Following the River Esk to Great End
by nigheandonn » Wed Sep 21, 2016 1:08 pm
Wainwrights included on this walk: Allen Crags, Glaramara, Great End
Hewitts included on this walk: Allen Crags, Glaramara, Great End, Red Beck Top (Glaramara South Top)
Date walked: 14/08/20162 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).
But with an extra trip, following the river became the perfect way to get from the Eskdale hostel up to Great End and Allen Crags, having spent the day before on the hills around the lower valley.
With a choice between the two sides of the river I went for the path by Brotherilkeld partly for the name and partly so I would visit Lingcove bridge further up. Here the valley was a broad flat place with a path which looked in places like it might have been a paved track once, and the river running down below.
Esk is a river as named by people who either had no imagination, or never expected to meet another one (although not quite as bad as Avon). It wouldn't be a bad only river to know, to be fair, getting rockier and whiter as it rose and the path came closer to it.
Higher again it began to cut into a little gorge, and there was a smooth grassy place where some campers had left a lot of rubbish lying. I did feel bad about not taking any out, but knew I'd find it hard enough to get to the pass with what I was already carrying, and just had to hope some good samaritan would come down the valley heading for the road!
The first real landmark of the journey was Lingcove Bridge, old and pretty and surprisingly substantial for the middle of nowhere, another suggestion that this might have been a far busier route once.
Past the bridge the path began to climb far more steeply. Although the river had split in two it was still quite substantial, so that I wasn't surprised to climb into another valley, even if it was full of rocks and pointy places.
There is a path following the river to Scar Lathing, and a path following the river from it, but they still don't actually join up at the sharp bend, as Wainwright's map shows - you just have to find the best way from one to the other.
Round the next corner it becomes a true hanging valley, reminding me of Mosedale in the east, with the river winding across it shallower now but broad.
I hadn't met anyone since Lingcove bridge, but now I could see a large party making their way along the path below Cam Spout Crag, presumably heading for the one of the Scafells - I never did meet them, though, although it looked for a long time like I was going to.
I forgot that I wasn't supposed to cross the river until after the junction, and so just had to cross the tributary as well - a barefoot job, but not difficult. I could see the Cam Spout path running up, but couldn't work out where I was to turn off it, until I realised that on the ground I was never really on it at all - I turned up the valley again before the edges rose.
I was following a thread of path up the valley, but for once this was the wrong plan - usually when a path looks like it's going the wrong way it's just an illusion, but this one really did turn up into Little Narrowcove, so that I had to cut back down again.
I was heading for the place where the path suddenly became clear again, at the foot of a little tongue, and my unusual route to it did bring me to what looked like it might be a piece of plane.
Back onto a path it climbed beside the stream for a while before narrowing and becoming Wainwright's 'path in ravine' - just enough room for the stream, red rocks and a narrow path, and then not enough room for all three at once, so that the path climbed in and out of the streambed, or up a pink staircase of rocks.
Up above it finally opened out to flattish ground again - plain and bare with no sign of a path, so that it was almost impossible to believe that I was less than quarter of a mile from one of the busiest paths in the area.
A few minutes later, though, and I was standing on a motorway of a path, with at least 20 other people in sight - and a view of Derwent Water to the north, which was a bit of a surprise after so long with views to the south - I knew with my mind that Borrowdale ran up to Sty Head and Langstrath to Angle Tarn, but that obviously wasn't quite the same as believing it!
After so long toiling up the head of the valley Great End looked quite close this time, but I stopped for a quick rest and something to eat at Esk Hause before heading up.
While I was there I tried to help a family who had come up from Langdale and were trying to find Scafell Pike, but they seemed very reluctant not to follow the path up Esk Pike instead - I showed them where I'd come from, and where it was on the map, and the father looked at the map - held the other way up - and said 'no, that doesn't make sense!' So I left them to it, and as they didn't seem to follow me up Great End, and weren't still standing there when I came down, presumably they had a nice walk over Esk Pike and Bowfell, which I think is a better idea anyway!)
Heading off I was briefly on the motorway with everyone else, heading up through Calf Cove, and then turned off for the summit - at which point the cloud descended, making the summit a bit of a mystery.
A line of cairns led to what I decided must be the north-west summit, and although I didn't feel much like going hunting gullies in the mist, the head of Central Gully turned up exactly where I was expecting it on my way to the main summit.
Back at Esk Hause I headed down to the shelter for the first time.
