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Mopping up around Eskdale.

Mopping up around Eskdale.

Postby trailmasher » Sun Jun 24, 2018 11:36 am

Wainwrights included on this walk: Green Crag, Hard Knott, Harter Fell (Southern Fells)

Hewitts included on this walk: Harter Fell (Southern Fells)

Date walked: 12/06/2018

Time taken: 5.34

Distance: 17.33 km

Ascent: 1314m

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Harter Fell - Green Crag - Hard Knott.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

So that we could have an early start for our first walk of what has become a yearly pilgramage walk fest from Wasdale Chris and his faithful bed partner Sonny had a sleep over at my house on the Monday night so that we could get an early start away for the first of our 4 day walking trip, a day that would hopefully see us arrive safely at Jubilee Bridge at the foot of Hard Knott Pass in Eskdale. For this first day we chose to go by the way of A593 then turning off for Little Langdale at Colwith Brow and taking the high, narrow, and winding roads along the Wrynose and Hardknott Pass's, a drive of some 50 or so miles, but at least 20 miles shorter than taking the A66 and A595 coast road to Gosforth and so on.
Arriving at the small Jubilee car park we found two cars already empty of passengers, a warm day that had a sky full of grey clouds that were covering the tops of the 3,000 plus footers and midges that mustn't have had a meal in yonks. The combination of Hardknott Gill, warm weather, gill side car park, and under tree cover makes for a great stalking ground for these indomitable mighty midgets that are looking for a two legged meal on the local menu and always seem to find a way to get under your skin.

We crossed the gill by way of the delicate looking low arched bridge…

ImageJubilee Bridge

that has stood the test of many years work and many, many more pairs of boots tramping across it to reach the large cobbled start of the path that was to take us under Dod Knott and around the foot of Birker Fell that make up the lower slopes of the much higher Harter Fell. The object of this walk was for Chris to tick off three of the further out southern fells and also five Birkett's whilst we were in the area and before we made our way to the accommodation that would service us for the next three days, Burnthwaite Farm where a good bed and food are to be found and, most importantly is just a mere half a mile away, a lovely stroll amongst the mountains feet, from the world renown hostelry of the Wasdale Inn.

From bottom to top where the path enters the western tip of Dunnerdale Forest the path is good with the views opening up as height is gained with the northern end of Eskdale and the lined up 3,000 plus footers of the southern fells making a formidable backdrop to the otherwise green and verdant pastures and fell sides of the upper part of this dale.

ImageNorth along Eskdale and the giants of the Southern Fells

West along the same dale gives an entirely different aspect with low craggy fells now on either side of the dale as it runs out towards the sea and with only the rounded tops of Illgill Head and Whin Rigg belonging to Wasdale posing as giants in the background.

ImageWest along Eskdale with Whin Rigg and Illgill Head behind

Although our first Wainwright would be Green Crag there are a couple of lesser fells to visit first, fells that I was last on two years ago but from a different direction than today, that was from Birker Fell further to the west whilst on a Birkett bashing week when staying at the Eskdale YH. To save some distance I had proposed that we leave the main path just past the first fence stile on the right where we would cross over Spothow Gill by the easiest place and work our way across the rough towards the small rocky Dow Crag in a south westerly direction and then continue on to the first Birkett of Great Whinscale. This we did and found the going quite easy as we steadily climbed on past a few rocky outcrops with the heather - unlike some of the Pennines and Dales walks - not too long or thick and with the bracken still in its early stages of growth it proved to be quite a pleasant experience especially now that the sun was showing through the cloud.

Harter Fell was showing its typical proper mountain shape behind us and as we approached Great Whinscale I contemplated on what the ground would be like today as we crossed over the low area of Ulpha Fell that lies between Green Crag and Harter Fell, an area that is historically a bit of a sod to get across without getting somewhat damp but with the recent dry weather the chances are that today we would have a dry crossing.

