Good fellwalkers, those Romans
by The English Alpinist » Thu Dec 31, 2015 12:40 am
Wainwrights included on this walk: Brock Crags, Caudale Moor, Gray Crag, Hartsop Dodd, High Raise (Far Eastern Fells), High Street, Kidsty Pike, Mardale Ill Bell, Rampsgill Head, Rest Dodd, The Knott, The Nab, Thornthwaite Crag
Hewitts included on this walk: High Raise (Far Eastern Fells), High Street, Rampsgill Head, Rest Dodd, Stony Cove Pike (Caudale Moor), Thornthwaite Crag
Date walked: 27/12/2015
Time taken: 8.5
Distance: 25.6 km
Ascent: 1793m5 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).
I started the walk from 'the unsploilt village of Low Hartsop' as Wainwright describes it. This is very true, although this morning it was slightly spoilt by the inevitable traces of flood debris. Also, the early track had its very own river running down it, but no more than ankle deep. The early morning views were uplifting, not least the imposing ridge of Gray Crag separating two valleys, all the more imposing because I knew I'd have to be on it near the end of the day after a tour of 11 peaks before it. First it was the ascent of Brock Crags, reached after about an hour, during which I sighted a deer but was too slow with the camera. From there it was on to The Nab, via Rest Dodd. This would be one of those 'out and back' moments, annoying but unavoidable in the cause of Wainwright-bagging.
The Nab from this direction is an 'unpleasant morass of peat-hags, one of the worst in the district', warns AW. I decided to dump my rucksack near the top of Rest Dodd so I could leap and weave through this terrain with maximum speed and least energy-expenditure. I didn't expect anybody or 'anything' to steal it in the 45 minutes it sat there. I'd heard of thieving magpies but I don't think deer have such inclination. In hindsight, I should have left a note on it to say "I'll be back" or words to that effect, lest somebody thought there'd been a Reginald Perrin moment on the fells (old TV joke). So far, I had not seen a soul though, and nor did I on The Nab, but I did see a few more deer before they scuttled away from the fearful apparition of me. This was the territory of Martindale Deer Forest, which provides another interesting comparison with 1960 and the present day. Wainwright admitted it was 'trespassing', but today a polite notice just asks you to be respectful and keep your dog under control.
Happily, I regained my rucksack and arrived at Rest Dodd summit for the second time. In a sense, I will have done more than 214 Wainwrights by the time this is over. The views were glorious, clouds banks both near and far and a yellow, round thing in the sky. Surrounding me, I could see virtually all my day's route and identify the various summits. Such makes for a day 10 times easier than walking in foul weather. Before reaching The Knott summit I saw the first human life of the day, and at the last moment also saw that he had a yellow labrador with him. He went off towards High Street whereas I was headed for High Raise, so we didn't quite meet. A belated hello to him, who might recognise himself because of the dog if he reads this. Rampsgill Head, a kind of junction between various high peaks around here, is a noble sight. 'The rim of crags is worthy of a leisurely and detailed exploration,' says AW. Alas, I could not afford the time.
This was almost too easy. Arriving at High Raise after a second ditching of the rucksack, I absorbed expansive views towards the cloud-smothered Pennines and fells in every other direction. Cloud drifted and threatened to smother my location too, but so far this literally was a stroll in the park. I backtracked to my rucksack at the junction with the obvious if damp path to Kidsty Pike. Before I reached the summit I discovered I'd lost the map. On some previous walks the string on the folder had worked itself loose, but I've always noticed it happen. This time I didn't. Well, it couldn't have happened more than 10 minutes back, but I feared it could have blown to oblivion. I spent some 15 minutes in a desperate search of the fellside downwind of the path. I wished I had that yellow labrador to sniff it out. I weighed up the options of abandonment of a day which had promised so much, or attempting to complete the route 'by memory' with the risk of visibility going. Retreat would have been easy enough, if soul-destroying. Just as I was about to cry, I found it on the way back up to Kidsty. It had not even blown away from the path after all. This was possibly my happiest moment since October.
