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Well, the plan was...

Well, the plan was...


Postby trailmasher » Tue Feb 09, 2016 9:41 pm

Wainwrights included on this walk: Bannerdale Crags, Bowscale Fell, Souther Fell

Hewitts included on this walk: Bannerdale Crags, Bowscale Fell

Date walked: 07/02/2016

Time taken: 4.25

Distance: 14.5 km

Ascent: 1068m

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


...for Chris and I to do a circuit above the valley of Bannerdale and Scale Fell that has Scales Beck and Bannerdale Beck feeding into the River Glanderamackin which, after leaving the head of Mungrisedale Common and much meandering around the west, north, and east sides of Souther Fell eventually meets up with, and greatly enlarges the River Greta as it passes on its way to, and through Keswick. But the weather beat us into submission by way of the westerly gale force winds that was tossing me about like an old rag doll. If it hadn't have been for Chris - the Middlesbrough Mountain - grabbing hold of me at the appropriate times I'm sure that I would have soared aloft like some castaway piece of rag.

Chris was on one of his visits onshore again and having been thwarted on previous times at home it was decided that as Chris has never been in that neck of the woods before we would have a go at Blencathra and the fells behind it.

We made our way to Mousthwaite Combe where we found one other car and a pile of stones which we realised as we got walking that it was for path repairs as the old packhorse route up through the combe had been washed out in various places leaving behind deep ruts which are a potential cause of damaged ankles/legs.

It was raining as we got ready for the job in hand but there was no sign of the wind to come as it is quite sheltered down by the car park and indeed on the way up through the combe. Mixed weather had been forecast with blustery winds along with it, but just now all we have is rain, and surprisingly the fells are clear of cloud so with luck we should get a look around us when up on top.

There was a dusting of snow to be seen on the lower reaches of Scales Fell and Souther Fell, and unsurprisingly there is water running under our feet as we made steady progress up to the head of Mousthwaite Combe. The views from the combe looking across to Threlkeld Common, Clough Head, etc are fairly clear with Great Mell Fell looking dimple like over to the left of us.
4 - Mousthwaite Combe view.JPG
Mousthwaite Combe view.

It was when we reached the top of the path that we now felt the wind blowing down between Scales Fell and Bannerdale Crags. To the west is the wide path leading up the east side of Scales Fell and on to Blencathra…
5 - Scales Fell and the path to Blencathra.JPG
Scales Fell and the path to Blencathra.

whilst a lower path breaks off to head northwest towards Scales Tarn, Sharp Edge, and Mungrisedale Common from where one can either turn south to access Blencathra via Foule Crag and Atkinson Pike, or north for Bannerdale Crags and Bowscale Fell. It was a cool wind but as yet not too strong as we made our way northeast and then north along the wide and very wet path that leads onto Souther Fell.
8 - Souther Fell.JPG
Souther Fell.

We had a look at the old cairn/currick which stands on the west side of the fell, off the main path and I have often wondered why it was built as it seems to serve no purpose apart from adorning the fell.
10 - Souther Fell with currick to the left.JPG
Souther Fell with currick to the left.

11 - Chris at Souther Fell west side currick.JPG
Chris at Souther Fell west side currick.

The path onto Souther Fell is always wet in certain areas whether it be winter or summer but on this visit it is even more so after the incessant rain that we have had over the last few weeks, nay months. It requires lots of wanderings off the main path to maintain some semblance of dry feet but we managed alright as we approached the small rocky outcrop and stone that marks the summit at 522 metres.
12 - Looking to the summit of Souther Fell.JPG
looking to the summit of Souther Fell.

By this time the wind has got stronger and we have had some mixed showers of rain and hail stones which, although not bad in themselves are a nuisance as the camera lens has to be continually dried which wasn't always successful as can be seen by some of the photos. From here we have an all round panoramic view of the surrounding snow covered fells that look down on us from the north - Carrock Fell, Miton Hill, and the odd Caldbeck Fell. From the west we have a close up of The Tongue with the front face of Bannerdale Crags glaring at us from just a bit further round, southwest is the massive bulk of Blencathra, to the south we can see Clough Head and the shape of Great Dodd amongst many others that are sort of blending into each other of which the grey sky and snow doesn't always make it easy to identify. Looking east there are open views over green fields towards the Pennines. Further round looking southeast there stands Great Mell Fell with its sparse covering of trees on the lower reaches of its grass covered sides.
13 - Bannerdale Crags and Bowscale Fell from Souther Fell.JPG
Bannerdale Crags and Bowscale Fell from Souther Fell.

