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Above the floods on Blencathra

Above the floods on Blencathra


Postby dav2930 » Wed Dec 09, 2015 9:40 pm

Wainwrights included on this walk: Blencathra

Hewitts included on this walk: Blencathra

Date walked: 06/12/2015

Time taken: 4

Distance: 7.25 km

Ascent: 746m

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On the evening of Saturday December 5th, I wasn't fully aware of the devastation that the floods had brought to so many people in Cumbria and Scotland. I did suspect, though, that many roads would still be impassable on Sunday morning, so I was quite surprised to receive a text from Karl suggesting that we do the Fairflield Horseshoe. I had no objections, but doubted we'd be able to get there. As it turned out, when we got to the turn-off for St John's in the Vale, the road was officially closed. No doubt the road beside Thirlmere would be badly affected too. It looked like a change of plan was needed. What would Keswick be like? The Borrowdale road would almost certainly be closed (again). The obvious solution was almost literally staring us in the face; Blencathra. So we turned off for Thelkeld. It was still wet and windy, so the appeal of Sharp Edge was somewhat qualified by a sense of prudence. But the Hall's Fell ridge, aka 'Narrow Edge', seemed a more feasible option - provided it wasn't blowing a real gale up there! Furthermore, Hall's Fell has the advantage of leading directly to the summit. It was a plan; it would do.

As we drove up through the village, water rushed down one section of the road like a beck in spate. Gradually the feeling crept over us that all was not well. There was a lot of gravel and detritus strewn along the road and the lane up to the walker's car park was almost as stony as a river bed. People were standing outside their houses holding shovels, looking dazed, or resigned. When we got parked and booted and were about to set off, a sprightly little woman said hello and started describing how sheets of water had flowed through her neighbour's house, destroying carpets and furniture. And she spoke as if she thought we knew what had been happening. It was only just beginning to dawn on us. Setting off on a fell walk, amidst people who were trying to come to terms with the aftermath of an extreme weather event, made us feel rather guilty. But set off we did, not really knowing what else to do.

P1010224.JPG
Rapid run-off is a problem caused by close-cropped intake fields which affects hillside villages like Threlkeld. It is also a major cause of flash flooding in valley bottoms.

It was to be expected that the Gate Gill beck would be trickier to cross than usual, but we managed it without getting our feet wet. Just across the other side, a tiny cairn on the grass marks the start of the delightful, zig-zag path up Hall's Fell. The wind, however, was disappointingly strong. What would it be like higher up?

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Looking up Gate Gill, Hall's Fell on the right.

A bit higher up we could begin to see the extent of flooding along the Glederamackin and into St John's in the Vale.

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Flooding along the Glenderamackin from low on Hall's Fell.

As we approached the rocks at the start of Narrow Edge, the strength of the wind made it difficult to walk in a straight line, so we were content to follow the main path, which ducks to the right in the lee of the ridge crest.

P1010229.JPG
Looking up Narrow Edge from the sheltered path.

Further up, the path goes onto the crest itself, but mercifully and mysteriously, the wind had died down a bit at that point, so we could enjoy the mild scrambling.

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Looking down Narrow Edge.


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Looking up to the summit, not far off.

Even on the summit, where we met a few other walkers, the wind wasn't too bad. The high level walk along to Knowe Crags promised to be a pleasure.

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Checking the map on the summit.


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A fine promenade to Gategill Fell Top.


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Clag clearing from the escarpment; en route for Knowe Crags.


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Looking down Blease Gill.


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Looking back to Gategill Fell Top.

We found a nice grassy ledge under the top of Knowe Crags, sheltered from the wind, and sat down for a bite and a coffee, looking out over the watery landscape. The sun was beginning to break through the clouds and reflected brightly from that element which, as well as defining the district, can also threaten to overwhelm it.

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The sun shines on a flooded St John's in the Vale, viewed from Knowe Crags.


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More lakes than there should be; descending Blease Fell.


