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A round of 8 Eastern Fells around Kentmere Pike

A round of 8 Eastern Fells around Kentmere Pike


Postby Alteknacker » Mon Jul 27, 2020 11:07 pm

Wainwrights included on this walk: Branstree, Grey Crag, Harter Fell (Far Eastern Fells), High Street, Kentmere Pike, Tarn Crag (Far Eastern Fells)

Hewitts included on this walk: Branstree, Grey Crag, Harter Fell (Far Eastern Fells), High Street, Kentmere Pike, Rough Crag, Tarn Crag

Date walked: 24/07/2020

Time taken: 10

Distance: 23.8 km

Ascent: 1596m

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Friday looked to be both auspicious from a weather perspective, and free of other family commitments - of which there'd been a few latterly. For the fourth post-lockdown hill outing I thought it ought to be OK in the Lake District by now as regards overcrowding risk, particularly if I got an early start. One of my lockdown amusements had been route planning, so I had a fair number of routes just ready to be tackled, one of which was a round covering the seven Eastern Fells that I'd not yet managed to get on to. One chilly spring day a couple of years ago I'd looked down into the Haweswater valley from the High Street ridge, and made a mental note then that it looked like a good place to start a walk into the Eastern Fells...

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... so I plumped for a start from Mardale Head, noting that from the map, it appeared that there was a car park at the end of the dead-end access road.


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My aim was to start at around 07.00am. I love the early morning in the hills, and I figured that a prompt start also ought to reduce the risk of my not being able to get somewhere to park. It's pretty well a 3.5 hour drive for me, so that meant an earlier start from home; but a trouble- and traffic-free drive saw me arrive at the car park at 06.45. Rather to my surprise, there were already 12 cars in the car park, though there was no-one at all about.

I got out of the car and started a short breakfast; but soon I was surrounded by midges - I'd completely forgotten that they're not just a Highlands phenomenon! And they're just as voracious in the effete South as they are in the wild North;

Image

....so I got myself quickly sorted, and set off. Mardale Head was every bit as spectacular as the map had indicated it ought to be...

Image20200724-064625-2. The head of Haweswater just after my arrival.

My original plan had been to walk up to Blea Water, and then cut straight up the northern side ridge to Rough Crag; but then I rethought this: for the past couple of years I've been finding steep hills very challenging, and I definitely now make better vertical progress on shallow extended slopes. So instead of the direttissima, I took a more extended but gentler ascent route, heading first north east along the lake shore, and then doubling back to follow the south ridge of Riggindale in a westerly direction.

Image20200724-072220-3. It really was a beautiful morning. This shot is looking roughly south east, with Branstree on the left of Gatescarth Pass (just behind the small forestry plantation), and the dramatic cliffs of Harter Fell to the right of it.

Once past the dogleg where the path turned west, I was treated to the most superb views of Haweswater as the path slowly ascended...

Image20200724-073427. Looking north along Haweswater in the early morning light.

Image20200724-073826-2. And again. I can't stop snapping this view!

Image20200724-080032. Gatescarth Pass from the approach to Rough Crag. The last stretch of today's walk was to be a descent of this pass back to the car park.

The path up to Rough Crag is quite - well, rough! (the clue's in the name). But not at all difficult.

Image20200724-083335. Gradually more of the day's target summits become visible. This is looking back east south east from a point on the ridge close to Rough Crag

Image20200724-083335-labelled.

Image20200724-083425. And looking from the same point in the opposite direction towards Rough Crag, and High Street.

Image20200724-084754. Looking up west from the summit of Rough Crag towards High Street.

Image20200724-084820. The same shot as the previous one, but in panorama, showing Blea Water on the LHS.

Image20200724-092842. Eventually - slow slow progress - I reached the plateau, and could look back along the ridge. This was the biggest single ascent of the day. After this it's pretty well flat walking for the 200m or so to High Street, where I met a pleasant chap who'd come up the night before from Doncaster, and camped alongside Small Water. Like me, a fair-weather camper, he'd planned to camp a couple of nights in the area, but with forecast rain for the night and the following day, he'd decided to head back home at the end of the day. We chatted in the prescribed socially distanced manner for a while as I consumed another breakfast, after which we headed off in our respective directions.

