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Blencathra in the rain

Blencathra in the rain

Postby nigheandonn » Tue Nov 26, 2019 9:40 pm

Wainwrights included on this walk: Bannerdale Crags, Blencathra, Bowscale Fell, Mungrisdale Common

Hewitts included on this walk: Bannerdale Crags, Blencathra, Bowscale Fell

Date walked: 13/10/2019

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This last trip - the last big trip of my main round, anyway - had taken quite a bit of sorting out. On the hills at the beginning of September I'd come up with a route that would let me do the things I really wanted to fit in - the classic beginning coming down to Keswick on Friday evening and the ending with dinner in Penrith, and a second night at Skiddaw House in between.

Fitting that into reality wasn't so easy - if there was space at Skiddaw House, I was busy with something else, or there was no space at Keswick the night before, even once I started looking at Sunday nights. The Real Three Peaks eventually came to my rescue, and after a Friday night in Keswick I spent Saturday wombling on Scafell Pike and Saturday night at Borrowdale, picking up my trail again in Keswick on Sunday morning.

I took the bus back as far as the far end of Threlkeld and followed the minor road on, missing the main track to Gategill and following a little path back again.

The weather forecast hadn't been great, and the weather wasn't great - calm enough, but with low cloud sitting on the tops of the hills.

Hills in the mist

The path brought me out past the kennels of the Blencathra Fell Pack, where a great deal of barking was going on.


The valley of Gategill Beck was glowing in its autumn colours, even in the grey morning, with the clouds looming over the top - the path crosses a kind of ford and then winds up on the right hand side.

Gategill Beck

As far as the clouds were moving at all they were drifting up from the south, but it was hard to tell if anything worse really was moving in - there was a fair view across the valley, if not much further, and it looked as if the cloud might just stay sitting where it was for the rest of the day.

Over the valley

I think I went a bit too far along looking for the proper start of the path, but once I was on it it was clear to follow, winding its way up quickly - although I was fairly slow, being a bit stiff and bruised from my acrobatics on Scafell Pike. I'd been all alone at first, but now I could see half a dozen people down below, some of them bright orange, and thought they would probably pass me before long.

The winding path

The path eventually reaches a point where you can look across and into the valley of Doddick Gill on the right, and then climbs on along the top of the ridge, still grass and heather at this point.

Onto the ridge

The first rocks and the cloud turned up more or less together, a little rocky stretch to cross, and then the path wandering along just below the crest of the ridge.

The bypass path

It was properly wet now, rain as well as the inside of the cloud, and the whole stretch of the ridge was really one long present time - I had no idea what was coming ahead of me, and everything behind had vanished, and there was no way of telling how far along I'd come. I never did see the place where Wainwright thought care should be taken - the bit that gave me the heebie jeebies was an apparently harmless stretch of sloping path above sloping grass, but so sodden I didn't trust it not to just slide away.

Rocks in the mist

So far the path had wandered from one side of the ridge to the other by way of a stretch along the top - but there had always been a visible path. Now I reached a spot where the path just ran out at the foot of a sloping rock - a shallow crack went up the middle, or the path seemed to lead to the foot of slabby places on the left hand side, but nothing was obviously the way up, and there was definitely no way around.

I could hear voices close behind, which must be the group I'd thought would catch me up hours ago, so I decided I might as well wait and see what they did, but instead it was a lone runner who appeared from nowhere and told me the best way was straight up, before vanishing up the line of the crack and on again.

So I followed, and it wasn't nearly as difficult as it looked - and to add to my odd wombling of the day before, I found a safety pin lying in the crack, which I decided to take as a good omen. The path reappeared beside the next stretch, but a nasty loose eroded looking thing, and I decided that I might prefer my runner friend's advice, but after starting on the rock I changed my mind - it wasn't difficult, but it was slippery, and not knowing what was coming next just made me feel very jittery.