18 - The path alongside The Tongue.JPG
The path alongside The Tongue.

19 - Another view of Bannerdale Crags.JPG
Another view of Bannerdale Crags.

As we started to descend down the wet slippery end of Souther Fell the sun made a brief appearance which may have enhanced the scenery but not the trip down to High Beckside and Mungrisedale.
20 - The route goes down the northeast ridge of Souther Fell.JPG
The route goes down the northeast ridge of Souther Fell.

22 - High Beckside and Mungrisedale.JPG
High Beckside and Mungrisedale.

Once at the bottom we had to follow the fence south on a very wet and dirty path until we reached the tarmac road where we turned left for Mungrisedale and our second ascent of the day along the side of The Tongue and up to the col which lies between Bannerdale Crags and Bowscale Fell. From the bottom of Souther Fell end I have usually sneaked over the fence of the second field to avoid the longer walk down to the road previously mentioned, but the fence has been re-wired and the top barbed wire strand is now high and tight and I didn't want to risk a slip off the fence corner post brace and landing ungraciously on my undercarriage. And it wasn't tearing the over trousers that I was worried about.

We arrived at the Mill Inn where we commandeered a picnic bench and had a quick snack as we surveyed the damage that the floodwater has done to the river banks opposite. It is being repaired by stacking in a stepped fashion large net bags of armour stone along the length of the roadside washed out section. As we continued on our travels we were to see much more flood damage that the councils will not be involved with as it will probably be up to the efforts of the NT and other such organisations to sort out as, and when they can.

Break over we set off once again walking along the tarmac road towards Mungrisedale and then turning left and crossing over the bridge that spans the River Glenderamackin. The road continues for a short distance past a couple of buildings before changing to a wide track which is accessed via the usual wooden gate and allowed us to enter onto the open fells proper.

The track is well made and wide and was formerly a mine road that led to the old lead mines in the crags below Bannerdale Crags, although with the ground in and around Bannerdale Beck being so wet the road has now mostly disappeared once it leaves the main drag running up the side of The Tongue.

As we approached the bend in the river where the footbridge is situated we came upon total devastation of the bank side path as it has been totally washed away for some considerable length. To get around this we took to the fell side crossing over much saturated and boggy ground before we reached firmer ground by the now out of place footbridge.
24 - The washed out area of path on the River Glenderamackin.JPG
The washed out area of path on the River Glenderamackin.

25 - The footbridge.JPG
The footbridge.

The footbridge which has been taped off and with danger signs pinned to the bridge is still sat on the north bank but sits precariously on a large boulder on the opposite side. The tapes have been broken and it's quite obvious that it has been used whilst in this condition. Chris decided to cross the river further upstream at some convenient place whilst I chose to use the footbridge which was actually more stable than it appeared to be.

Once across the river we could now proceed along the still good track which rises steadily southwest around the base of The Tongue until it changes direction to then start the climb proper roughly northwest. As we rounded the corner about where the old miners track heads off into the realms of Bannerdale Beck the wind got much stronger as we climbed up along the grass covered track. To our left there has been a massive washout with the ground being stripped of its covering of rough grass.
26 - A bit of a landslip beneath The Tongue.JPG
A bit of a landslip beneath The Tongue.

There was no sign of damage from the path to the top of the washout and we wondered if an underground spring had blown a gasket part way down the fell side. The sign on the footbridge indicated that the riverside path had been washed away further upstream so we could presume we were looking at the cause of it.

There had been an earlier landslip a year or so ago before and below this which had taken the path away but I don't know if it had been repaired since then. In fact it can be seen on one of the photos in the lower right hand corner.