Image20200724-100402. Looking ahead to the next summit: Harter Fell (background), via Mardale Ill Bell (middle ground).

Image20200724-101624. View from Mardale Ill Bell summit of, from left to right, Yoke, Ill Bell, Froswick and, on the extreme right, Thornthwaite crag, all of which Dr Frank and I visited in March 2018.

Image20200724-101634. Next to Mardale Ill Bell cairn, looking back NNW towards High Street, the path clearly visible on the LHS.

Image20200724-101658. The way ahead, ESE, to Harter Fell.

Image20200724-102444. On the way: looking north across Small Water to Haweswater in the background, Harter Fell on the RHS.

Image20200724-104015. During one of many breathers on the ascent to Harter Fell summit, looking back the way I'd come from Mardale Ill Bell. Behind it, on the RHS in the far background, High Street.

Image20200724-105506. During another breather, opportunity taken to look back at Small Water and Haweswater. I was feeling pretty pumped up by now: the views so far had been superb - 5 star grin! :D :D :D :D :D

Image20200724-110203. At last, Harter Fell summit. The pic is looking back again towards High Street.

I have a third breakfast here, before changing direction to take in the out-and-back trip to and from Kentmere Pike, which is easy walking on the flat or on gentle slopes, albeit a wee bit boggy in places.

Image20200724-112429. Looking down into the Kent valley shortly before ascending to Kentmere Pike. Kentmere Tarn juuuuuuuuust visible, if you look very carefully.

Image20200724-112438. The summit ahead!

Image20200724-113438. Looking across from the summit towards Ill Bell.

It's now getting quite crowded: 5 or 6 people arrive in the time I pause for a drink.

Image20200724-113507... and also from the summit, north west towards Harter Fell - the way I'd just come, and the direction I set off back in, retracing my steps for a few hundred metres or so (because the map indicated big cliffs immediately east of Kentmere Pike) before cutting off right on a rough yomp down the hillside towards the old workings around Brownhowe Bottom.

Image20200724-114938. The next 3 target summits are visible from here: to the extreme right, Grey Crag; then Tarn Crag; and just off this pic, Branstree.

Image

Image20200724-122119. Once down into the valley bottom, looking south I could see the big cliffs to the east of Kentmere Pike that were indicated on the map, and was glad I'd taken a slightly circuitous but more straightforward route to get there. From here I followed one of the walls that went straight up the hillside from the valley bottom. A bit steep and rough, but not too problematic - I just took it slowly, with many pauses to look back and appreciate the views! :roll:

Image20200724-123032. View looking back down to the valley during one such pause. The very visible track starts at Sadgill to the south, winds its way up towards and over Gatesgarth Pass, and then down to Mardale Head.

Image20200724-130634. Same view from further up, with the old workings clearly visible. Harter Fell on the left, and Branstree on the right, framing Gatescarth Pass.

20 minutes more of steady plodding over rough pasture gets me to...

Image20200724-132727.... the summit of Tarn Crag. This pic is looking roughly west from the cairn - which seems - just - to be the highest point - towards the pillar. In the background, to the far right, High Street again.

Image20200724-133012. Now on towards Grey Crag (this pic is looking south from Tarn Crag towards it). It's obvious both from the map contours and the name of the area - Greycrag Tarn - and from the fluorescent green colouring of the ground, that the "col" between the two summits is going to be on the wet side. So I took a route curving slightly to the west (right in the picture) so as to keep on "higher" ground as far as I could - even if "higher" only meant a metre or two! This tactic worked quite well, and I managed to arrive at Grey Crag with dry feet.

Image20200724-135744. Grey Crag summit. To the East is Harrop Pike, which suffers from the irredeemable ignominy of being a full one metre lower than Grey Crag.... :roll:

Image20200724-140430. Looking down again into the beautiful Kent valley from the summit....