Great Whinscale is from the east face a somewhat unpresuming crag of two parts whilst the west side is much the higher face, a fairly flat grass and heather scattered covered top with its two rocky outcrops complete the scene. Apart from the obvious dramatic views to the north we could now see to the west with Devoke Water and its surrounding Birkett's completing the scene with only the haze preventing us from seeing as far as the coast and sea where the River Esk spills out at Drigg.

ImageGreat Whinscale with Devoke Water behind

There's a lovely circular walk to be had picking up the Birkett's of Birker Fell and Birkby Fell and like a tightly knit family are close together, and although not of mountain stature afford great views in all directions. A look to the northwest over Foxbield Moss shows Low Birkett Tarn before the eyes take in Eskdale and once again the two prominent fells that sit above Wastwater, Illgill Head and Whin Rigg.

ImageLow Birker Tarn-Eskdale-Illgill Head and Whin Rigg

We left Great Whinscale by walking southeast for a short while before turning to the south to collect Crook Crag that although more rounded than the last one is at 469 metres slightly higher and once again the typical ground features make up the top of this fell and from here we had a great view north along Eskdale and the semi-circular ridge from Slight Side to Bow Fell/Crinkle Crags.

ImageA northern view from Crook Crag

We also had a good view of Green Crag over to the south with the rocky prominence of The Pike sat between us and Green Crag but it is a hill that we would pass by as for now the Birkett's are behind us and we would make Green Crag our next stop where we would have a break for food and drink, much the finest place on these fells to be having one.

ImageGreen Crag from Crook Crag

From Crook Crag we could see a couple of paths leading towards Green Crag, the first we have seen since climbing the fence at Spothow Gill and these we would use to ease our way forwards to the climb to the summit of our chosen place of respite. Over to the northeast we had a great view of Harter Fell that would be next on after leaving Green Crag.

ImageHarter Fell from Crook Crag

The walking between these minor fells is easy made even more so when leaving Crook Crag as we picked up the path that eventually started its short climb up to the summit of Green Crag and giving us a full frontal of its craggy north face as we passed it by.

ImageGreen Crags north face

After the easy climb up to the summit we dropped the bags and surveyed the scene that is no different to what can be seen from the other and smaller fells although the shape of the Coniston Fells were to be seen through the haze to the east of us.

ImageHarter Fell with the Scafell group behind

ImageSouthwest towards Ravensglass

And now we could see the sea.

ImageSouth to the sea and Black Combe

There was by now a touch of blue in the otherwise grey cloudy sky and although we did have some earlier sunshine it was now being chased away by the ever increasing cloud cover brought in maybe by the cool breeze that we were now feeling. Settling down on the summit we looked at our way forward knowing that we had a fair drop off and then another fair climb in front of us as we tackled Harter Fell. Ulpha Fell has long been known as a wet area but the chances are that today due to the fairly long spell of dry weather we could have a dry passage and so it proved to be once we had sated our lust for food and drink.

We retraced our steps back down the fell and took a roughly north easterly line across Ulpha Fell with the only diversion being made to work around a bank of fairly deep/high peat hags and although the ground was a bit soft in places we managed to cross with boots still dry as we reached the path at the corner of Dunnerdale Forest but the amount of cotton grass growing in the area gives one a clue as to how wet this area usually is.

ImageCotton Grass on Ulpha Fell

ImageHarter Fell from Ulpha Fell

ImageGreat Whinscale from Ulpha Fell

The path that we took to climb the fell is not shown on the OS Map but as we passed over the fence to the main path between Dunnerdale and Eskdale the path we needed is straight across and climbs up alongside the forest fence and then when leaving it does a bit of a swerve to the right before climbing in the same north easterly direction more or less directly to the summit. The climb of around 300 metres - 1,000 feet - is steady enough with no untoward difficulties and we made our way steadily upwards only stopping now and again to enjoy the backward views that in all honesty are not much apart from the Green Crag ridge and the low area of Ulpha Fell with its silver snake like watercourses running through the lower parts of the water catchment area.