It was onward and upward! Next was High Street, the centrepiece of the day and the highest at 2714 feet. 'Its eastern flank is a striking study in grandeur and wildness' says AW, as I could see from Kidsty. The effect was accentuated by the cloud sitting on the long ridge, with the summit itself somewhere in it. After skirting Rampsgill Head again, I encountered a couple hunkered down by a wall having a flask of tea. They related their morning's ascent from the south being in total cloud, whilst I told them of my crystal clear day from the north. We predicted the rest of my day would entail saying goodbye to views. Sure enough, High Street was a gradual ascent into a haze of sunlit mist, rather ethereal and memorable. Moving on to Mardale Ill Bell, this got thicker and more intimidating, and it was compass time to reassure me I had the correct path. It was nice to encounter a 5-strong family out there, and views did return intermittently. My toes felt a bit cold and damp by now, so I changed my boots, justifying the decision to lug the things around with me.
Next I had to find my way to Thornthwaite Crag in zero visibility. The linking ridges around there tend to be quite broad and triangle-shaped, easy to go wrong if you're not careful. I think I would have got into an epic mess if I had tried it devoid of map. After encountering the obligatory fell-runner of the day en route - he said 'hey up!' (should he want to recognise himself in this) - I did find Thornthwaite easily enough. You can't mistake it when you have: one very big beacon. Has it lost a few of its top stones since AW's day, though? I moved on, now only having 3 more peaks to do. That's not counting a backtrack to Thornthwaite, more or less, for Gray Crag was a ridge walk from this point which would have to be respooled to get onto the last two. It looked as though it would all be in cloud now too, which is partly why I decided against dumping the rucksack once more. I was delighted when it cleared again on the way back. I could have visited the beacon for a second time in glorious visibility, but decided to just take a pic of it from a quarter of a mile off.
Above the col at Threshwaite was the highlight of my adventures so far. Clouds, constantly moving south to north, passed over it but beneath me. I had to dip into this mass and up again to reach Stony Cove Pike. This surprised me with its steepness on both sides, with care needed on wet rocks and scree. It was absolutely spectacular in the low afternoon sun, and it struck me why I am doing this. Not just for the 'achievement', but for the indelible memories of sights like this. Without getting all religious, I believe it speaks to me of some meaning behind creation and a purpose bigger than one's little self. I lingered some time, safe in the knowledge I was almost finished.
Once up on the other side, it was not quite so nice. I was in thick cloud again, and wrote off the idea of visiting Mark Atkinson's Monument (it gets a drawing in AW), a few hundred metres away from Stony Cove summit. Even if I found it, I felt it was not a good idea to flirt with the end of daylight now. I pressed on down the last ridge to Hartsop Dodd, and did not have to go very far to emerge into visibility once again. The rest of the walk was satisfaction of the highest order. Indeed, I showboated somewhat, hanging around taking in the views and photographing myself. For a while I spectated on a possible rescue going on across the valley. A helicopter was flying above the Fairfield range, and seemed to land for a while (at High Hartsop Dodd or Little Hart Crag). I doubt whether this would have been an exercise in the fading light. Finally it went off in the direction of Kendal. I went off in the direction of my car in Low Hartsop village, fortunately getting the steepest part of the descent done before needing to finish the job by head torch.
You have climbed 77 Wainwrights out of 214 - 35.98% complete.
by trailmasher » Thu Dec 31, 2015 5:36 pm
by Ibex » Fri Jan 01, 2016 3:34 am
Nice to see someone enjoying the hills in this relatively poor weather. And 77 Wainrights is a good number to be on i'd say!
by ChrisW » Sun Jan 03, 2016 9:15 pm
by Mal Grey » Mon Jan 04, 2016 12:25 pm
Hell of a day out, too!
by The English Alpinist » Mon Jan 04, 2016 3:14 pm
by Alteknacker » Mon Jan 04, 2016 11:36 pm
Living some 3 hours+ South of the LD, it seems incredible that you managed to sniff out any fine weather at all.
Good luck with the remaining 20 stages, and may the god of good weather be with you.
by The English Alpinist » Wed Jan 06, 2016 3:15 pm
Walkhighlands community forum is advert free
Can you help support Walkhighlands and the online community by donating by direct debit?