The voices were close behind me now, so when I turned round I just sat down and waited to see what they would do - they turned out to be a group from Sheffield Mountaineers who had meant to do the scramble but were mostly sticking to the path because of the wet, and who let me tag along up the next steep bit of path. They must have wondered what they were getting themselves into at first, because turning back always makes me feel small and pathetic, but I settled down again quite quickly, and didn't seem to be doing any worse than most of them.

(I've never yet got myself into a place I couldn't get myself out of, and I don't think this was it, but it was bloody lonely inside that cloud, and I was immensely glad of the company, as well as the route advice.)

And then, quite suddenly, we were at the top - a fairly undramatic top without its views. On such a popular hill I had expected an enormous cairn, but there was nothing but a flat trig point marker in the ground.

Blencathra summit

The others were planning to have a break and eat lunch before descending, but I wanted to push on, along the broad path by the edge, past the Scale Fell zigzags and on along the edge to head down to Bannerdale Crags, but further along the path dropped more quickly and more loosely than I felt up to dealing with, and so I clambered back up on a fainter path, intending to go on along the edge until I could head down easier slopes.

I think now that that was probably the top of the Sharp Edge path, where I would have turned back pretty quickly anyway, but at the time I just thought it was the main path dropping a bit - it was at the top of the next path down, which may or may not have been the Foule Crag one, where I met a runner who looked and it and said no, she really didn't want to go down by Sharp Edge.

So I went wandering on along the edge of the high ground, kind of expecting to find another way down, until I unexpectedly met the white cross instead.

The white cross

I knew that was at the far end, so I went on, and it was only when I met a tiny pool and saw higher ground looming ahead where it couldn't be that I realised what I'd done - a thing I've never done before!

At this point I was utterly fed up, soaked to the skin and tired of ploutering about in the fog, and I decided that even if it messed up all my plans, I was just going to make a direct descent to Skiddaw House, where I would at least know where I was - there was nothing between me and the bottom of the valley but easy grassy slopes, and at some point I would probably hit Roughton Gill and be able to follow it down. These were hills I could reach in a day trip if necessary, and there was no point to getting myself in trouble trying to go on.

So I just headed down from where I stood, bouncing through mossy grass, but before long there was an odd line in the mist ahead, which became a valley in a brown slope, and then a whole hillside.

Clearing slopes

It wasn't just that I had dropped below the cloud - the world was visibly clearing around me, and it had the air of something which had cleared for the day - the very top of Blencathra was still in the cloud, but otherwise it was only lingering in odd hollows.

In that case I might as well head on, however wet I was - I was down below the level of Foule Crag now, and could just contour round on the grassy slopes until I reached the path leading down towards the Glenderamackin col. It was actually still raining steadily, but the feeling of having gaps between the raindrops made such a change that it seemed quite dry by comparison.

The Glenderamackin col

Sharp Edge in profile made a dramatic view, and so in a different way did the length of the Glenderamackin valley stretching out, but apart from the views the path was unexciting, and the summit of Bannerdale Crags more a walk than a climb from the col.

Bannerdale Crags summit

There were two cairns here, a less exciting one on the real high point, and then a pointier one by the edge, with some cloudy views.

Cairn on the edge

The path on towards Bowscale Fell was dramatic at first, following an edge with scraps of cloud lingering in every hollow.

Cloud in the hollows

Further on, though, it was just plain wet, and I seemed to spend all my time dodging pools of lying water.

The wet path

Bowscale Fell has a shelter at the summit and a cairn which looks like it might be the summit - I visited both to make sure, and once back in the shelter decided that I might as well eat some lunch while it was dry - it had been so wet at lunchtime that I just hadn't thought about it.

Bowscale Fell summit

Coming back I decided on a whim to head over what seemed to be a slightly more direct route to the right of the path, which did seem to be a good idea at first - definitely less standing water - but further on it got a bit rougher, and I was tired of pathless grass by the time I met up with the little path which skirted the high ground of Bannerdale Crags.