For a good distance the track is in very good condition, but as we got higher up the wind got stronger and the path, which by now had a light covering of snow, was suffering from water damage with deep ruts appearing in many areas. It was at this point that Chris had to start grabbing hold of me to prevent me from going where I didn't want to go. With me being a runt of only 5' 9" and 10stone 4lbs it's handy having a well built 6' odd sized walking companion at times such as this. Thanks Chris. I'm sure that 2km of the 14.5km recorded were the results of me staggering about backwards and sideways whilst battling the ferocious winds that were about that day.
28 - Bannerdale Crags with Atkinson Pike beyond.JPG
Bannerdale Crags with Atkinson Pike beyond.

29 - Looking into Bannerdale Beck under Bannerdale Crags.JPG
Looking into Bannerdale Beck under Bannerdale Crags.

Upon reaching the top at around 650 metres and now no protection whatsoever it's nearly a hands and knees job for me as we took the faint path that cuts across to the main Bowscale Fell one.
30 - Bowscale Fell.JPG
Bowscale Fell.

As the main path was reached the wind changed direction to north and actually helped us to gain the summit of Bowscale Fell with its well made cairn and low wall of rocks to form a low shelter from the elements but it is of no use to us today.
31 - Bowscale Fell shelter and summit cairn.jpg
Bowscale Fell shelter and summit cairn.

Photos taken and Chris happy with getting another top under his belt we set off back down into the wind and crossing the always wet - and today very wet - lower area of ground that lies below the foot of this fell.

The original plan was to get onto Bannerdale Crags and then drop off onto Mungrisedale Common, that most exciting of Wainwright's, before making our way up to Blencathra summit by way of Foule Crag and Atkinson Pike, but the wind put that idea to one side as by now it was getting very difficult to stand up never mind walk in it.
33 - The view towards Bannerdale Crags.JPG
The view towards Bannerdale Crags.

So we adapted the walk to suit the weather conditions as hail with the speed of bullets hammered our bare areas of face as we made our way onto Bannerdale Crags and making sure that we were well away from the edge of the crags especially as there is more snow on the ground at this point so foot purchase was not all that good. Getting to the top of this fell is usually easy and quick but not today, but we finally arrive at the summit with its small slate type rocky cairn with the vertical and flat pointed stone slab poking out of it. I see a smile appear under Chris's face covering as he logs his third top of the day.
35 - Looking back to Bowscale Fell from Bannerdale Crags.JPG
Looking back to Bowscale Fell from Bannerdale Crags.

From here we are above many of the other nearby fells apart from Bowscale Fell to the north and Blencathra to the south which looks almost alpine with its snow covered slopes. It's nigh on impossible to take photos but we try the best we can taking replica shots as and when the wind eases off for a moment.
37 - Blencathra behind Bannerdale Crags summit cairn.JPG
Blencathra behind Bannerdale Crags summit cairn.

40 - Blencathra.JPG
Blencathra.

We decided to leave the top by way of White Horse Bent as it may be sheltered from the wind as we get lower down but it was not to be, it's everywhere today. A few years ago I tried to find the path that is shown in Wainwright's Northern Fells book that leads up from the footbridge across the Glenderamackin at the bottom of White Horse Bent but failed to do so and had a miserable hour or so slogging up through the rough grassy tussocks on a hot day.

There are two paths leading off the top of Bannerdale, one of which heads in an easterly direction and drops off down the ridge through the area of old mine workings - a great way down - and brings one out on the path alongside the River Glenderamackin, the other one takes a south easterly direction and more or less follows the ridge down to the footbridge. This path is clear to see from the summit cairn but as we follow it the path does get more indistinct the lower we get and actually disappears on occasions.
41 White Horse Bent.JPG
White Horse Bent.

On the final few metres and over the steepest section the path is nowhere to be seen so I now feel vindicated on my lack of finding it on that previous occasion.

Before we made the final descent down to the spot where the footbridge was, yes was, we parked up in the shelter of a couple of rare to be found rocks that gave us a view across to Souther Fell and Blencathra's snow covered Sharp Edge, not a place to be today.
42 - Blencathra and its east face with Sharp Edge.JPG
Blencathra and its east face with Sharp Edge.

As we ate our lunch we pondered on how best to get across the river which had a fair amount of water running in it and resigned ourselves to the fact that if we got wet feet then so be it. And we're not all that far away from the car anyway. From where we're sat we spotted what appeared to be something spanning the river and on getting down there found that it was indeed a length of 9" x 3" timber that looked as though it had been salvaged from the original footbridge that spanned the river at this point but no longer did.