...before heading back north west towards Tarn Crag. This time I saw that there were many walkers crossing the bog to the East, and from here a "track" is visible, so I decided to give it a try. It did turn out to be quite wet - some of the walkers were following very meandering routes to try to avoid wet feet. Wearing non-waterproof trail shoes, my feet did get a tad damp; but really it wasn't so bad.

Image20200724-143115. I took this pic shortly after repassing Tarn Crag, and as can be seen, it's roughish but not difficult going, and for most of the way a narrow track is visible, here just to the left of the fence. The next target - Branstree - is just to the left of the line of the fence; the High Street plateau is clear in the background.

Before the ascent to Branstree there's another bog to cross, though; and although it isn't named on the map, in the flesh (mud???) there's a 30 metre section of it that looked exceptionally soft. I quartered to the left, then to the right to try to find a way through it. The track heads into it both sides, but disappears in the sphagnum section. In the end I made use of a very effective technique I've used before to get across this kind of bog: I stepped on the lowest or second lowest wire of the fence and shuffled along in the desired direction, only just managing to preserve a precarious balance with the help of the rather loose top wire. Generally the ground is firmer just beneath the line of a fence, and this again proved to be the case here. The wire takes a small part of one's weight, which reduces one's foot pressure on the boggy soil, and providing one can avoid overbalancing, enables one to cross a bog without getting too wet.

Just as I get to the other side, a couple who've been descending the hill in front of me get to the edge of the bog. Unfortunately they don't seem to have understood the reason for my peculiar crossing method, and without taking much in the way of evasive action, head straight into the bog. A minute later I hear a shout, and looking round I see the man above his knees in mud, with his wife trying to help him avoid overbalancing completely. Oh dear :( . I wonder if I should have said something; but looking back from the slope they descended, it really is clear that there's a very wet bog ahead...

After this it's a slow but steady ascent to Branstree along a track that runs parallel to a wall. Route finding on and off Branstree ought not to be at all difficult, even in very poor visibility, given the locations of the fences and walls, and the clarity of the tracks.

Image20200724-153338-2. Once arrived at the flat area in which the summit is somewhere hiding, I didn't find anything to give me much of a clue. And, in contrast to all the other summits apart from Rough Crag, there were no other walkers with whom to debate the matter. This is the only marker I could find that MAY indicate the highest point; but it's probably 50 metres or so from the putative high point marked on the map. No matter. Onwards and .... downwards!

Image20200724-153453-2. ...towards Selside Pike, the track clearly visible.

Image20200724-153901-2. Random pillars on the way...

An easy walk along a very clear track...

Image20200724-160330. Shelter stone circle at Selside Pike.

Then it was back the way I'd come, once again via Branstree summit.

Image20200724-164424. Reaching the point at which the fences/walls form a T, adjacent to the summit, I just continued along the fence running west, which took me directly down into Gatescarth Pass

Image20200724-170219. Looking down to Haweswater from somewhere near the top of Gatescarth Pass.

Image20200724-170236. From the same point, a final farewell to Rough Crag, Mardale Beck, and High Street.

Arriving back, the car park was pretty rammed. With status of establishments of cultural, architectural and historical distinction still uncertain - at least to me - in respect of if and how they are serving drinks, I decided to get off straight away, and drink my can of warm Brew Dog Nanny State later.

ImageProfile.

Image3-D-of-Route.
Last edited by Alteknacker on Wed Aug 19, 2020 12:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A round of 8 Eastern Fells around Kentmere Pike

Postby Pointless Parasite » Tue Jul 28, 2020 9:15 am

Superb. A proper Wainwright baggers' route with various extensions to include extra fells. But why not descend straight down to Hawswater after climbing Selside and saving the effort of reclimbing Branstree?
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Re: A round of 8 Eastern Fells around Kentmere Pike

Postby johnkaysleftleg » Tue Jul 28, 2020 1:50 pm

Mardale Head is probably the best location East of the Kirkstone Pass in Lakeland, glad to see you made the most of it. As with your previous reply I am a little puzzled why you didn't head down the old corpse road and return along tarmac. That way you'd have got this classic view of Mardale Head.

