I’d been looking forward to my between-Xmas-and-New-Year trip to the Lakes for ages and I wasn’t going to let a stormy weather forecast put me off. “Localised flooding”? Well, yeah, that’s why they have lakes there.
Arriving at Wasdale Head at about noon, I choose the most sheltered part of the empty campsite (feeling slightly smug that I was the only person mad enough to be camping) and struggled with my Eurohike tent (£18!) in the incredibly strong wind. The instructions say that the tent requires 1-2 people to put it up. Another person would have been helpful but I managed on my own by pegging out the flysheet first then – whenever the wind dropped – dashing round doing things then lying on top of the billowing balloon when the next gust came. Of course, being a very windy day I was not at all surprised to find the stoniest ground ever. I was glad I’d brought some spare pegs and guyline so I could double up on the windward side.
My early departure from home meant that I should have time for a shortish walk before the sun set. The heavy rain showers meant that the sky was already dark and I knew that I didn’t have enough time to go high. Besides, I wanted to have a little bit of light left to see where my tent had blown to. (I had little faith that it would still be there when I got back).
A short walk along Lingmell Beck, via St Olaf’s Church, was good enough for Day 1 and I spent the evening reading and listening to the radio. The tent survived the night.
I didn’t plan Day 2 very well. Or, maybe the map-based planning was OK but I should have taken note of what I could actually see when I walked NW along Mosedale and saw the steep scree-covered climb up to Wind Gap. I hate scree, and don’t particuarly like scrambling over loose boulders either, so I have no idea why I decided to persevere with the climb. The wind was gusty; it was treacherous underfoot, and the climb was taking a lot longer than I wanted. However, out of a pig-headed stubborness to complete my plan, I kept crawling along (sometimes literally) – and going back down would have been even harder than going up. Eventually the inevitable happened and I slipped. Initially relieved that I’d not fallen too far down the hill, I then felt the pain at the top of my thigh. Ow ow ow! OW! It hurt. A lot.
Three days later, the bruise is hand-sized and a deep purple colour. The blood easily washed out of my Ron Hills but I’m afraid my Paclite trousers are in a bad way.
I have emailed a couple of repair companies for a quote but I think a proper repair is going to cost about half the price of a new pair of trousers. I knew that Paclite was a fragile material when I bought the trousers, so maybe I’ll just buy some waterproof tape and repair it myself. This won’t be the last time I tear them, I’m sure.
Eventually reaching the top and getting an excellent – if very misty – view of Ennerdale Water ….
….. I considered what may lay ahead. I had planned to cross Scoat Fell to Haycock then follow Nether Beck down to the road along Wast Water. But I only had 2 – 3 hours of daylight left and didn’t know how difficult the descent would be down from Haycock and Little Lad Crag and I really didn’t fancy scrambling my way down a scree slope in the dark. Disheartened, and with my right thigh throbbing with pain, I took the decision to quit while I was ahead. I walked a little way along the ridge then slowly picked my way back down the hill, avoiding the scree as much as I could. Once I was back on flat ground, the walk back along Mosedale was pleasant – even when the light had completely gone shortly after 4pm. I like walking in the dark, although there was one point where I could clearly see the pub lights less than a couple of hundred yards away but I had no idea where the gate in the dry stone wall was. I found it by heading for the huddle of sheep gently glowing in the semi-darkness.
After a quick pint in the Inn, a shower and some simple First Aid to my lumpy, bleeding thigh, I retired to my tent – now surrounded by 5 or 6 others. A few months ago I bought an LED lantern from TK Maxx for a fiver. This was the first time I’d used it and I’m very pleased with it. The Eurohike Tamar has a hook in the middle of the roof and I could leave the lantern hanging from that. On its dimmest setting it is bright enough to potter, eg getting changed, eating dinner, tidying the tent etc. On its brightest setting I could read by it. I admit that I found no use for the cheap button compass in the top!
My bruise made it uncomfortable to lie on my right side. It wasn’t too bad lying on my Thermarest Neo Air mattress, as that conforms to the shape of the body, but there was a slight problem – my mattress has developed a very slow leak and after 3 or 4 hours it is completely flat. Thankfully I was using the Neo Air on top of a foam roll-mat so there was no risk of getting cold from the ground but twice during the night I had to re-inflate the mattress. I can’t see any obvious damage so I shall have to put it in the bath and watch for bubbles – although such a slow leak is not going to be easy to find.
After the disappointment of Saturday’s walk I was determined that Sunday would have a properly planned route with weather-influenced alternatives. I packed up the tent, after breakfast, and moved the car a hundred yards down the road to the public carpark. I was surprised at how busy it was, but I suppose Sunday is always a popular day for a walk.
Repeating Friday’s bimble along Lingmell Beck I continued, up the hill, to Sty Head then along Styhead Gill and clockwise around Seathwaite Fell to Sprinkling Tarn then back along the glen to Wasdale Head. [On my Landranger map “Sprinkling” looks like “Spurkling”, so I’ve been calling it “Spurkling” Tarn until I checked the 1:25k map and realised that Spurkling is not some sort of old Cumberland word for a water feature!]
This was a lovely walk. A good mix of beatiful scenery, harsh climbs, boggy bits, pleasant lunch-stop views and the occasional natter with a dog.
I had my butties and flask of tea in the car before the long drive round to Windermere where I’d be better placed for Monday’s walk around Kentmere. The Youth Hostel was busy and noisy. I suppose I should have expected it, as it’s open all year, but I think this hostel may be going on my list of “to be avoided if possible”. I remember having a wonderful snowy break there a few years go [Er, possibly 20 years!] but Youth Hostels have changed and I’d rather stay in the remote ones where most people have walked in or are walkers/climbers. The kitchen is tiny and – even though there are two sinks – there’s only one (mixer) tap so it makes sharing the facilities quite difficult. Anyway, I did sleep well…….. until the fire alarm went off!!
On Monday I drove round to Kentmere to meet Martin for some bagging. The names of our blogs do draw attention to our different approach to hills; I go round them whenever possible; Martin goes up them …….. then ticks them off in his spreadsheet. He’d helpfully identified a cluster of 4 Synges which needed to be bagged just North of Kentmere. I’d never heard of a Synge, but it is apparently a “hill” for people who’ve run out of proper hills.
The rain was beating down so we sat drinking tea and looking for excuses why we couldn’t/shouldn’t/wouldn’t go for a walk. Eventually the excuses were all used up so we set off for Piked Howes. All zipped up in my Paramo smock and (not waterproof anymore) waterproof trousers, I was soon too hot as we zig-zagged up the hill through the gushing streams and bog. I opened my smock vents to cool down so ended up soaking wet.
The cloud was low and from the top of the crag I could see nothing. Even if there’d been a view, I’d have been scared to get my camera out of its pouch in case the wind blew me over while I wasn’t paying attention.
With such poor visibility, we plodded off in the rough general direction of the next Synge. Happy to follow blindly, I didn’t have a clue if we were going the right way and my mind wandered off in the direction of waterproof socks; they’d have been better on my feet rather than in my rucksack.
Round about Synge 2, the rain eased off and the sky started to clear a little. For half an hour we even had a few shafts of sunlight and we wondered if we should have delayed our start until the weather improved ….. but we needn’t have worried, it was soon hammering down again. Four Synges bagged, we walked back along the road to the parking area near the church.Back at the car I changed into dry clothes and we chatted over more tea and cake. If the weather had been dry, this would’ve been a pleasant walk with impressive scenery. The sunny half-hour showed me just enough to see that this is an area worth coming back to – either with better waterproofs or (perish the thought) on a dry, sunny day. Well, it could happen.