The plank looked decidedly unstable but as it seemed to be the best option that we have just now I asked Chris to hold on to me whilst I tested the water, so to speak. The timber seemed to be well seated on the far bank but is underwater at our end, so, prepared to end up bobbing down the river like some piece of flotsam I stepped onto the plank and found it to be quite stable. Tearing myself away from the embraces of Chris and two long steps later I was safely on solid ground with Chris in hot pursuit.

Well it's nearly all over now apart from the short and easy climb up the path to the col between Souther Fell and the foot of Scales Fell from where we retrace our outward steps back down Mouthwaite Combe and the car.

Despite the gale force winds this has been a good walk, very wet underfoot in places but this is only to be expected after the recent weather conditions. The light covering of snow gave no problems apart from being the wet and slippery sort, whilst the rain and hail was minimal it felt like we was standing in front of a firing squad such was the force with which the wind drove it into us. The outlook was clearer than we expected it to be with good views in all directions with the snow on the crags of both Blencathra and Bannerdale making them look even more dramatic than usual.

It wasn't a pleasant experience seeing the damage done to the fells that I have walked and enjoyed many times over the past few years but I suppose that one has to be resigned to the fact that things don't remain the same forever, especially in the hills.

There were a few other people out walking but none near to us apart from two chaps leaving Bannerdale Crags as we were about to go onto it. Having a quick word it seems as though they were doing almost the same route as us but the other way around.
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trailmasher
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Re: Well, the plan was...

Postby johnkaysleftleg » Tue Feb 09, 2016 10:05 pm

Certainty sounds like a wild day, well done to both of you for managing what you did.
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Re: Well, the plan was...

Postby thefallwalker » Wed Feb 10, 2016 9:08 am

A cracking account of what was a challenging day! :clap:
It's just a pity you failed to see my obligatory fall, but I did manage to land on my front rather than my backside! I must be getting the hang of this going down carry on :lol:
Thanks for the day bud n see ya on Monday :D
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Re: Well, the plan was...

Postby ChrisW » Wed Feb 10, 2016 5:48 pm

Another great write up TM, I would have paid good money to see an image of Chris holding your ankle whilst you flapped around in the wind :lol:

In all seriousness it must have been bloody cold with that level of wind over ice and snow so 'walking the plank' to get across the river was a brave decision even if it was getting close to the car park :clap: :clap:
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Re: Well, the plan was...

Postby trailmasher » Thu Feb 11, 2016 9:55 pm

johnkaysleftleg wrote:Certainty sounds like a wild day, well done to both of you for managing what you did.


Thanks Anthony :D and it was probably one of the worst winds that I've encountered on the hills :crazy: Time we heard from you again mate :wink:
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Re: Well, the plan was...

Postby trailmasher » Thu Feb 11, 2016 10:00 pm

thefallwalker wrote:A cracking account of what was a challenging day! :clap:
It's just a pity you failed to see my obligatory fall, but I did manage to land on my front rather than my backside! I must be getting the hang of this going down carry on :lol:
Thanks for the day bud n see ya on Monday :D


Thanks for the company Chris :D and I did hear a thud but was wanting you to retain your hill cred so didn't turn around as the wind would have been in my face again :lol:
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Re: Well, the plan was...

Postby trailmasher » Thu Feb 11, 2016 10:08 pm

ChrisW wrote:In all seriousness it must have been bloody cold with that level of wind over ice and snow so 'walking the plank' to get across the river was a brave decision even if it was getting close to the car park :clap: :clap:


Yes it was cold Chris :crazy: We were warm enough until arriving at the top of The Tongue when both of us got cold hands despite wearing thermal gloves :( that's where the wind really hit us. Re the plank, sometimes one has to just get on with it to get back, this was one of 'em :roll: Thanks for your comments they're always welcome :clap:
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Re: Well, the plan was...

Postby johnkaysleftleg » Fri Feb 12, 2016 9:22 pm

trailmasher wrote:
johnkaysleftleg wrote:Certainty sounds like a wild day, well done to both of you for managing what you did.


Thanks Anthony :D and it was probably one of the worst winds that I've encountered on the hills :crazy: Time we heard from you again mate :wink:


Chance would be a fine thing
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