had a coffee whilst formulating a Plan B. Not a very adventuress Plan B but it filled the day and was somewhere that being new to this walking lark Chris and Daniel hadn't been to before but I had. As we were staying at Keswick YH and the long walks are now goosed for today we decided to have a look at Raven Crag, The Benn, Round How, and Castle Rock all of which I have reported on some 12 months ago so sorry for repeating myself in some instances but the info may benefit someone new to the hills.
We left Keswick by the A591 towards Thirlmere and parked up on the grass by the 'no access for cars' road that passes by the United Utilities car park and leads - if you ignore the sign - to the B5322. The weather at this point was as forecast, dry, cloudy, and mild as we booted up before crossing the main road and taking the tarmac road that passes over the Thirlmere dam wall.
As we walked down the road we passed under Round How and then after a good few metres our first target was in sight, Raven Crag with its grey craggy front adorned with pine trees, mostly at the foot of it but with quite a few finding a toehold in the many cracks and fissures that abound on the face. At the base of the crag there is an old sign warning people not to climb the rock in the nesting season as it home to a pair of kestrels but I don't think that is the case nowadays.
Once over the dam wall we turned right still walking on tarmac for a short distance until we reached a gate on the left hand side which opened up and allowed access into the woods of Smaithwaite Banks…
and the leaf covered path that would lead us upwards at a fairly easy gradient. There is a finger post that has fallen over and is resting on the accompanying fence which tells one that this is the way to the Iron Age Fort but gives no indication that this is also the way to Raven Crag, strange.
The path starts off dry and littered with cobbles of all sizes but the thousands of wet, fallen leaves reminds one that care has to be taken to avoid slipping and getting an injury.
After a short while we came across an unmarked, on the map, forestry road which is crossed to gain access through the deer fence gate and from this point the path has deteriorated into a small beck as we trudge up trying to avoid the worst of the water, mud, and slippery tree roots of which there are plenty.
The path is more or less straight up the fell side with a short section of it paved until just below the col when it zig zags where the ground is steeper but all in all it is fairly easy going. Upon reaching the col the path to take is to our left and wanders through some wet ground which is reinforced in places with a mat formed out of short sections of tree branches over the wettest and most boggy sections. Crossing the col the path then begins to climb up through the trees once again until the relatively flat top is reached prior to gaining the small rocky summit. There are a couple of board walks to get you over the worst of the wet ground but it is pretty bad on top so a route to suit yourself is the order of the day.
Once on the summit the views are pretty good although the surrounding trees inhibit the outlook north, west, and south with the north and south aspects only really coming into view if you climb down east to the lower area which is directly above the front of the crag. From there a good view of Thirlmere can be seen…
and a view over Round How directly in front east with the Dodd's behind that. Meetholm Dubb is bright green below to the left whilst Smaithwaite and Wren Crag on High Rigg is also in view.
There is a good view point looking south if the effort is taken to clamber over the fallen branches, through the trees and over an old dry stone wall down to a lower level from where a nearly full length view of Thirlmere can be got.
Anyway it's now time to leave so we returned down to the col by the same path as we got here and decided to have a look at the old Iron Age Fort which is situated on a rocky knoll just to the west of Raven Crag. From the old forestry road there is a dedicated path and footbridge - which implies that it is more important than Raven Crag - leading to the fort which is hardly recognisable as a fortified place but after 3,000 years what is to be expected?
It can be seen why this place would do as a fort as it is protected on three sides by steep crags and the makings of a defensive earth embankment can be recognised on the eastern side where the narrow entrance would have once been.
We stopped for a drink and a bite to eat just underneath the crag and I tried to put myself in their place all those years ago and wondered how many people would use a place like this, getting water and food up here would have been a mission, and its exposed position would, I'm sure present its own problems. The old fort over at Haweswater on Castle Crag is much more identifiable as a defence structure than this one.
History lesson over we retraced our steps back to the forestry road and followed it north for a short distance until a faint path can be seen on the right hand side, wet and passing through some rushes it gets drier as it wends its way between the trees gently climbing until the base of The Benn is reached when it steepens with the path being rough and through heather until the summit is reached. Although it's lower than Raven Crag the view has opened up somewhat as we stood on the heather and grass covered top with just a few outcrops of rock sticking through. The Dodd's are still in attendance to the east with Skiddaw and Blencathra over to the northeast. High Seat and Bleaberry Fell is to the west whilst the perpendicular face of Raven Crag overlooking Thirlmere is to the south.