Image
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Re: A round of 8 Eastern Fells around Kentmere Pike

Postby trailmasher » Tue Jul 28, 2020 3:56 pm

A great walk report and a fine effort across some fantastic fells :clap: It's one of my most favourite part of the LD as there are so many options around there :) I can also only concur with the others when suggesting leaving Selside by the Old Corpse Road but hey, it's your walk AK so you choose the route 8)
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Re: A round of 8 Eastern Fells around Kentmere Pike

Postby Alteknacker » Tue Jul 28, 2020 11:20 pm

Pointless Parasite wrote:Superb. A proper Wainwright baggers' route with various extensions to include extra fells. But why not descend straight down to Hawswater after climbing Selside and saving the effort of reclimbing Branstree?


Thanks PP. The reason I never planned to descend directly from Selside Pike, is that I will always take a long diversion if it enables me to avoid tarmac!! Originally I'd planned to drop down the hillside directly from Branstree, but when I arrived and saw how steep it was, I thought I'd have mercy on my knees.. :lol:

johnkaysleftleg wrote:Mardale Head is probably the best location East of the Kirkstone Pass in Lakeland, glad to see you made the most of it. As with your previous reply I am a little puzzled why you didn't head down the old corpse road and return along tarmac. That way you'd have got this classic view of Mardale Head.

Image


That view is certainly to die for :shock: , and had I known about it, I think I'd have descended the hillside below Selside a bit to a point where I could get the view, and then contoured around below Branstree in order to avoid any tarmac walking.

trailmasher wrote:A great walk report and a fine effort across some fantastic fells :clap: It's one of my most favourite part of the LD as there are so many options around there :) I can also only concur with the others when suggesting leaving Selside by the Old Corpse Road but hey, it's your walk AK so you choose the route 8)


Thanks TM. It's surely a great area, with so many options, as you say. As regards a descent via Old Corpse Road, see above - I truly hate walking on tarmac!
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Re: A round of 8 Eastern Fells around Kentmere Pike

Postby johnkaysleftleg » Wed Jul 29, 2020 3:41 pm

Alteknacker wrote:
That view is certainly to die for :shock: , and had I known about it, I think I'd have descended the hillside below Selside a bit to a point where I could get the view, and then contoured around below Branstree in order to avoid any tarmac walking.


That would have been realy difficult given the gill you'd have have to cross. There is a little parking at the bottom of the old corpse road where you could start from if you ever return this way.
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Re: A round of 8 Eastern Fells around Kentmere Pike

Postby trailmasher » Wed Jul 29, 2020 7:45 pm

Thanks TM. It's surely a great area, with so many options, as you say. As regards a descent via Old Corpse Road, see above - I truly hate walking on tarmac!


Yes I'm a bit like that AK, don't like the black top at all :roll: :?
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Re: A round of 8 Eastern Fells around Kentmere Pike

Postby dav2930 » Tue Aug 04, 2020 5:37 pm

Looked a good day out AK. Nice weather and an interesting combination of tops.

I've frequented Mardale and Swindale more than usual during the past couple of months, as they're the closest Lake District valleys to my home. I must say their charms have really grown on me. The head of Mardale is one of the grandest places in the Lakes and the Riggindale ridge is far and away my favourite route up High Street. Lockdown definitely took its toll on my hill-fitness; in a bid to regain it a bit we did the Kentmere round from Mardale Head - a strange way to do it at first blush but it did save a long, tortuous drive round to Kentmere. :lol:

Ps I don't blame you for giving the pubs a miss. Some that have opened are really switched on and strict about distancing and hygiene while others don't seem to give a s***. The Sportsman on the A66 had a notice on the door saying "closed due to end of the world". :shock:
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Re: A round of 8 Eastern Fells around Kentmere Pike

Postby Alteknacker » Sun Aug 09, 2020 1:38 pm

dav2930 wrote:....Lockdown definitely took its toll on my hill-fitness...


Happened to most of us, I suspect, and cycling doesn't quite do the necessary.

dav2930 wrote:Ps ...The Sportsman on the A66 had a notice on the door saying "closed due to end of the world". :shock:


Oddly enough, the same has happened to most establishments of cultural, historical and architectural distinction... :D
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