The views along here were good, looking up to Sharp Edge and Foule Crag.

Looking up the the edges

Up until now the day had been brought to me by the letter B - Blencathra, Bannerdale Crags, Bowscale Fell - and I was a little bit sorry that Mungrisdale Common would break the pattern, but it was next on the list, and a surprisingly clear little path contoured round from the col.

Tiny path

I possibly made a mistake by leaving the path when it began to drop, as the tiny trace of path which kept to the same level soon vanished, leaving me on more pathless ground - but possibly I would just have had to come further up from the path anyway. I definitely headed up onto the higher ground too soon, as I wasn't sure which of the low bumps was the summit, but after a while I reached the broad path coming down from Blencathra.

The Blencathra path

Possibly I thought better of Mungrisdale Common than I would have done on a drier day, because everywhere was so wet that the wet ground on the hill couldn't bother me, but although it's utterly unspectacular, it has a good cairn and a lovely setting in a bowl of higher hills.

Mungrisdale Common summit

It was nice easy ground for walking, too, and I picked up a drier path slanting down. The mist was still clinging to this central valley, but as patches of white cloud rather than shrouding layers.

Cloud in the valley

I expected to meet the one landmark on this hill, the cloven stone, but although I eventually came to a patch of stones where several were split, none of them looked imposing enough to have attracted the name.

Shortly afterwards the path ran out at an uncrossable burn, piling down in spate, and I finally stopped and got the map out - it was so wet that I was trying to leave it alone while I thought I knew where I was. But I realised now that I had slanted down the wrong way, although I'd been on the best path, hitting the scrap of track by Sinen Gill. The ground below didn't look very pleasant, so I decided that the best thing to do was to head back along the hillside, descending gently and hoping to meet up with the path that I should have taken, with the peak of Great Calva, where I came down the last time, showing ahead of me.

Great Calva

But I never did cross the other path, although I had seen it branch off, and it wasn't easy to figure out how far along the valley I was - I couldn't see Skiddaw House, so there was only really the walls and fences on the other side to judge from.

There was that odd change in the feel of the air which comes around sunset, and I decided I just had to go for it, down into the valley bottom where I became rather entangled in a kind of reed bed which seemed to be the birthplace of the Glenderaterra Beck - I would have said I couldn't get any wetter, but I did. From there it was a climb up out of the valley bottom to meet the track near the gate, and then round the corner to finally see Skiddaw House ahead.

At the gate

It was a welcome sight, and I really felt like I'd achieved quite a lot by reaching it! It was fairly quiet, just a group of four who were celebrating a birthday (and were generous with their cake), and then two who came in a good bit later having walked up the track in the dark, so there was room to spread out all the wet things. I genuinely thought I didn't have a dry stitch on me, and was quite amused to find a tiny dry spot on my upper arm - someone else pointed out that I also had one on my back!

So dinner and a quiet evening with the fire and a book, and everything drying slowly.

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Posts: 1519
Munros:19   Corbetts:9
Grahams:7   Donalds:26
Sub 2000:54   Hewitts:133
Wainwrights:214   Islands:34
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Location: Edinburgh

Re: Blencathra in the rain

Postby trailmasher » Wed Nov 27, 2019 5:57 pm

A great effort on a bad day, especially getting up Hall's Fell in those conditions :clap: and some great landscape pics also showing the state of the weather and ground conditions that deserves another :clap: Well done for sticking it out 8)
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Re: Blencathra in the rain

Postby nigheandonn » Wed Nov 27, 2019 6:01 pm

I'd definitely got what Sgurr calls completion fever this time - anyone with any sense would have pottered about in Keswick until it was time to go up to Skiddaw House!
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Posts: 1519
Munros:19   Corbetts:9
Grahams:7   Donalds:26
Sub 2000:54   Hewitts:133
Wainwrights:214   Islands:34
Joined: Jul 7, 2011
Location: Edinburgh

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