We arrived back at the car at about 1.20pm. It was too early to go home, so we went into Keswick. The main road through the town centre was closed off, so we sneaked up a side street and found a free parking space. Many cafes and shops were closed due to staff shortages (people unable to get to work). The west side of Fitz Park was a waste land of mud and the wreckage of uprooted trees. The car park of Booths supermarket was submerged under a foot of water. Staff were sweeping silty water out from the extensive floor space of Trespass outdoor gear shop. We learned that the river Greta had spilled over the top of the flood barrier installed after the floods of 2009. And later we were to learn that the barriers built in Carlisle at the same time had also failed to contain the Eden. It had been a strange and sad day.
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dav2930
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Re: Above the floods on Blencathra

Postby Riverman » Wed Dec 09, 2015 11:53 pm

Thanks for sharing. Nature is such a powerful force.
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Re: Above the floods on Blencathra

Postby johnkaysleftleg » Thu Dec 10, 2015 11:59 am

A great route up a great fell, Shame the views that would ordinarily be wonderful on a claggy day were truly awful in there own way. So sad.
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Re: Above the floods on Blencathra

Postby The English Alpinist » Fri Dec 11, 2015 8:16 pm

That's a great record of the floods. Nice pictures, Blencathra is always such a dramatic walk. Parts of the footpath from Mungrisedale along the Glenderamackin had caved in in mid-November even. I managed Fairfield from Patterdale this weekend, a bit of anxious drive down Kirkstone Pass but it was easy enough. Was worried in case there new landslides by the time I got back, and would not be able to drive back up but fortunately it was ok. Ambleside is a safer option as a base, but obviously you'd have to approach it from the south.
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Re: Above the floods on Blencathra

Postby dav2930 » Fri Dec 11, 2015 9:20 pm

Thanks for the comments guys.

TEA - you did well to sneak in Fairfield from Patterdale (can we look forward to a TR on that?). It's surprising you were able to get over Kirkstone Pass (and back again!) - Glenridding has been utterly devastated. Being based in the Eden Valley, I generally approach from the north, but it's nice to know Ambleside is reachable from the south (touch wood).
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Re: Above the floods on Blencathra

Postby simon-b » Fri Dec 11, 2015 11:37 pm

A weekend in Cumbria that won't be forgotten, Dav. I was there Friday to Sunday, based at the northern Troutbeck which escaped the worst of the floods. A time for modest walks, just the Mell Fells, Little on Friday and Great on Sunday. Saturday was a day for going nowhere but the nearest open pub, the Sportsman's, which also got off lightly. I've never seen so much horizontal rain, or seen it moving so fast. News kept coming in of the damage and disruption, low routes blocked, and high routes closed by wind.

Well done on getting up Blencathra. Sunday's weather was ok, and my route home past Penrith was open. It was when I got home I realised the full level of the devastation via TV and the web. You'll have seen the pictures of the A591, your route to the Fairfield horseshoe! Absolutely devastating. I wish Cumbria a speedy as possible recovery, but it's bound to take some time.
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Re: Above the floods on Blencathra

Postby dav2930 » Sat Dec 12, 2015 12:22 pm

Thanks for that Simon.
When you were in the Sportsman's I expect you wondered if you'd be able to get home on Sunday! But as you say, it did turn out to be a much better day, fortunately. I have a feeling it's going to be a long time before things are back to anything like normality here.
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Re: Above the floods on Blencathra

Postby ChrisW » Sun Dec 13, 2015 3:37 am

Great report Dav, you really captured some of the terrible nature of the flooding. It's such a destructive force and so sad for those involved. :(
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Re: Above the floods on Blencathra

Postby dav2930 » Sun Dec 13, 2015 6:23 pm

ChrisW wrote:Great report Dav, you really captured some of the terrible nature of the flooding. It's such a destructive force and so sad for those involved. :(

Thanks Chris. I can only imagine how frightening and heartbreaking it must be to have your home wrecked by a flood - and to know that it is likely to happen again and again in the future. One feels almost guilty to be among the lucky ones unaffected.
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Re: Above the floods on Blencathra

Postby trailmasher » Sun Dec 13, 2015 7:29 pm

Great report and effort with good shots of the flooding for the history books :clap: Blencathra is my favourite mountain giving good views over the Keswick area but unfortunately not this time :( It's when it's seen from a great height that the full impact of the disaster can be seen. :( Thanks for sharing :clap:
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Re: Above the floods on Blencathra

Postby dav2930 » Sun Dec 13, 2015 8:45 pm

trailmasher wrote:Great report and effort with good shots of the flooding for the history books :clap: Blencathra is my favourite mountain giving good views over the Keswick area but unfortunately not this time :( It's when it's seen from a great height that the full impact of the disaster can be seen. :( Thanks for sharing :clap:

Thank you Trailmasher.
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