Although there is no path shown on the map there is the makings of one taking off north and downhill through the woods behind Sippling Crag. Albeit it, it's not much of one and one that is not used very often by the look of it. It winds its way down through rough ground which is difficult to see due to the long grass which hides holes which have been made by the water using the path as a runnel.
The path which is not too long eventually levels off and terminates at an old forestry road - the same one that we crossed earlier on our way to Raven Crag - on which we turned left to follow it downhill. After a few hundred metres the road turns south and after walking along it for a few minutes we saw a large rocky outcrop to our right amongst the trees which appeared to have a waterfall spouting out of it. This I must see I think to myself and upon mentioning that I was going down to give it a closer looking over Chris volunteered to do the job for me as he took the camera from my hand.
The way down is full of moss covered rocks and broken branches so after a bit of a struggle he finally arrived at the water spout and told us that it was actually running over the top of the crag and not through it. Damn, just an optical illusion and I thought that we had found something unusual. Well I just had to go down myself to see this, and although it was not of gigantic proportions it was worth a climb down and had it been summer a good spot for a shower.
From where we were we could see the road below us so instead of climbing back up we took the rough, though shorter way down to the road which runs above Shoulthwaite Gill heading north until it then heads east through the woods until bearing northeast with the trees on our right and Shoulthwaite Moss to the left.
We now continued along the forestry road until it met the tarmac road at Smaithwaite which we followed back to Thirlmere and across the dam wall until we reached the steps and gate that would take us to our next hill, Great How.
This is not a big hill at just 320 metres in height but it is a Birkett which the other two wanted to get up along with The Benn and Castle Rock. It's a nice steady walk through the trees along an elevated path which follows the Thirlmere shoreline south meandering up and down, in and out whilst keeping an eye on the many exposed tree roots which are looking out for a careless foot.
A good section of path side fence has been replaced which was needed as 12 months ago it was in a bad state of repair and as it is at a fair height above the water and rocks a rotten fence wouldn't have prevented a potentially bad outcome from a fall down towards the dam.
After quite a way walking south the path then swings around to the northeast still following the edge of the trees for a short distance but now climbing quite steeply until an old forestry road is met which leads upwards into the trees in a more or less northerly direction.
The road climbs steadily until it is blocked by a tree laid across it whereupon just about 7 or 8 metres before it and on the right there is a faint path, quite narrow but regaining its stature as it gets higher up the fell side. A good path and a bit rocky in places as it winds its way up through the many years ago cut down area of pine forest, evidence of which lies around in the stacks of cut to length tree trunks that are by now getting overgrown with moss and slowly rotting into the ground from wench they came. Reaching the top there is a large cairn of rocks and a bench seat from where the views are comparable with the ones from Raven Crag apart from the more open views southwest towards High Seat, High Tove, Ullscarf, and just about the Wythburn Fells.
It's quite windy up here away from the shelter of the trees and cold with it. But this is not the highest point of Round How as over to the south the fell is about 6 metres higher and bearing a very small cairn of stones upon it. To make sure that we had touched the highest spot we made our way on to its rock covered top.
Once again the highest point has not been recognised by the largest cairn but maybe that was because when it was covered in pine trees it either could not be seen or was inaccessesible due to the volume of tangled pine tree branches.
We left by the way we had accessed, stopping in a small clearing opposite where the path met the old road to have a bite to eat. On our way again we now followed the forestry road around the bottom of Greathow Wood and above Howe Beck as it swung north from our original point of access onto it until it finally arrived at the main A591 road more or less opposite the car.
Looking across to Castle Rock from the parked car it looks like one of those 'how do we get up there' scenario's but the path is actually quite good once you're up close and personal to it. We decided to leave our bags in the car as it's only a short walk and scramble to the top and as the wind has now got much stronger it may be easier going carrying less weight up the steep path. Leaving the car behind we walked down the short road that links up the A591 with the B5322 and passes by the United Utilities car park. Reaching the B5322 we turned right for a short distance to reach a short flight of steps and gate on the opposite side of the road that led onto the fell side below Castle Rock. The gate holds a warning sign advising that the rock should not be climbed as an ever widening crack has appeared at the north end. Fortunately we are not climbing and we are going up the south side of the rock. We climbed up the grass covered fell on a decent path heading towards the end of a wall on our right which terminates at a United Utilities aqueduct that feeds water from the fells into Thirlmere. Once there we climbed the slate step stile to enter into a small pine forest and only walked for a few metres before arriving at a wire fence where someone had placed two large stones to assist in climbing over it.
