This was a trip which was both very organised and very disorganised - as far back as the spring, when the dismal day stopped me getting up Great Gable, I'd booked the extra Friday night at Black Sail to get me round my missing Western Fells on the Friday and into the North West on Saturday.
Only then the slightly disastrous August trip left me with basically a weekend's worth of fells still to do around Wasdale, and no way to get to them all - I remember sitting then in the shelter at the road junction and working out that as long as I could get a bed at Wasdale on the Saturday night I was fine, but I couldn't, and neither could I get away on Thursday night to make an early start from the coast on Friday morning. So the best solution I could come up with was to get a bed at Eskdale for the Saturday night, and hope for the best - I'd get round the first two days at least, and they were the places I was looking forward to more.
And *then* I came down with an awful cold which essentially sent me to bed for the whole of the weekend before this trip. By the Friday morning I was a lot better but definitely not at full strength - and I basically hadn't walked anywhere for a week, not even across the Meadows.
But I set out in hope just the same - on a ridiculously early train to Penrith, a bus to Keswick which turned out, entertainingly, to be the school bus, and then finally a break for breakfast at Booths, while I waited for the 9:30 bus round the Buttermere loop.
I'd decided to start with Fleetwith Pike, which had kept getting left out of earlier plans because I wanted to climb it by its nose and not just as a detour - it was quite a long way from my main objectives of the day, but it gave me the chance to follow Moses' Trod, one of those things I hadn't quite been able to squeeze in originally.
I kind of wished I hadn't, though, when I arrived at Gatesgarth and looked at the long ridge towering above me. The first part, up to the top of the rocks with the white memorial cross, was pretty hard work, and I hadn't really got going yet.
But beyond that it turned out really not as daunting as it looked from below - I think partly because it divided nicely into sections which made me feel like I was getting somewhere, but mostly because it was the kind of hill where you don't waste any more energy than absolutely necessary on going forwards rather than up!
The next part was a long stretch of grass, the gentlest part of the climb, but excitement was added by a low flying plane which shot through Honister below the level of the hills - later on there were two more flights over Pillar, but that first one was the best.
The next section was all heather, and the last part wound through little rocky ledges which reminded me of the climb up Eagle Crag in heather season a few years ago. Not so much purple today.
For the first part of the climb Haystacks had been towering imposingly on the other side of Warnscale Bottom, but as I got higher it shrank down into place, and the bigger hills came into view above it.
The summit appeared satisfyingly quickly above the rocks, and I wasn't even very far behind my optimistic timing.
On the far side the hill slopes away fairly gently to the kind of plateau which stretches towards the head of Ennerdale, but looking back the way I had come there was a much more dramatic view.
I was heading down towards the Drum House, with a small detour to the summit of Honister Crag just because it was there. This took me around the edge of the remaining working quarry, which was managing to make grey look surprisingly colourful against the faded green of autumn hills.
I was only crossing the straightest mile in Lakeland - the old Honister tramway - not following it, but it did make a lovely line across the landscape.
My route was not nearly as dramatic, although it did start off quite clearly - a path climbing slowly to the side of Grey Knotts, where the Ennerdale path split off and Moses' Trod continued as a thin trodden line, heading slowly up to the Ennerdale fence.
I almost forgot to watch out for the point where I was directly between the two valleys - but fortunately it was at the fence, so that I stopped and looked around.
Over the watershed and the landscape suddenly changed - no longer the endless slow toil up towards nothing, but a path skirting the head of a valley, with both Gables standing out ahead.
Stone Cove, with the baby River Liza, made a lovely lunch stop, with a view right down the Ennerdale valley.
Further up, though, it definitely lived up to its name, deep in loose stones, and with the path nothing but a line of stones trodden a different colour - very slow going.
The way from Windy Gap to the summit was not quite as relentless - there was at least grass visible - but it was still endlessly stony. Occasionally I found myself going up a nice easy piece of solid rock as a relief, and then realised that it was only because the stony path had wound off somewhere else while I wasn't looking.