ImageLooking back to Green Crag across Ulpha Fell

A fell runner passed us looking far too young and healthy as he gave a cheery smile and a word as he passed us but not even having the grace to breathe heavily as he noticed the sweat on our furrowed brows, our rewards of 'just' walking up this hill. Nonetheless we made it to the summit but not before Sonny had probably been up and down it three or four times before us, sitting on rocks looking down on us meagre mortals with only two feet instead of his four and super traction on the more gravelly parts of the path.

Having reached the summit once again the huge fells to the north are prominent with a foreground of Border End and the fells around and including Hard Knott that will be our third Wainwright of today's walk.

ImageBorder End with big lads behind

The highest point of this fell is a stocky mound of rock with a good viewpoint just to west of it, an area of relatively level but rocky ground.

ImageChris on Harter Fell summit

And now that we're higher up than Green Crag the view over to the coast is somewhat better.

ImageSea view from Harter Fell

We had another chat with the fell runner again and as we were leaving a couple with two dogs arrived from the Hardknott Pass route up the north face. We were now going to tick off another couple of Birkett's for Chris, Demming Crag that is a large rocky protuberance with a flat grassy top and then Horsehow Crags that has an easy grassy climb up from its east side but a very high and dangerous north and west sides to it.

ImageHorsehow Crags top with Harter Fell behind

Getting to these two Birkett's was easy enough with just one fence to stride over and dry going underfoot which was a lot different to my first visit here 2 years ago when the ground was sodden and very boggy, today it was as dry as tinder. From the top a good view of the Roman Fort is to be had as it sits below the southwest foot of Border End.

ImageRoman Fort with cloud over Slight Side

From here we also noted that the clouds were now dropping over the higher mountains roofs and hoped that they would get no lower as we were now going to make our way to the third Wainwright, Hard Knott. Leaving Horsehow Crags behind we continued northeast in a zigzag way until we arrived at the unnamed tarn that sits to the south of Peathill Crag, a lovely little thing with some kind of water plant that had not yet come into flower but when - and if it does indeed flower - it does it would throw some welcome colour into this predominantly green and grey landscape.

ImageUnnamed tarn behind Peathill Crag

From the tarn it is a mere few metres to the tarmac road of Hardknott Pass where we took a right to climb the road to its summit by a large cairn and small parking area from where we followed a thin path up a fairly steep but short bank to the right of Raven Crag more or less following the course of Hardknott Gill from where just below its head we turned off to the west to take the easy climb to the 522 metre summit of the Birkett of Border End from where, once again the views are great.

ImageSouthwest along Eskdale from Border End

The top is once again typical of the tops around here, grassy with plenty of rock poking through it. We left here and turned to the southeast again crossing over the head of Hardknott Gill where the evidence of cotton grass once again belies the true nature of this ground when the weather is wetter as it serves as the collecting and drain off area for Hardknott Gill that was all but dry just then.

ImageDrain off area for Hardknott Gill

The distance between Border End and Hard Knott is not great and with a path now beneath our feet we made the journey between the two in a matter of just a few minutes as we negotiated around and over three small humps from where the summit cairn could be clearly seen. The summit cairn of mixed rocks is sat on a large grey slab of rock surrounded by smaller rocks and a large area of grass. The last time that I was here the clag was so thick that I could hardly see 5 metres ahead of me and with my GPS out of flunter it was back to basics with map and compass, an exercise that I enjoyed immensely even though it was also raining at the time.

ImageHard Knott

From here there were only two more things on the agenda, the Birkett of Yew Bank and the Eskdale Needle the first of which I had been on before whilst the second I had only seen from the valley below when walking along Eskdale. The walk from Hard Knott meant quite a long walk northwards down the fell towards Great Gill Head Crag behind which we would find Yew Bank, a double header of a Birkett and one from which more great views are to be enjoyed.