The path which is still on grass is now getting steeper until we reached a dry stone wall where the grass covered ground is level for a short distance until it meets a cross wall from where the path now turns sharply up on rough and loose stones to take us right underneath the crag itself.
Looking up at the rock face from this position it wouldn't take much imagination and visions of the face falling away to intimidate oneself into turning around and leaving the satisfaction of reaching the top to someone of a more courageous nature. But we're not wimps and on we go up the scree and around the south side of the crag where the path is now mostly on solid rock whilst higher up still a staircase has been formed by some nice people from the National Trust.
A short scramble up the short bank and we are on top with the wind now trying its best to make us airborne so care had to be taken to not get too near the front or we would probably have seen the aforementioned crack on the north face at very close quarters. We had a bit of a wander around on the fairly limited space, took some photos over towards St. John's in the Vale, High Rigg, Skiddaw, Lonscale Fell, and Blencathra. Directly west we can see Raven Crag and Round How, and south towards the Wythburn Fells once again.
It's now time to leave as its feeling quite cold up here with the wind, so we simply retraced our steps and made our way back to the car where we finished off today's victuals before heading off to Keswick and warmer climes.
Well we couldn't get to Seathwaite due to flooding or whatever else was wrong with the road but we have had a decent day out on some small fells which my two companions had never been on before. Apart from the cold, strong wind the weather has been good to us. Albeit mostly cloudy with a little mid-day sun but the late afternoon rain that was forecast never arrived so that was a welcome bonus.
We sometimes can't do what we set out to do but that is the nature of the game I'm afraid, but feeling the strength of the wind at just a mere 350 to 400 metres in height gives a good indication of what it would have been like at over twice that height. Someone must have been looking over us today as when we set off for Keswick the car lost power and we just about managed to get to Keswick and park up on Station Road when it stopped altogether and refused to start again as it had gone into limp mode. Maybe as well we hadn't managed to get to Seathwaite! O for the good old days when cars had starting handles and weren’t controlled by built in computers/software. As we were booked into the YH Daniel didn't want to phone up recovery in case they wanted to drag the car away and us with it, which would result in us losing a paid for bed and breakfast and the chance of not walking tomorrow. We'll see tomorrow how things pan out.
by ChrisW » Fri Nov 27, 2015 6:23 am
by thefallwalker » Fri Nov 27, 2015 5:49 pm
by dav2930 » Fri Nov 27, 2015 8:59 pm
Anyway, that was an interesting plan B you did there. In summer last year Karl and me were all set to climb Overhanging Bastion on Castle Rock, but when we arrived at the car park we spotted the notices warning about the widening crack and the 'bungalow sized' block that could peel off at any time, so we thought better of it. Raven Crag is another brilliant climbing crag (and a fine viewpoint), though I've only done 2 climbs on it, Communist Convert and Totalitarian - most of the others being E3 and above. Great report TM - brought back some good memories.
by trailmasher » Fri Nov 27, 2015 10:34 pm
ChrisW wrote:Cracking read TM, you managed some lovely shots in difficult condition there. Shame you could make your intended hill, I always find that 'throws me off' a bit when I have to make a last minute change, but you guys made the best of it. Big of a bugger about the car, but often it's just some minor thing that causes 'limp mode' to kick in far better to enjoy the B&B and a few beers and see how it goes tomorrow.....good luck mate
Thanks for your comments Chris just wish I could get some of your blue skies mate we've had nothing but cloud, clag, and rain lately
by trailmasher » Fri Nov 27, 2015 10:36 pm
thefallwalker wrote:great report mate, you must have a telepathic memory to be able to get it all in the report! mind least it re-freshes my memory, safe to say the "poorly" car didnt stop us 2 havin a sherbet that i can remember
No matter what the weather and problems a visit to the local hostelry usually brightens things up
by trailmasher » Fri Nov 27, 2015 10:43 pm
Aye it was a sad moment to see the road closed and maybe we'll meet on a hill some other time I'm not really into climbing dav but those two crags do look interesting. Just wondering about the properties sitting below the rock Thanks for your kind comments and hope that you managed a decent enough walk on the wild side
by The English Alpinist » Fri Nov 27, 2015 10:56 pm
by trailmasher » Sun Nov 29, 2015 7:07 pm
Aye, and maybe it was a godsend not being able to get to Scafell with the high winds that day
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