The summit was actual rock in the sea of stones, with the war memorial plaque on one side and a cross on the cairn.
From the summit cairn I followed a path which I thought would take me to the Westmorland cairn, but instead it led me to a little grass shelf with one set of crags behind me and another set far below - I think it must have been the way to the top of the Napes, and that it was possible to get further down, but I felt I'd gone far enough. It had the glorious Wastwater view just the same, and a good birds' eye view of the jigsaw puzzle fields in Wasdale.
I started to make my way back towards the summit, then cut round to where a line of cairns marked the start of a clear path down towards Beck Head. At first it was very stony but not too loose, and although it wasn't obviously the corner of anything it was both well marked and well trodden. Further down it was less clear but had come into boulders where it was harder to mark a path and easier to pick your own best line, but further down again it was horribly loose - and steep enough that it wasn't easy to see what was coming next.
But as I was sitting in the middle of it all trying to be determined, I heard and then saw a group of people somewhere over to my right, and they were walking along perfectly normally, on their FEET! So as the ground was easier between me and them I just scrambled over to where they were, which turned out to be obviously the corner, and from there the way down to Beck Head was all very much easier.
The way up Kirk Fell was much the same as Great Gable but at least a bit less so - loose stone path mixed with places where I went up something more solid until I found the path again.
I had a good view of my way down, but it wasn't easy to work out where I had been - and I was glad I hadn't gone further.
The first summit - the Hewitt east top - was quite close by, but the main summit was much further on across the flattish top than I had expected. It was mostly grass, though, with just patches of stones, which made a nice change.
From here Great Gable was doing the Lingmell trick again - a wall looking impressively vertical.
The view was no longer straight down Wasdale, but instead the valley and the higher land behind made a lovely set of lines.
There was no particular path down towards Black Sail Pass, but the line of fence posts led on to the edge of the top - beyond that it looked like the path dropped into thin air, but it often does look like that, and it's never true, so I carried on to the edge.
And then I was completely baffled, because there really was a sheer drop in front of me, too deep to lower myself down, and with too narrow a ledge at the bottom to let go and jump. I went back and had another look, because nothing I'd read had suggested to me that there was a bad step there, and although there was a visible path below it could have been made by people coming up and then detouring - but as I'd followed the fenceline all the way down I had to be in the right place, and there was nowhere else to go.
So I went back and had another look at the drop, and when I looked right over there was a foothold actually set into the rock on the right, not sticking out - but I still couldn't get my foot onto it without sliding off the top. So I had *another* look over, and found a bit of rock jammed into the crack on the left, and this time I could just get my toe onto it, and get my right foot into the foothold and get down.
It was a wonderful logic puzzle, actually, all the pieces there in just the right place to solve it, but a bit much for the end of a long day.
Nothing after that was quite so bad, although there was one more place where I did a kind of midair change of weight to land on the ledge to one side of me rather than the gap below me - but it was all a good bit more like a climbing frame than I had expected. Still, after all the loose stuff it was a relief to be on rocks which stayed still.
Below the rocks a path led down to the pass - less solid but not nearly as loose as some places I'd been - and from the flat top of the pass it was all a decent path down, with just one little scrambly bit near a rowan tree towards the bottom. Down here the Liza looked much more like a river, but there was a good bridge, although the hostel still seemed a surprisingly long way from there.
And for the first time ever, at either Ennerdale or Black Sail, I was well in time for dinner - although not nearly as early as I'd hoped, as before I knew what kind of ground it was I'd hoped to have time to tag on Haystacks. And apparently it was my fault that two other ladies were late for dinner, as they'd followed me off Great Gable but not found my escape route!
Dinner at Black Sail was very much interrupted by everyone going outside together every 10 minutes or so to watch the sunset change - but I like that it's the kind of place where that kind of thing happens. And it was a very good sunset.
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