It was nearly 3 o'clock - the pull up to the head of the valley had taken much longer than plain distance on the map would suggest, although Wainwright's timetable seemed to be more or less right - but Allen Crags wasn't far away.
The views had changed completely now that I was north of the Scafell and Bowfell ranges, with views over the Langdale Pikes to Windermere, and of the two Gables and the northwestern hills.
Allan Crags had a little rocky summit, but I didn't linger for long.
There was a surprising amount of up and down and in and out on the way to Glaramara, and my dodgy knee was beginning to complain quite badly - not that it wasn't a nice route, passing little tarns, and with some nice views.
The next summit was a Hewitt, Red Beck Top, which I had forgotten to look up properly - but it had to be the one before Red Beck, and not the one after that was really a summit of Glaramara. There were two competing highest points, but I preferred the one with the very minimalist cairn.
On again to Glaramara, down further than I expected and up again, and back into the mist.
It was nearly half past 4 now, later than I'd hoped, and I knew I didn't have time to head down over Dovenest Crag - if it had been a Wainwright summit I might have gone for it and worried about what to do next once I was down, but I wasn't making myself late for a Hewitt!
So I turned for the path over Thornythwaite Fell, only to find myself climbing down something that I wouldn't have believed was the path if I hadn't been able to see a broad path running away from the lower end, all narrow sloping ledges, and not even one direct way down, because you had to kind of turn and shift over halfway through.
There didn't seem to be anywhere else to go, though, and when I stopped to think about it in terms of not climbing down anything I couldn't climb up, I realised that I could get *up* it easily - it was nerve wracking on the way down only because all the ledges sloped outwards.
Below that the path was very clear for a while, and then not clear at all - I took a best guess line, and after a while of no traces was surprisingly pleased to find a crisp packet under my feet! I really had lost the path, though, and found it again running round the other side of the little rise I was behind, to my relief.
And from there it was just stony path and rock steps, but my knee - which had been playing up since Great End - was hurting very badly on real downhill, although it eased off to bearable on anything that was more like walking. I deliberately hid my watch away, because I was back to going as fast as I could go, and I'd worry about the rest once I'd coaxed it down.
In the end I missed the bus I should have got by less than 10 minutes, which was annoying, but I genuinely don't think I could have got down any faster that day - and I think I probably would have made it otherwise. So I'm not going to angst too much about the business of a public transport round, even though I got a taxi from Keswick to Penrith - if I'd aimed for something I knew couldn't be done that way it would be different.
But I haven't a clue what to do about the knee, because a day later it's fine and I can't show where it hurts - and when I took it into the Pentlands to make it hurt, it wouldn't...
I'm going to have to take a marker pen next time and draw on the sore bit!
by johnkaysleftleg » Wed Sep 21, 2016 3:37 pm
by nigheandonn » Wed Sep 21, 2016 3:48 pm
I've got one of those tube things that you wriggle up round your knee, and it helps a bit, but it also bunches up and rubs holes in the back of my knee. I'm finding the fact that my knee only hurts in the lake district quite infuriating - although obviously I'd prefer it didn't hurt there either!
by trailmasher » Wed Sep 21, 2016 8:44 pm
by Guinessman » Wed Sep 21, 2016 10:10 pm
Its not unusual to be asked around the Esk Hause area "which way is it" ?. I had to take a couple last year from Bowfell down to Angle tarn and point them in the direction of Langdale.
The Glaramara section is surprisingly a fair old hike.
I use a thermal knee bandage on my left knee. Seems to do the trick
by nigheandonn » Thu Sep 22, 2016 11:41 am
Glaramara was definitely more up and down than I realised - there are so many outcrops and things on the map that the contour lines kind of fade away! I don't think I'd really taken in how much higher it was than Rosthwaite Fell, either...
Esk Hause could be a very confusing place in cloud or if you didn't know the more distant landmarks, I think - apart from knowing where I'd come up, I was sure of Derwent Water and the Langdale Pikes, but the nearby hills all look much the same! I knew exactly what the family had done, too - they'd drawn on the map that they had to turn sharp left at Esk Hause, and were reluctant to believe that they'd already done this where the path curved past the shelter and didn't now need to turn left again.
by ChrisW » Fri Sep 23, 2016 5:20 am
Shame to hear about campers leaving a load of mess, I can't figure out how people think "lets go to this place because it's beautiful......but lets leave all our sh*t behind when we're done" ....really makes me rage
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