Wainwrights: Arthur's Pike, Bonscale Pike, Loadpot Hill, Steel Knotts, Wether Hill
Hewitts: Loadpot Hill
Date walked: 19/01/2014
Time taken: 6 hours
They chance do a walk in January doesn't always present itself to the 3 season walker, especially with the lack of any prolonged high pressure over the UK, however the 19th January was set to be generally decent (or so I thought), after some overnight rain.
I set of on the 1 hour drive from West Cumbria to Howtown in the dark and the rain, with hopes that the weatherman would get it right. Gaiters, over-trousers and my new Karrimor Alpiniste Event jacket were all packed as showers were a possibility and given the amount of rain this winter, boggy paths were a certainty.
We arrived at Howtown not long after dawn and parked on the 1st zigzag after the village on the way to Martindale. The Hotel was under renovation and we suspect it would have been OK to park in front, but we didn't consider this until our return later in the day. The Fusedale Skyline is a rather protracted 10 mile walk, for what is generally a set of a reasonably close together fells.
We walked back to Howtown and up the lane past the Hotel to the house known as Mellguards, where a gate gives access to path that runs under Bonscale Pike and back to Arthur's Pike. Some good rock scenery is on show here as the path slowly gains height, before Arthur's Pike is reached. There is a long loop which can be taken to attain the ridge of Arthur's Pike, but if you prefer there is short steep corner cut. We chose the latter and it certainly got the blood pumping. Once on the ridge, it's only a short walk the summit of the fell. At this point the wind started to whip up and it got a little cold to just wear my Rab Polartech top, Hat, gloves, and my jacket were all put, and the hood was put up and mouth hidden behind the chin guard. It was actually bloody cold up here, colder than my walk in the snow in November thanks to a pretty big wind-chill.
These fells are a bit confusing and with paths criss-crossing everywhere route finding can be an issue (more on the later). We knew where the next fell top was, but given the flatness and large number of paths, it took a little bit of trail and error to put ourselves on the main path to Bonscale Pike. On our way over the pass to the summit we were also buzzed by an Airwolf style helicopter which seemingly appeared from Howtown, rounded Bonscale Pike and flew right over our heads. Sadly too quickly for a photo.
It was on Bonscale Pike when the 1st of our problems for the day emerged. The fog dropped in and within minutes we had gone from a lovely sunny day, to visibility of 50ft or less. The path to Loadpot Hill however was fairly obvious (we knew where the fell was, and only 1 path lead off that way). We set off in earnest, hoping for the fog to clear. We made good progress until we reached a fairly flat moor on the hillside, with several paths crossing it and here it became a problem. We managed to extricate ourselves with a quick plot on the map and followed a counter path which seemed to climb round the edge of the hill. We then realised we were heading to far round and missing the summit. So a direct off-piste climb of a few hundred feet was needed to make the ridge. The fog was now gone, thankfully. We climbed direct up the fell, taking a quick lunch by small outcrop of stones. On finishing our "direct ascent" the ridge, we had somehow, quite by accident aimed ourselves right at the trig point.
The one downside was the sheer coldness of the wind. I had almost developed frostbite at the lunch stop, and my hands were freezing at the summit. I didn't want to hang around, and there is little of interest anyway, so off we went to Wether Hill. This is where we made another navigational faux pas.
The walk to Wether Hill was incredibly damp and we were not enjoying the cold too much. We didn't bother to consult the map as the route was obvious. The meant we walked right across the fairly underwhelming summit of Wether Hill down to the col and onto the football pitch sized boggy summit of Red Crag, complete with inaccessible summit cairn and more annoying into the teeth of a small blizzard. We figured this was Wether Hill summit as much further and we would be on the High Street range. It wasn't until later, when consulting the route, that I discovered the error.
We headed back to the col and aimed for our final fell of the day Steel Knotts. We appeared to have lost time (I would later understand why, and as we dropped down the wind turned to drizzle. We contoured around Gowk Hill and climb the short steep ascent to the summit of Steel Knotts. This was a nice end to the walk, the earlier fells had been mostly boggy and featureless and lacked much in the way of interest, but this slender little ridge offered some nice views and just a little bit of a challenge with it's scrambly steps. Given the wetness of the ground, the descent back to the valley was somewhat treacherous and slippy, but I managed to maintain me feet all the way back to the car.
I have to see that these are far from my favourite fells, and I can't see me doing them again in a hurry. This is my first foray in the FEFs, so I hope there is better to come.
Some pictures of the day
Road to Howtown
Looking back over Ullswater
Arthur's Pike in the distance
Looking the other direction on Ullswater
The crags of Bonscale Pike
A moody Ullswater
A very low sun and very moody sky on Arthur's Pike summit
Getting foggy on Bonscale Pike
Steel Knotts, with the Martindale Fells behind
Man-legging on Loadpot Hill, trying to hide the pain of frozen fingers
Heading towards Wether Hill
Looking back to Gowk Hill and Steel Knotts from somewhere near the unintended climb of Red Crag
The Martindale Fells. On my list for 2014. Plan to do all 11, perhaps with a wild camp
Absolutely cream-crackered on Steel Knotts summit
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