ImageThe Birkett of Yew Bank

ImageSome southern fells under cloud

It would have been great to get a clearer view into and around the heights of Moasdale but as can be seen the cloud was covering the fell tops including Crinkle Crags and the 727 metre high Little Stand that was just to the east of us.

ImageA look into Moasdale from Yew Bank

ImageSouthwest from Yew Bank

Well that was the last of the hills but not the climbing as we set off on our way back south to find the Eskdale Needle. We kept as straight a line as possible but was invariably and imperceptibly climbing higher than we wanted to but looking at the crags ahead of us it looked like that if we lost height to get past them we may have to drop too low and find ourselves with a hard climb back up the fell, not something that we wanted at this stage of the walk. To be honest the walking wasn't all that bad and once that we had found ourselves below the west side of Hard Knott we started to lose height by making our way down a long grassy rake set in a hollow and although the bulk of the Needle is hidden by the crag that sits behind it we could just about see the top of it poking up some 70 metres below us.

ImageDescending to the Eskdale Needle

The walk down was easily done in short time and we soon arrived at the stubby pillar of rock that is quite high but nothing like its larger cousin on Great Gable, Napes Needle.

The pillar of rock looks easy enough to climb but we neither had the inclination nor could be bothered to attempt it as time was getting on and we still had to clock in at Wasdale. As can be seen it's a fair lump of rock and it has a crown of brown grass giving it the appearance of having a decent hair style. Moving around a little I managed to frame the pointed top of Slight Side between it and the crag behind.

ImageEskdale Needle framing Slight Side

And a closer shot of the same.

ImageEskdale Needle framing Slight Side

ImageEskdale Needle and the Scafells

From here we merely had to make our way back to Jubilee Bridge with the walk along the side of the fell not too arduous and once below Border End a quick look back showed me a great view along the valley towards the Scafells etc from which the cloud had now lifted leaving just a haze behind.

ImageView to Lingcove Bridge-Scafells-Bow Fell etc

Continuing on we were soon descending the lower slopes of Border End our intention being to walk through the fort…

ImageHarter Fell from below Border End

and quickly arrive back at the car where a quick change and a drink was had before setting off to Wasdale. As we drove past the Woolpack we had a thought of calling in for a swift one but remembering the prices that they charged last year compared with the Wasdale Head whose prices are very reasonable we decided not to enrich the landlord's pocket more than what it already was.

A very satisfying day has been had with a fair handful of tops walked over and now we just had the drive into Wasdale, not too far a distance but one that would take us around 45 minutes to travel due to the narrow roads and oncoming traffic when having to stop or reverse back to allow passage of others is the norm. As we entered Wasdale proper and Wastwater came into view Chris stopped the car and we took the opportunity to snatch a couple of shots…

ImageA Wastwater view

ImageMiddle Fell

before retiring to our accommodation for a well earned shower and then a second retirement that would find us in the Wasdale Head Inn savouring the delights of both food and drink, the latter coming first.

Our day out on the following day - Wednesday - was to be a short walk but a fair climb from the farm to take the Piers Gill route and on to Great End but after reading the MWIS report telling us that the weather was going to be very wet and windy on the Thursday we changed our plans around to suit the weather and decided to do Thursday on Wednesday which was a much longer walk with not much cover from the elements. It was a wise decision.
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Re: Mopping up around Eskdale.

Postby thefallwalker » Sun Jun 24, 2018 12:35 pm

thoroughly enjoyable 1st day TM!
But as i found out the week was about to get a whole lot harder!!
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Re: Mopping up around Eskdale.

Postby trailmasher » Sat Jun 30, 2018 8:13 pm

thefallwalker wrote:But as i found out the week was about to get a whole lot harder!!

Especially Thursday 8) :thumbup: :wave:
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